Not everything is going according to plan

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at
Sun Mar 23 06:30:58 MST 2003

Not everything seems to be going according to plan in the Bush-Blair war.

* A U.S. patriot missile battery shot down a British war plane returning
from a sortie over Iraq. This was probably the same incident reported hours
earlier as a US patriot battery intercepting and Iraqi missile, and is the
result of the WMD/SCUD missile hysteria in the officer corps. The U.S.
military has, in effect, become a prisoner of its own government's
disinformation, and is expending tremendous amounts of effort and attention
on it.

* A U.S. soldier is being held in the fragging of three command tents of the
elements of the 101st Airborne Division still in Kuwait. CNN interviewed
various "embedded" reporters who said the suspect had an "arabic sounding"
last name and had recently converted to Islam. The soldier's unit is
reported to only have been attached to the 101st in the last week, making it
unlikely this person even knew those in the command tents, never mind having
had a deep-standing personal grudge that could explain the action. The ranks
and names of those taken out of action aren't being released, but it is
known they included at least two captains and one lieutenant among the 5
walking wounded, because a Time magazine reporter described how these
officers helped organize help for their more seriously wounded comrades.
>From the one picture of the captured soldier, where you can see only part of
his head, it appears he may be Black. All of this information disappeared
from later reports on CNN and other news outlets. Instead, the incident is
being officially dismissed as "bizarre" and "tragic" and so on -- as if it
had nothing to do with the politics of the war and of the United States,
which appears to be very much the same. At the same time, the army is
denying this partial decapitation of at least part of the division will have
any impact on its ability to fight.

* Basra, (population 1.5 million) which according to some news accounts was
captured without firing a shot apparently isn't so captured after all.
US-British forces that attempted to enter the city have withdrawn after
meeting resistance; helicopters were attacking the suspected Iraqi positions
this morning but were having a hard time because of people on the ground
shooting at them.

* Umm Qasr, which was repeatedly said to be under anglo-american control
since day one, was the scene of a 4-5 hour firefight this morning, which was
broadcast live world-wide. To add insult to injury, the Iraqi Minister of
Information held his daily briefing denouncing U.S. propaganda lies as the
skirmish was in progress. Umm Qasr is on the border with Kuwait and was
within the demilitarized zone established by the United Nations, which means
there were no prepared defenses against the invasion. The U.S. desperately
needs this port for the "humanitarian" mission of supplying its invasion

* The 7th Cavalry spearhead of the 3rd (mechanized) infantry division's
advance had been stalled for more than 24 hours by a force described by the
American Colonel in charge as a light infantry batallion with perhaps 300
troops. This description came a couple of hours after an embedded CNN
reporter had told the world that an artillery barrage the previous day had
killed an estimtaed 200 Iraqi soldiers, which, of course, would have wiped
out the entire Iraqi force twice over using a very conservative ratio of two
Iraqi soldiers wounded for every one killed. In repeating this and similar
claims, the "embedded" reporters are simply passing on the information the
brass has given the troops involved. This sort of incident undermines the
fighting morale of the American force,

* General Clark, the slick, personable former NATO commander in chief who
has become a fixture on CNN's most heavily watched coverage, in analyzing
these events let slip a couple of things that sound like they may be true.
One is that the Umm Qasr firefight lasted so long because the marine unit on
the ground, essentially light infantry, wasn't in immediate, direct
communications with armor, artillery or air power. Those had to be mustered
and coordinated through the chain of command and various kludges. He added
that all the technological marvels of instant communication and information
from satellites and drones and so on are simply unavailable and of no use at
this scale of operations, which is, of course, the scale at which combat
actually takes place. And drawing the conclusion of this and previous
firefights, the situation in Basra, etc., he said that the U.S. and Brits
simply don't have enough grunts to even properly clear a small town of
maximum immediate strategic and operational importance like Umm Qasr.

* Turkey is neutralizing the possible northern front by threatening to
invade iraqi Kurdistan, if it hasn't already. As a result, the Kurds are all
preparing a defense against this invasion, rather than a drive on Bagdad.

* While American Sunday newspapers feature jingoistic headlines ("On to
Bagdad" seems to have been the most popular one), the front pages of
newspapers in the rest of the world are dominated by heart-rending pictures
of the little children massacred by the terror-bombing campaign.

* Bush-Blair did not succeed in imposing the line that now that the war has
started, the debate over it and the movement against it are ended.
Demonstrations by a quarter of a million people in New York and smaller
numbers in other American cities received prominent coverage on CNN and
other media, including the protest at CNN "World Headquarters" in Atlanta
denouncing its coverage.

All of this suggests that "shock and awe" is the real American military
strategy, i.e., that the campaign has been planned and forces allocated on
the assumption that the Iraqi regime will quickly disintegrate. That may
well be the most likely outcome; however, prolongation of the war, after
having initially projected it as a few-day affair, together with the
evidence of the real impact on the civilian population of U.S. bombing and
the failure to stop the antiwar mobilizations, create an explosive mixture.

A lot will depend on the resistance of the Iraqis. It is unclear, for
example, whether the few firefights that have been reported reflect a
conscious strategy on the part of Iraq or relying initially on small-unit
harassment of the invading force to slow it down and wear it out, or whether
these attacks are, as the Generals on the TV gasbag circuit insist, merely
the dying twitches of individual, uncoordinated parts of a military force
that has been mortally wounded.


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