As rumours of their deaths were reported on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya satellite television channels, joyful firing of rifles came from all points of the horizon. The cacophony was such as has not been heard since the closing days of the war in early April, when similar tracer fire sped across the same skyline as US forces fought their way through Baghdad.
The attack that killed Qusay and Uday Hussein could set off an immediate wave of retribution attacks, officials said, but the deaths should also embolden more Iraqis to come forward with critical information to energize the American military's antiguerrilla operations.
Fortunately the US military is already working to get better knowledge of the Baathists who are coordinating the opposition to the US occupation.
"You get a tip, you pull a couple of guys in, they start to talk," a Central Command official said. Then, based on that information, he said, "you do a raid, you confiscate some documents, you start building the tree" of contacts and "you start doing signals intercepts. And then you're into the network."
"The people are now coming to us with information," Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, told Abizaid in a briefing this week at Odierno's headquarters in Tikrit, Saddam's home town. "Every time we do an operation, more people come in."
The US forces have shifted their emphasis away from interrogating top Baathists and toward going after the small fry. There are many lower level Baathists with useful information and US forces are now targetting them for interrogation and offers of money in exchange for information. The threat of being shipped to Guantanomo is proving to be an effective way to get lower level Baathists to talk.
Update: How well the US does in Iraq in stopping the on-going attacks and in creating a better government there depends very heavily on what the Iraqi people decide about the war and about the US occupation. A highly pertinent poll of people of Baghdad has just been released. The British polling organization YouGov polled people in Baghdad about the war and its aftermath.
What, though, do the people of Baghdad think of the Americans today, three months after they occupied their city? More people feel friendly (26 per cent) than hostile (18 per cent), but fully 50 per cent feel ‘neither friendly nor hostile’. GIs might feel relieved to learn that only 9 per cent of Baghdadians say they are ‘very hostile’ — but this small percentage amounts to about 250,000 adults. It would take only a tiny proportion of these to be armed, angry and willing to act to make life a continuing misery for the occupying forces.
The poll was conducted at 20 locations across Baghdad, with YouGov driving around to monitor progress. Some were by face-to-face interview, some by supervised self-completion. Watching the people of Baghdad set out their views was exhilarating; but the exhilaration jostled with fear. We heard gunfire or explosions nearly every hour. At one point a machine-gun was lifted in the air and several rounds fired off — which can mean a signal to fellow-terrorists that Westerners are in the area. We disappeared. Occasionally our interviewers were threatened, in one case with a gun.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 July 23 01:32 AM Mideast Iraq|