TCS Daily


News and Noise in Baghdad

By Ralph Kinney Bennett - June 2, 2005 12:00 AM

For evil news rides post, while good news baits.
-- Milton, Samson Agonistes

The devotion to secrecy in the interests of the military machine largely explains why, throughout history, its operations commonly appear in retrospect the most uncertain and least efficient of human activities.

-- B. H. Liddell Hart, Thoughts on War.

The much talked about "cordon and sweep" of Baghdad by an estimated 40,000 Iraqi police and military and "backed" by unknown thousands of U.S. troops has begun.

In coming days Americans will be bombarded with extensive "news" about this operation, but very little reliable information with which to make sound judgments about the success or failure of the blockade and search.

This particular phase of the war against radical Islamic terrorists, bloody and seemingly inconclusive, makes us all impatient for results. But some things are best left to the sorting of history.

As events unfold in coming weeks, here are some things to remember:

The extensive public notice given to this operation means that the real operation against terrorists in Baghdad has been underway for some time.

The key elements to watch are the Iraqi police forces. In the past months they have shown bravery and a sense of duty in the most harrowing circumstances -- the deaths of scores from their ranks.

At the same time, it must be remembered, the police have been shot through with terrorist informants and sympathizers.

Partly because of this informant activity, the most effective attacks on terrorist cells within Baghdad have and will be taking place with the knowledge of extremely few American and Iraqi officers and troops.

Many of these raids will be or seem to be on an almost ad hoc basis because they have not been signaled in any general planning of the current operation.

The accelerated tempo of operations in Iraq has caused the terrorists to mount hasty, multiple attacks that, while resulting in many deaths (mostly of civilians), have seldom been successfully pressed home to their intended targets. Their attacks on military targets have failed spectacularly.

Meanwhile, facilities vital to their operations, such as back alley chop shops where car bombs are built, are disappearing. Worse, for them, huge amounts of U.S. currency, now reaching close to $10 million, have been seized. The "romance" of Islamofanaticism plays well in some parts of the media, but in the end it is cash that keeps the terrorists going.

Some day when this part of the war on terror can be recorded as history rather than merely reported as a disjointed rush of events, the number of Baathist and al-Qaeda operatives secretly eliminated and the number of terror cells infiltrated, disrupted and in some cases simply destroyed, will be amazing.

Even before "Operation Thunder" began, it sent faint but important tremors pulsing out from Baghdad. It has caused unintended movements, indiscreet communications and unwise decisions on the part of the terrorists.

The ongoing operations in Baghdad will be a deadly mix of tedium and danger. Innocents will be killed. Unintended but inevitable indignities will occur (and be duly reported). Desperate and deadly counterattacks will occur.

But, as bloody as these past weeks have been, and as bloody and uncertain as the coming days will be in Iraq, the real story -- hidden within little news and much noise -- is of the terrorist plans that will never be carried out, the attacks that will not occur. There is much, much more to all this than meets the media eye.

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