Posts from March 2003

Inside Basra

Inside Basra
: A British reporter — exhibiting the kind of stupid bravery reporters are born with — ventures into Basra for the Telegraph.

The younger men look sullen and angry. Few speak English but one, his face streaked with dust and dirt, holds up a fist, brandishing it above his head. An older man speaks angrily to him, pulling his hand down. The young man’s eyes smoulder with hatred. “Enemy,” is all he can say in English.

Earlier last week, British special forces are said to have deployed in Basra. “It’s a living hell in there,” I am told by one military official who is believed to have operated alongside them.

“People are too afraid to come out of their homes. They don’t know who is friend, who is foe. Water and food is scarce, there is no electricity. No one is starving yet, but supplies are running very, very low.”…

We find two teenage boys who have not seen their father, a soldier, for two nights, since his unit moved to the south of the city at dawn on Thursday. Their mother died in November and now they are fending for themselves in the basement of what was once a family home….

Inside one doorway, a family sits huddled around a small fire. Short planks are burning, wood that they have clearly pulled from their window frames. Inside the house, on the wall behind them, hangs the only ornament – a framed photograph of Saddam Hussein, in paternal pose.

No one speaks. Their gaze is neither angry nor welcoming; it is instead a long, lingering look, perhaps of resignation. Bundles of clothes lie in the corners and a stack of tomatoes and eggs nestles in a recess that may once have been a fireplace. They slam the door shut….

[At a British checkpoint outside the city…] As he checks vehicles, L/Cpl Ryan Robinson reaches inside one to calm a sobbing mother. “We need to help these people, to reassure them,” he says, clearly moved by their plight. “They are scared of everyone – fear is their norm now.”

Over there

Over there
: We keep hearing about the radically different Arab perspective being broadcast on Arab TV but, of course, we don’t get to see that for ourselves.

In the English-language Arab press, there are occasional glimpses of that perspective. Take this from the Jordan Times:

Eyes fixed upon the images of the Iraq war flickering across the television, Musa Tawil (Abu Hamed), 58, from Hitteen refugee camp said he would rather be oppressed by harsh leadership than accept the will of an invading foreign force.

For the embittered Abu Hamed, displaced from his home in Palestine in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the current aggression against Iraq is part of a pattern of aggression he knows only too well.

A rose by any other name…

A rose by any other name…
: Oh, gawd, I knew we’d regret ever calling this warblogging after 9.11.

Now we have “peaceblogging.”

I’m just waiting for somebody to then try to rename warblogging, oh, I dunno… libertyblogging or freedomblogging or some such.

As my father says (the second time I’ve quoted him today): Let’s not and say we did.

It’s warblogging as in blogging about war. The term came after 9.11. Then everybody was for war against the people warring with us, right? Remember those days?

The Battle for Baghdad: MOUT

The Battle for Baghdad: MOUT
: There’s some sobering reading on a huge Army site dedicated to MOUT — Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain, aka door-to-door urban warfare, aka the battle for Baghdad.

More than one article there starts with the quote from Sun Tsu in the Art of war:

Best policy in war–thwart the enemy’s strategy,

second best–disrupt his alliances through diplomacy,

third best–attack his army in the field,

worst strategy–attack walled cities.

There are many papers about the fighting in Grozny, hardly a model for what we need to accomplish in Baghdad (i.e., we don’t really want to level the place and still lose). And there are many lessons learned from Stalingrad, Somalia, Hue, Beirut, Belfast, and even the L.A. riots.

One policy paper says:

Urban areas pose significant force protection problems. The nature of urban terrain decentralizes and channelizes friendly forces, while adversaries engage a variety of targets

Sand storm

econ0329.jpgspiegel0329.jpgSand storm
: Sand stars on the covers of The Economist and Der Spiegel, but with different perspectives. The Economist says: “The regime has not collapsed at once. Apart from that, the war against Iraq is going well.” Der Spiegel says: “Superpower in the Sand. America’s Stalled Blitzkrieg.”