Friday, April 22, 2005

 

A False Picture of Defeat

A blogger named Steve Gilliard has posted a very impressive looking analysis of the current situation in Iraq. The problem is, he distorts what little information he does have and uses that to draw unsupported conclusions from the data he misrepresents. In the abstract, so what. But Daily Kos has picked it up, and now these distortions are no doubt all over the left side of the blogosphere.

My letter to Mr. Gilliard.

Mr. Gilliard,

I read your "newsblog" story, Looking at Iraq.

I don't know the source of your information depicting life in Iraq for we who are deployed here, but it strikes me that you use what little information you do have to paint a picture grossly different than what is actually the case. You compound this fancy by drawing conclusions that are not supported even by the data you do misrepresent.

I am stationed in the heart of Sunni controlled Iraq -- for operational security I will not identify where -- and I regularly travel by convoy to other forward operating bases (FOB) within this area. We routinely conduct convoys, but we also try to take advantage of air transportation wherever possible, as this is more efficient and relatively safer.

There are regular improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on the major supply routes (MSRs), that is a fact of life for us. With thousands and thousands of vehicles on the road daily, it is impossible to completely prevent attacks, with perhaps several thousand dedicated insurgents with perhaps a couple thousand foreign jihadists with left over and imported weapons and ordnance. Overwhelmingly, these IED attacks rely on old military munitions, artillery shells, mines, etc., and the vast majority are implemented to no effect. Likewise, complex attacks with secondary IED or RPG or small arms fire are similarly ineffective. Any massed attack on U.S. positions results in a lot of dead insurgents and little or no injuries or damage to U.S. forces. Iraqi forces suffer more, of course, as they are not as well equipped or trained, and of course they live among sometimes hostile or at least ambivalent populaces. (And yet, despite this, their recruting efforts continue to outpace available positions.)

Dozens of convoys will travel the same road day after day, and perhaps a couple of times a week an IED goes off, usually to no effect whatever. Based on any reasonable calculation of threat, this might work out to a .5% chance of being hit while in convoy here.

I can assure you by a continuing problem we're facing, soldiers gaining weight, and the proliferation of consumer goods available through the PX, that we have no problem with supply or resupply. We do make decisions based on relative risk, so yes, we'll avoid being on the roads if we can achieve the same purpose by other means.

You use the number and frequency of IED attacks -- without regard to their continuing lack of effectiveness -- to then conclude that "guerillas" control the road network.

"Vulnerable to attack" in no way translates into "they control the roads." That's both simplistic, and idiotic. By the same lack of proportion, you should conclude that drunk drivers control the roads in the U.S. Sure, its a problem, but the overwhelming majority of us will never be in an accident with one.

Likewise, that the anti-Iraqi forces can stage fly-by or isolated attacks (however spectacular) throughout the country in no way translates into widespread support or control of the countryside. Al Qaeda can attack anywhere in the U.S. or Europe that they decide they want to plan and execute an operation. Does that mean they effectively control the U.S. or Europe?

You also point out that, in Vietnam, soldiers could move about the cities, bars and restaurants, flophouses and the like. That's no doubt true, but your argument is disingenuous. We don't want to have that kind of presence here, Iraqis wouldn't like it. The whole point of the exercise is to make Iraqis responsible for their own defense, their own government, their own society. Absolutely, we toppled the dictator Hussein. Certainly, our forces are a critical part of preserving this emergent democracy. But you make it sound like anything less than complete occupation and domination is somehow defeat. Aren't you arguing against yourself here? If we were behaving that way, as occupiers in that sense, I'm quite sure you'd have much to criticize with that approach.

This "insurgency" is losing, few soldiers deploying and redeploying agree with your assessment. The forces against us are doing everything in their power to jump start a public relations and media spurred "Tet Offensive" strategy, but they have very little by way of success to point to and mostly can only fall back on killing civilians or lightly defended Iraqi security forces. You make a valiant effort to help them along, but I seriously doubt any but unrepentant anti-war types are buying.

You can wait a very long time for your "truth to come out," my guess is you'll still be waiting when the majority of the U.S. forces come home and the Iraqis celebrate their 3rd or 4th succession of democratically elected governments.

Respectfully, but credulously,

Dadmanly
OIF III

I will keep readers posted on any reply.

UPDATE:

Steve and I exchanged emails. All he came up with was, "yeah, and where did all those IED munitions come from?" Which should earn some kind of prize for a non-answer answer. Maybe they get them from the pile right next to those WMDs.

STEVE'S RESPONSE

Steve Gilliard wrote:

I will not argue the point since I am obviously not in Iraq.

But I will ask you one question: why do they have access to old artillery shells in the first place? They aren't easy to move or hide. And they are dangerous to handle. But other than that, I hope you come home safely.

MY RESPONSE TO STEVE

Steve, Thank you for responding, and thanks for your good wishes.

You do raise a good question, and a fair one I think, where do these leftover munitions come from? I'm here and I can't say for sure, but from what I've seen and heard from a not-too-detached vantage point, a lot of it is old, decrepid, unreliable, and most of it probably from Saddam's old arsenals.

It's a good point, how should we have handled the disbanded, abandoned, or evaporated Iraqi Army. But under any scenario I can imagine, unless the entire military structure organized a formal surrender and transfer of authority -- not at all likely -- I can't see how we could have contained or controlled the stockpiles he had. But clearly one of the weaker points of post-invasion planning.

I'll ask you one more question in return. If this is the best they can find to use against us, and as you say, these armaments "aren't easy to move or hide. And they are dangerous to handle," doesn't that speak of desparation and dwindling resources? Doesn't sound like a confident or well-supported guerilla force, does it? We've seen more determined and effective ones in South America or Southwest Asia, wouldn't you say?

Good luck to you, sir. You do produce a professional looking product. Again, thanks for the response and good wishes.

Dadmanly



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