Chinook Sea Knight Downed Near Fallujah

That makes five US choppers downed since January 20. Since we don’t have nearly enough troops to secure the ground lanes even the brass travels by chopper, leaving us vulnerable to catastrophic losses.

The Soviets began losing Afghanistan when bin Laden’s group started downing their helicopters. Without access to safe air transport or air support the Soviet occupiers lost an edge that an army fighting a guerilla enemy on foreign ground couldn’t afford to lose. Political realities changed slowly in the USSR, guaranteeing that the Soviet army didn’t pull out until long after any reasonable observer would understand that there was no more good in staying. By pullout time the red army lacked the resources to even retreat safely. Some units were slaughtered in the process.

Bin Laden attacked America on 9/11 because he expected to beat us in Afghanistan like he did the Soviets. American occupation would inflame muslim sentiment, drive American interests out of the mideast and spark a global jihad that would keep us distracted and on the defensive while he pursued regime change in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Iraq.

By relying on a combination of local forces and high-precision air warfare we proved bin Laden completely, catastrophically wrong. Baiting America into Afghanistan might have gone down as one of the dumbest strategic moves in history, if we had finished the job, round up bin Laden and drove the Taliban into permanent exile. Deams of muslim outrage withered as the Afghans seemed more than happy to rebuild under our guidance.

Then a funny thing happened. Instead of wrapping up the Afghan war we gave bin Laden a second chance. More than that, we delivered so thoroughly that al Qaeda might as well have faxed us an itemized list. Check off the bloody, intractable occupation and a popular insurgency. Infidels violently occupying holy land, detainee abuse (that must have made al Qaeda especially happy), random death and violence that we as the dominant power don’t necessarily cause but take the blame anyway. Widespread muslim outrage? Yup. We even did the favor of knocking over one of the secular tyrants on bin Laden’s list.

I’m taking the time to flesh out this analogy because the link between us and the last army to lose Afghanistan becomes much tighter when we cannot keep our own helicopters safe. One lesson that I cannot emphasize enough is that military necessity did not force the pullout from Afghanistan. Political decisions did that. The army stayed even after it was broken, barely able to sustain itself, at which point it lacked the resources even to retreat safely. The losses were huge. If insurgents have learned to down our helicopters, and I understand that this may be more a statistical blip than a real trend, then the threshold point may already be here. It makes me physically nauseous to think that another political leadership will wreck an army, past the point of safe retreat, in a vain defense of its own ego.

***Update***

Take time to read this post by Noah Shachtman at DefenseTech. It seems very likely that the Sunni insurgents have considerably stepped up their ability to target our helicopters.

As Josh Marshall points out here the primary supplier of the Sunni militias is Saudi Arabia and Saudi citizens, not Iran. The Iran-backed militias are supposedly on our side, or anyhow they’re fighting alongside us. Should we invade Saudi Arabia? The answer will help to illustrate the craven disregard for reality that underlies much of our Iran war talk.

***Update 2***

Reports indicate that the downed helicopter was not a CH-47 Chinook but the smaller CH-46 Sea Knight used by the Marines.

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65 replies
  1. 1
    Mikkel says:

    Two points. That was the most succinct and accurate summary of both bin Laden’s aims (with the addition that he believed we’d stay world powers until we were bankrupted and that our use of credit and energy needs made us open to this) and blunders. I wish the conversation was always about his specific goals and I complain “he’s trying to beat us through the use of macroeconomics and we’re trying to beat him by saying ‘go kill the evil people!'”

    Also I believe one copter was shot down by gunfire but the others have been downed by missiles that I seriously doubt they’ll credit to being made in Iraq. Thus, with every downed chopper we get a jump closer to war with Iran as well.

  2. 2
    Punchy says:

    Holy crap! We lost another chopper??

    He was such a great poster, too. Funny, witty, yet articulate. RIP, buddy.

  3. 3
    chopper says:

    to me, the dropping of the ball in afghanistan and immediate refocus on iraq is going to go down in the books as one of the worst foreign policy blunders of all time, and definitely tops the list of things bush fouled up.

    it’s like they tell you that every story has a turning point or whatever, a point where the whole screwup started before it snowballed into utter catastrophic failure. that was it.

  4. 4
    Joel says:

    Tim F. wrote:

    “Political realities changed slowly in the USSR, guaranteeing that the Soviet army didn’t pull out until long after any reasonable observer would understand that there was no more good in staying.”

    Check.

  5. 5
    chopper says:

    it appears that reports of my death are a touch exaggerated.

  6. 6
    Zifnab says:

    to me, the dropping of the ball in afghanistan and immediate refocus on iraq is going to go down in the books as one of the worst foreign policy blunders of all time, and definitely tops the list of things bush fouled up.

    If only we could go back in time to the 2000 Gore v. Bush debates, when everyone said “Oh look! They’re practically the same candidate! It doesn’t matter who you vote for.” We could verify that Gore would, in fact, not proceed to invade the wrong country after a terror attack. I think that would have swung the election. *sigh*

  7. 7
    chopper says:

    if you invented a time machine and went back to 2000 and showed people all the garbage that’s happened since, nobody would believe you. it’s just too surreal.

    sounds like a twilight episode.

  8. 8
    Pb says:

    Forget 2000, go back to 1980–or further.

  9. 9
    Catsy says:

    It makes me physically nauseous to think that another political leadership will wreck an army, past the point of safe retreat, in a vain defense of its own ego.

    Nauseated, actually.

    The greater point about the loss of helicopters is well taken. We already cannot travel safely from one part of the country to another by ground. If we lose control of the air as well, it’s over.

  10. 10
    Keith says:

    I wouldn’t have thought it would have required stepping up tech to start taking down Apaches easier…just a wall of bullets instead of a stream. Apaches aren’t armored much, and a lot the bulk sitting under the skin is boxes & boxes of avionics & various other assorted electronics.
    You just don’t want to have the Apache find out the wall of bullets is coming from your general direction :)

  11. 11
    Jake says:

    As Josh Marshall points out here the primary supplier of the Sunni militias is Saudi Arabia and Saudi citizens, not Iran. …Should we invade Saudi Arabia?

    Since we’re talking about time machines, let’s go back to the White House @2002 [insert trippy time travel animation here]:

    White House Advisor 1: Saddam Hussein has neither a functioning WMD program nor anything to do with Sept. 11th or Al Q. Should we invade Iraq?

    White House Advisor 2: But, wait. What about Afghanistan? And Saudi Arabia does have ties to-

    All: Silence, blasphemer!

    Secret Service Agent: Come with me, sir…

    I have a feeling that every dead US soldier from here on out will be blamed on Iran. Of course it will follow that we must invade so their sacrifice will not be meaningless, George will get a new pony from the House of Saud and everyone that matters (as defined by net worth) will be happy.

  12. 12
    Third Eye Open says:

    From a completely personal view of this, I am scared out of my mind. My father is in country, and travels by helicopter to and from the “super-base” he works at in Mosul. At some point this madness has to end, and the process of making ammends to our service members, their families, and more importantly the Iraqis and their families, has to begin.

  13. 13
    tBone says:

    From a completely personal view of this, I am scared out of my mind. My father is in country, and travels by helicopter to and from the “super-base” he works at in Mosul.

    I hear you. My chopper pilot brother-in-law is supposed to be deployed later this year; our thoughts have rapidly gone from “he should be relatively safe” to “Oh shit.”

  14. 14
    Wilfred says:

    Interesting. Some people think it was the Plaf’s success in shooting down helicopters at Ap Bac, in 1963, that gave them the idea they could hold their own against superior American firepower and fight bigger battles (with more casualties). Lessons from history? Nah, fuck it.

    Jake writes:

    I have a feeling that every dead US soldier from here on out will be blamed on Iran.

    No doubt. That’s why it’s important to remember how the ‘clever legislative trick’ of the non-binding resolution had such a smashing effect on reducing casualties. iran will get the blame, but let’s not forget the combined forces of Republican Chickenhawks and Democratic Chickenshits in providing the corpses.

  15. 15
    RandyH says:

    So if Saudi Arabia is supplying the Sunnis with the weapons, as they assured us they would help their Sunni allies, aren’t they supplying American-Made weapons and technology to shoot down American-Made equipment? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we supply Saudi Arabia with almost all of their weapons and military toys? Big score for American defense contractors, right? Just imagine the orders flowing in now to supply both sides of a war. Surely we would want to restrict the Saudis from buying our weapons to be used against our own troops, right? No? Hmm. Waiting for somebody in the MSM to maybe write a story about this because almost ALL members of congress are supported by these weapons manufacturers so they sure aren’t gonna bring it up.

  16. 16
    scarshapedstar says:

    If only we could go back in time to the 2000 Gore v. Bush debates, when everyone said “Oh look! They’re practically the same candidate! It doesn’t matter who you vote for.”

    I hate those sons-of-bitches. I really do. I’m glad I don’t call myself Christian anymore because I just don’t see how I can forgive anyone who let this country be destroyed because they thought it was funny. Cuz, like, George Bush is a crazy cowboy and just doesn’t give a fuck! And the government’s all bullshit anyway!

    It really is like the situation right after the Civil War ended. These people have no place in a democracy. What are we going to do?

  17. 17
    Third Eye Open says:

    tBone,

    My “Oh Shit” meter redlined when dad started telling me about the slow contraction of the FOBs, and the quick stocking-up of essentials due to fears of commercial trucking shutdowns…but you didn’t hear that from me ;-)

  18. 18
    PeterJ says:

    So if Saudi Arabia is supplying the Sunnis with the weapons, as they assured us they would help their Sunni allies, aren’t they supplying American-Made weapons and technology to shoot down American-Made equipment?

    Saudis are supplying the Sunnis with money and Russian made weapons bought on the black market, at least that’s what I read lately.

    I doubt that Saudi Arabia would do it directly or that they would give American made weapons.

    But then I guess there probably are some American war profitiers that would sell out their country without blinking.

  19. 19
    Punchy says:

    If we lose control of the air as well, it’s over.

    Will never happen. What may happen instead that–purely precautionary, of course–is that while in flight, they’ll just shoot and bomb the fuck out of anyone/anything on the ground. Yes, 100s of further dead Iraqis (read: who??)…but NO DEAD SOLIDERS.

    Mission accomplished, says our leader.

  20. 20
    Wilfred says:

    What may happen instead that—purely precautionary, of course—is that while in flight, they’ll just shoot and bomb the fuck out of anyone/anything on the ground. Yes, 100s of further dead Iraqis (read: who??)…but NO DEAD SOLIDERS.

    More Vietnam redux – somewhere someone is starting to form the Final Concept: “In order to save Iraq, we had to destroy it”.

  21. 21
    ThymeZone says:

    Stop worrying. The surge will secure the chopper lanes. It’s just that success is happening not fast enough.

    That’s the snarky view. The non snarky view is that these lying sociopaths running the war are killing a lot of good people for nothing, and their asses ought to be in jail.

    The latter is pretty much the way I see it.

  22. 22
    fester says:

    Randy H at 11:34 wrote:

    if Saudi Arabia is supplying the Sunnis with the weapons, as they assured us they would help their Sunni allies, aren’t they supplying American-Made weapons and technology to shoot down American-Made equipment? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we supply Saudi Arabia with almost all of their weapons and military toys?

    Not enough evidence to say for sure. From what limited information I do know about US foreign military sales procedures, high end items such as the different variants of Stingers, heavy anti-tank weapons, artillery, etc. tend to have fairly strict end user inventory control systems in place to prevent the ‘accidental’ syphoning off of these supplies. These safeguards are reinforced in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as these countries do not perform a lot of their own maitanance on their advanced military supplies; instead US contractors do the maitenance.

    The following is pure speculation on my part with minimal/no evidence, so take it for what it is worth. My guess is that most of the Saudi support for the Sunni insurgencies is a combination of cash as cash is fungible and harder to track back as serial numbers are not as often noted when compared to the serial number of a SAM launch tube, a blind eye to smuggling weapons, cash, men, supplies, limited training [as the Sunni insurgency seems to be pretty well trained on a consistent basis] and intelligence assistance.

    The most likely external source of Sunni Arab arms is probably the international black market where cash is king. And this black market tends to have more Russian/Soviet and Chinese weapons on it as their export inventory policies are far weaker than US controls.
    My guess is that

  23. 23
    Andrew says:

    But then I guess there probably are some American war profitiers that would sell out their country without blinking.

    Yeah, they’re in the Pentagon.

  24. 24
    scarshapedstar says:

    Will never happen. What may happen instead that—purely precautionary, of course—is that while in flight, they’ll just shoot and bomb the fuck out of anyone/anything on the ground.

    Can we please stop cultivating this myth of an invincible military? It’s childish at this point, and it’s the only reason people still tolerate this war.

    I was worried enough before, at the prospect of the brass getting spirited away by helicopter leaving the other 200,000 guys to take a very long road trip through hostile territory. Now it doesn’t seem like anyone can be guaranteed a safe escape.

    This isn’t good.

  25. 25
    PeterJ says:

    Yeah, they’re in the Pentagon.

    I would say that that’s either stupidity or bureaucracy, not so much profitiering.

  26. 26
    Pb says:

    While we’re on the subject of war profiteering:

    The United States loaded 363 tons of cash on palettes and airlifted it to Iraq during the reign of provisional authority L. Paul Bremer.

    363 tons of cash. This is getting into territory where it is easier to measure the weight of the money than the amount involved. I mean 363 tons of cash just boggles the mind. One of these transports was the largest cash transfer in the history of the federal reserve. And the sad fact is that this is all money that was sent into a black hole. Fully $8.8 billion can not be accounted for after being given to Iraqi government agencies.

    An oldie but goodie. And more recently, Blackwater exposed; Waxman fireworks begin:

    The discovery shows the dense world of Iraq contracting, where the main contractor hires subcontractors who then hire additional subcontractors. Each company tacks on a charge for overhead, a cost that works its way up to U.S. taxpayers. […]

    The hidden contract not only cost taxpayers money, it also might have been illegal. The Halliburton subsidiary’s main contract for military support services prohibited hiring subcontractors to provide armed security. That job is left to the U.S. military, unless the theater commander decides otherwise.

  27. 27
    Matt Janovic says:

    I assumed these were shot-down by RPGs and heavy small-arms fire. Worst, however, is that someone–we don’t know who–is field-testing gold-tipped RPGs that can shoot through an M-1 Abrams tanks (even with the ceramic HEAT armor). It’s happened a few-times now. Is this the next Battle of Stalingrad?

  28. 28
    Andrew says:

    gold-tipped RPGs that can shoot through an M-1 Abrams tanks

    Sweet! Do they have blinging diamond spinnerz on them too?

    I assume this is actually the RPG-29, an old anti-tank weapon with a dual warhead system to penetrate multi-layer and reactive armor. They’re being talked about like they’re magic, but more importantly, they’re being used as “proof” that the Iranians are behind attacks on Americans. Of course, they’re as likely to come from Syria, Pakistan, or any number of black market sources, and the only other significant difference from the RPG-7 beside armor penetration is that they’re more expensive.

    Of course, since we shipped 4 billion in cash to Iraq, money probably isn’t hard to come by.

  29. 29
    Andrew says:

    Also, neither armor defeating nor conventional RPGs are particularly useful against helicopters.

  30. 30
    Tsulagi says:

    If we’re going to do the time machine thing back to 2000, let’s not forget the really smart people like Michael Moore and Bill Maher who voted Nader because Gore wasn’t green enough. That worked out well.

    Hopefully the recent helo losses is a statistical blip. But I would think likely it’s partly that plus another part bad guys learning and adapting tactics. Unlike our president, most people have the capacity to learn. If bad guys now have some later generation SAMs that are more hardened to radar and infrared jamming used by our helos, that would not be good.

    Actually, it’s a little surprising bad guys haven’t adapted quicker. Maybe it’s because for the past couple of years we’ve been pretty much just a minor hindrance while the players go about their turf and power struggles. If more were in opposition to us, organized, and led by some with half the intelligence and competence of a Van Riper who wargamed Iraq as the Red Team, we could be in for some serious hurt.

  31. 31
    Jake says:

    Do we still execute war pigs profiteers?
    I’m just asking of course. As a smelly peacenik librul I of course abhor the death penalty.

  32. 32
    stickler says:

    Well, with all due respect, Andrew:

    Also, neither armor defeating nor conventional RPGs are particularly useful against helicopters.

    If it’s not RPG’s, then something else is proving pretty effective at downing our choppers lately. Of course there are no clear answers from the military about what’s going on.

    Tsulagi:

    Hopefully the recent helo losses is a statistical blip. But I would think likely it’s partly that plus another part bad guys learning and adapting tactics.

    One or two helicopters is a blip. Five in two weeks is a screaming Klaxon siren that something is seriously screwed-up over there.

  33. 33

    Why don’t we ever hear the good news about Iraq?

  34. 34

    Why don’t we ever hear the good news about Iraq?

  35. 35

    Why don’t we ever hear the good news about Iraq?

  36. 36

    Whoops. Comment tripled for emphasis, I guess.

    Ho ho ho, bitches! I hear they painted a new school mural in Kurdistan somewhere!

  37. 37
    PeterJ says:

    Why don’t we ever hear the good news about Iraq?

    Why don’t we ever hear the good news about Iraq?

    Why don’t we ever hear the good news about Iraq?

    Saying it three times won’t make it come true. Even if you stand in front of a mirror.

  38. 38
    stickler says:

    Why don’t we ever hear the good news about Iraq?

    I’m beginning to suspect that the news we’re allowed to hear is actually the best news there is. In other words, the reality is much, much worse than we can imagine.

  39. 39
    stickler says:

    Ho ho ho, bitches! I hear they painted a new school mural in Kurdistan somewhere!

    I’ve seen it. It shows the heroic Peshmerga massacring Arabs. The heads on pikes are quite realistic; should really get the kids fired up to learn their physics and geometry.

  40. 40
    Andrew says:

    stickler, oh it could indeed be RPGs, new tactics, or some enw weapons. I just meant that RPGs are less suited to shootin’ at helicopters than MANPADS or AA guns.

  41. 41
    LITBMueller says:

    The Soviets began losing Afghanistan when bin Laden’s group started downing their helicopters.

    I would add a footnote to this sentence: The helicopters were lost by the Soviets likely due to the thousands of Stinger missiles shipped to the mujahideen by the Reagan administration.

    Also, fester nails it above: the Sauds provide the cash. The black market for this kind of stuff comes from places like Russia and even Turkey (where the PKK gets there guns). There are also lost of left over weapons from conflicts in Africa and the Balkans.

    Read about guys like Viktor Bout to see how the guns make their way into the war zone.

  42. 42
    Punchy says:

    Can we please stop cultivating this myth of an invincible military? It’s childish at this point, and it’s the only reason people still tolerate this war.

    S^3–if you really think we could not secure the air, Iraqi deaths be dammed, then you have no idea how powerful our Air Force is. Indeed, we must consider civilian deaths, and therefore act more cautiously, and therein lies the problem.

  43. 43
    Tsulagi says:

    The United States loaded 363 tons of cash on palettes and airlifted it to Iraq during the reign of provisional authority L. Paul Bremer.
    Fully $8.8 billion can not be accounted for after being given to Iraqi government agencies.

    This one is a real pisser.

    The retards still never fail to cry their crocodile tears and righteously beat their chests over Saddam’s skimming the Oil for Food program. Over about seven years he put a little under $2b in his pocket. Obviously he must have spent it on things like palaces and Viagra because he sure as shit didn’t put it in WMDs.

    But the grownups in charge manage to lose almost $9b used from leftover Oil for Food money and other sources. How many tons of cash was that? We’re men of action they said, we don’t do accounting or oversight.

    Now where did this money flood trickle down? Well, some of it went to a guy named Jabouri, a former Iraqi member of parliament and minister. He quickly learned the value of Republican style no-bid contracts and billing. He padded payrolls with phantoms supposedly providing oil pipeline security. CPA paid cash; he made millions.

    Jabouri used some of it to start a TV channel in Iraq which was anti-US occupation. Got shut down a few times in Iraq so he took it to Egypt where it is still broadcast by satellite into Iraq 24 hours a day. Providing stuff like footage of successful attacks on US forces. Where the sweet spots are on an Abrams or Bradley. Sort of the learning channel for insurgents/terrorists. And we paid for it.

    The greatest enemy our troops and their mission have faced in Iraq hasn’t been al Qaeda. It’s been this administration and its enablers through their monumental retardation and incompetence.

  44. 44
    Jake says:

    If it’s not RPG’s, then something else is proving pretty effective at downing our choppers lately. Of course there are no clear answers from the military about what’s going on.

    The Bush Admin will take the line that the pilot forgot to think happy thoughts.

    I understand the military won’t say exactly what happened in hopes no one else will get any ideas. I’m starting to wonder if this is a sign of a serious infiltration problem or spy network at all levels. Could these all be the result of lucky shots? Person X just happens to be in the right place and just happens to have something that will bring down a helicopter? I don’t know. Perhaps I need to clap harder.

  45. 45

    I say we declare victory, call up Ozzie and bring the troops home to a round of “Momma, I’m coming home”

  46. 46
    TenguPhule says:

    I’m starting to wonder if this is a sign of a serious infiltration problem or spy network at all levels.

    My guess would be experience and training coupled with increasingly better equipment. All of the bad shots on the Iraqi side tend to die early, leaving the cream of the crop to practice until they get it right. And with so much free untraceable cash around, finding sellers of top of the line weapons and ammo doesn’t look too hard. And with the increasing reliance on helicopters for movement and support, finding targets doesn’t seem to be a problem there.

  47. 47
    stickler says:

    well, Jake…

    I understand the military won’t say exactly what happened in hopes no one else will get any ideas. I’m starting to wonder if this is a sign of a serious infiltration problem or spy network at all levels. Could these all be the result of lucky shots? Person X just happens to be in the right place and just happens to have something that will bring down a helicopter? I don’t know. Perhaps I need to clap harder.

    Remember that helicopter with all the officers/staff sgt’s that went down a couple weeks ago? And then the capture and murder of a few more officers by people wearing friendly uniforms? I’m no military historian or strategist, but I’m pretty convinced that we’re not looking at random successes here. Five “lucky shots” in 18 days?

    I think any reasonable observer would have to come to the conclusion that our operations in Iraq have been compromised in very disturbing ways. That’s always a risk when — for example — your people don’t speak the local language and have to rely on local interpreters. In Vietnam, the VC quickly learned that sending a few of their people to interpret for the Yankees during the day was a good way to get intelligence to the guerrillas at night.

    Clap harder. And yell at your Congressmen to get our people the hell out of there.

  48. 48

    You don’t need RPGs to take out a chopper.

    you can do it with AK-47’s, or better yet PKMs. We’ve lost Apaches to small arms fire. You have enough people unloading into the chopper, and if you can get lucky and lose the tail rotor or damage a blade on the main rotor. That shit is going down.

    Choppers are incredibly complex flying bricks. They lose any one of the systems that keeps them in the air or stable, and they crash.

  49. 49
    scarshapedstar says:

    S^3—if you really think we could not secure the air, Iraqi deaths be dammed, then you have no idea how powerful our Air Force is.

    I didn’t say that air superiority was a problem. And I’m fully aware that the “bomb ’em all to ashes and them bomb the ashes” option is always there. Shit, I’ve heard it advocated too many times to count, by LGF and co.

    However, that’s not really germane to the problem of Army helicopters versus modern shoulder-launched missiles. They’re out there, and in an urban environment, what do you do besides pull a Fallujah and demolish every building larger than a chicken coop? And when it reaches that point, I would hope somebody asks…

    Why are we there again?

  50. 50
    TenguPhule says:

    Speaking of Shitted Bricks

    Nominee for Worst Excuse ever made for not being accountable for spending:

    Firing back in a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing Tuesday, L. Paul Bremer III insisted that he did the best he could in the middle of a war and repeatedly said he had spent Iraqi — not U.S. — money.

  51. 51
    Jake says:

    repeatedly said he had spent Iraqi — not U.S. — money.

    Hey chill out guy, we were wiping our arses on brown people’s $$$.

    Yeah. And it was shipped from Iraq to America and then shipped back on pallets. Sure.

    I say we send Bremer the Turd back to Iraq only this time he’ll be dropped off on any corner outside of the Green Zone.

  52. 52
    RLaing says:

    Why are we there again…

    Can’t have a rational discussion of that without bringing up that-which-must-not-be-named. Suffice it to sat TWMNBN is the color of pure evil, dwells in the bowels of the earth, burns with white-hot heat, and arose from the bodies of the dead.

    I dare not say more, lest I be driven mad.

  53. 53
    Jake says:

    Suffice it to sat TWMNBN is the color of pure evil, dwells in the bowels of the earth, burns with white-hot heat, and arose from the bodies of the dead.

    Clever.

  54. 54
    THeDRiFTeR says:

    Good read. Thanks for that. I’ll have to come around more often.

  55. 55
    Andrew J. Lazarus says:

    Soviet losses in Afghanistan were not that much greater than ours in Iraq. With a maximum of 104,000 troops in country at any one time (although, with a conscript army, rotations allowed for over 600K to serve in all), total losses were 14,453—over a period of almost ten years. (The Soviets also had hundreds of thousands of troops fall ill from inadequate sanitation.)

  56. 56
    Jake says:

    And with the increasing reliance on helicopters for movement and support, finding targets doesn’t seem to be a problem there.

    I guess it is another one of those “unknown knowns.” Are the pilots just relying on being safe because they are out of range of anything the military was expecting from the ground or is there also some sort of on-ground monitoring that determines routes? To assume the latter would seem to imply a lot of people are being very stupid.

    What little I know about helicopters comes from conversations with a few pilots and a movie at the Air & Space museum but even I’ve able to gather these things don’t many (any?) fail safes. Plus, if the pilot is hurt there is no way in hell a non-pilot will be able to take over and land the thing safely.

    I’ve been working under the assumption that the helicopters pick safe routes or routes that were safe, which means the enemy is somehow getting within target range along that route, striking and getting away. If not (they’re just flying and praying the unfriendly people with lots of guns/RPGs are elsewhere that day) it means some one will need to go out and check/clear the route before the ‘copter flies over.

    Sorry, I’m thinking too much. [Claps louder]

  57. 57
    Jake says:

    To assume the latter former would seem to imply a lot of people are being very stupid.

    Yeesh.

  58. 58
    TenguPhule says:

    If not (they’re just flying and praying the unfriendly people with lots of guns/RPGs are elsewhere that day) it means some one will need to go out and check/clear the route before the ‘copter flies over.

    As far as I know SOP for Iraq copter flights is to vary routes so that there is no pattern for pre-set ambushes to take advantage of. It’s basically a trade-off between ‘secure’ but predictable and ‘no-man’s land’ with surprise on your side. But there are only so many ways to go to and from one place to another by air. Figure that an Iraqi guerilla group with enough patience/luck will get their chance at a target if they set up in a place where the copters usually have to go through barring extreme roundabout flying. Granted, leaks on the inside could greatly contribute to this problem, but there’s no way to tell if it’s just bad luck and good positioning on the Iraqi side or leaks to the Iraqis.

  59. 59
    Earl F. Parrish says:

    We supplied both sides in the Great Britain-Argentina war over the Falkland Islands. As Yogi Berra would say, “it’s déjà vu all over again.”

  60. 60
    jake says:

    OT: One more for the “Now they’re just fucking with us” files.

    We need to debate this! No, we don’t want to debate! No wait, we do! But we have to pretend it was our idea.

    Take your time wankers. The troops have nothing better to do while you finish enumerating the differences between your elbows and your arseholes.

    Hagel irks me.

  61. 61
    Keith says:

    repeatedly said he had spent Iraqi — not U.S. — money.

    Seeing as how we sent them 300 tons of loot on friggin’ palettes, is there a difference?

  62. 62
    stickler says:

    Jake, let’s all get clear on one thing:

    I’ve been working under the assumption that the helicopters pick safe routes or routes that were safe, which means the enemy is somehow getting within target range along that route, striking and getting away. If not (they’re just flying and praying the unfriendly people with lots of guns/RPGs are elsewhere that day) it means some one will need to go out and check/clear the route before the ‘copter flies over.

    Our forces are, for the most part, not able to control any territory outside the bases. This should be crystal fracking clear at this point. Anywhere outside the wire, and they control exactly the square footage that their Humvee covers with its shade.

    Thus, there’s not much “clearing of the route” on the ground going on.

    In any rational system, the loss of ground control of such a dimension (remember, we still don’t control the capital city FOUR YEARS ON, and rolling battles are routine on the toniest shopping avenues like Haifa Street) would be a clear sign that the game was lost.

    For whatever reason, that reality has yet to sink in. The helicopter losses are a symptom, not a cause, of our weakness. But their loss will hurt us big time.

  63. 63
    grumpy realist says:

    Helicopters: when the helos go off, have the glide ratios of lumpy rocks. Heck, I bet even the Shuttle (“glide ratio of a dead cat”–Jerry Pournelle) would do better.

    And our politicians sit here playing Kabuki for the TV cameras while actual people die due to their inability to stand up and say: bugger this.

    God, just to have one politician point out loudly on air that while they muck around people are dying; this is a totally dead parrot; let’s declare victory and get out. And for any MSM idiot, right-wing blogger, Karl Rove who loudly screams defeatist, go medieval on their asses, get them suited up, and drop them into Baghdad. Let them go fight this war if they’re so gung-ho for it.

  64. 64
    Matt Janovic says:

    It’s not that difficult to down a helicopter with an AK-47 or an RPG, but with some of them, it requires sustained fire. Not that I know this from direct-experience, mind you! ;0) But, from reading accounts from the war in Afghanistan between the Mujahdeen (and foreign Muslims that evolved into Al-Qaida later) and the Soviets. You can only armor them so much before the fuel efficiency plummets, or it just won’t fly. There are limits to the tech-fix. Now, someone is fielding gold-tipped RPGs that can slice through the armor of an American Abrmas M-1 tank, completely through them.

  65. 65

    Now, someone is fielding gold-tipped RPGs that can slice through the armor of an American Abrmas M-1 tank, completely through them.

    Holy shit. How does that work? How does gold enable a bullet to cut through 120mm of armor?

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