Iraq: April 5, 2003

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Iraqi officials announced that Iraqi troops had retaken the Baghdad air port. Embedded reporters with coalition troops at the air port could not confirm this Iraqi action, as the coalition troops were still at the airport. The Iraqi official promised reporters in Baghdad a tour of the recaptured airport sometime today. Sort of a "Magical Mystery Tour." When a government starts spinning tall tales like this, it's a sign that the end is near. Up until now, the Arab and Moslem media have tried to go along with most of the fanciful Iraqi press releases. But once you are firmly in fantasy land, even the friendly media abandons you.

Reporters were able to talk to Iraqi deserters in northern Iraq and heard repeated stories of ill-treatment of the soldiers by their officers and execution squads run by Saddam loyalists. The troops were not fed regularly and desertion was punishable by summary execution if you were caught.

The American PsyOps (psychological warfare) campaign apparently worked against the Iraqi army. There has been little or no organized resistance by the Iraqi army since the invasion began. It was thought that some Iraqi commanders could bring their units, intact, over to the coalition side. This didn't happen. But keeping the majority of the Iraqi armed forces out of the fight was good enough. It won't be know until after the war how much of this was due to the demoralization of the Iraqi army, and how much was due to the PsyOps campaign. But at this point, coalition troops don't care.

The Republican Guard continues falling apart, as U.S. troops capture the headquarters of the al Nida division and are fighting elements of that division east of Baghdad. Republican Guard divisions are being hammered by bombers as they try to move south of Baghdad. In some cases, the Republican Guard has just abandoned their armored vehicles and used civilian cars and busses to get near coalition troops and fight as lightly armed infantry. The Republican Guard will put up a fight, but the coalition troops have just blown right through them so far. 

After an Iraqi government official threatened "innovative tactics" to retake the Baghdad airport last night, it was feared they might try and use the Human Tide. This tactic takes some very, very dedicated civilians. You mass your thousands of volunteers into groups that fill the streets, then advance on the objective. Several columns of such civilians could advance on the airport. Some armed men would be on the inside of the crowd. If the crowd got close enough to coalition troops without getting fired on, the Iraqi gunmen could open up. The Human Tide rarely works, but it's scary to watch, and often fatal to be in. The Iraqi Human tide never showed up at the airport. 

Special weapons are available for street fighting in Baghdad. One favorite is the Laser Guided Blue Concrete bombs. These one ton and half ton bombs have their explosives replaced with concrete and are painted blue in case any are found intact after the war. The blue color indicates that they contain no explosives and can simply be dragged away. During the 12 years of enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq, coalition aircraft began using laser guided concrete bombs to destroy Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles or radars that were parked right next to homes, hospitals and the like. The concrete bomb, hitting the target at a speed of a pistol bullet (about 300 meters a second) would easily demolish a missile launcher or radar. But since there was no explosion, nearby civilians were not hurt. 

Another favorite city fighting weapon is the hundred pound Hellfire missile carried by Predator unmanned aircraft. These missiles have also been used to take out targets in residential areas. But the thing the Iraqis will fear the most will be the well planned urban armor and infantry raids into the city. The British have used these with devastating effect in Basra. 

Over the last few days, there have been increasing reports that Baath Party members are fleeing instead of fighting. This sort of thing doesn't happen unless the Baath loyalists are reasonably sure that they won't run into a Baath party execution squad (out looking for deserters.) The number of Iraqis willing to die for Saddam goes down each day.

The British continue to use their novel tactics to root out about a thousand Saddam loyalists. The British are now handing out leaflets to local civilians, asking for help in "identifying the enemy." At this point, the enemy is not just Saddam loyalists, but also heavily armed and brazen criminals. Actually, it appears, sometime the same people are both Saddam followers and gangsters. Most of the looting and robbery breaking out in cities where Saddam's officials have lost control is done by these (formerly) pro-Saddam criminal gangs. The British are gaining local support by offering to go after the gangsters as well as the Saddam loyalists. The British technique is much feared by their opponents, as the principal tactic is the night time raid. These operations are quick and deadly, as the British cannot afford to take too many prisoners (for fear of being slowed down while fighting their way back out of the city.)

Kurds advancing in the north, with the help of American bombers. But numbers are small, only a thousand or so Kurdish fighters (plus up to a hundred U.S. Army Special Forces) are outside Mosul, a city of over a million people. The Kurds are not supposed to enter Mosul, if the unofficial deal between the U.S. and Turkey is to be believed.

 

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