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Where Again

That four were killed in Iraq is, at this point, a bit of a dog-bites-man kind of thing. That four were killed in the Green Zone, however, is something people should take note of. The issue is not that US forces are about to be forcibly dislodged from their compound in Baghdad. Rather, the incident tells us something important about the semantics of counterinsurgency. Falluja was, for a while, "a safe haven" for the insurgency. Other areas, by contrast, are "under government control." Obviously, there's a certain fuzziness to these categories. But the Green Zone is, almost by definition, all the way at the other extreme from safe haven. And yet, four employees of a British security firm can be killed at 15 others wounded in a mortar attack there. These are the sort of conditions we're talking about creating in places after we win battles there.

November 26, 2004 | Permalink


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Tracked on Oct 7, 2005 2:14:03 PM


Some things are just so obvious that everyone should be able to understand them. The need for us to leave Iraq to the Iraqis is one of those things. We were not invited there. We are not welcome there. And, our motives for staying there are extremely suspect. Sometimes you do things for which you cannot atone, and our invasion was one of those things. It is like killing your neighbor - you really can't "fix" that by trying to pay for your neighbor's wife's groceries and rent.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Nov 26, 2004 1:22:19 PM

I don't think that Matthew understands what a "mortar attack" is.

See, Matthew, the mortar can be launched from outside the Green Zone, and it lands inside the Green Zone. Because the Green Zone is large, the will often not hit close enough to people to kill them. This time, unluckily, it did.

But this tells us EXACTLY ZERO about the "sort of conditions" inside the Green Zone, other than that the conditions inside the Green Zone don't include a magical shield preventing mortars launched from outside the Green Zone from landing inside the Green Zone.

Really, this is quite an idiotic post.

Posted by: Al | Nov 26, 2004 1:45:19 PM

Look, Stalker Al strikes again!

Posted by: Al | Nov 26, 2004 1:49:34 PM

The post has nothing to do with mortar attacks or the level of security inside the Green Zone; it's about how clever and superior Matthew and his amen chorus who comment here are. They are quite insulated, you see, and Al's sporadic verbal mortar attacks really don't do much damage, or shake their confidence.

Posted by: Deuce | Nov 26, 2004 2:22:29 PM

As Al said, it is quite normal in Iraq that mortar rounds fall from the sky. If that would happen, say, around Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington nobody would notice. But in Iraq it suddenly is a problem. Can't you find something ZERiOus to complain about? Stupid lefties!

Posted by: Alice | Nov 26, 2004 2:47:32 PM

oh yeah brownshirts, defenders of the faith.
your naked and your empire is goofy.
go shop at walmart or something so you wont hurt yourselves.

the empire is dysfunctional, like your illegal war.

i hope you enjoyed the feast of the genocide.

left or right, your empire is twitiching in its twilight time.

Posted by: twinkle twinkle | Nov 26, 2004 3:26:32 PM

Don't they have to call it the Yellow Zone now?

Posted by: WeSaferThemHealthier | Nov 26, 2004 3:30:31 PM

the effective range of most mortar systems is around 1000yrds al. WHAT MATT'S POST TELLS US ABOUT CONDITIONS IN THE GREEN ZONE IS THAT THEY ARE VULNERABLE TO THE SHODDY SECURITY CONDITIONS SO PREVALENT A FEW FOOTBALL FIELDS OUT OF THE IMMEDIATE GREEN ZONE. few would suggest that baghdad is in the grips of the insurgency as of right now, but they still seem to possess a degree of coordinative sophistication and capability which should make you think twice about the general security condidtion in baghdad.

tall order, i know

Posted by: ak | Nov 26, 2004 4:03:41 PM

Idle speculation, but besides the possiblilty of a lucky hit there is also the possibilty that the insurgents had good intelligence. They also might have greater skill, better targeting experience.

In close to two years, I don't remember another Green Zone attack so effective.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 26, 2004 4:19:12 PM

Iraq is never going to be secure.

Posted by: Dave | Nov 26, 2004 4:23:46 PM

the effective range of most mortar systems is around 1000yrds

If this is true, then it probably means that those poor Gurkhas who got themselves killed had really cheap seats in the Green Zone. Because the 'zone' is quite large and more valuable liberators of Anglo-Saxon ancestry are probably safely located far away from the perimeter.

Just a hunch.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 26, 2004 4:40:57 PM

the effective range of most mortar systems is around 1000yrds al.


The lightweight US M224 (60mm) has a range of 2+ miles (~3500m). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M224

The medium weight US M252 (82mm) has a range of 3+ miles (5600m). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M252

I don't know what type of mortars are typically used by insurgents, but it certainly seems that the insurgents could be at least a mile -- and probably more -- outside the Green Zone and still hit targets inside the Green Zone.

Posted by: Al | Nov 26, 2004 4:59:36 PM

I really have to take my hats off to the trolls here. They've once again managed to shift the discussion from the basic point (our most ultra-secure area in Iraq apparently isn't terribly secure, despite all the shock & awe applied to the dead-enders in Falluja) to an irrelevant argument about mortar ranges.

Posted by: jimBOB | Nov 26, 2004 6:07:44 PM

our most ultra-secure area in Iraq apparently isn't terribly secure

Isn't that a bit of a point?

I mean, there's an insurgency that has lots of mortars. By definition, anywhere within a couple of miles of where an insurgent can go will not be "terribly secure".

I mean, it's like seeing a story about a Volvo driver getting killed in a car accident, and then writing: "The Volvo is the safest car we're creating. And this is what happens even when we drive a safe car." As if that would have any meaning.

Yeah, you may get killed even inside the relatively safe areas in Iraq, because that's what an insurgency with mortars can do. So?

Posted by: Al | Nov 26, 2004 6:22:43 PM

To me what defines a troll is not incivility, dishonesty, or even stupidity, but swamping and/or derailing threads. I don't know why people put up with it, but they do. Almost every thread spent argiong with Al would have been a more intelligent thread if Al hadn't been on it.

Posted by: John Emerson | Nov 26, 2004 6:24:38 PM

i disagree. I welcome the discourse, and al seems to provide a more substantive dissention than the avg troll.

that said, the effective range for any (barring our new badass extended range models) mortar is approx. half the extreme range al listed. noting the horrific consequences of this particular attack, we can assume they were within a firing range close enough to allow them to somewhat train their fire. in addition, i assume the insurgents are using a lightweight soviet systems, further decreasing the possible range.

Posted by: ak | Nov 26, 2004 6:49:17 PM

"Yeah, you may get killed even inside the relatively safe areas in Iraq, because that's what an insurgency with mortars can do. So?"

i'd argue that what that means is that the security situation in iraq--fomented by political and cultural blunder after blunder, paired with the overall impossibility of our current project--is pretty awful.

not to worry, a free, stable, democratic iraq is only now 6 mos further away.

Posted by: ak | Nov 26, 2004 6:54:43 PM

i'd argue that what that means is that the security situation in iraq--fomented by political and cultural blunder after blunder, paired with the overall impossibility of our current project--is pretty awful.

Well, I'd argue that the security situation in Iraq wasn't created by our "blunders", but rather was the Saddamite plan all along in the event of an invasion. That much seems more than obvious now. I am not, of course, saying that everything we've done since the invasion has been correct. Nonetheless, I think that the only thing that would have made an important difference would have been to never have invaded at all. And, frankly, I think the consequences of having done that would have been far worse than what we have now.

Posted by: Al | Nov 26, 2004 7:11:04 PM

i feel our failure to anticipate and/or compensate for the uttterly crippling and destabilizing affects of the "saddamite plan" represents a fairly concrete blunder.
the confidence with which the war was planned and prosecuting virtually guaranteed our current predicament--unilateral assumption of our own god-awful mess.

Posted by: ak | Nov 26, 2004 8:44:32 PM

Six weeks ago a bomb was found and defused inside the Green Zone. Five weeks ago ten people were killed by two suicide bombers inside the Green Zone. I wonder from how far away the two guys were launched? Logic dictates they would not have been able to otherwise penetrate an area that neocons say is secure.

I'm sure there is a google result that addresses this.

And to address an issue from the "former regime elements" thread; I wonder how many suicide bombers are wealthy former members of the Ba'ath Party, as Gen. Myers suggests? Because we all know how rich, secular individuals are eager to off themselves.

Posted by: Windhorse | Nov 26, 2004 9:47:18 PM

Matt seems like such a decent guy on C-Span but every time I come to his site he seems to be living with a severe case of piles or something. Why the sour disposition 23 hours a day? I think your focusing on the negative all the time is what keeps people like me (the Perot/McCain/Swartzenegger faction) voting GOP every national election, even when we think the guy doesn't deserve reelection. If just once you would demonstrate that you want to love your country more than you want to hate Bush I think you'd take a big step forward. Yes the Green Zone is not safe, yes Bush is an incompetent president, yes you did not think Iraqi's freedom was worth fighting for, yes you thought Clinton's ineffectual slaps on the back of the head were a better way to deal with terror. We know all that -- but the fact is we have elections scheduled there in 2 months, then we can get out. If you would try to voice your criticism a little more thoughtfully you might make some headway, but I think you like being the alienated and superior intellectual more than you would part of a winning coalition/party/movement.

Posted by: topcat | Nov 26, 2004 9:52:12 PM

"yes you did not think Iraqi's freedom was worth fighting for"

Funny, as I reread the State of the Union address that it was Iraq's disarmament and the cessation of their threat to us that we were fighting for. Paragraph after frightening paragraph listing huge amounts of terrible munitions and weapons that were never found.

You can say that the problem in talking about Iraq is the intellectual isolation and superiority of progressives, but is it not also the unwillingness of your group to admit that you have been dishonest about your real motives for going to war? And if you weren't, then why haven't you taken the president to task? The stated justification was a weapons threat and ties to al-Qaeda but the ulterior motive was apparently that you think we get to topple other regimes any time we want, no matter what the consequences to the populace? Maybe it's because THAT discussion wasn't had prior to the war that the left is still stuck on it. And maybe because it was never the intent of the Founding Fathers to create a country that would arbitrarily use military might to topple other governments at will that some of us are having a bit of a time with it. I know the idea of toppling dictators sounds great, makes you feel patriotic and good inside, and is an idea that no one is against in theory. The reality, however, is that it is serious business, not undertaken for the wrong reasons, and certainly not without a plan as it was done here. Why? Because the innocent end up being victims, regions are often destabilized, and blowback is all but inevitable.

George Washington's farewell address warns against exactly the dynamics that brought us to this war; foreign entanglement, favored nation status, and grudges toward other countries based on past hostilities. He was wise and prescient enough to understand that these behaviors would cloud the minds of a nation or its leaders and lead it into unnecessary suffering. I highly recommend it as an insight into our current situation by someone who shaped the very spirit and vision for this country.

Maybe upon reading it Matt's sour comments will make more sense.

Posted by: Windhorse | Nov 26, 2004 11:30:11 PM

Al writes: Nonetheless, I think that the only thing that would have made an important difference would have been to never have invaded at all. And, frankly, I think the consequences of having done that would have been far worse than what we have now.

And what would those consequences have been, Al? Saddam might have sold some "weapons of mass destruction program-related activities" to the non-existent Al Qaeda in his country?

You true believers crack me up. You simply refuse to compare the real world cost and increased insecurity brought by the war with the fantasy reasons sold to you by the administration.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Nov 27, 2004 12:40:09 PM

Since the war was an election stunt, the "far worse consequences" he has in mind are probably Democratic incumbents.

Posted by: Roger Bigod | Nov 27, 2004 1:48:10 PM

"If just once you would demonstrate that you want to love your country"

You know, I've had it with this love your country crap. How come this ardor only shows up when there is chance to shoot something?

Think of a father who keeps 5 loaded guns around the house and 2 frothing at the mouth pit bulls in the chain-linked yard. Ask him why and he'll talk about loving and protecting his family. Yet he is content with their poor educations and lack of health insurance. He is sorta proud that the neighbors fear him. He is content to let local industry poison the water they drink and the soil the kids play in. He is not bothered when his pension is destroyed by the shenanigans at Enron. He doesn't care that his sperm count is down due to the hormones fed to cows and chickens or that his kids are sexually mature 5 yrs earlier than he was. He is content to let "values" politicians mouth platitudes to him while they take away most of his rights to legal recourse should he be hurt or illegally fired. That's some love.

Posted by: altec | Nov 27, 2004 2:28:54 PM

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