Thursday, June 19, 2003

Guerrilla war in Iraq

Can you recognise the enemy's face?Let's not beat around the bush. The United States is involved in a guerilla war in the Sunni areas of Iraq. Since May 1, American soldiers have fallen to guerilla attacks on almost a daily basis, and more than 50 have been killed. A large proportion of these deaths have been the result of sniper attacks, especially in Baghdad. Even kevlar chest plates and helmets haven't saved American soldiers from Iraqi sharpshooters.

When the war was raging, everyone here was glued to their TVs, and nobody wanted to talk about anything other than the war. The sovereignty of an Arab state was at stake, and everyone was rooting for the Iraqi people to repel the foreign invaders, Saddam or no Saddam. When it suddenly became apparent that some sort of treason had occured and Baghdad fell without a fight, it was like somebody in the family had committed suicide, and any discussion of the subject became taboo. Seriously, within 24 hours nobody wanted to hear about Iraq. Kind of like a collective shame or guilt.

With these daily reports of American casualties at the hands of the Iraqi resistance, there is renewed interest in the news, and people are talking. Just as during the war, opinions differ wildly, with some folks predicting a swift American victory at one end, and others saying that the Americans will run from Iraq in a Vietnam-style defeat. I am still wating to see what will happen, after all it's still not clear whether these guerillas are following a strategy laid out by Saddam's government before the war, or if they appeared independantly from among an angry population, or if they are under a central command (as opposed to being a disorganised network of resistance cells).

If the US Command is going to fight the Iraqi resistance, it's going to have to identify its command and control structure, figure out how it supplies and how it connects to the population. With none of this information at hand, the Americans will be swinging in the dark, while taking fire.