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  xThursday, June 26, 2003

compare and contrast


This morning's Washington Post Op-ed, "The Baathists' Blundering Guerrilla War"
Given the chance to lie low and bide their time -- waiting until the Americans were well into a withdrawal before striking -- the Baathist leadership, or what is left of it, chose instead to tip its hand while the American presence in Iraq was strongest. By doing so, these Baathist leaders, a loosely knit network operating in the Sunni triangle northwest of Baghdad, caused U.S. forces to pour into a region that should have been their natural sanctuary. Now they are facing retaliation from the U.S.-led coalition at precisely the time they should be resting and recovering.

If the Baathists had followed the classic insurgency doctrines preached by masters such as Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, they would have kept a low profile, spreading agitation and propaganda while the U.S. occupation forces waned in strength. They should have waited for a struggling, post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi central government to try to take control in the region before striking. Instead of a weak, fledgling democratic Iraqi regime, the Baathists are facing a seriously aroused U.S. liberation force still at the height of its power and competence.

...and this afternoon's AP story, "Two missing soldiers apparently abudcted in Iraq: defense official"
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US attack helicopters led an intensive search north of Baghdad for two US soldiers who appear to have been abudcted from their post along with their Humvee, arms and equipment, a US defense official said.

Blood was found near their post at the flashpoint town of Balad, but no other trace of the two soldiers or the Humvee, said the official on condition of anonymity.

At least one person who is believed to know something about what happened has been detained, the official said.

"It appears that the vehicle and the occupants were somehow abducted," the official said. "Neither has been found at this point. The search is obviously ongoing."

"We're concerned. They had the vehicle, the radio, the weapons, the whole nine yards," the official said.

AH-64 Apache attack helicopters were engaged in search for the soldiers, who were discovered missing on Wednesday, the official said.

Balad, a town on the Tigris north of Baghdad, has been the scene of intensive US sweeps in recent weeks to stamp out attacks by gunmen loyal to the deposed Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein.

Forst off, I think it's dangerously naive to assume these are simply Baathist holdouts, especially considering the recent multiple British casualties in Shia-dominated (and Baathist-unfriendly) southern Iraq. But regardless, it's clear that the guerillas aren't following Gary Anderson's comforting script. Absconding with a fully armed Humm-vee and its two crew is a major escalation from random potshots, drive-by shootings and even RPG attacks. It gives the assailants the potential for even mor devastating surprise strikes by donning the crew's uniforms and using the vehicle. (Anyone who's ever watched The Dirty Dozen could figure out that tactic.) And it's a bold confrontation of "a seriously aroused U.S. liberation force still at the height of its power and competence." Small wonder the US general named to head CENTCOM now says ""we are certainly in for some difficult days ahead" and "Our military involvement there will be certainly a long one." I defy any hawk to explain how this is somehow a positive development.

It's no secret that I opposed Bush's war on Iraq. One concern I voiced was the inevitable difficulty of a prolonged occupation of Iraq. There's an odious assumption among some Bush supporters that anti-war sorts not casualties out of some sort of celebration, or a desire to see our forces "learn a lesson." How vile. To the contrary; I note these developments -- and I haven't even been keeping note of the almost daily attacks on US forces -- out of a sense of disappointment and horror that, as badly as Bush wanted the war, he obviously didn't have a plan to run the country in the aftermath, or the competence to execute any plans he did have. These are real Americans with parents, wives, and children. They're dying. And Bush can't explain what's going on. How anyone can defend this debacle any more is beyond me.





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