Monday, January 29, 2007

Iraqi body count BS:

So I heard on Morning Edition this morning that W. thinks the fighting yesterday in Najaf shows that the Iraqis may be ready to take on the task of securing their country. According to a NYT story, Abdul Hussein Abtan, the deputy governor of Najaf province, told an Iraqi TV station while standing in front of some bodies that: "Beside me are a large number of prisoners, hundreds of them. There are also hundreds dead."

The WaPo reports that a "spokesman for Iraqi security forces in Najaf, Col. Ali Nomas Jerao, said that 250 suspected insurgents were killed in the fighting, which took place about eight miles northeast of Najaf."

250 killed, huh? In just a few hours by the Iraqi army? Not very likely. To me this sounds like a PR stunt. Congress is not in the mood to put up with any more of Maliki's crap, so the Iarqis come up with this wildly inflated body count to try and prove they're really taking on the militants.

What really appears to have happened is that they blundered into the fight.

The WaPo:

"The fighting began overnight when a police checkpoint near Najaf came under fire, leading the Iraqi police to the farms in the Zargaa area where the fighters had dug trenches and stockpiled weapons, said Lt. Rahim al-Fetlawi, a police officer in Najaf. The officers who responded found themselves outgunned by the estimated 350 to 400 insurgents entrenched there, said Col. Majid Rashid of the Iraqi army in Najaf."

Supossedly, these so-called "Soldiers of the Sky" set up camp in a "date palm orchard near the village of Zarqaa, about 120 miles south of Baghdad. The village is alongside a river and a large grain silo that is surrounded by orchards," according to the NYT. How several hundred fighters were able to set up a training camp so close to Najaf and not be found for so long is a question that has not been answered.

Galal says the militants were planning to attack Najaf during the Ashura festival and kill all the Shiite religious leadership. The Iraqis, though, broke up the plot just in a nick of time. "The deadline was very close."

But, as I say, what really happend was that they got stuck in a fight they couldn't handle and they had to call in the Americans, who lost yet another helicopter and two more dead in the process.

"A Washington Post special correspondent at the scene saw the helicopter trailing smoke and circling before coming down in a field of sandy dirt. Maj. Beshari al-Ghazali of the Iraqi army said that the helicopter was shot down and that another U.S. helicopter took fire but did not crash. Iraqi officials said the insurgents were using shoulder-fired rockets, antiaircraft guns and Katyusha rockets."

This is the second US military helicopter shot down in just over a week. ABC reported on the 22nd that the Blackhawk shot down in Baghdad, killing all 12 aboard, was "brought down by a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile, a senior military official tells ABC News." There was also a Blackwater security contractor helicopter shot down in Baghdad last Tuesday. In that case, the copter went down after being damaged by small arms fire and the crew was shot execution-style on the ground.

If the insurgents are now able to shoot down US helicopters on a regular basis with their newly aquired shoulder-fired missiles, this could be the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan all over again.

In any case, no matter what really happened this weekend in Najaf, I'm sure the fighting isn't over and the Iraqis will not be able to defend themselves without the Americvans coming to the rescue again. I mean, didn't we just turn over Najaf to the IRaqis last month? Sure didn't take long for the insurgents to set u pshop did it?


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