The New York Times reports on Iraqi officers who are threatening and shooting soldiers (and very likely their families) to get the soldiers to fight.
But the Iraqi private with a bullet wound in the back of his head suggested something unusually grim. Up and down the 200-mile stretch of desert where the American and British forces have advanced, one Iraqi prisoner after another has told captors a similar tale: that many Iraqi soldiers were fighting at gunpoint, threatened with death by tough loyalists of President Saddam Hussein.
British commander Air Marshall Brian Burridge made a similar point in his press conference on Thursday morning. The problems this creates are especially apparent in the siege of Basra. A big challenge for allied forces is to find ways to reduce the ability of the regime's loyalists to coerce the bulk of the Iraqi soldiers to fight. Allied forces outside a city like Basra face mostly unenthusiastic Iraqi soldiers who would be happy to surrender. But those soldiers are in a populated city with Baath Party loyalists and officers who are preventing them from leaving the city. The Baath Party loyalists who are policing the behavior of the soldiers are harder to identify by looking into the city because many of them are not even wearing uniforms. The regime's loyalists can move around safely in a city to maintain control of the soldiers in the city because the loyalists look like civilians. Invading the city would cause to many civilian and allied military casualties.
Burridge says the British are going to continue to conduct fast raids into Basra aimed at hitting leadership and other key targets. This could take a while. From a military standpoint there is no need to rush. But from a humanitarian standpoint there is. A city's residents especially need water. Can Baghdad's water supply be maintained under the conditions of a prolonged siege? Could medicines be airdropped in if the airdrops were made with small enough packets that were widely enough distributed that some of them would make it into the hands of civilians?
The biggest challenge of this war appears to be the regime's use of urban populations as shields.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 March 26 11:58 PM Military War, Rumours Of War|