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Blogs from Iraq

Just some random links to blogs from Americans in Iraq. Go take a look.

I have pointed to Armor Geddon before, but go back, great first hand accounts from an M1A1 Abrams tank commander.

I Should Have Stayed Home
…is by two contractors working in Iraq.
Cigars in the Sand is an advisor on border security, interesting that the route between the Airport in Baghdad and the Green Zone is calledRoute Irish. Great photos too.
Matt Sherman has some great photos as well.

The Mudville Gazette has links to more Milbloggers.

Vintage Wolfowitz

Kevin Drum points to some statements Paul Wolfowitz made in the lead up to the war in Iraq. Among them:

Mr. Wolfowitz…opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, “wildly off the mark.” Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.

….In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo.

He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that “stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible,” but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. “I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

….Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. “I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high….Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. “To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong,” he said.

Fighting the Wrong War

Fred Kagan in the Weekly Standard on why Rumsfeld must go:

With more troops in Iraq during and immediately after the war, we would have been able to do the following things that we did not do:

* Capture or kill thousands of Iraqi soldiers who were at that time still concentrated in combat units and had not yet melted back into the countryside with their weapons and their skills.

* Guard the scores of enormous ammunition dumps from which the insurgents have drawn the vast majority of their weapons, ammunition, and explosives.

* Secure critical oil and electrical infrastructure that the insurgents subsequently attacked, setting back the economic and political recovery of Iraq.

* Prevent the development of insurgent safe havens in Najaf and Falluja, or at least disrupt them at a much earlier stage of formation.

* Work to interdict the infiltration of foreign fighters across Iraq’s borders.

If the U.S. Army had begun expanding in 2001, we would have been able to:

* Establish reasonable rotation plans for our soldiers that did not require repeatedly extending tours of duty beyond one year.

* Avoid the need to activate reservists involuntarily.

* Dramatically reduce the frequency with which soldiers return from one year-long tour only to be sent immediately on another.

* Let the troops that would still have been overstrained know that help really was on the way.

The U.S. military did not do these things because of Rumsfeld’s choices. He chose to protect a military transformation program that is designed to fight wars radically different from the one in which we are engaged. He chose to protect Air Force and Navy programs that are far less urgent and under far less strain during the current crisis rather than augmenting the service carrying the lion’s share of the load. He chose to focus on high-tech weapons technologies that are virtually useless to the troops now in Iraq rather than providing them sooner with the basic requirements of their current mission–including armored Humvees, body armor, and a regular complement of armored vehicles. Even the deployment of Stryker light armored vehicles, which many now tout as a major contribution to the fighting in Iraq, was not Rumsfeld’s initiative, but that of General Eric Shinseki. Shinseki was the Army chief of staff whom Rumsfeld drove out of office, partly for correctly predicting that Operation Iraqi Freedom would require more than the handful of units that Rumsfeld and his staff were willing to send.

It is not that Rumsfeld’s decisions were without a rationale. The secretary of defense simply chose to prioritize preparing America’s military for future conventional conflict rather than for the current mission. That position, based on the hope that the current mission would be of short duration and the recognition that the future may arrive at any moment, is understandable. It just turns out to have been wrong.

Update: Kevin Drum offers his two cents, Andrew Sullivan does the same

Friedman on Iraq

[via Insta} Tom Friedman answers my questions about Iraqis getting plain tired of terrorism.

It needs to be clear that these so-called insurgents are not fighting to liberate Iraq from America, but rather to reassert the tyranny of a Sunni-Baathist minority over the majority there. The insurgents are clearly desperate that they not be cast as fighting a democratically elected Iraqi government – which is why they are desperately trying to scuttle the elections. After all, if all they wanted was their fair share of the pie, and nothing more, they would be taking part in the elections.

We cannot liberate Iraq, and never could. Only Iraqis can liberate themselves, by first forging a social contract for sharing power and then having the will to go out and defend that compact against the minorities who will try to resist it. Elections are necessary for that process to unfold, but not sufficient. There has to be the will – among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds – to forge that equitable social contract and then fight for it.

In short, we need these elections in Iraq to see if there really is a self-governing community there ready, and willing, to liberate itself – both from Iraq’s old regime and from us. The answer to this question is not self-evident. This was always a shot in the dark – but one that I would argue was morally and strategically worth trying.

Because if it is impossible for the peoples of even one Arab state to voluntarily organize themselves around a social contract for democratic life, then we are looking at dictators and kings ruling this region as far as the eye can see. And that will guarantee that this region will be a cauldron of oil-financed pathologies and terrorism for the rest of our lives.

Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966

I found this article last week and thought it was worth a mention:

But a comparative analysis of U.S. casualty statistics from Iraq tells a different story. After factoring in medical, doctrinal, and technological improvements, infantry duty in Iraq circa 2004 comes out just as intense as infantry duty in Vietnam circa 1966 – and in some cases more lethal. Even discrete engagements, such as the battle of Hue City in 1968 and the battles for Fallujah in 2004, tell a similar tale: Today’s grunts are patrolling a battlefield every bit as deadly as the crucible their fathers faced in Southeast Asia.

Economists like to quote statistics in “constant dollars,” where they factor in historical inflation rates to produce statistics that allow for side-by-side comparison. Warfare is more complex than macroeconomics, but it is possible to produce a similar “apples to apples” comparison for casualties across conflicts. In a recent article for the New England Journal of Medicine, Atul Gawande (a former Slate contributor) concluded that improvements to military medicine since Vietnam have dramatically reduced the rate at which U.S. troops die of wounds sustained in combat. The argument follows a 2002 study that tied improvements in U.S. civilian trauma medicine to the nation’s declining murder rate. While firearm assaults in the United States were rising, the murder rate was falling, largely because penetration wounds that proved fatal 30 years ago were now survivable. Thus, today’s murder rate was artificially depressed in comparison to the 1960s.

Gawande applied the same methodology to U.S. casualty statistics in previous wars, arriving at a “lethality of wounds” rate for each conflict. In World War II, 30 percent of wounds proved deadly. In Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War, this rate hovered between 24 percent and 25 percent. But due to better medical technology, doctrinal changes that push surgical teams closer to the front lines, and individual armor protection for soldiers, this rate has dropped to 10 percent for Operation Iraqi Freedom for all wounds. For serious wounds that keep a soldier away from duty for more than 72 hours, the mortality rate is now 16 percent. Simply, a soldier was nearly 1.5 times more likely to die from his wounds in Vietnam than in Iraq today.

Many die in Baghdad police ambush

This marks a new tactic by the insurge… terrorist murderers.

Insurgents lured Iraqi policemen to a house in west Baghdad and set off a huge amount of explosives, killing at least 29 people, seven of them police.

It’s estimated that 1 tonne of explosives were wired to the building. It does seem like alot of effort for the relatively small amount of casualties, especially since most of those killed were civilians. Are Iraqis not getting pissed off with this?

Military hardware wearing faster than expected

That question by the US soldier directed to Don Rumsfeld spawned a flurry of interest by US media in the state of the campagin. MSNBC take this look at the current state of US military hardware.

The number of tanks requiring major repairs is up 600 percent. Before the war, some 300 Humvees a year would go through a major overhaul. Today that number has skyrocketed to 5,700 — a jump of nearly 2,000 percent.

“Our folks are in a constant cycle of repair, repair, repair to return this equipment to the force,” says Gary Motsek, with the U.S. Army Support Operations.

And the cost is staggering. Last year the Army got an additional $1 billion to pay for wartime repairs. This year the price tag is expected to climb to $9 billion.

Even then, it’s an increase in military spending that will extend well beyond the war.

“Should the war end today, it would take two years for the United States Army to replenish itself and bring its equipment back to proper state,” says Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Two years to replenish? Feck.

A Wounded Military

Foreign Policy(sub. only) have a web only piece on “The Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2004”, coming in at number 10:

Around 800,000 U.S. military troops have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. On top of being overstretched, the general health of the military may be deteriorating. More than 9,300 servicemen and women have been wounded, and there have been more than 14,400 Army medical evacuations in Iraq. At 7 to 1, the ratio of wounded to dead is the highest of any conflict in recent memory; in Vietnam, it was around 3 to 1. Wounded soldiers today have a much better chance of surviving than in the past—improved medical technology and body armor enable soldiers to endure injuries that would have killed them in previous wars. Priceless lives are saved, but the human cost of debilitating injuries and the financial cost of treatment and rehabilitation may loom large in years to come. Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, calculates that if a 24-year-old married male soldier with one child were to develop post-traumatic stress disorder—a condition that, together with depression and anxiety, afflicts about 1 in 6 soldiers returning from Iraq, according to the New England Journal of Medicine—he or she could receive compensation payments of more than $2,400 per month for the rest of his or her life.

That could work out to be a good deal of money if US troops stay another few years. Or will they all be out by the second anniversary of the invasion?

Bomb blast strikes Iraq holy city

Looks like the election campaign in Iraq has started in earnest – and to start it all off :

At least seven people have been killed and 30 injured in a bomb explosion in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala. The blast at the gate to a major Shia shrine, the Imam Hussein mausoleum, was the first serious attack in the city for several months. An aide to Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, was said to be among the wounded. It came as campaigning for elections in January began and interim PM Iyad Allawi declared his candidacy.

Considering that Sistani’s aide was wounded, it might have been Sunni terrorists at work here. More attacks, perhaps even ‘spectacular’ attacks are likely in the run up to election day. In relation to Dick’s recent post, any thoughts on where Iraq will be one year from now?

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