With two more helicopter crashes near Baghdad, including a Marine transport crash on Wednesday that killed seven people, the number of helicopters that have gone down in Iraq over the past three weeks rose to six. American officials say the streak strongly suggests that insurgents have adapted their tactics and are now putting more effort into shooting down the aircraft.
The number also includes a previously unreported downing of a helicopter operated by a private security firm on Jan. 31.
Some aspects of the recent crashes indicate that insurgents have become smarter about anticipating American flight patterns and finding ways to use old weapons to down helicopters, according to military and witness reports. The aircraft, many of which are equipped with sophisticated antimissile technology, still can be vulnerable to more conventional weapons fired from the ground.
That's Richard A. Oppel and James Glanz' "Copter Crashes Suggest Shift in Iraqi Tactics" in this morning's New York Times but it could be filed under nonsense. The only reason the military is showing concern is because the press won't let it go (and shouldn't). It's amazing that witness accounts are treated as suspect and that all Oppel and Glanz can find is officials handed to them. The paper is all about the unnamed source except on something that the military heads (and the administration) are embarrassed about -- and they should be embarrassed and ashamed. They have ignored this problem, they have denied it and it wasn't until January that they were forced to admit to it. Speaking to any number of US troops serving would have told both reporters how serious the problem was, how the helicopters land in the same locations unless it's a response to a back up call (which means their patterns are known by resistance fighters who can wait for their expected landing).
The report is nonsense but I'm sure the administration is happy. I know at least three serving in Iraq aren't happy (I'm sure more but I've only heard from three this morning). That maybe the paper's goal (it often plays like that is their goal) but that's not reporting.
Martha notes Renae Merle's "5 Indicted in Probe of Iraq Deals" (Washington Post):
Three Army Reserve officers and two civilians were indicted yesterday on federal charges of participating in a wide-ranging bribery and contract-rigging scheme involving millions in Iraq reconstruction funds.
The 25-count indictment handed up by a Trenton, N.J., grand jury expands a probe that has resulted in three guilty pleas. Those indicted yesterday were accused of participating in a scheme to funnel $8.6 million in reconstruction contracts to an American businessman in exchange for cars, $3,200 Breitling watches, plane tickets, $3,000 Toshiba laptop computers, weapons and stolen money. Named in the indictments were Col. Curtis G. Whiteford; Lt. Col. Debra M. Harrison and her husband, William Driver; Lt. Col. Michael B. Wheeler; and Michael Morris.
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