I honestly have no idea of the veracity of this dissenting report about what happened in Samarra. In fact, while it circulates the idea that Iraqi police may have tipped off the insurgents/bandits who attacked the currency convoy, I seem to recall that Times reporter Dexter Filkins mentioned on the Lehrer hour last night that this currency delivery (to a local bank?) was scheduled exactly one month after the previous delivery, which had also been attacked.
It’s no proof of an inside job if ambushers simply assumed that there’d be another beginning-of-the-month delivery. For that matter, why couldn’t they lie in wait a few days if the schedule were more irregular?
The real dispute is between the Army spokesman’s assertion that returning fire was disciplined and adhered to rules of engagement that aim to minimize civilian casualties and the locals who claim that the American soldiers responded indiscriminately, spreading mayhem and killing more locals than insurgents.
Naturally, I have no way of knowing the truth. I was inclined to believe the adamant declarations of the coalition spokesman. The account linked above describes a response that may have crossed the line, or – worse yet, really – may have been well within guidelines but nonetheless rained destruction on bystanders.
Consider this extended quotation from the article,
Since we [are] armored troops and we are not trained to use counter-insurgency tactics; the logic is to respond to attacks using our superior firepower to kill the rebel insurgents. This is done in many cases knowing that there are people inside these buildings or cars who may not be connected to the insurgents.
The belief in superior firepower as a counter-insurgency tactic is then extended down to the average Iraqi, with the hope that the Iraqis will not support the guerillas and turn them in to coalition forces, knowing we will blow the hell out of their homes or towns if they don’t. Of course in too many cases, if the insurgents bait us and goad us into leveling buildings and homes, the people inside will then hate us (even if they did not before) and we have created more recruits for the guerillas.
The Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Colonel Frederick Rudesheim, said after this battle that “We are going to continue to take the fight to this enemy. This is the most significant contact we have had to date in the city of Samarra. We are going to have to respond accordingly.”
This is a great attitude for a combat commander to have when fighting an armored force on force, but Colonel Rudesheim is not trained in Counter-Insurgency and my soldiers are taking the heat. We drive around in convoys, blast the hell out of the area, break down doors and search buildings; but the guerillas continue to attacks us. It does not take a George Patton to see we are using the wrong tactics against these people. We cannot realistically expect that Stability and Support Operations will defeat this insurgency.
As one would expect from using our overwhelming firepower, much of Samarra is fairly well shot up. The tanks and brads rolled over parked cars and fired up buildings where we believed the enemy was. This must be expected considering the field of vision is limited in an armored vehicle and while the crews are protected, they also will use recon by fire to suppress the enemy. Not all the people in this town were hostile, but we did see many people firing from rooftops or alleys that looked like average civilians, not the Fedayeen reported in the press. I even saw Iraqi people throwing stones at us, I told my soldiers to hold their fire unless they could indentify a real weapon, but I still can’t understand why somebody would throw a stone at a tank, in the middle of a firefight.
Since we did not stick around to find out, I am very concerned in the coming days we will find we killed many civilians as well as Iraqi irregular fighters. I would feel great if all the people we killed were all enemy guerrillas, but I can’t say that. We are probably turning many Iraqi against us and I am afraid instead of climbing out of the hole, we are digging ourselves in deeper.
What this all reminds me of is the Russians in Chechnya. When we took Baghdad so quickly and easily, the Russians were reportedly furious that they’re own siege of Grozny, followed by building-to-building streetfighting was such a bloodbath in comparison.
However, we now seem to be stuck fighting guerillas with this overwhelming firepower, and it’s hard to see how the citizens in the middle aren’t going to be savaged by it all. Morally, it is reprehensible that insurgents would attack from inhabited positions and hide among civilians. It is a familair terror tactic, and it is abhorrent. Nonetheless, the moral nuances tend to be lost on people who see an occupying force wreaking havoc in their midst.