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Friday, April 22, 2005

How not to fight a war

The crash site of a commercial helicopter contracted by the U.S. Defense Department which was shot down by missile fire north of the Iraqi capital, Thursday, April 21, 2005, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The crash killed at least six Americans and three Bulgarians, officials said.

6 U.S. Bodyguards Killed in Chopper Crash

By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 15 minutes ago

Insurgents brought down a Russian-made helicopter carrying 11 civilians with missile fire north of the capital Thursday and said they captured and shot to death the lone crew member who survived. The dead from the crash included six American bodyguards for U.S. diplomats.

The chartered flight was believed to be the first civilian aircraft shot down in
Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago.

An Internet statement by a group identifying itself as the Islamic Army in Iraq was accompanied by a video showing the repeated shooting of a man who was found in tall grass and forced to stand up and walk. The video showed burning wreckage just before the shooting.

"One of the crew members was captured and killed," the statement said.

The man who was shot to death in a grassy field spoke English with an accent and was wearing a blue flight suit, indicating he was one of the three Bulgarian crew members. Two Fijian helicopter security guards were also on board the flight.

The video also showed two charred bodies near the burning wreckage, about 12 miles north of Baghdad.

Ok, now that we have established that the Iraqi resistance is effective and the people here blathering about purple fingers and democracy are blithering idiots, let's explain why:

* The military was unprepared to fight a guerrilla war.

Simply put, we'd contracted out the nasty bits of guerrilla fighting, the endless patrols and the observation posts, to large, infantry heavy armies like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria. So when you need someone to sit in a town, you send some SF A Team members to coordinate support, and let these guys do their job. Which is daily patrolling, basic security and the like. Meanwhile the US would provide special ops and quick reaction teams. The Nigerians get bogged down, A Ranger platoon or airborne shows up all piss and vinegar killing everything that moves. After a while, the locals get tired of the visiting spacemen who kill at night and their magic helicopters. So the boys move to another district or get killed.

Iraq is not Haiti or Somalia, it is intensely militarized. Most men have some military training. They don't scare easy, after all Saddam needed 12,000 bodyguards to stay alive. So when the US rolls up into an Iraqi neighborhood, one where every adult male has an AK at home, there is no fear, well, not the kind of fear that makes people grovel.

US troops haven't seen anything like this since the Philippines in 1898. So they are wandering around blind in a country they still don't understand.

Once the Iraqis saw the US wasn't serious about their occupation, that just fueled the resistance.

* Regime elements

This fiction remains because the US doesn't want to admit that they are facing a significant portion of the Iraqi population. 5,000 guerillas, 20,000, all those munbers are lies. It could be 100,000 for all it matters. When an idiot like Assrocket at poweline says Iraq is a desert, it shows he's map illiterate. First of all, Iraqis live in cities, not the desert. They are urban people. So this guerrilla war started in the cities and moved to the countryside unimpeded because the US didn't have enough forces to contain it.

The fact is that most of the hard core died in as Fedeyeen in the early days of the war. Sure, there are some baathists up in arms, but the worrisome part is that the recruits don't stop coming, and not from outside.

* The open dumps

When the US came up on the open dumps of Iraqi munitions, any idea of securing them was washed away in politics. The thinking was that the exiles would soon get the country in order. Instead of whistling up some B-52's, the chairborne warriors in thr E-Ring took the exiles seriously. Thus was born the best armed guerrilla movement in history. Every man an automatic weapon, every squad an RPG. The Viet Cong would have killed for such lavish weaponry. Because we didn't destroy these dumps, Iraq roads are mine-ridden dangers, the US cannot use helicopters in assaults, every flight may be painted with a SAM. Mortars hit US firebases every night. All because of the open dumps.

* Blind, deaf and dumb

The Iraqi resistance hasn't been truly successful in taking on the US in combat, but in something far more important, controlling who works for the US. It is clear that cooperating with the occupation is a death sentence for anyone who chooses it. This has done more damage than any attack could. Because it makes real intelligence impossible, Everyone who works for the US is under sentence of death, because their neighbors rat them out. The kind of assasinations taking place in Baghdad are impossible without inside knowledge. While the idiots on the right try to figure out what is happening, the resistance grows in sophistication. Not just smarter attacks, but using the Internet, and targeting attacks. The mercenary copter which fell from the sky was no accident. The US is flying combat mission profiles with every flight, but the Bulgarian pilots flew at the right attitude to get blown out of the sky.

The use of the internet is a powerful tool. Video cameras, web cameras, all allow the resistance to get their side out, with the added bonus that the US is powerless to stop them. Wired News had an article on the US's super hackers, the usual mix of military, intelligence and private consultants the US likes to use for intelligence missions, yet these websites routinely show video of resistance successes. It's as if they don't take it seriously when it has already shaped the battle for opinion in the Arab world.

* The wrong equipment for the wrong war

The US has never truly gotten over the bloodless collapse of the Group of Soviet Forces Germany. Depsite the fact that it was clear our future wars would require infantry and close contact, the big issues have been new ships and fighters. The divisional structure of the US Army is collapsing before our eyes. You've got the 25th Infantry and 10th Mountain split around the world. You have the 82nd deployed in brigade stregnth to toss bodies around. National Guard brigades providing much of the manpower in Iraq. Yet, not ONE unit is specificaly trained for counter insurgency warfare. Yes, you have Special Forces, but you need more than that. We're trying to build Iraqi units to handle that role, but they are so penetrated with spies their movements are hardly secret. The US commanders say nice things, but considering that Iraqi troops have led US forces into ambushes and they dislike how we treat them, one can say the good words are for public consumption.

But the critical problem is that the US doesn't have the vehicles to fight this war. The tanks are too big, Humvees rolling targets and weighted down with field-expedient armor, too few troops with the right rifles and body armor and most of all not enough infantry. And what is the US debating? Missile systems and new ships. The Iraqis have infantry and artillery and they are doing pretty well for themselves. The US is still talking about systems which cannot help fight the wars of the future. But the, light armored cars don't cost enough to make someone stand out as a manager.

* The limits of airmobile

The reason the US doesn't have fleets of armored cars and trucks is simple: helicopters. The plan was to use hwlicopters for patrols and area denial. Well, except for the SAM's the resistance has in force.

The Army sent their Apache battalions off to war, and well, the Iraqi Army wasn't stupid. They set up flak traps and one of these battalions ran right into one and lost two Apaches ina few minutes. Then there was a sudden rethink of tactics. Ever wonder why the 101 spent their tour in trucks instead of their Blackhawks? Well, because of the rpg and the SAM. People were suprised that $20 grenades can blow million dollar machines out of the sky. Well, they can. I guess the Iraqis saw Black Hawk Down. What was a desperation tactic in Somalia is now SOP for the Iraqis.

However, this operational victory is never mentioned in the US. The only time the US can use copters in force is in the desert where they won't be ambushed by a flak trap. By forcing the US to the roads and the IED's the Iraqis created a military advantage. If the US could fly around and ambush guerrilla units, the war would be fought very differently and lives would have been saved. Denying the helicopter was a major advantage. Now, this doesn't mean helicopters are grounded, they aren't. But the mass flights that US likes to do...not happening. Why? Because the more targets you have, the more likely you are to hit one.

* Declining morale

When you have recruiters going AWOL, you do not have a happy Army. The letters column of Stars and Stripes is a cavalcade of complaints. Soldiers for the Truth has story after story of rank incompetence, from unit commanders willing to risk lives to suck up to their bosses to near blackmail for reenlistments to angry parents chasing recruiters away. And of course, they're now taking the dropouts. A story in the Washington Post about the conflicts between the 25th ID's Stryker Brigade and the 11th ACR. While the reporter made light of the Stryker's BC being shot, his men were not so kindly disposed. Plus all the chickenshit they brought with them, like not cursing. But when you read a story like that, you have to remember one thing: these guys are trapped. The ONLY way to leave a US base in Iraq is by Medivac, when your tour is up, when you're on leave or when you go on patrol. No trips to the local bazaar on your off time, no hitting bars and finding hookers. So little things like cursing and wearing caps can set the trigger for real conflict.

Then there are the 5,000 deserters, with maybe 100 cooling their heels in Canada.

What you have is an army grinding itself to death, slowly. The sand, the extreme danger, the heat, the need for constant vigilence, makes Iraq a brutal place to serve. There's a reason one third of Iraq vets have mental health issues. Then there is tours that extend on short notice. And of course, second tours in Iraq.

There is a limit to the stress men can take, and send them back to intense combat is one way to ensure they fail and unless the extremely unpopular draft is reinstituted, the pool of new recruits is limited. Even poor kids would rather work in Wal Mart than patrol Iraq.

How bad is it?

All war brings tragedy, but here's a story from a recent Nightline.

A soldier was in Iraq four days before he was wounded. He was sent home and in short order was found to have uncontrolled shakes and PTSD. He lives alone on his farm. He can't work. His wife left him, after she came out of the bathroom one night with a towel wrapped around her head and he pointed a gun at her. He wants to finish his degree, but he can't concentrate long enough to attend school. So he lives, alone and scarred on a Texas farm.

When the warbloggers talk about how we "liberated" Iraq, remember that soldier. He, not Assrocket and Goldberg, is paying the price for this war. It's easy to talk tough and cheer others on. It is very difficult to climb into a truck with an M-4 and drive around an Iraqi town every day for a year. And for some people, it never, ever ends. Even if they have all their limbs.

posted by Steve @ 12:33:00 AM

12:33:00 AM

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