Monday, April 25, 2005

This morning at church we sent off our Pastor's daughter, who will soon be going to Iraq with the Air Force.

Some of the Doctors that I deployed with in January of last year are now back in Iraq. The Docs go for 90 days, but some look like they may do that 90 days as a kind of annual thing. The ranks of some of the specialists like psychiatrists and a few surgical specialties are thin and they can expect a quick turnaround. In our Battalion we had Physicians and Dentists from something like 27 states and territories. Lots of state surgeons and a boatload of full bird colonels and one former general who took an administrative bust so he could stay in the Army a little longer (Generals have to retire at 60). He'll retire at General pay so don't feel too sorry for him.

Yesterday our family support group threw a party at a local casino. I couldn't make it because its a little nuts in my house now. Our new daughter was born on April 13th and I'm taking a few weeks off from work to help out. We need to reach a new equilibrium with 5 kids.

I've heard from a few people in Iraq. The general consensus is that attacks at their bases have decreased, with a spike in the last week. The civilian casualties are terrible and seem to be the focus of the remaining insurgents. Its really hard to get the true picture from what I read and watch on TV. I wish I had my SIPRNET terminal back and could get a less filtered view. The wrangling in the new Iraqi government is not productive and may be putting some wind back in the sails of the insurgency, demoralized by the elections. My impression is that Iraq moves forward still, the vast majority go about their lives, University students are taking exams, farmers are harvesting the spring crops, businessmen sell their wares, engineers rebuild infrastructure. There is hope for tomorrow.

Some blogs I've been reading this week are Major K, the battalion Intel Officer in an Army Infantry Unit, 365 Days and a Wakeup from a Captain in the same unit and the Blogs of two Marine Cobra pilots stationed near Ramadi. Some of the pilot's descriptions of accompanying CASEVAC flights brought back memories of the many times I saw the Marines flying casualties to our hospital in Balad, the CH-46s would come in 50 feet over our building and land at the pad while their Cobra escorts circled our base.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

This week the Abu Ghraib Prison was attacked twice by a large group of anachronisms...I mean insurgents. The attack was the sort of thing that has happened several times using car bombs, RPGs and small arms. Since our medics ran an aid station at the BCDF (Baghdad Central Detention Facility) we kept an eye on the intel from the neighborhood. We were warned on multiple occasions of just such an attack, trying to breach the perimeter with a VBIED and then driving another one in for more damage. A ground attack would follow as insurgents streamed into the compound to free the prisoners. It was worrisome when a detailed map of the facility showed up on a website sympathetic to the insurgency. Their plan looked good on paper, in practice these attacks never achieved their goals. They did, however, show how much they cared about the prisoners inside by mortaring the place all the time. In April 2004 a barrage killed over 20 prisoners and injured 100.

Because of the stupidity perpetrated there, Abu Ghraib has assumed even greater significance as a symbolic target after the elections because of the insurgency's limited ability to conduct attacks without killing large numbers of innocent people and pissing off the Iraqi public. Their PR guy is doing a terrible job and should be fired (up).

I remember back in the summer of 2004 when things were going on in Samarra an SF officer lamented how badly we were being beaten in the PR war and how the insurgency was expertly manipulating the international press into a strategic weapon. Now the International press has been defanged by the Iraqi elections and the insurgency is desperately searching for the magic bullet event that will inspire their people and fan the flames. They are now reaching the point of being delusional to think that their actions will inspire anyone other than themselves. The magic bullet does not exist. The Juggernaut of public opinion is moving swiftly and many of them are finding themselves crushed beneath its momentum, turned in or fought outrightly by citizens with a much different and more compelling view of the future. They have reached a critical point from which they will not recover. The insurgency is like a satellite in a decaying orbit. I can say that confidently now. There were some dark moments last year for me when things looked like they were spiraling out of control. I was always optimistic but there were some moments of doubt.

March was reported to have had the lowest number of attacks since February 2004 (the lowest). Attacks are down to 40-50 a day. Let me tell you a little secret. Attack numbers have limited utility (though it is good to have less). When we measured attacks, we liked to have the numbers broken down to a bit finer detail. Total attacks in a given day could include kids throwing rocks at a convoy, a guy taking one or two potshots with an AK-47, unaimed RPG, mortar and rocket fire and ineffective IEDs. Most of these type of attacks produced few, if any casualties. The more important metric was complex attacks and ambushes that indicated a certain level of sophistication, mass casualty car and suicide bombers, and aimed indirect fire. I don't think I would be going too far out on a limb to suggest that there has been a more precipitous decline in the latter types of attacks indicating that the insurgency has lost its best and brightest. This was what we were observing when I left in January.