Another example of winning hearts & minds with artillery

Summary:  our use of firepower, artillery and airpower, is one of the great undercovered stories of the Iraq War.  It has profound implications, both humanitarian and for our grand strategy.  This is a second posts about our attempts to win hearts and minds with artillery; see the first here.


Here is a brief excerpt from “The Warrior King“, Abu Muqawama (28 May 2008), which provides a book review by “tintin”, an Ivy League ROTC cadet.  {I recommend reading the full post).

I’ve just finished reading Warrior King: The Triumph and Betrayal of an American Commander in Iraq, by retired LTC Nathan Sassaman, which hits stores this week. LTC Sassaman commanded 1-8 Infantry, a battalion of then-MG Odierno’s 4th Infantry Division, during 2003-4, and his career came to a standstill because of his alleged cover-up of the drowning of two Iraqis by his soldiers.

… But the third charge that Sassaman levels against his commander is, essentially, a failure to employ the brutal artillery tactics that COL Hogg used across the river in Diyala – the tactics that Ricks dissected so disturbingly in “Fiasco.” Although Sassaman does, at length, describe how horror-stricken he was by the results of “collateral damage” from one harassment-and-interdiction strike, he essentially says that the brigade lost its fight because Rudesheim was averse to using 155mm tubes for rapid counterbattery fire against mortars, in the way that Hogg did, or even to using mortars for the same purpose at the battalion level (the second perhaps being a more reasonable charge).

… LTC Sassaman’s second main claim is that 1-8 Infantry was right in bucking Rudesheim’s orders and continuing to use artillery, raids, and so forth more than any other 4th ID battalion – and that, by extension, had 1-8 Infantry been even more violent, it could have “won” its fight. … . During his account of Operation Ivy Blizzard, the offensive in which 1-8 moved from Balad to Samarra to take over from LTC Ryan Gonsalves’s 1-66, he writes: “No one really wanted to give voice to the obvious: 1-8 Infantry had been chosen specifically because of the violent and aggressive approach it had employed in bringing security and stability to Balad.”

Comment by Gian P Gentile (Lt. Colonel, US Army):

Excellent review; lots to chew on especially in light of the AM thread last week on current use of arty and lots of us firepower in diyala. Is there any real difference from how Sassman used firepower in Diyala in 03/04 to how it is being used by the SBCT there today? Or is the real and only difference that one is part of the Surge and the other is not? Just some questions to provoke, more to follow later.

Yes, lots to chew on here.  Critics of the war have written about our use of heavy firepower — artillery and airpower — for five years.  It is long past time that this issue get the attention it deserves.  I do not understand how we can ignore this subject, however painful.

Here is my previous post about the use of artillery in Iraq:  Winning hearts and mind with artillery fire.

About Gian P Gentile (Lt. Colonel, US Army):

  1. Commanded 8-10 Cavalry armored reconnaissance squadron for three years until his posting last year to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
  2. How Effective is Strategic Bombing? Lessons Learned from World War II to Kosovo (2001)
  3. Legitimacy Was Step One“, Washington Post  (11 February 2007)
  4. In the Middle of a Civil War“, Washington Post  (7 August 2007)
  5. Our COIN doctrine removes the enemy from the essence of war“, Armed Forces Journal (January 2008)

The Air War in Iraq

Our use of airpower is the great undercovered story of the Iraq War.  Tom Engelhardt has been one of the few covering this key aspect of the war.  A journalist — no military expert — he has told a story ignored by most warbloggers and military experts.  For example, look at the low volume of coverage of the air war at StrategyPage, the Small Wars Council, and by Stratfor.  Here are his major articles on the air war, essential reading for anyone seeking to understand our activities in Iraq.

  1. Incident on Haifa Street, TomDispatch (September 19, 2004)
  2. Dahr Jamail on Life under the Bombs in Iraq, TomDisatpch (February 2, 2005)
  3. Icarus (Armed with Vipers) Over Iraq, TomDispatch (December 5, 2005)
  4. Michael Schwartz on Iraq as a Killing Ground, TomDispatch (January 10, 2006)
  5. Air War, Barbarity, and the Middle East, TomDispatch (July 28, 2006)
  6. Nick Turse on America’s Secret Air War in Iraq, TomDispatch (February 7, 2007)
  7. Nick Turse: The Air War in Iraq Uncovered, Tom Dispatch (May 24, 2007)
  8. Bombs Away Over Iraq, TomDispatch (29 January 2008)
  9. The Role of Airpower in the Iraq and Afghan Wars“, Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic adn International Studies (19 March 2008)
  10. Oops, Our Bad“, TomDispatch (10 April 2008)
  11. In Iraq, a Surge in U.S. Airstrikes“, Washington Post (23 may 2008) — “Military Says Attacks Save Troops’ Lives, but Civilian Casualties Elicit Criticism”

For more information about the Iraq War

  1. My posts about the war
  2. Important articles about the Iraq War— include some about our use of airpower.
  3. Our goals and benchmarks, and reports about progress towards them

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