Friday, December 10, 2004


Jack Kelly: Victory in Fallujah
Iraq's Iwo Jima gets scant media respect
Sunday, November 21, 2004

The rule of thumb for the last century or so has been that for a guerrilla force to remain viable, it must inflict seven casualties on the forces of the government it is fighting for each casualty it sustains, says former Canadian army officer John Thompson, managing director of the Mackenzie Institute, a think tank that studies global conflicts.

By that measure, the resistance in Iraq has had a bad week. American and Iraqi government troops have killed at least 1,200 fighters in Fallujah, and captured 1,100 more. Those numbers will grow as mop-up operations continue.

These casualties were inflicted at a cost (so far) of 56 Coalition dead (51 Americans), and just over 300 wounded, of whom about a quarter have returned to duty.

"That kill ratio would be phenomenal in any [kind of] battle, but in an urban environment, it's revolutionary," said retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, perhaps America's most respected writer on military strategy. "The rule has been that [in urban combat] the attacking force would suffer between a quarter and a third of its strength in casualties."

The victory in Fallujah was also remarkable for its speed, Peters said. Speed was necessary, he said, "because you are fighting not just the terrorists, but a hostile global media."

Fallujah ranks up there with Iwo Jima, Inchon and Hue as one of the greatest triumphs of American arms, though you'd have a hard time discerning that from what you read in the newspapers.

The swift capture of Fallujah is taxing the imagination of Arab journalists and -- sadly -- our own. How does one portray a remarkable American victory as if it were of little consequence, or even a defeat? For CNN's Walter Rodgers, camped out in front the main U.S. military hospital in Germany, you do this by emphasizing American casualties.

For The New York Times and The Washington Post, you do this by emphasizing conflict elsewhere in Iraq.

But the news organs that liken temporary terrorist success in Mosul (the police stations they overran were recaptured the next day) with what happened to the terrorists in Fallujah is false equivalence of the worst kind. If I find a quarter in the street, it doesn't make up for having lost $1,000 in a poker game the night before.

The resistance has suffered a loss of more than 2,000 combatants, out of a total force estimated by U.S. Central Command at about 5,000 (other estimates are higher) as well as its only secure base in the country. But both the Arab media and ours emphasize that the attack on Fallujah has made a lot of Arabs mad. By this logic, once we've killed all the terrorists, they'll be invincible.

"The experience of human history has been the more people you kill, the weaker they get," Thompson noted.

For the Arab and European media, the old standby is to allege American atrocities. In this they have had invaluable assistance from Kevin Sites, a free lancer working for NBC, who filmed a Marine shooting a wounded Iraqi feigning death in a mosque his squad was clearing. Al Jazeera has been showing the footage around the clock.

The mutilated body of Margaret Hassan, the aid worker kidnapped in Baghdad last month, has been discovered in Fallujah, as have torture chambers. Residents of Fallujah have been describing a reign of terror by the insurgents. But it is the Marine's alleged "war crime" that is garnering the most attention.

The Marine did the right thing. The terrorist he shot was not a prisoner, was not attempting to surrender and was not a lawful combatant under the Geneva Convention. The squad had other rooms to clear, and couldn't afford to leave an enemy in their rear. The San Jose Mercury News described how Lance Cpl. Jeramy Ailes was shot to death by an Iraqi who was "playing possum."

"It's a safety issue pure and simple," explained former Navy SEAL Matthew Heidt. "After assaulting through a target, put a security round in everybody's head."

Journalists quick to judge the Marine are more forgiving when it comes to the terrorists. "They're not bad guys, especially, just people who disagree with us," said MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

And journalists wonder why we are less popular than used car salesmen.