2nd Iraq War: The Takeaway

Self is now nearing the end of Fiasco:  The American Military Adventure in Iraq.  She spent most of yesterday reading the gruesome account of how Abu Ghraib turned into Abu Ghraib.  This morning, she is on p. 307.

The American troops were preparing, in the winter of 2003, to complete “one of the biggest troop rotations in the history of the U.S. military.” The soldiers who had completed their year of service in Iraq were about to hand off to the second wave of replacement American troops.  The web came alive with e-mails and essays from the departing soldiers.  In accounts “far more personal than those offered by the media and generally grimmer than the official statements that painted a picture of steady progress,” soldiers passed on hard-earned knowledge.  IEDs were the insurgents’ weapon of choice, the targets the long train of American supply vehicles snaking across the desert.

Taking the “every cloud has a silver lining” approach, here are the most valuable lessons soldiers learned from each other:

  • The Iraqi equivalent of the Vietnam War’s “ambush points on jungle trails” were highway overpasses.” Soldiers were advised to “move toward them with caution, and then swerve from lane to lane at the last minute.”
  • “. . .  to be defensible, convoys should consist of at least five vehicles.”
  • “. . .  a study of insurgent tactics” showed “that they “tended to attack the last vehicle.  To counter this, soldiers “recommended putting heavy firepower there.”
  • Because, “in the lead truck in a convoy, the driver and gunner tended to be too busy with their tasks to adequately scan the ground for roadside bombs” it was advisable to have “a third soldier, equipped with binoculars and night-vision goggles” to “be posted in that vehicle —  and be trained and ready to take over the machine gun should the gunner be hit.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Nicholson Baker on The New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog via NYTBR

Bottom of p. 4, The New York Times Book Review of Sunday, 25 August 2013:

“Quotable”

I look on the Internet, and there’s a lot of stuff, but it doesn’t seem any different to me than it felt like when I used to go to a newsstand and there was Elle magazine and professional-wrestling magazines and highbrow magazines, men’s fashion, women’s fashion, comics, just that . . .  blast of everythingness that comes at you.  Well, that’s what comes out of the computer screen now.  It’s very similar in its . . .  texture to what the newsstand, let’s say, at Harvard Square felt like back in the day.

—  Nicholson Baker, on The New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog

Not the Most Shining Moment: FIASCO, pp. 277 – 278

Even though readers know the author’s ideological stance (With a title like Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, it’s probably pretty obvious), Ricks marshals more than enough documentation to support his thesis.

An Iraqi general, Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a man who voluntarily walked into a U.S. army base camp, seeking the release of his sons from custody, was held by the U.S. Army and “died of smothering and chest compression.”  On November 26, 2003, according to author Thomas Ricks, four soldiers put Mowhoush “into a sleeping bag, sat on him, and rolled him around the floor.  That abuse followed two weeks of brutal interrogations of Mowhoush by Iraqis working under U. S. supervision . . . ” Documents show that the Iraqis “were members of the Scorpions, a group of Iraqis recruited before the war by the CIA to carry out small-scale subversion, and then employed afterward for help in interpreting and interrogations.”

A military forensic pathologist, a Major Michael Smith, testified that Mowhoush “had what’s referred to as ‘facial suffusion,’ which is blood basically being congested in the face . . .  He also had numerous bruises on his chest, abdomen, arms, legs, one bruise on the head, and he also had several rib fractures — five, in fact.”

A Col. Teeples, who commanded troops in western Iraq “from April 2003 to March 2004,” put the blame on the lack of troops.  “The year that we were there,” Teeples told investigators, “we were an ‘economy of foce’ organization, and that means that we are put into a position to perform a very large mission with a small force.”  Nor, he added, “did he have some of the right sort of troops . . .  In the realm of detainees and interrogation, we did not have official interrogators.”

As a team leader in the 82nd Airborne told Human Rights Watch, “Shit started to go bad right away.”

Ricks writes:

These attacks weren’t inflicted to collect intelligence but simply to blow off steam.  “Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC (for “Person Under Control”) interrogation tent.  In a way it was sport.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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