Over the next 60 days, more than 5,000 troops from the division engaged in the most sustained urban combat operation of the now 15-month occupation. In desert cities that once welcomed American troops, they battled a Shiite uprising that threatened to upset the June 30 transition to an Iraqi interim government. Their orders were stark: Smash the uprising, and capture or kill its leader, the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Silk soon found himself in a swirl of continuous combat, the kind of close fighting that the military had expected, but mostly avoided, during the 2003 invasion. Pinned down while pushing across a narrow bridge to retake the city of Kut, he watched four soldiers in his 15-man platoon fall wounded. “It was insane the amount of fire we were taking,” he said later.
By the time the uprising was over, silenced in a cease-fire June 4, the U.S. military success appeared decisive. While 19 U.S. soldiers had been killed in combat and scores wounded, military officials estimate that 1,500 insurgents were killed. Sadr’s militiamen had been driven from positions many had died defending.
But like much of the occupation, the battle for the Shiite holy cities yielded a more ambiguous political outcome. Sadr remains at large; U.S.-sponsored polls show him to be one of Iraq’s most popular figures. Hundreds of his militiamen escaped, perhaps to fight another day.
The uprising was crushed, and while Sadr on the surface appears popular, the poll results we discussed last week show how shallow his support is in the country.
I have never met a group of people so wiling to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. But then again, I have never met a group of people willing to say or do anything to win an election. Maybe the title of Matt’s post was right- liberals are idiots.