Iraq: November 9, 2004

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Three U.S. Marine and two Army combat battalions are moving into Fallujah from different directions.  The attack is three dimensional and around the clock. AC-130 gunships work mostly at night, but helicopter gunships and smart bombs are used day and night. Night operations are particularly favored, because the enemy fighters are largely blind, and more terrified of what the American troops might be up to. The battle is one of avoiding surprises. The gangs in Fallujah have planted hundreds of booby traps and roadside bombs. Many of these were spotted and identified by American intelligence forces. Most of the bombs and booby traps will be destroyed by bombs and artillery. Others will be avoided by using 50 ton D-9 armored bulldozers to plow a route through buildings for American vehicles and troops. Those bombs that remain will kill some civilians before American and Iraqi engineers can find and remind them. 

The strategy appears to be to drive the Fallujah defenders back until they try to flee, then kill or capture them as they attempt to make it across the desert to another town or city. American forces have massed a large force of UAVs and electronic surveillance systems to keep an eye on the outskirts of the city.

Fallujah is a living example of the old observation that for evil to triumph, you only need good men to do nothing. For centuries, Sunni Arabs looked the other way as one tyrant after another arose from their ranks and was allowed to run things. Saddam Hussein was only the latest example. Since April, the government has been trying to get the good men of the Sunni Arab community to deal with their demons. And again, the Sunni Arab leaders refused to confront the murders and terrorists. And so we have a battle for Fallujah, and the conscience of Iraq's Sunni Arabs. 

There's no doubt who is going to win this battle, what is in question is the number of American casualties. Historically, going back to World War II, American troops have excelled at urban warfare, often killing 20-30 enemy troops for every American soldier. The American advantage has been firepower and numbers, but today there is also better intelligence and training. It's a dangerous game, for mistakes get people killed, and that's what the anti-government forces want for their propaganda campaign in favor of establishing a new Sunni Arab dictatorship in Iraq. However, the urban battles in Iraq so far have followed the historical pattern, with far greater enemy casualties and fighting which ended in days. No one paid much attention as the Sadr gangs were systematically cleaned out of several Iraqi cities over the last few months. But people are paying attention now, but Fallujah is unlikely to demonstrate anything new.

 

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