TCS Daily

Why 'Bloody Sunday' Didn't Happen

By Ralph Kinney Bennett - February 1, 2005 12:00 AM

As the day of the historic Iraqi elections came to a close the incapability of the vitiated Baathist/Islamofascist forces to carry out their bloody, histrionic threats became apparent. They were not able to exact casualties above the normal accident rate in a country of 27 million people.

The low level of terrorist violence came as a surprise to most observers, but in fact a combination of factors, many of them largely unreported or misreported in the mainstream news media, contributed to this happy turn of events.

First, while the Bush Administration may have at first underestimated the size of the terrorist forces, the press has generally underestimated the degree to which they have been decimated over the past year and particularly in the last four months. Even by conservative estimates, coalition and Iraqi forces have killed more than 15,000 terrorists.

Second, the media has tended to magnify each terrorist attack beyond its true impact. An example was the mortar or rocket attack last week, in which a round or two hit the American Embassy in the Baghdad Green zone. This militarily insignificant attack was pumped up on the news networks and in some papers as an example of terrorist power to hit "where and when" they wanted, with "ominous" implications for election day. In fact, the attack was a desperate effort by forces unable to mount any effective engagements. Most of the car bombings reported recently have been aborted attempts in which the bombers were unable to reach their targets.

Third, and most importantly, in the weeks leading up to the election, American and British forces combined with newly trained and strengthened Iraqi units began and sustained a series of raids, arrests and aggressive "patrols" throughout the country that not only killed large numbers of terrorists, but put the survivors to flight and knocked their leadership off balance.

This heightened level of military activity coincided with increasing cooperation from Iraqi citizens, the elimination of many weapons caches, the capture of immense amounts of terrorist documents and profitable returns on some earlier intelligence investments that one hopes will remain secret.

The mid-January capture, for instance, of two of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's top military aides was evidence of how deeply into the muscle of the terrorist movement these raids have cut. One of those captured was al-Zarqawi's top bomb maker, the man who is believed to have engineered the vast majority of the car bombings in and around Baghdad over the past year.

In addition to these well-publicized captures, U.S. and Iraqi security forces have captured or killed numerous other "technicians" vital to the type of war the terrorists have been reduced to waging -- one of car bombs, roadside bombs and "suicide vests." But the huge majority of bombing attempts have been unsuccessful (and therefore unreported). Many roadside devices have been spotted and defused or harmlessly detonated. Many are detonated electronically in routine "sweeps" of routes. And increasingly, our troops are getting tips about the bombers.

There are still some hit and run attacks on Americans or Iraqi police and military involving rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and small arms, but these have generally ended badly for the attackers.

It is true that skilled and fanatically tenacious Baathists (who really believed they were going to regain power in Iraq) were able to team up with al Qaeda fighters and raise violence to new levels in Iraq over the past half year. But while they killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians and more than 350 American soldiers, they did so at the cost of almost 7000 of their own men.

Now the uneasy alliance between the secular Baathists and the fanatically religious al Qaeda fighters is showing a lot of stress fractures. The Baath future in Iraq is not good, to put it mildly. And al-Qaeda, despite the proclivity of the Arab news media to paint it as heroic, is seen more and more by ordinary Iraqis as a dangerous enemy to their newly emerging democracy and an organization guilty of the innocent blood of thousands.

The capacity for evil of these terrorists, their desperation as wounded animals, must not be discounted. They may still be able to attract as cannon fodder some clueless young Arabs with dead-end lives to be martyrs for the "coming Caliphate." And although they have lost a lot of veteran fighters, they will still be able to draw themselves up for particularly lethal attacks in coming weeks and months, particularly if they are given a rest from the incessant probing of American, British and Iraqi forces.

In the turmoil, through happenstance or dumb luck, they may achieve "spectacular" hits like the possible downing of that British transport aircraft on Sunday. But their ability to have any strategic or tactical effect on operations in Iraq is gone. And millions of Iraqis, simply by walking up to ballot boxes all over the country, have removed any shred of legitimacy that may have been imputed to them by some fevered editorialists.

They are losers. Worse, they are brutal murderers and cowards, who skulked away when confronted by real freedom fighters -- men and women with smiles on their faces and ink stains on their fingers.



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