the dogs of war-Prabir

People’s Democracy

Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 13

March 30,

Dogs Of War


AS the war on Iraq enters 6 day, the earlier smug
complacence of the US and British military circles of a quick victory, is
evaporating. The brutal reality of war, crumbling buildings, little children
dying and American body bags — is creating a sombre mood even in the US where
war for a “regime change” had some support.

The military strategy on both sides
is unfolding. It is clear that the US-UK forces regard Baghdad and taking out of
Saddam Hussein as the only target. They are progressing on two fronts in the
south, one along Euphrates and the other along Tigris in order to envelop
Baghdad. In the north, they have landed some paratroopers for special
operations, their northern operation stalled due to their inability to secure
Turkey as base for their attacks on Iraq. The US-UK forces bypassed population
centres such as Basra, leaving some forces to sit outside these centres while
the bulk of its troops and armour proceed towards Baghdad.



the Iraqis, their strategy has been not to wage a frontal battle against
overwhelming air and technically superior forces on flat desert land. They have
allowed them to pass and then hit the supply lines with sudden attacks. The
battle in Nasiriyah in which US has suffered serious casualities including
prisoners of war came after the US forces had secured two bridges in the city
over Euphrates and thought that they were facing no resistance. The pattern is
similar to that used in Um Kasr earlier, the port town of 4,000 people one
kilometre from the border of Kuwait and now in Basra, the second largest city of

US forces had prepared their plans based on two assumptions. One was that in
southern Iraq, Saddam’s grip was weak and the people would welcome the US-UK
forces. Not only has this not happened, even the US-UK media concedes that Iraqi
population is hostile to the invasion.

second assumption was that only the elite Republican Guard Divisions, stationed
in and around Baghdad, are the only ones who would fight while the rest of the
Iraqi Army would crumble once they are isolated in pockets. It is clear that
this has not happened either, with Iraqi forces being able to maintain their
resistance in places such as Um Kasr even on the 6 day, long after the Americans
had announced its fall.

If we look at the topography of
Iraq, it will be clear that apart from the land lying between Tigris ad
Euphrates, southern Iraq consists largely of desert. Therefore, facing a far
superior military force on the desert would make little sense for the Iraqi
army. The land there provides hardly any cover and the Iraqi armour and forces
would be sitting ducks in any conflict with US-UK forces. However, the land
between Euphrates and Tigris consists of irrigation canals, and is a more
densely populated. The fight for Baghdad that is now developing to its south is
in this area and is therefore on a terrain better suited then the empty desert
of southern Iraq.

the first battle to the south of Baghdad, the US-UK forces threw in a force of
32 Apache helicopter gun-ships. These forces flew low to avoid short-range
ground to air missiles and were beaten back by very heavy anti-aircraft and
small arms fire. Not only was one helicopter gunship downed but all others took
heavy damage. The US-UK forces are now resorting to high altitude bombing as a
change of tactics to soften up the Iraqi forces.


are two other issues plaguing the US-UK forces. First is that the seven million
Ba’ath party members who have arms are not an empty threat. The repeated talk
of Fedayeen attacks means that this force is indeed active and is inflicting
damage. The second is that the decision to sit outside the population centres
hoping they will surrender is not working. Unless they are able to
“clear” these cities of Iraqi resistance, their supply lines are
stretched and open to continuous attacks. The fact that Um Kasr port is not yet
open though a stone’s throw away from Iraq means that they are also not able to
move military supplies into Iraq through Um Kasr; and have to depend largely on
the land route from Kuwait.

add to the American problems, is Turkey entering northern Iraq, an area held by
Kurdish groups.  The US regards
these Kurdish groups to be its allies in its fight against Saddam, and therefore
their insistence in the last 10 years of a no-fly zone over this part of Iraq.
Now that Turkey, which clearly does not want an independent Kurdish state to
emerge, has entered the fray with more 10,000 troops crossing into Iraq, the two
allies of the US are poised for an armed confrontation, jeopardising the US
plans in northern Iraq. The US has warned Turkey not to enter Iraq, which Turkey
has ignored using the same American argument of “pre-empire war” as
its justification to enter Iraq.

is little doubt that this is an unequal battle. On one side are the most
powerful military machine in the world, with complete air superiority, a huge
propaganda machine and almost unlimited resources. On the other, a country is
reeling under 12 years of sanctions with its 80 per cent of military capability
destroyed during and after the 91 war. It is not whether Iraq can succeed
against such an overwhelming force. The crucial question is whether Iraqi forces
can inflict enough damage and hold out long enough for the US public to realise
this is a brutal war unlike the 91 Kuwait War. In Kuwait, the Iraqi forces were
either in hostile territory or caught in the open. Here they are fighting for
their country and it is increasingly clear, have the support of their
countrymen. The road to Baghdad has not been lined with Iraqis cheering the
US-UK forces but with people who are making clear their hatred for the invaders.

week the war enters its decisive phase. With the tactics of moving on, leaving
armed cities in the rear failing, the US-UK forces are now subjecting Basra,
Nasiriya, Najaf and Baghdad to both aerial and artillery bombardment. With this,
the civilian casualties are going to mount. Already, the British forces are
trying to force their way into Basra, giving up their earlier strategy of
waiting for the Iraqi’s to surrender. And there is no way if they could not
force Um Kasr, a town of 4,000 to surrender, they can capture Baghdad without
fighting within the city. There will be bloody street battles as the US-UK
forces enter these cities including Baghdad. And with mounting US-UK casualties
and civilian deaths, the war will look a lot messier than the surgical strike
that the US had promised. Instead, the true colonial nature of the enterprise is
emerging with the US now floating tenders for “reconstruction” and
“management” of ports and facilities in Iraq for the next four years.
The US could indeed win the War in the coming weeks, but they have already lost
the peace in Iraq in the first week of this war.