|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
In a miniature version of the troop increase that the United States hopes will secure the city, American soldiers and armored vehicles raced onto Haifa Street before dawn to dislodge Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias who have been battling for a stretch of ragged slums and mostly abandoned high rises. But as the sun rose, many of the Iraqi Army units who were supposed to do the actual searches of the buildings did not arrive on time, forcing the Americans to start the job on their own.
When the Iraqi units finally did show up, it was with the air of a class outing, cheering and laughing as the Americans blew locks off doors with shotguns. As the morning wore on and the troops came under fire from all directions, another apparent flaw in this strategy became clear as empty apartments became lairs for gunmen who flitted from window to window and killed at least one American soldier, with a shot to the head.
Whether the gunfire was coming from Sunni or Shiite insurgents or militia fighters or some of the Iraqi soldiers who had disappeared into the Gotham-like cityscape, no one could say.
“Who the hell is shooting at us?” shouted Sgt. First Class Marc Biletski, whose platoon was jammed into a small room off an alley that was being swept by a sniper’s bullets. “Who’s shooting at us? Do we know who they are?”
Just before the platoon tossed smoke bombs and sprinted through the alley to a more secure position, Sergeant Biletski had a moment to reflect on this spot, which the United States has now fought to regain from a mysterious enemy at least three times in the past two years.
“This place is a failure,” Sergeant Biletski said. “Every time we come here, we have to come back.”
He paused, then said, “Well, maybe not a total failure,” since American troops have smashed opposition on Haifa Street each time they have come in.
With that, Sergeant Biletski ran through the billowing yellow smoke and took up a new position.
The Haifa Street operation, involving Bradley Fighting Vehicles as well as the highly mobile Stryker vehicles, is likely to cause plenty of reflection by the commanders in charge of the Baghdad buildup of more than 20,000 troops. Just how those extra troops will be used is not yet known, but it is likely to mirror at least broadly the Haifa Street strategy of working with Iraqi forces to take on unruly groups from both sides of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide.