July 24, 2007

In the Wake of the Surge

By Michael J. Totten

In the Wake of the Surge.JPG

BAGHDAD – 82nd Airborne’s Lieutenant William H. Lord from Foxborough, Massachusetts, prepared his company for a dismounted foot patrol in the Graya’at neighborhood of Northern Baghdad’s predominantly Sunni Arab district of Adhamiyah.

“While we’re out here saying hi to the locals and everyone seems to be getting along great,” he said, “remember to keep up your military bearing. Someone could try to kill you at any moment.”

Gearing Up War Eagle.JPG

I donned my helmet and vest, hopped into the backseat of a Humvee, and headed into the streets of the city with two dozen of the first infantry soldiers deployed to Iraq for the surge. The 82nd Airborne Division is famous for being ready to roll within 24 hours of call up, so they were sent first.

The surge started with these guys. Its progress here is therefore more measurable than it is anywhere else.

Darkness fell almost immediately after sunset. Microscopic dust particles hung in the air like a fog and trapped the day’s savage heat in the atmosphere.

Our convoy of Humvees passed through a dense jungular grove of palm and deciduous trees between Forward Operating Base War Eagle and the market district of Graya’at. The drivers switched off their headlights so insurgents and terrorists could not see us coming. They drove using night vision goggles as eyes.

Night Vision Grayat Road.jpg

Just to the right of my knees were the feet of the gunner. He stood in the middle of the Humvee and manned a machine gun in a turret sticking out of the top. I could hear him swiveling his cannon from side to side and pointing it into the trees as we approached the urban sector in their area of operations.

This was all purely defensive. The battalion I’m embedded with here in Baghdad hasn’t suffered a single casualty – not even one soldier wounded – since they arrived in the Red Zone in January. The surge in this part of the city could not possibly be going better than it already is. Most of Graya’at’s insurgents and terrorists who haven’t yet fled are either captured, dormant, or dead.

A car approached our Humvee with its lights on.

“I can’t see, I can’t see,” said the driver. Bright lights are blinding with night vision goggles. “Flash him with the laser,” he said to the gunner. “Flash him with the laser!”

A green laser beam shot out from the gunner’s turret toward the windshield of the oncoming car. The headlights went out.

“What was that about?” I said.

“It’s part of our rules of engagement,” the driver said. “They all know that. The green laser is a warning, and it’s a little bit scary because it looks like a weapon is being pointed at them.”

We slowly rolled into the market area. Smiling children ran up to and alongside the convoy and excitedly waved hello. It felt like I was riding with a liberating army.

Graya’at’s streets are quiet and safe. It doesn’t look or feel like war zone at all. American soldiers just a few miles away are still engaged in almost daily firefights with insurgents and terrorists, but this part of the city has been cleared by the surge.

Before the surge started the neighborhood was much more dangerous than it is now.

“We were on base at Camp Taji [north of the city] and commuting to work,” Major Jazdyk told me earlier. “The problem with that was that the only space we dominated was inside our Humvees. So we moved into the neighborhoods and live there now with the locals. We know them and they know us.”

Lieutenant Lawrence Pitts from Fayetteville, North Carolina, elaborated. “We patrol the streets of this neighborhood 24/7,” he said. “We knock on doors, ask people what they need help with. We really do what we can to help them out. We let them know that we’re here to work with them to make their city safe in the hopes that they’ll give us the intel we need on the bad guys. And it worked.”

The area of Baghdad just to the south of us, which the locals think of as downtown Adhamiyah, is surrounded by a wall recently built by the Army. It is not like the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank. Pedestrians can cross it at will. Only the roads are blocked off. Vehicles are routed through two very strict checkpoints. Weapons transporters and car bombers can’t get in or out.

The area inside the wall is mostly Sunni. The areas outside the wall are mostly Shia. Violence has been drastically reduced on both sides because Sunni militias – including Al Qaeda – are kept in, and Shia militias – including Moqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army, are kept out.

Graya’at is a mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhood immediately to the north of the wall.

We dismounted our Humvees and set up a vehicle checkpoint on the far side of the market area. Curfew was going into effect. Anyone trying to drive into the area would be searched.

Dozens of Iraqi civilians milled about on the streets.

“Salam Aleikum,” said the soldiers and I as we walked past.

“Aleikum as Salam,” said each in return.

They really did seem happy to see us.

Three Guys Laughing with Cigarette and Juice Grayat.jpg

Two Guys Grayat.JPG

Children ran up to me.

“Mister, mister, mister!” they said and pantomimed the snapping of photos. I lifted my camera to my face and they nodded excitedly.

Kids in Orange and Blue Grayat.JPG

Cute Kid with Striped Shirt Grayat.jpg

A large group of men gathered around a juice vendor and greeted us warmly as we approached. A large man in a flowing dishdasha spoke English and, judging by the deference showed to him by the others, seemed to be a community leader of some sort.

Fat Man Grayat.JPG

Kids pulled on my shirt as Lieutenant Lord spoke to the group about a gas station the Army is helping set up in the neighborhood. Gasoline is more important to Iraqis than it is to even Americans. Baghdad is as much an automobile-based city as Los Angeles. They also need fuel for electric generators. Baghdad’s electrical grid only supplies one hour of electricity every day. It is ancient, overloaded, in severe disrepair, and is sabotaged by the insurgents. The outside temperature rarely drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, even at night. Air conditioners aren’t luxuries here. They are requirements. No gasoline? No air conditioner.

“The gas station on the corner should be opening soon,” the lieutenant said to the group of men. “Do you think the prices are fair?”

The fat man understood the question. Our young interpreter from Beirut, Lebanon, who calls herself “Shine,” translated for everyone else.

Lebanese Interpreter.jpg

Most gasoline in Iraq has to be purchased on the black market for four times the commercial and government rate partly because there is an acute lack of proper places to sell it. A new gas station in this country is actually a big deal.

The men thought the price of gasoline at the station was reasonable. The conversation continued mundanely and I quickly grew bored.

Everyone was friendly. No one shot at us or even looked at us funny. Infrastructure problems, not security, were the biggest concerns at the moment. I felt like I was in Iraqi Kurdistan – where the war is already over – not in Baghdad.

It was an edgy “Kurdistan,” though. Every now and then someone drove down the street in a vehicle. If any military-aged males (MAMs as the Army guys call them) were in the car, the soldiers stopped it and made everybody get out. The vehicle and the men were then searched.

Searching Truck Grayat.JPG

Everyone who was searched took it in stride. Some of the Iraqi men smirked slightly, as if the whole thing were a minor joke and a non-threatening routine annoyance that they had been through before. The procedure looked and felt more like airport security in the United States than, say, the more severe Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza.

Four Suspects Grayat.JPG

“What are you guys doing out after curfew?” said Sergeant Lizanne.

“I’m sorry, sorry,” said a young Iraqi man in a striped blue and tan t-shirt.

“There is no sorry,” said Sergeant Lizanne. “I don’t give a shit. The curfew is at the same time every night. I don’t want to have to start arresting you.”

“Why are you stopping these guys,” I said to Lieutenant Lord, “when there are so many other people milling around on the streets?”

“Because they’re MAMs who are driving,” he said. “We’re going easy on everyone else. We’ve already oppressed these people enough. They have a night culture in the summer, so if they aren’t military aged males driving cars we leave them alone. We were very heavy-handed in 2003. Now we’re trying to move forward together. At least 90 percent of them are normal fun-loving people.”

“Do they ever get pissed off when you search them?” I said.

“Not very often,” he said. “They understand we’re trying to protect them.”

Suspect with Cigarette Grayat.jpg

“This is not what I expected in Baghdad,” I said.

“Most of what we’re doing doesn’t get reported in the media,” he said. “We’re not fighting a war here anymore, not in this area. We’ve moved way beyond that stage. We built a soccer field for the kids, bought all kinds of equipment, bought them school books and even chalk. Soon we’re installing 1,500 solar street lamps so they have light at night and can take some of the load off the power grid. The media only covers the gruesome stuff. We go to the sheiks and say hey man, what kind of projects do you want in this area? They give us a list and we submit the paperwork. When the projects get approved, we give them the money and help them buy stuff.”

Not everything they do is humanitarian work, unless you consider counter-terrorism humanitarian work. In my view, you should. Few Westerners think of personal security as a human right, but if you show up in Baghdad I’ll bet you will. Personal security may, in fact, be the most important human right. Without it the others mean little. People aren’t free if they have to hide in their homes from death squads and car bombs.

In another part of Graya’at is an area called the Fish Market. Gates were installed at each entrance so terrorists can’t drive car bombs inside. The people here are extraordinarily grateful for this. Businesses, not cars, are booming now at the market. Residents feel free and safe enough to go out.

Smiling Kid Grayat Night.JPG

“The kids here do seem to like you,” I said to Lieutenant Lord.

“They do,” he said. “In Sadr City, though, they throw rocks and flip us off.”

The American military is staying out of Sadr City for now. The surge hasn’t even begun there, and I don’t know if it will.

I wandered over to the man selling juice at a stand. An American soldier bought a glass from him.

Buying Juice Grayat.JPG

“Have you tried this juice?” the soldier said to me. “It’s really good stuff. Here have a sip.”

He handed me the glass. It was an excellent mixture of freshly squeezed orange juice and something else. Pineapple, I think.

The kids kept pulling my shirt.

“Mister, mister!” they said, wanting me to take their picture.

Two Boys Grayat.JPG

The same kids kept pestering the soldiers, as well. They seemed to get a big kick out of it.

Soldier with Two Kids Grayat.jpg

A small group of soldiers continued talking to the locals about community projects they’re helping out with.

Three Men Grayat.JPG

I tried to listen in but the kids wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally one of the adults took mercy on me and shooed the children away so I could listen and talk to the grownups. The conversation, though, was mundane. The soldiers were talking and acting like aid workers, not warriors from the elite 82nd Airborne Division.

“Man, this is boring,” one of them said to me later. “I’m an adrenaline junky. There’s no fight here. It won’t surprise me if we start handing out speeding tickets.” So it goes in at least this part of Baghdad that has been cleared by the surge.

“When we first got here,” said another and laughed, “shit hit the fan.”

It was all a bit boring, but blessedly so. I knew already that not everyone in Baghdad was hostile. But it was slightly surprising to see that entire areas in the Red Zone are not hostile.

Anything can happen in Baghdad, even so. The convulsive, violent, and overtly hostile Sadr City is only a few minutes drive to the southeast.

“Want to walk past your favorite house?” Lieutenant Lord said to Sergeant Lizanne.

“Let’s do it,” said Sergeant Lizanne.

“What’s your favorite house?” I said.

“It’s a house we walked past one night,” said Sergeant Lizanne. “Some guys on the roof locked and loaded on us.”

Gun shots rang out in the far distance. None of the Iraqis paid much attention but the soldiers perked up and stiffened their posture like hunting dogs.

“Gun shots,” Lieutenant Lord said.

“I heard,” I said. “You going to do anything about it?”

“Nah,” he said and shrugged. “They were far away and could be anything, even shots fired in the air at a wedding. A lot of these guys are stereotypical Arabs.”

The gun shots were a part of the general ambience.

*

We walked along a narrow path along the banks of the Tigris River in darkness. “The house,” as they called it, where someone locked and loaded a rifle, was a quarter mile or so up ahead.

Tigris at Night 1.JPG

“What will you do when you get to the house?” I asked Lieutenant Lord.

“We’ll do a soft-knock,” he said. “We’re not going to be dicks about it.”

I couldn’t see well, but I could see. Even my camera could see if I held it steady enough.

Palm Tree in Darkness Iraq.jpg

The soldiers had night vision goggles. They could see perfectly, if “green” counts as perfect. One of them let me borrow his for a few minutes.

Night Vision Soldier.jpg

Putting on the goggles was like stepping into another world. The soldiers’ rifles come with a laser that shoots a light visible only to those wearing the goggles. It helps soldiers zero in on their target. It also lets them “point” at things in the terrain when they talk to each other. Some used the green rifle laser to point out locations in the area the way a professor points at a chalk board with a stick.

Night Vision Laser.JPG

We walked in silence and darkness toward “the house.” I could just barely make out the silhouettes of the soldiers’ helmets and rifles and body armor in front of me.

“Where should I be when this goes down?” I quietly said to the lieutenant.

“Just stay next to me,” he whispered back.

We stopped in front of the house. It was shrouded in total darkness on the bank of the river.

The House at Night Grayat.JPG

Lieutenant Lord quietly signaled for half his platoon to go around to the other side of the house. I scanned the roof looking for snipers or gunmen, but didn’t see anyone. Still, I still decided to step up to the outer wall of the house so no one could shoot me from the roof.

We waited in silence for ten minutes. The area was absolutely quiet and still. The curfew was in effect and we were away from the main market area where pedestrians were allowed out after dark.

Feeling more relaxed, I stepped away from the house and toward the river. Once again I checked the roof for snipers or gun men. This time I saw the black outlines of two soldiers standing up there and motioning to us below.

It was time to walk around to the other side, to the front door, and go in. I stayed close to the lieutenant.

The other side of the house, the front side of the house, was lit by street lights. Children laughed and kicked around a soccer ball.

Gun shots rang out in the night, closer this time.

“Take a knee,” Lieutenant Lord said to one of his men.

The soldier got down on one knee and pointed his weapon down the street in the direction of the gunfire. The children kept playing soccer as though nothing had happened. I casually leaned against the wall of the house in case something nasty came down the street.

We heard no more shots. It could have been anything.

A soldier pushed open the gate and moved up the stairs toward the front door. I followed cautiously behind the lieutenant to make sure I wouldn’t get hit if something happened.

Up the stairs was an open area in the house that hadn’t yet been finished by the construction workers.

Inside the House Grayat.JPG

Lieutenant Lord had gotten far ahead of me. I found him speaking to an old man and his family. He, his military age son, his wife, and some children were herded into a single small room where everyone could be watched at the same time.

Kids in House Grayat.JPG

“We’re not going to be dicks about it,” he had said, and he lived up to his promise. The family was treated with utmost respect. The old woman blew kisses at us. The children smiled. This was not a raid.

I stepped into the room and noticed a picture of the moderate Shia cleric Ayatollah Sistani on the wall. It suddenly seemed unlikely that this family was hostile. Still, someone in the house had locked and loaded on patrolling American soldiers.

“We have tight relationships with some of the people whose sons are detainees,” Lieutenant Colonel Wilson A. Shoffner had told me earlier. “They don’t approve of their children joining Al Qaeda or the Mahdi Army. The support for these groups really isn’t that high.”

Perhaps the man’s son was the one who had locked and loaded.

The old man handed Lieutenant Lord an AK-47. The lieutenant pulled out the clip.

“Do you have any more guns,” he said. Our Lebanese interpreter translated.

“I have only one gun,” he said. “I am an old man.”

“I have a pistol,” said the man’s son.

“If you go down into Adhamiyah do you take your pistol with you?” said the lieutenant. Adhamiyah is a Sunni-majority area, and this family was Shia.

“No,” he said. “Of course not.”

Old Man and Young Man in House Grayat.JPG

“Someone here locked and loaded on me when we did a foot patrol along the river a while ago,” Lieutenant Lord said. “Who was it?”

The old man laughed. “It was me!” he said and laughed again. He couldn’t stop laughing. He even seemed slightly relieved. “I thought it might have been insurgents! It was dark. I couldn’t see who it was. All Americans are my sons.”

Lieutenant Lord looked at him dubiously.

“What did you see?” he said. “Tell me the story of what you saw.”

“I heard people walking,” said the old man. “I did not see Americans. I looked over the roof and heard who I guess was your interpreter speaking Arabic.”

“Sergeant Miller,” Lieutenant Lord said.

“Sir,” Sergeant Miller said.

“Does that sound right to you?”

“Sounds right to me, LT,” he said.

“If this is a nice neighborhood,” Lieutenant Lord said, “why did you lock and load?”

“I thought maybe there were insurgents down there,” the old man said.

Are there insurgents here?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t think here, no.”

“Then why lock and load?”

The old man mumbled something.

“Sergeant Miller, I want to separate the old man from his family,” Lieutenant Lord said. “Keep an eye on them.”

The lieutenant walked the old man to the roof. I followed.

“I’m very concerned about what you’re telling me,” he said. “Who is making you live in fear?”

“I’m a good guy,” said the old man.

“I’m not saying you aren’t,” said the lieutenant. “I’m just very concerned that you are afraid of somebody here.”

“It was the first time. It was dark. I couldn’t see. I’m very sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said the lieutenant. “You don’t need to be sorry. You have the right to defend yourself and your home. Just be sure if you have to shoot someone that you know who you’re shooting at. Thank you for your help, and I am sorry for waking you up.”

The old man hugged the lieutenant and kissed him on his both cheeks.

The family waved us goodbye.

“Ma Salema,” I said and felt slightly guilty for being there.

We walked back to the Humvees.

“Do you believe him?” I said to the lieutenant. I have no idea how to tell when an Iraqi is lying.

“I do,” he said. “I think he’s a good guy. His story matched what happened.”

“He didn’t want to answer your question, though,” I said, “about who he is afraid of.”

There are terrible stories around here about the masked men of the death squads. Sometimes they break into people’s houses and asking the children who they’re afraid of. If they name the enemies of the death squad, they are spared. If they name the death squad itself, they and their families are killed. It’s a wicked interrogation because it cannot be beaten – the children don’t know which death squad has broken into the house.

“He didn’t want to say who he’s afraid of because he’s afraid,” Lieutenant Lord said. “If the insurgents find out he gave information to us, or that he helped us, he’s dead.”

Postscript: Please support independent journalism. Traveling to and working in Iraq is expensive. I can’t publish dispatches on this Web site for free without substantial reader donations, 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.

Blog Patron Button.gif

If you prefer to use Pay Pal, that is still an option.

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

Michael Totten
P.O. Box 312
Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 24, 2007 11:41 AM
Comments

Wow!! First!

Greetings from PDX Michael!

Great story today. I get the feeling that you are mightily surprised at the events you are seeing there in Baghdad. Sure makes for some encouraging news. I've really enjoyed your work. I put you way up the Respected Journalist list along with Michael Yon. You can see its a pretty exclusive list. Now there's two people on it...

Take Care Michael, keep up the good work.
Love to buy you a beer when you get back home...

Tim B

Posted by: PDX Tim at July 24, 2007 12:04 PM

Solid job.

Very interesting report.

Posted by: Edgar at July 24, 2007 12:08 PM

It's difficult to imagine abandoning these people to the savagery of al-Qaeda. Especially the children.

Posted by: Michael Smith at July 24, 2007 12:14 PM

That is some solid reporting. Very different from the usual canned MSM stuff we get from the Green Zone Hilton hotel bar. That deserves a contribution to the Totten tip jar.

Posted by: Carlos at July 24, 2007 12:17 PM

It's difficult to imagine abandoning these people to the savagery of al-Qaeda. Especially the children.

Agreed. Unfortunately most people voting Democrat have no problem whatsoever imagining such a thing.

Posted by: Carlos at July 24, 2007 12:21 PM

Hello, Michael. Your work continues to be excellent, even more so than usual.

This is a ridiculously bold and presumptious request for me to make, but do you have any means to report and/or verify that Iran is indeed supplying material against US troops? Training? Manpower? I realize that may not be relevant to your mission or area. Just thought it worth requesting.

Posted by: Matt Snyder at July 24, 2007 01:18 PM

Boy, I envy you, Michael!
Thank you so much for your reporting.
One little suggestion if I may that would help your credibility with the soldiers you're riding with (actually two):
1. AK's have "magazines", NOT "clips"--a magazine encloses the ammunition
2. A "cannon" is not the same as a machine gun

Keep up the great work!

Posted by: Stan T. at July 24, 2007 01:19 PM

Good stuff.
I am curious about the Lebanese interpreter's story. What made her go to Iraq?

Posted by: Keith at July 24, 2007 01:23 PM

But...but...everybody knows the war is lost and that American Soldiers are animals!! How can we believe your lying eyes when people in Washington and New York have reliable sources that tell them about the horror?
Ahh Michael, resistance if futile. Give up now.

Seriously, thank you for all you do(again) and keep up speaking the truth!!

Posted by: TBinSTL at July 24, 2007 01:30 PM

Great reporting, refreshing. It's sadly astonishing how little of this is reported in the MSM, certainly so without the more subtle and less subtle forms of PC spin, anti-administration spin, etc. Great stuff, simple enough, but great. As with Yon's reports this reminds me of my favorite quote on reporting:

"Serious, careful, honest journalism is essential, not because it is a guiding light but because it is a form of honorable behavior, involving the reporter and the reader." Martha Gellhorn

It's nice to read some serious, careful - and honest - journalism.

Support independent journalism.

Posted by: Michael B at July 24, 2007 01:35 PM

I'm a bit concerned that these people could be compromised by their photos being published on the net - should I be?

Posted by: Yehudit at July 24, 2007 01:37 PM

Thanks for reporting what's really going on--at least what else is really going on.

It's easier to believe we should stay when this sort of story gets out. Too bad the MSM will most likely ignore this because since it doesn't bleed, it'll never lead.

Thanks again, MT.

Posted by: Cosmo at July 24, 2007 01:41 PM

But then, 80+% of iraq is peaceful. Most of the peaceful places, there aren't any US soldiers.

It's good there are places where the insurgents are dormant, where there are US soldiers and no fighting. But don't we need 300,000 to 400,000 troops if we're going to do that many of the places there's fighting?

This is a pleasant story, but it isn't representative of the 80% of iraq where there's no fighting and no US troops, and it isn't representative of the 10% of iraq where US troops are fighting, and it isn't representative of the places where there's fighting and no US troops....

Still, it looks like a nice place to take journalists. Give them an upbeat view.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 24, 2007 02:19 PM

Thanks for the story Michael. It is good to know that you are alive and kicking.

I was surprised, at first to read about your going out on an armed patrol in Baghdad. But after reading the story I understand that it is fairly safe, as these things go.

I agree that this is not what I expected. It is certainly very different from what we hear from the MSM at home.

Michael, how different is the weather and terrain in Baghdad from Kurdistan? What about the architecture? Is what we saw in Dahook typical Arab or uniquely Kurdish?

And on a practical money making note, have you seen any good spots for a Starbucks? What about alcohol and tobacco? And can you get me another pack of Sobraine's

Stay safe and keep up the great reporting. -S

Posted by: Sean at July 24, 2007 02:19 PM

Well, if there is fear of insurgent reprisals if they hear about what the old man said, it may not have been too wise to publish their photo.

Posted by: james at July 24, 2007 02:24 PM

Michael - excellent reporting as always. It's disheartening that magazines like TNR would rather publish anonymous and dubious tales of soldier misconduct than an actual documented, first-person view of the scene. Glad it's getting out one way or another, though.

I have to echo Yehudit's concern - if the Iraqi family in the house by the river lives in fear of retribution, please don't put them at risk by publishing their photos!

Posted by: Hannibal S at July 24, 2007 02:42 PM

Wow!!! The two Michaels.

This is a quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10275b.htm):

Following these Scriptural passages, Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices:

* To fight against Satan.
* To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
* To be the champion of God's people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
* To call away from earth and bring men's souls to judgment ("signifer S. Michael repraesentet eas in lucam sanctam", Offert. Miss Defunct. "Constituit eum principem super animas suscipiendas", Antiph. off. Cf. "Hermas", Pastor, I, 3, Simil. VIII, 3).

Posted by: Lee P. at July 24, 2007 03:38 PM

I am having trouble determining if the people calling into question MJT's judgment about publishing the photos of local people, many of whom obviously sought his attention, are being intentionally patronizing and condescending, or if it is simply oblivious arrogance. Exactly what sensitive information did he divulge here? The old man specifically did NOT name names or implicate any one group in particular, something MJT went took care to mention, besides which, the death squads will murder whomever they wish regardless of what is on the internet. Mugging for the camera seems to be local sport among the young people, and openly showing hospitality to Americans is common. Yon has reported identical behavior innumerable times. I am sure when some of you are embedded in Iraq you will conduct yourselves much differently, but I will let MJT decide what is appropriate for HIS blog.
Well done MJT, Keep it up!

Posted by: MJT Fan at July 24, 2007 03:43 PM

Wow now I am REALLY glad I sent you a few measly dollars to help out. It was the least I could do.

Wish I could see the world as you do, but thanks muchly for the insights.

Your writing is a window into another world. Another world that you always try to fully explain to those who will never really personally experience it. I feel as if I am there with you.

Thanks,

Posted by: dougf at July 24, 2007 03:47 PM

Thanks for reporting what's really going on in Baghdad. I don't bother reading the NYTimes anymore. It's great to know the surge is effective and that most Iraqis are cooperating.

God bless our troops and keep them safe...and you too Mr. Totten. Stay safe.

Posted by: joyce at July 24, 2007 04:09 PM

Mr. Totten,

This is, again, an outstanding post. You adequately described a phenomenon that I have been aware of since my last tour in Iraq.

And, with that in mind, I want to respond to a quote from one of your reader’s comments. “J. Thomas” stated:

“Still, it looks like a nice place to take journalists. Give them an upbeat view.”

It seems that the suggestion is that Mr. Totten was embedded in a non-hostile area premeditatedly to ensure positive posts. The logic of this idea is, in and of itself, curious. There are numerous embedded journalists throughout Iraq. I couldn’t estimate the number myself with any assured sense of accuracy but no doubt anyone can imagine that the number is quite high. By this logic alone, certain dynamics can be inferred:

A) Here’s the premises: There are many embedded journalists. Embedded journalists must be placed in safe areas. The inference: There are many safe places in Iraq like the one where Mr. Totten currently reports.
B) Or… the condition in Iraq is not at as violence-plagued as some would be led to believe.

While the answer may be some mix of the two available options, I am going to suggest that “B” is the most accurate choice based on the knowledge gleaned from my own experiences.

Having served with an infantry battalion much like the one subjected in the post during a year in Ar Ramadi when Ar Ramadi was at its most conflicted, I can assure you that the violence is not as you might expect. Our unit suffered pretty massive causalities during our year. However, we patrolled every single day of that year. Those patrols lasted many hours. And, typically, even in then “chaotic” Ramadi, most patrols followed the same peaceful format as the one described in Mr. Totten’s post.

Even in the worst places, day-to-day activity is mundane and quiet. When attacks occur, they do so viciously. In my case, these resulted in my unit’s heavy causalities. Nonetheless, I rarely patrolled in fear. I knew that on most days, our patrol would result in an absence of action. Again, this was in a city considered to be one of the most violent of the war. This peculiar dynamic of the situation in Iraq is lost on Big Media.

It’s not totally their fault either. They can’t be privy to such conditions because most Big Media types don’t patrol everyday, get to know the citizens, or understand the social dynamics. They are reactive types instead of proactive. But we can’t necessarily expect them to be otherwise.

I just wanted to do my part to make everyone aware that Mr. Totten is not reporting the exception, but is instead becoming aware of the “rule.” I base this on my two years experience in the country, on the streets. I implore you to trust my judgment and, because of it, trust Mr. Totten’s assessment as well.

If you are interested in my experiences and my take on this situation then I would appreciate it if you would visit my own blog located here: http://educatedsoldier.blogspot.com

Thank you for your time. And thank you, Mr. Totten, for your courage and integrity.

Posted by: Steve B. at July 24, 2007 04:13 PM

Good stuff. We might as well stay forever if it's this awesome.

Posted by: Tuna at July 24, 2007 04:36 PM

MJT Fan:
At least in my case, chalk it up to ignorance if you must. Certainly no condescension intended. And yes, I do assume that Mr. Totten knows which photos to publish and which may put people at risk, but it seemed in this case a man who "If the insurgents find out he gave information to us, or that he helped us, [is] dead" may not want it known that he had a friendly relationship with US troops.

I'm sure Michael knows what he's doing - it was just a few readers' way of saying "are you sure?"

Posted by: Hannibal S at July 24, 2007 04:42 PM

Thank you for a great article.

Posted by: Cans at July 24, 2007 04:44 PM

"Still, it looks like a nice place to take journalists. Give them an upbeat view." J Thomas

And with the same attitude, thanks for clarifying the situation, saving the rest of us from our cossetted innocence and credulity.

More seriously now, Melanie Phillips frames another aspect of Iraq, Lions Led by Donkeys, excerpt:

"Fed up with being part of a group that cuts off a person’s face with piano wire to teach others a lesson, dozens of low-level members of al-Qaeda in Iraq are daring to become informants for the US military in a hostile Baghdad neighbourhood. The ground-breaking move in Doura is part of a wider trend that has started in other al-Qaeda hotspots across the country and in which Sunni insurgent groups and tribal sheikhs have stood together with the coalition against the extremist movement."

But no J Thomas, we do not now believe it's all "down hill" from here, we'd more simply like to see a human face put on it all, we'd like to see all the realities reported, before we decide what is and what is not possible, what can and what cannot be reasonably and responsibly hoped for.

Support independent journalism, support authentic journalism.

Posted by: Michael B at July 24, 2007 05:08 PM

Great post, Michael. Any sense as to how things are going elsewhere in the city? I know you mentioned Sadr City, but what about other neighborhoods?

Posted by: Michael at July 24, 2007 05:08 PM

These poor people - not only do they have to bow down to their local militia masters, but they have to kiss American ass as well. They have to kiss the ass of the people who invaded their country and stood by quietly as the place was wrecked. So, in essence, we're paying for this war twice, once to demolish the place and another to rebuild it. Excellent planning, Bush and Co.

Again, imagine having to pretend to love your occupiers -- it makes me sick to think of it.

I can only imagine how terrifying it was for the children in 'the house' to be awakened by a troop of robocop-looking guys and then watch as their father is degraded by Capt Robocop. Please don't ask me what was degrading about his treatment, if you have to ask, you have no heart or soul, seriously.

Can you imagine being 18 years old in Iraq and being harassed daily by these robocops? I imagine if you're a black male in an American city you must have some idea.

This whole story is quite sad. You Republicans looking for justification and redemption fail to see the big picture.

MJT, I am grateful for your work and courage. My disgust with American Foreign Policy has no bearing on my admiration for your work.

Posted by: Edan at July 24, 2007 05:40 PM

These poor people - not only do they have to bow down to their local militia masters, but they have to kiss American ass as well. They have to kiss the ass of the people who invaded their country and stood by quietly as the place was wrecked. So, in essence, we're paying for this war twice, once to demolish the place and another to rebuild it.

I've never been to Iraq, but I have been to other Middle Eastern countries, and the phenomenon of children rushing up to strange Americans, being nice to them and demanding to have their photographs taken is pretty consistent in that area of the world. Maybe these kids didn't grow up with irrational hatred of fictional characters like 'Robocop'.

The only time I've heard overt hatred of Americans (especially the American military) directly expressed in the Middle East is when I talk to Europeans or Brits. Or, from anti-military American leftists. It's quite sad that leftists looking for justification and redemption usually fail to see the big picture.

Posted by: mary at July 24, 2007 05:55 PM

Mary - are you really that naive or are you just kidding?

Posted by: Edan at July 24, 2007 06:28 PM

Great work, Michael. Stay safe.

Posted by: Abu Kais at July 24, 2007 06:36 PM

Michael,

Nice one. Remember to hydrate, get some Propel fitness water packets.

Stan T.,

The M2HB is a light auto-cannon in all but name. You are absolutely right to ding him on "clips" though. Next time we go shooting I'll drive the point home.

Sean,

I have a carton of Sobranies from the last trip. If you promise not to freak my wife out the next time I go to Iraq, I will let you have them at my cost.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 24, 2007 07:21 PM

Mary - are you really that naive or are you just kidding?

That depends on how you define 'naive'. If you paid full price to see Michael Moore's 'Sicko', or if you believe that Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn are intellectuals who know something about politics and war, if you believe that there are Americans out there who both define themselves as 'working class' and who love the Left for everything they've done for them, if you believe anti-war leftists like Kos support the troops, I'd call you naive'.

I'd guess your definition is different.

I'm not saying that all kids in the Middle East love Americans, but I am saying that this is how they behave. I'm not saying that everyone in the Middle East loves American foreign policy - (everyone, worldwide, criticizes that) I'm just saying that verbal expressions of overt hatred towards the US and our military tend to be expressed more often by Europeans, Brits and American leftists.

These expressions of overt hatred and contempt are usually followed or preceeded by an expression of solidarity with America or Americans, [ie. "I support the troops, BUT..."]

Posted by: mary at July 24, 2007 07:24 PM

"There are numerous embedded journalists throughout Iraq. I couldn’t estimate the number myself with any assured sense of accuracy but no doubt anyone can imagine that the number is quite high."

I believe the last time anyone mentioned the number it was around eight or nine.

Posted by: mikek at July 24, 2007 07:54 PM

Mr. Totten,

This report was beautifully written, and again sheds a light on the situation in Iraq that we really don't get from "professional" journalists who are trying to sell a story based on an angle. I really enjoy your reporting because you really do a great job at writing about what you see, low inference, and not add in any ideological politics. I appreciate that. One who does not agree with the war can read your posts and get a good understanding of how one particular section looks like on the ground.

I wanted to comment on one section:

I knew already that not everyone in Baghdad was hostile. But it was slightly surprising to see that entire areas in the Red Zone are not hostile.

This is an interesting perspective and one that I think highlights how we perceive this particular "war." Heck, I probably shouldn't even call it that.

There is a reason why these kinds of incidents are not reported frequently (and yes, things like this have been reported) the reason being that a spectacular attack has a far greater effect than the smaller and simpler aspects. Take 9/11 for example. How powerful was that attack? It will pervade our way of thinking for still a long time to come, but it was just one attack, not representative of much else, is it?

I really wish we could look at Iraq objectively, but politics continues to get in the way. Which is too bad.

Posted by: Dan at July 24, 2007 08:11 PM

Edan,

it's obvious you're afraid of the U.S. and it's "robocops" and are projecting your irrational fear onto others in a clearly psychotic and delusional way. Anybody with two eyes who isn't batshit crazy insane like you can see that those Iraqi kids are THRILLED to hang out with American GIs. Again, don't assume regular joe blow Iraqis hate America as much as you and your pals on the Left do. That's called projection.

Posted by: Carlos at July 24, 2007 09:42 PM

Edan,

So because US troops are exceptionally professional, they are robocops? You would prefer that our troops were drug-addled draftees?

Your characterization of US troops is two-dimensional and dehumanizing...by definition, since you are calling them a comic book stereotype. Our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere fighting terrorism deserve better because they have earned it. I've met troops in Iraq, and they were not robocops. They were human beings and well appreciated by the people there.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 24, 2007 10:09 PM

"Take 9/11 for example. How powerful was that attack? It will pervade our way of thinking for still a long time to come, but it was just one attack, not representative of much else, is it?"

What do you consider "our"? I don't see any connection between someone like you and the collective "our" that we call the US. How did you manage to miss the random murder (deaths you have probably screamed about on the net while you blamed someeone other than the person who blew himself up in a market) and mayhem? You couldn't "look at Iraq objectively" if your life depended on it.

Posted by: mikek at July 24, 2007 10:16 PM

Michael,

About fell out of my chair when I read that you were
at C.O.P. WAR EAGLE.
My Son is there. He's a medic with A Battery.
His name is Nick.

Thank you so much for your excellent post.
Now I know and could see what Nick is living with.
Thanks again

Posted by: John A at July 24, 2007 10:17 PM

10 spot says Edan is a canuck.

Posted by: mikek at July 24, 2007 10:19 PM

if the Iraqi family in the house by the river lives in fear of retribution, please don't put them at risk by publishing their photos!

I published the photos with permission. The family didn't give us any intel.

I have met civilians who gave up intel and most of them do not want their pictures published.

I always ask. If they say no, I don't even take the photo let alone publish it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 24, 2007 10:39 PM

No I am not arrogant or naive, my question was framed politely, I am a friend of Michael's, and I know he's not insulted by my question.

I have seen many stories about Iraqis being marked for death when it is known they are collaborating with the Americans. One of the journalists at this panel said that if a Humvee just stops by your door you will get a visit from some faction wanting to know what you are doing. In fact, the whole panel was about the danger local fixers are in because they help Americans.

I am not assuming this happens all the time to everyone but it does happen a lot, it's a topic which has been discussed frequently by journalists, and Michael knows that, and i assume he has some kind of heuristic for deciding what photos to post, and I'd like to know more about it.

Posted by: Yehudit at July 24, 2007 10:41 PM

Michael, you posted your comment after I composed mine and before I posted it. Thanks for clarifying! Great work!

Posted by: Yehudit at July 24, 2007 10:43 PM

Michael, thank you so much for this report. My son is in Adhamiyah, working at Old MOD. I don't know if this is near the area you've reported from. It is still a great relief to know that the surge is actually doing well and making a significant and positive difference in people's lives. I wish the majority of Americans would read this kind of news and see these kinds of pictures. My son's name is Josh. He believes in what he is doing and knows exactly why he is doing it. He and his fellow soldiers are great patriots and great human beings. Thanks for giving their work fair and honest coverage. Thousands of us who respect our kids and their leaders, and who hope the best for the Iraqi people, will always remember you.

Posted by: Gayle at July 25, 2007 12:20 AM

Great post. It's nice to see some areas are quite stable now.

Posted by: danielle at July 25, 2007 01:16 AM

I've been to Iraq as a soldier in the US Army and the Iraqi kids do run up to soldiers with smiles on their faces.
I like this article. It sounds like the real thing to me, and I don't appreciate the comments of those who quickly discount these first-person observations (not based on government press releases, I must add) for whatever reason. These sorts of honest observations are important and I thank the author for his service to the troops.

Posted by: Alan at July 25, 2007 01:19 AM

Awesome report. Stay safe plz

Posted by: Winston at July 25, 2007 01:26 AM

The long persecuted Iraqi homosexual community is now finally getting some peace, thanks to American troops.

Posted by: Mitch Haase at July 25, 2007 01:28 AM

Sorry to disappoint you guys, I am not a Canadian. I live in the Cradle of Liberty: Philadelphia - a city in the good ole' red white and blue that is, at this point, just as dangerous as Baghdad - maybe even more. And while I'm not a fan of Zinn or Chomsky, I find it laughable to think you think your "right-wing" generals know more about war then they do -- the same generals who bungled Vietnam and now Baghdad. Too funny!

When I us the term robocop, I am not referring to the soldiers' personalities, I am referring to their equipment.

I think it's a travesty that our society offers many low-income people no choices, so they are hoodwinked into serving in the military. MJT, ask these soldiers how many of them have college degrees or their family's socio-economic status.

I'm sure you won't find many rich kids and senator's sons. Why? Because anyone with a brain will (mostly) stay away from the military in general and ESPECIALLY an ILLEGAL and IMMORAL war.

The USA is a terrorist nation - what we are doing in Iraq is a terrorist act. I can't believe any of you people here can see the photos of Hussein with Rumsfeld and still believe there is a moral component to any of this crap.

Posted by: Edan at July 25, 2007 05:23 AM

This is a useful story, as it gives a piece of the puzzle you don't get with the "30 people died today when a suicide bomber..." blah blah blah. But it IS just a piece of the puzzle. To draw general conclusions from this and Mr. Totten's previous story would be like a story saying "I walked down Bankhead Highway in Atlanta at 12 midnight carrying four million dollars and no firearms and nobody bothered me." The story would be interesting, but it does not refut that there were an awful lot of knifings and killings in the housing projects along that street that same night.

I look forward to the rest of Mr. Totten's stories.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at July 25, 2007 05:46 AM

Michael,
Nice story, and it would be nice if it were that way everywhere. However, next time, you may want to try 1-26 Infantry instead of the 82nd. As my mother said above, I'm at COP Old MOD, and the area we patrol inside the wall isn't so nice. The 82nd just got here, and frankly, hasn't done much to impress us. We have been here since August, and have more casualties then any other battalion since OIF I. It's nice to see a journalist who isn't trying to make soldiers look bad, but I'm afraid out in the soft sectors, you really aren't getting the full picture. Thanks for the honest reporting, though. Most of the reporters we've had around have done their best to put a negative spin on everything we do.

Posted by: Josh at July 25, 2007 05:47 AM

The USA is a terrorist nation - what we are doing in Iraq is a terrorist act.

Edan, if you say maximally untenable things like this without the slightest argument and, instead of arguing, put "illegal" and "immoral" in caps, you keep yourself in the unserious end of the forum, the place where late adolescents have to wait a few years before they develop a desire for the true instead of the fashionably cynical. There's a general din coming from that end of the forum, but no one pays attention to it.

Don't let the little boy type a snarky comeback. It would only prove my point. Besides, no one would read it except for the sort of entertainment value it shares with listening to Savage.

Posted by: Jim at July 25, 2007 05:57 AM

Just a quick reply to Edan:
I hate to break it to you, but there's almost no one in my platoon who you could reasonably describe as either having "no choice", being "hoodwinked", and very few who are truly low-income. Most of us, and I'm an infantryman, so we're truly the grunts, are generally from a middle-class background. Quite a few of us are fairly well educated, and most of those who aren't plan to get themselves educated on the Army's dollar. There's a goodly amount of minorities, but they're by no means over-represented. In fact, the average US Grunt is a normal, middle or working class american white kid, who decided to do something with his life that matters. Obviously, that's something that "Edan" can't relate to.

Another thing: Just typing something in HUGE CAPITAL letters doesn't make it true, it just makes it look like you flunked grammar in high school. If you really want to convince people that this war is illegal and immoral (hard to do given the non-existence of any meaningful international law) you might want to try putting forth an actual argument. I'm sure big capital letter slogans are great for rabble-rousing in Philadelphia (or in Seattle, where I come from) but when you aren't preaching to the choir, they aren't much good. So, next time, brush up on your grammar, maybe learn how to put together a coherent argument, and I'll be happy to engage you any time you like.

Oh, yes: and if you really think that Philly is just as dangerous as Baghdad, I invite you to come visit. If you hurry, you might make the memorial for four of my friends who died last week when a thousand pounds of homemade explosive flipped their 33-ton Bradley over and burned it to the ground. After the memorial, I can drop you by the Abu Hanifah mosque and you can walk the six block from there to FOB Apache. I'm willing to bet that within half a block, you're begging for some robocops to come save rescue you from the poor, opressed Iraqis.

Posted by: Josh at July 25, 2007 05:59 AM

Edan, I think you're offbase about the iraqi civilians this group of 82nd airborne met. They might have felt oppressed by them and responded with smiles because they felt they had to. Or they might have accepted them. You don't know.

Far more important is how it shows this elite unit responding to iraqi civilians. They walked around on foot and talked to people. (I didn't have it straight how many translators they had, but for 2 dozen troops it sounded like more than one.) In the heat of the summer they didn't insist on a nighttime curfew, except for vehicles. When they stopped vehicles they didn't automatically detain people, they gave them warnings. They gave away expensive civic improvements -- they promised street lighting and subsidised gasoline.

When they suspected somebody they didn't break down the door and immobilise everybody and drag the suspect off. They knocked, they were reasonably polite, they had an extended conversation and finally they let the man go. This is a giant improvement. If our troops had been behaving this way from the beginning we'd be in far better shape in iraq now.

If we had 500,000 troops in iraq as good as the 82nd airborne, we could probably win this thing in 10 years or less.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 25, 2007 06:15 AM

If I had seen Josh's post before typing, I would not have bothered, as he makes the point I had far better than I could in Atlanta.

Stay safe.

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at July 25, 2007 06:16 AM

Even in the worst places, day-to-day activity is mundane and quiet. When attacks occur, they do so viciously. In my case, these resulted in my unit’s heavy causalities. Nonetheless, I rarely patrolled in fear. I knew that on most days, our patrol would result in an absence of action.

Steve B, thank you for relating your experience.

So, the take-home lesson here is that the area that Michael saw may not actually be under control at all. Attacks come at the insurgents' initiative, and a unit can take heavy casualties even though on most days nothing happens.

And of course Michael's report itself shows that the patrols were ineffective at controlling the insurgents.

“He didn’t want to say who he’s afraid of because he’s afraid,” Lieutenant Wolf said. “If the insurgents find out he gave information to us, or that he helped us, he’s dead.”

We can keep the bad guys from using trucks at night. We can keep them from openly marching in large formations and usually even small formations, and we can catch a few of them. But we can't provide security. We can't keep them from killing pretty much whoever they want to.

But there's hope. If we can continue to make a good impression on the people in this town, if we can persuade them that we aren't going to leave any time in the next 10 years, and if we keep the same people there for years at a time without moving them away for new assignments or for home leave, after a few years they'll start trusting us enough to give us real information about the bad guys. And once we kill off the 10% that's causing the trouble, things will actually get peaceful.

Ten years and 500,000 good counter-insurgency troops ought to do it.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 25, 2007 06:39 AM

Great job reporting...keep your head down. Your interpeter (spelling?) is very brave. Be safe to both of you.

Posted by: Bigg Poppa P at July 25, 2007 06:56 AM

MJT, good job but couldn't you have at least digitally blurred the pic of the old man?

BTW, have you been hit by "Montezuma's Revenge" yet?

Posted by: Solomon2 at July 25, 2007 07:06 AM

The USA is a terrorist nation

You are in serious need of an intervention. The loony bin is thataway---------->

buh bye.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 07:21 AM

Michael, There's a lot of talk about the subtle creep of women soldiers into front line companies which military codes ordinarily prohibit them from being in. (Codes on the books say women are not supposed to "collocate with," or be assigned to, companies engaged in "combat" -- defined as deliberate engagement with and surpression of the enemy.)

So, in the interest of getting info for people who follow that issue: Are there women in "your" unit? How long have they been there? What are their jobs?

Posted by: stephanie at July 25, 2007 07:22 AM

Josh,

Your response to Edan was well-written and well-reasoned.
I thank you for taking the time to respond with authority and clarity to the feelings-based diatribe that passes for debate on the Left.
I mourn the loss of your friends and pray for your safety, comfort and success in completing the mission of securing Iraq from the terrorists.
I salute your service to America and I salute your mother for raising such an honorable son.

God Speed,

Truth Junkie
Kansas City, Missouri

Posted by: Truth Junkie at July 25, 2007 07:29 AM

JThomas,

I think we should not stay in Iraq one single day longer than we stayed in Germany after WWII, or one day longer than we stayed in Japan after WWII.
And in each of those examples, we got out in ...
let's see ...
how long was that in days...
Oh yeah, I've got it!

The Answer is: WE'RE STILL THERE!

It seemed to work in each of those nations, so why the sarcasm about Iraq?
Don't you know your history?

Posted by: Truth Junkie at July 25, 2007 07:43 AM

Edan,

I was going to respond to your July 24, 2007 05:40 PM post with some thoughtful discussion. Then I read your July 25, 2007 05:23 AM post and realized that you're just a whacked out moonbat and there's no way to have a rational discussion about this war with someone like you.

Posted by: Kafir at July 25, 2007 07:48 AM

@Edan --

"Can you imagine being 18 years old in Iraq and being harassed daily by these robocops? I imagine if you're a black male in an American city you must have some idea."

Something that seems lost in your thinking is something very basic -- "being harrassed daily by robocops" in America is an inconvenience and an annoyance because we do not have the thread of death squads marching into our house and murdering our family. Your analogy of a Black male in America is just the perfect example of how such a large number of people in America, despite considering themselves worldly observers, simply cannot imagine any place other than America and Europe. It is the ultimate irony in American politics and foreign affairs.

Iraq isn't America. You don't have the convenience of being annoyed by foreign armies.

Furthermore, it is just gaul to assume that you are a better transcriber of the events than a person who was actually there. Your account seems to contradict the account of MJT... and he was there, while you were not.

Finally, your analogy with the Black male in America proves the wrong point. It can be used accurately. Imagine, say, 1873 Southern American states in the early exhaustion of reconstruction. All of these White-Male intruders are living in your houses, pushing you around in the towns, interrogating you, and so on, and you are a Black male. Now, certainly, you wouldn't want to be woken up in the middle of the night, have your family interrogated and so on... it would certainly be an inconvenience. But with the daily threat of being at the end of a hangman's noose, you're much more likely to put aside that inconvenience for the simple desire to exist.

Posted by: MichaelBrazell at July 25, 2007 07:51 AM

Great job, Michael! And I appreciated the well thought out comments from our soldier-readers. I am so proud of the men and women in our military!
Stay safe.

Posted by: sallyo at July 25, 2007 08:12 AM

Another commendable piece of work by Michael and we thank you again (time to tip the jar again) and more importantly, please thank our brave forces that are out there doing the job day and night and breaking new ground on how to win on the new battlefield.

I humbly salute the fine soliders who have posted here. Prayers and gratitude to you and your families for your honorable service. No thanks can be restated enough.

As for our poster, Edan, all I can say is it's too bad your feelings about the troops and their efforts has collided hard with reality. Many if not most of those soldiers are holding degrees and advanced ones in the hard sciences and are far smarter and educated than you will ever be.

Stating your feelings as reality has a way of biting you in the ass.
How's that working out for you?

Surge on!

Posted by: Romanesq at July 25, 2007 08:17 AM

Kafir,

my thoughts exactly. When a Leftard like that calls America a "terrorist nation", what's left to talk about? Better to send them on their way.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 08:18 AM

'But then, 80+% of iraq is peaceful. Most of the peaceful places, there aren't any US soldiers.

It's good there are places where the insurgents are dormant, where there are US soldiers and no fighting. But don't we need 300,000 to 400,000 troops if we're going to do that many of the places there's fighting?'
I just read 'Empires of the Sand' by Efraim Karsh, and he mentions in there that at the end of World War One Britain had an army of over a million men in Iraq... I reckon both the US and British armies need to beef up.

Posted by: Andrew Lale at July 25, 2007 08:19 AM

Truth Junkie, one major difference between germany and japan on one side, and iraq on the other is that we didn't liberate germany and japan. They were the aggressor nations that had fought a long hard world war and lost, in the process losing large numbers of soldiers. They hardly fought us at all during the occupation because they knew they had lost and they had to put up with whatever we did. And particularly in germany they had the example of east germany to look at -- if they did somehow drive us out the red army could march in and treat them like it treated the east germans. Two million east german civilians disappeared from the records and not very many women went unraped.

So we didn't have much of a resistance to deal with, and we did reconstruction as quick as we could, which was pretty quick. We ended the occupation very quickly, set up local governments, turned over the cities to local police, and retired to our bases apart from training maneuvers to repel soviet invasion.

But in iraq we announced it was a liberation and then we spent years acting like we expected random civilians to be the enemy. We wasted a few tens of billions of dollars, mostly iraqi money, on reconstruction but didn't accomplish anything much. We set aside local elected officials and replaced them with appointees who came from places like Cleveland and who weren't particularly familiar with local problems. We tried to set up national police in place of local police, and for years tried to maintain control of them instead of leaving them under iraqi control. Etc.

Probably vitally important was mistreating iraqi civilians. We were very heavy-handed in 2003. Now we’re trying to move forward together. A few years late.

We might perhaps have gotten pretty good results if we'd done it right the first time. Now we're digging ourselves out of a hole and it wil take ten years or so. Note we're spending something in the range of half a billion to a billion dollars a day, and doing it right would cost more.

I'm not being sarcastic. I think half a million well-trained troops who're all staying there for the duration could turn it around. When the troops get swapped out ever six months to a year, that hurts a lot. We need lieutenant Lord of the 82nd airborne to stay in Graya'at for years straight, with no leave longer than 2 weeks, because most of the detailed knowledge he's built up about the people there is lost when he gets rotated out.

We need a lieutenant Lord for every neighborhood where there's been trouble. 120,000 troops after the surge is over will not be nearly enough.

And we need around 300,000 US troops at home who're enthusiastic about the mission. Everybody I talk to who's back from iraq says they'll do their jobs, they're tired, and they see things getting worse, not better. That word-of-mouth isn't real helpful. The surging troops might have a much better story to tell, after they get back. But, like, the guy who was in Mosul in 2004 and then went back to Mosul in 2006 -- not encouraging. Most of the iraqis he knew in 2004 were dead or missing in 2006, buildings blown up, electricity and waterworks gone .... It looked like his work in 2004 had been washed away.

In germany and japan we got the malnutrition problem handled in less than 2 years. If we could even get food distribution working as well as it did under Saddam that would make a big difference.

We started planning for the occupation and reconstruction in germany and japan by 1943. We started preliminary planning for that in iraq after Bremer left. It shows.

The iraqi government has passed a nonbinding resolution ordering us out, and their PM has blocked any vote on a binding resolution. It's quite possible they'll invite us to keep bases in iraq indefinitely. We should wait and see. But I think if they don't it would be a bad idea to get rid of the iraqi government and put in a new one. That would be unhelpful under the circumstances.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 25, 2007 08:43 AM

I love the irony in the opening paragraph. There truly is a Lord in Iraq! As always, great reporting Michael.

Posted by: Paul MacPhail at July 25, 2007 08:46 AM

Thank you Michael. It was refreshing to read a positve story about what's going on in Iraq. We all can speculate on the genuineness of the Iraqi's responses, but it seems pretty sincere. Maybe it's because their everyday lives are actually better than they had been under Saddam.
It's unfortunate that people like Edan have such a dismal view of our country as a whole. He can always live in another country if this one is that bad!

Posted by: Ann at July 25, 2007 08:48 AM

[...] at the end of World War One Britain had an army of over a million men in Iraq... I reckon both the US and British armies need to beef up.

The british are probably pulling out, they're definitely reducing their numbers.

Remember that at the end of WWI there weren't nearly as many iraqis as there are now.

My big concern about troop numbers is with iran and pakistan. We might find ourselves attacking either nation, and we need to occupy them both at least as much as we need to occupy iraq. How do we find the WMDs without an occupation? But the populations are larger, the land area is larger, and the terrain is far more hostile in both cases.

We can continue the status quo in iraq as long as the chinese government pays for it, but what if we need to occupy someplace else?

Posted by: J Thomas at July 25, 2007 09:10 AM

Thanks MJT -- and thanks Josh and the others who have been there and take the time to write.

We can probably conclude, simply on the enormous rates of PTSD in returning military, that the violence and terror described by the MSM really isn't fantasy (as a few people here would apparently like to believe).

What we don't get much is a balanced picture, which is here if one reads past MJT's use of words like 'mundane' and 'boring.' The Iraqis live in terror, and crave the mundane. Our soldiers serve as police where the area is controllable, and as Josh points out, as fighters where it's not.

It is too soon to tell whether the Surge and the interactive style employed by Gen. Petraeus and his officers are going to turn the overall tide -- but this piece at least (and at best) suggests it is not yet hopeless.

Amusing that so many here are taking your first report, MJT, as 'the' picture of Baghdad and furiously laying down policies and outlining our future there on the basis of this tiny sample. Give the man some time!

Keep up the thoughtful work, and be safe.

Posted by: Pam at July 25, 2007 09:22 AM

MikeK, please don't belittle yourself by calling Edan a Canadian; he's not one of us. We don't need him either, we've got enough leftie moonbats here of our own. Something to remember is that there's probably more Americans referring to the present situation in Iraq as the Bush/McHitler/Cheney war than Canada has citizens. Perhaps if there was more truth in reporting from American reporters (Yon, Totten & Lasswell excluded) people like Edan would realize that this is not a new war in Iraq. It's a resumption of the one started in 1991. Remember, it was a failure by Saddam's regime to abide by the U.N. resolutions that were part of the ceasefire signed by Saddam's generals that brought the U.S. back into Iraq. Maybe if Edan were aware of that little but important fact there would be more peace in the world and less capital letters!

Posted by: Paul MacPhail at July 25, 2007 09:22 AM

Mr. Totten, more good stuff. Both encouraging and discouraging at the same time, which makes me believe it gives a truer view than is available most other places. Encouraging because it reinforces my view of the professionalism and essential good-heartedness of the majority of our troops. It's also good to hear that there are pacified areas in Baghdad. Discouraging to hear that there are areas our troops simply don't enter. Discouraging to hear that there are areas that are walled off to keep out the other religious sect. And extremely discouraging to hear how poor the infrastructure is four years after Saddam was ousted. Also discouraging to hear how long it took to stop the heavy handed tactics that cost so many hearts and minds in the early going. Finally, discouraging that I tend to agree with J Thomas, it's going to take more troops more time and more money than we can probably manage.

Posted by: Gus at July 25, 2007 09:35 AM

Thank you.

Posted by: Gaius at July 25, 2007 09:42 AM

A Big TEXAS thankyou for taking the risk to report what your seeing over there.
And to ALL our service men and women out there trying to do their job. WE believe in you! We LOVE our soldiers and want them to stay safe. Please know that people like EDAN don't represent the norm of AMERICANS. We see what our soldiers do and know they are the BEST ever!
Just know WE've got your backs! I would appreciate it if you would get the word out to all our troops serving - please tell them this, they are the best and we love them. And thanks for all your sacrifice!
Now for EDAN - your a leftest JERK! Without our soldiers these men would cut your throat. How many Danny Pearl's have to die? It's sad when people lose their trust in a government. We've got problems sure, but they can be fixed.

Keep up the great work Michael! And tell out troops we love them!

thank you,
Beth R.

Posted by: Beth R at July 25, 2007 09:45 AM

"10 spot says Edan is a canuck."

As a canuck, I'm insulted..

The Canadian gov't declined to participate in Iraq and that decision was a popular one throughout the country. In hindsight, it was probably the right thing to do given the mistakes that have been made in the post-combat period. Canada however, is deeply involved in Afghanistan in places like Kandahar and suffering real casualties in similar ways, i.e. IEDs and ambushes.

Michael, your reporting is excellent and although you are only one source of information, you are contributing significantly to those of us who are trying to understand Iraq and the ME.

Good luck.

DD

Posted by: DD at July 25, 2007 09:47 AM

It is very inconvenient for some people when Facts get in the way of their Opinions.
Thank you MJT for putting boots on the ground and writing what you observe, and thanks for the service of the troops who are reading and commenting here.
And thanks to the commenters for not allowing a few bad apples to spoil this entire thread.
-L

Posted by: lindsey at July 25, 2007 09:55 AM

Edan,

You're a moron. I am a college professor with a Doctorate who just quit my job and enlisted in the Army to try and make a difference. My hope is that, slowly, people like yourself will gradually pull their heads out of the sand and take a look to see what the world around them is really like.

Posted by: Andy at July 25, 2007 10:00 AM

Edan's just been slaughtered here today. Which is fun to watch.

Posted by: Matt at July 25, 2007 10:14 AM

Andy, thank you! If even thirty percent of the people who support the war by commenting on blogs would volunteer, today, it might make the difference between winning and losing.

Everybody who thinks we can win in less than 10 years should volunteer to put in your 6 years in iraq.

And -- learn arabic. For this kind of occupation a soldier who speaks fluent arabic is worth at least 5 who don't.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 25, 2007 10:27 AM

Hi Michael,

Excellent post. I just found your blog through the FoxNews syndication and am very impressed. For several years now I've been relying on another independent journalist (Michael Yon) for all of my true information on Iraq and didn't know there were other excellent journalists out there. I'll be adding your blog to my RSS reader.

Thanks again and keep it up!

Stay safe,
Blake

Posted by: Blake at July 25, 2007 10:30 AM

Thanks to everyone for their prayers and encouragement. It helps quite a bit to know there are still normal americans who give a damn. A lot of the time it seems like folks back home have forgotten or just don't care. But there's people like you guys who keep me encouraged. I have to give a thank-you to everyone in Texas. I used to make fun of that state quite a bit, but after the welcome that Dallas gave me on leave, I don't think I can any more. Your state rocks! I couldn't see a crowd in Seattle reacting that enthusiastically.

When you're over here, you tend to focus on a very small part of what's going on in this country. I mostly know what's going on in my own sector, and maybe adjacent sectors if something major is going down. Other areas of Baghdad, and other cities in Iraq, I hear about only if a friend of mine gets killed there. In fact, my mom (who keeps trying to get me hooked on the blogosphere) has a much better idea of what's going on in Iraq as a whole than I do. As I said, we're in about the worst part of it, so it's pretty easy to get discouraged. Articles like this one, and people like you guys, really help to renew my faith in this war. Thanks, MJT, and all you posters.

I'm sort of hoping that our little hippy will come back, but I kind of doubt it. The frustrating thing about liberals is that they seem to be repelled by the smell of honest debate. Kinda like vampires with garlic, isn't it? Oh, and Ednan, if you haven't run back to your mom's basement yet, I'd me more than happy to engage you on any forum you name, any time. Just let me know. I haven't had fun humiliating someone in quite a while.

Posted by: Josh at July 25, 2007 10:38 AM

Andy - That is awesome. I wish I had the courage to stand up and try to make a difference like you.

I think we all realize Edan is a sad specimen and I can only hope he realizes the error of his ways. Soon!!

Posted by: K-girls mom at July 25, 2007 10:49 AM

I really have a hard time reading the kinds of things Edan says, and trying to classify him in my mind. I mean in an honest way without throwing insults, is he really so unfamiliar with history and does he actually have such a distorted view that he ACTUALLY thinks we are terrorists, or if he just throws around exaggerated terms to make his point. Or is he really one of the other side... I mean... a John Walker, an american terrorist himself? So many people like Michael Moore purposely distort the truth in order to persuade people to try to hate America. I wonder if Edan is a casualty of the lies, or if he is a perpetrator.

Posted by: Matt at July 25, 2007 11:38 AM

Michael

I was wondering, is it possible / safe for you to visit that neighbourhood without the protection of the unit you were patrolling with?

If so, it would be interesting to hear what the locals say about the US troops when they are not around. eg are they genuine in their tolerance / affability towards the US or are they friends by day and enemies by night??

Posted by: mertel at July 25, 2007 11:52 AM

attaboy mertel for THE question that any person knowledgeable of the arab me should ask.

My guess is that mjt won't go there alone.

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 12:03 PM

matt,

you're probably not aware of what western universities are producing these days and what is happening on campuses.

it is not just ignorance of the world and history -- a contribution in its own right -- but outright indoctrination in leftist, anti-semitic and anti-american drivel.

i suggest you check out the output of campus watch and the writings of martin kramer on the subject.

here's just one short item i came across recently:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/07/rebellion.html

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 12:10 PM

Josh,

I loved your comments, I deeply appreciate your service, I honor you for your integrity, and I salute you for the best of America that you represent. Please believe that there really are normal Americans who do give a damn and do appreciate what you're doing for us and the world.

As for Edan, I'd happily purchase a one-way ticket for him to Tehran, Pyongyang, Havana, Paris, or wherever else he might feel more at home.

Posted by: Taylor at July 25, 2007 12:23 PM

This is an interesting piece of reporting from the front lines. I certainly enjoyed it throughout. Reading through the comments, however, I am surprised at how quickly some have taken this one piece of work to mean "Everything is actually working in Iraq!" The piece does no such thing. It merely presents a very small slice of the overall pie that is refreshing because it differs from the taste of most of the rest of the pie.

I'm proud of the successes we have scored in Iraq - there have certainly been some. Reading such stories, in fact, make me want to stay, to commit more, to do more for the Iraqis. Let's all take a step back, though.

Electricity only one hour a day? That's 3 hours less than 2004 levels and significantly less than during the pre-war, post-Desert Storm era. Consider that some of the most basic goals still haven't been met because, logistically, we don't have enough boots on the ground. Some estimates of civilian contractors in Iraq number 150,000 - one reason this war has cost so darn much.

Can the United States do what it takes to save the peace and drive Al-Qaeda out of Iraq? Of course. We have the finest military in the world. Is it worth it, though? Can the Iraqis do it themselves? Can we help them accomplish our shared goals in other ways that don't cost us so much money?

We need to start thinking about ways to win other than putting our robocops (Robocop was a hero and kids loved him, btw) in harm's way. We need to do more diplomatically and less militarily, because it's been shown that we, as a nation, don't have the financial will to pursue this war much further. Wars cost a lot of money. The cost will keep rising as our military bends further and further. I hate to think about what it does to our deterrent capabilities that are so stressed by this action in Iraq.

We need to put our heads together and come up with some workable solutions instead of arguing about how/if we went wrong, the purported media bias, and etc. That helps no one, especially our men and women out there dying in the less gentrified streets of Baghdad.

Posted by: Jim at July 25, 2007 12:24 PM

I have been following the comments to this post and am encouraged that both sides in this debate are attempting to stay intellectual and reasonable during the discussion. I have posted myself, but as an update: I am a former Army soldier, having served with the Infantry twice in Iraq, once during the invasion and during a second tour in Ar Ramadi. I am currently a university student, majoring in International Studies and Religious Studies, with a Middle East focus, while taking Arabic.

There are many points raised in the preceding comments that I would like to address using my experience and limited knowledge as information sources.

First, I want to counter J. Thomas’s comments with a few thoughts of my own. Thomas stated:

“I think half a million well-trained troops who're all staying there for the duration could turn it around. When the troops get swapped out ever six months to a year, that hurts a lot. We need lieutenant Lord of the 82nd airborne to stay in Graya'at for years straight, with no leave longer than 2 weeks, because most of the detailed knowledge he's built up about the people there is lost when he gets rotated out.

As a disclaimer, I want to declare that I am not necessarily a fan of the “surge” as military strategy. In fact, I wrote what I considered was a pretty through assessment on the strategy and suggested a more likely successful tactic here: http://educatedsoldier.blogspot.com/2007_07_20_archive.html (scroll past the political conversation to access the text concerning the surge).

I disagree on the necessity of half a million troops. Instead, I think we need to better utilize the elite troops that we have – both in America’s arsenal and in most military’s abroad – to successfully quell any terrorist initialed sectarian violence that is occurring. For example, in the United States, we have five active duty Special Forces groups and two in the National Guard. The Fifth Group is particularly useful in performing such missions in the Middle East. Most members speak rough Arabic but also have thorough training in the cultural disciplines of the area. Moreover, all the Special Forces soldiers are selected and trained in precisely the mission now needed in Iraq: Foreign Internal Defense; the military action of training foreign internal forces to more successfully fight for themselves.

In my assessment, the better utilization of these troops would have a more optimistic chance at success in Baghdad then simply massing conventional troops. All that being said, if the reports on the ground are suggesting that the surge is working in its current incarnation then I have little choice but to cede to these reports.

Now, onto your claim that we need individuals like Lieutenant Lord to remain in Iraq for long periods of time: I disagree. There is one thing that the United States military does as well as any other force that I know of. Our military is absolutely amazing at ensuring that in-coming replacements know exactly what is going on in the area that they are taking over. For sake of operational security, I am not going to detail how the transition works, but I can make it clear that incoming units spend weeks to months working with the outgoing units, leaning the intricacies of the area. They meet the citizens and they are given the needed area information. Most infantry units have their own “Lieutenant Lord,” who is excited to perform the job and motivated to achieve success, and that is the beauty of our well-trained, volunteer military.

And, finally, I want to comment on something that the poster PAM said:

“We can probably conclude, simply on the enormous rates of PTSD in returning military, that the violence and terror described by the MSM really isn't fantasy (as a few people here would apparently like to believe).”

While I am in no position to question the integrity of our returning military, although I am returning military myself, I would suggest that you do NOT conclude anything from such data. For example, I heard a while back that large portions of the returning military were returning to unemployment. I was one of these unemployed soldiers. However, I was unemployed because the government offered all soldiers six months of unemployment compensation upon leaving the military. With such easy money available, I jumped on the opportunity. Many of my friends did as well. This suggests that, in the case of unemployment, the data was largely skewed.

The data concerning PTSD is probably far from scientifically firm as well. Every time I visit the V.A. hospital, I am reminded that if I answer in a certain manner to a few questions, I can acquire monetary compensation for PTSD treatment for life. I choose not to do this, but only because I have a desire to reenter the Defense field in the future and such treatment would hinder my record. Many of my friends don’t have such concerns about reentering the field and do take advantage of these offered services. Whether their “PTSD” is as strong as they suggest is of question.

I am totally sympathetic to those that do suffer from such difficulties. I have my own fair share of disturbances developed from my experiences so it isn’t my intention to “knock” on those that do suffer or to even “knock” those that are taking advantage of a sympathetic system. I only trying to warn you with backed reason from making a jump from such PTSD data to the actual situation in Iraq that Mr. Totten, I, and many others are trying to make you aware.

Thanks.

Posted by: Steve B. at July 25, 2007 12:28 PM

stay safe and watch your back at all times. I am retired. Dont believe all you hear on tv. We the people are behind you

A.J

Posted by: ALLAN JONES at July 25, 2007 12:40 PM

Josh, SteveB, and the other military who have commented --

First, thank you for your service... There are not comprehendable words that could possibly surmise my affection for you.

Second, thank you for sharing your opinions and expertise on this issue -- they are very interesting and certainly stand in abject contradiction to the reports that dominate the news, like the spurious articles output by The Nation and The New Republic.

Again, thank you.

Posted by: MichaelBrazell at July 25, 2007 01:38 PM

Thanks for the story. Maybe you can carry Edan's perspective to the troops and let them react. My perpective is that any reasoning Iraqi knows the cost between anarchy and ass kissing, and is willing to pay the price. Authority is the consent to be governed, and the vast majority of Iraqi's seem willing to be temporarily governed by patrols of US soldiers. Who is wiser, an ass kissing Iragi, or a whiner in the US, enjoying the security and freedom paid for by Americans willing to follow orders given by an elected President?

Posted by: Bob M at July 25, 2007 01:40 PM

jim,

i'm with you.

what foreign policy requires is cunning, which in turn requires kknowledge and reason, part. about the enemy. that is what the west lacks, with dire consequences.

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 01:47 PM

Edan,

I've lived in Philly and was never mugged by criminals or harassed by the police. I have also been to Iraq and not been blown up by terrorists or detained by the secret police. Let me assure you that the risks in the two places are different both in quantity and quality.

I have friends who were mugged by criminals and harassed by the police in Philly. They were idiots who got drunk or tried to get stoned. Have you ever considered that maybe you don't have a violence problem with Philadelphia. Maybe you have an idiot problem that is not dependent on location? It may be following you everywhere you are!

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 25, 2007 01:48 PM

First and most importantly, my most heartfelt and humble thank you to our brave troops who are risking their lives every day. Gob bless each of you. Secondly, I do not feel that anyone who just sits on their highly protected asses here in the states has no right to pass judgement on what should and should not be done in Iraq or Afghanistan. Let our military do their jobs with the utmost support from everyone back here. It's their specialty. What we should be pushing for is better equipment to increase their safety and help to update all veteran benefits!
Stay safe and keep your heads down!!
ps........I love the job you guys did on Edan! hee

Posted by: Cindy at July 25, 2007 02:02 PM

I was wondering, is it possible / safe for you to visit that neighbourhood without the protection of the unit you were patrolling with?

Heyyyyy, Mertel is back! Good luck convincing her about anything in Iraq. She walks around the US, sees all the fat people and somehow thinks we have a hunger problem.

Posted by: Keith at July 25, 2007 02:21 PM

Heyyyyy, Mertel is back! Good luck convincing her about anything in Iraq. She walks around the US, sees all the fat people and somehow thinks we have a hunger problem.

I do? Thanks Keith. Just remind me where I said that. One of us is clearly delusional.

Posted by: mertel at July 25, 2007 02:27 PM

cindy,

"has no right to pass judgment?" are you suggesting that the military should be the only ones assessing Iraq policy and strategy themselves? you can't be serious.

poor phrasing, methinks.

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 02:29 PM

I'm sort of hoping that our little hippy will come back, but I kind of doubt it. The frustrating thing about liberals is that they seem to be repelled by the smell of honest debate.

Josh, I don't think Edan was contributing much. I want to note though that we didn't have anything with him that smelled anything like honest debate. He spouted some opinions and a bunch of people piled on with contrasting opinions, and that was it.

To have anything like an honest debate we'd do better to move to a lower level of abstraction. Get more specific.

Like, arguing about what's a terrorist nation and whether the USA is one, is useless.

But, do we care what citizens of italy think about us? If we kidnap an italian citizen from italy to strenuously interrogate him, just what level of information do we need him to have for it to be worth what it costs us in italy? I tend to think we'd be better off with whatever cooperatin the italian government gives us.

If we use robot planes to swoop in and blow up pakistani citizens in their houses in pakistan, how much are those deaths worth to us, in comparison to what paks think about it? How would you feel if china was sending robot planes into the USA to blow up US citizens? Even if we have an inherent right as a superpower to do that kind of thing while china does not have that right, is it worthwhile to pay attention to pak opinion? We'd like those guys to help us against al qaeda and not help al qaeda against us, right? I tend to think we'd be better off getting the pakistani government to arrest people in those houses. If we've made a mistake it's easier to recover from. Potentially more info comes from it. Less support for AQ, more support for us.

When the world finds out that we've been using white phosphorus not in smoke concentrations but in lethal concentrations, because we want to kill people with it, is the tactical advantage we get from killing those people that way worth the cost? I tend to think that one is OK, not like there's really a consensus against using chemical weapons.

If we're going to discuss the topic, we need to look at specific war crimes, and specific actions against the common agreement of mankind, and specific terrorist actions. Arguing in generalities about whether we're a terrorist nation or not is utterly unproductive.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 25, 2007 02:36 PM

Crazy that this is linked from the Guardian Unlimited.....most of the commentors in their 'comment is free' section would be jaw dropping speechless if they read this.

...or they'd accuse the author of being a fake and the photos of being doctored.

If Bush wants support for the 'surge' and beyond, he just needs to find a way for Americans to read more of actual soldier stories....instead of trying to 'invent' heros.

Posted by: Marteen at July 25, 2007 03:15 PM

Yep, ah-ha this war is lost just like the corpse senator from Nevada says. We are doing no good over there, the people hate us and want us out. Right Murtha?

Thanks for this great post Michael. It warms my heart to hear from people like you who continue to risk it all to bring us the real truth.

Its amazing the amount of projects and schools that are being completed.

Here are the url's of some sites that are great by the military:

http://www.mnf-iraq.com/

http://www.mnfwest.usmc.mil/

http://www.grd.usace.army.mil/

The last one it the Army Corps of Engineers. Very informative for anyone interested in the projects our soldiers are completing for our Iraqi brothers.

God bless every one of them!

Posted by: Corey Wayne at July 25, 2007 03:23 PM

hi,

Just a great story...

Best to you always!

Peace,
Dan

Posted by: Dan at July 25, 2007 03:59 PM

Hey - I'm back! Sorry for not jumping into my mass-murder earlier, but I was at work.

Geez, where to begin with all the attacks? I've never understood the desire to attack people personally - so I won't call anyone an idiot or what have you. Your responses, collectively, do say a lot about American and its reactionary bent.

I also never knew CAPS were so offensive. It was funny reading your reactions to that as well.

For the record, I do believe Philadelphia has an idiot problem - whomever said that was right. Unfortunately, the idiots have guns, which then makes it a violence problem.

To the soldier who responded to me: I do stand corrected on my previous statement. I am glad your troop has a diverse background. I won't argue with you, since you are in the military and living it daily, but there are many military statistics to back up my statement about the make-up of our military. Your troop is an exception. I wish you guys weren't wasting your time and lives over there.

And why do I say wasting your life? Because there is no exit strategy and plan. The 'War on Terror' is fruitless and unwinable because the very nature of terrorism is such that it can't be planned for or fought against.

We are fighting an enemy much like George Orwell imagined in 1984. They are invisible - no one will ever know when Al Quaeda is defeated. It isn't a country. There are no borders. There is no land to seize.

From the point of view of the military, it's perfect: the war can continue indefinitely - or at least until we get some leadership in the White House.

Bush keeps saying we're going to "win the peace." What does that mean? When is the end? What does peace look like?

And when we leave and the two sides start killing each other again - will we go back in?

If we really care so much about removing a tyrant from office and bringing democracy to poor people, why don't we have 120,000 troops in Sudan? More people died in one year in Sudan than ever died under Hussein's America-backed rule.

Feel free to demonize me all you want - this is the internet and I couldn't really give a shit. If it makes you feel powerful to call me a loony, go for it - feel powerful. But the sad fact is that we are a radicalized people and we can't admit it.

We back an immoral and illegal war and criticize those who try to argue from the point of humanism.

Your arguments, and all those of "red-blooded Americans" would hold water if we helped all people in the world equally.

Those who chide me for not serving my country: I would serve in a non-violent civilian force that helped rebuild countries. I have worked for many non-profits in my life that helped many people. Serving one's country does not have to mean running around with a rifle.

Fire away!

Posted by: Edan at July 25, 2007 04:23 PM

Thank you for the IMPRESSIVE report.

I am glad to hear that so MUCH is being accomplished in Iraq... as far as I'm concerned the media can continue to report on the bombs and violence because it actually misleads the terrorists into thinking they're winning.

I'm also glad that so many Iraqis are now free and able to live their lives. I agree with the assessment that "security and safety" are among the most basic of rights. Without a solid police force in the U.S. we would have many more problems too. Rule of law is essential to any peaceful society, protecting the right of the people to feel safe.

God Bless you and all of our brave soldiers!

Todd

Posted by: Todd Stock at July 25, 2007 05:05 PM

Out of respect for our host and the work he is doing I hope we will all be able to resist the temptation to lower the level of this discussion, regardless of how much someone might ask for it.

Posted by: lindsey at July 25, 2007 05:08 PM

From Edan: If we really care so much about removing a tyrant from office and bringing democracy to poor people, why don't we have 120,000 troops in Sudan?

That illogical meme again. How bout this. If we care so much about feeding the poor in Africa, how come we don't have Live Aid for South America? For Asia? For the North Pole?

Stupid and illogical, as you can plainly see.

If you don't believe we really care so much about removing tyrants, that's not the way to prove it.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 05:47 PM

aw, c'mon carlos. there is nothing wrong with that specific logic.

there are dictators and there are dictators. the way we pick and choose which to topple and which not is more than obvious that is not based on the concern for the population.

otherwise all the arab regimes would be toppled.

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 06:06 PM

fp,

I know there are other strategic considerations taken into account. Primarily, a foreign policy has to be in OUR self-interest. Also, a policy has to be feasible. But that doesn't minimize our concern for the population in Iraq, which is no less than in Darfur or North Korea or Iran.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 06:21 PM

Edan,

if you really care about the genocide in Darfur, how come so uncaring about the coming genocide in Iraq if we leave prematurely?

See? That's an easy game to play.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 06:34 PM

i don't disagree with what you say, except the concern bit.

I very much doubt that decision makers care much about foreign populations -- they don't even care much about our own -- and the public is split between those who do not care and those who care only symbolically. most of the public does not even have a clue about foreign nations.

all you gotta do is look at the western obsession with israel and not with all the barbarians around the world.

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 06:37 PM

>>>I very much doubt that decision makers care much about foreign populations

fp,

that's fine. I'm just thrilled when there is a rare confluence between our self-interest and the wellbeing of those foreign populations. I believe that to be the case in Iraq. It doesn't happen often, so why not run with it and enjoy it?

Also, I'm not so worried about people's secret motives-- only their acts. And that is especially true of our government. If the act is worthy and results positive, then I couldn't care less about "secret motives". They are irrelevant to me. Do you care if your employee only works for money and not out of selflessness? No. As long as he brings good results. Same principle.

This administration's policy freed a people from tyrrany, irregardless of their alleged secret motives. Fact. I'll let the Libs worry about people's secret motives.

Liberal motives are also irrelevant to me, by the way. I don't think higher of them, nor less of them, for it. I couldn't care less how good their intentions are if they don't act on them or if the results end up all screwy. That's very different than how they see the world. Motives are the only thing that count. That's why they love themselves so much.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 06:59 PM

fp,

I might add that in our country's history this kind of confluence isn't nearly so rare as those on the Left would have us believe. What's good for America has usually turned out to be good for the world. It's just turned out that way, as in Iraq.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 07:12 PM

it freed the population, but to what? and where is the confluence with us interests? wasn't that your point?

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 07:40 PM

the only thing i can agree with is that the consequences of us actions were more often than not more benign that those by other actors. and that's not that difficult given what others do and did.

more than that would be really stretching it.

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 07:43 PM

it freed the population, but to what?

Did you think freedom comes with no price to pay? Blood and fire, baby. That's always been the price of freedom.

and where is the confluence with us interests?

Are you implying we didn't act out of self-interest? You can't have it both ways now.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 07:46 PM

blood and fire for what? for an islamist state cooperating with iran?

we acted on the US interest AS PERCEIVED BY ARROGANT IGNORAMUSES, who were warned that they were blundering but did not listen.

the real us interest is not to separate between shia and sunni, but to let them be busy fighting each other. let's see who declares a caliphate first.

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 08:06 PM

of course, then the blood would not be ours and we would get to use the wasted zillions for the real national interest.

After all, weren't you talking about feasibility?

Posted by: fp at July 25, 2007 08:10 PM

But, do we care what citizens of italy think about us? If we kidnap an italian citizen from italy to strenuously interrogate him, just what level of information do we need him to have for it to be worth what it costs us in italy? I tend to think we'd be better off with whatever cooperatin the italian government gives us.

You are offering a false choice. While the Italian government would rightfully object to 'strenuous' interrogation of random Italian citizens, it has no interest in preventing the interrogation of Italian citizens who are involved in terrorism, and interrogating such people is highly unlikely to cost us the cooperation of the Italian government.

If we use robot planes to swoop in and blow up pakistani citizens in their houses in pakistan, how much are those deaths worth to us, in comparison to what paks think about it?

Who is in the house? If it's Bin Laden, Zawahari, or some other al Qaeda type, what the Pakistanis think about it is irrelevant to me- if the Pakistanis did not want us to do such things, they should have arrested these people themselves, and prevented al Qaeda from operating out of Pakistani territory.

How would you feel if china was sending robot planes into the USA to blow up US citizens?

I would be unhappy, but not for the reason you think.

Real governments will either prevent their territory from being used to attack others without that government's consent, or take action against the attacker that makes direct action by the attacked party unnecessary.

Even if we have an inherent right as a superpower to do that kind of thing while china does not have that right, is it worthwhile to pay attention to pak opinion? We'd like those guys to help us against al qaeda and not help al qaeda against us, right? I tend to think we'd be better off getting the pakistani government to arrest people in those houses. If we've made a mistake it's easier to recover from. Potentially more info comes from it. Less support for AQ, more support for us.

That might even be a workable approach, if the Taliban had not been the creation of Pakistani intelligence.

When the world finds out that we've been using white phosphorus not in smoke concentrations but in lethal concentrations, because we want to kill people with it, is the tactical advantage we get from killing those people that way worth the cost? I tend to think that one is OK, not like there's really a consensus against using chemical weapons.
[...]
- J Thomas

1) WP is an incendiary.
2) WP is not covered by the relevant treaties on chemical weapons.
3) WP is used by nearly every military on the planet in flares and thermal decoys.
4) This was thoroughly discussed on this site back during the Hizbullah-Israeli dustup last year.

-----

ps: regarding this: [...] We are fighting an enemy much like George Orwell imagined in 1984. They are invisible - no one will ever know when Al Quaeda is defeated. It isn't a country. There are no borders. There is no land to seize. [...]
-Edan

I suggest you read the book. It's contents are rather different from what you imagine.

Your arguments, and all those of "red-blooded Americans" would hold water if we helped all people in the world equally.

Nope. You are basing your argument on a fundamentally flawed premise. In case you were wondering, the endpoint for that line of reasoning is that because it is impossible to help everyone equally, we cannot solve all problems, so we should solve no problems.

In the real world, one must prioritize, and it is considered entirely reasonable (if not particularly admirable) to use self-interest as one of the criteria.

Posted by: rosignol at July 25, 2007 08:49 PM

The 'War on Terror' is fruitless and unwinable because the very nature of terrorism is such that it can't be planned for or fought against.

We are fighting an enemy much like George Orwell imagined in 1984. They are invisible - no one will ever know when Al Quaeda is defeated. It isn't a country. There are no borders. There is no land to seize.

Yes, they're invisible and they can breathe underwater, shoot lazer beams from their eyeballs and assume any shape at will.

In fact, they are the lamest enemy we've ever fought. They're not as clever or as tough as the Soviets were, they're not as well-organized as the Nazis were. They're the equivalent of the Crips and the Bloods, with less of a social support structure, funded by specific nations whose combined armies are weaker than Belgium's. Their funds are managed by obvious religious front groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The only way these pathetic drug-addled loons could ever have gotten as far as they have would be if we refused to fight them. And we have refused to fight them, consistently, for decades.

Now we're fighting some of them, but our government invites others to the White House. Some members of our government think we should negotiate with Syria or the Muslim Brotherhood. We complain about Iran but we invite Wahhabi-funded CAIR to train our FBI on 'sensitivity'

The only way we could make things worse is to believe that anti-military 'non-violent' types are arguing from the point of humanism. The only type of violence that appalls the anti war left is self-defense. The best way to prevent people from defending themselves is to argue that they can never win.

Posted by: mary at July 25, 2007 09:16 PM

Steve -- I work with head injury, PTSD, and other issues and have been following the discussions about returnees closely. Also have a friend of the family dealing with it, and recently spoke at some length with several Israeli psychologists about PTSD in troops engaged in both urban and insurgent conflict.

While you know people who find it too easy to falsely claim clinical PTSD, I am advised there are a great many who find it extremely difficult to get properly diagnosed when they DO have serious symptoms, are more likely to be hassled and humiliated, or at best have a several month wait for any kind of care.

The rate of minor and major head injury in returning military is (compared to other conflicts) also extremely high. The rate of amputees is very high. I haven't seen any data to indicate if these rates are diminishing recently or not.

But my only point in all that was that many people on here seemed awfully eager to take MJT's first fairly upbeat post as hard evidence that all the rest is just bad news made up by pinko MSM saboteurs, and that really, things are pretty hunky dory in Baghdad. I see his excellent report as just one much-needed good pebble placed on the neglected side of the scale.

Posted by: Pam at July 25, 2007 10:38 PM

of course, then the blood would not be ours and we would get to use the wasted zillions for the real national interest.

fp,

this is the least bloody war ever fought in our country's history. Baghdad fell in a day and our casualties remain relatively small. Wouldn't you agree? Most of the blood being spilt is Iraqi-- not ours. As should be. It's their freedom they're fighting for.

We will only lose this war if we surrender. And if we win, it'll have been one of the cheapest victories we've ever won in terms of blood and treasure. So enough with the defeatism and overblown hysteria. You're only playing into the hands of our enemy. I wish you defeatists would knock it off already.

Posted by: Carlos at July 25, 2007 11:25 PM

this is the least bloody war ever fought in our country's history.

Yeah, pretty much... Bosnia may have had a lower bodycount, but it's hard to argue something with no ground action is a real war, and Grenada and Panama were basically weekend projects.

As far as losing is concerned....

The enemy has no power to destroy our ability project force from our home territory, and no ability to compel our government to do anything. As a practical matter, the US can keep this up for as long as our leaders can persuade the electorate that it's worth doing.

This explains a lot about the insurgent's strategy in Iraq- the only way they can win is by convincing Americans that we can't win.

....

I suspect that if we hadn't cut and run in Viet Nam, we wouldn't be dealing with this BS today.

Posted by: rosignol at July 26, 2007 12:02 AM

Fascinating debate between Carlos and fp. Carlos is the "idealist" while fp is the "realist". I am in between, but closer to Carlos. fp's realism is needed but realism without idealism turns into cynicism and then defeatism. That is why someone on another thread confused fp with an antiwar leftist.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at July 26, 2007 12:07 AM

Edan,

I carried firearms in Philadelphia on a regular basis as part of my military duties there. I never was a victim of firearm crime. The people I know who were victims of firearm crime were cruising a dangerous neighborhood in search of drugs. (Or perhaps they were researching for the book "How to Get Carjacked", hard to say.)

I would say that you have a lot less of a gun violence problem than you have a teacher's union problem. Teacher's unions insulated educators from accountability in Philadelphia for a generation and now you have a lot of uneducated criminals, many of whom have guns when they are not in prison.

Oddly enough, they have similar problems in Iraq, where education is severely lagging and the disenfranchised ignorant are violent. Of course, Frank Rizzo didn't try to eradicate North Philly like Saddam attempted to wipe out Kurdistan, so this comparison only goes so far. Many Iraqi's have an excuse for why the missed an education. All Philly's got is a series of incompetent politicians.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 26, 2007 12:18 AM

Thank you for doing a job that needs to be done. Thank you for trying to get the word out to the world that these people are no different then me and you. And they can not be left to be slaughtered because our liberal friend hate G.W. We have stripped these people of a military and a police force and the liberal morons wont to leave them all to be slaughtered. I wish we could exchange the Kerry's and Deans of the world with some of these brave people that deserve a happy life.

Posted by: joe at July 26, 2007 01:31 AM

"If we kidnap an italian citizen from italy to strenuously interrogate him, just what level of information do we need him to have for it to be worth what it costs us in italy? I tend to think we'd be better off with whatever cooperatin the italian government gives us."

While the Italian government would rightfully object to 'strenuous' interrogation of random Italian citizens, it has no interest in preventing the interrogation of Italian citizens who are involved in terrorism, and interrogating such people is highly unlikely to cost us the cooperation of the Italian government.

Exactly. They'd be glad to interrogate him for us and share their evidence. But if we say "He's a terrorist but we won't tell you our evidence, we're going to take him and torture him" then they'll tend to stop cooperating with us.

They don't like terrorists, and we want them to like us better than they like terrorists.

"If we use robot planes to swoop in and blow up pakistani citizens in their houses in pakistan, how much are those deaths worth to us, in comparison to what paks think about it?"

Who is in the house? If it's Bin Laden, Zawahari, or some other al Qaeda type, what the Pakistanis think about it is irrelevant to me

I see! You write off pakistan as a neutral and treat them as an enemy nation.

"How would you feel if china was sending robot planes into the USA to blow up US citizens?"

I would be unhappy, but not for the reason you think.

Real governments will either prevent their territory from being used to attack others without that government's consent, or take action against the attacker that makes direct action by the attacked party unnecessary.

Yes. Pakistan is not a real nation because we kill their citizens and they do nothing to stop us.

"We'd like those guys to help us against al qaeda and not help al qaeda against us, right? I tend to think we'd be better off getting the pakistani government to arrest people in those houses."

That might even be a workable approach, if the Taliban had not been the creation of Pakistani intelligence.

I think "creation" is too strong a word. But you have a point. So ... pakistan is working with taliban and working with al qaeda, they are interfering with our subjugation of afghanistan, they already have nukes themselves, and they have tried to spread nuclear technology. They have a figurehead leader who blurs all this enough that we talk about keeping his cooperation. The pak public is strongly against us, and Musharraf's position as official dictator gets shakier each day because of his collaboration with us.

This leads to the natural question.

Given that we're writing off pakistan as an ally or a neutral --

Why the hell are we occupying iraq?

Posted by: J Thomas at July 26, 2007 01:43 AM

"When the world finds out that we've been using white phosphorus not in smoke concentrations but in lethal concentrations, because we want to kill people with it, is the tactical advantage we get from killing those people that way worth the cost? I tend to think that one is OK, not like there's really a consensus against using chemical weapons."

1) WP is an incendiary.

So?

2) WP is not covered by the relevant treaties on chemical weapons.

So?

3) WP is used by nearly every military on the planet in flares and thermal decoys.

Not every military on the planet has been caught using it as a lethal gas.

You have utterly missed the point. Sure, we haven't signed treaties that say we won't use it. But if we did sign such treaties we'd have two reasons to do it. First, we might want to get agreements with specific other countries that they won't use it either. But that isn't particularly an issue; we have the best logistics in the world so if it comes to a contest we can use it better than they can. Second, we want to persuade the world that we aren't bad guys who do atrocities. For that we don't have to sign treaties. We can just not do it.

When it comes to not looking like bad guys, saying we didn't sign a treaty could be just like "We never signed a treaty that said we wouldn't rape and kill children". That's no defense whatsoever.

What civilians think about warfare doesn't have to make any sense. Like, if you're going to get killed, is it really worse to get a little nerve gas on your skin, or is it worse to get a bayonet in your gut? There are lots of bad ways to get killed on a battlefield and not a lot of good ones. The point of not looking like bad guys is it has various advantages, and we have to ask whether it has too much military cost.

My view is that we should keep WP available. It has a legitimate use. And if some enemy uses weapons we think they shouldn't, we can retaliate with WP as a lethal gas, and maybe persuade them to stop. Easier than carrying around nerve gas etc that we never use for anything, in case we need to retaliate with it.

But we're better off when the world doesn't hear about us actually using it that way. When they get evidence we used lethal gas on civilians then we don't look like good guys, and there's a cost to that which we should be somewhat cautious about.

Don't use WP as a lethal gas unless there's a clear need that's worth that cost. But it isn't that big a deal. If our military culture insists on doing it, world opinion etc isn't an overwhelming cost. Something to take into account but not get bent out of shape over.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 26, 2007 02:22 AM

Great discussion. I wish I had stayed up later last night, but I had to get up early this morning. I'd respond to everyone, but that would be a LOT of space, and my computer time is somewhat limited. So, I'll pick a couple people, respond to my favorite points (or inanities, as the case may be) and leave it at that.

Edan:
Glad to see you back. Where do I begin?:D

And why do I say wasting your life? Because there is no exit strategy and plan. The 'War on Terror' is fruitless and unwinable because the very nature of terrorism is such that it can't be planned for or fought against.

If by "fruitless" and "unwinnable" you mean that we will never stop crazy people from trying to kill other people, I fear you are correct. I take it, then, that since the "War on Murder" is fruitless and unwinnable, we should just stop trying to prevent murder? After all, we'll never succeed in wiping it out altogether, so we shouldn't even try, right? The entire point of the War on Terror is that a specific group of people (radical muslims, in case anyone missed that part) have dedicated themselves to eradicating our civilization. The means they are using are what we refer to as "terrorism"; hence, "War on Terror". The "War Against Islamist Wackjobs" was apparently too un-PC.

We are fighting an enemy much like George Orwell imagined in 1984. They are invisible - no one will ever know when Al Quaeda is defeated. It isn't a country. There are no borders. There is no land to seize.

You might want to brush up on your Orwell before you use him to make a point. I could be wrong, but I know a lot of people whose experience of Orwell consists of one out-of-context quote at the end of a phenominally bad movie, and it sure sounds like you're in that club. I apologize if I'm mistaken about that, I'm certainly not trying to imply anything about you (ok, I am, but I'm trying to be polite while doing so).

By the way, an "exit strategy" is a stupid and unworkable idea invented by people who never wanted to go to war in the first place. Anyone with an ounce of military knowledge will tell you that coming into a war already planning to get out of it is a great way to lose. Our "exit strategy" should be "win". And had we worried a little more about winning and a little less about being percieved as the "good guys" a couple of years ago, there would probably be far less violence in this country right now.

Gotta run, I'm being kicked off by the internet nazi. I'll post more later.

Posted by: Josh at July 26, 2007 02:59 AM

Pam

But my only point in all that was that many people on here seemed awfully eager to take MJT's first fairly upbeat post as hard evidence that all the rest is just bad news made up by pinko MSM saboteurs, and that really, things are pretty hunky dory in Baghdad. I see his excellent report as just one much-needed good pebble placed on the neglected side of the scale

I see that you are trying to be fair here, and I appreciate that. But your phrasing, “pinko MSM saboteurs” reveals some attitudes you may not be aware of, at least in your writing. I didn’t get the impression that anyone so far thinks “things are pretty hunky dory in Bahgdad.”

After reading Michael’s article I felt like I got a breath of fresh air after being trapped in a room of toxic pollutants and I was grateful! Actually the mainstream media overall is biased toward the left end of the political spectrum. There are excellent recent studies and surveys that prove it, even if we don’t want to trust our lying eyes. I didn’t see anyone call the mainstream press “pinko” but the term really does indicate being suffused with Marxism and folk-marxism, so I think it fits. Today’s “pinkos” tend to love their life in America for all of its riches and benefits, but believe, sometimes sincerely, that we are an imperialist entity bent on vacuuming up all the world’s material riches and resources in order to benefit a tiny oligarchy.

I don’t know exactly what “saboteurs” means in your mind, but I would say that the MSM does sabotage our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in a general way, and sometimes in specific ways, acknowledging that there is a lot of variance and degree in the sabotage. The tendency of the MSM to show mainly negative, frightening and sensational occurrences in the Iraq war works in the favor of our enemies. If you don’t realize that our media has been used to skew public opinion by our jihadist enemies and their sympathizers (albeit in many levels and degrees of sympathy), then I don’t know where you have been these past few years.

The mainstream media is overwhelmingly biased toward the anti-Iraq War, leftist point of view. There are very few sources of news that are objective and observational, or which openly acknowledge whatever biases they may have. The mainstream media purports to be unbiased yet is the opposite. Since they not only slant the news but sometimes print outright lies and fabrications that benefit their bias, you can never be sure what is accurate and what isn’t. This is true of the AP, NYT, LAT, Time, Newsweek and the major TV Networks, as well as most others.

This is why I double check everything against the blogosphere, and why I appreciate Michael’s blog very much. Michael may drop the ball here and there, but he is not a liar and he isn’t in denial about the state of journalism. He’s not getting rich, and he isn’t toadying up to a bunch of pompous editors, publishers and others who seek to control the information we get and bend our public opinion to their will thereby. He is a fine writer.

This is all very important to me because I have a son who risks his life everyday in Iraq, and whether the war is being conducted rightly, wrongly, or in-between, I would like to have a picture of what really goes on there, not just reports from people who are already convinced that it is immoral, illegal and monstrous, and that our soldiers are immoral, unethical, and monstrous, a la TNR. Or, alternatively, care mainly about their own careers in today’s journalism and will write or say anything to get a scoop and impress their left-leaning editors and colleagues.

So Pam. I don’t think everything is hunky-dory, and I don’t think Michael’s report is “hard evidence” but I am glad to read something positive and different from the usual. And it is okay if I, and others, express their relief, and even joy in receiving some good news that is quite probably accurate.

Posted by: Gayle at July 26, 2007 03:07 AM

Howdy folks!

Sort of a lefty-liberal here, at least in context of opinions about this war. I must clearly distance myself, however, from Edan and how he expressed himself (seems to be a very young, guilt-blinded, narrow-view, idealist - but not uncommon in the young, really!).

MJT - appreciated your posting here, first I've ever read of yours. While I always accepted there were some 'good stories' in Iraq, it was a nice 'break' to read one in detail.

JOSH, I have been, and remain, in awe of our military (you and your brethren noted here, re-affirm that awe), regarding their courage, sacrifice, willingness to serve and go where ordered, their technical abilities, efficiency, mind-boggling multi-tasking from psycho-therapist to traffic cop, soldier, language specialist, military strategist and city planner in a single day (everyday?). All the while maintaining their wits, American values and motivation in hostile territory, wearing heavy, uncomfortable gear in sandy, 100+ degree heat!

That all being said, and the 'successes' reported by MJT and elsewhere that we can point to, can not and should not prevent those of us at home from casting a critical eye on the whole operation, the 'leaders' that said we needed to be there and their flaws of execution. I think it is honorable to hold civilian leaders' feet to the fire when lives are at stake and dissect their rhetoric and actions. Total context counts and historical perspective matters. It is part of our American culture and character to seek truth and strive for improvement in all that we do.

So far, using total bombing incident and casualty figures as benchmarks, things have gotten worse this year. But, even if the numbers had gone down, it wouldn't necessarily be an accurate picture that things were better because past history has shown the enemy will move or lay low for a while, until our forces leave. Getting a full picture of what's happening there is near impossible and well-illustrated by Josh's honest comment on the difficulties in his area, yet his Mom (understandably) conveys a feeling that the surge is working and Iraq is looking-up, based on MJT's post here. Each of those is ONLY A SNAPSHOT and therefore not enough to draw an overall conclusion re success. No one I know has EVER doubted the individual achievements, integrity or patriotism, etc. of our military.

The attack on Afghanistan was an amazing feat! Who could not be impressed by seeing our troops on horseback in the canyons of an ancient land once traversed by Genghis Kahn?! I get chills now, thinking about it. But I also get very sad hearing about how we are losing all that was gained there at high cost, because of mismanagement after the fact. If accountability and strict disciplined performance is required of our troops and enforced, then the same is fair and reasonable to be applied to the Oval Office!

People like me just ask was it necessary to go in and what is the cost/benefit ratio?*

There is one thing that is the saddest and most dangerous to our democracy and the effectiveness and integrity of our defense forces - it is the vindictive partisanship by politicians, aided and abetted by the MSM and political mandarins.

*As long as I have blathered on this long... A couple of 'technical' points for anyone in uniform.
1) with IED's, are they automatically triggered by wire or vehicle or is a look-out manually triggering them upon sight ID? I ask because I wonder if/why either a front-end attachment to a vehicle (convoy) couldn't be useful (like a mine sweeper with swinging, rotating chains) couldn't be used, or a remote control vehicle (4ft. toy-car size) that would be in the lead?
2) since I never did think Saddam was an imminent threat or had effective WMD's, I don't understand why we sent in a ground force when we did? If we have satellites that can read a car license plate from space, shouldn't we be able to tell if a country is doing something on a large scale of real danger to us without even stepping into the country? And let's say that Saddam had been this imminent and horrendous threat, why would we hesitate, and who in the world would blame us, to use some of those ICBM's we have all over the place?? Wouldn't that have knocked Saddam out? Yes, there would be civilian casualties, but not as many as we now have in Iraq?

That's a very sincere question that I have NEVER heard asked or responded to by the brains in DC.

Note to Carlos, I think I can deflate every argument you have put forth, but don't have the time now... Hopefully you will re-evaluate your statements over time and they will be burnished with more knowledge and wisdom ;-).

Prayers and best thoughts for those in harms way...and your families!

I'm finally done now, sorry to take so much space.

Posted by: iso at July 26, 2007 03:29 AM

“Hey - I'm back! Sorry for not jumping into my mass-murder earlier, but I was at work.
Geez, where to begin with all the attacks? I've never understood the desire to attack people personally - so I won't call anyone an idiot or what have you. Your responses, collectively, do say a lot about American and its reactionary bent.
I also never knew CAPS were so offensive. It was funny reading your reactions to that as well…”

Just a tip. On the internet, using all CAPs is the equivalent of yelling at people. Google the term “netiquette” and you will find many articles that help newbies understand the conventions and courtesies of posting on the internet. One of the main ones regards the use of all caps.
Yelling out to everyone that the U.S. is a terrorist country is sophomoric. (A good example of being a “flame thrower” on the internet.) There are clearly people of many shades of belief posting here, but they all seem to respect the U.S. and its military, and comport themselves like adults in their posting, whatever their actual ages. You need to find a website or blog where everyone throws around wild terms they don’t know the meaning of, have meager critical thinking skills and a poor grasp of history and current events. There you would fit in.

You were somewhat redeemed in my eyes by your remark “I stand corrected.” It showed that you at least are able to write a humble remark even if you don’t mean it. But you went on immediately to tell the soldier that he was “wasting his life.” Very badly put Edan. Very snarky, very ignorant. I won’t ask you to produce your statistics proving what a load of ignorant lowlife comprises our military, because there aren’t any. The real statistics actually show quite the opposite. I am truly sad that at your young age you are so brainwashed by liberal myths you have heard of.

I hope you have some experiences in your life that help you appreciate different kinds of people, other points of view, and that one day you have some values that you would be willing to risk your life for. You probably think that personal courage is showing up and telling everybody, “Hey I’m baaaaack. Lookit meeeeeeeeeeeeee everybody, aren’t I offensive with all my adolescent rebellion?” Yeah, like someone who always forgets to wipe their bottom after a big job. Try cleaning yourself up before prancing around, and you might get a little more respect.

Posted by: Gayle at July 26, 2007 03:53 AM

Back again. We only have a few computers with internet access, so there's usually a line. I should be around fairly frequently for at least a few days, though, as they're giving me a couple days on pass. Nice of them, isn't it?

iso, thanks for the post and the compliments. It's nice to be reminded from time to time that all liberals aren't the blathering, sign-waving idiots that I'm so used to. I spent too much time around liberal college students (back when I was a liberal myself) and so tend to associate all liberals with a general abundance of belief and lack of perspective.

You ask two excellent questions, and I'd like to respond to both in detail.

1) The type of IEDs used and the methods of triggering them vary a great deal depending on where you are. For instance, car bombs are almost exclusively Sunni, at least in Baghdad, and I don't think I've heard of Shia using them anywhere. Shia have, over the last 18 months or so, used a type of explosive called an EFP (explosive formed penetrator), which is basically a shaped charge. If you're interested in technical details, I can tell you, but basically it's an armor-piercing IED. Iran and Hizbollah developed them to use against Israel, and started giving them to Shia militants over the last couple years. They're pretty bad, although not the worst I've seen. They're able to penetrate pretty much any armor we have, because it's essentially a white-hot bolt of molten metal, which is hot enough to set the armor itself on fire. We've been experimenting with quite a few different things to stop them, some of which seem to work. I can't go into specifics, as I'm sure you understand.

The Sunnis, not having the technical backing of Iran, have until recently been making do with traditional artillery rounds on the side of the road, and car bombs, which mostly target Iraqi civillians. The artillery shells aren't too much of a threat, as they have to get pretty lucky to penetrate and to more then pop a few tires. If I'm in anything heavier than a humvee, they're just a joke. Recently, however, they've taken to tunneling underneath roads and burying extremely large quantities of homemade explosives. I forget the technical term for the type of explosive, but it's a bunch of letters that only really means anything to the EOD guys. To me, it's just stuff that goes boom. The under-the-road bombs are the worst thing I've seen here, because they're so large that they can destroy pretty much anything. We've had three incidents within the past few months, two in my battalion and one with a military police battalion that we live with. If you'd like details, they should be pretty easy to find.

To answer you actual question, now:)...In fact, we do use quite a few devices like the ones you mention in order to make the remote triggering of IEDs much more difficult. Obviously, I can't discuss the specifics, but suffice it to say that any method of triggering that they can come up with, we can find a way of countering pretty quickly. This leaves them with the traditional copper wire and a guy with a button. Unfortunately, that's pretty hard to counter with technology. Our counter to that is to drive fast, turn off our lights at night, and hope that they miss. Of course, we also keep our eyes open, but this country is full of trash and debris, and it's pretty easy to hide stuff. The driving fast method seems to work a lot of the time (I've been missed a few times myself) and being forced to manually activate the thing means that they have to expose themselves. Quite often we catch the trigger man or men relatively quickly after the blast. Of course, the trigger men are usually pawns who are meant to be sacrificed, and the maker of the IED is far away at the time. Still, every bad guy we catch or kill is one less to worry about.

I hope that answers your question. It's probably a bit more long-winded than you were looking for. Just read my mom's posts, you'll see where I get it from. You should see the emails she writes. Your second question is also an excellent one, and one that I've discussed many times. However, it's a fairly involved one, and I don't know that this site is the best forum for that discussion. Can you think of a good bulletin board where we could have it? I'd like to have the conversation, as I think it's an important one and I also think I have a pretty good answer for it.

Posted by: Josh at July 26, 2007 03:59 AM

I take it, then, that since the "War on Murder" is fruitless and unwinnable, we should just stop trying to prevent murder? After all, we'll never succeed in wiping it out altogether, so we shouldn't even try, right?

Josh, what do we do to prevent murder?

We lock up some murderers after the fact, and kill a few of them. But mostly, anybody who's actually ready to commit murder isn't going to be deterred by the thought he might go to jail and maybe 10 or 20 years later get killed.

We talk about gun control -- taking guns away from likely murderers might make it a little harder for them to kill people. But we're so undecided about that reasoning that we do nothing at all effective along those lines.

If you think somebody is planning to kill you, you can tell the police about it. Then if you do get killed they'll have that report to refer to. Not particularly prevention.

I think the main thing we do to prevent murders, is that people's mothers teach them that it's wrong. We don't do much else compared to that.

The entire point of the War on Terror is that a specific group of people (radical muslims, in case anyone missed that part) have dedicated themselves to eradicating our civilization.

That's a bad strategy. The original 9/11 plan called for taking over about 60 planes. Somehow when the plan was set off only 4 groups were activated, none of the other groups got the message. So, call it 1000 people who could have done a whole lot of damage. As it was, they did a little bit of damage and we went crazy about it.

Now, is the problem that there were 1000 radical muslims who were ready to die to do us tremendous damage? No. The problem was that we set up a system that any 1000 suicidal fanatics could do tremendous damage to. If it wasn't muslims it would be somebody else.

Our goal has got to be to redesign our systems so they aren't so easy to sabotage. Because we'll still have people who want to destroy us after the radical muslims are gone.

Do we want to live in a place where small numbers of crazy people can cheaply kill lots of us and do billions of dollars worth of destruction? No.

When we do live in a place like that, do we want to have a trillion-dollar war against one particular little group of crazy people, or do we want to redesign the flaws in our design patterns?

After almost 6 years of homeland security stuff, are we safer? Maybe from muslim saboteurs. What if it was russians, or chinese, or american militia nuts, or anybody else? I think our planes are safer, nobody's going to try that particular trick again. But the other tricks? Have you heard any indication that anybody is actually thinking at DHS?

Posted by: J Thomas at July 26, 2007 04:06 AM

Wow, mom...that's kinda harsh. Funny, though.

Edan, just one more response: I contest that I never attacked you personally. I consider personal attacks to be the lowest form of either politics or internet debate. Calling your opponent names is childish and proves nothing except that one is capable of coming up with clever insults (or not-so-clever insults, most of the time). I do not question your sincerity, your patriotism, your paternity, your personal hygene or lack therof, or anything else about you as a person. What I question (yes, and attack) is your judgement, your grasp of the issues, your knowledge of the subject, the validity of your opinions, and your perspective on reality. I consider all of those to be legitimate points of attack in a discussion such as this, and I hope everyone will agree. I invite you to do the same to me, and I will be more than happy to respond.

Posted by: Josh at July 26, 2007 04:11 AM

JThomas,
Good post. A couple respsonses:
My point about the "War on Murder" (my own phrase, and yes, I know that I use parentheses too much) was a point of principle, not practicality. I agree with most of what you said about the legal system, and I simply have to say that if we simply gave a guy one appeal and then hung him in the public square the next day, that would probably be a much more effective deterrent. My main point with that comment, however, which also ties into your next point, is that simply because we will never wipe out terrorism altogether does not mean we should stop trying.

You are correct, of course, that many of our country's security and infrastructure systems are badly in need of some work. In fact, my number one beef with the administration (and I am generally a pretty big Bush supporter, in case you couldn't tell) has to do with our internal security. I think that a lot of what we go through in airports is mindless window dressing that is easy to exploit and does nothing to make us any safer. It's simply in place to make people feel as if they were safer. It's the same sort of thinking that led to checking the IDs of celebrities at the Oscars afer 9/11: Cindy Crawford isn't a likely terror suspect, because she's Cindy Crawford. Actually, if you want an inspiration for good airport security, you could look to Israel and El Al, which is a discussion for another time.

However, our main focus should NOT be on improving our internal systems. Building better and higher walls is not a winning strategy. A purely defensive war is impossible to win, because it gives all of the initiative to the enemy, and no matter how good your defenses, he will eventually figure out a way to get through them.

One thing we need to be clear about is that we are not at war with some random wacko who wakes up one day and decides to go blow himself up. The Timothy McVeigh type terrorist is nearly impossible to take the fight to unless someone happens to get a lucky tip. Random crazy people can come from anywhere, at any time, for any reason. However, just because they can does not make them the same kind of threat as Islamism. You can get wet from a rain shower and you can get wet from a tidal wave, but only someone who is blind considers the two equally as dangerous.

This "paticular group of crazy people" that we are fighting is that tidal wave. They are not that tiny, they have proven themselves to be pretty effective fighters, and they have been waging war on us for many years. It took 9/11 to make us (at least some of us) realize that this was a war and not some random criminal activity. Incidentally, I don't call 3000 Americans murdered in one day a "little damage". They've taken four years to reach that number over here, and lefties have been screaming about high casualties since it hit, oh, five or so.

I have plenty of beefs with the way the war on terror, and this paticular battle in Iraq, has been conducted. However, I also think that the taking of Monte Casino was not militarily necessary and killed a lot of Americans for no good reason. That does not mean that I think WW2 was pointless, or that the generals in charge were incompetant. It just means that they were human, they did their best with the knowledge that they had, and they turned out to be wrong.

Posted by: Josh at July 26, 2007 04:33 AM

Josh - thanks for not personally attacking me.

Obviously, these blog comment areas aren't an arena for true discussion. They are places where people go to rant and state their opinions. No one is coming here to have their opinions changed. Rarely, someone like Josh will come along and present facts - which I acknowledge. His facts, however, do not change my opinion of the war. Our military could be composed solely of the sons of oil barons and it would not change the very nature of this immoral and illegal war.

The truly terrifying thing about this 'debate' is that you are all looking for some sort of justification to prolong this war or redeem it. You feel that one post by Michael Totten will somehow absolve you of the sins of invading a country that wasn't involved in 9/11 and wasn't harboring Al Qaida.

How many times can the reason for this war change? The lies spoken by this administration are available for everyone to see - shall I send you a link to one particular timeline I know of where you can see the lies and distortions month by month?

Or shall I link you to the numerous military families and veterans who claim this war is immoral and illegal?

We are all good people here - you don't have to support this war just because Bush says so. I don't hate soldiers and I'm not pro fundamentalism - I know you want to believe I am, but I'm not.

Posted by: Edan at July 26, 2007 05:23 AM

>>"Bush keeps saying we're going to "win the peace." What does that mean? When is the end? What does peace look like?

And when we leave and the two sides start killing each other again - will we go back in?"<<--Edan

If you are serious in honestly searching for an understanding to these related questions, it might make more sense to switch the two paragraphs around (doing so allows a more relevant segue). It should be noted that 'going back in' prevention is vital (think 1991/2003 and present). It's now, err...kind of the point. Something all parties involved would prefer.

Is that tree and forest-like enough?

Posted by: anuts at July 26, 2007 05:35 AM

Well Josh. I didn't think you'd think I was being harsh with Edan--he needs a reality check. Better to get it from a mean mom then from some violent person in Philadelphia. Maybe it was a little harsh. It really isn't his fault--he has been listening to one point of view, swallowed it whole, and now he thinks he's got the big truth. I shouldn't be funny by being harsh. I wasn't trying to be funny, I was actually kind of mad at the shallow insensitivity of his remarks and I couldn't let it slide by. The world is full of vapid people so I shouldn't let it get to me.

Of course you realize that the personal hygiene part was metaphoric. If you don't check your facts, question your assumptions and so forth, you can wind up with bad breath of the mind. It makes people want to back off, but sometimes the offender thinks he or she is overpowering everyone by the great force of their intellect and argument. When you sense that a lot of people don't like what you are saying, you might consider that it could have to do with the way you are saying it.

Thanks for the parenting though. Sometimes I need it.

Thank you also for your IED explanation. It helped me to understand the risks better.

And thanks to the poster who asked the questionabout the tech stuff. You identified yourself as a kinda-sorta lefty and that is okay (by me.) You are right to say that we need to question the actions and policies of our leaders. A lot of mistakes have been made and I agree that it is a factor in the current unpopularity of the war. But not the only one. How it is reported is just as big.

On the other hand, this war is unique in many ways, and no one could hav predicted all the twists and turns it would take. Including the political opposition. I believe that the decisions made by the president were made in good faith, although some of them turned out to be wrong or partially wrong (e.g., initial troop levels, "de-baathification", total disbanding of the army, etc.) I understand that it is hard for people to trust. We all want the president to be an infallible guru.

Another reason it is hard to trust is that the news coverage has been so biased, and because some of our national leaders have treated the war as an opportunity to stir up defeatism for their political benefit. Look at Senator "cold blood" Murtha? Nancy Pelosi running off to Syria to begin her own personal foreign policy. Those out of power sometimes crave and hunger for it so badly that they will use literal life and death to maneuver themselves into greater power. They will see peoples' lives ruined if it means an advantage for them. They will see many lives lost as they wrangle for power. With the eyes of their hearts closed.

George Bush does not have the gift of gab and the ability to act sincere while lying. He certainly has been deficient in those areas. He has made mistakes and he certainly has personal flaws. Who doesn't? He has had the courage to stand up to fierce opposition--he is not allowing his foreign policy to be guided by opinion polls. Popularity is not the acid test of truth and wisdom.

So question away. There are a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered. Good people can stand on either side of the war question.

I am still grateful that MJT is reporting from Iraq. Thanks again Michael for taking the risks that you do to bring the news home to us.

Posted by: Gayle at July 26, 2007 05:37 AM

Josh, you might choose to believe -- from scripture or history or whatever -- that islam is inherently hostile. You could make the same arguments about LDS. It isn't compelling unless you want to believe.

After 9/11 there was a consensus, somewhere between 99% and 99.99% in the muslim world that AQ had done wrong. Muslims aren't supposed to attack the innocent. If they were at war it was OK to attack the Pentagon, but not a building with lots of innocent civilians in it. The AQ response was that US imperialism was getting run by evil US stockbrokers and such, and some of them were in WTC, and they couldn't get them without getting a lot of innocent civilians with them. Muslims didn't buy that excuse.

So what did we do? We attacked the innocent. We captured and interrogated a lot of innocent muslims, and when we found out they didn't know anything we didn't let them go.

We didn't do so badly in afghanistan, it was kind of OK for us to pay and arm afghan factions to take over the government, which they'd have done on their own if they had the money and arms. Telling the paks to stop funding taliban was OK too, and just cutting off the pak funds and arms was enough for taliban to lose control.

But then we invaded iraq, innocents. We killed a lot of civilians in the initial attacks, the shock-and-awe and then the invasion. A lot of that was by accident, like we'd see tanks or artillery the iraqi army had abandoned that children were playing on, and we'd think it was important and bomb it without a closer look. But after the fighting died down we kept shooting civilians on suspicion. Relatively a lot of innocent civilians died at checkpoints. It took iraqi civilians awhile to learn how to live among us without us killing them. And we detained a lot of iraqis for no good purpose. We tended to release the criminals and keep the ones who might possibly have some secrets. And there was Abu Graib and all that.

So the big effect was muslims got lots of chances to see us attack the innocent. We did airstrikes to kill insurgents, and we didn't care if innocents in the same building or neighboring buildings died. We looked just as bad as al qaeda but on a much larger scale, plus we weren't muslim but we attacked innocent muslims.

AQ made themselves look like bad guys to muslims, and then we made them look like good guys in comparison.

You might believe that there's a real long-term muslim threat that's inherent in the nature of islam. That might be true, there's no way to test it except wait for the long run. But we created a short-term muslim threat. We made AQ look good by attacking innocent muslims -- and AQ is the only group outside iraq or afghanistan that hits back. We created almost all of the muslim threat out of nothing -- out of our own rage.

Meanwhile, the sabotage threat in the USA? There's AQ, which has done essentially nothing in the USA since 9/11. There's the iranians -- 2 million iranians in the USA, we could get a thousand of them that commit sabotage here if we attack iran, but they've done nothing yet. There's russian intelligence services, who might feel they benefit by doing sabotage in the USA and getting us to blame it on somebody else. Similarly chinese intelligence services. Similarly israeli intelligence services. Similarly pakistani intelligence services.

Anybody who has a grudge against us, or anybody who has a grudge against somebody who has a grudge against us, or anybody who has a grudge against somebody we have a grudge against.... Anybody who thinks they can hit us and get us to blame it on their enemy....

Incidentally, I don't call 3000 Americans murdered in one day a "little damage".

Compare the damage from 3 planes to the damage from 60 planes. We got off real real easy. We got 5% of the attack that was planned. The loss of life at WTC was probably a bit higher than they planned -- they had no idea the building would fall down, and they probably didn't expect everybody to die on floors higher than the stockbrokers. Casualties at the Pentagon were low because they attacked the side that was reinforced and that was partly already evacuated for construction. I never found out why they attacked that side rather than the side Rumsfeld was on etc.

3000 casualties was not significant. You say they're trying to dstroy us. They gave it their best shot and killed 0.001% of us. In 4 years we've killed around 1% of iraqis. No comparison.

A significant terrorist attack would kill, say, 0.1% of americans, 300,000 americans. That's quite possible and we've done nothing to stop it.

However, our main focus should NOT be on improving our internal systems. Building better and higher walls is not a winning strategy. A purely defensive war is impossible to win, because it gives all of the initiative to the enemy, and no matter how good your defenses, he will eventually figure out a way to get through them.

If you're building a home you don't want termites. Should you focus on building to make it hard for termites to nest in your woodwork, or should your focus be on destroying all the termites in the world?

If we could destroy AQ and end it, then I'd want that to be the main focus. If we could destroy AQ and taliban and end it. If we could destroy AQ and taliban and pakistan and end it. If we could destroy the middle east and end it. But that isn't how it works.

It's like we're wearing this big expensive suit of armor and we just noticed we haven't got anything at all covering our collective butt. We go around telling everybody how tough we are and then we turn around and they laugh at us. Anybody who really wanted to could sneak up behind us and kick our ass, and instead of covering it up we're trying to beat up the guy who slapped us on the butt 6 years ago.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 26, 2007 05:55 AM

Great piece, MJT.

The thing that personally impacted me was when you said:

"Personal security may, in fact, be the most important human right. Without it the others mean little. People aren’t free if they have to hide in their homes from death squads and car bombs."

Well being from Lebanon and in Lebanon when much of those bombs and assassinations happened in the past year, I cannot agree more.
This is the same fight we're fighting in Lebanon.

Posted by: El Hombre at July 26, 2007 05:58 AM

George Bush does not have the gift of gab and the ability to act sincere while lying. He certainly has been deficient in those areas.

Gayle, I don't think we'd be better off if Bush was better at acting sincere while he lies. If anything he's too good at that.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 26, 2007 06:01 AM

The problems in Philadelphia are due to a single factor:

George Bush doesn't care about black people.

Send water. Send trucks.

Posted by: Edgar at July 26, 2007 06:35 AM

"There's the iranians -- 2 million iranians in the USA, we could get a thousand of them that commit sabotage here if we attack iran, but they've done nothing yet. There's russian intelligence services, who might feel they benefit by doing sabotage in the USA and getting us to blame it on somebody else. Similarly chinese intelligence services. Similarly israeli intelligence services. Similarly pakistani intelligence services."

so, J. Thomas, you put the Israeli intelligence services in with the Pakistanis, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Iranians??!!

You don't need to say another word, it's clear you are a "troofer" Dream your paranoid little dreams pal! I hope they get you off...

Posted by: stephanie at July 26, 2007 06:38 AM

After 9/11 there was a consensus, somewhere between 99% and 99.99% in the muslim world that AQ had done wrong.

Where on earth did you get that statistic?

Here's one poll of 10,000 muslims reported in the Financial Times just after 9/11:

Feb 24, 2002:
In their own words, they saw western lifestyles as undisciplined, irreligious and immoral.

The polling group found strong majorities across Islamic countries - 67 per cent of respondents - saying that the September 11 attacks were morally unjustifiable. However most of those questioned reject the idea that Arabs, specifically Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, carried out the attacks. Significant numbers believe that Israel, or even the US itself, was responsible.

In other words, about 30% thought the 9/11 attacks were justified, and most of those who thought they were morally wrong thought it was a US conspiracy.

Personally, I'm still waiting for the fatwa condemning Bin Laden, Al Qaeda and suicide bombers.

Posted by: mertel at July 26, 2007 06:58 AM

JT,
You'll note, I hope, that in my arguments I never used the word "Islam". I used the word "Islamist". Perhaps, in order to make the distinction more clear, I should have used "Islamo-Facist". I certainly realize that most muslims aren't terrorists. The terms "Islamist" and "Islamo-Facist" refer to that segment of the muslim population who believe in using force to establish a world-wide caliphate and imposing the strictest, 9th century form of Sharia on the entire world. Whether or not Islam itself is more predisposed to violence than other faiths is a seperate argument, although one worth having.

I'd love to know where your information on Muslim world opinion comes from, though. Consider the fact that a majority of British muslims believe that 9/11 was orchestrated by either the Mossad, the CIA, or both. Or how about the mass celebrations on 9/11, not only in every single muslim country in the world, but also in Britain, France, the Netherlands... realize that those celebrating were probably not a majority, but do you REALLY think that they were .001% of Muslims?

You are correct, of course, in that we didn't do badly at all in Afghanistan. It wasn't perfect, of course, but it was the closest thing to St Augustine's "just war" in the history of the human race. If you think, however, that the muslim threat to our nation originated after 9/11, or that we created it, your ignorance saddens me. Jihadists have been killing Americans almost as long as there have been Americans. “No, we want war with you. We have a holy book called the Koran which says that we have to conquer and enslave all infidel states. And the United States is an infidel state. And moreover our holy book the Koran tells us that if we are killed in the course of carrying out this war that we’ll go directly to Paradise.” Sounds like an AQ statement, doesn't it? Actually, the envoy of the Pasha of Tripoli said that to Thomas Jefferson in 1785.

When are we going to be able to admit that our rational, logical thought process simply does not apply to the people who are fighting us? You cannot negotiate with someone who has no interest in negotiation. There is no American policy we could change that would cause the enemy to stop trying to kill us. Being percieved as "good guys" won't help. Pulling out of the Middle East and withdrawing our support from Israel wouldn't help. Even finding a way to keep from exporting material that they find offensive (I.e. the idea that women are people) won't help. It might buy some time, but the goal of these people is, ultimately, our destruction. It may not be a realistic or even a sane goal, but they will work towards it until we kill them or they kill us. Most of the people that we detain or kill here don't even HAVE what a rational person would call a goal. They aren't fighting to get us to leave, or to put a paticular person or party into power. They don't fight to oppose anyone specific. They fight because they believe it is their duty to fight, without any clear idea of why. And you may not, my friend, but I have a VERY clear idea of why I'm fighting.

Posted by: Josh at July 26, 2007 07:05 AM

J. Thomas: No we wouldn't be better off if Bush was better at lying and faking sincerity. Would we be better off with one of the Clintons? How about with John Kerry? One of the left's greatest criticisms of Bush is his inability to communicate according to their standards. He has certainly used a poor choice of words in certain circumstances. I just don't believe that he has consciously lied to the American people, about WMD, about the relationship of Iraq to the war on terror, etc. This has been the unending buzz of the pundits and critics however.

I agree with Josh that there have been mistakes, and very regrettable ones. And that does not mean that the leadership is incompetent, although that is the meme that is relentlessly pounded out by the critics and pundits of the left, including some who hold considerable political power.

Do you seriously believe that another presidential candidate would have done way better? We are faced with a situation whose complexity and stakes have not come together in such a dangerous combination in the history of the world. I refer to the entire situation of unrest, religious ambition and political ambition in the Mideast. Pakistan and Iran are unstable lnations with nuclear capability (or nearly capable.) Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are all mischievous. While we are a superpower, our power also has its limits. The factors are very complexl, and wide-ranging.

It is good to question the president and his policies, but do you think it has helped us to half of our country engaged in Bush derangement syndrome? Do you not think that a united front against our enemies would have shortened the war? I ask you to think about it.

Edan thinks, apparently, that all of us who don't think America is a terrorist state, bent on terrorising and ruining the world around us, and the reason we don't is because we are just doing what Bush tells us to do. Is this what you think also? Have you ever actually considered experimenting with some of the arguments of those who support the war, to be open to some of them? You will not lose your soul by doing this. You may receive some revelation.

I think I am probably older than you by a few decades, and although that doesn't qualify me for anything in and of itself, it did give me time to consider a lot of things. Maybe more time than you have had. I have made a lot of changes. I have been a very liberal person in my life, both politically and socially. I am much less so now. Not for emotional reasons or pet issues. I don't know where all of your questioning will lead you. Edan said that this comment section is not the place for real debate. He is right. Who contended that it was? Actually, what good does "debate" do? My view is that careful questioning and a real opening of the heart is what is needed.

I have considered the arguments, some sincerely put forth, by the left side for a number of years now. I don't know how others will decide--I have seen that connections between "folk marxism", the social ills of the day, by-pass the real issues.

Our civilization really is being attacked,and by a relentless, determined foe. The danger is that most of us don't or won't get this. It is not that we can be beaten militarily. That is only one front.

I read recently that Winston Churchill considered himself a failure as a leader and a statesman. Since he is revered in the western world and respected everywhere, how could this be? He considered that he had failed to convince the British people of the dangers of the National Socialist party in time to prevent WWII. In hindsight it likely could have been prevented, had not Europe taken the road of appeasement (as it does today.) Churchill was reviled for his warnings prior to Britains entrance into WWII. He was called a "warmonger" and "reckless" because he exposed the poisonous ideology of Hitler and his national socialists. There are some similarities to George Bush today, although I don't say there is an exact parallell, nor do contend that bush is the equal of Churchill. But think about it. If you are filled with Bush hatred you won't be able to do this kind of thinking. But you don't have to like him to be able to see that he is not a liar, he is not a "warmonger", and he isn't just an over-inflated ego.

I am not trying to change your mind. This is the greatest fear of people like Edan. They have to hold on to the first thiing they have believed no matter what, or they will lose their identity. You can change your own mind by being open to a new thought you hadn't considered before.

You can entertain some new values. You ask how many times can the reason for the war be changed. Well, as the situation changes, the reason for staying there can change too. How many times can the "reason" for 9-ll be changed? First it was because of poverty and oppression in the mideast, it was our policies, we had it coming, etc. Every six months there was a new emphasis on why it was our fault, coming from the left. Now it is as though it never happened. It was just an annoyance.

Actually, it was just pure evil. And it wants to spread.

Gotta go, doorbell ringing.

Posted by: Gayle at July 26, 2007 07:12 AM

J. Thomas: No we wouldn't be better off if Bush was better at lying and faking sincerity. Would we be better off with one of the Clintons? How about with John Kerry? One of the left's greatest criticisms of Bush is his inability to communicate according to their standards. He has certainly used a poor choice of words in certain circumstances. I just don't believe that he has consciously lied to the American people, about WMD, about the relationship of Iraq to the war on terror, etc. This has been the unending buzz of the pundits and critics however.

I agree with Josh that there have been mistakes, and very regrettable ones. And that does not mean that the leadership is incompetent, although that is the meme that is relentlessly pounded out by the critics and pundits of the left, including some who hold considerable political power.

Do you seriously believe that another presidential candidate would have done way better? We are faced with a situation whose complexity and stakes have not come together in such a dangerous combination in the history of the world. I refer to the entire situation of unrest, religious ambition and political ambition in the Mideast. Pakistan and Iran are unstable lnations with nuclear capability (or nearly capable.) Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are all mischievous. While we are a superpower, our power also has its limits. The factors are very complexl, and wide-ranging.

It is good to question the president and his policies, but do you think it has helped us to half of our country engaged in Bush derangement syndrome? Do you not think that a united front against our enemies would have shortened the war? I ask you to think about it.

Edan thinks, apparently, that all of us who don't think America is a terrorist state, bent on terrorising and ruining the world around us, and the reason we don't is because we are just doing what Bush tells us to do. Is this what you think also? Have you ever actually considered experimenting with some of the arguments of those who support the war, to be open to some of them? You will not lose your soul by doing this. You may receive some revelation.

I think I am probably older than you by a few decades, and although that doesn't qualify me for anything in and of itself, it did give me time to consider a lot of things. Maybe more time than you have had. I have made a lot of changes. I have been a very liberal person in my life, both politically and socially. I am much less so now. Not for emotional reasons or pet issues. I don't know where all of your questioning will lead you. Edan said that this comment section is not the place for real debate. He is right. Who contended that it was? Actually, what good does "debate" do? My view is that careful questioning and a real opening of the heart is what is needed.

I have considered the arguments, some sincerely put forth, by the left side for a number of years now. I don't know how others will decide--I have seen that connections between "folk marxism", the social ills of the day, by-pass the real issues.

Our civilization really is being attacked,and by a relentless, determined foe. The danger is that most of us don't or won't get this. It is not that we can be beaten militarily. That is only one front.

I read recently that Winston Churchill considered himself a failure as a leader and a statesman. Since he is revered in the western world and respected everywhere, how could this be? He considered that he had failed to convince the British people of the dangers of the National Socialist party in time to prevent WWII. In hindsight it likely could have been prevented, had not Europe taken the road of appeasement (as it does today.) Churchill was reviled for his warnings prior to Britains entrance into WWII. He was called a "warmonger" and "reckless" because he exposed the poisonous ideology of Hitler and his national socialists. There are some similarities to George Bush today, although I don't say there is an exact parallell, nor do contend that bush is the equal of Churchill. But think about it. If you are filled with Bush hatred you won't be able to do this kind of thinking. But you don't have to like him to be able to see that he is not a liar, he is not a "warmonger", and he isn't just an over-inflated ego.

I am not trying to change your mind. This is the greatest fear of people like Edan. They have to hold on to the first thiing they have believed no matter what, or they will lose their identity. You can change your own mind by being open to a new thought you hadn't considered before.

You can entertain some new values. You ask how many times can the reason for the war be changed. Well, as the situation changes, the reason for staying there can change too. How many times can the "reason" for 9-ll be changed? First it was because of poverty and oppression in the mideast, it was our policies, we had it coming, etc. Every six months there was a new emphasis on why it was our fault, coming from the left. Now it is as though it never happened. It was just an annoyance.

Actually, it was just pure evil. And it wants to spread.

Gotta go, doorbell ringing.

Posted by: Gayle at July 26, 2007 07:13 AM

If you're building a home you don't want termites. Should you focus on building to make it hard for termites to nest in your woodwork, or should your focus be on destroying all the termites in the world?

You should make it hard for termites to nest in the woodwork and you should hire an exterminator if your best plans fail to keep the termites out.

You should also refrain from inviting the termite queen into your house, putting out sugar to invite more termites in and generally befrending and protecting termites.

We can criticize America's response to terrorism, but we are fighting it more effectively than most other nations. This report, showing one day in the life of our soldiers over there, demonstrates just what an amazing job they're doing.

The world's record on fighting terrorism, either through security measures or through open warfare is not very good because most still don't acknowledge that terrorism can be fought. We've been appeasing it for decades, a habit that most haven't broken. Look at the Thai response to the egregious Islamist attacks against Buddhhists in the south. Look at Europe. When the oil-rich Arab league tells the UN to jump, the UN asks 'how far?' A bunch of poorly trained Irish thugs managed to get political power by convincing the British to 'negotiate' and 'maintain security' instead of fighting. Terrorism is kicking all of their asses.

Posted by: mary at July 26, 2007 07:21 AM

"I just don't believe that he has consciously lied to the American people, about WMD, about the relationship of Iraq to the war on terror, etc."

George Bush must be much smarter than all the others, since everybody agreed that Iraq had WMDs and everybody said so. If George Bush was consciously lying while repeating what everybody else said he must have been quite clever indeed to have figured these things out before even Al Gore!

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at July 26, 2007 07:56 AM

You're so cute. Play your cards right, you could be the next Michael Yon.

Posted by: david at July 26, 2007 08:56 AM

Gayle -- Sorry, I shouldn't attempt humor late at night, wine in hand.

Believe me, as a hard-core Zionist and self-proclaimed Islamophobe I understand full well how distorted the corporate media is -- however, over the long haul it is probably more biased towards low-brow outrage/titilate (i.e. blood and circus) than any particular political bent. It was hardly anti-Bush/anti-war in 2000-2003, after all.

It is not news, it is the infotainment business, an entirely corporatized enterprise, and it is owned by rich capitalist conservatives like Murdoch and Prince Alaweed, not leftists. (OK, other than the BBC, which IS an obscenely Islamo-marxist mouthpiece). That is why I turn to people like MJT, to get input from outside the corporate filter -- any corporate filter.

I just found it interesting how MJT's very first on-the-ground post seemed to be taken by so many as proof of a wished-for reality. In fact Josh was one of the first to rationally put into proper perspective, although MJT himself made the point he was in an island of relative control.

I confess, my first reaction was overly optimistic, too - I'm a big fan of Gen. Petraeus and like Robert Gates, and if they'd been in charge in 2003 we'd likely be in a very different situation. However, I AM a 100% Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld hater, because I think they are ignorant/greedy/arrogant fools, respectively, who may have cost us -- sabotaged -- our first good opportunity to make real headway against Islamist terrorism. (My positions confound polarized partisan simplification, which bothers some people here. I have been called an 'ignorant whore' by a Hizbullah follower, a naive liberal dupe, AND a frothing neo-con Islamophobe. Cool!)

I trust MJT because he will call it as he sees it, without hewing to any party line. He makes his own point of view transparent, and he doesn't ever pander or sensationalize. He takes great photos and talks with people most of us would never hear from otherwise. If we had a thousand more like him, we might regain a desperately-needed Free Press.

Posted by: Pam at July 26, 2007 08:59 AM

J Thomas: "After 9/11 there was a consensus, somewhere between 99% and 99.99% in the muslim world that AQ had done wrong."

What are you smoking? At least 25% the Muslim world cheered and danced in the streets on 9/12/01.

No reason to read any more of your drivel when you are so wrong on a basic fact.

Posted by: CT at July 26, 2007 09:16 AM

You might believe that there's a real long-term muslim threat that's inherent in the nature of islam. That might be true, there's no way to test it except wait for the long run. But we created a short-term muslim threat.

Actually, there is a way to test it -- read history. You will indeed see recurring cycles of horrendously bloody, aggressive territorial expansion. Take a look at the Muslim conquest of India sometime. In the same way that Catholicism goaded and justified empire-building, so did Islam. AND -- it still does.

The problem is that the impossibility of living with other religions as equals, the requirement to subjugate non-Muslims and the explicit encouragement to do so forcibly, the prescriptive misogyny and patriarchy of Islam are by definition not amenable to cultural interpretation or ideological evolution. That sets it apart from Christianity or Judaism.

Mohammed said the Quran is the spoken word of Allah, and is never to be interpreted or altered; likewise that he is the final prophet and no further revision or refinement of his teachings is permissible. It is a frozen 7th century tribal ideology.

We did not create islamism or islamic terrorism in the short run, either. The Muslim Brotherhood was a reaction to Ottoman and British colonialism in Egypt, and became energized in the region more by its fierce opposition to Communism than to anything we did. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan ignited modern jihadism -- we, the UK, and the Saudis merely grabbed the tail of the youthful Islamist outrage to stoke it against the USSR.

AQ was in part a rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood's gradualist model of islamic domination, and the charismatic, rising MB star Azzam was assassinated in 1989 -- probably by Bin Laden and his fellows -- to leave the Jihadis a clearer field of play and funds.

People who blame the US or blame our involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan for 'causing' jihadist Islam are as ill-informed as people who think the Arab-Israeli conflict has anything to do with 1967 borders.

Posted by: Pam at July 26, 2007 09:27 AM

hmmm,

how is the army gonna solve this, I wonder?

what say you, mjt?

here's what robert spencer says:

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/017524.php

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 09:33 AM

Time will solve it.

Most of the Christians got cured (rest is on the way) so will Muslims.

All we have to do is just survive until then.

So simple :)

Posted by: leo at July 26, 2007 10:04 AM

we don't have that much time (but muslims do). and here's the great french hope helping us survive:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/07/26/sarkozy.libya.reut/

simple, huh?

anyway, yes, let them solve their own problems. that will take them some time, effort and resources away from jihad. and if any blood is spilled, let it be their own, not western blood, and let the UAE and the saudis spend zillions on them.

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 10:25 AM

Most of the Christians got cured (rest is on the way) so will Muslims.

Christians got cured because in a Western democratic system they could resort to means other than violence to resolve their differences. That is true of ANY ideology, by the way-- secular or religious. Without a democratic framework by which differences can be resolved violence will break out and might will always make right. Until muslims figure out what the West did, they'll never know anything but violence and repression.

Posted by: Carlos at July 26, 2007 10:28 AM

Ever watch WWII movies showing occupied France?

The French are portrayed as servile patsies who just looooove the Nazis whenever they're around, but the second they're gone, they go back to making plans to bomb the shit out of them.

Do you not suppose that these people are putting on airs when they suddenly find themselves confronted by a reporter traveling with their well-armed occupiers who could call in death from above in a NY minute?

Seriously dude. It's great that you're there, and maybe their reaction is genuine, but until you go back and visit the town sans the troops, you'll never know.

This is the #1 problem with embedding. You are shown what they want you to see, and the reaction of the natives is most likely not how they would behave if they weren't there.

Posted by: John at July 26, 2007 10:39 AM

Ever watch WWII movies showing occupied France?

Didn't your momma tell you not to believe everything you see in the movies? But now that you mention it, I only remember folks in those movies cowering indoors when the Nazis rolled by lest they be shot like vermin. Not that I get my history from movies, mind you.

Posted by: Carlos at July 26, 2007 10:47 AM

Although the fact that the French behaved that way is true, the circumstances are way different. The Nazi's weren't trying to protect the French people from terrorists. The Nazis were there to possess the land for themselves, with no intention of giving the land back into French rule. The Nazis were not doing community service projects to help the French living there. The hope of our being there is an honest demonstration of our intentions, and that the common people will see our intent first hand. The hope is that this will win them over from the ideas they may have had of America that would have been formed from the lies of Saddam Hussein. You see, there is an actual reason why we would be welcomed when you see the perspective of the situation versus the situation with France.

Some may pretend, yes. But over time, the demonstration of reality will take precedence over the lies that were being fed to them as they grew up. They also realize that they do not need to pretend to love us in order to not get hurt. They could ignore us and be ok. We are not aggressive unless an actual threat is presented. In Nazi Germany, if you did not pretend to support the Nazi ideology, that was reason alone to kill you. You could not verbalize your dissatisfaction with what was taking place while at the same time keeping your life. The Iraqi’s are free to say what they want with no fear of their life from the US.

You have to realize that the common Iraqi was not happy under Saddam Hussein, and they lived in fear of what could happen to them. If you really take a close look at the situation, you can't draw the parallels that you are trying to make.

Posted by: Matt at July 26, 2007 10:56 AM

Actually, there is a way to test it -- read history. You will indeed see recurring cycles of horrendously bloody, aggressive territorial expansion. Take a look at the Muslim conquest of India sometime. In the same way that Catholicism goaded and justified empire-building, so did Islam. AND -- it still does.

There's something to that. Some of my muslim friends kind of moan into their beers that islam is 500+ years behind christianity, and figure it will take time for it to mature. If we had a whole lot of 15-century christians it would be hard.

People who blame the US or blame our involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan for 'causing' jihadist Islam are as ill-informed....

Consider our own christian problem. We've had thousands of documented incidents of harassment at women's health centers, and hundreds of incidents of violence, and some murders and explosions and such. The large majority of christians say that this is wrong, though a small minority points out that it's completely understandable that others would break the law this way although they wouldn't do it themselves.

Suppose we declared martial law in, say, georgia. We moved in chinese troops and told them to run random checkpoints and searches, and be particularly suspicious of christians. We detained christians on suspicion of being terrorists, and did strenuous interrogations. The interrogations involved various sexual perversions. The soldiers would put up checkpoints in atlanta that delayed traffic on major roads as much as 6 hours. Cars that approached the checkpoints too fast would be shot at and often the driver and others would be killed. The chinese soldiers would do block searches -- they'd seal off your block, they'd kick your door down, they'd point guns at everybody and make you lie on the floor while they put a boot on your head. They'd search everywhere and confiscate any guns they found, plus drugs or money or some other things. The US government made lots of announcements about how we were fighting a war against christianism, that might last for a very very long time until all the christianists were dead. We shut down christian charities on the claim that they funnelled money to the christianists.

Any chance that the number of christian terrorists would go up? That the number of christians who sympathise with the christian terrorists would go way up?

It isn't our military involvement in abortion clinic bombings that causes christian terrorists. We have no such involvement. But if we did, don't you think it would cause a lot more christian terrorism than we have now?

Posted by: J Thomas at July 26, 2007 10:58 AM

If you look at the statistics, the likelihood of violence coming from environmentalists is far higher than it coming from christians. Is clamping down on these eco-terrorists going to radicalize the environmenntal movement? I should hope not. But if it does, too bad. We'll take them out too.

Posted by: Carlos at July 26, 2007 11:17 AM

john,

as jim and i already pointed out.

particularly when we're dealing with arab culture.

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 11:35 AM

oops, i meant mertel and I, not jim.

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 11:36 AM

hey, jt,

and you think that the comparison is valid?
and you wanna be taken seriously?

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 11:38 AM

AQ was in part a rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood's gradualist model of islamic domination, and the charismatic, rising MB star Azzam was assassinated in 1989 -- probably by Bin Laden and his fellows -- to leave the Jihadis a clearer field of play and funds.

We didn't create Islamist terrorism, but the world's indulgent attitude towards it has allowed it to grow. Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States and the MB have disagreements, as brothers do but in the end, they're all family. The US government has known about the the Muslim Brotherhood's financial involvement in terrorism, but this group's involvement in terrorism is, for the most part, downplayed in America and abroad.

There has been some understanding of the Brotherhood’s relationship to Islamist groups, and of those ties even in the United States. In 2003 Richard Clarke said “the issue of terrorist financing in the United States is a fundamental example of the shared infrastructure levered by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda, all of which enjoy a significant degree of cooperation and coordination within our borders. The common link here is the extremist Muslim Brotherhood—all these organizations are descendants of the membership and ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.”5 However, this understanding has not taken root in the intelligence, law enforcement and policy communities, nor has the financial network of the Brotherhood come under intense scrutiny.

Public records show the Brotherhood’s financial network of holding companies, subsidiaries, shell banks and real financial institutions stretches to Panama, Liberia, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Cyprus, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and beyond. Many of the entities are in the names of individuals who, like Nada, Nasreddin, al-Qaradawi and Himmat, have publicly identified themselves as Brotherhood leaders.

A senior U.S. government official estimates the total assets of the international Brotherhood to be between $5 billion and $10 billion.

This financial infrastructure has been in place for decades, and we've done very little to stop it. Our allies in the Gulf states are still pouring funds into this underground ecomony. They're also supplying the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq.

It's hard to get rid of termites when some of them are honored guests..

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

iso,

2) since I never did think Saddam was an imminent threat or had effective WMD's, I don't understand why we sent in a ground force when we did? If we have satellites that can read a car license plate from space, shouldn't we be able to tell if a country is doing something on a large scale of real danger to us without even stepping into the country? And let's say that Saddam had been this imminent and horrendous threat, why would we hesitate, and who in the world would blame us, to use some of those ICBM's we have all over the place?? Wouldn't that have knocked Saddam out? Yes, there would be civilian casualties, but not as many as we now have in Iraq?

First, regardless of what you thought about the condition of Saddam's WMD stockpile in March of 2003, every credible threat assessment indicated that Saddam Hussein was 80+% certain to have stockpiles of WMD and 100% certain that he was in contact with terrorist organizations willing to use them against the US. The way things work with asymmetric threats is that you make your decisions on the basis of the best available intelligence and act on them or you die. The US is a giant soft target that anybody can damage significantly enough to make the news and well-funded people can do so repeatedly. Put on bulky clothing and find a large group of people with one hand in your pocket...if you announce loudly that you are going to blow up, you will make the news. That is how easy it is to attack the US, if you have the nerve to do so. Stocks will in one day take a dip big enough to pay for a month of the war in Iraq.

Satellites can be and regularly are defeated as a detection tool. Overhead observation has been a problem since the invention of the aircraft and been actively practiced since WWI. In 1998, Serbia deceived more than 80% of US airstrikes with much less resources than Iraq had available. Human intelligence was wildly ineffective in Iraq under Saddam because they routinely executed anybody who might be spying. Friends of mine have told me about the dangers they faced walking past Saddam's palaces because they would get arrested if they looked at them too long.

Nuclear armed ICBMs are used only at the direction of the President, and they would be all scrapped tomorrow if we had conventional weapons that could accomplish the same things without the fallout. There are no magic wands, and anything worth hitting has to be properly targeted. Iraq was spending something like 5% of their GDP, plus whatever they could steal, on keeping Saddam alive. It took us better than eight months to find Saddam after we held the ground around him. What exactly do you think we were going to aim the ICBMs at?

I think you are getting the wrong numbers on civilian casualties, and not attributing them honestly. I've been to Iraq and visited one compound where in less than a decade over 8,000 civilians murdered by abuse for suspicion of aiding opposition to the regime. I've been to Halabja where 5,000 civilians were gassed to death in one day. Civilian casualties were higher under Saddam Hussein's regime before the US started shooting in 1991. Those murders had nothing to do with the US and everything to do with the sadistic control freaks who killed for Saddam.

I do not accept that the civilian murders perpetrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq or the Sadrists are the responsibility of the US. Those murders are the responsibility of the atrocity committing thugs who planted the explosives.

Have our troops mistakenly killed civilians? Certainly, but not as part of any planned campaign on the part of the US. Have some of our troops killed innocent civilians maliciously? In a handful of incidents, there has been sufficient evidence of murder to warrant investigation and charges being filed. Almost undoubtedly some idiot has lost discipline and gotten away with murder in the middle of a firefight, but those instances are sufficiently rare as to be astonishing. Regardless of vanishingly rare mistakes and malfeasances, Michael just provided documentary evidence in this post indicating that Iraqi's are not terrified of US troops.

Our troops have shown themselves to be the best disciplined field force in history, and the honor that requires deserves better credit than your understanding gives them. Please contact me if you would like better sources on military matters than the ones currently informing your opinion.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 26, 2007 12:28 PM

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/07/back_to_the_future_in_the_midd.html

hmmm, and no doubt all this was done in the us interest. expect those who did it where ignorant of it and and its enemies.

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 01:19 PM

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/07/inevitable_divergence.html

what the west fails to accept and why it will lose.

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 01:31 PM

First, regardless of what you thought about the condition of Saddam's WMD stockpile in March of 2003, every credible threat assessment indicated that Saddam Hussein was 80+% certain to have stockpiles of WMD and 100% certain that he was in contact with terrorist organizations willing to use them against the US. This is because you are only defining "credible threat assessment" as the ones that indicated a 80+% certainty. There were plenty of other pre-war threat assessments that said Saddam did not have significant WMD capabilities. But those weren't "credible", despite the fact that the intervening years have proved precisely the opposite.
The idea that Saddam was a threat to the US was always the single weakest point in the justification for war. He was a homocidal maniac? Yes. Building a functioning democracy in the middle of Syria, Iran and Saudi would shake up the Middle East to our benefit? Crazy, but had it worked, and it may yet, that might be worth the price. But for God's sake, stop the pathetic attempt to pretend Saddam was more of a threat than any of the other aging tinpot dictators of poor third world countries with no industrial base, no scientific achievements and a population the size of Texas. There were real justifications for the war, but the "Saddam threat" is defnitely not one. Plus, he ain't a threat no more, and hasn't been since 2003 so harping on that just undermines the rationale for staying in a lot of people's minds.

Posted by: vanya at July 26, 2007 02:03 PM

vanya,

Saddam Hussein was a clear and present danger to the United States for a variety of reasons. The efficiency of our economy is dependent in no small part on the adherence to international standards of conduct. Allowing rouge states to survive, thwart UN sanctions, and otherwise ignore international agreements causes us harm.

If for no other reason than the use of UN Oil for Food monies to provide UN bribes, the ongoing existence of the Ba'athist regime in Iraq substantially deteriorated the strength of the rule of law on the planet.

Perhaps you think of Saddam as a mosquito. I think of him as a carrier of malaria, sickening everything he can reach.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 26, 2007 06:08 PM

apropos american concern for iraqi population:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20070726/NATION/107260064/-1/RSS_NATION_POLITICS

Posted by: fp at July 26, 2007 08:01 PM

Where on earth did you get that statistic?

The usual place.

I've run into J Thomas before. He's fairly polite, but has made up his mind about how things are, and as a result is impervious to facts that contradict what he 'knows'. His preferred debate tactics are asserting 'facts' that aren't, distorting what the other party said, and trying to make his own points via hyperbolic analogies.

If you want evidence, he's posted plenty of it in this thread.

It is slightly discouraging to see long, eloquent and reasoned posts responding to J. Thomas. Hopefully some of the other readers here will gain some benefit from them.

-----

and you think that the comparison is valid?
and you wanna be taken seriously?
-fp

;-)

Posted by: rosignol at July 26, 2007 09:30 PM

Where on earth did you get that statistic?

I misplaced some old data and don't have that handy now, but here's a start:
"Monte and Princess Palmer’s 2003 study, At the Heart of Terror, suggests that an estimated four percent of Muslims in the world are Islamist fundamentalism fanatics, and only about .01 percent (about 120 thousand people) are militant jihadists. The goal of militant jihadists is an Islamic state, and the means employed toward that end include violent behavior, including terrorism."

Back then, an estimated 0.01% were ready to use violence for islam. The rest were not. Not all that 0.01% approved of violence against civilians.

Here's a recent poll that doesn't particularly support my PDF claim:

They find that in 2007, a whopping 15% of egyptians believe that attacks on civilians can be justified. 8% in morocco and 5% in pakistan. As I remember it this is much more than soon after 9/11, but it's different samples and the way the questions are stated is probably different.

35% of pakistanis said that al qaeda is not violating islam by attacking civilians, 21% in indonesia and 7% in egypt. Shocking. But lots of paks denied that al qaeda did 9/11.

It's a fascinating study, well worth looking at. Just one more -- when asked who did the 9/11 attacks, many people from these 4 muslim countries attributed it to al qaeda. Fewer of them attributed to the USA or to israel than americans did! Only 16% from morocco, 9% from egypt, 27% from pakistan, or 17% from indonesia thought it was the USA doing it to ourselves! Fewer of them believe the conspiracy theories than americans do.

And for anybody who's interested in muslim democracy, here's a worthwhile PDF link

I'll provide more later if it looks like there's actual interest.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 26, 2007 11:41 PM

J Thomas,

I think those numbers are excruciatingly optimistic and based on samples that are taken in safe places. Do you really think that a properly representative sample was taken in Sadr City in 2003? What about Zarqa, Jordan? Or Qom, Iran? Or Medina, Saudi Arabia? Or Halabja, Iraqi Kurdistan?

How about this: how much money is going into supporting militant jihadi operations? Do your reports have an accurate figure on that? Because I'm pretty damned sure that I can provide you with as many fundamentalist fanatics as you want for $50K a head. (Delivery extra) They won't be bright, and they probably won't pass a military physical, but they will hate all day long.

A lot of people who are rich in the Gulf drink and party all night and then write a big check to the fanatics in the morning to make up for their transgressions. Until we make that obviously stupid behavior undesirable, hateful morons throughout the Islamic world will step forward to detonate themselves.

My hope is the failure of Al Qaeda in Iraq will cut back on the funding. On the other hand, according to your figures, pretty soon we're going to have killed or imprisoned all the militant jihadi's. It's nice to know you think the surge can work.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at July 27, 2007 12:12 AM

Here's a recent poll that doesn't particularly support my PDF claim:

No big surprise there, as your "99.9999999% of muslims opposed the 9/11 attacks" claim was hopelessly ignorant and way off the mark. The figure is (and was) closer to 70%, the other 30% representing a percentage of muslims who ARE radical and do support terrorism. This is a figure supported by polls, as well as the testimony of moderate muslims themselves who say they cannot openly oppose the jihadist line without endangering their own lives.

Posted by: Carlos at July 27, 2007 06:37 AM

J Thomas cites two sources that actually disprove his theory.

With his first link he tries to prove that only 0.01% of muslims approve of Al Qaeda. He finds a document that uses a similar statistic but for a completely different reason - a guestimate of the number of active members of international jihadist terrorist groups. Moreover the same article he quotes actually suggests that muslims have more favourable attitudes towards the US since the invasion of Iraq.

The Terror Free Tomorrow polls found that 73 percent of the Pakistani population surveyed in November 2005 believe suicide attacks are never justified, up from 46 percent in May. Support for Bin Laden declined from 51 percent in May to 33 percent in November, while opposition rose over the same period from 23 percent to 41 percent. The Pew polls indicate support for violence against civilians has declined significantly in several countries since 2002, and opinions of Bin Laden have turned more negative in Morocco, Lebanon, and Turkey.

Moreover that same article explicitly states that:
The focus on the War on Terror as a source of anti-US sentiments does not explain the hateful acts preceding the War on Terror. The War on Terror, which is, after all, only four years old, was a response to militant Islamist violence predicated on anti-US sentiments. Islamic militancy precedes the War on Terror and the creation of Israel, and it is rooted in a broader set of movements against Western-emulating governments deemed to be corrupt and un-Islamic by Islamists.

He then cites and repeatedly misuses data from another poll in an attempt to show that muslims don't support terrorism, but if they do it's only cause the US made them do it. In fact that poll shows that 70% support Al Qaeda's philosophy and 15% completely support it's attacks on US civilians. And, just as in the poll I quoted earlier from 2002, the majority of those polls believed someone other than Al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11 - the US, Israel or someone else.

But how can you argue with someone who believes that 9/11 wasn't significant because such a small fraction of the US population was killed?

Posted by: mertel at July 27, 2007 09:31 AM

Thank you for this post. That's my husband's unit you were out with (he was home on R&R at the time though). It's nice to be able to better visualize what he does there when he's soldiering and not being a mechanic back at Camp Taji.

Posted by: Kyrie at July 27, 2007 10:09 AM

Carlos, the poll you cite showing support for bin ladin comes after the USA has shown muslims that we are their implacable enemy.

Mertel, the post that showed improved stats in pakistan and in indonesia attributed them to US humanitarian support after an earthquake and a tsunami, not to our occupation of iraq.

Do we want to actually look at these studies? My original claim was for a time before we got such a reputation for attacking the innocent ourselves. Of course the more we look like an implacable enemy the more that others line up with AQ. It's more relevant to today to look at more recent polls, but seeing how fast that can change provides both hope and caution. We might quickly get it a lot better or a lot worse.

The April 2007 study shows that among the polled muslims, 70% to 90% thought the US is trying to weaken and divide islam. That perception of course inspires resistance. 60% to 70% believed the US intended to spread christianity in the middle east. A third thought that the main purpose of our war on terrorism was to weaken and divide islam and islamic people, a third thought the primary purpose was to get political and military domination and control middle east resources, and less than 20% thought the primary purpose was to protect us from terrorist attacks.

That is, they have a reasonably accurate view of our goals, and that encourages them to fight.

Given this view of our goals, is it surprising that many of them have a resulting goal of getting US troops out of muslim lands? is it surprising that to some extent they approve of attacks on US troops?

Only a few percent of the sample felt that attacks on civilians could be strongly justified, and the most that accepted more than "weak" justification came in egypt, at 15%. Three quarters of the sample felt that attacks on civilians can't be justified at all. And this was in 2007!

Large majorities said that attacks on civilians violate islam. Note the difference -- can it be justified versus does it violate islam.

Remember that overwhelming majorities opposed attacks on civilians. Large majorities, a bit less overwhelming, oppose attacks on US civilians. I contend that the difference here comes from our frequent attacks on muslim civilians. Otherwise why make an exception for us?

Large majorities opposed AQ attacks on US targets, not just civilians. Even in 2007! They think we're trying to destroy their religion and control their countries. Majorities still oppose attacks on us.

In fact that poll shows that 70% support Al Qaeda's philosophy and 15% completely support it's attacks on US civilians.

Want to provide the details on that? It's of course reasonable that many muslims support AQ's basic philosophy -- they chose their philosophy to fit prevailing attitudes. They don't see any conflict between sharia law and democracy -- just as many christians see no problem between democracy and the Ten Commandments. They want US troops out of muslim lands, reasonably enough. They of course want us to stop favoring israel over palestine -- we've hypocritically claimed to be an honest broker. They want muslim countries to merge.

But 15% support attacks on US civilians? No, not yet. That's 5%. Go back and read it again.

But I expect if we fight hard enough we could bring it up to 15%, or even 85%. We've brought it up this far in only a few years.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 27, 2007 03:46 PM

That is, they have a reasonably accurate view of our goals, and that encourages them to fight.

LOL!!!! If you believe that to be true, you are exposed as a muslim cyber jihadi engaging in internet taqiya, and "J Thomas" is merely your sock puppet. For not even the most crazed irrational and demented western moonbat believes the USA's goal is to weaken islam and spread christianity throughout the middle east. It's about "oil", remember? You have flushed yourself out into the open, you little terror symp. You are hereby to be addressed as Mohammed the terror symp.

Posted by: Carlos at July 27, 2007 04:36 PM

Carlos, you ignorant slut! ;)

Can you possibly claim we don't want to weaken islam? Look how many of the posters on this very thread want that.

I think it's only christians who care about spreading christianity. But -- you may not remember this -- there was an attempt at that early in the occupation. We were talking about sending christian missionaries. (Not from any of the christian sects that were there. Baptists, that kind of thing.) That stopped real fast when it got dangerous.

And they also thought it was about the oil, of course.

So what are you nattering on about? There's nothing wrong with joking, but how about mixing some content in with the jokes? I do that, and you give the impression you can't tell the difference at all.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 27, 2007 04:51 PM

Look how many of the posters on this very thread want that.

Absolutely they do. And personally I'd be happy to see Islam dissapear from the face of the planet. But that's not my intention, nor is it the intention behind U.S. policy. In fact, you and your Leftwing buds are doing far more to weaken christianity than the staunchest White House neocon who invites muslim leaders into the Oval Room and repeats ad nauseam how it's a religion of peace is doing to weaken Islam.

So if you really believe that tripe I can only conclude you are a paranoid muslim yourself because you'd be the very first moonbat I've ever heard in all my years arguing with moonbats who believes that. Unless it's all a big joke of course, in which case LOLOLOLOLOL!!! Moonbats kill me.

Posted by: Carlos at July 27, 2007 05:02 PM

The procedure looked and felt more like airport security in the United States than, say, the more severe Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza.

As one who served for three years at Israeli checkpoints I'd like to know what you mean by that statement and whether you've ever actually spent time at an Israeli checkpoint.

Thanks.

Posted by: natan at July 28, 2007 02:19 AM

iso;
others may have responded, I'm jumping the queue here:
But! -- lots of fatal mis-assumptions. Let's just take one. SH. You're clearly not up on the accelerating flow of data that shows how deep he was in aiding and abetting terror wherever he could influence it, AQ not least in the list. And as far as "ICBM"ing him - laser bombs and cruise missiles were sent after places he was thought to be, including car convoys (one or two reportedly almost did the job) but he was covered in depth by layers of concealment, not least of which was a corps of a dozen or two body-doubles, many of whom even made public appearances, answered questions, conducted official duties. His own staff didn't know from hour to hour where, at which of his numerous palaces and hideouts, he would have his next meal, so ever one of them had a full spread laid on. And doubles showed up at several each day. Etc. So you are hopelessly naive about SH, given.
And ICBM-nuking populations to kill a dictator? Do you have clue one about what you are proposing, and the consequences? I thought not.

Same as above in respect to WMDs; to summarize most recent evidence:
He had far more than ever showed up in pre- or post-invasion stockpiles, because a) he concealed them (remember the buried MIGs?), and b) he exported them when the writing was on the wall (convoys and ~56 cargo jet flights to Syria);
He had less than he sincerely thought, because some subordinates inflated their reports to him to keep their heads whole and attached. This internal disinformation was even more complicated by his deception of his subordinates about what other sectors were up to. But for external observers/spies/analysts, it was foolish not to assume the worst.
Many programs, especially chemical and biochemical ones, were embedded in dual-use facilities, ready to be activated whenever and wherever the pressure eased up. Some binary weapons are necessarily in this state, as their shelf life once mixed is very brief, on the order of hours, or days at most. E.g.: Iraq had enough "pesticide" stockpiled to keep the whole ME bug-free for centuries.

Finally, and of far more importance than you or your ilk will ever grant it, WMD was one -- ONE -- of Congress-approved 23 reasons for invasion and overthrow, and given its prominence primarily by the one-liner media, whose capacity to comprehend or transmit lists longer than about 2 items is very limited, even debased. These reasons were sufficiently compelling that every -- EVERY -- prominent Democrat was going on at length from the late 90s forward about how critical intervention and regime replacement was. It was only when GW "hijacked" their issue that they turned bitter and negative. Get over it.

Given all of that, your entire mental edifice dissolves and collapses. Sorry 'bout that.

Next, in the actual conduct of the Iraqi conflict, the enemy exists. I.e., it gets a vote, too. Reacts in as unanticipated a way as possible, and uses every resource available to find out what is anticipated in order to do something else. Here's where the many media security breaches, which continue to this hour and day, are so vital to them.

Remember, you useful idiots are the first up against the wall when your heroes take over, and you come to claim the promised glorious leadership roles in the New Order you so eagerly helped install. Suckers.

Posted by: Brian H at July 28, 2007 06:04 AM

JT;
Arithmetic on LSD. Wowser!
E.g.:
1% of 25,000,000 Iraqis = 250,000 killed by MNF forces in four years? Get a grip. Not even the Lancet smearjob was that deluded.

Afraid you've successfully promoted yourself into the elite of the "scroll-by" list. Adios.

Posted by: Brian H at July 28, 2007 06:25 AM

Gayle;
don't be too quick to acknowledge all those "mistakes". E.g.; it is easy for hand-wavers to assert far better results with the Heavy Footprint troop deployment. Assuming it could have been assembled, the odds of far deeper wider public outrage at "occupation" would be just one of the many unknown factors to deal with. It's a child's game to project only positive outcomes of alternative past choices; the odds are generally around 50-50 that there would have been just as many Murphy-consequences to deal with. Maybe more.
Second e.g.: army disbandment. A) the army disbanded itself. B) every soldier, especially officers, had most or all of their salaries/wages continued after dissolution of the regime's army. Which continues to this day! C) The army was a ramblin' wreck, despite what appearances or apologists may convey. I suggest checking out deAtkine's "Why Arabs Lose Wars" on the Web. Google it, it's very informative. NCOs deliberately denied authority (!!). Operating manuals systematically removed from the hands of those who operate equipment, held by Officers Only, in order to keep decision-making power (i.e., deciding to keep equipment working) from the hands of the lower ranks. Promotion by tribal connection. Every officer unwilling to decide lest it bring any taint or failure, hence Colonels deciding things Sergeants deal with in American forces. I.e., CYA all the way up, always. Etc., etc. Layers of entire military organizations policing others, right up to the inner core of Saddam Fedayeen, his personal enforcers-in-the-night.
When Iran falls, it will be discovered to be almost as bad. The actual large "army" is basically cannon-fodder, officered by deluded popinjays; actual competence and force is carefully concentrated elsewhere.

Posted by: Brian H at July 28, 2007 06:47 AM

J Thomas, it's there in black and white in a very large graph in the very paper you keep siting. Namely 15% of muslims surveyed completely support both Al Qaeda's philosophy and attacks on American civilians.

Posted by: mertel at July 28, 2007 07:19 AM

I can't believe it. We're having a polite debate for the first time in a month, and I can't hang around.

Posted by: glasnost at July 28, 2007 08:18 AM

Christian terrorists? Did someone really just type that?

We get a abortion clinic bombing about every decade and maybe one person killed every five years and that's qualifies for the category Christian terrorists?

That's just plain pathetic.

On a somewhat unrelated note, has anyone ever stopped to think what would happen if we actually end up succeeding in Iraq? There are plenty of examples of the general populace ultimately rejecting the rule of islamic law, and certainly some pushing from our soldiers will help.

There are some obvious very bad areas of Iraq, but there are some success stories as well. What if we reach a tipping point in 12 months where the good outweighs the bad on a consistent basis? It would completely destroy all the beliefs that drive the political spectrum, and marginalize the radical left.

Something to ponder.

Posted by: Castor Troy at July 28, 2007 10:27 AM

Christian terrorists? Did someone really just type that?

Yeah, no kidding. Have you ever heard a Leftard warn of buddhist terrorism? Not on your life. But not because it doesn't exist-- it does. Just ask the Tamils, who know first hand experience about it. But because Leftards think buddhism is so "cool" and "alternative" dude!!1! not a peep about it. It's "christian terrorists" who are the real threat! What a joke. Show me one christian terrorist and I'll show you ten eco-terrorists. Oh, but that's the "good kind" of terrorism to Leftards. Not a peep about that either.

Posted by: Carlos at July 28, 2007 12:18 PM

I guess I consider it a credibility benchmark. You say things like Christian terrorist, you are automatically not worth debating with. Same with illegal and immoral war. Illegal according to who? Immoral? We got rid of someone who killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, not to mention starting two regional wars that took another million plus lives. Yet the war is illegal and immoral?

These are the same people crying about the tragedy in Darfur. Guess what, according to the left's logic, you cannot provide one good reason for us to get involved in Darfur. They pose no threat to us, weren't involved in 9-11, being there will only anger the muslim horde and so what if thousands are dying. Exact same thing with Iraq, except Iraq really did have and use WMDs.

I guess it comes down to this. We can't go to Darfur because it would be immoral. And I don't want that on my conscience.

Posted by: Castor Troy at July 28, 2007 03:23 PM

Readers of this blog may also find the following multimedia package from Sean Smith very interesting too. He's also with US troops "inside the surge..."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/video/page/0,,2135293,00.html

Regards,

MR

Posted by: Microraptor at July 28, 2007 04:37 PM

J Thomas, it's there in black and white in a very large graph in the very paper you keep siting. Namely 15% of muslims surveyed completely support both Al Qaeda's philosophy and attacks on American civilians.

Mertel, I may have misread that. Would you mind giving me a page number? I remember one about supporting AQ's philosophy and also supporting attacks on americans. But the one I remember about attacks on american civilians was on a different page and the numbers were considerably lower.

Note though that "AQ's philosophy" which a lot of muslims agree with consists of 6 points and most of them aren't that objectionable. AQ chose those points because people would agree with them.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 29, 2007 08:50 AM

I guess I consider it a credibility benchmark. You say things like Christian terrorist, you are automatically not worth debating with.

Suit yourself, sport. For purposes of gedanken-experiment I'm not so much interested in how effective they've been as whether they're terrorists. And of course the ones who kill people and blow up stuff are terrorists. Very hard to argue otherwise unless you want to say the proper name is "freedom fighters" or something.

Same with illegal and immoral war.

I might call things immoral from my own personal standpoint but not being catholic I don't see any real consensus about that. My ethics might say it's immoral to start a war and somebody else's might say it's immoral not to. How should we settle the issue? Maybe call up competing armies and join them and fight it out until one side wins? ;)

It's good when we get it completely clear that our attacks fit our international agreements. We're better off when the world thinks we keep our agreements. (And we need to be careful not to make really bad agreements that we'll need to break.) I say it's possible to make a case that we didn't actually break our agreements by invading iraq, if you parse them carefully enough. That doesn't help us with other governments who parse them the usual way, but it can almost shut up some liberals. I doubt it will matter all that much in the long run. Other governments will just insist on clearer language that's harder to find loopholes in, if we start making agreements again.

These are the same people crying about the tragedy in Darfur.

I never understood that argument. Sure, there's oil in darfur but not that much and not that easy to develop. We aren't ready to invade darfur because we're pinned down in iraq and afghanistan. Not obvious that we'd make a big improvement. And the infrastructure is so undeveloped we'd have a lot of trouble. For what it cost us to ship vehicle fuel to troops spread out in darfur we could triple the income of everybody there. More than triple. I just don't get it. What I think is happening is that some conservatives are sincerely saying that we ought to invade darfur and control the oil etc. And some liberals are sarcasticly saying that if we're going to occupy iraq then we ought to occupy darfur too for all the same reasons -- they intend it as a sort of reductio ad absurdum. It's idiotic to even consider invading darfur, and we have all the same reasons to invade darfur as we do iraq, so iraq is just as absurd. And they don't notice that a lot of stupid people completely miss their point and think they want us to invade darfur.

So anyway, here's my proposal. You go ahead and killfile me so you won't be exposed to stuff that isn't credible to you. And every now and then I might respond to you anyway and possibly make you look real stupid to people who haven't killfiled me, but you won't notice and so will avoid annoyance. Kind of like a Morris dance.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 29, 2007 09:47 AM

What I think is happening is that some conservatives are sincerely saying that we ought to invade darfur and control the oil etc. And some liberals are sarcasticly saying that if we're going to occupy iraq then we ought to occupy darfur too for all the same reasons -- they intend it as a sort of reductio ad absurdum.

It's always fun when the Left purports to speak for the Right, not only claiming to know our secret motives, but actually putting the very words in our mouths. You see, conservatives are NOT sincerely saying we should invade darfur, nor control the oil, etc. (that's China's job apparently). Our real motive is to "weaken Islam", LOLOLOLOL, not control the oil.

On the contrary, conservatives are well aware that given Iraq (and China in Sudan) any intervention in Darfur is out of the question at this time. We merely find it ironic how the Left claims they want an intervention to stop the genocide in Darfur while simultaneously arranging for a genocide in Iraq with a U.S. pullout. Irony, no? Not to mention blatant hypocrisy.

Re the 'reductio ad absurdum', please show me any credible spokesperson for the Left who intends it as anything of the kind. Surely not George Clooney, who's so dumb he probably doesn't even get irony of his position, let alone high felutin latin terms like the above. Indeed the Left is quite literal in their call for an intervention in Darfur, the hypocrisy clearly flying high over their collective heads.

Posted by: Carlos at July 29, 2007 10:35 AM

Carlos, I don't see that you're worth refuting on this sort of thing. It sounds like you know a whole lot more about liberals than I do, so I'll let you explain them to us. They aren't very important to me.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 29, 2007 10:47 AM

It sounds like you know a whole lot more about liberals than I do

Kinda like you know a whole lot more about conservatives than I do?

Only difference is I made the mistake of bothering to refute you. I know better now.

Remember, it's about weakening islam. No! It's about oil! No, weakening Islam! LOL.

Best you get your story straight.

Posted by: Carlos at July 29, 2007 10:52 AM

Page 13, graph at the bottom of the page.

Views of Al Qaeda - 15% "support its attack on Americans and share its attitudes towards the US"

Posted by: mertel at July 29, 2007 03:11 PM

Mertel, they have a separate graph for attacks on US civilians. The one you saw was attacks on americans. A different question.

Posted by: J Thomas at July 29, 2007 04:32 PM

And when has Al Qaeda ever made the distinction between US civilians and non-civilians?

Posted by: mertel at July 29, 2007 07:35 PM

To Matt Snyder,

Spent 1.5 years in Iraq. Last year in Basrah at the "Palace". At times we were getting mortared and rocketed 2-4 times per 24 hour cycle. Took 18 rockets (Chinese 107mm) while sitting on the helo pad waiting to depart the Shatt River area for the last time. We had guard towers that could see quite a distance. We also traveled the city and knew what was what.
It was interesting that we could watch a mortar team fire on us from about 1.5 miles away. They fired at us from the back field of the Iranian Embassy. I didn't go check and see if they were Iranians and the Brits were worthless to go check but it makes you wonder? They killed a lot of our roads and fields and finally hit our main generators but they were pretty ineffective except to remind us that we were not in Kansas any more.
True Story!!

Posted by: David at July 30, 2007 05:05 AM

Thank you. I appreciate your being there and I appreciate your honest reporting.

-Tim

Posted by: Tim Pyle at July 30, 2007 10:25 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/30/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M at July 30, 2007 10:53 AM

before i start,let me say that i,m an Iraqi in iraq right now "Baghdad" typing this in 4:28 AM

it seems to me that story and the "images" would have anyone who sees this Blog believe that iraqis are happy and actualy interact freely with allied-forces,i hope thats not what you,r trying to say......because its not true

and some of the comments here are too complex and religion based that i skipped most of them

anyhow...i,d like to see more images picturing you in them

salam...or bye or whatever

Posted by: Somer at July 30, 2007 05:34 PM

Hi Josh!

I loves ya even more now ;-) lol

Thanks for the reply and detailed info. Yeah I was mainly curious about the triggering mechanisms and how that happens and then how to thwart them. I didn't even consider that you were able to actually catch some of the "trigger men." Very good to hear, but you note of them being expected sacrifices, understood.

And GAWD, if you have a "good answer" to my question about spy satellites and use of missiles rather than soldiers on the ground, I'm almost willing to post my phone number here so that you can tell me!! lol In this and at least one previous military action, it has been an issue that really bugs me!

No worries on the 'long-winded,' are you kidding?? Whatever and as much as someone actually there on the ground can share, all the better!

Sorry for the delay in my response, haven't even read rest of the thread yet....

And please, consider for the most part, that any of my sign carrying, unreasonable or wacky, liberal brethren are truly motivated by concern! :-) For your well-being and that of our country.

Posted by: iso at July 31, 2007 03:09 AM

Hey Gayle!

That's some kid you got! Pretty impressive, huh?
;-)

Posted by: iso at July 31, 2007 03:16 AM

Hello again Gayle!

I'm the 'lefty guy with the tech. questions." ;-) Just catching-up on the posts since my initial one from 7/26/07.

You are correct and justified in this, re Edan, as far as I'm concerned:
"I wasn't trying to be funny, I was actually kind of mad at the shallow insensitivity of his remarks and I couldn't let it slide by."

I like your sincere posts and effort to be open-minded and even-handed. Though, I could/would bombard you with refutations of statements like these if we were personal friends and you were not a Mom whose son is serving in Iraq ;-):

"no one could hav predicted all the twists and turns it would take. Including the political opposition. I believe that the decisions made by the president were made in good faith, although some of them turned out to be wrong or partially wrong (e.g., initial troop levels, "de-baathification", total disbanding of the army, etc.) I understand that it is hard for people to trust. We all want the president to be an infallible guru."

I think some of the above WAS predictable (either or and combination of, common sense and intelligence gathering), and I'd like to see Don Rumsfeld apologize someday, for his 'light' planning. Ditto for Bremmer, too!

Remember also, that trust must be earned and the people that were prime architects and the press and think-tank cheerleaders of this action haven't been very correct on a whole lot of things they predicted and claimed to know.

I don't expect perfection from my president, nor to be an infallible guru - and this will sound snide and I'm sorry, but I never expected near so much from George W. Bush. Recall, his own family never considered that he would run and be the next Bush president. It was supposed to be Jeb, and I have no doubt, I would have been MUCH more comfortable with HIM! Or his father, whom I do believe is a very decent, honest, sincere man. W pales in comparison in the extreme. (point of reference, I come from a Republican family and reached age 18 in time to cast my first presidential vote for Reagan, and my second).

I don't share your faith in the purity of W's intentions (or his strength in rebuffing those that would use him), and even if I did, such men can still be blinded by many things. I am fully aware that within Bush and many Christian fundamentalists with whom he identifies, that a common belief is that if you are generating enemies, lots of people that disagree with you or antagonizing the devil, you must be doing something right. This is not always the case, nor a badge of honor. Sometimes, it's good and ok to be in agreement or listen to the majority. W seems to take an unnatural pride in his opposition stances. (Here I stray into psychoanalysis) Starting with his own father! I feel there is much about W that comes from a resentment of his father's absence growing-up and a kind of bonding with his mother in opposition to his father. I won't go deeper than that here.

I just saw Brian H's puffed-up response to me, so I should go make some notes back to him ;-) Or maybe not, if I'm so hopeless as he believes!

Peace

Posted by: iso at July 31, 2007 04:38 AM

BRIAN H. - This bud's for you! And please refrain from referring to me as "me or my ilk." I am your fellow American with different opinions than you, but want what is best for my country and my fellow Americans, capito?

Thanks for your input. As you might expect, there is much I disagree with, but if you can back up your claims with evidence - bring it on. Please indicate where I can find this flow of data of which you speak? Here's one of mine http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1107/dailyUpdate.html

Yes, I believe Saddam had little interest in being buddies with OBL. To this date, our own and other governments have no substantial evidence that such a partnership was taking root. AQ and Islamic fundies were a threat to Saddam. Also, his country's treasury was broke despite his personal wealth, so it's dubious he would help AQ and spend "his own" money.

Regarding ICBM's - I wasn't 'proposing it' I was asking the question. Also, ICBM's do not require nuclear warheads - did you ever think about that? And please outline the consequences you perceive. And so tell me the actual reasons you think that tactic would be so crazy? How many more lives, Iraqi and American have been extinguished in the current manner? Why is that better?? Don't leave out the lives lost (particularly children) during the global sanctions imposed on Iraq for many years. Yes, we all know of the body doubles, multiple homes and shifting locations, so what? Eventually we would figure it out and find him! He was not in a bunker 24/7.

WMD's - Yes, he had certain amounts of chemical weapons. However, there was plenty of evidence already, that Saddam was not very good at weaponry in general and had many technical issues in weaponizing and distributing them. His arch enemy before our invasion was Israel and we know his SCUDS were not overly successful. Most important of all - NONE of this POSED A THREAT to the USA.

Buried MIG's?? Ask Josh or any other military person how threated they would feel by MIG's against our fighters - I won't laugh, because if I start, I won't stop! Read here (and this is current 2007 info): http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/syria-buying-mig31s-mig35s-for-1-billion-03391/
***These planes could be of some use to Syria in an air defense role. Syria's air force, which was once reliably on the cutting edge of technology during its Cold War years as a Soviet proxy, has not modernized in over a decade. Iran's two air forces (regular and Revolutionary Guard) would find the MiG-31's style crimped by the absence of air-to-air refueling capabilities, but cruise missile defense is important to them given the likelihood of BGM-109 Tomahawks being used in any American strike. MiG-31s could also step into the 'fighter AWACS' role that has been played to date by Iran's dwindling but ingeniously maintained fleet of F-14A Tomcat fighters. This would be only marginally useful against a full American offensive, but could make a big difference to Iran's ability to cover limited targets against an Israeli strike on its nuclear bomb-making facilities.***

I am never naive. It was foolish to assume the worst. Just like in Iran now! 80% of the population is under the age of 30. What do we already know about them and the world over? Kids like American cultural exports. They are not our enemy, their government is and they don't like it any more than we do. I suggest not "assuming the worst" and thereby killing them and making them hate us when they don't! Our narrow-minded hawks can't conceive of much outside their xenophobic, American cultural experience - it's embarrassing. many act as if there were no relevant history before America came along and that we are the supreme beings of the planet. Newsflash - wisdom can reside elsewhere -- get over it!

Well, Brian, here is one thing we can agree on. The media and yes, Democratic votes. But I didn't make this a political issue, you did! I didn't talk of parties, or votes. I'm not bitter, my position never changed. Besides, it's a whole other issue about who voted and why, and that is tied to the Plame case and the White House persuasion campaign. Additionally, I was not against giving the president a free hand (per the first vote) if the underlying threat were honestly established and the actions a DEFENSIVE move. It goes against our history, Brian, to make a first strike on a country which has not declared war upon us. That is a grave burden to bear and I don't think you appreciate it.

Finally, fear not, friend. My "entire mental edifice," by all accounts of those who know me, is just fine. I'll not cast aspersions on yours, for it profit a man nothing.

In reading your last paragraph, perhaps you have confused me with someone else entirely? Who are my heroes? To whom am I a useful idiot? Do you never ask questions, but always know all the answers? I have no glorious dreams of leadership in a new world order - do you watch a lot of sci-fi? And again, please provide evidence, cite chapter and verse, where I have eagerly helped to install this new world order.

Thanks!

Posted by: iso at July 31, 2007 05:31 AM

To: Patrick Lasswell

Thanks for the thorough reply.

I agree, what I thought of SH's WMD's in 2001 means nothing to our security apparatus, but it was the result of information published and an infusion of common sense, which I was not alone in.

Thanks to Vanya, for her(?) input. And come-on, our own CIA tagged the informant as "curve-ball." I don't think that was random! (partly facetious here)

Again, the ICBM's, I wasn't saying they had to have nuclear warheads or that they be used at all, just asking the what if's. Nor am I a weapons or tactical expert with Top Secret clearance, so I couldn't say where to target, but knocking out each of his palaces as they may have indicated his presence might have been a start.

Casualties - I didn't cite any specific numbers and was musing in a general sense as to what action(s) would result in fewer casualties. No definitive statements made. And we don't know what post 2003 numbers for Iraqis really are.

We are agreed here (I never suggested otherwise):
**I do not accept that the civilian murders perpetrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq or the Sadrists are the responsibility of the US. Those murders are the responsibility of the atrocity committing thugs who planted the explosives.

Have our troops mistakenly killed civilians? Certainly, but not as part of any planned campaign on the part of the US. Have some of our troops killed innocent civilians maliciously? In a handful of incidents, there has been sufficient evidence of murder to warrant investigation and charges being filed. Almost undoubtedly some idiot has lost discipline and gotten away with murder in the middle of a firefight, but those instances are sufficiently rare as to be astonishing.**

I have always been impressed (annoyed even, sometimes) at the extent to which we bend over backwards (in comparison to other countries, etc.) to avoid casualties and be fair fighters and yet still get slammed with criticism or held to a different standard.

I'm not sure where or how you came to this conclusion below, but you could not be further from the truth of my beliefs, thoughts and feelings, nor ever find a word written by me anywhere disparaging our troops or military leadership. Civilian leadership? Oh yeah.

Our troops have shown themselves to be the best disciplined field force in history, and the honor that requires deserves better credit than your understanding gives them. Please contact me if you would like better sources on military matters than the ones currently informing your opinion.

I do avail myself of military sources, but encourage you to list any here that you think I should know about.

Thanks.

Posted by: iso at July 31, 2007 06:33 AM

Sir,
I beleive you have met my husband, It is Sgt. Miller. I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for this story. I have passed it on to our family and friends. It's very hard to have him gone for so long, so unsure of how he's doing most of the time. Your story made me feel close to him even though we are oceans apart and for that I say thank you. also, thank you for showing the good things they are doing, and not just the fighting part the news shows.
God Bless,
Mrs. Miller, proud Army wife

Posted by: Mrs. Miller at August 3, 2007 07:47 PM

Sir,
I beleive you have met my husband, It is Sgt. Miller. I wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for this story. I have passed it on to our family and friends. It's very hard to have him gone for so long, so unsure of how he's doing most of the time. Your story made me feel close to him even though we are oceans apart and for that I say thank you. also, thank you for showing the good things they are doing, and not just the fighting part the news shows.
God Bless,
Mrs. Miller, proud Army wife

Posted by: Mrs. Miller at August 3, 2007 07:47 PM

Hi Mr.Totten
You are often in Iraq and more in Kurdistan and I heard that Kurdistan developed and its a big construction area in as well Kurdistan nature is very beautiful! Would be great to see some nice pictures from those progress!
We had enough of pictures of blood, killing and destruction.
Greetings

Posted by: Chris at August 4, 2007 09:03 AM

Hi Mr.Totten
You are often in Iraq and more in Kurdistan and I heard that Kurdistan developed and its a big construction area in as well Kurdistan nature is very beautiful! Would be great to see some nice pictures from those progress!
We had enough of pictures of blood, killing and destruction.
Greetings

Posted by: Chris at August 4, 2007 09:03 AM

Hey Michael,
Caught your last post about the night raid. The four guys and the terp that guy killed were from my company. I hope they get the bastard. Actually, I hope WER'RE the ones who get him, but failing that, I suppose the lawn darts can have him.

iso, thanks for the comments. I'm pretty short on internet time at the moment, but I'll try and give you a longer response later on.

Take care, everyone, and thanks for the debates. It's been highly entertaining.

Posted by: Josh at August 5, 2007 10:28 AM

EVE Online ISK

EVE Online ISK
EVE ISK
Buy EVE Online ISK
Buy EVE ISK
Cheap EVE Online ISK

EVE Online ISK
EVE ISK
Buy EVE Online ISK
Buy EVE ISK
Cheap EVE Online ISK

EVE Online Guide
EVE Guide

Runescape Gold

Runescape Gold
Runescape Money
Buy Runescape Money
Cheap Runescape Money
RS Gold
RS Money
Buy Runescape Gold
Cheap Runescape Gold

Runescape Gold
Runescape Money
Buy Runescape Money
Cheap Runescape Money
RS Gold
RS Money
Buy Runescape Gold
Cheap Runescape Gold

Free Runescape Money
Free Runescape Gold
Runescape Gold
Runescape Money
Runescape GP
Runescape Guide
Runescape Guides
Runescape Cheats
Runescape Hacks

WoW Gold,World of Warcraft Gold

WoW Gold
Buy WoW Gold
Cheap WoW Gold
World of Warcraft Gold
Warcraft Gold

WoW Gold
Buy WoW Gold
Cheap WoW Gold
World of Warcraft Gold
Warcraft Gold

WoW Guide
WoW Powerlevels
WoW Power level
WoW Powerlevel Guide
WoW Powerleveling Guide

Lineage II adena

Lineage II adena
Lineage 2 adena
Buy Lineage 2 adena
Buy Lineage II adena
Cheap Lineage II adena
Lineage II Gold

Lineage II adena
Lineage 2 adena
Buy Lineage 2 adena
Buy Lineage II adena
Cheap Lineage II adena
Lineage II Gold

Maple Story Mesos

Maple Story Mesos
MapleStory Mesos
Buy Maple Story Mesos
Cheap Maple Story Mesos

Maple Story Mesos
MapleStory Mesos
Buy Maple Story Mesos
Cheap Maple Story Mesos

Maple Story Mesos
MapleStory Mesos
Buy Maple Story Mesos
Cheap Maple Story Mesos
Buying Maple Story Mesos
Maple Story Mesos for sale
Cheaper Maple Story Mesos

Everquest II Plat

Everquest II Plat
Everquest II Gold
Buy Everquest II Gold
Buy Everquest II Plat
Everquest 2 Plat
Everquest 2 Gold

Everquest II Plat
Everquest II Gold
Buy Everquest II Gold
Buy Everquest II Plat
Everquest 2 Plat
Everquest 2 Gold

Gaia Online Gold

Gaia Online Gold
Gaia Gold
Buy Gaia Gold
Buy Gaia Online Gold
Cheap Gaia Gold

Gaia Online Gold
Gaia Gold
Buy Gaia Gold
Buy Gaia Online Gold
Cheap Gaia Gold

Final Fantasy XI Gil

FFXI Gil
Cheap FFXI Gil
Buy FFXI Gil
Final Fantasy XI Gil

FFXI Gil
Cheap FFXI Gil
Buy FFXI Gil
Final Fantasy XI Gil

FFXI Gil Guide
Final Fantasy XI Guide
Cheap FFXI Gil
FFXI Guide

SilkRoad Online Gold

SilkRoad Online Gold
SilkRoad Gold
Buy SilkRoad Gold
Cheap SilkRoad Gold
Buy SilkRoad Online Gold
Cheap SilkRoad Online Gold

SilkRoad Online Gold
SilkRoad Gold
Buy SilkRoad Gold
Cheap SilkRoad Gold
Buy SilkRoad Online Gold
Cheap SilkRoad Online Gold

WoW Powerleveling

WoW Powerleveling
WoW Power leveling
Buy WoW Power leveling
Buy WoW Powerleveling
Buying WoW Powerleveling
Cheap WoW Powerleveling

WoW Powerleveling
WoW Power leveling
Buy WoW Power leveling
Buy WoW Powerleveling
Buying WoW Powerleveling
Cheap WoW Powerleveling

WoW Powerleveling
WoW Power leveling
Buy WoW Powerleveling
a href="http://www.powerleveling-wow-powerleveling.com">Cheap WoW Powerleveling

Lotro Gold

Lotro Gold
Lotro Gold for sale
Buy Lotro Gold
Buying Lotro Gold
Cheap Lotro Gold

Lotro Gold
Lotro Gold for sale
Buy Lotro Gold
Buying Lotro Gold
Cheap Lotro Gold

Lotro Guide
Buy Lotro Gold
Lotro Gold
Lotro Powerleveling

Video Game Powerleveling

Runescape Powerleveling
Buy Runescape Powerleveling
Lotro Powerleveling
Buy Lotro Powerleveling
Lineage 2 Powerleveling
LineageII Powerleveling

Runescape Powerleveling
Buy Runescape Powerleveling
Lotro Powerleveling
Buy Lotro Powerleveling
Maple Story Powerleveling
MapleStory Powerleveling

Vanguard saga of heroes Gold

Vanguard saga of heroes Gold
Vanguard Gold
Buy Vanguard Gold
Cheap Vanguard Gold

Vanguard saga of heroes Gold
Vanguard Gold
Buy Vanguard Gold
Cheap Vanguard Gold

MMORPG Games Guide
MMORPG Games
Video Games
Video Games Guide
PC Games

Posted by: EVE Online ISK at August 6, 2007 11:49 PM

Hi,

This link should be post for ALL the readers of your blog...its huge.

http://www.aclj.org/FairnessDoctrine/default.html

Great story and blog.

Be good!
Dan

Posted by: Iraq Truth at August 12, 2007 01:31 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn