Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Iraqi Insurgent

Subsequent to the airing of a recent audiotape allegedly posted by Usama Bin Laden, a friend e-mailed me and asked if the insurgency in Iraq is directly linked to or under the control of UBL. I offered my opinion about the insurgents our Marines face on a daily basis. This is my opinion only and not the official view of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense. The percentage following each category is my best guess and not representative of any official figure.

Few insurgents are fighting under the control of UBL. The insurgency in Iraq is broken into dozens of different cells, all with their own agendas and hierarchies of leadership. Most of the insurgent cells in Iraq are homegrown cells comprised of Iraqi military aged males, or MAMS, who are fighting the "occupancy" rather than fighting for Al Qaeda and it’s cause or agenda.

INSURGENT CATEGORIES – in my own humble opinion…

The first category of insurgents is the "swing either way depending on what's in it for me" types. You pass them on the street and they smile and wave. They often enter the local civil-military operations center (CMOC) seeking resident ID's or free handouts. They watch their kids receive free goodies, soccer balls, or occasional medical care, then go out and plant IED's at night. They do it for a couple of reasons, primarily money and fear of reprisal from the organized insurgents. Few Iraqis have stable jobs, so when someone offers them a $100 to plant an IED in the roadway, it's simply a matter of economics. These folks harbor no real resentment toward the coalition, yet are heavily influenced by the insurgency because they can make some quick cash, a difficult thing to come by. These are the same people who are threatened by other insurgents after the Marines have left the neighborhood. They’ve been seen accepting a soccer ball or getting medical help, or had Marines use their rooftop for an overwatch position. The insurgents threaten them or torture them following any contact with coalition forces. They use these threats to convince them to plant an IED or hide weapons for the organized insurgent groups. The key to this category is money and fear of reprisal. 25%

Category two is the day to day insurgent. He’ll smiles at the Marine who patrols the street. He’ll greet you with “As-salaam alaykum ,“ then take an pot shot at you as you turn the corner. These men are cowards, not guerillas. They have no will to fight when an equal or greater force opposes them. Planting IED's and taking pot shots is the only way they can and know how to fight. They strategically hide guns in houses, take a potshot at a convoy or patrol, then hide the gun and walk into the street unarmed, tossing down a soccer ball. They know that without a positive ID, the Marines will not accost them. These guys will go for days and not do anything against the coalition, then go an a little “boys night out” rampage. They’ll always end up showing their true colors and run from the firefight - cowards, all of them. They key to these guys is peer pressure and simply a lack of anything better to do. They have no job. Their friends fight the coalition and are an influencing factor, similar to the good kid who gets into trouble because he hangs around with the neighborhood bully. They engage in anti-coalition attacks the same way a teenager at home shoots street signs, stealing something on a whim, or breaks a window with a rock. Most don't even know why they do it. They’ll instinctively spout off a few verses of the Koran as a conditioned reflex, or as an excuse, and participate because other guys their age are doing so. This is the majority of the insurgency. 25%

Category 3 is the “homegrown” Iraqi full-fledged insurgent. He works independently or in small groups. It is his full time job, partly influenced by Al Qaeda, but not necessarily controlled by them or working for their cause. Similar to the prior group I described, these guys are also cowards. They’ll run and hide and would rather plant an IED than stand and fight. They believe we are crusaders and occupiers. We are infidels. Most are Sunni, former regime members or Ba’athists who are threatened by the Shiite dominance in Iraq. These are the holdouts, the guys gasping for air, watching their ship sink with no life rafts onboard. These guys believe they can fight the coalition and stop the impending spread of democracy. They think they can regain control and that they’ll actually get Saddam or one of his cronies back into power. It'll never happen, but they actually believe in their cause. They are the former political and military leaders who no longer have their power base. These are the guys who’ll belittle their neighbors for not joining them in their efforts. These are the guys who will shoot their own neighbors in the middle of the night or threaten their neighbors, convincing them to emplace IED’s in the roadways. These are the guys the mosques shelter and refer to as legal resistance to the occupation. This category makes up the bulk of the loosely organized insurgent cells that come and go as quickly as a spring shower. 25%

Category 4 is the most organized, though much smaller category. These guys are the organized Iraqi terrorists, the ones with money from outside sources, or from former government or military officials who stole thousands of dollars during their reign of terror. These are the guys who pay category 1's to plant IED's; the ones who provide the materials to make explosives; the ones push the belief that we are western infidels bent on destroying Islam, although they know that is not the case. It simply helps their cause, however perverted that cause my be. They are mostly Iraqi, probably hardcore Ba’athists or former Saddam Fedayeen, and are heavily influenced and funded by AQ, though they have their own hidden agendas. They are an organized, extreme version of the previous category. These guys make up the small percentage of Iraqi insurgent cells willing to execute hostage on television. They are often willing to die for their cause. 10%

Last category - category 5 is the foreign fighter, the religious extremist, the Wahabist who will fight America anywhere there is an opportunity. Iraq is simply a geographic opportunity. These guys are the smallest, yet the most dangerous category due to funding, resources, and most importantly, religious beliefs. Their fight has nothing to do with Iraq itself. The fight could be here, it could be in America, it could be anywhere in the world. Location doesn’t matter to this guy. Iraq is simply an opportunity to fight. Most are illiterate, poor and have been brainwashed since age 5 to eat, sleep and breath Islam extremism. These are the suicide bombers, the guys who believe they’ll actually get the 72 virgins when they die and go to heaven. 15%


GunnNutt said...

Your observations, officially sanctioned or not, are incredibly valuable. We only get this kind of specificity from you guys down range since the MSM is happy to pile the insurgents into one group. Thanks!

Gypsy said...

I agree with gunnutt, Sir. It was very interesting to read your take on this mix, and quite educational. I've read through your entire blog, truly fascinating and I thank you for writing and for your service to our Country. Stay safe out there.

VMICraig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
VMICraig said...

Thanks you for the kind comments. And thank you for your previous comments, too. I've enjoyed reading the comments as much as you've enjoyed reading my posts.


Samantha West said...


Thanks much for your valuable insight.

Now I have to ask, do you believe that we are doing enough toward building an economy for Iraq that will provide jobs that could eliminate category one and possibly category two? I'm of the mind that economic stability will go a long way to provide alternate behaviors for the "shiftless" types of category two.


VMICraig said...

Sam, that's really up to the Iraqis and their government - only time will tell. We are less focused on building the economy than we are on providing the stability and groundwork for the Iraqis to take on that task themselves. We'll never be able to create the jobs these people need. They must to do that themselves. They must stop being so reliant on the US dollar and the free handouts we provide and learn to do for themselves.

Unfortunately, we are causing the the society to become overly reliant on our good will, rather than forcing them to become self-sufficient. They expect free handouts, and their culture breeds a sense of laziness compared to our way of thinking - everything takes, time, time, time, and the government or the coalition will provide.

I do not forsee an overnight change, and I do not expect the Iraqis to grasp the concept of having to work for themselves anytime soon. They were given everything they have by Saddam and his regime, or conversely, had taken from them their possessions by Saddam and his regime. I lack hope for the current generation. However, there is hope for the children and teens. They see our efforts, and maybe it will rub off on them. What's the old adage - give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish - he'll eat for a lifetime.

Samantha West said...


Thank you so much for your insight. Your perspective adds such dimension to my view of Iraq.


kbug said...

Thanks for helping us understand what's going on over there. It may just be your opinion, but it's more than most of us know.... :)

gringoman said...

{Couldn't find a Trackback for your blog, so here's beginning of post, IRAQINSURGENCY: WHO? that links.)

So who exactly are these "insurgents" in Iraq? Who are these shadowy figures still planting IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices) and firing mortar rounds and rockets to raise casualty figures for the media and opponents of U.S. intervention? These phantoms of your daily Reuters and AP feed---are they home-grown or imported terrorists? Are they defiant heroes, crazies, or criminals for hire? Why do they pull triggers, pack car bombs and assign suicide bombers to kill soldiers, police, women and children? Do they assassinate and kidnap for country? For money? For Allah? For the New York Times? For Osama's caliphate? For unreconstructed out-of-power Saddamites still living and operating on UN Oil-For-Food lucre?

VMICraig said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. And Gringoman - thank you incorporating my comments into your latest post. Your intro. certainly parallels the very questions I had hoped to answer. Semper Fi.

gringoman said...

Calling 'em as you see 'em, Colonel, is the best that any reporter can do, whether "paid" or otherwise. And when you're right there, on the ground, it's value-added. That's why I especially liked your report. In Vietnam I found out why "being there" makes so much difference.

I won't say anything further about the current crop of "embeds." I wanted to be there myself, for a much closer look. However, CENTCOM (so far) will not credential a (non-military) veteran of 5 years in the Vietnam War who has also blogged for the past two years. CENTCOM wants a "news agency" to "vouch" for me---the kind of thing I have nothing to do with anymore and don't want anything to do with. And I once thought that CENTCOM would welcome such an "independent blogger" who is also free of the "news agencies." Guess I was mistaken.

Best Regards,


ps. New post following the one based on yours: A FIGHTING PRINCE?

Mark scheinbaum said...

Re insurgents..
Isn't there another category, or a "super category" which eclipses the others: The Criminal.

In Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan, Russia, and elsewhere we have seen people wrap themselves in myriad ideologies and organizations, but it comes down to stealing, kidnapping, and racketeering on an organized scale. They have no politics or their "politics" are certainly for rent.

MarineMom said...

Wonderful blog Sir. And as a 3/7 mother (son in Lima 3rd plt still in Iraq) I want to thank you for your reporting on our guys over there in Ramadi with the 3/7. They are all great young men and you did an excellent job at protraying them. I don't have near as much time to read blogs as I would like ... but yours is definitely becoming one of my favorites. I respect that you show (write) things with an honest perspective but still keep the Corps in a good light. Oorah to you!

I am going to permalink this particular blog about the insurgents from my blog if you don't mind. I know a lot of people that would like to read this, official or not. From what I have heard from our guys, it is very accurate meaning of course that they are NEVER safe. Something that some of us moms would probably prefer not to know! Unfortunately I happen to be the type of mom that has to know EVERYTHING, it gives me an idea of specific prayers I need to pray for our guys, but it also sometimes gives me insomnia!

Thanks again for your great posts. I hope to have most of them read soon!

Semper Fi!