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Monday, September 06, 2004

Month 17: The War Evolves 

Via Juan Cole, here's Patrick MacLeod of Betamax Guillotine on the disparity in last month's casualty statistics from Iraq -- 1,100 American troops wounded, the highest one-month total since the war began, but only 66 killed. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday, "Commanders said they had no immediate concrete explanation for why the number of wounded increased so sharply without a comparable, parallel rise in combat deaths":
Oh bullshit. They do know why but they are sure as hell not going to say it: A change in both insurgent and American tactics. Think back to the kind of fighting we've been doing throughout August: Predominantly urban warfare. Think back to the pictures from the "Sadr Siege" in Najaf and the Marine operations in and around Fallujah: Lots of helicopter gunship support and bombing. That's why there are more wounded than dead, folks. The insurgents have shifted away from trying to engage the U.S. military in large groups and have reverted to opportunistic attacks: Sniping, car bombs, suicide bombs, soft target ambushes, etc. Unless the insurgents "get lucky" as they unfortunately did today outside of Fallujah, this type of warfare does not lead to a high number of deaths; it does lead to a higher number of wounded, however. IEDs, mines, and RPG attacks are rarely going to kill more than 3 or 4 soldiers; they probably will kill 1 or 2 and wound 3 or 4.

To visualize this, consider an RPG hitting or an IED exploding by a Humvee full of soldiers. A lightly-armored Humvee being hit by an RPG will probably result in the death of one or two soldiers in the immediate area of impact (an RPG has what is called a "HEAT" warhead, or High Explosive Anti Tank, a focussed charge) and will most likely wound the remainder of the soldiers in the Humvee with wounds ranging from the loss of limbs to shrapnel wounds to burns to concussive force trauma. Play this scenario out on a daily basis and you begin to see how the numbers for August could easily take shape . . . .

The only way that you fight and win a guerilla war is to fight at the insurgents' level and beat them one-on-one and small group-on-group. No one is going to admit this because this is a bloody, personal, costly strategy. A strategy that will require at least 50% more if not double the amount of troops we have in Iraq. Which will most certainly require a draft. All of these things are political dynamite and if there's one thing that you don't do during an election year, it's touch off political dynamite before it is absolutely necessary.
Word on the street in Washington, according to Cole, is that the Marines will mount a major offensive against Fallujah sometime between the U.S. elections in November and the Iraqi elections in January.

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