Prev | List | Random | Next
(One week of developments in Iraq - and the home front. This week: the war we’re losing edition.)
This isn't good news - its news that's less bad:
The number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq in January fell to its lowest monthly total since the beginning of 2004, according to new Pentagon data.According to the DoD, as of 17 February 16,762 US troops have been wounded in action since the beginning of the war in Iraq. Of those, 9007 (54%) returned to duty within 72 hours. From March 19, 2003, through December 31, 2005, 3,171 service members were wounded in action severely enough to require evacuation to stateside Army medical facilities.
There were 306 troops wounded in action last month, according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, which tracks data pertaining to the Iraq war. Not since January 2004 -- when 146 troops were wounded -- has the monthly total been so low.
Among the reasons analysts cite are decreased capabilities of the terrorist insurgency, improved methods against improvised-explosive devices and the ongoing turnover of lead security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
So the Brookings Institute's Iraq index does reveal a positive trend in the number of US wounded.
Likewise, the numbers of US troops killed in action has declined; 70 in October, 69 in November, and 30 in both December and January. A positive trend, but little consolation to families of the fallen.
But the "insurgents" have not been idle.
Attacks In Baghdad Kill 16, Including 5 ChildrenAccording to the Brooking's report, even though casualty numbers for American GIs have declined the numbers of Iraqis killed in insurgent attacks have not. Last October multiple fatality bombings claimed the lives of 310 Iraqi citizens, in November 415 were killed. The number dipped to 173 in December, but rose again to 305 in January - ten times the number of US servicemembers killed that month.
As Iraqi politicians debated the formation of a government on Wednesday, a wave of gun and bomb attacks killed at least 16 people in the capital, including five children.
Three children were killed and two wounded when a bomb exploded outside the Karama primary school in the Saydiyah neighborhood of southeastern Baghdad, said Gen. Salman Hassan Shammari of the Iraqi police. A second roadside bomb killed two children and wounded four more in the Fadhl neighborhood, he said. It was unclear who detonated the bombs or why.
And that's just the numbers for multiple fatality bombings. Shootings, beheadings, and other acts remain less well documented. But anyone and everyone can be a target for Iraq's "insurgency", as the Arizona Daily Star reported this week:
BAGHDAD — Marwan Rassam's restaurant is a Baghdad institution, famous for its pizzas and grilled meat sandwiches wrapped in flat "saj" bread.But in spite of the disproportionate slaughter of Iraqis, the insurgency has been amazingly successful at portraying itself as "resistance to the American occupation". This week West Point's Combating Terrorism Center released previously classified information from the “Harmony” database. Compiled by the U.S. Special Operations Command, captured al-Qaeda documents reveal (among other things) a terrorist organization fully aware of the need for good PR:
Ordinary as that may seem, Rassam's diner was bombed last year by extremists who have broadened their targets beyond Americans, Iraqi police and troops to include bakers, cigarette vendors and even employees of a perfume boutique.
"I'm like any other Iraqi nowadays, feeling that I am vulnerable and can die at any moment," Rassam, a Christian, said Friday.
In the past two weeks, mechanics, blacksmiths, bakers and liquor dealers have been killed in drive-by shootings or roadside bombings.
Two brothers working in an exclusive cologne and perfume shop in Baghdad were gunned down Friday in the store. The killers left without taking anything, police said.
About an hour later, armed men attacked a nearby watch store. This time the staff was ready, grabbing guns from below the counter and chasing the assailants into the street.
They shot one dead, and U.S. soldiers sent in a robot to remove a grenade from the corpse.
Just why Iraqis with no clear ties to the U.S. military or Iraqi police are being killed or kidnapped in increasing numbers has become one of the most disturbing questions of the post-Saddam Hussein era.
In Rassam's case, perhaps the young couples sitting at outside tables enraged Islamic extremists. Or the diner could have been targeted by militants wanting to kill policemen who regularly eat there. Nobody knows for sure — except the bombers.
Many documents show al-Qaeda leaders discussing the need for a successful public relations strategy. In June 2000, an operative named Abu Huthaifa writes a mentor that al-Qaeda needs to fix problems in its “informational and political efforts,” failings that are “killers of the movement.”They've taken that lesson to heart. This English language propaganda video is a direct appeal to the world Left.
We thank all those, including those of Britain and the US, who took to the streets in protest against this war and against globalism.Oddly enough, it also contains an exhortation to "not believe their media" - referring to the western news organizations. Odd, because few western media sources are willing to point out the real nature of the insurgency in Iraq - a nature revealed not by their propaganda efforts, but by their results. We compiled a year's worth of coverage of the Iraqi "insurgency" here. Among last year's "victories against the aggressor":
We also thank France, Germany and other states for their position, which (unintelligible) to say are considered wise and valorous until now.
Today we call on you again. We do not require arms or fighters, for we have plenty. We ask you to form a worldwide front against war and sanctions. A front that is governed by the wise and knowing. A front that will bring reform and order, new institutions that would replace the now corrupt. Stop using the US dollar. Use the Euro, or a (unintelligible) of currencies. Reduce or halt your consumption of British and US products. Put an end to Zionism before it ends the world.
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.As difficult as it may be to remain "neutral" in a battle with such an enemy, most Western media outlets are attempting to do so. Witness the horror described this week by the mayor of Tall Afar:
Eye witnesses said (and I'm quoting one of my colleagues; a dentist who lives there) "the poor victim was so scared when ordered to walk to the searching point and began to walk back to the terrorists. In response the criminals pressed the button and blew up the poor victim almost half way between their position and the voting center's entrance".
A Shia Muslim from the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, Ahmed had joined the new Iraqi National Guard, only to be killed in his patrol car when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded.
The next day, as his family took his coffin for burial in the holy Shia city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, they were stopped at what purported to be a police checkpoint near the town of Iskandaria and ordered out of their minibus.
Insurgents wearing fake police uniforms shot and beheaded six of the mourners, including Ahmed's mother. Then they ripped Ahmed's body out of the coffin and decapitated him too.
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.
Many, if not most of the dead were children loitering and playing near U.S. soldiers at an impromptu checkpoint in Baghdad al-Jadida, a lower-middle class residential district populated by Shiites, Sunnis and Christians.
"We have received the bodies of 24 children aged between 10 and 13," said an official in charge of the morgue.
"Why do they attack our children? They just destroyed one U.S. Humvee, but they killed dozens of our children," he said as women screamed, slapped their faces and beat themselves over the head.
"What sort of a resistance is this? It's a crime," he added.
At Kindi hospital, one distraught woman swathed in black sat cross-legged outside the operating room. "May God curse the mujahedeen and their leader," she cried as she pounded her own head in grief, reports the AP.
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."
"Egypt is one of those at the forefront of the war on Islam and Muslims," the statement said. "Its jails are full of mujahedeen." It showed a video of the blindfolded diplomat identifying himself but, unlike in other kidnappings, it did not show the killing itself, according to the Associated Press.
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.
"It was an explosion at the gate of the hospital," a woman who had wounds on her face and legs told the AP. "My children are gone. My brother is gone."
With no room left at the hospital, emergency workers rushed victims to hospitals in Baghdad, about 15 miles to the north. And when the hospital morgue was full, the workers were forced to place the dead in the hospital garden so family members could find them.
His head and hands were wrapped in bandages and his uncovered face looked like bubbled tar.
The young Saudi man told investigators this month that he wants revenge against the Iraqi terrorist network that sent him on the deadly mission that he survived.
Ahmed Abdullah al-Shaya, 18, told Iraqi investigators during an interrogation early this month that he was recruited to drive a car rigged with explosives to Baghdad and blow it up.
He said the objective was "to kill the Americans, policemen, national guards and the American collaborators."
But Shaya said he was injured even before he went on the mission when insurgents detonated a truck bomb he was supposed to leave at a target site.
"They asked me to take the truck near a concrete block barrier before turning to the right and leaving it there," he says. "There, somebody will pick up the truck from you," they told him.
"But they blew me up in the truck," he says.
Ahmed's truck bomb killed nine people, including a family of seven in their house nearby.
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.
To gauge US public opinion, he has become an avid watcher of satellite news channels, and never misses the White House press briefings
To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals - to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops.
To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations "to support anti- war sentiment in the west", he says.
Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.That type of news, when it can be used to demonstrate the failure of the military in Iraq, is often reported. But the mayor's next comments will never be seen in a mainstream media outlet in America:
This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.In fact, a Washington Post reporter had a copy of that letter, but elected not to publish it, explaining that "Yes, the mayor gave me a copy of the letter when I had lunch with him. But one thing Americans have done in Iraq is take things too much at face value."
While many of the citizens of Fallujah still eke out their existence in the ruins of their former homes, in Tal Afar the streets are full of building sites. New sewers have been dug and the fronts of shops, destroyed in the US assault, were replaced within weeks. Sunni police have been hired and 2,000 goats were even distributed to farmers.In a recent press conference, the commander of US troops in Tall Afar requested only one thing of US reporters:
More remarkably, the approach of an American military convoy brings people out to wave and even clap, something not seen since the invasion of spring 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.
I hope you tell our troopers' families how awesome they are. I mean, I hope in some way you can communicate that to them. I know it may not fit in on whatever you're covering at this point, but they ought to know the job that their soldiers are doing, and the wide range of responsibilities they've taken on. And they ought to understand, you know, their courage, you know, how tough they are in combat, but also how compassionate and how disciplined they are. I mean, there are people in the neighborhoods where we're living who are naming their children after our soldiers, you know? And I know people don't see that. And they ought to know that their soldiers are proud of what they're accomplishing every day. They're drawing strength from seeing that, and they're drawing strength as always on each other and the cohesive team and family they're part of.This week, Newsweek answered him:
Army investigators in Iraq have cleared Apache Company's soldiers of any wrongdoing. The men did what they were trained to do under the circumstances. Yet that's small comfort to the Hassan orphans. "If it were up to me, I'd kill the Americans and drink their blood," says Jilan, 14.
The Hassan family might have vanished into the war's statistics if Chris Hondros hadn't been at the scene that evening. The Getty Images photographer had spent the day on patrol with Apache Company. ...the story offers some insight into why Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places on earth two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and why the United States has had such difficulty winning Iraqi hearts and minds.
Hussein Hassan was hurrying to get home. His wife, Kamila, sat beside him in the family Opel; their five youngest children, 2 to 14, were squeezed in the back seat with a 6-year-old cousin. They had been at his brother's house, but now curfew was 15 minutes away, and Tall Afar's streets are no place for a family after dark. Hussein turned off Tall Afar's main traffic circle onto Mansour Boulevard. Rakan was first to spot the soldiers in the deepening dusk. They were waving their arms and raising their assault rifles. The boy jumped up in the back seat. Before he could open his mouth to warn his father, a storm of gunfire struck the car, killing both parents and covering the children with their blood.
How we called it last November:
A real count of terrorist fighters in Iraq, if such a thing were possible, would likely reveal their numbers are small - perhaps a few thousand - and their organization above small "squad level" non-existent. Al Qaeda in Iraq, probably the most formidable component of a fractious opposition, can accomplish little beyond sporadic (admittedly sometimes spectacular) violence. Their most "successful" attacks involve suicide bombers creating large numbers of casualties - and larger numbers of enemies to their cause. And the majority of their most "highly coordinated" suicide attacks fail, insofar as the attackers invariably die short of their goals.Now, a few months later, that handover to Iraqi forces continues, and the people of Iraq are suffering an ever larger proportion of the deaths and injuries there. Americans will continue to move into the background, and the "insurgents" will have an incresingly difficult time convincing anyone they are fighting against "the occupation".
I've been to Iraq - I've seen vulnerabilities. I know what an organized group numbering in the tens of thousands could do. That such things haven't happened can't be attributed to fear or reluctance on the part of the proven suicidal opponent in Iraq. They simply lack the numbers to carry out any truly effective tactical strike.
But a small but violent insurgency will always be able to replenish it's ranks - the presence of the foreign invader will always be sufficient incentive to attract at least enough fanatics to assure the numbers in the first two charts will be maintained. The tipping point in the war in Iraq will not come from killing off insurgents - it will be achieved by replacing the Americans who are killing them with Iraqi forces capable of doing the same.
Unless the western media remains "neutral" in the same sense they are today.
The Home Front
February 18, 2006 -- Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups have poisoned the Muslim public's view of the United States through deft use of the Internet and other modern communications methods that the American government has failed to master, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday.Reuters:
In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumsfeld sounded a theme he frequently raises as a key to eventually winning the global war on terrorism: countering anti-Western messages from Islamic extremists.
"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part, we — our country, our government — has not adapted," he said.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Friday.Somewhat reminiscent of something General Peter Pace said last December:
Modernization is crucial to winning the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide who are bombarded with negative images of the West, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Pentagon chief said today's weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.
"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but ... our country has not adapted," Rumsfeld said.
"For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a 'five and dime' store in an eBay world," Rumsfeld said, referring to old-fashioned U.S. retail stores and the online auction house, respectively.
The top US general said the US military has not done a good enough job of explaining to the public what its forces are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military made a conscious decision when Iraq's sovereignty was restored in June 2004 to lower its media profile.
"But as a result of stepping back, I think we may have stepped back a little too far inside of our own country with regard to explaining to our own people what we were doing," he told students at the National Defense University.
Let's turn to the milbloggers for another view.
Porphyrogenitus got to Iraq late last year:
I do have one complaint with how the military, or at least our Division, has handled stuff, and it's a complaint that might be of interest to Bloggers. That is this:Later another milblogger explained to him that all he had to do was register his blog, and that he'd be okay.
When we were prepping for deployment, all the leadership were given various briefings on security matters. One was on blogs, and the danger they pose. Now, I get security issues - obviously you don't want people posting sensitive information, that might affect a mission. But our leadership at least came back from the briefing with the sense that virtually nothing should be said in a Blog - "let people read about it in the news. If you want to talk about stuff, tell your family you're fine and all but don't talk about anything, they can watch the news or read it in the papers."
I'd like to hear how that worked out for him, but he hasn't blogged since.
On second thought, maybe I shouldn't link any more MilBlogs...
But you might want to watch this.
Last week's edition of Meanwhile Back at the Front can be read here
(The author of these compilations, an Iraq war veteran, runs the blog The Mudville Gazette)