Inside the Surge

August 2, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Posted in American politics, Iraq, Military | 14 Comments

Sean Smith of the Guardian has created a harrowing video of the experiences of one unit in Baghdad not too long ago. Watch the video. Watch particularly the most important point that the United States military still does not seem to understand. When a Bradley vehicle was blown up with seven soldiers dying, this unit rushes into a nearby home, with no real intel about there being insurgents in that home, forces the occupants to the floor of the kitchen and interrogates them.

The most harrowing part comes next, days later, when upon doing random house searches (the point that the US military fails to understand), the unit barge into the home of an elderly lady who is so frightened that she begins weeping in panic. The US military needs to start understanding this key point. STOP HOUSE SEARCHES! You wonder why insurgents continue to stay so strong? You wonder why insurgents are thriving? Wonder why insurgents are not being turned in by the local population (who clearly know each other very well)? Because house searching has turned the population against the Americans. Americans don’t get this. They don’t understand this principle. Maybe they will when their own homes are searched by big guys with guns, with the husband being humiliated in front of his family.

Next, a driver that is seen driving around the neighborhood a couple of times fails to stop when ordered by the military. The soldiers assume the driver is scouting out the soldiers for an attack. They order him to stop. He doesn’t. So they shoot him. A local woman comes out and she recognizes the man. He is a local taxi driver. He’s now dead.

The surge will fail because the military continues to adhere to self-defeating tactics. Knock on doors, guys, don’t knock them down. Use your knuckles to tap on the door, not your feet to break them down!

It’s too bad really, because both countries’ populations have turned against the war. Both a large majority of Americans and a large majority of Iraqis are against our presence in Iraq. This spells a great doom on the mission as a whole. You will NEVER win a war if your population is no longer for it.



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  1. I agree about the first part–it just doesn’t make sense to violently enter houses without at least trying to enter peaceably. If the military forcibly entered my house, without knocking, I would have very little love for them or anything that they represent. OTOH, if they knocked first and asked, I would let them in and there wouldn’t be an issue.

    However, the second example makes more sense to me. The man was driving around when the military had a presence and was stopping people, the soldiers commanded him to stop and he didn’t, and they acted out of self defense. Any disconnect in there had to be in the language itself, which is tragic, but at least the basic protocol makes sense. What if he were a scout or a car bomber? It’s sad, and it would be better if these things didn’t happen, but sometimes you have to make difficult decisions.

  2. one lower light,

    Yeah, I’m not as bothered by the second example. I can understand that one very well. It still ends up being detrimental, because that taxi driver has a brother and a father who probably are wondering why he was killed.

  3. A better way to endear ourselves to the Iraqi population would be to move every single military person out of their country.

  4. Five Star General George Marshall:

    “Military Power wins battles; Spiritual Power wins wars” Christ said pretty much the same “Don’t fight evil with evil; fight evil with good”

    Andrew Bracevich has a great book out called ” The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.”

    He points out that what was dangerous about the Nazis is exactly the same as is being manifested by America today- They have married utopianism with militarism. This is futile, promises never ending war. “It promises not to perfect, but to pervert American ideals and to accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy. As it alienates others, it will leave the United States increasingly isolated. It will end in bankruptcy, moral as well as economics, and in abject failure.”

    What is happening in America today, is pretty much how it was in Germany after Hitler came into power. The Germans thought they were better than everyone else, and they were going to impose their superiority way of life on everyone else. No reason to believe there will be a different ending.

  5. #3–You can’t be that simplistic and find solutions that actually work. My sister believed the same way, until she lived in an Arab country (Jordan) for six months and talked with the people who were there. If we were to withdraw precipitously from Iraq, we would leave a power vacuum that would be filled by the vilest, most sadistic elements of that society. Yes, we need to change the way our military is operating in Iraq, but a unilateral withdrawal could be just as bad as a unilateral invasion. As former ambassador Turki Al-Faisal from Saudi Arabia said at BYU last year, “the United States came into Iraq uninvited, and so should not leave uninvited.”

    If you think Iraq is a “hellhole” now, think realistically about what a precipitous withdrawal would lead to. It wouldn’t lead the Iraqis to “endear” themselves to us; it would be the last nail in the coffin of our country’s reputation. There are much better ways to withdraw our forces and end the occupation.

    I’m not a Republican, but it’s overly simplistic positions such as this that keep me from siding with the Democrats.

  6. Onelowerlight,
    I’m not a democrat either, so don’t hold me against them!
    There are quite a few reasons I think that rapid withdrawal from Iraq should occur. In the first place, counter to what many think, we are part of the problem over there. Our secret air war has killed thousands. If we leave Iraq, those deaths would instantly cease. Remember the Johns Hopkins study which showed 655,000 excess deaths in Iraq since we invaded. Of those deaths, around 200,000 are estimated to have been caused by direct military violence by our military.

    The majority (80% or so) of violent attacks in Iraq are aimed at US or allied forces. In the past I’ve seen poll numbers showing that 60% of Iraqis polled support attacks on US forces. A majority of Iraqis polled also desire our complete departure from Iraq within a year. We are definitely not wanted there.

    Al-Maliki, our puppet in Iraq, a very unpopular figure over there, recently said that the US can pull out anytime it wants and Iraqi forces will be able to handle security. He said that if we want to leave then go. This was largely ignored in our media.

    Our forces are being kept there to control the peace only on the surface. The real reason we are there is to ensure political security that will ensure our control over the oil resources in Iraq for a long time. Control, not possesion, of oil resources is our chief aim over there.

    Over the course of the 4 years since we’ve been there, we’ve fired over 200,000,000 rounds of ammunition. If only one in a thousand of those rounds killed someone it would be enough to cause the 200,000 casualties estimated to be caused by our forces.

    Finally, Iraq’s parliament wants us out of there. Read the following article on legislation passed by the parliament as reported in the NY Times 5/10/07:

  7. onelowerlight,

    There are much better ways to withdraw our forces and end the occupation.

    Withdrawals have happened in numerous other occasions where the aggressive party pulled back from their actions precipitously or before they accomplished their desired goals, i.e. in defeat. The British did so in the American Revolution. The French pulled out of Algeria, and we pulled out of Vietnam.

    Perhaps you can help me out, but I cannot think of any example where things go so dire in the aftermath that the withdrawal was a bigger mistake than going in was. Even Vietnam. The North Vietnamese came in and brought communistic order to the country. (Yes Cambodia was an awful mess, but one wonders if Nixon never expanded his war into Cambodia years earlier if Cambodia would not have been so destabilized).

    Iraq is obviously a different situation (like each other country is different from the other) where competing external parties will most likely get involved and may even expand the conflict somewhat. I believe the main actors, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are rational actors who will not press this further into some massive conflict. It is in neither of those two countries’ interests to do so. It is very sad and unfortunate, but Iraq is a completely failed state right now, and we are to blame. It is time for us to leave.

  8. radicalmormon,

    Over the course of the 4 years since we’ve been there, we’ve fired over 200,000,000 rounds of ammunition. If only one in a thousand of those rounds killed someone it would be enough to cause the 200,000 casualties estimated to be caused by our forces.

    huh, I never considered that angle. Another angle to consider is the military’s compensation for innocent collateral killings. The ACLU got a figure from the military. The military paid out $34 million dollars to Iraqi kin for those accidentally killed by the military. The average was about $2000, if I recall correctly. That basically means that the military concedes that in the four years they’ve been there they have accidentally killed 14,000 Iraqis. Those, of course, are just the ones they admit. Only 40% of those who applied for compensation were approved, so another 60% of Iraqi kin were denied compensation. That’s about 40,000 or so Iraqis the military may have “accidentally” killed. And of course countless number that relatives didn’t even bother to try and get compensation from the military.

  9. I agree that we need to pull out of Iraq at some point and in some way, but the question is how, when, and under what conditions? Yes, our presence there is giving the wrong people the wrong incentives and holding back progress in some way, but we need to be careful otherwise our withdrawal will lead to more deaths and increased problems. Withdrawal can be a solution, but only if we do it responsibly, and keep the dialogue on the issue realistic and pragmatic. Absolute moral ultimatums and charged emotions don’t lead to the pragmatism we need.

    Yes, al-Malaki said that the US could leave at any time, under the justified objections of the Sunni factions in his government. The Johns Hopkins numbers are controversial and highly irregular in the light of many other statistical measurements. As for the oil, the critics sure present a lot more accusations than they present evidence to back up those accusations. I would like to see some substantial hard evidence before I join the “no blood for oil” bandwagon.

  10. Dan,
    From what I’ve read, Pol Pot had only a ragtag band of outlaw recruits numbering about 5,000 before we started our bombing campaign in Cambodia. Our bombing was probably the greatest factor in Pol Pot building up such a strong force in a short amount of time.

    As far as the angle on Iraqi deaths goes, there was a good article in the Christian Science Monitor on how the Iraqi police are underreporting death tolls over there. One of the most amazing points in the article in my mind, is the news station Iraqiya which was created by the US, admitted to reporting with the desire to shield reality from Iraqis and instead concentrate on any little straw of positive events that they can lay their hands on. In other words, they lie to their people in order to paint a rosy picture. These news reports are where the get their numbers from (after going thru a western media intermediary). The article is here:

  11. One light,

    If both Al-Maliki and the majority of the parliament are saying the US can leave, the democratically elected leaders of Iraq, can’t we accept the democratic will of the people of Iraq?

    The Johns Hopkins numbers are only highly controversial among Bush administration supporters and those who shrug it off without a knowledge of the sound scientific methods used to obtain those numbers. 12,000 people were interviewed in a sampling of every nook and cranny of Iraq. The chance of their being some sort of error is extremely low. Among the scientific community there is no controversy and even Blair’s own administration advised him the numbers were solid.

    The oil stuff is easy to see if you look at the current oil law that Bush wants Iraq’s government to settle as one of his benchmarks. It insures foreign ownership of Iraq’s oil and actually provides for no profit sharing among different factions in Iraq as we are led to believe by our government.

    As Dennis Kucinich has said:

    “The Iraqi “Hydrocarbon Law” is an issue of critical importance, but has been seriously mischaracterized and I want to provide the House of Representatives the facts and evidence to support the concerns I have expressed.

    As you know, the Administration set several benchmarks for the Iraqi government, including passage of the “Hydrocarbon Law” by the Iraqi Parliament. The Administration has emphasized only a small part of this law, the “fair” distribution of oil revenues. Consider the fact that the Iraqi “Hydrocarbon Law” contains a mere three sentences that generally discusses the “fair” distribution of oil.

    Except for three scant lines, the entire 33 page “Hydrocarbon Law,” is about creating a complex legal structure to facilitate the privatization of Iraqi oil. As such, it in imperative that all of us carefully read the Iraqi Parliament’s bill because the Congress is on the record in promoting oil privatization.”

  12. onelowerlight,

    Withdrawal can be a solution, but only if we do it responsibly, and keep the dialogue on the issue realistic and pragmatic

    The problem right now is that we are NOT having a responsible dialog that is realistic and pragmatic. The Bush administration does not let us have this. The moment we attempt to discuss anything remotely on the subject of withdrawal, we’re called terrorist appeasers, etc.

    Unfortunately, the problem is that because we are NOT having a proper discussion we’ll mess our withdrawal of Iraq worse than Vietnam.

  13. meanwhile, the suffering goes on. This week’s ‘monitoring the surge’..things are hardly improving.

  14. Thanks for sharing that Anne. This particular section is very important but will not get the right air-time here in America:

    During the seven-day period from 26 July to 1 August there were 482 violent deaths across Iraq. This is a rise of nearly 70 people on last week’s total.

    Of the groups charted in the graphic above, only the Iraqi police saw their number of fatalities fall.

    Iraqi civilians had both the greatest rise in their number of people killed and the greatest total number of deaths; as has been the case since this series of reports began seven weeks ago.

    Looking back over the whole of July, Iraqi officials say more than 1,600 civilians were killed.

    This figure is higher than the number of deaths for February this year, when the US surge began.

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