March 27, 2009

Baghdad in Fragments

Dusk Adhamiyah.jpg

Many third world cities look better at night than during the day. Darkness hides shabbiness. You have to imagine what the city actually looks like. If you live in a first world city yourself, you might fill in the blanks with what you

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 27, 2009 12:14 AM
Comments
Excellent reporting as always. It may be interesting to note that the three guys (one Soldier and two Marines) that I have talked to that have returned from Iraq in 2008, said that they would go back in a heartbeat. They all had friends that came back under the flag but they said that made them want to make sure that Iraq "made it".
Life is strange and disheartening sometimes. After I came back from South Vietnam, I wanted to go back, and when we left them to the commies and went back on our promises, it almost destroyed me. Why? because we left way too much blood, and my friends died fighting there for it to end the way it did.
Somethings most will never understand.
Papa Ray
West Texas
USA
Posted by: Papa Ray at March 27, 2009 6:49 am
Hey Totten, screw what you want to write about, it doesn't serve my agenda! Write about something else that I want to hear about! Waah!
--glasnost
Posted by: Nichevo at March 27, 2009 7:09 pm
Michael,
Looks like the lieutenant has a large area to cover. I hope my old NAC leaders are doing well. Things were drastically improved when I transitioned my area to the control of a Stryker Infantry company in Oct 2007.
My company B Co, 1-77 Armor (part of Task Force 1-26 Infantry, the Blue Spaders) owned the Qahira and Suleikh areas from Oct 2006 to Oct 2007 (as well as Hayy Tunis for some time). We did the first Sons of Iraq recruiting in East Baghdad in Suleikh in August 2007. The biggest threat we encountered was the JAM Special Groups cells in Qahira. In the last two months of the deployment, we destroyed three cells, forcing the remnants to flee. Just a few hundred meters from my area, however, was the AQI threat in old Adamiyah and deep buried IEDs (which belonged to my Task Force).
The artillery battalion you embedded with in Suleikh and Tunis was just to my north. They arrived 6 months after we did, and took over some of our area as part of the surge.
Aaron
Posted by: Aaron Kaufman at March 28, 2009 8:44 am
MJT, thanks for this fine article. What brigade of the presumably 6th Iraqi Army (IA) Division operated in the sector you visited?
There is considerable variation in IA quality between units. The IA is also transitioning to operating in a less kinetic environment. The IA has been shooting their guns too much since 2004. Did you notice any improvement in the IA?
Posted by: anand at March 29, 2009 11:16 am
An interesting piece. Disconnected from policy enough to be able to enjoy.
And it makes it clear in several small ways exactly how and why Iraqi opinion of what we've done is -at best -always going to be deeply bent and conflicted.
One of the things I like about your work, it occurs to me, is your interest in going after contradictions. Not always the ones I prefer, but it's the right instinct, and it makes this work interesting.
Here's something else interesting:
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/65009.html
The problem of being only one person or journalist is that the kind of reporting you do may or may not represent what's actually happening in the larger nation. That can be frustrating to a reader afraid that other people will, as they inevitably do, use small pictures to come to conclusions about big ones.
I'm not criticizing this piece or your work, just philosophically discussing a problem, or perhaps explaining why I've been arguing with you about Gaza.
Something you could consider doing is considering your website as a self-contained knowledge pool all of its own, and making an effort to keep an eye out for trends that you don't get to personally witness but run contrary to what you personally observe.
Or, keep doing what you do, and depending on how much the little picture seems to match the big one, I'll say nice or mean things about it.
Posted by: glasnost at March 29, 2009 11:33 am
"Curse that glasnost and his whiny criticism he leaves, on a comment thread of all places! He's so pathetic and unfair! Don't force me to post a whiny online comment about you!" Nichevo out!
Posted by: glasnost at March 29, 2009 11:44 am
Glasnost: One of the things I like about your work, it occurs to me, is your interest
in going after contradictions

Thanks. I appreciate that.
You'll really like what I'm going to be publishing soon. After my next piece -- on Sadr City -- I'll have 20,000 words that I will publish either as two two-part pieces or a single series in four parts. Two of those parts will blatantly contradict the other two parts. So be it. I publish what I get in the field, and what I got this time was blatantly contradictory. So I'll publish it all. Will be interesting to see how it goes over with various readers.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 29, 2009 11:45 am
I shouldn't think that many of your readers will mind contradictions, especially as you point them out and are reporting on what you see.
Wars and countries undergoing structural changes are kind of like that.
If we wanted pablum news/reporting we know where to go for that :)
Regards,
Posted by: rsnyder at March 29, 2009 1:02 pm
"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking."
- General George Patton Jr
(http://www.military-quotes.com/Patton.htm)
Reporters, good ones, gather facts. Some, like Michael, are good storytellers as well, with an ear for dialogue and an eye for detail; they put me there as a reader, with all five senses. Deciding before gathering them which facts will make your cut is spin. A critical audience sorts it out.
Posted by: Paul S. at March 29, 2009 6:52 pm
Sometimes I wonder whether the urge to tell a good story gets in the way of good journalism in certain cases. All too often, I see journalists try to tell a story by taking a side in it. If they don't take my side, I feel like they aren't getting all the facts; if they DO take my side, I feel uncomfortable, like I might be in an echo chamber.
Given that, I feel surprisingly drawn to contradiction in journalism now. Maybe it's because I expect contradictions in real life. If I see it in writing, then, it feels real - believable. To some extent it's in seeing an article giving me news I don't particularly want to hear, salted with news I find reassuring. But I think the greater pull is that I'm sure I'm seeing news that -the journalist- doesn't want to hear, let alone tell me... but has forced himself to pass it on anyway.
Dropped another donation in the jar. I hadn't begun to read "Baghdad in Fragments" yet, but from the length and pictures and past articles, I can tell this'll be worth looking at.
Posted by: Paul Brinkley at March 31, 2009 12:44 pm
I kinda lol-ed when I read "FOB". If you're Asian or immigrant, you'll probably get it.
Posted by: lee at April 4, 2009 11:50 pm
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