WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — Former high-level military commanders told Congress today that the United States should go to war in Iraq only as a last resort, should continue to press for United Nations support in dealing with Iraq and "not be too quick to take no for an answer," as one of them, Gen. John Shalikashvili, put it.
"We must be very, very careful about going to war, and to do so only when all other attempts to resolve the threat to us have failed," General Shalikashvili said, "and to do so only with the support of the United States Congress and the American people."
General Shalikashvili, the retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Gen. Wesley Clark, retired NATO commander, and Gen. John Hoar, former commander of the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.
The generals agreed that, even if the United States must eventually go it alone against Saddam Hussein's forces, it will prevail. But the cost in treasure and blood may be higher than some people think, General Hoar warned.
General Hoar warned of "a nightmare scenario," in which Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard units, reinforced by other troops and equipped with thousands of anti-aircraft artillery pieces, defend the city of Baghdad.
"The result would be high casualties on both sides, as well as in the civilian community," General Hoar said. "U.S. forces would certainly prevail, but at what cost, and at what cost as the rest of the world watches while we bomb and have artillery rounds exploded in densely populated Iraqi neighborhoods."