Most of the world right now is focused, with good reason, on the coronavirus. For that reason, it will probably have escaped most people’s attention that the Iranian proxy war against the US in Iraq continues, and continues to produce American casualties in the quiet, imperceptible way that dust collects on a table.
In illustration of that, let me, with minimal comment, just excerpt a few passages from an utterly ordinary story in the most mainstream news publication in America, The New York Times:
BAGHDAD — A volley of rockets struck a sprawling military base north of Baghdad Wednesday evening, killing three service members, two of them Americans and one British, according to a United States official and an Iraqi military officer, both in Iraq.
The two Americans killed Wednesday were active-duty troops with the Army and Air Force, an American military official said. The official said that 12 members of the American-led military coalition in Iraq of various nationalities were wounded in the attack on the base, Camp Taji.
The White House and Pentagon had no immediate comment on the rocket attacks. …
About 10 days ago, the leader of Kataib Hezbollah renewed threats against American installations in Iraq and against any Iraqis who work with the Americans, noting that while the pro-Iranian armed groups had been restrained, that would end in mid-March. …
On Sunday, two Marine Raiders, members of a Special Operations branch of the United States Marines, were killed during an operation against Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq. They were the first American troops killed in Iraq since last August. …
On Tuesday, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of American forces in the Middle East, told lawmakers that the Patriot missiles were on their way to Iraq.
Though the Patriots are capable of countering high-flying Iranian ballistic missiles, they would be ineffective in stopping the kind of rockets fired at Camp Taji on Wednesday.
In short, we remain at war. Kataib Hezbollah is not taking a break for the coronavirus pandemic; apparently, there are no time-outs in warfare. Despite their (supposed) tactical sophistication, American soldiers are dying at the hands of a primitive sort of weapon against which they lack any defense. Sitting in their bases, they are sitting ducks for attack.
So they have perhaps three options: sit and be attacked; venture out and go on the offensive; withdraw. If they venture out on the offensive, they will be drawn into a greater number of firefights. At some point, they may need reinforcements. The question will then arise: should we send them? But of course, that question arises now. It arises because coronavirus distraction or no, we are at war right now, and have been for awhile.
Excerpts from a follow-up story:
WASHINGTON — Images posted to social media after the attack in Iraq on Wednesday that killed three service members, two American and one British, showed a dilapidated white flatbed truck affixed with primitive rocket tubes tucked among desert shrubbery.
These types of photographs have often appeared in the past 18 years of United States wars in the Middle East as insurgent groups have relied on rudimentary but effective tactics to maim and kill their technologically superior enemies.
But in recent months, with relatively few American troops still in Iraq, militias there with ties to Iran seem to have perfected a strategy that has left U.S. forces with little recourse to defend themselves, according to American officials, who are scrambling to put effective countermeasures in place.
It’s not clear there are any countermeasures to put in place. No adequate countermeasure is mentioned in the story. But don’t listen to me; listen to the experts:
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked on Thursday by reporters why there was no protection from the attack. “There’s not a system there to defend against those types of rockets,” he said.
Doesn’t sound like a particularly advantageous tactical environment to me. But what do I know? I’m just a civilian.
An impromptu history lesson, for anyone interested in one:
Americans have long been threatened by rockets of this type.
In Afghanistan, the rockets were often fired from Pakistan across the border at American outposts; they could be fired with improvised timers from makeshift launchers. In Iraq, they were fired at American forces as far back as 2003, sometimes aimed directly at passing vehicles at short ranges or instead launched on an arc at faraway targets. In 2005, a number of 107-millimeter rockets were fired at two U.S. Navy warships in Aqaba, Jordan, killing a Jordanian soldier.
The rockets that killed three and wounded more than a dozen coalition troops Wednesday night were most likely Iranian Fajr-1 rockets, which are copies of a Chinese rocket called the Type 63.
Americans have long been threatened by rockets of this type. And as long as they expose themselves to them, they will indefinitely be hit by them. What they seem not to have learned since is that the best defense system against them is to avoid exposure to them. And the most obvious way to avoid exposure is to avoid invading and occupying the foreign places where insurgents are apt to use them.
While trawling the U.S. Marine Corp’s Facebook Recruiting page, I asked the recruiters semi-rhetorically how they felt about luring teenagers to fight in another Vietnam. They didn’t answer, but a high school boy from South Dakota took exception to my comment:
if you have to bring up Vietnam to get a point across then there isn’t a single word you way that is worth listening to. We aren’t in the 70s anymore if you didn’t know so find something better to do than babble on Facebook.
Some people never learn, and some have never been taught. America’s military policy is an attempt to exploit the ignorance of both populations, and sacrifice them both to its insatiable appetite for destruction. It’s up to those have learned to teach those willing to learn. The alternative is to stand by as we throw another generation away on the malevolent schemes of those invested in our ignorance.