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Petraeus! Is Baghdad Burning?
Posted on Jan 12, 2007
By Stan Goff
That Baghdad has become the concentrated focus of most U.S. military efforts in Iraq now is material evidence of the scale of the U.S. defeat there; it is also an indication of exactly how desperate the surge notion really is.
While the U.S. gross troop numbers are about 130,000 (with around 25,000 mercenaries as an augmentative force), the actual number of combat troops is about 70,000. Before we can begin to subdivide these forces for any possible operation to slaughter and raze Sadr City, we have to account for basic operations and force protection at nine major permanent U.S. bases across Iraq, at least five large contingency bases, and an unknown number of smaller forward operating bases. Camp Anaconda in Balad alone has at least 25,000 troops.
According to Globalsecurity.org:
The Surge would inject fewer troops than are required to maintain one “camp.” If the entire surge figure of 21,400 troops is compared with the number of hostile residents in Sadr City, the ratio is about 112 hostiles for every American. This can mean only one thing: airstrikes, followed by a ruthless house-to-house slaughter. Sadr City is targeted to be the next Fallujah.
For those who are susceptible to the personification of war, that is, the reduction of whole populations to a single leader—as in, “we are going to take out Saddam”—I will remind readers that Sadr City is half men and half women, with 40 percent of the population under 14 years of age. A million children. Sadr City is approximately 33 million square feet. That is a population density of one child per 33 square feet—less than a 6-foot-by-6-foot room. The very smallest lethality radius from so-called precision weapons delivered by aircraft is about 20 meters. Even the humble infantry grenade launcher fires an M406, characterized this way in the manual:
Do the math.
In Fallujah, a mass evacuation was organized before the general assault on the city. The mandatory mass evacuation went through checkpoints in the American cordon sanitaire. While women and children and very old people were allowed out, all “military-aged males” were turned back into the city, which, once the assault started, became a free-fire zone, and those men were dealt with like the Jews of Warsaw. Thousands of people refused to evacuate for a variety of reasons. They were subsequently caught up in the general slaughter. This is the likely operational template for Sadr City.
The Other Math
There is another calculation associated with these kinds of “surge” operations: the aftermath. Muqtada al-Sadr has been effectively demonized in the U.S., but he is wildly popular and influential in Iraq, especially in southeastern Iraq, which has heretofore shown the least resistance to the Anglo-American occupation. In an attack on Sadr City, according to powerful rumors, Kurdish peshmerga troops will be used to do some of the fighting, an insane political gambit. If the Americans proceed with what appears to be a cruel and mindless plan (surely emanating from Dick Cheney’s lair) there will be a possibility of igniting the Mother of All Tactical Nightmares for the U.S.: a general armed Shiite uprising in the southeast.
Maliki, of course, knows this, and has objected strenuously—only to be blown off like a gnat by the Bush administration and its fresh coterie of compliant generals. Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, author of yet another U.S. military manual on counterinsurgency (none of which has ever worked—ever), is the designated paladin for this disgraceful enterprise; he’s getting his fourth star for this, making him a real general.
“Petraeus is being given a losing hand,” notes former Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “I say that reluctantly. The war is unmistakably going in the wrong direction. The only good news in all this is that Petraeus is so incredibly intelligent and creative…. I’m sure he’ll say to himself, ‘I’m not going to be the last soldier off the roof of the embassy in the Green Zone.’ ”
This is the most encouraging thing that can be said by a colleague?
McCaffrey’s main concern, of course, lies with a number of other generals. The war in Iraq is lost, but the outcome of that loss has also been the severe degradation of U.S. ground forces in the Army and Marine Corps. The last Baghdad “surge” was in August, when 10,000 troops were re-positioned from elsewhere in Iraq to put the lid back on the city, and U.S. casualties increased. Troops there now are being extended, and troops on rest-and-refit cycles have been called up for early redeployment. Morale has been steadily ground down; divorce rates are up; National Guard troops have just been told that the president has overwritten their 24-month combat deployment limit; and material across the board is being used up or seriously overused.
Reps. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee, and Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, chairman of the Air-Land Subcommittee, wrote on Dec. 17:
I am not advocating increased readiness to attack more foreigners in the future; I do not think anyone poses a credible conventional military threat to the U.S.; and I believe the “global war on terrorism” is a dangerous sham. But these concerns by generals and politicians reflect a real situation. U.S. ground forces are being (no pun intended) ground down by a losing war in Iraq. The reason that neither the public nor many of the troops themselves see this defeat is that we have been indoctrinated to see defeat as synonymous with surrender. It is not. Defeat is failure to achieve the political objectives of a war. This happened long ago.
The surge is a criminal last stand that will cost the lives of soldiers on both sides of this occupation and the lives of countless civilians, and it very well could lead to scenes as humiliating as that at the Saigon Embassy in 1975.
On Aug. 25, 1944, crushed between the Red Army smashing across the Danube and the Free French, American and Senegalese troops marching through the Champs Elysee, Hitler knew the end of the Third Reich was approaching. He had given the order to Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, the German “governor” of Paris, to destroy Paris rather than let it fall into the hands of the Allies. As word of the Allied entry into Paris reached Hitler, he is reputed to have called his chief of staff, Gen. Alfred Jodl, and demanded: “Jodl! Is Paris burning?”
I can almost hear the echo now from Cheney’s office, the curtains pulled, the malignant presence glowering in the dark, “Petraeus! Is Baghdad burning?”
He is a veteran of the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama and also taught military science at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Goff is the author of the books “Hideous Dream—A Soldier’s Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti,” “Full Spectrum Disorder—The Military in the New American Century” and “Sex & War.”
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