CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Black Watch article

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Black Watch article

The reader who asked me to look into the 24th MEU has sent me this article, which I excerpt, as its source requires registration: It has some interesting tidbits about the command relationships between the Black Watch and the 24th MEU. Note: Can you guess if the reporter is for or against the war? Try it and see. Copyright 2004 Telegraph Group Limited THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON) November 08, 2004, Monday HEADLINE: Nothing for the Black Watch to show but a lament BYLINE: By Richard Lloyd-Parry and Padraic Flanagan AT dawn yesterday, a lone piper marched stolidly across the Jurf al-Sukhr bridge, which links the west and east banks of the Euphrates, playing a lament for the three Black Watch soldiers killed three days earlier. In a regimental tradition dating back centuries, the battle group's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel James Cowan, asked for the piper to play before they began another dangerous operation. Still carrying his SA80 rifle, though out of his constricting body armour and helmet, Pipe Major Scott Taylor, 34, from Glasgow, stood on the bridge to honour his recently fallen comrades. Fellow members of the Black Watch D Company - the group that suffered fatal casualties last Thursday - were visibly moved by the playing of Flowers of the Forest and Highland Laddie. Yet within hours more soldiers from the battle group had fallen casualty. There was an explosion, soldiers saw a mushroom cloud, and two more were injured. Word of the casualties quickly spread by radio. Two young privates, Greg McPherson, 19, and Raymond White, 18, trembled as they listened to the radio traffic in the back of their Warrior. "Everyone was chain smoking like there was no tomorrow," said Maurice McDonald, a photographer for the Press Association, who was on the bridge when the explosion took place. "Even the piper was mad at it. We had to open the back of the Warrior to let in some fresh air." However, despite five deaths and 10 injuries, the Black Watch have made no palpable progress in any of their objectives: combating banditry, gathering intelligence on insurgent activity in their area of operation, and intercepting guerrillas on the supply routes to and from the rebel-held city of Fallujah, where an imminent US assault is expected. So far, at least, Col Cowan has been vindicated in his judgment, expressed in a private e-mail leaked to The Daily Telegraph last month that "every lunatic terrorist from miles around [will] descend on us like bees to honey". He added: "I hope the Government knows what it has got itself into. I'm not sure they fully appreciate the risks." Col Cowan has refused to comment on the e-mails, but no one at Camp Dogwood has disputed their authenticity. Yesterday's operation was not the idea of the colonel. It was ordered -"very quickly", according to military sources in Dogwood - by the men whocommand him, the officers of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, led by Colonel Rob Johnson. It involved all three companies and most of the soldiers of the 800-strong battle group - and so depleted was Camp Dogwood that the regiment's cooks and medical orderlies guarded the perimeter. The object was two-fold: to seal off key routes used by insurgents, channelling them into mobile road blocks; and to set up Forward Operating Base Springfield, a temporary position east of the river. The base was successfully established but, within hours, it had come under the same rocket and mortar fire which has plagued Camp Dogwood. And despite the elaborate arrangement of intercepts, the operation failed to net any guerrillas or their weapons.


Blogger carlee said...

George Will editorial from the Washington Post:

Success in Iraq, people here believe, is contingent on three ifs: if Iraqi military and security forces can stay intact during contacts with the insurgents; if insurgents are killed in sufficient numbers to convince the Sunni political class that it must invest its hope in politics; and if neighboring states, especially Syria, will cooperate in slowing the flow of money and other aid to the insurgency. If so, then the United States can -- this is the preferred verb -- "stand up" an Iraqi state and recede from a dominant role.

November 11, 2004 at 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lament seems to be that the Black Watch is not getting any action: "the operation failed to net any
guerrillas or their weapons". But "the operation" is, as I understand it, blocking/intercepting/capturing/killing insurgents trying to escape F. Perhaps the reason it "failed" to net any such is simply that there were none (or very few) to be intercepted/captured, etc. Why is that cast as a "failed" operation? If the initial operation -- the attack on F itself -- has been so successful that almost no "insurgents" (we really need to converge on a general name for the enemy, rather than just "insurgents" -- something like IslamoFascistBastards (IFBs)) have survived to try to escape, then a blocking force will of course "fail" to block. Fail? Of course one "fails" to block what does not exist.
Not to say that it really does not exist. This I don't know, just intuit from overall reports on F. But the article in question doesn't even consider the question in this light. I would not conclude that the reporters (plural, not the single reporter, as Chester suggests) are therefore necessarily anti-this-war. Not necessarily so, but the preponderance of the evidence here on display would suggest that they are probably so. The evidence is the way they report: a "failure" to net anything, as they report, is grossly misleading, unless they establish (which they do not, in the snippets Chester quotes) that there is really anything significant to intercept.

November 11, 2004 at 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the reporters don't sound happy, but neither do the Black Watch. Ordered out on patrol, establish a new post, get mortared and rocketed, and fail to catch any of those firing at them, I'd be unhappy too. Why don't they have a bit of air support, or mobile ground support who can get a shot at their opponents. The PBI just sound like targets. Far from being an 'anvil", sounds more like a drum, though I would like to see another, more upbeat report from them.

November 12, 2004 at 1:31 AM  
Blogger Peyton said...

The reporter clearly has no background in military operations. A blocking force won't likely capture useful intelligence, and in a static position, they will likely draw fire. Neither indicates any sort of failure, however. Additionally, having your cooks and medical orderlies pulling security means that the unit is well-trained, and that the warrior specialties are free to be employed in warrior duties, each and every one of them.

November 12, 2004 at 3:43 AM  

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