July 19, 2007

Welcome to Baghdad

By Michael J. Totten

BAGHDAD -- Never again will I complain about the inconvenience and discomfort of airports and civilian airline travel delays. You won’t either if make your way from Kuwait to Baghdad in July during a war.

Military planes leave Kuwait every couple of hours for Baghdad International Airport (or BIAP, pronounced BIE-op). The United States Army’s media liaison in Kuwait dropped me off at the airfield so I could take a flight “up.”

I waited twelve hours in a metal folding chair in a room full of soldiers who, for obvious reasons, had priority over me for available seats.

At least I had a meal. On the other side of the base a McDonalds and Pizza Hut were tucked inside trailers supplied by Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR). KBR seems to have built almost everything here that the military uses as housing and storage. Out of plywood, plastic, and sheet metal they construct instant aesthetically brutal outposts of America, which somehow look and feel specifically like outposts of Texas.

I ordered a pizza from a Pakistani employee at the Pizza Hut trailer and paid with American dollars. They don’t use coins on the base. They don’t even have coins on the base. If your food costs, say, $5.75 and you pay with six dollars, you’ll get a small round cardboard disk or chit that says “25 cent gift certificate” on it as change.

All night I waited for a flight and was bumped again and again by soldiers on their way to places like War Eagle, Victory, and Fallujah. Finally I got on a manifest and gathered around a gruff barking sergeant with everyone else.

“I want you all back here in 20 minutes,” he bellowed. “First, I want you to go to the bathroom. Then I want to see you standing in front of me with a bottle of water.”

I went to the bathroom even though I didn’t have to. Then, as ordered, I pulled a cold bottle of water out of the fridge. We lined up with our gear and marched single file into the plane. I felt awkwardly out of place and also like I was in the army myself at the same time.

The plane was windowless and loud as 100 lawnmowers. I crammed pink foam plugs into my ears, strapped on my body armor, and seat belted myself into the side of the plane.

“Hang your bags on the hooks!” barked the sarge. “Hang them all the way up!”

“Don’t fall asleep,” said the soldier next to me. “When you see the rest of us grab our helmets, put yours on, too. We’ll be beginning the spiral dive into Baghdad.”

“To avoid flying low over hostiles?” I said.

“Something like that,” he said.

This was not United Airlines.

The funny thing about the steep corkscrew dive is that I couldn’t feel it. Anyone who says it is scary, as some journalists do, is talking b.s. If you can’t look out the window or see the instruments in the cockpit, you’ll have no idea if the plane is right-side up, flying in a straight line, upside down, sideways, or even spinning into a death spiral. I’m not sure how the others knew when to put on their helmets. Perhaps someone signaled. No one could hear anything over the roar of the plane through their ear plugs.

The landing was smooth and felt no different from an American Airlines touch down in Los Angeles. The back of the plane opened up onto the tarmac. Light like a hundred suns blinded my darkness-adjusted and dilated eyes. I could barely make out the dim shape of military aircraft behind us amidst the pure stunning brilliance. My first view of Baghdad looked exactly as I expected it would – like another world.

We dismounted the plane and I stepped into harsh blazing sunshine.

You know how it feels when you get into a black car in the afternoon with the windows rolled up in July? It’s an inferno outside, but inside the car it’s even hotter? That’s how Iraq feels in the shade. Sunlight burns like a blowtorch. If you don’t wear a helmet or soft cap the sun will cook your brain. First you get headaches. Then you end up in the hospital.

Getting from BIAP to the IZ (the International Zone, aka the Green Zone) is an adventure all by itself. First you haul your gear to a bus stop that feels like Crematoria. Then you get on the bus and ride for 45 minutes to an army base. Then you get off that bus and wait an hour to catch another bus. Then you get off that bus and wait for an hour to catch yet another bus to yet another base. Then you wait in the sun yet again – and by this time you’re totally fragged from the heat – and take another damn bus to a helipad.

All this takes hours. You will be no closer to Baghdad than you were when you started. There are no short cuts.

Once you make your way to the helipad you will wait for a flight on a Blackhawk or a Chinook. If you’re a civilian like me, you will fly last.

I waited for my helicopter flight with two other civilians – Willie from Texas and Larry from Florida.

Willie and Larry work construction for private companies in harsh places like Iraq and Afghanistan. They are both well-rounded individuals with Red State tastes and political views and a worldliness and cosmopolitanism that surpasses that of most people who live in the Blue States. They aren’t allowed to tell me how much money they make, but it is many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

“You get hooked on making money,” Willie said. “You think you can do it for one year or two, then quit, but it’s like a drug. Or like when you get one tattoo – all of a sudden you want two tattoos. My wife keeps saying, come on, you can do it for just one more year.”

“My wife would hate it if I was out here for years,” I said.

“You get vacation,” Larry said. “You get more vacation than French people. 21 days every four months. And you don’t have to pay taxes if you take your vacation outside the U.S. Your wife can meet you in the Bahamas.”

A KBR employee who coordinates the Blackhawk flights called our names on the manifest.

“Get your gear, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

Military rules require all Blackhawk passengers to wear long-sleeved shirts. This was the first I’d heard of it, and I hadn’t brought any long-sleeved shirts with me to Iraq. Why would I? It’s 120 degrees in the shade.

Willie let me borrow an extra sweatshirt. I put that on, then my body armor, then my helmet, then my sunglasses which double as ballistic eye protection. Then hauled my 100 pounds of gear out onto the landing zone and lined up with the soldiers. KBR and the army made all of us stand there in line, waiting and broiling in the sun. We waited. And waited. And waited. My clothes were as drenched as if I had fallen into a pool. This is the army. Comfort is not a factor. None of the soldiers complain about heat. They just take it, and they get much hotter than me. They wear not only Kevlar like I do, but full kit body armor with SAPI plates.

Our Blackhawk helicopter was ready.

“Move out!” bellowed the KBR flight coordinator.

Larry, Willie, and I ran behind a line of soldiers toward the Blackhawk.

“Hold up!” said the coordinator.

The Blackhawk pilot lifted off without picking up one single passenger.

“Man,” said the coordinator as he shook his head. The roar of the chopper rotors quickly receded. “No one was mission critical so they didn’t want to give anybody a ride. I do not know what to tell you.”

“F*ck!” Willie screamed.

We hauled our gear back to the waiting area and sat. I drank a bottle of water in seconds. It disappeared inside me. I couldn’t even tell I had drank it.

“Last year in Afghanistan,” Larry said, “I waited a week for a flight. Choppers flew in and out all day every day. I showed up on the LZ for every flight, had my gear ready, and kept getting bumped. A whole week, just to fly one from place to another. At least I was on the clock. We might be here a while.”

We were there for a while. Not for a week, but for 12 hours. We kept getting bumped by new soldiers who showed up with places to go. A second time the pilot took off without picking anyone up. I couldn’t figure out why he even bothered to land. Dozens of people needed a ride. On another occasion Larry, Willie, and I made it all the way to the helicopter itself before we got kicked for some reason.

I tried to embrace the suck. Willie got increasingly agitated.

“Good thing I don’t have my glock with me!” he yelled after we got bumped for the sixth time. “I ought to pour a bottle of water on that electrical board over there and short out the whole frigging place.”

After the sun went down the air mercifully cooled, down to 100 degrees or so – which is lovely after 120, especially when there is no longer burning sunlight. Tiny bats flew over the base from the direction of a reedy lake a few hundred meters away. There were no bugs.

I watched helicopters fly over the city in the distance and launch burning white countermeasure flares to confuse heat-seeking missiles as the pilots flew over hostile parts of the city. This was the only evidence I saw that I was in a war zone. I heard no shots fired, and I heard no explosions.

After having spent several days Baghdad’s Green Zone and Red Zone, I still haven’t heard or seen any explosions. It’s a peculiar war. It is almost a not-war. Last July’s war in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon was hundreds of times more violent and terrifying than this one. Explosions on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border were constant when I was there.

You’d think explosions and gunfire define Iraq if you look at this country from far away on the news. They do not. The media is a total distortion machine. Certain areas are still extremely violent, but the country as a whole is defined by heat, not war, at least in the summer. It is Iraq’s most singular characteristic. I dread going outside because it’s hot, not because I’m afraid I will get hurt.

“I read on the Internet that the war costs 60 billion dollars a year,” Larry said.

“Well, if it’s on the Internet it must be true,” I said jokingly.

A soldier heard me and swiveled his head.

“Did you just say that?” he said incredulously. “You’re with the media and you just said that? Man, we ought to throw your ass right out of here.”

I laughed, but he was only barely just kidding.

Most soldiers and officers I’ve casually met so far are not hostile. Most ignore me unless I say hi to them first. Others say hello or good morning first and call me “sir.” Some are eager to chat. They all seem to want to know where I’m from. Lots of them are from Georgia and Texas.

Larry, Willie, and I finally got on a Blackhawk at 2:00 in the morning (oh two hundred in milspeak.) We strapped ourselves in our seats and piled our hundreds of pounds of luggage on top of us.

Blackhawk helicopters don’t have windows. The sides are open to the air. Fierce hot blasts of wind distorted the shape of my face as we flew fast and low over the roof tops and street lights and palm trees and backyards of the city.

Baghdad is gigantic and sprawling. It looks much less ramshackle from the air than I expected. Individual cities-within-a-city are home to millions of people all by themselves. The sheer enormity of the place puts the almost daily car bomb attacks into perspective. The odds that you personally will be anywhere near the next car bomb or IED are microscopic.

A few minutes after takeoff from the helipad we landed on a runway in the IZ, or the Green Zone. The soldiers left in Humvees. Willie, Larry, and I were left at the airbase alone. My two traveling buddies had rides picking them up, but no one was waiting for me, nor would someone show up. I was expected to make my way to CPIC, the press credentialing center, but how could I do that at 2:30 in the morning? There were no taxis or busses to take.

“You can sleep tonight at our compound,” Larry said, “and find your way to the press office tomorrow when it’s open.”

I would have been in trouble if I hadn’t met these two guys. I may have been deposited in the reasonably safe Green Zone, but wandering around loose on my own in Baghdad, in the middle of the night, hauling 100 pounds of luggage, sleep-deprived, in extreme heat, and with nowhere to sleep does not put me in my happy place.

Mike Woodley showed up in an SUV to give Larry a ride. He said he could get me a bed at their compound before he realized I did not yet have a badge.

“They won’t let you in,” he said.

“Can’t we just tell them I’m on my way to CPIC to pick up my badge?” I said.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you don’t have it, the guards will not let you in.”

“Is there a hotel I can check into?” I said. “What about the Al Rashid?”

“Al Rashid is in the Red Zone,” he said. “And you can’t get in there without a badge either.”

Actually, the Al Rashid is in the Green Zone, right on the edge of it. But Mike was right about the hotel guards not letting me in without a badge. And I needed to get to the press office during business hours to get it.

“What should I do?” I said. I did not want to sleep on the sidewalk in Baghdad.

Mike pondered my options. And he came up with a great one.

“I can get into the embassy with my badge,” he said, “and I can get you a temporary badge and a bed.”

That’s exactly what he did. He got me a temporary badge into the embassy annex, and he got me a bed with a pillow and fresh linens. For only the second time in a week, I got to sleep in a bed. And I was one lucky bastard. The embassy annex, and the bed I got to sleep in, was at the grandest downtown palace built by Saddam Hussein. The tyrant is dead, and I got to sleep at his house on my very first night in his capital. What better welcome to Baghdad could anyone possibly ask for?

Up next: Night patrols on foot with the 82nd Airborne in a Sunni-majority neighborhood of Baghdad’s Red Zone.

Postscript: Please support independent journalism. I can’t publish dispatches on this Web site for free without substantial reader dontations, so I'll appreciate it if you pitch in what you can. Blog Patron allows you to make recurring monthly payments, and even small donations will be extraordinarily helpful so I can continue this project.

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 19, 2007 09:47 PM
Comments

What better welcome to Baghdad could anyone possibly ask for?

Just curious, but are the golden toilets still there?

;-)

Posted by: rosignol at July 19, 2007 10:28 PM

Man, what an experience. Stay safe.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at July 19, 2007 11:12 PM

Good job!

Pictures?

Posted by: Yafawi at July 19, 2007 11:22 PM

Great story so far, Michael. I'll never complain about travel in the US ever again. Looking forward to the next installment.

Posted by: JC at July 19, 2007 11:28 PM

Good story Michael. I should have warned you to take any seat other than the back right seat in a Blackhawk. It's always the worst with regard to wind. Am sure you will be on one again soon enough though. Stay safe out there and remember you are NOT a hero. So don't do anything foolish.

Also you wont see any bugs for at least another 2 months. It's too hot for them to survive.

Posted by: Johnny Seikaly at July 20, 2007 12:22 AM

So we eventually expect there to be a civilian economy in Iraq, right? What does someone who wants to fly into Baghdad on business do? Is there civilian air service at all? Did you take this route in because of your imbed status, or what?

Also, is there any significant economic activity other than exporting oil and supplying the U.S. forces? I read in an article recently that unemployment is 70%. Any idea if that's true?

Posted by: Michael at July 20, 2007 12:34 AM

Johnny:I should have warned you to take any seat other than the back right seat in a Blackhawk.

Ha, that's exactly where I sat.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 20, 2007 01:36 AM

Michael: Is there civilian air service at all?

You can get to BIAP on Flying Carpet Airlines from Beirut, but don't you dare come here without having someone to pick you up arranged in advance.

I read in an article recently that unemployment is 70%. Any idea if that's true?

I don't know. It's 40-50 percent where I am right now, which is the Adhamiyah district in Northern Baghdad.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 20, 2007 01:55 AM

Great stuff Michael! I can't possibly imagine whilst sat here in my air-con'ed office what it must be like for you and those soldiers wearing full body kit in 120 degree heat. Another world.........

Posted by: Andrew at July 20, 2007 02:50 AM

Stay safe, Mr. Totten.

I just wanted to comment on your point about the comparison of this war zone in Baghdad to that of last summer's Lebanon War. I don't know anyone who has compared the violence of the two. Last summer's war was a hot war with both sides lobbing what they could at the other. Iraq is a low-grade insurgency where one side is forced to do spirals of death to get to the airport safely.

What you have described to this point is what I expected of Baghdad. Very little progress at all in creating a city of stability. In over four years the Green Zone has NOT been expanded to cover larger portions of Baghdad. In fact, insurgents have been able to not only infiltrate the Green Zone but strike with impunity in the Green Zone.

Stay safe out there. The kind of perspective you bring will do much to shed more light on how things are on the ground.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 04:05 AM

"Very little progress at all in creating a city of stability." How can you say that, its the first time Michaels been there, what do you have to compare to.
Any way good luck Michael.

Posted by: RipRip at July 20, 2007 05:39 AM

I wonder how Brian Williams gets to Iraq? The same way? Or are you getting the D-List treatment, Mike?

If this is how everyone deals with Iraq, it just reinforces how unfair people are to the press about their reporting, and how impossible it is to report well in these kinds of circumstances. I mean, when it takes you a full day and a military helicopter to go anywhere, how are you supposed to verify stories you hear independently? You can either run exactly what the military tells you, or run whatever you hear from whoever, or run stories about whether the toilets are golden in your hotel...

Posted by: glasnost at July 20, 2007 06:02 AM

Very little progress at all in creating a city of stability.

A “city of stability”?

Suicide bombings and car bombings are occurring all over the world, including places like London, Madrid, Bali, Tel Aviv, Jordan -- the list is enormous. There is no defense against attackers willing to give their lives (or surrender their freedom) for purposes of killing others.

In the United States, since 9/11 we have seen 10 separate instances of Muslims committing or attempting to commit mass murder. This includes incidents like the Muslim-convert “Beltway shooters” who murdered 13 people in what they themselves called a "prolonged terror campaign against America", the Muslim teenager who this past February opened fire in a Salt Lake City shopping mall and murdered five people, and the 22 year old Muslim who deliberately rammed his SUV into a crowd at the University of North Carolina to "punish the government of the United States".

I’ll be happy to post the complete list if anyone wants to see it, but the point is that there is no effective defense against determined killers willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of killing. Israel has had some success stopping such attacks by building a wall around their country -- but that strategy is impractical for larger countries and does nothing to stop the so-called home-grown terrorists.

So what are we to expect when Al Qaeda declares Iraq to be the primary front in their war against the west and sends in hundreds of suicide bombers and car bombers to terrorize us into leaving?

There is also evidence that Iran is manufacturing advanced IEDs for use by the insurgents and terrorists. In addition, Iran is a natural route to get from the tribal areas of Pakistan -- where Al Qaeda has supposedly regrouped and is concentrated -- into Iraq.

Syria is allegedly allowing numerous suicide bombers and car bombers to cross into Iraq from their side of the border.

If Syria, Iran and the tribal areas of Pakistan are off-limits to military action on our part, if they are permitted to support Al Qaeda’s and the insurgent’s actions in Iraq, what are the prospects for ever creating a “city of stability”? The only hope is that Al Qaeda will run out of suicide bombers.

So here are the choices:

- America can quit and go home. Al Qaeda will no doubt declare victory and tell the Muslim world that terrorism works even against the world’s only superpower.

- America can stay and continue to fight Al Qaeda the way we are now, hoping that they will run out of suicide bombers or otherwise give up.

- Or we can go after the sources of these bombers as well as those who are helping them.

I know that liberals advocate the first choice. What I want to know from them is what they propose to do next to stop Al Qaeda and the international jihad. If we are not going to fight them in Iraq, where, when and how are we going to stop them? What do you advocate? International diplomacy? Appeasement? UN sanctions? Increased foreign aid to “eliminate their poverty”? We’ve tried these things for decades since the 1979 Iranian revolution launched the jihad. These things did nothing to stop the jihad. The jihad simply grew and the attacks increased.

Liberals will argue that going after the sources of suicide bombers will only “alienate” more Muslims and increase the numbers of suicide bombers. Attacking Iran, bombing the tribal areas of Pakistan where Al Qaeda is said to be “concentrated”, punishing Syria with military strikes for allowing suicide bombers to go into Iraq -- all of these things will be opposed on the grounds that all such action simply “radicalizes” the civilian populations, makes them support their leaders even more and generally will increase support for the jihad and make things worse. If you truly believe that, then you’re essentially declaring defeat. You’ve defined the problem such that it has no solution except for us to give in and let the Islamic totalitarians take over and impose Islamic law. Is that what you advocate? If not, what do you want us to do?

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 20, 2007 06:14 AM

glasnost: I wonder how Brian Williams gets to Iraq? The same way?

Yep. Same way.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 20, 2007 06:15 AM

Michael, great job, stay safe! Keep the reports coming.

Wish I was there.

Sort of.

Posted by: Asher Abrams at July 20, 2007 06:24 AM

I'm a veteran, 1966-1970, my father was a WW II veteran, MY grandfather was a WWI vetran. My son is currently being housed somewhere in Iraq compliments of the US ARMY.

My comment is many Americans don't have the stomach for a fight anymore, because the politicians started running the Military in the 60's. Most of the gutless wonders in Washington wouldn't defend their mother's reputation let alone some soldier they don't know.

We kill 6000 kids on the highways every year, where are they when it comes to this? President Johnson put 500,000 pairs of Boots on the Ground in Vietnam and wouldn't let the Generals run the show. Don't these Washington nicompoops read history.

Good Luck on you project Michael, stay safe and G-d Bless, please give us some REAL unbiased news, not the network junk.

Lee

Posted by: Lee at July 20, 2007 06:41 AM

Michael Smith,

Suicide bombings and car bombings are occurring all over the world, including places like London, Madrid, Bali, Tel Aviv, Jordan -- the list is enormous.

Really? How frequent? Are the occurrences of suicide bombings around the world anywhere near as frequent as they are in Baghdad? Is there any other place in the world where each and every plane that comes in to the main airport has to do a killer nosedive in order to ensure a safe landing? Is there any other city in the world that has a massively barricaded section that is not even safe, that still gets mortars lobbed its way?

Please. Baghdad is not like any other city that has had to deal with car bombs and suicide bombers. There is no comparison. This is most definitely not a city of stability. And the fault is ours. Truly, after four years if we cannot take control of a city like Baghdad, we really should give up.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 07:00 AM

Michael Smith,

- Or we can go after the sources of these bombers as well as those who are helping them.

I know you mean well, but your list is not accurate. In fact, it seems that most foreign fighters come from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. I believe those are our "allies." Are you willing to go after them?

I know conservatives would love to find any excuse to attack Iran or Syria. Conservatives are still upset that Iran would dare overthrow their puppet regime back in 1979. See, Americans forget that Iranians democratically elected their own government back in the 1950s, and that the CIA in Operation Ajax overthrew that government and reinstalled the monarchy. This puppet government, a favorite of conservatives, was overthrown in 1979, and conservatives just simply have not gotten over the audacity of Iranians wishing to rule their own nation on their terms! How dare they! Of course the revolution of 1979 brought in extremists, but that is the natural course when you oppress people. They go to extremes. No surprise there. Just look at the Saudis. Oppressed population going extreme. No surprise. Saudis are the biggest supporters of the Sunni insurgency, yet the Bush administration and its allies do not wish to speak of the massive elephant in the room, that Saudis, including members of the Royal family are funding the Sunni insurgency.

It is okay though, they are our allies.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 07:07 AM

You’d think explosions and gunfire define Iraq if you look at this country from far away on the news. They do not. The media is a total distortion machine.

The MSM distorts the news? Shocka!!!!

Don't be a hero. Stay safe.

Posted by: Carlos at July 20, 2007 07:22 AM

Michael- What an amazing story. Really amazing. It sounded like an absolutely miserable experience.
Drink fluids and be safe.
Can't wait to hear more.

Posted by: jim hoft at July 20, 2007 07:23 AM

Sorry for the third post in a row. I'll make all my comments here to Michael.

We’ve tried these things for decades since the 1979 Iranian revolution launched the jihad. These things did nothing to stop the jihad. The jihad simply grew and the attacks increased.

Okay, let's get a few things cleared up here, because well you're oversimplifying things. The Iranian revolution of 1979 was a Shi'ite revolution, not an Islamic revolution. With Islam being split into two main factions, when one side has a revolution it does not mean the other side follows suit. Al-Qaida is Sunni, NOT Shi'ite.

In fact, in 2002 and 2003 Iran was quite helpful in our battle against the Taliban and Al-Qaida. The Bush administration, of course, kept this quiet, because if it were shown to Americans that Iran was helpful it would fatally undermine their rationale that Iran was evil and of da devil.

Liberals will argue that going after the sources of suicide bombers will only “alienate” more Muslims and increase the numbers of suicide bombers.

This is a straw man and untrue.

Attacking Iran, bombing the tribal areas of Pakistan where Al Qaeda is said to be “concentrated”, punishing Syria with military strikes for allowing suicide bombers to go into Iraq -- all of these things will be opposed on the grounds that all such action simply “radicalizes” the civilian populations, makes them support their leaders even more and generally will increase support for the jihad and make things worse.

Well, seeing that Iran is not our enemy in Iraq, attacking them is pointless and destructive. And I frankly do not know of any liberal who says we shouldn't go after Al-Qaida in Pakistan. In fact, that should be where we should be. What the heck are we doing in Iraq when our real enemy is hiding out in Pakistan! Syria is not our enemy, so "punishing them" is pointless.

I really am surprised by those who favor military action for everything. I guess I assumed that those who favor military action at least are somewhat knowledgeable about consequences of actions. I assumed, wrongly it seems, that those who favor military action would be students of military history and have a good understanding of what actions fail to achieve the goals one sets out for. Further, I assumed wrongly that those who favor military action would have understood from Military 101 that you need clearly defined goals so that there is no confusion about your mission. There are so many ways that this has all been so badly mucked up. It is tragically sad. The worst part is that those who favor military action are too prideful to realize that what they want cannot be achieved with the tools they employ. Instead, they react with vitriol towards those who dare question them.

This will only end in tears.

You’ve defined the problem such that it has no solution except for us to give in and let the Islamic totalitarians take over and impose Islamic law. Is that what you advocate? If not, what do you want us to do?

If that is their desire, then what is wrong with that? Honestly. You wish for them to do what exactly? Be Western? What if that is not what they want? At what point do you let them choose for themselves their own choices? This is the most ironic aspect. Here war supporters argue that we're going in to establish democracy so the people can choose for themselves their own government, but when the people come back and choose Islamic fundamentalism, you don't wish for them to make that choice. That just doesn't make any sense.

I want America to let the rest of the world decide for themselves how they want to live their lives. If the whole rest of the world chooses to live under Islamic fundamentalist laws, then so be it. You cannot force your set of beliefs on them without fatally undermining your beliefs. That's not how democracy works. That is how imperialism works, Michael.

What you will find, however, is that when you let people choose for themselves, and not force a decision on them, they tend to choose the better half of life. Let the Iraqis live and choose their own destiny. Our mission is complete. It was actually complete within three weeks. The rest, the occupation and all the violence associated with it has been a completely undermining action.

Iraq will not end up in Al-Qaida's arms. They do not have the power to control Iraq. They are a significantly small force in the sphere of Iraq. Will there be violence and bloodshed if we leave. Most assuredly. That is the way of things. It is rather ironic methinks that war supporters claim on the one hand that we liberals are squeamish about "getting dirty" but then war supporters get squeamish when we liberals want the Iraqis to get dirty on their own. Heh, truly ironic.

Seriously though, what exactly are we doing in Iraq? What is our mission there? What are our objectives? To defeat Al-Qaida? We'll never achieve that goal. Not in Iraq. Not through military means. We're employing the wrong tools for this enemy. So what other missions are there?

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 07:26 AM

The interesting thing about Dan and Michael Smith is that they're both driven by a morally corrupt ideology that is more focused on attacking "liberals" or "conservatives" than on achieving any sort of pragmatic peaceful outcome.

Michael doesn't give a shit how many civilians die in a war as long as he can blame someone else and advocates nuking and carpet bombing Iran.

Dan doesn't give a shit how many civilians die in Iraq as long as American troops withdraw. And he doesn't give a shit about the brutal repression imposed by bigoted Islamic fundamentalists as long as they have popular support.

Fascinating.

Posted by: mertel at July 20, 2007 07:51 AM

mertel,

and just what is the pragmatic peaceful outcome?

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 07:58 AM

If that is their desire, then what is wrong with that? ...but when the people come back and choose Islamic fundamentalism, you don't wish for them to make that choice.

What if Islamic fundamentalism involves executing adulterers or apostates? Would you still ask 'what is wrong with that'? Or is there some absolute standard of human rights where certain behavior becomes unacceptable?

What you will find, however, is that when you let people choose for themselves, and not force a decision on them, they tend to choose the better half of life.

That's not what happened in 1979 Iran, was it? Mugabe was also voted in by his people. People make stupid choices just as often as they make good ones.

Posted by: Jock Itch at July 20, 2007 08:04 AM

Dan,

Is it possible that the following is true?

Our enemies ARE in Pakistan...

and Afghanistan, and Syria, and Iran, and Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and Africa, and Europe, and etc.....

I'm glad that you think we should start fighting our enemies in Pakistan.... That seems to be the party line from the left wing now. However, the fact remains that Islamic fundamentalism exists wherever Islam exists. It does not encompass all of Islam, but it certainly is part of the package.

To leave the battlefield in Iraq seems to me to be a suicidal decision. (Not to mention highly immoral considering that the U.S. government at the behest of the vast majority of the U.S. population decided to topple Saddam Hussein).

The latest attempt to convince Americans that we should be "fighting the real enemy" in Pakistan is another way to justify surrender and capitulation to both the invading and home grown versions of Islamic fundamentalism that are tearing apart Iraq.

Dan, you don't have to justify any of your objections to our invasion of Iraq... Simply get behind our armed forces and think of ways for us to achieve victory over these maniacs wherever they might be.

Posted by: DS at July 20, 2007 08:20 AM

and just what is the pragmatic peaceful outcome?

Unlike a lot of commentators here, I don't have an instant solution. But you're advocating a move (troop withdrawal) that you and all of it's proponents agree will result in thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Why are dead civilians so bad if they die when troops enter a country, but quite OK if they die because troops leave a country?

Personally I think the US should have sent in a forces 2-3 times as big to start with, not a surge when things got so bad... but what's done is done. I'm in favor of giving the "surge" a chance to work...

Posted by: mertel at July 20, 2007 08:24 AM

Stay safe and good luck Michael.

Posted by: Pete Peterson at July 20, 2007 08:25 AM

WOW!

Such a descriptive and unique writing skill.....how much your writing resembles the magnificent prose from the WWII writers. How strange to read this after the idiocy of the current MSM coverage of Iraq! We need this....

I loved it, and related it on my blog, and hit the Blog Patron button.......

Keep it up and help us get a "real" picture....

Duke DeLand

Posted by: Duke DeLand at July 20, 2007 08:27 AM

Nice posting, Michael, thanks! No wonder all the arab princes and rich businessmen spend so much time in Switzerland and North America! Sand, oil, heat, and fanatical religion--not much to recommend the place.

I wonder how many times Dan above has been to Baghdad, and yet he tries to hijack Totten's blog comments to soapbox his empty ideology. Sad.

Posted by: Daniel at July 20, 2007 08:30 AM

Dan:

Your argue your point of view eloquently, and thank you for it. But I doubt you will persuade or be persuaded here -- because the people arguing against you do not agree with some of your basic premises.

For example, you wish to let the rest of the world's peoples decide for themselves how they wish to live. So do I, and I heartily wish that we had that luxury. But when terrorism looms large enough to bring down skyscrapers without warning, our first priority, by my lights, is not to honor the sensibilities of others -- it is to protect ourselves from them.

Now, there have been a great many arguments about whether or not the invasion of Iraq was necessary and/or advisable in the global fight against terror. I happen to believe that it was. But regardless of that, Iraq is where the terrorists are now -- and they will continue to go there to fight, so long as they are not utterly defeated.

That's not a bad thing, that's a good thing. By all means, let the terrorists fight American soldiers in Iraq; it beats them fighting American civilians at home.

The terrorists are more than willing to unleash their venom against Iraqis as well, as they have repeatedly demonstrated -- and, in the manner of terrorists everywhere, they consider non-combatants to be legitimate targets, even children. How could we conceive of leaving Iraq to face such monsters alone, before they're ready? How could we look ourselves in the mirror if we did that?

Mind you, I'd swallow that bitter pill, if I had to, if I thought that leaving Iraq immediately was necessary for American security. But I believe quite the opposite to be true. We've seen it again and again -- give the terrorists what they say they want, and they will declare victory and double their attacks, because, in their eyes, generosity in war comes only from weakness.

If we leave Iraq before the job is done, I have no doubt that we will leave a bloodbath behind -- and that it will follow us to our own shores.

I have no glib solution, other than to continue the dirty, nasty, utterly essential work we've been doing. Sometimes the only alternatives to a bad situation are far worse.

- - - - -

Mr. Totten: you're doing invaluable work, that in a just world would already have won you a Pulitzer. Please keep doing what you do -- and listen to the soldiers around you; they'll show you what you need to know to survive. A thousand thanks!

respectfully,
Daniel in Brookline

Posted by: Daniel in Brookline at July 20, 2007 08:40 AM

How many Dans and Daniels are commenting here today, anyway???

Posted by: Daniel in Brookline at July 20, 2007 08:41 AM

How could we conceive of leaving Iraq to face such monsters alone, before they're ready?

The monsters exist because they receive local support. While there are a number of foreign fighters, the majority of the bomb throwers are Iraqis. They are the result of a culture steeped in religious hatred, blood feuding, and homicidal tribalism. There is not much the US can do to change pre-modern mores that have been around for generations. Progress will require a sea change in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people themselves.

The only solution, at this point, is to let the conflict burn itself out. Eventually people get tired of the bloodletting and come to terms.

Posted by: Jock Itch at July 20, 2007 08:55 AM

DS,

Dan, you don't have to justify any of your objections to our invasion of Iraq... Simply get behind our armed forces and think of ways for us to achieve victory over these maniacs wherever they might be.

If the pre-war planning and execution of the war in Iraq were up to the right standards, then I wouldn't be as strongly against it as I am and have been. Pentagon war games from 1999 said that we needed at least 400,000 combat troops to take Iraq, and even then they foresaw problems. General Petraeus's own counterinsurgency field manual states that a successful counterinsurgency requires at least 50 combat troops per 1000 civilians. In Baghdad alone that is 120,000 combat troops. For the whole of Iraq that requires at least 500,000 combat troops. How many do we have in the whole of Iraq? What, maybe 110,000 combat troops and an additional 60,000 support troops. How the hell do you think you can succeed when your own general doesn't follow his own guidelines!

If you go to war, make sure you go with a plan that will bring you a successful outcome. If not, then you better not go at all!

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 08:56 AM

mertel,

Personally I think the US should have sent in a forces 2-3 times as big to start with, not a surge when things got so bad... but what's done is done. I'm in favor of giving the "surge" a chance to work...

I agree with you that we should have gone in with far more troops than we did. The surge, however, I cannot support, because the good general himself is not following his own guidelines like I explained in my previous comment. Why should I support him if he is not even going to do what he says in his counterinsurgency field manual will bring success. That just doesn't make any sense.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 08:58 AM

Daniel,

I wonder how many times Dan above has been to Baghdad, and yet he tries to hijack Totten's blog comments to soapbox his empty ideology. Sad.

What's with the personal attack?

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 08:59 AM

Dan,
As someone who was deeply involved in the operation of the Green Zone, your comment that "... insurgents have been able to not only infiltrate the Green Zone but strike with impunity in the Green Zone" is false. In the past 4 years, insurgents have exploded one suicide bomb in a cafe in the Green Zone in late 2004 and they were able to explode one suicide bomb in the convention center in April 2007. The convention center is not technically in the Green Zone, but journalists would consider it in the Green Zone, so I will give you that. Now, there are attacks against the checkpoints that protect the Green Zone, but they are there to defend against such attacks.
Mark

Posted by: Mark at July 20, 2007 09:02 AM

Daniel in Brookline,

But regardless of that, Iraq is where the terrorists are now -- and they will continue to go there to fight, so long as they are not utterly defeated.

No, our real enemy is not in Iraq, but in Pakistan. The enemies we are fighting in Iraq will not follow us here. They are trying to kick us out of their country. Frankly, I think that's a great idea. We don't need to be in Iraq anymore. We've served our ill-fated purpose there. In the interest of our national security, it would behoove us to depart out of Iraq and rest our soldiers.

Mind you, I'd swallow that bitter pill, if I had to, if I thought that leaving Iraq immediately was necessary for American security. But I believe quite the opposite to be true.

Indeed it is in our national security to leave Iraq. We are breaking our all-volunteer force. How many tours must they go through before they are broken, before they cannot handle a war zone anymore? How much more in debt should we put our children? We're a very rich country, but astoundingly, we're not the ones paying for this war. Our children are. We are putting this war on a credit card for our future generations to pay for it. Why would we do that and think we are not in some way handicapping them? Where is the logic in having someone else pay for the wars we wish to fight?

We are truly in a dangerous position, and the war in Iraq is at the heart of this danger.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 09:04 AM

Michael,
Good luck. Your post reminds me of many a trip back and forth between Kuwait and Baghdad. A worse experience is the drive. Maybe you can catch a ride back to Kuwait with a returning unit. It would be a good story and it would give you the whole experience.
Also, the soldiers are really pumped about going home, so it is really fun. Remember, don't drink the local Milk or eat the fish. Everything else is fine. Stay Safe. I'll be back in October if you are still around.
Mark

Posted by: Mark at July 20, 2007 09:06 AM

Dan,

Really, all that you say is true? Really? Where are you stationed? I'd love to meet up with you. We can have a cup of coffee or something and you can spread your bile-filled BS some more, tell me what it's like in Baghdad. Cause, obviously, I have no idea! Like Gen. Petraeus, I too am unaware of the realities of Baghdad.

Come on, Dan! Old Buddy!

I, for what it's worth, when I get off work, am going to the pool, then afterwards, I'm going to meet friends for coffee, and maybe some cards.

Wanna go, Dan?

Oh, yeah, and that goes for your BS military and intelligence analysis, you jumped up son of a one-legged joygirl. You make these grand conclusions, with NO.....DAMNED.....IDEA.....what you're talking about.

Go home, go somewhere that wants to hear know-nothing blowhards spout invective filled tripe adhering to a playbook provided to all the other sheep.

That would be Congress.

Idiot.

Posted by: Matty_J at July 20, 2007 09:15 AM

Michael - Be safe and best wishes

Dan - The people causing a problem in Iraq do not just want to make the decision how to run their lives. They want to make the decision how to run your life. Islam wants to convert the entire world and until they hit a resistence line past which they cannot go, Islam will expand, one way or another. If you are comfortable with dhimmitude, I grieve for you. I am not and refuse to subject my daughters to that sort of restricted life. We must resist. We must, in fact, roll them back. Eventually, I fear, we're going to have to eliminate the Qutbist/Wahabist/Salafist strain of Islam as permanently as the British eliminated the Thuggee form of Hinduism and for similar reasons, they simply will not stop.

Posted by: TMLutas at July 20, 2007 09:18 AM

TMLutas,

If you are comfortable with dhimmitude, I grieve for you. I am not and refuse to subject my daughters to that sort of restricted life.

This threat is not a real threat. They have no power over you and I. Many attempt to liken these Islamists to Hitler, but there is no way these guys have anywhere near the power someone like Hitler had.

Terrorism is the tool of the weak, not of the strong. There is not going to be a Twelfth Imam. The Twelfth Imam existed long ago. He's not coming back. He's permanently dead.

We are most definitely overhyping the danger and the threat of our enemy. If we look at them more rationally we'll find that as powerful as we fear them to be. And that is the key word: Fear. Your point about resisting them is borne out of fear. You fear that. I fear it not. Why? because I know it has no power over me.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 09:42 AM

Michael -

Stay safe and thank our brave warriors for me. You are an invaluable resource, our "eyes and ears".

Posted by: Mike at July 20, 2007 10:04 AM

Dan:

1) You really missed my point about suicide bombings and attacks in other cities. I didn't cite those attacks in an effort to prove that other cities are equally "unstable". I cited them to prove there is virtually no defense against such attacks -- that to sit back and try to play defense against these guys is, well, suicidal.

2) You advocate giving up on Iraq and "letting others decide how they want to live." "Others" were busy deciding "how they want to live" long before we went to Iraq. Some have decided that "how they want to live" involves the mass murder of Americans. And you propose to do nothing about that?
- Does this mean that you propose to let Al Qaeda continue to stage suicide attacks all around the globe?
- Al Qaeda has stated a desire to attack America again. So we are supposed to simply sit back and wait for it?
- Iran is building a nuclear weapon. They have stated repeatedly their desire to destroy both America and Israel. And we should just let them be, even if “how they wish to live” includes the incineration of an American or Israeli city?

The kindest thing I can say about your “live and let live” notion is that it is supremely naïve, except that it strains credibility to believe that you sincerely think that simply ignoring the problem will cause it to magically disappear.

3) Recent elections in Iran, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Lebanon have shown that given the chance, many Muslims prefer to elect the most violent Islamic factions, the ones promising continued conflict with Israel. Is this an example of people “choosing the better life”? No, it isn’t.

4) You claim that most fighters come from “Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan” and ask if I am prepared to go after those countries. Yes, absolutely, I‘m prepared to demand that they stop the flow of such fighters and I’m prepared to back up that demand with military action if they don’t. And if those countries are truly our “allies” -- a dubious notion in my mind -- then they will cooperate with us in stopping this flow, including allowing us to stage attacks against the fighters on their soil.

Again, what is the alternative? And I mean, what is the alternative here in reality, where it obviously doesn’t work just to “let people decide how to live”.

5) I said, “ Liberals will argue that going after the sources of suicide bombers will only “alienate” more Muslims and increase the numbers of suicide bombers.” You call this a straw man, but I’ve heard that argument many times here. If you don’t subscribe to it, good for you, but many liberals do.

6) You claim that Iran is not our enemy in Iraq. What about the advanced IEDs being made in Iran? Is that a Bush administration fabrication to drum up support for another war?

7) You wrote, Here war supporters argue that we're going in to establish democracy so the people can choose for themselves their own government, but when the people come back and choose Islamic fundamentalism, you don't wish for them to make that choice.

I am totally opposed to the tactic of “spreading democracy” in the middle east for precisely that reason. What we should be promoting and demanding is a complete separation of church and state, and a constitutionally-limited government that protects the individual rights of all citizens, minorities included, individual rights defined in that constitution.

That, apparently, is a totally alien concept to most people in the middle east -- it appears to be an alien concept to many people here in the US for that matter. But -- assuming one believes in political freedom and equality of rights for all individual human beings, regardless of their race, color, creed, sex, national origin or religious convictions -- this or something similar is the only type of government we should settle for.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as the right to self-determination, at least not in the sense it is conventionally claimed. Since there is no such thing as a right to violate rights, there is no right to create any kind of dictatorship or any form of government that violates rights rather than protects them. That includes theocracy.

Most of the people of Iraq (and most of the middle east), as near as I can tell, are mostly tribal, superstitious and wedded to Islam’s concept of religion as an all-encompassing ruler of one’s life. I don’t see that changing any time soon, but it will never change as long as we endorse and encourage the formation of more hostile theocracies all over the middle east.

8) You wrote, You cannot force your set of beliefs on them without fatally undermining your beliefs..

Not necessarily. We forced our set of beliefs on the Japanese and the Germans in 1945 without “fatally undermining” our own beliefs. In the 19th century, the free states of the northern United States forced their set of beliefs on the slave states of the south without “fatally undermining” their beliefs.

There is nothing inherent in the act of destroying an enemy dictatorship, then demanding that the conquered nation establish a free society, with a government dedicated to protecting individual rights, that should in any fashion “fatally undermine” the victor’s beliefs in those things. Where do you get such a notion?

9) You wrote, What are our objectives? To defeat Al-Qaida? We'll never achieve that goal. Not in Iraq. Not through military means. And you know this how? What evidence do you have to support this absolute certainty of yours?

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 20, 2007 10:19 AM

Mertel said:

Michael doesn't give a shit how many civilians die in a war as long as he can blame someone else and advocates nuking and carpet bombing Iran.

The fact that you offer a misrepresentation of my position is your confession that you have no argument against my actual position.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 20, 2007 10:29 AM

Have you been shopping yet? I hear the shopping is excellent.

Posted by: david at July 20, 2007 10:40 AM

Dan,

Your characterization of the situation in Iran at the time of the overthrow of Mossadegh is highly misleading and amounts to little more than left-wing boilerplate. Mossadegh was elected, true, but in an oligarchical election in which fewer than 10% of Iranians voted. His overthrow was dictated by Cold War geopolitics. He was not a moderate and would likely have aligned Iran with Soviet Russia. The Soviet leader at that time was a man named Josef Stalin. Containment of Soviet power was the strategy then, and it turned out to be the correct strategy.

The return of the monarchy to Iran was not viewed with rage or anger in Iran at the time. n fact, it was virtually a nonevent. The entire coup was accomplished in an afternoon without bloodhshed, that's how fervently the Iranian people were in their support of Mossadegh.

There is also in your remarks a slippery elision between the attitudes of Iranians in general towards the overthrow of Mossadegh and the attitude of the Khomeinists then and now. Khomeini was not radicalized by the overthrow of a secularist such as Mossadegh. The very idea is ridiculous. He could not have cared less, ditto Ahmadinejad and the rest of them, whatever they might say now for propaganda purposes. Khomeini was radicalized by Western, namely, American cultural influence in Iran, which he correctly saw as leading Iranians away from the Sharia state that was his heart's desire. Moreover, very few Iranians shared his goal of a militantly Islamic state. By and large Iranians in the period 1953-1978 embraced modernity and a western outlook and were not by any stretch of the imagination fervently anti-American. The Shah turned his people against him, not because he was pro-Western or anti-Islamic and certainly not because of Mossadegh but because he ran a police state.

Also implicit in your remarks is the belief that the only human beings in the world who are self-actualized agents are Americans. Everyone else on the planet only re-acts to us because we "oppress" them. Khomeini had no positive (in the sense of actionable) goals of his own, on your view, but merely reacted to American oppression, a favorite leftist and decidedly postmodernist trope. It is also ludicrous.

Khomeini and bin Laden et al. have and had very definite ideas of their own and they do not depend on what Americ doers except insofar as they see us as an obstacle. That is plain common sense.

I think you should step back reread your posts. You migh see, and others of your ilk, how much you sound like Lord Haw Haw, broadcasting to the British or Axis Sally or Tokyo Rose attempting to persuade Americans to give up during World War II:

"Brave Americans, you fight well and courageously, but you have been mislead by your masters. You are suffering and dying for nothing. [Germany, Japan, Iran] have no quarrel with you. It's all the fault of your evil puppetmasters. We seek only our legitimate rights. You are dying in vain. Just quit and all this unpleasantness will be over. And now a song..."

Joe

Posted by: Joe at July 20, 2007 11:32 AM

attaboy, joe.

it's astounding to see the left adopt the jihadi cause, one that is completely anathema to what they profess to be: progressive. in that cause they will ignore reality and history, lie through their teeth, accuse others of imaginary sins, etc. just like they always did in their own cause before it was discarded by history; no wonder they have affinity with islamists.

this alliance with islamists demonstrate how utterly bankrupt they really are.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 12:18 PM

There are three civilian airlines flying into Baghdad from Dubai, at least two from Jordan, and you can get to Vienna from Irbil. I know that some are also flying to Kuwait from Baghdad also. However, milair from KC is free and you get to skip immigration. There are at least four different ways to get from Victory to the IZ, space A chopper, the rhino run (I think it leaves from Stryker), hire a psd, several will do it ($$$) or hire a taxi from the airport (not really recommended). Places to stay in the IZ - several of the PSD's will rent rooms on a per night basis, and will do p/u and d/o in the IZ. Driving through the middle of Korrada two weeks ago, the economy is booming, cafes, stores, goods on the sidewalk, unarmed police directing traffic (that takes guts and I salute them). Word from friends is the the economy in Kurdistan (northern Iraq) is really booming. Oh yeah, DO NOT eat the fish.

Posted by: Patrick LaRocque at July 20, 2007 12:18 PM

mjt,

what you describe gives the same impression that films, books and reports gave of vietnam.

no wonder.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 12:22 PM

Khomeini and bin Laden et al. have and had very definite ideas of their own and they do not depend on what Americ doers except insofar as they see us as an obstacle. That is plain common sense.

Joe this seems very sensible. The reaction of Khomeinists and Salafists to US policy isn't really relevant. We shouldn't be in a dialogue with them, or judge our actions by how it influences their deluded worldview. Which is why it's perplexing to hear what "message" the departure from Iraq might send to terrorists.

Posted by: alex at July 20, 2007 12:24 PM

dan,

1st, the islamists have been allied to nazis, and for good reason.

2nd, they don't have YET power over us. but that's what they're working on and it's you and your ilk who would facilitate that.

3rd, only an ignorant idiot would watch what islamists are doing all around the world and what they declare openly they want to do, see the imbecillic suicidal reactions of the west -- which you would wholeheartedly support -- and would NOT be scared.

i know, it's hard to buy brains at the supermarket.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 12:30 PM

alex,

I would not US policy is not relevant. it is: it facilitates and emboldens the islamist cause.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 12:33 PM

Wow! from the writings over the past several weeks, it sure does appear to me(I have never been to Iraq, apparantly unlike Dan, who must live there from all of his "knowledge")that we are NOT losing in Iraq, like the Democrats keep telling us. I had to read this post twice as i was worried I might have missed something. If the rest of our Press wrote like Michael did/does then I wonder what the situation would be there now.

Posted by: Paul at July 20, 2007 12:35 PM

Before you "support independent journalism" as Michael suggests, why not support the troops by joining up and doing as many stints as it takes to solve the Iraqi problem? As you may have heard, our military is stretched incredibly thin, and our soldiers have so little off time that they are getting increasingly exhausted. We don't need more journalists on the scene there, we need people who are willing to put their lives on the line, rather than vaugely "supporting the war" from their lazy-boy recliners. Your local recruiters can be found in the phone book or online at the following link:
http://www.goarmy.com/contact/find_a_recruiter.jsp

Posted by: Arlington Acid at July 20, 2007 12:53 PM

"Truly, after four years if we cannot take control of a city like Baghdad, we really should give up."

Okay. Feel free to give up any time, soldier. In your case that means stop reading about Iraq, because that's the extent of your involvement in this war.

The people doing the actual fighting will stay and get the job done.

Posted by: Tom W. at July 20, 2007 01:00 PM

I would not US policy is not relevant. it is: it facilitates and emboldens the islamist cause.

The islamist cause doesnt need the US in order to be emboldened. And as Lebanon has shown us, even crushing military defeat "emboldens" jihadists. Is "fixing" this ass-backwards machismo a worthy use of the US military?

Posted by: alex at July 20, 2007 01:01 PM

. In your case that means stop reading about Iraq, because that's the extent of your involvement in this war.

So much for all that counter-chickenhawk spin about "civilians needing a say in military matters." Guess that only holds when you're gung-ho.

The people doing the actual fighting will stay and get the job done.

Maybe they can do so on someone else's dime. Or must our tax dollars also stay and "get the job done?" So what is the job nowadays? Ridding Iraq of extremists? Unemboldening the jihadists?

Posted by: alex at July 20, 2007 01:07 PM

I don't think "crushing" means what you think it means.

Posted by: david at July 20, 2007 01:09 PM

If you are comfortable with dhimmitude, I grieve for you.

Does anyone seriously think the forces of Islam are likely to take over and enslave the developed Western world? Is THAT why we're in Iraq? I must have missed that in the marketing materials.

Posted by: alex at July 20, 2007 01:14 PM

Dan - good work.

Mertel: Unlike a lot of commentators here, I don't have an instant solution. But you're advocating a move (troop withdrawal) that you and all of it's proponents agree will result in thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Just because it's Washington Conventional Wisdom that withdrawal will lead to 'genocide' doesn't make it true. It can't be ruled out entirely - i.e. it's a risk. But there are good reasons to believe that it's at least possible, and maybe more likely than unlikely, that the violence will die down once we leave, not pick up.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have already died. Even if the people leading and even executing the surge have humanitarian intentions, four years of war in this country have not produced anything whatsoever like humanitarian results. Only a tiny fraction of the insurgency and violence bears relation to Al-Quieda. That 95% of non-Al-Quieda violence will go on, and on, and continue to result in the deaths of innocents, until we release our headlock on the political struggle for power occurring there, which won't ever end while we're distorting it with our explicitly temporary military advantage to Al-Maliki.

To those out there who think that because Mike hasn't seen any car bombs in two days, the media is making all this war stuff up, you might look at
the chart.

Posted by: glasnost at July 20, 2007 01:16 PM

david, you should check with your average Lebanese person to see if they want a rematch. Dying in large numbers while killing few of your enemies does not a victory make, except to chest-beating jihadists and Israelophobic armchair guerrillas. I see no purpose in trying to change the mind of either species.

Posted by: alex at July 20, 2007 01:19 PM

Daniel in Brookline: I used to post as dan, until Dan started posting. I disagree with Dan concerning the subject matter addressed here, but don't have anything against him. That being said, Dan makes me miss Hezbollah Lover in some ways. Not that I'd want HL back, and I'm sure he was a pain to moderate, but I was interested in what he would say. Dan is adept at marshalling facts in favor of withdrawal, but that is ultimately a value judgement, and I don't think the facts we quibble over on this site are likely to sway many folks.

Personally, I've pessimistically decided I hope we do more of the same for the duration of this administration, since a botched withdrawal could be just as big a disaster as our botched occupation. I don't trust our current admin to pull this off, but I don't they'll make things much worse than they already are by keeping up our unenviable position as civil-war speedbumps. Oh, and we need to stay in Kurdish Iraq for the long haul. We own that to the Kurds, and the Turks, and letting those two go at no-holds-barred would be way not-in-our-interest.

Posted by: drlemaster at July 20, 2007 01:27 PM

Mike -

Not that I'm a skeptic - I've heard about the heat from all kinds of people and places.

I was around the Arizona-California border recently, in the desert area (within 30 miles of Death Valley). One particular day it hit about 116. I'm not used to much over 95-100 kind of heat, but I didn't really find it terrible.

Now, I wasn't outside for more than about thirty minutes at a time. I didn't have 80 pounds of gear. And obviously, I wasn't in the high-stress situation of trying to find a safe place to sleep in Baghdad. But I'm curious. You've been in other hot environments, I'd imagine. How much worse is Baghdad than, say, the Arizona-California desert? Or, say, the Negev? Is it the humidity, or is it the war-zone circumstances of being outside all day and running around on top?

Posted by: glasnost at July 20, 2007 01:27 PM

I'm afraid I don't know any average Lebanese people. Besides, I generally consider that sort of anecdotal evidence crap, the crutch of people who are wrong. Perhaps you should check with the IDF. I can arrange that here -

http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2007/Winograd+Inquiry+Commission+submits+Interim+Report+30-Apr-2007.htm

I believe paragraph 10 is particularly relevant.

Posted by: david at July 20, 2007 01:28 PM

The sheer enormity of the place puts the almost daily car bomb attacks into perspective. The odds that you personally will be anywhere near the next car bomb or IED are microscopic.

Yes, that's why:
1) it took you 16 hours to get from the Airport to the Green Zone
2) Taxi's or buses don't run at night, even in the "relatively safe" Green Zone
3) On average, 2.48 "coalition" soldiers have died each of the 1,582 days since the war began
4) On average, 3.44 "coalition" soldiers have died in each of the 169 days since the surge "began" (unless it "actually began" yesterday as some are claiming).
5) There are literally dozens, if not hundreds of attacks per day.

Iraqi Body Count makes it clear that the majority of the 42.84 Iraqis killed each DAY on average (*minimum reported deaths* for the 1,582 days since the war began) were shot to death.

But, YOU can't hear them from the Green Zone so "it's almost a not-war."

I wonder what the odds are of personally being near a car-bomb, IED, or "terrorist" is in, say, the entire F-ing United States? But half the people in America are still practically pissing their pants.

Posted by: Harry R. Sohl at July 20, 2007 01:28 PM

Alex,

You write: "The reaction of Khomeinists and Salafists to US policy isn't really relevant. We shouldn't be in a dialogue with them, or judge our actions by how it influences their deluded worldview. Which is why it's perplexing to hear what 'message' the departure from Iraq might send to terrorists."

Is this a serious remark? Is it ingenuous? Sarcastic? Hmmmm. Understanding which will be valuable in composing a reply. In the interests of amicability, I'll assume that you just are too easily perplexed and urgently need to do something about it.

Your proposition, as I see it, goes something like this: If [as I claim] the Salafists have their own reasons, our withdrawal from Iraq will not affect them.

Your problem is confusing the Salafist with his reasons. Our withdrawal from Iraq will NOT affect Bin Laden's reasons, as why should it -- and when oh when has anyone ever said it would? That our withdrawal will dramatically affect the average Jihadist, however, by strengthening his beliefs, his stamina, his courage, in short, his passions, is another matter altogether.

Men are more than their reasons. Nine times out of 10, "reason is the slave of passion" (David Hume). Trivial behavior to one side, no one has ever done anything solely because by his lights it was "reasonable." What is going on in Iraq is not a "dialogue," a truly startling way of framing the matter, by the way, but one at least in which reason plays an important role. It is instead a contest of will, and the loss of this contest will be a catastrophe for one side or the other, not because he will be led to the view that his goals are irrational but rather that they are unattainable.

Joe

Posted by: Joe at July 20, 2007 01:32 PM

But, Harry, you fail to consider that every car in Iraq is not exploding every day, like the liberal MSM says, so it's really not that bad. You can literally go days in Iraq without seeing someone die violently. What kind of "war" is that?

Posted by: david at July 20, 2007 01:33 PM

To all you who criticize me, let me ask you a question. If you go into an action without the means and resources to fully crush your enemy and win the war, do you not in the end come out the loser?

I would be half supportive of the war if we would actually sacrifice and go in full. None of this "shock and awe" bomb from far away with a tiny force for occupying the country crap. If we truly desired a victory in Iraq, we would have flooded the country with Americans. This is the way to conquer a country. Flood it with your troops. Open every hiding place. Let there be not a single rock unturned so that possible insurgencies are snuffed out from the start.

That is not the way we went unfortunately. Our nation is not making the right sacrifices to win this conflict, and as such, we will end up not only losing, but with a much weaker position vis a vis the rest of the world.

I am thinking now that it was a bad thing for Clinton to have succeeded so well with the Kosovo bombings, because it made Americans think they could win wars on the cheap.

It is really tragic, because war supporters refuse to learn this lesson. The moment you say anything critical, you are labeled a "defeatist." How dare someone speak out against the Generals!

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 01:38 PM

David,

You can literally go days in Iraq without seeing someone die violently. What kind of "war" is that?

It is called a low-grade insurgency. It is not a hot war like the Lebanon bombings of last summer. Again, mischaracterizations about both the conflict and our enemies will not help us win.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 01:40 PM

oh and David, I can go all my life here in America without seeing someone die violently. What does that say about Baghdad where in mere days you will most likely see many people die violently?

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 01:41 PM

Okay, history lesson time:

Both Sun Tzu and Clausewitz define terrorism as a form of warfare. (And , oh yes, our enemies have read both of them.) As such they mention that:

1. A proxy guerilla force financed, trained, equipped, and operating in areas that allow them to attack you and your allies (read Hizbollah and Hamas attacking US in Iraq, Hizbollah attacking Lebanese in Lebanon, Hizbollah and Hamas attacking Israelis in Israel) that is a form of active war against whomever they are sent to attack (read Syria and Iran at war with the above mentioned countries, among others, attacking by the proxy forces).

2. A force of special forces sent to attack someone in a foreign country (read QUDS from Iran sent into Lebanon via Syria in support of Hizbollah and QUDS forces from Iran also captured in force in Iraq attacking US and Iraqis) is also a from of war against the ones being attacked.

Both of these methods are being used and have been used by Iran and Syria to attack their neighbors - they are a declaration and activity of war. It is just a part of Iran and Syria fighting their openly declared WAR with the West, the US, Israel, and anyone else. Nothing else.

To call this anything else but WAR is irrational since to give in to them is exactly the SAME as ultimate surrender to an invading army.

But that is what the media want us to beleive. That it is not a war but it is caused only because we are there. Then why if we were not there before 2001 did they at that time send attackers all the way to the US?

Yes, financiers in the Middle East, Iran and Syria, and Saudi Arabia in particular, ought to be held accountable.

A quick suggestion - if their money comes from oil shipments, then if we destroy only their oil infrastructure they will have no money for war, cannot export war as above, ... cannot, well, do anything.

Posted by: Ollie at July 20, 2007 01:41 PM

Dan,

You are welcome to post here, but my comments section is not about you. Please limit your posts to a reasonable number and stop hogging.

Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 20, 2007 01:43 PM

Dan, not get it, much?

Ollie, you're a frickin' loon. I hope they put you on TV.

Posted by: david at July 20, 2007 01:44 PM

Mr. Totten,

My apologies. I've said my peace on this post.

Posted by: Dan at July 20, 2007 01:45 PM

"well-rounded individuals with Red State tastes and political views and a worldliness and cosmopolitanism that surpasses that of most people who live in the Blue States"

Oooooooohh.

Define cosmopolitan, willya?

Posted by: shaker o salt at July 20, 2007 01:51 PM

Great site!

Would you consider a link exchange to the Internet Radio Network. At the IRN you can listen to over 27 of America's top Talk Shows via FREE STREAMING AUDIO!

http://netradionetwork.com

Posted by: Steve at July 20, 2007 02:08 PM

Dan raises some legitimate points. And I say that as somebody who was a supporter of the war.

At this point, I don't know what we should do. I realise pulling out right now would open an entire other can of worms and may not be prudent. But to continue doing what we've been doing doesn't seem to be working, either. Even if we kick the al-Qaeda problem in Iraq and marshal support of many Sunni Arabs, we still have to deal with the al-Sadrists.

I don't see how we can pacify Iraq so long as the countries bordering Iraq do not want it pacified. The surrounding Arab countries (and Iran) have done everything they can to destroy the Iraq democracy project, yet they never fail to blame the failure on America (just like they bitch about why there is no peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians as they go about supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad).

The Arab world is sick and I'm not sure there is much we can do to make it healthy.

I'm not saying pull out; I'm not saying stay in. I JUST DON'T KNOW what is best, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Posted by: Zak at July 20, 2007 02:16 PM

Damn 100s of thousands per year NO taxes and plenty of vacation time ??? OK sign me up and I will support the war in Iraq also

Posted by: John Ryan at July 20, 2007 02:23 PM

Fascinating story, thank you!

Do you have to pay in order to hop on the military flight to BIAP? Or for the Blackhawk ride?

As others have said, I can't even imagine what it must be like... Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Ryan at July 20, 2007 02:23 PM

I would like to recommend BlogPatron as a means of supporting Michael Totten. This first post from Baghdad was worth every cent and more of my first month's contrib. Congratulations, Michael, and keep safe out there.

Posted by: bb at July 20, 2007 02:32 PM

Zak said:

I don't see how we can pacify Iraq so long as the countries bordering Iraq do not want it pacified.

I don't either. The question is, why allow those bordering countries to get away with what they are doing?

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 20, 2007 02:48 PM

tom,

WHAT exactly is our job in iraq? can you enlighten us?

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 03:01 PM

Thank you for posting this.
I believe you were possibly in the company of my boyfriend sometime that day! He was just shipped out from Ft. Benning GA on July 8th. They were supposed to spend some time in Tikrit then move on to Iraq w/ the 104th Transportation Company.

Thank you for posting this.

Even knowing what it's like over there helps me to cope. I applaud you.

Thank you for making my weekend and making me feel safer.

Posted by: Mel at July 20, 2007 03:03 PM

alex,

why is it that you chose to respond to 'embolden', and not to facilitate?

smart and effective policies of a unified west would make it hard for islamist to achieve their objectives. ignorant, stupid policies of a divided west facilitate and embolden islamists beyond their dreams.

getting bogged down in iraq and eu capitulating to islamists are not smart policies, but imbecillic.

i am watching on tv the previous ambassador to iraq say that bush now wants the UN -- you know, that anti-american, anti-israel org -- to do more in iraq (do i smell a prep for getting out?). now, why do you think that is, because of huge success?

that's a result of huge blundering which helps rather than defeats the islamists. it validates their claim that the west is weak and decadent and easy to defeat.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 03:14 PM

dan,

i am with you on failing the war. but that's a separate and different argument that defending the islamists.

we shouldn't have gone there not just because we were going to lose, but because this served the objectives of the islamists.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 03:20 PM

zak,

i would pull out into the kurdish area and let the shia and sunni do their work. let iran, aq and the saudis get involved. their being at each other's throat keeps them busy and is in the interest of the west.

that's what will happen anyway, but the later it happens, the worse the price to be paid by the us.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 03:25 PM

and the reason you dk is because the us has put itself exactly in the situation in which it would not know what to do.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 03:27 PM

Dan said:

"General Petraeus's own counterinsurgency field manual states that a successful counterinsurgency requires at least 50 combat troops per 1000 civilians. In Baghdad alone that is 120,000 combat troops. For the whole of Iraq that requires at least 500,000 combat troops."

I 100% agree with your points regarding the planning and preparation of the war. Petraeus is being forced to run a counterinsurgency war without sufficient U.S. combat troops.

In addition to what you said, General Shinseki said that the Iraqi army needs to have approximately 400,000 to 500,000 troops in order to be able to fully defend itself.

What Petraeus is trying to do, (and in my opinion IS DOING SUCCESSFULLY) is to overcome the lack of U.S. troops by trying to integrate IA forces with our guys. Right now, the IA has approximately 157,000 combat ready troops. They should be up to about 200,000 by the end of the year.

If you add in U.S. troops, Coalition troops, and Iraqis, you've got somewhere around 320,000 troops. This is still short of where we need to be. As a result, we can carry out a lot of offensive operations, but we cannot provide immediate, widespread security.

However, I think that the recent backlash against Al Qaeda provides us with more "boots on the ground" although not in the traditional sense. The Awakening and continued tribal resistance to Al-Qaeda will hopefully help us continue to maintain operational momentum while the Iraqi Army expands and is trained up.

I firmly believe that what General Petraeus is accomplishing right now is breathtaking, and I believe he should be given the time and resources to carry out his counterinsurgency fight. I just don't see how leaving Iraq now benefits the security and long term interests of the United States in any way shape or form.

Posted by: DS at July 20, 2007 03:28 PM

While there are a number of foreign fighters, the majority of the bomb throwers are Iraqis.

In fact I've heard quite the opposite; that although the number of foreign fighters is small in number compared to local insurgents, most of the bombing is coming from the foreigners. My source is Ralph Peters if I remember correctly.

Posted by: Carlos at July 20, 2007 03:33 PM

all these military analysis are just bunk.

the issues are not military, but political. they always were and that is what the bushies failed to consider, plan for and address. americans cannot solve the religious and political problems of the ME, certainly not militarily.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 03:35 PM

Leaving aside that the US' foremost allies (SIIC) are also Islamist, Iraqi Sunnis cannot achieve their objectives (unless they're confined to bogging down the United States for a few more years, which they might achieve if we let them) Their goal is to restore the caliphate. Do you seriously imagine that's going to happen? Does anyone think they're likely to "take over" in Iraq the way the North Vietnamese did when the US left? Much less take over Washington DC or the capital of any developed nation?

Posted by: alex at July 20, 2007 03:37 PM

fp,

you've got it assbackwards. The Bushites tried to ignore a military solution, hoping a political solution would take care of the problem. Thus the rush to have elections. It obviously didn't work out that way. Today, 3 years too late, they're trying to solve the problem militarily. Now we're in a race against time with the islamists in Iraq and the surrender monkeys here in the States.

Posted by: Carlos at July 20, 2007 03:54 PM

Boy I wish my health would allow me to something like that. What an adventure!

Posted by: Jim C at July 20, 2007 04:01 PM

I see that this article has been among those on the Pajamas Media News Feeds today resulting in an unusually high number of visitors to this site (sitemeter) today. I hope that those who regularly comment here will continue to maintian the civility that makes this an exceptionally informative and educational comments section, particularly since there is such increased attention.

Thank You MJT, Job well done!

Posted by: lindsey at July 20, 2007 04:41 PM

alex,

are you familiar with logic?

if people want something, ara fanatic about it, kill others and themselves to get it, and instead of stopping them, we facilitate and help them, what the hell do you think will happen? or are you so ignorant of what's happening around the world that you have no clue what you're talking about?

they don't have to produce an actual caliphate. all they have to do is what khomeini did in iran. would you say it is in the west's interest to get more of that? are you pleased with iran's behavior domestically and internationally?

exactly what you say about them was said about hitler. he did not achieve his goals, but at what cost?

didn't learn much from history, did you? wanna be doomed to relive it, huh?

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 04:50 PM

carlos,

sorry, don't buy.

the bushies did not have ANY plan. they thought they would shock and awe, be received with flowers, and the iraqis would produce a jeffersonian democracy overnight. after all, they're just like us, no? they want freedom.

i wouldn't have done it at all, but once they did, they should have turned it over to the iraqis and gotten out. that would have served the us interest. instead, they got tempted to stay and build the nation themselves, without any clue as to how and in complete ignorance of the culture. typical american approach.

and nobody has any idea yet of the price that is and will be paid for it by generations.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 04:56 PM

http://www.townhall.com/columnists/column.aspx?UrlTitle=train_of_thought_a_letter_to_sen_arlen_specter&ns=DianaWest&dt=07/20/2007&page=2

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 04:58 PM

Seeing the war from a completly intellectual way
gives us nothing. It will not, no matter how
clever the ideas from the people, who consider themselves smart enough to win or lose a war from
his chair.
Do what Michael is doing, then tell us how to
win the war or not win the war.
As Obama has said, stop the war even it if means
genocide.
Easy to say, but after cutting and running on the
Iraqi people TWICE, there should be great shame
felt by Americans.
Of course, Kerry's view of very little lives lost
after Vietnam could be taken as truth, but, frankly I think, as usual, he is trying to
cover his complete lack of empathy for anything,
least of all, people like the Iraqis.

Posted by: carole at July 20, 2007 05:18 PM

read the article i linked to.

the problem with the us is that it projects power that is unwilling to apply.

the reality is that it's the us govt who got into iraq based on intellectual theories that had nothing to do with the reality. the current circumstances and lack of good options are a direct result of that.

so instead of being concerned with us here, be concerned with those who started and are conducting the war.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 05:38 PM

I don't see how we can pacify Iraq so long as the countries bordering Iraq do not want it pacified. The surrounding Arab countries (and Iran) have done everything they can to destroy the Iraq democracy project, yet they never fail to blame the failure on America (just like they bitch about why there is no peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians as they go about supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad).
-Zak

The basic problem is that 'the countries bordering Iraq' have decided that destabilizing Iraq benefits them more than a stable Iraq would. Why wouldn't they? If Iraq breaks up, it's quite likely that they could take control of substantial chunks of the place, including the oil reserves.

How do we make it clear to those governments that destabilizing Iraq is worse for them than a stable Iraq would be?

IMO, helping unfriendly governments understand that they should confine their hostility to rhetoric is exactly the kind of thing the B-2 is well-suited for. Sponsoring insurgents and giving those governments a taste of their own medicine is appropriate, but really, insurgency is for countries not strong enough to win an overt military confrontation.

The Arab world is sick and I'm not sure there is much we can do to make it healthy.
-Zak

Basically, our options all suck.

They are-

1) ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

Not really viable, unless you're willing to accept periodic mega-casualty attacks in the US & allied countries and/or substantial weakening of privacy, civil liberties, etc (so that counterterrorist agancies can operate effectively in a domestic setting).

2) reform the middle east

Very difficult and expensive, in both blood and treasure, and it's going to take decades. Minimum. Besides the well-documented lack of democratic traditions, sectarianism, tribalism, corruption, and resentment of 'colonial occupation', you have the additional problem that governments other than the 'current project' will be quite aware that they're on the to-do list and that their only real hope of long-term survival is to make the 'current project' fail.

The best that can be said of this option is that it sucks less than the others.

3) The option that isn't an option, and no, I'm not talking about dhimmitude. I mean what will happen a few hours after al qaeda gets it's hands on a nuke and sets it off. It's best not to think about that too much, one might get some perspective and realize that things could be much worse than it is now, and maybe GWB has chosen the least-bad option.

Pretty much everything else I have seen proposed is a minor variation on those three. My general impression is that the lefties are pushing for 1) because the short-term costs are lowest, and that most on the right are (reluctantly) supporting 2) because they understand how horrible 3) would be.

You see, Dan and his like are correct- although not for the reasons they think. In the long run, the jihadis are doomed. Utterly, completely, decisively. The only real question is how many people- ours and theirs- are going to die in the process.

IMO, 2) is the option that will result in the lowest overall bodycount, so that's the approach I support.

Posted by: rosignol at July 20, 2007 06:26 PM

rosignol,

you can't be serious. reforming the me is what got us into this mess in the first place.

the us should do more to protect its interest and less to reform others. it's a fool's errand.

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 06:36 PM

I do think that the "least bad" option that Rosignol posits is what Bush (or whomever might be in power at any given time) would have to go with. I am trying to push my Congressional Reps & Goverment Leaders to be more aggressive against our enemies, though there are assuredly elements behind the curtain that I am not aware of.

A fools errand is wishing that FP would limit his posts to, say, less than 25% of MJT's comments section. Especially as FP's comments are basically the same ones- like listening to a record over and over and over and....

If only people, and the U.S. Government, could be as smart and wise and certain as you are FP. You could cut & paste any of your comments from any given article that MJT posts and they would be darn near identical.

Your contempt for America offends me. BTW, the U.S. did a terrible job in Japan and Germany after WWII didn't it?

Posted by: Ron Snyder at July 20, 2007 07:05 PM

I think that reforming others is protecting our interests.

Posted by: rosignol at July 20, 2007 07:05 PM

ron,

i note that you provide no knowledge or reason to counter my comments, you just want me to shut up.
just because what i say offends you? some american you are.

1st, i don't repeat, i am consistent. familiarize yourself with the concept.

2nd, since my comments are always in response to others, it follows that even if i were repeating myself -- which i am not -- it would be necessary if others repeat the same nonsense.

just because america did some good things in the past, does not mean that all it ever does is good, which seems to underlie your position.
that's just the characteristic that gets america into lots of trouble.

if you think i am wrong, demonstrate it with knowledge and reason. whining about being offended won't do it.

rosignol,

i know you think that. so do others. that's one reason for the mess in iraq. and a lot of the me was reformed for the price, huh?

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 07:28 PM

michael, thank you for being one of a very few journalists who i've come to consistently trust and respect.
because i hold you dear, i want to caution you from
saying things like "You’d think explosions and gunfire define Iraq if you look at this country from far away on the news. They do not. The media is a total distortion machine."
while i totally agree with you about the media, there is something unsettling about the scope of your comment and certainty when you have only just arrived, and have only seen a fraction of the country. i hate to think that your reporting will suffer from prejudices or hasty conclusions, or an eagerness to fit what you see into what you suspected.
i am sincerely grateful for your work.

Posted by: thankful at July 20, 2007 07:33 PM

Bad time to go to Iraq. They ran out of gasoline and the cars are lined up everywhere.

Somebody is going to become an overnight Millionair. He who imports vehicles that run on compressed air from India.

They are busy in Paris running as taxi cabs.
http://BendGovernment.blogspot.com

Or the entrepreneur who imports electric EV SUTs [ sport utility trucks ] from California.

http://TonyGuitar.blogspot.com

This is no flippant comment. This is exactly the situation where someone solves a problem for people and quickly becomes very wealthy.

If someone in Iraq does well with this idea and thanks me, I*ll let you know. Promise not to mention any name, but it would be interesting... = TG

Posted by: TG at July 20, 2007 07:35 PM

here's the uk protecting its interests:

http://freedemocracy.blogspot.com/2007/07/britain-almost-out-of-troops-memo.html

Posted by: fp at July 20, 2007 07:42 PM

That Sports Utility Truck is an electric vehicle made by Phoenix Motor cars California.

See my blog site. US municipalities are buying these up now so you may have a wait. Guess they want to get around during a gas shortage too.

No profit to me though, I*m simply an enthusiast.

BTW.. forget the hybrid [2 cars in one], TDI diesels are coming to North America with 45 to 80 MPG performance for way less money.

Hybrids are just as dead in the driveway as any car when gas is cut off. Get an EV or a PEV. Hybrids sustain damage when run without gas or diesel. [Plug-in Electric Vehicle]= TG

Posted by: TG at July 20, 2007 07:52 PM

Thanks for the wonderful story, Michael.
I've experienced the sensation of a night combat landing in a C-130 into chaos, as well, thirty one years ago. While the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut AB wasn't as hot as Baghdad, it was still mind warping.
I've also experienced first hand, the effect of a cut and run policy, and am still embarrassed of our country for abandoning the wonderful people of Viet Nam, to the not so tender mercies of the communists, and the death and displacement of millions.
The desire of so many to abandon Iraq, is equally disturbing to me. Actions have consequences, and in this case, those consequences have far too many variables in favor of disaster, for Iraq, as well as our way of life in the future. There is too much evidence that indicates that quantifiable gains have been made, in destroying AQ and their abilities in Iraq, in the training of the Iraqi Army and other ISF, as well as in the community support for the ISF and coalition forces, to suspend this operation now. I have a close friend who is Kurdish, and has been serving with the MNF since the invasion in '03 as a translator, and I trust his judgement, and his perspectives much more than anyone here, and most certainly more than any in the LameStream media. He's currently on leave, and we will be having lunch tomorrow, and I will forward this story to him tonight, so we can discuss it.
In considering the notion that we should just quit in Iraq, at this time it only serves one purpose, and that is political opportunism. For the Democrat Congress critters, quitting is winning...for them only.

Posted by: no2liberals at July 20, 2007 07:59 PM

I readily admit to less knowledge of the Middle East than some others on the board. But, I learn things here each time I visit, thanks to Michael and others, and will contribute to help this conversation continue.

It is unclear to me whether the "surge" strategy has a chance of working in a significant way. But is it not generally conceded that: (1) We have the right military guy calling the shots in Iraq now, (2) the surge strategy, including working together with Iraqi forces, is really just now getting in full motion, and (3) we MUST be getting smarter with each passing week about what it'll take?

I had mixed feelings about our Iraq adventure, right out of the box ... for reasons expressed by others here. But now, what mystifies me is this:

Why are we not willing, after ALL this time, to just be patient enough to wait for the several more weeks (through September?) to see how things are working out. I don't have any insights into "how it's going", but I do have enough curiosity and patience to want to see if we can make headway in the period we ALREADY, earlier, said was an acceptable interval for doing benchmarking. With dedicated troops, doing many things they are still (no doubt) learning to do well, and with a General we should be willing to give some "rope" to.

With MJT there, as one set of reliable ears and eyes, I'm for just shutting up and watching things play out. We know it's an unpopular war, so saying that over and over and over doesn't get us anywhere. Maybe the surge won't get us anywhere, either. But at least it's a newer idea; can't we just let it wither on the vine if it's a poor strategy --- and THEN do whatever we need to do to extricate, if that's the least worst thing?

Posted by: Terry Ott at July 20, 2007 09:43 PM

Michael J Totten --

If you can check it out, the big story here is the New Republic with a pseudonymous story designed to appeal to Liberal prejudices, i.e. accounts of "atrocities" by goon-squad, degraded and debased working class military men who are subhuman and immoral louts. Weekly Standard is trying to debunk this, you might be able to get paid by investigating events/places cited in the article on the ground.

Just thought I'd mention a possible payday.

Dan --

You are quite right that Baghdad is not like London or Paris. But Zimbabwe is far worse (it has three times the weekly death toll) that Iraq and Lagos Nigeria, Mexico City, Guatemala City, Karachi, and Freetown are likely as bad if not worse.

Lagos has been described as hell on Earth. There are no IEDs but constant criminal attacks, hostage taking of Westerners, Koreans, Chinese, and so on.

Nearly all third world cities are total failures. Mexico City is not safe for Westerners, or Mexicans either for that matter who have any money at all. Crime and criminal gangs run the place and makes it a pit.

Saddam made Baghdad run by killing great mass-graves of people. Then he let out all the psychopaths from his jails. We could have made Baghdad nice and orderly like under Saddam. If we adopted his methods. Given that Iran and AQ rushed immediately and started the killing cycle we've done remarkably well. Lagos is probably worse and more dangerous. Freetown also.

Hitler never was able to strike at the heart of NYC and bring down skyscrapers. True Islamists cannot conquer us but withdrawing confirms that if they kill enough of us we will submit. It puts a giant "Nuke ME" sign on our cities. Considering AQ/Taliban are battering the Musharraf Govt into defeat that is not wise. Nor are there any "deals" we can do with the Iranians. For nearly 30 years they have opened their legislative meetings with "Death to America" and have conducted: Beirut bombings, CIA Station Chief Buckley's torture/murder, Buenos Aires, Khobar Towers, 9/11 help (not stamping the passports of the muscle hijackers re: 9/11 Commission). Not to mention their numerous threats publicly to nuke us, as well as Israel, killing our people in Iraq and Afghanistan. They mean to kill us and will unless we stop them. [My objection to Liberals: viewing hardened men who advanced by killing other men above them as middle class accountants, ready to make a "deal."]

There is no "deal" to be made, and recall that in tribal societies like Muslim societies, any one individual can restart the war if he's not happy -- it's why tribal societies are so violent with such high cumulative death rates. Nearly 40% attrition rate for men in some instances. [Most of the violence inherent in the ME IMHO is due to the family structure: polygamous, big-man dominated, which leaves most young men outside marriage or any hope, thus turning traditionally to violence. Which means that we will get more violence out of them until most young men have their own families, that's a huge societal change but possibly doable. I'd rather try it than than massive nuclear blasts -- once we get hit with cities lost to Pakistan's nukes -- Musharraf is clearly losing to Zawahari and the Taliban -- we have to respond massively or we will get hit again by everyone else. Though probably time has run out and Baghdad and Iraq are sideshows.]

Alex: Muslims threaten death and carry it out on Theo Van Gogh. Rushdie's publisher and translator. South Park is censored. No Danish Cartoons. On penalty of death. No Muslims as bad guys in movies (on threat of death). Muslims already control what we read and see. Violence works. No US paper would run the cartoons because they were afraid. They even threatened the Pope and killed priests and nuns to make their point. Already death threats made Britons stop teaching the Holocaust (Muslims are offended and kill when they get offended). Muslims already veto what you can read and see. In most European capitals and major cities with Muslim presence unveiled/un-burquad women are subject to attack.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 20, 2007 10:27 PM

This tripe about Iraq morphing into a terrorist state run by al-Qaeda in the absence of American troops is perhaps the most laughable of all the assertions made by the dwindling crowd of Iraq war supporters. Firstoff, some background: Al-Qaeda is a militant Sunni terrorist organization that holds Shi'ites as apostate traitors to their zealotry. The notion that a group like that could come to power in Shi'ite dominated Iraq is silly at best. Their numbers consist of a few thousand (estimated) fighters on the fringes of the overall Sunni insurgency. Recent news items note that many Sunni tribes have been receiving U.S. arms in return for promises to eliminate al-Qaeda's presence in Iraq. Those Sunni insurgents were the only domestic base of support al-Qaeda had in Iraq. With those tribes realizing that their alliance of convenience with al-Qaeda was a disaster, it's a matter of time before AQI is finished.

That said, the Iraq we see today is a state of low-grade civil war, resulting in vast numbers of fatalities in the contested, mixed sect areas (like Baghdad) as various Sunni and Shi'ite groups jockey for control. The active presence of a large U.S. military force is merely slowing the pace of the civil war, not preventing it from happening. Thus, the killings that are occurring (largely because there is no political settlement between the competing powers) will continue regardless if we stay or leave. It's a matter of the pace. Many more Iraqi's will die if we stay, or if we leave. The difference is that in the "stay" scenario far more American soldiers will die, too, in an attempt to resolve political disputes by inanely believing the warring parties wish to reconcile if only violence in Baghdad decreases. Would this point in my posting be a good time to note that the Iraqi Parliament is vacationing in the month of August while their country crumbles around them? Proof positive of how serious they are about a resolution.

The Iraq that I believe will congeal upon our exit will be a Shi'ite dominated state that has an unpleasant government friendly with Iran. The real power is going to rest with the remnants of the Mahdi Army, so I would not be at all surprised to see a Sadr-like head of state. The Sunni minority will probably be pushed back to Anbar province and a de facto partition will be in place, with a Sunni west, Shi'ite center and south (including Baghdad), and Kurdish north.

Posted by: Anonymous Passer at July 20, 2007 10:41 PM

The only approximation to objective truth I see oming out of Iraq (or the middle east in general) is delivred to me by Totten, Yon, Roggio, and a few lonely others. At least some of the commenters above appear interested in keeping this thin pipeline of truth in operation. (Obviously, Anonymous Passer is not amng them.) So I just sent in an appropriate contribution. How many of the rest of you have done that? Do you really prefer to read about Iraq in the AP and NYT, or are you prepared to support alternatives at a rate at least comminserate with that the leftist media provide?

I have no earthly idea how much money Mr. Totten's most recent blog has generated, but I know it isn't nearly enough

Posted by: materialist at July 20, 2007 11:43 PM

The funny thing about the steep corkscrew dive is that I couldn’t feel it. Anyone who says it is scary, as some journalists do, is talking b.s. If you can’t look out the window or see the instruments in the cockpit, you’ll have no idea if the plane is right-side up, flying in a straight line, upside down, sideways, or even spinning into a death spiral.

Were all of those journalists on C-130's? I'm asking because if you fly a Sherpa, you can definitely see and feel every dip - that's the only plane that ever made me airsick, and they fly scary-low. (On the other hand, I met some great Soldiers - including Rhode Island and Alaska National Guard - in the aviation units flying those Sherpas.)

Posted by: Joseph W. at July 21, 2007 04:34 AM

Aren't there any cases of soldiers actually fainting because of the heat? Or can't someone faint/become unwell if drinking enough?

Posted by: tsedek at July 21, 2007 04:59 AM

Posted by: Jim Rockford at July 20, 2007 10:27 PM

"Nearly all third world cities are total failures. Mexico City is not safe for Westerners, or Mexicans either for that matter who have any money at all. Crime and criminal gangs run the place and makes it a pit."

I live in Mexico and do business in Mexico City regularly. This statement is absolute nonsense. Mexico City has problems that have to do more with corruption than anything else. It is no way comparable to Baghdad, which is a city bristling with troops and insurgents attacking one another regularly.

The comment does fit in well with the rest of your post which, as far as I can see amount to ill informed, paranoid ramblings. Every negative thing you read in the paper does not mean the world is going to end and our cities are going to be nuked.

Your post contributes nothing to what, to this point has been a pretty good exposition of the issues in Iraq.

BTW, Micheal Totten, great work.

Posted by: TOC at July 21, 2007 07:33 AM

I've contributed to Michael Yon and am waiting for my next paycheck to contribute to Michael Totten. After reading Yon's "Bless the Beasts and the Children" I simply had to help keep that kind of reporting a reality. After reading Michael J Totten's latest, well.... these men, who are not trained journalists, are the best journalists in the world when it comes to this pivotal and epochal moment in human history. Any shortcomings they may have in the literary sense is far outshone by their commitment and bravery. This is real war correspondence, not over-edited, spun propaganda from the likes of Reuters, AP, NYT, ad nauseum. I salute you, Michael Totten, hail and well met and may you continue to do your thing for many, many years to come.

Posted by: John at July 21, 2007 08:34 AM

Great work! But I see your pic in the upper left hand corner of the screen. Shave, dude. Razors are cheap. Buy one.

Posted by: Kevin at July 21, 2007 10:00 AM

I live in Mexico and do business in Mexico City regularly. This statement is absolute nonsense. Mexico City has problems that have to do more with corruption than anything else.

I have also been to Mexico and visited Mexico City on several occassions. In Mexico, like anywhere in the third world, you are on the alert. Kidnapping is a real threat for people like them. It happens a LOT. If you dont' produce the cash, you are mutilated or killed. I have personal experience as well as anecdotal evidence about this. I have friends there. They are people with a little bit of money, and they live practically under seige because of it. Any evidence of their financial means is well hidden behind high walls and sturdy gates. These aren't great industrialists I'm talking about either. One of them is a doctor, and that alone makes him a target. This is on top of the official corruption which you will find at all levels of government. Dont get me wrong. I love Mexico. It has a lot going for it. But visiting there can also be highly stressful. You have to stay alert. I have also lived in Africa, and city life there is even worse. By our standards in the U.S. and Europe, many of the great cities in the third world are failed crime-ridden cities.

Posted by: Carlos at July 21, 2007 10:18 AM

relevant for iraq too:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/017475.php#more

Posted by: fp at July 21, 2007 10:30 AM

It has taken the mighty Michael Totten only hours in the country to prove wrong the entire media, which has been covering Iraq for the last four years - what an amazing journalistic feat!

Posted by: novakant at July 21, 2007 10:38 AM

novakant,

let's be serious, shall we?

Posted by: fp at July 21, 2007 11:13 AM

Anonymous Passer wrote:

This tripe about Iraq morphing into a terrorist state run by al-Qaeda in the absence of American troops is perhaps the most laughable of all the assertions made by the dwindling crowd of Iraq war supporters. Firstoff, some background: Al-Qaeda is a militant Sunni terrorist organization that holds Shi'ites as apostate traitors to their zealotry. The notion that a group like that could come to power in Shi'ite dominated Iraq is silly at best.

Is it really necessary to point out that a militant Sunni minority that holds Shiites to be apostates has dominated Iraq for the last 30 years?

Now, you can argue that the sequence of events by which Hussein and the Baath party took control of Iraq cannot or is not likely to be repeated, but to outright reject the very possibility of Sunni rule in Iraq is to ignore history.

However, an Al Qaeda takeover of Iraq is not the real issue. They don’t have to take over Iraq to claim victory if we withdraw in the face of their terror campaign.

One of their main recruiting tools has been the long-standing claim that mujahideen -- such as Al Qaeda -- defeated the world’s only other superpower, the Soviet Union, in Afghanistan. They make this claim -- and it is apparently an effective recruiting tool according to interviews with jihadists in Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower” -- they make this claim even though they did not take over Afghanistan after the Soviets left. This victory is held as vindication of their claim that Allah will bring them victory over all oppressors provided they practice Islam in a sufficiently pure fashion. So an American withdrawal in the face of an Al Qaeda terror campaign will definitely be touted as a victory, no matter what happens in the aftermath.

Indeed, there is reason to believe Al Qaeda may have other targets in mind. Osama bin Laden’s original desire was the overthrow of the Saudi government. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s target was Egypt. They might decide to compromise and focus next on Pakistan. But whatever they choose to do next, giving them proof that terrorism works will only strengthen their cause.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 21, 2007 11:13 AM

Mr. Totten:

A beautiful piece of writing. A piece of journalistic art. I was rapt! You've outdone yourself.

Sounds gooey, I know. What can I do? Simply great.

Posted by: Jeff at July 21, 2007 11:51 AM

Well, if it's not very violent in Iraq after all, why don't we leave and let them take over? (Heh, didn't think someone would try an ironic twist?)

tyrannogenius

Posted by: Neil B. at July 21, 2007 12:14 PM

I don't know. It's 40-50 percent [unemployment] where I am right now, which is the Adhamiyah district in Northern Baghdad.

Michael,

What does 50% unemployment mean? These people are starving? Working off the books? Terrorists? Housewives? How can I make sense of this?

Posted by: Yafawi at July 21, 2007 01:02 PM

"However, an Al Qaeda takeover of Iraq is not the real issue. They don’t have to take over Iraq to claim victory if we withdraw in the face of their terror campaign."

Of course al-Qaeda will declare victory in their propaganda. The point of propaganda is that no matter the circumstances, they spin or BS to claim an advantage. Back when the "surge" was announced in January, Zawahiri released statements calling upon America to send more troops to Iraq so they could fight them. America being in a position of fighting a prolonged unconventional war does them the favor of assisting their abilities to recruit Muslims who are on the "fence" as well. What we ought to do is extricate ourselves from the Iraq morass and refocus attention on Afghanistan while the situation there is salvageable. The real al-Qaeda is moored there on the Afghan/Pakistan hinterlands. Their Iraqi franchise is living on borrowed time.

Posted by: Anonymous Passer at July 21, 2007 01:54 PM

anonymous passer,

the real "al Qaeda" is safe (so far ) in Iran. Making your point by echoing Zawahiri pretty much craters what credibility you thought you had. You should probably wait for the next utterance from the Prophet Obama before striking out again or at least get more feedback from your fellow Koslings. Just sit tight and repeat the truther mantra: "Bushco brought down the twin towers. 9/11 was an inside job"

Posted by: John at July 21, 2007 02:20 PM

“I read on the Internet that the war costs 60 billion dollars a year,” Larry said.

“Well, if it’s on the Internet it must be true,” I said jokingly.

Michael, this made me ask the question, what ARE we spending?

As I Googled that, I discovered that the Pentagon has not issued the cost figures, as required by law. The estimates assembled by various other responsible parties would put the figure as high as $2 billion a week, which is roughly $100 billion a year.

One article (http://zfacts.com/p/447.html) said the Pentagon's own guesstimate was above $6 billion a month (i.e., $72 billion a year).

If the Pentagon will not reveal the costs, and the MSM reports the estimates that are available, I don't think you can blame them.

Posted by: Sailmariner at July 21, 2007 02:41 PM

when it's 95 and muggy, i will shut the fuck up

a toast to unimbeddedness and stay safe

Posted by: tofubo at July 21, 2007 02:50 PM

Sir,

I was just directed to your site via RUMINATIONS (http://christianconservativegeek.blogspot.com/2007/07/michael-totten-reports-from-baghdad.html). As a former combat-arms soldier with numerous months (in fact, multiple years) dedicated to Iraq, I am delighted to read your fair coverage. You seem intent to deliver the whole story as many others tied to media are not. I sincerely hope that you can maintain such balanced coverage of the situation in Iraq. I can assure you that I will follow with a keen interest.

That being said, I felt absolutely compelled to tell you of my experience of flying into Iraq and how it differs quite noticeably from yours.

First of all, I consider myself a pretty thoroughly battle-tested individual. This was also the case the first time that I had to fly into Iraq. I was involved in the invasion during my first tour, so flying into Iraq for my second tour was quite a different experience.

I quote you:

“The funny thing about the steep corkscrew dive is that I couldn’t feel it. Anyone who says it is scary, as some journalists do, is talking b.s.”

Man, do I ever humbly disagree!!

I flew from Kuwait to Al Anbar province, Iraq en route to a year of battle in Ar Ramadi. My flight experience nearly caused me to piss myself. Check that – I am quite sure that I did, in fact, piss myself.

You see, the Air Force personnel on my flight had assured us that the flight would be completed in something like an hour and forty minutes. So I quickly dozed off as the plane traveled towards its destination. Well short of the estimated hour and forty minutes, our plane began its descent. And, unlike your description, I most definitely noticed it!!

Of course, no one took the time to inform me that such evasive landings were necessary. Furthermore, no one took the time to make sure that I was aware that such an evasive landing might take place well short of the mentioned time of landing. I was pretty sure that we were crashing. This is when I think I lost control of some limited bodily functions – but it’s hard to say as my uniform was pretty thoroughly caked in a mixture of fresh perspiration and dried sweat that had accumulated over the long and varied travel that you described so meticulously in your post.

Thankfully, the plane landed safely and I was afforded the opportunity to serve my country in Iraq for a second time. I would end up getting the opportunity to see several other planes land in the same airfield that I did and I can assure you that the occupants of those aircraft surely noticed their landings as well.

Anyway, my story is anecdotal and I thought you would get a kick out of it. The main reason that I commenting is to, again, commend you on your journalistic integrity. If you get the opportunity to do so, I would love to see you check out my own blog which I will link to below. While I understand that your current situation may find you quite busy, I would love to open up continued dialogue. I am very interested in your view of the situation as I am now pretty far removed physically from Iraq.

Thanks for devoting your time to this issue and I wish you the best of luck in your journeys.

My blog can be accessed here: http://educatedsoldier.blogspot.com

Steve B.

Posted by: Steve B. at July 21, 2007 04:43 PM

Steve B.

I'm just a regular reader of this blog, but let me say you are very welcome to comment any time. I'd look forward to what you write. And many thanks for having risked your life so others maybe won't have to.

You tell a good story, I'll visit your site for sure.

Posted by: allan at July 21, 2007 06:16 PM

the real "al Qaeda" is safe (so far ) in Iran. Making your point by echoing Zawahiri pretty much craters what credibility you thought you had. You should probably wait for the next utterance from the Prophet Obama before striking out again or at least get more feedback from your fellow Koslings. Just sit tight and repeat the truther mantra: "Bushco brought down the twin towers. 9/11 was an inside job"

Aside from the flat distortions and ad hominem used to make your supposed point without substance, you failed to realize that I cited his propaganda as proof that propaganda itself is as simple as spinning any situation in your favor, no matter if it is grave or not. If we leave Iraq, al-Qaeda will declare victory. If we stay, they'll declare that they're continuing to attack us and winning.

I'm guessing you take umbrage when Republicans cite al-Qaeda propaganda releases as evidence we must remain in Iraq, yes?

Posted by: Anonymous Passer at July 21, 2007 08:12 PM

Michael,

I thought you might use this photo of Dave's Foxhead in Iowa City (taken on a crisp autumn day in the Midwest) to help cool you down in Baghdad.

Thanks for the great reporting.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey at July 21, 2007 08:39 PM

anonymous,

Iraq is salvageable. Iran is salvageable. Afghanistan is salvageable. Pakistan is salvageable. Even the democrat party is salvageable (o.k., a long shot). Al Qaeda in Iraq is living on borrowed time because they are being pursued and vanquished mainly by the US military. Citing any al Qaeda message by either party for reasons other than accepting surrender is ridiculous.What we ought to do is extricate ourselves from the political morass we have at home and concentrate on destroying the enemy where ever and whenever we find them. Now either get behind it and PUSH or get the hell out of the way.

Posted by: John at July 21, 2007 09:49 PM

I used to hang out at that bar, the Foxhead, in Iowa City. It's a writer's hangout. How very random that you posted it, Jeffrey.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 21, 2007 11:13 PM

Michael T;
Try to get your hands on a MistMate or two; lots of other brands available. There's even a military version that can be donated to troops. http://www.mistymate.com/carepackage.html

Might save your brain from running out your ears like Huck Finn's butter!

fp;
You shore shoot a loada. Imaginary isolation offers imaginary protection. Imagine that!!

Posted by: Brian H at July 22, 2007 01:43 AM

Michael,

A year or so ago we talked about living in Iowa City -- I was there a few years before you -- and you had mentioned George's and Dave's Foxhead. So I thought you might like a crisp fall photo from IC to counteract blast-furnace Baghdad.

Here's John's Grocery, right across the street from Dave's Foxhead.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey at July 22, 2007 08:46 AM

Wow! Shades of George Orwell, Michael Kelly and the other great war reporters. This is great stuff. I can't wait for the next dispatch.

Posted by: stephanie at July 22, 2007 11:28 AM

As usual, Michael, great stuff. I'd been wondering how important press creds would or would not prove. Now we know.

Posted by: nancy at July 22, 2007 02:26 PM

I used to support the war, but now I understand that the terrorist insurgency simply wasn't there until we came. It would have been better to leave Saddam in power, he dealt with these folks better then we can.

Posted by: Former_WarHawk at July 22, 2007 05:12 PM

It would have been better to leave Saddam in power, he dealt with these folks better then we can.

Yes and no. With Saddam in power we wouldn't have to worry about an insurgency, but we'd have to worry about Saddam. Eventually we would have had to take him out. If not now, later. If not under Bush, under some future president. And we'd be in the same pickle we're in now. This has always been a case of no good choices. Pick your poison.

Posted by: Carlos at July 22, 2007 08:46 PM

Michael Totten,
Do you have any interest in meeting up with Omar and Mohammed Fadhil?

Posted by: John at July 22, 2007 09:08 PM

"...we'd have to worry about Saddam."

I don't know where you've been for the last four years, but there was little if anything to 'worry about Saddam', Carlos.

Sure, they SAY the WMD were shipped to Syria. If it's true...why haven't we invaded Syria?

How much oil does Syria have, by the way? Not much? Huh.

Saddam was the BULWARK AGAINST FUNDAMENTALIST ISLAM in Iraq, and in the entire region. He was the last man standing with a truly secular government--albeit a dictatorship. And anyone who thinks the U.S. didn't court him and encourage him and strengthen him and arm him is fooling themselves. He kept an incredibly large Shia majority in check for decades--as per the U.S.'s fondest wishes.

Bush the Smarter penned in Saddam, and Bush Junior killed the Goose that laid the Golden Eggs--that is, guaranteed conservative votes. Saddam was the Boogey Man any President could conveniently bomb whenever he needed a quick poll uptick. And now he's gone.

Saddam was nothing. He was contained. He was a sales job to the American people in the wake of 9-11, and it worked.

Until now.

Posted by: Daddy-O at July 22, 2007 09:59 PM

What Michael describes is simply the standard way for DOD personnel to get to Iraq. It may be revelatory for a civilian that is new to it, but there are hundreds of thousands of folks, both military and civilian, who have made the same trip.

I have found that you get used to it very quickly. There is a lot of tedium, the inevitable confusion, potentially scary moments, and a lot of heat and dust. A major difference from normal travel is that you have to hump all your baggage - packing as light as possible is a necessity.

A tip for Michael: next time stick your camera out the window of the Blackhawk and start snapping. The crews don't care, I got hundreds of photos the last time, and they are very different from pics snapped from the ground, a nice complement.

Posted by: searp at July 23, 2007 03:13 AM

Daddy-o,

I haven't been living under a rock as you have, apparently. Which is why I know, as per the Duelfer Report, that Saddam had every intention of reconstituting his nuclear arsenal once the sanctions were lifted. And as you may or may not know, your buddies on the Left were working furiously to get those sanctions lifted. So thanks to them, in a way, we had no choice to but take Saddam out. Your argument is moot.

Posted by: Carlos at July 23, 2007 05:48 AM

...reconstituting his nuclear program, rather.

Posted by: Carlos at July 23, 2007 06:04 AM

Daddy-o,

Hate to burst your bubble daddy, but Saddam was courting Islamofascists, paying 25 grand a pop to homicide bombers in Palestine, and up to his eyeballs in blood/oil money with a select group of europeans. The rhetoric coming out of Iraq pre-invasion was eeerily similar to al Qaeda's. In some instances it matched almost word for word. Why??? Because the radical Islamists KNOW that it works with the anti-America crowd. Are you really that blinded by BDS?

Posted by: John at July 23, 2007 07:04 AM

if the arabs produce anything, it's rhetoric. tons of it. it takes knowledge and reason to figure out when there is just rhetoric and when more than that. that's precisely what the us lacks and what gets us into trouble.

and saddam is hardly the only creature the us propped up. what about osama? arafat? abbas? remember noriega?

Posted by: fp at July 23, 2007 08:50 AM

John, whenever I hear someone use the words "homicide bombers" and BDS, I know that person can't be taken seriously. Homicide bomber is redundant. Suicide bomber is a much more precise term. And BDS is one of those catchall phrases intended to end all argument. It's not a serious argument. Personally I was against the war from the beginning, but I'm torn about the withdrawal. I'm afraid we're stuck to an Iraqi tarbaby with no good choices. Mr. Totten, keep up the good work, and be careful.

Posted by: Gus at July 23, 2007 09:33 AM

2) reform the middle east

Very difficult and expensive, in both blood and treasure, and it's going to take decades. Minimum. Besides the well-documented lack of democratic traditions, sectarianism, tribalism, corruption, and resentment of 'colonial occupation', you have the additional problem that governments other than the 'current project' will be quite aware that they're on the to-do list and that their only real hope of long-term survival is to make the 'current project' fail.

I consider myself a supporter of #2, Ros. But it doesn't mean the same thing for me that it does for you (or "conservatives").

There's a lot of room for the US to adopt pro-reform policies without launching military invasions. The reason liberals come off as, in your words, "in favor of doing nothing", is because they argue in favor of stopping doing what we're currently doing. That doesn't genuinely equal support for doing nothing.

Posted by: glasnost at July 23, 2007 10:47 AM

Hi Michael,

You're a tremendous inspiration. Incredible stuff. Stay safe & keep the updates coming!

Kind regards,
Scott Moshen

Posted by: Scott Moshen at July 23, 2007 10:49 AM

To those who contend we should have left Saddam in power, please reconcile your belief that he was contained and a non-threat with his offer of asylum to Bin Laden. This is not in dispute: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=8887

So, it is a lie that Bin Laden hated and would never cooperate with Islamists. It is also true that he was known to harbor other terrorist enemies of America. He was financing terrorism in Israel. He had used WMD in the past. He had committed acts of aggression against his neighbors on several occasions. He made an attempt to assassinate a former prez of the U.S. He was in violation of umpteen Security Council "resolutions". I use quotes because there was no resolve, and never would have been.

But he wasn't a problem and should have been left in power.

You will never convince me that there is a principled argument against our toppling of that regime. I have not yet heard one that doesn't ignore all of the facts above, as well as rely on lies and distortions.

Posted by: Greg Boyer at July 23, 2007 11:11 AM

Please juxtipose "Saddam" for "Bin Laden" where it obviously makes sense to do so in the post above. Preview is your friend.

And thanks for your reporting and this blog, Michael. I've been following you for years and love your stuff.

Posted by: Greg Boyer at July 23, 2007 11:14 AM

greg,

even "juxtiposed", seems like you're not terribly selective about arab rhetoric either.

Posted by: fp at July 23, 2007 12:02 PM

btw,

should we infer that whenever anybody offers osama asylum, we should invade and topple them? if so, we're lucky that very few would do that, not because of fear of the us, but because he would be a mortal threat to any regime except the sharia caliphate.

Posted by: fp at July 23, 2007 12:06 PM

Gus,
Homicide bomber is closer to the point in that the intent is to kill others. Suicide infers the bomber only wanted to kill him/her/Itself. Get it?
Seriously!

BDS is used to refer to those who will make up any argument or take any position, regardless of the logic or rationale, simply because it opposes the Bush administration. Now ask yourself, if the present administration were more to your liking would you be so "torn"?
Do yourself a favor and seriously get behind the push, mistakes and all, or simply get out of the way. You will have plenty of time to rehash the events and point fingers later.

Posted by: John at July 23, 2007 12:26 PM

and saddam is hardly the only creature the us propped up.

Saddam lied, thieved and murdered his own way to the top - with no propping assistance whatsover from the US.

Posted by: Jock Itch at July 23, 2007 12:27 PM

And anyone who thinks the U.S. didn't court him and encourage him and strengthen him and arm him is fooling themselves

The Iraqi army was equipped with T72 tanks, SCUD missiles, MIG Jet fighters, and AK-47s.

Obviously, it was Reagan who armed Saddam.

Posted by: Jock Itch at July 23, 2007 12:34 PM

fp... spelling corrections and snarkiness. About what I expected. Slightly rarer, but not uncommon: "You can't believe what those arabs say." Not when it doesn't support your anti-U.S. positions anyway.

Posted by: Greg Boyer at July 23, 2007 12:38 PM

fp says "btw, should we infer that whenever anybody offers osama asylum, we should invade and topple them?"

Geez, what a softball. Of course! For what other reason did we topple The Taliban? They never attacked us. It was their support for terrorism and harboring of terrorists that justified our invastion. And that's what our response must be if we hope to battle international terrorism.

Posted by: Greg Boyer at July 23, 2007 12:52 PM

jim rockford, the items you present aren't in any way an argument for a prolonged occupation of Iraq. Is the point of Iraq to force intolerant religious fruitcakes see the error of their ways, at gunpoint? Yeah, that'll work.

btw, the SCIRI folk are at least as intolerant as the Iranian government... and they're our closest allies in Iraq!

they don't have to produce an actual caliphate. all they have to do is what khomeini did in iran

Right, and they're likely to get it in Iraq, with our assistance (see above re: SCIRI) Again, is it your idea that the US military is going to alter the political culture of the Middle East by force? That wasn't in the marketing materials for the war. Seems like kind of a bait and switch, frankly.

Posted by: alex at July 23, 2007 02:08 PM

Suicide infers the bomber only wanted to kill him/her/Itself

It implies no such thing. Who could be confused by a term like "suicide bomber?" What suicide bomber in history has set out to kill only himself?

Posted by: alex at July 23, 2007 02:11 PM

greg,

hard to respond without being accused of insults.

you got it backwards: i am NOT anti-american. on the contrary, i want america to stop exacerbating its decline. it's those like you who support this blunder of a war and a mindless, ignorant, stupid and suicidal policy in the me that are anti-american, no matter how much they pound their chests as patriots.

we toppled taliban because IT ACTUALLY GAVE asylum to OBL, and it allowed him to train his troops there; you were talking about the INTENTION of saddam, which is what my "softball" referred to.

furthermore, the taliban is a co-religionist with AQ; saddam is a mortal enemy. that's why, in dealing with the arab world, you must know enough to distinguish between bluff and reality. which neither the us govt, nor most americans, including you, don't.

Posted by: fp at July 23, 2007 02:24 PM

Confusion isn't the issue. The point being that labeling such an act as a homicide instead of a suicide is valid unless, of course they are only killing themselves. Furthermore, the intent and motive is homicidal, not suicidal. I prefer to stress the murderous intent, you prefer to stress the victimazation of the bomber by him/her/Itself.
Typical...

Posted by: John at July 23, 2007 02:55 PM

well, in fact, martyrdom involves both suicide and homicide, and they are both required for it to be effective -- 72 virgins.

so how about homicidal suicide bomber to cut the semantics?

Posted by: fp at July 23, 2007 03:17 PM

You say tomahto, I say tomato
Glad that's over.

Posted by: John at July 23, 2007 04:24 PM

you prefer to stress the victimazation of the bomber by him/her/Itself... typical [!]

ALL bombers are homicidal: 'homicide bomber' is redundant. 'suicide' adds information (about tactics, not 'victimhood'.) It isn't an expression of one's craven dhimmi-like nature. Not everyone who disagrees with you is some kinda pussified dhimmi wuss.

Speaking of which - team 'kick Iraqi ass' might explain why our closest allies there (aka the "Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq") are unabashed Islamists.

Posted by: alex at July 23, 2007 04:43 PM

The term Suicide usually applies to an individual’s intent to kill only himself while Homicide is to kill another person or persons. Suicide is a desperate final self destructive act of a disturbed individual and should be viewed with pity. Homicide is the act of a sociopath and should be met with contempt. It is likely true that the terrorists who use human bombs probably seek out those individuals who are willing to sacrifice themselves for money to feed their surviving families, or those unable to refuse for whatever reason, but surely mass murder of a perceived enemy is the willful intent of many of these individuals, which makes them sociopaths and murderers. I think Homicide Bombers is an apt title. Homicide is the act, Suicide the by-product. While it is a fine distinction, it is a distinction with a meaning.

Posted by: lindsey at July 23, 2007 05:50 PM

Islamofascism in general and homicide bombers in particular are cancers that requires radical surgery and very careful rehabilitation. Some healthy cells will die and that is regrettable...very regrettable. The only other alternatives are to either complain about it, ignore it, or bend to its purpose. Which one are you?

Posted by: John at July 23, 2007 06:26 PM

[blockquote]greg,

hard to respond without being accused of insults.[/blockquote]

That's because that is your agenda, and furthermore your arguments lack accuracy and substance. And so insults are all you have.

[blockquote]you got it backwards: i am NOT anti-american. on the contrary, i want america to stop exacerbating its decline. it's those like you who support this blunder of a war and a mindless, ignorant, stupid and suicidal policy in the me that are anti-american, no matter how much they pound their chests as patriots.[/blockquote]

Wow. Mindless, ignorant, stupid, AND suicidal! Anymore adjectives? I think one more and you'd have swayed me. I take it back, you're probably not anti-American per se... just when it suits your intellectual vanity. Like it or not, your position is the poison that Al Qaida is counting on to bring about our defeat. Please refer to the writings of Zarqawi in Iraq.

[blockquote]we toppled taliban because IT ACTUALLY GAVE asylum to OBL, and it allowed him to train his troops there; you were talking about the INTENTION of saddam, which is what my "softball" referred to.[/blockquote]

Oh that's right... the man who had already provided sanctuary and support to Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, Abdul Rahman Yasin, Khala Khadar al-Salahat, and Mahmoud Besharat would never have protected or provided material support to Osama Bin Laden. Because he was secular. And OBL a hated Islamist. All those people I just mentioned were secular too. Yeah... that's it.

[blockquote]furthermore, the taliban is a co-religionist with AQ; saddam is a mortal enemy. that's why, in dealing with the arab world, you must know enough to distinguish between bluff and reality. which neither the us govt, nor most americans, including you, don't.[/blockquote]

Good thing we have geniuses like yourself to set us straight.

The "arab world" is used to dealing with pussies like you who think you know everything, and lack the fortitude to deal with their threats. See Jimmy Carter circa 1979. There is only one way to deal with the threats posed by regimes like Saddam Hussein's. And your way aint it. We already know you don't have the guts to fight. We won't ask you to. Just shut up and get out of the way. That's all we ask.

Sorry Michael... I won't hijack the thread... my last post. I know there's no swaying people like this.. just blowing off some steam.

Posted by: Greg Boyer at July 23, 2007 06:27 PM

And thank you lindsey, that pretty much sums it up without any of my rancor ;p

Posted by: John at July 23, 2007 06:27 PM

Islamofascism in general and homicide bombers in particular are cancers that requires radical surgery and very careful rehabilitation.

Paging Dr. John, you're wanted in the psych ward for an evaluation. Everyone knows that 'Homicide bombing' in Iraq is clearly on the rise. So this 'radical surgery' of which you speak for whatever reason isn't working -- it may even be yielding results opposite those intended.

Also, it so happens that the USA is in league with the dreaded Islamo-nazis (Iraq's ruling party). wasn't the chemo of democracy supposed to kill those cells? This simple in-office procedure has gone horribly wrong and it seems like the patient may sue!! He went in to have his tonsils removed and emerged an HIV infected transsexual. I smell a lawsuit.

Posted by: alex at July 23, 2007 06:54 PM

FP is effectively a troll. Either agree with him, and his version of "Knowledge & Reason" on any given topic, or you are the enemy.

He is consistently and rabidly anti-American.

Since he is convinced that the U.S., and Western Civilization in general, is doomed, I'm sure that Romania would be glad to have him return to his homeland.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at July 23, 2007 07:02 PM

Just shut up and get out of the way. That's all we ask.

Oh and pay the "many-hundreds of thousands" salaries of our contractor buddies, and keep us equipped with a few billion dollars worth of supplies every couple of weeks... oh, and let us have use of the national guard.

Other than that, who needs you, ya pussified dhimmi wimps? Oo-rah! Let's kick some Islamo-Ass!

Posted by: alex at July 23, 2007 07:04 PM

ron,

you dk what america means. you're an idiot.

Posted by: fp at July 23, 2007 08:02 PM

greg, baby, how many years of army service did you do beyond my service in the israeli army, both regular and reserves? and you have the nerve to talk to me about wimps?

when i was facing arabs you probably were not even born. saddam's scuds landed next to me during the 2nd gulf war i am the opposite of who you think i am, you idiot.

you're the typical ignoramus who thinks he knows everything but knows nothing. you pound your chest and act mindlessly macho because you have no clue how to act smart. it's the likes of you who are driving the US down the drain and you are too dumb to realize it.

too bad you can't buy brains at the supermarket.

Posted by: fp at July 23, 2007 08:16 PM

FP, But you can buy brains at the supermarket.

Oh, human?, try China. = TG

Posted by: TG at July 24, 2007 12:41 AM

Looking forward to your next post Michael.

What is the general perception of the GI's you meet to you, and other netcentric journalists (as opposed to traditional media such as the networks, newspapers and magazines)? I would have to believe that the GI's are aware of persons such as yourself and Mr. Yon.

Regards,

Posted by: Ron Snyder at July 24, 2007 04:27 AM

we'd have to worry about Saddam. Eventually we would have had to take him out. If not now, later. If not under Bush, under some future president

Of course, Saddam was only 66 years old and ruling an impoverished ethnically divided third-world shithole with no real allies or influence in the Arab world. We had no choice but to take him out. Imagine the consequences if he had, you know, died of a heart attack or a stroke 10 years later.

If I was arguing the hawk case, a better story would be - we had to prevent his psychotic sons from taking power after Saddam died or simply became too old to rule. Seems like there should have been an easier way though.

Posted by: vanya at July 24, 2007 06:08 AM

"The Iranian revolution of 1979 was a Shi'ite revolution, not an Islamic revolution. With Islam being split into two main factions, when one side has a revolution it does not mean the other side follows suit. Al-Qaida is Sunni, NOT Shi'ite."

Connections between terrorists of all "sides" are well documented. Hamas (who are nominally Sunni) are supported by Iran and the Iraqi Shiites fought on Saddam's side against Iran. The silly idea that Shiites and Sunnis don't mix seems like the last refuge of those who don't want to see reality.

"In fact, in 2002 and 2003 Iran was quite helpful in our battle against the Taliban and Al-Qaida. The Bush administration, of course, kept this quiet,"

No, it is well known. (But I do find that many liberals are badly informed and many keep telling me that something I have known for years was difficult to find out, for them.)

However, Stalin helped against Hitler and that didn't make him an angel.

Do you remember the old days when liberals denounced right-wingers for supporting evil in a fight against another evil? Now George Bush apparently decided not to do that any more, and that makes him bad?

"Well, seeing that Iran is not our enemy in Iraq, attacking them is pointless and destructive."

I don't know how we are "seeing that Iran is not our enemy". Iran is clearly supporting terrorism in Iraq.

As for Syria, the Lebanese hate Syria, the PLO don't like Syria (because of their support for Hamas), Saudi Arabia and most other Arab countries dislike Syria. Syria is the only terrorist-supporting country that is disliked by even the most terror-friendly Arab countries. So what's wrong about focusing on Syria?

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at July 24, 2007 06:14 AM

Two criticisms of the post:

1) In all of your lengthy post about Iraq, we learn next to nothing about Iraq and a whole lot about how personally uncomfortable you found it getting there. Presumably there were soldiers you could talk to, but pretty much the only indication you give us that you did is when you write: "Lots of them are from Georgia and Texas." (and it might have been interesting to note that statistically soldiers from TX and GA are not the roll-call leaders in Iraq). It's entirely possible, even likely, that any interview attempts you made got snubbed, and if that's the case you should say so. Otherwise it seems like either you didn't bother, or what the soldiers had to say didn't support the pre-existing thesis for your post.

2)
After having spent several days Baghdad’s Green Zone and Red Zone, I still haven’t heard or seen any explosions. It’s a peculiar war. It is almost a not-war. Last July’s war in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon was hundreds of times more violent and terrifying than this one. Explosions on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border were constant when I was there.
Just offensive any way you look at it. You personally have not seen much violence ergo the war is not violent? That is incompetent journalism at best and insidious propaganda at worst.

I guess I wouldn't feel the need to comment at all if your fans didn't constantly praise your work as an objective account.

Posted by: Naha at July 24, 2007 06:42 AM

Thanks for the report Michael. I'm very encouraged with Gen Petreaus and our US Armed Forces, things are not as bad as we Americans are forced to believe.

That said, isn't the reason why the Kurdish area of Iraq is far more secure than the rest of Iraq due to a decade of no-fly zones in which American forces where protecting the Kurds from Saddam's slaughter? None at the time were demanding we pull out of Kurdistan further, I'd even propose that many Americans were clueless to the no-fly zone era.

Seems to me that if American forces can continue to provide security while killing the bad guys it won't be too long now before the rest of Iraq looks like the Kurdish north.

On the topic of our mainstream media here's a wonderful quote I'll share:

"If you're not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppression" Malcolm X

We all know who the mainstream American media openly hates and who they love.

Posted by: syn at July 24, 2007 06:50 AM

Vanya,

I fail to see how his being 66 years old makes any difference considering he could easily have lived another twenty, not to mention his two sons (thanks for bringing that up).

North Korea doesn't have any allies either. Can you imagine if they were sitting on the second largest oil well in the world? No thanks.

Posted by: Carlos at July 24, 2007 09:17 AM

After having spent several days Baghdad’s Green Zone and Red Zone, I still haven’t heard or seen any explosions.

Stick around and you'll hear explosions. In fact, if my experience of 17 months in the IZ holds, you'll be face down in the dirt a few times after hearing the whoosh - WHAM! of 107mm rockets or sudden CRUMP of mortars.

It’s a peculiar war. It is almost a not-war.

Walk out any of the gates and you'll find out how "not-war" it is.

Posted by: Alone Star at July 24, 2007 10:09 AM

to all

happy to see a mostly civil discussion with few personal attacks. a couple of points:

1. i've heard of absolutely no one who advocates ignoring our problem of terrorism, global jihad, whatever you want to call it. weonly disagree with methods and strategy to address it.

2. whether you support the occupation or not, can we all agree that it is incredibly irresponsible to incur massive budgetary debt in order to fund this operation? or, to be less verbose, imho, we can have a war, or we can cut taxes, but we cannot have both. i'm not smart enough to predict the result of this enormous debt, but my gut feeling is that it can't be good.

thanks, and stay civil, even as you disagree.

Posted by: j d at July 24, 2007 10:20 AM

Naha: Presumably there were soldiers you could talk to

I am not allowed to conduct interviews while traveling. So I wrote a travel piece. Okay?

Real reporting is coming soon. I'm busy. It's hard to write here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 24, 2007 10:23 AM

naha,

that was my instinctive reaction too. what was astounding is how some thought it refuted the whole mass media. it's hard without grey matter.

however, reporting from iraq is quite difficult, to put it politely. that's one reason why most of news coming out of there is extremely limited and not very reliable.

i very much doubt that mike is gonna be able to resolve that problem, particularly since he does not have free and thorough geographic coverage. but let's give him a chance to try.

i am personally doubtful.

Posted by: fp at July 24, 2007 11:22 AM

MJT,

I would be particularly interested in you talking about what motivates the sunni insurgents. Do they want separation? They have no oil. Or haven't they thought past the day U.S. troops withdraw. They'll get slaughtered by the shiaas. So what motivates those morons.

Posted by: Carlos at July 24, 2007 11:39 AM

'incur massive budgetary debt'

Not sure how this years $63 billion military budget (5% GNP) could ever complete with the yearly bloated and corrupt $1 trillion, 320 billion entitlement program (almost 15% GNP) which does not include the $29 billion in entitlement pork used to pay for those companies and organization run and operated by the sons and daughters of those powerful politcians in Congress.

I propose cutting the $1 trillion,320 billion entitlement budget first then talk about the need to raise taxes to fund defense budget which, by the way, is constitutionally required by the federal government.

Posted by: syn at July 24, 2007 11:43 AM

carlos,

yup, but there are problems reporting on that.

mjt must have access to the insurgents, which he does not. he will have to rely on the opinion of the army, which varies, is not always unbiased, and is quite often in error.

whether or not mjt can do a better job this way than MSM remains to be seen. but ANY information from iraq obtained this way must be taken with a grain of salt.

Posted by: fp at July 24, 2007 11:48 AM

syn

of course, i absolutely agree that we should trim pork barrel spending. defining what that is may be more subjective than we'd like to admit. ted stevens' so-called 'bridge to nowhere' comes to my mind. i think it would be fair to say that some social programs are necessary, some are well-intentioned but unnecessary, and some are downright bad ideas.

i also agree that we must fund and maintain the best military in the world. in the mid-to-late 1990's we did it while building a budgetary surplus.

however, i cannot believe your claim of a '$63 billion military budget'.

in 2005, we spent $401.7 billion.

in 2006, it was $419.3 billion.

in 2007, it will total $439.3 billion, and i believe that didn't include an additional $50 billion for operations in iraq and afghanistan.

the source for my figures is the president's own website, whitehouse.gov. as the cbo's website lists significantly higher figures, and the congress doles out the funding, we might be led to believe that the executive's figures are understated.

as for percentage of gdp, according to the cbo's graph, it looked to be about 6.5 in 1983, 3 in 2004, and 4 in 2007, so you were pretty close to the mark there.

hope this helps.

Posted by: j d summers at July 24, 2007 03:19 PM

[...]

Do you remember the old days when liberals denounced right-wingers for supporting evil in a fight against another evil? Now George Bush apparently decided not to do that any more, and that makes him bad?
-Andrew Brehm

This is a big part of why I don't take most of the leftist advocates of a 'moral foreign policy' at all seriously- I used to think such people were merely naive, now I think they're very likely to be naive, partisan hypocrites.

There are a very few notable exceptions, such as Christopher Hitchens, but leftists who are willing to give GWB some credit for trying to create a genuine representative democracy instead of an authoritarian state with democratic trappings run by a lesser evil are few and far between.

-----

2. whether you support the occupation or not, can we all agree that it is incredibly irresponsible to incur massive budgetary debt in order to fund this operation? or, to be less verbose, imho, we can have a war, or we can cut taxes, but we cannot have both. i'm not smart enough to predict the result of this enormous debt, but my gut feeling is that it can't be good.
-jd

No. In my opinion, paying for military operations is one of the few valid justifications for running a deficit. Peacetime budgets should be balanced, but during a shooting war, the priority should be winning, not balancing the checkbook.

With that said, revenues are increasing, the deficit is shrinking, and the economy is growing. I don't know (and it would be extremely difficult to prove) if Bush's tax cuts are responsible, but they don't seem to be hurting. I am much more concerned about the expansion of entitlement spending and Bush's unwillingness to rein in congressional pork than I am about current military expenditures.

Of course, if the Democrats really want to incorporate a "Repeal Bush's tax cuts" plank in the 2008 platform, by all means, go for it. Most people who aren't dogmatic leftists will correctly understand it to mean "We want to raise your taxes", and the Republicans could use the boost. ;-)

i also agree that we must fund and maintain the best military in the world. in the mid-to-late 1990's we did it while building a budgetary surplus.
- j d summers

Actually, we did it by cutting the manpower of the US military about in half. Considering the current troop shortages, which is the reason the reserves, National Guard, and private contractors are being used so heavily, I am very reluctant to praise that decision.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:US_military_personnel_and_expenditures.png

Posted by: rosignol at July 24, 2007 05:44 PM

Moving fun liberal theories aside. Here is an attempt to sketch reality.

Maliki decided to back off when a smack down for for Muqtada and his black shirts was called for in Sadr City.

We saw Maliki and Acmahdinejad kissing each other profusely during a televised meeting.

So Maliki is strongly in favour of the Shia cause.

The West has to go along with a Shia leader because while the Sunni are an Iraq minority, they are not a minority in the wider region and could easily re-install a number of bad people used to abusing power.

A dilemma to be sure, yet the recent trend of al Qaeda members giving up their evil leaders because they are sickened by the disgusting atrocities they promote daily, is a bright note indeed.

Grand Ayatolla Sistani may be more a moderate leader. = TG

Posted by: TG at July 24, 2007 07:03 PM

yup, so moderate that he refuses to meet with any infidel. give me a break.

the us has no business separating between shia and sunni. in fact, it's in its interest to have them at each other's throat. let the iranians fight the arabs/saudis. divided and busy is the west's interest.

Posted by: fp at July 24, 2007 07:58 PM

Michael,

Great reporting. So is the next story about the patrol with the 82nd. Like Michael Yon, you tell an actual story and one that seems to want to portray what it is really like over there versus just report a national body count with no analysis as the MSM does. THANK YOU.

An idea: why don't you and Yon team together and create your own independant journalist group? In the alternative, how about informally coordinating your locations and stories? I think that would create a bit of synergistic effect that we would all appreciate. That and because Yon, and now you, are the only sources I consider 100% reliable. I do because I was there in OIF II (Mar '04 to Mar '05) and your description of things is spot on.

Posted by: Tyler McIntyre at July 25, 2007 10:10 AM

Hmmm... Well, I heard about the "Duelfer Report" here from defenders of the Iraq invasion (which I would have considered acceptable in retrospect, if it had "turned out well" but I digress.) Commenters said that Saddam was waiting to reconstitute his nuclear program, but that isn't the impression I get reading this:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12115-2004Oct6.html
U.S. 'Almost All Wrong' on Weapons
Report on Iraq Contradicts Bush Administration Claims

By Dana Priest and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 7, 2004; Page A01

The 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequent U.N. inspections destroyed Iraq's illicit weapons capability and, for the most part, Saddam Hussein did not try to rebuild it, according to an extensive report by the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq that contradicts nearly every prewar assertion made by top administration officials about Iraq.

Charles A. Duelfer, whom the Bush administration chose to complete the U.S. investigation of Iraq's weapons programs, said Hussein's ability to produce nuclear weapons had "progressively decayed" since 1991. Inspectors, he said, found no evidence of "concerted efforts to restart the program."

The findings were similar on biological and chemical weapons. While Hussein had long dreamed of developing an arsenal of biological agents, his stockpiles had been destroyed and research stopped years before the United States led the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Duelfer said Hussein hoped someday to resume a chemical weapons effort after U.N. sanctions ended, but had no stocks and had not researched making the weapons for a dozen years.
...

Posted by: Neil B. at August 9, 2007 12:48 PM
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