Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Troops' Anguish: Killing Outmatched Foes ; Coalition Forces Wonder Why More Iraqis Didn't Surrender to Survive. Trauma May Linger as Soldiers Return

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Troops' Anguish: Killing Outmatched Foes ; Coalition Forces Wonder Why More Iraqis Didn't Surrender to Survive. Trauma May Linger as Soldiers Return

Article excerpt

Like blinding orange and white stars, US rockets and missiles filled with deadly cluster bombs arced skyward, lending the evening clouds an unnatural glow. Moments later, the munitions exploded on targets around Baghdad, wiping out Iraqi artillery and killing scores of Iraqi soldiers.So lethal was the past week's barrage ofartillery - using rockets and missiles designed to demolish everything within a "grid square" (one square kilometer) - that it left Lt. John Harrell of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1-39 Artillery Battalion with virtually nothing else to attack."We don't have many targets left," said the lieutenant, whose multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) battery is positioned near Baghdad's southern edge. His battalion has shot 350 rockets, including 72 in a single onslaught on Baghdad International Airport a week ago.Yet even as US commanders cite dramatic success in the three-week-old war, many look upon the wholesale destruction of Iraq's military and the killing of thousands of Iraqi fighters with a sense of regret. They voice frustration at the number of Iraqis who stood their ground against overwhelming US firepower, wasting their lives and equipment rather than capitulating as expected."They have no command and control, no organization. They're just dying," says Brig. Gen. Louis Weber, an assistant commander of the 3rd Infantry Division. This week, the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team killed at least 1,000 Iraqis by direct fire alone on a single raid into Baghdad, he said.The decimation of the Iraqi military - once among the Middle East's most formidable armed forces - exacerbates the power void that occupying troops must fill to stabilize the nation, Army officers say. The combat strength of most regular Iraqi Army and elite Republican Guard units has dwindled to below 20 percent, according to US military estimates. Some 70 percent of Iraq's artillery has been knocked out, along with hundreds of tanks and other armored vehicles."We've destroyed a large majority of their military and they still need to secure their country," says Lt. Col. Woody Radcliffe, who heads a 3rd Infantry Division operations center. "It's an absolute shame. We didn't want to do this. Even a brain-dead moron can understand we are so vastly superior militarily that there is no hope. You would think they would see that and give up."Again and again, as battles raged in recent days and weeks, US officers expressed puzzlement over Iraqi fighters' tactical ineptitude and seemingly reckless disregard for their own lives."What are these guys thinking? It's suicide!" said Capt. David Roberts, a military intelligence officer, monitoring a massing of Iraqi forces outside Baghdad while the 3rd Infantry's combat brigades rolled in to cordon off the city. …

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