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January 2, 2006
2005: The EnemyBy Greyhawk
January, 2005, Iraq. Security is tight for the elections, but the ever-innovative terrorists discover ways to penetrate and kill. The event did receive some media notice, but those reports lacked the details provided by Iraq the Model
The suicide attack that was performed on an election center in one of Baghdad's districts (Baghdad Al-Jadeedah) last Sunday was performed using a kidnapped "Down Syndrome" patient.A few days earlier that month:
In a land where almost everyone has a horror story to tell, Jassem Aziz's experience of Sunni violence against Shias is particularly grisly. He holds back tears as he talks of how his cousin, Ahmed al-Bahadli, was murdered 10 days ago.A new year had begun.
And what a year it would be. As three elections were held in Iraq, the predictions of a violent response from terrorists there were proven true. Attacks were increasingly aimed at civilians, and if there was any "increasing sophistication" displayed by the attackers it was in their ability to play to the media coverage - or lack thereof. 2005 would see many of the most appalling attacks ever in the 3-year conflict in Iraq, but although those assaults were met with condemnation from many, they also had great impact on the worldwide "anti-war" movement - providing a foundation to their claims of quagmire and defeat.
Exactly how solid a foundation remains questionable. But few could deny the impact of these words from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.".
Delivered in the middle of the year, those comments were cheered by al Jazeera and MoveOn - and no doubt by the many readers and devotees of both groups. Was he right? The following look back at the actions of the enemy in Iraq - and the response to those actions in the western media and political spheres - should provide readers a look at the nature of the beast, and ample opportunity to make that decision for themselves.
Coffins, small and large
BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden SUV killed at least 27, including an American soldier, late this morning in the deadliest insurgent attack in more than two months.One explanation could be found in the words of a terrorist in Syria, who had helped countless mujahedeen cross into Iraq:
In the Syrian countryside north of Aleppo where Abu Ibrahim grew up and married, his fundamentalist impulses took their present shape when he met "a group of young men through my wife's family who spoke to me the true words of Islam. They told me Sufism was forbidden and the Shiites are infidels."The AP would note that "foreign fighters are the ones that most often are behind the wheel of suicide car bombs or most often behind any suicide situation" but they would add that this wasn't always the case. They cited an example of an Iraqi involved in a "suicide" bombing:
On election day, Jan. 30, a mentally handicapped Iraqi boy wearing a suicide vest attacked a polling station.
"In war, innocent civilians should not be hurt. It happens. Now we have to see what to do to help the families that were hurt."In addition to unofficial ambassadors of peace, 2005 would also be the year that official representatives of many countries would return to Iraq.
The group said in a statement posted on the Internet that it had killed the envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, but it did not say when or how. The group said "that the verdict of God has been implemented against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, thank God."But the insurgents would seek ways to counter that erosion.
Sympathy for the Devil?
Tips On How To Beat US From Insurgents' ConsultantSome would acknowledge the enemy's "growing media sophistication". Representative K. Michael Conaway, (R, Tx.):
Just four days prior to the referendum vote, U.S. intelligence officials released a letter from Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda's No. 2 operative, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader of the insurgency in Iraq. In the letter, al-Zawahri predicted that American forces "will exit soon" and he acknowledges that the war in Iraq will be won "in the battlefield of the media." Al-Zawahri's belief that the insurgency must improve its efforts in engaging in geo-political warfare proves that the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqi's still goes on. It should come as no surprise that al Qaeda members in Iraq are now attempting to denounce the letter as a fake.But the terrorists did garner some media sympathy.
One of the hardest things about working on this story for me personally, and as a journalist, was to set my "American self" and perspective aside. It was an ongoing challenge to listen open-mindedly to a group of people whose foundation of belief is significantly different from mine, and one I found I often strongly disagreed with.But by October, Human Rights Watch would chastise the "insurgents" in Iraq, noting that "the disregard for the lives of civilians in the mostly Muslim country was backfiring in terms of popular support for the insurgency elsewhere in the Arab world." Media coverage would avoid the word "terrorist".
But Abu Musaab Al-Zarqawi staunchly defended his organization:
The audio tape thought to be by Zarqawi's voice was published on website believed to be owned by Al-Qaeda in Iraq and it his speech, Zarqawi said that Islam doesn't distinguish between people on the basis of civilian vs. military but on the basis of Muslim vs. kaffir (infidel) and that "an infidel's blood should be spilled regardless of his occupation or position unless he had a treaty or a promise of peace".
More coffins, small and large
How dangerous is Iraq? One reporter describes her experience there:
In all that time, as far as I knew, I was never in immediate danger. There was a grenade thrown once, ineffectually, at the back of a Warrior I was in. On one Blackhawk ride near Mosul machine gunners fired on men scrambling on the ground with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. In Fallujah I saw a single improvised explosive device explode, but from a safe distance. And I watched a car bomb burn at a police check point in Tall 'Afar, the explosion killing no one but the people inside the car -- a man, a woman and two young children.In short, very bad things will happen - if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, as was the case for yet another group of Iraqi children in November:
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.What motivates such attacks? A couple of failed suicide bombers from 2005 offered their unique perspective on the issue.
His head and hands were wrapped in bandages and his uncovered face looked like bubbled tar.September:
A suicide bomber captured before he could blow himself up in a Shiite mosque late last week claimed he was kidnapped, beaten and drugged by insurgents who forced him to take on the mission. The U.S. military on Sunday said its medical tests indicated he was telling the truth.But children and hospitals weren't the only targets in November:
Iraq's most feared terror group warned foreign diplomats yesterday to flee the country after announcing it will put to death two kidnapped Moroccan Embassy employees.While the New York Times would report the insurgents were still developing new, sophisticated tactics:
In the deadliest assault, insurgents dressed in women's clothing attacked a police checkpoint in the town of Buhriz, 35 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least 6 police officers and wounding at least 10 others, American and Iraqi officials said. The guerrillas were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, and pulled up in five cars, an Interior Ministry official said. The police officers killed at least two of the gunmen, he added.We looked at the results of these many attacks here:
There's always grim news from Iraq - as the latest Iraq Index from the Brookings Institute confirms.Fighting Back
Throughout the year the coalition offensive operations would focus on al Anbar province, the preferred path for foreign terrorists entering Iraq, and the site of several "insurgent strongholds" - strongholds that fell, one by one, to US and Iraqi soldiers.
But even the most positive trends can be turned. Fighting back against these monsters is to invite sympathy from their supporters, as the events of late 2005 made clear. Even as children and diplomats were butchered in the streets, world headlines were dominated by an ex-American soldier's claims that the US had used "chemical weapons" in the 2004 attack on Fallujah. The "chemical weapons" were white phosphorous smoke rounds - used to "smoke out" terrorists from fortified defensive positions.
Less reported were that same soldier's comments on the "insurgents":
The Iraqi insurrection, in itself, is what I believe to be an honest rebellion. Because it is a guerrilla war against an illegal occupation enforced by our conventional military force, with far superior weapons and technology, it seems obvious that acts of terrorism are also acts of desperation.That could be dismissed as a "fringe" opinion - but it represents many "mainstream" apologists too.
Representative John Murtha's (D - PA) declaration that the terrorists had defeated and demoralized US troops gained widespread media attention - but less noted was his declared opinion of the mujahedeen :
Bin Laden said he attacked the United States because of the troops in Saudi Arabia. That's terrorism. Terrorism was in London. Terrorism was in Spain. Terrorism was, obviously, in the United States.Even Zarqawi's attack in Jordan, perhaps his greatest miscalculation of the year, couldn't give the congressman pause. He blamed the US:
If you remember in Jordan, the bomber said that the reason she became a bomber was because two of her relatives were killed in Fallujah. We lost the hearts and minds of the people.If congressman Murtha is correct, the US is defeated. But if congressman Conaway (see above) is correct...
Their short-term objective is clear: The insurgency must succeed in defeating an emerging democratic Iraq by eliminating its current military protectors. The insurgents' plan is simple: Drag the fight on by continuing to murder innocent Americans and Iraqis until American public opinion has waned....then the insurgets have no better friend than one ex-Marine.
And no greater enemy than the current ones. Marines, soldiers, and Iraqi troops continued to "clear and hold" throughout al Anbar, and by year's end the AP would report:
SAMARRA, Iraq -- After keeping their distance for months, Iraqis in this Sunni Arab city suddenly began cooperating with U.S. troops, leading them to insurgents and hidden weapons caches. The reason: anger over a local tribal chief's assassination by insurgents.And the London Times would offer the latest from Tal Afar
Iraqis in former rebel stronghold now cheer American soldiers
On the final day of 2005, a tiny baby girl would arrive in Atlanta - her lifesaving trip from Baghdad made possible by soldiers of the Georgia National Guard. CNN would obscure the faces of the family in their photo and video coverage, out of fear that the "insurgents" may "retaliate".
If you've been reading Mudville for any time at all you must have gotten the message: the insurgents are on the ropes. Make no mistake about it - they are capable of killing people in large numbers, but their political effectiveness is virtually nil.
"Capable of killing people in large numbers" - proven.
"...but their political effectiveness is virtually nil". - Three successful elections in Iraq support the accuracy of the claim. But an unexpected element has boosted the political effectiveness of the killers of children, aid workers, diplomats, and anyone else finding themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter how high the body count or how heinous their crimes, terrorists now believe they have allies who won't abandon their cause - and that faint glimmer of hope seems to be all they need.
But if that support should fall in 2006, perhaps we'll have something more upbeat for photo of the year.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 2, 2006 6:15 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com