A couple of updates from Al-Anbar

A short post here includes:

…the insurgency is quickly approaching a tipping point. If things continue as they are right now, our military won’t need a surge to chase the terrorists out of Anbar- the citizens will do it for us, which is as it should be. It’s beginning to show already: more local tips, more police recruits (far more than anticipated), and sadly- in bigger and more desperate Al-Qaeda attacks.

A letter from a Marine involved in the recent chlorine attack at the Fallujah Government Center posted here because he “thought folks in the USA should know:”

As for the IAs, they proved themselves. The jundi did a great job and pretty much stopped the initial attack as the insurgents were trying to shoot/ram their way inside. The IA and IP [Iraqi Police] figured it out and opened up on them, causing them to set off at the gates or just outside the buildings, vice inside where it would have been worse. Still too close than most would like, but it will do. After all “shook it off,” we got most of us out of the rubble and the gas, did a head-count, realized there were still some back in. All rubble, smoke and chlorine gas, hard to see what was what, and of course you can’t breathe. So of course, we ran back in it. Got to find those guys. It was not pretty but, we got them all out…

And a few more comments about chlorine attacks here.

Apparently the crude method of dispersing the gas in a via blowing up canisters renders the poison less widespread and lethal. From an LA Times story about a February attack:

  • Chemists said that exploding high-pressure canisters are at best a crude way to disperse the green gas. Some would burn off, and the rest of the gas, which is heavier than air, would be unlikely to spread much beyond the blast zone.
  • Stephen Bradforth, a chemistry professor at USC, suggested that the most serious damage could be psychological.
  • An explosion “would launch a cloud of gas that is colored and highly corrosive and would lead to panic and more injuries,” he said. “It’s the chemical equivalent of a nail bomb.”

So we continue to hear that chlorine attacks should be considered primarily a panic problem. That’s not to say it can’t kill people—even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then. But the bomb that lets it loose is still the main concern.

Regardless of how ineffective they are, chlorine attacks are still a bad thing (the blind pig again). But the desperation demonstrated by these attacks is actually a promising sign. The terrorists carrying out these attacks are losing ground and they know it. I’m not sure why they seem too stupid to figure out that their tactic will do nothing more than strengthen a growing Iraqi public resolve against them. That part bothers me and I wonder if I’m missing something.

[UPDATE: Meanwhile in Baghdad, innocent Iraqi describes harrowing experience of having his house searched by US troops!]

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3 Responses

  1. What you are missing is that these chlorine attacks are putting even more strain on overburdened Iraqi and American health care systems by wounding large numbers of people, exactly as they were designed to do. The only desperation is in the White House.

  2. Henh.
    The only desperation I see is in the cabal they call congressional Democrats.
    As for the attacks, the chlorine part aside, the important part of this story is that Al Qaida is Sunni, as are the vast majority of the people in Al Anbar. AQ has now lost the comfort a safe haven among other Sunnis. As was posted at Iraq the Model over a week ago, the one thing AQ does consistently is make enemies.
    As for the chlorine, I don’t know if AQ is smart enough to know that the chlorine attacks are minimally effective or not. They did have an attack a few weeks ago, where they set off one in Fallujah, one near Fallujah, and one near Ramadi, and there were about 8 deaths, but about 350 injured. It’s important to note, that one of the blasts was outside the home of one of the tribal leaders.
    While we have still have Al Qaida in DC, led by Abu Ibn Pelosi, doing all they can to guarantee AQ in Iraq victory, the Sunnis in Al Anbar now have 14 of 18 tribal leaders supporting the defeat of AQ, and a desire to join the political process.
    Here’s a vid about Al Anbar and the fight against AQ.

  3. Doug, I must disagree that al Qaeda is perpetrating chlorine attacks in order to put even more strain on overburdened Iraqi and American health care systems by wounding large numbers of people. I believe the attacks were designed to do something else and that any pressure on health care is coincidental. The large, conventional VBIEDs that go off regularly in Iraq put far more pressure on health care, not to mention morgues (such as they are). Further, the healthcare response to these attacks has in the vast majority of cases consisted of a very short period of recovery (and calming down) with an oxygen mask. Nothing serious, most patients walk in and walk back out after a short time.

    Al Qaeda’s intention is to intimidate the Iraqi people, from the tribal sheikhs to the populace at large. When the people are intimidated, al Qaeda gets sanctuary and free reign to control the population and its commerce and movements. In recent months the Iraqi people have started saying, we don’t need you terrorists with your foreign fighters to come in here and tell us what to do and pull our children out of our homes and shoot/behead them in the street. The people started to say “no,” and al Qaeda has responded with a tactic designed to restore its previous status as the most intimidating power center in the region. Iraqis in general have often shifted to the side of whoever seems to be winning, as a matter of self preservation, and al Qaeda knows this and is trying to capitalize on it.

    In the case of using toxic chemicals, however, I think al Qaeda is not going to get what it expected. It has built within its own constituency over a period of many years the belief that it is acceptable to kill muslims and to kill them with such weapons as chemicals, if it supports their overall goal of building a state for themselves under sharia law. The people at large made no such agreement though and have a lot of built up perceptions about “chemical weapons” from Saddam’s use of them inside Iraq and during the Iran-Iraq war. The chlorine attacks are practically guaranteed to generate a greater backlash against al Qaeda because the populace is primed to hate chemicals. What I have been wondering is why al Qaeda cannot see this also?

    As to desperation in the White House, I don’t know what the feelings are there but I’m sure there must be urgency to get the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces to an acceptable level of self-sufficiency before the left in this country decides it is time to abandon them to become the death puppets of every power-seeking entity in the region. As it appears they have already, but it is just taking them a little time to leave the Iraqi people stranded. The fact is that the Iraqis need our help for a little while longer. We put them in this situation, it seems we should continue to take responsibility and leave their country with stability and security in the end.

    Before you say that the Iraqis have been killing each other forever and they’ll never stop so we should just pull out and leave them to it, first – much of the killing is being done by foreign opportunistic terrorists and by one militia (which may be the larger problem of the two, I admit). Most Iraqis have no interest in running around beheading people and shooting children, and they want a stable country. They don’t like us being there but they are not ready for us to leave yet. And Iraq has demonstrated stability before, under the “terror regime” of Saddam Hussein. I submit to you that it is possible Iraq could become stable under a somewhat more democratic power structure today — but it is a process that requires time and commitment from them and from us.

    The vast majority of our soldiers have some level of optimism that with further training for security forces and further humanitarian and infrastructure-building assistance, Iraqis can take the reins and build a stable state. I will defer to their opinion on this because in the end I would have a hard time digesting the idea that all Iraqis are bad, beyond help, deserve whatever they get, or whatever sort of negative views must be playing into the judgment of the left here. I think we have a responsibility to continue to help them while they are still asking for it. They have a sovereign government now — if they choose to, they can tell us to leave but if we do that in the near future we place the Iraqi people in jeopardy of losing their sovereignty and many their lives, and they know it.

    And a final point I’d like to offer: if there is any desperation in the White House it could be because they know that if we leave a vacuum in Iraq that is filled with foreign entities (including terrorists and states that support them), we will see them again here. Islamic terrorists have declared the US to be their ultimate enemy and part of our national security strategy is to deny them sanctuary. I’m sure that you wouldn’t want to just hand them a place to build another Afghanistan-type training and operations infrastructure…yet, I don’t understand why many in congress appear to be considering only a very short-term view on this issue. The view of the Islamic terrorist is on a historic timescale. They will continue to shape the battlefield over time, step by step. Their psychological and information operations are a huge part of that and it seems to me as if the left is without defenses against this type of warfare. Congress could end up inadvertently — through their own short term political goals and through external manipulation by the adversary’s IO campaign — laying the foundation for terrorist attacks in our country 10-15 years from now, or perhaps less. Many military members seem to understand this concept much more clearly than those in congress who want our soldiers out “yesterday” regardless of the repercussions.

    Sorry for ridiculously long-winded response, which probably should have been its own post. But hey, it’s my blog.

    [UPDATE: I have made this its own post. Please comment here.]

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