At one point he was asked if he had made any mistakes. He couldn’t remember, but fortunately here at the Alt, we do. The biggest mistake being the firing of the standing Iraqi army, along with thousands of Baath party bureaucrats, both of whom could have maintained security and stability. Any imperial power past or present knows that you must “buy the loyalty of those you have overthrown”. It’s good business. During the American occupation of Germany, the US government retained thousands of ex-Nazi types to run the country.
Iraqi proconsul L. Paul Bremer gets the blame for unleashing last week’s uprising by closing down a then little known newspaper with a circulation of 10,000 and arresting its editor. The papers crime was one of “spreading anti-American views.” Freedom of the press must not be one of Mr. Bremer’s articles in the new Iraq constitution. As the American occupation troops have learned, the editor of that paper was none other than the now infamous rebel cleric Moqtada al Sadr.
This event seems to have triggered the release of his militia, and the genie is now out of the bottle, and will not be denied. US troops are now surrounding the town of Najaf, where the bandit of Baghdad has fled, to bring him out dead or alive. Presumably, al-Sadr is holed up in his office near a mosque in this most holy of Shia cities, surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of his fanatic followers.
Iraqis will now see a Christian army- laying siege to Muslim ground zero in what must be, to their long memories, another Crusade. It will be up to young American Infantrymen to make the assault and drag him out. Assuming his rabid rabble allow that to happen. The end result of the ultimatum could be a house- to- house blood bath.
House-to-house urban warfare was exactly what the pentagon feared might occur in the assault on Baghdad last year. Last week it happened in Fallujah, thirty miles west. US Marines, looking for the killers of four American contractors, had to result to close in air support and tanks as they moved into the hostile city. The result was about 600 dead Fallujahans, most of them women and children. A local soccer stadium has come a graveyard.
The result of Bremer’s bungling has been to force the Iraqis to choose nationalism over tribal and religious schism. Sunnis and Shia have put heir differences aside, at least for the moment, and unleashed jihad against the Americans. The enemy of my enemy scenario seems to be at work here. Holy war may be too strong a word, but I don’t think so. The fighting inside Iraq has been much worse than the average American has been led to believe, to wit:
The second of two helicopters was shot down Tuesday morning, just east of the besieged city of Fallujah. It was a Special Operations MH-53 Pave Low, which first gained fame as the “Jolly Green Giant” in Viet Nam (there’s that war again). This very large single rotor chopper was used on harrowing missions sometimes into North Viet Nam to rescue downed American pilots. The Pave Low crash site, 12 miles east of the city, was secured, but he military won’t give disposition of the crew, only to say they are alive. The may have been captured. The site and security team were mortared, but the marines managed to burn the ship in place before they were themselves extracted. The first helicopter, an Apache, was shot down on Sunday morning, reportedly by a surface to air missile.
American supply lines and convoys are coming under constant, serious attack. This last weekend, US troops fought “pitched battles” to keep the north-south and east-west lines of communication into Baghdad running. The associated press reported that a convoy of flatbed trucks hauling M-113 armored personnel carriers was overrun and burned, twenty miles south of the capitol. The supply lines from Baghdad into Fallujah have been attacked repeatedly, fuel tankers burned, both military and civilian contractors killed or kidnapped or both. Us troops are hard pressed to protect them all. It has come to light that they don’t. Fuel and ammunition have military escort. But food and water shipments may not. Kellogg Brown & Root have about 700 trucks moving stuff around the country. They have to hire their own guards. As we have noted, there are about 20,000 so-called private military contractors in Iraq, mostly providing security to whoever wants to pay the 1,000 a week fee. These mercenaries (if you will) are paid for by the pentagon but not accountable to anyone in the congress. It has been reported that as many 80 PMC’s have been killed in the last week. These deaths do not have to be reported as “official” deaths.
As the convoy attacks continue, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Lt. General John Abizad, has asked the pentagon for an additional 10,000 troops. Mars alone knows where the DoD will get them. Troop rotations of those soldiers inside Iraq have been frozen yet again, most notably the first Armored Division. The area commander wants to increase troop strength to about 135,000.
Kidnappings have indeed escalated. The latest AP figures are 22 still held, while 35 have been released. Most foreign governments are telling their civilians to get out. Russia is sending planes for their 500 folks still in country. France has ordered their people out tout suite.
At least 680 American soldiers have been killed so far, with thousands wounded. This number is suspect, and could be much higher. As we noted in the last issue of Alt, the pentagon has been reluctant to be forthright with casualty returns. By Grady Hawkins
President George W. Bush held a nationally televised news conference to attempt to explain the tragedy he has created in Mesopotamia at the behest of his neo-con master/puppeteers. In light of Mr. Bush’s lame rhetoric, the American people were subjected to little more than what we have thus far been subjected. We as a nation were told again of the crimes of the beast of Baghdad; to “stay the course”; that the freedom and security and democracy must be protected in Iraq so as to secure peace and freedom here at home.