Monday, October 30, 2006

Hello Darkness My Old Friend, Pt. IV

Seems like it just keeps going back to Halliburton. If you recall, a few weeks ago I posted a YouTube clip of a convoy (one belonging to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root) coming under attack. At the time, I was unable to find the entire ABC News segment which aired driver Preston Wheeler's video footage and their interviews with him. Clear-headed commenter Grimgrin just posted the link over at Sic Semper Tyrannis, so I pass it along with hat-tip to him. You'll want to watch it again. The news segment contains additional information and confirms some earlier blogospheric suppositions:

1) the convoy went through the same kill zone twice as a result of going down a dead-end street;
2) the insurgent attacks were improvisational in nature;
3) the location was very close to Camp Anaconda, outside the city of Balad;
4) defense of the convoy was inadequate (interlocking fields of fire were not maintained);
5) response time of air support was in the forty-minute range (surprisingly slow);
6) it is Halliburton policy to fire drivers who are injured due to combat.

Since this video, Halliburton has largely outsourced its US truck drivers to others of less prosperous national origin, with Southeast Asia now the preferred source for contractor-drivers. They're much cheaper and pose far less liability, alive or dead. That's a prudent move, because the vulnerability of supply columns is going to prove the military's undoing in Iraq. The supply line is 400 miles long and goes back to Kuwait, a rocket-propelled grenade is too cheap and a truck is too soft and flammable for the outcome to be in doubt if resistance escalates or organizes further.

In the Winter War of 1940, Finland was invaded by Stalinist Russia. Finnish forces were initially outnumbered by more than 10:1, and were at an even worse disadvantage in weaponry. But they did have one advantage: the snow was deep, and they had good cross-country skis. The Russians put their field kitchens out onto the middle of frozen lakes; this afforded the kitchens the protection of distance, gave them good fields of fire, and made them relatively easy for troops to find. The Finns observed this, and devised a solution to their Russian problem: they put on their skis, and shooshed out to destroy the field kitchens and burn or take the food. With no food, the Russians quickly died of exposure, in fact so many died the number of casualties was never admitted to. The Finnish victory isn't very well known, but it belongs among the handful of greatest tactical triumphs against heavy odds in two thousand years of warfare.

I've related that anecdote on this blog previously because of its relevance to Iraq. Feeding our troops has been privatized, contracted out to Halliburton/KBR, and their method of getting it done is particularly vulnerable. They are the desert equivalent of field kitchens out in the middle of frozen Finnish lakes, as this video proves. A few rag-tag home-boys from a neighborhood took out a heavily escorted military supply convoy. This was a year ago, and should have been a major wake-up call for any effective military command structure, one which would trigger appropriate planning and counter-measures. The only thing that changed was better sourcing and PR control, and now you don't hear about attacks on convoys. The only reason we heard about this particular instance was because someone blew the whistle, and had the video to attract network attention.

In Iraq, insurgents have noted the supply column vulnerability and just issued a 52-minute video which proposes a doctrine to exploit it, known as "The Sword that Cuts the Arteries of the Infidels."

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