Saturday, December 13, 2003

Flat Broke

It came as a close a declaration of victory as he could allow himself to make.

Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who heads the Army's Fourth Infantry Division, said in an interview on Thursday night that American operations had captured several important insurgent financiers in recent days, seized money stashed across the region to pay for weapons and attacks ($500 to conduct a strike and up to $3,000 to kill American soldier), and stopped couriers smuggling money from outside Iraq.

"For the first time in the last 30 days, I truly feel we've gotten into their cycle of financing," General Odierno said at his headquarters here, in one of Mr. Hussein's sprawling palace complexes. "We have indications they're having trouble financing attacks. There are indications that for the first time, they're having trouble getting their hands on weapons."

In Follow the Money the Belmont Club suggested that the tempo of US operations was forcing the Ba'athist forces into cash starvation by making them burn up money faster than it could be laundered and smuggled to them. In a Third World country, where people have little reserve, cash starvation will break up guerilla bands as they are forced to forage for themselves and their families. It also creates an incentive to switch sides or turn to crime. James Dunnigan observed it was the fate of every failed insurgency to evolve into a glorified criminal gang. In the case of the Ba'ath, they won't notice the difference.