Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Certain Amount Of Collateral Damage

By Cernig

The US military in Iraq seems to be certain and uncertain about some strange things nowadays. The can be certain about Iranian meddling for which they have not or cannot provide convincing evidence, but are uncertain about civilian corpses left behind by their own actions. The Washington Post reports:
U.S. forces backed by airstrikes raided Sadr City, Baghdad's main Shiite district, killing 49 militants on Sunday as they targeted a militia leader accused in high-profile kidnappings, the military said. Iraqi officials said women and children were among the dead.

The Iraqi reports followed other recent claims of civilian deaths as a result of U.S. military action or shootings by private Western security teams protecting American diplomats and aid groups. The military said it was not know of any civilians killed.

...In Sadr City, the U.S. military said "an estimated 49 criminals" were killed in three separate engagements during a raid targeting a suspected rogue Shiite militia leader specializing in kidnapping operations for which he sought funding from Iran.

U.S. troops returned fire after coming under sustained attack from automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades from nearby buildings as they began to raid a series of buildings in the district, according to a statement, which added that some 33 militants were killed in the firefight. Ground forces then called in airstrikes, which killed some six militants.

The U.S. troops were then attacked by a roadside bomb and continued heavy fire as they left the area, killing another 10 combatants in subsequent clashes.

"All total, coalition forces estimate that 49 criminals were killed in three separate engagements during this operation. Ground forces reported they were unaware of any innocent civilians being killed as a result of this operation," the military said in the updated statement.

Iraqi police and hospital officials put the death toll at at least 13 and said a woman and three children were among the dead from the pre-dawn raid in the sprawling district. They said 52 people were injured.

Associated Press photos showed the bodies of two toddlers, one with a gouged face, swaddled in blankets on the floor of the morgue. Relatives said they were killed when helicopter gunfire hit their house as they slept. Their shirts were pulled up, exposing their abdomens. A diaper showed above the waistband of the shorts of one of the boys.

Several houses, cars and shops were damaged in the fighting, which witnesses said lasted two hours.
The BBC adds that the US military seems certain of its target:
"The operation's objective was an individual reported to be a long-time Special Groups member specialising in kidnapping operations,"
Persistent reports say much of the intelligence about Iranian involvement which lies behind the targeting of these raids comes from the MeK terrorist group - which should call it into question immediately.

To be so certain about things that should not be certain, yet uncertain about things as definite as dead bodies of toddlers is not only stupid but also flies in the face of good counterinsurgency tactics. Such incidents throw some very cold water in the face of those who claim that the Surge has been any kind of success. You can dampen down terrorist violence by throwing troops into the quagmire - but if that means that most civilian casualties are at the hands of security forces, through indiscriminate use of force, then in the long run that's counter-productive.

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