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U.S. Ex-General Doubts Military Capability, Exercise Alleged To Be Rigged - Paper

Reuters, 9 September 2002


LONDON (Reuters) - A retired U.S. marine, who this summer beat his own country in its biggest ever wargame, has raised doubts about the U.S. military's ability to fight a Middle Eastern enemy, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper. [Wake-up call, by Julian Borger, Guardian, 9/6/02. If the US and Iraq do go to war, there can only be one winner, can't there? Maybe not. This summer, in a huge rehearsal of just such a conflict - and with retired Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper playing Saddam - the US lost. Julian Borger asks the former marine how he did it]

Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper played the role of a Middle Eastern military leader during the three-week wargame "Millennium Challenge," which combined 13,000 troops with computer-generated battlefields and ships.

After sinking most of a simulated U.S. naval fleet as it entered the Middle East Gulf, he quit, saying the exercise had become rigged.

"They (U.S. generals) refused to accept that we'd do anything they wouldn't do in the West," Van Riper was quoted as saying. "A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future. Nothing was learned from this."

The unnamed enemy that Van Riper commanded was similar in size and technology to the United States' long-standing adversary Iraq, against which it is currently considering an offensive.

He outwitted high-tech U.S. forces using suicide attackers and old-fashioned communications methods such as coded messages during mosques' morning calls to prayer.

Van Riper surprised the U.S. naval expedition in the exercise by striking first with suicide bombers in pleasure boats and small airplanes.

Just as suicide tactics proved deadly against the destroyer USS Cole in October 2000, Van Riper's bombers tore apart the virtual reality U.S. fleet, sinking 16 ships and killing thousands of troops. U.S. generals were forced to stop the game and refloat their flotilla. Soon after, they destroyed Van Riper's microwave communications systems, telling him he would have to use cell phones and satellite phones, which could be easily intercepted.

"I said: `No, no. We're going to use motorcycle messengers and make announcements from mosques," he said. "But they refused to accept that. The whole thing was being scripted," he added.

"A phrase I heard over and over was `That would never have happened'," said Van Riper. "And I said: `Nobody would have thought that anyone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Center'."

Copyright © 2002 Reuters
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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