August 03, 2005

Marine Fatalities

... last throes of a defeated insurgency, doubtless. By the way, there seems to be quite a bit of talk in the air of late regarding major prospective policy adjustments re: Iraq troop withdrawals. We've been quietly following that story, and as soon as time allows, we'll be sharing our take in some detail in these cyber-pages (it's not all necessarily doom and gloom, btw). That said and somewhat relatedly, perhaps, suffice it to say for now that those beginning to argue: 'we gave them our best shot to get a democracy teed up, those damn natives couldn't get their act together, it's really their fault if a civil war erupts (which, incidentally and so conveniently, might be just the ticket to get the Sunnis in more sober mien!)'--those starting to increasingly propagate this line with straight faces are largely morally repulsive cretins, in my view, and we'll have much more on their specious line of argument soon too.

UPDATE: I've deleted an insulting comment in the below thread (I think it was a repeat because I think I had deleted a similar one earlier). Frankly, the person being slimed isn't necessarily one of my favorite commenters, truth be told, but I find personal attacks like the one employed in hugely poor taste and simply unacceptable discourse at this blog. If this keeps happening more often I'll just turn off comments as I don't have the time to monitor regularly. All this said, thanks for the provocative comments I get here so often. They are appreciated, and I sometimes learn from them. Thanks.

Posted by Gregory at August 3, 2005 02:04 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I really wonder what's going on in Haditha. Of course, we won't really know for a few months or even years, but I'm thinking that two major attacks in two days are probably something more than two episodes of bad luck in a row. But then, maybe they are.

Posted by: Andrew Reeves at August 3, 2005 02:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm inclined to pass over the suggestion that only "morally repulsive cretins" could possibly believe that the people most to blame if an Iraqi civil war erupts would be the Iraqis and Arab jihadis fighting it as the product of an excess of caffeine and a shortage of sleep.

A couple of observations regarding recent reverses suffered by American troops: first, three of these in the last couple of weeks, including yesterday's disaster in the Haditha area, have been the product of roadside bombs. The first two struck patrols by a Georgia National Guard unit patrolling an area laced with canals, the soft banks of which provide many places to insert large quantities of explosives directly under the roadway. This poses a much greater threat to a Humvee than a bomb placed at the side of a highway, as even up-armored Humvees are not well protected from explosions below the vehicle. Details of yesterday's attack have not all been released, but it appears to have struck a Marine amphibious vehicle. These do not provide mounted troops as much protection as the Army's Bradley, but if the IED or mine struck by the vehicle contained a shaped charge this may be a moot point. Shaped charges penetrate armor much more effectively than ordinary explosive charges -- to wipe out all fifteen men travelling in a large armored vehicle would require either a really enormous explosion or one that directed its force through a breach in the vehicles armor.

The ambush of what are said to have been two three-man sniper teams from an Ohio Guard unit suggests careful monitoring by the insurgents of the tactics Americans have used to defeat roadside bombs, in this case detached teams of snipers. These teams are supposed to operate well away from large bodies of their own troops, monitoring roads insurgents are thought likely to mine. The disadvantage of operating in this way is that a small team could be wiped out if it ran into a large group of insurgents, before it had time to call for support, and this appears to have been what happened two days ago. The Ohio teams may just have had bad luck, but prudence would suggest accounting for the possibility that local insurgents have been monitoring how the Marines have been deploying these teams and knew exactly where these two would be.

In any event, there are sketchy reports starting to appear about a major American reaction to insurgent activity around Haditha, a place we will probably be hearing a lot more about in the next couple of days.

Posted by: JEB at August 3, 2005 03:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm inclined to pass over the suggestion that only "morally repulsive cretins" could possibly believe that the people most to blame if an Iraqi civil war erupts would be the Iraqis and Arab jihadis fighting it as the product of an excess of caffeine and a shortage of sleep.

A couple of observations regarding recent reverses suffered by American troops: first, three of these in the last couple of weeks, including yesterday's disaster in the Haditha area, have been the product of roadside bombs. The first two struck patrols by a Georgia National Guard unit patrolling an area laced with canals, the soft banks of which provide many places to insert large quantities of explosives directly under the roadway. This poses a much greater threat to a Humvee than a bomb placed at the side of a highway, as even up-armored Humvees are not well protected from explosions below the vehicle. Details of yesterday's attack have not all been released, but it appears to have struck a Marine amphibious vehicle. These do not provide mounted troops as much protection as the Army's Bradley, but if the IED or mine struck by the vehicle contained a shaped charge this may be a moot point. Shaped charges penetrate armor much more effectively than ordinary explosive charges -- to wipe out all fifteen men travelling in a large armored vehicle would require either a really enormous explosion or one that directed its force through a breach in the vehicles armor.

The ambush of what are said to have been two three-man sniper teams from an Ohio Guard unit suggests careful monitoring by the insurgents of the tactics Americans have used to defeat roadside bombs, in this case detached teams of snipers. These teams are supposed to operate well away from large bodies of their own troops, monitoring roads insurgents are thought likely to mine. The disadvantage of operating in this way is that a small team could be wiped out if it ran into a large group of insurgents, before it had time to call for support, and this appears to have been what happened two days ago. The Ohio teams may just have had bad luck, but prudence would suggest accounting for the possibility that local insurgents have been monitoring how the Marines have been deploying these teams and knew exactly where these two would be.

In any event, there are sketchy reports starting to appear about a major American reaction to insurgent activity around Haditha, a place we will probably be hearing a lot more about in the next couple of days.

Posted by: JEB at August 3, 2005 03:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry for the double post. I got a "server error" message on the first one.

Posted by: JEB at August 3, 2005 03:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeb,

Where could I read about whatever reaction to the attacks in Haditha is shaping up?

Posted by: Andrew Reeves at August 3, 2005 03:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jeb - excellent analysis.

I find the details about the deaths of the Ohio Guard snipers puzzling. I'm sure your explanation concerning U.S. deployment of these snipers is correct, but the ease with which they were taken out seems odd to me. One report I read states that they were positioned on high ground and so presumably had some advantage over attackers coming from below. They were also crack marksmen and provided they had enough ammo, it seems conceivable that they could have held off an attack for at least long enough to call in back-up support.

The only explanation I can think of, is that the attackers made up a large force and were prepared to take casualities themselves in order to take down the Americans.

This is strictly an amateur's deduction. Maybe someone with military insight could shed more light on this.

Posted by: scowler at August 3, 2005 04:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm unclear about what is "morally repulsive" about stating the obvious. What are we supposed to do for them - crucify ourselves? There are limits to most things.

Posted by: scowler at August 3, 2005 05:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We're supposed to do it right or not at all. We went into this war not understanding its nature, and we still don't. And now it is probably too late. These "morally repulsive cretins" started a war they didn't understand, and now they are desperately searching for any way out. History will put them up with McNamara and the "Whiz Kids", if they are lucky.

What should we do? Admit that we broke it, admit that we can't fix it, and deal with the consequences like men.

Posted by: Rob at August 3, 2005 06:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

i think when greg speaks of morally repulsive cretinism, hes not speaking of starting the war per se, or nor is he attacking those who blame the insurgents. Rather he is implying those who would blame the rest of the Iraqi people - the ones who say, oh my god, its been 7 months since the Iraqi election and the STILL dont have a constitution, these people are dithering, lets get outta there - they can beat the insurgents on their own.

Which is obviously ridiculous. We didnt really get training of Iraqi forces seriously underway till early 2004, and we're clearly some ways away from when a sufficient number of trained iraqi forces will be available.

that being said, im not sure if the admin is really on the side of the cretins or not. They could be preparing to just walk away (and i think share Gregs reaction to that eventuality) Or their caveats could be serious - that its IF the Iraqi forces are adequately trained, and it may be that they really think they will be. In which case theyre throwing out hints early to get the political monkey off their back. Or it could be that they really think they need to exert leverage to get the Iraqi pols moving forward faster, and this is the best leverage they can think of. I dont know.

Note - Iraqi forces apparently recently DID take over part of Diyala province.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 3, 2005 07:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sniper teams are not meant to hold off direct attacks by themselves. They are supposed to stay far enough away from trouble that a rapid reaction force can get to them if needed, or better yet they can extricate themselves from the situation by moving quickly.
The marines may need to change their tactics at least temporarily in order to supply sniper teams with more firepower.
The main problem around al anbar is the rules of engagement prevent taking the attack to the problem--Sunni mosques, clerics, and sheikhs who support the terrorists.

Posted by: Gerghiz at August 3, 2005 07:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Was that a Vietnam reference Rob?

Wow - I have never heard any Bush opponent compare Iraq to Vietnam before today

What an interesting comparison

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at August 3, 2005 07:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, Pogue, you will hear a lot more Vietnam references as time goes on. Believe me, there are many of us in the military looking to write the next Dereliction of Duty. Our friends are dying for a half-ass war, and we are pissed.

And now the politicians are going to just walk away, and pretend it's not their fault. That, my friend, is moral cretinism.

Posted by: Rob at August 3, 2005 07:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Folks, I think the time has come to admit that we've moved beyond "quagmire" into "debacle." Let me put it another way, so that even the strong supporters of the war who frequent this blog will sit up and take notice: If instead of being the son of an experienced and cautious former President (God, remember experience and caution as presidential traits?), George Bush had been a secret agent of the Iranian government, with the the mission of causing the U.S. to lose its allies and moral authority, built up over half a century; weakening America's military; ruining American's finances; dividing America politically; and installing an Iran-friendly Islamic theocracy in Iraq; would his Iranian handlers criticize his performance, or would he be greated with a big banner reading "mission accomplished"? The question answers itself.

What do we do now? I see two options. The first, suggested by Ken Pollack in his recent congressional testimony, is to change to a counterinsurgency strategy: to cede a lot of the country to the insurgents while we use the troops we have to create a totally secure environment in certain sectors (e.g., around Baghdad). As we create a secure environment, with Iraqis trained to maintain it, we move out to expand the area we control and repeat the process. The second option is to recognize that the Iranians have far more clout in Iraq - and a much greater capacity than we do to absorb casualties, inflict terror, and fund the insurgency - than we could ever have, and to throw our lot with the Kurds, and create a democratic haven there, with permanent bases that will help keep pressure on Iran. What we're doing now isn't working and isn't sustainable.

Posted by: Sheldon at August 3, 2005 08:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Should we be surprised that the insurgents lie in wait and study our movements? If they didn't, they wouldn't have survived up to now. The insurgents still know a lot more about us - our vehicles, weapons, men, etc. - than we know about them. Until we even out the intelligence battle, we are fighting a losing war.

Posted by: Elrod at August 3, 2005 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"would his Iranian handlers criticize his performance, or would he be greated with a big banner reading "mission accomplished"? The question answers itself."

Handler - Agent Dubya - your record is mixed. On the one hand, youve gotten rid of Saddam. Thats good. But on the other hand he wasnt really a threat to us anyway. Youve certainly gotten American troops tied up so they cant attack us, but then they could never have really invaded and occupied us anyway - the kinds of attacks they COULD do, they can still do. Youve certainly distanced the muslim world even further from them, but at the cost of changes we dont like in Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, etc

Agent dubya - Hey wait, those werent my fault, they were gonna happen anyway

Handler - perhaps, we will never know. But it sure is suspicious that so many changes happened on your watch. In any case the damage is only likely to get worse, if and when Iraq settles down.

Agent dubya - hey, i managed to alienate the western allies from the US, didnt I?

Handler- we didnt pay you for short term results. Look at Germany. Look at Sarkozy in France. Your gains are evaporating.

Agent Dubya - youre missing my big achievement, putting SCIRI and Dawa in charge in Iran - surely that alone is worth it, no?

Handler -well there you hit a sore spot. My superiors are not all united on that one. Some of them are delighted. But the senior mullahs are none too happy with SCIRI, and even less so with Dawa. A moderate Shiite regime is the LAST thing they want, this Sistani scares the hell out of them. Hes much more like Montazeri than he is like them. And they are the ones who are in the ascendant now, my friend. You would have been better to put that fellow Sadr in power.

Agent Dubya - im an agent, not a miracle worker.
On the other hand, I did a good job in not sending enough troops, didnt I.

Handler - well yes, there youve been masterful. And have managed to alienate American support for this whole project. If you can get the US to withdraw prematurely, you can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Posted by: liberalhawk at August 3, 2005 09:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The kind of attacks they COULD do they still can do"? You are dreaming, liberalhawk. With what army? With what justification? With what goal? Iran would be twenty times tougher to deal with than Iraq, with infinitely more retaliatory options. And if you think all is well again regarding public opinion vis-a-vis America, you are sadly mistaken - even with the recent small bounce in the polls, our image is still the most negative it has ever been, worldwide. Good luck getting any allies in our lifetime for ANY other military venture. As for Iraq, the security forces are infiltrated with Iranian agents, armaments are flowing across the border to pro-Iran constituents, assassins are hard at work eliminating opposition, and Sistani is an old man. Tell you what, liberalhawk. Let's revisit this issue one year from now - say August 1 2006 - and we'll see who has it right. I hope you are, but I would bet - big time - you're not even close.

Posted by: Sheldon at August 3, 2005 10:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Morally repulsive" may be a bit strong in some cases, but remember we were morally urged towards support of this war on the wonderful vision that Iraq could become a democracy capable of enlightening the middle east. Questions about the difficulty of this were dismissed as a racist claim that Iraqis were not capable of human behavior.

However this wonderful vision has less voice, much less voice. Indeed it's denied that it's ever made. Many individuals who not that long ago were making proclamations about victory have chasnged their predictions. Seamlessly.

There is no admission of failure. It remains a great success.

Yet it isn't, not what we hoped for, not what we were assured we would get. Yet there is no sorrow.

And if one goes to many of the rightwing groups and reads (especially the comments) there is often a gleeful advocation of nuclear weapons, concentration camps for Sunni and the beauty of a civil war in which Shiite slaughter Sunni. Certainly this does not represent the majority (I hope) but in most cases there is little or no criticism, yet poster after poster goes on about the sin of liberals.

Posted by: skate at August 3, 2005 11:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Scowler,
Look at what happened to the SEALs in Afghanistan. If one of those small units gets caught in a bad position (i.e. in transit, or surprised bu a larger force) they are in trouble. I would guess that they don't have air support in the immediate vicinity, because that would tend to give the enemy a clue that they are there, so there is likely at least some delay in getting assistance to them.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at August 3, 2005 11:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If Bush does pull out and everything goes to hell in a handbasket I hope they do it all at once. I have a bad feeling that there is going to be a gradual de-escalation to try to cover up the fact that they are leaving. I'm sure they'll find some way to spin it. So your going to end up with several more dead Americans but the same results as an immediate withdrawl.

Posted by: Ryan at August 3, 2005 11:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

vvv

Posted by: scowler at August 4, 2005 12:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess Greg has considered me a morally repulsive cretin since I started visiting this site a year ago, because I have been arguing that our major flaw in this war is that we would not define what we considered victory, and that we would inevitably have to define victory down. I do think we promised to give the Iraqis a fair shot at setting up a democracy, and did not promise to substitute our will for theirs on an indefinite basis. If that makes me a cretin so be it.

Let's assume, arguendo, that Rove talks Bush into doing a 180 and we start pulling our troops out next year. What's the worst that will happen? The child murderers will lose their last fig leaf of legitimacy, the corruption gravy train will lurch off the tracks, and the sullen, passive fence-sitters in the Sunni community will have to make a choice. The country will probably end up much like South Africa 10 years after apartheid, not a place I'd want to live, outrageous levels of mayhem, crime and corruption, but still better off than it was before, and with the opportunity to make life better for their children.

Posted by: wayne at August 4, 2005 02:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Forget south africa 10 years after apartheid. That would be an achievement. Think Lebanon in the '80's on a far larger scale. I think Bush will in the end opt for a "decent interval" strategy where there is at least a pause between the pull out and the complete collapse of Iraq into civil war.

Posted by: pi at August 4, 2005 06:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Skate, concerning 'Shiite slaughter[ing] Sunni', ... The British media concentrated Wednesday on the US casualties in al-Anbar and there was not much coverage of another story from Iraq - the murder of a NYT journalist in Basra. Remember this is in the British sector. Also, it highlights the killings being carried out by Shi'a fundamentalists. The likelihood is that he was killed because of what he wrote.

More here and here.

Posted by: DavidP at August 4, 2005 11:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What should we do? Admit that we broke it, admit that we can't fix it, and deal with the consequences like men.
- Rob

I want to go on record as admitting that I was one of those who helped break the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussien. Proud of it, actually. Thank you.

I also want to admit, per your request, that there is nothing about the former regime that can be fixed, and that it's going to be a long hard slog - for the citizens of Iraq - as they continue to transition to a Republic.

Finally, I, and some 1 million of my Army brothers and sisters are going to continue to help support this endeavor, and deal with the consequences as men and women .

Cretin.

Posted by: Tommy G at August 4, 2005 02:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Awesome, Tommy. You are the man. If you're not full of shit then I salute your service. If you are full of shit then you have to live with yourself.

But it's one thing to burn down the shithouse, dude, it's quite another to install plumbing. I would assume now that you are proud that Iraq is growing closer to Iran, that it is moving to theocracy, and probable civil war (which could easily grow to involve Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Gulf states directly)? Phase 4 planning involved counter-insurgency ops 2 years later, right? (Not that we have a counter-insurgency strategy two years later, but that's another subject.) Are you proud that our efforts broke essentially all of functioning aspects of Iraqi society, and we were unable and unwilling to fix them?

You may be very proud of any role in the war 2+ years ago, and I'm not gonna argue that getting rid of Saddam was a bad thing. But getting rid of Saddam and leaving a political vacuum in his wake through negligent planning is criminal in my book. This absolutely did not need to be a "long slog" for the people of Iraq. Our policies in the summer of 2003 made it so. Go ahead and be proud of OIF one, fine, in some ways it was an operational masterpiece. Unfortunately, in other ways it created even bigger problems. But that's all ancient history dude, this is a different war.

And we could win this war, if the politicians were willing to drop the bullshit ideology and focus on practical policies, were willing to level with the American people about the true costs of our involvement, and were willing to devote the people and resources necessary to the task. But this has been a half-ass, war-on-the-cheap effort from the start, and we are now only throwing good monay and people after bad. Shit or get off the pot. But this crew won't shit, they're afraid of the stink. So we need to get the hell off the pot.

Call me all the names you want dude, I've been called much worse by better men then you. At the end of the day, however, given the policy constraints set by our leaders, I don't think it's worth losing any more of my brothers and sisters. I've lost enough. If that makes me a cretin in your eyes, than I am honored.

Posted by: Rob at August 4, 2005 03:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Civil War. Yup that's what some of us have been worried about for some time. But I'm not worried because it might be a moral failure in our stewardship of the Iraqi people. No, I'm worried because of the unpredictable and potentially dangerous outcome to our interests. Might make Saddam Hussein look like Mr. Rogers, create a new Taliban, or just extend Iranian control to the Saudi and Jordanian borders.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 4, 2005 07:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Also, let me just confirm that Greg is right that major troop withdrawals are coming soon. Plans to that effect are in the works at the Pentagon and there is very much an exit strategy focus over the next 6-12 months.

Posted by: POTUS B at August 4, 2005 07:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A modest question -- how could any concievable alternative development in Iraq produce an outcome worst (or even as bad as) Suddam Hussian's threat posed in 2003? All the blowhard leftists should remember that Iraq was not the way Michael Moore envisioned it -- go back and read, for example, the writings of John Burns in the NYTimes or Ken Pollack's Gathering Storm.

I agree Rummy should have been sacked, I agree we did not make massive corrections that were needed when Turkey (by a 2 vote margin - thanks France) refused to let us bring the hammer down on the Sunni's from the north. I agree we have left the place in much worse shape than I would have hoped or expected. But its still better than it was under Saddam, Uday and Quesay.

Posted by: wayne at August 4, 2005 09:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How many men did we lose at the Bulge? 50,000 or more? How many in Okinawa? Perhaps 22,000?

Usually when enemies are desperately losing they stage last-gasp offensives. See Ludendorf, Ardennes, Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, etc.

Yes the losses are tragic. But the jihadis are just going to sit there, they will attack and adapt. But they can only go so far without a modern, mechanized army. AK-47s and mortars are not a match for air, artillery, armor, and men supported by a modern comm network and operating in the Desert not jungle.

I agree though the US forces have been undersupplied and the war done on the cheap. However, if you go to billroggio.com, mudvillegazette, blackfive, etc. you'll get a decent picture of the ongoing nameless US/Iraqi offensive.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at August 4, 2005 10:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bottom up-

Jim: Precisely

Wayne: Agreed - sans the Rummy sack

PB: 1 Well of course they're coming, how is this inside-info. Petreus himself has been on a PA tear for a week now.

PB: 2. Gyeech - afraid that you might be right.

Rob - Well, now that you're not being so glib, I'll match you.

para 1:thanks
para 2: broke all aspects? Do not concur. Unable? No one got us the language funding we could have used 5 years ago. Oh well, I never rattled cages for it anyways. I suspect higher (not to mention the public) would have pounced on me as a warmonger. "Arabic language skill training at the old SOA site? What the hell is that for?" "Well, Senator Kerry..." Unwilling? Now you're being an ass again.

para 3: Do not concur. Same war, different phase. Trust me, we know, we've all been FM'd to death on it over the last 8 years.

para 4. ??? Well, let me sum up. No one lied to you. Pay closer attention.

para 5 It is worth losing more of your brothers and sisters. That's what we do. Base neither your derision, nor your support on what we do. We all pine of being back home, eating and sleeping with whoever we want - But that doesn't mean we don't get a huge rush out of doing what we do. Some of the best and worst times of my life.

Anonymous: You should capitalize "Marines".

Posted by: Tommy G at August 5, 2005 12:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wayne:

"A modest question -- how could any concievable alternative development in Iraq produce an outcome worst (or even as bad as) Suddam Hussian's threat posed in 2003? All the blowhard leftists should remember that Iraq was not the way Michael Moore envisioned it -- go back and read, for example, the writings of John Burns in the NYTimes or Ken Pollack's Gathering Storm."

Wayne, Saddam did not pose a threat to us in 2003. Those writings look a bit ridiculous now.

"I agree Rummy should have been sacked, I agree we did not make massive corrections that were needed when Turkey (by a 2 vote margin - thanks France) refused to let us bring the hammer down on the Sunni's from the north. "

IMHO, this is just an excuse for the administration not having any plans and preparations worth anything for this war. It doesn't take that long to boogie out of town and go guerrilla. The major advantage that they had in the beginning was that the US didn't have enough forces to deal with things.

"I agree we have left the place in much worse shape than I would have hoped or expected. But its still better than it was under Saddam, Uday and Quesay."

That's debatable, and the trend is not favorable.

Posted by: Barry at August 8, 2005 03:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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