Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

April 4, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

BASRA UPDATE....So how did the Iraqi security forces do in their battle against the Mahdi Army in Basra? Al-Zaman reported earlier this week that "thousands" of police officers and "at least two army regiments" had either defected or refused to fight, but I've seen no other confirmation of that until today. Here's the Washington Post:

A senior official in Iraq's Defense Ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss military operations publicly, said Iraqi troops were overwhelmed by the second day of fighting.

....The official said he estimated that 30 percent of the Iraqi troops abandoned the fight before a cease-fire was reached. He also said that soldiers had been hindered by ammunition and food shortages and that some Iraqi police troops, who were supposed to be backing the Iraqi army, had actually supported the militias.

...."If the British and American forces were not there, the Mahdi Army would have gained a victory," he said.

That would put the number of nonperforming troops at about 4,000. Now here's the New York Times:

A senior American military official said that he understood that 1,000 to 1,500 Iraqi forces had deserted or underperformed....Three officials said that among those who had been relieved of duty for refusing to fight were Col. Rahim Jabbar and Lt. Col. Shakir Khalaf, the commander and deputy commander of an entire brigade affiliated with the Interior Ministry.

And this from CNN: "A closely held U.S. military intelligence analysis of the fighting showed that Iraqi security forces controlled less than a quarter of the city [of Basra], according to U.S. officials in the United States and Iraq. They said Basra's police units were deeply infiltrated by members of al-Sadr's Mehdi Army."

So anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 troops refused to fight — and if I had to guess, I'd say that the real number is closer to the high end than the low — and by the time fighting was over the army controlled only a quarter of Basra. Not a good sign.

In related news, Muqtada al-Sadr is calling for a million-man march in Najaf to protest the American occupation; Maliki is apparently set to break the truce negotiated last weekend already; and the Sunni tribes are pissed off that Maliki is hiring 10,000 new security forces from local tribes even though he's been telling them for months that no more slots are available.

And the good news? Well, things are relatively calm for the moment and the Iraqi army, though bloodied, is still intact. Take that for what it's worth if you're the optimistic type.

Kevin Drum 1:37 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (48)

Bookmark and Share

March Freedom! March!

Posted by: gregor on April 4, 2008 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

A defining moment, eh George?

Posted by: JC on April 4, 2008 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly, the next six months are critical.

Posted by: Scott Forbes on April 4, 2008 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

JC gets at the point i'm interested in: even by george bush's standards, the degree to which his comments bore (and bear) no resemblance to reality about the recent unpleasantness is stunning.

and what i wonder about is: does bush know this or not? has anyone told him? can he hear it if they do?

long ago and far away, another texas president at a more or less comparable moment finally acknowledged the truth. whatever lbj's flaws, bush is a pipsqueak in comparison: is he even capable of acknowledging the truth?

Posted by: howard on April 4, 2008 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

is he even capable of acknowledging the truth?

not to the likes of ye and me. Taxes may be for the little people but truth and acknowledgement are not.

Posted by: snicker-snack on April 4, 2008 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, so several thousand "soldiers" and police defected. That seems to be acknowledged by all sides now. But what of the rest of those stalwart freedom fighters? You'd have to think there was a lot pray and spray shooting at masonry going on to use up all their ammunition in whatever dreary suburb of Basra attracted their attention and then got them trapped. Presumably they have all gone home now, possibly on foot. Not much value for all that money spent on training and leftover Soviet-era smallarms from Victor Bout and friends. These guys have no stomach for killing their fellow citizens. I can empathize with that.

Posted by: anon on April 4, 2008 at 3:01 AM | PERMALINK

And just the other day, Bill Roggio was declaring Maliki the victor in Basra because by his count Sadr lost 2% of his nationwide estimated strength there (estimated by Roggio, that is). But with Mahdi militiamen captured in the fighting being released that percentage falls substantially, they make up about 40% of that figure. The Mahdi Army lost about 3% of its strength in Basra to Govt. forces but gained more than that in detainees released from other areas too.

Govt. forces lost ten times that just to desertions, apparently - and presumably there were casualties on top of that. An entire third of a division is about 1% of Maliki's entire national security force lost to an action against a militia - the top 1% at that. The 14th Division was regarded as one of the best. Ouch.

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig on April 4, 2008 at 6:17 AM | PERMALINK

This negative assessment completely ignores the positive side... if you take the McCain perspective.

The British troops, in their 'hundred year' deployment, took no troop losses. Errrrr.... this is a positive side--- isn't it?

Posted by: Cybersophist on April 4, 2008 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK

So, will Patraeus testify next week that the surge worked?

Posted by: tomeck on April 4, 2008 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted.]

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Maliki is hiring 10,000 new security forces from local tribes"

You mean 10,000 from the Badr Brigade - The Chimp just doesn't want to know so why tell him!

Posted by: blowback on April 4, 2008 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

"He also said that soldiers had been hindered by ammunition and food shortages........"
Hold on. The Iraqi army was in over their heads by day two and it is supposedly attributable in part to food shortages? What a bunch of pansy asses. There have been entire armies throughout history conducting or withstanding great battles and long sieges, living for days and weeks on end on little but ditch water and rat bones. WTF? The Iraqi army petered out by day two due to food shortages? Did any regiments surrender because they missed their nap time?

Posted by: steve duncan on April 4, 2008 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Why can't a Democrat (Obama or Clinton or some other party leader) pick up Bush's "defining moment" phrase and run with it? Because it really was a defining moment; it told us that we've made very little progress in the last several years.

On January 21, 2009 someone (probably Obama or Clinton) is going to inherit a terrible mess in Iraq. If the President is a Democrat, the Republican noise machine will immediately start blaming them for everything that happens.

Even if this news isn't used in the campaign against McCain (as I think it should be), at least the Democrats have to say loud and clear that Iraq is and will remain Bush's problem, and that the next President's first job will be repairing Bush's damage.

Probably the big Democrats think that everyone understands that, but most people don't. You have to have a simple slogan, and you have to repeat it several times a day for the next ten months.

Among the worthless things about the Democrats is their complete inability to think even two months beyond the next election. Democrats are always getting surprised by disasters that everyone else could see coming far down the road.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 4, 2008 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Kabookey, if you need to piss yourself in your teror (as all good conservatives must) do so in private.

Posted by: CN on April 4, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Hilarious post by Steve Duncan. This clearly is a strategic disaster and it defies understanding how it could have happened, particularly at this crucuial time right before the upcoming testimony. The only winners I can see? Barack Obama. And Iran, of course, who are the biggest beneficiaries of the entire Iraq debacle.

Posted by: Pat on April 4, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

[trolling deleted]

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

[trolling deleted]

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Maliki appears to be backing down on his promise to have more raids:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a nationwide freeze on raids against suspected Shiite militiamen.
The announcement comes one day after Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr hinted at retaliation if the arrests of his followers did not stop. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia fought government troops in Basra and Baghdad last week.
Posted by: PaulB on April 4, 2008 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

"Because it really was a defining moment; it told us that we've made very little progress in the last several years."

Not to mention that "the Surge" instead of being teh Awesome is instead mostly a failure, just as we've been saying. And that Sadr (and Iran) controls events in Iraq far more than we do.

Posted by: PaulB on April 4, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

"CN, sounds like you ladies are the ones getting yourselves in a lather over any success."

Dear heart, do let us know when there is any "success" in Iraq, won't you? Unlike you, we actually look at the whole picture.

"I know the left only sees clouds even in a clear sky."

ROFL.... And your rose-colored goggles only see reality. Riiiiiight....

"You can't help it, you hate America."

ROFLMAO.... Man, you've got every cliche in the book memorized, don't you?

"Don't wet your pants when you lose."

See you in November, dear.

Posted by: PaulB on April 4, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

"Simply pulling troops is not the answer"

Then what is the answer, dear? Because Bush and McCain certainly don't have it.

"and if O or Hill get in and do that, the chickens will come home to roost!!!"

What "chickens" are those, dear? And where will they be "roost[ing]"?

Posted by: PaulB on April 4, 2008 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

You can't help it, you hate America.

Sorry Kooky, but what we hate are the fascist fucks and their enablers like yourself that are pretty fucking far from America. In fact you and your authoritarian ilk are actually the opposite of what America is.

So clean that piss of yourself, quit fearing the nonexistent DFHs under your bed, get your head out of your ass and join this thing we have called reality.

Or don't. What you don't seem to grok is that you and your kind have no more credibility anymore.

Posted by: SnarkyShark on April 4, 2008 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted]

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, it's almost as if we had Charlie back.

Posted by: the on April 4, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

"I guess you believe as he does that the government infected blacks with the aids virus."

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 10:13 AM

Nah, nothing as nefarious and deplorable as that has ever occurred.......


Posted by: steve duncan on April 4, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Kabookey, that's some seriously fragile masculinity you've got going on. Geez.

Posted by: you ladies on April 4, 2008 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Or this:

Cincinnati radiation experiments
Cancer patients (mostly Negroes of below-average intelligence who were charity patients) during 1960-72 in Cincinnati were exposed to large doses of whole body radiation as part of an experiment sponsored by the U.S. military. None of the subjects gave informed consent, they thought they were receiving treatment for their cancer. Subjects experienced nausea and vomiting from acute radiation sickness, pain from burns on their bodies, and some died prematurely as result of radiation exposure.

In re Cincinnati Radiation Litigation, 874 F.Supp. 796 (S.D.Ohio 1995)

On 5 May 1999, a settlement was announced in which the defendants paid US$ 5.4×106, but defendants admitted no wrongdoing.

Posted by: steve duncan on April 4, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

As Kabookey so *charmingly* illustrates, the remaining Bushoviks have gone completely off the deep end.

The local papers are reporting all this with a straight face. Maliki is going to 'restore order' and 'strike at militias in Baghdad'.

Well, so much for that rule-the-world project.

Posted by: serial catowner on April 4, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted]

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

serial catowner beats me to the point: i was wondering whether there were any dead-enders left and as kabookey shows us, there are. time and again, people like kabookey remind me of keynes remark that people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.

Posted by: howard on April 4, 2008 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

It's important to consider the context of what's happening in Basra, specifically in terms of the nature of the "Iraqi security forces" that are fighting JAM there.

A couple of commenters above note that the "Iraqi security forces" fighting in Basra, and specifically the 14th Division, are southern Shiites, many of them former Badr Corps, or sympathetic to Badr, or sympathetic to the Mahdi Army. The fact that there were hundreds or thousands of desertions should not be surprising.

However, even Kevin writes that "Maliki is hiring 10,000 new security forces from local tribes," without noting that the 10,000 local tribesters are essentially being inducted directly from the Badr Corps (blowback notes this above).

So we're backing an Iranian-trained and Iranian-backed militia (the "Iraqi security forces," heavily infiltrated by Badr) in its fight with a militia that is less closely tied to Iran, but our sworn enemy.

And this makes sense precisely how?

Posted by: JM on April 4, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Kabookey: Fire off some more and foul mouth words, it only proves your grade level there miss.

Ahem. Whose grade level? Welcome to America. Now learn the English language, please. Then, take you medication.

(But I suspect we're in the presence of parody so lame as to make us nostalgic for the golden age of egbert.)

Posted by: nurse ratched on April 4, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

from swimming freestyle:

"The U.S., up to this point, has viewed Iraq through a prism of it's own objectives, ignoring an Iraqi perspective: When will our involvement end? How do we define "victory"? It would not be in U.S. strategic interests to set withdrawal dates. Should we have a long term presence in Iraq? How do we stem Iranian influence in Iraq?

Following next week's march, the Bush Administration could find itself caught between it's own high minded proclamations about the Iraqi people's quest for democracy and an unmistakable expression of Iraqi democracy: an Iraqi call for U.S. forces to get out of Iraq."


Posted by: Jay McDonough on April 4, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted]

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Kipling calls out McCain on his war lust


Take up the White Man's burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—

Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;

To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.


Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Ninevah and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet.
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

Posted by: Craig Johnson/ cognitorex on April 4, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

...Maliki is hiring 10,000 new security forces from local tribes even though he's been telling them [the Sunni] for months that no more slots are available.

The country is in full Balkanization mode now. The only thing that could possibly reverse this is a legitimate central government that isn't propped up by us. We've delayed this reckoning too long. Ironically, the best scenario would be for Sadr to win big in the October elections, they tell us to leave pronto, and we comply.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on April 4, 2008 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

It's spelled Kabuki, moron.

Which branch of the service did you serve in, and which war? Just askin.'

Posted by: thersites on April 4, 2008 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

serial catowner: Well, so much for that rule-the-world project.

I forget where I read or heard this, but someone remarked at the start of this adventure that trying to rule the world when you don't understand it is, perhaps, not a great idea.

Posted by: thersites on April 4, 2008 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted]

Posted by: Kabookey on April 4, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Come on now "guys" kabookey couldn't serve in the military yet because its not old enough.

And kakookey your answer about serving in the military is what?

Posted by: Gandalf on April 4, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

So everyone that has not done a tour in a military zone needs to be quite now

No, but you don't have to be quiet but you might think twice about referring to others as ladies.

And perhaps learn to spel gud.

Posted by: thersites on April 4, 2008 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

you might think twice about referring to others as ladies.

Unless they're babes, of course. ;-)

Posted by: thersites the blackguard on April 4, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Al-Sadr is the Ghandi or Nelson Mandella of his colonized country.

Posted by: Luther on April 4, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Sadr is the muslim equivalent of our George Washington. He fights for his countries independence from America and it's corporations.

Posted by: como odendin on April 5, 2008 at 5:42 AM | PERMALINK

Found this site on Angry Bear pretty good reporting from Iraq republic of;


Posted by: neo on April 5, 2008 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Barry McCaffrey seems to think the Iraqi Army did

Posted by: Everett on April 5, 2008 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Despite a spate of early grim assessments of Basra in the U.S. media, U.S. military observers on the ground in Iraq are more sanguine, says McCaffrey, who has long been a critic of the war. Yes, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia has held on to its weapons and much of its turf. But Iraqi forces appear to be largely in control of the city and its ports, and Basra is still mostly calm. Even more important, the Iraqi security forces have remained mostly intact. Rather than bolting or deserting in droves, as happened so many times in the past, only in relatively small numbers did some Iraqis desert to the other side, McCaffrey told me. That's a big step forward. "On balance it appears as if the Iraqi security forces for the first time stepped up, largely independently of the United States, and tried to establish law and order in the most important city in the country save Baghdad," says McCaffrey, who recently canvassed top U.S. military commanders in Iraq.


Posted by: on April 7, 2008 at 3:39 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly