Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
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Some Perspective On The Samarra Firefight

Faithful reader Diane and I were wondering yesterday about the conflicting accounts of Sunday's big firefight/ambush in Samarra. Juan Cole has been puzzled as well, and received a note about the incident:

Military historian Tom Collier, a former Green Beret, sent me the following and permitted me to share it here with the proviso that I noted that it is pure speculation.

"I think there's something fishy about the several firefights reported at Samarra in yesterday's and today's news. Do you see anything unusual about it? All that follows is just speculation based on suspicions.
The official account includes an enemy body count for the first time since when? Vietnam? Some oddities: -- the body count shifted from 46 to 54 dead, w/o explanation. Are we back to kiting body counts? Are we back to "If it's dead and it's gook, it's VC"?
How many of the dead were actually civilians, and how do we tell the difference?...How come no civilians were reported killed or wounded in firefights outside downtown banks?...only 6 friendlies were wounded, which is not surprising for an armored forces, and the official account makes clear that their wounds were "not life threatening." Meaning what?
Rubble and bodies were strewn around the scene according to the official account, but no reporters actually saw the bodies.
One of the cable channels called it "a massive American offensive," which brings to mind the Meuse-Argonne or maybe the Normandy breakout & pursuit. One of these days we may find out what really happened. Don't count on it.

So it's not just us--other people think something's rotten in Samarra.


[Update: one of Hack's sources provides some interesting info on the incident:

Hack, most of the casualties were civilians, not insurgents or criminals as being reported. During the ambushes the tanks, brads and armored HUMVEES hosed down houses, buildings, and cars while using reflexive fire against the attackers. One of the precepts of "Iron Hammer" is to use an Iron Fist when dealing with the insurgents. As the division spokesman is telling the press, we are responding with overwhelming firepower and are taking the fight to the enemy. The response to these well coordinated ambushes was as a one would expect. The convoy continued to move, shooting at ANY target that appeared to be a threat. RPG fire from a house, the tank destroys the house with main gun fire and hoses the area down with 7.62 and 50cal MG fire. Rifle fire from an alley, the brads fire up the alley and fire up the surrounding buildings with 7.62mm and 25mm HE rounds. This was actually a rolling firefight through the entire town.
As one would expect from using our overwhelming firepower, much of Samarra is fairly well shot up. The tanks and brads rolled over parked cars and fired up buildings where we believed the enemy was. This must be expected considering the field of vision is limited in an armored vehicle and while the crews are protected, they also will use recon by fire to suppress the enemy. Not all the people in this town were hostile, but we did see many people firing from rooftops or alleys that looked like average civilians, not the Feddayeen reported in the press. I even saw Iraqi people throwing stones at us, I told my soldiers to hold their fire unless they could indentfy a real weapon, but I still can't understand why somebody would throw a stone at a tank, in the middle of a firefight.

Since we did not stick around to find out, I am very concerned in the coming days we will find we killed many civilians as well as Iraqi irregular fighters. I would feel great if all the people we killed were all enemy guerrillas, but I can't say that. We are probably turning many Iraqi against us and I am afraid instead of climbing out of the hole, we are digging ourselves in deeper.

(via Atrios)

Take with the proverbial grain of salt again, but this seems to buttress the skepticism many of us share.]

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