June 23, 2003

Hot pursuit  

This is a little bit frightening:

US military forces crossed into Syria and engaged in a shooting match with border guards last Wednesday after destroying a caravan that was suspected of carrying Saddam Hussein or members of his family, Defense officials said Monday.

The incident occurred near Qaim, a town close to the Iraqi-Syrian border, when U.S. ground troops sought to examine a string of vehicles that had been attacked by an AC-130 gunship and Army helicopters. Five Syrian soldiers were injured in the confrontation after the air attack, the officials said. It was unclear who fired first or how the confrontation developed.

I don't think the Bush admin really wants a war in Syria, and it's true that they've expressed their willingness to pursue Saddam into Syrian territory. Still, engaging Syrian troops doesn't seem like a very good PR move. I wonder what kind of play this got in the Arab press. The article continues:
The hunt for Saddam has grown more urgent lately with growing unrest in Iraq. Since May 1, 19 American servicemembers have been killed by enemy fire, including nine this month. Some U.S. officials have said the fact that Saddam may be alive has emboldened attackers and made other Iraqis fearful of cooperating with rebuilding efforts.
This is some pretty classic rationalization - they can't honestly believe that Iraqis are still afraid of Saddam two months after his regime collapsed, with American forces swarming all over the country, can they? If Iraqis are irrational enough to be running a resistance on Saddam's behalf now, would they really stop if he were found dead? The fact of the matter is, Iraqis aren't resisting American troops because of Saddam; they have their own motivations.


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