March 26, 2003

The Najaf Battle The media

The Najaf Battle

The media has been full of reports of a major battle near Najaf that reportedly killed perhaps up to 750 Iraqi soldiers with no U.S. casualties:

"Hundreds of Iraqis died in the attack near Najaf, American military officials in central Iraq said on Wednesday, after the fighting ended. North of town, 400 to 500 Iraqis died, and to the south, another 150 to 200 were killed. These forces were overpowered by American superiority in ground armor, including the Abrams tanks. No American casualties have been reported, but two tanks were lost."

I don't want to sound overly pessimistic regarding coalition casualties, but does this sound strange to anyone else? Particularly as it is the Iraqis who initiated the attack? And were there any personnel in those two tanks?

And take a look at this story:

"Sean D Naylor of the American Army Times quotes a US soldier describing the fighting as so intense that "it looks like Apocalypse Now".

"So intense was the fighting that at one stage the 3rd Squadron commander's driver, Private First Class Randall Duke Newcomb, was forced to steer his Humvee with one hand while firing out of the window with the other."

This sure doesn't sound like a zero coalition casualty fight to me folks. Now maybe the Pentagon will provide figures once they can further confirm the full extent of what occurred on the battlefield--but we have to feel confident that they are not keeping the bad news from us. The public needs to be informed as swiftly as possible about developments so that it retains full confidence that the Pentagon is disseminating information as expeditiously as possible. I hope I'm wrong and we won an amazing victory in Najaf with no U.S. victims. But it's tough to believe, isn't it?

UPDATE: Link to the Army Times story on Najaf:

"The captain said he didnŐt count the Iraqi corpses. However, his troops did hang around long enough to confirm they were Republican Guard soldiers by the distinctive red triangular shoulder patches and red brassards they wore on their olive-drab fatigues. One Republican Guard soldier was also carrying a gas mask."

Why are Republican Guard soldiers carrying around gas masks? It appears we may have to increasingly brace ourselves for possible use of nerve gas as troops get closer to Baghdad. The one thing that might keep Saddam from using such agents is the near universal condemnation such tactics will bring. Right now, particularly given events like this, the Iraqis are winning the propaganda war throughout the Arab world (and much of Europe). Such "gains" will be greatly mitigated if the Iraqis go chemical. But, on balance, I fear Saddam will employ whatever means at his disposal to survive (as long as possible) the coalition onslaught. (UPDATE: John Burns must feel like he is back in Sarajevo. Recall that, during the siege of Sarajevo, there was occasional speculation that the Bosniaks were sometimes shelling their own people so that images of slaughter would expedite the arrival of Western powers combatting Bosnian Serbs arrayed around the city. There is some similar speculation in Baghdad about whether the Iraqis orchestrated the attack themselves in a bid to enhance their standing as "victims" per the propaganda war.)

UPDATE: This story has one American fatality and an estimated 1,000 (you read right) Iraqi military deaths. I'm hopeful but still dubious that the ratio is 1:1000.

Posted by Gregory at March 26, 2003 04:18 PM
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