March 24, 2003

CROSS YOUR FINGERS (Post temporarily


(Post temporarily removed out of concern for a blogger's personal safety. -ed.)

Posted by BruceR at 08:23 PM



People keep anticipating the evidence of WMDs, or more particularly ineffective inspections, that some needed to justify the war in the first place. First came the accusations of Scuds landing in Kuwait; to date not a single Iraqi missile fired has been confirmed as a Scud, as opposed to one of the non-prohibited varieties of battlefield rocket allowed to the Iraqis (Ababils and Al-Samouds.) They've all been fired from Basra, completely without useful effect of course, and yes, it's entirely believable that Patriots have shot a couple down. But we haven't seen any Scuds yet, which due to their longer range and chemical capability certainly wouldn't be located in vulnerable Basra, if any remain from the 1991 war at all.

Now we see people criticizing the UN for going to Najaf without finding this chemical factory. It should be noted that the factory in question, which may indeed have chemical weapons is not in Najaf the city, but Najaf the province... if you look on the map, it'd be about 75 miles south of Najaf proper, about due west of Samawah. It's basically about as far out in the desert as one could go and still be on a road, as befits a top-secret facility. Therefore it can't be the same facility as the "Al-Kufa Cement Factory" in Najaf itself that the UN visited. Patience, people.

Posted by BruceR at 06:07 PM



The big question mark for today, the one thing we've heard no good intel on yet (as of 1 a.m. Iraqi time) is how far the Marines have gotten north on that six-lane Basra-Baghdad highway, the one that crosses the Euphrates just west of Nasariyah. The Marines have four brigade-sized formations to play with, one in wheeled LAVs and three in a mix of AAVs and lighter vehicles. They also have about 120 tanks (the same as the Brits, but just over half what the 3rd Mech Inf has). If they can get up around Diwaniyah in the next day or so, the whole equation improves markedly, as the Iraqis can still be levered out of their Karbala position to fall back on the last-ditch defenses around Baghdad. Until they manage it, well, then 3rd Inf remains on its own.

Basra, meanwhile is being invested by the one heavy and two light (motorized at best) brigades remaining to the Brits. It's hard to see that fight as much more than a sideshow at this point... not much Iraqi fighting power is being invested in holding them back, and even if Basra fell tomorrow, that would only free up the one heavy brigade to start bumping up the far side of the Tigris to pin down the remaining Iraqi regular army forces in the south at Amarah. If that's the price of avoiding friendly fire losses and/or keeping unity of national command, it may come to be seen as having been too heavy in retrospect.

Finally, it seems clear that in the next 24 hours, we should see the 173rd and/or 2/82nd Airborne Brigades, the two lightest formations the Americans have, put down somewhere in northern Iraq to keep any reinforcements from coming down to help in the Karbala battle. They won't be able to maneuver much, but with Kurdish and Special Forces help they should at least be able to keep the Iraqis busy up there... and act as further discouragement to the Turks and Iranians.

Posted by BruceR at 05:21 PM

WARBITS Salam Pax is back,


Salam Pax is back, and reports part of the American attack is coming in the form of email spam telling Iraqis what radio freqs to listen to... some Apache crews are sounding rather rattled... you can never do wrong by inviting the Poles to a war... now Slow-motion Aneurysm Man is angry at the Australians; wow that American gratitude just lasts forever, doesn't it... meanwhile the Toronto army headquarters was picketed by antiwar protesters today, and several arrests made; the Canadian pacifists now say that since Canadian warships and planes are working for U.S. Central Command to keep clear navigation through the Straits of Hormuz, we're really in the war, just not officially admitting it. What can I say? They're right.

Posted by BruceR at 04:46 PM



Even a team of six Marine public affairs officers and lawyers sent to investigate Saturday's disappearance of three British journalists near Basra were ambushed today and two were injured. While normally not combatants, the Marines grabbed their weapons and returned fire, Marines said.

--Washington Post, today.

Posted by BruceR at 10:38 AM



The Americans appear to have bypassed Najaf to the west, too. Their chosen ground for the big battle they've been wanting all along is Karbala, then. Because they don't have a second maneuver division, it's basically a frontal attack for them, in closer terrain than they've seen (farmland, and the streets of Karbala). By going on their long flank march before seeking battle, the Americans preserved the division from losses as long as possible. But now it's decision time... whether this is a war of days, weeks or months depends entirely on whether the 3rd Mech Infantry is as good as it undoubtedly thinks it is. I remember working with soldiers of the division back when it was still the 24th Mech... to them and their peers, fight hard, fight well, guys. You're in a lot of people's thoughts and prayers right now.

Posted by BruceR at 10:29 AM