Iraq: November 8, 2004


The anti-government attacks on police over the weekend has left nearly fifty policemen dead, most executed after they surrendered to large groups of men attacking police stations. In response, the government has declared martial law in central and southern Iraq. This means greater police powers for the security forces and, in most areas, a curfew. The Kurdish controlled north has few Sunni Arabs, thus there has been little terrorism or anti-government violence. The anti-government forces usually make their moves at night, driving around roadblocks in small convoys of pickup trucks and SUVs. 

The battle of Fallujah began over the weekend, without much fanfare. Actually, the battle for the city has been going on for over a week, as American combat patrols probed deeper into the suburbs. American troops are operating a lot at night, when U.S. night vision equipment provides an enormous advantage. American street fighting tactics have long been among the most efficient in the world. Since World War II, American troops have demonstrated imagination in developing tactics that keep friendly casualties down and enemy losses heavy. Relying on precision firepower and systematic movements, the result is often the destruction of the urban areas fought over. During World War II this was done with tactics like self-propelled artillery firing precisely at point-blank range. Now it's smart bombs and special 120mm shells fired by tanks that are doing the damage. There are also armored bulldozers, UAVs and C-130 gunships. All this is preceded by months of studying what the defenders are doing. It's still a dangerous fight, but hardly a massacre for the attacking American troops. This can be seen from what happened in previous urban battles in Iraq. But the myth that fighting in cities is a deadly morass for American troops persists. Apparently, that approach makes a better, if much less accurate, story.

The battle for Fallujah will go on for up to a week, with the anti-government fighters being killed or driven to other neighborhoods, block by block. Eventually, all the of the defenders will be dead, captured or escaped to other parts of Iraq. Fallujah was an easy place for terrorists and anti-government forces to live, openly and with no interference. In other parts of Iraq, these guys have to hide, and live in fear of discovery and attack. That change in living conditions reduces your ability to terrorize your fellow Iraqis. 


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