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Monday | April 07, 2003

About Iraqwar.ru and casualities

There is really on one source of reliable information on this war - and it's coming from Russian spies

The Guardian

You don't factor news into your model, but intelligence. There is a surfeit of war news, but reliable intelligence is hard to come by. The canny trader in these parlous days has a first port of call - GRU (Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye), the espionage arm of the Russian military.

GRU is the most sophisticated agency of its kind in the world. And, since Glasnost, the most transparent. GRU has thousands of agents worldwide (especially in countries such as Iraq, where Russia has traditional trade links). Intelligence has always been a top priority for Ivan. The number of agents operated by the GRU during the Soviet era was six times the number of agents operated by the KGB.

Russia, superpower that it was, still has spy satellites, state-of-the-art interception technology and (unlike the CIA) men on the ground. The beauty of GRU is that it does not (like the CIA) report directly to the leadership but to the Russian ministry of defence. In its wisdom, it makes its analyses publicly available. These are digested as daily bulletins on www.iraqwar.ru.

The Russians have a contrarian view on the current conflict. What was it Kissinger said about the Iran-Iraq war - "Ideally we'd like both sides to lose"? That's what the Kremlin thinks about Operation Free Iraq.

From its neutral stance, GRU offers detailed, top-grade, and wholly unspun analysis. The bulletins are in Russian (bilingualism is suddenly in demand on Wall Street). You can get English translations a day later on Venik's Aviation website (www.aeronautics.ru).

Excellent as Suzanne Goldenberg's dispatches and Dan Chung's pictures are, anyone who wants to know what is really going on at the gates of Baghdad should click on to Venik (it's a pseudonym) before reading their newspaper. Check it out. GRU has been absolutely right about every pendulum swing in the fighting. It gave, for example, the true picture of the ambiguous on-off "occupation" of Basra as it happened. Traders made a killing using that GRU intelligence intelligently rather than sucking up the generals' lies and politicians' spin.

On GRU you will find the sobering information that the supply of Tomahawk missiles on US warships is at 25% "criticality" level (the arsenal they have to reserve for the North Koreans). The US can't bomb smart any more.

OK, now there's been some question about this source, given reports of Venik's reputation on Usenet. But this puts a very different cast on what www.iraqwar.ru is reporting. Obviously, Venik is the translator of this, and since Iraqwar.ru rebuilt their site, the Russian translations to English seem to be done internally.

First, the Guardian, as a major UK newspaper, is basically endorsing the site as a resource for traders. They lose money, the author, John Sutherland, will hear about it. Money people are fiends for reliable intelligence of any sort. It's how they get paid.

If the GRU now releases its general analyses to the public, and this is not unlikely, considering the amount of information the CIA releases to the public, this could be seen as if not reliable, but based on sattelite photos, embassy reports, radio intercepts, which they claim to have, and Iraqi sources, far better than the reports received in the US. It would be based on hard intelligence, while not revealing the depth and true nature of how they reach their conclusions. There is no revelation of sources and methods beyond the interception of clear channel radio broadcasts.

This would be on a par with GAO or Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports, more than the daily intelligence summary that the President and top staff get. You can get a LOT of information from a GAO or CRS report which is not otherwise available. GAO reports have been the precursor for prosecutions in some cases. CRS reports are ordered up by Congressional staff and members of Congress.

Now relying on raw reports may get things wrong, but the reports from CENTCOM, for lack of a better word, are worse. Killing 1,000, 2,000 Iraqis with NO US casualities?

Even if you accept that, where are the wounded and the captured?

Let's look at some battles from history:


Killed Wounded Missing Total
Union 3,155 14,530 5,365 23,040
Confederate 2,600-4,500 12,800 5,250 20,650-25,000*

First Day of the Somme:

British 19,240 35,494 2,152 57,470

Omaha Beach June 6-10, 1944

1st Division 124 1,083 431 1,638
29th Division 280 1,027 896 2,210

Chosin Reservoir (1950-51), Korea

US Forces 3,000 9,000 192 12,192

Tet Offensive, 1968

US: 1,536 7,764 11 9,311
ARVN: 2,788 8,299 11,674

Desert Storm

US Forces 148 458 606

Now, there is a simple calculus here: in most battles, the wounded and missing outnumber the dead by a mimimum of 2-1. That is for every dead person, you should have one wounded. Even in an exceptional case, the Chinese at Chosin, where they lost 60 percent of their strength due to bitter frostbite as well as casualities, and Tet, where the NVA/VC lost an estimated 45,000 men and women, they also lost 7,000 prisoners.

If CENTCOM's numbers are anything like true, there should be an average of 3-5000 wounded Iraqis accompanying the 1-2000 dead. Unless the Iraqis use the Imperial Japanese Army as their role model, there should a massive flood of wounded Iraqi soldiers in US hospitals. They should outnumber US casualities by 10-1. There should be thousands of prisoners as well.

What does the media think happens when there is a battle? Every American bullet shoots someone in the head? They all die instantly when wounded? It all goes back to the central fact that the Iraqi Army has 400,000 men, and if they were being killed by that number, tens of thousands would be in POW camps.

Because if 1,000 die, 3,000 should be wounded. This is a pretty basic standard even with increased accuracy of weapons. Unless they're firing gauss rifles and BFG 3000's, the numbers you see in the media are nonsense unless 10,000 Iraqis are charging US positions at will in banzai charges.

Only 404 men died in four days of action on Omaha Beach. Only 3,155 died at Gettysburg for the Union. Yet, we're supposed to believe that 2,000 Iraqis died in a single engagement in Baghdad? Only 3,000 men died at the Chosin Resevoir, the most brutal battle US forces had been in since the Wilderness. Nearly 25,000 Chinese died at Chosin and they were doing suicidal charges and suffering from frostbite.

The attacker may take higher casualities, but even then, even with a less sophisticated enemy, the NVA lost 7,000 men as prisoners, along with the 45,000 dead and wounded, most of which were lost in a series of mass human wave attacks. Mass, being regimental (2500 men) to divisional (8-10,000) man attacks. Not guerrillas attacking convoys and patrols.

Which is why Iraqwar.ru has to be viewed with at least an open mind. Their numbers just make more sense than the ones airing in the Western media. Now, that may discomfort some people, believing that the war is almost over and Saddam has collapsed, but the reality seems to be more complicated. There just isn't the supporting evidence to back that picture up. Instead, there is a much murkier picture of what is happening, with much of what is coming from CENTCOM just wrong.

I don't know how they're getting their figures, aerial observation, estimates, counting corpses? It seems not to make sense that they know how many people die during a mobile raid into Baghdad. Some people would be dead in buildings. Or in alleys.

Their numbers are questionable at best and totally unreliable at worse. Unless there are new rules of warfare where the US's bullets never miss and kill every time, something has to be off.

Steve Gilliard

Posted April 07, 2003 12:51 PM | Comments (162)


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