You don’t need to look further than the last two days’ broadsheet editions to see how pathetically torpid the Australian press has become. Yards of pointless blather about Gallipoli and Anzac Day, solemn assembly on Turkish beaches, heroic 192-year-old digger receives et cetera, reflecting on our identity in this blah blah (in the words of Chevy Chase, “the headlines tonight, 8000 World War One soldiers are still dead”).
Yet, the lead was surely the most serious attack on Australian troops since the war began, with a roadside IED mashing the first of a convoy of three light-armoured vehicles (ASLAVs) in Dhi Qar province, with two soldiers pulled from the burning vehicle. Another patrol was attacked three times, first with mortars and then chased back to base in Tallil with gunfire.
Australian Brigadier ‘Not Happy’ Gilmore claimed that our troops have been under such attacks all the time, which is bollocks. Until now, they’ve been subject to light and half-hearted fire, and low-powered nuisance value IEDs.
They were whacked into Dhi Qar because it was judged to be safe — the second of Iraq’s 48 provinces handed back to Iraqi government control. So safe that the other troops purportedly running it were the Italians so … you know.
The fact, that insurgents are not only back in action, but using can-opener IEDs indicates the province has slid right back into full conflict. It’s particularly serious because two days earlier in Basra (another ‘safe’ province) an IED ripped open the underside of a British Challenger tank, the heaviest vehicle in the British armory — the versions serving in Iraq weigh 70 tons. In a vehicle previously known as ‘inviolable’ the driver’s legs were ripped off. Whether sourced from Iran or not, these IEDs are miles more powerful than those being used even three months ago. If they’re used on an Australian ASLAV you can sweep the remains into a jam tin.
And what’s clear is that the insurgents are cannily targeting Australians, knowing that to score as many casualties among US allies as possible will turn up the heat back home. “The war will be won not in the jungles of Hue but on the streets of Chicago,” Ho Chi Minh allegedly said, and the insurgents in Iraq are pursuing the same strategy — a further sign that the war is changing its form, and that Australian troops may be right in the thick of it soon.