It is, I fear, time to start talking seriously about the probability of Hezbollah activity in Iraq, and what that means for the campaign in the Middle East. I'm going to try something I've seen on other blogs, and have an "open thread" on the topic--well, open as long as you're talking about Hezbollah. Thoughts welcome, posting encouraged.
Thanks to The Command Post, we have this story:
In Fallujah's darkened, empty streets, US troops blast AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" and other rock music full volume from a huge speaker, hoping to grate on the nerves of the city's gunmen and give a laugh to Marines along the front line.Not all the operations affecting the enemy's psyche are done by soldiers attached to the Marines. Some of the most effective are these:
Unable to advance farther into the city [...because of orders, not enemy action... -G], an Army psychological operations team hopes a mix of heavy metal and insults shouted in Arabic--including, "You shoot like a goat-herder"--will draw gunmen to step forward and attack. But no luck this night.
Laying on his stomach on a rooftop and wearing goggles and earplugs, a Marine sniper keeps an eye to his rifle site.... In his position--reachable only by scaling the outside ledge of a building--he sits for hours with his finger poised on the trigger of a rifle that fires .50-caliber armor piercing bullets with such force that the muzzle flash and exiting gasses from the weapon have blackened the bricks around the gun.Now that's intimidation.
Del ovear at FreeSpeech has an article on the USMC's use of bagpipes in Fallujah. It's from CNN, which means that there has to be a bit of foolishness:
When he is not on the front-line, Farr wears a kilt when playing, and some Marines have been skeptical about a member of one of the toughest fighting forces in the world donning what looks like a skirt.Nonsense. But if a heavy-weight wool kilt in the Leatherneck tartan isn't right for Fallujah, try the Survival Kilt.
Major General of Marines John Sattler, USCENTCOM, spoke about I MEF operations:
The general also said that coalition forces in the area are comfortable with the level of intelligence information they're getting in the area and are content to let the Iraqi Governing Council work to negotiate an end to the tense situation in Fallujah.This seems to be the result, in part, of good recon and planning:
He noted that he feels it's important to give the negotiations a chance to succeed. "Keep in mind, our goal is not to capture the town of Fallujah," Sattler said. "Our goal is to go and free the town of Fallujah, to go in and eliminate those fighters, foreign fighters, those extremists that are in the town that have taken it away from those who reside there."
Garnering far less publicity than operations around Fallujah, Marines have stepped up efforts to shut down Iraq's border region with Syria as a throughway for foreign fighters and smugglers.
Sattler said efforts are particularly focused in an area known as "the rat line," where foreign fighters were traveling through the countryside around Qaim, near where the Euphrates River passes from Syria into Iraq.
"We had an extreme amount of success on the front side, meaning that we did find, fix, and ultimately finish a number of cells that were out there, that were facilitating this type of movement," he said.
Part of the Marines' success in tightening the border region can be attributed to their forethought in upping the number of troops they brought when they replaced the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in the region.Ooh-rah.
"When (the Marines) went out and did their reconnaissance (before assuming control of the region), they made a conscious decision to bring more so they could, in fact, work that border region very hard," Sattler said.
The historian Roger Scruton explains a simple solution to the plague of squirrels troubling many places. I have to attest that his solution works perfectly--I myself had an infestation at my cabin two years back, when I was still resident in Georgia. We resolved it entirely using the method he recommends.
Regular readers probably know more about me than they want to know already. Still, I thought I'd mention for the interested that there's a picture of my son Beowulf in Sovay's "cat blogging," today. The caption mentions my wife, who can be seen (and read about) on her own website. She doesn't do politics or milblogging, though--just painting, sculpture, and other artwork. The photo there is a good picture of her, but be warned: like Doc Russia's wife, she is a dangerous woman.
Wouldn't have it any other way.
By now probably all of you know of the Spirit of America campaign, whereby the US Marines are raising money to spend in Iraq, most especially on television stations. The idea is to help the Iraqi people get the truth, and to help the Marines make allies among the populace. Grim's Hall will, of course, participate.
Since this is taking the form of a competition, we'll be assuming a role in the Milblog brigade. Donate early and often--the competition starts Monday.
A contractor writes from Fallujah. I won't excerpt it; it's worth reading in full. I've been considering the question of the legal status of contractors since KOS made an issue out of people who do our kind of work. If we aren't mercenaries--as has been established--just what are we?
I think I may have sorted it out. Article 4, Section 1 of the Geneva Conventions provides that P.O.W. status applies to:
Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.Section two:
2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:Either of these terms would seem to apply. A militia is a possibility, as it is also composed of civilians under arms, directed by military authority. A Volunteer Corps, like Theodore Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" may even be a better explanation of the status of contractors. Like Roosevelt himself--who was too blind to gain service in a regular army regiment--the "Rough Riders" were men who demanded to serve their country in her wars, regardless of the demands of the bureaucracy.
(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) That of carrying arms openly;
(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
I'll leave it to the lawyers to hash out which one is correct. Either way, I prefer "militiamen" or "volunteers" to "contractors," which tends to suggest that the contract, rather than patriotism, is the motivating factor. I'd like to propose that we adopt "Rough Riders" as a nickname for such contractors. I have to imagine any of them would feel honored by the name, and it shows the real spirit behind the movement.
Sgt Hook answers Andy Roony, based on a poll of soldiers serving with him in Afghanistan. Rooney was really asking about Iraq, of course. Maybe JarHeadDad will pass the questions on to "Arms" the next time they talk, and we can get a reply from al-Anbar province.
I'm going to post out of a couple of the letters I've seen, one of which is being passed around and has been posted elsewhere; the other, as far as I know, hasn't. I'm informed both are OPSEC safe, but I've held them another 24 hours just to be certain.
[T]he Ramadi front is designed to take heat off Falluja.... [A Moblie Assault Platoon] was called to provide relief to ' X.' XXXX says that as they moved up, the rags were performing disciplined, as he calls it, "bounding fire and movement---they knew what they were doing---even when we knocked them back, they were 'bounding.'"The relative military discipline being shown in Ramadi has been one of the more interesting points of the war. Three "good news" points of analysis: 1) This is almost certainly the best that the enemy in Iraq has at the ready. 2) There are not many of them--a surprise attack on a rearward station is all they could manage, and they were repulsed there by a platoon of reinforcements. Confer with the often-cited Tet offensive, which threw into the fray guerrillas across South Vietnam, and even had trained sappers to dig inside the US compound. 3) These guys are not, in any sort of immediate sense, replacable. It takes months of secure training to produce a coherent unit, disciplined under fire, of a size capable of carrying out an assault like this one. The VC never recovered from the Tet Offensive. After that, the war had to be carried by NVA units, even though the VC had a relatively secure training area in North Vietnam and the underground support of China and the USSR. There are no players of that strength in the region, though possible supporters include, Syria, and Hezbollah.
Whether or not they will contribute replacement forces, or whether or not there are are foreign training areas that will be left secure because of US policy, remains to be seen. Reuters carried a story today that Iran has sent 'thousands' of such fighters. However, there are two strong caveats to believing this story: first, they were supposed to back the Shi'ite uprising, not the Sunni one. There appears to be some coordination between these, but the Army isn't reporting any sharp increase ('maybe two percent') in foreign fighters in the areas where you'd expect Iran to focus. Second, the source for the claim is The National Council of Resistance in Iran. They are an exile group that has an interest in manipulating US policy, a factor which can't be ignored when deciding whether or not to trust their reports.
Returning to the letters:
[A Marine Sergeant] got an AK round through shoulder and disobeyed LT's order for MEDEVAC. Remained with MAP for 4 hours and used an M-203 to continue fight.Probably get a reprimand for that, but brag about it for the rest of his life. Good on him.
As MAP was entering Ramadi on Wed minaret loudspeakers were pronouncing, "This is the day you die, come forward and we will kill you in name of Jihad, bla, bla." Wpns Company Commander grabs interpreter, puts him on OUR loudspeaker and begins, "Come out and fight you goddamn pussys and fight us in the streets like fucking men!" XXXX relates that some did and, "We mowed them down."There's the news from the Ramadi front. From Fallujah:
Early in the morning we exchanged gunfire with a group of insurgentsAgain, these trapped enemy elements aren't replacable.
without significant loss. As morning progressed, the enemy fed more men into the fight and we responded with stronger force. Unfortunately, this led to injuries as our Marines and sailors started clearing the city block by block. The enemy did not run; they fought us like soldiers.
Your husbands were awesome all night they stayed at the job of securing the streets and nobody challenged them as the hours wore on. They did not surrender an inch nor did flinch from the next potential threat. Previous to yesterday the terrorist thought that we were soft enough to challenge. As of tonight the message is loud and clear that the Marines will not be beaten. Today the enemy started all over again, although with far fewer numbers, only now the rest of the battalion joined the fight. Without elaborating too much, weapons company and Golf crushed their attackers with the vengeance of the righteous.This above letter is from a Lt. Col. Kennedy, addressed to the wives of Marines in Fallujah. Doubtless he's sugarcoating a little, but probably not too much--Marine wives are extremely tough.
If the enemy is foolish enough to try to take your men again they will not survive contact. We are here to win. The news looks grim from back in the States. We did take losses that, in our hearts, we will always live with. The men we lost were taken within the very opening minutes of the violence.... We can never replace these Marines and Sailors but they will fight on with us in spirit. We are not feeling sorry for ourselves nor do we fear what tomorrow will bring. The battalion has lived up to its reputation as Magnificent Bastards. Yesterday made everyone here stronger and wiser[.]The Marines Have Landed, and the Situation... and indeed, it appears to be. If the politicians don't flinch, we should be able to deal the serious insurgents a blow from which they may not be able to recover.
Been reading letters from Fallujah today--I'm going to sit on them a while longer, although some of them (thanks, JHD) are said to be in the clear. Still, it sounds like the Marines agree with the casualty figures being reported out of Fallujah, except with the percentages of noncombatants--the Marines report confidence of 95% combatant kills or better, whereas the AFP is reporting statements from doctors inside Fallujah that post a worse percentage. The Washington Post, meanwhile, has this conversation:
"The fighting now is different than a year ago. Before, the Iraqis fought for nothing. Now, fighters from all over Iraq are going to sacrifice themselves," said a Fallujah native who gave his name as Abu Idris....They came back, did they? If it's heaven, what are they doing back in Baghdad? The Marines are still around.
"Our brothers who went to Fallujah and came back say: 'Oh, God, it is heaven. Anyone who wants paradise should go to Fallujah,' " Abu Idris said.
Another Russian piece, from the Sage of Knoxville. Why can't we get war reporting like this? From The Moscow Times:
The Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah outnumbered the Marines and were armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles, RPG-7 antitank grenade launchers and mortars. Chechen fighters used the same weapons in Grozny in 1995, 1996 and 2000, killing thousands of Russian soldiers and destroying hundreds of armored vehicles.
Just like the Russians in Grozny, the Marines last week were supported by tanks and attack helicopters, but the end result was entirely different. U.S. forces did not bomb the city indiscriminately. The Iraqis fought well but were massacred. According to the latest body count, some 600 Iraqis died and another 1,000 were wounded. The Marines lost some 20 men.
The Marines are far better trained, of course, but the Iraqis were fighting in their hometown. The decisive difference between the two sides was the extensive use of a computerized command, control and targeting system by the U.S. military. Satellites, manned and unmanned aircraft collected precise information on enemy and friendly movements on the battlefield night and day.
Modern U.S. field commanders have real-time access to this system, allowing them to monitor the changing situation on the battlefield as no commander in the history of war has been able to do. This technology has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of aerial bombardments in the last decade. And now the nature of house-to-house combat has changed as well.
The more accurate historical analogy to the current war in Iraq is not Vietnam but, say, the battle at Omdurman, Sudan, in 1898, when Horatio Herbert Kitchener, a British field marshal, crushed the Sudanese forces of al-Mahdi by bringing machine guns to bear against the enemy's muskets and spears.
Sovay cites Josh Marshall, with her own appended commentary:
The question is whether, when faced with a dire warning and given a few clear hints as to where and when, the president exerted some leadership and got everyone focused on the problem."Today's Secrecy News--lately no friend of President Bush--has this:
Evidence suggests the president failed on both counts.
In another recent example of politically-driven declassification of ostensibly "top secret" information, the White House has released two partial sentences from the September 4, 2001 National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 9 on combating terrorism.According to Clarke's new book, the Clinton administration had made some informal inquiries about military options in Afghanistan:
The point of the release was to document that the Defense Department had been instructed to plan for military options against Taliban and al Qaeda targets prior to the September 11 attacks.
And the response from the Joint Chiefs of Staff--those beribboned guys who get big jobs at Boeing and General Dynamics when they're done--was unvarying:The Bush administration put the orders in writing--'ill advised or not, draw up the plans.' That looks like evidence of leadership and focus to me. Pity more of both weren't shown... oh, around 1995.
*It would take a very large force;
* the operation was risky and might fail, with U.S. forces caught and killed, embarrassing the President;
* their "professional military opinion" was not to do it;
* but, of course, they would do if they received orders to do so in writing from the President of the United States;
* and, by the way, military lawyers said it would be a violation of international law.
EurasiaNet carries a Russian report that a "state of emergency" appears to be underway in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan:
An April 6 analysis published by the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta is representative of the reporting by many Russian-language media outlets. The Nezavisimaya Gazeta article suggested that the militant attacks were the product of a domestic insurgency movement. "Many people in this closed and fairly poor country are unhappy with the ruling regime," political analyst Vladimir Mukhin wrote. "Peasants are worn down by officials' tyranny."Meanwhile, the Uzbek militia in northern Afghanistan has withdrawn from Maimana. There was a skirmish between the militia and local fighters in another Afghan city, Kod-i-Barq, but it appears to have been very low-intensity. It's a simmering issue, and it's hard to know just what to make of it yet.
"A considerable portion of the inhabitants of the Uzbek capital polled by Nezavisimaya Gazeta describe the perpetrators of the explosions as insurgents," the analysis added. "It also seems incorrect to view the explosions as religious fanatics' revenge for the US base located in Uzbekistan."
The article went on to say that a virtual state of emergency exists in Uzbekistan. The newspaper cited an Uzbek government security source in asserting that "every suspicious individual, vehicle or apartment block was being subjected to blanket inspection in the Uzbek capital."
Articles such as the Nezavisimaya Gazeta piece directly contradict state-controlled Uzbek media accounts of the violence and its aftermath. For example, a poll published by the Vecherny Tashkent newspaper on April 6 claimed that 98.9 percent of Uzbeks believed that "anti-social forces are striving to deprive us of our main values, which are independence, peace and stability." A 99.6 percent margin supported "the actions being taken by the country's leadership, which are aimed at strengthening security and stepping up the fight against terrorism."
In other Afghan news, The Times of India has what may be the worst quote from Colin Powell in history:
President Bush's commitment to de-mine and repave the entire stretch of the Kabul-Kandahar highway was fulfilled. The road had not been functional for over 20 years. What was once a 30-hour journey can be accomplished in just 5 or 6 years.That's progress!
Aaron is a little nuts--I trust he'll forgive my saying so--but the sentiment is noble. He's declared April 15 to be Buy A Gun Day. Anyone who wants some advice on what sort of gun they ought to buy is invited to email me, or take it to the comments section.
Via Blackfive, a link to the weekend's Stalinist protests against Western success. My favorite is "psychoanalysts for peace." This is yet more evidence, if more were needed, that psychology is not a science.
Easter is a celebration of renewed life. This was true when it was called Ostara, after the heathen goddess of the same name. It is the focus of the Christian holiday, which is about the return from death of Jesus. In time, there may be an Iraqi holiday:
The first candleIraq has a number of problems right now, as everyone knows. To me they look like problems with solutions:
It's the day that brought me back to life. It's the 9th of April and I'm free, and they will not steel my joy again and they will not silence me. A year ago at the same date, the thieves and criminals prevented me from celebrating my freedom in the open air, and today thieves, criminals and fanatics are doing the same, but they will not steal my happiness that is making my soul fly and dance with joy and they can't stop this.
A year ago, words failed me as I met the 1st American soldier, and I still remember his name, "corporal, Adam" and all I could utter was "thank you!" how could I ever put my whole life in few words? How could I have thanked that soldier enough? How could I have told him what it meant to me to see him and his comrades--who brought me back to life--at last? Thank you Adam, Lieutenant Antonio, Captain Brian Curtis and all the coalition soldiers who I can't remember their names, and those I never met.
It's the 9th of April and I feel safe! And I don't care what those 'political experts' on the newspapers and TV channels, say about the 'occupation', deteriorated security and 'unemployment'. You can't understand this, because you never experienced real fear this long. Let me tell you about it, as I'm one of those who passed Saddam's filthy test of life.
The statue fell and with it, horror fell. You don't know what it means to be scared to death most of your life, brothers and sisters. I knew that and I faced it during the reign of evil and darkness. I was afraid to talk, I wasn't allowed to think and I wasn't allowed to feel... I wasn't allowed to love.
How dare anyone imply to me how should I feel? And who they think they are, those who try to put words in my mouth? I'm alive and I'm free, and I have the right to say whatever I feel and chose the words I like. No one will tell me again what to say and what to feel.
Yes, it's the 9th of April. I lit the 1st candle today to celebrate my 1st year, as a free man and no one will prevent me from celebrating. I, who the earth is no longer enough to contain my feelings, I who have wings now, and I don't have to carry an ID... I'm Iraqi. I have the right to wander through my country southwards and northwards, without being stopped by someone to ask me who I am and where I'm going. I'm the son of the 9th of April....
I'm the son of the 9th of April, tyrant's clowns, and you have to fear me, you who betrayed me every minute and every day, and you want to chain me again???
You know why it's impossible now? I was a slave and I never knew who I am.... and now I'm free! Thanks to all who dared to tell the truth and didn't fear the consequences. And as for you, who saved me and my people, I can't thank you enough. My voice goes feeble and my eyes swell with tears as I think of the Iraqis, Americans and all the coalition soldiers who gave their lives to free Iraq and make this world a better place. God bless their souls and all those who decided to fight to the end and never been discouraged, even in the toughest moments. I hope you can call me brother, because I'll never fail you, as you never failed me.
This time, the 9th of April has come again and in what way! The powers of darkness and evil are trying to stifle my candle with their foul breaths but this time I'm alive and free and I will face them, and I will lit it again and again... and again.
Hopeful signs: US forces surrounding Najaf have been observing a pause in operations because of al-Arbeen, a Shi'ite holiday (that is, particular to Shi'a Islam--it has to do with the martyrdom of a Shi'ite hero). Sadr's forces in Karbala have answered by entering into a similar cease-fire. The hostage taking that we've seen lately is also a hopeful sign, as odd as that may sound, because it means that the Shi'ite insurgents recognize that they are outgunned and are turning to defensive measures.There are those who think that we are out of our depth:
The Sunni insurgents in Fallujah have been involved in negotiations with the Iraqi Governing Council. So far, they've made demands that aren't serious, but the USMC has made good use of the time by bringing up an additional battallion and extra supplies. We've succeeded in evacuating about a third of the civilian population of the city with no large noncombatant casualties--small enough that I can't report any for certain. Al Jazeera is reporting the death of two military intelligence officers in Falluja this morning, but I don't know if they know what they're talking about or not. They've got videotape of two dead somebodies, but whether or not they're ours I couldn't say.
If it proves that these are, in fact, two separate fights that happened to occur at the same time--it's worth remembering that we started the fight with al-Sadr, which undermines the theory that there's coordination--we'll be all right.
The Sunni insurgents probably have to be defeated on the battlefield, but there's every reason to think we can come to an arrangement with the Shi'ites. Al-Sadr's accused of a terrible crime--the murder of a superior cleric, al-Khoei, inside the Shrine of Ali. A lot of his support will fade as evidence of his guilt becomes public. Some of it won't, because it's tribal. Those who have relied upon tribal connections to his family for protection over the years will stand up and fight for him. If they lose him, they lose their protector, and that's frightening in a tribal society.
The worrying situation is if the foreign elements have been successful in unifying the opposition. Iran and Syria are backing two different horses, but if they've decided to shake hands and each back proxy forces, the fight will be a lot longer and bloodier. If we can't convince them to withdraw their support by negotiation, we may have to widen the war.
There's a third possible player, too, which is Hezbollah. The head of Lebanese Hezbollah is a cousin to al-Sadr. Hezbollah is the best guerrilla/terrorist army in the world, and would be stiff opposition if they commit to the fight. On the other hand, the Marine Corps owes them for the 1982 embassy bombing. There won't be a troop morale problem if we have to go after them, whatever the casualties--it's a debt keenly remembered.
In Fallujah, you are fighting fighters. This is an integral part of their culture--to fight and not allow surrender. We're not talking about West Point here. This is a way of life. No one can win the battle in Fallujah, unless your army withdraws. That would be the only kind of victory you could achieve. Your only victory can be to minimise the loss of life--both in your forces and within the civilians of Fallujah. It is a fiercely independent and tribal system that is operated there. Our 'fixer' in Iraq learnt to shoot a gun, ride a horse and swim at the age of seven.Fair enough. The enemy is brave. Remember, though, the Talibani who smoked scorpions? He got an admiring interview in the British press. How could we ever hope to fight such a warrior? In the Phillippines, the warrior culture ranged against us produced men who would leap out of trees with spears, facing certain death in order to kill just one American. My wife's grandfather, in the US Cavalry, saved General Black-Jack Pershing from such an assassin.
There are parts of America which can claim the same. I grew up in a hunting and fighting culture, too, in the American South. My pass-times as a teenager included racing cars down mountain backroads at speeds I smile to remember. I've carried a pistol almost every day since I came of age, and I never leave home unarmed, in case I'm called upon by fate to do my duty as a citizen to defend the common peace.
The US military certainly has a warrior culture of its own. But it has another thing that is worth at least as much: professionalism. The lessons of endless wars like this one are gathered and taught in Quantico, Virginia. There is a school there called "The United States Marine Corps Small Wars School of Excellence." They know what they are doing. Give them time, and trust, and they will carry you to victory and Iraq to freedom.
In the meantime, happy Easter. The renewal of life follows the harshness of winter. This is meant to be a promise in the cold and difficult times, a thought to warm you as you huddle by the fire. Spring is coming. Have faith.