Sunday, October 19, 2003

An anatomy of attacks against Americans

This was supposed to be an answer to an email, but I thought I might as well post it, since its a source of concern to many people especially Americans who have sons, daughters, relatives and friends serving here.

Someone asked me:

All our reporters will tell us is that x number of American soldiers were killed in this roadside bombing or that RPG attack and never anymore detail. Did the soldiers shoot back? Did they capture or kill the attackers? If so did this lead to more arrests? And
who was the attacker? Where did he come from? Baghdad? or even outside of Iraq?
How many Iraqies support attacks? How many don't? What else besides attacks is
going on? Are things improving?


I will try to give an idea about all of that.
Almost all of these attacks are carried out in an area of Iraq described by Pentagon officials as the "Sunni triangle" which is less than %10 of the country's total area, in other words it's an area slightly larger than Kuwait. It lies north and west of Baghdad. This area is predominately inhabited by Sunni Arabs with a Shi'ite minority. Many of the inhabitants maintain strong tribal ties with each other. A large majority of them are peasants, most of them illiterate. Islamic extremism is not uncommon there. High ranking army generals, state and special security agents, military intelligence, and Republican Guards were almost exclusively from there. And they are accused by people to be behind the attacks. The reason everyone here thinks so, is because those people had a lot to lose after the fall of the regime. They are simply out of work now. They can't seem to accept the fact that Saddam is gone forever. Their logic goes this way: 1)The Americans will leave the country. 2)Saddam or one of his sidekicks will regain power. 3)They will be back to their old jobs. As simple as that.

Another reason, is that you rarely hear about suicide attacks in that area as opposed to Baghdad. Simply because Iraqis don't believe in that. Attacks in that area range from mortar shelling, RPG attacks, to bombs planted on roads but NEVER suicide bombings.

A very common misconception is that Saddam is behind or ordering the attacks. Saddam is too busy trying to save his butt, he wouldn't dare contact anyone outside of his handful of trusted guards. Remember the fate of Uday and Qusay? A relative who they stupidly trusted enough to hide in his house informed on them. Saddam on the other hand is an incredibly careful person, who wouldn't even trust his own son. So I would highly doubt that Saddam is giving direct orders to attack Americans except by the occasional tapes he sends to Al-Arabiyah station of course.

Another thing is that this resistance the Americans are facing is not ascribed to one group. There are already about 20 of them we hear about daily. Jaish Mohammad, Saraya Al-Faruq, Saraya Al-Jihad, Kataib Al-Hussein, Kataib Ali, Ashab Alrayat Alsud, Ashab Alrayat Albidh,...etc. Notice the similarity of some of the names with Palestinian militant groups, they have obviously took it upon themselves to make Iraq another Palestine.
And of course we have fingerprints of Al-Qaeda: The Jordanian Embassy and the UN compound bombings, and lately Baghdad Hotel's attack. So it's an unpleasant mix we're dealing with here.

One thing is certain. The attacks are less frequent than say two months ago. The attacks lately have been harming more Iraqis than Americans. Mortar shells in Ba'quba three weeks ago took 12 innocent lives at a grocery market. A bomb planted beside the sidewalk in Adhamiya exploded when a bus stopped next to it killing 7 people. This has made people very bitter and critical whenever they hear about attacks. More and more people are informing against others they know involved with attacks. Large numbers of Arab infiltrators have been arrested. Of course they came from Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

A serious problem with attacks is that on many occasions American soldiers start to shoot randomly in all directions after they are attacked. This leads to deaths and injuries among many innocent bystanders. When I'm driving and I spot an American patrol I usually stop or slow down until they are far away so I wouldn't be caught in any cross fire. Obviously they are being briefed to shoot and ask questions later.

Most of the attacks are overrated. I know this. The following story is an example:

One afternoon I had just got back from work and was going to change my clothes when suddenly *BOOM* The windows shattered all around me in pieces, there was a smell of something like gunpowder. I looked out but there was dust everywhere. I remembered that my brother was outside. I carefully opened the door, and to my surprise found 4 American soldiers in our garden, they were knocking on my grandmothers house door, I worriedly asked them what happened. They told me to stay away. I offered to open the door for them, which I did. They entered and went upstairs all the way to the roof, I stood in the hall with one of them who informed me that a bomb exploded behind their humvee just in front of the house, no one was hurt. They were suspecting someone attacked them from this house. The others came down, apologized to me and my grandmother (who didn't understand what was going on anyway) then left the house.
I went out to find a crater in front of the house. My god that was close. By a miracle nobody in the street was hurt. The idiots who planted that bomb were dumb enough to put it inside a sewers drainage which absorbed the shock of the blast. The only damage was the sound it made. Most of our windows were shattered.
After a while the soldiers left the place. Suddenly a reporter and a cameraman from Al-Arabiyah station appeared, they were so fast. I crossed the street to take a look. They were talking to some bearded guy who I hadn't seen before in the neighbourhood. He was enthusiastically talking about the humvee that flew in the air, and the 4 injured soldiers. I didn't see any of that. I was bewildered. Someone next to me told me that nothing like that happened at all. My brother and a couple of friends of his started to chant in front of the camera: LIAR, LIAR,... Everyone laughed at this, but the bearded guy started to swear by Allah. Someone pointed out that the bearded guy wasn't even in the area when the bomb exploded. Uh oh, I thought, he seemed to know about it before it happened. The cameraman violently shoved my brother and his friend aside telling them to shut up. I stepped forward and gave hime a push from behind. He almost fell over. I warned him that the camera he was holding would be in a thousand pieces if he dared touch my brother again. He backed up. A neighbour of ours hollered them to come and see the damage in their house. They refused to do so and left.
In the evening, Al-Arabiyah reported the following: 3 Americans badly injured and one Jeep damaged at .... in Baghdad. They showed the bearded guy talking and edited the rest of it.

Thats the way media in present day Iraq works.