T Nation

Attacks Against U.S. in Mosul

Interesting perspective on the media coverage:

December 21, 2004
Attack on the Dining Hall in Mosul

First, want to read the real story of what happened today? You won’t get it from any of the national outlets. You need to go to a regional paper, the same one given copyright for the stills everyone is using: the Richmond Times Dispatch. ( http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031779796661 )

What do I keep arguing? That embedding produces quality reporting, and the only outlets interested in embed slots are the regionals who view it as part of their responsibilities to the communities they serve to cover local units when those units deploy.

Well it just so happened that the 276th Engineer Batallion of the Virginia National Guard is Richmond based, and they were eating in that particular chow hall. And so despite the fact that every outlet was reporting that Mosul was the next big story of the war, the Richmond Times Dispatch got this story, while the Times, the Post, the networks, the cable outlets, are all left buying the stills and trying to interview this reporter by cell phone.

Second, let me note that this week has seen a shift in the criteria by which the press is judging the war’s progress (and this incident is not the beginning of this shift, but it certainly does feed into it.)

I’ve been waiting and waiting, and I still haven’t seen it reported that in his major press conference last week, the commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq, General Casey, said:

[Begin press conference excerpt] Q: General Casey, if you – if indeed, as you say, the terrorists and insurgents have lost the ability to operate with impunity, they’ve lost their safe havens, then how do you explain the fact that they continue to take such a toll, to be so effective against the Multinational Forces?

And what – a second question – what, if anything, will the Multinational Force be doing differently between now and January 30th to improve the situation and instill confidence in the Iraqi people that they can safely go to the polls and vote.

GEN. CASEY: To be clear, I said that they could operate with impunity inside the safe haven. They are clearly operating elsewhere around Iraq.

Now these levels of violence since Fallujah have dropped dramatically. And they are actually now down at the levels prior to Ramadan and really right where – back where we were at transfer of sovereignty. So the levels of violence have come way down.

I do not – they are not necessarily operating effectively against coalition forces. In fact, when we look back, the numbers of attacks don’t necessarily produce a very high volume of casualties. In fact, a lot of the attacks are in fact ineffective against coalition forces. They are frankly more successful against civilians and in some cases against Iraqi security forces. (My emph.) [End press conference excerpt]

Casey is talking about both the success of the attacks (their ability to produce casualties) and the level of violence, that is the number of attacks, which recall had been the measure just a short time ago, back when media reports were filled with the fact that there were over a hundred attacks every such and so time period.

Remember that?

Now we aren’t hearing about the level of violence anymore, and we certainly aren’t hearing that the asault on Fallujah might have had a positive affect on the level of violence: if anything, what we’re hearing is that since it was the assault on Fallujah that dispersed the enemy, it was that effort that might be responsible for what’s happening now (with no consideration for whether or not they are more or less effective without a genuine safe haven.)

The lead article in yesterday’s Times made note not only of how many were killed in two horrific attacks, but of where that placed the day in the record book:

[Begin NYT excerpt] Taken together, the attacks represented the second-worst daily civilian death toll from insurgent mayhem in Iraq since the American military occupation transferred formal sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government nearly six months ago. [End NYT excerpt]

By the same token, every outlet I saw tonight, noted that today’s mess hall attack was the worst since two helicopters collided, which was in turn the worst since a helicopter had been shot down, making it all about rank order of bad days, not number of attacks anymore, but number of casualties per attack, while only Fox noted that if, as the military thinks likely, this was a mortar round, this was a ballistic weapon, a one-off, with rounds constantly being lobbed at the American facilities, and this being a once in a lifetime bad luck shot hitting something that counted.

Taking this, and other things, to levels of absurdity, CBS noted that the mess tent was, like many temporary structures used by the military in the area, soft sided, despite the fact that it was known for some time that mortar shells had been aiming at American troops and that if such a shell had hit a soft sided structure the result would be disaster. (I’m sorry the story in question isn’t on the web yet, because I can barely believe this myself.)

Why, CBS’s National Security correspondent asks ominously, were soldiers allowed “to congregate in such a vulnerable location?” Everyone knew such shelters were too flimsy to withstand a direct hit. It was only a matter of time. Indirect fire was a well-known threat. Yet a sturdier concrete building is still not ready.

This is presented as if it is some kind of enormous breech of trust and responsibility towards American personnel. One can only wonder what CBS will ever do if they actually get a look at the conditions America’s fighting forces are actually asked to endure in order to, uh, you know, fight. Why, on the march to Baghdad, they were right out in the open air and everything.

The idea that it is we who need to protect the poor, vulnerable, abused military is starting to get a little out of control here. I don’t want to sound glib, but the whole reason that war is so horrible is that you cannot protect people from the fact that when they go out to fight to defend us and our interests, the other side will generally want to fight back. The only thing we can really do about that is permit them to fight back and win, but on the way to winning that fight – we cannot make our forces invulnerable. That does not, I’m sorry, mean that our government is negligent in the particulars.

I’m not saying that there are not instances where governments are not or have not been negligent. But the mere fact that American soldiers in a combat zone have been in a structure that was temporary, and therefore susceptible to attack seems to me to be suggesting that putting soldiers into a combat zone was negligent. Not this combat zone, mind you. This isn’t an argument about whether or not we should be in Iraq. This is an argument that putting soldiers into a setting where they could be fired upon without sufficient protection to be invulnerable was negligent.

Well, how do you build up those invulnerable structures? You fight your way to them, take the territory, build the structures.

You kind of see the problem with the logic here?

Increasingly there is, in a variety of ways, the suggestion being made that it is war itself that is the war crime.

Relatedly, here is another post taking a look at those attacks and the tactics employed by the terrorists:


Wednesday, December 22, 2004
The Lidless Eye

Most everyone on the blogosphere has probably followed the Glenn Reynolds link to a Mosul chaplain’s blog. ( http://chaplain.blogspot.com/2004/12/mascal.html ) More than 20 people, including US military and civilian personnel, were killed in a mortar attack on a base mess tent in Mosul ( http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000087&sid=a1Cbvlw132dM&refer=top_world_news ). Chaplain Lewis was at the site. His narrative of the followup attack on the wounded and the medical personnel who responded stood out.

[Begin Mosul blog excerpt] Regardless of what some may say, these are not stupid people. Any attack with casualties will naturally mean that eventually a very large number of care givers will be concentrated in one location. They took full advantage of that. In the middle of the mayhem the first mortar round hit about 100 to 200 meters away. Everyone started shouting to get the wounded into the hospital which is solid concrete and much safer than being in the open. Soon, the next mortar hit quite a bit closer than the first as they "walked" their rounds toward their intended target...us. Everyone began to rush toward the building. I stood at the door shoving as many people inside as I could. Just before heading in myself, the last one hit directly on top of the hospital. I was standing next to the building so was shielded from any flying shrapnel. In fact, the building, being built as a bunker took the hit with little effect. However, I couldn't have been more than 10 to 15 meters from the point of impact and brother did I feel the shock. That'll wake you up! I rushed inside to find doctors and nurses draped over patients, others on the floor or under something. I ducked low and quickly moved as far inside as I could. After a few tense moments people began to move around again and the business of patching bodies and healing minds continued in earnest. [End Mosul blog excerpt]

This suggests that the target was under observation so either the first firing team, or a second enemy mortar team tasked with a followup attack could adjust their fire until they hit the hospital. It will be interesting to see whether the enemy fire originated from a populated area, preventing counterbattery. Many American bases are routinely patrolled by RPVs that run a circuit around possible firing positions. Mortar or rocket positions in the open would be easily detected. But there is no data and it would be useless to speculate on what actually happened. However, it is safe to say that the attack demonstrates assymetrical warfare in action. The enemy chose the weakest point he could find to attack; exploited the known limitations of the American response; and understood that he was to all intents and purposes exempted from the condemnation attendant to attacking the wounded and medical personnel. The chaplain and the medical personnel knew this and did not mill around expecting the Geneva Convention to protect them from those who have never heard of it, except as it applies to their own convenience. They knew the true face of the enemy; a face which bore no resemblance to the heroic countenance often presented by the media to the world.

Of the first three factors, the advantage of choosing the weakest point of attack has been a combatant’s right from time immemorial. That is a purely military condition. But the enemy ability to exploit the limits of American response and attack medical personnel with public relations impunity are examples of military advantages that arise from political restraints. To the extent the blogosphere can dispel the propaganda cover willingly provided by the Left, people on the home front can help the soldiers in the field. It is necessary to link the war criminal behavior of the enemy with the studied blindness of ‘sophisticates’ towards their most heinous crimes. They are twinned; with the former made possible by the latter. The Daily Telegraph describes how some European agencies actually refuse to look at mass grave sites to avoid being party to the punishment of war criminals.

[Begin Telegraph excerpt] Lack of European experts has held up the excavation of mass graves in Iraq, according to an American human rights lawyer working on the investigation. Greg Kehoe said the experts were not joining in because evidence might be used to sentence Saddam Hussein to death. ...

Capital punishment is not permitted within the European Union which discourages its use elsewhere. EU countries also routinely refuse to extradite people to the United States and other countries unless they receive guarantees that detainees will not be executed. The Iraqi Special Tribunal has identified a further nine mass graves to be examined for evidence of the former Saddam regime's crimes against humanity. Human rights groups estimate that 300,000 people were killed. Mr Kehoe, who spent five years investigating mass graves in Bosnia for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said he wanted to have collected far more evidence by now, and cited the delay as one reason why the IST has yet to issue formal charges against Saddam and 11 other former regime leaders. [End Telegraph excerpt]

Enemy mortar teams lying in wait to attack doctors are one aspect of a coin which features the blind eye of some media and ‘progressive’ institutions on the other. Mark Glaser observed that:


[Begin Glaser excerpt] For way too long, it has been the mainstream media (MSM) that's played God with the American public, telling everyone what's news and what's not, what to play up and what to downplay. But 2004 was the year the power started shifting, that the Little People, if you will, started to tell the gods of media what the public really wanted. [End Glaser excerpt]

They can start by looking at the mass casualty station in Mosul and then glancing down at their hands.

spin spin spin

[quote]vroom wrote:
spin spin spin[/quote]

Precisely, but probably not the way you meant it.

It’s a good thing the US is taking out Saddam’s WMDs that could have resulted in mushroom clouds… whoops… actually… there were no WMD’s…

It’s a good thing Iraq was behind 9/11 … whoops… actually… Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11…

It’s a good thing the US is in Iraq to finally getting rid of the militant Islamics… whoops… wait a minute… Saddam brought the hammer down on the Islamics…

I know, I know! Saddam and Osama were buddies! They’re practically from the same neighborhood! They both have facial hair! oh crap… they hated each other…

Why are Americans getting blown to shit again?

It sucks!

Militarily it will happen from time to time but it still sucks.

Garrison duty can be tough. You feel safe. In a War Zone you never are, however.

No doubt in my mind that it was an inside job.


That seems to be what the military is indicating – initially they were reporting rocket or mortar, but now they are investigating.

U.S. Military Probes the Cause
Of Deadly Blast at Mosul Base

Associated Press
December 22, 2004 8:53 a.m.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The U.S. military launched an investigation into the cause of a devastating blast in a mess tent at a base in northern Iraq that killed 22 people and injured 72 in one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. troops since the start of the war.

Initial reports said that a 122 mm rocket ripping through the ceiling of a tent, spraying shrapnel as U.S. soldiers sat down to lunch Tuesday in their Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, some 360 kilometers (225 miles) north of Baghdad.

But, a radical Sunni Muslim group, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, which claimed responsibility for the attack, said it was a “martyrdom operation” – a reference to a suicide bomber – that targeted the mess hall.

“We are still investigating what caused the explosion,” Capt. Dorren Luke, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said Wednesday.

The dead included 18 Americans – 14 service members and four U.S. civilian contractors – and four Iraqis, the U.S. military command in Baghdad said Wednesday. Of the 72 wounded, 51 are U.S. military personnel and the remainder are American civilians, Iraqi troops, and other foreigners.

At the military hospital near Mosul airfield, doctors and orderlies treated dozens of soldiers for burns, shrapnel wounds and damage to their eyes.

“This is the worst we have seen in the 11 months since we have been here,” said Master Sgt. David Scott, chief ward master for the hospital.

It was the latest in a week of deadly strikes across Iraq that highlighted the growing power of the insurgents in the run-up to the Jan. 30 national elections.

Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, was relatively peaceful in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime last year. But rebel attacks in the largely Sunni area have increased dramatically in the past year – particularly since the U.S.-led military offensive in November to retake Fallujah from the militants.

Early Wednesday, U.S. troops blocked the five bridges over the Tigris River that link Mosul’s western and eastern sectors. As warplanes flew overhead, U.S. soldiers could be seen conducting sweeps through the eastern neighborhoods of Muthanna, Wahda and Hadabaa. In a sign of the simmering tensions, most schools in the city were closed and few cars and people could be seen on the streets. Even traffic policemen weren’t at major intersections as usual.

There was little sympathy for the dead Americans on Mosul’s streets Wednesday. “In fact, what has happened in Mosul yesterday is something expected,” said Sattar Jabbar. “When occupiers come to any country [they] find resistance. And this is within Iraqi resistance.”

“I prefer that American troops leave the country and go out of cities so that Iraq will be safer and we run its affairs,” said Jamal Mahmoud, a trade union official. “I wish that 2,000 U.S. soldiers were killed not 20.”

Mortar attacks on U.S. bases, particularly on the huge white tents that serve as dining halls, have been frequent in Iraq for more than a year. Just last month, a mortar attack on a Mosul base killed two troops with Task Force Olympia, the reinforced brigade responsible for security in much of northern Iraq.

The Ansar al-Sunnah Army, which claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blast, is believed to be a fundamentalist group that wants to turn Iraq into an Islamic state like Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime. The Sunni group claimed responsibility for the execution of 12 Nepalese hostages and other recent attacks in Mosul.

Mosul was the scene of the deadliest single incident so far for U.S. troops in Iraq. On Nov. 15, 2003, two Black Hawk helicopters collided over the city, killing 17 soldiers and injuring five.

Copyright ? 2004 Associated Press

If anyone would like to help the families of those killed in this attack as well as other military families who have recently lost a soldier…go to this website:

It is run by a war widow who lost her husband. She has 5 kids. This incredible person helps others and her kids do too. I checked it out. She is very legit. Fox checked her out and so did the Marines before they started to support her. It is financed by donations only. Good people behind this.

Help if you can. They probably need some extra cash around this time of year more then most of us do.

It feels good to give to charity so pony up if you can and have a mind too!!