April 16, 2004

Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan - What's Missing?

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of CENTCOM and critic of the war in Iraq, offered his take on the current debacle recently at a speech at Notre Dame. Referring to Donald Rumsfeld's recent expressions of 'surprise' at the uprisings and high casualties of the past weeks, not to mention the lack of benefit, progress or positive indicators of any kind, Zinni is quoted as follows. ""I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus...Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"

This is not surprising. Stories of military predictions, planning and warnings being brushed aside by Rumsfeld, Cheney and the President prior to the Iraq invasion are legion, although there have been remarkably few follow-ups on it in the press. We really need a Special Commission on the Iraqi War, it seems, at least as badly as we need one on 9/11. At least 9/11 was instigated by another party; the Iraq war is more costly in terms of lives, money and credibility and was hatched right here at home. Recently proving that he is unable to even parrot single-sentence memorized (irrelevant) answers to questions during his recent press conference, President Bush continues his trajectory towards his crowning as America's most remote-control president ever. He didn't so much dodge a question on why he and Cheney would have to appear before the 9/11 commission together as he did blunder straight through it, emerging on the other side with a vapidly triumphant look that no-one, including his advisors, could see a reason for.

The press deserves no little share of blame. Even now, the questions being lobbed at Mr. Bush are just to the left side of 'puffball.' The press conference (only his third since assuming office!), a rare chance to get answers directly from his mouth rather than having it filtered first through Karl Rove's large intestine, was mostly squandered, frittered away on questions that were either irrelevant, too complex for him to even to attempt answering, or simply not shoved hard enough to force him to attempt engagement.

It's pathetic that this man is President. But no more so than the United States seems bent on proving itself to be. If you're out there, and you end up facing the President and his cadre of puppeteers, be sure to ask them the hard questions, and keep asking them until you get an answer.

The government isn't impersonal, in this case. It is embodied in these few men, and they are the ones who have stolen and discarded your rights as an American voter. Make them pay.

Posted by jbz at 5:37 AM | Comments (0)

April 3, 2004

What else happened in Fallujah?

This is purely a personal musing, and answers wouldn't have any impact on the horror and gruesome nature of the Fallujah killings. However, I find myself wanting to know what else was going on in Fallujah while the ambush was occurring?

I ask because the situation is (to me) a bit strange. The 'civilian contractors' who were the victims were, it was quickly acknowledged, employees of the Blackwater Security corporation, which is composed mostly of former U.S. Military Special Forces personnel, consulting in their newly civilian life. Three of them were ex- Navy SEALs, and one was an ex- Army Ranger. These are highly trained men experienced at dealing with dangerous surroundings.

However, when they were attacked, there were four of them in two Mitsubishi SUVs, travelling in a known hot zone. I don't have any information on whether or how they were armed, but I would be shocked if they were not at least carrying submachine guns such as the ubiquitous Heckler & Koch MP5 or MP6 and pistols. Yet, there is no information that they returned fire. This is plausible if one considers the situation - multiple assailants, in a planned maneuver, approached their vehicles and sprayed them with AK-47s simultaneously. In each car, one man would be driving, leaving only one other to provide security; and in an urban environment, one person 'riding shotgun' is not enough to secure a large vehicle when there are so many avenues of approach. Even if these men were armed and tried to return fire, machine pistol rounds would likely not go through the bodywork of the car with enough energy to cause harm, whereas the heavier rounds of the AK-47 would pass through with ease. Even if both sides opened fire simultaneously, the men in the cars would be at a dreadful disadvantage.

The configuration, two to a car, would indicate to me that they were expecting to utilize their mobility as their defense, rather than planning on shooting it out should they be attacked. It appears that their vehicles were boxed or lured into an area with unexpectedly limited escape options, and then ambushed.

This leads to the next question. What were they doing there? As I've stated, the configuration of men and vehicles might make sense for a highway convoy escort, but not for inner-city work. Why were they travelling in such small numbers in such large cars, presenting such an obvious target (foreign SUVs in Fallujah at present are almost guaranteed to be occupied by foreigners)? The answer I keep coming up with is that they were doing something which required the SUVs size that couldn't be done with military forces - force which, in the hours after the incident, made it quite clear that they were attempting to avoid entering Fallujah in bulk and inciting incidents, even in the aftermath of such an attack.

Next question - what was it that was either in the SUVs before they were attacked, or what would have been in them had they completed their task? Here, I have no real evidence, just a gut feeling, but my feeling is that they needed the empty seats. I strongly suspect that these vehicles were either on the way to pick up additional personnel who were on foot, or had just come from dropping them off. This would be one strong argument as to why the 'two-man-per-car' problem might not have been as bad as it sounds.

So, finally - what else was going on in Fallujah that day?

Posted by jbz at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)