mr. zilla goes to town

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

good morning iraq

...because beheading videos are so 2004:
Shrouded in woollen ski masks in a makeshift television studio, members of one of Iraq's most ruthless militant groups debate tactics in a propaganda video aimed at gaining new recruits for the insurgency.

Insurgent group Ansar al-Sunna, which has kidnapped and killed foreigners and Iraqis, seems to have embarked on a more dynamic appeal to sell holy war -- the television studio interview. A masked man smartly dressed in a sport coat and identified as the head of the group's information section asks his guest about military strategy. The interview is interspersed with video images of young fighters firing mortars.

"Rockets are preferable in attacks on U.S. bases because they are outside cities and attacking police stations puts civilians at risk," says the interviewee, identified as a military expert from the same organisation. It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the video. But it contained images seen on many other militant discs.

The video looked like the insurgent version of breakfast television in Western countries, but with one crucial, incongruous difference -- both interviewer and interviewee conceal their faces with black woollen masks to avoid capture.

Now that's what I call embedded journalism. These guys might be a few years behind the US in media sophistication -- where current and former military personnel have been fixtures of the television pundit class since about 1990 -- but clearly they're quick learners. Still it seems that the lessons aren't all flowing in one direction in Iraq. How lucky we are that the strategists of the Axis Of Good are equally adaptive and responsive in their efforts to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, as No Quarter's Larry Johnson in Washington reports:

Had dinner last night with an old CIA buddy who has just returned from Iraq with some discouraging news. Although our troops and intelligence operatives are killing scores of insurgents (my friend estimated the kill rate at 160 enemy per each friendly) the insurgents keep coming. As Sy Hersh predicted in last month's New Yorker, the military commanders decided to shift from ground confrontations to high altitude airstrikes. According to press reports on Wednesday, for example, the United States carried out 53 strikes inside Iraq. One of these, the mistaken bombing of a civilian home north of Baghdad, was condemend by Iraqi officials.

There should be no doubt our tactics have changed. The United States is relying more on aerial bombing, most of it high altitude or stand off, rather than close air support for troops on the ground engaged in a fight. Despite the promise of "precision" bombing, aerial strikes are anything but precise. They are very lethal and very powerful. On that front, a lot of insurgents, mostly Iraqis, are dying. But a bombing campaign, short of nuclear strikes that vaporize the whole country, cannot defeat an insurgency. We do not have enough planes or pilots, not to mention bombs.

Be in no doubt that dropping bombs from 15,000 feet on urban neighbourhoods is about as discriminating as a 1940s Alabama bus. Still, willy-nilly slaughter of random innocent victims seems to be doing wonders for the jihadi insurgency, so why not learn from the best, eh? You just wonder which side is going to trot out the "we have to destroy Iraq in order to save it" line first.


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