March 22nd, 2003

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Sad to be British, sucks to be Blair...

Two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters from the Ark Royal collide. Six more British troops and one more American presumed dead.

That would put British casualties at 14 in Iraq so far, before any of the heaviest fighting has begun. It will be a long, long weekend for Blair, where a huge protest will take place in central London.

Since I last reported casualties, another American marine was confirmed dead. We are still waiting to hear on casualties from the campaign near Basra, where a US armored vehicle used to retrieve damaged tanks was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. No confirmation on casualties, as yet.

Despite these attacks near Basra, it is apparently the aim of US and British forces to bypass the city, in the hope that the Iraqis will surrender of their own accord. Somehow, I don't think that this will happen without some real loss of life or discomfort for the people of Basra, however -- civilians and the government have obviously stockpiled food and water for a long siege, and the US psy-ops to reduce Iraqi morale are pretty transparent.

It's not a hard thing to get soldiers who are cut off and surrounded to surrender -- the Germans surrounded and captured a huge amount of the Russian army in WWII, because the Russians made the mistake of deploying their troops too far forward. I'm sure the Germans thought the Russians were a bunch of cowards at first, too. However, soldiers have much higher morale and cohesion when defending their people in cities, many of whom have also stocked up on guns and who hate invaders more than they hate Saddam...

I don't think this will be as quick as a lot of people think it might be. It's worth mentioning that the Iraqi Shi'ite majority in the south are still very proud of their efforts in repulsing the Iranian Shi'ites who tried taking Basra in the Iran-Iraq war -- and I'm certain that the Iranians probably claimed that they were coming to liberate the Iraqi Shi'ites too -- so what will the Iraqi Shi'ites think of Americans?

The truth of the matter is that Basra is probably not offering any real resistance... so long as it's not occupied. When I see hundreds of coalition forces safely walking down the street in Basra, not protected inside armored vehicles, then maybe I'll believe it has "surrendered". It's not a hard thing to drive armored vehicles into a city that lacks the weaponry to effectively resist them, but you cannot control a country from inside a tank. The real war may very well be the occupation...
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Four US soldiers reported killed in ambush

Four US soldiers are reported to have been killed in central Iraq. ** Note: US sources currently only report these soldiers as wounded. The severity of the injuries have yet to be confirmed. **

Sky TV's Colin Brazier, who was travelling with the soldiers from the US Third Infantry Division, said the four reconnaissance scouts were ambushed while driving Humvee jeeps at the head of the column.

"Rocket-propelled grenades were fired, one at each Humvee, they killed both sets of occupants," he said in a brief live report on Sky.

If verified, it will raise US military deaths in Iraq to at least 11, total coalition deaths in Iraq to 25, and 80 US deaths in operation Enduring Freedom, the "war on terror".

Meanwhile, at least three US marines are reported wounded in fighting around Basra.
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terrorist attack on US command tent in Kuwait

NPR reports that two unidentified Arabs in Kuwait threw several handgrenades into an command tent in Kuwait. At least 10 US soldiers of the 101st airborne division are reported wounded, six severely. Both attackers appear to have been captured and detained.

**Update - 1 dead, 13 wounded, 6 seriously. Reports indicate that a US soldier who is a follower of Islam has been detained and is the primary suspect for the attack. **