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The Tally Ho

Thursday, January 27, 2005

More Death

Cameron W. Barr and Karl Vick of the Washington Post write
A Marine Corps transport helicopter crashed during a sandstorm in western Iraq early Wednesday, killing 30 Marines and a sailor in the deadliest single event for U.S. forces since they invaded Iraq nearly two years ago. Four more Marines and two soldiers died in attacks, bringing to 37 the U.S. toll for the day...

...Pentagon officials warned that the Iraqi elections this Sunday would be followed by a period of political uncertainty and insurgent violence. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. John P. Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, said they expected insurgent attacks to continue after the vote.

"We have to recognize what -- how determined the people we're up against are," Rumsfeld said at a brief news conference on Capitol Hill. "So one has to expect that the level of violence will either stay where it is, or go up or down modestly during this period, as they attempt to prevent from happening that which is going to happen."

In Baghdad, Gen. George W. Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told reporters that U.S. and Iraqi forces were making gains against the insurgency, estimating that 15,000 militants had been killed or captured in the previous 12 months.

The pace of violence increased Wednesday in advance of Sunday's parliamentary elections. Insurgents attacked offices of political parties, destroyed schools that were to be used as polling places and set off bombs in several parts of the country. Eleven Iraqis died in attacks, and two insurgents died when their car bomb exploded prematurely, the Associated Press reported.

A senior U.S. diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his comments were not cleared with Washington, said that the insurgents were "getting much better at the game of intimidation" and that their ranks had grown in recent months.

"There probably are more of them," the diplomat said. "The number of attacks would suggest there's somewhat more, but not a lot more."

The diplomat said the election would serve as a test of the insurgents' capacity since they have repeatedly vowed to disrupt the balloting. "If they had any more to give, in terms of volume, they'd give it now."

Two things stick out to me. One giving an insurgent death count as a way to justify US policy in Iraq. This number, 15,000, seems rather irrelevant as 15k may or may not have been killed, but how to do you measure all the new insurgents that US policy and this violence has created? Every time I see death count numbers I think of Vietnam era where every night news programs would broadcast the enemy death count - whether is nonsense or not. On one public radio show guest I heard described it as a type of Darwinism - that the weak insurgents had been killed and that is why the attacks are becoming more sophisticated and bold. Second, insurgent is a broad term used to describe all of the violence, despite that are more than one group opposed to the US - and even said to be loosely related.
In the deadliest attack Wednesday targeting the election, a suicide bomber detonated a fuel tanker at the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, killing five people and injuring at least 20, party officials told the Associated Press.


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