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Comments by YACCS
Saturday, November 29, 2003

The Bloodiest month of the War

No, things aren't getting better, unless you're a member of the Iraqi resistance. If you are, this is a kick ass month. With nothing more than small arms and home made bombs, you've killed more Americans and Coalition troops than Saddam's ineffective army. It's time for a smoke and a lamb pita for your work.

If you're an American, you're in hell until the freedom bird ships your ass home, to the increasingly likely fate of unemployment, a broken home and massive debts.

Let me put it this way, this has been the bloodiest Ramadan in the Middle East since Lebanon's Civil War. Over 100 American and Coalition troops killed in combat, not counting the two Japanese envoys.

November Deadliest Month in Iraq

By Bradley Graham
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 29, 2003; Page A14

More U.S. troops have died in Iraq in November than in any month since the war began in March, according to Defense Department figures.

With November nearly over, the official death count yesterday stood at 79, surpassing March (65) and April (73), when the invasion was underway and fighting was most intense and widespread.

The surge has reflected an increase in the effectiveness and the frequency of guerrilla attacks.

About half of the deaths resulted from the downing of four military helicopters, in which 39 soldiers were killed. U.S. aircraft in Iraq have been targeted in the past, but these incidents, involving either a surface-to-air missile or rocket-propelled grenade, marked the first major hits.

Most of the other U.S. combat fatalities occurred in ground attacks by enemy fighters using weapons that have become characteristic of their resistance: guns, rocket-propelled grenades and remote-controlled explosives.

At one point during the month, military officials reported that the number of guerrilla attacks was averaging more than 40 a day. In response to the heightened activity, U.S. troops intensified their tactics, engaging in a stronger show of force that included greater use of artillery, tanks, attack helicopters, F-16 fighters and AC-130 gunships to pound targets throughout central Iraq. The move was followed by a drop in the rate of assaults on U.S. forces to fewer than 30 a day.

In contrast to the higher combat deaths in November, the number of accidental deaths -- 11 -- stayed comparatively low.

In all, 437 troops have died in Iraq since the war began, 2,094 have been listed as wounded in action and 2,464 have suffered noncombat-related injuries, ranging from accidental gunshots to broken bones and injuries in vehicle accidents. Since May 1, when President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq, 298 troops have died.

Now, the exiles are looking to cover their asses after this mess has exploded into an ongoing war against the occupation.

Iraqi Leaders Say U.S. Was Warned of Disorder After Hussein, but Little Was Done

Published: November 30, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 29 — In the months before the Iraq invasion, Iraqi exile leaders trooped through the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department carrying a message about the future of their homeland: without a strong plan for managing Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein, widespread looting and violence would erupt.


"On many occasions, I told the Americans that from the very moment the regime fell, if an alternative government was not ready there would be a power vacuum and there would be chaos and looting," said Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a longtime ally of the United States. "Given our history, it is very obvious this would occur."

Similar warnings came from international relief experts and from within the United States government. In 1999 the same military command that was preparing to attack Iraq conducted a detailed war game that found that toppling Mr. Hussein risked creating a major security void, said Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who headed the command.

But as Pentagon officials hurriedly prepared for war last winter, they envisioned Iraq after the fall of Mr. Hussein's government as far more manageable.

That miscalculation and the low priority given to planning for the aftermath of Mr. Hussein's fall have taken on new significance with the recent wave of deadly attacks and the Bush administration's abrupt decision this month to accelerate its timetable for transferring control to the kind of Iraqi authority that leading exiles were calling for a year ago.

The exiles were among the most energetic cheerleaders for the war, and critics of the Bush administration have accused some of them of skewing the facts in the process. But more than a dozen of the leaders who have returned to Iraq said in interviews here that they had also warned about the chaos that could follow.

The fact that the administration embraced their encouragement to go to war but apparently discounted their warnings is an insight into the Pentagon's prewar planning.

"I told them, `Let there not be a political vacuum,' " said Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi author and college professor who said he had consulted with several senior administration officials and met twice with President Bush.

In many ways the war plan drove the postwar plan, senior military officials said. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the invasion force be kept as small as possible, prompting his commanders to build an attack plan based on speed and surprise. Any recommendations for sending more troops to maintain order afterward would probably have collided with the war plan, the officials said.

Besides, the plan for after the Iraqi government fell assumed that Iraqi troops and police officers would stay on the job — an assumption that proved wrong. "The political leadership bought its own spin," said one senior Defense Department official involved in the planning, in part because it "made selling the war easier."

Senior administration officials acknowledged that they had considered these warnings before the war, but defended their judgments

Does this get better next month? I doubt it highly.

Americans have to consider, seriously, that Iraqis are lying to them as a matter of course, not on occasion. 30 years under the rule of a sociopathic killer doesn't make the virtues of honesty and independence highly valued. You can see the schizophrenia which developed in the New Yorker article on the war:

There was a commotion outside the office—loud, accusatory voices. Prior put on his helmet and flak vest, grabbed his rifle, and went out to the pumps. Customers had left their vehicles, a crowd had formed, and it was getting ugly enough that the soldiers who had been waiting by the Humvees were trying to intervene. Amid the shouting, Prior established that an employee of the Oil Ministry had come to collect diesel samples from each of the pumps for routine testing. One of the council members was accusing him of stealing benzene.

“No accusations!” Prior said. “Let’s go see.”

The crowd followed him under the blinding sun to the ministry employee’s truck. Five metal jerricans stood in back. Prior opened the first can with the air of making a point and sniffed: “Diesel.” He opened the second: “Diesel.” As he unscrewed the cap on the third jerrican and bent over to smell it, hot diesel fuel sprayed in his face.

Everyone fell silent. Prior stood motionless with the effort to control himself. He squeezed his eyes shut and pressed them with his fingers. The fuel was on his helmet, his flak vest. A sergeant rushed over with bottled water. Then the chorus of shouts rose again.

“Everybody shut up!” Prior yelled. “I’m going to solve this. What is the problem? No accusations.” His face wet, he began to interrogate the accusing council member, who now looked sheepish.

“How do you know someone gave him benzene? This is a great object lesson, everybody!” Prior was speaking to the crowd now, as his translator frantically rendered the lesson in Arabic. “You came out here and said this guy’s a thief, and everybody’s angry and he’s going to get fired—and now you’re backing down.”

“It wasn’t just an accusation,” the council member said. “The guy drove up on the wrong side—”

“But what proof do you have that he did it? Wait! Hold on! I’m trying to make a point here. How would you like it if my soldiers broke into your house because your neighbors said you have rocket-propelled grenades, and I didn’t see them but I broke into your house—how would you feel? Stop accusing people, for the love of God!”

“I caught him red-handed,” the council member insisted.

“No, you didn’t.”

“O.K., no problem.”

Prior wasn’t letting it go. “There is a problem: the problem is that you people accuse each other without proof! That’s the problem.”
Shouket is a pale, pretty twenty-eight-year-old computer programmer who works for the university administration. Her cream-colored veil seemed incongruous, given her vitality, and in fact it was just a prop: she wore it to keep from being killed by fundamentalists.

There were many fears in Shouket’s life. She was afraid of kidnappers: a group of them had snatched her friend as she got off the bus; Shouket had barely managed to run away. She was afraid of her neighbors, who said that they would harm her if she took another picture of American soldiers. She was afraid of the woman who ran her office, a former Baathist who used to wear a uniform and sidearm to work, and whose three framed photographs of Saddam were still propped up on the floor, facing the wall.

“Do you feel danger here? I feel danger,” Shouket said as we spoke in her office. “I feel a life in prison—after liberation! I want to see the world, I want to learn more, I want to feel I’m getting something important for my life.” She paused. “Danger is still in the streets. In this room. Especially in this room.”

The office manager walked in and glared. She told Shouket that I would have to leave.

“I have no freedom,” Shouket whispered.

I offered to drive Shouket home. She lived with her parents and an uncle who had become mentally ill after imprisonment and torture. Their modest house, in an underbuilt new neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, stood baking in the relentless yellow light of midday. They served me a dish of rice and beans.

During the war, Shouket’s mother had written a Koranic verse in chalk on the living-room wall; it was a prayer for safety that the family recited together. On another wall hung a photograph of her mother’s parents, from 1948—a man with a small mustache, a woman with bright lipstick.

“During royal times, the people were more modern than now,” Shouket’s father said. He was an architect in the Ministry of Information. In 1965, he had studied in Manchester, England, but the family now belonged to Iraq’s beaten-down middle class.

Before the war, Shouket’s pay had been six dollars a month; the Americans raised it to a hundred and twenty dollars. The family passionately supported the Americans. If this was colonialism, Shouket was ready to be colonized. She had wept watching the war on TV, urging the 3rd Infantry Division on to Baghdad; the bombs exploding outside had given her heart. Now, every Saturday, the family sat down together and listened to Bremer’s weekly address. “I feel him very close,” Shouket said. “Even his way, I like it—he’s a simple man.”

“The Americans should change the region,” Shouket’s father said. He predicted that Iranians would be inspired to revolt “if they saw what happened in Iraq, and we progress by liberation and wealthy life.”

Her veil off, Shouket wore her hennaed hair in a long braid. She brought out her large collection of American movies—she had learned English from watching Nicole Kidman in “Moulin Rouge” and Sharon Stone in “The Quick and the Dead.” She said, “It needs time, I think, a very long time, to make connection between the two civilizations. To make us civilized, I mean.”

Shouket sat on the couch between her sad-faced parents and talked excitedly about her future. “I’m always saying to my mother, ‘I lost my life.’ And she says, ‘No, you’re young, there’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Maybe.’ Maybe now I’ll catch the rest of my life to see the world.” She went on, “I want to leave Baghdad, I want to be free. Just improving myself—my mind, my way of life.”

Her mother was on the verge of tears; her parents were afraid for her to leave Iraq. Shouket put her arm around her mother and touched her father’s hand. “He believes in me,” she said.

When I rose to leave, they offered me their family heirlooms. I declined by saying that the gifts would be confiscated at the Jordanian border. Outside, Shouket’s mad uncle was pacing, holding a glass in his hand. I was thinking how isolated the family seemed. They had no political party or religious militia, no ayatollah or tribal sheikh; they had only the Americans, who didn’t know of their existence. Shouket had never spoken to a foreigner before the morning we met. She wanted to travel, but she was too frightened to go into town and set up an e-mail account at an Internet café. The pressure of her yearning filled the small room.

This is what we are dealing with and we are unequiped to do so in any meaningful way. We understand less about these people than they understand about us. And that is not just a tragedy, it has cost 437 lives.

posted by Steve @ 9:11:00 PM

9:11:00 PM

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