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Texas Gentleman

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About Texas Gentleman

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  1. Spending time in the United States after a tour of Iraq can be a disorienting experience these days. Within hours of arriving here, as I can attest from a recent visit, one is confronted with an image of Iraq that is unrecognizable. It is created in several overlapping ways: through television footage showing the charred remains of vehicles used in suicide attacks, surrounded by wailing women in black and grim-looking men carrying coffins; by armchair strategists and political gurus predicting further doom or pontificating about how the war should have been fought in the first place; by authors of instant-history books making their rounds to dissect the various fundamental mistakes committed by the Bush administration; and by reporters, cocooned in hotels in Baghdad, explaining the carnage and chaos in the streets as signs of the country’s impending or undeclared civil war. Add to all this the days alleged scandal or revelation an outed CIA operative, a reportedly doctored intelligence report, a leaked pessimistic assessment and it is no wonder the American public registers disillusion with Iraq and everyone who embroiled the U.S. in its troubles. It would be hard indeed for the average interested citizen to find out on his own just how grossly this image distorts the realities of present-day Iraq. Part of the problem, faced by even the most well-meaning news organizations, is the difficulty of covering so large and complex a subject; naturally, in such circumstances, sensational items rise to the top. But even ostensibly more objective efforts, like the Brookings Institutions much-cited Iraq Index with its constantly updated array of security, economic, and public-opinion indicators, tell us little about the actual feel of the country on the ground. To make matters worse, many of the newsmen, pundits, and commentators on whom American viewers and readers rely to describe the situation have been contaminated by the increasing bitterness of American politics. Clearly there are those in the media and the think tanks who wish the Iraq enterprise to end in tragedy, as a just comeuppance for George W. Bush. Others, prompted by noble sentiment, so abhor the idea of war that they would banish it from human discourse before admitting that, in some circumstances, military power can be used in support of a good cause. But whatever the reason, the half-truths and outright misinformation that now function as conventional wisdom have gravely disserved the American people. For someone like myself who has spent considerable time in Iraq a country I first visited in 1968current reality there is, nevertheless, very different from this conventional wisdom, and so are the prospects for Iraq’s future. It helps to know where to look, what sources to trust, and how to evaluate the present moment against the background of Iraqi and Middle Eastern history. Since my first encounter with Iraq almost 40 years ago, I have relied on several broad measures of social and economic health to assess the country’s condition. Through good times and bad, these signs have proved remarkably accurate as accurate, that is, as is possible in human affairs. For some time now, all have been pointing in an unequivocally positive direction. The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraq in 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990long queues of Iraqis have formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape. In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraq’s creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks. This was not the temporary exile of a small group of middle-class professionals and intellectuals, which is a common enough phenomenon in most Arab countries. Rather, it was a departure en masse, affecting people both in small villages and in big cities, and it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam Hussein. Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we have not seen on our television sets and we can be sure that we would be seeing it if it were there to be shown. To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark. Many of the camps set up for fleeing Iraqis in Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia since 1959 have now closed down. The oldest such center, at Ashrafiayh in southwest Iran, was formally shut when its last Iraqi guests returned home in 2004. A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a different kind. This is the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely. From 1991 (when Saddam Hussein massacred Shiites involved in a revolt against him) to 2003, there were scarcely any pilgrims to these cities. Since Saddams fall, they have been flooded with visitors. In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina. Over 3,000 Iraqi clerics have also returned from exile, and Shiite seminaries, which just a few years ago held no more than a few dozen pupils, now boast over 15,000 from 40 different countries. This is because Najaf, the oldest center of Shiite scholarship, is once again able to offer an alternative to Qom, the Iranian holy city where a radical and highly politicized version of Shiism is taught. Those wishing to pursue the study of more traditional and quietist forms of Shiism now go to Iraq where, unlike in Iran, the seminaries are not controlled by the government and its secret police. A third sign, this one of the hard economic variety, is the value of the Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the regions other major currencies. In the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the Iraqi dinar was in free fall; after 1995, it was no longer even traded in Iran and Kuwait. By contrast, the new dinar, introduced early in 2004, is doing well against both the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial, having risen by 17 percent against the former and by 23 percent against the latter. Although it is still impossible to fix its value against a basket of international currencies, the new Iraqi dinar has done well against the U.S. dollar, increasing in value by almost 18 percent between August 2004 and August 2005. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis, and millions of Iranians and Kuwaitis, now treat it as a safe and solid medium of exchange. My fourth time-tested sign is the level of activity by small and medium-sized businesses. In the past, whenever things have gone downhill in Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply closed down, with the country’s most capable entrepreneurs decamping to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe and North America. Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, as well as numerous private studies, the Iraqi economy has been doing better than any other in the region. The country’s gross domestic product rose to almost $90 billion in 2004 (the latest year for which figures are available), more than double the output for 2003, and its real growth rate, as estimated by the IMF, was 52.3 per cent. In that same period, exports increased by more than $3 billion, while the inflation rate fell to 25.4 percent, down from 70 percent in 2002. The unemployment rate was halved, from 60 percent to 30 percent. Related to this is the level of agricultural activity. Between 1991 and 2003, the country’s farm sector experienced unprecedented decline, in the end leaving almost the entire nation dependent on rations distributed by the United Nations under Oil-for-Food. In the past two years, by contrast, Iraqi agriculture has undergone an equally unprecedented revival. Iraq now exports foodstuffs to neighboring countries, something that has not happened since the 1950s. Much of the upturn is due to smallholders who, shaking off the collectivist system imposed by the Baathist’s, have retaken control of land that was confiscated decades ago by the state. Finally, one of the surest indices of the health of Iraqi society has always been its readiness to talk to the outside world. Iraqis are a verbalizing people; when they fall silent, life is incontrovertibly becoming hard for them. There have been times, indeed, when one could find scarcely a single Iraqi, whether in Iraq or abroad, prepared to express an opinion on anything remotely political. This is what Kanan Makiya meant when he described Saddam Hussein’s regime as a republic of fear. Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault. Talk radio, television talk-shows, and Internet blogs are all the rage, while heated debate is the order of the day in shops, tea-houses, bazaars, mosques, offices, and private homes. A catharsis is how Luay Abdulilah, the Iraqi short-story writer and diarist, describes it. This is one way of taking revenge against decades of deadly silence. Moreover, a vast network of independent media has emerged in Iraq, including over 100 privately-owned newspapers and magazines and more than two dozen radio and television stations. To anyone familiar with the state of the media in the Arab world, it is a truism that Iraq today is the place where freedom of expression is most effectively exercised. That an experienced observer of Iraq with a sense of history can point to so many positive factors in the country’s present condition will not do much, of course, to sway the more determined critics of the U.S. intervention there. They might even agree that the images fed to the American public show only part of the picture, and that the news from Iraq is not uniformly bad. But the root of their opposition runs deeper, to political fundamentals. Their critique can be summarized in the aphorism that democracy cannot be imposed by force. It is a view that can be found among the more sophisticated elements on the Left and, increasingly, among dissenters on the Right, from Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to the ex-neoconservative Francis Fukuyama. As Senator Hagel puts it, you cannot in my opinion just impose a democratic form of government on a country with no history and no culture and no tradition of democracy. I would tend to agree. But is Iraq such a place? In point of fact, before the 1958 pro-Soviet military coup d’etat that established a leftist dictatorship, Iraq did have its modest but nevertheless significant share of democratic history, culture, and tradition. The country came into being through a popular referendum held in 1921. A constitutional monarchy modeled on the United Kingdom, it had a bicameral parliament, several political parties (including the Baath and the Communists), and periodic elections that led to changes of policy and government. At the time, Iraq also enjoyed the freest press in the Arab world, plus the widest space for debate and dissent in the Muslim Middle East. To be sure, Baghdad in those days was no Westminster, and, as the 1958 coup proved, Iraqi democracy was fragile. But every serious student of contemporary Iraq knows that substantial segments of the population, from all ethnic and religious communities, had more than a taste of the modern worlds democratic aspirations. As evidence, one need only consult the immense literary and artistic production of Iraqis both before and after the 1958 coup. Under successor dictatorial regimes, it is true, the conviction took hold that democratic principles had no future in Iraq a conviction that was responsible in large part for driving almost five million Iraqis, a quarter of the population, into exile between 1958 and 2003, just as the opposite conviction is attracting so many of them and their children back to Iraq today. A related argument used to condemn Iraq’s democratic prospects is that it is an artificial country, one that can be held together only by a dictator. But did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made? All are to some extent artificial creations, and the U.S. is preeminently so. The truth is that Iraq one of the 53 founding countries of the United Nations is older than a majority of that organizations current 198 member states. Within the Arab League, and setting aside Oman and Yemen, none of the 22 members is older. Two-thirds of the 122 countries regarded as democracies by Freedom House came into being after Iraq’s appearance on the map. Critics of the democratic project in Iraq also claim that, because it is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, the country is doomed to despotism, civil war, or disintegration. But the same could be said of virtually all Middle Eastern states, most of which are neither multi-ethnic nor multi-confessional. More important, all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic, linguistic, and sectarian differences, share a sense of national identityuruqa (Iraqi-ness) that has developed over the past eight decades. A unified, federal state may still come to grief in Iraq history is not written in advance but even should a divorce become inevitable at some point, a democratic Iraq would be in a better position to manage it. What all of this demonstrates is that, contrary to received opinion, Operation Iraqi Freedom was not an attempt to impose democracy by force. Rather, it was an effort to use force to remove impediments to democratization, primarily by deposing a tyrant who had utterly suppressed a well-established aspect of the country’s identity. It may take years before we know for certain whether or not post-liberation Iraq has definitely chosen democracy. But one thing is certain: without the use of force to remove the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not have had the opportunity even to contemplate a democratic future. Assessing the progress of that democratic project is no simple matter. But, by any reasonable standard, Iraqis have made extraordinary strides. In a series of municipal polls and two general elections in the past three years, up to 70 percent of eligible Iraqis have voted. This new orientation is supported by more than 60 political parties and organizations, the first genuinely free-trade unions in the Arab world, a growing number of professional associations acting independently of the state, and more than 400 nongovernmental organizations representing diverse segments of civil society. A new constitution, written by Iraqis representing the full spectrum of political, ethnic, and religious sensibilities was overwhelmingly approved by the electorate in a referendum last October. Iraq’s new democratic reality is also reflected in the vocabulary of politics used at every level of society. Many new words accountability, transparency, pluralism, dissent have entered political discourse in Iraq for the first time. More remarkably, perhaps, all parties and personalities currently engaged in the democratic process have committed themselves to the principle that power should be sought, won, and lost only through free and fair elections. These democratic achievements are especially impressive when set side by side with the declared aims of the enemies of the new Iraq, who have put up a determined fight against it. Since the country’s liberation, the jihadist’s and residual Baathist’s have killed an estimated 23,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, in scores of random attacks and suicide operations. Indirectly, they have caused the death of thousands more, by sabotaging water and electricity services and by provoking sectarian revenge attacks. But they have failed to translate their talent for mayhem and murder into political success. Their campaign has not succeeded in appreciably slowing down, let alone stopping, the country’s democratization. Indeed, at each step along the way, the jihadists and Baathists have seen their self-declared objectives thwarted. After the invasion, they tried at first to prevent the formation of a Governing Council, the expression of Iraqs continued existence as a sovereign nation-state. They managed to murder several members of the council, including its president in 2003, but failed to prevent its formation or to keep it from performing its task in the interim period. The next aim of the insurgents was to stop municipal elections. Their message was simple: candidates and voters would be killed. But, once again, they failed: thousands of men and women came forward as candidates and more than 1.5 million Iraqis voted in the localities where elections were held. The insurgency made similar threats in the lead-up to the first general election, and the result was the same. Despite killing 36 candidates and 148 voters, they failed to derail the balloting, in which the number of voters rose to more than 8 million. Nor could the insurgency prevent the writing of the new democratic constitution, despite a campaign of assassination against its drafters. The text was ready in time and was submitted to and approved by a referendum, exactly as planned. The number of voters rose yet again, to more than 9 million. What of relations among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds the focus of so much attention of late? For almost three years, the insurgency worked hard to keep the Arab Sunni community, which accounts for some 15 percent of the population, out of the political process. But that campaign collapsed when millions of Sunnis turned out to vote in the constitutional referendum and in the second general election, which saw almost 11 million Iraqis go to the polls. As I write, all political parties representing the Arab Sunni minority have joined the political process and have strong representation in the new parliament. With the convening of that parliament, and the nomination in April of a new prime minister and a three-man presidential council, the way is open for the formation of a broad-based government of national unity to lead Iraq over the next four years. As for the insurgency’s effort to foment sectarian violence a strategy first launched in earnest toward the end of 2005 this too has run aground. The hope here was to provoke a full-scale war between the Arab Sunni minority and the Arab Shiites who account for some 60 percent of the population. The new strategy, like the ones previously tried, has certainly produced many deaths. But despite countless cases of sectarian killings by so-called militias, there is still no sign that the Shiites as a whole will acquiesce in the role assigned them by the insurgency and organize a concerted campaign of nationwide retaliation. Finally, despite the impression created by relentlessly dire reporting in the West, the insurgency has proved unable to shut down essential government services. Hundreds of teachers and schoolchildren have been killed in incidents including the beheading of two teachers in their classrooms this April and horrific suicide attacks against school buses. But by September 2004, most schools across Iraq and virtually all universities were open and functioning. By September 2005, more than 8.5 million Iraqi children and young people were attending school or university an all-time record in the nations history. A similar story applies to Iraq’s clinics and hospitals. Between October 2003 and January 2006, more than 80 medical doctors and over 400 nurses and medical auxiliaries were murdered by the insurgents. The jihadists also raided several hospitals, killing ordinary patients in their beds. But, once again, they failed in their objectives. By January 2006, all of Iraq’s 600 state-owned hospitals and clinics were in full operation, along with dozens of new ones set up by the private sector since liberation. Another of the insurgency’s strategic goals was to bring the Iraqi oil industry to a halt and to disrupt the export of crude. Since July 2003, Iraq’s oil infrastructure has been the target of more than 3,000 attacks and attempts at sabotage. But once more the insurgency has failed to achieve its goals. Iraq has resumed its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and has returned to world markets as a major oil exporter. According to projections, by the end of 2006 it will be producing its full OPEC quota of 2.8 million barrels a day. The Baathist remnant and its jihadist allies resemble a gambler who wins a heap of chips at a roulette table only to discover that he cannot exchange them for real money at the front desk. The enemies of the new Iraq have succeeded in ruining the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, but over the past three years they have advanced their overarching goals, such as they are, very little. Instead, they have been militarily contained and politically defeated again and again, and the beneficiary has been Iraqi democracy. None of this means that the new Iraq is out of the woods. Far from it, Democratic success still requires a great deal of patience, determination, and luck. The U.S.-led coalition, its allies, and partners have achieved most of their major political objectives, but that achievement remains under threat and could be endangered if the U.S., for whatever reason, should decide to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory. The current mandate of the U.S.-led coalition runs out at the end of this year, and it is unlikely that Washington and its allies will want to maintain their military presence at current levels. In the past few months, more than half of the 103 bases used by the coalition have been transferred to the new Iraqi army. The best guess is that the number of U.S. and coalition troops could be cut from 140,000 to 25,000 or 30,000 by the end of 2007. One might wonder why, if the military mission has been so successful, the U.S. still needs to maintain a military presence in Iraq for at least another two years. There are three reasons for this. The first is to discourage Iraqs predatory neighbors, notably Iran and Syria, which might wish to pursue their own agendas against the new government in Baghdad. Iran has already revived some claims under the Treaties of Erzerum (1846), according to which Tehran would enjoy a droit de regard over Shiite shrines in Iraq. In Syria, some in that country’s ruling circles have invoked the possibility of annexing the area known as Jazirah, the so-called Sunni triangle, in the name of Arab unity. For its part, Turkey is making noises about the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which gave it a claim to the oilfields of northern Iraq. All of these pretensions need to be rebuffed. The second reason for extending Americas military presence is political. The U.S. is acting as an arbiter among Iraq’s various ethnic and religious communities and political factions. It is, in a sense, a traffic cop, giving Iraqis a green or red light when and if needed. It is important that the U.S. continue performing this role for the first year or two of the newly elected parliament and government. Finally, the U.S. and its allies have a key role to play in training and testing Iraq’s new army and police. Impressive success has already been achieved in that field. Nevertheless, the new Iraqi army needs at least another year or two before it will have developed adequate logistical capacities and learned to organize and conduct operations involving its various branches. But will the U.S. stay the course? Many are betting against it. The Baathists and jihadists, their prior efforts to derail Iraqi democracy having come to naught, have now pinned their hopes on creating enough chaos and death to persuade Washington of the futility of its endeavors. In this, they have the tacit support not only of local Arab and Muslim despots rightly fearful of the democratic genie but of all those in the West whose own incessant theme has been the certainty of American failure. Among Bush-haters in the U.S., just as among anti-Americans around the world, predictions of civil war in Iraq, of spreading regional hostilities, and of a revived global terrorism are not about to cease any time soon. But more sober observers should understand the real balance sheet in Iraq. Democracy is succeeding. Moreover, thanks to its success in Iraq, there are stirrings elsewhere in the region. Beyond the much-publicized electoral concessions wrung from authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there is a new democratic discourse to be heard. Nationalism and pan-Arabism, yesterdays hollow rallying cries, have given way to a big idea of a very different kind. Debate and dissent are in the air where there was none before a development owing, in significant measure, to the U.S. campaign in Iraq and the brilliant if still checkered Iraqi response. The stakes, in short, could not be higher. This is all the more reason to celebrate, to build on, and to consolidate what has already been accomplished. Instead of railing against the Bush administration, Americas elites would do better, and incidentally display greater self-respect, to direct their wrath where it properly belongs: at those violent and unrestrained enemies of democracy in Iraq who are, in truth, the enemies of democracy in America as well, and of everything America has ever stood for. Is Iraq a quagmire, a disaster, a failure? Certainly not; none of the above. Of all the adjectives used by skeptics and critics to describe today’s Iraq, the only one that has a ring of truth is messy. Yes, the situation in Iraq today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life? AMIR TAHERI, formerly the executive editor of Kayhan, Irans largest daily newspaper, is the author of ten books and a frequent contributor to numerous publications in the Middle East and Europe. His work appears regularly in the New York Post. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/Producti...Taheri_0606.htm
  2. In tribute: Steven Vincent RIP Words probably killed Steve Vincent, ....let his words be his lasting legacy. In his own words below: (from a interview) Words matter. Words convey moral clarity. Without moral clarity, we will not succeed in Iraq. That is why the terms the press uses to cover this conflict are so vital. For example, take the word "“guerillas."” As you noted, mainstream media sources like the New York Times often use the terms "insurgents" or "“guerillas"” to describe the Sunni Triangle gunmen, as if these murderous thugs represented a traditional national liberation movement. But when the Times reports on similar groups of masked reactionary killers operating in Latin American countries, they utilize the phrase "paramilitary death squads."” Same murderers, different designations. Yet of the two, "insurgents" —and especially "“guerillas" —has a claim on our sympathies that "paramilitaries?” lacks. This is not semantics: imagine if the media routinely called the Sunni Triangle gunmen "right wing paramilitary death squads." Not only would the description be more accurate, but it would offer the American public a clear idea of the enemy in Iraq. And that, in turn, would bolster public attitudes toward the war. Supporters of the conflict in Iraq bear much blame for allowing the terminology - and, by extension, the narrative - —of events to slip from our grasp and into the hands of the anti-war camp. Words and ideas matter. Instead of saying that the Coalition "“invaded" Iraq and "“occupies"” it today, we could more precisely claim that the allies liberated the country and are currently reconstructing it. More than cosmetic changes, these definitions reflect the nobility of our effort in Iraq, and steal rhetorical ammunition from the left. The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists "“the resistance."” What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour - they are the "“resistance."” They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism - —or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought - —should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ it's a beginning !! "Today, this editorial board (The Dallas Morning News) resolves to sacrifice another word -- 'insurgent' -- on the altar of precise language. No longer will we refer to suicide bombers or anyone else in Iraq who targets and kills children and other innocent civilians as 'insurgents.' The notion that these murderers in any way are nobly rising up against a sitting government in a principled fight for freedom has become, on its face, absurd. They drove that point home with chilling clarity Wednesday in a poor Shiite neighborhood. As children crowded around U.S. soldiers handing out candy and toys in a gesture of good will, a bomb-laden SUV rolled up and exploded. These children were not collateral damage. They were targets. The SUV driver was no insurgent. He was a terrorist. People who set off bombs on London trains are not insurgents. We would never think of calling them anything other than what they are -- terrorists. Words have meanings. Whether too timid, sensitive or 'open-minded,' we've resisted drawing a direct line between homicidal bombers everywhere else in the world and the ones who blow up Iraqi civilians or behead aid workers. No more. To call them 'insurgents' insults every legitimate insurgency in modern history. They are terrorists." --The Dallas Morning News
  3. these insurgent jahadist cockroaches have been given every opportunity to rejoin humanity...... NOW THEY WILL DIE and be sent straight to badWord !!! Monday, November 08, 2004 The Assault Begins The ground assault on Fallujah has apparently started -- from a surprising direction -- the river. According to the Bakersfield Californian; US forces stormed into western districts of Fallujah early Monday, seizing the main city hospital and securing two key bridges over the Euphrates river in what appeared to be the first stage of the long-expected assault on the insurgent stronghold. ... The action began after sundown on the outskirts of the city, which has been sealed off by U.S. and Iraqi forces, and the minaret-studded skyline was lit up with huge flashes of light. Flares were dropped to illuminate targets, and defenders fought back with heavy machine gunfire. Flaming red tracer rounds streaked through the night sky from guerrilla positions inside the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad. Although nothing is certain in war, there are indications that the reduction of Fallujah has a timeline measured in weeks rather than months. The British Black Watch regiment, which Chester believes is playing the role of a blocking force outside Fallujah has been attached to the operation for 30 days from the end of October. Blair has promised to bring the Black Watch home by Christmas. The senior officer said: "The operation is approximately thirty days' duration, approximately, i.e., it could be longer. And we've heard, but not formally, that we could be replaced, but that is a political, high-level military decision which I'm not going to go into." As Chester puts it, the British troops block any retreat to the north and east of the Euphrates (which is in the direction away from where the Marines assaulted last night the anvil to hammer) The Black Watch has moved to positions east of the Euphrates, at the request of US military commanders, in order to "stop reinforcements moving north and block the way of insurgents leaving the city." This is consistent with my prediction last week that the Black Watch will be serving as a blocking force, so that it can clean up any insurgents who flee to the east of the city of Fallujah. Presumably US planners have calculated that resistance in the central redoubt will have crumbled before the end of November and enemy survivors would then be trying to evade crosscountry to other Sunni towns to make sense of the Black Watch deployment. It should also be recalled that the Fallujah operation is part of a wider campaign against other strongholds in the Sunni triangle. In this connection, the 60-day declaration of Martial Law by Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawie on December 7 suggests a time horizon for related operations. Marine Corps News reports that several embedded reporters are having second thoughts about accompanying combat troops into the city on the basis of what they have been briefed to expect. The Marines recently embedded more than 30 media agencies with units that are operating in the Al Anbar province where the well-known towns of Ramadi and Fallujah are located. All were invited, many accepted the offer, but now some have doubts. The Marines are trained for this, the media is not, continued the CNN reporter who was actually covered other battles including the Iraq invasion during the spring of 2003. One photographer, who has prided himself since his arrival here, on being in more than 17 conflicts, says he is more worried about this operation than any before. Because of the tactics the insurgents are using there is much more uncertainty, he explained. He went on to say that he did not expect to have this much access or be this involved with the Marines when he arrived. “What if I get separated, what if I think I’m in a safe place and all of a sudden an insurgent walks in with a gun,” he said. Many of these reporters are experienced men who have been under some type of fire before. But the urban combat facing the troops they will accompany will probably consist of small units in constantly moving through a very dangerous kind of environment, full of IEDs, snipers and close-range engagements. In this situation, getting lost may well mean dying from enemy fire or blue on blue. Sticking close to Marine infantry advancing under fire is only slightly more palatable. Everyone knows the saying that 'war is badWord, you cannot refine it'; but Sherman might have added, 'you cannot describe it'. The Marines and many reporters will come to know what can never be described and what no sane person should ever hope to experience at first hand. # posted by wretchard : 2:01 AM 40 comments The Banner of Zarqawi Ralph Kinney Bennet at Tech Central Station asks why Zarqawi should fight for Falluja and whether his men have not already melted away to other Sunni towns in the face of the imminent American strike. The legendary Arab insurgent leader T. E. Lawrence described the characteristics of a guerrilla force as "speed and endurance, ubiquity and independence of arteries of supply." The "ubiquity" of al-Zarqawi and his fighters - their presence as a force to be reckoned with in Iraq -- will be severely compromised or eliminated if they choose to stay and fight in Fallujah. One partial answer is that Zarqawi will fight for Falluja for the same reasons he wanted it in the first place. Anecdotal evidence in April 2004 suggested that many bunkers had been built. The secondary explosions from US strikes over the last days implies that a lot of explosive has also been stored up. Zarqawi had invested quite a lot of effort into Fallujah and he would have done this only if it were valuable to him. The interesting and apparently paradoxical thing about terrorism -- which is often characterized as rootless and spectral -- is how rooted it is in sanctuaries, an apparent indication of their utility. Whether South Waziristan, Pankasi Gorge, the Bekaa Valley, Fallujah or the banlieus of Paris, terrorism apparently needs some locus in order to exert a material force. In Dark Networks the Belmont Club referred to idea of the Dunbar Number, which John Robb and others have related to terrorist networks. Robb observed: Distributed, dynamic terrorist networks cannot scale like hierarchical networks. The same network design that makes them resiliant against attack puts absolute limits on their size. If so, what are those limits? A good starting point is to look at limits to group size within peaceful online communities on which we have extensive data -- terrorist networks are essentially geographically dispersed online communities. Chris Allen does a good job analyzing optimal group size with his critique of the Dunbar number. His analysis (replete with examples) shows that there is a gradual fall-off in effectiveness at 80 members, with an absolute fall-off at 150 members. The initial fall-off occurs, according to Chris, due to an increasing amount of effort spent on "grooming" the group to maintain cohesion. The absolute fall-off at 150 members occurs when grooming fails to stem dissatisfaction and dissension, which causes the group to cleave apart into smaller subgroups (that may remain affiliated). Al Qaeda may have been able to grow much larger than this when it ran physical training camps in Afghanistan. Physical proximity allowed al Qaeda to operate as a hierarchy along military lines, complete with middle management (or at least a mix of a hierarchy in Afghanistan and a distributed network outside of Afghanistan). Once those camps were broken apart, the factors listed above were likely to have caused the fragmentation we see today (lots of references to this in the news). Chester says more or less the same thing in commonsense terms. ... the sanctuary of weaponry, local political support, command and control infrastructure (however sophisticated), and ready ties to cash sources cannot be picked up and moved. I've touched on this earlier when I mention why I think Zarqawi is still in the city. I'm not saying that small bands of insurgents can't leave, posing as civilians and setting up shop elsewhere. What I'm saying is that by doing so, they will completely cut themselves off from command and control from above, and will no longer be able to mass in a single place. The US won't let this happen again. Therefore, if some small groups do leave, even if they are successful afterwards in some bombings or beheadings, eventually they will run out of steam without the logistical, moral, and command support that can be readily found when they have coalesced in a physical place. Lawrence's Arab guerillas always had a base, -- their tribes -- fixed in concept yet mobile as camels and his perennial difficulty was keeping the tribes in the field in the face of pastoral demands. It was a difficulty Lawrence did not surmount until he obtained sufficient gold from General Allenby to keep his warriors in funds, for ride where they would, the desert legions could live only for as long as somewhere, their tribe existed. When Falluja is taken, Zarqawi's tribe will be dispersed, to meet furtively by the roadside perhaps, but never to muster under their full banner again. # posted by wretchard : 6:19 AM 38 comments Tuesday, November 09, 2004 Fallujah Again Although the US military has refused to give a timeline for the capture of Fallujah developments suggest they are moving at very rapid operational pace. Hours after starting the offensive, U.S. tanks and Humvees from the 1st Infantry Division entered the northeastern Askari neighborhood, the first ground assault into an insurgent bastion. In the northwestern area of the city, U.S. troops advanced slowly after dusk on the Jolan neighborhood, a warren of alleyways where Sunni militants have dug in. Artillery, tanks and warplanes pounded the district's northern edge, softening the defenses and trying to set off any bombs or boobytraps planted by the militants. Marines were visible on rooftops in Jolan. This reporter, located at a U.S. camp near the city, saw orange explosions lighting up the district's palm trees, minarets and dusty roofs, and a fire burning on the city's edge. Just outside the Jolan and Askari neighborhoods, Iraqi troops deployed with U.S. forces took over a train station after the Americans fired on it to drive off fighters. The Fallujah can be conceived as a rough rectangle two miles on a side bounded by the Euphrates to the west, the railroad track to the north, a highway to the east and an "industrial park" and suburbs to the south. The recognized enemy stronghold is the upper northwest corner called the Jolan but their forces are likely to be more widespread than that. But in two successive nights, US forces have compressed the enemy from three sides (probably a fourth, as it is likely the US has also seized the 'industrial area' to the southeast) and have actually penetrated the enemy stronghold of Jolan in parts, without any published casualties apart from the two Marines who died when their bulldozer flipped into the Euphrates. Readers will recall the same pattern of operations in Najaf where US infantry secured the buildings and rooftops while vehicles advanced on the streets below. In Najaf as in Fallujah too, apparently, US forces did not advance on a single broad front but snaked in to seize key areas, breaking up enemy defenses into pockets which can no longer support each other. The pockets may be further isolated by bulldozing fire lanes. The low number of casualties so far indicates that US forces have successfully sidestepped enemy forces the way a broken field runner dodges tackles. The Strategic Studies Institute warns that heavy casualties may result from assaulting "mini fortresses", but many of those redoubts may be entirely bypassed and fields of fire cleared around them. "The big fights, where you're going to see lots of casualties, are when defenders create miniature fortresses," Millen said. "Your infantry gets sucked into those things, and that's when you see casualties building up." U.S. forces have managed to keep casualties relatively low in previous urban battles in Iraq. In three weeks of fighting a Shiite Muslim insurgency in the streets and massive cemetery of Najaf this summer, seven Marines and two soldiers were killed out of a force of about 3,000. "If you go in there well and you go in there methodically - if you have a good plan - you're not going to have as many casualties," Millen said. I believe (speculation alert!) that the enemy mobile defense is nearly at an end; that his active response has probably fallen to pieces much quicker than he anticipated and they are probably going to concentrate their resistance into mutually supportive strongpoints or explosive barriers fairly soon. The enemy's remaining hope is to hit the "jackpot" by demolishing a building or blowing up a street just as US forces occupy or overrun it. As they become squeezed into a smaller and smaller area, the risk that US forces will run into an exploding house or building will increase. But the rapid progress of the last two nights may be tempting US commanders to accept the risks and snap at the enemy's heels. Going fast may prevent the enemy from setting up their defense. One almost certain thing is that a fearful execution is being inflicted on the enemy, and probably worst among their officers and NCOs. Tonight's events will probably indicate whether the US goes for broke or takes a more deliberate approach. Update The Daily Telegraph has an atmospheric article which describes the terrible effect of networked forces on the enemy inside Fallujah. "I got myself a real juicy target," shouted Sgt James Anyett, peering through the thermal sight of a Long Range Acquisition System (LRAS) mounted on one of Phantom's Humvees. "Prepare to copy that 89089226. Direction 202 degrees. Range 950 metres. I got five motherf****** in a building with weapons." A dozen loud booms rattle the sky and smoke rose as mortars rained down on the co-ordinates the sergeant had given. "Yeah," he yelled. "Battle Damage Assessment - nothing. Building's gone. I got my kills, I'm coming down. I just love my job." ... The insurgents, not understanding the capabilities of the LRAS, crept along rooftops and poked their heads out of windows. Even when they were more than a mile away, the soldiers of Phantom Troop had their eyes on them. Lt Jack Farley, a US Marines officer, sauntered over to compare notes with the Phantoms. "You guys get to do all the fun stuff," he said. "It's like a video game. We've taken small arms fire here all day. It just sounds like popcorn going off." This engagement is all the more chilling because it probably happened at night. Five enemy soldiers died simply because they could not comprehend how destruction could flow from an observer a mile away networked to mortars that could fire for effect without ranging. All over Fallujah virtual teams of snipers and fire-control observers are jockeying for lines of sight to deal death to the enemy. For many jihadis that one peek over a sill could be their last. "Everybody's curious," grinned Sgt Anyett as he waited for a sniper with a Russian-made Dragonov to show his face one last, fatal time. A bullet zinged by. ... His officers said that the plan to invade Fallujah involved months of detailed planning and elaborate "feints" designed to draw the insurgents out into the open and fool them into thinking the offensive would come from another side of the city. "They're probably thinking that we'll come in from the east," said Capt Natalie Friel, an intelligence officer with task force, before the battle. But the actual plan involves penetrating the city from the north and sweeping south. "I don't think they know what's coming. They have no idea of the magnitude," she said. "But their defences are pretty circular. They're prepared for any kind of direction. They've got strong points on all four corners of the city." The aim was to push the insurgents south, killing as many as possible, before swinging west. They would then be driven into the Euphrates. From UAVs wheeling overhead to Marines going through alleys linked by their intra-squad radios (a kind of headset and boom-mike operated comm device), the US force is generating lethal, real-time information which is almost immediately transformed into strike action. Against this, the jihadis have no chance. This doesn't mean (as I pointed out above) that there will be no American losses. The battlefield is too lethal to hope for that. But it does mean that terrorism has unleashed a terrible engine upon itself. Capabilities which didn't exist on September 11 have now been deployed in combat. It isn't that American forces have become inconceivably lethal that is scary; it is that the process has just started. Update 2 An NYT article with an accompanying photo essay illustrates the high level of skill which some of the enemy display. It's not that the enemy is dumb, just that the US is that much better. A sequence of photos shows US troops observing targets from a rooftop to call in fires. Right after the Americans scoot off, enemy mortars land on the roof, too late to hurt their tormentors. It is a perfect illustration of the lethality of information and essentially futile enemy attempts to negate it. As the battle progresses, enemy snipers, mortarmen and machinegunners -- who are desperately trying to deny Americans their lethal targeting information -- will be picked off or run low on ammunition. The combat, already lopsided to start with, will grow more unequal. If it sounds unfair, it’s meant to be. The Strategy Page points out that the enemy has dug tunnels under streets, utilized overhead cover and knocked holes in walls in an attempt to negate the US information warfare advantage. But the price for living like moles is relative immobility in trading concealment for stasis. The battle for Fallujah illustrates the relative strengths and weaknesses of both sides. The enemy, whatever his faults, is not obviously short on courage or resourcefulness and America can expect to encounter the same tenacity anywhere he is met. But against these strengths, enemy inherited not only the weakness of a poor technological base but a fundamentally flawed concept of American determination. They wrongly assumed, as Osama often claimed, that Americans were too morally weak to fight. They believed they could use physical remoteness and terrorist tactics to wage "asymmetrical warfare" on an American force geared to fight conventional battles -- the army of Desert Storm. Both these assumptions have proved poor bets. There are now tens of thousands of Americans with a good understanding of the Middle East; there are many systems now coming online which are designed to fight the terrorist enemy. They are going to get snowed under by the same tidal wave that buried the Imperial Japanese Army and the Wehrmacht in World War 2. Thinking Muslim and Arab leaders probably recognize the handwriting on the wall, but like the peace factions in wartime Germany and Japan, are still reluctant to step forward. This is tragic, because like the unequal struggle in Fallujah, once the US gains the strategic upper hand its advantages will progressively mount and a hideous, irresistible annihilation of enemy forces will unfold, until despair brings an enemy statesman forward; not too late for his society, but too tardy to save the wasted lives of their young men. # posted by wretchard : 1:52 AM 118 comments The Enemy Starts to Collapse Enemy resistance in Fallujah is starting to collapse, with US forces deep inside the city and fighters pulling back to their ultimate stronghold in the Jolan district. There is no more room to retreat with the Euphrates to the west and American forces on every side. Troops have been advancing towards the center, fighting insurgents armed with rifles and mortars street by street. Early on Tuesday the US-led troops reached a key objective early -- a mosque in the north part of Falluja. ... The BBC's Paul Wood, embedded with US soldiers - and whose reporting is subject to military restrictions - says US-led forces reached their first major objective early on Tuesday, when they surrounded al-Hidra mosque in the northern parts of Falluja. The US military said the building was being used as an arms depot and a meeting point for the leaders of the insurgency. Our correspondent says Iraqi forces fighting alongside US marines will storm it. Earlier, a US tank commander said guerrillas were putting up a strong fight in the north-western Jolan district. "These people are hardcore," Capt Robert Bodisch told Reuters news agency. "A man pulled out from behind a wall and fired an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) at my tank. I have to get another tank to go back in there." "I can see heavy street-fighting from my house in the center of the city -- US soldiers are here, moving from house to house", according to BBC reporter Fadil Badrani. A synoptic view of the same engagement comes from Ned Parker in the Australian. US troops moved from house to house through the Jolan neighbourhood of Fallujah yesterday, knocking down walls and spraying machinegun fire at buildings from which insurgents fought back with small arms and mortars. The US forces, supported by Iraqi soldiers, pushed towards the centre of the besieged rebel city as columns of smoke plumed skyward after a night of heavy air raids and artillery shelling. "We are downing them," said US marine officer Major Todd Desgrosseilliers. "We're using good old American firepower." A smattering of trained Iraqi forces accompanied the marines in their assault on the city, while more were poised on the outskirts, preparing to enter in an offensive codenamed Phantom Fury. Helicopter gunships swooped overhead, dropping flares on buildings from where the muzzles of insurgent rocket launchers jutted out, while the rebels fought back with anti-aircraft fire. White and red flashes lit the sky in a relentless barrage of artillery shells and aerial bombing that thundered throughout the night. Mortars are what the enemy has for reserves, the only part of their firepower that remains mobile on the Fallujah battlefield because its high-angle fire allows it to shoot over obstacles in built up areas. Enemy forces have also been known to volley RPGs upward into neighboring streets. But their fire is largely blind. They have no comms and direction centers to mass fires or shift them as the battle progresses. The BBC press account indicates that heavy armor has actually penetrated deep inside the city (with an armor company commander joking about the disabling of his vehicle) with infantry progressing over and through the walls of houses on either side (probably what the BBC reporter is describing as 'moving from house to house'). Today's news will tell whether American commanders have decided to keep up the tempo and profit from enemy confusion or slow down and reduce the remainder by fire. One of the factors will be the condition of the Iraqi troops fighting alongside Americans. As suggested in the article above, Iraqi troops are employed to clean out areas like mosques that have been bypassed by US forces. This is dangerous and exhausting work. The limited number of trained Iraqi troops may enforce a limit on tempo. As the enemy fragments it will become a battle of small unit holdouts in dozens of locations. Each enemy position is doomed but they will take time to clean out. Readers will remember that Fallujah is only a part of the wider campaign in the Sunni triangle. Chester has pointed out that the 3rd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, identified as fighting at Fallujah, was detached from Ramadi. The enemy is now trying to relieve pressure on Fallujah with demonstration attacks in Ramadi, where they may have sensed the departure of the battalion. This has taken the form of a repulsed car bomb attack on checkpoints controlling access to the city and low level skirmishing. This report from the AP describes how two enemy vehicles were destroyed as they bore down on a checkpoint. The military says five U-S troops have been injured after they attacked two suspected car bombs in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. It also says seven insurgents were killed in yesterday's attack. It gave few other details, but says the U-S troops wounded had shot at and destroyed the vehicles. In a portentous development, the Marines have apparently withdrawn their observation posts inside Ramadi. Middle East Online reports: Rebel fighters massed in the centre of the restive Iraqi city of Ramadi Tuesday after US military snipers withdrew from their positions following 24 hours of clashes, an AFP correspondent said. The US military could not immediately be contacted for comment. US snipers left a hotel from where they were able to control most of Ramadi's main roads, but the military remained in its headquarters in the governor's office nearby, the correspondent said. Other US soldiers left the city for their bases in the east and west of the city. As the snipers departed, large crowds of armed insurgents, their faces hidden by scarves, began dancing in the street and shooting in to the air, yelling "Allah Akbar" (God is great). Banners proclaiming solidarity with insurgents in Fallujah, where US-led forces launched a massive offensive to retake the city on Monday, were hung in the streets. "The residents of Ramadi condemn the attack against Fallujah and we appeal to the inhabitants of Ramadi to wage jihad against the American occupants who want to eradicate Islam," said one man who did not want to be named. An earlier generation of historians would call the withdrawal of snipers "bringing in the pickets" and concentrating the fist. The feeble enemy response suggests a real weakness. The car bomb attack and public demonstration of "fighters" who are apparently unable to hinder the comings and goings of snipers will be portrayed as a great jihadi victory but is pathetic in reality. They are being measured for a pine box and the best they can do is caper in the streets. In a few days 3rd Battalion will be back in Ramadi, together with powerful units currently busy in Fallujah and the dance tempo will change to a funeral march unless the enemy lays down his arms. Wellington once observed that "nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." Nothing about it is nice; but better them than us. Update An Agence France Press report describes the terrible closed loop of networked firepower. For the first time in a major battle, guided artillery is being used in quantity. In addition to the now familiar JDAMs, or GPS guided bombs, there are now GPS guided shells. Space based positioning satellites, laser range finding, robotics and networked computing are now as much a part of infantry combat as the boot heel. "Body parts everywhere!" cries a US soldier as a shell crashes onto a group of suspected rebels in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, where a punishing torrent of firepower thundered down on Tuesday. More than 500 rounds of 155-millimetre Howitzer cannon shells have been fired on the besieged Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad since a US-Iraqi offensive to take control of the city started on Monday evening, said Sergeant Michael Hamby. Using a global positioning system, each shell is precision aimed and fired at insurgent spots, while unmanned reconnaisance aircraft check whether the target was hit and feed back the information, Hamby told AFP. "We probably had 20-to-30 air strikes in the Jolan and probably two-to-three times that in artillery missions," he said. Attack helicopters swooped overhead, dropping flares on buildings from where the muzzle of insurgent rocket heads jutted out. Though the enemy is to be frank, very brave, news reports them falling back everywhere. The Washington Post says: Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, predicted "several more days of tough urban fighting." He said insurgents were "fighting hard, but not to the death. They are falling back," adding that the U.S. advance was progressing "ahead of schedule." The enemy withdrawals have sometimes been explained by suggesting that the enemy is suckering in US forces into a trap. But this is impossible. Their backs are to the river and the Marines are across that. Every retrograde movement compresses the enemy into a smaller area and forces them to leave behind prepared positions painstakingly stockpiled with food, batteries and ammo. Running backward with wounded, they can't carry much ammunition and won't find any unless a prepared position is already available. And how does anyone stand fast in the face of the otherworldly violence of the American onslaught? Small bands of gunmen -- fewer than 20 -- were engaging U.S. troops, then falling back in the face of overwhelming fire from American tanks, 20mm cannons and heavy machine guns, said Time magazine reporter Michael Ware, embedded with troops. Ware reported that there appeared to be no civilians in the area he was in. On one thoroughfare in the city, U.S. troops traded fire with gunmen holed up in a row of houses about 100 yards away. An American gunner on an armored vehicle let loose with his machine gun, grinding the upper part of a small building to rubble. This is a description of platoon-sized enemy units attempting to hold back the Martians. The bravado of Al Jazeera has this completely wrong. If classical history were still widely taught, these scenes would be instantly recognizable as a rout, that terrible disintegration of ranks as the foe closes in before and behind. Describing the rout of the Roman Legions by Hannibal at Cannae, Livy wrote: It was a terrible slaughter. ... On a narrow area 48,000 corpses lay in heaps. ... Hannibal once more released non-Roman prisoners. ... Roman knight's gold rings were collected in baskets and later poured out onto the floor of the Carthaginian senate. One of the consuls Lucius Aemilius Paulus (and one of the preceding year's) were killed, as well as both quaestors of the consuls, 29 out of 48 military tribunes and 80 other senators. There can be no joy in war: it is always repulsive in actual detail, but if we are not left with the facts, then the world is deprived even of the doleful experience of the battlefield. The jihadi dream was a fraud. September 11 opened the door, not to Paradise but the portal to badWord and the jihadi nightmare will continue for as long as they are nourished on illusion and false encouragement. We are not their permanent enemies; that foe is within their breast. # posted by wretchard : 4:23 PM 91 comments Wednesday, November 10, 2004 badWord in a Very Small Place The Bakersfield Californian reports that US forces have reached the major east-west highway that runs through Fallujah. U.S. Marines said American forces had taken control Wednesday of 70 percent of Fallujah in the third day of a major offensive to retake the insurgent stronghold. Major Francis Piccoli, of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said enemy fighters were bottled up in a strip of the city flanking the major east-west highway that splits Fallujah. Army and Marine units had pushed south to the highway overnight, Piccoli said. ... As the American forces crossed the highway that split Fallujah, armored Army units stayed behind to guard the thoroughfare. To realize the significance of this, refer to this map from Global Security, which shows the start lines of the participating American units: USMC 3/1, USMC 3/5, Army 2/7 Cavalry, USMC 1/8, USMC 1/3 and Army 2/2 Infantry. These units were attacking north to south, down towards the highway. The east-west highway referred to in the paragraph above is the bright green line running horizontally across the map. US Army armor is now on that highway, after advancing south and probably swinging west. US forces are probably waiting across the highway. We are fairly sure of this because the London Telegraph recounted how a US Army Cavalry Unit was moving through the industrial area which is located in the southeast corner of the city, below the green line which represents the highway which US armor is now patrolling going north to south; that is up towards the highway. We know it is cavalry because they call their companies "troops". The flimsy metal door was ripped off its hinges as a hefty boot from a Legion platoon soldier made decisive contact. Inside the small room lay an AK-47 rifle, alarm clock parts and a handwritten notebook in Farsi. Moments earlier, the gunman, thought to be Iranian, had fled as Legion, Hunter and Outlaw platoons of the US army's Task Force 2-2 undertook one of the more dangerous tasks of the battle for Fallujah. Clearing buildings door to door in a guerrilla stronghold is risky at any time. Into the bargain this time, the platoons from Phantom troop had been ordered to sweep Fallujah's industrial zone, a haven for foreign fighters. Simply reading the map shows that the enemy is pinned in a strip north of the highway, which is now a barrier to further escape south. As Major Piccoli put it, the "enemy fighters were bottled up in a strip of the city flanking the major east-west highway that splits Fallujah". Pressing them against the highway are four US battalions from the north and two from the east. Two days ago, the Telegraph carried an interview with Captain Natalie Friel, which eerily anticipated this very outcome. "They're probably thinking that we'll come in from the east," said Capt Natalie Friel, an intelligence officer with task force, before the battle. But the actual plan involves penetrating the city from the north and sweeping south. "I don't think they know what's coming. They have no idea of the magnitude," she said. "But their defences are pretty circular. They're prepared for any kind of direction. They've got strong points on all four corners of the city." The aim was to push the insurgents south, killing as many as possible, before swinging west. They would then be driven into the Euphrates. The reader is invited to draw his own conclusions about the enemy's prospects in this position. They are pinned against the highway, with no exit north, east or south. # posted by wretchard : 8:14 AM 8 comments http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/
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