Sunday, March 30
Coalition losses a lot more: Web site
Shyam Bhatia in Kuwait, Rediff.com, March 30, 2003
A Russian Web site about the war in Iraq, which offers an alternative to the daily diet of propaganda by coalition officers, is fast becoming compulsive reading throughout West Asia.
Criticised for getting information from Russian spies, http://www.aeronautics.ru has claimed that the US and Britain have had heavier losses, fewer Iraqi surrenders and more complications than their leaders suggest.
Author "Venik" says he is translating reports on the war by "journalists and military experts" who use a Russian-language site called http://www.iraqwar.ru to pass on information from the GRU -- "the all-seeing eye of the Russian military".
For its part, the GRU gets information from wiretaps, radio monitoring, satellites and thousands of agents.
[On Saturday, the Web site reported .... "Radio communications intercepted during the last five days suggest that the coalition is using Israeli airfield" to conducts air raids on Iraq, it said.
"Combat aircraft taking off regularly from Hatzerim and Navatim [Israeli airbases] do not return to the same bases, but fly toward the border with Jordan while maintaining complete radio silence. Possibly, these are just Israeli Air Force exercises, However, [Russian] radio intercept and radar units observe increased intensity of radio communications coming from the Jordanian Air Force and air defence communication centres during such overflights, as well as changes in the operating modes of the US Army "Patriot" tracking radars deployed in Jordan]
Last week it described how coalition forces were preparing for a big push on several fronts, which might include the capture of the Saddam Hussein Airport, near Baghdad.
A Russian aviation expert known for his military contacts is vouching for these reports.
When the official news was upbeat more than a week ago, his sources reported that the Iraqis had been gravely underestimated and that US Central Command chief General Tommy Franks was in danger of being replaced as commander of the coalition forces.
Last Tuesday they predicted the massive American reinforcements, which have since been announced.
They also reported that American defence chiefs were horrified at the number of "smart missiles" they had spent for thin results, and were preparing to switch to conventional bombing.[...]
[Last Thursday's despatch included this report of mistaken firing by American A-10 planes, on its own coalition forces:
"Intercepted radio communications show that at around 0615hrs this morning the lead of a flight of two A-10 ground attack planes detected a convoy of armored vehicles. Unable to see any markings identifying these vehicles as friendly and not being able to contact the convoy by radio the pilot directed artillery fire to the coordinates of the convoy.
Later it was discovered that this was a coalition convoy. Thick layers of dust covered up the identification markings - colored strips of cloth in the rear of the vehicles. Electronic jamming made radio contact impossible. First reports indicated that the US unit lost 50 troops killed and wounded. At least five armored vehicles have been destroyed, one of which was an Abrams tank."]
'I never want to hear that sound again': Five British soldiers have died under 'friendly fire'.
Audrey Gillan with the Household Cavalry in Iraq, The Guardian, March 31, 2003
Yesterday as General Richard Myers apologised for the three deaths caused by the US, saying it would be his 'quest' to ensure it did not happen again, the first full account emerged of the tragic incident in which a A-10 tankbuster fired on two British armoured vehicles
They will never forget the sound of the guns. A cross between a moan and a roar, a fierce rattling of heavy rounds of 30mm canon fire from two A10 Thunderbolts flying low overhead. Aircraft that shouldn't have been in the British-controlled area, "cowboying" at just 500ft and looking for something to have a crack at.
Last Friday morning, two American pilots turned their guns on a convoy of five British vehicles from the Household Cavalry, killing one man just three days shy of his 26th birthday, injuring four others and wiping out two armoured reconnaissance vehicles from the squadron's Two Troop. Two Iraqi civilians, waving a large white flag, were also killed.
...Then the full horror dawned. One of the vehicles had been hit, no two, and by "friendly call signs".
They stood still, stopping what they were doing. At first they thought it was one lad, then another. Whoever it was, it didn't ease the twist of knots that started knitting themselves in their stomachs. Later, they learned it was Matty Hull, who aside from being a gunner was also a military instructor who was being considered for a posting to Sandhurst to train officers.
Amidst the grief, their anger could not be contained. All of D Squadron's vehicles are clearly marked, with fluorescent panels on the roofs, flags and other markings. It was something that the soldiers kept saying, over and over. "We spend all this money marking out our vehicles so this doesn't happen," one said. "If it was the heat of battle, shit happens. But it was clear daylight."
Another said: "As far as I am concerned, those two pilots should be done for manslaughter. There's no way on the planet that they couldn't see two vehicles, that they couldn't see the dayglo panel on the top." [...]