Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Inflection Point

An inflection point is that point on a curve where some change in the function causes a sharp departure from the former trajectory of the curve. As an analogy, it's a useful term when talking about a change in a situation after which things are not the same; they are not heading in the same direction. Usually this change is for the worse.

It seems things in Iraq - and Fallujah, in particular - have reached an inflection point (subscription).

A series of explosions ripped through three police stations and a police academy in the southern Iraqi city of Basra Wednesday, killing at least 55 people, including some 10 schoolchildren, and injuring at least 238, officials said.

Three near-simultaneous blasts targeted police stations at rush hour in Basra. At about the same time, a fourth explosion ripped through the police academy in the Basra suburb of Zubair. An hour later another blast targeted the same police academy.

Forty-five people were killed in the police station blasts and 10 were killed in the police academy explosions, officials and witnesses said. The injured included two British soldiers at the police academy, Maj. Hisham al-Halawi, spokesman for British forces in Basra, told Al-Arabiya television.

The attacks came a day after Iraqi leaders named a tribunal of judges and prosecutors to try Saddam Hussein, placing a longtime opponent of the ousted dictator in the forefront of the case against him and his former Baathist inner circle.
And in Fallujah:

Meanwhile, U.S Marines backed by tanks and helicopter gunships battled insurgents in northern Fallujah on Wednesday, killing nine, as a day-old attempt to bring peace to the besieged city hit snags, with Marines saying guerrillas were not turning in weapons.

Explosions were heard coming from the scene of the fighting, and Cobra helicopter gunships were blasting with Gatling guns from the air. Tanks moved into the Julan neighborhood from which Marines said insurgents their positions.

The attack came as U.S. Marine commanders said no guerrillas have come forward so far to turn in their heavy weapons, a key tenet of an agreement reached by negotiators that began being implemented on Tuesday. The Marines, in response, halted a key commitment on their side in the deal, the return of Fallujah residents to the city.
The general chaos and violence in Iraq has not subsided, and in fact these suicide bombings appear to be a stepping up of violence against not only Americans and the Iraqis working with them, but against civilians as well. The situation in Fallujah seems to have reached a point - easily predictable - where the US has to either storm the city to quell the insurrection (and incurring the wrath of every Sunni in the world) or back down giving the insurgents and their leader Moqtada al Sadr more power, more influence.

These two situations will feed off of each other and one of them will "break" soon. My guess is that Fallujah will be the flash point and the violence will spread from there like wildfire.

Our troops' supply lines are already tenuous at best. A general uprising will ensure that units become cut off from their logistics tail. Not all of them and not all the time. But it's going to happen. Some unit will get completely cut off and will run low on ammunition, medical supplies or water. Then what?

Day by day the situation worsens. Day by day more soldiers and civilians die. There has never been a plan, there is no plan. And that fact is killing our soldiers just as surely as if Bush and Rumsfeld were pulling the trigger themselves.

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