A U.S. Army soldier looks out from his armored vehicle after troops came under small arms fire in Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004. The U.S. military said five more bodies were found Wednesday in northern Mosul, bringing the total to 20 bodies found in the past week. (AP Photo/Jim MacMillan)

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the chaos, corpses and violence is getting to troops and citizens, and this is what the insurgents know — and they don’t have to fire a gun at the troops to cause unrest.

“Almost every morning for the past several days, American soldiers have made the gruesome discovery. Sometimes the bodies are partly burned; sometimes they are dismembered; sometimes they are shot in the head.

When two more victims were found this week slumped on a busy street corner, Lt. Col. Erik Kurilla finally lost it. The Army commander, a bear of a man who usually is the first to crack a joke even in the most dire of circumstances, stormed across the street and began chastising the Iraqis gathered there.

‘Why do you not have the common decency to clean them up?’ shouted Kurilla, who is in charge of securing much of historic Mosul, as he angrily motioned to the bodies.

‘Your fellow Iraqis are lying dead in the streets, and you sit there doing nothing. To say nothing is to support the insurgents. These were Iraqi soldiers who were trying to help your country, to serve you. How can you do nothing?’

Kurilla’s outrage stems not just from the fact that Mosul, once a relatively peaceful city, is fast becoming a haven for violent insurgents. His larger concern is that those insurgents seem to have come to a pragmatic conclusion: that they cannot overcome U.S. military might and their best chance to assume control of neighborhoods and the city is to redouble their attacks on fellow Iraqis.

20 bodies in 10 days

During the past 10 days, the bodies of more than 20 Iraqi police officers, soldiers and National Guardsmen have been found in this northern city, where winter has begun to settle with a nearly constant, cold, pelting rain. Masked gunmen have stormed or burned nearly a dozen police stations. And scores of families with members in one of the Iraqi security forces have received death threats or other forms of intimidation.

In just a few days, the police force in one of the most densely populated portions of the city has dwindled to only a few hundred from several thousand, and two Iraqi National Guard units in the region were forced to disband when between a third and half of their soldiers fled, according to a U.S. military official.

…Under the cover of night, the insurgents have taken to the streets and covered the walls of homes with intimidating graffiti: “God be with the mujahedeen forever.” Or “Together we will all fight America.” Or “Allawi, we will kill you,” a reference to the U.S.-backed interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi.

In one neighborhood, insurgents handed out leaflets warning that anyone cooperating with the Americans would be killed; in another they dumped the bodies of those who were.

It appears to be an effective strategy.

“We just want to live. We want no trouble here,” said Mosul resident Kadhim Kassim al-Tae. “We will not provide information about the bad men to the Americans. If we do, we will be killed. It is that simple.”

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding