2004 December 22 Wednesday
22 Killed In Attack On US Base Near Mosul

A rocket and/or mortar attack hit a mess hall when it was full of soldiers and contract workers.

The dead included 20 Americans - 15 of them servicemembers and five civilian contractors. Two Iraqi soldiers also were killed. Sixty-six people were wounded, including 42 U.S. troops, Capt. Brian Lucas, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said early Wednesday.

Writing for the Washington Post Thomas E. Ricks reports on fears of soldiers who think the insurgency is becoming more sophisticated.

The adequacy of current troop numbers is one of the questions provoked by yesterday's action, said Charles McComas, a veteran Special Forces soldier who served in Afghanistan before retiring. "Do we have the right forces and enough of them to do the offensive patrolling to reduce the chances of this happening again?" he asked.

We all know the answer to that question: No! What is to be done about it? We could withdraw. Or we could build up and use overwhelming force. But use of overwhelming force (a.k.a. the Powell Doctrine - not that Colin Powell has been following it in his support of Bush's Iraq and Afghanistan policy) is inconvenient because following it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars more money than we are currently on a path to spend. Of course if someone proposed spending hundreds of billions more money Bush couldn't agree to it without admitting to a monumental miscalculation.

But a proposal for a massive military spending increase to build a larger Army for occupation is even more problematic because an obvious question would immediately arise: What amount of national security benefit (if any) would we get for, say, an extra half trillion in spending for a massive Iraq occupation force? Given that amount of money (or even a small fraction of that amount) wouldn't we gain more national security benefit by spending that money on, for example, a larger CIA, a border barrier to prevent illegals from the Middle East from crossing over from Mexico (cost of US-Mexico border barrier would be well less than $10 billion), and energy research to obsolesce the oil in the Middle East? Why spend the current $5.8 billion per month in Iraq let alone triple that amount (which is a lower bounds on what a sufficient occupation force would cost) when so many other enhancements to national security could be purchased by spending much smaller amounts of that money in other ways?

The insurgency around Mosul grew in size after US forces in the area were reduced in order to move soldiers elsewhere to plug other holes in the dike.

A private-sector security expert who recently left Baghdad after more than a year there agreed, noting that the United States originally put an entire division in the Mosul area, the 101st Airborne, but replaced it earlier this year with a force about half that size, only to see insurgent attacks increase. "We have replaced a division with a brigade and think we can offer the same amount of security," he said, insisting on anonymity because his opinions are so at odds with the official U.S. government view.

Note when you read an article like the Washington Post article I'm excerpting the military people who are saying there aren't enough troops in Iraq are almost invariably retired. Free from the need to follow the official Bush Administration line they will speak their minds and tell the truth. But even some of them hesitate to hurt their prospects for consulting contracts and so remain anonymous.

Update: A single suicide bomber carried out the attack.

Investigators believe a suicide bomber penetrated security at a U.S. military base in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and detonated an explosive Tuesday that killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. service members, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday.

Curious fact: the Ansar Al-Sunna group that carried out this attack is primarily made up of Kurds.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 December 22 01:05 AM  Mideast Iraq

Invisible Scientist said at December 22, 2004 3:31 AM:

1) Without US intervention, both Iraq and Saudi Arabia will be controlled by Al Qaeda (ultimately.)
2) At that precise moment, Pakistan would also incur the same fate.
3) If 1) and 2) happen, then the new emergin United States of Islam (U.S.I.) will become militarily strong
enough to challenge Europe, both militarily and territorially, because they will have the technology.
4) 3) is likely to happen in 15 years.

My question is this: If the full prognosis above is correct, then HOW can the US survive the coming worldwide
tension? What long term policy is the best for the survival of the USA?

Derek Copold said at December 22, 2004 8:25 AM:

Half of your first contention is, to put it mildly, doubtful. Al Qaeda is an extremist Sunni group. Iraq is a majority Shiite nation, and the Sunni minority is further divided between Kurds, Turkmen and secular Arabs. The Salafists are, at most, 10-15% of the population. Right now, they're able to give us hell because we've provided them with an enemy the whole country can hate. If we were to leave, the most likely result would be a Shiite power supported by Iran.

Saudi Arabia is a more questionable case, but there's nothing to suggest that if it goes to Al Qaeda, Pakistan will immediately follow. Between Saudi and Pakistan is a huge Shiite presence. Thus the best thing for us to do is to go and let them do what comes naturally: kill each other.

gcochran said at December 22, 2004 8:40 AM:

Actually, over the last few centuries, they've put a lot less energy into killing each other than Europeans have. Be fair. Anyhow, sure, why would anyone expect Al-Qaeda types to take over Iraq? Most implausible. I doubt if they account for as much as 10-15% of the Arab Sunnis. You can be a Moslem furious at US occupation without wanting to look for trouble everwhere on earth, without wanting to ban popular songs on the radio.
And they're not a vanguard party or anything: not very organized.

Lurker said at December 22, 2004 10:09 AM:

The best long-term policy for the US is to get it's own house in order. Get the deficit and national debt under control, control the borders and stop illegal immigration, develop a real and plan for petroleum alternatives and make it a higher priority than space exploration (give private industry billion dollar prize incentives to come up with realistic options), get out of Iraq as soon as possible and make resolving the Israel/Palestine issue the number one foreign policy priority.

I seriously doubt that any of this is going to happen in this administration. In fact it will probably get worse. Apparently it is more important to make sure gay people don't get married.

TangoMan said at December 22, 2004 5:34 PM:

A major US contractor has pulled out of Iraq because of major security costs. When the guys who are there for profits, see no profits, then the writing is on the wall. Also the article notes that President Bush is distraught that these events are happening at the worse time. Can you imagine that our President actually expects our enemies to abide by our timetable. Of course they're working at cross purposes. Didn't the President and his advisors plan on this? Oh yeah, never mind, I momentarily forgot who I was writing about.

Stephen said at December 22, 2004 6:11 PM:

My eye keeps going back to Iran as the key stabilising force in the region in the medium to long term. It has all the ingredients needed to promote a sizeable middle class - good literacy levels, a reasonably broad based economy, a resilient political system, they've already been through the growing pains of revolution and they've got the elan that comes from standing alone while fighting off an Iraqi invasion that was directly supported by some western powers (not naming names...).

A resurgent and middle-class Iran would be a regional superpower with a turf to protect - so they will want to encourage regional stability, they will want to encourage trade, they will prefer diplomacy to war, they will do everything they can to make sure that no one else in the region gets their hands on some nukes... Add in Iran's useful geographic position and I think its got a 'bright' middle-class future.

Stephen said at December 22, 2004 6:28 PM:

So, are we talking about a domino theory (but this time applied to religion rather than politics)?

I agree that Saudi Arabia will likely go theocratic. Saudi society is quite fragile and if the royal family "has a skiing accident", there's going to be a huge vacuum left that will be filled by the religious types.

As for Pakistan, I'm less worried. I agree that there is a noisy element fighting for a theocratic state, but on the whole I think they are fighting a rear-guard action against the majority of the population who want to be more 'western'.

Donald O said at December 23, 2004 2:12 PM:

Iran has been trying to have the best of both worlds and so has Pakistan. They each are striving to be armed to the teeth so they can 1 day be equivalent of the USSR vs the USA in the 'cold war'[and it might not be so cold] and they want western aid[it will never be enough to pay off these creeps] in becoming modern and all at the same time as being faithful to their putrid religion [which should have become dust hundreds of years ago - but has been tolerated, due to monarchies acknowledging their own corruption etc etc] and not producing anything useful that the world actually needs. The best solution in Iraq is to draw up 3 newly recognized autonomous states and admit the map the Brits created 70-80 years ago was hastily done and won't work anymore.

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