Saturday, March 18, 2006


Fraudulent "Sweep"

Our government (it used to be my government, anyway), is still hyping the war on Iraq in the press and through government spokes-weasels. Condi Rice is one of the lead spokes-weasels, maybe going to go the distance and finish ahead of all her predecessors.

Anyhow, the latest well-written major operation against terrorists appears to be another, well, flop. Time Magazine, this week, reports it’s little more than PR. Here’s this from Bloomberg:

U.S., Iraq Hold 30 Suspects in Anti-Insurgency Sweep (Update2)
March 17 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces were holding about 30 people as part of a major operation to root out insurgents northeast of Samarra.

The suspects were among about 50 arrested, of whom 17 were released, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Edward Loomis said in an e- mailed reply to questions. ``Tactical interviews'' began immediately, he added.

No casualties have been reported by Iraqi security forces or coalition units, Loomis said.

Operation Swarmer, the largest helicopter assault in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, began early yesterday with more than 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers, about 200 military vehicles and more than 50 aircraft. The offensive demonstrated the increasing effectiveness of Iraq's security forces, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

Samarra's Golden Mosque, a shrine sacred to Shiite Muslims, was destroyed in a bombing last month that prompted reprisals against Sunni Muslims and brought the country to the brink of a civil war. Samarra lies in the northern Salah ad-Din province, about 80 miles (125 kilometers) from Baghdad on the Tigris River.

``There have been concerns about Samarra as a stronghold for terrorists for some time,'' Rice said at a news conference in Sydney. She said she ``would call attention to the role that Iraqi Security Forces have played in this offensive,'' which ``demonstrates that Iraqi forces are indeed taking on more of the security side.''

Iraqi Units

U.S. Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq, echoed Rice's comments during a televised news conference.

Iraqi soldiers are performing well ``without regard to religious or tribal affiliations,'' he said. ``Iraqi units with our support can be used in just about any role.''

The U.S. military last month said there were no Iraqi battalions capable of operating without support, a reduction from one battalion in September and three in June that were in the Pentagon's top category of readiness, Level 1.

The initial force of 1,500 soldiers involved in Operation Swarmer today was reduced to 900 after Iraqi commandos who took part returned to Samarra, Agence France-Presse reported, without saying where it obtained the information. In replying to the e- mailed questions, Loomis didn't respond to one concerning the AFP report, nor to a follow-up e-mail.

Salah ad-Din's Governor Abdallah Hussein said that about 200 insurgents were active in the Samarra area, including local nationals and members of the Sunni extremist group Jaish Muhammad, AFP reported. U.S. officials had earlier put the number of active insurgents in the area at around 40, though they said they had yet to meet any, AFP said.

The soldiers ``continue to methodically search their 10- mile-by-10-mile objective area for terrorists and bases from which they operate,'' Loomis said.

Six arms caches have been discovered so far, and their contents are being inventoried, Loomis said. Initial reports are that the caches include mortar rounds and rockets of various calibers, bomb-making materials, land mines and rocket-propelled grenades, he added.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Caroline Alexander in London at

Last Updated: March 17, 2006 10:54 EST

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