Iraq: July 21, 2004


American combat deaths reached 900, as roadside bombs continue to cause many  casualties. Over a third of the combat deaths have been from roadside bombs, with the rest from ambushes, mortar fire and fire fights. Over a third of the deaths are from rifles, pistols and machine-guns. While the some 80 percent of roadside bombs are discovered before they can be detonated, aggressive and frequent American combat patrols, plus supply and support troops moving about, provide hostile Iraqis with plenty of targets. In some parts of Iraq, planting roadside bombs has become a major part of the local economy. The Baath Party, which finances much of the violence against the government and coalition troops, pays for the bombs to be manufactured and, most importantly, placed and detonated. This is a risky business, as American helicopters and UAVs are constantly patrolling the roads looking for people trying to place a bomb. Many of these bomb teams are captured, many more are killed. So the local Baath Party leader pays hundreds of dollars to place a bomb, and even more if it goes off and kills a foreigner. But the payments for a successful "hit" are so high (often thousands of dollars), that there is no shortage of volunteers willing to risk all to get rich (at least by Iraqi standards, as a private in an elite Iraqi army unit only makes $145 a month.) 

The roadside bombs often kill and wound Iraqi civilians as well, which makes the Baath Party less popular. But since most of the bombings take place in Sunni Arab areas, where the Baath Party organization is still largely intact and functioning, getting mad at the party, and trying to do something about it, is not considered a healthy course of action. But in most of the country, the Baath Party is but a memory, the party officials and enforcers having been chased out either in April, 2003, or ten years earlier in the northern Kurdish areas. Where the Baath Party is not active, which means about 80 percent of the country, roadside bombs, and other violence, is rare. If you look at the pattern of attacks, and anti-government violence in general, and you see that what you basically have is a rebellion by the Sunni Arab minority, the group that ran Iraqi for centuries, against the coming democratically elected government. It's a pretty clear cut battle between democracy and tyranny. But since most neighboring Arab governments are run by Sunni Arab kings or dictators, the Arab media tends to depict the situation in Iraq as a battle between Sunni Arabs trying to throw off a foreign occupation. What gets reports, and the way it is presented, depends a lot on who you are, and who you are rooting for.



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