"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Among the four Marines killed and 10 wounded when an explosive device erupted under their Amtrac on Wednesday were the last battle-ready members of a squad that four days earlier had battled foreign fighters holed up in a house in the town of Ubaydi. In that fight, two squad members were killed and five were wounded.
In 96 hours of fighting and ambushes in far western Iraq, the squad had ceased to be.
Every member of the squad -- one of three that make up the 1st Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment -- had been killed or wounded, Marines here said. All told, the 1st Platoon -- which Hurley commands -- had sustained 60 percent casualties, demolishing it as a fighting force.
"They used to call it Lucky Lima," said Maj. Steve Lawson, commander of the company. "That turned around and bit us."
Wednesday was the fourth day of fighting in far western Iraq, as the U.S. military continued an assault that has sent more than 1,000 Marines down the ungoverned north bank of the Euphrates River in search of foreign fighters crossing the border from Syria. Of seven Marines killed so far in the operation, six came come from Lima Company's 1st Platoon.
Lima Company drew Marine reservists from across Ohio into the conflict in Iraq. Some were still too young to be bothered much by shaving, or even stubble.
They rode to war on a Marine Amtrac, an armored vehicle that travels on tank-like treads. Marines in Iraq typically crowd thigh to thigh in the Amtrac, with one or two men perched on cardboard boxes of rations. Only the gunners manning the top hatches of Amtracs have any view of the passing scenery. Those inside find out what their field of combat is when the rear ramp comes down and they run out with weapons ready.
Marines typically pass travel time in the Amtrac by extracting favorite bits from ration packets, mercilessly ribbing a usual victim for eating or sleeping too much, or sleeping themselves.
On Monday, when the Marine assault on foreign fighters formally began, the young Marines of the squad from the 1st Platoon were already exhausted. Their encounter at the house in Ubaydi that morning and the previous night had been the unintended first clash of the operation, pitting them against insurgents who fired armor-piercing bullets up through the floor. It took 12 hours and five assaults by the squad -- plus grenades, bombing by an F/A-18 attack plane, tank rounds and rockets at 20 yards -- to kill the insurgents and permit recovery of the dead Marines' bodies.
Afterward, they slept in the moving Amtrac, heads back and mouths agape. One stood up to stretch his legs. He fell asleep again standing up, leaning against the metal walls.
Squad members spoke only to compare what they knew about the condition of their wounded. Getting the latest news, they fell silent again. After one such half-hour of silence, a Marine offered a terse commendation for one of the squad members shot at Ubaydi: "Bunker's a good man."
With the operation underway, Marine commanders kept the 1st Platoon largely to the back, letting its men rest.
Commanders had hoped the operation would swiftly capture or kill large numbers of foreign fighters. But the foreigners, and everyone else here, had plenty of warning that the Marines were coming -- including those ready to fight at Ubaydi.
By the time the squad from Lima Company crossed north of the Euphrates, whole villages consisted of little more than abandoned houses with fresh tire tracks leading into pastures or homes occupied only by prepubescent boys or old men. Men of fighting age had made themselves scarce. The AK-47 assault rifles ubiquitous in Iraqi households had disappeared.
Meanwhile - I'm no military expert, but it sounds to me like we're mucking about in the middle of a full-scale civil war now. Oddly enough, actual military experts seem to think so, too:
With security experts reporting that no major road in the country was safe to travel, some Iraq specialists speculated that the Sunni insurgency was effectively encircling the capital and trying to cut it off from the north, south and west, where there are entrenched Sunni communities. East of Baghdad is a mostly unpopulated desert bordering on Iran.
"It's just political rhetoric to say we are not in a civil war. We've been in a civil war for a long time," said Pat Lang, the former top Middle East intelligence official at the Pentagon.
Other experts said Iraq is on the verge of a full-scale civil war with civilians on both sides being slaughtered. Incidents in the past two weeks south of Baghdad, with apparently retaliatory killings of Sunni and Shia civilians, point in that direction, they say.
Also of concern were media accounts that hard-line Shia militia members are being deployed to police hard-line Sunni communities such as Ramadi, east of Baghdad, which specialists on Iraq said was a recipe for disaster.
"I think we are really on the edge" of all-out civil war, said Noah Feldman, a New York University law professor who worked for the U.S. coalition in Iraq.
He said the insurgency has been "getting stronger every passing day. When the violence recedes, it is a sign that they are regrouping." While there is a chance the current flare of violence is the insurgency's last gasp, he said, "I have not seen any coherent evidence that we are winning against the insurgency."
"Everything we thought we knew about the insurgency obviously is flawed," said Judith Kipper of the Council on Foreign Relations. "It was quiet for a little while, and here it is back full force all over the country, and that is very dark news."
Let's recap - this was an unnecessary war, prohibited by long-standing international law and justified by lies, which we are now losing as a result of the stubborn ignorance of the civilian leadership. We have succeeded only in making more enemies throughout the Muslim world, and destroying our military readiness, while North Korea and Iran pursue their nuclear capabilities.
Could somebody please try to explain to me how it is that a significant number of voters came to believe that the smug little Half-Wit in Chief was better qualified than his war hero opponent to defend this nation from harm? Because no matter how hard I try, I just don't get it.