April 05, 2004


"Those Blackwater guys," says an intelligence officer in Iraq, "they drive around wearing Oakley sunglasses and pointing their guns out of car windows. They have pointed their guns at me, and it pissed me off. Imagine what a guy in Fallujah thinks."

Time magazine, this week. The same article declines to be definitive on what Blackwater was doing in Fallujah that day. They can't get a straight answer either, apparently.

Newsweek can't get a clear picture of what went on, either.

Posted by BruceR at 05:06 PM


Per Jim Henley, the story of the Iraqi thrown off the dam in Samarra continues to have legs. The American soldiers involved have admitted throwing him and another Iraqi off the dam that night. Their defence is that they saw both of the Iraqis climb out of the water, so they can't have killed one of them.

Widely praised Iraqi blogger Zeyad, however, is fairly confident his cousin is dead. Presumably either he's telling the truth about this, or he's part of the plot to invent an atrocity.

Professional blogger Jeff Jarvis has done more than anyone to put Zeyad's name out to the world, at least when he was saying nice things about America. He hasn't commented on these allegations that I've seen yet, though. It's time for him to say whether he stands by Zeyad now, or not. Every day now that he doesn't is one more day we'll think Jarvis only likes to tout the "colonial" bloggers so long as their obeisance level remains high.

This is important for the entire medium, by the way, because Zeyad was the one who really kept the heat on this story long enough for it to be taken seriously. If it pans out, it may be the first time an amateur blog's amateur journalism became the key motivating element that led to a court martial proceeding (and/or a significant military coverup).

Note from the Post story that the army battalion commander disciplined for trying to bury this was the same guy who famously said Iraqis just needed "a heavy dose of fear and violence."

UPDATE: Henley has more thoughts on this. Personally, I try to only ascribe notability to events when the pet Iraqi bloggers of all persuasions are commenting about them... for instance this week, when both Zeyad and Riverbend have still more raid and abduction stories to tell... but in Zeyad's case, when a familial relative is involved, and he's stuck to his story despite heavy abuse, and this prolonged, bizarre silence from his chief American promoter and mentor (Jarvis), I think he deserves better. (PS: Note the now unfortunate American-killed-in-Fallujah joke Zeyad "just had to tell" in the post linked in this paragraph... written a couple days before the Fallujah atrocities. In this case, blogger humour telegraphed real events to come.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:12 AM


I really have no idea why anyone, let alone someone as smart as Phil Carter, respects this guy. This post has so many problems with it, I don't know where to start. (For instance, saying the "contractors" "saved" the convoy, based on that ABC article, is tactically unlettered, as I try to explain in the updates to the post below.) A basic appreciation of the number of American divisions and brigades in Iraq might be nice. So would any kind of recognition that, six weeks after praising the Fallujah police as the Minutemen of Iraq, he now accuses them of active collusion in the recent ambush. So which is it?

But hey, let the readers judge. I am quite confident that the American approach to Fallujah in the wake of this attack will not involve the kind of brute force assault on the entire city Wretchard outlines. They don't have the troops, they don't have the will, and they don't have the time. "Through the walls of houses?" "Roads swept by fire?" The whole civilian population in "processing areas?" The last thing the Americans are going to do now is Stalingradize Fallujah. They're Marines; they're good at this. They'll come up with something far more subtle than, say, the Russians would in this same situation, so much so that I think a lot of the jingopunditry will be disappointed by the apparent mildness of the response, if and when one becomes obvious. But this kind of low-level atrocity does not warrant any more than that, frankly. (If they wouldn't destroy a mid-sized city to find the killers each time 4 regular soldiers are killed, they're certainly not going to for 4 private "contractors.")

UPDATE: This post is even thicker. Not only does he get the number of Salvadoran troops dead in Najaf wrong (it's one), he conflates Salvadorans with Spanish to make it easier for him to slam the latter country, totally ignoring the fact that the whole Shia area of Iraq was in flames on Sunday, with Italian, British, and American casualties as well, in at least four different cities. The Shiites are not targeting just Spain just in Najaf because their prime minister is weak, for pity's sake; they're targeting the occupiers in Najaf because that's where the Sadrist HQ is,and they're doing it now because now is when the CPA chose to crack down on Sadrism. Any occupying nationality would have received the same treatment. The whole body of the post is just a vacuity to hang the final epigram on. Compare that analysis of yesterday's events in Iraq to this, and ask yourself which side in the war debate is better served at present (even if Prof. Cole still doesn't know the difference between a division and a brigade).

UPDATE #2: Well, looks like we'll have an idea on the American intent re Fallujah within a week or so. It's important to note that the fighting yesterday in Fallujah was very similar to the fighting there 10 days ago, in numbers of troops involved, scope, and casualties (significant fighting at the time that now has been completely forgotten by manny, apparently). Unless you see something much more dramatic, for instance, involving more than the 1,200 Marines the story says are involved (at least that number were already camped out around Fallujah two weeks ago), it would be fair to say this is a resumption of the Marines' "cordon-and-raid" strategy they'd been pursuing in Fallujah since they arrived... just now with a new name: "Vigilant Resolve." God bless military PR...

Note the reference to the Marines closing the highways. In reality of course, those highways were effectively closed, at least to American traffic, if not before than after the soldiers-for-hire were ambushed last week. (See map for reference.) One of the two main highways connecting Baghdad to Western Iraq and Jordan (Highway 10) runs through the centre of town... whoever controls central Fallujah can shut this road any time they want. The ABC story is apparently claiming that the attack occurred where the two highways meet, at the interchange where it meets Highway 10 east of the city... this is why that ABC story linked below would be so remarkable if it were true... it would mean the insurgents ran a complex ambush in broad daylight the one interchange that controls ALL the transportation routes to the west of Baghdad, without any interference... it seems highly unlikely the Marines would not have retained control over this vital ground... more confirmation of that sole ABC story, by someone who demonstrably understands the terrain and the issues involved, is still sorely needed at this point. In any case the Marines' "closing" the highways is likely just an acknowledgement of the current reality that their control of the entire road net in this area was disrupted last week.

Posted by BruceR at 01:57 AM