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  Saturday  April 10  2004    05: 56 PM

more of the iraqi intifada — vietnam, lebanon, and the west bank on internet time

There has been discussion of whether this is more like Lebanon or the West Bank, rather than Vietnam. I'm going for all of the above. I'm changing the subject heading accordingly.

Urgently needed: Big shift in U.S. policies in Iraq
by Helena Cobban

I'm guessing the U.S. military leadership has finally understood the scope of the problems their people face in Iraq, and the stunning depth of the failure of Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the man appointed by the suits in the Pentagon to run the "political" side of the occupation?

On the ground, the military has reportedly pulled out of Sadr City--just a mile or so from the Green Zone!-- and is suing for a ceasefire in Fallujah. Meanwhile the quasi-puppet IGC is collapsing and there are many, many reports of U.S.-"trained" Iraqi security units defecting en masse to the insurgents.

Evidently, a massive, top-level shift in the politics of running this occupation is the only thing that can save the 120,000 highly over-exposed and over-stretched American troops in Iraq from a total and humiliating disaster.


Somehow I don't think we can expect that kind of shift. One of the things that has been unique about this whole war is the availability of first hand accounts. Here are several. From Fallujah...

URGENT Update on the Massacre in Falluja - eyewitness accounts

There has been a massacre in Falluga. Falluga is under siege. 470 people have been killed, and 1700 injured. There has been no ceasefire. They (Americans) told people to leave, said they have 8 hours to leave and people began to leave but they’re trapped in the Desert. The Americans have been bombing with B52s (Confirmed also by Leigh in an email three days ago). Bridges to Baghdad are pulling out. We have flights booked out of Amman. Tomorow a team will go to Sadr City to deliver medicines. 50 people have been killed there. ?? (Forgotten name) the 'elastic' shiekh in Sadr City (I’ve met him, young, brilliant guy, describes himself as 'elastic' because he is so flexible when it comes to his interpretations of Islam and moral conduct definitions etc, he's pretty liberal) he has told me I should leave. He says that even he can't control his people. Foreigners are going to be targeted. 6 new foreigners have been taken hostage. Four of them are Italian security firm employees - they were kidnapped from their car, which was found to be full of weapons, and there were black uniforms. Baghdad was quiet today except for Abu Ghraib (West Baghdad, where a vast prison is located and is bursting at the seams with 12,000 prisoners) an American convoy was attacked there and 9 soldiers were injured and 27 were kidnapped. That’s right 27. None of the newswires are reporting it though. And I heard this from (*name best not to supply without permission). Its really really bad. They (Americans) have been firing on Ambulances, snipers are following the ambulances, they cannot get in.

Falluga, there are people in the Desert, they've left Falluga but they're not being allowed into Baghdad, they're trapped in the Dessert, they're like refugees, its terrible but the people, Iraqi people are giving all they can; they’re bringing supplies, everybody is giving all their help and support to Falluga.

I want to stay but I have to go, if I want to come back and be useful, you know I think its best to leave, Bridges to Baghdad has decided this. It’s getting really dangerous for Italians. We feel like we’re being targeted now. (Italy has a 2500+ force including Carabinieri occupying Nassiriyah which has been subject to a number of resistance attacks including the devastating attack on the Police station which claimed the lives of 4 soldiers, one civilian, one documentary film maker, 12 Carabinieri police and 8 Iraqis).

(…) and Leigh have been great. They’ve been driving into Falluga and bringing out people, going back and forth. They know what’s going on, really they have been great. They want more people to help them but we couldn’t from here. It’s getting much much worse.


  thanks to Yolanda Flanagan

From a security contractor in Iraq...

Talking Points Memo

The fighting two nights ago was loud and widespread throughout the northern and northwestern parts of Baghdad ... areas such as Yarmouk, Sadr City had almost continuous gunfights and rocket attacks. When we heard US forces using the main gun on M-1 tanks at 1 AM we knew it was serious insurgency at hand. The night is no longer the refuge and domain of the Americans. I have to tell you although the wide open areas of Iraq give a false sense of security. Even though much of this is unseen to most people the situation has gone from bad to really bad to unbelievably bad! Westerners are getting hit everywhere. Security companies escorting CPA, themselves and other Westerners are now on the menu for all the armed resistance groups. There was a report of a massive ambush by one security firm that tried to drive in from Amman. Reports have 25-40 gunmen opening up on them. They lost all of their vehicles and had to be given a mercy lift by a passing Iraqi minivan. Several other firms lost western security personnel killed this week in drive-by ambushes and even a seige by the Sadr Militia. Several NGOs, security firms and military bases were literally under siege for days in Kut, Nasiriyah and Baghdad. The boldness and sophistication of the attacks is staggering and it is clear that every one of the resistance fighters and Islamic militiamen have taken heart at the ease of inflicting damage on the Westerners. The abductions of the Japanese hostages is a sign that we have entered a new phase of bad as abduction requires a permissive environment for the hostage taker.

I suspect we will have a cool down period in the next few days or within a week but it will be simply to "re-arm and re-fuel for re-strike and re-venge." A true sustained explosion of violence has yet to be coordinated by the myriad of resistance teams but as the independent or semi-centralized resistance groups form, choose leadership and communicate at the internet cafes, you can be pretty sure the second wave of violence is going to come and it will be equally, if not more, dramatic. This time it won't be men in black uniforms, they have learned that lesson in Najaf ... They will shift to urban terrorism and un-uniformed attacks. God forbid if Sadr is killed or captured ... then we have an entire second front that won't give up until we leave.


A Marine writes home (POTUS = President of the United States)...

How Much Trouble Are We in?

Things have been busy here. You know I can't say much about it. However, I do know two things. One, POTUS has given us the green light to do whatever we needed to do to win this thing so we have that going for us. Two, and my opinion only, this battle is going to have far reaching effects on not only the war here in Iraq but in the overall war on terrorism. We have to be very precise in our application of combat power. We cannot kill a lot of innocent folks (though they are few and far between in Fallujah). There will be no shock and awe. There will be plenty of bloodshed at the lowest levels. This battle is the Marine Corps' Belleau Wood for this war. 2/1 and 1/5 will be leading the way. We have to find a way to kill the bad guys only. The Fallujahans are fired up and ready for a fight (or so they think). A lot of terrorists and foreign fighters are holed up in Fallujah. It has been a sanctuary for them. If they have not left town they are going to die. I'm hoping they stay and fight...


There has been a lull at Fallujah and talk of cease fire. While the US is talking cease fire they have moved another Marine division to add to the two already there. The Iraqis aren't going to put there guns down. It looks like we will see a blood bath in the next day or two.

Hardliner Made New Interior Minister in Iraq

On the outside, with Coalition critic Ghazi al-Yawir being sent to Fallujah to negotiate a cease fire, it might seem that the US policy in Iraq has softened. However, the substansive actions of the last 24 hours point to a planned crack down, with a new Interior Minister noted for his "law and order" views, and the announcement by the Pentagon that Iraq's forces will remain under US control after the hand over. With the lifting of the arms embargo to Iraq, the ground is set for an escalation of conflict should the Intifada not back down to US demands.


U.S. Preparing Long Iraq Drive to Quell Unrest

American commanders are preparing for a prolonged campaign to quell the twin uprisings in Iraq, issuing orders to attack any members of a rebellious Shiite militia in southern cities relentlessly while moving methodically to squeeze Sunni fighters west of Baghdad until they lay down their arms.


Here are some interesting comments on the privatization of of war...


But it absolutely screams when it turns out that these companies, and others, are responsible for some of the most vital work that's being done in Iraq. We're not just talking about security consultants; we're also talking about weapons systems maintenance; about central supply warehouses; and about the feeding and housing of soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

I have no problem with having the free market provide many solutions to our problems. But the market cannot be the only provider of those solutions. Especially not when we're at war, and especially not in a war zone.

You may not be aware of this, but many--if not, indeed, most or all--of these contractors have exit clauses that allow them to leave the area of operations if they feel they're in danger. By definition, a war zone is hazardous duty (after all, that is why they give us the rifles.

What are we going to do if these contractors start leaving in droves--which, given how badly the situation in Iraq has deteriotated in the past week, they well may?

In the Army, for example, we use several highly critical systems that the operators cannot troubleshoot beyond a very basic level; hence, the presence of civilian consultants and "supergrades" who actually do the vast majority of the repairs and troubleshooting. What do we do if these systems fail, and the repairmen aren't present to fix them?

And I haven't even addressed the feeding and housing of the troops. How would we handle that, should the cooks and others leave?


  thanks to The Agonist

We may not even be able to keep our puppets in line. How ungrateful of them. They want to go back to their homes in London.

US fights to keep its Iraqi allies on board

The US-led administration in Baghdad was on Friday night fighting to keep Iraq's Governing Council intact after two ministers quit in protest at the US crackdown on Shia and Sunni unrest. The interior minister, Nouri Badran, and the human rights minister, Abdul-Basit Turki, stepped down, as others among the US-appointed representatives threatened to resign unless occupation forces reined in their assault.

"There will be many resignations," said Haider Abbadi, communications minister, before an emergency session of ministers and the Governing Council - Iraq's representative body handpicked by the US governor, Paul Bremer, to discuss their future.


  thanks to Political Animal

Amid observations of the efforts to shut up the truth, Robert Fisk sees disturbing parallels with the tactics the Israelis use against the Palestinians...

War Lords to Their Critics: "Just Shut Up"
Bush's War and the Lapdog Press Corps

It seems that as long as you say "war on terror", you are safe from all criticism. For not a single American journalist has investigated the links between the Israeli army's "rules of engagement"--so blithely handed over to US forces on Sharon's orders--and the behaviour of the US military in Iraq. The destruction of houses of "suspects", the wholesale detention of thousands of Iraqis without trial, the cordoning off of "hostile" villages with razor wire, the bombardment of civilian areas by Apache helicopter gunships and tanks on the hunt for "terrorists" are all part of the Israeli military lexicon.

In besieging cities--when they were taking casualties or the number of civilians killed was becoming too shameful to sustain--the Israeli army would call a "unilateral suspension of offensive operations". They did this 11 times after they surrounded Beirut in 1982. And yesterday, the American army declared a "unilateral suspension of offensive operations" around Fallujah.

Not a word on this mysterious parallel by America's reporters, no questions about the even more mysterious use of identical language. And in the coming days, we shall--perhaps--find out how many of the estimated 300 dead of Fallujah were Sunni gunmen and how many were women and children. Following Israel's rules is going to lead the Americans into the same disaster those rules have led the Israelis. But I guess we'll shut up about it.


Newsweek has a good overiew of the mess we are in. And they are calling it an Intifada, too.

The Iraqi Intifada
Suddenly the insurgency is much broader and much more dangerous than anyone had imagined it could become

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian philosopher who is required reading for all military officers, talked about the "culminating point" in a war, when an army's resources are outstripped by the demands placed upon it. That point may be approaching now in Iraq. "There are several million young men in Iraq who are now seeing us in a whole new light," says Pat Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. "We have something like 130,000 troops in Iraq.We probably do not have more than 60 thousand or 70 thousand fighters in that force. They are spread across a vast area." In Lang’s view, the United States must either shift that tipping point by bringing in more troops, or we withdraw. "To back away from the hostiles will enormously encourage our enemies. We have no choice but to fight it out and defeat the growing revolt in Iraq,” he says. "Once you drive your car off the cliff, there's not much you can do to affect the outcome."


  thanks to The Agonist

"Much broader and much more dangerous than anyone had imagined it could become"? Are they serious? I think most of those opposing the war imagined it quite well, thank you very much. Billmon has another raft of excellent observations. Pay attention to those about the French in Vietnam for, if the upcoming assaults fail, the Army will be withdrawing to their enclaves. They won't have much choice.


And I do mean, beyond all recognition. In fact it's becoming increasingly difficult to have any clear idea of what's going on in Iraq -- other than that things still appear to be getting worse, not better.

But, if it is true that Centcom has temporarily backed away from the fight, and is preparing to hunker down in fortified bases in hopes the intifada will eventually start to cool down, then this really would start to resemble the first Vietnam War -- in which the French Army, knowing it was too weak to pacify the entire country, tried to rely on a system of block houses and other strong points to maintain some semblance of control.

Stratfor -- another web site with less-than-sterling credibility -- recently argued that the adoption of such an "enclave" strategy would signal the endgame for the Coalition in Iraq. I guess I can risk reprinting a couple of paragraphs from their subscriber-only analysis, in hopes they won't decide to sue me:

Even the current geography of the rising is beyond the capabilities of existing forces or any practicable amount of additional forces that might be made available. The United States is already withdrawing from some cities. The logical outcome of all of this would be an enclave strategy, in which the United States concentrates its forces in a series of fortified enclaves -- perhaps excluding Iraqi nationals -- and leaves the rest of the country to the guerrillas...

That would force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The consequences of such a withdrawal would be catastrophic for the U.S. grand strategy in the war against militant Islamists. One of the purposes of the war was to disprove al Qaeda's assertion that the United States was actually militarily weak and that it could not engage in close combat in the Islamist world, certainly not in the face of a mass uprising. An American withdrawal would prove al Qaeda's claims and would energize Islamists not only with hatred of the United States, but also -- and worse -- with contempt for American power. It would create the worst of all possible worlds for the United States. It doesn't get worse than this scenario for the United States.

Cyanide capsules, anyone?


Here's a tip: The comments on Billmon's posts, at Whiskey Bar are worth checking out.

It's now 4:56 in the morning in Iraq. A new day. Not something to look forward too.