- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

The demise last week of Saddam Hussein’s two fugitive sons has not yet discouraged Ba’athist guerrillas from killing more American soldiers, as the Bush administration had hoped.

Two more U.S. Army soldiers were killed yesterday by Saddam Hussein loyalists who used explosive devices to ambush two convoys. The deaths bring to 12 the number of American troops killed by guerrillas since Wednesday, when the Uday and Qusai Hussein died in a fierce gun and missile battle in Mosul, in northern Iraq.

The number of American service members killed in Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major hostilities May 1 stood at 50 yesterday.

“If it can save American lives, I’m happy to make the decision I made,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week, after he made the decision to release photos of the sons’ corpses in an attempt to discourage resisters and encourage average Iraqis to provide intelligence.

But since the demise of Uday and Qusai, Americans have been killed in bloody ambushes, drive-by shootings and attacks with improvised explosives. Guerrillas killed two soldiers Wednesday, the day 101st Airborne soldiers cornered and killed the brothers in a Mosul villa. On Thursday, three more soldiers were killed. Five died over the weekend and two were killed yesterday.

With the sons’ deaths failing to stem the violence so far, military commanders in the Baghdad-Tikrit region are relying on stepped-up raids on guerrilla safe houses as the only sure way to eventually destroy the loosely organized Ba’athists.

The strategy is to round up high- and mid-level Saddam followers who are directing and paying younger men $500 each to attack Americans. Soldiers are confiscating huge caches of guns, grenades and cash that are fueling the attacks. In time, the military believes, the well of available attackers will dry up.

“There’s not an unlimited number of these criminals, and they’re not getting more people coming over to their side, I can guarantee you,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said last week after a four-day tour of post-Saddam Iraq. “If there are more attacks, then we’ll have [to] get more intelligence and we’ll clean them up. The one thing that I’m sure of is we’re going to get more intelligence, that Iraqis are going to be more comfortable.”

Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, who commands the 4th Infantry Division, said attacks had slacked off since June, but he sees no immediate effect from the Husseins’ passing.

“I think it’s going to have a long-term effect,” said Gen. Odierno, whose 27,000-troop task force patrols the dangerous “Sunni Triangle” of Saddam loyalists between Baghdad and Tikrit. “It will take a little bit of time. Might take months. Might take weeks. Might take three months, four months. But it’s going to have an effect overall on the overall outcome. But I have seen no immediate impact based on the specific attacks.”

The general said he is seeing more Iraqis walk into headquarters and pinpoint locations of guerrillas and their arms. A walk-in provided the information last Friday that resulted in the arrests of 13 security guards for Saddam.

Gen. Richard Myers, the Joint Chiefs chairman, said over the weekend that Saddam is too busy running to play a role in commanding the guerrillas. He said commanders are learning from each attack.

“They adapt their tactics and techniques, and we adapt ours,” Gen. Myers said. “One thing about that is, as we saw in the major combat portion of this effort, we can [adapt] better and faster than any other force on earth. We are very good at this.”

Gen. Odierno said he sees each group of loyalists organized at the small-unit level, but not above. “There’s a guy who has money,” he said. “There’s somebody who’s responsible for caching weapons and there’s a guy who pays individuals to do attacks on American soldiers. But we think that’s at a very local level. We don’t think it’s tied together at a national level.”

Mr. Wolfowitz said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that finding Saddam will help.

“Look, it’s a criminal gang of many thousands of rapists, murderers, and torturers,” he said. “There is no question, though, that getting rid of Saddam Hussein will have more effect than any single thing we can do.”

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