This from one who has been there lays out the problem:

The insurgency has finite numbers. The Americans, in relation to this skirmish-style of combat, do not. The Americans can be much more brash in their tactics, due to this disparity of numbers, while the insurgency must protect their numbers at all costs. And I will explain to you how they do it.
I’ll just take my old stomping grounds in Baqubah, and create a fictional 10 man terror cell operating in the area to illustrate my point.
Habib has his 9 insurgents, plus himself as the “sheik”. In the immediate vicinity, there are over 1,000 American troops, producing round the clock patrols of the city of Baqubah and the surrounding highways. He cannot hope to do damage to so many soldiers by fighting them directly, so he plans ambushes of small convoys, roadside bombings, and suicide bombings.
His only problem is the fact there are so many Americans watching these areas at such random times that he can’t accomplish much without risk of losing his people.
So here’s what he does…
He targets the poor families with men of fighting age (and with lots of mouths to feed), and he approaches them to gauge interest in the insurgency. If the people reject him, he threatens to kill the family, and fades off to the next target. If the people waiver, or express interest, he will inundate them with propoganda, and eventually make an offer of cash for doing some “small” task. This might be something like wiring a roadside bomb, or firing an RPG at an American convoy. The men of the starving family are eventually swayed to the insurgency through the fear, or the money, the latter being the most common, since there is no work left to be had in Iraq due to our devastation of the country’s infrastructure. In this case, we’ll say they’ve been asked to fire an RPG at an American convoy for 100 US dollars, which is a small fortune to these people.
So a man and his son then take the RPG, and find an area that they feel they have the best chance of success, and they set up there. This is usually a rooftop or an alleyway, and they wait for the convoy. The Americans don’t disappoint. They arrive on their convoy, which is likely a combat presence patrol designed to project force, and deter action in a sector. They choose the vehicle they want to shoot (usually a command vehicle, which is rather stupidly identified from the pack by virtue of having multiple antennae on them for better communications)and fire.
Usually, panic and lack of training account for a missed shot, but on occasion they will hit the mark. The Americans in the convoy then must identify the source of the attack, and engage the threat. In this case, they will dismount, and enter the building chosen by the insurgents for their attack. They will leapfrog through the building, clearing each room until they find the man and the son, and they will engage and kill them.
The family lost two men, and did not earn a dime. The Americans may or may not have taken casualties, but engaged and killed two “insurgents”. The insurgency, however won the day without doing a thing. They protected their numbers, and through the inability of the Americans to discern who or what the threat was or wasn’t, they didn’t even lose a hundred bucks.
That’s how the insurgency works…They use the Iraqi people to fight for them, and so we must hunt and kill them instead of those who oppose us.
It’s a vicious thing, but it has been very successful from their standpoint.

If this is the case, we’re in a hell of a mess, but I guess we knew that already.
(Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for the link.)


  1. You double posted the first 4 paragraphs.
    Unsettling indeed.
    Hi Scott–
    Thanks for the heads up.  It’s fixed now.

  2. I think it’s worse than that. It is the Americans and their (un)willing allies that have finite numbers (not the insurgents) – and any insurgent will know those numbers are likely to fall dramatically in the near future when political support for this lunacy collapses further. OTOH as ‘we’ have made Iraq a beacon for anti Western/Christian sentiment, volunteers have been flooding over the various borders from day one – both for the perfect terrorist training ground ‘we’ have created, and/or the opportunity for (in their eyes) glorious martyrdom.
    Yes, of course the collapsed economy and dismal health and energy infrastructure have further destroyed any chance of winning ‘hearts and minds’ – vital for any chance of lasting peace – and it has also created the desperate onlookers that can be used in the manner he describes. And yes, the incompetence of the whole campaign (lets not forget ZERO planning for the occupation) have been partly responsible for the disaster we now have, but even in retrospect with the aid of 20/20 hindsight, it’s hard to imagine what steps could have made the imposed/US controlled idea of ‘democracy’ successful.
    I thought this comment yesterday from one of those who suffered under Saddam and was involved in the staged toppling of his statue 4 years ago summed up the failure of the Iraq adventure better than anything else.
    Hi Malcolm–
    I agree that the insurgents outnumber the occupiers overall, but I think the writer’s point was that in any given discrete local where there are numerous American and allied troops that isn’t the case.  And the small guerrilla groups can’t possible win in a one-on-one confrontation so they hoodwink the locals into acting as their stand ins.  The whole thing is tragic.
    Why are we there?  Here is where I part ways with most people.  I blame the Democrats in this country for our (and our (un) allies) being there.  The Democrats!?!?!?  Why the Democrats?  Because one of the reasons we have a two party system is to prevent this very thing from happening.
    If you listen to the Democrats now, they’re all saying what misgivings they had and that they were sorry they voted the way they did, and yada yada yada.  What they did is put their moistened fingers in the air and sensed that the wind of public opinion was in favor of the war, so they voted for it.  They remembered the butt kicking George Sr. put on the mighty Republican Guard back when Iraq was in full force in the early 80s and figured this would be a replay.  They didn’t want to be on the wrong side when the troops came marching home again tra la tra la in full triumph, so they sold out.  Not many Democrats truly wanted  this war, yet they voted for it out of fear of the voters.
    The Democrats abdicated their vitally important role as the opposing party.  If they had put the kind of effort into blocking this war that they would have put in had George Bush advocated, say, reducing the capital gains tax, we (and others) wouldn’t be in this mess.
    Where are the statesmen?  Where are the people who can look beyond the next election and do what’s right right now?  Sadly, they are lacking in the Democratic party.  It infuriates me to see them jumping up and down and pointing fingers when they could have stopped it.  This doesn’t mean I don’t think the Republicans are culpable because I do.  They initiated the whole thing and without their idiocy and lack of foresight we wouldn’t be there either.  But it’s up to the opposing party to put a muzzle on the rabid actions of the party in power, and in that the Democrats failed miserably.
    I wouldn’t think the Democrats had failed us if they had been gung ho for the war in the first place, but they weren’t: they were almost to a man opposed to it.  Yet they voted for it in a disgusting attempt to curry voter favor.
    Using Hillary Clinton as an example, there couldn’t have been anyone who at heart was more opposed to this ‘war.’  Yet she wanted to be president and knew a woman would have a tough time of it if she were seen to be weak, so she went against everything she stands for (if there is anything she stands for other than blind ambition) to vote for the war so that she would have political viability, a phrase her husband made famous.
    Geez, the answer is longer than the comment.  Sorry.  I guess you can tell that this pisses me off almost beyond words.  And it’s certainly not you or your comment I’m pissed at, it’s the situation.


  3. Just remember that the media only reports the bad. For every ten news items nine may be good and one bad. The media will report only the bad and ignore the good.
    But your opinion about the Democrats is probably right on. Look how they are trying to make a big stink over 9 assistant attorneys and never mention the 93 that Clinton fired. This is how they try to draw attention away from their true agenda, what ever that is.
    Hi Jay–
    They’re all (politicians) venal swine as far as I’m concerned.

  4. In reguards to comment 3 about the District Attorneys being fired, the big deal is that EVERY other president does his firing at the begining of their term. These attorneys are political appointees and each president takes the opportunity to clean the slate or pick and choose which ones to keep. The big deal is the Bush Admin. seems to have waited until they were drowning in scandals. As far as I know none of this is illegal so I agree I have no idea what the hearings are for or what they might prove.
    What I heard on the news this morning was even more disturbing. The 93 were divided into 3 categories, those loyal to the Bush Admin, those not loyal and those “undistinguished.” So the firings were not performance based like they originally declared. It’s really no different then the Whitewater investigation turning up marital indiscretions in Clinton’s Admin. (And let’s face it, what married man isn’t going to lie about getting a little something on the side? Some would say that was the right thing to do!) Basically it’s all political BS used to distract us from nightmare in Iraq. And I agree with Dr. Mike, they are all “venal swine,” and I couldn’t have described them any better. Thanks for the platform!
    Hi David–
    I’ve read a lot more about this since I made my original post.  Apparently there is nothing unlawful about the firings; it’s simply unusual and has all the appearance of being totally politically motivated.  And it probably is.  But the U.S. Attorneys are employed at the discretion of their ultimate boss, the Attorney General, so he (or she) can fire them at will.  The Democrats are having hearings simply so they can get face time and be seen to be ‘doing something,’ despite the fact that there is nothing they can do.  It appears that the Democrats are frustrated because they haven’t been able accomplish much of anything since they’ve taken control of the house and senate after all the blather about the first 100 hours or 100 days or whatever it was, so they’re looking for anything that will give the appearance that they’re on the job.  I don’t know why they’re so frustrated; they’ve all been around long enough to know that nothing happens quickly in Washington and that clever members of the opposing party were going to be hamstringing them just as they hamstrung the Republicans at every opportunity.  That’s the way the game is played by all the venal swine playing it.  Instead of thinking about what’s best for America, they’re all thinking about what’s best for their party.  The individual venal swine thinks: what can I do to help my party achieve (or increase) power, so that I will have a better office, bigger staff, more contributions, etc.  And it’s all couched in terms of ‘what’s best for America.’
    It’s much like what doctors do.  If a doctor comes up with an unconventional but successful way of treating some medical disorder that takes patients from other more conventional doctors, the doctors don’t complain to the medical board that they are losing patients (read: money), they complain that they are worried about the unconventional doctor’s patients.  Everything is couched in terms of patient welfare when what is really at stake is doctor’s incomes.
    Where are the statesmen?

  5. As a follow up to the article, it was on the news this morning that the car bombers are now using children. Because children are in the car, check points are letting the cars go through. Then the car is parked, the adults walk away and blow up the car with the children inside. These are very sick, sick people. I don’t even want to call them people, they are lower than animals.
    Incredible.  Stories like this are one of the main reasons I hate the thought of our forces simply pulling up stakes and leaving.  I would imagine that the vast majority of Iraqis are decent, hard working people that simply want to go to work, feed their families, and live their lives in peace.  If we walk away now that we’ve broken the system, these decent people will be the ones victimized in mass by the animals you described above.


  6. Sir also perhaps the underlying cult myths/beliefs of the respective ‘sides’ are 1 vanquish the wrong doers come home a hero and live happy ever after and 2. vanquish the wrong doers die in the process and get a handful of virgins/raisins and a Lexus presumably to boot.
    If yr life is shite, y’re biochem out of whack, you’re a young male who beleives totally in an afterlife, you have no status the best thing to do to afford you and yr genes( and fam of course) status in that context is off the others using yourself as canon fodder. And if you don’t do it willingly then of course you could be offed for being a chicken/coward/non believer and so which ever way you look you’re phuqued well and truly.
    BTW were you serious about eating the Lays chips as part of detoxification or was that the leg Eades flippancy ?
    Thanks as always
    Hi Simon–
    I was indeed serious about the Lay’s.  Since olestra isn’t sold as an oil, but only comes as part of a processed food, to get it you’ve got to eat the processed food.  And you’ve got to eat enough of it to get 15-20 grams of olestra.

  7. Hi Mike,
    I agree about the Democrats even while coming broadly from that side of the political fence (although the differences between the ‘sides’ is so small these days just about anywhere you look).
    Here we have had the worst government in living memory for 11 years, and yes I am as mad as hell at the rabble the Labor Party have become, who through general incompetence and apparent lack of alternative vision have allowed this to occur.
    Now the government is finally on the nose with voters and we now have an alternative leader .. who may be exactly that, there is a real possibility of change … what what sort?
    What we suffer from (and I’m sure you do) is the politics of small targets. Policy options are not just examined by a multitude of focus groups and spin doctors for their potential appeal (as if that weren’t bad enough), but these options are also analyzed on the basis of proposing only what is necessary to the only goal that matters to politicians – getting elected (or reelected). Gone are the days of sweeping visions for long term betterment of society, because it is seen as risky (or in “Yes Minister” parlance “brave”) as anything ‘big’ represents a huge target for the opposing forces to white ant and belittle in a sea of analysis of the detail – and of course this is another reason policy of any kind is not announced until the last minute before an election.
    As I say, we have a real opportunity for change on basic issues like rolling back the serious attacks on democratic rights and freedoms this government has imposed, depoliticizing the role of the public service and the armed forces, selection of the judiciary … as well as the big issues such as addressing global warming and getting the hell out of the Iraq. But sadly it is nigh on impossible to see anything ‘brave’ being canvassed as ‘winning’ is considered more important … and once you ‘win’, you have to devote 90% of you time devoted to not losing’ on the next occasion.
    Hi Malcolm–
    If they devoted only 90% of their time to get re-elected, they might actually be able to get something done with the other 10%.  I suspect they spend 98% of their time ensuring their re-election and 100% of their brain power thinking about it.

  8. I thought firing the attorneys was illegal, if done for political purposes. What the democrats want to find out is did the Bushies have a quota? Arrest 3 Republican congressmen, then somebody has to arrest and jail a Democratic congressman. That is what the hullabaloo is all about.
    The US attorneys swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. The constitution calls for equal justice to all. If there was a quota thing going on, that is definitely not equal justice for all. This is a big time Constitutional issue, much different than a little lie about a blow-job.
    I agree, Dr Eades, about the democrats. The gutless wonders didn’t even squeak about the Patriot Act, let alone a “preventative war”.
    They didn’t protest torture, abandonment of habeaus corpus. What a bunch of whimps! The New York Times trumpeted war mongering directly from Cheney & Rumsfield. Such a mess. Things I never thought would happen have happened. And the democrats didn’t do their job of preventing the republicans from doing evil.
    But, you voted for Bush twice. Those who voted for him have to bear a large share of the blame. I am not saying the greater, but a large share.
    Reread PPLP this week, and donated blood yesterday. I figure it will take 10 quarts to get down to target. Thanks for writing PPLP.
    Hi David–
    I voted for Bush only once.  And that was the second time when most of the damage was already done.  Call me whatever, but I’m still glad I did.  I would have been suicidal by now if I had to live with that blowhard Kerry and the obnoxious Edwards preening around.  I figured we were better off with a lame duck president in there and a more powerful congress, but the congress didn’t come through.  And I figured that if Kerry and Edwards were the best the Democrats could offer out of the whole field of people available, they deserved to lose, just as the Republicans deserved it in 1996.  Clinton, thanks in great part to Hillary’s antics, was severely wounded in 1996, and the Republicans put on a search throughout the country for the only candidate who couldn’t beat Clinton – Bob Dole – and ran him.   They deserved to lose.   That whole fiasco is one of the reasons I despise John McCain.  He was going around the country telling Republicans that it was Bob Dole’s turn.  Bob Dole, according to McCain, had served his party well for many years, and therefore he deserved his party’s support.  What BS.  Dole wasn’t running for president of the party–he was running for president of the country.  I despise the party way of thinking, which is: party first, country second.

  9. I was always skeptical about about the reasons for the war and my skepticism was correct. We had no business going in there in the first place. Bush was just chasing phantom threats and ignoring real ones.
    Despite what good we think we can do, I think we’ve overstayed our welcome (if we were really welcomed in the first place). Recent polls show that a majority of Iraqis think they are worse off now and approve of killing Americans. The notion of forcing democracy on the Middle East has proven to be a failure. Just look at Lebanon, Palestine, & Egypt. Islamic radicals were voted in. Even the Iraq constitution says that Islam is the basis for law. That is just one step closer to Sharia law in Iraq. Iraqi Christians are being persecuted like never before and are leaving Iraq in droves. Our troops are being sucked into a civil war.
    The thought of pulling up stakes and leaving is distasteful and we are all concerned for all the decent Iraqi people. Yet, I think leaving would be the least worst option. We are just making things worse. True, it’s our mess, but our attempts to clean it up aren’t helping.
    Hi Dan–
    It’s a tough, tough problem.  I’ll admit that I don’t have a clue as to the optimal solution.  If we leave, there will be a bloodbath.  If we stay there will continue to be a bloodbath, but on a smaller scale.  I spend a lot of psychic energy worrying about the decent, hardworking people there who are caught up in this struggle and who will come to a bad end should we pull out.

    I wish that we had never gone there in the first place.

  10. Hrm…
    So, the original post to me suggests that the incentives are wrong. If $100 can move people to random violent acts that are basically suicide missions, then clearly, the economy is not functioning in a way that is useful.
    Neither solution: More Troops or Less Troops really addresses the actual problem. And a political solution doesn’t really work either. You need a real economic solution, where Iraqis have better options than suicide missions and afterlife rewards. And due to no_bid crony contracts, the opportunity for an affordable economic solution is likely gone.
    Blame the democrats. They didn’t have the votes to stop anything. Even when it was a 50/50 Senate, the former CEO of Halliburton held the trump vote and the ultimate trump, the veto, was very unlikely to be used (in fact, to this point in time over 6 years, our current president has vetoed only once, and threatened it only 7 times. This is an all time low for any president who has sat for a full term). Yes, they should have cried loud or worked a solution, but negotiation only works when both sides have leverage and an interest in negotiating. I wish they were more spinefull and more idealistic. But to not blame the folks who were in power is an interesting bit of spin.
    Last thought: If you install a democracy and the folks elect radical religious leaders, is that a failure? Only if the radicals suspend further elections and repress the opposing party. The point of democracy is a government that represents the people, and if they elect radicals, that ought to tell you something.
    Hi Max–
    I agree with you that if economic conditions were better for the average Iraqi many of these problems would go away.  The question is, how do we bring that about?  I don’t have the answer.
    I can just about guarantee you that if the Democrats had risen up in full force and voted against the war, it wouldn’t have happened despite Cheney’s potential tie-breaking vote and despite Bush’s ability to veto.  Nope, in this case, the Democrats were enablers, and, in my view, are just as culpable as the Republicans.  The party in power are the venal idiots–the party out of power need to be the venal anti-idiots, not the venal-idiot enablers.

  11. I am currently reading The Heirs Of Muhammed: Islam’s First Century and the Origins of the Sunni-Shia Schism c.2007 by Barnaby Rogerson. According to this author the Sunni-Shia split originated with Muhammed’s death. The two different factions that he held together, separated into distinctly different groups within days of his death.
    On of the things that pops out immediately is that Islam was not established as a religion of peace. Converts were made by conquering an area – be it an oasis, a village, or a larger region- and the main reason for the warfare that resulted in that conquest was usually economic/geographic. They have no longstanding tradition of peaceful negotiations to resolve any dispute.
    Hi Martha–
    Sounds like an interesting book.  Unfortunately, I am woefully underread on the history of Islam.  Maybe I should give the book a whirl.
    If the author is correct, it makes our prospects for any kind of long-term peace less and less probable.

  12. “It’s much like what doctors do. If a doctor comes up with an unconventional but successful way of treating some medical disorder that takes patients from other more conventional doctors, the doctors don’t complain to the medical board that they are losing patients (read: money), they complain that they are worried about the unconventional doctor’s patients. Everything is couched in terms of patient welfare when what is really at stake is doctor’s incomes.”
    I enjoyed your views on the slime that is Washington now, but I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the statement above.
    I went with my 78 year old mother to the doctor for her annual physical. He started to harrass her about needing a colonoscopy right now. He insisted she needed one immediately. She said why, hers had worked fine for 78 years and she didn’t want one.
    Just to have some fun, I asked the guy if he was really interested in finding if my mom had colon cancer or was this just what he asked everyone as part of his practice. He assured me that he was only looking for cancer. I then suggested that he refer her out for an MRI, which I knew my mother would accept faster than she would a hose up her butt. He thought about it for a minute, then said she could probably wait a year longer………..
    Thanks for the blog. I enjoy reading it daily.
    Hi Rusty–
    Thanks for the story.  Happens all too often.

  13. Not really on-topic, but my dad just sent me a link to Dennis Kuchinich’s campaign website (I can see that Kuchinich is right up my dad’s political alley). I don’t know much about Kuchinich. Do you have any thoughts on Kuchinich’s run for the presidency? He’s a vegan, by the way, which is rather unusual for Congress.
    Hi Anna–
    I don’t know much about Kucinich, but I wouldn’t vote for him simply because he’s a vegan.  And I’m not being facetious.  I’m a believer in the Socratic school that says you should vote for the smartest candidate with the most character instead of your own party’s choice (assuming your own party doesn’t put up the smartest one) because you can rely on someone who is smart and has good character to do the right thing when the time comes.  I’ve read a number of studies showing that people who don’t eat enough fat (nor the right kinds of fat) have slower response and reaction times.  I’ve taken this to mean that they have slower, less capable all around brain function.  (If you don’t believe this, try driving around in Boulder, Colorado sometime and watch all the indecisive, angry vegetarians try to park and navigate in traffic in general.)  So, I wouldn’t vote for someone who is cognitively impaired even if he were totally politically aligned with me.
    It’s a good thing Hitler was a vegetarian or we might all be doing the goose step.  His dithering and bad decisions cost Germany the second world war.

  14. Mike,
    Like I said, I want my guys to be filled with spine. I want them to represent their interpretation of what their constituents should have, rather than what’s gonna play best next election cycle. So, yeah, the dems sucked big hog on Iraq and their attempts at explicating their votes then and their opinions now are sad.
    From the administration’s point of view, Iraq was gonna happen, any way it could. You don’t distort intel to the public and the UN, market BS stories like welcomed with roses, or any of the other shenanigans that went on in the build up without being HARD committed to the goal, in this case, invade Iraq, and add their oil back to the market.
    As for economic solutions: Invest BIG in Iraq. The way we invested in late 40’s and early 50’s Japan and Germany. Invest with the goal of a win-win solution, where you might not get a full Return on Investment. Accept that your solution might be a win-WIN solution, and we get the small win. This is what government does well (aside from health care). Spend the cash that the market isn’t gonna spend.
    Ultimately, while the economies of the middle east are as bad as they are, you’re going to have foreign fighters, hired farmers-cum-terrorists, cultish leaders, strong resentment of the US, the West, and royals.
    I could suggest that you don’t cut taxes and fight a war at the same time (no one has accused the dems of cutting taxes while rallying for a way, yet any way). It hadn’t ever been done before and based on results, it shouldn’t again.
    PS- No-Bid crony contracts are a signal to Iraqis that our government is interested in enriching it’s friends, not improving the quality of life of the average Iraqi. There are a hundred other things like no-bid cost-plus crony contracts that send the same message. Very few things send the right message at present. And that’s the wrong way to go about things.
    Hi Max–
    Agreed on all fronts.  I think the best thing we can do for the Iraqis is make them prosperous.  Prosperous people don’t go looking for trouble.
    And I think the Democrats failed badly on the Iraq issue.  Whenever I say that I have all these people tell me that it was the Republican’s fault in the first place.  I disagree.  In my opinion the members of the party in power – whichever party that may be – always act like idiots.  It’s the responsibility of the out-of-power party to show good sense and rein the idiots in.

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