Iraq: March 24, 2003


U.S. and British troops continue to advance, with no meaningful opposition from the Iraqi armed forces. So far, most of the Iraqi 3rd Corps in the south has disappeared, its troops either deserting or surrendering. The U.S. 3rd Infantry division is now a few hours drive from Baghdad and the only opposition has been sniping from small groups of Saddam's secret police and Baath party loyalists. However, Saddam has been able to make much of what little resistance there, making it appear far more significant than it is. It's called Information War, and Saddam is doing better at this than in the purely military operations.

U.S. warplanes appear to have run short of targets. Now it is up to troops on the ground to try and use airpower as it was used in Afghanistan. But there may be a problem with that. The US has announced that they believe the Iraqis have GPS jammers, and also believe that a Russian firm, Aviaconversiya, is doing the work and Russian technicians are in Iraq right now. But Aviaconversiya denies that they are doing anything in Iraq right now. GPS jamming reduces smart bomb accuracy (from being able to hit within 40 feet of the aiming point, to 100 feet.)

Western and northern Iraq are under the control of coalition troops. It's unclear how coalition troops are going to deal with secret police and Baath party thugs who are still terrorizing Iraqis in the south. Iraqis there have been staying inside, warned by the secret police that Iraqi civilians seen greeting "the invaders" will be executed. Some Iraqis have come out and cheered anyway, but until there are troops to replace Saddam's gunmen, the people of southern Iraqi will remain terrorized. Saddam has apparently convinced a lot of his henchmen that their best chance of survival is to fight on.

If U.S. troops go after Saddam's supporters, it will cause problems because there are so few American troops available. The initial plan apparently called for organizing Iraqi policing forces. But this has not been done. Iraqis have never been noted for being good at organized military operations. The most effective combat troops in Iraqi have always been Saddam's secret police and Baath party thugs. These have to be dealt with before things calm down in Iraq. The exact number of these thugs is unknown, as many will flee or go into hiding rather than fight. But the number could be over a hundred thousand, or a few thousand, depending on how inspiring, or intimidating Saddam can be via the mass media. U.S. intelligence efforts should know how large this pro-Saddam force is, but if they do, they aren't saying. The coalition plan still involves something going on in Baghdad, but that has not been revealed yet. A brigade of paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have yet to go into action.

For four days, Marines continue to fight Saddam loyalists in the port of Umm Qasr. Not wanting to just flatten the areas where the fighting is taking place, the enemy troops are being taken one by one with Marines. British Royal Marine Commandos are moving in to finish the job. Apparently Saddam has insisted that the port remain closed as long as possible, because once the shooting stops, relief supplies will be coming in and this will not make Saddam look good. Coalition minesweepers have already cleaned out naval mines in the port. 

Two British soldiers are reported missing, along with their vehicle. Security has to be increased as Saddam's supporters get more aggressive in trying to ambush and capture coalition troops. 

Hundreds of American Special Forces are arriving in northern Iraq by air. These may help lead Kurdish fighters south as was done in Afghanistan. 

There was a three hour battle with Republican Guard units at Karbala, involving U.S. gunships and warplanes. Iraqi television showed a U.S. Apache helicopter gunship that landed intact, but the two crewmen were gone, apparently rescued.

Coalition military leaders are under tremendous pressure to deliver a constant stream of good news and optimistic pronouncements. The mass media never could understand the old military wisdom that "no plan survives contact with the enemy" and tends to exaggerate any reverse and minimize any advance. The U.S. military has been diligently studying how to deal with the media aspect of modern war since the 1980s. But these new tactics and techniques for Information War are still a work in progress.

While advancing north, U.S. troops discovered a chemical weapons plant at Najaf (160 kilometers south of Baghdad), guarded by an Iraqi general and 30 troops (who all surrendered).

While bombing of Iraqi government and military facilities continues, the national television and radio network has been left intact. This is odd, as gaining "information dominance" is usually understood to include shutting down enemy access to mass media. When American military leaders are questioned about this, they don't answer. So something interesting is up in this department, like the belief that the U.S. will soon control the Iraqi national media.




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