What is the mission?
Fighting in Baghdad Rages; I am Confused
by: Brandon Friedman
Wed Apr 30, 2008
Is it just me, or does anyone else think it's weird that we're now launching MLRS rockets at the people we liberated five years ago?
We went to free the oppressed Iraqi Shias from the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. We toppled him in 2003. He later died in 2006. And now we're fighting pitched battles in the streets of Sadr City with the people we went there to free. As part of the Global War on Terror.
I don't think this is helping.
Take the last two days for instance: Six American soldiers have died in Baghdad. During that time, things have been getting worse:
Dozens of fighters ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's main Shiite militia stronghold Tuesday, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun bursts as the American push into Sadr City increasingly faces pockets of close urban combat.
Five years ago, when I was part of the "push into" Baghdad, units were also facing "rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun bursts" as we faced "pockets of close urban combat." The difference though, is at the time, we were fighting to free the people who "ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's main Shiite militia stronghold" yesterday.
And now, to really add to the surreal nature of the situation, we're firing MLRS rockets into Sadr City. The AP described the MLRS strike this way:
U.S. forces struck back with 200-pound guided rockets that devastated at least three buildings in the densely packed district that serves as the Baghdad base for the powerful Mahdi Army militia.
200-pound guided rockets in a district packed densely with civilians? This is not a good COIN strategy. Not unless you're going all in. Which we're not. Instead it'll probably just kill a bunch of civilians and harden the already-spiteful population toward us.
Oh yes, look right here:
Officials at two local hospitals said about 25 people had died and several dozen were wounded -- most civilians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
Associated Press photos showed men pulling the dust-covered body of a 2-year-old boy, Ali Hussein, from the rubble of one building. :: AP Television News footage showed children running for cover behind blast walls amid gunshots. Men helped carry several blood-soaked injured people onto stretchers to a local emergency hospital. Outside the hospital, the dead were placed inside plain wooden coffins.
Remember: These are the people we came to liberate.
So here's a helpful hint: If you're not going to level Sadr City and kill off all the inhabitants, you're not going to win this way. Simply put, MLRS rockets should not be a tool in the COIN toolbox.
Sensing the same thing I was, Brian McGough, who served as an artillery NCO in Afghanistan and Iraq, sent me an email saying it was "troubling" that American forces would use "Multiple Launch Rockets in an area as densely populated as Sadr City."
No shit. Hell, why not use napalm? That'll shut'em up.
I just think we've lost sight of what we're trying to accomplish here. We're so caught up in trying to defend the Green Zone and to protect our own forces (which we have every right to do), that we've forgotten that if the mission is to defend ourselves and to lower our own casualties, the easiest way to do that is to leave.
And seriously, what is the mission?
UPDATE: After further research, I see that I may be a little off-base with my criticism of the use of the MLRS. It seems that the system was upgraded in 2006 so as to be able to fire guided rounds. This makes the newer MLRS totally different from the pre-2006 version. Use of the pre-2006 MLRS on Sadr City this week would have been unconscionable. Using the newer version is slightly better, but it doesn't change the fact that we're still rocketing the people we came to liberate five years ago. That part is still really stupid.