41 Dead, over 100 Wounded
2 US soldiers Killed Sunday
Al-Jazeerah is reporting heavy fighting in the Shiite slums of East Baghdad between US forces and the Mahdi Army of young Shiite clergy Muqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday morning. This follows on US military operations in the ghetto Monday, into Monday evening, as AC-130 howitzers struck repeatedly and tanks rolled in. Sadr City, with over 2 million Shiites, is a major center for the Sadr II Movement, the major leader of which is Muqtada al-Sadr. He has developed a significant paramilitary capacity, though it remains ragtag and poorly trained.
It seems to me that the likelihood that the US can defeat the Sadrists in Sadr City with tanks and AC-130s is extremely low, and that they are almost certainly driving more Shiites into Muqtada’s arms. Since the “Mahdi Army” is really just poor Shiite young men with guns and rpg’s, and since most poor young men have weapons, there are probably a good hundred thousand potential Sadrist fighters in the slum. The US cannot kill more than a small fraction of them if it isn’t going to commit genocide, and the ones it doesn’t kill are probably going to remain angry and take up arms themselves.
Patrick Kerkstra reports that some 40 persons were killed in violence in Iraq on Monday. Guerrillas blew up two massive car bombs in Baghdad, killing 21 and wounding 96. One bomb targeted recruits to the Iraqi army and police, who were lined up near the Green Zone, the barricaded fortress of government offices. Guerrillas detonated the other near the nice hotels that foreigners usually stay in.
Also in Baghdad, guerrillas shot to death two persons working for the Ministry of Science and Technology.
In Mosul, guerrillas used suicide bombs to kill 3 persons.
The US military bombed Fallujah again on Monday, killing 11. Richard Whittle of the Dallas Morning News courageously dares broach the question of whether bombing Iraqi cities is really the best way to win a guerrilla war. There have been few mainstream journalists who have dared raise this question.
I have never understood why it isn’t possible simply to surround Fallujah and prevent the guerrillas there from carrying out operations elsewhere. If what is objectionable is that there are Salafi fundamentalists and Baathists in positions of influence in the city, well, what in the world did the US expect to find in Fallujah?
They certainly cannot all be bombed to death if anything is to remain of the city.
A US military spokesperson said that guerrillas directed small arms fire at two American soldiers at a traffic checkpoint on Sunday, killing them.
Jim Krane of UP divides the insurgency into four groups: Neo-Baathists who want to get power back, radical Islamists influenced by foreign groups like Tawhid wa Jihad, Sunni conservatives, and the Shiite Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr. He notes that they are not united on any policy goals except the expulsion of the US, and puts their number at 20,000. I would dispute that last. The 20,000 guerrillas are the Sunnis. The Mahdi Army is a wild card and cannot be estimated, since it is just however many slum Shiite youth are willing to pick up a gun at any one time. That is, there could be tens of thousands of them under the right circumstances.
I wouldn’t put as much emphasis on Zarqawi as Krane does. Iraqi Muslim radicals don’t need that much coaching. And in an important article by Adrian Blomfield for the Telegraph that has gotten no play in the US, Zarqawi is plausibly portrayed as a “myth” promoted for political purposes by US officials. One US intelligence field officer told Blomfield, “We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq . . .” (Blomfield calls him an “agent,” but the agents are the local people that the field officers recruit).
Ahmad Hashem at the Naval War College in Newport, RI has a more extended and detailed analysis of the insurgency.
What I miss in these discussions of the guerrillas, however, is an understanding of their ultimate goal. It is to mobilize the urban masses against the occupation. They cannot win militarily, and can never be more than mosquitos to the US military behemoth in their midst. Only when 70% of Baghdad, Basra, Nasiriyah and other major cities decides that continued US presence is intolerable, and only when they are willing to act on their outrage with huge demonstrations and other crowd actions, will the American position become untenable. All of the guerrillas’ actions are aimed at hastening that urban revolution. It is why they target infrastructure, and all the businesses that support it. They want people to be miserable. It is why they blow up big bombs in civilian crowds. They want the masses to decide that the US presence is a constant incitement to violence and therefore must be ended for the sake of ordinary civilians in the country.
Neither the insurgency nor an urban crowd movement would require a single, unified command. As sociologist Charles Tilly has argued, all revolutions are actually multiple revolutions. It is only after the Americans are gone that these various movements would then likely fall upon one another.