April 30, 2008

Ask Not for Whom the Death Toll Tolls

Hatched by Dafydd

On March 25th, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a surprise attack on Sadrite militiamen in Basra. It was such a surprise, he forgot to tell the American forces about it until a couple of days before it began.

We scrambled to catch up with the Iraqi Army to give them the close-air support and logistics they needed. For a while, the battle for Basra seemed a bit dicey; a green Iraqi unit broke and ran during a counterattack, but Maliki was quickly able to replace them with forces he brought in from elsewhere in Iraq. Another front opened in Sadr City, a slum section of Baghdad controlled for many years by the Mahdi Militia; we took the lead there, and we've seen much success.

The fighting has been intense... but at last, with Iraqis in the lead, we're seeing exactly what military experts and even many Democrats have said is essential for Iraq to unite as a viable nation: The Shiite majority has proven that it governs for all Iraq, not just for the Shia... and they did it by finally confronting the Shia insurgent Muqtada Sadr, who has been in hiding in Iran for about a year now, and the Mahdi Militia that he either controls or doesn't fully control, depending who you ask.

Now, after more than a month of fighting, it has become increasingly clear that Maliki's gamble paid off:

  • The Sadrites are in full retreat in Basra and other cities and provinces, and in complete disarray in Sadr City;
  • The Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, has called on his bloc to return to the government in direct reaction to Maliki's campaign against Sadr;
  • Sadr himself has been shown to be near impotent: Recently, he threatened "open war" against the Iraqi government if it did not end the campaign (Operation Knights' Charge) against the Mahdi Militia. One week later, Sadr rescinded the threat and again begged for a ceasefire;
  • Maliki continues the offensive; combat has now changed to mopping up; the Iraqis have demonstrated they can run their own operations and troop movements, needing only logistical and close-air support from us; and most of the political demands of the Democrats upon the Iraq -- including this one -- have been met or are in the process of being met.

Here are the specifics... The return of the wandering Hashemi is a very big story; it's the birth of an Iraq Venus on the half shell:

Iraq's Prime Minister met on Sunday with the Sunni Vice-President to discuss reintegrating Sunni political parties into his Shiite-dominated government as five people died in clashes and a suicide car bombing in Baghdad, police said. [Talk about your non-sequiturs... can anybody imagine a story that begins, "Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met for a debate last night as 47 Americans were murdered across the country"?

The meeting between Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Tariq Al Hashemi came a day after the Sunni leader described the return of his boycotting political bloc, the National Accordance Front, to the Cabinet as a priority....

Al Hashemi has been one of Al Maliki's most bitter critics, accusing him of sectarian favouritism, while the Prime Minister has complained that the Vice-President is blocking key legislation. But Al Hashemi and other Sunni leaders apparently have been swayed by Al Maliki's crackdown against Shiite militias.

And here is the devolution of Sadr's position. Here is Sadr defiant on April 19th:

Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening a new uprising if an American-Iraqi crackdown against his followers continues.

The cleric says he is giving his final warning to the Iraqi government to stop working with the U.S. military against him or he will "declare an open war until liberation."

Saturday's statement has been posted on al-Sadr's Web site.

The threat to lift a more than seven-month-old cease-fire comes amid fighting between al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and U.S.-Iraqi troops in Baghdad's Sadr City and the southern city of Basra.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also has said the Sadrists will be politically isolated if the Mahdi Army isn't disbanded.

And here he is with his tail between his legs just seven days later, on April 26th:

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for an end to Iraqi bloodshed on Friday and said his threat of an "open war" applies only to U.S.-led foreign troops -- stepping back from a full-blown confrontation with the government over a crackdown against his followers.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, took a hard line against al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and other illegally armed groups, setting conditions for stopping military operations against them that included surrendering weapons.

Al-Sadr's new message, which was read during prayers and posted on his Web site, eased fears that the anti-U.S. cleric was planning to lift a nearly 8-month-old cease-fire, a move that would jeopardize recent security gains....

"I call upon my brothers in the police, army and Mahdi Army to stop the bloodshed," al-Sadr said in the statement. "We should be one hand in achieving justice, security and in supporting the resistance in all of its forms."

All in all, April was a very, very good month in Iraq for the forces of democracy, and a catastrophic month for the terrorist forces of chaos and human sacrifice. So how would you expect the mainstream media to characterize the Battle of Basra and Baghdad, which has routed the Mahdi Militia from the south and shattered many of its elite terrorist cells in Sadr City?

You guessed it: US troop deaths push monthly toll to 7-month high in Iraq:

The killings of five U.S. soldiers in separate attacks in Baghdad pushed the American death toll for April up to 49, making it the deadliest month since September. One soldier died when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. The second died of wounds sustained when he was attacked by small-arms fire, the military said Wednesday. Both incidents occurred Tuesday in northwestern Baghdad.

A third soldier died after being struck by a bomb while on a foot patrol early Wednesday in a northern section of the capital, while another roadside bomb killed two American soldiers in southern Baghdad, the military said in separate statements.

The spike in U.S. troop deaths comes as intense combat has been raging in Sadr City and other neighborhoods between Shiite militants and U.S.-Iraqi troops for more than a month.

In all, at least 4,061 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

"We have said all along that this will be a tough fight and there will be periods where we see these extremists, these criminal groups and al-Qaida terrorists seek to reassert themselves," U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters in Baghdad.

"So, the sacrifice of our troopers, the sacrifice of Iraqi forces and Iraqi citizens reflects this challenge," Bergner said in response to a question about what's behind the increase in American troop deaths.

Trust AP to turn a proactive campaign begun against the most deadly group in Iraq (they've killed several times more innocent Iraqis than al-Qaeda has), the militia that currently most threatens the stability of the Iraqi government, into nothing but a rise in "US troop deaths!"

Worse, AP uses selective quotation to make it appear as though the fight is being taken to us, willy nilly, by the Sadrites as they "reassert themselves." (They just started killing the American Army and Marine victims, who were helpless against the onslaught!) Leaping lizards; is AP ignorant of the operational tempo, or do they know what they're implying is the mirror opposite of reality?

I suppose it never crossed the minds of AP writers Slobodan Lekic, Sinan Salaheddin, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra that anytime democratic forces initiate a major operation against terrorists and insurgents, our death toll will necessarily go up: In military terms, that's normally called being "aggressive" and "taking the fight to the enemy."

Figures I've seen indicate that while we lost 45 soldiers, Marines, and British soldiers in April, the Mahdi Militia appears to have lost somewhere between 400 and 1,000 terrorist killers. Once again, we're in that 15:1 ratio of dead enemies to friendlies. I know the Pentagon hates body-count comparisons... but that's a heck of a victory nonetheless.

Of course, while the Associated Press compares the April, 2008 combat-death figure to that of September, 2007, they don't actually tell us the September figure. I suspect it's because that datum might interfere with "the story," which appears to be -- stop me if you've heard this -- that "the surge," as so many refer to it, has failed. After all, if the intent was to lower casualties, and here we just had the highest death toll in seven months, then good heavens, the surge didn't do a thing!

So what was the number of Coalition deaths back in September? According to Iraq Coalition Casuality Count, it was 69 -- averaging 2.3 per day -- contrasted with 1.63 per day this month. In other words, the death toll in April is still less than 2/3rds that of September. And it's important that in September 2007, the counterinsurgency had already begun having its effect and combat deaths were down. The local peak of coalition combat fatalities was May 2007, when 131 troops died (4.23 per day). April 2008 was only a third of that... and that's during an offensive campaign.

iCasualities also reports that April saw 565 Iraq civilian deaths, compared to 752 in September 2007 and 2,864 in February 2007; April 2008's civilian death toll is only 22% of February 2007. I think most folks would consider a 78% drop in civilian deaths -- which is, after all, the main goal of a counterinsurgency strategy, to protect the civilian population -- a positive thing. But from the lack of interest on the part of the elite media to report on this, I suppose they either don't consider "fewer dead civilians" to be positive, or at the very least, they're not sure. ("We're unbiased journalists, so we can't have any opinion!")

Elite Iraq-war journalists: Can't live with 'em; can't... hm.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 30, 2008, at the time of 4:11 PM

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The English version of this entry can be read at Biglizards.net/blog 3月25日、イラクのノーリ・アルマリキ首相はバスラのサドル派民兵に向かって驚くべき抜き打ち攻撃をおこなった。そのあまりの抜き打ちさにマリキ首相は攻撃が始まって二日後になるまでアメリカ軍にシーア派退治を始めたことを知らせるのを忘れていたほどだ。 アメリカ軍はあわててイラク軍に追いつくべく近距離空援助や必要な後方援助を送り込んだ。当初はバスラの戦いはかなり危なっかしい... [Read More]

Tracked on May 2, 2008 5:51 PM


The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

Nice post...I have been busy watching the Wright and Obama stuff, and with the brief glances at news reports on Iraq had thought that Iran and Sadr were running it now. ;-)

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 30, 2008 5:54 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

Heh. More good news from Iraq. I guess that's why the drive-bys are talking about the "economy" as if the President is a dictator that controls the economic activities of 303 million people.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 30, 2008 6:39 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

This is timing to blow up and blow out the dhimmies big time.
And it could not happen to a more deserving bunch of pretentiuous do nothings.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 30, 2008 6:44 PM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/01/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2008 8:28 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Yeah, but see that is Sadr's secret plan. He wants to be destroyed...see because...er...like that. Yeah.

Ignore the talk, ignore the casualties, is the government of Iraq and American forces in greater or lesser control of the country at the end of this month? Has Sadr gotten stronger or weaker? Both answers tell all you need to know.

At the end of the day, only the Iraqis can bring peace to Iraq. They finally seem to be stepping up and doing that.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2008 12:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: Tom W.

Of all the reports I've read on Iraq's campaign against the Madhi Army, this is the best.

I especially like the restrained, utterly righteous glee I perceive in it.

I banned myself from a military blog after getting into a fight with a British "private security contractor" who claimed he was stationed in Basra. According to him, al Sadr was getting stronger by the day, and the Iraqi Army and police were being routed.

Amazing. And all the other little soldier-boy wannabes on the forum were piling on, insisting that if the Iraqis had only done X or Y, they would've won. Experts one and all.

We're in a kind of golden age of misology. Today the entire west coast of the United States had its ports closed by peace-loving longshoremen who want the awful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stopped.

Funny, I thought longshoremen were these big, strong, manly types, not spineless, mincing, shrieking, amoral, ignorant, limp-wristed, lisping, squealing little pantywaists who are horrified by the thought of fighting for freedom.

The above hissed in response by: Tom W. [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2008 1:58 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

The story of Iraqi political reconciliation is a messy one, but it's obviously real. Taking on the Shiite militias militarily is a necessary precondition to the same sort of negotiation that brought peace and reconciliation to the Sunni areas of the country. Having whipped the Sunni's and al Qaeda, could the government let the Shiites take a pass? It's a great story, and only our politics of make-believe would ignore it so completely. What's most profound about the Democrats world view is it's willful ignorance.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 5, 2008 7:37 AM

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