Iraq: October 9, 2004


 In 18 months of operations, U.S. troops have suffered some 8,800 combat casualties, of which about 43 percent returned to duty. There have been over 300,000 American troops serving in Iraq so far. Army troops come for a year at a time, Marines for seven months, Navy for six and Air Force for as little as three months at a time. A three percent chance of getting killed or wounded makes it dangerous, but not suicidal, to go to Iraq. As many military historians and experienced officers pointed out in 1991, where a hundred hour war produced 650 dead and wounded for a force of over 500,000 troops, such low casualties are obviously possible, but they are not normal.  Saddam Hussein realized this, and captured documents, and interrogations of Saddam's henchmen, revealed that continued fighting by Saddam supporters was planned for. Large quantities of weapons and ammunition were distributed in many locations throughout Sunni Arab areas. The several hundred thousand core supporters of Saddam (Secret Police, intelligence agencies, Republican Guard) were told to help themselves and keep fighting. All these men were off the payroll once American troops rolled into Baghdad, and the only way they could get paid after that was by making attacks on coalition or Iraqi troops. The Baath Party may have been out of power, but they were not out of business. Most of the senior leaders were quickly caught, but most of the middle management, and billions of dollars in cash, was still out there. 

The only other armed resistance is from Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr's armed followers in Baghdad. These guys also grabbed a lot of Saddam's weapons at the end of the war, and are fighting to establish a Shia religious dictatorship. This sort of thing has some appeal among the unemployed young Shia men. But too many of those who have taken up arms against the government have been killed or wounded by American troops. Increasingly, Iraqi troops and police are doing the damage, and Sadr now wants to make a deal. As happened last May, and last month in Najaf, the young followers are losing heart as so many of them lose their lives. Sadr has offered to surrender heavy weapons (mortars and anti-aircraft weapons), if the Americans will stop attacking his boys. But that would leave Sadr's militias in control of several Baghdad neighborhoods. Sadr has been told that this is not enough.

The government is negotiating with Shia chiefs and religious leaders in Baghdad, going around Sadr to get more prominent Shias to openly reject Sadr.  Military operations continue, with American troops sending combat patrols into neighborhoods Sadr's people say they control, and killing any of Sadr's followers who try to resist. Then come Iraqi police and soldiers, who conduct searches for weapons, and information about who supports Sadr. As happened in Najaf, the locals in Baghdad are tired of Sadr and his self-righteous thugs. People talk, and the cops round up more Sadr supporters. If this keeps up, in another month or so, Sadr will have no supporters outside of prisons. But no one trusts Sadr anymore. He has lied several times in the past, and the government is demanding some very convincing proof that any deal he agrees to will be kept. To get around this, the government is making deals with more trustworthy Sadr subordinates. Sadr is losing control of his "followers." The same pattern is being seen in Fallujah, where government negotiations with tribal and religious leaders is undercutting the power of the gangs and terrorists in that city.



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