I’ve just returned from being embedded with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at a modern Fort Apache in east Ramadi. It’s a favorite haunt of the group al-Zarqawi headed, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. There I was repeatedly machine-gunned, sniped, and mortared as I detail in my “The New Band of Brothers” article in the June 19 Weekly Standard. And no, it wasn’t fun. But it’s given me a perspective that’s perhaps more sanguine than you’ll hear from desk-bound policy wonks – one shared by those who’ve been fighting al-Zarqawi’s henchmen for a long time.
While in Ramadi and earlier in Fallujah, I saw much terrorist handiwork and was underwhelmed. They have some good snipers – one nearly popped the skull of a soldier standing right in front of me. But otherwise they seem genetically incapable of aiming weapons, relying instead on sheer volume of fire and luck. As for their “ingenuity” with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), from January to mid-May 1st Battalion and its support elements had destroyed 667 of the bombs, inadvertently detonated 378 more without fatalities, and suffered deaths (five total) from only two.
First Battalion and its support elements routinely kills more than five jihadists in a single day. But such an incredible kill ratio is actually disturbing. As I witnessed, no matter how readily they’re mowed down – and with so little success themselves – the bad guys just keep on coming and coming. Their only real “skill” is fanaticism. It would seem that the death of even so important a leader as al-Zarqawi might have little effect on such people, and Capt. Joe Claburn, commander of C Company, 1st Battalion says so.
“The impact will be minimal at best,” he told me by e-mail. “Remember, these jihadists typically have no direct ties to their leaders. Al-Zarqawi was a figurehead, and now as a martyr he will continue to be. Someone else will step up into his place as the spiritual leader and self-proclaimed leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.”
Michael Fumento is a, journalist, and attorney specializing in science and health issues as well as author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World .
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