Postcards From Hell


Examination of leaflets air-dropped by the Pentagon’s Central Command during February show much of the broad plan for war against Saddam Hussein. Littering southern Iraq with hundreds of thousands—even millions—of postcards and missives, the American military machine is warning everyone in the region that the air force is going to blow their heads clean off.

Colorfully displayed on Central Command’s Web site, our postcards from hell tell Iraqis in no uncertain terms what not to do.

Do not hang out near your armed forces or you will be bombed.

Do not open fire on any bombers or you will be fragged, too. “Attacking [American] aircraft invites your destruction. . . . [U.S.] forces will attack with overwhelming force,” reads one card, with searing redundancy.

Do not shoot off biological or chemical weapons, or you will face swift retribution and be prosecuted as a war criminal, possibly postmortem.

Do not repair destroyed fiber-optic telecommunications lines or you will be targeted because these are the tools Saddam is using to “suppress” you. This is accompanied by a cartoon image of Hussein squeezing a green ichor from Iraq.

The leaflets, which have largely superseded a silly e-mail campaign to persuade Iraqi generals to defect, are illustrated with care. One attention-grabber is aimed at Iraqi anti-aircraft gunners. In a gripping action series, a young soldier is first shown standing sternly by a cannon going into action against U.S. forces. In the next photo-realistic frame, his head is seen flying through a fireball and debris cloud. “Think about your family. Do what you must to survive,” it warns.

This all sounds almost fair—don’t shoot and you’ll live—until one realizes the air force will bomb every artillery piece it can find, firing or not, when total war is declared. One leaflet sternly admits as much, telling Iraqis they can either flee or croak. The postcards’ obvious intent is to scare people into surrender, but they may also create the impression that Iraqis are about to be hit by an implacable force that will kill them no matter what.

If similar articles were dropped over the American heartland, it would be viewed as an act of war.

This points to an unspoken truth. War, a slow one, has already commenced. Central Command press releases reveal the military not only to be leafleting but also to be methodically taking apart Iraq’s air defense network and blowing up surface-to-surface missiles, weapons which have no capability against jets enforcing the no-fly zones but which could be used when U.S. tanks roll over the southern border.