October 29, 2007

“A Sophisticated Deathtrap”

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia is the most compulsively readable book yet published about the Battle of Fallujah.

I'm leaving for Fallujah myself in two weeks and will continue book-blogging this as a sort of prologue to my own dispatches to come. My work will need contrast. I don’t expect to be embroiled in fire fights every day, and it would be absurd to read my stories – whatever they turn out to be – as a complete picture of the American experience there.

This is the city where the anti-American Sunni insurgency was born. Its support ran the gamut from secular Baathists to radical Islamists and included disgruntled average Iraqis in between. The Marines mostly cleared Fallujah of insurgents in April, 2004, after a lynch mob strung up the mutilated bodies of Blackwater contracters from a bridge. But U.S. forces later withdrew, and Fallujah was taken over by the insurgents again. General Petraeus’s surge strategy of Clear, Hold, and Build wasn’t in place yet.

Fallujah degenerated into a totalitarian hole ruled by fanatics, and the Army and Marines had to go in and clear it again in November of the same year. The city had been emptied of civilians and was effectively a ghost town occupied by jihadists from all over the place.

Sometimes I worry that Iraq will turn into a California-sized Gaza, but the truth is that some parts have been in worse shape already.

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War

Click the image to order from Amazon.com

Here is Bellavia describing the city as he and his fellow "front-line bullet chewers," as he called them, are preparing to strike:

Fallujah is a city designed for siege warfare. From the studs to the minarets, every goddamned building is a fortress. The houses are minibunkers with ramparts and firing slits cut into every rooftop. The mosques are latter-day Persian castles with concrete walls three feet thick. Within those walls, the courtyards offer perfect ambush points from every window. Even the shops and the local markets are fortified. Block after block, Fallujah is a sophisticated deathtrap.

Architecture aside, the insurgents have had months to prepare for this battle. They've dug fighting positions, mined the streets, booby-trapped the houses, built bunkers, and cleared fields of fire. Every road into the city is strong-pointed, mined, and blocked with captured Texas barriers. Fallujah is shaping up to be the Verdun of the War on Terror. We face a battle of attrition fought within a maze of interlocking fortresses. Attrition is such a sterile word. We'll be trading our lives for theirs.

[Captain Sean] Sims makes it clear that our initial objectives will be heavily defended. The insurgents have deployed foreign fighters on the city's approaches. They form the outer crust of their defense-in-depth, so we will face them first. Intelligence reports tell us we'll face Syrians, Iranians, Saudis, Filipinos, even Italians and Chechnyans. They're well trained, ideologically motivated, and armed with ample ammunition and equipment. They've trained for years to kill us infidels. Some have cut their teeth in Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Somalia. They are veterans just like us – a regular Islamist all-star team.

Bellavia’s memoir reads like a zombie war novel at times:
The bad news continues as Captain Sims closes the laptop and turns to us. “We expect the insurgents have stockpiled drugs. We'll be facing fighters hopped up on dope again.”

I look over at [Staff Sergeant Colin] Fitts, and I know what he's thinking. If this is true, these guys are going to be hard to kill. In Muqdadiyah, my squad watched a drug-crazed Mahdi militiaman charge Cory Brown's Bradley. The gunner blasted him with coax machine-gun fire, shredding his legs. He tumbled off the Bradley and flopped face up onto the street. As we approached him, he started to laugh. The laughter grew into a hysteria-tinged cackle, then ended with a bone-chilling keen. That froze us cold. Watching us with wild eyes, he then pulled a bottle of pills out of a blood-soaked pocket and drained its contents into his mouth. Then he went for something under his jacket. Thinking he was about to detonate a bomb vest, three of us opened fire and riddled him with bullets. We shot and shot until he finally stopped moving.

Leaving my men behind, I went to investigate the corpse. His right arm was torn off. His legs were nothing but punctured meat. Most of his face was gone, and only a bloody lump remained of his nose. Both eyes had been shot out. I put a boot on his chest. The Mahdi militiaman didn't move. I kicked him. No movement. Given how many times he had been shot, I didn't expect anything else, but just to be sure, I shot him twice in the stomach. Then I marked him with a chem light so the body disposal teams could find him later that night.

A few minutes later, a Blackhawk landed and we started loading wounded insurgents into it. While we worked, two men carried the shattered husk of that Mahdi militiaman to the helicopter. To our astonishment, he was still alive. Blood bubbles burbled up through his mangled nose and mouth. Blind, in agony, he still managed to scream through broken teeth and punctured lungs. We loaded him on the helicopter and never saw him again.

We later discovered the Mahdi militia had gained access to American epinephrine -- pure adrenaline that will keep a heart pumping even after its owner has been exposed to nerve gas or chemical weapons. A dude with that in his system is almost superhuman. Short of being blown to pieces with our biggest guns, he'll keep fighting until his limbs are severed or he bleeds out.

Most of the military operations in Iraq are more like peace-keeping missions than war-fighting. Counter-insurgency doesn’t usually come with the bang-bang we’re used to from war movies.

Counter-insurgency, though, seems inadequate as a description of the Battle of Fallujah. This was full-throttled war:

Using our Brads as cover, we watch as our gunners prep our first objective area. Tracers streak from their barrels and disappear into the buildings ahead of us. I flip my night-vision goggles down over my left eye and study the buildings. Nothing looks familiar. In fact, the entire area bears no resemblance to the dismount point we've studied for the past several days. We've practically memorized our aerial recon photos, satellite imagery, and road maps. We know every building we need to assault, every corner we need to cover down on, and every street we must lay eyes on in our assigned area.

Yet none of this looks familiar. The pre-assault bombardment has turned this part of the city into a holocaust of twisted wreckage, mangled buildings, and broken vehicles. Houses have been cleaved in two, as if some sadistic giant has performed architectural vivisection on the entire neighborhood. Floors and rooms have been laid bare, exposed to the ravages of the night's shelling. Furniture is thrown haphazardly about. Smashed desks, burned-out sofas, faceless TVs lay in heaps within these demolished homes.

The insurgents may have been hopped up on epinephrine and hard to kill, but that didn’t make them good fighters. The Middle East produces extremists in abundance, but it won’t be known for the competence of its warriors any time soon.

Staff Sergeant Jim's voice comes over the radio, "I got a white van inbound!"

We're under orders to destroy every vehicle we encounter. Even if it is tucked away in a garage, we're supposed to treat it as a VBIED -- Vehicle Born IED. A van moving through the carnage and destruction to get at us is clearly a threat.

Jim's gunner, Sergeant Denny Taijeron, is [First Lieutenant Joaquin] Meno's cousin from Guam. They went to high school together and later attended Guam Community College, where they evidently both majored in wanton urban destruction. They joined the Army at the same time and came to Germany together. Taijeron doesn't hesitate a bit. The 120mm gun fires, bathing the street in a hellish light. The shell blows the van apart. Pieces spin off into the darkness. When the smoke clears, not even a tire remains.

A second later, an AK-47 barks and an insurgent heaves into view.

Over the radio, we hear Jim say, "Check this guy out."

The lone gunman stitches the tank with his bullets. He might as well have been an ant throwing grass seeds at a lawn mower.

"Are you fucking serious? Look at this fool."

Another tanker's voice replies, "Awww man, that guy is cute."

Jim's turret turns, the gun's elevation changes. Suddenly, the entire street lights up again. The insurgent is vaporized."

The insurgents are incompetent, to say the least, when they pick up a rifle. They almost always miss, as if they’re unrealistic Rambo movie villains whose only role is to be shot. Some of their tactics, though, are downright terrifying.

Sergeant Knapp is ordered to take a house because the platoon needs a better view of the municipal building.

Knapp now launches himself fully into the middle of the street. The man is all steel and guts. During a firefight in Muqdadiyah last August, he stoop atop a building and poured hot slugs into a group of about twenty insurgents. Bullets and RPGs flew all around, but he never even flinched. He stood and took it, and dealt out much worse.

He reaches the far side of the street. As he does, I urge the next group forward. Slapping helmets, I hiss, "Go! Go! Go!"

Fitt's squad follows us out of the courtyard. We dash across the street and into the compound of our target house. As I get close, I see Knapp frozen in the doorway.

What the fuck, Knapp? Get inside the fucking house!

The rest of the squad stacks up behind him, and though I try to stop, I careen into the men. We've got one big gaggle fuck right in the front courtyard, and we're vulnerable as hell.

"Get the fuck in!" I order.

Knapp immediately counters with, "No! Get the fuck out! Get out now!"

"Whaddaya got?" I demand, still trying to get untangled from the rest of the squad now backing off from the entrance.

He swings around and grabs my body armor. As the rest of the men back up indecisively, he drags me into the doorway.

"Knapp, what the fuck..."

"LOOK!" he roars.

The first thing I notice are the wires. Wires are common all over the ruins we've traversed so far, but they are always dirty, torn, and dull in color. The wires I see inside this house are crisp and clean and bundled neatly with zip ties.

That is not good.

"GO! GO! GO! Get the fuck outta here," I scream to my squad.

A cluster of wires funnel through one wall, then fan out all over the inside of one room just inside the door like green and orange ivy vines. I follow a few with my eyes and see they end in undersized bricks. This puzzles me for a split second, then I realize the bricks are chunks of C-4 plastic explosive.

Another group of wires runs to a pair of go-cart sized propane tanks stacked along the nearest wall. More explosives are scattered around them.

But the piece de resistance, the stroke of insurgent genius here, is the centerline aerial drop tank sitting in the middle of the room. Designed to give MiG fighter jets extended range, it's a fuel tank that looks like a misshapen teardrop. The insurgents have slipped garbage bags onto its tail fins. The nose has been removed. The wires disappear inside from there. Using jet fuel as a bomb is what caused the fireballs at the World Trade Center on 9/11. This tank makes one hell of a weapon.

We could lose the entire squad -- we could lose most of the platoon -- right here, right now.

I turn to Knapp, "Get back to the other house, now!"

He grabs the other men and everyone careens back across the street. I'm left alone in the driveway, staring at this enormous booby trap. I'm horrified by the thought of what almost happened to my platoon.

Fitts jogs to me, "What's going on?"

I'm so stunned, I can only point.

He peers inside the house and flips out. "What the fuck is this? Holy shit!"

"This is a BCIED, man." Building-contained IED. "Fucking...building bomb." I can't even talk in complete sentences.

You can buy the book from Amazon.com if you want to read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:52 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

An Act of Kindness from Iraq

I have a new post up at the Commentary magazine blog:

Iraqi Army officers in Besmaya raised a thousand dollars in donations for fire victims in San Diego, California, and the only place that seems to have reported the story is the military blog OPFOR. Author Richard S. Lowry learned about it in a press release from the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq Public Affairs, so it’s unlikely he’s the only one in the media who knows something about it.

Sending a thousand dollars to California will be about as helpful as throwing a glass of water into the firestorm. It’s the thought that counts here. And what surprising thought it is. How many Americans expect charity from Iraq?

As Lowry points out, “most Americans do not consider Iraqis as people.” He’s right. Most of us only know them from sensational media reports about masked insurgents, wailing widows, and death squads. Most of us may instinctively understand that the majority of Iraqis are just regular people, but it’s hard to keep that in mind when the only thing we get Stateside is war coverage. I’ve met hundreds of Iraqis myself during trips to their country as a reporter, so it’s a bit easier for me to see them as just people. I’m still surprised that anyone in that broken impoverished land would even consider donating hard-earned money to Californians.

Read the rest at Commentary.

UPDATE: CNN now has the story on their Web site. Good for them.

This link will take you to all the articles I have written for Commentary. You can bookmark that page if you want to as sort of a supplement to this one.

Remember Noah Pollak? I worked with him in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon, and he was briefly my co-blogger here. He also has been picked up as a writer by Commentary, and you can read all of his articles here.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:38 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

October 27, 2007

Blog World Expo in Las Vegas — UPDATED

I was invited to speak at the Blog World Expo in Las Vegas next month, but I expected to be in Afghanistan, so I declined. As it turns out, though, I will just barely have time to attend (not as a speaker) before I leave for Fallujah.

Who else is going to be there? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

UPDATE: I'll be there as a speaker after all. I'm being added to one of the panels.

TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG: MILBLOGGERS,THE DOD AND THE MEDIA, Moderator: Ward Carroll

Thursday, November 8 (2:45 – 3:45)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:17 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

October 25, 2007

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War

I'm leaving for Fallujah in early November, and part of my preparation involves reading every book I can get my hands on about what has happened in that city so far. The most compulsively readable of the lot is House to House: An Epic Memoir of War by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia.

House to House: An Epic Memoir of War

Click the image to order from Amazon.com

Bellavia spent the first part of his Iraq tour in Diyala Province, which is still a convulsive and dangerous place even now. The notorious city of Baqubah is its capital. It is the second city in Iraq, after Ramadi, that Al Qaeda tried to establish as the capital of its so-called “Islamic State in Iraq.”

The author opens his book with brief descriptions of the fighting in Diyala so we can appreciate, if that is the word, how bad the battle of Fallujah was by comparison when he and his fellow American soldiers and Marines took the city back from insurgents in November 2004.

We've all heard and read about how terrorists and insurgents hide behind civilians and use human shields, but it's hard to grasp what that really means without at least a little dramatization. Here is Bellavia describing one of these incidents in the town of Muqdadiyah, Diyala:

The angst-filled scenes on the street cannot compare to what we find inside these battle-scarred houses. Yesterday, my squad kicked in one door and stumbled right into a woman wearing a blood-soaked apron. She was sitting on the floor, howling with grief. She looked to be in her mid-forties and had Shia tattoos on her face. When she saw us, she stood and grasped Specialist Piotr Sucholas by the shoulders and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then she turned and laid her head on Sergeant Hall's chest, as if to touch his heart.

I stepped forward and said in broken Arabic “La tah khaf madrua? Am ree kee tabeeb. Weina mujahadeen kelp?” Do not be afraid. Injured? American doctor. Where are the mujahadeen dogs?

She bent and kissed my wedding ring. “Baby madrua. Baby madrua.” The despair in her voice was washed away by the sound of a little girl's laughter. When the giggling child came in from the kitchen and clutched her mother's leg, we immediately realized she had Down's Syndrome. I was struck by the beauty of this child. Specialist Pedro Contreras, whose heart was always the biggest in our platoon, knelt by her side and gave her a butterscotch candy. Contreras loved Iraqi kids. He had a six-year old nephew back home, and seeing these little ones made him ache for the boy.

We didn't see the injured baby at first – we still had a job to do. I moved upstairs, searching for an insurgent who had been shooting at our Bradleys. Halfway up, I discovered a smear of blood on the steps. Then I found a tuft of human hair. Another step up, I saw a tiny leg.

Baby madrua.

Ah, fuck. Fuck.

The child was dead. She was torn apart at the top of the stairs. Specialist Michael Gross had followed me partway up the stairs. I turned to him and screamed, “Get back down! I said get the fuck back down!” Gross stopped suddenly, then eased off the stairs, a wounded look on his face. I was overly harsh, but I didn't want him to see what was left of this dead child...

I'll never forget that house. The woman kissed each of us good-bye. As she touched her lips to my cheek, I pointed to my wedding ring and asked her where her husband was.

“Weina zoah jik? Shoof nee, shoof nee.” Where is your husband? Show me, show me.

She spat on the floor and cried, “Kelp.” Dog. I guessed he was the corpse on the roof. I touched my heart and tried to convey my feelings, but the language barrier was too great.

A few minutes later, Bellavia's unit joins another that has made contact with the Mahdi Army.
Newell's two-rig convoy takes fire from both sides of the highway. The volume swells as more rockets streak across the road. Suddenly, a small boy of perhaps five or six steps out into the street. Standing next to Newell's Humvee, the kid holds up first two fingers, then five fingers.

Sergeant Grady swings his machine gun around. It is obvious that the boy is signaling to the Mahdi militiamen how many American vehicles are present.

As Grady racks the bolt on his machine gun, Newell realizes what his gunner had in mind. “Don't shoot the child,” he orders.

“Sir, the kid is giving our position away,” says Grady, his voice nearly drowned out by the swelling volume of incoming fire.

“Don't shoot the child,” Newell reiterates, his voice stern. Grady gets the message. Our colonel possess a black-and-white sense of morality. The kid, no matter what he's doing, will not be targeted. At times, our battalion commander's adherence to such niceties frustrates us, but I know in time we will thank him. Nobody wants a child on his conscience.

Diyala was a bad scene in 2004, as it is now. What Bellavia and his men experienced in Fallujah was more deadly and terrifying by at least an order of magnitude. But he warms us up with tales of violence and woe that are more typical of the restless parts of Iraq, and typical of urban warfare anywhere in the 21st century where moral Western armies fight asymmetric wars against less scrupulous and poorly trained armed combatants.

Perhaps I shouldn't say Diyala is typical. It was one of the worst parts of the country then, as it is now. Almost everywhere is less violent than Diyala, but Diyala was easy compared with Fallujah.

Iraq is a strange country. Everywhere I've been – including Baghdad – is less dangerous than it appears from far away. It isn't safe by any means. You do not want to go there on holiday. But I've seen far worse in Israel, which was packed with tourists even during last summer's war. I did hear one car bomb in Baghdad in July from three miles away. It was incredibly loud, especially considering how far away it was. But that's it for me, at least so far.

The flip side of all this is that some of the fighting in Iraq is worse than most people realize. Fallujah in November 2004 just might have been the most nightmarish place in the world. The city was emptied of civilians. American soldiers and Marines fought it out house-to-house and sometimes hand-to-hand with insurgents from Iraq and from all over the Middle East in the eerily emptied ghost town where a quarter million people once lived. Insurgents injected themselves with massive adrenaline shots that made them almost as hard to kill as zombies. The whole city was one giant booby trap. Entire buildings were packed with explosives. Several were often detonated at once.

But first, the easier fight in Diyala, for contrast:

In Diyala, on April 9, 2004, we're in full battle rattle. The high-intensity urban fighting we've practiced since basic training is now finally allowed to be unleashed upon our enemy. There is no weak-stomached four-star general to hold back on our reins. We are again the First Infantry Division of Vietnam and the beaches of Normandy. We pour through compound gates, rifles shouldered, targets falling as we trigger our weapons. Mahdi militiamen sprint from corner to corner, but we are quick and accurate with our aim. We knock them right out of their shoes. Our Brads are rolling, unleashing volley after volley from their Bushmasters into nearby buildings. Yet the militiamen refuse to give up the fight. Tracers from unseen enemy positions spiderweb overhead. They make us earn every house and every inch.

This is our war: we can't shoot at every target, we can't always tell who is a target; but we look out for one another and we don't mind doing the nation's dirty work. Air Force pilots and Army majors expert in Microsoft PowerPoint have a perfectly clean view of it. We don't get support if it makes a mess.

Bring it.

We're the infantry.

War's a bitch, wear a helmet.

Coming soon: Excerpts from House to House and the terrifying battle of Fallujah. You can buy the book from Amazon.com if you want to read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:36 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

October 24, 2007

Israeli Reporters Lap Up Syrian Propaganda

Now that I'm briefly out of fresh material from Iraq (until I go back) I have a bit of time to return to one of my old beats. I start with the strange story of Israeli journalists repeating Syrian lies as possible fact in such reputable newspapers as Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post. Read Syria's Useful Israeli Idiots over at the Commentary magazine Web site.

I'll publish more on this blog shortly.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

October 21, 2007

On to Fallujah with the Marines

I’m out of fresh material from Iraq, so I’ll be heading back in a few weeks to get more. This time I plan to visit in Fallujah. I’ll spend more time there than I did in either Baghdad or Ramadi, and I’ll embed with the Marines instead of the Army.

Fallujah all but demands more time and attention. On the surface it resembles Ramadi. But Fallujah is meaner and murkier. This is the notorious city from which the Sunni insurgency was launched in full force. Open kinetic warfare raged there longer than it did anywhere else in Iraq. If any city could be described as the heartland of the insurgency, this is it.

The relatively straightforward story of Al Qaeda and the Americans battling it out for the hearts and minds of Iraqis in Ramadi doesn’t really apply in Fallujah. The insurgents there were always more popular, and they fought under many flags. Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were hardly the only figures inspiring insurgents to violence. When Saddam Hussein was captured, Baghdad cheered. Fallujah rioted.

Author Bing West describes the city this way in No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah:

Cities acquire caricature, if not character: New York is frenetic and brash; San Francisco is liberal and laid-back; Los Angeles is imbued with glitter and celebrity. Ask Iraqis about Fallujah, and they roll their eyes: Fallujah is strange, sullen, wild-eyed, badass, and just plain mean. Fallujans don’t like strangers, which includes anyone not homebred. Wear lipstick or Western-style long hair, sip a beer or listen to an American CD, and you risk the whip or a beating.

For centuries the city had traded with – and stolen from – merchants who were headed east to Baghdad. The frontier town bordering an open desert attracted thousands of outcasts and criminals. In the early twentieth century European travelers learned not to tarry in Fallujah. After Iraq won its independence in 1959, Fallujah became a source of enforcers for the ruling Sunni-dominated Baath Party. The city’s tough reputation continued under Saddam…

With forty-seven mosques in its neighborhoods and fifty more in the neighboring villages, Fallujah was called “the city of a hundred mosques.” For decades the city had been the repository of the extreme Wahhabi, or Salafi, traditions flowing in from Saudi Arabia. Saddam, distrusting Fallujans’ fundamentalism, had restricted their movements and used them as his cat’s paw.

Fallujah looks as sinister as Mordor from far away, even from inside Iraq. But it isn’t that bad, at least not anymore. Somehow the city has been almost pacified.

How? What does that suggest about the future in the rest of the country? Can anything pro-American, or at least non-anti-American, grow in a place like Fallujah, or is the war there just in a lull? What do the Marines, steeped as they are in realism, think of this place? Is Fallujah ready to join the rest of Iraq, or has the rest of Iraq joined Fallujah?

These are the first questions I’d like to have answered. What questions would you like to have answered about this as-ever notorious city?

Please leave your own questions in the comments. And please consider a donation through Blog Patron or Pay Pal and help me buy war zone insurance and airfare.

“Blog

If you would like to donate for travel and equipment expenses and you don't want to send money over the Internet, please consider sending a check or money order to:

Michael Totten

P.O. Box 312

Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:12 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

October 17, 2007

The Shia Awakening

I have a short piece up at Commentary about Iraq's Shia Awakening.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

October 14, 2007

The Case for Kurdistan

Azure magazine just published a long essay I wrote in early summer where I make the case for an independent American-backed Kurdistan in Northern Iraq on moral and strategic grounds. At the time I was slightly more pessimistic about the prospects for Iraq as a whole than I am now, but I still think something like this may be a viable Plan B if the surge fails or if the American public tires of fighting in Iraq before the country is stable.

Here is a brief excerpt from the second half of the essay:

The United States will possibly withdraw from Iraq before the fighting is finished. American public opinion may well demand it. But if that should happen, the war will simply rage on without the Americans, and the Iraqi government might not survive the post-withdrawal scramble for power from insurgents, militias, terrorists, and their foreign patrons. And if the government falls, there probably won’t be another.

Iraq may end up resembling other regional weak-state anarchies, such as Somalia, which exist solely as geographic abstractions. Or it could go the way of Lebanon in the 1980s and divide into ethnic and sectarian cantons. Perhaps it will be invaded and picked apart by Turkey, Syria, and Iran, all of which have vital interests in who rules it and how. Iraq could even turn into a California-size Gaza, ruled by militants who wear black masks instead of neckties or keffiyehs.

But one certainty, at least, is that if Kurdistan declares independence and is not protected, one of two possible wars is likely to begin immediately. The first will involve Turkey; after all, few things are more undesirable to Ankara than Turkish Kurdistan violently attaching itself to Iraqi Kurdistan. The second will be about borders: Iraqi Kurdistan’s southern borders are not yet demarcated. If Turkey doesn’t invade, the Kurds will want to attach the Kurdish portions of Kirkuk Province, and possibly also Nineveh Province, to their new state.

Even if Kurdistan doesn’t declare independence, there may still be more war on the way. “We believe if the Americans withdraw from this country there will be many more problems,” Colonel Mudhafer said. “The Sunni and Shia want total control of Iraq. We are going to get involved in that. Iran is going to be involved in that. Turkey is going to be involved in that. Syria is going to be involved in that. The Sunni and Shia fighting in Baghdad will pull us in. We are going to be involved. Turkey and Iran will make problems for us. It is not going to be safe. All the American martyrs will have died for nothing, and there will be more problems in the future. Americans should build big bases here.” For obvious reasons, the idea of the American military garrisoning its forces in Kurdistan is wildly popular among the Kurds.

Read the whole thing in Azure magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:34 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

October 11, 2007

On Patrol in Ramadi

Join me and Army Captain Phil Messer on a walking tour of Ramadi, Iraq, in a 20 minute video shot during a dismounted foot patrol in early August, 2007.

If you enjoy this movie, please consider a donation through Blog Patron or Pay Pal. I will return to Iraq shortly, and if I can raise money from shooting and editing video, I’ll make a lot more of them.


“Blog

If you would like to donate for travel and equipment expenses and you don't want to send money over the Internet, please consider sending a check or money order to:

Michael Totten

P.O. Box 312

Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:41 AM | Permalink | Comments Off
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