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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/27/15

American Sniper vs. Baghdad Sniper

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Juba was infinitely patient, and devastatingly accurate. He would fire only one shot -- and then change his position. He never fired a second shot. He aimed for the tiniest gap in the soldiers' body armor, and target their lower spine, ribs or above the chest. No US specialist sniper team was ever able to track him.

That explains, in a nutshell, why Juba became an urban legend in Baghdad, the Sunni triangle, and beyond. What is virtually certain is that he was a member of the Islamic Army in Iraq (jaysh al islami fi'l-'iraq). A hero of the resistance against the invaders, of course, but far from a Salafi-jihadi.

The Islamic Army in Iraq, by the mid-2000s, was the number one resistance group against the Americans, as promoted by former Iraqi vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi. They were all former Ba'athists -- Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds working together. And so was Juba -- who was thought to be Sunni. But that was never totally confirmed.

By the end of 2005 the Islamic Army in Iraq released a 15-minute video of Juba's Greatest Kills. By mid-2006 all sorts of figures were circulating about his real tally. That included feats such as Juba eviscerating a four-strong marine scout sniper team in Ramadi, in the "triangle of death," all of them with a single shot to the head. By the mid-2000s, the resistance could not but be popular -- with the "liberation" entailing over 50% of Iraqis being undernourished; at least one out of three literally starving; and at least 50% of the whole population living in abject poverty.

US snipers were always deployed in teams of at least two, a shooter and a spotter. A spotter had to be extremely experienced, using very complex calculus to factor, for instance, wind variations and drag coefficients. Juba, instead, was a loner.

Rebel with a Dragunov

The Islamic Army of Iraq liked to boast that Juba -- and other snipers -- were trained essentially by the book 'The Ultimate Sniper: An Advanced Training Manual for Military and Police Snipers' (Paladin Press, 1993; expanded edition in 2006), written by retired US sniper John Plaster.

What a fabulous post-Cold War tale; tactics may have been borrowed from the (American) invader; but the weapon of choice was Russian.

Juba's usual "nest" -- where he holed up before a kill -- was invariably decorated by an assortment of bed mattresses, which muffled the sound of his Dragunov sniper rifle, also known as SVD; a semi-automatic designed by Evgeniy Dragunov in the former USSR in the late 1950s. The SVD has always been highly regarded as the world's first purpose-built military precision marksman's rifle. So considering the close relations between the USSR and Saddam's Iraq, no wonder the Ba'athist military was familiar with the Dragunov.

Juba's trademark "souvenir" also became as legendary as his Invisible Man persona; a lone bullet casing, and a few words jotted down in Arabic: What has been taken in blood cannot be regained except by blood. The Baghdad Sniper.

There was a time in late 2005, early 2006, when I was following the Iraqi resistance closely even when I was not on the ground, that I flirted with the idea of writing a screenplay about Juba. He was a sort of Camus-style hero for a great deal of Iraqis; an existential rebel, but with a Dragunov. In the end I discarded the idea, considering that only an Iraqi would be able to fully examine the psychology of the Baghdad sniper.

Today, the Baghdad sniper may survive only as the ghost of a faded urban legend. Baghdad itself changed its status from mostly Sunni to mostly Shi'ite -- and its new fears center on the fake ISIS/ISIL/Daesh Caliphate. American Sniper, on the other hand, is touring the planet as a digital celebrity hero, even as US right-wingers loudly complained neither Clint Eastwood's movie nor Bradley Cooper got any Oscars. It only goes to show -- once again -- that since Vietnam, the only place the Empire of Chaos wins its wars is in Hollywood.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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