Military buffs will revel in 'Desert Storm'


"Desert Storm" is made for military buffs. The four-part account of the war in the Persian Gulf (beginning 10 p.m. Sunday, continuing through Wednesday on the Arts and Entertainment cable network) is a parade of the smart weapons that crushed Iraq.

It begins with the air war, descends to the ground war and moves on to analyses of allied strategy and tactics and America's military intelligence.

Sunday's opener covers the air assault, which, the analysts and officers interviewed here agree, ensured the defeat of the Iraqi forces, with remarkably few casualties for the United States and its allies.

If you want to know the special qualities of the Tomahawk missiles (which enabled the Navy to go on the attack), the planes known as Wild Weasels (which eliminated enemy radar), the F-111s (which used laser-guided bombs to strike bunkers xTC and bridges) and the A-10 Warthogs (which knocked out tanks), this is the place to find them.

You will also hear from American and British pilots, fresh from their missions, explaining the doings in their special lingo: "It gives the whizo" -- weapons system officer -- "a better look-angle into the target and a little more energy on the bomb." And you can see, again, those cross-hair videos of bombs hitting their targets with unfailing accuracy.

It all works so smoothly, in fact, that you may come away with the feeling that you have been subjected to a Pentagon commercial, with credits handed around to every ally, every unit, every weapon. Iraqi troops are seen mainly surrendering; no pictures here of corpses, military or civilian.

Given the state of things in Iraq since the cease-fire -- the suppression of the Kurds and the Shiites, the difficulties of life for civilians, the continuance in power of Saddam Hussein -- this view of victory from above seems somewhat remote and antiseptic.

A subsequent episode on the one-sided ground war tells why U.S. tanks and artillery outclassed Iraqi tanks and artillery, shows in gritty footage how Marines made their way by night through mine fields, and gives assessments by American officers of enemy troops.

"Their heart just wasn't in it," says Lt. Gen. Walter Boomer. Iraq's vaunted Republican Guards, incessantly described as elite, were deserted by their officers and did not fight much better than the grunts.

There are also excerpts from the celebrated victory briefing that established Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf as a television star.


Speaking of public figures turned television stars, Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general, is back with criticisms of the health insurance industry, government regulations and the increase in malpractice suits. It's titled "C. Everett Koop, M.D." and airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC (Channel 2).

The good doctor concludes his brief but plain-talking series next weekend with proposals for improving the nation's health care.

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