Thursday, December 04, 2003

The Long, Slow Slide

News from Iraq gets uglier and uglier. I think we are at the brink of a point of no return, after which point it will be impossible to repair our relationship with the Iraqi people and we will be powerless to help their new government succeed. We'll be left with no option but to pack up and go home and hope for the best. Or we may have already stepped off that precipice and started the long slide down, it's hard to say... And if we have gone over the edge, if past history is a guide, it may take us years to realize it..

CSM has a great roundup of coverage on the newly infamous battle at Samarra. To cover some highlights:

A supposed US officer who fought in the battle wrote to an ex-military blogger:
"During the ambushes the tanks, brads and armored HUMVEES hosed down houses, buildings, and cars while using reflexive fire against the attackers. One of the precepts of "Iron Hammer" is to use an Iron Fist when dealing with the insurgents. As the division spokesman is telling the press, we are responding with overwhelming firepower and are taking the fight to the enemy. The response to these well coordinated ambushes was as a one would expect. The convoy continued to move, shooting at ANY target that appeared to be a threat. RPG fire from a house, the tank destroys the house with main gun fire and hoses the area down with 7.62 and 50cal MG fire. Rifle fire from an alley, the brads fire up the alley and fire up the surrounding buildings with 7.62mm and 25mm HE rounds. This was actually a rolling firefight through the entire town."

With typical understatement, the BBC wrote:
"The Americans were using enormously powerful weapons, including 50 mm cannons mounted on Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and 120 mm tank rounds from the Abrams. Used in a densely populated urban area, built with flimsy mud-bricks, it is almost inconceivable that people well out of sight of the gunners were not also injured in the battle. "

The US military take:
"We have been very aggressive in our convoy operations to ensure the maximum force protection is with each convoy, but it does send a clear message that if you attempt to attack one of our convoys, we're going to use our firepower to stop that attack."

Response of a Samarran emergency room worker:
"All the people in town today are asking for revenge. They want to kill the Americans like they killed our civilians. Give me a gun, and I will also fight."

Conclusion of our anonymous US combatant:
"Since we did not stick around to find out, I am very concerned in the coming days we will find we killed many civilians as well as Iraqi irregular fighters. I would feel great if all the people we killed were all enemy guerrillas, but I can't say that. We are probably turning many Iraqi against us and I am afraid instead of climbing out of the hole, we are digging ourselves in deeper."

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