Iraq: April 1, 2003

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U.S. warplanes dropped over 8,000 smart bombs in the last week. This includes 700 cruise missiles. Most ranged in weight from 500 to 2000 pounds. Over the last weekend, 3,000 smart bombs were dropped primarily on Republican Guard units around Baghdad. The U.S. Air Force believes that human error and equipment failure have led to about ten percent of these weapons missing their targets. Captured prisoners indicate that the Republican Guard losses has been so heavy that Iraqi guardsmen from north of Baghdad are being sent south of the city to reinforce depleted units.

British troops have taken 8,000 Iraqi troops prisoner so far. U.S. forces have taken fewer prisoners, and are not releasing numbers regularly. The extensive military medical system accompanying the coalition troops has been kept busy treating Iraqi civilian and military casualties. This follows the experience of the 1991 war, where over 80 percent of the coalition medical effort went to treating Iraqis. Better protective clothing (current armored vests can stop rifle bullets) and helmets and better training have kept coalition casualties lower than in 1991, even though the ground fighting have gone on three times as long.

Units from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division fought their way into Hindiyah, a city of 80,000 that is 80 kilometers south of Baghdad and contains a bridge over the Euphrates river. Using the street fighting techniques developed by the British, the U.S. troops brushed past the inept Iraqi resistance and went straight for the local Baath party headquarters and other locations intelligence had identified as military bases. Thus American troops were able to quickly size tons of weapons and equipment, including American had grenades the Iraqis had obtained from Jordan (a recipient of U.S. military aid.) The grenades were probably not a gift, but a result of the corruption ("everything is for sale") that is rampant in the Middle East. The American troops also found they were facing a brigade from a Republican Guard division, indicating that the Iraqi government didn't trust the army or irregulars to stop the coalition troops from moving closer to Baghdad. 

The two other brigades of the 101st Airborne Division were also fighting their way through the city of Najaf to the south. The paratroopers also fought Iraqi armored units outside the city, using AH-64 Apache gunships and artillery to destroy Iraqi tanks and other armored vehicles. The American troops captured Iraqi headquarters and ammunition supplies. 

The U.S. is rushing several thousand troops from Armored Cavalry and Military Police units to Kuwait. These troops are trained in patrolling and security and will replace combat units in providing supply convoy security patrols. While the armored cavalry normally operate in armored vehicles, they can use armed hummers instead, which can be flown in more quickly than armored vehicles (which have to come by ship.)

The U.S. 3rd Mechanized Division and the 1st Marine Division move closer to Baghdad and are running into Republican Guard units. Reports from Iraqi prisoners indicates that the Republican Guard is taking heavy casualties from the continuous bombing. While the Republican Guard troops have taken shelter among civilians, their tanks and other military equipment are still vulnerable. Even though parked inside villages or orchards, U.S. sensors can find these vehicles so they can be bombed. Millions of leaflets and constant radio broadcasts have warned Iraqi civilians to flee if they see Iraqi military equipment parked close to them. It's not yet known if Iraqi secret police have forced civilians to remain in their homes when military equipment is moved nearby. The government has not taken foreign journalists outside Baghdad, probably because of the presence of coalition commandos. These commandos may also be responsible for discover Iraqi deceptions on the ground. In 1991, Iraqi deceptions caused thousands of coalition bombs to be wasted on fake targets.

U.S., British and Australian mine clearing teams have spent over a week clearing a 400 meter wide channel along the 65 kilometers long Khor Abdallah channel, from the Persian Gulf to Iraq's only port of Umm Qasr. But it is felt that only 90 percent of the mines have been cleared. Most of the unswept mines are "bottom mines" that sit on the bottom of the shallow channel, using magnetism or water pressure from ships overhead to set them off. Because of the mine danger, cargos will have to come in on military supply ships. Civilian cargo ships cannot get insurance to enter such a dangerous area. This will increase the cost of moving in relief supplies. Another problem with humanitarian aid is that most people who run the NGO (Non-Governmental Organizations) aid organizations are pretty self-righteous and anti-military in the best of times, but are in a major snit over the "U.S. aggression" in Iraq and are demanding no military participation in relief efforts in Iraq. Otherwise they will refuse to help out. The military would like the NGOs to get involved, but may have to go without them in order to get the aid to the Iraqi people.

In Basra, British Royal Marine Commandos and army armored units continue to hunt down and destroy the irregular units that are terrorizing the city. Many of the marine combat patrols are at night, which terrorizes the Iraqi fighters, who lack night vision equipment or training in night combat. The British are skillful night fighters and reports from Iraqi deserters and civilians fleeing the city indicate that the irregular units are getting discouraged and falling apart. Even some of the Saddam loyalists are fleeing the city. The British use their superior reconnaissance capabilities to find where the irregulars are establishing their bases (to feed, rearm and treat wounded fighters) and quickly attack them. The British have also cleared out the irregular units operating in the suburbs of the city. Iraqi prisoners report that the Saddam loyalists are going from door to door forcibly recruiting military age men to fight ("join us or die.") These men are deserting at the first opportunity, even though the Saddam loyalists sometimes go and kill families of deserters. But the Saddam loyalists are too busy with the British, so the desertions increase. 

Arab translators working for the coalition (Iraqi-Americans and Iraqi exiles recruited and trained for this, plus some Kuwaitis) report that most Iraqi civilians are so terrorized by Saddam's police and thugs, and memories of the failed rebellion of 1991, that they still fear that Saddam will win this war and return with revenge in mind. However, some neighborhoods in Basra and Umm Qasr are starting to shed the fear and accept the fact that Saddam and his crew are gone for good. British troops are using clever tactics to facilitate this. For example, after capture Baath party headquarters are searched and all weapons and documents removed, the British let local civilians loot the place. This lets the civilians see for themselves how well the Baath party members were living while most Iraqi civilians sank deeper into poverty.

 

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