Iraq now guerrilla war, top U.S. general
Morale among troops plummets
Missile misses plane
WASHINGTON - The top American commander became the
first U.S. military official yesterday to say his troops are
fighting a guerrilla war in Iraq and acknowledged that morale
is plummeting among his soldiers.
"It's low-intensity conflict, in our doctrinal terms,
but it's war, however you describe it," Gen. John Abizaid, the
United States' new head of Central Command, said in his first
Abizaid, who assumed the post only last week, showed a
penchant for plain speaking, saying he understands Americans
are facing increasingly sophisticated attacks by an
increasingly well-organized adversary and they need to know
when they are coming home.
Abizaid also said U.S. troops should be ready to spend
a year on duty in the region, though military planners are
working to bring home some units quickly.
Year-long deployments, a norm during the Vietnam War,
have been rare in recent years.
"So we've done it before, and we can do it again,"
There are now 148,000 Americans and 13,000 coalition
troops, mainly Britons and Poles, in Iraq.
Abizaid's characterization of the conflict as a
guerrilla war contradicts his boss, U.S. Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, who only last week went to great lengths to
chastise journalists for using the term.
Just yesterday, in one of the boldest attacks since
U.S. President George W. Bush declared the end of major
combat, a surface-to-air missile was fired at a U.S. C-130
Hercules transport plane as it came in for a landing at
Baghdad Airport. It did not hit its target and there were no
injuries, but it was the largest-scale attack since April,
U.S. officials said.
"Certainly we're fighting Baathist remnants throughout
the country," Abizaid said. "I believe there's mid-level
Baathist, Iraqi intelligence service people, Special Security
Organization people, Special Republican Guard people that have
organized at the regional level in cellular structure and are
conducting what I would describe as a classical guerrilla-type
campaign against us."
Abizaid also made it clear that low morale
notwithstanding his soldiers do not have the right to take
shots at Bush and top Pentagon officials as some did on a
national newscast Tuesday evening.
ABC aired interviews with soldiers who criticized Bush,
Rumsfeld and others for leaving them to languish in the
searing Iraqi heat where they have been described as sitting
in a shooting gallery.
The death of another American yesterday was the 148th
casualty since the war began, matching the death toll of the
first Persian Gulf War waged by the president's father, George
Since the sitting president declared major combat over
on May 1, 33 Americans have been killed, eight of them in the
two weeks since Bush challenged the enemy to "bring `em on."
The pro-American mayor of the western city of Hadithah
was also shot and killed in a midday ambush by assailants
firing automatic weapons yesterday.
On the ABC report, one member of the 2nd Battle Combat
Team in Falluja, Iraq, talked about his "Most Wanted" list, a
response to the deck of cards the U.S. administration had
distributed in a bid to capture Saddam Hussein's loyalists.
"The aces in my deck are (U.S. civilian administrator) Paul
Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and (deputy defence
secretary) Paul Wolfowitz," the sergeant told a reporter.
Another member, Specialist Clinton Deitz, told the
reporter he would ask Rumsfeld to resign if he appeared in
Falluja while another, Pte. Eric Rattler, said he once wanted
to help Iraqis but "now, I don't care any more."
On another network, CNN, military families spoke
harshly of broken promises about the length of the deployment
and a fiancιe of one soldier suggested there was talk of
desertion because some soldiers would rather ruin their
careers than lose their lives.
Against this backdrop, CIA chief George Tenet faced a
closed-door grilling at a U.S. Senate committee yesterday
where he was asked to explain how a false claim about Saddam's
search for uranium in Africa made it into Bush's State of the
Union address last January.
Abizaid said he understood the soldiers' frustration,
but "none of us who wear this uniform are free to say anything
disparaging about the secretary of defence or the president of
the United States. We're not free to do that. It's our
With files from Associated Press
articles by Tim