William Kulin: Alamo on the Euphrates
Alamo on the Euphrates
By William Kulin
In the strictest terms of a tactical scorecard, the body count of casualties would appear to support that claim. An estimated total of 1200 Iraqi resistance fighters were reported killed so far, while the US military admits that their own forces suffered about 50 battlefield fatalities. Rarely reported by the Pentagon is the nearly 300 severely wounded American casualties and a similar number of lightly injured. When one factors in the lack of resistance fighters' medical facilities, their willingness to die in battle, and the recently exposed manner in which US soldiers "dispatch" wounded Iraqi prisoners the casualty figures no longer appear so heavily one-sided. Nevertheless, the discrepancy in the death count also illustrates clearly the overwhelming technological superiority enjoyed by the US forces over the lightly armed resistance.
In announcing their intention to mount this fullscale operation against Falluja, the US military planners declared two major tactical objectives. The first was to either kill or capture the Jordanian born "terrorist" Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers who were believed to be holed up in the encircled enclave. The US's singular failure to apprehend the elusive al-Zarqawi has proven a major embarrassment for the US-led forces. The second stated goal of the Falluja offensive was that the US would bring to battle and destroy some 4000 to 5000 suspected Iraqi resistance fighters. It was also evident from the scale of the resistance that Zarqawi was not alone in making good his escape prior to the US attacks. Only about one third of the expected number of resistance fighters offered battle in Falluja. While the resistance put up by those remaining resistance fighters was fanatical, the Americans failed to score their hoped for knock-out punch.
Instead, the US military revealed just how overstretched and vulnerable it is in an increasingly unstable Iraq. By massing 20,000 frontline combat troops in the Falluja sector, the Americans left the remaining 120,000 "coalition" troops without a tactical reserve. As American troops pounded Falluja into rubble, the Iraqi resistance overran police stations in a number of urban centres throughout Iraq. In reporting that six police stations in Mosul had been overrun, no explanation was given as to how over 100 American-paid Iraqi police could have been "overwhelmed" without a single casualty on either side. The six heavily barricaded police facilities were occupied, looted of weaponry, munitions and flak jackets and then destroyed without interference. Such collusion between police and the Iraqi resistance was evident in a number of other cities within the Sunni triangle.