Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 8, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

IRAQ AND VIETNAM....Aside from an occasional reference to domestic support for the war, I've avoided any comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam. For a variety of reasons I think the comparison is a weak one, and one that's too early to make in any case.

On the other hand, this Washington Post profile of pacification efforts in the town of Thuluiya is just damn depressing. It really does sound like Vietnam:

None of the U.S. tactics in Thuluiya has worked. In June, the town was the target of a massive helicopter and tank sweep as troops raided houses in a search for Hussein sympathizers. Of more than 400 detainees netted in the raid, called Operation Peninsula Strike, two remain in custody, according to Iraqi police.

When U.S. commanders took a softer approach, funding repairs to schools and the police station and recruiting local policemen to provide security, attacks continued. A father killed a son who had informed on behalf of the Americans. Attacks on U.S. soldiers at a bridge prompted the Americans to bulldoze a swath of date palms and fruit trees along a major roadway. U.S. troops carried out sporadic raids; eight Thuluiya residents have been detained in the past two weeks, residents say.

Efforts to get Iraqis to handle security in town foundered under a wave of mistrust. The police have been all but sidelined. "The Americans don't have confidence in us," said one officer, who declined to give his name for fear of getting fired. "They think we know who is doing the attacks but are not telling them."

The officer and his comrades said U.S. commanders no longer meet with local leaders in town but invite them to their base at a large airfield north of the town. Since a wave of car bombings last month in Baghdad, no U.S. official has visited the police station, they said. "The Americans are afraid," the officer said.

You've got your local allies who don't seem especially enthused, you've got entire towns seemingly controlled by popular enemy guerrillas, you've got American troops who don't seem to know what to do and veer wildly between punitive measures and humanitarian gestures, and you've got a leadership that's now so fearful they refuse to leave the security of their bases to find out what's really going on in the field.

For some reason, weekend news always seems more discouraging to me than it does on weekdays (which is rather curious, actually). So maybe this isn't that big a deal. But it sure doesn't sound good, doesn't it?

Kevin Drum 4:06 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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