Jeremiah 50:9

Viewing the 1769 King James Version. Click to switch to 1611 King James Version of Jeremiah 50:9

For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.

Babylon (Arabic: بابل, BabilAkkadianBābili(m); Sumerian logogram: KÁ.DINGIR.RAKI; Hebrew: בָּבֶל, Bābel; Greek: Βαβυλών, Babylōn) was an Akkadian city-state (founded in 1867 BC by an Amorite dynasty) of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al HillahBabylon ProvinceIraq, about 85 kilometers (55 mi) south of Baghdad. All that remains of the original ancient famed city of Babylon today is a mound, or tell, of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the fertile Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The city itself was built upon the Euphrates, and divided in equal parts along its left and right banks, with steep embankments to contain the river's seasonal floods.

The Fall of Saddam's Regime and Its Lessons for the Future

The war in Iraq can be divided roughly into two phases: firstly, the US invasion and war against Saddam Hussein's regime, which ended in the complete defeat of the Iraqi army and US President George W. Bush's declaration of victory ("Mission Accomplished") on 1 May 2003, and secondly, the guerrilla war against the occupation, which broke out in Falluja on that same date, and has continued gathering strength ever since. The first of the following two articles was written shortly after the first phase, which it examines in depth, and before the guerrilla struggle blossomed. A companion piece, written in January 2005, applies the lessons drawn in the first article to these later developments.-AWTW
It seemed clear to just about everyone that toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein, capturing Baghdad and establishing control over the rest of Iraq would be an undertaking of considerably greater scope and difficulty than what was essentially a drive-by shooting in Afghanistan. Although Iraq's armed forces were significantly weakened as a result of the war with the US-led imperialist coalition in 1991 and the decade of economic sanctions that followed, they were still estimated to number somewhere between 280,000 and 350,000 soldiers, with several thousand tanks and artillery pieces, as well as many thousands of rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and light mortars. Their level of armament, training, organisation and experience - including the war with Iran that lasted almost a decade and the war against the US that followed shortly thereafter - far exceeded that of the Taleban.
On the other hand, something that increased the US imperialists' confidence that they would achieve a relatively quick victory in their assault on Iraq was the fact that they had already been waging a "low-intensity" war against Iraq for years. This was a multi-faceted campaign lasting over a decade designed to weaken and if possible prompt the overthrow of the regime. Among the key elements of this effort was the economic embargo placed on Iraq. The UN took over control of Iraqi oil exports and the funds generated by the sale of that oil. With just a few exceptions Iraq was prohibited from importing any new weapons or spare parts for its existing heavy weapons systems (artillery, tanks, aircraft, etc.). This resulted in a severe degrading of Iraq's military strength. The restrictions on the import of food and medicine led to a general decline in public health and fitness, which also degraded Iraq's fighting capability.1 The US used arms inspections to carry out extensive spying operations in Iraq, allowing it to develop detailed information on Iraq's communications systems and the location of vital military facilities, etc. Finally, the US, together with the UK, carried out what was more or less a continuous bombing campaign against Iraq, purportedly to protect their planes patrolling the so-called "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq. In fact, these bombings were principally designed to degrade and even destroy Iraq's anti-aircraft defences.2
This campaign reached its high point in October 1998 when the US Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act and US President Clinton announced that it was official US policy to bring about regime change in Iraq. On 18 December 1998 the US launched "Operation Desert Fox". In a kind of dress rehearsal for the war in 2003, the US created an "inspections crisis", claiming falsely that Iraq was not co-operating with the UN inspectors. The inspectors were withdrawn and US President Clinton ordered a military strike that included the firing of 415 cruise missiles at targets in Iraq, 90 more than were used in the entire 1991 Gulf War, and the dropping of over 600 laser-guided bombs. The US was apparently hoping that this attack would trigger a coup against Saddam, which did not materialise. However, the attack did add to the overall damage to and decline of Iraqi military capabilities.
Operation Desert Fox was followed by a stepped-up bombing campaign in 1999. This reached such intensity that by August 1999 the Pentagon announced that Anglo-American air forces had fired over 1,100 missiles at 359 different targets in Iraq - three times the number fired during Desert Storm in 1991. During the build-up to the invasion beginning in March 2003, the bombing campaign was stepped up again with special attention being paid to trying to disrupt and destroy Iraqi command and control capabilities (e.g. military headquarters and communications networks).
This decade-long military "softening-up" operation combined with economic sanctions had the desired results, ensuring that when the US-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 they faced an Iraqi military whose arms and equipment were out-dated and in a poor state of repair, with severely degraded anti-aircraft defences and a communication system that was largely disrupted. Its soldiers (and the overall population as well) had a general health and fitness level significantly below that of the invading forces.
Looked at in conventional terms, the contest could have hardly been more unequal. One side included the world's most powerful military machine, backed up by its largest and most advanced economy. The US-led forces enjoyed complete air superiority and bases around the Gulf, Middle East, Turkey, Indian Ocean, the United Kingdom and the US itself from which to launch assault and bombing raids and which were beyond the reach of any Iraqi counter-attacks. The other side, Iraq, was a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country whose population, relatively small industrial base and military had been devastated by a decade of economic sanctions and almost continuous military attacks.
In addition, due to its reactionary anti-people character, Saddam's regime, which up until 1990 had loyally served as the local overlord and enforcer for its imperialist masters, had no perspective of mobilising the one element that could have made a significant difference in its favour: the masses of people. It was the certain knowledge of the isolated nature of Saddam's regime and Iraq's significantly weakened economic and military strength that gave the US rulers a high degree of assuredness that they would relatively quickly succeed in their drive on Baghdad. Feeling fairly secure that another cheap "victory" was at hand, the US imperialists displayed the cynical arrogance for which they are so well known, dubbing the rape of Iraq that was about to take place "Operation Iraqi Freedom". 3
In effect the US military planners were looking to pull off a Blitzkrieg (lightning war) whose focus was to take Baghdad, overthrow the regime and thereby end all organised resistance by the Iraqi military. In this offensive - as in most of their wars for colonial conquest - the US rulers were seeking rapid success in which their losses and the sacrifice faced by their troops (and the population at home) would be kept to a minimum, and just as importantly, political opposition to their actions - both at home and around the world - would not have time to develop and spread. Many of the essential features of the US strategy and tactics were shaped by these necessities.
In particular, the strategy of the US imperialists must on some level take into account that, like all imperialist armies, the US Army is beset with contradictions. The most important of these is the fact that the bulk of it soldiers are drawn from the ranks of the proletariat itself. In fighting such wars the majority of its soldiers are objectively acting against their own class interests. This remains true even when, as a result of a combination of imperialist chauvinism, lies and compulsion, they "volunteer" for duty. Thus, when their losses begin to mount and the hardships in general rise with the length of deployment in unfriendly territory their morale is bound to fall. If these factors are combined with political exposure of the real aims of an imperialist aggression, their resolve to bear sacrifice and to fight will be even more undermined. In fact, in such circumstances it is possible that actual opposition and resistance to a particular imperialist military adventure - and even to imperialism in general, as happened in Vietnam - will emerge within the imperialists' own armed forces. The latter continues to haunt the US ruling class and its top generals today.
Thus, even if the US and other imperialists themselves are incapable of fully recognising it, with all their high-tech weapons and massive fire power, in the final analysis Mao's famous statement about the relation of people and weapons in war holds true: "Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive factor; it is people, not things, that are decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of military and economic power, but also a contest of human power and morale. Military and economic power is necessarily wielded by people." (Mao Tsetung, "On Protracted War", Selected Works, Vol. II, pp. 143-44) This truth underlies the necessity for all imperialist armies to seek quick victory. Especially when a quick victory cannot be achieved, one of their greatest strategic weaknesses - the contradiction between their reactionary imperialist aims, interests and methods and the fact that "military and economic power is necessarily wielded by people" - can begin to come into play and to lay the basis for their possible defeat.
Originally the US's plan of attack called for its forces to open two fronts - in the north through Turkey and the area of northern Iraq under Kurdish control and in the south from Kuwait - and to converge on Baghdad from both directions. The idea was to force the Iraqis to split their forces to the north and south of the Iraqi capital, thus weakening both fronts. This plan suffered a serious blow when mass resistance in Turkey to the attack on Iraq led to the Turkish parliament refusing to give approval for the movement of US troops through Turkish territory and into Iraq. This gave rise to a fairly significant controversy within the US's leading circles and especially between the political and military leadership. With an entire division tied up off the Turkish coast, some of the US's top generals wanted more time to move these and other troops into position in the Gulf before starting the assault. The US political leadership overruled them and ordered the attack to begin without much delay.
This controversy and its resolution once again highlights the interconnection between war and politics. Over the entire planning process for the war the political leadership demanded that the fewest troops possible be assigned to the task. The military leadership, very aware of the uncertainty of war and steeped in their doctrine of applying overwhelming force, consistently insisted on using more forces than the civilian leadership were inclined to commit. This controversy became so heated that when US Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki publicly called for many more troops than the US administration was prepared to employ, his replacement was announced a year before his scheduled retirement. This effectively discredited him and undercut his authority.
This desire to use as few troops as possible and accept the resulting military risks was driven by political considerations. The imperialists are faced with a great political necessity of maintaining public support for their wars of aggression. At least at the outset of such wars the promise of quick and relatively painless victory is an important tool for achieving this aim. In addition, in the overall strategic concept currently being implemented by the US imperialists the seizure of Iraq was just one step in a whole series of military aggressions it is planning to carry out in order to reshape the world in its interests and cement its hegemony. If at that point they had conceded that the number of troops needed to implement their plans in Iraq was as high as what many of their own generals were saying, the attack on Iraq would have to have been postponed for at least months - thereby putting the whole enterprise in jeopardy - and the promise of quick and painless victory in their offensive as a whole would have been undermined.
This fact created a great compulsion to seek a way of moving these plans forward with the smallest possible troop commitment. Such compulsion - which ultimately stems from their class position - is also an important factor underlying their inability to take a fully materialist approach to understanding the world in general and military affairs in particular. It can lead to them making strategic miscalculations and even fatal mistakes.4 Whether or not at the time (or currently) the US war planners actually believed they could conquer and pacify Iraq with the troop levels they predicted, no one can say for sure - most likely there were and are major differences of opinion in their ranks on this. The essential thing is that they were determined to go ahead, and their political goals and necessities had to take precedence in military affairs.
Three specific factors were involved in the US decision to push ahead without delay: 1) Key US decision-makers were confident that Iraq's weakened military would be no match for the juggernaut they intended to field. 2) The US was desperate to get its forces into place and launch the attack no later than the end of March so as to avoid major fighting in the oppressive heat of the Iraqi summer. 3) The international movement against the planned invasion was growing at a speed that caught almost all observers off-guard and was causing the political cost of the coming war to rise daily. When combined with the open split between the US and France, Russia and Germany, and the efforts of these last three countries to use diplomatic manoeuvres to delay - if not actually prevent - the start of the war, the US felt compelled to attempt to short-circuit all opposition by launching the invasion. They also had a great specific necessity to stop the UN inspectors, who were at the time in Iraq looking for Saddam's supposed "weapons of mass destruction". The inspectors were finding nothing, including at those sites identified by the US as "certainly" containing such weapons. The US rulers were well aware that these weapons most likely did not exist and that if the inspectors were allowed to continue the inspections for several months longer the US's casus belli - the pretext of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction that was supposed to justify the war - ran a great risk of being exposed for the ruse it was.
To carry out its plans, the US and its allies drew together an attack force of impressive size and power. At the time the war began, the US-led forces in the Gulf Region and other areas surrounding Iraq numbered over 270,000 personnel and were armed with over 1,300 armoured vehicles (tanks and armoured personnel carriers), hundreds of artillery pieces and rocket launchers (self-propelled and towed), hundreds of helicopters (including almost 150 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters), over 1,000 advanced jet aircraft (both carrier- and ground-based, including strategic bombers using airfields in the Indian Ocean, the UK and the US itself), six carrier battle groups and dozens of other warships armed with 2,100 Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of carrying both conventional as well as nuclear warheads (of which there were also at least several hundred in theatre). These forces were assisted by a multi-layered airborne and space-based surveillance, navigation and communications network made up of various types of piloted aircraft (U2, AWACS, RC-135, EP-3E, JSTARS, etc.), unmanned drones (Hunter, Global Hawk and Predator) and as many as 100 satellites (military, GPS, weather and commercial earth-sensing). By the time the operation was completed a total of 467,000 US military personnel were deployed world-wide to support it. This included 30 per cent of all active-duty US military personnel.
As these force levels show, the claim made by the US imperialists that in the "new warfare" light and highly mobile forces would be central to future wars was - at least in the case of Iraq - quickly put to rest. This was to be a massive armour and air assault using the heaviest divisions currently in existence anywhere in the world. In addition to all these troops and military hardware, the US launched an extensive psychological warfare operation. US agents in southern Iraq established radio and television stations and printed millions of copies of leaflets claiming that the Iraqi people would be free after Saddam's regime was defeated and spreading the lie that the occupying aggressors would be their "liberators".
With its original plan of moving the 4th Infantry Division through Turkey to attack from the north no longer viable, and faced with tremendous time pressure to launch the attack before the end of March, the US military was forced to make some modifications to its original plans. The principal ground assault would be launched from Kuwait in the south heading north toward Baghdad, with two main forces proceeding parallel to one another. To the east the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (including one British division) would move toward Baghdad from the south-east along a route that for the most part lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (crossing to the east of the Tigris as it approached Baghdad), and to the west the US Army V Corps would approach Baghdad from the south-west along a route that lay mainly west of the Euphrates and which led through the Karbala Gap.
As mentioned, the necessity of achieving a quick victory while holding US casualties to a minimum was reflected in the plan of attack. It was designed to be a shock attack whose speed and firepower would overwhelm the Iraqi forces, destroying any major troop concentrations with air attacks, long-range artillery and armour, thereby preventing any significant counter-attacks. Since speed was of the essence, the major population centres and urban combat were to be avoided to the greatest extent possible. At the same time, any Iraqi forces along the planned route of advance that refused to surrender were to be engaged and destroyed. The principal objective was to proceed north, and encircle and capture Baghdad. The US rulers were fairly certain that by concentrating on capturing Baghdad they could bring about the fall of the regime, and that this would result in the rapid end of any significant military resistance. They were even hoping that the regime might collapse before that, either as a result of a "decapitation" strike (killing the regime's leadership) or just the shock of the invasion itself coupled with the capitulationist inclinations that are fairly widespread in such a comprador regime.5
In addition to this main axis of attack the first actual objective of the US forces was to capture Iraq's southern oil fields. Along with this, the British forces were tasked with capturing the port city of Um Qasr and Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, which is on the Shat al Arab waterway not far from both the Gulf, the border with Iran and the southern oil fields. Special Operations Forces (SOF - Green Berets, Navy Seals, etc.) were deployed in large numbers to the west of Baghdad in the area extending to the border with Jordan and tasked with capturing key objectives in that region (mainly airfields, etc.). This was also intended to tie down additional Iraqi forces away from the main line of attack.
To the north, although the assault on Baghdad from that direction had to be cancelled, the US brought in a large number of SOF to lead the troops of the KDP and PUK, the two main Kurdish political parties, which were collaborating with the imperialists. These forces were reinforced by the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, which flew from bases in Europe and parachuted into northern Iraq with around 1,000 soldiers. Ironically, the real military significance of this action was probably aimed more at Turkey than at Iraq. Turkey continues to claim large areas of northern Iraq, including the city of Mosul and the oil fields north of Kirkuk, as its own. Deploying the 173rd in this way was certainly meant as a clear signal to Turkey that it should not attempt to take advantage of the impending war to move into and occupy the Kurdish areas of Iraq. The US was counting on using the Kurdish forces for its own aims. A Turkish invasion would have certainly produced serious fighting between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, threatening a collapse of the US alliance with these forces. It also would have created serious contradictions between the US and the comprador elements in Iraq that the US was seeking to unite around its banner. Undoubtedly the US commanders also hoped that this well-publicised action might also tie down more Iraqi troops in the north and keep them from joining the defence of Baghdad. The US military later estimated that when the war started approximately 40 per cent of Iraq's regular forces were stationed on the front north of Baghdad.
As stated above, the US estimated the opposing Iraqi force to be at 280,000 to 350,000 troops organised in 17 divisions - no more than a third of the numerical strength that Iraq had at the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War. Approximately 2,200 tanks of all types, 2,400 armoured personnel carriers and 4,000 artillery pieces were presumed to be in the Iraqi inventory. Much of this equipment was considered to be obsolete or in a poor state of repair.
In contrast to the 1991 Gulf War and contrary to many people's expectations, the ground invasion was not preceded by weeks of a discrete campaign of aerial bombardments. There were two reasons for this. The first is that the US decided to try to eliminate Iraqi resistance by launching a surprise cruise missile and bombing attack aimed at killing Saddam Hussein and other top leaders of his regime at 50 separate locations (all of which failed).6 Launching this attack on 20 March forced them to set into motion the other portions of their land attack, in particular the seizure of the southern oil fields, which the US imperialists, for obvious reasons, considered one of their key strategic objectives. The second reason for not preceding the ground invasion with an air campaign was the fact that an air campaign had been going on for the past 10 years. Thus, there was little need to repeat the pattern of what had been done in 1991. The necessary damage had already been inflicted.
A particular advantage that the US was counting on was complete control of the air space over the battle area. This would enable the unrestricted use of its vast array of aerial reconnaissance assets to find any major Iraqi troop concentrations that might confront its advancing forces and would offer the chance to severely weaken if not destroy them utilising air attacks and long-range artillery before the US troops would have to engage the Iraqi defenders directly on the ground. For the way the US and other imperialist armies fight, this kind of "force multiplier",7 as they call it, is a crucial advantage.
In the context of this overall matrix of freedom and necessity, the US decided it was safe enough to implement what it called a "rolling deployment": starting their offensive before their follow-on forces - the forces they would be using to secure their lines of communication and rear area - were completely deployed in theatre. This approach was somewhat controversial before the war actually began, but would at least in this instance prove to be workable. As we will see, the much bigger gamble involved not the number of troops they would need to topple Saddam's regime, but what it would take to consolidate their control over the country once Baghdad was taken.
The Assault: 19 Days to Baghdad
On 20 March 2004 at 5:34 AM local time in Baghdad, US and UK forces attempted to kill Saddam Hussein and other top members of the Iraqi regime with the above-mentioned series of missile and bombing attacks. Shortly thereafter the US-led coalition began large-scale ground operations.
The "decapitation" strike failed to achieve its goal and on the night of 21-22 March more air strikes were carried out. On that night alone the number of sea- and air-launched cruise missiles used was three times greater than the number launched throughout the entire 1991 Gulf War. Compared to "Desert Storm" (the 1991 Gulf War) where in 43 days 283 Tomahawk cruise missiles were used, in "Operation Iraqi Freedom" somewhere around 1,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles and several thousand smart bombs were launched or dropped in just the first 15 days. In the campaign as a whole US and allied aircraft conducted about 41,000 sorties, of which 20,000 were strikes. Approximately 20,000 guided munitions were dropped, almost 70 per cent of all bombs dropped. In contrast only around 7 per cent of all bombs dropped in the 1991 Gulf War were guided munitions.
On Day 5 the US-invaders had reached an Nasiriyah, a city of about 500,000 people, about a third of the 500 kilometre distance between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, and were pushing forward. By Day 10 the US forces attacking along the western route were gathering between Najaf and Karbala and preparing to attack Iraq's last major line of defence before Baghdad. To the east the 1st MEF was advancing, but had not reached quite as far north. At this point the US was reporting just 28 Americans dead, 16 missing in action and 107 wounded. On Day 15 elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division (3rd ID, part of the US V Corps) had pushed through the Karbala Gap and were attacking Baghdad Airport. By Day 20 the battle against US Army forces who had attacked Baghdad from the south and southwest had shifted to central Baghdad, while on the eastern side of the city the 1st Marine Division (part of the 1 MEF attacking from the south-east and east) crossed the Diyala River and captured the Rasheed Air Base in the eastern part of Baghdad. The next day, 9 April, units of the 1st Marine Division, moving through Baghdad from the east, linked up with the US 3rd ID, holding positions in the central city. This was the day that US soldiers tore down a statue of Saddam Hussein in a scene staged for television and shown non-stop around the world in an effort to convince world public opinion that the imperialist invaders were being welcomed as "liberators". By Day 26, 14 April, Saddam had fled Baghdad, and his regime along with its military had essentially collapsed, and US-led forces had pretty much consolidated their control over Baghdad and over most of Tikrit, the last major bastion of organised resistance by Iraqi armed forces.
In 19 days the US-led invaders captured Baghdad and after 26 days they had achieved their essential goal of toppling the Saddam regime and ending all organised resistance by the regime's military (both regular and irregular forces). Everything had certainly not gone according to plan (more on this point below), but it is a material fact that in three and a half weeks they had succeeded in advancing over 500 kilometres and had militarily defeated the Iraqi Army along the way. The US claims that in this operation it suffered 109 killed in action and 545 wounded (of which 119 returned to duty within 72 hours). Iraqi military casualties are estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers killed, with perhaps twice that number wounded. Beyond this basic fact, a determined defence of Baghdad, which Saddam had promised and many had expected, did not materialise. All of this raises very sharply a number of questions: why did the Iraqi military fall apart so quickly; was the relatively rapid defeat of the Saddam regime evidence that there is some truth to the claims being made by the US imperialists that their high-tech weapons have fundamentally changed the nature of warfare; have the imperialists, and in particular the US, become so strong that nothing can defeat them; and if they can be defeated what will it take to do it?
Why and How the US Won so Quickly at so Little Initial Cost
"War is the continuation of politics.' In this sense war itself is a political action& But war has its own particular characteristics and in this sense it cannot be equated with politics in general. 'War is the continuation of politics by other& means.'& It can therefore be said that politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." (Mao Tsetung, "On Protracted War", Selected Works, Vol. II, pp. 152-3.)
To more fundamentally understand the war in Iraq, its course of development and its outcome, we have to start by understanding the politics of which it was a continuation. For the US imperialists (and the other imperialists allied with them) this was a war of colonial conquest - a  reactionary war that is a key element of a long-planned offensive to reorganise the entire Middle East, Gulf region and Central Asia (the "Greater Middle East" as they call it) firmly under the control of US imperialism. The "Greater Middle East" project is itself a central element of the US imperialists' drive for world hegemony. It is essentially an attempt to seize the historic opportunity presented by the collapse of the social-imperialist Soviet Union (a once socialist country turned imperialist) and its bloc and cement for decades to come the US's current position as the dominant imperialist power in the world. The strategy and tactics the imperialists applied in this war are a continuation of these politics. Their reliance on massive firepower and the enormous number of civilian casualties this produces, the need for huge quantities of munitions and high-tech weapons, their necessity to seek quick victory and their blatant lies about their motives and goals are all expressions of their politics - their basic class position and the interests and goals that flow from this.
For the Iraqi people the struggle against the US-led invasion was (and is) a just struggle against imperialist aggression and domination. The most serious obstacle it faced in waging this struggle was the Saddam regime ruling over it and the fundamental comprador character of that regime. Comprador means that it represents the interests of reactionary exploiters and oppressors who themselves serve and are dependent upon foreign capital - on imperialism - for their position, even though they may have conflicts with one or more imperialist regimes at any given moment. As this war again showed, more often than not such regimes cannot and will not mobilise the masses of people to wage a determined struggle against imperialist aggression, and certainly not one that relies on the conscious fighting desire and spirit of the masses of people as its basic strength. These types of regimes represent the interests of a tiny minority that is oppressing and exploiting the vast majority for their own interests and those of the imperialists on whom they are economically dependent. They cannot truly mobilise and arm the broad masses to fight imperialist domination and aggression without endangering their own grip on the population. But it is exactly the mobilisation of the broad masses to fight in their own interests that is crucial in waging a just war against a powerful reactionary enemy. As Mao wrote in "On Protracted War", "The richest source of power to wage war lies in the masses of people." (Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 186).
The imperialists tried to rally the masses in the imperialist countries - including their own soldiers - with lies and demagoguery about "weapons of mass destruction", "international law" and the "liberation" of Iraq, etc., combined with appeals to imperialist chauvinism. The latter was and is being applied in extremely large doses, especially in the US itself. Thus, while in Europe the ruling classes were issuing dire warnings about "anti-Americanism" and the "danger" of calling the US "imperialist", the US ruling class and its mouth pieces were openly proclaiming that indeed the US should dominate the world. They even went so far as to publicly discuss how the time had come for the US to openly pursue an admitted "imperialist" foreign policy (though they weren't using the word imperialism in the Leninist sense), and how "benign" US world hegemony is the best and only way to "civilise" and "democratise" the world.
Saddam hoped that by political and diplomatic manoeuvring, aligning himself with Russia and the west European imperialists - particularly France and Germany - he could delay and ultimately prevent the invas Saddam hoped that by political and diplomatic manoeuvring, aligning himself with Russia and the west European imperialists - particularly France and Germany - he could delay and ultimately prevent the invasion. After all, he knew full well that there were no weapons of mass destruction.8 This strategy required a lot of bluster about the massive casualties that would be inflicted on the invading forces, raising the spectre of political upheaval throughout the Middle East and other parts of the world, including talk about turning Baghdad into another "Stalingrad", etc. In fact in the lead-up to the invasion no large-scale mobilisation of the population or all-around preparations for waging a protracted war of resistance in Iraq ever took place. The armed forces were deployed, some defensive measures were taken and the so-called Saddam Feddayim and Baath Party militia (irregular forces drawn mainly from regime supporters) were mobilised, but the broad masses as a whole were not actively drawn into the preparations for the struggle or the fighting itself. In retrospect it is clear that Saddam and his regime had no real outlook or plans for actually trying to defeat an invasion and occupation. Their entire strategy revolved around their diplomatic manoeuvres aimed at somehow stopping an attack from happening.
The fundamental class character of every state structure - whether it serves the interests of a minority of exploiters or the interests of the majority in their struggle against the foundations and consequences of class society - has a decisive impact on the nature and structure of its armed forces. The armed forces of Saddam's comprador regime were principally tasked with suppressing the masses and pursuing the regime's regional aspirations in the context and under the overall domination of imperialist power relations. Of necessity these overall political and social relations were reflected in relations between the officers and solders in the Iraqi armed forces themselves and overall played an important role in determining the morale and fighting spirit of the basic soldiers. It was thus unavoidable that the reactionary nature of the regime and its long history of crimes against the people could only serve to weaken the Iraqi armed forces' capacity to wage the kind of determined struggle that would be necessary to resist the coming invasion.
Despite this fundamental weakness imposed upon them, in many instances the Iraqi soldiers fought with determination and bravery against the US-led invaders. But, along with the fact that the broad masses were never mobilised to support them in the struggle, they were saddled with military leaders who for the most part were incompetent and often cowardly. In a comprador regime the officer corps is not only loyal to the ruling class, but is also made up of people who - especially the higher one goes in the hierarchy - have close political ties, and often even family ties to the regime itself. Their level of competency in military affairs is secondary9 and their ability and desire to wage a determined life-and-death struggle under difficult conditions are in most cases non-existent. Such handicaps in a war with an enemy possessing greater economic and military power are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.
"Unquestionably, victory or defeat in a war is determined mainly by the military, political, economic and natural conditions on both sides. But not by these alone. It is also determined by each side's subjective ability in directing the war. In his endeavour to win a war, a military strategist cannot overstep the limitations imposed by the material conditions; within these limitations, however, he can and must strive for victory. The stage of action for a military strategist is built upon objective material conditions, but on that stage he can direct the performance of many a drama, full of sound and colour, power and grandeur." (Mao Tsetung, "Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War", Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 238)
In terms of technology, advanced weapons, overall military strength and economic power the US and its allies were clearly superior to Iraq. Does that mean that Iraq was under all circumstances predestined to lose the war, that there was no room left on "the stage of action" to "strive for victory"? And in a broader sense, does it mean that a small country like Iraq can never defeat a powerful opponent like the USA? Despite the initial success of the US-led coalition in Iraq the answer to both these questions is very clearly no. A closer look at the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath helps to illustrate this.

US Dependence on Advanced Weapons and Massive Logistics: A Two-edged Sword
One of the US's most important strengths is its huge quantity of heavy and advanced weapons: armour, artillery, missiles, rockets, aircraft, satellite surveillance, communications, radar, etc. All of this provides the US military with tremendous firepower and especially with a deadly stand-off capability: the ability to concentrate fire on targets accurately at great distances and out of range of the opponent. This is an expression of the fact that, as Mao pointed out, while strategically imperialism and all reactionaries are "paper tigers", tactically they are "real tigers which can devour people".
The US military is especially noted for considering warfare to be chiefly a logistical problem - the idea that the key to winning lies principally in overwhelming the enemy with so much firepower that the opposing forces are simply crushed. This approach reflects both the material position of the US - its tremendous technological and industrial strength - and the class position and outlook of its rulers and officer corps - seeing weapons and not people as decisive. It is, therefore, no wonder that the concept "amateurs study tactics, while professionals study logistics" is a widely held belief within the US officer corps.
Of course no armed force can exist or function without taking logistics into consideration, but the US army's approach to this question has historically taken on almost perverse proportions. For example, one study estimated that in Vietnam the US forces expended between 30,000 and 50,000 rifle and light machine gun rounds for every liberation fighter it claimed to have killed. And since their claims for the number of casualties they were able to inflict were notoriously exaggerated the actual amount of ammunition used was probably much higher! In 2004 the US Army is predicting it will need a total of 1.5 to 1.7 billion rounds of rifle ammunition. This significantly exceeds the current production capacity of US government-owned ammunition factories, necessitating large-scale outside purchases from other manufacturers and even other countries, with Israel being the largest outside supplier.
But this reliance on advanced weaponry, massive firepower, etc., also means that an imperialist army like that of the US is dependent on a logistics support system of equivalent dimensions. All the advanced arms and equipment must be maintained and repaired. When it fights, the US Army consumes supplies of all types at a tremendous rate. As one example, in preparing the attack on Iraq the US war planners "estimated a daily fuel requirement approaching 2 million gallons [7.57 million litres] through about day 14, when they expected the total requirement to exceed that amount" (On Point). Over the 26 days of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (OIF) the US V Corps alone transported and consumed a total of 54 million gallons (204 million litres) of fuel for ground vehicles and aircraft, 4,859 tons of ammunition, 26.6 million bottles of water and 14.7 million MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat - army field rations).
To put this in some historical context, during the entire four years of the First World War the Allies used only a total of 40 million gallons of fuel - which at that time prompted Winston Churchill to comment that the war had been won "on a sea of oil". In the Second World War the entire consumption of all US forces in Europe never exceeded 800,000 gallons a day. During "OIF" just to maintain fuel supplies for its tanks and other vehicles, along with its helicopters, the US forces needed to establish a whole series of refuelling stations along their line of march toward Baghdad. The 1st MEF even deployed a portable pipeline extending 240 kilometres northward from the border with Kuwait. This logistics undertaking was so enormous that according to the authors of On Point systematic planning for it began in autumn of 2001.
Obviously the hundreds of kilometres of mostly unsecured supply lines on which the US forces depended were extremely vulnerable. There were not too many options in terms of choosing lines of march northwards toward Baghdad. This was especially true given the size and weight of the US's armoured vehicles, heavy weapons and supply trucks. The major highways running north/south were clearly of strategic importance. Yet the Iraqi forces did not prepare a systematic effort at attacking this weakness.
The US commanders reported "persistent" attacks along their lines of communication and there is the famous incident when the 507th Maintenance Company made a wrong turn and suffered heavy casualties (the incident in which Private Jessica Lynch was injured and captured). But the problem was that although these attacks caused some temporary difficulties for the US forces, most of these attacks were relatively ineffective (as seen by the small number of casualties they caused) and it is simply a fact that this weakness was not really exploited to the extent possible.10  For example, hardly any of the major highway bridges between Kuwait and Baghdad (and none within Baghdad for that matter) were destroyed in order to slow down the US advance. Some were wired with explosives. Of these, most were never triggered. On a few others explosives were set off, but not enough to cause major damage. In most cases there were no demolition preparations at all. This is an expression of the fact that there was no serious plan - or will - to resist the invasion on the part of the Iraqi leadership.11
Of course the US was expecting that most or all of these bridges would be destroyed and had moved a large part of its portable bridging assets to the Gulf region in advance of the invasion, ready to be moved forward rapidly. So knocking down the major bridges would not altogether have prevented the invaders from crossing the rivers and gorges they spanned. But it would have significantly slowed their advance and made large-scale re-supply more difficult since the portable bridges the US uses are less capable of bearing heavy loads in comparison with Iraqi highway bridges. Most importantly, the delays caused by destroying these bridges would have given the defending forces precious time to prepare defences, reorganise and move into position to attack and harass all along the line of the US advance and especially the lines of communication, which were growing longer and more exposed with every passing day.
Here another important principle outlined by Mao was largely ignored, namely that of "drawing the enemy in deep". Mao pointed out that in defending the base areas, and later China as a whole, there was no point in trying to stop a powerful enemy at the border. Rather it was much more advantageous to draw him deeply into liberated territory where he is surrounded by the masses, forced to depend on and defend long lines of communication, and where the enemy puts himself in a position where his flanks and rear area are vulnerable. A similar approach could have been adopted in Iraq. Instead, although there were some attacks in the rear and along the lines of communication, the main thing the Iraqi forces did as the US columns approached was to attempt to meet them head-on. This was doomed to failure. On Point quotes one US general as saying, "We did not predict that they were going to come out of the cities and expose themselves to up-armoured vehicles and armoured formations without similar protection." It goes on to summarise this aspect of the battle as follows: "More surprising, these irregular forces chose to come out of the relatively safe urban areas to engage coalition armoured forces out in the open& Even more surprising, the paramilitaries chose to attack the lead armoured forces in waves rather than waiting for the soft-skinned, logistics convoys that would follow. Because the paramilitary forces were essentially untrained, if dedicated, their tactics were suicidal in that they literally ran, and drove, to their deaths."
From a strategic point of view, attacking the supply lines of an invading imperialist force is a key element in any successful resistance, especially in a situation where the resistance forces are waging a just struggle, know the local terrain and generally have the support of the local population. The deeper the invaders move into the country they are attacking, the longer their lines of supply and communication and generally speaking the harder these are to defend. This was certainly true in the Soviet Union during the Second World War, when the German army's advance had brought it to the gates of Moscow and the city centre in Stalingrad, and the corresponding lines of supply stretched out over 1,200 kilometres and more. The territory being occupied encompassed thousands of square kilometres. In this vast area, hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers carried out partisan warfare, destroying supply convoys, railroads and bridges and attacking and harassing the invading German army at every opportunity. This played an important role in finally turning the tide, so that the Soviet forces could go from the strategic defensive to the offensive and drive the German army out. The fact that very little of this kind of fighting took place in Iraq during the invasion greatly weakened the resistance to the US-led invasion.
This is all the more true when one realises that, according to the authors of On Point, although the US did move tremendous quantities of fuel, ammunition, water and other supplies into Iraq to support its invasion force, during the entire operation almost no spare parts were delivered to US forces in the field. To keep things moving US units cannibalised their own equipment, took parts from abandoned or captured Iraqi equipment or even bought parts from local Iraqis.12  Many US unit commanders reported being only one or at most two weeks away from having to reduce or even cease offensive operations due to lack of spare parts and the corresponding inability to maintain their heavy vehicles, artillery and other equipment.
Lack of Preparation, Training and Leadership and the Breakdown of the Iraqi Army
Of course this does not mean that they would have not been able to overcome this problem over time. But if the Iraqi forces had been better able to take advantage of this US weakness the effect on the overall military/political dynamic might have had an important impact on the overall outcome. A significant slowdown would have given the Iraqi forces an important opportunity to re-group, re-supply, etc.
The mismatch between the attacking US-led forces and the defending Iraqi forces had numerous facets. In addition to all the disadvantages already discussed, the Iraqi forces were so poorly trained that to a large extent it was an army that couldn't shoot straight. Unfortunately, the following example shows that this statement is no exaggeration.
In the year before the war began, large sections of the Iraqi army had engaged in little target practice, or in some cases none at all. In the previously cited US Army War College study, Toppling Saddam: Iraq and American Military Transformation, it is noted that:
"Most Iraqi fighters had fired little or no live ammunition in the year prior to the war; some had never fired their weapons at all. The 2nd Division of the Iraqi Regular Army, for example, had no live fire training in the twelve months prior to the war. The 3rd Division held a single live fire exercise in which each soldier fired four rounds of ammunition. None of the soldiers in the 11th Division's 3rd Battalion had fired their weapons in the past year. Even the Baghdad Republican Guard division held only a single live fire exercise with just ten rounds for every soldier in the year leading up to the war. By contrast, a typical US infantry unit might fire 2,500 rounds or more of ammunition per soldier in an average year; for units preparing to enter combat that figure would be much higher. The typical American infantryman might thus have had over 250 times as much target practice as even the best Iraqis."
This lack of basic marksmanship skills13 had disastrous effects on the ability of the Iraqi defenders to inflict damage on the invading forces. The War College study goes on to remark:
"Against the 3ID's 3rd Brigade in Baghdad, Iraqi paramilitaries attained a hit rate of under ten per cent for the RPGs fired at ranges of under 500 meters. At Objective Montgomery14 west of Baghdad, an elite Republican Guard tank battalion fired at least 16 T-72 main gun rounds at ranges of 800-1000 meters at tank-sized targets with full flank exposure - with zero hits at what amounted to point-blank range for weapons of this calibre& Similar results are reported by American and British combatants throughout the theatre of war, and across all Iraqi weapon types employed in OIF."
Generally speaking, reports of the fighting seem to confirm that not only were the regular forces of the Iraqi Army poorly equipped and trained, but their morale was very low as well. The unit cohesion of the regular Iraqi forces often broke down rather quickly when the US-led attack struck with full force. Sustained or accurate air attacks often resulted in soldiers deserting their posts in large numbers and putting up little or no fight against the advancing invader ground forces. This was in many if not most cases preceded by the commanding officers deserting first, leaving the rank and file soldiers with no leadership. The entire Iraqi northern front essentially collapsed as a result of sustained aerial bombardments and officer defections. Although no major ground attack was mounted by the imperialist forces, thousands and thousands of Iraqi soldiers were seen on television having discarded their uniforms and weapons and walking back toward Baghdad and points south.
The number of Iraqi prisoners the US and its allies took was in the thousands and not the tens of thousands they had expected before the invasion began. Iraqi military killed and wounded were somewhere between twenty and forty thousand. Thus, there is no other way to account for the rest of the estimated 280,000 to 350,000 soldiers who made up the pre-invasion Iraqi regular forces other than to conclude - they went home. By most accounts the bulk of the fighting was carried out by the irregular forces (Baath Party militia and Saddam Fedayeem). According to US summations, these forces fought with tenacity and bravery, but were poorly equipped, trained and led. The War College summary contains the following descriptions:
"And combat motivation, while very weak in the Iraqi Regular Army and some Republican Guard units, was stronger elsewhere - and especially among paramilitary fighters in Iraqi cities. In fact, paramilitary combat motivation bordered on the suicidal in 2003. In Nasiriyah, Samawah, Basra, Najaf, Baghdad, and elsewhere, Iraqi paramilitaries executed repeated frontal assaults against American armoured vehicles using civilian sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, minivans, and even bicycles. In Samawah, Iraqi SUVs rammed American armoured vehicles. Even after initial waves of such kamikaze chargers were mowed down, others followed."
And further:
"Much of the close combat in OIF took the form of Iraqi paramilitaries charging Coalition armoured vehicles on the outskirts of Iraqi cities using unarmoured civilian vehicles. These were typically simple frontal assaults, fully exposed, with no apparent attempt to co-ordinate movement with suppressive fire, use terrain for cover, or employ smoke or other obscurants. Moreover, they were usually directed at Coalition heavy armoured units; Iraqi paramilitaries appear to have systematically avoided softer-skinned command or logistical elements in order to seek out Coalition tanks and infantry fighting vehicles."15 
These descriptions are themselves painful enough, but the absolute lack of serious and systematic preparation for a war that the whole world saw coming the better part of a year in advance was further demonstrated by the failure on the part of the Iraqi leadership to prepare to wage urban warfare (or as the US military calls it MOUT - Military Operations on Urban Terrain). One of the things the US imperialists feared the most going into the invasion was the possibility that they might be forced to engage in sustained combat operations in urban areas. Their own pre-war manoeuvres had led them to the conclusion that sustained urban combat in which they were forced to dismount from their armoured vehicles to attack dug-in defenders and clear buildings would result in at least one casualty among their own forces for every defender killed. Thus, they had every expectation that such sustained combat in Baghdad and Iraq's other major cities could easily result in thousands of killed and wounded among their own forces.16
One of the things that engaging imperialist forces in urban combat does (and this is true of close quarters combat in general) is that it eliminates the advantage that stand-off weapons give the imperialists. At close quarters they cannot easily employ artillery, air support, missiles, etc. When they are forced into a situation where they lose these advantages, the morale and fighting spirit of US and other imperialist troops can quickly decline. For example, when one US unit was subjected to a night of ambushes and close-range combat on the way to Baghdad its commanding officer was quoted in On Point as saying that this had "traumatised everyone". In the words of Lieutenant Colonel Terry Ferrel, "We do own the night, but we also train to own the night with stand-off. When you have the guys crawling up beside your tank and you are using the 9 mil [Beretta 9 mm pistol] or stepping off to draw an AK to shoot somebody, your average tank crew does not train to do that."
For the reasons already stated, this did not happen much in Iraq in 2003. But it could have happened and the course and even the result of that war could have been dramatically different, if for instance the US-led forces had become bogged down in a siege of Baghdad and Iraq's other major cities, taking large numbers of casualties and having their lines of supply being repeatedly and effectively hit by guerrillas operating along their vast supply lines.
In a scenario where a determined resistance was inspiring protest against the invasion throughout the Middle East and around the world - including in the US itself - both the military as well as the political cost of continuing the campaign would have risen dramatically. The outcome of such a course of events could have potentially been very different from that which actually occurred. The corrupt and reactionary character of Saddam's regime stood firmly in the way of such a scenario, and there was no organised revolutionary vanguard capable of stepping into this void to provide the political, organisational and military leadership that was necessary for bringing about a radically different result. But even a more cohesive and determined non-revolutionary regime might have been able to do at least some of the things necessary to have prolonged the conflict. This point is not lost on the more astute imperialist observers. The War College summary makes the following observation about what the course of the conflict might have been like if the Iraqi forces had been better prepared and led:
"The result could well have been an extended stalemate, with Coalition forces pinned down in static sieges across Iraq, beset by partisan warfare against overstrained, overstretched lines of communications, and facing a steady loss of lives to guerrilla actions against patrols and garrisons even without an assault on a city centre& this could have produced a very long war."
Seeking to prolong the conflict so as to be able to neutralise to the greatest extent possible the strengths of an imperialist army, exacerbate and utilise its internal contradictions and create space and time to mobilise the strengths of a genuinely anti-imperialist or revolutionary army and mass resistance is a key factor in defeating the kind of imperialist aggression represented by "Operation Iraqi Freedom". A World to Win News Service made the following summation in light of the collapse of the defence of Baghdad:
"The Iraqi regime was unable to make use of these favourable factors to put up the kind of fight that would have really put a stick in the spokes of the US war chariot and rallied the people of the region and the world to their defence. The Iraqi military was dependent on oil sales and arms purchases from the imperialists. Its economy had been crippled by 12 years of imperialist-imposed sanctions and the people impoverished and exhausted. Yet the Iraq regime had a more fundamental flaw that assured its ultimate failure. It was a reactionary regime that had ruled over the peoples of Iraq with an iron fist. The only chance of defeating the US was through a lengthy people's war, a war that mobilised the entire population and relied upon it, and used a strategy and tactics that could neutralise the advantages of the US. From such a perspective, the importance of the battle for Baghdad was not that the whole war would be decided by it. The question was how the battle there, which the Iraqi forces could not avoid even if it was not the most favourable terrain for people's war, would set the stage for a protracted struggle by the people throughout the country against the occupiers and spark even more support from the people in every country, especially the bordering countries in the Middle East. Given this context, even if the city ultimately were to fall, a fierce and heroic battle would have made it possible to continue the war. This was what people throughout the world hoped for, only to have these hopes dashed by Saddam Hussein once again."17
  1. The effects of this economic blockade on Iraq's civilian population were so devastating that one UN official, Denis Halliday, who headed the UN's Iraq programme, resigned in protest in 1998, calling them "genocidal". UNICEF's Executive Director, Carole Bellamy, held a 1999 press conference to announce the release of a "Situation Analysis of Women and Children in Iraq", providing a detailed account of how these economic sanctions contributed to the "excess deaths" of over 500,000 Iraqi children under age five.
  2. It has been widely documented that by the mid- to late-1990s Iraq had destroyed all of its so-called weapons of mass destruction and essentially dismantled the programmes designed to produce such weapons. The UN weapons inspections confirmed this. Nevertheless, while as a result of Iraqi compliance with the UN's disarmament demands France, China and Russia were prepared to lift the economic sanctions on Iraq, the US refused to allow this. This was an essential part of the US's long-range plans to bring about "regime change" in Iraq (read install a compliant pro-US government, gain control over Iraq's oil resources and re-make Iraq as a US base for reorganising the entire Middle East).
  3. On Point, a study of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (OIF) that was commissioned by the leadership of the US Army and written by US officers, openly declares that the decade of attacks and sanctions against Iraq were nothing less than preparation for the open war against Iraq: "While combat operations began on 17 March 2003, preparations for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM began on 1 March 1991 - the day after the first Gulf War ended. In the broadest context, OIF marks the latest chapter in the continuous US involvement in the Middle East and Southwest Asia theatre. America's national security is directly tied to the region's stability and prosperity. As such, the nation has been applying the elements of national power - diplomacy, information, military action, and economics - to reach this elusive goal. From enforcing sanctions and international inspections, to protecting the Kurds and Muslims, to responding to Iraqi violations of the no-fly zones, the military has been a central element of the US policy toward Iraq since the end of DESERT STORM." In fact, throughout almost the entire 1990s the US military had spent hundreds of millions of dollars building new bases and other infrastructure and pre-positioning thousands of tonnes of weapons and supplies in the Gulf in preparation for "Operation Iraqi Freedom".
  4. After all, for years the US imperialists thought they could actually win the war in Vietnam. They believed that by applying increasing amounts of massive firepower along with a campaign of terror and assassination aimed at the resistance forces there, they would be able to carry the day militarily. They completely miscalculated the ability of the masses in both southern and northern Vietnam to endure the hardships necessary to wage a protracted struggle against them. And they miscalculated the extent to which they would become politically exposed and isolated in public opinion around the world, including in their own homeland (and, it should be added, within their own armed forces on the ground).
  5. The US Army study On Point states: "Planners thought it possible that the combination of effects from Tomahawk missiles, air attacks, ground attacks, and robust information operations would either render the regime irrelevant or cause it to collapse very early in the fight - in effect, like a balloon pops when poked."
   6.  Not only did all 50 of these attacks fail, but it turned out that the bunker in which Saddam was supposedly staying that night did not even exist. While not killing any of the Iraqi leadership these attacks did kill dozens of Iraqi civilians.
  7. The imperialist military generally use the term "force multiplier" to refer to weapons, intelligence and communication systems that give its forces more effective fire power or striking force than just their numeric strength alone would normally suggest.
  8. Some imperialist commentators, and especially those in the countries taking part in the invasion, claimed that Saddam's supposed refusal to co-operate with the UN weapons inspectors was definitive proof that he had something to hide. The facts show something quite different. After being caught in the mid-1990s trying to conceal weapons from the inspectors, Iraq destroyed all its weapons and production facilities that were in violation of UN resolutions. This was widely documented before the war by former inspectors, especially by Scott Ritter, who had served as an officer in the US Marines in the 1991 Gulf War. Ritter along with others also made public that the US had used the UN inspections to spy on Iraq (including illegally installing advanced eavesdropping equipment) and that the information thereby gained was used to develop targets and plans for attacking Iraq. Saddam was well aware that the US would never agree to declare his regime in conformity with the UN resolutions and lift the sanctions as long as he remained in power. Any further inspections would only be used to gather intelligence for the coming invasion. Nevertheless, in the run-up to the war and under tremendous international pressure, Iraq agreed to let the inspectors back into the country and give them almost unlimited access. Saddam's strategy of depending on the US's imperialist rivals to prevent an invasion was, in light of the world balance of power following the collapse of the Soviet Union, really nothing more than grasping for straws, albeit  - given his class position - the only option he felt he had.
9. Here there is a clear contrast to an imperialist army where the level of professionalism in the officer corps is in most cases much higher. The ensemble of imperialist relations and everything they entail, including both advanced means of production and the ability to carry out bribery of significant sections of the population, mean that the material and social basis of the regime in an imperialist country are much stronger and broader than in an oppressed country dominated by imperialism and a comprador regime. This allows the imperialists to broaden the ranks of their officer corps and use more objective criteria in selecting even the top-level commanders of their armed forces. Of course even here political reliability remains the main criterion.
 10. Even so, as the US forces quickly advanced toward Baghdad and their supply lines became more extended, the level of attacks on these lines became a growing problem. To deal with this threat the US commanders deployed elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions that up until that point had been held as a strategic reserve and used them to secure the US lines of supply. Within a few days of this deployment the level of attacks dropped significantly and ceased to be a major problem for them.
  11. A study of "OIF" by the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College entitled Toppling Saddam: Iraq and American Military Transformation states: "The Coalition advance was obviously premised on its ability to use a series of key bridges over the Euphrates River. The towns at these crossings were in fact major battlefields in the war, as the Iraqis apparently understood their importance and sought to contest the bridge sites. Yet few of these bridges were wired for demolition, and even fewer were actually destroyed. At Nasiriyah, the Iraqis fought a week-long battle for a city whose military importance turned on its bridges - yet the Iraqis made no systematic effort to destroy them."
  12. "The theatre did not do as well with repair parts. Generals Christianson, Kratzer, and Stultz all agree that the parts distribution system never worked, despite heroic efforts. More than enough parts reached the theatre and were duly processed, but almost none reached the intended customers during the fighting. Forward, the troops made do by cannibalising broken-down equipment and towing what they could not repair. So, as the force moved north toward Baghdad with adequate fuel, water, and food, its ability to sustain an adequate maintenance readiness rate began to suffer. Fortunately, major combat operations ended before the failure of the parts distribution system affected operations in a meaningful way." (On Point)
  13. Of course it cannot be expected that it would be possible to expend the huge amounts of ammunition in training that the US or other imperialist armies do. Nevertheless, it is both necessary and possible to carry out such training while being more economical with available resources and at the same employing additional methods that allow the substitution for at least some amounts of live ammunition while still improving proficiency.
  14. The US battle plan contained a series of predetermined objectives along their route to Baghdad that they intended to seize and control. The US V Corps' plan of attack had  13 such objectives extending from near the border with Kuwait all the way to just north of Baghdad. "Objective Montgomery", the second to last of these objectives, was located just west of the city. On Point describes this encounter as follows: "April 4, 2003. A full-strength Iraqi T-72 battalion from the Hammurabi Republican Guard division, with about a battalion of artillery in direct support, was dug in along the crest of a berm astride Highway 10... creating a natural kill sack along the Highway 10 approach route... some 1,000 meters from the nearest Iraqi positions... Irrigation ditches alongside the highway prevented easy off-road movement, canalising any attack from the front and enabling most of the defenders to engage a road-bound attack from the flank.
At about 1500 hours on April 4, Troop A ("Apache") of the 3-7 US Cavalry drove directly into the kill sack, in column formation, along the expected Highway 10 approach route...
"The Americans spotted the Iraqis as they opened fire. At least 16 rounds of 125mm T-72 main gun fire were observed. None hit. American return fire then wiped out most of the battalion in less than ten minutes, whereupon Apache Troop pulled back and American aircraft and artillery barraged the position to neutralise the Iraqis' dismounted infantry and destroy its supporting artillery...
"If the Iraqis were ever going to fight a battle on their own terms, this should have been it. They enjoyed a numerical advantage of almost 2:1 in armoured vehicles and nearly 3:1 in tanks. They were in prepared defensive positions of their own choosing, on highly advantageous ground, and we attacked them frontally without extensive air support from precisely the direction they expected, driving straight into a prepared kill sack. Yet the Iraqis failed to inflict any losses before losing their entire battalion and all of its supporting artillery to an advance by a single US cavalry troop."
  15. As a general point, although it is certainly true that the US battle summaries are written from the viewpoint of an imperialist military - and at times are blatantly self-serving - nevertheless the ones written after the events often contain important observations and insights. In addition, there is the overall point about knowing both oneself and the enemy, so it is important to try to understand their point of view and approach. Given the actual speed with which Baghdad was taken and the low number of casualties suffered by the invaders, much of what is summarised is probably true or at least contains a lot of truth. Finally, up to this point this author is not aware of any post-war summations written by those taking part in the resistance to the invasion. These would, of course, be very helpful if they were able to shed more light on this important subject.
  16. The US War College analysis pays a lot of attention to this question. Again, while it is written from a bourgeois perspective and almost completely ignores or negates the role of the broad masses in combating imperialist aggression and invasion, it nevertheless contains a number of important insights and reveals quite a bit about the bourgeois view of this question as a whole. For that reason it is cited here at some length:
"Perhaps the most serious Iraqi shortcoming was their systematic failure to exploit the military potential of urban terrain. Cities offer a natural source of cover and concealment, they canalise attacks, they facilitate barrier construction, they pose difficult problems of intermingling and collateral damage avoidance, and they make effective employment of stand-off precision weapons much harder&
"Yet the Republican Guard and Iraqi Regular Army systematically avoided major cities, deploying instead in rural areas and suburban outskirts. They appear to have been deliberately denied access to major city centres by the Iraqi high command&
"The great majority of the true urban combat in OIF was against lightly armed irregular paramilitaries, who fought mostly on the tactical offensive, sallying out into the open to charge Coalition armoured vehicles. Not only did the paramilitaries lack the heavy weapons or armour protection of Iraq's large mechanised formations, they also forfeited the tactical potential of urban terrain by taking the offensive in exposed, unprepared frontal assaults.
"More conventional Special Republican Guard (SRG) units deployed some heavy weapons, especially in Baghdad, but these were a tiny fraction of the total available to the Iraqi military. And even the SRG failed systematically to make effective use of urban terrain for their employment. The SRG's prepared positions were almost entirely outdoors, typically in shallow foxholes dug along the roadside or in simple sandbag emplacements on building roofs or at intersections. SRG tanks were often simply parked in the open at major intersections, with no effort at cover or concealment. Practically no buildings received the interior preparations that would be normal for urban warfare in Western practice, such as interior barricades, wall reinforcement, loophole construction, or wire entanglements. Outdoor obstacles, barriers, or minefields were almost completely absent&
"The Iraqis' shortcomings left them extremely vulnerable to the Coalition's technological and training advantages. For example, the Regular Army, Republican Guard, and Special Republican Guard's inability to exploit complex terrain for cover and concealment left them exposed to the full weight of Coalition stand-off precision strikes&Against such an armada, failure to secure cover and concealment can be lethal to hundreds of combatants in just minutes; the Iraqis' exposure enabled the Coalition to annihilate whole formations at safe distances, and persuaded many Iraqis to abandon weapons lest they suffer the same fate.
"But while precision weapons are tremendously lethal against exposed targets, they are much less so against opponents who exploit terrain for cover and concealment& Most important, though, a skilled urban defender could not have been broken by an all-mounted assault of the sort waged in Baghdad and Basra. The Iraqis of 2003 were exposed and could thus often be slaughtered in the open even within the city centre without the attacker dismounting from its armoured vehicles. By contrast, a defender who exploited the natural potential of urban terrain by remaining in cover to fire from within buildings, who prepared those buildings for maximum cover and concealment, used barriers and obstacles to canalise attacks into prepared ambushes, and who used covered retreat routes to slip away for subsequent engagements a couple of blocks away, would have been a much tougher target. Historically, it has been impossible to destroy such urban defenders without supporting armoured advances with dismounted infantry who can enter buildings to clear rooms, kill concealed defenders, and hold the building interiors to prevent their reoccupation by defenders& unless such defenders are cleared before the armoured vehicles advance, the vehicles' weaker roof, rear, and flank armour risks easier penetration from bypassed but unseen defenders. Working together, skilled dismounted infantry and supporting armour can clear urban terrain, but they cannot do so cheaply if the defender makes the most of that terrain: even with skilled attackers, and even with armoured support, dismounted building clearance against skilled defenders has typically been very costly. Recent exercises by the U.S. Marine Corps have suggested that against skilled urban defenders, even well-trained attackers might expect little better than a 1:1 loss exchange ratio (LER), a 1:1 LER against multiple thousands of Iraqi urban defenders would have produced thousands of friendly casualties and a much costlier outcome for OIF, even given the technological advantages of the Abrams and the Challenger [tanks]."
   17. One of the main conclusions of the War College study is that it might be very difficult for the US to repeat what happened in Iraq:
"But because both technology and a major skill imbalance are required, the same Coalition skills and equipment would probably not produce comparable results against a more skilled opponent. In particular, the troop level required to destroy a skilled force the size of Saddam's military could well have exceeded that available in 2003, and the costs required could well have been significantly higher.
"This is because skilled militaries can survive stand-off precision engagement and compel close combat on terms unfavourable to us, and because such close combat, even with modern technology, is inherently dangerous and labour intensive when waged against a skilled opponent. To survive stand-off precision and wage close combat effectively, however, requires high tactical proficiency and an ability to exploit complex terrain for cover and concealment. The Iraqis in 2003 were anything but highly proficient. Their poor training and leadership produced a combination of mistakes, ill-prepared fighting positions, poor marksmanship, and flawed dispositions that left them fatally exposed to Coalition technologies at all ranges. This in turn enabled a relatively small Coalition force to prevail in a short, relatively low-cost campaign - but it would be a mistake to assume similar outcomes against better prepared opponents."


Popular Posts