Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Top U.S. military officials said Friday that they are struggling to see any connections between bands of kidnappers responsible for the wave of abductions of foreigners in Iraq, including an American soldier and a U.S. civilian.

The kidnappings erupted after the U.S. military began fighting on two fronts in Iraq, against Sunni insurgents in Fallujah and a rebel Shia militia in the south. Both Sunni and Shia gunmen appear to have seized foreigners.

Previously unheard of groups, with names such as Saraya al-Mujahedeen and the Green Battalion have issued statements claiming responsibility.

The U.S. military has seen "loose coordination" among groups taking hostages, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy head of operations in Iraq, said Friday. "We don't know if it is different organizations who are claiming different names to give the appearance of uncoordinated, spontaneous activity or if this is a centrally planned operation."

Some foreigners also may have been snatched by armed Iraqis with no political agenda except to hand them over to insurgents for a bounty.

Other kidnappings may be done by "copycat" groups who have heard about previous abductions through the media, a U.S. military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
When I read about these seemingly random well as the inexplicable shelling of the prison (see below), I'm reminded of my little league football career.

For a couple of years I played for a team that was, if such can be the case in little league, a powerhouse. We were unstoppable. In fact, during one particular season we went into our next to last game without having been scored upon.

But we were scored upon that night...and the irony is that it was by a team that was perhaps the worst team in our league. They were awful...they didn't know the first thing about football. They could scarcely even line up properly.

And perhaps that was our problem. We were a well coached football team. Our coaches had worked with the players...and had drilled them well. "If he does this," coach would say, "you gotta do this. And such were the lessons until the coaches had covered all the things a good football team and its good players would do.

Problem was, these weren't good players...they weren't a good team. As a result, they didn't do things that good players and teams do. They just sort of made it up.

Our coaches absolutely forbid the runner to lateral the ball under any circumstances. Called it "schoolyard ball". They knew that a bunch of 11 year olds out lateralling the ball were going to lose the ball three times out of four. So we didn't do it. And we didn't defend against it.

And the awful team...they'd lateral the ball all over the field...although it looked more like a game of keep away than laterals. And frequently they lost it...or were called for a forward lateral. But that touchdown that broke our unscored-upon streak? Laterals.

In some ways that is what is going on in Iraq at the moment. Nobody who has a real clue what they are doing shells the prison with their own in it.

And what is to be gained by taking hostages...only to release them 4 days later?

These are not rational actions of sophisticated groups with clearly defined objectives. This is chaos...actions taken in many cases simply because they can be.

It is difficult to defend because of its irrationality. It will bloody our noses on occasion as well. But, in the end, it accomplishes little more than sensational news coverage, and perhaps a further irritation to those who believe we should not be doing this anyway.

Keep the faith.

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