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  • The Baghdad Boil

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on December 7th, 2003 (All posts by )

    Our troops in Iraq are being afflicted with the Baghdad Boil:

    Leishmaniasis, which soldiers have coined the “Baghdad Boil,” is carried by biting sand flies and doesn’t spread from person to person. It causes skin lesions that if untreated may take months, even years, to heal. The lesions can be disfiguring, doctors say. … Sand flies are active during warm weather, and soon after U.S. troops arrived in Iraq in late March, “we started seeing soldiers basically eaten alive,” Coleman says. “They’d get a hundred, in some cases 1,000 bites in a single night.” … Insect repellants and bed nets are standard issue, Coleman says, but many units failed to pack them when they were deployed.

    (Via The Command Post).

    This story reminded me of something I’d read a long time ago in The Road to Oxiana, that most snide of travel books, by Robert Byron. Byron was an even more eccentric and less PC writer than his contemporary Evelyn Waugh. Byron passed through Baghdad in 1933, and wrote this:

    The prime fact of Mesopotamian history is that in the thirteenth century Hulagu destroyed the irrigation system; and that from that day to this Mesopotamia has remained a land of mud deprived of mud’s only possible advantage, vegetable fertility. It is a mud plain, so flat that a single heron, reposing one leg beside some rare trickle of water in a ditch, looks as tall as a wireless aerial. From this plain rise villages of mud and cities of mud. The rivers flow with liquid mud. The air is composed of mud refined into a gas. The people are mud-coloured; they wear mud-coloured clothes, and their national hat is nothing more than a formalised mud pie. Baghdad is the capital one would expect of this divinely favoured land. It lurks in a mud fog; when the temperature drops below 110, the residents complain of the chill and get out their furs. For only one thing is it now justly famous: a kind of boil which takes nine months to heal, and leaves a scar.

    (Emphasis added.) If Iraq was famous for its boils 70 years ago, why was no adequate provision to have the appropriate medication available to treat our troops, when we were going to station tens of thousands of them there? One of many such questions.

    The Bush administration is vulnerable to much, much criticism for the failures of its pre-war planning for the occupation, and the actual handling of the occupation. I have only skimmed this lengthy essay from the New Yorker entitled War After the War in the New Yorker. (Via Arts & Letters.) It is full of specific criticisms of the prewar planning and the actual conduct of the post-war occupation, which seemed to have contained far too much wishful thinking. It is a blue print for the Democrat presidential candidate.

    The situation has changed in the last few weeks. It used to be that the “Left” media was criticizing the Bush administration unfairly, and the “Right”, especially the Blogosphere would respond that things were going fine. The media seem to be trying to do their homework and come up with better-founded criticisms. This article even seems to be trying to be fair. Most impressive to me is how it shows our soldiers struggling to do an extremely difficult job. If you’ve got time, read it all. Meanwhile, we need to move from thinking that any criticism of Bush and his team is simply malicious, to trying to understand what is actually happening there. This essay by Anthony Cordesman is a good item to read, as is this worrisome report from the front. (both via Soldiers for the Truth.) We need to be willing to offer constructive criticism and analysis rather than cheerleading or we will be doing “our side” a major disservice.

     

    27 Responses to “The Baghdad Boil”

    1. Average Joe Says:

      If you really believe this sort of problem indicates a lack of planning on the part of George Bush and his administration, then I suggest you reacquaint yourself with that Byzantine Horror known as The United States Government. This is a fairly low-level problem. Anticipating the army’s medical needs is the responsibility of some Pentagon agency you and I probably never heard of. And just as probably that agency is headed by a lifelong military bureaucrat. I don’t see that you can blame Bush an Co. for this anymore than you can blame FDR for the outbreak of amoebic dysentery among soldiers during WWII.

      Bush deserves criticism, surely; but this strikes me as petty. It suggests to me you think the President is MicroManager-in-Chief.

    2. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Average Joe, I honestly don’t care who is to blame. Whether the blame falls on the Pentagon, or the White House or somewhere in between does not make the criticism of a particular issue any less valid, or any less worthy of concern. It might be an issue for the chattering political classes in Washington, but this ultimately is orthogonal to the issue at hand.

      Second, if the White House does not want to be blamed for low-level failures, that’s fine by me. But then it can’t take credit for low-level successes either, since these are every bit out of its reach. Somehow, I doubt such a rule will ever be followed by any White House, present and future.

      Third, the President is the commander in chief. And while it may be unfair to blame him for the specific problems of a particular unit, it is equally inappropriate for him to deflect the blame for such a widespread health issue to some obscure Pentagon department, when the problem has been known and reported for months. Yes, the Pentagon can be blamed for not planning ahead of time. But to the extent 1) the problem is still an issue and 2) the White House, through the National Security Manager is effectively managing and, sometimes, micro-managing the situation, it is very much on the accountability line. Arguing otherwise reminds me of former French prime minister Laurent Fabius arguing he was “responsible, but not guilty”.

      Fourth, from a mere troop morale standpoint, I doubt the White House can tell the troops the problem resides with their superiors or their own department. This is the kind of thing you want to handle as discretely and effectively as possible. And in general, neither the commander in chief nor the Administration can wash their hands of all general problems experienced by troops in harm’s way, electoral year or not. It looks as bad as it is inappropriate.

      Fifth, some of the same individuals who today point out that Bush should not be blamed for low-level technical or tactical issues are the same people who blamed Clinton for the Somalia failure, including choices made by the very troops involved in the deadly ‘Black Hawk Down’ raid. They can’t have it both ways.

      Sixth, low-level tactical and technical problems and difficulties can also reflect higher-level issues. The wasteful, incompetent mess that developed on the ground in Vietnam was also an amplified reflection of the institutional dysfunctions at the Pentagon, the White House and the National Security Council. It turned out there was nothing petty about some of the accusations levelled against LBJ, McNamara, Kissinger and Nixon by some of the leftist crackpots of the time, based on facts and problems identified on the ground.

      In short, I wholeheartedly agree with Lex’s last point. And I would go one step further. We should guard against some the same temptations our troops are facing. For a soldier dealing with guerillas and terrorist insurgents on the ground, the line between “anyone can be the enemy” and “everyone is the enemy” is very thin and it takes a constant, strenuous effort to remember where it is and why. It should be a lot easier for the rest us, sitting safely back home, to make sure we don’t fall into this trap by treating any criticism from the Left as a lie, and answering it with either superficial feel-good cheerleading, or by focusing on secondary domestic political issues.

    3. Lex Says:

      AJ, The question is not whether you and I know that these details are to be dealt with far, far below Bush’s level. We do, they are. The question is whether (1) the commander in chief is responsible, period, for the performance of the military under his command, and (2) will any planning failures, wherever they originated, be used by Bush’s political opponents. It seems to me the answers are “yes” and “yes”. Also, this incident is not an isolated one. It is a typical one, based on what I have been reading. That is a problem.

    4. Lex Says:

      Sylvain, I agree with every word.

    5. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Typo : it’s National Security Advisor, not Manager. sigh.

    6. Jay Manifold Says:

      As a project manager, I enjoyed this post (and Sylvain’s follow-up) immensely.

      Ironically, the DoD seems to have done a better job of risk management and implementing lessons learned than any other part of the USG over the past generation. Since I haven’t read the source articles Lex pointed to, I’ll confine myself to remarking that 1) however inadequate things are on the ground in Iraq, it’s a near-certainty that the Dept of Homeland Security’s plans for dealing with situations in the US are much, much worse; and 2) good negative feedback on the Iraq operation is desperately needed — there’s lots of swamp yet to be drained, and we’ve got to do it right.

    7. Average Joe Says:

      Lex, I admit I ignored the larger point you were making — that it’s time to start taking criticism of the war seriously. I ignored it for a good reason: you’re right. I hope your readers take it to heart.

      You and Sylvain seem to take for granted I am on “your side.” I am not. I did not vote for Bush in the last election and I am not certain I will in the next. If someone can show me he’s mismanaged the war, or is not serious in prosecuting it, I am willing to shop around for another President.

      My point is simply this: to make your point, choose an example that illustrates it. This one falls well short. As such, it may be instructive to study as something a “crackpot leftist” would wish to exploit. But it shows a lack of discernment, and therefore a lack of sincerity. Do you really want to assess the President’s performance? Or are you just skimming articles in order to strategize. The flea story suggests the latter. If you believe there’s something to Bush-bashing, then go with it. Nail the bastard to the wall. Feed us the real dirt. Not all this flea pap. If you’ll pardon the turn of phrase, what you’re doing is praising the man with faint damns.

    8. Lex Says:

      The flea story reminded me of Robert Byron, and gave me an excuse to quote him. Reason enough. Plus, I think it is typical of the many, medium-sized planning failures which have beset this effort. I don’t think the guys who have the medical problems arising from it think it’s minor, eiher. Lack of discernment, lack of sincerity — I think it is more, as you said, an example of the kind of things the Lefties will drag out.

      I think the President has done a decent job. I think the post-war planning should have been better. I think the ongoing dribbling of bad news helps his opponents. Nonetheless, we do need to start having constructive criticism. But to answer your question, I want to assess Bush’s performance. I also want to assess the political consequences of what is going on now. Howard Dean is probably going to be nominated, and I take as a given that he will be a disaster, hence worse than Bush no matter what, hence my focus on the political aspect.

      As to whether you are “on our side”, few people who aren’t bother to comment here. Or I should say, those who disagree usually sling some insults and leave it at that. That is the level of intellect I have come to expect. So when someone says something intelligent I have been forced to conclude that person agrees with me. I’m glad to know that is not universally true.

      And your comments are welcome, whatever your views and whoever you vote for.

    9. Jay Manifold Says:

      Here’s what I should have said earlier: Coincidentally, I’m studying chapter 11 of the PMBOK right now, on risk management.

      A good exercise for us all would be to read the articles Lex pointed to, then read chapters 2 and 5 of Risk Management Guide for DOD Acquisition (warning: 805 kB *.pdf), which this site calls “the single best introductory document on project risk management as applied to Department of Defense projects that exists.”

      Geekily Yours,

    10. Tom Bridgeland Says:

      In response to one of the links:…The ROE under “Iron Fist” is such that the US soldiers are to consider buildings, homes, cars to be hostile if enemy fire is received from them (regardless of who else is inside…

      The noncombatant people inside these building certainly deserve our sympathy, but what the h.ll are they doing still inside when they HAVE to know that a major attack is about to go down? The planning and execution of such a large scale attack can not go unnoticed by the people who actually live in the neighborhood. Are the guerillas forcing them to stay there to provide cover, or for the propaganda victory of a mas slaughter by US troops? Or are the locals willingly staying in order to help the attack? Reports of locals coming out to throw stones at the American armor suggests the latter.

      What the US forces need is better communication with locals who might want to stand apart from the battle, or who are unsympathetic to the Iraqi fighters. There must have been at least a few people who would have wanted to avoid having their homes destroyed. Perhaps mass distribution of dedicated mobile phones, so anyone could report suspicious activity from the safety of their back bedroom, out of sight of even their own family, would be one solution. Obviously no one wants to be seen talking to an American on the eve of an attack. They need security to communicate.

    11. Dean Esmay Says:

      I am generally in agreement with you and Sylvain, Lex.

      The biggest issue I’ve had with the critics over the last six months has been the utter lack of serious-mindedness. Rather, what we’ve mostly seen is childish, grasping, clawing pettifoggery from ridiculous partisans. So many of the criticisms have been so shallow, so ill-informed, and so flat-out stupid, it’s literally at times made me ill. So much of has so transparently been simply about finding something, anything to criticize, it’s been revolting to watch.

      The lack of serious-minded criticism has long worried me. So has the lack of a committment from the press to show the good news, and the positive achievements, along with the bad. We’re in a war dammit, and expecting that of them is not too much to ask.

      I’m all for more of this sort of thing, if it’s serious. I did vote for Bush, but I will vote for another candidate if he’s got what appears to be a better plan. Except that the odds of my voting for Howard Dean are very slim, simply given the sorts of things he’s said so far. Still, election day is far away.

    12. Scott Barnard Says:

      I have one acronym for this discussion… DDT.

    13. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      AJ, I never assumed anything about “your” side. But you did point out it would be petty to blame Bush for this. Lex and I are both arguing this might not be so petty, and even then, that assigning blame does not change the issue.

      It sounds like if we blame him for the problem, we’re petty. But if we don’t, we’re too shy. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t ask us to “nail the bastard” after telling us we’re petty for blaming him for something. Which is it ?

      Bush-bashers who obsess about “nailing the bastard” for everything under the sun are every bit as useless to me as the Bush worshippers who smell liberal plots behind every bit of bad news, and terrorists behind everything that goes against their way overseas. If you are “mad as hell” with Howard, I’m afraid we won’t help you much here. The truth, as usual, is somewhere around the center of gravity of all those facts and opinions. The problem is that it’s very hard to find, due to the amount of contradictory information, distortions – due to political and institutional incentives to bend the truth on all sides – and the range and volatility of both opinions and facts.

      I’m interested in figuring out what is really going on. And as far as I’m concerned, this is an issue that transcends Bush, Dean, Democrats and Republicans. It just is too important to be seen through that lens only. Or even mainly through it. If solidly domestic partisan politics is what interests you most, that’s your shtick and I happen to believe you are confusing the cart for the horse. It’s not about systematically criticizing the war simply because Bush is at the helm. It’s about criticizing the Bush Administration when and if the war is not well managed or prosecuted. And that is a very different ballgame.

      Despite their apparent agreement and superficial similarities in political affiliations, the gap of knowledge and understanding – and their respective abilities to predict and advise – between the average late 60s campus leftist and a Daniel Ellsberg, for instance, was simply massive. I am totally interested in the latter. I can’t be bothered with the former. The trick today is we don’t have yet the hindsight and years of engagement and data to tell us which is which. It’s so early the amount of data to support one conclusion is the same as that supporting a totally contrary one.

      Jay, care to elaborate on data points supporting your view of the DoD’s progress ? I agree with you when it comes to conventional warfare. In the current guerilla phase, I’m not sure there has been enough progress across all branches of the military for a project of this scale. And I’m not sure we can easily compare the DoD with a newly created domestic law enforcement agency either. At least I don’t know how to do that. I think I’m tempted to agree with you generally, but I wouldn’t know how to substantiate that in a meaningful way.

      This being said, we agree. We desperately need real, thorough criticism. The Left makes good points but they are buried in a giant steaming pile of partisan dogshit. And too many on the right sport the same electoral blinders and are all too happy to carpet-bomb us with well-crafted propaganda and political soundbites. Which, on this issue, bothers me immensely. I have no issue with partisan politics on taxes, Medicare, judge appointments and the like. In fact, I think it’s healthy. But on Iraq, it is generally reckless and counter-productive. Don’t misundertand me here : I am not asking for some PC feel-good bipartisan nonsense. This is beyond parties. There are conservative and liberal views about it. But it’s much bigger than either, and too damn important to be left or trusted to anyone on the mere basis of their domestic political affiliation.

    14. Pouncer Says:

      Scott Barnard: >DDT

      Amen!

      Let us consider the irony of a military that is prepared to escalate from being attacked by low-tech chemical WMD to responding with tactical nuclear theater-wide destruction — BUT is so solicitious of duck eggs, butterflies, and a slight increase in incidence of cancer in populations some fifty years hence that it will NOT deploy an insecticide. In self defense.
      Against a biological — well, hazard, if not weapon.

      Maybe we forgot the formula? Maybe we could USE it, overseas, but we can’t MAKE it within the continental U.S.? Maybe the military HAS BEEN trying to get some but the two competing bidders for the supply contract are secretly lobbying Congress for exclusive rights and the political process has delayed the procurement?

      And what would a good democratic presidential candidate have to say if the military did in fact start dusting large areas of Iraq with the stuff?

    15. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      It’s all the more odd that the anti-DDT crowd has taken a beating in South Africa. They managed to force the locals down there to stop using it. The consequences were so catastrophic the local government backtracked and several groups even managed to have the UN change its protocols and rules in this matter. Namely, it can be used as long as no substitute that is as effective for the intended use.

      Of course, you didn’t hear much about it in the media. Which is odd since, as we well know, there is such a conservative bias out there these days.

      Anyway, this is off topic here. But for what it’s worth, see this http://www.malaria.org/DDTpage.html, which we blogged about here : https://www.chicagoboyz.net/archives/001394.html.

    16. Jay Manifold Says:

      This is where I admit that my earlier comments only partially apply to the present situation. I blogged about this over on Arcturus a while back and suggested, rather tongue-in-cheek, that we should replace the Dept of Homeland Security with a Dept of Defeated Former Enemies’ Security.

      Strictly military operations by the DoD experienced a significant turnaround, to my mind, sometime between the Beirut disaster of ’82-’83 and the invasion of Panama in ’89. I do not endorse every American military intervention; this is merely to note that the effectiveness thereof seemed to improve markedly, together with an order-of-magnitude reduction in casualties. I clearly recall the predictions of thousands of American casualties per hour in the run-up to Gulf War I (which I opposed), and of course the absurd projection of MEDACT late last year of half a million civilian deaths in Iraq. I guess those are my data points, such as they are; I recognize that a proper analysis would not fit into a comment on a post.

      Anyway, I’m reading the New Yorker piece now, and to the extent that it contains any root cause analysis, the problem seems to be one of differing incentives operating on the departments of Defense and State, plus the usual right-hand-not-knowing-what-left-hand-is-doing communications-management issues common to all large organizations. The spirit to approach this stuff in is, OK, so how do we do better next time? — And don’t kid yourself, there will be a next time.

      Most of politics is about risk management and prioritization (an exceptional risk management framework starts here). The present situation has the potential for a truly enlightening public debate, one that partisan hacks on both sides will try to undermine. The war was badly argued but well fought, and the aftermath is a decidedly mixed affair. So let’s keep on doing what we’re doing, and thereby raise the level of discourse a trifle.

    17. Average Joe Says:

      It sounds like if we blame him for the problem, we’re petty. But if we don’t, we’re too shy. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t ask us to “nail the bastard” after telling us we’re petty for blaming him for something. Which is it ?

      Sylvain,

      How you sound is not my concern. I was interested in the truth of what Lex said. I disagree with him on a very narrow point: is the flea story a fair criticism of Bush? Either it is or it isn’t. We can disagree on that. But how you sound has nothing to do with it. If you care not about the substance of points which (all of) you bring up, but how they will make you “sound” in the partisan-hack gotcha game, then in the end all your readers will be partisan hacks.

    18. Scott Barnard Says:

      This flea-forgetting thing was a failure, but not a monumental one. And yes, you can blame it on the administration, it is a legitimate criticism. Especially if you’re on the receiving end of one of these bites. Were we not exposed to this in Gulf I due to the weather? Anyway, the fact that you recalled the passage about the boils is priceless.

    19. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Jay, which casualties are we talking about ? And during which phase of the war ?

      One problem during Vietnam is that nobody ever estimated, nor cared, about Vietnamese civilian casualties, while talking ad nauseam about “winning hearts and minds”. However, when public opinion, the media and top-level officials focus on American casualties at the exclusion of every other, this percolates down to the field with the consequences we know. Namely playing it “safe” by blasting the enemy with heavy firepower before sending in the troops. To hell with the civilians who are in the way, the mission has priority. If winning the battle in Samarra with minimum casualties means M1-A1 Abrams firing at close range in an urban setting and helicopters cutting through crumbling concrete with miniguns, well, what the hell. That’s war, right ? Got to get the job done, boys. It’s only “collateral” damage, we didn’t intend to kill them so it’s no so bad, is it ? Can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, etc etc.

      That’s the problem with conventional infantry and troops against guerillas in densely populated areas. The media, public opinion, their political and military masters, and their own instincts and training all give them incentives to fight using the very tactics that ensure a necessary ingredient of guerilla success : popular support; or at least benign, sympathetic neglect.

      Some will of course the argue the bastards are cowardly for using civilians as shields. What do you expect them to do ? Fight in the flat desert, on foot with AK-47s against US tanks and warplanes ? Hello ? McFly ? Anybody home ? And it’s besides the point anyway. Whether we like it or not, the consequences of our actions – whether they end up in short-term victory or loss – are at least as important as the actions themselves. How we do it is, at this juncture, more important than the final body-bag score.

      In Vietnam or Iraq, minimizing American casualties through the use of superior firepower maximizes collateral damage, and makes the position of those locals who support us effectively untenable. This was true then, it is true now. The numbers and ratios might be different, but the short and long-term consequences are no different.

      Sure, there is no napalm and Agent Orange in Iraq. No villages razed to the ground by artillery or bombers because some recon plane took a few AK-47 shots. But there is a whole range of possible mistakes before you get to this kind of murderous rampage and the slope is as steep as it is slippery. We should never have the hubris to believe we are immune from suffering the consequences of our forebears’ mistakes just because the means and the tools we use look different and less drastic.

      The DoD has mastered conventional warfare to an unprecedented scale. Unconventional warfare, however, still seems positively alien to the system at every level. One only has to watch the legion of American CPA officials holed up the giant ‘Green Zone’ palace complex surrounded by hundreds of troops, barbed wires and concrete walls, unable and unwilling to venture into the real world without heavy escorts, turning them into large targets and ambush magnets, which further justify their own self-imposed isolation.

      If this doesn’t ring a bell, it should.

    20. Lex Says:

      Scott, what you said. A failure. Non-monumental, but foreseeable. And no laughing matter to the the troops suffering from it.

      That Byron book is a gem. It is filled with great stuff like that. It is a good portrait of the British mind when it went out amongst “wogs” — their very condescension and disdain and arrogance, seems to have insulated them. That plus a visible toughness and undemonstrative indifference to hardship and danger which is also characteristic of the old-time British. They acted with cool superiority, like they owned the place, and like they were ready to do absolutely anything to stay in charge, and people who probably wanted to cut their throats choked it down and obeyed. Amazing. That British bluff worked for a long, long time.

    21. Michael Sargent Says:

      Sylvian,

      I find your references to

      “M1-A1 Abrams firing at close range in an urban setting and and helicopters cutting through crumbling concrete with miniguns”

      to be disingenuous at best. When used in reference to the first campaign in history

      — to utilize precision-guided munitions almost exclusively, (to the extent of developing a kinetic-kill “concrete bomb” for engageing hostile targets in close proximity to civilian facilities),

      — where “shock and awe” referred, not to the evaporation of enemy populations under the mushroom clouds we had every capability of placing there, but to the concentration of precision fire in space and time,

      — and given the willingness of coalition officers and their personnel to engage in house-to-house combat with techniques and tactics more evocative of SWAT than Stalingrad,

      this straw-man collapses under the demonstrated restraint exercised in the first phase of the war. I find it most unlikely that those same units having eschewed such an approach in the “chaotic” environment of mass combat would turn wildly indiscriminate in “low intensity conflict”. (Which is in marked contrast to the ‘insurgents’ currently operating against them who’s primary modis operandii has involved unguided rockets, rocket-propelled grenades, and ‘improvised explosive devices’ at the personal and vehicular scale, none of which is particularly selective with regard to their targets.)

    22. David Mercer Says:

      Caveat: Haven’t had time to read all the above comments.

      From the returning troops I’ve talked to, morale has been much higher in the ME since troops have left Saudi. Iraq, Qatar and other ‘host nations’ allow booze legally, and this ALONE has (pardon the pun) raised spirits a LOT.

      Having Bibles, booze and porn makes a HUGE difference; OBL had no idea how much of a favor he was doing us by wedging us out of Saudi (at least under the current Saudi/Wahabi regime).

      As pointed out elsewhere, half of our Total Force will have combat patchs by the end of next year; talking to troops is getting to sound very much like re-living Kipling; our Federal executive bureaucracy is the largest (economically) in the history of the world.

      And we’re just getting started ‘humbling the proud, and protecting the weak’. No more are we merely ‘friends of Liberty everywhere, but guardians only of our own’.

      I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I am starting to wonder more and more who’s minding the store at home as we start to try and set the world to rights.

      And we really would rather not have had our Legions bleed out on those distant sands in vain, either!

    23. Jay Manifold Says:

      The per capita civilian death rate in the liberation of both Afghanistan and Iraq appears to have been about 1 in 5,000. This is 2 orders of magnitude lower than in WW 2, when the Allies killed 2 million civilians by strategic bombing alone — 10 times as many as the Axis killed by bombing. (Comparisons to Vietnam don’t work well, because we withdrew and the ARVN proved inadequately motivated, so the million-plus dead civilians weren’t even the price of victory, merely of delayed defeat.)

      I concur that among the risks to be managed is one of high civilian casualties. It will not, however, be prioritized as highly as that of American military casualties. This is the (at present) inevitable result of the attitude of the American electorate. Selling them on enlightened self-interest is no easy task; but sheer embarrassment works, and the media are not reluctant to transmit images of dead noncombatants.

      Given that the risk to civilians during “major combat operations,” as the phrase now goes, appears to have been managed well by the use of the latest technology, the remaining issue is how to manage those risks during low-intensity conflict. This includes protecting the population from banditry and terrorism as well as “friendly fire.” The New Yorker article (which I have now finished) discusses this also, though it is more hand-wringing than good root cause analysis. I encourage readers to push on through it nonetheless. Hand-wringers need understanding too. ;)

    24. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      Michael, I don’t what you’re talking about. Most of it seems to apply to the war itself. Not about Samarra and other engagements since May 1st. See other comments on our site. There is nothing disingenuous about my comments. American troops engage in fire fights in densely populated areas with heavy firepower.

      David : thanks for the caveat *and* the cheerleading bit.

      Jay, comparing current operations to WW2 is nonsensical. I don’t care what Bush says about the end of “major combat operations”, this conflict isn’t over. The consequences of military actions are not a function of absolute numbers of civilians killed. See Vietnam vs. Germany or Japan.

      “It will not, however, be prioritized as highly as that of American military casualties.”
      Well, that’s my point. It is the mistake we keep repeating. And the one the guerillas can count on.

      “This is the (at present) inevitable result of the attitude of the American electorate. ”
      I disagree. The electorate is smarter than this. This is the result of media and political pressure. Let’s not forget many of our soldiers today are volunteers. They’re not conscripts. Taking additional risks to save Iraqi civilians is not something that will offend or piss off the American people. Granted, I’m not American but I think I’ve been around long enough to know better than this. At least for my bit of NH.

      We’re in the most delicate phase. Relying on maximum firepower and focusing on American casualties now is bad. Period.

    25. Jason Johnson Says:

      This really sucks. Leishmaniasis is a seriously nasty diseas. The excerpt posted here rather overstates its effects.

      The parasite attacks cartilage and the disease is extremely painful. Sometimes Leish. is called the white leprosy because of the way it eats ears and noses.

      When I was in the Peace Corps in Bolivia a few years ago volunteers that got Leish. would be flown to D.C. for treatment. The standard treatment consists of high doses of heavy metals like arsenic. The goal being to try and get the levels high enough to kill the bug without killing the patient.

      I know of one volunteer that recovered and returned after a few months. But a German volunteer he worked with didn’t respond to treatment and was S.O.L.

      These soldiers are making some serious sacrifices for us.

    26. Jason Says:

      Sorry, I meant to say that the article understates the effects.

    27. Sylvain Galineau Says:

      AJ, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m talking about how *you* sound, dude. Namely, contradictory and interested in something – ultimately bashing Bush – that has nothing with the issue nor its solution.

      And since you are the one bringing up partisan issues here – “nailing the bastard” ain’t exactly moderate, bipartisan or apolitical – I doubt you can accuse others of doing so without looking a bit silly.