Bombing and Blasting While Cutting and Running
'Operation Iron Hammer' Aims to Keep Lid on Resistance Until After Election   
by Bill Berkowitz
December 4, 2003

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I haven't seen any reports on how many civilian casualties may be caused by the United States' latest bomb-fest in Iraq, but I'm guessing that this mini "shock and awe" campaign -- also known as Operation Iron Hammer -- will not pass without dozens of innocents becoming "collateral damage." In the short run, Operation Iron Hammer may boost the morale of US troops, level a few buildings -- adding to the reconstruction costs -- and route a few resisters. In the long run, however, it may suffer the law of unintended consequences, driving thousands of young Iraqis to take action against the occupation.

There's been lots of talk in the past few months about "cutting and running." As near as I can tell, according to the Bush Administration, if you're a "cutter and runner" you really, in your heart of hearts, supported and continue to support Saddam Hussein. The Bush Administration would never "cut and run" -- or would they?

In a November 4 speech before a group of small business owners and community leaders in Alabama, the president made his position clear: "The enemy in Iraq believes America will run. That's why they're willing to kill innocent civilians, relief workers, coalition troops. America will never run."

Conservative congressman J,D, Hayworth recently wrote a piece for The National Review titled "Year of the Horse: We can't cut and run from Iraq," arguing that "cutting and running is exactly what got us into this mess in [Iraq] in the first place."

Not too long ago, during one of those interminable cable television talking head collisions where no one gets to speak for more than 30 consecutive seconds, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was talking about the failures of the Bush Administration's strategy in occupied Iraq. Conservative congressman David Drier (R-CA) quickly broke in to ask Krugman if thought the US should "cut and run." Of course not, said Krugman. I'm glad to hear that, Dreier shot back.

Now, in one of the more cynical twists to the entire cockamamie Iraq saga, the Bush Administration has decided that come June 2004, it will turn over authority in Iraq to a provisional government. No constitution will be in place; no elections will have been held; the resistance will still be resisting. After June 2004, the U.S. -- especially the military -- will remain in Iraq as "invited guests."

In effect, the Bush Administration is "cutting and running."

Bombing and Blasting

"We also placed emphasis throughout this operation on countering the rocket and mortar attackers that had some success against us in the previous weeks in the Green Zone. And I think you'll see that we've made some progress in that regard."
-- Gen. Martin Dempsey, Press Briefing, November 20, 2003.

"Insurgents deploying rocket-launcher-equipped donkey carts attacked symbolically important and well-fortified buildings in Baghdad Friday, just hours after a top U.S. commander proclaimed progress in the military's newly aggressive high-tech counter-insurgency operation."
-- Washington Post, "Rockets Hit 2 Baghdad Hotels, Oil Ministry," November 21, 2003

"When they shoot those rockets, I can assure you, they have very little idea where they're going."
-- Gen. Martin Dempsey, Press Briefing, November 20, 2003

"The rockets hit simultaneously from opposite sides of the hotels, suggesting a degree of sophistication in the planning of the attack. The rockets that hit the Palestine Hotel, where this reporter was staying, struck on the 15th and 16th floors, where rooms are mostly occupied by reporters and Westerners working for companies involved in reconstruction efforts across Iraq."
-- New York Times, "Rockets Hit 2 Baghdad Hotels, Oil Ministry," November 21, 2003

(Thanks to Billmon for compiling the quotes -- http://billmon.org/)

The administration's "cutting and running" is accompanied by more U.S. bombing and blasting, our response to the growing casualties and continued chaos in Iraq. Recent reports indicate that some Iraqi towns and cities are being bombed fairly regularly, while others are locked down.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on November 19, Matthew Kaminski pointed out that a day after a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down a U.S. battalion "raided homes looking for suspects and razed three buildings, while overhead U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs."

"Frustrated by casualties," Kaminski writes, "the U.S... .stepped up combat operations against Saddam loyalists and foreign terrorists blamed for the attacks on coalition forces." But despite the increased military show of force, also evidenced by a parade of the US military machine through the streets of Tikrit -- Saddam Hussein's home town -- "the real challenge for the military is how to tailor tactics and assets designed for big wars to a complex postconflict peacekeeping and counterinsurgency mission."

"We're not going to win this fight by conducting raids and seizing people," Brig. Gen. Marc Barbero, the assistant commander of the Fourth ID, which controls the Sunni triangle north of Baghdad, told Kaminski. According to L. Paul Bremer, the head of the US occupation, the attacks could get even worse than they've been over the past few months.

On November 19, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. Air Force had "used some of the largest weapons in its inventory [a pair of 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs] to attack targets in central Iraq [near Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad] in an escalating crackdown on suspected guerrilla strongholds." Near Kirkuk, in the northern part of Iraq, "fighter-bombers dropped 1,000-pound bombs on ''terrorist targets,'' a military official said.

AP: "In recent days, U.S. forces have used heavy artillery, battle tanks, attack helicopters, F-16 fighter-bombers and AC-130 gunships to pound targets throughout central Iraq, including Tikrit, Baqouba and Fallujah."

Operation Iron Hammer is designed to strike at guerrilla bases and forces "before they strike." It also appears to be designed to strike a blow against the eroding support amongst the public at home. According to a recent USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll, "A thin majority of Americans still believe the situation in Iraq was worth going to war, but most are unconvinced that the war has made the United States safer from terrorist attacks." And Time Magazine has 44% of Americans believing that the War in Iraq was "worth the costs" and 50% saying it wasn't worth it.

The name's the thing - It may be time to bring a few new wordsmiths to the Pentagon: "Operation Iron Hammer," the code name of the latest operation in Iraq, has evidently been used before -- by the Nazis during WW II. Reuters pointed out that "'Eisenhammer,' the German for 'iron hammer,' was a Luftwaffe code name for a plan (never carried out) to destroy Soviet generating plants in the Moscow and Gorky areas in 1943, according to Universal Lexikon on the www.infobitte.de Web site."

As the administration begins to roll out its first salvo of campaign advertisements trumpeting a message that it -- and not its Democratic critics -- is committed to fighting the war against terrorism, ask yourself if this country and the world is safer than it was three years ago. And ask whether al Qaeda, the president's first and leading target when the war against terrorism began after 9/11, is now a defeated organization. Or is it a potent entity and influence, which, according to a recent UN report, may now possess portable surface-to-air missiles and may use them to target military transport planes.

While al Qaeda may not currently have "the capacity to attack the World [Trade Center] towers as they did on the 11th of September, 2001," said Heraldo Munoz, the Chilean ambassador to the U.N. and head of the sanctions committee United Nations' al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee which produced the report, "they do have the capacity to hit a synagogue in Istanbul, or to hit a hotel in Bali, or in Jakarta, as we have seen."

According to Munoz, al Qaeda would continue to function in a decentralized manner, "with 30 or 40 organizations throughout the world and they will be focusing on what they call soft targets, not the hard targets."

Over the past few years, al Qaeda has "franchised their organization's brand of synchronized, devastating violence to homegrown terrorist groups across the world, posing a formidable new challenge to counterterrorism forces," the Washington Post's Douglas Farah and Peter Finn recently reported: "The recent attacks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Iraq show that the smaller organizations, most of whose leaders were trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, have fanned out, imbued with radical ideology and the means to create or revitalize local terrorist groups. They also are expanding the horizons of groups that had focused on regional issues."

And in the "timing is everything" category, Web blogger Billmon posed this question before the GOP ad launch: "Does anyone else find it significant that the Republicans are getting ready to air their first commercial touting Bush as the maximum anti-terrorist warrior -- in the same week that Al Qaeda launched one of its most spectacular attacks since 9/11?"

Last week, rockets fired from donkey carts slammed into Iraq's Oil Ministry and two hotels in what IrishExaminer.com characterized as "brazen coordinated strikes at Baghdad's most heavily protected civilian sites." Over the past weekend, suicide bombers attacked police stations in Khan Bani Saad and nearby Baqouba, and a plane flown by the Belgium-based delivery company DHL by a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile was hit by a SAM-7 surface-to-air missile and forced to make an emergency landing at Baghdad International Airport.

U.S. casualties now stand at 433, with 75 dead since the beginning of November.


Osama bin who? -- The capture of Osama bin Laden is no longer important, says General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to the General, "He (bin Laden) has taken himself out of the picture."

Troops to stay indefinitely -- Despite ramped up efforts to quick-train Iraqis to get in the way of resistance forces, U.S. officials are talking about maintaining a force of nearly 100,000 in Iraq until at least 2006.

Shape of bombs to come -- Reuters reported that an MC-130E Combat Talon I dropped a 21,700-pound satellite-guided GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, or MOAB, "the most powerful conventional bomb in the U.S." on a Florida test range on November 21. The 11-ton "mother of all bombs" was first tested in early March in order "to be available for use... in the Iraq war, but commanders opted not to use it." The MOAB is aimed at succeeding BLU-82, the 15,000-pound "Daisy Cutter."

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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