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Conflict with Iraq

Battle Lines
Tom Brown
Tom Brown
Battle Lines is an ongoing Web log (blog) dedicated to providing a broad perspective on the latest news and developments from the war in Iraq. Response and suggestions are welcomed.

Tom Brown has been an editor, reporter and software analyst for The Seattle Times for 20 years.

April 01, 2003

“We’re prepared to pay a very high price"

And it looks like we may.

Considering the level of combat in Iraq, coalition casualties have been quite low (though not, needless to say, to the families of the dead and wounded). At this writing, there are 73 coalition deaths, seven prisoners of war and 19 missing in action. The POWs and MIAs are all U.S. soldiers.

So far, civilian casualties also are low by the standards of most wars, though they’re a source of mounting outrage in the Arab world. According to Iraq Body Count, a site run primarily by academics, civilian deaths caused by coalition activities number somewhere between 478 and 586. The site regularly updates its counts and maintains a viewable database of incidents in which civilians were killed. There is no way of knowing how many Iraqi civilians have been killed by their own government since the conflict began.

I have not seen a good estimate of Iraqi military casualties, but they could number in the thousands by now, given the number of sharp ground engagements and constant pounding by U.S. planes. Another 4,000 or so are POWs.

Judging by the ferocity of the fighting in every city coalition troops have entered, it looks like the ante is about to be raised exponentially.

U.S. Central Command appears to be trying to lay the groundwork for high U.S. casualties if widespread urban warfare in Baghdad is needed to bring down Saddam Hussein.

“We’re prepared to pay a very high price,” an unidentified senior official at Central Command told several reporters. “If that means there will be a lot of casualties, there will be a lot of casualties.”

Maybe so. But very high prices have led to great public discontent (which Saddam is relying on), especially when the necessity for war has been inadequately explained, as prewar polls appeared to indicate.

So the worst, it seems, is indeed yet to come. And not just on the battlefield.

A tribute to the fallen

The Spokane Spokesman-Review's blog has a touching slideshow of photos of U.S. dead and missing. You can access it from the right-hand column of the page. It is beginning to take a discouraging number of mouse clicks to get through it, though.

It apparently was an American missile that hit that Baghdad market

The U.S. military says it’s still investigating the explosion in which left about 60 dead at a market in a Baghdad residential neighborhood Friday. But based on a piece of wreckage found at the scene, Australian blogger Tim Blair makes a good case that it was an American HARM missile that caused the damage.

HARM missiles are used by the U.S. to attack Iraqi radar sites. The Aussie analysis observes that these missiles are designed to throw off a lot of shrapnel to damage the radars they’re aimed at. Shrapnel was responsible for most of the casualties Friday.

There have been numerous reports of Iraq moving mobile radars and other equipment into civilian neighborhoods, so we may not have seen the last of these incidents.

Why some Iraqis wanted the war

Surely, one of the more unusual personal odysseys of the conflict is that of Ken Joseph Jr., a pastor in the Assyrian Christian church, who I mentioned briefly in a previous posting. Joseph went to Baghdad before the war to be a human shield. He returned convinced that Saddam Hussein had to be ousted, even at the price of war. Joseph tells his story on the church web site, where his biographical information also is posted. The site also offers videotapes of interviews with Iraqis who told him why they wanted war.

Update: Many of the human shields who went to Iraq are still there, hoping to protect Iraqi infrastructure sites from coalition bombing. This morning, Iraq's information minister claimed U.S. planes had bombed two busloads of shields yesterday. The shields' official website, however, says nothing about this but does report that members of another group, Iraqi Peace Team, were injured in a traffic accident yesterday. It also carries other news about the shields' activities.

For an alternative view to that of Ken Joseph Jr., here is a report from a German who was a human shield and returned home for financial reasons. "The people don't want war," he says. "They just want to be left alone. They don't want to be liberated by Bush and Blair."

Is the new respiratory illness SARS a bio weapon that escaped the lab?

Probably not, says the blog site Bigwig, but it may be someday because it has some ideal characteristics for the purpose.

A guide to embedded reporters

The Poynter Institute has posted a map that gives popup lists of names of the news reporters and photographers assigned to various military units in Iraq. It may be helpful to military families in determining which news organizations might have firsts-hand accounts of what’s happening in their loved ones’ outfits.

Poynter’s site also does a good job of war coverage in its own right. One thing worth reading today is a discussion of Peter Arnett’s firing after he said on Iraqi TV that the U.S. military campaign had failed.

War bloggery

The Washington Post has a useful guide to war blogs (and I don’t say that just because this one is included).

I will post later this week (I hope) a broader list of blogs and other sites with something to say about the war.

War flackery

So how is the U.S. military’s public relations effort for the war playing. Not well in Arab countries, as we know. But it gets rave reviews from this site that rates PR campaigns.

Posted by tbrown at April 1, 2003 09:34 AM

Tom Brown Katherine Long, research editor at the Seattle Times and 18-year editor and reporter, substituted for Tom Brown the week of April 14.

April 2003
March 2003

Signing off
The Saddam Files
Demonstrations in Karbala
Building a government from scratch
Smoking gun?
The irony of freedom
Where are the weapons?
Cultural advisors quit over antiquities issue
Baghdad reality check


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