Iraq: January 3, 2004


For the fifth time since May, an American helicopter was brought down by enemy fire. A U.S. Army OH-58 two seat scout helicopter was brought down over a Sunni area by a shoulder fired missile. One of the two pilots on board was killed. While soldiers were guarding the site, to cars full of men dressed as journalists (wearing jackets with "PRESS" printed on them) drove up and fired on the troops. One car was later found and the occupants arrested. But Reuters says some of it's Iraqi employees were arrested in error. Iraqi journalists have a long tradition of working for the highest bidder and doing what they are told. Worked for Saddam, and before him as well. The Baath party may well be paying Iraqi journalists working for Western media in order to perform additional services. This sort of thing is no longer a secret because the American informer network is now revealing all sorts of interesting stuff. For example, months of rumors indicated that many mosques were used as bases for attacks on American troops. But now precise information is available and raids on mosques are being made. Weapons, explosives and documents are being found and mosque employees arrested. Local Iraqis then stage demonstrations to protest American defilement of the mosque. 

But operations like this have played a major role in reducing the American casualty rate. In November, 83 U.S. troops were killed, while only 38 died in December. Even before Saddam was captured, the American casualty rate was coming down. A major factor in that was the establishment in, in early December, of a council of tribal leaders (sheikhs). American Special Forces officers had worked on this for months, compiling a list of the 150 tribes and over 2,000 clans in Iraq and who was related to who. Some of the sheikhs were more legitimate, and influential, than others. This is because some had been installed by Saddam, while others had been bought off by Saddam. But most sheikhs played along with the government and still managed to look after their kinsmen. Saddam's police and courts were seen as hopelessly corrupt and the sheikhs were perceived as a more just and legitimate source of justice. By working closely with the sheikhs, and handing out money and jobs to those who are most cooperative, more information about criminal gangs and anti-coalition activities has been provided. 


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