September 10, 2007

Anbar Awakens Part I: The Battle of Ramadi

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RAMADI, IRAQ – After spending some time in and around Baghdad with the United States military I visited the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s notoriously convulsive and violent Anbar Province, and breathed an unlikely sigh of relief. Only a few months ago Ramadi was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It was another “Fallujah,” and certainly the most dangerous place in Iraq. Today, to the astonishment of everyone – especially the United States Army and Marines – it is perhaps the safest city in all of Iraq outside of Kurdistan.

In August 2006 the Marine Corps, arguably the least defeatist institution in all of America, wrote off Ramadi as irretrievably lost. They weren’t crazy for thinking it. Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq had moved in to fight the Americans, and they were welcomed as liberators by a substantial portion of the local population.

I wrote recently that Baghdad, while dangerous and mind-bogglingly dysfunctional, isn’t as bad as it looks on TV. Almost everywhere I have been in the Middle East is more “normal” than it appears in the media. Nowhere is this more true than in Beirut, but it is true to a lesser extent in Baghdad as well. Baghdad isn’t a normal city, but it appears normal in most places most of the time. Ramadi, in my experience, is the great exception. Ramadi was worse than it appeared in the media.

Baghdad suffers from political paralysis, a low-grade counterinsurgency, and a very slow-motion civil war. It doesn’t look or feel like a war most of the time, although it does sometimes. What happened in Ramadi wasn’t like that. It wasn’t the surreal sort-of war that still simmers in Baghdad. Two American colonels in charge of the area compared the battle of Ramadi to Stalingrad.

“We were engaged in hours-long full-contact kinetic warfare with enemies in fixed positions,” said Army Major Lee Peters.

“There were areas where our odds of being attacked were 100 percent,” Army Captain Jay McGee told me. “Literally hundreds of IEDs created virtual minefields.”

“The whole area was enemy controlled,” said Marine Lieutenant Jonathan Welch. “If we went out for even a half-hour we were shot at, and we were shot at accurately. Sometimes we took casualties and were not able to inflict casualties. We didn’t know where they were shooting from.”

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Anbar Province is the heart of Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, and Ramadi is its capital. Iraq has 18 provinces, but until recently almost a third of all U.S. casualties were in Anbar alone.1.3 million people live there, mostly along the Euphrates River, and roughly a third live in Ramadi. Most of the rest live in the also notorious and now largely secured cities of Haditha, Hit, and Fallujah.

I haven’t visited the other cities yet because I wanted to begin in the province’s largest and most important city. Ramadi isn’t the most important solely because it’s the capital or because it’s the largest. It is also the most important because Al Qaeda declared it “The Capital of the Islamic State of Iraq.”

“You have to understand what every side’s end state is in Iraq to really understand what’s going on,” said Captain McGee in his Military Intelligence headquarters at the Blue Diamond base just north of the city. An enormous satellite photo of Ramadi and the surrounding area that functioned as a map took up a whole wall. Local streets were relabeled by the military and given very American names: White Sox Road, Eisenhower Road, and Pool Hall Street for example.

“The ideology of AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] is to establish the Islamic Caliphate in Iraq,” he said. “In order for them to be successful they must control the Iraqi population through either support or coercion.”

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Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq

Some in the United States are unconvinced that Al Qaeda was really at the center of the conflict in Anbar. So I asked Colonel John Charlton how the Army knows Al Qaeda is really who they have been dealing with. He was supremely annoyed by the question.

“We know it’s Al Qaeda,” he said. There is no controversy whatsoever about this in Iraq. My question seemed to him as if it had come from another planet. “They self-identify as Al Qaeda. We didn’t give them that name. That’s what they call themselves. We have their propaganda CDs which have Al Qaeda written all over them.”

It’s not a dumb question, though, if a substantial number of Americans aren’t sure what’s going on in a bottomlessly complicated country eight or more times zones away. And not everyone who underestimated Al Qaeda’s presence is a fool.

I briefly met Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Eric Holmes from Dallas, Texas, while he was on his way home after volunteering to serve in Ramadi for six months. “I didn’t realize until I got here that the problem in Anbar Province was 100 percent Al Qaeda,” he said. “The old Baath Party insurgency here is completely finished. That war was won and Americans, including me, had no idea it even happened.”

Al Qaeda was initially welcomed by many Iraqis in Ramadi because they said they were there to fight the Americans. The spirit of resistance against foreign occupiers was strong. But the Iraqis got a lot more in the bargain than simply resistance.

“Al Qaeda came in and just seized people’s houses,” said Army Captain Phil Messer from Nashville, Tennessee. “They said we’re taking your house to use it against the Americans. Get out.

“Every mosque in the city was anti-American,” Captain McGee said. “They were against us, but Al Qaeda made it even worse by ordering them to broadcast anti-American propaganda at gunpoint.”

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A U.S. Army armored personnel carrier on Market Street

“Market Street [the main street downtown] was completely controlled by Al Qaeda,” Lieutenant Welch said. “They rolled down the streets, pointed guns at people, and said we are in charge. They had crazy requirements for the locals. They weren’t allowed to cut their hair. Girls were banned from going to school. They couldn’t shave or smoke. One guy defiantly lit a cigarette and they shot him four times.”

*

Sergeant Kenneth Hicks from Portland, Oregon, took me on my first foot patrol in the city. We dismounted our Humvees near Market Street in the center of one of Al Qaeda’s old strongholds.

“This is an infamous sniper corner,” he said before we had even walked twenty feet.

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An infamous sniper corner

“A few months ago we would be dead standing here,” he said. “But there were so many IEDs on this street, and so much piled up garbage, that we could only go out on foot.”

After Al Qaeda took over Ramadi, the local government was replaced with terrorists who only cared about fighting Americans and violently suppressing Iraqis. Al Qaeda was in charge, but it wouldn’t be accurate to say they were the new government. None of the basic city government services functioned. There was no electricity, no running water, no telephone service, and no garbage collection. Every single local business closed down. The city could not have been any more broken.

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“Ramadi didn’t even have a city government until April,” said Colonel Charlton. “They couldn’t come to work because of security. And the city was down to zero electricity just three months ago.”

“I’m sure it looks to you like there’s lots of trash all over the place,” Sergeant Hicks said. “But there is massive cleanup going on. There really is a lot less of it now than there was a few months ago.”

We walked a block or so and came to a series of concrete barriers blocking vehicle traffic.

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“We put up those walls to keep the rat line [enemy logistics route] out in the open desert from coming into the city,” he said.

Kids saw us and scattered. Nobody needed to tell me that was bad.

“Look out,” Sergeant Hicks said in case I didn’t know. “It’s not a good sign when kids run.”

Children who run at the sight of American soldiers often know something the soldiers do not. They may know an explosion or an insurgent attack of some other kind is imminent.

The same is true in Afghanistan. Soldiers know they can gauge the friendliness of an area by the response to their presence of its children. When kids run up and greet them, the area is friendly. When children just stand there and watch, the area is neutral or possibly hostile. When they flee it usually means the area is violently hostile and the kids need to get out of the way of the fighting that may be coming.

Sergeant Hicks raised his weapon and pointed it across the street.

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I suspect he was more worried than I was. Ramadi is a friendly city that has been cleared and pacified. The children were most likely running out of sheer habit. They lived right in the heart of what was recently Al Qaeda’s main stronghold.

Nothing exploded and nobody shot at us. The first kids I ever saw in Ramadi ran from us, but it never once happened again. Only two or three minutes later, children excitedly greeted us as they did every other time I stepped out into the streets of the city and the surrounding countryside.

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“Three months ago people turned their backs to us,” Sergeant Hicks said. “They refused to even smile. They were like beaten dogs.”

We walked down Market Street.

Small shops had re-opened since the war ended, but there was still a substantial amount of visible damage.

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“That pile of rubble at the end of the streets was an observation post,” he said.

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Anbar’s Most Wanted

“Those posters work,” Sergeant Hicks said when he saw me taking a photo of one of Anbar’s Most Wanted posters. “People are giving us information. And, you know, these people really open up to you, automatically, when you’re in their houses. They’ll just start telling you what it was like living under Saddam – the most unbelievable things.” And this is a part of Iraq that was favored by Saddam Hussein. It was much worse in the Shia and Kurdish parts of the country.

*

I also went on patrol with Captain Phil Messer. He was the most hospitable officer I met in Iraq. He and his men lived in a large rented house about the size of a university co-op in the Hay al Adel neighborhood. He gave me his private room next to the Tactical Operations Center and slept in a crowded room with some of the other soldiers so I would be as comfortable as possible. “I’ve been immersed in this culture a long time,” he said. “The Arab code of hospitality is starting to wear off on me.” I don’t think he was sucking up for good press. He is just a nice guy.

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Captain Phil Messer

“What do you want to see in Ramadi?” he said.

“Destruction,” I said. “I need to photograph what the war did to this place.”

So he took me out to see the destruction. He did not ask me why or what I would do with the pictures.

We headed out to “Route Michigan” in Humvees.

IED Road Ramadi.JPG

“When we first started using this road,” he said, “we thought it was a dirt road. Then we cleaned it up and, sure enough, there was asphalt under it. Route Michigan was hit by IEDs and gunfire every single time a convoy went down it. There was a foot and a half of water on it because the IEDs shattered so many water mains. Our vehicles were not allowed to travel on it unless they were specifically on a combat mission.”

Most of the city’s buildings and houses are more or less intact, but some areas have been completely destroyed. I toured the destruction in South Lebanon at the end of last year, but I didn’t see anything there on the scale of what happened in Ramadi. Nor did I see anything even remotely like this in Baghdad.

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“We took the gloves off,” said Captain Dennison from where he described as Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky. “We had to.”

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I saw dozens of buildings that look like those pictured above, and this was after the majority of the wreckage had been cleared.

At least it did not all go to waste. The twisted rebar was saved, and a young man amazingly was able to straighten it out with a tool made just for that purpose.

Rebar Ramadi.jpg

It looks bad, and it is bad. It’s worse than it looks, actually, because the destruction goes on and on and on in large swaths. Areas where rubble has been cleared look like parking lots, and there are literally miles of such areas in Ramadi along the main streets.

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Cleared rubble, Ramadi

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The large blank area in this picture was once dense with buildings

But just around the corner from the picture above is a bustling market that looks totally normal, as if nothing eventful ever happened there.

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A bustling market right next to a scene of vast devastation

*

I spent the next day at a Joint Security Station (JSS), a tiny outpost in a rented house where American soldiers and Marines live with Iraqi soldiers in the heart of the city.

Army Lieutenant Markham from Shreveport, Louisiana, met me first thing in the morning at Camp Corregidor and drove me over there.

“What’s the plan today?” I said.

“There’s this thing – I don’t know if you’ve heard of it – called the GWOT,” he said jokingly. “The Global War on Terrorism. We have to win it.”

“And what about me?” I said.

“I’ll be taking you over to the JSS and leaving you with Lieutenant Hightower,” he said. “Think of it as me dropping you off at school.”

“Ok, Dad,” I said. “Which truck am I riding in?”

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Lieutenant Markham says hello to Ramadi’s children

When we arrived at the JSS I was horrified. The building had sustained battle damage from the war. Everything was hot and filthy. The stairs were broken. The bathroom was covered in spider webs and dried mud left over from the last time it had rained. Aside from a few select rooms, there was no air conditioning. It’s hard to describe how awful that is in Iraq in August. Somebody told me it was 138 degrees that day. It’s hotter in Ramadi than even in Baghdad, and it’s made worse by the fact that the JSS didn’t have showers. “I once went three months without a shower,” a soldier told me outside. Amazingly, the place didn’t smell bad.

The toilets didn’t work and there were no porta-johns, so everyone had to use plastic bags and wash up with bottled water. “If you let the water from the sink get on your skin,” a soldier told me, “there’s a ten percent chance you’ll get a horrible rash.”

American and Iraqi soldiers live in this place. “Most Americans have no idea how bad we have it here,” someone told me, and I’m certain he’s right. But most of them didn’t complain. Life is a lot better in Ramadi now that the war is over, regardless of the heat and living conditions.

“Can I take pictures of this place?” I said to Sergeant Hicks. Only in the rarest of circumstances does the military object to journalists taking pictures, and even then only when the photographs might help the other side plan attacks.

“Hmm,” Sergeant Hicks said.

“Uh,” Lieutenant Markham said.

“It’s not that important,” I said.

“Just make sure there aren’t any full-page spreads showing the layout of this place so suicide bombers would know how to hit us,” Sergeant Hicks said.

“Yeah, Mike,” Lieutenant Markham said. “What are you trying to pull here?” He didn’t sound like he was joking, but he probably was. He’s just a dead-pan kind of guy who could have rubbed me the wrong way, but didn’t.

He introduced me to Marine Lieutenant Andrew Hightower from Houston, Texas. Hightower had recently returned from three months on medical leave.

“What happened?” I said.

“I got blown up,” he said.

“You don’t look blown up,” I said.

“I got hit with a 120 mortar round IED,” he said. “Near Market Street. I got shrapnel all in my leg.”

“How did that feel?” I said. Sometimes people don’t feel pain even when they are shot, so I didn’t know.

“It felt like someone was pushing a hot iron onto my skin,” he said. “Then I felt the blood running down my leg.” The doctors gave him the pieces of shrapnel which he now keeps in a jar.

“Lieutenant Hightower is a terrific Marine officer,” Lieutenant Markham said. “He gives me hope for the future of the Marine Corps.”

He said that so seriously I thought he might not be joking this time.

“Did you actually worry about the future of the Marine Corps before you met him?” I said.

“Well, yes kind of,” he said. “The Marines are just…really different from the Army.” He said it with such gravity and disappointment and concern and shook his head.

I couldn’t possibly care less about the rivalry between the Army and the Marines, although I was occasionally asked by members of each which branch I preferred.

One Marine tried to get an Iraqi Army soldier to take sides.

“Which do you think is better?” he said to the Iraqi soldier. “Army or Marines?”

“The Navy is best,” said the Iraqi.

The Marine was taken aback. “The Navy?” he said.

“Yes, Navy,” said the Iraqi.

The Marine looked slightly annoyed when I laughed.

Lieutenant Markham handed me over to Lieutenant Hightower who was supposed to take me out on a patrol. But a dust storm blew in from the desert and we were grounded. Soldiers and Marines aren’t allowed to go on patrols when the air is “condition red” because medi-vac helicopters have a hard time evacuating anyone who gets wounded. So I was stranded and spent as much of the day as I could talking to those who fought and survived the battle of Ramadi.

*

“We have genuinely good relations with the Iraqi Army here,” Lieutenant Hightower said. “We live in the same rooms. They are almost like my own soldiers. We go to their funerals.”

Every soldier and Marine I met in Anbar Province spoke highly of and with great admiration for their Iraqi counterparts. It was a completely different world from the Baghdad area where so many Americans hold the Iraqis in contempt as corrupt incompetents who let themselves be infiltrated by terrorists and insurgents.

“Some of the Iraqi Police here were insurgents, though,” he said. “We sent them to Jordan for training and when they got there they had serious background checks. Some of them were yanked out of the IP and sent to prison.”

So there has been a weeding out process, unlike in many parts of Iraq. And some of the police were insurgents who switched sides when they realized Al Qaeda, and not the Americans, were the real enemy.

“The Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police here are amazing,” Lieutenant Hightower said. “For a long time they weren’t being paid, but they risked their lives every day and did their jobs anyway.”

They are being paid now, but not very much. Iraqi Police officers only earn 300 or so dollars per month.

“What are you doing here anyway?” he said. “Not much happens in Ramadi anymore. Nothing blows up anymore. There’s no blood and guts here.”

There certainly was blood and guts, though. Just a few blocks from the station is a soccer stadium that was used during the war as a mass grave site.

“We found bodies buried in the middle of the soccer field by insurgents,” Lieutenant Hightower said. “After the war ended the Iraqis had to unearth the bodies. They called it Operation Graveyard.”

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The Ramadi soccer field, formerly a mass grave site, now a sports venue again

“That was its official name?” I said.

“That was its official name,” he said. “Now there’s a soccer game there every night at 5:00.” I had plans to attend the game that night myself, but it was cancelled.

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Lieutenant Hightower

“There was another soccer field north of the city in the ‘Sofia’ area,” he said, “a kids’ soccer field. It was also used as a dump site. AQI killed civilians by castrating them, stuffing their genitals in their mouths, and cutting off their heads. Al Qaeda killed a lot more civilians than they ever killed soldiers.”

Captain Jay McGee concurred. “Suicide car bombers rarely attacked the coalition,” he said, meaning Americans. “They almost always attacked Iraqi security forces and civilians. They know the U.S. will leave eventually, but AQI ultimately must fight Iraqis and destroy Iraqi institutions in order to prevail.”

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They did kill Americans, though, certainly. And they recruited and paid willing local Iraqis to help them.

“To get paid by AQI for killing Americans,” Lieutenant Hightower said, “the attack must be videotaped. They often used tracer rounds so they could prove it was real. We found whole piles of these tapes when we cleaned the city out. We found and killed a sniper just northeast of the city. He had all kinds of video tapes of himself shooting and killing American soldiers.”

Snipers were everywhere in Ramadi. Some were committed Al Qaeda fighters, and others were just paid to help out.

“One of my soldiers was shot in the head through his helmet by a sniper,” he said. High powered bullets will pierce helmets if they hit at a head-on angle. “The sniper was shooting from behind a curtain in a van. He was a teacher at a women’s vocational school by day and a sniper for extra money at night. AQI just recruits people who need money and hires them as insurgents as if it were a regular job.”

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Conveniently for Al Qaeda, the economy in Ramadi utterly disintegrated during the war. Almost everybody needed money, and even those who did have money had a hard time buying anything since all the stores had closed down.

Mortars were a big problem, too, and they came from random directions.

“AQI would launch three mortars from a truck,” Lieutenant Hightower said, “then drive off. We usually couldn’t shoot back fast enough before they had scurried off somewhere else.”

The worst, though, were the IEDs. It’s the same everywhere in Iraq.

“They used acid to liquefy the asphalt and bury the IEDs under the road,” he said. “Then they would push the liquid asphalt back into the hole. Their work looked almost perfect. You could tell where they had buried the IEDs if you looked closely enough, but the roads are filthy and the evidence was barely detectable when we were driving. We found a lot of them with slow-moving road clearance vehicles that use metal detector arms.”

He had to take a phone call, so I walked around the station and noticed that the filthy place was suddenly cleaner than it was when I arrived just a few hours before. The Iraqis were hard at work fixing the place up since they couldn’t go on patrols while the dusty air was still at condition red. Cases of MREs and bottled water were more organized. The floors had been swept clear of dust. Soon the station might actually be suitable for people to live in.

“Al Qaeda hit a six month old baby with a mortar when they were trying to hit us,” Lieutenant Hightower said when he got off the phone. “They also hit a six year old girl. We went in and medi-vacced the victims, and we made lots of friends that day. It was a clarifying experience for the Iraqis.”

It was a clarifying experience for the Iraqis because they had been raised on virulent anti-American conspiracy theories and propaganda from Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party. They truly believed the Army and Marines were there to steal their oil and women. Americans saving the lives of children wounded by fellow Sunni Arabs who passed themselves off as liberators was not what many Iraqis ever expected to see.

“The six month baby had shrapnel in his head,” Lieutenant Hightower said. “The six year old girl had shrapnel in her leg. It was the most disturbing thing I’ve seen since I got here.” This from a man who saw one of his own men shot in the head by a sniper.

Ramadi is in terrible shape even now. If it were an American city it would be declared in a state of emergency. Months of accumulated garbage is still piled up everywhere. The electricity still isn’t on for even twelve hours a day – although the eight of hours the city does get – because, as Colonel Charlton says, Al Qaeda no longer blows up the electrical towers – certainly beats the one hour of electricity they get each day in Baghdad. Sewage flows in the street. The economy has a pulse, but four months ago it was at zero.

Shoe Ramadi.JPG

“The city completely bottomed out,” Colonel Holmes told me. “It hit absolute rock bottom.”

Ramadi was in worse shape even than Gaza. And Ramadi was once one of the loveliest cities in all of Iraq.

*

Nineteen Arab tribes led by sheikhs live in Anbar Province. In June of 2006, nine of those tribal sheikhs cooperated with the Americans, three were neutral, and seven were hostile.

In October of last year the tribal leaders in the province, including some who previously were against the Americans, formed a movement to reject the savagery Al Qaeda had brought to their region. Some of them were supremely unhappy with the American presence since fighting exploded in the province’s second largest city of Fallujah, but Al Qaeda proved to be even more sinister from their point of view. Al Qaeda did not come as advertised. They were militarily incapable of expelling the American Army and Marines. And they were worse oppressors than even Saddam Hussein. The leaders of Anbar Province saw little choice but to openly declare them enemies and do whatever it took to expunge them. They called their new movement Sahawa al Anbar, or the Anbar Awakening.

Sheikh Sattar is its leader. Al Qaeda murdered his father and three of his brothers and he was not going to put up with them any longer. None of the sheikhs were willing to put up with them any longer. By April of 2007, every single tribal leader in all of Anbar was cooperating with the Americans.

“AQI announced the Islamic State of Iraq in a parade downtown on October 15, 2006,” said Captain McGee. “This was their response to Sahawa al Anbar. They were threatened by the tribal movement so they accelerated their attacks against tribal leaders. They ramped up the murder and intimidation. It was basically a hostile fascist takeover of the city."

Sheikh Jassim’s experience was typical.

“Jassim was pissed off because American artillery fire was landing in his area,” Colonel Holmes said. “But he wasn’t pissed off at us. He was pissed off at Al Qaeda because he knew they always shot first and we were just shooting back.”

“He said he would prevent Al Qaeda from firing mortars from his area if we would help him,” Lieutenant Hightower said. “Al Qaeda said they would mess him up if he got in their way. He called their bluff and they seriously fucked him up. They launched a massive attack on his area. All hell broke loose. They set houses on fire. They dragged people through the streets behind pickup trucks. A kid from his area went into town and Al Qaeda kidnapped him, tortured him, and delivered his head to the outpost in a box. The dead kid was only sixteen years old. The Iraqis then sent out even nine year old kids to act as neighborhood watchmen. They painted their faces and everything.”

“Sheikh Jassim came to us after that,” Colonel Holmes told me, “and said I need your help.”

“One night,” Lieutenant Markham said, “after several young people were beheaded by Al Qaeda, the mosques in the city went crazy. The imams screamed jihad from the loudspeakers. We went to the roof of the outpost and braced for a major assault. Our interpreter joined us. Hold on, he said. They aren’t screaming jihad against us. They are screaming jihad against the insurgents."

*

“A massive anti-Al Qaeda convulsion ripped through the city,” said Captain McGee. “The locals rose up and began killing the terrorists on their own. They reached the tipping point where they just could not take any more. They told us where the weapon caches were. They pointed out IEDs under the road.”

“In mid-March,” Lieutenant Hightower said, “a sniper operating out of a house was shooting Americans and Iraqis. Civilians broke into his house, beat the hell out of him, and turned him over to us.”

“There were IEDs all over this area,” Lieutenant Welch said. “On every single street corner, buried under the road. They were so big they could take out tanks. When we came through we cleared the whole area on foot. The civilians told us where the IEDs were. I was with one group where a guy opened his gate just a crack and pointed out where one was. It was right in front of his house. Later we went back and had tea. He was so happy to see us.”

“One day,” Lieutenant Hightower said, “some Al Qaeda guys on a bike showed up and asked where they could plant an IED against Americans. They asked a random civilian because they just assumed the city was still friendly to them. They had no idea what was happening. The random civilian held him at gunpoint and called us to come get him.”

“People here tacitly supported Al Qaeda,” Captain McGee said, “because Al Qaeda was attacking us. But they took control of the city. They forced girls to stay home from school. They dragged people outside the city and shot them in the head. They broke people’s fingers if they were seen smoking a cigarette. They forced men to grow beards. Once they started acting like that they could only establish a safe haven by using terrorism against the local civilians.”

“Al Qaeda struck out three times,” said Major Peters. “Strike One: They killed a Sheikh and held his body for four days. Strike Two: They executed young people in public. Strike Three: They attacked the compound of another sheikh. The people here said enough. They aligned with us because they realized Al Qaeda was the real enemy. They didn’t like Al Qaeda’s version of Islam at all.”

Credit for purging Ramadi of Al Qaeda must go to Iraqis themselves at least as much as to the American military. The Americans wouldn’t have been able to do it without the cooperation of the people who live there, and the Iraqis wouldn’t have been able to do it, at least not so easily, without help from the American military.

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This drawing by an Iraqi child depicts the American-Iraqi alliance against Al Qaeda. Notice the sword is Iraqi and the muscle is American.

Not only did Iraqi soldiers, police, and civilians join the fight, but also the lesser known local security force fielded by the Anbar tribal authorities.

“The previous battalion saw men on corners wearing cammies,” said Captain McGee. “They were legacy forces still around from the old days, the Provincial Security Forces (PSF). They had been operating as a critical reserve and a mobile strike force. They helped clear the area of AQI on their own. They are as well disciplined, if not more so, than the Iraqi Army. They’ve been working with us, too.”

I said it sounded to me like they were just another Iraqi militia, and he understood what I meant. That’s what they look like, and he had heard that criticism before.

“The PSF looks like a militia,” he said, “but it isn’t. It’s legal and more of a ‘national guard’ like the [Kurdish] Peshmerga. They are authorized and paid by the Ministry of the Interior in Baghdad. Even the Iraqi Army here doesn’t have as good equipment as they have.”

Another difference between the Provincial Security Forces and the militias, which he didn’t mention, is that all the militias to one extent or another are sectarian creatures. There are Sunni militias and Shia militias, and they often fight each other. The PSF is Sunni, but that’s because Anbar Province is Sunni. The PSF isn’t Sunni per se. Its Sunni character is incidental. There are hardly any Shias in Anbar Province who could join the PSF, and the PSF doesn’t fight Shias anywhere in Iraq. They fight Al Qaeda, which also is Sunni. And they cooperate with the Iraqi Army, which even in Anbar is mostly Shia. There is nothing remotely sectarian about them.

“Al Qaeda had dug in the northeastern and southern parts of the city,” Captain McGee told me. “The coalition walled off areas and fought block to block, house to house. Then the Provincial Security Forces went in and recleared it. There was an immediate decrease in attacks.”

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Inside a burned house

He was referring Operation Murphy’s Burrow, which brought about a dramatic change in offensive tactics.

“For a long time,” Colonel Holmes said, “they were driving away from the base in Humvees down a street that was infested with Al Qaeda forces. The gunners spun their turrets in circles and just shot at everything, thinking they could provide cover for themselves so they could drive without being shot at.”

“Didn’t that violate the rules of engagement?” I said.

He froze for a second and answered that question very carefully.

“That was the wrong way to do it,” he said. “And they knew it. So they slowly cleared one block at a time, house by house, and kept the supply lines open to the base in the area that was already cleared. Everything behind them got cleared and stayed cleared, so their safe area got gradually larger. We don’t want to hurt civilians. Our job here is to protect Iraqi civilians.”

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He’s right. It is the job of the United States military to protect the people of Iraq even before protecting themselves. It is always the job of (American) soldiers to protect civilians before protecting themselves. In doing so they protect themselves better than if they did not. It may be counter-intuitive, but it’s straight-forward, by-the-book counterinsurgency.

Here is the relevant passage from the book. (Thanks to Michael Yon for publishing this for us.)

Sometimes, the More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You May Be

1-149. Ultimate success in COIN [Counter-insurgency] is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained. . . . These practices ensure access to the intelligence needed to drive operations. Following them reinforces the connections with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.

From “Counterinsurgency/FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5”
“As soon as we were on Easy Street running through the Malaab area every day, 24/7, it got quiet,” said Private First Class Baringhouse from Indiana. “We sealed off the entire area with barricades and blocked all vehicle traffic. Then they couldn’t get weapons and IEDs in. It calmed the place down fast.”

Vehicle traffic is still banned in most of Ramadi. The streets are dead quiet. No one drives but the American military, the Iraqi Army and Police, and a few select taxis.

How well is that going over, I asked Lieutenant Welch.

Lt Welch Ramadi.jpg
Lieutenant Welch

“Civilians complain about lots of things,” he said. “But they never complain about this. They are so terrified of car bombs they don’t want any car traffic in this city at all. If we could shut down all vehicle traffic everywhere in Iraq, the war would be practically over.”

Moped Ramadi.jpg
Car traffic is banned, but mopeds are okay

Motorcycle Taxi Ramadi.jpg
A motorcycle taxi

There were more than just IEDs and car bombs. There also were house bombs.

“The house across the street was rigged to blow,” he said. “Four Syrians were living in it. Now it’s a pile of rubble. This building,” meaning the Joint Security Station, “was rigged to blow, too, but they hadn’t quite finished the rigging. They hadn’t put the detonator equipment in yet.”

Some of the blown up buildings in Ramadi can be partially blamed on American screw ups.

“Did you see that flattened parking lot looking area out front?” Lieutenant Welch said.

I did.

Destruction Outside JSS.jpg

“It was a bunch of shops in the last area we cleared,” he said. “We busted the locks and opened the doors. Everyone had to stay in their houses then. We found tons of weapons and IEDs. Just as we were finishing up some of the military dogs refused to sit on the flour bags. We opened up the bags and it felt like soap. We tested it. We didn’t think it was an explosive, but an accelerant. We took everything, put it into piles, and blew it up without warning anybody. It was a much bigger explosion than we expected. Urea-nitrate was in the bags. It’s an explosive made from fertilizer. That blast was so big that people at Camp Ramadi, all the way on the other side of the city and outside the city, thought it was a nearby car bomb. People at Camp Corregidor thought they were being mortared. Windows blew out for blocks and blocks in every direction. It destroyed the whole block. Civil affairs officers paid compensation to locals for injuries and property damage. Thank God no one was killed. The media reported it as a car bomb at the soccer stadium. Reporters in the Green Zone have no idea what goes on out here.”

Here is a graph that I asked Military Intelligence to reproduce for me that shows the dramatic decrease in violence in the Topeka Area of Operations in Northern Ramadi from January 1, 2007, to July 28, 2007.

Daily Attacks in AO Topeka.JPG
Source: U.S. Army Military Intelligence

The graph is for internal use by the Army. It is not intended for public consumption or as propaganda. If it were, what it reveals would be even more dramatic. Most of the tiny number of “attacks” that appear after the middle of May weren’t really even attacks.

“Most of those litle blips represent old IEDs we found that were ineffective,” Captain McGee said. “One was a car bomb by perps who came into Ramadi from outside the city. There was only one other attack against us in our area of operations in July, and it was ineffective. As soon as we came in here to stay the civilians felt free enough to inform on them. Al Qaeda can’t come back now because the locals will report them instantly. Ramadi is a conservative Muslim city, but it’s a completely hostile environment for Islamists.”

The area just north of Ramadi was cleared even before the city itself was.

“On April 7 the entire area of operations [just north of the city] was cleared except for sporadic attacks from twelve people,” Major Lee Peters said. “There was no head to cut off. It was like a hydra. We didn’t win by killing their leaders. We won by eroding their support base. These people hate Al Qaeda much more than they ever hated us.”

The tribes of Anbar are turning their Sahawa al Anbar movement into a formal political party that will run in elections. They also hope to spread it to the rest of Iraq under the name Sahawa al Iraq. It is already taking root in the provinces of Diyala and Salah a Din.

Some have misunderstood this movement and dismissed it as “the insurgency.” Captain McGee provided me with the eleven points of their political platform, for the record.
1. Election of new Provincial Congress.

2. Formation of Anbar Province Sheikhs Congress, with the condition that none was or will be a terrorist supporter or collaborator.

3. Begin an open dialogue with Baath Party members, except those involved in criminal/terrorist acts in order to quell all insurgent activities with all popular groups.

4. Review the formation of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi Army, with tribal sheikhs vouching for those recruited

5. Provide security for highway travelers in Anbar Province.

6. Stand against terrorism wherever and whenever it occurs, condemn attacks against coalition forces, and maintain presence of coalition forces as long as needed or until stability and security are established in Anbar Province.

7. No one shall bear arms except government-authorized Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi Army.

8. Condemn all actions taken by individuals, families, and tribes that give safe haven to terrorists and foreign fighters, and commend immediate legal and/or military remedies to rectify such acts.

9. Recommend measures to rebuild the economy, to entice industrial prosperity, and bolster the agricultural economy. Also find funds and resources to reopen existing manufacturing facilities. The main objective is to fight for welfare and deny the insurgents any grounds for recruitment.

10. Strengthen sheikhdom authorities, help tribal leaders adjust to democratic changes in social behavior, and maintain sheikhs financially and ideologically so they can continue this drive.

11. Respect the law and Constitution of the land, and support justice and its magistrates so no power will be above the law.
Ramadi isn’t completely safe yet. Al Qaeda wants to take back their “Capital of the Islamic State of Iraq," and they have tried unsuccessfully to attack it from outside on a couple of occasions since they lost it. (They also tried to move their “Capital of the Islamic State of Iraq” to Baqubah in Diyala Province, but they lost that too in Operation Arrowhead Ripper this summer.) Also, Colonel Charlton said, “there may still be one small cell remnant here.” But the war in Ramadi is effectively over. “It’s boring here now,” Private First Class Baringhouse said. “It’s like we’re babysitting the Iraqis. But it’s weird and amazing to be bored here.”

This now “boring” city, which is just barely beginning to recover from utter catastrophe, is a different cultural and political environment than it once was.

“The mosques in Ramadi all have pro-coalition messages now,” Captain McGee said.

“How do you know this?” I said. “Do you actually attend Friday services?”

“We have relationships with the imams,” he said. “We have very good relations with all of them.”

“The Abdullah Mosque next to our outpost was hit by insurgent fire,” Captain Messer said. “The Marines are giving them money to fix it.”

Another mosque, just north of the city in the area known as Jazeera, wasn’t hit by Al Qaeda. It was used as a terrorist base by Al Qaeda.

“It’s blackened,” Captain Dennison told me, “and abandoned. Insurgents used it, so the locals consider it desecrated. No one is willing to set foot in it now.”

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.

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Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 12:18 AM
Comments

Michael,

Ramadi was in worse shape even than Gaza. And Ramadi was once one of the loveliest cities in all of Iraq.

That is really really sad. I wonder, how many of those buildings were destroyed by Americans. I notice in your piece the only mention is that al-Qaeda destroyed this or that, and it would seem disingenuous not to mention that we sure dropped a lot of bombs with our planes. Surely we dropped a whole ton of bombs over "al-Qaeda's headquarters."

Also no mention is made of how many Iraqis we Americans killed in Ramadi. I don't say this flippantly, or even trollishly, but because as you pointed out later in the piece, protecting civilians is a far greater priority than protecting soldiers, at least on paper, at least in the counterinsurgency field manual. The reason I bring this up is because I really am astonished that before General Petraeus wrote the updated manual, the American military did not use this principle (which I thought we learned in other wars---or from other nations who failed to follow that principle and lost their counterinsurgencies). Ramadi is a city that did not need to be so virulently anti-American for so long (and frankly, it is my feeling that they still don't view Americans well right now---they merely see those few foreign and domestic members of AQI as a bigger threat to their well-being). Ramadians are strongly Sunni, with many ties to Saudis. We should have used those Sunni ties to ensure the Sunnis of Iraq didn't turn against us.

Ramadi did not need to be destroyed.

In October of last year the tribal leaders in the province, including some who previously were against the Americans, formed a movement to reject the savagery Al Qaeda had brought to their region. Some of them were supremely unhappy with the American presence since fighting exploded in the province’s second largest city of Fallujah, but Al Qaeda proved to be even more sinister from their point of view.

So in other words, the success of Ramadi had little to do with the "surge." It had more to do with Al-Qaeda overreaching. I wonder, if Al-Qaeda had not been so rough on the civilian population they were trying to win over, would we still be out there reducing Ramadi to even more rubble?

Credit for purging Ramadi of Al Qaeda must go to Iraqis themselves at least as much as to the American military. The Americans wouldn’t have been able to do it without the cooperation of the people who live there, and the Iraqis wouldn’t have been able to do it, at least not so easily, without help from the American military.

The Americans will never ever win a counterinsurgency without the assistance of the locals. I thought this principle was taught at the military schools. In practice, only recently has it been shown, and at this point, it is probably far too late to have the effect required for "success."

If we could only see the numbers of Iraqis that Americans have killed. I think it would be the most telling number of the whole war.

1-149. Ultimate success in COIN [Counter-insurgency] is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents

So painfully clear in Iraq.

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 03:07 AM

This is a very interesting piece of work. Well done, you are brave.

BTW this exchange facsinated me:

MJT : “Did you actually worry about the future of the Marine Corps before you met him?” I said.

Lt Markham: “Well, yes kind of,” he said. “The Marines are just…really different from the Army.” He said it with such gravity and disappointment and concern and shook his head.

...what do you think the soldier meant? It smacks of something more than institutional rivalry...

Posted by: Microraptor at September 10, 2007 04:05 AM

Totten has done an amazing job of translating the complexities of the situation here in Ramadi into a coherent news article. With no daily ax to grind, editors to appease and fare more time to spend, this report is FAR superior to anything you would find in the Times: London, New York and LA.

Michael Totten is an energy drink to combat mainstream media fatigue, read him whenever wariness sets in.

Matt Sanchez,
Ramadi, Anbar

Posted by: Matt Sanchez at September 10, 2007 04:26 AM

Awesome writing. Awesome photos.

Dan, I don't think anyone who reads the article will think it was only AQ who blew up buildings.

Posted by: Aaron at September 10, 2007 04:45 AM

Michael -

Very informative article. Thank you for the perspective. I actually like that you did mention the damage that was done by Coalition forces as well and AQI --- war is always 2 sided. But, I also thought that it was nice to hear about what the forces are doing to help...rebuilding a mosque, clearing rubble, stabalizing the electrical grid. Those are the things that will help keep Al Anbar province stable...it's a quid pro quo relationship...

Posted by: Chris at September 10, 2007 06:54 AM

Michael,

Another amazing article, with what I feel is your best yet description of how the populace sees the challenges and progress over there. Things are really different even from when I was in country in '05. I'm glad to see our efforts weren't in vain.

Dan, you continue to post inflammatory comments with little to no factual evidence to back up your spiteful comments.

"If we could only see the numbers of Iraqis that Americans have killed. I think it would be the most telling number of the whole war."

Are you insinuating that somehow Americans are responsible for more Iraqi deaths that AQI? Or are you insinuating that Americans are somehow just riding around the country exterminating Iraqi citizens? If you are going to participate in this discussion forum, please at least back up your claims instead of attempting to inflame others.

Posted by: Rob at September 10, 2007 08:22 AM

Geez Dan, that took you long. Article is out, respond with negativity immediately. Let me see if I can help a little in your main thrust though:
We destroyed a number of buildings in this war (yes, it's ALWAYS sad when war destroys beauty, and it does so often), we have inadvertently killed civilians in this war (war, especially urban war, makes avoiding that impossible), the surge is meaningless without a local population who desires peace and wants the protection the surge provides.
As the soldier stated, "We took the gloves off...we had to." However, it's a BUILDING. Buildings can be rebuilt. You don't make decisions in the middle of a firefight based on whether you'll hurt the building they're pouring fire onto you from (we're not talking about a mosque, here).
Why the obsession with how many civilians? Is two hundred worse than one hundred? Is one hundred unacceptable but fifty is understandable? Civilians die in war. It's awful.
But what is more awful is when they're killed intentionally. We accidentally kill a civilian and we are deeply troubled by it. Al-Qaeda TARGETS the civilian. So I'm not really sure where "Al-Qaeda over-reaching" and "if Al-Qaeda had not been so rough on the civilian population they were trying to win over" comes from. They weren't overreaching. They're Al-Qaeda: it's what they do. Humoring if they had not been so rough is like humoring what an elephant could say if he could talk: elephants don't talk, and Al-Qaeda doesn't take it easy on civilian populations. And the reason why is they are not trying to "win over" the population. WE are trying to win over the population: trying to show them we're not the bad people they believed and were taught. Al-Qaeda is seeking to subjugate the people. They don't want the Iraqis on their side. They want the Iraqis to be just like them. We want the Iraqis to be able to take care of themselves so we can get the hell out. They want to rule the Iraqis so that they can stay and use it as a base of power. The only population that will support Al-Qaeda is either living in terror or crazy. The Iraqis aren't crazy (although after what the last several decades has done to their psyche, an argument could be formulated that I'm crazy for saying such a thing), and thanks in part to the surge they don't have to live in terror and fear. The next point, therefore, was inevitable: Al-Qaeda, get out.
The Iraqis should get at least half the credit for turning things around, probably more. But to say the surge is not a part of it (a significant part) is false. The surge goes in with the assumption that the populace wants to get out from under the crazies. The surge is designed to provide the presence on the ground needed to give the population the security to make that happen. So yes, in the end it's about the citizens getting it done. But I think that's the exact same thing to be said about the surge as whole.
You say that Americans can't ever win an insurgency without the assistance of the locals. But it seems more that you simply believe we can't win one period. Even when we do work with the locals, it is either not a good thing to be working with the sheiks (they fought us before, so apparently you believe we should not be making peace with them and working with them), or it wasn't really us but them who succeeded (even though the whole point of counter-insurgency is to make the population succeed in their struggle), or it's all too late and won't make a difference now. So please sit back then and see what pans out? Or would you rather us all believe such pessimism and rubbish?

Posted by: Joe at September 10, 2007 08:36 AM

Absolutely riveting, Michael, this is your best piece yet. Great photos, great writing. Thank you.

Posted by: chuck at September 10, 2007 08:47 AM

The article, and the military, and some of the commentators seem to keep acting as though all this is a result of the US military's actions in the area, but the whole time I'm reading, I couldn't find anything to contradict the fact that this was the people of Ramadi who created this reality. And probably would have regardless of whether the U.S. was there or not.

Maybe if the U.S. pulled back it's forces, set up Iraqi companies to provide jobs to Iraqis to do the work that crooks like Halliburton have been doing, and simply maintained more of a peace keeping role than an occupation (possibly with an international force), seems to me that the Iraqis are perfectly capable of figuring things out for themselves.

Posted by: Michael at September 10, 2007 09:06 AM

To Dan & Michael,
Aren't you guys missing a Moveon.org meeting or something?? The fact is that the Americans could've cleared the entire Anbar province a long time ago. Drop two dozen DaiseyCutter bombs all along Anbar and it would be pacified. But the liberals and the so-called antiwar people never give credit to military for not doing that. The fact is the Americans are the GOOD GUYS and Al Qeada are the BAD GUYS. It's too bad people like you don't get that.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 10, 2007 09:19 AM

Seriously dude, don't you ever get tired of this propaganda drivel? "Al Qaeda decapitates a newborn while the noble Crusaders help children."

Found those "amassed" WMD yet, scumbag?

Fuck you, I hope many more of your Coalition of the Killing friends die over there

Posted by: Katarina at September 10, 2007 09:24 AM

Wow Katarina, you are so articulate... LOL Another so-called anti-war person??? Or do you cheer only when Americans die? Killing Fields is what Iraq will be if we abandon our allies just like in Southeast Asia. Your response just proves how irrational and just plain stupid you are.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 10, 2007 09:32 AM

1 post ago, you wanted to drop "daisy cutters" all over Anbar.
Now you pretend to be concerned about the killing that might take place after the American surrender and withdrawal

Posted by: Katarina at September 10, 2007 09:37 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/10/2007
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 September 10, 2007 09:45 AM

Katarina is banned for trolling. Don't respond to her. Any future comments by her will be deleted.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 09:53 AM

Karina- I'd be surprised to learn that you don't walk around with your foot in mouth, considering that you are such a knee jerker. I never condoned or suggested that we use DaiseyCutters all along Anbar. I was saying that it is a "military" option that the US military is never given credit for not using. Now can you slow your breathing so you can understand this. The thing is that the Jihadists wouldn't hesistate to use DaiseyCutter type weapons on us and other Muslims that don't follow their brand of Islam. So please don't try to put words in my mouth...

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 10, 2007 09:55 AM

Nothing like effective counterinsurgency tactics to bring out the blog trolls, and we're not even past 20 comments yet. Wowza.

Is Katarina an Al Qaeda troll or just an Islamist troll? I don't read Arabic, so I don't know what the website says that Katarina's name links to, but it looks like Al Sadr and Osama both make appearances.

Anyway, this is a great report Michael. It appears Anbar is a great example of how American firepower combined with local support can cleanse an area of the Al Qaeda scourge and allow people to get on with their lives.

Still lots of work to do, of course, especially in restoring infrastructure and rebuilding the economy, but stability first, then reconstruction.

This story gives me hope for the mission while also indicating how much more difficult Baghdad is going to be.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 10, 2007 10:00 AM

Considering some of the 'America is always evil' responses to Mr. Totten, it would appear Media Matters is dreadfully frightened of his independent work.

Posted by: syn at September 10, 2007 10:13 AM

For Katrina. What???? I believe you are looking though a different glass than the rest of us. Recommend dropping "daisy cutters" NOT TRUE

Posted by: Gene at September 10, 2007 10:15 AM

Rob,

Are you insinuating that somehow Americans are responsible for more Iraqi deaths that AQI? Or are you insinuating that Americans are somehow just riding around the country exterminating Iraqi citizens?

You're getting too defensive here. Please take my point at face value. I am not comparing us to Al-Qaeda. I'm saying that we've not followed our own counterinsurgency field manual and have killed quite a lot of Iraqis, a move the counterinsurgency manual says is very bad. I'm saying that this thing, which we so abhor talking about is one of the reasons why we've failed so badly in Iraq. In counterinsurgency, you do your damndest to NOT kill civilians. The manual says so itself, as Michael quoted. I think for us to get an accurate assessment of the situation, knowing exactly how many civilians we have killed will tell us quite a lot.

Why would you think I'm looking into this any further than that?

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 10:19 AM

Michael (can I call you "Mike" like the Lt.?),
another fantastic read ... making me late.

I remember how, back in when Harry Potter 5 came out and Fallujah was NOT cleared by the Americans I claimed: only the Iraqis can win. (as well as that Islamofascists were deatheaters.) -- inspired by your great insights.

I can't help but think of that 3 headed Hydra being stabbed. [Thanks for a wonderful foto!!!]
A terror oriented hydra, killed by Iraqi swords, backed/ funded/ supplied by US muscle.

A Hydra with a name.

I R A N.

Posted by: Tom Grey at September 10, 2007 10:23 AM

Joe,

Why the obsession with how many civilians? Is two hundred worse than one hundred? Is one hundred unacceptable but fifty is understandable? Civilians die in war. It's awful. But what is more awful is when they're killed intentionally. We accidentally kill a civilian and we are deeply troubled by it.

I don't think you understand the principles of counterinsurgency. You, as the foreign occupier will most certainly take the position you just took, but that is by far the worst position to take, because to the Iraqis it shows that you really don't value their lives at all. If you want a successful counterinsurgency, you must do all in your power to NOT kill ANY civilian.

It is a fairly simple principle, Joe. If someone invaded America and promised that they only wanted to restructure our government, but then they "accidentally" killed your brother, how would you feel about it? You probably would not like it one bit. You might even feel the need for revenge. The heck with feelings, you'll probably want to take some action. Why wouldn't Iraqis (or really anyone else) do the same?

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 10:23 AM

The counterinsurgency manual I quoted is the current "book" on how to wage war in Iraq. The surge is partly about an increase in troop numbers, but mostly about a change to this strategy.

I think Dan's comments are a bit overwrought, but it's true that this war was not fought properly for a long time.

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

Pete Dawg,

Drop two dozen DaiseyCutter bombs all along Anbar and it would be pacified.

Huh...I seem to remember that we used Daisy Cutters in Afghanistan, oh about five years ago. How's Afghanistan doing these days?

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 10:25 AM

Oh, Dan what the heck are you saying??? I'm sorry that you don't have an intituitive impulse to believe that AQ's civilian casualty rate by far outpaces the American military rate. Considering its AQ that's exploding bombs all over Iraq against fellow muslims. The fact is that the Lawyers have screwed up the Rules of Engagement so much that I know that American soldiers have died letting the enemy get away. How much has our country been neutered since World War 2? America has gone to extreme lengths to protect innocent civilians. Pretty soon the US military will be asked to have "no civilian" casualties and on that day the United States will be unable to protect itself or its national interests.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 10, 2007 10:38 AM

"How's Afghanistan doing these days"

A world better than before 9/11/2001.

It is appalling to me as a former liberal mugged by the reality of 9/11/2001 to hear from Americans drowning in wealth, security and freedom constantly rip into any attempt to help Liberty succeed in those places where none ever existed.

I was once a Liberal who believed in the words of John F Kennedy, however, since 9/11/2001 Liberalism in America is as dead as is that former great President Kennedy.

Shame on Liberals for killing the dream!

Posted by: syn at September 10, 2007 10:41 AM

Great article Michael, thanks for the unique insights.

To those getting your blood up about who gets credit for this growing success story, take another look at the drawing by the Iraqi child. Notice the "alliance" in there?

Also re-read the section where Michael talks about the Sheikh taking the first step, then asking the US military for help. That sums it up perfectly.

So to you people saying the Iraqi's "would have regardless of whether the US was there or not." need to get a clue. We are there, and they asked for help. We've provided that help, and I don't doubt that we'll continue to lend a hand extricating AQI when needed.

Posted by: Thripshaw at September 10, 2007 10:44 AM

Dan,

It's difficult to take your previous comment at face value, because you do not provide any figures. You casually toss a comment about "If we could only see the numbers of Iraqis that Americans have killed..." into your post, and I personally can only infer that you are trying to say that this is somehow a large and significant figure. If I am wrong please correct me.

There have no doubt been civilian casualties as a result of this war, which is honestly sad. If you remember me from earlier posts, I served for a year there, and can tell you first hand. I could also tell you about the almost daily patrols I went on where we would stop our convoy to let our medics get and and assist the local population.

Back to the point at hand, AQI is the group that has been responsible for the vast majority of sectarian killings, bombings, beheadings, etc.
Perhaps you are trying to imply that if we weren't there, then innocent Iraqis wouldn't be getting killed by AQI. While I can't agree with that assessment, I'll at least give you credit for that translation. Because your original post was unclear on the matter.

Posted by: Rob at September 10, 2007 10:47 AM

Not to dwell on the gruesoem details,
but the part about aq 'tards stuffing genitals into the mouth followed by beheading is straight out of Chechnya. Arab mercenaries fighting in chechnya throughout the nineties used the EXACT same methods. I guess further proof that it is in fact al-qaeda, and not randomly generated joe schmoe al-habib group.

Posted by: Aleksandr of New York at September 10, 2007 10:48 AM

Dan- I guess reading comprehension is not popular with you or your "Blame America First" crowd. It doesn't matter that I said DaiseyCutter or a smalll tatical nuke. The fact is that the US Military is the most leathal on this Earth and it's restraining itself. Something you just can't comprhenend or appreciate. Oh by the way a DaiseyCutter effectiveness would be diminished in the mountains of Afghanistan and Wahzirastan. Something the that wouldn't happen in the FLAT land of Anbar province.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 10, 2007 10:55 AM

Another amazing article. Thank you.

You and Michael Yon have become the foremost foreign correspondents of your generation IMHO.

Posted by: Hope Muntz at September 10, 2007 10:57 AM

Bill Ardolino has a report up from Operation Alljah.

http://www.indcjournal.com/archives/003102.php

If Totten, Yon, Ardolino and Roggio and others can do this type of reporting, then why can't the MSM?

Oh that's right, it is the narrative that is important, not the facts on the ground.

Independent war bloggers should be receiving Pulitzers if you ask me.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 10, 2007 11:02 AM

Thanks for this great report. For the first time, I am going to contribute to your effort. I am cancelling my subscriptions to newspapers and I will instead give money to you to help you. Why should I pay to the newspaper/magazines and get one-sided, often negative news anymore? I had enough.
I am a Middle Eastern myself and I want America to be victorious there, because I know if American wins, Iraqi people will win at the end too. Hey, why should not we have Germany like or Japan like country in the Middle East? Only America can do that for Iraqi’s.

Posted by: Frieda at September 10, 2007 11:18 AM

Another fantastic work, Michael. I'm hooked.

Posted by: AmWall at September 10, 2007 11:19 AM

Micheal,

I consider your blog to be essential reading. Thanks from yet another of your fans.

"This drawing by an Iraqi child depicts the American-Iraqi alliance against Al Qaeda. Notice the sword is Iraqi and the muscle is American."

That drawing is awesome and I think it beautifully sums up the current situation in Iraq.

So why didn't we do it before? I think that whenever a new CEO moves into a position of control he wants to do things his way. We all think that, "If only they'd do it MY way..."

I can't remember the name of the movie, but the quote was something like this: "There are four ways to do anything. The right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and MY way. We do things my way."

The previous generals did things their way.

Petraeus does the same thing, except that his way involves actually studying what's worked and applying it. Not many people will do that. It's that ego thing.

War is hell and we all wish it would just go away, but I think this way is showing a real possibility of taking Iraq from a hellish dictatorship to something far better.

Posted by: Greg at September 10, 2007 11:28 AM

>> Drop two dozen DaiseyCutter bombs all
>> along Anbar and it would be pacified.

Many would appreciate it if armchair supporters of the military which represents us around the world would refrain from suggesting that the U.S. military deserves a pat on the back for not committing genocide.

We've come a long way from Vietnam (hopefully), so the concept of "we had to destroy the village to save the village" must be completely laid to rest.

This victory is a victory by and for the Iraqi's, and it rings hollow to use it as an opportunity to cheerlead for the U.S. occupation.

Posted by: b. ramirez at September 10, 2007 11:38 AM

As Winston Churchill said: "The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative."

After diligently exhausting those alternatives under the direction of Donald "stuff happens" Rumsfeld, it appears that the US military really is doing the right things in Iraq. I sincerely hope it is not too late.

Posted by: Penry at September 10, 2007 11:42 AM

Michael, I prefer to receive my news (good or bad) from primary sources, like yourself. Having served in the region myself, I have a sense for what sounds true and what sounds fabricated. Please keep reporting what you see, no matter what you see, for those relatively few of us who really care about hearing the observations and opinions of those from whom the situation in Iraq is truly a life-or-death situation.

Posted by: Parks at September 10, 2007 11:42 AM

Michael, fantastic article! Allow me to pedantically refresh your memory, though, to the effect that the photo captioned "A U.S. Army tank on Market Street" is not of a tank but a Bradley IFV.

Oh, and the kid who drew the Iraqi-American dragon-stabbing: Let's give him Ted Rall's job.

Posted by: nichevo at September 10, 2007 12:04 PM

Dan,
Exactly what qualifies you to make assumptions and generalizations about what measures were required and excessive in Ramadi? How much time did you spend on the ground? Which military schools did you attend that taught COIN entitling you to speak on the curriculum? The bottom line is that the "fog of insurgency" is something that cannot be exhaustively covered in a field manual. There are principles and ideologies, guidelines and recommendations. There are no hard and fast rules, no sequence of events. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. You can't paint-by-numbers a COIN operation, especially one on such a grandiose scale.

Posted by: Truth at September 10, 2007 12:14 PM

Nichevo,

Too slow on the correction! The photo caption has already been fixed, but you are right. It wasn't a tank.

I know the difference (honest), I just didn't look carefully enough at the photo when I put this post together. I used to not know the difference, and part of my brain still apparently doesn't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 12:26 PM

"The counterinsurgency manual I quoted is the current "book" on how to wage war in Iraq. The surge is partly about an increase in troop numbers, but mostly about a change to this strategy.

I think Dan's comments are a bit overwrought, but it's true that this war was not fought properly for a long time."

Exactly. The increase in troop numbers is not the critical thing. It's the change in tactics brought by Petraeus and their successful implementation on the ground, made more effective by AQI's following the total opposite of sensible COIN tactics.

Posted by: Mr Jones at September 10, 2007 12:26 PM

Mr Jones,

Indeed, if AQI had the same rulebook for war that the US has, they would win. But they don't.

It also wouldn't hurt if they read How to Win Friends and Influence People. But they won't.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 12:28 PM

Dan,
I suppose I was making the same exact point against you. You didn't understand the point of the comment you quoted in your response, but maybe I was just unclear. Why the obsession with how many civilians have died? One is tragic. Why do we need to say X died when the fact that one died is bad enough? Even one is tragic (from a human perspective) and counter-productive (from a cynical perspective).
I and others "get defensive" at that question because your views combined with your context and wording seem to suggest you ask that question exactly for the reasons that Rob points out.
Your comments are extremely exasperating for some of us to read, as well. Largely because you make statements about attempting to avoid killing civilians in a manner that seems to suggest we AREN'T doing our damnedest to avoid them, and that is insulting to a lot of people. We aren't trying any harder, we're simply adopting strategies and numbers that allow us to accomplish that much more successfully. However, your insinuation that you could ever totally avoid civilian deaths in any sort of combat theater whatsoever shows that you seem to be missing something about war. Each time that fact rears its ugly head it produces anguish in our men and women charged with their safety, and each failure to protect makes the mission that much harder in the end. But the fact certainly does not exclude victory's chances.

Michael,
Without question the strategy before did not work. But I believe the argument as it stands is "have we found the correct strategy?" Dan is arguing either: a) The war was lost already because of poor initial strategy, and so nothing we do now even matters or b)the current strategy does not work and so it is not the correct strategy. I would have to say that both arguments appear to be false.
Your own reporting (as well as others') shows that the current strategy DOES work. So he would be wrong on that account.
Or if he is arguing the former, history is absolutely filled (the United States' being no exception) with instances where a war did not present the challenge set originally banked on, and so new strategies had to be adopted. Generals (often numerous generals) had to be sought out before finding one who was the right man. My God, how many generals did Lincoln go through before getting to Grant? And it has been proven time and again that victory is still possible. As is defeat. Which goes to show it's how good the current strategy is, not whether the previous strategy was severely flawed (it was). And those flaws are frequently not a matter of ill-will, and more times than not are not due to a lack of being smart. Instead, it usually stands as a testament to the unpredictability of war. So history then would not necessarily prove him wrong as show that former argument to be highly questionable.
I try to avoid getting into the broader arguments either for or against the war, and instead try to stick to the conduct of the war itself and making sure we're at least on the right track NOW (you can't change the past, so you might as well try and make up for it however much you can by doing it correctly now). The for/against argument has been hashed out a million times over, and I feel like arguing it again just bores everyone to tears.
I will take a second to step out onto that limb for a second, though, and say it does indeed frustrate me that it took until Petraeus in 2006 to write a "correct" field manual for counter-insurgency. This is something that should've been figured out and written back in the '80's and '90's (one that WORKS...you read Petraeus's strategy and it just makes sense). The idea that 9/11 came and we were still in a position of having to learn as you go did not put a smile on my face.
Furthermore, once 9/11 came we should've been going to work on figuring that aspect of warfare out. There was a year and a half between 9/11 and Iraq which should've at least been enough to get a healthy start. Even if it was indeed thought that the possibility of insurgency (requiring counter-insurgency) was not a probability in Iraq (hmm?), it was a possibility with a high enough percentage of likelihood that not coming up with a game plan for that instance was a little baffling. Particularly since even without it in Iraq, the War on Terror seems to clearly suggest the idea that at some point you will run into counter-insurgency needs.
I don't pretend that "figuring that aspect of warfare out" is as easy as saying it. It's hard and isn't easy to figure out. But I expect any company or group to utilize its talent pool to the utmost. Not being able to find those in the organization who possess "common sense" with regards to COIN (and having them commit it to written doctrine) may not be outrageous, but it certainly is dropping the ball to at least some degree.
Unfortunately, it seems that's a common issue in history and war, and so I guess you live and learn. Let's just be happy about someone, even in the 11th hour, seeing the writing on the wall and being heard/brought to the table.
Now hopefully I can retreat back to not getting into the pros/cons of the war itself, but feel free to respond if you think I'm wonderfully smart or off my rocker (naturally, I expect more of the latter ;-)

PS - Kudos to "Truth". Dead on the mark.

Posted by: Joe at September 10, 2007 12:30 PM

Dan,

I notice in your piece the only mention is that al-Qaeda destroyed this or that, and it would seem disingenuous not to mention that we sure dropped a lot of bombs with our planes. Surely we dropped a whole ton of bombs over "al-Qaeda's headquarters.

Any day in the last four years we could have erased Ramadi from the map with aerial bombardment. We've had that capacity since the middle of WWII. Ramadi stands because we choose to fight differently.

It is insulting to US forces to be this deliberately obtuse. I am not sure if you are clear on what that means. The US military is the most trusted and honored portion of our society today amongst the general populace. Your continued irrational attacks on their character marginalize your position, not theirs. I suspect you have something important you want to contribute, but your adherence to outdated and obsolete ideas is interfering.

Take a week off and learn something about the US military from sources other than the anti-war press. The people telling you that you are well informed about this may not be your friends.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 10, 2007 12:34 PM

Michael, thank you for your very informative and riveting article. Thank you as well for the photos. It is a blessing to hear the good news from a journalist such as yourself. My son has been stationed in Ramadi with the Army for 14 months now and reports a dramatic change from when he arrived to now. We need to continue to report on the progress to lift our troops! Do I like the war? NO Do I support our troops and want them home? ABSOLUTELY! Thanks again Michael! Looking forward to Pt. 2!

Posted by: Cheryl at September 10, 2007 12:41 PM

Just imagine the defeats we could deliver to Al Qaeda in Iraq (and all over the world, through propaganda) if we largely withdrew from Iraq and intensively supported and encouraged Iraqis to eradicate Al Qaeda for themselves.

Clearly, events in Anbar show that moderate muslims hate Al Qaeda, especially after experiencing the real, day-to-day reality of living under Al Qaeda rule. By ending the occupation, moderate muslims would gain the experience of defeating extremists themselves and we would gain the propaganda victory of having been there to help them - all without giving Al Qaeda the argument that the infidel US is occupying a muslim country.

At the very least, given how hated Al Qaeda is by the Iraqi people, our experience in Anbar tell us that it's very unlikely that Al Qaeda would be able to take over much, if any, of Iraq, should the US decide to leave.

Anyway, thank you Mr Totten for the fascinating post! The inspiring turn around of events in Anbar seems like the best argument I've heard yet for why the US can and should withdraw from Iraq ASAP - good news any way you cut it!

Posted by: JerryL at September 10, 2007 12:42 PM

This is very interesting and I hope they can use this as a model for other parts of the country. I don't know what Iraq will look like in the end, but the Kurdish areas and now parts of Al anbar certainly make a loose federal system look appealing. I don't know how that would hold up with predatory neighbors, but homogony and a common enemy to be working against seems to pacify the Iraqi population.

Posted by: mikek at September 10, 2007 12:43 PM

The Iraqi people have the right to live their lives the way they choose to live it! Radical Islam thinks otherwise, thanks America for the help in Iraq and God Bless.

Posted by: America First at September 10, 2007 12:49 PM

Patrick to Dan: Take a week off and learn something about the US military from sources other than the anti-war press.

Gotta stick up for Dan here. He put me on his blog roll, something I sincerely appreciate since we do not always agree.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 12:49 PM

Jerry,

Regarding your quote re:

"Just imagine the defeats we could deliver to Al Qaeda in Iraq (and all over the world, through propaganda) if we largely withdrew from Iraq and intensively supported and encouraged Iraqis to eradicate Al Qaeda for themselves."

I also wish that this would be possible. But Michael's article really paints a picture of the citizens of Anbar both before, and after, we decided to "clear and hold" within their neighborhoods, vs. "clear and leave."

When there are animals within AQI that are murdering children, and breaking people's fingers for smoking or otherwise imposing their strict interpretation of "religion," these people clearly needed outside help (ie the US) to assist. Not to mention that AQI receives all sorts of outside support (training, logistics) in their effort to dominate the populace. The average Iraqi, until recently with our help, did not have the means to defend against these threats.

It's too bad it took us so long to recognize this, and to start earning the locals' trust.

I'm really glad to read that Michael's experience seems to be showing some tangible progress, and eagerly await the next dispatch.

Posted by: Rob at September 10, 2007 12:59 PM

Michael,

I'm not telling him to go away forever, I'm telling him he needs to expand his perspective and change his paradigm. I do this all the time and it makes me better. I think Dan has become overly engaged and needs to reassess some of his perceptions.

We need informed and articulate criticism to improve, and Dan is probably capable of being a good critic but his prejudices are getting in the way. He insufficiently recognizes the difficulty in using force with integrity and that mistakes are part of any use of force. Lack of sensitivity to that will get him shunned.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 10, 2007 01:05 PM

Dan,

You said:

You're getting too defensive here. Please take my point at face value. I am not comparing us to Al-Qaeda. I'm saying that we've not followed our own counterinsurgency field manual and have killed quite a lot of Iraqis, a move the counterinsurgency manual says is very bad.

I can't speak to that. I spent almost one full year in Baghdad in 2005. While our Engineer Battalion's primary mission was clearing the roadside of IEDs (a mission in which countless Iraqis thanked us), we were also tasked (a few times per day) with distributing recovery packages to the local populace. We would respond anytime there was a bombing of a marketplace, or business, or home, etc with a pallet of humanitarian goods (food, water) etc for homes. In the case of businesses, we would provide materials to rebuild their structure so that they could get back to business as soon as possible.

Now, I'm not totally sure what the counterinsurgency manual says about this. But I can tell you from personal experience that the people we met were brought to tears and were indescribably thankful. And they knew who was responsible for the killing, and who was trying to get them back on their feet.

I'm not trying to be contrary, but simply trying to say that my personal experience having been there is completely different from the descriptions you have shared here.

My $.02.

Posted by: Rob at September 10, 2007 01:18 PM

JerryL,

General Petraeus said it very well today:

Of note, as the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq explained, these gains against Al Qaeda are a result of the synergy of actions by: conventional forces to deny the terrorists sanctuary; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to find the enemy; and special operations elements to conduct targeted raids. A combination of these assets is necessary to prevent the creation of a terrorist safe haven in Iraq.

In mathematics terms:
2+3+1=6
1+0+0 not equal to 6

Battlefield synergy is achieved by working continuously as hard as you can with everybody you can to destroy the enemy. Synergy is not achieved by "leaving them alone and hoping it all works out." We tried that earlier and it failed.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 10, 2007 01:21 PM

I don't think people like Dan are actually anti-military. At the same time, they do show an ignorance of military tactics if they see every operation as a ham-fisted response.

The U.S. Army operates about as surgically as any army can. You can't fight a war without doing any damage. Yes, we could be even more careful (using special forces and so on) but that wouldn't be as effective overall.

Some people seem to believe special forces and cruise missiles will accomplish everything. They can't. We still need masses of troops, tanks, APCs and bulldozers to do the job sometimes.

The U.S. succeeded in Ramadi by using the carrot and the stick. But without the stick the strategy would not have worked.

Think about it: if you were one of the tribal sheikh's, who would you have thrown your weight behind? The U.S. is more benevolent AND far more powerful than al-Qaeda. The latter is why they have any respect at all.

Otherwise the Red Cross could have pacified Ramadi within hours.

Posted by: Edgar at September 10, 2007 01:24 PM

First off great article. 20 years ago, I was where these guys are in Iraq and I can say they are doing a great job.

Guys like Dan think that bashing the US will help us get out of the conflict and we will be better off. That did not work in Viet Nam, let me tell you.

People on both sides forget that in war, people die. That is what bombs and bullets do, they kill people. It is not always possilbe to kill any one person. Remember Somilia? The bad guys would hang a young kid off their front and back to keep our troops from shooting back at them. The bad guys have no problem putting a kid or civilian in harms way, it keeps him from getting shot. The truth is that if there was not a war, most of these people would be in jail. They are not nice people.

Do you really think that leaving would be a good thing for this war? I dont like having our guys killed any more than anyone else. But, Dan and others forget or just dont get it that there is simply no way to be nice to AQ. They want the world to be bearded, stupid and never bath. Not just the west, but everyone. If you think that this ends with blowing up a few buildings, you are sadly mistaken. yes, Americans killed some people that did not deserve it. Yes, we killed a lot that did, but unless an until, we stand firm, we will never be rid of the problem. these folks do not respect compassion, they respect power. When hiding behind civilians becomes too dangerous for them, we will have won.

Posted by: Gary at September 10, 2007 01:28 PM

I'm serving north-west of the Anbar, but still in the Sunni Triangle. Although we haven't experienced the new "quiet" of Ramadi, there are elements of this article that are recognizable and pertinent from over 100 miles away. So much so that I could mistake portions of this article for something coming straight from my area of operation.

The stories of the atrocities committed by Al Qaeda were so fantastic and improbable that I refused to believe them until I started going outside the wire. In short time, I learned that in my location, it is no exaggeration to say that Al Qaeda murders a dozen civilians a week on average. Almost all the victims are local security forces and the hired hands of infrastructure reparation. (Al Qaeda takes swipes at us too.)

The soldiers I serve with watch and read the news regularly. We know who is painting the American forces as the initiators of trouble and who telling the whole of the story. That said, this was a great article.

Thanks for doing what you do.

Posted by: Plat at September 10, 2007 01:28 PM

That was one of your best articles. I hope you will put all of them, complete, in a book some day.

Thanks.

Posted by: Don Cox at September 10, 2007 02:18 PM

This correspondance is absolutely invaluable for the American Public (to read) in order to gain a more comprehensive
understanding of the situation, on the ground, in and around ANBAR. What has taken place in RAMADI, these past three months, is nothing short of a profound turn of events in that troubled war-torn nation. It only reinforces that our success cannot be won (in the longterm) by the American Forces alone, but only with the will and commitment of the IRAQI PEOPLE, through all walks of life, can they take back their nation; free from oppression.

Posted by: Kelly at September 10, 2007 02:28 PM

What is this horrible admission “if the Iraqis had changed their allegiance, we could not have freed Anbar”? Does that reveal us to be less than liberators? The emperor has no clothes and his “hate America” tattoo is showing. The objective is to free Iraq from the Islamists.

Posted by: Chuck at September 10, 2007 02:40 PM

All I can do is second many of the positive comments here regarding the article and its author. It almost provides hope for the media finding its roots, its reason for being, which should be about researching, then presenting the facts, not some biased predetermined political stance clothed in "journalism". Some folks can't stand the sound of anything positive coming out of Iraq, anymore than than others who refused to listen to the bad news early on.

Posted by: Oliver Deeds at September 10, 2007 02:43 PM

JerryL;
The "deliberately obtuse" comment springs to mind. The sheikh who came and asked for help AFTER deciding to take on AQ himself and getting "seriously fucked up" by them was not being chicken or lazy. AQ is GOOD at dirty fighting, has access to significant outside resources in money and arms, and could, without MNF interference, dominate any part of Anbar, or indeed the whole of it.

This inclination to do 20-20 handwaving ignores so much reality it's hardly worth disputing. But some expressions of willful stupidity are too egregious to let pass. Sorry 'bout that.

Posted by: Brian H at September 10, 2007 02:45 PM

Apparently Dan didn't read the part about how we blew up what looked like a city block.

If this has already been mentioned I apoligize for not reading all posted comments.

BTW that was an accident not an attack which was also compensated for.

Posted by: paul at September 10, 2007 03:00 PM

Dan,

Afghanistan is doing just fine. You ought to come visit sometime. We could sit down for tea with some of the local Pashtuns if you like. Maybe discuss the local construction boom or even how the ANA is becoming more and more competent and more trusted by the people.

Posted by: fred at September 10, 2007 03:24 PM

While I don't put a lot of faith in polls taken by the media, here is one that supports an increase in dislike of AQI in Iraq and what you might see as a lessening of hate for the Americans.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6983027.stm

BTW, I really liked the article. Look forward to seeing more like this.

Posted by: Randy at September 10, 2007 03:29 PM

First - Mr. Totten, thank you for the wonderful job of reporting what you experience.
Second - As far as the strategy before Petraeus it was obviously strongly influenced by "conventional" thinking. Look throughout military history and you see leaders projecting what they would do onto the opposing forces. Sometimes it proves to be correct. But when the projections prove wrong, it can become a very nasty situation. The White House and DOD became victims to this line of thinking. They allowed the events of the first Gulf War to dictate the strategy for fighting the second. What they failed to see what that the first was vastly different. That victory was going to be more than just rolling over the military forces. They allowed their own prejudices to color their thinking, as most humans. And like any human it is difficult to admit when you are wrong. More so for those in Washington, to admit being wrong is to open one's self for political attack. But finally the realization occurred, in comes Petraeus and Gates, out goes Rumsfeld and his crew. And today is the day of Petraeus' report to Congress. Of course many Democrats had already determined that Petraeus' report was "ginned" to make things look good. That's partisan politics for ya. But, the war in Iraq is far from lost. We Americans have to find the patience to allow victory to be won, it never just magically appears. This is a long road we travel folks, and Iraq is just merely a stop on the journey. Fanaticism that has no geopolitical boundaries is difficult to fight, but not impossible. And don't kid yourselves, they must be fought.

Posted by: Kevin at September 10, 2007 03:37 PM

I'd love to see Katrina with her foot in her mouth! Should be interesting since her head is up her ass. Liz

Posted by: LIZ at September 10, 2007 03:42 PM

Michael, thank you for what you do! My brother is in Ramadi right now, and it is good to get a picture of what is happening there.

Posted by: becca at September 10, 2007 03:53 PM

Michael,

Gotta stick up for Dan here. He put me on his blog roll, something I sincerely appreciate since we do not always agree.

Your writing is very insightful, and I recommend your writings to anyone who frequents my blog. We do not always agree, and I hope my questions are fairly reasonable given the hellish situation we've been in these past six years. This is now how I expected my country to act, and so it is fairly tough to hold back how I really feel.

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 03:57 PM

Great dispatch Michael! Keep up the GREAT work!!

And Dan, I am sure you are familiar with the phrase "rules of engagement". Ask any of our troops who have served in-country what (other than the HEAT) their biggest frustration is and many will tell you that they feel/felt that their hands had been tied by their rules of engagement. The same rules that are in place so as to limit colateral damage and civilian casualties. As the father of a Marine who fought inside the Triangle of Death area in 2005-2006 I can tell you he reported that things would have been over, successfully, long ago had those rules not been in place. Surely, many more civilians would have died without the RoE. Surely, fewer US troops would have died had our troops not had RoE. That is what will always distinguish the US military from the enemies we fight.

We choose to risk our own. First, and without question.

The Iraqis are finally realizing that we are not the bad guys they had been led to believe. The insugents are. It seems it will take the kind of time and effort seen in Ramadi to get the entire tide to turn in the direction of the Iraqis. But they have to stand up for themselves, which they have been unable/unwilling to do for decades under the shadow of fear of Saddam, and they are now starting to see that it works! If we are to succeed in handing over the country to the Iraqis they have to believe it is THEIR country for which they are fighting. I don't think that they are there just yet... But it is happening.
God Bless our troops and their families.

Posted by: Kevin S at September 10, 2007 04:13 PM

"and I hope my questions are fairly reasonable given the hellish situation we've been in these past six years"

Six years? Hellish situation? Maybe more people would think you were reasonable if you weren't so over the top. You should be thankful your life has been so easy that not liking the POTUS (I am assuming you are in the US not "hezbollah lover" from the UK) is considered hellish.

Posted by: mikek at September 10, 2007 04:15 PM

Michael,

Fantastic article. You're well researched article shows your ability to view and understand things from a variety of angles and put them into a comprehensive and understandable piece. Like the many comments before mine, I commend you and hope that you will rub off on you're main-stream brethern.

As for my opinion about the surge, please understand that it was General Petreas' change in strategy that required the surge. It was his idea, not the administrations. It is his tactic and it is working, why change it now? Let the General run the war how he see's best fit. Government (i.e. Congress) should not get involved unless his strategy begins failing. They did not get involved earlier when the strategy was failing, and now they want to get involved now that it's working.

Posted by: Zac at September 10, 2007 04:17 PM

Since Michael likes you I will try to be nice - but what do you expect 'your country' to do? Skip the 'wouldn't-do' stuff, we're sure you would never make any mistakes or do anything unkind - what affirmatively would you expect to do, how long, how many men, etc?

How many friendly casualties would your strategy cost? How many sensibilities would you have to violate?

It can't be helped to note that it is easy to criticize and insult when you have no skin in the game yourself and no notion of how hard it is to do even the simplest things in war.

Selective reading of a few millennia worth of military history might give you at least a superficial awareness, but a lifetime of nightly news and groupthink blogging won't.

That assumes you a) really want the best for the US, and b) do not equate that with bashing everyone to the right of (or who disagrees in any way with) yourself.

Again, Mike's good word buys you some space on a) and b) above but your writing here doesn't convince me, or, I would say, l'homme moyen sensuel, though it may reinforce the convinced.

One great thing about Michel Totten is that he's original. Go and be/do thou likewise.

Posted by: nichevo at September 10, 2007 04:22 PM

I recommend we all read this with Fox News playing in the background. Immerse yourself in the warm Bushie glow.

Posted by: Tank You Mista Boosh at September 10, 2007 04:36 PM

nichevo,

It can't be helped to note that it is easy to criticize and insult when you have no skin in the game yourself and no notion of how hard it is to do even the simplest things in war.

Actually my sister is in Iraq.

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 04:40 PM

Reality isn't Republican.

"Tank You Mista Boosh" is banned for trolling, and for stupidity.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 04:43 PM

Tank You Mista ... if you'd actually listen to Fox News instead of relying on what your silly Moveon.org hate-mongers tell you about it, you'd know that Fox is critical of Mr. Bush quite often. The difference is that their criticism is researched and founded on fact as opposed to your bitter little tribe's attempts. boo hoo Liz

Posted by: LIZ at September 10, 2007 04:48 PM

Michael, I haven't known of you before but I am an avid fan now. I will look for your past writings as well as looking forward to future views through your eyes. Thank you for sharing your insight with such integrity and clarity. May God bless you and protect you in further brave endeavors. Liz

Posted by: LIZ at September 10, 2007 04:55 PM

A few sundry thoughts:

"The Navy is best" -- hahaha! I'd like to meet that guy. Kudos to him for perceiving the subtleties of our culture.

The dragon drawing is quite striking, as others have observed. How do Iraqi adults react to it? I'm reminded of the flag controversy when Saddam's statue came down -- the child plainly is operating under a different mindset.

How fragile are these gains in Anbar? Has this "rock bottom", life-changing experience with Al Qaeda permanently shaped Iraqi Sunni culture?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 10, 2007 05:10 PM

Creamy Goodness,

"The Navy is best" -- hahaha! I'd like to meet that guy. Kudos to him for perceiving the subtleties of our culture.

Or maybe he's been exposed to SEALs? Or Navy Corpsmen who are attached to the Marines? Or the Seabees who do a lot of construction, including road repairs after IED attacks? Or the EOD technicians who defuse bombs? Each of those portions of the Navy have earned a reputation for outstanding valor in Iraq. It could just be that he's never met anybody from the US Navy who wasn't incredibly brave and competent. The squids in Anbar province are among the best sailors we have.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 10, 2007 05:22 PM

Hey, I thought the Marines were part of the Navy!

Now, let the real flame war begin.

Duck and cover everyone! :)

Posted by: Dogwood at September 10, 2007 05:25 PM

There are SEALs and Seabees in Ramadi. I briefly met some of them.

And yes the Marines are part of the Navy.

I'm not sure if the Iraqi in that exchange was joking or not, but either way he understood how what he said came across. The Marine apparently thought his only running competition was the Army, and the Iraqi adamantly refused to let him see it that way.

They went round and round about it, I just didn't reproduce the whole dialogue or write it all down. Joke or not, I thought it was funny.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 05:30 PM

Dan,

My sister is in Spokane and when I visited her after the Gulf War she accused me of being brainwashed. Only because my brother-in-law is an exceptional man who can accomplish miracles of reconciliation did I ever speak to her after that. It is very difficult for me to express how harmful it is for people in the service to be confronted with false accusations by our families.

If this war is worth losing, it is worth learning about. There are some very important matters that if you do not describe them accurately are deep insults. If you want to hold the military to account for their actions, it is not too much to ask for you to be accurate in your accounting.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 10, 2007 05:33 PM

Dan,

1) Bless and keep her and all who serve with her.

2) That certainly counts as skin in the game, by me. Nonetheless I'm sure that you yourself will admit that this itself does not make you a military expert, though you should have a tolerable feel on how the troops (one in particular) feel about things.

3) Oh, I don't think I want to go any farther with that at present. I just think at her level you would see things more situationally and less dispositionally.

Creamy,

Yes indeed - the Navy! Ha! Works on so many levels!

The dragon - I am enough of an old school AD&D geek to think back and wonder what kind of dragon legends the Iraqis have. That was a really nice drawing, I wonder what kind of storybooks that kid had growing up. Which one had three heads? Was that Bahamut or Tiamat?

Posted by: nichevo at September 10, 2007 05:35 PM

Michael,
Thanks for the risking your life to bring the facts with out posturing. As a Viet vet I only wish that such an observer existed in my war. I fear that given the bias and outright distortions that pass for most mainstream media will result in the death of the Iraq nation. I also see that creeping fear and loathing of U S trooping beginning to surface in the liberal sphere (aka:the attack on Gen. Petraeus by Moveon.) Please keep up the good work, I believe that your work is as important to victory in this struggle as Ernie Pyle's was in WWII.

Michael P

Posted by: Michael P at September 10, 2007 05:55 PM

And yes the Marines are part of the Navy.

Vehemently denied, however, by my Marine friends!

I used to work at a military school where veterans and reservists from all branches worked.

It was great fun just sitting back and listening to them take good natured jabs at each other's branch of service.

One thing I came to appreciate from many years of conversations, however, was the special camaraderie and sense of professional within the military.

Truly outstanding people.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 10, 2007 05:58 PM

Dan,
With all due respect, I find your perceptions to be clearly biased and flawed.

I believe the reason you are catching so much flak in here is not because you are more skeptical of what and how good the military is doing, but because it is clear you come from a perspective that says as American forces, "WE ARE THE BAD GUYS" ???

Most folks in here 'cept you, know for a fact that of all militaries ever to exist on the face of this earth, the U.S. military has taken more steps to preserve innocent civilian life in damn near every conflict we've ever had, more than any counterpart you can name.

So, yes, it is a given to most, that our military takes great pains to cause as little damage as possible.

Again, this is war, not summer camp ! In war people die, half the time, by accident. This is a grim reality, not something that you can somehow lesson or eliminate with a shift in policy ? No matter what you do in a war, people are gonna die and the good guys can't control who dies and who lives all this time.

How you conclude that we have full control over collateral damage is beyond me. And how you just assumed that we don't in fact try not to kill innocent civilians is also disturbing to me. Again, all this tells me is where you're coming from, and that is a biased opinion colored in Anti-American military rederich.

Posted by: @ Dan at September 10, 2007 06:20 PM

Michael, that you for all the work and risk I'm sure it's taken to provide this story. It is not easy to find excellent journalism, but your writing and insight certainly make the grade.

Best wishes and keep it up!

Posted by: JBR at September 10, 2007 06:24 PM

Michael,

What a great story of success! I hope that this success will be sustained by the support and good decisions of American as well as Iraqi politicians. Very motivating to hear how Iraqis took the lead and started an uprising against this pure evil. You are a great American for risking what you have to tell a different side of the story. With some compramise and recognition of common ground, Americans and Iraqis can work together to destroy this apostate evil called Al Qaeda.

Posted by: Jason at September 10, 2007 06:37 PM

Thanks to defeatist Dan for at least being polite and adding interest in the thread -- to the many deserved 'Great Job, Michael' comments.

I'm happy for the "Surge" to get the credit, but let me ask an analogy in teaching youngsters to drive.
In Method A they teach 8 year olds, Method B they teach 12 year olds, Method C they teach 16 year olds.

Would you really argue that Method C is a superior method, rather than that 16 year olds are ready, and younger kids aren't?

If 1 year is 7 dog years, maybe 1 calendar quarter is a "new nation" development year ... and new Iraq is only 17 'years' (quarters since spring 2003) old.

No Method was going to work in Iraq before the Iraq people are ready (although the Kurds went thru their 20 quarters of early development starting in 1992, so are somewhat done).

Maybe any Method would work after they are 'ready'. And, like teenagers, Iraqis are getting ready now.

While I'm sure the surge has helped speed the Anbar cleansing, the tribes started their anti-Al Qaeda before the surge, and before the rules of engagement changed.

Dan -- you ask about Iraq and your site discusses Vietnam. How many civilians must the commies kill/ murder before you think it would have been better for the Dem Party Congress of 1974-76 to fully fund and support South Vietnam (rather than vote in favor of commie victory)? This is the value question the anti-war folk refuse to answer or discuss.

How many must be murdered or die in exile in Darfur before liberation is justified? (knowing many civilians WILL be killed by liberating forces, despite attempts to minimize such deaths.)

Thanks partly to anti-American press, it has taken the Iraqis a long time to really believe the Americans are the GOOD guys -- good, but not perfect. Perfectionist critics ... are the enemy of the good.

The killing in Iraq today is significantly due to Iranian support for murder. I hope/ won't be surprised/ that an Iraqi political party starts blaming Iran for the many acts of war the Iranians have been perpetrating.

I fantasize about an anti-Iranian, unified Arab-Kurd-Sunni-Shia Iraq Army, trained, funded, and supplied by America, demanding reparations from Iran for the murders they've been supporting.
(I'd suggest 10 mil. USD per death, all to be blamed on the Iranians if not provably attributable to other forces.) But then I fear this is a nightmare, too.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 10, 2007 06:44 PM

Michael,
I thoroughly enjoyed your captivating article. Our military certainly never gets enough credit for the heroic duty they perform day in and day out. My family has made the ultimate sacrifice in past conflicts -WW2 and Vietnam, losing an Uncle and cousins, so our troops service is always appreciated. Keep up the good work...

Posted by: Tom at September 10, 2007 07:04 PM

@ dan,

How you conclude that we have full control over collateral damage is beyond me. And how you just assumed that we don't in fact try not to kill innocent civilians is also disturbing to me. Again, all this tells me is where you're coming from, and that is a biased opinion colored in Anti-American military rederich.

I came to this conclusion from the Pentagon's own report about how much money they had to give out to Iraqis who claimed innocent kin lost their lives by American bullets. I wrote:

In the examples provided above, the United States military paid out $700, $2500, $1500, $4000. The average of those four examples is $2175. If we divide $32 million by an average payment of $2175, we get 14,712 different payments at $2175 per payment to equal $32 million dollars. That means 14,712 deaths the military considered “non-combat related deaths.” Now, the ACLU states that 40% of the total requested were denied because of “combat related activity”, that means that 14,712 is only 60% of Iraqis that died by American weapons, that also tried to make a claim. That means that the total who attempted to make a claim for reimbursement is about 24,522 Iraqi civilians killed by Americans.

The Pentagon gave Iraqis $32 million dollars (as of April of 2007) for wrongful deaths. At about $2000 or so per wrongful death, that number is quite staggering. Why would the Pentagon own up to those deaths? How come there are so many Iraqis "accidentally" killed by Americans?

I don't expect perfection out of our military, nor am I some rabid anti-American, as you would love to portray me. I expect a high standard from my military, and when they fail to achieve that, I demand accountability. This should be the normal way of things.

Unfortunately that has not been the way of things these past four years. Instead of accountability, we'd rather hide under the rug our faults. When someone dares to question our policies and our actions, he's declared to be anti-American. How foolish! and stupid, frankly. Where are your priorities? How are they aligned? Is not the protection of this country of the highest priority? Should not actions by our politicians and military that harm that priority be castigated and reprimanded?

All those who call those of us who demand better from our politicians and military do not have as their overriding priority the defense of this country. Who cares what the enemy thinks about our debates and conversations. If we let our conversations and debates be directed by what our enemies might do, then they've won. They've set the tone, we play by their rules.

Remember, these people, the Osama Bin Ladens of the world, have no power over us. They don't control our laws. They can't force us to do this or that. They are weak and cowardly. Why should we care what they think or what they do with our debates and infighting?

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 07:08 PM

Tom,

Thanks to defeatist Dan for at least being polite and adding interest in the thread

I'm glad one of us was at least polite.

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 07:08 PM

Tom Grey,

I fantasize about an anti-Iranian, unified Arab-Kurd-Sunni-Shia Iraq Army, trained, funded, and supplied by America, demanding reparations from Iran for the murders they've been supporting.

Um, you had that, back in the 1980s. It was a pretty dismal failure. Heck, Iraq even used chemical weapons on the Iranians. Little good it did for the war, and for the future of those two countries.

What folly to want to have those two countries at war with each other again. I guess the million or so people who died in the first Iran-Iraq War were not enough for you, eh? How much blood do you want to spill before you've had enough?

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 07:11 PM

Tom Grey,

A terror oriented hydra, killed by Iraqi swords, backed/ funded/ supplied by US muscle.

A Hydra with a name.

I R A N.

Since Al Qaeda is Sunni and Iran is Shiite, since MJT's whole dispatch described a Sunni-on-Sunni conflict, and since he explicitly indicated that the picture "depicts the American-Iraqi alliance against Al Qaeda", why do you believe the dragon's name is "I R A N"?

Bonus question: was Saddam Hussein responsible for 9-11?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 10, 2007 07:22 PM

I won't reply anymore on this post. I've taken up far too much of Michael's comments, with too much being directed at me and my comments.

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 07:23 PM

Dan, master of the Parthian shot. Your sister isn't running away from her fight.

You seriously expect to drop your little bombs - e.g., "at least one of us is polite," which I resent - and move along to another thread where you can start afresh?

Oh, no, no, no.

I ask again, more directly: Have you any military training, background or education other than that incurred by having a sister in the service?

In which case, given the circumstances, why do you think either 14K deaths or 24K deaths is too high? What should the figure be? What would you hope to achieve in a similar circumstance?

More importantly - accepting arguendo the former figures and not quibbling over whether it was easier to pay or whether the dead were really innocents - whether you go with the UN's, I think, 60K deaths, or Johns Hopkins' 600K deaths(!), does it occur to you to note that the preponderance, or the overwhelming majority of deaths were caused by AQ or others?

And it also adds flavor to the Albright Dilemma: if we killed 500,000 innocents - or 500K innocent children, I forget which - in ten years of declining sanctions, and perhaps 3-5% of that in almost five years of war, which is the mroe moral? It was certainly easier dropping concrete bombs on SAM sites, and letting the UN and Saddam share out the rakeoffs, than to take decisive action.

No, sir, you can go, but I hope you won't be claiming victory.

Posted by: nichevo at September 10, 2007 07:59 PM

Thank you for this article. My husband is currently in Ramadi, living in the JSS. His living conditions are miserable, but he does not complain. He has told me that he is not in Iraq for the American people, but for the people of Iraq. I hope that progress is able to continue in the rest of the country. I appreciate you taking time to visit Ramadi.
Lisa

Posted by: Lisa at September 10, 2007 08:03 PM

Why must we pretend 'due respect'? Is Dan a front peice for Al Qaeda in Iraq? If he isn't, what is the difference? As far as I can tell the only plausible difference is that the bad guys usually aren't as skilled at propaganda as he is.

"That is really really sad. I wonder, how many of those buildings were destroyed by Americans."

I'd guess at least half, but probably 'most'. I believe however this misses the point by a wide mark.

"I notice in your piece the only mention is that al-Qaeda destroyed this or that..."

This is the sort of statement that makes me think that Dan is a well placed propaganda agent. In this peice, Michael must have mentioned in a half-dozen places Americans destroying this or that, including in some very unflattering ways. Disseminating 'big lies' like this, were for example you say that Michael didn't say what he did and hope to wipe people's short term memory, is a known black propaganda technique and no honest critic would do it. So if Dan inn't an Al Qaeda front man, he should stop acting like one.

"...and it would seem disingenuous not to mention that we sure dropped a lot of bombs with our planes."

No, it would be false and provably so to mention that 'we sure dropped a lot of bombs with our planes'. It is possible from the internet to obtain records of the number of combat sorties and munitions dropped in Iraq. The numbers are very very low because for the most part airpower just isn't a really appropriate tool at this point in the war. We've got lots of other munitions other than 500lb JDAMs. Generally in Iraq by this point, when something is getting pummeled its by artillery of some sort. That doesn't make it less destructive by any stretch of the imagination as Michael accounts shows, but it does demonstrate in another way how ill-informed the pre-made narrative really is. Or rather, either its ill-informed or it's cunningly crafted black propaganda.

"Also no mention is made of how many Iraqis we Americans killed in Ramadi."

First of all, 'Iraqis' isn't really the point, is it? We killed alot of Iraqi's, but some of those were brutal Baathist or Al Queda henchmen who needed to die. No, the real question is how many innocent Iraqis we Americans killed in Ramadi. That answer is a little harder to come by than information about combat sorties because obviously the military doesn't want people dwelling over the numbers, but with a little sifting through the statistics you come up with a number that is between 3%-9% of the civilians that are killed are killed by coalition forces. That's still a fairly large number (couple dozen a month, though when I bring this up some military people have claimed I exagerrated), and the number was far in the first month of the war when we were in 'major combat operations' (no one contests that), but it is a far smaller number than 90%+ being killed by the Anti-Iraqi forces now.

But even that misses the point. The point is that in Ramadi in July, the number of civilians being killed by Americans is 0. And the reason for that is simple. When the insurgents stop fighting, the Americans stop shooting and start building. We aren't the bad guys here.

If a conservative Sunni Imman in Anbar province can figure that out, then anyone who hasn't already sold his soul to Al Qaeda ought to be able to figure that out too. So what is it?
Is Dan a tool or a fool?

Posted by: celebrim at September 10, 2007 08:12 PM

Petraeus:

Ticking off some of the gains, he said, "We have disrupted Shia militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supported Special Groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran's activities in Iraq."

????

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 10, 2007 08:19 PM

Great article Michael.
Looking forward to Part 2

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 10, 2007 08:21 PM

Less than 750 combat deaths/year.
Less than 1000 total military deaths/year (including accidents, etc.)

At that rate, to be a Vietnam quagmire, it would have to become a 50+ year war. Me thinks the democrats are a little impatient.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 10, 2007 08:29 PM

Michael:

I was in Ramadi during OIF 3, a year ago now. I saw and know of many of the places you spoke about in this entry.

You have done a marvelous job of getting to the world, a story which has largely been suppressed by America-hating factions around the world, and within our own borders.

We never got the A-list VIP's that the Green Zone gets. One time, Ollie North visited us. That was it. I am sorry I didn't get the chance to meet you in person.

Until next time!

Posted by: Sarge at September 10, 2007 08:29 PM

Americans as liberators, what a joke. Americans are the most wasteful, desstructive dangerous animals on this planet. While I definitely found this a heart-warming story, the slant is disgusting and dishonest.

Posted by: daveo at September 10, 2007 08:44 PM

Well, the lefty commenters have at least made clear what the new meme is to combat the "success narrative" of the warmongers - the Anbar awakening would have occurred all on its own with absolutely no help from the US "occupiers".

This was a wonderful article, giving a close up and personal view of the reality of how the Awakening is working. Why the MSM won't touch the story is beyond me. Thank you, Michael Totten, for bringing us Iraq.

Posted by: inmypajamas at September 10, 2007 08:46 PM

This is all well and good...remind me why we invaded the country in the first place? Because of the WMDs that weren't there? Because of the welcome we didn't get? The link to 9/11 that didn't exist? Because of the inhumanity of Saddam (as opposed to China, or Russia, or Saudi Arabia, or Mexico, or Sierra Leone or Ethiopia...of course those places are Important Trading Partners or Those Poor People Jesus Said Would Always Be Around, right?)

Plus, I think you're trying to depict this as some kind of masterful American military triumph. What seems to have actually happened was:

1. We invaded a country and destroyed its government and infrastructure through a combination of fear, partisan manipulation, ignorance, and self-righteousness.

2. The people of that country initally rejoiced because their old government was tyrannical, but when the lights stayed off and we started taking them to the same prisons Saddam took them to, they got tired of our BS and started supporting the resistance.

3. The real crazies (AQI) moved in and the people got a taste of what real religious-powered insanity looks like (since they couldn't receive "The 700 Club" in their local area after someone hit the TV tower with a Predator).

4. The people, who at the end of things have the real sense, got sick of the crazies and kicked them out. Now they would like us to leave so they can have the civil war that's been brewing since 1917.

5. You photograph a diminishing pile of rubble and act like it's the return of the Marshall Plan. Your friends slap you on the back and praise your bravery.

Tomorrow is 9/11. Osama bin Laden is still a free man, inspiring legions of future gunmen and suicide bombers. The Taliban still draw strength from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Every tank of gas you buy ultimately contributes to buying something intended to kill an American soldier.

You scream about "finishing the job" yet you couldn't even be bothered to leave the magnetic ribbons on your cars after Abu Ghraib and Fallujah part I.

Smart, capable young people - literally our best and bravest - struggle mightily to implement the incoherent focus-group powered ramblings and six years of incompetence on the part of the chimp and his cronies on both the left and right who slept through the build-up to 9/11 and let OSB get away.

Better? At least not as uncomfortable for your righties to defend. Maybe improved, as long as you're not one of the thousands dead, homeless or bereaved. But don't pretend like there's any leadership here - it's people sorting things out in spite of American help, not because of it.

Posted by: pontiuspilot at September 10, 2007 08:52 PM

Pontius, you need to take your meds.

Seriously - you may not in fact be crazy, but you are talking like a crazy person. At the least, you are a very poor communicator.

Or are you "screaming" like a crazy person? It seems that according to you, anyone who says anything that you don;t like is "screaming."

BTW, you should take this seriously. I am of course a fascist warmonger, and since we control the government through a secret evil cabal, you could be placed in a mental institution at any moment. Stelazine, electroshock, all that good stuff. (Or maybe I'll just lock you up or have you secretly assassinated.)

So try harder to act sane, will ya? I'm running out of ink writing all these lettres de cachet.

Posted by: nichevo at September 10, 2007 09:00 PM

Puncturedpilot, don't be mad because things are going better. And for goodness sake can't you haters find a newer lie about WMD's? Proof of the WMD's was there before we liberated Iraq in Saddam's mass graves of his own people. Some 300,000 killed with chemical WMD; children, women, elderly and men. Didn't you see the pictures? And those are only the ones that have been found so far. I'm sorry for you, you sound so very bitter and biased. Michael was there first hand, have you been? Liz

Posted by: LIZ at September 10, 2007 09:08 PM

Katarina was definitely ansar al sunnah - which is affiliated with al Queda in Iraq. Terrorist troll that one was.

Great work Michael. Heh, why is it the truth comes from two Michaels? You and Yon. You guys got connections with an archangel or something? If not for you two and the guys at ITM there wouldn't be half as much truth coming out of Iraq.

Thanks for all you do.

Posted by: Robohobo at September 10, 2007 09:36 PM

Let's see, that's a pretty typical set of rightie responses: an ad hominem attack (did you have a counterpoint, nichevo, or are you just a really big Ann Coulter fan?) and a recantation of the past.

Saddam killed 300,000 Shiites with nerve gas, yes he did - after they rebelled because Bush 41 told them we'd back their play. How must that have felt, for them to have the tanks and shock troops coming and to realize that the land of the free and home of the brave talked a good game but walked out when the poll numbers dropped? Do you think they were playing "Proud To Be An American" when the gas rolled in?

You don't get respect from a blogger or blowing sh*t up - you get respect by giving your word and living up to it. We gave our word that we'd get bin Laden and we didn't. We gave our word that Iraq had WMDs and it didn't.

We need to start doing what we say we're gonna do. We probably can't leave Iraq now - we efficiently and completely destroyed the place. It will fall to (more) anarchy if we leave. But don't pretend this is any great thing on our part - we adopted a big puppy of a country by mistake, and now it craps on the floor and carbombs the other doghouses. Nobody else wants to own it except people we do not want to have it.

So we're stuck, and your ignorance and chest-beating helped get us there. Now we have to stay for years until it's fixed, which it probably will never be. And good people are dying, because we got involved and we didn't know what the hell we were doing.

So spin all the tiny successes, and aggressively defend all you want, and attack me all you want, and it doesn't change anything except your feeling of tribal self-righteousness. Hopefully God will forgive you for that.

Posted by: pontiuspilot at September 10, 2007 09:39 PM

Dan, why is your sister in Iraq? Is she with the military or something else?

Posted by: mikek at September 10, 2007 10:17 PM

The answer to your question, Pontius, is twofold:

1) The semantic content of your post approached zero and did not justify the effort needed for a response, which could be responsive only by being equally incoherent, absent editing by you;

2) Since what I cared to spend the effort to follow was essentially boilerplate, I thought I would try to reach you from another direction. Take a sort of shortcut, or at least a detour.

All the blood-for-oil jazz really begins to pall after a while, you know? The same arguments over and over again...Just trying to stay out of the usual rut.

But basically, what you describe is essentially the work product of a fascist junta. Therefore the question stands, why are you still free to dissent from the party line? Are you activist in public life? Have you lost work or friends?

THe fact is that I doubt anything you say will be valuable, so I'm more interested in you than in what you have to say. But by all means, try again. Perhaps you will do better next time.

If you insist on the same old thing, perhaps you could run through your points one at a time? TIA

Posted by: nichevo at September 10, 2007 10:25 PM

PuncturedPi, I humbly bow to your judgment of self-righteousness, you're a pro. I am suspicious of your hopes that God will forgive us though, because it appears you haven't started with yourself in that forgiveness. We also said we'd get Saddam and his whole pack of cards, don't we get any credit for those successes? bin Laden? This is not a 30 minute tv sit-com that resolves before the last commercial. This is confronting evil in our world. bin Laden is running on empty. Probably a good idea to keep this weak "leader" in place while we continue to take out giant chunks of his misfits. May God bless you and help you to recognize your own chest-beating. Ad hominem, ad hominem finito.

Posted by: LIZ at September 10, 2007 10:32 PM

Mr. Totten,

Thank you for such an amazing and well balanced article. As a member of the military currently serving in the Al Anbar province articles such as yours do a world of good for our morale. It is very refreshing to see an unbiased piece such as this which reflects the changes we, here, in Anbar have experienced in the past several months.
In reading several of the other posts, I would say that I would suggest that the surge was significant in providing the assistance necessary to the locals who were severely under equipped and funded to simply "Do it themselves". The US Soldiers and Marines throughout Anbar, using the intelligence provided by the Iraqi's was critical in dissecting the AQI stranglehold. Though I do not doubt that the Iraqi's would have fought the AQI "anyway"; given AQI's brutal takeover of places such as Ramadi, it is VERY unlikely that they would have achieved success without the US forces. Additionally, an Iraqi 'only' operation at the height of AQI's occupation would have undoubtedly resulted in catastrophic civilian casualties both from the fighting itself and the atrocities AQI would have committed in a 'ramped up campaign' attempting to quell the counter-insurgency.

Posted by: Tim at September 10, 2007 10:39 PM

daveo,

Americans are the most wasteful, desstructive dangerous animals on this planet.

That might be true. But Americans, as a whole, are at least not evil.

Posted by: shogun at September 10, 2007 10:44 PM

Nichevo, you seem to have zoned out on the discussion - I never said anything about blood for oil. Must have been some other argument you were having, I'm sure they all run together for you after a while. Perhaps you should spend some time stocking up on facts.

I said that these little celebrations are doing nothing other than attempting to put a good face on an unnecessary invasion and destruction of a country's government and infrastructure. The primary conditions offered at that time (WMDs and a 9/11 link) were not true. The primary goal of the war on terror as your boy puts it (end global terror) seems to have been sidetracked, as he now says that Iraq is the global war on terror. The architect of 9/11 is free.

I'm sure you're desperate to find some good news, tho, and if less people are being killed less often maybe at some point Iraq will be able to figure out how to settle its ethnic issues in a non-bloodbath way. That is definitely a tiny little good thing against the gigantic bad thing of our unjustified invasion, leveling and occupation of the country.

so, +1 for you. Kudos.

Oh, and as for confronting evil, LIZ - you wrote a semi-serious reply so I'll try to be more respectful with you. The biggest problem I have with the statement "this is confronting evil in our world." is that we are so selective about the definition of evil and so hypocritical in the way we choose the battles.

If we let you forget the reasons given during the whole flag-on-the-highway-overpass hysteria at the time for the Iraq war (WMDs, 9/11 link) the final case was that Saddam was evil.

He was, but why was his evil specifically invasion-worthy while we turn a blind eye to the conditions of people in China - because the people who fund our leaders make their money from Chinese factories?

900,000 Rwandans are systematically hacked to death with machetes in 60 days and we can't even be bothered to destroy the radio station directing the murder squads, much less intervene?

Large parts of Mexico are being run by drug cartels and the Mexican Army has challenged the US Border Guard to protect its drug shipments, but your people won't get involved - why? How many Americans do illegal drugs kill every year?

Etc. etc. etc. Righteousness is a fun club to beat the secularists with, but if you really believe then it comes along with certain obligations, obligations we're quick to ignore when it doesn't suit our purposes.

Posted by: pontiuspilot at September 10, 2007 11:08 PM

Celebrim: Is Dan a front peice for Al Qaeda in Iraq?

Knock it off.

I criticized Israel's war against Hezbollah last year and was accused by some knee-jerker of being a Hezbollah agent -- even though Hezbollah threatened me with physical violence because of what I wrote about them.

I will not let this sort of thing slide in my comments.

I think Dan is wrong about some things, but he is obviously a sincere liberal who hates war and means well. I used to think like Dan myself, and I wasn't a bad person for it. Certainly not a "front piece" for terrorists.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 11:10 PM

Daveo is banned for trolling.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 11:11 PM

Pontiuspilot is banned for trolling.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 11:16 PM

And just so we're clear, Celebrim will join the banned leftists if he/she can't distinguish between Dan and those I just banned.

Even those I just banned are just jerks, not "front pieces" for terrorists. I've had real front pieces for terrorists in here, and I've met actual terrorists in real life. So don't sling that crap in here.

This comments section is for those who are interested in civil discussion.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 10, 2007 11:19 PM

Michael, I prefer to receive my news (good or bad) from primary sources, like yourself. Having served in the region myself, I have a sense for what sounds true and what sounds fabricated. Please keep reporting what you see, no matter what you see, for those relatively few of us who really care about hearing the observations and opinions of those from whom the situation in Iraq is truly a life-or-death situation.

Posted by: Parks at September 10, 2007 11:19 PM

Wonderful work, thank you.

Posted by: Gaius at September 10, 2007 11:32 PM

Wonderful work, thank you.

Posted by: Gaius at September 10, 2007 11:32 PM

Michael,

Congratulations on a giant hit story. I can tell that you really reached a lot of interested people because you had to ban so many trolls. I hope the donations are worth cleaning the stables.

Take the bitter with the sweet...

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 10, 2007 11:36 PM

"Nichevo, you seem to have zoned out on the discussion - I never said anything about blood for oil. "

Oh, you will, Pontius, you will. You just haven't gotten there yet. Why are we in Iraq? Why didn't we put half a million men into Afghanisan/Pakistan and have us a REAL good time? Who really took down the WTC? How can fire melt steel?

Aww, and there you go getting banned! I guess you won't after all.

And I was going to give you an on-point reply and all...

Thanks, Michael. You just added at least ten minutes to my life, possibly more. Good catch on Daveo too.

Posted by: nichevo at September 10, 2007 11:46 PM

MJT -- This is the most amazing article on Iraq I have ever read. Thanks.

Posted by: Pam at September 11, 2007 12:16 AM

Great stuff as always. Without guys like you, stories like this would never be told.

Posted by: mystery at September 11, 2007 01:33 AM

Excellent work, Michael, and "amen" to Joe

Posted by: Daniel at September 11, 2007 02:51 AM

Thank you Michael for your work. Having a son at Corregidor on round 2 and seeing/hearing what has really happened in the past year is heart warming. To know we are making a difference in the lives of innocent Iraqi's thrills my heart. We hear it from him, but to see it in print is awesome. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: 2IDMom at September 11, 2007 04:54 AM

This is a great report and is what proper journalism is about. Not what we get through msm, with it's bigoted reporting. In other wars, msm would be tried for treason. It's apparent that a lot of work went into this article, and the pics explain the writing so clearly.

Ramadi is what obl and some other political leaders in the US would like to see in the US.

Posted by: Joe A. at September 11, 2007 05:12 AM

This is a great article. Going to Iraq as many times as I have I know the horrors of it all. I'm glad that the Anbar Province area is finally turned around. I wish I was there to see it myself. I see alot of daily Kos Monkeys on here. Why dont they just go back to the Kos and they can spew all the hate and vile at your other Hillary loving geeks. Leave this site to the Heros and Americans that know better.

Posted by: Preston Smith III at September 11, 2007 05:26 AM

Michael,

You have pinned the timeline down and that is the narrative that changes things. Before the 'surge' before the new general coming in, there was the initial turning of the tribal leaders in JUL-AUG 2006 culminating in the SEP 2006 declaration of Anbar tribes to counter al Qaeda. And before all of that there was Tal Afar. That may prove to be the critical juncture in this fight inside Iraq: where Americans stayed, cleared and helped restore local government. From there flows the beginning of trust by first the local tribes and then wider as al Qaeda sought to break the tribes of Anbar. That change in outlook, of having to clear the AQI supply lines all the way up to Syria and set up shop there was a long time getting done in late 2005 to early 2006.

Why couldn't this have been done earlier? The US was still trying to figure out exactly who the enemy was and were very worried about the last of the Ba'athist redentists and suffering under the severe criticisms of not getting the electricity going, not rebuilding fast enough, and not putting the vaporized Saddam era Army back together to be the vile thing that it was. We were being distracted by criticism that things were not stood up perfectly, and still are. The US really did have to figure out who the enemy was and how it was operating, but the initial strategy of clearing the quietest places and bringing order where it was mostly easily done would pay dividends. We learned the nature of the enemies and so did Iraqis. And Iraqis had to learn from top to bottom that America did not want Iraq and that only Iraqis can control Iraq. Getting any form of national government up was a miracle: done while under insurgent fire and death threats. In having Iraqis put together a constitution we gave them the chance to answer: are you all Iraqis? It was a resounding vote in the affirmative.

That change brought purpose and clarity: Iraqis firing on and killing other Iraqis are doing so against the will of the people. Reconciliation cannot be done until the killers are put aside and to do that their supply lines must be severed. Iraqis answered resoundingly to being a Nation, and the counter-insurgency would start then. The US Armed Forces had trained as a main force opposition military: it was not a trained, tried and true COIN force. Reading from Mr. Totten, Michael Yon, Bill Ardolino, Bill Roggio... we see that there are commanders that do not understand COIN - they are a main force mentality. There are those that can understand COIN intellectually, but not what it means on the ground - they can serve very well in logistics, supply and force protection. Then there are those, winnowed out by months and months of fighting that understand COIN and know how to apply it and make it work day in and day out.

That could not have been accomplished in 2003-05 until Iraqis gave us clarity on their view of themselves and willingness to say who they are. What that took was a battlefield miracle to give Iraqis enough chance to get that together and then start understanding that such a thing requires backing. They could not understand the price of calling yourselves 'free'. They had never done that before in their history. While we learned who they are, they learned the horrific lesson of liberty's cost from us. Michael Yon calls this a Revolution in thought, and it is. The cost of standing up on your own is horrific when fighting those trying to remove it. This is the Iraq Revolutionary War going on, just like its American predecessor in 1775-83.

Do we remember the cost of liberty and freedom? Our soldiers do and they did not say it directly to Iraqis, but showed it to them so they could understand the cost. They have now accepted that cost to feed the Tree of Liberty as worth the price.

Anbar turned because AQI wanted to destroy the tribes and rule over them and use them to their ends. America demonstrated staying power in Tal Afar and slow work in 2006 to stop the supplies flowing easily down the river. The price of their children and culture was too much for the people of Anbar, and they reached out to say 'we will be free of the killers'. Building the trust to get there took time. Unheralded in JAN 2007 was a meeting in Ramadi to announce the schedule to re-open factories there. At Badgers Forward we learn what that factory was: a glass factory. Anbar has always surprised us in their outlooks, often so different from our own, but they know one does not make glass to get broken, but to sell more and more of it unbroken. You do not install windows under siege. Where is the trust of the people of Ramadi and Anbar? They opened up a glass factory.

To answer why this has apparently taken so long, look at all of those questioning if Iraq wanted to be one Nation or not. Iraqis gave them an answer some years ago, at this point. That question is done. Iraqis will determine that future, not us. The question of will Iraqis stand up to AQI and JaM is now being answered in their blood flowing from their Army and Police to stand up and put an end to killers. When captured they go on trial at the Central Criminal Court and get hearing, and not all are convicted, either. That is the rule of law, not the law of a ruler over them. These things could not have been done with every soldier in the US Armed Forces put into Iraq and every command stripped down to Zero. That is also a prime lesson in COIN: locals doing a so-so job is far better than you doing it perfectly. That, too, is in the manual.

War is not simple and COIN one of the hardest forms of warfare as it requires rebuilding while fighting. The US had a great main force military for taking down any Nation that threatened us. That was not a good COIN force when we went in, outside of SOCOM and those folks are limited in number. You can train COIN day in and day out, but applying it is necessary. You can only apply it with those who recognize they need it. Most Iraqis have no memory of a time before Saddam or the Ba'ath party rule. They are also learning on the fly. Doing a damned sight better job than their critics are, but then their lives are on the line, not their petty political outlooks. Perhaps critics can learn first before asking deucedly complex questions and expecting one word answers. So many of us in the US and the West have forgotten these things because of the lives we have made for ourselves. When you see the learning process that our ancestors went through being repeated today you cannot understand it. And that is the surest way to lose liberty and freedom, of any invented.

Posted by: ajacksonian at September 11, 2007 05:32 AM

That could not have been accomplished in 2003-05 until Iraqis gave us clarity on their view of themselves and willingness to say who they are.---ajacksonian

Or put so the troglodytes(and you know who you are) might grasp it --- You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. And playing the blame game about past situations is a true fool's errand. Perhaps no-one was to blame in reality. The temperature of the 'sea' was simply not conducive to the growth of the 'desired and required' lifeforms.

No COIN strategy will work unless the environment wants it to do so. What might well be working in 2007 would have, as you say, failed miserably in 2004-2006. What might work in 2008, might not have worked in 2007.

Excellent comment, jacksonian. Thanks. Learned something new today.

Posted by: dougf at September 11, 2007 05:54 AM

Pam,

What makes this dispatch stand out for you? It's up to MJT's excellent standards, no doubt, but its distinguishing characteristic seems to be that it contains good news, ergo the raging propaganda war in the comments. I wouldn't expect that to matter to you, though, so I'm curious what caught your eye.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 06:08 AM

MJT: I criticized Israel's war against Hezbollah last year and was accused by some knee-jerker of being a Hezbollah agent -- even though Hezbollah threatened me with physical violence because of what I wrote about them.

Wait a minute. Hizballah threatened to kill you because of what you wrote last summer? I don't remember reading that???

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 06:15 AM

Great, actually better than great. I am so very glad to read something that gives a good example of success in Iraq instead of the daily diet of gloom and doom the MSM repeats and repeats and repeats. These stories deserve the same exposure as the negative ones.....alas, that will probably not happen.

I am a bit surprised at your banning Pontius. I did not read any inflamatory post from him/her. I do not agree with his "feelings" based stand on the war but....at least he was willing to disagree in a tolerable tone. We on the right are used to most of the left behaving in a less than civil way when it comes to debating the finer points of this war.

Having spent 2 tours in Iraq, I can tell you that I am sick and tired of the MSM and Democrats penchant to "point and punt" when it comes to solving the problems we are facing and will continue to face for some time. Thank GOD for Petraeus. Please do some reading on this guy and what he did in Mosul his first tour in Iraq!

Posted by: Casador06 at September 11, 2007 06:31 AM

Casador,

Having spent 2 tours in Iraq, I can tell you that I am sick and tired of the MSM and Democrats penchant to "point and punt" when it comes to solving the problems we are facing and will continue to face for some time.

You do realize that they are problems of our own doing. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. It did not need to be invaded, regardless of how bad a dictator Saddam Hussein was.

I'm frankly sick and tired of Republicans continuing to make messes that we Democrats have to clean up. ;)

Posted by: Dan at September 11, 2007 06:53 AM

Dan,
Didn't Clinton have a golden opportunity to take out obl, and pass it up? Didn't the same Clinton half-heartedly lob cruise missiles @ Afghanistan, adding fuel to the AQI fires? Seems the crooked finger of blame is pointing back at the Democrats as well.

Posted by: Truth at September 11, 2007 07:06 AM

"I'm frankly sick and tired of Republicans continuing to make messes that we Democrats have to clean up. ;)"

Clean up?!?!?! It was Clinton's Spinless act of pulling out of Somailia that prompted Osama Bin Laden to say that the U.S. is a "paper tiger" and we could be manipulated into doing something if you killed a few U.S. citizens. I would say the mess of the last 15 years is being cleaned up now. While it may be true that Saddam had no "direct" link to 9/11, he certainly let his country be used by Al Queada. There is a saying "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" Saddam tolerated Al Queada going in and out of his country setting up training camps up North and using medical facilities because he knew the goal of the group, to annihilate the West.

Posted by: Preston Smith III at September 11, 2007 08:41 AM

It did not need to be invaded, regardless of how bad a dictator Saddam Hussein was.

Dan,

It is comments like this that make me loath the left more and more everyday.

Stop debating what did or did not have to be done years ago. The decision was made, most of Congress endorsed the decision, and here we are.

Seriously, get over it. Its done.

Since no one has a time machine, the best we can do is learn from the past then apply the lessons to the present and move forward.

This is precisely what the U.S military is doing and to great effect, unfortunately, many of the left just can't stop reliving the past, probably because they have nothing to offer the future except retreat.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 11, 2007 08:42 AM

I AM PROUD OF OUR AMERICAN TROOPS AND I SUPPORT THEM IN EVERY WAY. I BARE THE COLORS OF MY COUNTRY AND ITS FLAG IN EVERYWAY POSSIBLE. LISTEN TO OUR TROOPS AND NOT THE STATE SIDE JERKS WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING ON. WHEN YOU HAVE MEN GIVING LIFE AND LIMB AND STILL WANT TO GO BACK TO FIGHT THAT SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING. IF WE DON'T FINISH WHAT WE STARTED IT WILL END UP ON OUR OWN SOIL. THEN THE JERKS WILL HAVE TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES.

Posted by: KRISTINE C HOFFMAN at September 11, 2007 09:51 AM

Kristine,

We are all proud of our troops, don't monopolize the pride. Biden made it plain this morning, what the troops are doing is heroic. Only chickenhawks like Hnnity and limpballs cheer for a unquestioned war.

Posted by: Russ at September 11, 2007 10:02 AM

Michael,

Excellent read. The comment section broke down to talking points instantly so I skipped over it to say great job.

Keep it up,
J.D.

Posted by: J. D. Smith at September 11, 2007 10:08 AM

Kristine: I AM PROUD OF OUR AMERICAN TROOPS AND I SUPPORT THEM IN EVERY WAY. I BARE THE COLORS OF MY COUNTRY AND ITS FLAG IN EVERYWAY POSSIBLE...IF WE DON'T FINISH WHAT WE STARTED IT WILL END UP ON OUR OWN SOIL. THEN THE JERKS WILL HAVE TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES.

10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1

Breathe. Repeat.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 10:08 AM

Michael,

Excellent read. The comment section broke down to talking points instantly so I skipped over it to say great job.

Keep it up,
J.D.

Posted by: J. D. Smith at September 11, 2007 10:09 AM

Oh Russ, if you hurry you might be able to make the De Palma movie. Don't monopolize pride in our troops... ha. I live on the Left coast. You can't fool me. When was the last time the people on the left have led a "Suppport the Troop" rally. I can tell... never. And protesting the Iraq war doesn't count. The people serving are grown men and women who don't want or deserve your pandering or pity. They want to know that their mission that was endorsed by the President and CONGRESS (republican & DEMOCRAT) is being supported by the American public, not undermined by short sighted people that don't see any value in their MISSION.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 11, 2007 10:19 AM

It's a good story, Mike.

I wouldn't make too much about it, though, if I was a pro-surgist. The US Army is just as capable of fighting the war "the wrong way" as it is "the right way", as you allude to. It gets a lot easier to fight "the right way" when the current opponent is depraved enough to send the locals that would normally hate you scurrying for help.

I question whether the current peak in US-local relations is likely to last.

I'm proud of the US Army for being a more benevolent force than Al-Quieda in Ramadi, but there can't be lasting goodwill between this area and US military control. If we don't drawdown in this area, a more civilian-friendly insurgency is likely to re-establish itself. The region is still fundamentally crawling with money, weapons, and anti-American propaganda, and the US is still propping up a Shia regime that hates Sunnis and is hated by them.

It's fundamentally bad news to have overt US military presence in the Middle East, especially where it's fundamentally unpopular. And it's always going to be fundamentally unpopular. The local power structures are going to make it unpopular.

I think you overgeneralize in your comments on Al-Quieda vs. "the insurgency", Mike. I'll take your word for it that AQI was in the lead in Ramadi, but you give the impression of speaking for Anbar generally or Sunni Iraq generally. I'm reading dispatches from the non-AQI sunni insurgency regularly, and I don't know how to square that with your statements that AQI = Sunni insurgency, except by drawing the conclusion that Ramadi is not representative of Anbar/Sunni Iraq.

Posted by: glasnost at September 11, 2007 10:20 AM

Pete,

I don't call recognizing the troop heroics, "pandering." Lets not use them as some political football. You say that those rallies had no dems in them, huh, prove it. 95% of the American public supported the movement into Afghanistan. The Iraq war has always been questionable. To ask dems to just shut up and let Cheyne and his gang to do as they will, is asking too much. Sorry Pete, we love the troops and not the corrupt admin and for you to mix them is dishonest.

Posted by: Russ at September 11, 2007 10:33 AM

Here's a very good example from Mark Lynch, Mike. If you're putting out the theory that AQI is the only anti-american Sunni insurgency in Iraq, you'll have to explain exactly who the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq is writing this open letter to - the voices in their heads?

In my opinion, this is an example of you talking to people who are only informed about their locality. That's a kinder explanation than "they're not being honest with you."

Quotes below.

The Association of Muslim Scholars, one of the most influential Sunni organizations in Iraq, has just released an unprecedented open letter to the "resistance". According to the Al-Haq Agency, this is the first time that the AMS has publicly addressed the resistance as a whole, making it a fairly significant event. Like the essay by Abd al-Rahman al-Rawashdi posted last week, the AMS argues that the time has come for the resistance to reap the fruits of its successful jihad against the occupation, but warns that if it fails to unify and put forward a political program then others will seize the rewards instead.

Amsopenletter

After praising the military valor and steadfastness of the insurgency, the AMS poses this sharp question: jihadist and resistance movements in the Islamic world have had many victories over their enemies, but most of them have failed to achieve their goals after the conflict. The AMS repeatedly invokes the Afghan experience of a successful jihad which then collapsed into factional warfare when the Soviets left. The presence of an occupation force helped unite the resistance, writes the AMS, but now is the time to ask: what comes after the occupiers leave? Those who fail to think about this question now, warns the AMS, will be surprised with a bitter harvest.

First, others will try to reap the fruits of the jihad and resistance than its legitmate owners - the occupiers will leave through the door the resistance opened, but it will try to pick successors to be its agents in running the country. And their first move will be to try and liquidate the supporters of jihad and resistance - a direct warning to those Sunnis currently working with the US to think about their future once they have served their purpose. Second, the occupation will never stop trying to sow discord (fitna) among the factions of the resistance, as a way of weakening it. The US has been defeated and wants to leave Iraq, but is only searching for a way to deny the jihad its victory; factional strife is its exit strategy. The resistance is on the brink of a great victory, argues the AMS, which only increases the danger of complacency.

It concludes by pointing out that it has been calling to unify the factions for months, and is pleased with recent moves in that direction. The occupiers will be forced to deal with it, directly or through intermediaries, because of the simple reality of its power which can't be ignored. Such a dialogue is acceptable, but only after the US has committed to withdrawal - a consistent theme among the "Islamist nationalist" resistance groups. The AMS warns against beginning dialogue with the US before it has committed to withdrawing, because any dialogue before then is only aimed at exploiting and creating differences among the resistance in order to weaken it.

Finally, one fascinating point: the AMS urges coordination with all voices and movements working against the occupation - explicitly including Shia factions which fit that description. The entire document is notably devoid of anti-Shia rhetoric: all attention focuses on the US. Even Maliki's government is criticized for being an American agent, not for being sectarian. Read that as you will.

I mention the AMS open letter not only because it's an important political move within the Sunni community, and yet another signal of what the nationalist insurgency groups are trying to do - come together around a political program and form some kind of leadership which can act effectively in a post-American Iraq. I also mention it because it's important right now to emphasize that these groups are simply not going to sit back and allow the currently America-friendly tribal shaykhs to dominate Sunni politics. They see what's happening, and they are actively strategizing about how to frustrate the American plan to consolidate an "acceptable", supposedly pro-US leadership in the Sunni areas. The Sunni turn against al-Qaeda, and the current willingness to work with the US military, depended on a tacit agreement between the major insurgency groups and tribal leaders on the need to defend their turf. But reading recent insurgency literature makes it painfully clear that these groups remain committed to an American withdrawal (no matter what the Anbar Awakening crowd says) but also that they are deeply suspicious of the intentions and aspirations of those tribal leaders sitting down with Bush. It's pretty clear who they think is trying to "illegitimately steal the fruits of the resistance's victory

Everyone agrees that Ramadi has turned against AQI. What that means for the future of Americans Getting Blown Up In Iraq is widely open to debate. Last time I looked, Sunni attacks on US troops in Iraq still represented 50% of the total, even if that's the lowest they've ever been. You ever ask anyone, point blank, if all those attacks were AQI?

For me, the fact that AQI is no longer welcome in Ramadi is a great argument for getting the hell out of Ramadi before local political dynamics shift to make them welcome again - before we overplay our hand the way AQI has apparently done.

Seriously. We leveled Ramadi and got rid of Al-Quieda. Hooray! If people want to declare "victory", in the sense of fixing our mistake of going into the country in the first place, before getting out.. that's okay with me.

Posted by: glasnost at September 11, 2007 10:33 AM

Take a lesson from Israel. The first twenty years of occupation of the West Bank and Gaza were quite benign, and the locals really seemed to "like" being occupied, and the attacks were coming from those foreign PLO crazies. Five years later, and you had the first infitada.

If the surge is a failure, then it's time to get out. If the surge is a success, it's still time to get out. There is no situation in which US troops running the lives of local Iraqis will be popular for long. And an unpopular occupation will quickly be attacked. And the cycle will begin again.

Posted by: glasnost at September 11, 2007 10:39 AM

Nice try, Russ. Loving the troops doesn't mean "PULL OUT, NOW..." As declared by mean-faced clipped haired Code Pinkers. (I at the time thought they were advocating some kind of birth control.) I'm still waiting for the Democrats punishment of John Murtha's rush to judgement against our Marines in Haditha. Or maybe the majority of Democrats actually believed and supported Murtha's stupid comment that the Marines killed "in cold blood." With that kind of "support" of our troops I'd hate to see if the Democrats really "hated" our troops. Sorry, Russ can't fool me.
PS If the Iraq War is so "unpopular" with the American public why did a "lame duck" president (with a 30% approval rating) pull the Democrats panties down to their ankles and get the funding for the war??? And in the end after General Praetreus report will still get more funding for this war.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 11, 2007 10:55 AM

Pete,

I don't agree, and think glasnost is actually asking better questions at the time.

Posted by: Russ at September 11, 2007 11:01 AM

Seriously. We leveled Ramadi and got rid of Al-Quieda.

Careful Glassy. You're in danger of losing your amateur standing.

If you couldn't tell from the article, most of Ramadi is intact and far better off than it was four months ago.

If the surge is a failure, then it's time to get out. If the surge is a success, it's still time to get out.

Yes. And right after he broke the lines at Richmond is when Grant should have broken off contact with Lee.

Your wisdom is quite in evidence.

Posted by: Tom Perkins at September 11, 2007 11:06 AM

glasnost: If you're putting out the theory that AQI is the only anti-american Sunni insurgency in Iraq , you'll have to explain exactly who the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq is writing this open letter to - the voices in their heads

This is part of the ongoing genocide against straw men.

We must stop it.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 11:17 AM

Edgar: Hizballah threatened to kill you because of what you wrote last summer?

No, they threatened me for what I wrote before that. Sorry for not being clear.

The full (unedited) version of that story is here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:20 AM

Oh, ok. I remember reading that a while back.

Whatever happened to that Hizballah PR guy? I assume you never heard from him again.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 11:24 AM

Glasnost: I don't know how to square that with your statements that AQI = Sunni insurgency, except by drawing the conclusion that Ramadi is not representative of Anbar/Sunni Iraq.

That may be. I don't know. I only went to Ramadi so far. (I'm going to Fallujah next, probably.) This story was about Ramadi. It is the area I know, and I was cut off from the rest of the province while there.

Each location in Iraq is like a small world unto itself.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:26 AM

Remember, Glasnost, this was the city Al Qaeda declared was its capital.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:27 AM

Russ, thank you for proving my point. You had your chance to denounce Murtha's stupid comments and you PUNTED. Like I said "Can't fool me."

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 11, 2007 11:28 AM

If you're putting out the theory that AQI is the only anti-american Sunni insurgency in Iraq

Whoa, I never said that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:29 AM

Pete Dawg,

I am waiting on Murtha's punishment as well. But I fear the LEFT feels this way about me and my brethren 100%. They do it for political posturing, not because they care for any kind of human being.

Posted by: Preston Smith III at September 11, 2007 11:31 AM

Edgar: Whatever happened to that Hizballah PR guy?

He quit the party after the war. I know some other things about him, too, but am sworn to secrecy. :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:34 AM

"Wait a minute. Hizballah threatened to kill you because of what you wrote last summer? I don't remember reading that???" Edgar

Are you serious?
If so, let me hook you up:

http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001116.htm

MJT archives April 5 2006

Posted by: lindsey at September 11, 2007 11:38 AM

Pete,

I haven't followed the Murtha thing enough to comment on it. All I know is he served and can talk unlike your pantheon of chickenhawks. One dem does not make a party affiliation anyway, maybe if I get time I'll look into it, but anyway its not politics I care so much about, its treating and honoring our troops with dignity that counts. And I honestly think this merry-go-round of who loves the troops more was getting old, and I, am through with that part of the convo.
p.s. does revelations of Craig and Folley make all reps perverts? I think not.

Posted by: Russ at September 11, 2007 11:38 AM

Oops, you guys were WAY ahead of me! :)
Sorry for the late post.

Posted by: lindsey at September 11, 2007 11:41 AM

Russ: All I know is he served and can talk unlike your pantheon of chickenhawks.

This comments section is for civilized discussion. Leave the juvenile insults at the door.

I haven't served, but I risked getting blown up by IEDs. I am not a "chicken," and I will not tolerate that slur on my bandwidth.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:42 AM

I don't mind being called a "chickenhawk." The term refers to a few different species of hawks, all of which look pretty cool.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 11:53 AM

I will not be called a chickenhawk buy a commenter who won't risk getting himself blown up. Only someone braver than me is allowed to call me a chicken. Russ can fuck off, and he's banned if he does it again.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:55 AM

Nice to have your clarification on that, Mike. It's sort of a weakness of the localization of your perspective, though, Mike, because I think it's easy for people to read this and draw the logical conclusion that AQI is the only anti-American Sunni insurgency in Iraq. It's also a conclusion that the White House and the entire right-wing propaganda machine is trying to create.

It's not your fault that your picture of Ramadi and the right-wing myth line up with each other. Your article would give a clearer picture of national trends, in contrast to local ones, by including some kind of disclaimer, or some kind of clarifying context.

I have yet to see the non-AQI sunni insurgency highlighted on here. I know you can't see everything, do everything, not your control, etc, but I'd love to see you get to the bottom of that. If Fallujah is where you'll get to the bottom of it, then great, but why don't you go to Tikrit? I have a feeling that's a better place to look.

This quote - from a story - just jumped out at me:

John Arquilla, an intelligence and counterinsurgency expert at the Naval Postgraduate School, is even harsher in his assessment of Petraeus. “I think Colin Powell used dodgy information to get us into the war, and Petraeus is using dodgy information to keep us there,” he said. “His political talking points are all very clear: the continued references he made to the danger of Al Qaeda in Iraq, for example, even though it represents only somewhere between 2 and 5 percent of the total insurgency.

It's not just "ordinary Americans" who are "confused about the relationship between AQI and the Sunni insurgency. It's also US military experts, apparently.

Posted by: glasnost at September 11, 2007 11:59 AM

Mike, I don't think Russ was calling you a chickenhawk. He was responding to "pete dawg", who has let to make a post here that didn't have some kind of nasty slur on liberals. You've already banned four leftists who said uncivil things about this war and its proponents, and zero of the many people saying uncivil things about liberals. I suggest you take a deep breath.

Posted by: glasnost at September 11, 2007 12:01 PM

Preston- By the way "Thank you for your service."

Russ, you would be tired of trying to defend the Democrats supposed "support of the troops". I mean it'd be like trying to stop the Mississippi. What country do you live in? I thought you Liberals and Democrats believed in free speech. Oh, I see only people that you approve have the right to speak on the Iraq War. Well, hell let's even narrow it down some more. How about only people that have served in Iraq have the right to speak on Iraq? Which from my understanding if "re-enlistment" is any indicator the troops believe in the mission. Sorry I'm not a fascist like, you. Every American has a right to speak on the Iraq War, for or against.
PS You don't see the Republicans rushing to Craig or Folley defense, do you. Not like the Democrats blind defense of Clinton's right to play "hide the Cigar" with Monica...

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 11, 2007 12:02 PM

Glasnost,

My reason for wanting to visit Fallujah isn't because I want to get to the bottom of the broader Sunni insurgency, but because it's where some of the most horrific fighting in Iraq was. It is a very important city.

I don't know what percentage of the insurgency is AQI. It's smaller now than it was, obviously, since they have been run out of town just about everywhere. The reason the "right-wing" focuses on Al Qaeda is because they are a threat to us in the United States (obviously, after 9/11) whereas, say, the 1920 Revolution Brigade isn't.

I think pulling out of Iraq before AQ is vanquished is stupid. Pulling out later even if other armed groups haven't surrendered is more of a viable option, especially if the surge and current COIN strategy doesn't work against them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 12:05 PM

Mike,

I didn't mean you, and I meant what I once said I thinks your work is great. I mean leaders, like Cheyne.

Posted by: Russ at September 11, 2007 12:06 PM

Glasnost: You've already banned four leftists who said uncivil things about this war and its proponents, and zero of the many people saying uncivil things about liberals.

That's true in this thread. Not in others.

I put a put a right-winger on troll watch in this thread for opening up both barrels on Dan.

I'm more likely to ban people who insult me than people who insult others, but I will ban both if I need to. People who insult others, but don't insult me, are more likely to heed my warnings, so I'm more likely to give out those warnings before banning.

You make not like my method, but I know what I'm doing.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 12:08 PM

Russ,

If you didn't mean me, fine. But I've been called a chickenhawk before for not serving, and I still haven't serve, so the logic still technically applies (even though it's a childish logic).

Trust me, no one in the military finds it acceptable that only veterans should be allowed to support them and their mission.

It's an unacceptable insult even by someone who has served in the military, but especially by someone who hasn't. So please knock if off. Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 12:11 PM

Michael

Your article was excellent and was the kind of in depth reporting on Iraq we need to see more of. I have never posted on a blog before but have been drawn into the discussion about the Ramadi story.

First of all your reporting of the recent events in Ramadi is good news. It is good for the service men and women serving in Iraq. It is good news for the residents of Ramadi who now have a better chance at building a better life. It could even be good news for all of Iraq and the region if the template of this success can be expanded in other regions of Iraq

The detractors of this story as slanted or pro war/pro Bush fail to recognize that being shot at is always worse than not being shot at. The residents of Ramadi have a much more stable environment than even six months ago and have the chance to build on that. How is that bad?

I would like to add a couple of comments without taking a shot at any past postings.
Justification for military action in Iraq is very simple to me. Hostilities in Gulf war 1 ended with a treaty. Sadam's Iraq broke the terms of that treaty by shooting at our planes and other multiple infractions. Non military efforts to hold Iraq to the terms of that treaty had failed. If a proven dangerous nation like Sadam's Iraq is not held accountable to a peace treaty that nation is likely to repeat history and threaten others again. The broken treaty, Not WMD's El Qaeda ect,
is sufficient justification for action.

I want to wrap up by saying I believe that the administration has made numerous mistakes in Iraq with our military action there. The Ramadi story shows that the president and the military have taken steps to correct past mistakes and a stable and democratic Iraq is still possible. The alternative is bad for the US and the world at large.

Posted by: Tighe at September 11, 2007 12:11 PM

Pete,
Speak your mind, I don't care. I simply meant we weren't getting anywhere, I thought.

Mike,
I go to great length not to insult anyone, but I do want to defend dems being called traitors. I can see people are very hot today and I'll go an extra mile to be clear and polite.

Posted by: Russ at September 11, 2007 12:15 PM

Russ: I do want to defend dems being called traitors.

Fine, so do I. You'll notice my defense of Dan above.

I'm still registered as a Democrat (although I really an Independent) so you get no argument from me about that.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 12:22 PM

Let me get this right. Many here are heartened to hear MJT's reporting of the 'good news' that the war has turned around now and that thankfully all of our mistakes are behind us. These same people are also the ones jumping all over Dan for his insistence on posing important questions. Yet, during the period when these mistakes were being made for years, who were the ones who being told to shut up here? It was people like Dan who were being very critical and vocal about pointing out these mistakes and their treatment was much the same as now. "Shut up, you Blame-America-Firster blah, blah, blah.." A big part of the reason why this war is as fucked (and it is fucked, surge or no surge)as it is, is our leadership's refusal to hear anything contrary to what they wanted to believe was true. It is their dogma and hubris that is responsible for this mess and I see the attitude reflected here. It is these people who have absolutely no credibility whatsoever in this department and who seriously need to start considering shutting themselves up and start listening. Who knows? Maybe if these people would have tried this years ago we could actually seriously speak of achieving something 'successfull' in Iraq today.

Posted by: John at September 11, 2007 12:25 PM

Russ,

The whole chickenhawk thing is an intellectually bankrupt way to argue any point about Iraq.

We have civilian control of the military in the U.S. with no requirement that the Commander in Chief or CongressCritters voting on war resolutions have any military experience whatsoever.

Saying that only those with military experience can comment on Iraq undermines the whole notion of civilian control. Are Murtha, McCain and other CongressCritters with military experience really the only ones qualified to talk on the subject? I think not.

If military experience were a prerequisite for Commander in Chief, then Clinton was unqualified for the office, while Bush, a fighter pilot, is eminently qualified, and I doubt you would want to take your chickenhawk argument that far!

Expand the chickenhawk argument to other topics and only people who own or have been shot by a firearm can discuss the Second Amendment, while only those who had an abortion can discuss that issue, etc., etc.

There are a lot of smart people who disagree about a lot of things, but having personal experience in a topic is not necessary to developing knowledge or opinions on that topic.

/ end soapbox.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 11, 2007 12:27 PM

I'd just like to add that I have served, and in my opinion, Michael has earned my respect as if he was wearing the uniform himself during his excellent reporting. He's gone to the tough places, and walked alongside the brave men and women who are out there everyday. I met a lot of journalists that wouldn't go out with the unit I served with over there because we had a tendency to get blown up by IEDs pretty much daily (our job was to go out and find them). IEDs don't seem to discriminate much.

A quick look at MJT's impressive list of articles from various world hot spots clearly qualifies him as an active participant in this storyline.

My only issue is that he seems to get better food and slightly better accommodations than I did when I was there. ;)

Posted by: Rob at September 11, 2007 12:30 PM

Nice post. I think the stand out thing got me in this little the US did the Iraqi's did it back and forth is that child's drawing. It makes sense to me that it isn't possible to 'pacify' a city without the will of the local people - but it's also pretty obvious that without serious 'muscle' to back them up maintaining the upper hand against those who care nothing about other lives and little about their own would be a practical impossibility.

It's the same thing that the whole conflict is now about, we have to create the space for the Iraqi's to gain confidence in pursuing the agenda that benefits them i.e. not living and dying at the whim of the people with the biggest guns and lowest morals. It's not glamorous and it's hard to prove we're winning but in my opinion the long term benefits for us all outweigh the cost of leaving Iraq to the sort of people who took over Ramadi. These guys are risking their lives to provide that space, they have my gratitude.

Posted by: JayN at September 11, 2007 12:47 PM

I've been to more combat zones with Michael Totten than anyone else, he's not a chickenhawk and his existence is a telling refutation of the concept. (Michael has now been to more dangerous places than I have, unless I get to count individual ships I've boarded.)

I have served on active duty in hostile fire zones, I am an active reservist, and I travel to dangerous places with Michael Totten to report on them as a civilian. Either everything I say is sacred truth that must be venerated on the high alter of non-chickenhawkedness (not bloody likely) or the very concept of chickenhawk is essentially flawed.

Using the term chickenhawk is more than vaguely insulting, though. It implies that there is some form of nobility granted to the thoughts of those who have served in war and a consequent villainy to those who have not. This way lies madness. The chickenhawk label paints with a insanely broad brush and adds nothing to the argument. I've never heard a military person with any integrity advance it, which means that it is a baseless slur unacceptable to intelligent argument.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 12:49 PM

...the war has turned around now and that thankfully all of our mistakes are behind us.

I don't believe anyone thinks all of our mistakes are behind us, this is war and mistakes happen in war all the time.

I can't speak for others, but what has always bothered me about war critics is the "mistakes have been made, all is lost, we must now retreat and leave" meme they push so hard.

Rather than leave, I prefer adapting our strategies to meet the new conditions on the ground until we find something that actually works, which we appear to have done.

Also, many of the war critics don't believe the war should have been pursued at all, which means there is nothing the U.S. can do in Iraq that they will deem worthwhile, except leaving.

On the other hand, those of us who supported the decision to go to war and still support the war, simply want to win.

We expect it to take a long time.

We expect mistakes to be made.

But we also believe we have to win, which I define as leaving behind a stable democracy capable of fending for itself that also will serve as an example to other Middle Eastern countries.

There is not a lot of middle ground between those two positions, so both sides end up talking past each.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 11, 2007 12:57 PM

I think pulling out of Iraq before AQ is vanquished is stupid.

Fine, but how many troops does it take to go after AQI in Iraq, vs. our current mission of futilely suppressing while trying to reconcile everyone at the same time?

Seriously.

10,000?
20,000?

Not much more.

Posted by: glasnost at September 11, 2007 01:01 PM

One last thought, war supporters also understand that the enemy gets a vote in any strategy that we pursue, so not everything bad that happens in Iraq is because the big bad U.S. military f'ed up.

Its war, shit happens, adjust and keep going forward.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 11, 2007 01:03 PM

I do have something to be thankful today. Thank God, Glasnost wasn't the President in WorldWar II. It took over 27,000 American lives, 100,000 injured to liberate the Phillipines. According to him my family wouldn't be worth it. It's always good to count your blessings... ;p

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 11, 2007 01:16 PM

Nobody can question my bravery.

I've maintained an extremely contorted position during a Twister game while I had a leg cramp .

In Iraq.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 01:28 PM

Simply marvelous! Thanks Michael.

Posted by: Casca at September 11, 2007 01:33 PM

glasnost,

Fine, but how many troops does it take to go after AQI in Iraq, vs. our current mission of futilely suppressing while trying to reconcile everyone at the same time?

General Petraeus says that he needs 130,000 troops in July 2008 based on current expectations. Either he is the best informed and qualified person to make that decision or he's not, but his is the decision that counts.

From my perspective, withdrawing down to 10 or 20K troops would put us back into the repeatedly failed "fire brigade" strategy. If you can tell me of an instance where Al Qaeda Iraq formed up in ranks and marched off to battle as conventionally organized units in more than company strength I'd be glad to hear about it. Until that time, I think we have to acknowledge that we are fighting an enemy that is continuously probing everywhere they can for weakness in Iraq. If we reduce to a quick reaction force, they will play picador with us forever to the detriment of the Iraqi people and the US military.

Can you tell me of an instance where your strategy succeeded in winning a counter-insurgency?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 01:40 PM

Patrick: I've been to more combat zones with Michael Totten than anyone else

Actually, you're in second place. (Sorry.) Noah Pollak has been with me the most, and may do so again in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 01:44 PM

Michael,

Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and London.

I thought you'd only been to Israel and Lebanon with Noah?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 01:51 PM

Headline: Presidential Candidate Kucinich Blasts Bush ‘Illegal Occupation’ on Syrian TVRuss,

It is behavior like this that opens Democrats to charges of being traitors.

Last time I checked, Syria is the conduit into Iraq for Al Qaeda fighters intent on killing American and Iraqi troops, while Iran is supplying money and weapons.

The Syrian and Iranian governments are engaged in a proxy war with the U.S. and a Democrat presidential candidate is going on Syrian TV calling American actions in Iraq illegal.

If Democrats don't want to be called traitors, maybe they should stop this type of behavior instead of providing aid, comfort or encouragament to our enemies.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 11, 2007 01:51 PM

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, here is General Petraeus on counterinsurgency:

"The Vietnam experience left the military leadership feeling that they should advise against involvement in counterinsurgencies unless specific, perhaps unlikely, circumstances obtain -- i.e. domestic public support, the promise of a quick campaign, and freedom to employ whatever force is necessary to achieve rapid victory. In light of such criteria, committing U.S. units to counterinsurgencies appears to be a very problematic proposition, difficult to conclude before domestic support erodes and costly enough to threaten the well-being of all America's military forces (and hence the country's national security), not just those involved in the actual counterinsurgency,"

Of course that was in 1987. Andrew Sullivan's questions are spot on:

Here's the key question: why is Petraeus now abandoning every counter-insurgency principle he spent many years articulating? The deeper question is: how badly is the surge threatening the U.S.'s national security? How much more danger is continuing this failed policy putting us in?
Posted by: Dan at September 11, 2007 01:55 PM

Dogwood,

If Democrats don't want to be called traitors, maybe they should stop this type of behavior instead of providing aid, comfort or encouragament to our enemies.

Are you really insinuating that I aid, comfort, and provide encouragement to our enemies? You actually believe that? And then you wonder why people like me want to have nothing to do with your war?

Posted by: Dan at September 11, 2007 01:57 PM

Patrick,

I forgot about Israel.

Jordan doesn't count, though, and London especially doesn't count.

You're tied with Noah, then, but Noah and I were under missile fire together so he still sort of beats you.

Sorry!

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 01:59 PM

Dogwood,

Kucinich isn't a traitor, he's just a fool. John Stewart referred to him on the Daily Show as "a small woodland creature."

John Walker Lindh is a traitor.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 02:01 PM

Dogwood,

It is behavior like this that opens Democrats to charges of being traitors.

I hate to defend Dennis Kucinich, a whole lot, but he is not doing this to be a traitor. Granted, after a certain point self-aggrandizing idiocy is indistinguishable from actual treason. The central difference is that what we need to watch out for are competent traitors. It also actually does matter what the traitors are competent at.

My former co-worker Mike Hawash was incredibly competent as an engineer. As a mujahadin, he was a putz. If he had just started building mostly undetectable flaws into Intel firmware, he could have done more damage to the West than he ever could blowing stuff up, but he couldn't work his brain past direct action.

Maybe I should stop exhorting the lefties to study war...

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 02:03 PM

Dan,

In 1987 I was a pacifist, a near-socialist, and a religious Christian.

In 2007 I am none of those things.

People evolve and move on, even David Petraeus. He wasn't a general in 1987 and he knew far less about COIN then than he does now.

It's silly to pull out a quote that old.

Hillary Clinton used to be a Republican. Anyone want to take a shot at her for changing her views on that question?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 02:04 PM

Dogwood,

The counterpoint to your frustration with war critics is the critics' frustration with war supporters who seem determined to pursue policies seen as counterproductive by the critics long past the point of futility.

I'm on the fence, and I see both positions as legit. The intolerance both sides have for each other drives me nuts, because the quality of debate generally sucks and it takes so much work to dredge useful information out of the sewage.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 02:05 PM

Michael,

London's been hit with more terror attacks than Kurdistan in the last two years, and is a much smaller area. Plus, my dad got mortared at Heathrow by the IRA in the 1980s, so I still consider the place fundamentally unsafe.

Now if they trusted their populace enough to let them arm themselves, it would be a much better place.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 02:06 PM

Patrick,

America has been hit with more attacks than Kurdistan since 2000, but I don't live in a war zone.

I've been in war zones. London is not a war zone.

Neither is Kurdistan. Not really.

Kirkuk is the place you and I have been in Iraq that is a war zone.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 02:14 PM

Dogwood,

If Democrats don't want to be called traitors,

This "traitor" nonsense is exactly the kind of garbage I despise.

The American left is up in arms these days because they are patriots and they believe that the American right has grievously harmed the country they love.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 02:15 PM

Creamy Goodness: This "traitor" nonsense is exactly the kind of garbage I despise.

I have always hated it.

Save it for those who are actual traitors. Occasionally we really do have them. Otherwise you have nothing left to say about the likes of John Walker Lindh.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 02:22 PM

Creamy Goodness,

The American left is up in arms these days because they are patriots and they believe that the American right has grievously harmed the country they love.

They believe that because they are hypersensitive and worship the victim. There is a point at which you get so blinded by perceptions of imminent need that you utterly ignore the greater good. In order to fund leftist causes, a variety of groups have have pushed a variety of issues with alarmist methods to create a continual sense of emergency. The first step is to make sure that everyone is panicking.

I do not think we are at the point where we need to fire into the mob to shock it into submission, events six years ago today did a lot of that for us. Reality is what happens when leftists are planning another rally.

This is not to excuse the atrocious excesses of the left. MoveOn's latest abomination is exactly the kind of thing that highlights the scant difference between agitating speech and seditious libel when practiced by the left. Everybody I've talked to who knows and has worked with Gen. Patraeus tells me that he is a genius with tremendous integrity. Throwing him to the wolves because he is inconveniently successful is suicidally self-obsessed behavior.

I suppose I'm going to have to fall back on the question of competence again. If the left was causing us imminent harm, we could really label them traitors. Since they are insufficiently capable of damaging us, so far, we have to just say that they are despicable and do our best to minimize their depredations using social pressure.

Having said that, if terrorists hit us three times in three weeks, the left's ass is grass.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 02:31 PM

MJT: I've been in war zones...Kirkuk is the place you and I have been in Iraq that is a war zone.

I think the "chickenhawk" comments struck a nerve.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 02:32 PM

Edgar, the chickenhawk slur doesn't strike a nerve, it's just incredibly juvenile. I know I'm not a "chicken," and anyone who says or implies that I am is an ass not worth having around.

Anyway, it's not just about me. I also defend people I don't agree with, like Dan, Glasnost, DPU, etc.

Everyone who knows me in person knows that I enjoy arguing with my friends, in part because it's interesting and makes us smarter, and also because we keep it civil.

I want my comment section to resemble my living room when my friends are over at the house, not a typical Internet mosh pit of insults and invective.

If I don't moderate this comment section it will be overrun with idiots because civil people will refuse to participate. I know this from experience, and I would rather shut the whole thing down (which I have done three times in the past) than watch it deteriorate.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 02:42 PM

Patrick: If the left was causing us imminent harm, we could really label them traitors.

Argh. More traitor bullshit.

Patrick, I find your enthusiasm for military conflict with Iran and your wildly optimistic predictions regarding the outcome of such a conflict to be indistinguishable from insanity. If the US follows such a course, I believe it will cause us imminent harm.

Should I consider you a traitor?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 02:53 PM

Mike,

I fully agree. I just think you really don't have to "prove" yourself to those idiots.

I think anyone who views the conflict through the "chickenhawk" prism just doesn't get it. Journalists who go to war zones aren't thrill-seekers--they're knowledge-seekers. The danger is incidental.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 02:54 PM

MJT: Save it for those who are actual traitors. Occasionally we really do have them. Otherwise you have nothing left to say about the likes of John Walker Lindh.

Or Aldrich Ames.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 02:59 PM

Creamy- The only patriots I see on the left are certain few; Senator Liberman, Senator Zel Miller, Ron Silverman, Dennis Miller and Jon Voight. Talk about how the right treats the left. Maybe you should cruise the leftwing websites and see the things written about these poor Americans. I probably don't have anything in common with Senator Liberman on social issues, but I'd totally feel comfortable with him as President because I believe he wants to defeat the Jihadists. As opposed to Senator Obama that would rather "talk to the terrorists". (Sort of reminds of Dr Doolittle.) Or such as John Murtha stupid accusation that the Marines in Haditha were "cold blooded killers." I know which side is trying to win the War on Terror and which side has taken out the War on Terror in their talking points.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 11, 2007 03:06 PM

Yes, really Patrick, stop. Being a traitor is a deliberate act that requires intent.

You know that because you just said as much about Dennis Kucinich.

We could all have a better conversation by dialing the partisan rhetoric down. Trust moi.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 03:06 PM

Creamy Goodness: If the US follows such a course, I believe it will cause us imminent harm. Should I consider you a traitor?

Of course I should preface this with "I always disagree with Patrick, but..." or "I hate Patrick, but I must admit..."

Anyway, this is another straw man attack.

If anyone in America gives aid and comfort to enemies, then they are traitors. If people support attacking an enemy state (Iran), even if most Americans don't agree with them, they are not traitors.

Likewise, when people protest an unpopular war they are not traitors unless they actively help the enemy (e.g. giving them money and weapons). As disgusting as it might be, I support letting people cheerlead the enemy (read: exercise free speech) as long as they don't actually help them.

But really, at worst the anti-war crowd is weak and cowardly, not treasonous.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 03:07 PM

I reserve the right to advocate a withdrawal from Iraq without being labeled a traitor. There's a real chance I will do exactly that if the surge looks bad next year.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 03:10 PM

Michael,
Excellent report! Great photos. You really helped bring a greater perspective home. Interesting about the soldiers comments, "Reporters in the Green Zone have no idea what goes on out here." I see similar reports here in Los Angeles, CA. The media hypes and leads with gun violence. If this news bubble where a persons only perspective on LA, we'd all be too scared to get out and cause traffic and no one would wanna live here. Thanks for your efforts to bring back truth on the ground. Be safe. Sahawa al Anbar, Sahawa al Iraq!
Gregg

Posted by: Gregg at September 11, 2007 03:55 PM

Michael,

People evolve and move on, even David Petraeus. He wasn't a general in 1987 and he knew far less about COIN then than he does now. It's silly to pull out a quote that old.

That's understandable. I'm wondering though, was the principle he espoused in 1987 valid? 9/11 may have changed the way we look at the world around us, but it did nothing to change the principles of warfare. My feeling is that he better understood this back in 1987 than he does now. Not because he doesn't understand his principles now, but now he's tied himself too much to the political side of the war, and forgotten that he's a general first and a politician second.

He has said "things are progressing" in Iraq since his infamous Washington Post op-ed six weeks before the 2004 election, when clearly things were not progressing, and are still not progressing.

General Petraeus himself stated that the surge's main goal is political reconciliation. All the evidence out there right now points to a complete failure in that sphere. It doesn't matter what happened in Anbar. That is not the point of the "surge." The surge was all about what happened in Baghdad, in the Green Zone between politicians, and clearly that has been a complete failure. Why does the general get up and testify in front of Congress that the surge is "progressive?"

Furthermore, and this is where I am really pissed at the Democrats, why doesn't ANYONE ask the good general what the original stated goals of the surge are and why they have not been met yet? Why are we letting him and his boss get away with lowered expectations and moving goal posts? Is this really how we want things done?

I should add, I'm not a pacifist. I am all for a justified war. Iraq was never a justified war, and still isn't. We really no longer need to be there.

Posted by: Dan at September 11, 2007 04:19 PM

Dan: Why are we letting him [Petraeus] and his boss get away with lowered expectations and moving goal posts? Is this really how we want things done?

The last thing the military needs is a major crisis of confidence back home. It's already bad enough as it is.

If I had to guess, I'd say Petraeus is "moving goal posts" because he doesn't want to admit failure after a short time, and sincerely believes he can make it work if given more time.

The military might be subordinate to the political echelon, but they're people, too. They don't like to risk their lives for nothing. And they especially don't like to admit defeat after a short time.

Posted by: Edgar at September 11, 2007 04:25 PM

Michael Totten, thanks for a very good article. You are one of the best at this game.

Your archive of articles is also very good.

If I can ask a question, did you notice any difference in quality between IA 1-7 (1st Brig 7th Iraqi Army Division) and IA 1-1 (1st Brig 1st Iraqi Army Division)? Both are or were based in greater Ramadi.

The IA 1-1 is widely regarded as top of the line, and gets along very well with the US military. I presume that this was you observation as well. However, they are majority Shia. Did their Shiite composition cause any concern among the locals?

Are the locals comfortable with Al Anbar “PIC” in January, as per Gen Petraeus’ testimony in Congress? (And the pull-out of the Marines)

After PIC, The Al Anbaris will be left alone with the IA. Are they looking forward to this?

Please feel free to not answer anything that might get you into trouble.

Posted by: anand at September 11, 2007 04:27 PM

Let me attempt to clarify my point.

I'm not calling Kucinich a traitor, I'm simply responding to Russ's complaint that too many people call Democrats traitors when debating the war.

The problem I'm trying to point out is that Democrat politicians bring a lot of the abuse on themselves and the foolish behavior by Kucinich is a prime example.

It is one thing to stand on the floor of Congress and argue against the war, criticize the strategy, etc., etc.

It is quite another thing, indeed, to travel to a country that is actively working to undermine American efforts in the war by supporting those who are killing our people, and to appear on TV in that nation and call the American war effort an illegal operation.

Those on the left may not see this as a big distinction, but when elected officials travel abroad they need to spend more time representing our country, rather than their private partisan agenda. Kucinich's behavior was beyond the pale and I'd personally kick the little weasels ass if given the chance.

The Democrats also open themselves to attack when Congressional leadership readily admits that it would not be good for the party's political prospects if Petraeus delivered good news. To many Americans, that tells us the Democrat party is more interested in reaping political points with the war than they are in defending the country.

Hence, it becomes very easy to question the motives of the Democrats.

Long story short, if the Dems don't like how they are being portrayed then they need to stop providing so much ammunition to those ready to throw around the traitor label.

And no Dan, I don't consider you a traitor, hopelessly naive perhaps, but not a traitor.

As for Kucinich, the woodland creature description seems apt.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 11, 2007 04:28 PM

Michael,

I reserve the right to advocate a withdrawal from Iraq without being labeled a traitor. There's a real chance I will do exactly that if the surge looks bad next year.

I'm not going to call you a traitor if you advocate a withdrawal in the face of military failure. If I catch Saint Cindy the Absolute Moral Authority planting IEDs in the route of a US military convoy (which is unlikely to happen), I get to call her all kinds of names...starting with corpse.

When I say harm, I mean harm, not hurt feelings. Explosions, wrecked infrastructure, piles of dead citizens, ruined machinery, economic catastrophe, and the like. Brian De Palma and Mark Cuban's punishment is that they are going to lose money on an unpopular film. They get to make the movie and I get to picket outside the theater; neither one of us is a traitor for our actions.

People forget that thirty-seven years ago we had young idiots breaking into National Guard armories and stealing automatic weapons and robbing banks to facilitate a revolution. There are an uncomfortably large number of people today who love the scintillating thrill of setting a lodestone by their moral compass and not all of them are chat room blowhards.

The romantic thrill of being in love beyond reason with a desperate cause is enough that people will hurt their own countries to keep up the feeling. This has happened and will happen again. When it does, we get to call the perpetrators traitors for the harm they have intended or done.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 05:07 PM

Dogwood: The Democrats also open themselves to attack when Congressional leadership readily admits that it would not be good for the party's political prospects if Petraeus delivered good news. To many Americans, that tells us the Democrat party is more interested in reaping political points with the war than they are in defending the country.

Are they traitors, Dogwood?

Speak up for yourself.

Don't be a "weasel" and hide behind "those ready to throw around the traitor label".

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 05:08 PM

No Creamy, they're not traitors, but they can't say crap like that and then whine about people questioning their patriotism. What do they think people are going to say?

It is a given in politics that your political opponents will take pot shots at you, but you are under no obligation to make it easy for them by handing out the ammunition.

The Democrats have been handing out the ammunition and then playing the "woe is me" victim card when it is used against them.

How hard is it not to kiss Assad's butt on a regular basis, especially when he is supporting an insurgency against your own troops? How hard is it not to talk about the political ramifications of the General's report in such a way that people believe the political implications are the only thing you care about?

There is a reason Congressional approval ratings are lower than the President's, and it has very little to do with our CongressCritters inability to bring the troops home overnight.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 11, 2007 05:33 PM

Creamy Goodness,

After the Civil War, when we had traitors in control of many of our states until they were destroyed militarily, politicians took extra care to maintain a thick boundary area between opposition and treason. It is not unreasonable to want a clear distance between opposition and treason and to call out warning when that distance is being thinned.

There are dangerous choices and positions being adopted by some of our politicians and political operatives. Some political activists have been found taking money from some of our enemies, and that whole Hsu thing is uncomfortably vague so far. It would be nice if there was a lot more room between opposition and treason. Regrettably, we are fighting a war with enemies who love nothing better than to confuse the gullible.

Apropos of the date, there are a lot of idiots out there utterly convinced that six years ago, the US government created the largest and most elaborate hoax ever perpetrated. These people are willing to believe that steel does not bend when heated under stress, they will believe a lot of garbage. It should be political suicide to entertain these fantasies, but Cynthia McKinney got back into office. That is a problem because people like that thin the boundaries between opposition and treason through idiocy and fervor.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 05:37 PM

TEHRAN (AFP) - The new head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned the United States Tuesday that Tehran has identified its “weak points” in Iraq and Afghanistan and would launch a crushing response to any attack.

The comments by Mohammad Ali Jaafari, appointed head of the elite force by the supreme leader just 10 days ago, come amid mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington over Iran’s controversial nuclear drive and its role in Iraq.

“The Revolutionary Guards have identified all the weak points of the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan and based on this have consolidated the defensive capabilities of the country,” General Jaafari said.

“And if the enemy wants to take any impudent action the Islamic republic will for sure give a decisive and teeth-breaking response,” he said, according to state broadcasting.

General Rahim Yahya Safavi, Jaafari’s predecessor and now special military advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had warned last week that the United States did not appreciate how at risk its troops were.

“It can not evaluate the vulnerability of its 200,000 troops in the region since we have accurately identified all of their camps,” said Safavi.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 11, 2007 05:42 PM

thanks for the story and pictures my son is on his second time around in Ramadi

Posted by: caron at September 11, 2007 06:16 PM

Tom in South Texas,

Thanks for posting this.

“It can not evaluate the vulnerability of its 200,000 troops in the region since we have accurately identified all of their camps,” said Safavi.

This means he's going to attack our logistics in Kuwait if we strike Iran, and possibly it will happen regardless if some Qods force junior officer gets his knickers in a twist. Probably they will also take a run at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as well. If Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are attacked, there is going to be a very active week in the Gulf and then the Islamic Republic is going to stop having expeditionary forces.

I suspect this individual has never led a brigade in combat and is politically, not militarily, gifted. I sincerely doubt he was selected for his willingness to advise restraint. This is problematic because he likely thinks he can do lasting harm on the US without his expeditionary forces being wiped out. He's been reading his own press releases and is not in touch with the uncertainties of combat.

It's been twenty years since Iran was engaged in a conventional war of significance, and I doubt this guy was a commander of regular troops. He probably sees this as an opportunity to replay the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel conflict on a grander scale. That would be a mistake.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 06:19 PM

Dan,

"..the surge's main point is political reconciliation."
"It doesn't matter what happened in Anbar. That is not the point of the "surge.""

Huh? So political reconciliation is the point, but only in the certain areas that you've picked out where it hasn't happened yet?

"Why are we letting him and his boss get away with lowered expectations and moving goal posts?"

Sounds to me you're the one "moving the goal posts."

Posted by: Joe at September 11, 2007 06:38 PM

Regrettable serendipity:

This guy is a traitor: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/070911/world/netherlands_axe_murder_1

A U.S. citizen has confessed to using an axe to kill a Dutch student after failing to find a soldier to attack, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The suspect, Carlos Hartmann, 41, of Tecumseh, Mich., has confessed to the Sept. 8 killing on a train platform in the southern city of Roosendaal, defence lawyer Peter Gremmen said.

Gremmen said Hartmann wanted to punish the Netherlands for its support of the war in Iraq.

Hartmann appeared before a judge Tuesday and was ordered held for another two weeks for investigation.

"He hates soldiers, and says that the army kills people, so it would be legitimate if he were also to kill someone . . . from the American military - or from its NATO allies," Gremmen said in a telephone interview.

This is an isolated incident, so far. But nobody in the anti-war movement is at risk of being court martialed for it. Yeah, the guy is crazy. Nope, there is no accountability on the left for inciting this kind of murderous hatred.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 06:52 PM

Mr. Totten: You I will respect, but you are reading me all wrong. It isn't principally that Dan is opposed to the war that infuriates. It is that it seems every time I come and read one of your excellent posts, Dan is quickly here with a counter post in which he blatantly and shamelessly misreports the content of your post. These acts of mischaracterization would infuriate me regardless of thier political slant. Dan does it so often, that it can not be considered to be mere accident. If some Hawk here was a reutine commenter and consistantly misrepresented your peices and put words in your mouth and made claims about the content of your posts which were entirely contrary to them, I would have good cause for suggestion he was someone's stooge as well.

"I criticized Israel's war against Hezbollah last year and was accused by some knee-jerker of being a Hezbollah agent -- even though Hezbollah threatened me with physical violence because of what I wrote about them."

You criticism and your bravery far exceed, but for the record I was critical of Israel's war as well and was likewise beratted for it. I'm not sure exactly what that demonstrates or doesn't.

"I will not let this sort of thing slide in my comments."

Very well. It's your comments, and I'd respect that even if I didn't think you a worthier candidate for a Pulitzer than anyone else I can think of. But the fact that Dan is of a different opinion of me about the war is not the problem. There are reasoned and respectable reasons for having opposed and opposing the war. The fact that he is wrong is not the problem. Everyone is wrong about various things. The fact that he is wrong in a way which it is impossible for me to see how someone could be wrong unless it were a conscious decision to spread perfidy.

One can oppose the war without feeling need to come here reflexively and attempt to roll a paintroller over what you said. Opposition to the war does not depend on claiming in contridiction to all plausible limits of reading comprehension that "in your piece the only mention is that al-Qaeda destroyed this or that".

I am amazed by your tolerance of such activity. Dan is using you and the platform you give him to create authority for his position, and his position - however artfully or tactfully cloaked - paints you as rancidly as I painted him. Do you think that just because his mischaracterizations are set her beside yours rather than in some distanctly removed place like say a newspaper that they are somehow rendered less dangerous to narrative you are risking your life to try to tell? Why the hell are you doing it if you don't care how you are libeled or how your content is deconstructed?

You'd be better off with no comments at all. I'd happily surrender that right if it meant not reading all the counter-spin.

Posted by: celebrim at September 11, 2007 07:36 PM

celebrim,

Clearly, it seems it is only your way or the high way. Please. The debates we have here on Michael's blog are of much higher quality than on any partisan blog (mine including), because here both sides get to actually converse with each other. Do you even realize how few sites have that occurring? Firedoglake is basically all liberal. Redstate is all conservative. These are the kinds of conversations we should be having; the kind where two sides don't agree, but try to find some way through the obfuscating politics.

We have for too long in the blogosphere stuck with our "own kind" and all the straw men and incorrect assumptions about the "other side" that when conversing with our opponents, we discover they are not quite the demons we keep pretending they are.

Posted by: Dan at September 11, 2007 07:53 PM

Joe,

Dan's in sync with George Will:

"...the surge has failed, as measured by the president's and Petraeus's standards of success."

But I'm not sure how much I care about that with regards to this dispatch.

The story of the Anbar Awakening is important and heartening, both as a possible turning point for the Sunnis of Iraq and as an un-looked-for military success. I'm grateful to MJT for bringing it to us. Let us hope for the Anbaris' sake that their rejection of Al Qaeda is lasting and that their community never descends into such despair and depravity again.

I'm also grateful to the men and women of our military for turning an unexpected opportunity into a victory. There's an element of luck, of being in the right place at the right time when the Sunnis of Anbar awoke... but what is also clear is that we had the right strategy, and more than anything the right people: alert, tough, humane.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 08:27 PM

Patrick,

At the risk of stating the obvious...

Anti-war doesn't mean pro-axe-murderer.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 08:58 PM

Creamy Goodness,

Anti-war doesn't mean pro-axe-murderer.

You're right, the anti-war movement has strongly held principles that stand strongly behind the concept of "LALALALALA...I can't hear you...it didn't happen!"

I'm sorry, but if this had been a veteran there would have been an ocean of blame towards the unthinking hatred caused by the military.

I got to watch the anti-war movement break my father because he tried to maintain integrity and a clear moral vision. I've had over thirty years to watch the degeneration of that community.

This should be a watershed moment in the anti-war movement where they take a serious look at the effect their rhetoric has on people. Based on what you are saying and the lack of leadership in the community, I just don't think that will happen. Innocent people are being killed by the irresponsibility of the anti-war movement, and that is a huge problem. There needs to be a reckoning.

I am not pro-collateral damage, but I've got Dan bringing up irresponsible aerial bombing every fifth post like I was Curtis LeMay on a bender.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 09:18 PM

Patrick,

I got to watch the anti-war movement break my father because he tried to maintain integrity and a clear moral vision.

This could potentially be very interesting and poignant. Would you be willing to elaborate?

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 11, 2007 09:39 PM

MJT,

Dan is only a troll in "loyal opposition" clothing. Dan and people like him merely couch their cynicism of our military and industrial involvement around the world in terms of intellectual curiosity for the purpose of camouflage and disassembly. War is hellish, messy, and certainly full of mistakes. The Anbar Awakening, while a beginning, may also be a means to an end in spite of our mistakes and ersatz enemy propagandists like Dan.

Posted by: John at September 11, 2007 09:54 PM

Dan: Doesn't address a think I said in either post. Drasticly mischaracterizes what you do here, which is not elevate the level of debate. Drasticly mischaracterizes what happens here, which is fairly typical of the net everywhere. Elevating the level of debate involves a bit more than just the superior air of refinement, but things alot more basic like reading for understanding - something that in post after post you've failed to do. These are not the sort of conversations we should be having because they are not productive. The rudeness and demonizing is not the obstacle to a productive conversation. To people can scream at each other and have a productive conversation. But what they have to do is listen. You manifestly don't.

Posted by: celebrim at September 11, 2007 10:17 PM

Celebrim and John,

I've had so many commenters here who are more difficult to have a conversation with than Dan that I can't put him in even the same time zone with those people.

Maybe it's because I'm married to a liberal, and most of my friends are liberal, and I spent most of my adulthood as a liberal, and I'm still at least one-third liberal myself that Dan doesn't push my buttons. And I understand exactly where he is coming from because I have been there myself.

Dan is a decent person horrified by the Iraq war. Fine. What's to like about the Iraq war? It's shit. I think sticking around is necessary, but it's still a bad scene over there and not going anywhere nearly as well as I expected it would when we started.

Dan isn't a troll. A troll is someone who shows up here just to piss people off.

For example, Daveo:

Americans are the most wasteful, desstructive dangerous animals on this planet. While I definitely found this a heart-warming story, the slant is disgusting and dishonest.

Daveo is banned. He is a troll.

Dan, on the other hand, put me on his blogroll. Trolls don't put me on their blogroll.

I am perfectly comfortable with disagreement, and I want people who don't agree with me to feel welcome here as long as they aren't jerks about it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 10:39 PM

Dan: We have for too long in the blogosphere stuck with our "own kind" and all the straw men and incorrect assumptions about the "other side" that when conversing with our opponents, we discover they are not quite the demons we keep pretending they are.

This is exactly right.

Almost everyone I know is a liberal. Even though I'm not really a liberal anymore, it irritates me to hear most of my friends and family get lumped in with traitors.

I'm not really a conservative either, but it irritates me to no end to get lumped in with conservatives by people who simultaneously dismiss conservatives as war-mongering imperialist monsters who kill brown people so they can steal oil.

Everyone needs to calm down about the "other" side in politics.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 10:44 PM

Creamy Goodness,

This could potentially be very interesting and poignant. Would you be willing to elaborate?

Towards the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, the anti-war movement lost its way. My father's friends started screwing around with their students and parishioners. (Dad was a campus minister at the time.) The moral cohesion and the sense of committed service went out the door, taking a band of brothers and left a bunch of self-indulgent twits behind. The "movement" kept requiring various moral sacrifices and delivering no moral victories.

My father wrote a three hour play about it that I read when I was a teenager. It harrowed my soul and really made me look hard at the anti-war mentality. The same family friends who were profound in their opposition to the Vietnam war went on to be banal in their opposition to nuclear power and deranged in their pursuit of UFO truth.

When another family friend, a minister in Berkley sexually assaulted my teenage sister and another teenage daughter of another friend, nothing was done to expose his disease for years. Sexual predation was an acceptable price for solidarity of the movement.

These are some of the covered-up failures I know of in a small group of only relatively influential anti-war activists. I am forced to assume that this "We Will Not Be Moved" mentality sheltered unknown thousands of deviants and creeps around the world. The utter lack of transparency of the anti-war movement is due in no small part to the Hoover FBI and other national police efforts to infiltrate, but it provided a haven for evil people as well. What's more, it allowed itself to be repeatedly suckered by a huge range of con artists.

If you want to act on good intentions, you should be very clear about the consequences of your actions. If you keep to the same policy indefinitely, somebody will come around and exploit your lack of imagination. I'm not seeing the intelligent restraint necessary for effective action in the anti-war movement, and I've been watching it all my life.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 11, 2007 10:58 PM

For context of what Patrick wrote above, his father was a leftist and a pacifist until the day he died. He was not any kind of conservative, despite what you might think from Pat's explanation.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:06 PM

Mr. Totten: There aren't two sides. 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' don't adequately describe even the things that the purport to describe, much less divide us in two.

You quote this favorably:

"We have for too long in the blogosphere stuck with our "own kind" and all the straw men and incorrect assumptions about the "other side" that when conversing with our opponents, we discover they are not quite the demons we keep pretending they are."

And I see a very nifty strawman and deflection. The opening premise, that the blogosphere is some sort of echo chamber, is demonstratably false. There are a few hyperpartisan sites that do ban any dissenting opinion, but generally speaking all political blog comment sections look alot like this one: you have a majoritarian opinion and a few people who regularly irritate the rest of them and a few drive by trolls. So, right from the first statement, its not 'exactly right'. Rather, it is to borrow the phrase, a nice 'fake but accurate' argument. It actually has no bearing on reality, but as a story, it would be so nice to believe that that is true.

All we are saying, is give dialogue a chance, right? That always works doesn't it? The more we learn about people, the nicer they always turn out to be, right?

You are being conned. It's an old con, but it is a good one. And you are wrong about the definition of a troll. Look it up. A troll isn't there to piss people off. A troll is there to garner attention to himself. The troll's primary goal isn't to get people angry. It's to be the center of attention in every thread (as yes, I'm doing now). It just so happens that offering flame bait (as I did), is one way to do it. But it isn't the only way to do it, or if you are clever necessarily the best way. It's just a proven fast method.

Dan is, in every one of your posts from Iraq, saying exactly the same thing Daveo did, only he's polite about it. He's better at crafting a dismissive counter narrative. He's calling you a partisan hack, but he's polite about it. But that isn't what bothers me. What bothers is his practice of rewriting your story, and saying that you said something you didn't, or didn't say something you did. Daveo wouldn't get away with it, because he isn't clever, anymore than one might get away with saying, "Mr. Totten openly supports a Bush dictatorship in this peice." because the claim is so extraordinary that people would naturally require that interesting peice of evidence for themself. They would go back and fact check him, or they'd note to themselves that they'd remember something like that if they'd actually read it. Dan is smarter than that. He make innocous ordinary claims about what you said, so that people don't fact check him by rereading your peice. And those claims are false. And He does it repeatedly.

Look, ban me if you want. Check your records, I'm not a regular poster here. A few times, yes, but never an attempt to dominate a thread before now. It won't bother me if you shut me down. But do think about this. Go reread Dan's little volleys, and see whether or not the pattern I mention hold's true. See if he can avoid the little continual mischaracterizations in the future, and ask yourself what it suggests if he can't.

Posted by: celebrim at September 11, 2007 11:22 PM

Celebrim, Dan isn't trying to dominate the thread. I asked him once to stop posting so much because he was dominating a thread, and he politely complied.

If Dan annoys you that much, just ignore him.

I do not enjoy moderating the comments, nor do I enjoy explaining over and over again why I have to ban some people and why I don't ban people more often. I can't please everybody. Please give it a rest.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 11, 2007 11:29 PM

Thanks for the portrait, Patrick.

... and as my request wasn't made in a debating context, I yield the balance of my time.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 12, 2007 12:01 AM

Creamy Dan;

Axe-murders, pissing oil all over the Vietnam Memorial, defacing other memorials around the country, consorting with Syrian Baathists ... seems like extremist violent ideological subversion to me. Against which, I think, you'll be hard put to find much of a list of stupid petty right-wing abuses.

glassnuts;
Please, enough with the downloading and parroting of the AMS. It was Saddam's zoo of pet Sunni imams used to give him cover, who have zero credibility outside of their traditional Baathist coterie. As has been detailed elsewhere, the attacks and "insurgency" across Iraq and especially Anbar conformed to AQI tactics and techniques, and not at all to RLE patterns. They began fading from the onset, and were largely absorbed or supplanted.

In any case, one of Petraeus' major strengths is his ability to hold his goals, purposes, policies and plans in the face of apparent overwhelming odds, while simultaneously exploiting opportunity and alternate routings when they appear. And the "bottom-up" vs. "top-down" reconciliation process is a biggie; it may turn out to be a major blessing, and shows signs of forcing the hands of the Baghdad coteries to "reconcile" and compromise. I predict a scramble to find the head of the parade and "lead" it!

Posted by: Brian H at September 12, 2007 12:09 AM

So are all those complaining about being unfairly called "traitors" going to denounce MoveOn for their "Petraeus betray us" ad?

Posted by: Gary Rosen at September 12, 2007 12:21 AM

That is a good question, Gary. What an atrocious ad. What a ridiculous group.

They obviously have no idea how much that kind of crap annoys the bejeezus out of the military and people who support the military.

My mother opposed and still opposes the war in Iraq and she is absolutely aghast at that kind of thing. She just cannot believe it when she runs into Americans with that kind of fat-headed attitude.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 12, 2007 12:28 AM

Michael,

For context of what Patrick wrote above, his father was a leftist and a pacifist until the day he died. He was not any kind of conservative, despite what you might think from Pat's explanation.

My father was faithful to my mother for fifty years of marriage. That's how I know that people who conflate their sexuality with their politics are full of crap. You can be far to the left and a decent human being, caring father, and faithful husband. The people I saw to the left disintegrate their families tended to be susceptible to other kinds of failings in their politics. (See above re: nuclear power opposition and UFO truth. He was a football bat with his family and his ideology.)

Similarly, Dad was relaxed about other people's drug use, except when they let it destroy their lives. I remember when cocaine was supposed to be non-addictive. Dad told us that everybody who told him that also went on to say that they would do anything to get it. Dad didn't use drugs, but I was exposed to a lot of people who used drugs while I was growing up. I became progressively more intolerant about drug use as I grew up and watched drug users grow down. Getting to watch Dad quit smoking and drinking was another educational opportunity.

My goodness, weren't the 1970s a great time to grow up and learn what not to do with your life?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 12, 2007 01:53 AM

So are all those complaining about being unfairly called "traitors" going to denounce MoveOn for their "Petraeus betray us" ad?

I don't think anybody's accused me, personally, of being a traitor in this thread — only of giving aid and comfort to axe murderers.

Nevertheless...

It is an honor to be charged with defending General David Petraeus against absurd and moronic accusations of treason by MoveOn, and I derive only slightly less pleasure from the act than I do from defending far less popular targets against similar accusations. Scurrilous cries of "traitor!" are the tactic of weak and the desperate. Whether they emanate from right to left or left to right, they reveal nothing about the accused but much about the accuser.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 12, 2007 02:28 AM

Exactly who is Petraeus throwing us over for? I'm really unclear on that point, and it's important.

I don't think the Russians want him, because he'll never be their man, and his only usable skill worth having is running a multi-corps counter-insurgency effort. Not that they couldn't use some help in Chechnya, but I can't see them offering the position to a US Army guy.

Similarly, I don't think the Iranians are interested in his services. If you've been following the hearings you'll note that he hasn't been praising Allah every five minutes, and how can you lead a military in the Islamic Republic with such an attitude.

For similar reasons, I just don't see AQ picking him up as a free agent.

Gen. Petraeus isn't even backing the traditional Army groups in such a way that his actions could be honestly described as supporting the old boys network at the expense of the country.

There are a whole lot more groups I could insult on this line, but the whole point is that the whole betrayal aspect is lousy logic. Unless, you know, supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic is viewed as a betrayal by MoveOn...

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 12, 2007 04:10 AM

As usual great reporting MJT ;-)

Posted by: mystery at September 12, 2007 05:52 AM

So are all those complaining about being unfairly called "traitors" going to denounce MoveOn for their "Petraeus betray us" ad?

Not going to be done by the Democratic leadership, that's for sure. They are too afraid of offending their grassroots supporters, and besides, they are just being the "loyal opposition" to an unpopular war, so there are no boundaries that can't be crossed.

If anyone in leadership does condemn the ad, it will probably be in a press release that is quietly posted to their website, but never emailed to reporters. Doing so can provide them with cover if needed at some point in the future.

You also could ask if anyone is going to denounce this:

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the ad "outrageous and deplorable."

She cited an article in Friday's Politico newspaper that contained a quote from an anonymous Democratic senator: "No one wants to call (Petraeus) a liar on national TV. The expectation is that the outside groups will do this for us."

Back to the original point I was trying to make, the left has to conduct itself with some restraint, if it doesn't then they can't complain about how they are portrayed or labeled by their loyal opposition.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 12, 2007 06:04 AM

Michael,

Bill Ardolino published an interview with his Fallujan interpreter here:

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/09/resistance_is_a_norm.php

Thought you would find it of interest.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 12, 2007 06:58 AM

Exactly who is Petraeus throwing us over for? I'm really unclear on that point, and it's important.

Many on the left believe that the war is unwinnable and want it over with ASAP for the sake of their country, but fear the domestic political consequences if Iraq blows up on a Democratic president's watch. They believe that the Republican political elite shares their bleak assessment, but will successfully carry through a cynical stalling tactic, at the cost of many US servicepeople's lives, to shunt the blame onto the Democrats.

Petraeus is supposedly complicit in this stalling scheme, though the MoveOn ad does not explicitly say so, instead merely enumerating conflicts between some of his past and present statements. His understandable but perhaps unfortunate decision to limit the severe grilling to his congressional testimony and consent to interviews only by the friendly Fox news channel adds to the suspicion that he has a partisan agenda.

Since I'm not a politician, I don't have to be circumspect in expressing my view on this topic: one would have to be incredibly naive to think that such considerations do not factor into decision-making by all actors at the national political level, regardless of party affiliation. However, our representatives are all constrained by our system of electoral competition, laws and institutions and also to an extent by biologically innate human social traits in their ability to follow through on such devious plans.

I think the lie is put to the MoveOn smear simply by examining Petraeus's own naked self-interest. He isn't going to have a future political career if Iraq fails, regardless of timing; he wouldn't have taken on the incredibly difficult role he has only to sacrifice himself for Republican damage control. Instead, I think Michael Yon's vivid "I can still fly this thing!" characterization is on the money, as is this assessment by Juan Cole:

I'm a severe skeptic on the likelihood of anything that looks like success in Iraq. But I don't think career public servants such as Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus are acting as partisan Republicans in their Iraq efforts. I think they both are sincere, experienced men attempting to retrieve what they can for America from Bush's catastrophe. They may as well try, since the Democrats can't over-rule Bush and get the troops out, anyway. If the troops are there, they may as well at least be deployed intelligently, which is what Gen. Petraeus is doing.

Incidentally, a similar examination of naked self-interest leads me to the conclusion that Bush did not knowingly lie about WMD. The political consequences of the failure to find WMD have been devastating and profound. We have to look elsewhere when determining how to avoid making such catastrophic errors in the future.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 12, 2007 07:52 AM

Very well stated celebrim.

Posted by: Rob at September 12, 2007 07:59 AM

I actually met the General once. He is an honorable man. For Moveon.org to make that vile comment about him is offensive to the point of nasuea. I find it offensive because if he is "supposedly betrayed the nation" that would mean I played a part in it since I was part of overall mission in Iraq. With all the DUMB things I hear liberals say concerning the war, thinking they are making a point, but they should see us in the sand watching TV when the crap they put out gets to us on AFRTS. We are the ones who feel BETRAYED!! I must say before this war I had no real political thought but after experiencing people calling me a terrorist and the vile things the democrats are saying. I must say I have no respect for the party any longer. That includes Murtha for "Selling out" the very institution he served in. Just to make a political point. Now he can take a long walk off a short cliff.

Posted by: Preston Smith III at September 12, 2007 08:15 AM

The National Review in 2005: "We're Winning"
The National Review in 2007: "Stay"

courtesy of Think Progress.

General David Petraeus in September 2004:

Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up. The institutions that oversee them are being reestablished from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously in the face of an enemy that has shown a willingness to do anything to disrupt the establishment of the new Iraq.

And you wonder why I have a hard time accepting his words in his testimony this week.

Posted by: Dan at September 12, 2007 09:02 AM

Dan,

You haven't posted anything that would potray him as a hypocrite or a liar.

Posted by: Preston Smith III at September 12, 2007 09:37 AM

Micheal,
Thanks for this article. I am a military wife with a husband currently stationed in the Anbar providence. It feels so good to be able to read an article about that area that does not focus on how many of our troops lost their lives, or how many civilians we killed. This article is very indept and explains so many questions I have had. I love reading about what has and is happening in an unbiased way. I will be e-mailing a link to this article to my fellow wives. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this insight to our soliers lives, hardships they face, and the lives of the Iraqi's in that area.

Posted by: Tosha at September 12, 2007 09:43 AM

Preston,

All I'm saying is that he has consistently said things are "getting better" in Iraq when it sure doesn't look that way. I don't mind having a sunny disposition and high optimism about the job you do, but please, be realistic. He would do a better job convincing skeptical people if he were to lay it out as it is.

Posted by: Dan at September 12, 2007 09:48 AM

Dan either didn't read the entire column, or he is cherry picking, or he doesn't remember the context in which these comments were made.

Petraeus also said:

Although there have been reverses -- not to mention horrific terrorist attacks -- there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security, something they are keen to do. The future undoubtedly will be full of difficulties, especially in places such as Fallujah. We must expect setbacks and recognize that not every soldier or policeman we help train will be equal to the challenges ahead.

He finished the column with these words:

There will be more tough times, frustration and disappointment along the way. It is likely that insurgent attacks will escalate as Iraq's elections approach. Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition -- and now NATO -- support, this trend will continue. It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.

These are hardly the words of a man blinded by optimism. Petraeus knew then, and knows now, how difficult is the job at hand.

Also keep in mind that things began to unravel rather quickly once the Golden Mosque was bombed in February 2006, just months after national elections, sending sectarian violence to new levels. (Remember, the enemy gets a vote, too.)

You also need to put his words in context.

If memory serves me correctly, the left's criticism of the war in late 2005 was that Iraqis were not doing their share of the fighting, and if they expected us to stay around, then they needed to step up their combat operations.

Petraeus' column clearly is an attempt to address those critics with some facts from the front, i.e., Iraqis are being trained and sent into combat where they are becoming more efficient and effective everyday.

He was accurate then and he is accurate now.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 12, 2007 10:16 AM

He would do a better job convincing skeptical people if he were to lay it out as it is.---Dan

With all due respect, this is purely disingenuous.

This statement implies(or perhaps more accurately, distinctly says) that Petraeus is either willfully or cluelessly 'distorting' the obvious facts to suit a personal agenda and a political goal. And it is frankly different only in 'tone' to the reprehensible Move-On Garbage that has been fully castigated here previously.

Either Petraeus is 'deceitful' or 'clueless'. A dastardly manipulator, or a well-meaning but mistaken simpleton. Rephrasing the Move-On 'argument' does not make it more 'palatable'. Simply more 'subtle' and 'deniable. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

I think he did lay it out clearly. Times are tough, the outcome is clearly not a 'slam-dunk', but the 'trends' are better than they have been in the recent past. He 'thinks' he can succeed, believes that he must do so for the future of the US, and wants 9 more months to prove his proposition. Seems 'realistic' to me.

You don't think he was 'realistic' because you don't agree with his conclusions. And frankly you would not agree with his conclusions even if he was 'realistic' in the sense that you attach to the term. In fact if anything you would be even more opposed.

Posted by: dougf at September 12, 2007 10:19 AM

Mr. Totten,
Thank you for that article. It verifies some things I was hoping are true, and identifies some unexpected factors that are helpful to our efforts in Iraq.
It is a glimpse at the conflict which engenders encouragement for those who (like me) are not 'pro war', but who are irrevocably 'pro victory'.

I have read the entire 'trailer' of comments, and have nothing to add to the two main opinions expressed by the left and right loyalists. The fact that I find your article 'encouraging' obviously places me in the right camp.

My interest was piqued (enough to actually leave a comment here) by the discussion of what constitutes a 'troll'.
Dan's remarks are considered troll-like by some, and other contributors have been named as possible candidates for the title. It was even mentioned that Dan is good at trolling because he is clever enough to camoflage his 'message' by reshaping the contents of your writings.

I am not a 'blogger', so I don't really understand the true definition of trolls, flamers, and other blog creatures. But I can recognize it when a poster quietly plants a seed in the hope that it will grow (fester?) into the thought pattern he wishes the reader to adopt.

I feel the most subtle 'discouraging word' left by the contributors was the post by Microraptor.

With a twenty-year military career behind me, and having been involved in countless incidents of 'inter-service rivalry', I am convinced that you correctly portrayed the quoted exchange as what it was.
But Microraptor would have us use our imaginations...imaginations which have been colored by decidedly uncomplimentary news stories...to deduce the actual meaning of 'different' when it is used by an Army member to describe a Marine.

Like an unnoticed weed seed falling in a rose bed, Microraptor's insinuation may already have borne fruit in those gardens where the flowers lean left.

I'm just taking the opportunity to mention it, in case the gardener would prefer to erradicate the infestation which can grow from such a subtle planting.

Posted by: montana_charlie at September 12, 2007 10:39 AM

Dan,

I can understand your fustration and whatnot. You have a right to have gripes about this war. But there have been mistakes made in every war the US has been involved in clear back to the Revolutionary War. But the General has always told the good, bad and ugly parts about this theatre. I know people are at the point where they will be willing to say or do almost anything to end this war, but after hearing his presentation along with the Ambassador's, everyone with a clear thinking mind knows that it just cant happen the way Code pink wants it to happen.

Posted by: Preston Smith III at September 12, 2007 10:54 AM

I agree that what Kucinich did does not rise to the level of treason. I do not agree that it should be dismissed as the mere silliness of a clown. He speaks for an apparently small but increasingly influential percentage of the Democratic Party. He is an elected representative running for the Democratic nomination and has gone to the soil of a ruthless dictator, who is the close idealogical relative of our deposed enemy, Saddam, and is actively assisting both the enemies killing our soldiers and those killing Israeli soldiers and is a staunch ally of the Iranians who are also killing our soldiers. For such a person to denounce the war from Syrian soil does not seem a whole lot different than for an American congressman to have gone to Vichy France and denounced FDR and the war effort in WWII. Such a thing was seldom tolerated by either party until Viet Nam and the wonders and pathologies of the New Left infiltrated our society. Now it seems seldom worthy of comment or censure.

Posted by: Barney Frank at September 12, 2007 10:54 AM

Dan said:

All I'm saying is that he has consistently said things are "getting better" in Iraq when it sure doesn't look that way.

Gee, if the Sunnis teaming with the Americans to kick AQI out of their self-declared national "capital" isn't an example of things "getting better", I don't know what is.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 12, 2007 11:07 AM

For such a person to denounce the war from Syrian soil does not seem a whole lot different than for an American congressman to have gone to Vichy France and denounced FDR and the war effort in WWII.

I agree. The thing is, I know how people like Kucinich think because I know many many people just like him. They don't see it the way you and I do. To them Syria doesn't look anything like Vichy France because they know precious little about what the Syrian regime does and must continue to do to stay in power. They know nothing of Syrian politics. Almost all of them think the government of Syria is made of Muslims, or at least secular Muslims.

Nancy Pelosi proved her own ignorance. She has no idea that dressing like a conservative Muslim (wearing a hijab) while meeting a regime that is basically at war with the conservative Muslims in its own country is offensive as well as stupid.

Nancy Pelosi went to Syria convinced that the Syrians want peace. She's a liberal who projects and thinks government figures around the rest of the world are like government figures in our own country. She is painfully naive. As is Dennis Kucinich.

Bashar Assad is smart enough to say he wants peace, and he knows some people will take that at face value. Don't all people want peace? (No.) Even non-lefties in Israel fall for it.

It's more complicated even than that, though. Assad, in a sense, is the ultimate appeaser himself. The Alawites are considered heretics by Muslims (except temporarily for politically expedient reasons they've been dubbed Shias, which they aren't), and the Muslim Brotherhood is famously opposed to their regime in Damascus. Assad's father flattened an entire city in his fight against them. Assad Junior now champions these people against Israel and the U.S. in Iraq so he can export the jihad and get it off his back. He, too, is naive if he thinks feeding that alligator really means he will be eaten last. I'll bet even he is privately disturbed by what happened in Gaza. He's trapped now in a political strategy of his own design. If he does anything other than export his jihadis, they will eat him. Occasionally I feel sorry for him.

The only way to get him on our side is to beat the jihad, guarantee his regime, and hand him Lebanon.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 12, 2007 11:35 AM

Dan: All I'm saying is that he has consistently said things are "getting better" in Iraq when it sure doesn't look that way.

Michael Smith: Gee, if the Sunnis teaming with the Americans to kick AQI out of their self-declared national "capital" isn't an example of things "getting better", I don't know what is.

It depends when you begin measuring progress. The problem is that with such a complicated war, it's possible to present almost anything as "progress."

You can say things are better now than they were in 2003 because Saddam is gone, for example.

Petraeus wasn't being dishonest at all. As far as I understand, he said things have gotten better since he took charge . And he's right. Things are better in some regions (like Anbar province, as you have all seen).

Am I missing something?

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 11:45 AM

MJT: She has no idea that dressing like a conservative Muslim (wearing a hijab) while meeting a regime that is basically at war with the conservative Muslims in its own country is offensive as well as stupid.

Well, how do you know this for sure? Maybe she was wearing it in solidarity with the oppressed Muslims of Syria.

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 11:49 AM

"With all due respect..."

This phrase has turned up repeatedly in this thread. I would like to address the subject of, "With all due respect..." because it bears on the question of whether I was over the top in my initial volley.

My favor author is JRRT. (Can you tell?) He is an author who is far more subtle than he is often given credit for. One of the things Tolkien addressses is the difference between being the thing and seeming to be the thing. That is, he's getting at the nature of truth and falseness. He does this in alot of ways, but one of the ways he does it is with the structure of a character's language, and one of his favorite amusements is playing with the notion of what is a polite and honest turn of phrase.

In the beginning of the Hobbit, Bilbo greets Gandalf with a series of 'Good mornings!'. To this, Gandalf is very courious about exactly what Bilbo means - something that Biblo doesn't seem to have given much thought. In the end, Gandalf exclaims, "What a lot of uses you have for 'Good morning'. Now you mean that you wish for me to go away, and it won't be a good morning until I do." In other words, Bilbo has maintained the form of civility and friendliness, but he has ceased to be the thing itself.

Why do people do this? Tolkien gives the answer repeatedly in the text that people desire to be things that they do not wish it known, even to themselves, that they desire. For example, we may desire to be very rude and in fact very objectively are being very rude, but we don't want people or even ourselves to think about how rude and nasty we are actually being, so we cloak our nasty rude thinking in the semblence of civility so that we can be as rude and nasty as we like while appearing to be something else. We can look fair while being foul.

It is absolutely not at all important whether we look fair or not. What matters is being the thing in actuality. No matter how we dress our language in the semblence of honest, fair, and civil debate, if we aren't actually being honest, generous, fair, and civil then its just as good to be shrieking profanities.

Phrases like, 'With all due respect...', are phrases we should be careful of, because we put them to too many uses. What does the phrase really mean? Does it mean, "I truly respect you, but I must contridict you here." Does it mean, "I think you are slime, and now I want to say why."? Most of the time I think it means, "I intend to be very rude here shortly, but I don't want people to think of me as the sort of person who is rude." Often it means, "I need some plausible deniability for what I'm about to do..."

Do not be like Sam Gamgee who is all the time saying things like, "I don't mean to put myself forward..." just when he's doing the very thing he says that he isn't. I'd far rather you were blunt and honest than deal with a web of deceit, pretence, and falseness.

Anyway, I hope this explains why things that I find over the top are often slightly different than what other people look for. I'll respect the rules about what can and can't be said. But that's as far as I go with that.

Posted by: celebrim at September 12, 2007 11:57 AM

celebrim: This phrase has turned up repeatedly in this thread. I would like to address the subject of, "With all due respect..."

I like "no offence" even better.

"No offence, but you're a f----ing idiot," etc.

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 12:16 PM

How do you know the Mrs. Pelosi or Mr. Kucinich is ignorant? You see, you have provided evidence which can be interpreted in several ways. One possible way to interpret it is ignorance, and perhaps that is the most generous interpretation. But ignorance is not the only possible explanation and not always a credible one. So, we are back to where I started from. How can I tell ignorant behavior from perverse behavior? What makes you so certain in this case? Is there such compelling evidence that Mrs. Pelosi or Mr. Kucinich are of good character, that ignorance and a lack of good judgment is a sound conclusion? And perhaps there is and I don't have the evidence to argue otherwise, but if there is in other cases repeated evidence of dishonest behavior as well, then it raises questions about whether we are jumping to conclusions when we pass things off as 'mere' ignorance.

Posted by: celebrim at September 12, 2007 12:18 PM

Don't take this personally, but...
I don't mean anything by it, but...

Posted by: Tom at September 12, 2007 12:22 PM

Michael:

As the older brother of one of the US military personel you spent time with, I wanted to publicly thank you for describing not only the conditions in which our servicemen and servicewomen work and fight, but also the heart with which they serve.

Thanks.

And to Dan and Katrina, "Ninnyhammers."

Posted by: David at September 12, 2007 12:32 PM

David: And to Dan and Katrina, "Ninnyhammers."

Wait, didn't you mean to say "With all due respect..." first?

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 12:36 PM

Celebrim,

Grima "Dan" Wormtongue is a recent graduate of the University of Saruman,Orthanc.

Can the West "see through a brick wall in time"?

The clock is ticking.

;]

Posted by: John at September 12, 2007 12:36 PM

"British forces have been sent from Basra to the volatile border with Iran amid warnings from the senior US commander in Iraq that Tehran is fomenting a 'proxy war'."

"In signs of a fast-developing confrontation, the Iranians have threatened military action in response to attacks launched from Iraqi territory while the Pentagon has announced the building of a US base and fortified checkpoints at the frontier."

"The UK operation, in which up to 350 troops are involved, has come at the request of the Americans, who say that elements close to the Iranian regime have stepped up supplies of weapons to Shia militias in recent weeks in preparation for attacks inside Iraq."

"The operation is regarded as a high-risk strategy which could lead to clashes with Iranian-backed Shia militias or even Iranian forces and also leaves open the possibility of Iranian retaliation in the form of attacks against British forces at the Basra air base or inciting violence to draw them back into Basra city. Relations between the two countries are already fraught after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards seized a British naval party in the Gulf earlier this year."

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 12, 2007 12:58 PM

"I intend to be very rude here shortly, but I don't want people to think of me as the sort of person who is rude." --celebrim

Well, with all respect --- :-), I personally feel that this verbal formulation is far superior to simply coming out and bluntly saying that "you're a f----ing idiot".

Now while I might well think often that the object of my 'respect' is indeed a f***ing idiot and should not be out and about without some form of close supervision, it probably does not advance my situation to so say unless it is absolutely required by circumstances.

It is considered to be transparently 'rude', and thus serves to objectively lessen what I actually then proceed to say. It may be 'honest' but if everyone in society were 'honest' 24-7, the streets would likely be filled with bodies by the end of the first week. 'Civility' is nothing but the term we use to describe the state that society requires in order to function on anything but the most rudimentary level.

Methinks ,in short, that ,with all due respect, you are being a triffle hard on with all due respect and its various partners in crime. They are simply social lubricants much like 'have a nice day' ,or 'how are you doing ?' I don't really care overly if you do have a 'nice day' after my best wishes, and I probably DON'T really want to know in detail, how you are truthfully doing.

Just little white lies to help the medicine go down.

Posted by: dougf at September 12, 2007 12:59 PM

celebrim,

Is there such compelling evidence that Mrs. Pelosi or Mr. Kucinich are of good character, that ignorance and a lack of good judgment is a sound conclusion? And perhaps there is and I don't have the evidence to argue otherwise, but if there is in other cases repeated evidence of dishonest behavior as well, then it raises questions about whether we are jumping to conclusions when we pass things off as 'mere' ignorance.

Stand up straight and put your accusations in plain language. Don't hide behind weasel words.

My opinion regarding Pelosi's trip to Syria is on record in MJT's archives, and it ain't complimentary. But now I'm compelled to defend her.

These cowardly, un-American, guilty-until-proven-innocent insinuations have got to go.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 12, 2007 01:09 PM

Questioning "movtives" is very Leninist. Be careful with that.

It's pretty obvious that some far-leftists like George Galloway are sinister people, but I have never seen any evidence whatsoever that Dennis Kucinich is an enemy sympathizer with sinister motives. It is just as obvious to me that he is a utopian liberal as it is obvious to me that George Galloway is a fascist. I've been a utopian liberal myself and I recognize the mindset instantly.

Compare Kucinich's talk of peace with Galloway's open praise of Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad.

Galloway glowing says that Syria is "the last castle of Arab nationalism" and that Syrians are "lucky" to have Bashar Assad as their president. He accepted payments from Saddam Hussein and the British Labor Party subsequently purged him. If you want to go hunting for traitors, look to the likes of him and leave the liberals alone.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 12, 2007 02:07 PM

Dan,

And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously in the face of an enemy that has shown a willingness to do anything to disrupt the establishment of the new Iraq.

Not long before this quote in Mosul where Gen. Petraeus was in command, a politician held off 300 Al Qaeda gunmen who were assaulting his political offices. The politician was the leader of the PUK in Mosul. Regardless of the fact that Kak Saadi Piera was a former Ba'athist Kurd spending time in the troubled city of Mosul as a kind of penance for his political sins, he was certainly courageous in the face of the enemy as advertised.

I am sure that Gen. Petraeus is talking about other Iraqi leaders as well, but the commander of Mosul has to be cognizant of and recognize Kurds when he is asked how things are going in his Area of Operations. I think you are taking Gen. Petraeus' comments at far more than face value.

Earlier this year, Michael and I got to have dinner with Kak Saadi and talk with him about a broad range of topics, including Gen. Petraeus. The old Peshmerga was very impressed with the general, but concerned that he was overly close to old Ba'athist elements. So far his concerns have not caused problems. (Yes, there was an element of hypocrisy in this; welcome to the Middle East.)

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 12, 2007 02:21 PM

To Greg... Movie was The Caine Mutiny. Capt. Queeg

Mr. Maryk, you may tell the crew for me that there are four ways of doing things aboard my ship: The right way, the wrong way, the Navy way, and my way. They do things my way, and we'll get along.

Posted by: Ken at September 12, 2007 02:38 PM

"It is just as obvious to me that he(Kuchinich) is a utopian liberal as it is obvious to me that George Galloway is a fascist."---mjt

There you have it. Not anywhere near 'perfidious' which implies some form of willfull intent. Just delusionally 'utopian'(which might arguably be even WORSE). What in courser times would be referred to by courser people as an useful idiot .

Perhaps Mr Kuchinich brought up his splendid ideas for a "Department of Peace" while massaging Mr. Assad. I'm sure he would have found Bashar an attentive audience.

Let's be fair here folks. Running a place like Syria is hard work at the best of times. Mr Assad could surely use some comic relief to lighten the dreary day. Dennis was therefore just what the Doctor ordered. Must have been like having Borat over to tea and being 'in' on the joke. They are probably still laughing in Damascus.

Great Satan indeed.

Posted by: dougf at September 12, 2007 03:02 PM

OK ... now it's time to give you all something new to argue about...

I believe our being Iraq is a big mistake.

1) We have aliented that part of the Muslim world which did not already hate us.

2) There never were any WMD.

3) And Sadam was just another loudmouth dictator ... But he was not our problem.

4) And pardon me,I am 56 years old, and I cannot help but think of our men and women fighting in Iraq as "our kids." It is always the young who fight the wars, and die, or live with the disabilities, and the nightmares. When I ask myself, "Was it worth it? Was it worth the lives lost?" I have to answer "No."

What amazes me though, is that despite what I see as the utter stupidity of our policies, maybe, just maybe, the bravery and pure humanity of our men and women serving in Iraq might still bring about some kind of durable Iraqi society.

And today I read we are making plans to bomb Iran. Shouldn't we be screaming? Especially those of you who truly know what was is like?

Ol'Frank

Posted by: Frank at September 12, 2007 03:10 PM

Frank,

The USA does it because nobody else will. We invaded Iraq and broke Saddam because he was in violation of a number of UN Security Council resolutions. He could have come clean about WMD and opened Iraq to full inspection, but he didn't. Furthermore, he provided the US and its allies an opportunity to project their power into the middle of the Middle East. We could have done it the old fashioned way and waited for the threat to build until our hand was forced. Either way, war is the natural result. Personally, I would have flattened whole cities and populations until they cried uncle and gave up the fight. I suspect you are somewhere on the opposite side of that spectrum.

Posted by: John at September 12, 2007 04:14 PM

John: Personally, I would have flattened whole cities and populations until they cried uncle and gave up the fight.

I would have gone further than that.

We should have dropped daisy-cutters on hospitals and orphanages, used nerve gas against unarmed schoolchildren and incinerated all arable land with fuel-air bombs.

We should have poisoned the water supply and arrested humanitarian workers. We should have sent snipers to shoot migratory birds and frogmen to decimate marine wildlife in the Tigris and the Euphrates.

That's the kind of surge that would have worked.

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 04:36 PM

Frank- Your statements are so silly I don't know where to begin.
I love how people adress our servicemen and women as "kids". They aren't kids they are adults and should be treated as such. Last time I checked we invaded Iraq in March of '03, meaning that a majority of the people serving today know that might have to serve in Afghanistan or Iraq. Which makes there service all the more courageous and honorable.
The only reason we know there were no WMD's in Iraq after March '03 is because Saddam wouldn't give full and free unfettered access to his weapons sites. As he agreed to after the first Gulf War. His bad. Considering we gave Saddam a year to hide what WMD's he did have; it might be prudent to check in the Bekkah Valley.
Alienate, who gives a crap. What I do know is that a lot Jihadis that would've been inclined to travel to America to kill our fellow citizens are now being killed or captured. Funny how the media isn't concerned about the total number of terrorists that are being killed over there. It far outpaces the casualties they've inflicted on our soldiers. And talk about "Alienation", the terrorists alienated those they wish to rule right over to our side. That is what Michael's great post was all about.
With all due respect being 56 right at the tail end of the Baby Boom Generation; you need to grow up, SIR.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 12, 2007 04:40 PM

Great article and some really good discussion!

I was actually wondering how many Iraqis were killed by Americans during the war - not just civilians but all Iraqis. Remember that even insurgents and the most brutal members of AQI have parents and families too. Based on Vietnam kill ratios of over 10-1 combined with a doubled US survival rate....(not totaly sure if this assumption holds, but it is the best approximation I have):
3700 American dead X 10 X 2 = It is likely that Americans killed 75,000 Iraqi insurgents. Add generously few accidental civilian casualties and that could add up to about 80 thousand Iraqis killed by American forces. We are not counting death by disease or Iraqi security forces. Based on the mid-2006 estimate of 200-600 thousand Iraqis dying since the start of the war, this seems a reasonable estimate.

Now then, has AQI killed that many Iraqis with car bombings and various other acts of savagery? It is much harder to estimate, but given that the actual number of AQI fighters never exceeded several thousand at one time(not counting hired help) it seems that it would be hard for them to kill 75,000 Iraqis. Although, it is likely the combined death toll of all Iraqi vs Iraqi violence could easily surpass that total.

Therefore, I think it is not unreasonable to believe that Americans killed more Iraqis than AQI. This is not meant to compare the U.S. army and AQI on some moral (or any) level. It just reflects the fact that the war in Iraq has created a great deal of suffering that is borne disproportionately by Iraqis. Americans too often forget that while they mourn the 50,000 soldiers killed in Vietnam, over 2 million Vietnamese died.

Posted by: apechi at September 12, 2007 04:43 PM

apechi: Americans too often forget that...over 2 million Vietnamese died.

"Yeah, but they were all bad."

-Arnold Schwarznegger in True Lies

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 04:47 PM

I've been lurking on this comment thread because I've been a big-mouth over the last week or so and wanted to give it a rest, but can I just say that the quality and tone of the comment section has been fantastic recently?

Golf clap, and kudos to everyone and Michael. It's a pleasure to read.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 12, 2007 04:48 PM

Thanks for an excellent article. This is genuinely good news.

The main potential problem I see is just how well will the Sunni sheiks of Anbar get along with a Shia dominated central government? Will they accept its directives? If they don't, and Iraq heads towards some type of partition, will they accept it when they don't have any oil to pay the bills?

Posted by: Donald Clarke at September 12, 2007 04:51 PM

Edgar- That was funny as hell. Thanks for the quote. ;p

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 12, 2007 05:02 PM

Edgar,
Sarcasm noted. I am horribly cold-hearted when it comes to war and admit I am more akin to Caesar than to Ghandi. All the more praise to our men and women in the armed forces for an unbeliveably great and heroic performance thus far in the GWOT. But, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, the real "surge" IS working and if their is an abundance of migratory waterfowl in the area, I'm in (shotgun, decoys, and calls, though)!!!

Posted by: John at September 12, 2007 05:16 PM

DPU,

What are you? Some kind of reverse, double inside out, mirror image troll? ;p

Posted by: John at September 12, 2007 05:18 PM

DPU is more like an "unknown known," as Rumsfeld would say.

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 05:29 PM

Double Plus,

We are here, at your service, ready to entertain at a moment's notice.

Just let us know when our services are required!

Posted by: Dogwood at September 12, 2007 05:40 PM

Shana Tova to everyone :-)

Posted by: Edgar at September 12, 2007 06:29 PM

dougf:

Great Satan indeed.

LOL. I'm gonna think that every time I see Kucinich speak from now on.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 12, 2007 06:39 PM

DPU is right, the comments are fine -- because of Dan and a few other liberals, as well as Michael (actually, calling you Michael for 4 years now makes it hard to write "Mike") being so understanding of the utopian liberal.

The kind of anti-war liberal who was against the US war in Vietnam -- and favored Democrats: who voted to stop any US military action in Vietnam in 1974, after the Paris Peace of 73; who voted to reduce funding to the S. Viet gov't, US allies who supported human rights and freedom, in 1974 & 75; who allowed the commie N. Vietnamese to attack (in violation of their signed Paris Peace); who allowed commies to win in S. Vietnam; and win in Cambodia; and commit the well-predicted, but not guaranteed, bloodbath of Killing Fields.

Utopian liberals supported SE Asian genocide, in my lifetime.

Since Dan said he'd stop commenting here, but then broke his promise, what does that make him? (notice how I'm not saying what he is...) But with genuine thoughtful disagreement, so rare in internet comments, it's no wonder Dan couldn't resist coming back.

But not much more reasonable -- celebrim did a fine job describing Dan's 'polite near-troll' work. (yet he's wrong about shutting down the comments! The comments are good here because Michael is doing so much work on banning real trolls; thanks MJT, thanks. 'Near-troll' is not troll.)

Dan's accusation against celebrim himself was perfect: "so celebrim is saying 'my way or the highway' " -- a usual critique of the left against Bush. Dan gives a deliberate misrepresentation of what celebrim wrote, just as many on the left often reword what Bush or the Left's current target actually say, and then attack the reworded statement.

The usual news media does that too -- they have a short snippet of actual words, then a longer segment where they add their own 'summary', but actually rephrase into their own terms what is said, and then tell people why this rephrased (but misquoted) argument is so bad.

Glasnost has been excellent here, too.

But I have to say something that Jay Rosen of PressThink got upset over -- criticizing the US politicians, as Free Speech allows, means supporting the terrorist. Means supporting the killers of Americans. Means more Americans will be killed.

Michael, we should be willing to pay that price for Free Speech (plus an interventionist policy), but we shouldn't pretend that there is no price. The N. Viet generals, after their successful Paris Peace lies and following invasion & victory, noted how they were aided and abetted by the US anti-war movement.

The current anti-war movement supports terrorists. Every anti-war movement in a country fighting a war supports the opponents of that war. 'War is hell' is a truth that pro-war folk have learned to live with, and should be honestly dealing with -- innocents are killed by us, even tho we want to be Good Guys.

'Anti-war supports the enemy' is a truth the anti-war folk have NOT been accepting nor trying to deal with -- but has been well known, if not explicit, even when pacifist Quakers were being jailed and beaten in America ... over WW I in 1918.

War is politics. But actually, the purpose of politics, and war, is to "establish justice" (US Constitution preamble). Justice 'justifies' using violence after an injustice. And every justice system makes both kind of errors in a trade-off: wrongly punishing the innocent, and wrongly letting the guilty go free. Plus, the more the system reduces one error, the more of the other error.

The US military should be given more decision making power over how reconstruction money is 'given' to Iraqis -- and choose to give more cash to those local Iraqi leaders who seem best.

Victory will mean that local cities can raise their own rebuilding money from the international bond market.

Victory requires we stay until 'enough' Iraqi leaders are able to win without us.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 12, 2007 07:14 PM

...who allowed commies to win in S. Vietnam; and win in Cambodia; and commit the well-predicted, but not guaranteed, bloodbath of Killing Fields.

This is a bit of a history re-write. The rise of the Khymer Rouge was directly related to the destabilization of Cambodia caused by US carpet bombing of areas infiltrated by Viet Cong. The Killing Fields were a product of the Vietnamese War, and a continuation of it would have in no way prevented it. From the Wikipedia entry on the Khymer Rouge:
Historians have cited the U.S. intervention and bombing campaign (spanning 1965-1973) as a significant factor leading to increased support of the Khmer Rouge among the Cambodian peasantry. Historian Ben Kiernan and Taylor Owen have used a combination of sophisticated satellite mapping, recently unclassified data about the extent of bombing activities, and peasant testimony, to argue that there was a strong correlation between villages targeted by U.S. bombing and recruitment of peasants by the Khmer Rouge. Kiernan and Owen argue that "Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began. In his study of Pol Pot's rise to power, Kiernan argues that "Pol Pot's revolution would not have won power without U.S. economic and military destabilisation of Cambodia" and that the U.S. carpet bombing "was probably the most significant factor in Pol Pot's rise."
Ironically, the killing ended when communist Vietnam invaded Cambodia, despite of protests from the US at the time. Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 12, 2007 09:01 PM

The kind of anti-war liberal who was against the US war in Vietnam

I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area during the run-up to the war, so I got to watch the modern anti-war movement coalesce up close. Though I wasn't alive to witness the 60s anti-war movement myself, I feel confident asserting that the modern group has a completely different dynamic. For starters, the fact that we have no draft today makes it a whole new ballgame.

But beyond that, the modern movement is conspicuously patriotic and couches its arguments in such terms. It casts itself as the defender of the Constitution. It respects those who serve in the military. It wraps itself in the flag.

It has this character because it is haunted by the election of 2000.

During the crucible year of 2003, numerous friends of mine were transformed from complacent residents of this country into patriotic citizens.

'Anti-war supports the enemy' is a truth the anti-war folk have NOT been accepting nor trying to deal with

I supported the initial invasion... and I do not accept your premise.

I understand the contribution that morale makes to military success -- but I also value dissent's contribution. Without dissent, you get leaders who are unprepared. You get yes-men. You get Baghdad Bob.

I'm not just talking mild, controlled dissent, either. I'm talking power of the marketplace dissent, dissent that leads to domestic electoral victory or defeat. Dissent that truly tests our leaders and their ideas.

It has taken several years for us to get a proper strategy in place. Without the opposition forcing accountability upon this administration, would we have gotten to where we are?

I am confident that the best of our servicepeople are not only proud to protect a set of traditions that includes freedom of speech, but that they recognize that tolerance for dissent is both a measure of strength... and a source of strength.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 12, 2007 09:52 PM

"This is a bit of a history re-write."

It very much depends on your perspective who you think is trying to rewrite history. Keirnan is hardly an uncontriversial figure, considering that in the early 70's he was an open admirer of the Khmer Rouge and only changed his mind after the genocide was over. Some have suggested that his latest 'discoveries' might have some deeply personal motivation, like for example, explaining away his previous admiration of a murderous regime.

I would suggest you try rereading the passage in wikipedia to see if it reads just as if not more smoothly without the paragraph you quoted. I think you'll find that the Khmer Rouge's rise is sufficiently accounted for without that paragraph.

Posted by: celebrim at September 12, 2007 10:25 PM

"It has taken several years for us to get a proper strategy in place. Without the opposition forcing accountability upon this administration, would we have gotten to where we are?"

Are you suggesting that the changes in strategy have been principally crafted as a result of 'marketplace pressure' or even decisions by the civilian administration. I voted for Bush twice, but I don't think that he's been doing or is capable of much COIN doctrine creation. There has been this meme lately that the Generals are just parroting Bush's talking points. It seems far more likely to me that the generals sound like Bush because Bush takes his advice on the war from them rather than the other way around..

No, changes in doctrine in my opinion have been largely been driven by decision making on the ground in responce to events in Iraq as we learn things. I don't think that the military is taking much direction about its strategy from what the public says, and I think that it is sufficiently motivated achieve results - it's thier ass on the line - without the left's continually kabuki theater. Besides which, whether it is a flaw or a virtue, Bush is far too stubborn for you to have forced anything on him. No, I think what you are saying is really just a variation on 'victory has a thousand fathers' and it was as predictable as the sun rise that you'd pat yourself on the back for any positive turns of events and wash your hands of responcibility when things went sour.

I for one credit the soldiers, and not anything I have said or done. If we lose the war, I will be wrong for having supported it. If we win, it won't because of me.

Posted by: celebrim at September 12, 2007 10:35 PM

Are you suggesting that the changes in strategy have been principally crafted as a result of 'marketplace pressure' or even decisions by the civilian administration.

Yeah, I'm sayin' that. The American electorate gets credit for ensuring that a change of direction would occur.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 12, 2007 11:06 PM

"Yeah, I'm sayin' that. The American electorate gets credit for ensuring that a change of direction would occur."

I don't see how you figure that one, but it sounds like a faith based belief and I don't see how I can shake it either.

I've heard alot of white people take credit for the civil rights movement, even though in 1968 they were like 14. But yeah, they made it happen they say.

Same deal here.

Posted by: celebrim at September 12, 2007 11:35 PM

apechi,

It is much harder to estimate, but given that the actual number of AQI fighters never exceeded several thousand at one time(not counting hired help) it seems that it would be hard for them to kill 75,000 Iraqis.

Four years. Tens of thousands of IEDs placed without consideration of civilian casualties. Homicide Vehicle Borne IEDs driving into school yards. Killing tens of thousands of people gets easier when you just don't care about consequences and enjoy causing random fear like Al Qaeda does.

Also, your math is off. We've arrested and detained a lot of people in Iraq. Many of them were innocent and let go. Many of them were guilty and got out anyway. Some terrorists have been arrested repeatedly.

Our intention has often been to capture instead of kill because dead terrorists give directions badly. Live terrorists frequently give good directions to more live terrorists.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 12:48 AM

Creamy Goodness,

But beyond that, the modern movement is conspicuously patriotic and couches its arguments in such terms. It casts itself as the defender of the Constitution. It respects those who serve in the military. It wraps itself in the flag.

My friend Scott Koenig indepundit.com really looked into this pretty extensively and found that the anti-war movement in San Diego and Washington, DC in recent years is much less patriotic than your impression.

More importantly, through his involvement with Protest Warrior activities, he found that many people in the anti-war movement were very intolerant. Their interest in an honest dialog was non-existent, and some of their actions, like the anti-war protests outside Walter Reed, were simply despicable in practice.

What bothers me rather a lot is that the anti-war movement is exceptionally bad about matters of fact. They often are dishonest and self-indulgent attention seekers who are much more interested in the 24-hour news cycle than the ultimate goals of the movement. Some of this is a function of the satellite news world we live in, but a lot of it is a belief that they are exempt from accountability.

Some of my vitriol is based on the failure of my childhood idols from following their own ideals. A lot more of it is because many of the leaders of the anti-war movement are vain, shallow, dishonest, and often evil twits who shame the very good people they hoodwink into supporting them.

Before you deny all my contentions, please try to find an anti-war group that has transparent finances. If you can find one that isn't funded by bored rich people, I'll be a lot more interested in hearing their case. I'm not really interested in what gets the guilty rich to write checks. I'm not guilty, and I'm not rich.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 01:05 AM

If you're going to run the math like that, you can't do it with the assumption that Al Qaeda is the only armed group, or that all armed groups are equally vicious.

Al Qaeda is relatively small compared with the others, but much more destructive.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 01:14 AM

Creamy Goodness,

Here is a compilation of recent accomplishments by the "conspicuously patriotic" anti-war movement.

http://michellemalkin.com/2007/09/12/vandalism-desecration-cowardice-coddling-enough-is-enough/

They certainly are trying hard to be conspicuous.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 01:30 AM

Michael, thanks foir a great article. This is good news, but is it repeatable? From your article, the Anbar Awakening happened because in a largely Sunni population, AQI managed to outlast its welcome. Is this likely to happen in more religiously mixed areas like Baghdad or Diyala?

My guess is that the insurgents will be harder to dislodge in those areas because each religious group is threatened by the other side's fighters. This may change as ethnic cleansing continues. Once none of the "other" are around as boogymen, the remaining population may take a more critical view of its "protectors".

I think some thing like the Anbar Awakening is less likely to happen with the Sadrists, because they seem to be less obnoxious with their own side and also more interested in providing social services. In that sense Sadr's operation resembles Hezbollah or Hamas more then AQI.

How do you think the Anbar sheiks are going to get along with the central government? Will they accept ruile by a Shia government? For that matter, will the Shia government accept them, or will it try to set up a more formal, more Shia, provincial government?

Donald Clarke

Posted by: Donald Clarke at September 13, 2007 05:36 AM

Before you deny all my contentions, please try to find an anti-war group that has transparent finances.

Obama for America.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 05:45 AM

I forgot to ask. Do you have any idea of the current population of Ramadi and Anbar? I think Ramadi's pre-war population was around 430,000. I don't know the prewar Anbar population.

Posted by: Donald Clarke at September 13, 2007 05:46 AM

It has taken several years for us to get a proper strategy in place. Without the opposition forcing accountability upon this administration, would we have gotten to where we are?---CG

Short answer --- Yes.
Long Involved Answer --- Yes.

The 'opposition' with some well known exceptions has IMO, not been intent on achieving a 'proper strategy'. It has been intent on BUGGING OUT ASAP, and in the meantime, using the issue as a club with which to beat Bush. In its spare time I'm sure that the WINNING bit did come up here and there.

And it STILL IS so intent. It gives the clear impression that it does in fact truly want to WIN. But what it wants to win is the next election, and not necessarily the WAR. Therefore its critiques are always viewed as merely 'tactics' in a political conflict rather than as serious attempts to SUCCEED in the WAR. Now perhaps that impression is wrong, but it is still extant. It's like 'discussing' the issue with Dan. He wants to quit the fight which may truly be a totally correct position, but his 'tactical criticisms' are therefore always viewed from a certain perspective, and with well-founded suspicion. They come with 'baggage' so to speak.

Rather than having had a accelerative affect on any 'adjustments' in strategy, the 'opposition' has IMO had, if anything, a 'braking' effect. Because so much of what it whined about was perceived as being delivered in TOTAL 'bad faith', its message was if anything simply ignored as 'politics'. I know that I personally ignored much of it. Had for example John McCain completely dissociated himself from the 'others' when he was criticising the Administration Policies as seriously defective, I sincerely believe that his suggestions would have had much more 'weight'. Instead there he always was, featured on the news along with the usual suspects. His 'message' suffered because of the 'medium' he used to convey it. I don't think that he has yet fully understood this structural problem.

Suggestions coming from the 'loyal opposition' should be heeded, and if they are not then the 'blame' is on those who tuned the discussion out. 'Suggestions' coming from the willing captives of Move-On.Perfidious and its like, ---- Not So Much.

As someone famous once said(before going off the deep-end) ---- And That's The Way It Is.

Posted by: dougf at September 13, 2007 05:50 AM

Donald,

You're asking all the right questions. I wish it was safe enough in Iraq for MJT to do the kind of ground-level research amidst the general population it would take to bring us insight about them.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 06:06 AM

From what I have observed in my lifetime, the American "anti-war" movement is not actually anti-war. They don't take to the streets in mass protest over every war -- only over certain wars.

For instance, the "anti-war" movement didn't take to the streets in 1967 and 1973 to protest Arab wars of aggression against Israel. They didn't stage mass protests against the invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam in 1975. They didn't take to the streets to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. They didn't rally to protest Hussein's invasion of Iran in 1980. Nor did they stage mass protests when Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Nor do you see mass protests against Iran’s proxy-war-via-Hizbullah against Israel.

But the anti-war movement did take to the streets in mass, repeatedly, over America's attempts to defend South Vietnam against communist aggression from the North. And, during Reagan’s years, they repeatedly protested the build-up of the American military, the “Star Wars” missile defense system, the decision to deploy Pershing II medium range ballistic missiles in Europe, etc. And they took to the streets in mass to protest the United States decision to lead an effort to eject Hussein from Kuwait -- just as they took to the streets in mass to protest our decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

My conclusion is that what the majority of the American “anti-war” movement actually opposes is not war per se, but the use of American military power to protect our interests ( or what we think are our interests) around the world.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 13, 2007 06:24 AM

dougf,

That's the nature of the electoral system. The opposition puts forth a platform. If it is compelling, the electorate shifts, forcing the governing party to adapt. It's a powerful engine driving innovation.

As for whose contributions to the debate over the war you consider acceptable... wouldn't it be convenient if you had control over who gets to say what and when? Saddam Hussein had that.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 06:30 AM

dpu quoted the following from Wikipedia:

Kiernan and Owen argue that "Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began."

Yes, I've heard that claim before. However, if you go to the article where Kiernan and Owen make this claim: http://www.yale.edu/cgp/Walrus_CambodiaBombing_OCT06.pdf

You will find that their "proof" consists of one statement by "a former Khmer Rouge officer" and one statement by one "bombing survivor", both of which expressed the opinion that the bombing drove peasants into the Khmer Rouge. I don't find two opinions very persuasive.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 13, 2007 07:19 AM

I would suggest you try rereading the passage in wikipedia to see if it reads just as if not more smoothly without the paragraph you quoted. I think you'll find that the Khmer Rouge's rise is sufficiently accounted for without that paragraph.

Are you suggesting that the Vietnam War was in no way responsible for the Khymer Rouge's rise to power?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 07:34 AM

Michael Smith:

My conclusion is that what the majority of the American “anti-war” movement actually opposes is not war per se, but the use of American military power to protect our interests ( or what we think are our interests) around the world.

Your frothing hatred for the left blinds you to their true nature.

Levels of anti-war sentiment in a democracy track a more-or-less rational cost/benefit analysis by the stakeholders, i.e. the voters. When faced with an existential crisis — such as Pearl Harbor — the population rallies. When a war offers a poor return on investment, support for it is lower. When a war is completely unnecessary — say, invading Canada to resolve a trade dispute over beef exports — support for it is non-existent.

It's not that people who support some wars but not others aren't willing to protect our interests. It's that you are a bit of an outlier. Given the same set of circumstances, most people arrive at a slightly different conclusion than you as to what our interests are and when the use of military power is appropriate.

Seen from a high level, though, there is more agreement than disagreement, and public opinion is predictable. Most people would support WWII. Most people would oppose war on Canada over beef exports. Support for the war on Iraq falls somewhere in the middle.

The big difference is not between left and right in a pluralist democracy — it's between pluralist democracy and dictatorship, and it has to do with how many people get a say in decisions of war and peace and who they are. If you were emperor, I imagine we would wage war more violently and more often than we do with a couple hundred million Americans running the show.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 07:49 AM

Iraq: Top Sunni sheik cooperating with US against al-Qaida killed 9/13/07

The most prominent figure in a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday in an explosion near his home in Anbar province, Iraqi police said.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and US forces.

Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb, said Col. Tareq Youssef, supervisor of Anbar police.

Posted by: Renée C. at September 13, 2007 08:51 AM

DPU: that the quality and tone of the comment section has been fantastic recently?

You'll have to call me a dissenter.

he found that many people in the anti-war movement were very intolerant

What bothers me rather a lot is that the anti-war movement is exceptionally bad about matters of fact. They often are dishonest and self-indulgent attention seekers who are much more interested in the 24-hour news cycle than the ultimate goals of the movement.

The current anti-war movement supports terrorists. Every anti-war movement in a country fighting a war supports the opponents of that war

criticizing the US politicians, as Free Speech allows, means supporting the terrorist. Means supporting the killers of Americans. Means more Americans will be killed.

Utopian liberals supported SE Asian genocide, in my lifetime.

Like an unnoticed weed seed falling in a rose bed, Microraptor's insinuation may already have borne fruit in those gardens where the flowers lean left.
I'm just taking the opportunity to mention it, in case the gardener would prefer to erradicate the infestation which can grow from such a subtle planting.

Please, enough with the downloading and parroting of the AMS. It was Saddam's zoo of pet Sunni imams used to give him cover

Dan is only a troll in "loyal opposition" clothing.

end in spite of our mistakes and ersatz enemy propagandists like Dan.

On the bright side, I guess, Mike and some reasonable people have been polite and persistent in opposing this line of thought - but we've still had 200 hundreds comments on "are, or are not, the anti-war left traitors?" - rather than "what's happening in Iraq?"

I used to advocate that nobody should be banned in here, and I'd still be okay with that, but if we're going to ban, then we should declare the learning period over, and people that associate Dan with Osama Bin Laden should be escorted out the door. It makes me angry. Look at the double standard in our discourse: people who think the war is bad for America get called all kinds of names constantly, but I'm supposed to be aghast when someone calls a general who thinks the war is good for America a nasty name?

Which brings us to Moveon. I wouldn't have used either the word or the concept "betray" in reference to Petraeus, who is fighting a tactically sound war from amidst a fundamentally futile strategic position. I don't think it's accurate. But I don't feel much anger towards Moveon, because lurking behind the appropriate criticism is the suggestion that "questioning Petraeus' accuracy, or his incentives, is traitorous behavior." I absolutely question both Petraeus' accuracy and believe that his institutional position makes it effectively impossible to be unbiased in his perspective.

This comes from the basic common sense that puts civilians in charge of generals. The reason civilians are in charge of generals is that generals always want to believe they're winning, regardless of whether they are. That's why military-run governments get in so many wars, retreat from them so rarely, and end up becoming third-rate powers.

There's been a ton of work on blogs like Kevin Drum's dissecting the Pentagon statistics on lowered casualties, and the bottom line is, most of what's been said about everything but August is manipulation bordering on fabrication. Nothing before then shows any kind of clear trend line downwards, definitely not nationally. It's not even clear that, nationally, the surge is even having a significant positive military effect. That is not at all what you get from Petraeus' testimony.

Now, it's hard to argue that things aren't better in Ramadi specifically, and Anbar, for that matter. But we've seen localities improve in 2004, and 2005. The significance of it is open to question. Petraeus doesn't acknowledge that: and he won't acknowledge it.

Petraeus' 1987 opinion is the correct one. The needs of 4GW warfare require him to try to win over the American public as much as possible, apparently even including pushing right out to the edge of the facts, and I don't blame him for it - but it's not clear that it's really in the interests of the American public to be won over.

Posted by: glasnost at September 13, 2007 09:01 AM

Donald,

Some web searching revealed that the prewar population of Anbar was 1.2 million. I couldn't find current statistics.

IIRC, Petraeus testified that the Anbar Awakening was spreading to other Sunni Iraqi communities. So perhaps it is repeatable in some limited, but important sense.

What I would like to know is how denying Al Qaeda refuge among the Sunni population might affect the car bombing campaign in Baghdad. There may be further positive echo effects of the Awakening yet to come. But the dropoff isn't good enough yet, and I worry that the Sunni population at large is still enormously disaffected.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 09:05 AM

Oh, by the way, Mike, I'm sure you'll read in the papers today that the head of the Anbar awakening was blown up today in a roadside bomb. In Ramadi. Either things have changed since you left already, or else he's just one of those "blips" on the Military Intelligence chart.

What I like about you, Mike, is that you understand how a sane civilian is skeptical.

By the way, re the discussion about arming tribal shieks in Ramadi, both sides are right. It makes perfectly good tactical sense to arm and pacify the shieks, if your goal is tolerance of a US military presence in Anbar province. And it also makes zero sense towards the goal of building a rational central government. These two goals are fundamentally not compatible. It would be great COIN doctrine in an ethnically homogenous country. In a sectarian country, it's screwed.

Mike, some of the people we're arming in Anbar are, essentially, Baathist thugs. Others are just angry young Sunni nationalists who in some other context would be ok people. But neither of them are going to use their newfound money, weaponry, and organization to reconcile with the Shia government in Baghdad. The only conceivable non-violent solution from the situation we're building is a permanent de facto partition of the country, with each locality micromanaged and pacified by the US military. It's an Osama Bin Laden propaganda dream come true.

Posted by: glasnost at September 13, 2007 09:10 AM

Oh, I didn't mean to lump this one in.

Please, enough with the downloading and parroting of the AMS. It was Saddam's zoo of pet Sunni imams used to give him cover

As I understand it, Brian, these people speak in unison with the largest Sunni bloc in Parliament, elected in relatively free elections. Meaning, these people, until proven otherwise, speak for baseline Sunni public opinion.

Prove otherwise, or your request goes in the dead letter file.

Posted by: glasnost at September 13, 2007 09:14 AM

Preston Smith III:

"they should see us in the sand watching TV when the crap they put out gets to us on AFRTS. We are the ones who feel BETRAYED!!"

I understand video may be impertinent but can you make an audio?

I would love to hear it.

Thank you

Posted by: leo at September 13, 2007 09:14 AM

Montana Charlie: "...I feel the most subtle 'discouraging word' left by the contributors was the post by Microraptor....."

Mate, this comment (Post number 2) wasn't a "seed of discouragement" - or whatever - left to fester and/or grow in Michael's blog garden. It was a straight question to Michael, but because about 100 people posted after me, he didn't answer it. I am interested, simply because I was wondering what the soldier meant.

I imagine that as with every military, the US has its shock troops (all national militaries have them and all need them) and that these are the men sent in to do fighting of an intensity other units cannot easily handle. They are the most driven but also the most aggressive...

In some cases the levels of "control," once the shooting stops, are moot. In the British Army our shock troops are The Parachute Regiment. Whatever the Royal Marines or other units may like to think or say, The Paras are the "hard men."

But the possible downside of these guys is that in my experience of working around them, they tend to have (ahem) "extremely short fuses as individuals" and often assume continuous and increasing application of force is the best solution in most, if not all, circumstances. Put another way, they are like human pit bulls: we bred them for fighting and that's what they really do well. But it can be hard to rein them in.

Once the actual direct violence is over, the British military prefer to remove these characters from interacting with a conquered/pacified publics, precisely because what makes them so good in war time, can make them a liability in "peace-time."
If you are friends with anyone of Irish descent, ask them what they think about the Parachute Regiment.

Bloody Sunday notwithstanding -- the Paratroop Regiment are probably the toughest the Brits have and as a consequence -- and perhaps in part through jealousy -- other parts of the UK services regard The Paras as "psychos."

So really all I was asking is whether that might be the case in the US Services too, but with the Marine Corps.

So MC, although there are any number of reasons why a lot of the more patriotic style posters US based here might not like my opinions, that particualar posting ought not be one of them.

And for what it's worth, isn't the main reason that this blog is a good one is that people with very different points of view read it and can comment and debate with one another... and that this is tolerated and encouraged. I like MJT's site precisely because I DON'T agree with everything he or his readership, thinks or says -- it's how I learn to appreciate other people's viewpoints.

To Patrick S. Laswell: I think listing a visit to London as an example of your combat zone experience -- or however you categorised it -- is slightly comical. Or were you being ironic and I'm being slow?

Posted by: Microraptor at September 13, 2007 09:23 AM

glasnost: You'll have to call me a dissenter.

Read the comments a couple of years ago. Any rational discussion was quickly dragged down by name-calling and insults. The tone has been far more respectful and tolerant of late, and some very interesting discussions have taken place.

And despite your dissent, I note that you are still reading and commenting, so you must find it of some value.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 09:24 AM

Glasnost:

we've still had 200 hundreds comments on "are, or are not, the anti-war left traitors?" - rather than "what's happening in Iraq?"

Yeah. As this has worn on, I've been getting the bad feeling that there is a bottomless supply of retarded "traitor" tomfoolery to counter.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 09:24 AM

we've still had 200 hundreds comments on "are, or are not, the anti-war left traitors?""

Yes, but aside from some knee-jerk reactions from some who are obsessed with anti-war this and treasonous left that, there has been discussion about it rather than simply a pack of hyenas descending and destroying the thread.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 09:28 AM

Once the actual direct violence is over, the British military prefer to remove these characters from interacting with a conquered/pacified publics, precisely because what makes them so good in war time, can make them a liability in "peace-time."

Honestly, this is one of the strangest myths about the Marines and their fellows. My uncle is a retired fireman (FDNY) and a Marine, I've worked with Marines, and from my experience, this 'psycho' myth is the worst sort of bullsh*t. Marines work harder than most people, they're more willing to take risks and they bond better with their co-workers. That's the only difference I've ever seen.

And yes, I am of Irish descent, and yes the regiment's actions were horrific, but I'm more appalled by IRA's subsequent degeneration into terrorism following the 1972 incident. The IRA and the other terrorist groups that sprung up afterwards slaughtered more innocents than the Parchute Regiment ever did.

But, of course now that the Celtic tiger can pretty much devour the soggy remnants of the British empire whole, it's all water under the bridge...

Posted by: mary at September 13, 2007 09:47 AM

It's better, but it still ain't right.

Meanwhile, two more retired generals on Iraq:

It is not surprising that the troop increase has not resolved the conflict. Surges in American military resources providing no permanent solution have been repeated often in Iraq. Besides Operation Together Forward, which failed to secure Baghdad during fall 2006, the United States added at least 10,000 additional soldiers within a single month on three previous occasions in Iraq: March 2004 to prepare for the Iraqi Governing Council's signing the interim constitution; December 2004 to prepare for electing the National Assembly; and October 2005 to protect the constitutional referendum.

These three "surges" all turned out the same: no effect the first month, drastically increased violence the second month, and a temporary reduction in insurgent activity the third month. The data suggest that a troop surge is not a permanent fix. In layman's terms, things will get worse again in Iraq and there is no guarantee they will ever get better more than temporarily.

More than three-quarters of Iraqis believe that violence will subside once American troops leave. As most American leaders agree that Iraqis must assume control of their security situation sooner rather than later, we should not continue to ignore the wishes of the Iraqi people.

http://www.clw.org/policy/iraq/resources/clippings/hart_gard_johns_call_iraq_withdrawal/index.html

Posted by: glasnost at September 13, 2007 09:57 AM

Honestly, this is one of the strangest myths about the Marines and their fellows.

I think if you read microraptor's comment you'll see that he's talking about the elite combat units of the British military, and asking if the Marines fit a similar role in the US military. I'd say no, that is not an accurate assessment.

Also, there is a specific personality type that is sought out by most militaries for exactly this type of fighting force. Most people hate fighting and war, but there are a small number of people that really enjoy comat. They aren't psychos by any means (and most militaries filter those types out because they're undesirable), but they do enjoy soldiering and combat. As such, they are not good public administrators or policemen.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 10:01 AM

Contrary data point #... 3? 4?

http://images.dailykos.com/images/user/3/Daily_Security_Update_for_10_Sept_07.pdf

Scroll down to Page 5. I know that 4 attacks in one day in Ramadi is better than 30, but it doesn't sound like a completely pacified city to me. "Relatively pacified" might be more accurate. 12 attacks in 3 days sounds like a lot for just.. what did that guy you interviewed say? "There might be one small, fragment remnant cell left?"

See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Let's say that guy you interviewed believed what he said: either his honest description is already outdated, he was never correct to begin with, or is interpretation of "one small remnant" doesn't match what his audience would expect from a "small remnant".

Either way, it's foolish to take statements at face value.

Posted by: glasnost at September 13, 2007 10:09 AM

Creamy goodness claimed:

Levels of anti-war sentiment in a democracy track a more-or-less rational cost/benefit analysis by the stakeholders, i.e. the voters.

You're conflating the general population and the "anti-war" movement. I've no doubt the bulk of the US population is more likely to support war when our interests are clearly threatened.

But I am not talking about the general population. I'm talking about the "anti-war" crowd -- and I've seen no evidence that they will ever support the use of the American military to destroy our enemies.

In 1991, it was overwhelmingly in US interests to eject Hussein from Kuwait and keep him from moving on Saudi Arabia -- yet the "anti-war" movement was firmly against it.

Even in the days immediately following 9/11, polls revealed the position of the "anti-war" movement. In a poll taken on 9/13/2001, 11% said they would oppose going to war to get the perpetrators of 9/11. In that same poll, 19% opposed going to war if it meant that "innocent civilians" in other countries might be hurt or killed -- and 26% opposed taking military action if it meant getting into "a long war with large numbers of US troops killed or injured". (The poll is here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data091401.htm See questions 4/5, 4/6 and 4/7)

That's the "anti-war" movement -- even with 3,000 people dead in the streets of New York City (at that point it was believed to be more like 5,000) and with the Pentagon in flames -- even with the possibility of additional attacks in the works, a possibility most of us considered likely, the "anti-war" crowd was opposed to a war to do anything about it.

And yes, if I had my way we'd wage war much more violently -- but much less frequently.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 13, 2007 10:11 AM

Excerpts from Joseph Palermo at Huffington Post:

"...but I must say: the invasion, occupation, and seizing of Iraq, to serve the narrow interests of the oil conglomerates and Halliburton, marks the lowest point ever reached in the history of American foreign relations.

I am so sorry, as an American, and as an American citizen -- I am so sorry, to the people of Iraq, that my government has attacked and victimized you in such a barbaric, illegal, and illegitimate way -- based on lies and deceit."

The suffering of your people -- your women and children -- weighs heavily on my heart -- I will continue to do what I can to stop the bloodshed. But we cannot control the Imperium -- it acts on its own accord, with its own motives and means --violent means. It controls us.

Please forgive us for we know not what we do.

I am so sorry."

Joseph makes me all weepy.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 13, 2007 10:55 AM

HERE's MORE on the death of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the Leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening--

Bomb kills Iraqi sheik who met with Bush

Quote: "A senior member of Abu Risha's group, Sheik Jubeir Rashid, called the assassination a 'criminal act' by al-Qaida, and said some of Abu Risha's security guards were being questioned. 'It is a major blow to the council, but we are determined to strike back and continue our work,' he said. 'Such an attack was expected, but it will not deter us.' "

Posted by: Renée C. at September 13, 2007 11:01 AM

Most people hate fighting and war, but there are a small number of people that really enjoy comat.

Most people hate war, but fighting? I guess you've been spending a lot of time in Canada.

They aren't psychos by any means (and most militaries filter those types out because they're undesirable), but they do enjoy soldiering and combat. As such, they are not good public administrators or policemen

What American military force would you say belongs in this group?

Posted by: mary at September 13, 2007 11:08 AM

And despite your dissent, I note that you are still reading and commenting, so you must find it of some value.

The way an recovering alcoholic finds whiskey of some value. Which means I'm deeply conflicted about it. Blogging itself can have some useful effects for your life, but blog commenting is genuinely pointless. I don't have good control of my Pointless Time allocation.

Posted by: glasnost at September 13, 2007 11:21 AM

Microraptor: I am interested, simply because I was wondering what the soldier meant.

I really don't know, sorry. Ask someone in the Army. They'll have a better guess than me.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 11:22 AM

Glasnost,

I doubt Sheikh Sattar was killed by a random bomb in Ramadi. 99 to 1 odds (at least) he was assasinated.

We'll have to see, though.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 11:23 AM

Microraptor: So really all I was asking is whether that might be the case in the US Services too, but with the Marine Corps.

The Marines have that reputation among civilians in the U.S. to an extent, but I don't think that's really the case.

The Marines seem to be doing better at counterinsurgency than the Army, at least according to three Army people who told me they think so. It must have pained them to say that, so I'm taking their word for it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 11:27 AM

Most people hate war, but fighting? I guess you've been spending a lot of time in Canada.

You know, I have absolutely no idea what that means. As for fighting, when was the last time you grabbed a gun and went out to shoot people, and possibly be shot? Do you like that sort of thing?

What American military force would you say belongs in this group?

Navy SEALs? Delta Force? I'm not up on the various elite units of the US military, so couldn't say for sure.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 11:36 AM

Glasnost: I know that 4 attacks in one day in Ramadi is better than 30, but it doesn't sound like a completely pacified city to me.

My browser chokes on your link, so I can't look at it.

Yes, there may still be a remnant cell in Ramadi. And AQI guys from outside are still trying to come back in. It is all but impossible to stop all of them.

When I was there in early August, AO Topeka (Northern Ramadi) had more than 80 days (not all in a row) with zero attacks since April.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 11:36 AM

What American military force would you say belongs in this group?

Ah, here we go: United States Army Special Forces

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 11:39 AM

Michael Smith: I'm talking about the "anti-war" crowd

The composition of the "anti-war" movement is highly variable depending on the war in question. You're almost, but not quite talking about pacifists.

If you were talking about pacifists, then you'd describe them against all war, period. But instead, you've invented a new criteria. Your theoretical anti-war crowd isn't against all war. They're only against wars which are actually in our interest.

This lunatic, actively suicidal position is held by... almost nobody.

Except in your mind, where it is a position held by millions of straw men.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 11:52 AM

Dan and all Americans should be focusing on whether General Petraeus should be allowed to continue his COIN strategy.

"The tribes of Anbar are turning their Sahawa al Anbar movement into a formal political party that will run in elections. They also hope to spread it to the rest of Iraq under the name Sahawa al Iraq. It is already taking root in the provinces of Diyala and Salah a Din."

I think the real gem and hope of this article is found in this paragraph. It shows that the Sunni leadership and people of Anbar are starting to buy into a national reconciliation and the new form of government. In addition, their example is being recognized as a solution for people in other areas of Iraq.

Let us hope this progress is nurtured and able to continue. I think that we need to do all we can to promote this.

Does the Surge and continued US military presence under COIN help or hurt this progress? I think the evidence shows that it helps. My opinion is that it would be foolish to change tactics that are contributing to these results. Let Petraeus do his job.

Posted by: johneb at September 13, 2007 12:01 PM

The difference between commenters today and those a couple of years ago is that there are fewer LGFers and more LGFer sympathizers. Like Glastnost said, it still ain't right. I also agree that MJT is much quicker with the troll ban trigger amongst the excitable lefties than he is with the crackpot 'Suck My Democracy Gun, Bitch' righties. I'm starting to think that maybe MJT's brand of independent journalism isn't so independent. I'm willing to bet that most of the money donated to his work here comes from the people who dominate his comments section who, if you've noticed, aren't that critical of our policy towards Iraq. If he were to significantly change his stance on many of the issues that get argued about here, what would happen to the funding for his trips? If I were him, I might be feeling a little wedded to my positions, especially if my 'job' of jetting around the world to cool and exciting locales and reporting on them was at stake. I don't think that everyone would stop donating, just most. I myself have donated, but I don't come here to have my worldview reinforced like I think many others here do.

As for the success of this surge, is it really news that some levels of violence have gone down as a result of increased troop activity in areas?
This has been the case since the beginning of the war! No one doubts that the Biggest Baddest Boys on the Block in Iraq are the US forces and whichever area they go to they can take care of business. The problem has been making any gains made in an area sustainable without the presence of our troops. Nothing has changed.

I also love how the media is reporting on
Bush's decision to take Petraeus's 'advice' and draw down about 30,000 troops by next spring. This was going to happen anyway! Those troops' tours are up then and there were no preparations made to replace them. That's why this was called a 'surge' in the first place! There are actually semi-respectable news outlets like NPR (i know, i know..calm down you guys..but they're really not a hostile fifth column intent on bringing this country to it's knees) reporting this crap. Unfrigginbelievable.

Posted by: John at September 13, 2007 12:02 PM

"What American military force would you say belongs in this group?"

"Ah, here we go: United States Army Special Forces"

Err, no. If you are looking for hard-charging "shock" troops used for desparate assaults, in the US Army, that is the Rangers, the three battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Their classic mission was climbing the cliffs at Point du Hoc on D-Day.

Army Special Forces can be used that way, but it is a misuse of very highly trained soldiers. Their primary mission is to raise and work with local forces. The original concept was that a 12 man A team would be able to organize a battalion of local troops for guerilla warfare. As such, they do get along well with others.

Donald Clarke

Posted by: Donald Clarke at September 13, 2007 12:06 PM

"Are you suggesting that the Vietnam war played no role in the Khymer Rouge's rise to power."

This comes from my statement that you should read the paragraphs to either side of the quoted.

You really should. Really. If you did, you wouldn't be able to make such ridiculous claims as suggesting that I am implying that the Vietnam war played no role in the Khymer Rouge's rise to power. Unlike Mr. Keirnan's speculative statistics, it is well documented that the communist government in the North and rise of the Vietnamese communist insurgency in the South was critical to the success of Khymer Rouge in the field. Likewise, both groups had thier political roots in the Paris student movement, and were deeply ideologically linked. Without the military aid from the USSR and China, which was being funnelled into Cambodia through Vietnam, and without the aid and shelter from the Vietnamese government, the Khymer Rouge could not have succeeded.

Hense battlefield failures and successes of the NVA had a direct impact on the Khymer Rouge's operational capabilities. US failures on the battlefield in Vietnam had a direct impact on the Cambodian government, in terms of moral, in terms of the ability of Soviet arms to move into Cambodia, and because it eventually led to the US cutting off aid to the Cambodian government.

So, no. The Cambodian civil war and the war in Vietnam are inextricably linked. But I reject the thesis that the one caused the other, and I find very little evidence that a US bombing campaign was a proximal or primary cause of either the success of the Khymer Rouge or thier brutality. I believe that for reasons of his own, Mr. Keirnan has always wanted to claim that the Khmer Rouge are not really principally responcible for the brutality they unleashed. But those personal reasons don't force me to except the flimsy evidence that he presents for his thesis.

Posted by: celebrim at September 13, 2007 12:14 PM

It's a PDF file, Mike.
I'll email it to you.

Posted by: glasnost at September 13, 2007 12:16 PM

I just bought some property in Ramadi - real cheap! A great place to live and work.

Thanks for the tip Mike!

Posted by: Chris at September 13, 2007 12:39 PM

Err, no. If you are looking for hard-charging "shock" troops used for desparate assaults, in the US Army, that is the Rangers, the three battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Their classic mission was climbing the cliffs at Point du Hoc on D-Day.

Thanks. As I said, I'm not as knowledgeable as I could be about the structure of the US military.

And my son just showed me that mission (the D-Day one) in one of his WWII combat games the other night.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 12:42 PM

You really should. Really. If you did, you wouldn't be able to make such ridiculous claims as suggesting that I am implying that the Vietnam war played no role in the Khymer Rouge's rise to power.

If you examine my comment carefully, you might notice that I was asking a question for purposes of clarification, and was not making ridiculous assumptions. Now that I know that you have a hair trigger in this regard, I'll either phrase such questions very carefully, or simply not bother.

But I reject the thesis that the one caused the other, and I find very little evidence that a US bombing campaign was a proximal or primary cause of either the success of the Khymer Rouge or thier brutality.

My original point was that saying that the Khymer Rouge atrocities were the result of the Vietnamese War ending was a poor argument because the context of the Vietnamese War was what caused the Khymer Rouge to come to power. I'm not really interested in a quibble about whether it was directly related to US bombing or due to intervention by other players, as that is not central to my point. Again, you might want to reread my original comment about this.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 12:56 PM

Microraptor,

Yep, you're being slow.

On the other hand, the last time Michael and I were in Heathrow (and God I hope it's the last time I get shuttled through that livestock holding pen) there was a fire alarm just as we sat down to breakfast. Our immediate thought was: Oh, another terror attack on Heathrow. Isn't it just our luck that we get out of Iraq only to be attacked in London.

London is not currently a war zone, but it certainly is inviting that designation.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 01:03 PM

John: I also agree that MJT is much quicker with the troll ban trigger amongst the excitable lefties than he is with the crackpot 'Suck My Democracy Gun, Bitch' righties.

That's true, primarily because the obnoxious lefties are more likely to attack me personally than the obnoxiuos righties.

I have found through experience that if an obnoxious commenter refrains from attacking me personally there is the possibility of me convincing that person to become more moderate in tone.

Only rarely can I convince someone to moderate their tone if they attack me as well as others, but sometimes it happens.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 01:04 PM

John: I'm willing to bet that most of the money donated to his work here comes from the people who dominate his comments section who, if you've noticed, aren't that critical of our policy towards Iraq.

Actually, I've received quite a number of donations from people who don't like our Iraq policy at all.

I have no idea what most donors think, though, because I rarely recognize their names from the comments.

I am not using my reporting as a stealth way to argue with people about policy. I write what I see and hear, and I enjoy that much more than I enjoy arguing about politics. I am not anything like a political activist, and I think of myself first and foremost as a writer.

I have my opinions, which I don't conceal, but my dispatches are not vehicles for my opinions. I read good reporting from people whose opinions I don't agree with, and I strive on purpose to be that kind of writer myself.

See Jon Lee Anderson's The Fall of Baghdad for instance. He went to Iraq wearing a Che Guevara shirt (eyeroll), but he wrote a very good book about what he saw because mostly he just wrote about what he saw. His leftist politics did not get in the way. He's a good reporter, and I take him seriously.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 13, 2007 01:13 PM

Creamy Goodness,

Your frothing hatred for the left blinds you to their true nature.

Levels of anti-war sentiment in a democracy track a more-or-less rational cost/benefit analysis by the stakeholders, i.e. the voters. When faced with an existential crisis — such as Pearl Harbor — the population rallies. When a war offers a poor return on investment, support for it is lower. When a war is completely unnecessary — say, invading Canada to resolve a trade dispute over beef exports — support for it is non-existent.

The most popular war in history for the United States was WWI, a war we didn't have to join in that provided no substantial benefit for the people of the US. We joined too late to stop the idiotic industrialized butchery that gutted several European empires and then we failed to push through the changes necessary to prevent that kind of idiocy from happening again twenty years later. To make up for it, we also let Iraq happen, the first significant time we put a knife in the back of the Kurds. Wildly popular war.

The anti-war movement is largely funded by our enemies. When this comes to light, candidates like Obama return the money shadowy figures like Hsu give them. (Although Obama's campaign still hasn't given back $12,600 brought in but not directly donated by Hsu.) But the unelected organizations never open their books or give back the money they take from countries like North Korea.

Not everybody opposing the war is the bought dog of hostile foreigners. The willingness of the activists, especially celebrity ones, to carefully examine the sources of support is virtually nil. As long as they get to be angry and doing something about it, they're good. Any money coming towards them is justifiable.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 13, 2007 01:15 PM

Patrick:

Not everybody opposing the war is the bought dog of hostile foreigners.

Outstanding.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 01:34 PM

John at September 13, 2007 12:02 PM

"I'm starting to think that maybe MJT's brand of independent journalism isn't so independent. I'm willing to bet that most of the money donated to his work here comes from the people who dominate his comments section who, if you've noticed, aren't that critical of our policy towards Iraq. If he were to significantly change his stance on many of the issues that get argued about here, what would happen to the funding for his trips? If I were him, I might be feeling a little wedded to my positions, especially if my 'job' of jetting around the world to cool and exciting locales and reporting on them was at stake. I don't think that everyone would stop donating, just most. I myself have donated, but I don't come here to have my world view reinforced like I think many others here do."

OK, take a look at it again. Take few steps back. Come closer. Check it from the left, check it from the right. Now, tell me do you still believe you are not insulting anybody? Still, nothing? Please, repeat until you do.

"I also love how the media is reporting on Bush's decision to take Petraeus's 'advice' and draw down about 30,000 troops by next spring. This was going to happen anyway! Those troops' tours are up then and there were no preparations made to replace them."

Ladies, is anything OK?

Posted by: leo at September 13, 2007 01:37 PM

My son's friend is a Ranger, and he's planning to get a law degree. I don't know where this weird idea comes from, that serving in certain branches of the military means that a person is violent and unsuitable for normal life, but it's just not supported by real people living real lives.

As for fighting, when was the last time you grabbed a gun and went out to shoot people, and possibly be shot? Do you like that sort of thing?

"Fighting" describes a wide range of activities, from official and unofficial contact sports to barfights to warfare. Given the popularity of wrestling and forms of fighting in America, I don't think we're averse to it. When I visit Ireland, the contempt my relatives have for the Brits is far exceeded by their contempt for pacifists. And they're leftists. The Scots are justifiably proud of the have-a-go hero John Smeaton.

But Canada seems to be a kinder place. My daughter said that the movies there are preceded by many social service messages, basically telling viewers to be better people.

Canada does have very good snipers, though.

Posted by: mary at September 13, 2007 02:05 PM

don't know where this weird idea comes from, that serving in certain branches of the military means that a person is violent and unsuitable for normal life, but it's just not supported by real people living real lives.

That wasn't what was said. Not even close.

"Fighting" describes a wide range of activities, from official and unofficial contact sports to barfights to warfare.

So you thought that in this particular discussion about soldiering, combat, and war that were referring to bar fights?

But Canada seems to be a kinder place.

The quality of Canada's military is generally held in pretty fair regard. But if you're basing your knowledge about the quality of our soldiers on public service messages (?WTF?), then your opinion might be excused somewhat.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 02:13 PM

dpu - you said, Most people hate fighting and war

not 'most soldiers' or most combatants, but most people. I'm a person, you're a person, soldiers are people...

You said They aren't psychos by any means (and most militaries filter those types out because they're undesirable), but they do enjoy soldiering and combat. As such, they are not good public administrators or policemen

Why do you think that people who enjoy soldiering would not be good public administrators or policemen?

Posted by: mary at September 13, 2007 02:23 PM

creamy goodness said:

Your theoretical anti-war crowd isn't against all war. They're only against wars which are actually in our interest.

This lunatic, actively suicidal position is held by... almost nobody. Except in your mind, where it is a position held by millions of straw men.

In the first place, it is you who are employing a straw man argument by misrepresenting what I said about the “anti-war“ movement. I said, “ I’ve seen no evidence that they will ever support the use of the American military to destroy our enemies.” You’ve now stretched that into the claim that they will oppose wars that are actually in our interests, with the implication being that they will even oppose wars that they agree are in out interests. Those are not equivalent claims.

In the second place, the people in that 9/13/2001 poll -- the poll I cited to support what I actually did say about the “anti-war” crowd -- the people who were opposed to going to war to get the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are not "straw men in my mind".

Here is a whole series of polls:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data091401.htm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data092001.htm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data092801.htm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data100801.htm

These polls, sponsored by the Washington Post, and all taken in the days and weeks right after 9/11, all show the same thing: About 10 - 12% of those polled opposed going to war to get the perpetrators of 9/11 under any conditions -- and some 15% -20% opposed going to war if it meant creating a risk of harm to "innocent civilians" overseas.

Assuming the adult population of the US is 200 million people, and assuming the polls are representative, those percentages do indeed represent millions of people who are opposed to war even after an attack as bad as 9/11. You cannot wish them out of existence -- nor can you dismiss them as “straw men”.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 13, 2007 02:27 PM

Michael Smith:

You’ve now stretched that into the claim that they will oppose wars that are actually in our interests, with the implication being that they will even oppose wars that they agree are in out interests.

That's an excellent characterization of this quote, which is the one I was referring to:

My conclusion is that what the majority of the American “anti-war” movement actually opposes is not war per se, but the use of American military power to protect our interests ( or what we think are our interests) around the world.

Feel free to retract what you said if you decide you no longer agree with it.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 02:54 PM

dpu: Tone is very difficult to convey over the internet. I took your question as rhetorical. In other words, I believed that you believed you already knew the answer, and that you wouldn't have asked what my opinion was unless you thought I was stating that the Vietnam war played no role in the Cambodian civil war. If that isn't the case, and you actually wanted to know my opinion because you thought it might have some chance of shaping your own, then I apologize.

I wholly disagree with you that it is a poor argument that that the Vietnam war ending is what caused the Cambodian genocide. The end of US involvement in Indochina is the proximal cause of the Cambodian genocide, in that when US support to our allies in SE Asia dried up because of US domestic concerns, it left communist power unchecked in Southeast Asia. The resulting genocide was typical of revolutionary communist takeovers that had occurred up to that point, and exceptional not so much in its scale but in its shocking self-destructiveness (so much so that it shocked even other communist revolutionairies who were in the middle of thier own political and cultural purges).

Continued US involvement in the region could have at least delayed the genocide. Better military success by the US could have almost completely prevented it. Better US strategy in SE from the beginning might have headed it off entirely, but I've no doubt in my mind that with no intervention at all by the US it would have certainly come about at some point.

It is hard for me to tell what you are arguing, because you haven't stated it as a thesis and you seem to be back peddling, but it seems like you are saying that if the US had have stayed out of Vietnam, that the Khmer Rouge would have never come to power. That is in my opinion self-evidently nonsense. The Cambodian people had legitimate complaints with their government that had nothing to do with our support. The Khmer Rouge was being heavily supported through Vietnam by the communist government in power there and therefore by the Soviets and the Chinese as well and this would have certainly continued whether we were fighting the North Vietnamese or not. Communist propaganda as decimenated through the French communist party had certainly fired imaginations, and we know now that the Soviets were dumping billions of dollars (in present terms) into the creation of this propaganda. The Khmer Rouge would have certainly eventually been able to persuade a sizable minority of the Cambodian peasant class that communism offered them a viable alternative to thier current conditions, just as such revolutions have been able to do in many other places. The fact that the US was fighting the North Vietnamese next door had a strong influence on events in Cambodia, and gave the US a strong interest in Cambodia it might not otherwise have, but the while US presence there shaped the war it was not the casual factor of the Cambodian civil war. The contrary argument would be sorta like arguing that the American Revolution was caused by Hessian mercenaries or by the victory of the French over the British at the battle of the Capes. The context of the Vietnam War might be what caused the Khmer Rouge to come to power, but that's a very different claim than American involvement in Vietnam is what caused the Khmer Rouge to come to power.

If you believe that American involvement in Vietnam is principally what caused the Khmer Rouge to come to power, then its not at all just quibbling to bring up the involvement of players other than the Americans.

I think in your 9/12/07 9:01 post, you made it very clear what you were interested in.

Posted by: celebrim at September 13, 2007 03:02 PM

Michael Smith:

those percentages do indeed represent millions of people who are opposed to war even after an attack as bad as 9/11.

Indeed. Every war will have some who are opposed. Fewer opposed Afghanistan than Iraq.

I disagree with these people. I think they made a bad call. I know a fair number of them because I lived in the SF Bay Area during 2001; all were utopian liberals.

I'm thankful that they weren't in charge. I'm also thankful that you weren't in charge.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 13, 2007 03:43 PM

If that isn't the case, and you actually wanted to know my opinion because you thought it might have some chance of shaping your own, then I apologize.

Accepted unreservedly, with apologies for my own hair-trigger.

The end of US involvement in Indochina is the proximal cause of the Cambodian genocide, in that when US support to our allies in SE Asia dried up because of US domestic concerns, it left communist power unchecked in Southeast Asia.

My argument is that the intervention of various superpowers and not-so-superpowers in the regional politics, AND the spillover of the war into Cambodia created the conditions that allowed the KR to take power. It's difficult to say what would have happened if the US had still been involved in the war, as I doubt conditions would have been to the KR's disadvantage (expanding war and instability).

The other factor that makes me think this a poor example is that the main beneficiary of the unbridled IndoChina communism, Vietnam, was the party that ended the KR's regime and the ongoing horror in Cambodia. This is rarely brought up by those who invoke the Killing Fields as a reason that communism needed to be stopped.

If you believe that American involvement in Vietnam is principally what caused the Khmer Rouge to come to power, then its not at all just quibbling to bring up the involvement of players other than the Americans.

I think in your 9/12/07 9:01 post, you made it very clear what you were interested in.

From that post: The Killing Fields were a product of the Vietnamese War, and a continuation of it would have in no way prevented it.

The quote from Wikipedia was intended to illustrate the attributes of the war in Cambodia that were exploited by the KR, not to pin all the blame on the Americans. I regret that this is the impression that you got, as I did not intend that.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 13, 2007 03:48 PM

History starts earlier than January this year, earlier than March 2003 and earlier than 9/11/2001. After the second world war the US 'played' cold war against the Soviets using the whole Earth as game board including the Middle-east. We all know that Bin-Laden was trained by the CIA. Unfortunately he became a loose gun.
So the US was not a sinless virgin on 9/11/2001. USA did NOT deserve 9/11 but it proved that something went wrong in the decades before. What was the lesson learned from that?
Europe suggested (based on its history of 1000 years of war) not to go war. War is cruel and costs many lifes. USA did not listen to it (and forgot WWII and Vietname) but decided to go to war.
USA started the war in the name of 'giving freedom and democracy'. Now we just had an example in Bosnia since 1995 how difficult it is even in a European environment when the country has more nations. But the UN missions all over the world also show that sometimes even 30 years is not enough to pacify an area.
So USA should have known that it would be a long process. USA is still nowhere if in Baghdad there is just one hour electricity per day compared to 24 hours before 2003.
So be prepared for a long road. I would say do NOT come out until USA finished its job (it will still take years from now and cost tens of thousands of mostly Iraqi lives), BUT: shame on USA going there (if it did not go to Africa when massacres occurred) and USA can not be proud of this war at all.
There is an opinion and I share it: the US made it wrong (mostly in the 1980s), it has to fix it. And please do NOT forget it again, and do NOT do it again in 40-50 years.

Of course I am very happy to see the progress made in Ramadi. And I hope for the fastest ending of the war in Iraq.

Posted by: nevertheless at September 13, 2007 04:08 PM

Nevertheless- Thank God you have the common sense to know that the US should stay until Iraq's government should be able to defend itself. But personally I don't give a damn what Europe does, especially the western side. They are on a suicidal path. In 50 years who gives a crap. They'll be minorities in their own countries and the Muslims will be the majority. The Europeans are the frog being slowly cooked on a griddle.
It is still up for debate if the CIA directly trained Osama, but then again so what. We had a common enemy in the Soviet Union. You know the country that was possibly responsible for 100million + deaths in the 20th century. Back in World War II the US heavily supported the Soviet Union. Without our help they would've fell and how would that have helped the US. It would just mean that Hitler wouldn't have to fight on two fronts. And the Third Reich could've have still ruled Europe well into the 21st century.
The only lesson that should be learned from 9/11 is that America shouldn't stick it's collective head in the ground like Clinton did during the 1990's. Clinton governed by polls and dealing seriously with the Jihadis is difficult task. Which is why he never visited the World Trade Center after the '93 bombing and basically PUNTED when it came to dealing Osama Bin Laden. I pray that we don't go back into that type of shell again.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 13, 2007 05:56 PM

I meant to say that Europe "is the frog being slowly boiled alive."

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 13, 2007 06:00 PM

dpu: The Killing Fields are most directly a product of the French student movement and the revolutionary zeal that people got caught up in as the French communist party preached its new gospel of overthrowing the existing order and the utopia of a propertyless society. They are in essence France exporting the terror of the French revolutioin under a new name. The Killing Fields were most directly enabled by expansionistic zeal of Soviet era Russia. They would have gone on IMO with or without the Vietnamese war.

"The other factor that makes me think this a poor example is that the main beneficiary of the unbridled IndoChina communism, Vietnam, was the party that ended the KR's regime and the ongoing horror in Cambodia. This is rarely brought up by those who invoke the Killing Fields as a reason that communism needed to be stopped."

Perhaps, but no complex explanation for why Vietnam turned on its former allies is needed. Pol Pot's purge end up including killing anyone who wasn't of Cambodian heritage, including Vietnamese living in Cambodia. The Vietnamese government found itself swamped with Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees fleeing Pol Pot's killing fields. Additionally, Pol Pot was quite obviously gutting his own country, and this gave the Vietnamese government the oppurtunity to conquer and dominate what had been thier traditional regional rival. It was a combination of racial feeling, self-preservation, and ambition that led the Vietnamese to put an end to Pol Pot's regime. Since they were in the middle of executing a couple tens of thousands of thier own citizens, as well as making refugees of hundreds of thousands and starving ten's of thousands more, it is hard to make me believe that they did so out of any finer feeling.

The killing fields were directly brought about by the decision of the US congress to end aid to the Cambodian government, which lead under the circumstance to its speedy collapse much as the decision to end aid to the South Vietnamese government led to its.

Posted by: celebrim at September 13, 2007 08:17 PM

nevertheless: "We all know that Bin-Laden was trained by the CIA."

We most certainly do not all know that. Both the CIA and Bin-Ladin publicly deny that they had any direct involvement with each other. So far as I know, no one has ever produced any documentation to show that they did. There certainly isn't any reason why the two should necessarily be linked. There were alot of factions fighting the Soviets, and Bin-Ladin's faction was largely self-funded and not operating in the CIA's turf. It's probable that he had contact with the IIS, and it's probable that he had wealthy Saudi donors. But there isn't any evidence that he was ever associated with the CIA.

"...how difficult it is even in a European environment..."

I might have left out the 'even' part of it. I don't see why it would be any harder to bring Democracy to Iraq than it would be to say France.

Posted by: celebrim at September 13, 2007 08:25 PM

nevertheless: "We all know that Bin-Laden was trained by the CIA."

We most certainly do not all know that. Both the CIA and Bin-Ladin publicly deny that they had any direct involvement with each other. So far as I know, no one has ever produced any documentation to show that they did. There certainly isn't any reason why the two should necessarily be linked. There were alot of factions fighting the Soviets, and Bin-Ladin's faction was largely self-funded and not operating in the CIA's turf. It's probable that he had contact with the IIS, and it's probable that he had wealthy Saudi donors. But there isn't any evidence that he was ever associated with the CIA.

"...how difficult it is even in a European environment..."

I might have left out the 'even' part of it. I don't see why it would be any harder to bring Democracy to Iraq than it would be to say France.

Posted by: celebrim at September 13, 2007 08:25 PM

creamy goodness equated the following:

My conclusion is that what the majority of the American “anti-war” movement actually opposes is not war per se, but the use of American military power to protect our interests (or what we think are our interests) around the world.

and:

Your theoretical anti-war crowd isn't against all war. They're only against wars which are actually in our interest. (Emphasis added.)

My statement implies nothing about the reasons for their opposition to the use of American military power to protect our interests. Your version implies that their opposition rests on the very fact that such use is “actually in our interest“.

Here are the typical arguments I heard from those who opposed going to war after 9/11:

- “Fighting back will only make it worse”

- “Attacking the enemy will only radicalize them and cause them to rally around their leader”

- “Attacking will only strengthen the hand of the Taliban and push more of the population into their camp”

- “Military intervention in the middle east is precisely the sort of thing that caused this attack in the first place”

- “An attack will inflame the Arab street and destabilize the entire middle east”

-“An attack will play right into bin-Laden’s hands, it’s exactly what he hopes we will do”

- “If we respond to this disaster militarily it will turn America into Lebanon”.

That last statement, as best I can recall, is what Pat Buchanan said to Bill O’Reilly on prime time television a few days after 9/11.

All of these claims are accurately characterized by my original statement: they are “opposition to the use of American military power to protect our interests” -- it’s an opposition based on the belief that the consequences will, in fact, not be in our interests. None can be accurately characterized by your re-write: they do not express opposition based on the fact that the use of military power is “actually in our interest”.

I don’t know how to make the distinction any clearer.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 14, 2007 05:52 AM

creamy goodness said:

I'm thankful that they weren't in charge. I'm also thankful that you weren't in charge.

So instead of "no war against any enemy" or "total war against the prime enemy", you apparently prefer the Bush approach of "some war against minor enemies and harsh words for the rest".

We've used that approach for 6 years now. What are the results?

The two nations that arguably are most responsible for the spread of the international jihadist movement -- namely, Iran and Saudi Arabia -- have been left completely untouched. Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons and has purchased long range ballistic missiles and advanced air defense systems. In addition, Iran has succeeded in building a proxy terrorist-warfare wing in Lebanon and has rearmed it with longer range and deadlier missiles. In addition, they've begun building advanced IEDs for use by their Shiite brothers in Iraq. Saudi Arabia has collected billions in additional revenue from inflated oil prices and is still funding the construction of Salafist-infested madrassas to raise more generations of jihadists. In short, the capabilities of our major enemies have grown.

Meanwhile, enormous sums of treasure and no small amount of blood have been spent to turn two minor enemies into what might best be called "demo-theocracies". One is torn by civil war between religious sects and terrorist attacks from foreign sources. The other is under siege by the undefeated remnants of the Taliban. Our military currently functions as the domestic police force for one while it assists NATO in the defense of the other.

On the plus side is the fact that al-Qaeda has sent thousands of its fighters to their deaths in Iraq. But have we killed 1% of al-Qaeda -- or 50%? Is their recruitment up as the anti-war people claim, up sufficiently to more than offset these losses -- or is it down because bin-Laden has not been able to make good on his pledge to break America in Afghanistan the same way the mujahideen broke the USSR? We don’t know. At least, I don’t know. All I do know is that they have apparently been granted refuge and a chance to rebuild -- inside a country that is our putative ally in the war against them.

To sum up then: Iran and Saudi Arabia, the major sponsors of the international jihad, have gotten stronger and continue to support and spread the international jihad. In the process of spending huge sums to police our two “demo-theocracies”, we continue to kill members of al-Qaeda, but we don’t know whether or not on balance they grow stronger or weaker. And finally, we must acknowledge that even if we succeed in stabilizing Iraq (and I hope we do), there is little reason to think that doing so will weaken the international jihadist movement or its main sponsors, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

That’s where 6 year of limited warfare has gotten us.

Posted by: Michael Smith at September 14, 2007 07:52 AM

Michael Smith,

I leave it for the reader to judge.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 14, 2007 08:34 AM

Sheikh Sattar is killed today if my source of info is reliable. I am terribly sorry for that. Nevertheless the whole article gets a different lighting now knowing that.

Posted by: nevertheless at September 14, 2007 09:36 AM

They are in essence France exporting the terror of the French revolutioin under a new name.

If taking power were as simple as having revolutionary zeal, we'd be changing governments every few weeks. It has little to do with where Pol Pot went to school, and far more to do with the conditions that gave him support and allowed him to take power.

They would have gone on IMO with or without the Vietnamese war.

Then we must differ. Both superpowers were funding and supporting revolutionary groups throughout each other's spheres of influence. Did they all take power? No. Therefore other factors were the important ones.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 14, 2007 09:39 AM

celebrim: I used 'even' to point to the fact that the most peaceful part of the globe where the first cultural reaction to any problem is "let's discuss it" (which may be looked at as bureaucratic and even not brave enough) lead to the current situation to Bosnia. imagine using the same 'let us bomb them first, then try to kill every leader there who does not like it' approach that was first used in Iraq.

Europe has 1000 years of experience with almost continuous war periods. War was used almost in every situation and it just failed because it lead to the WWII. War is NOT an option and Europe has the right to express it loud and proud based on its sad experience.

Do NOT forget: the US actions since 9/11 (not necessarily directly but as an unavoidable consequence) killed many times more civilians than the number of casualties on 9/11. One life is one life: citizenship and census does NOT count. And the official US propaganda does not even want to explain it why is it OK to react to killing some innocent people on 9/11 by killing x times more innocent people since 2003. Land war is killing innocent people beside soldiers even in the 21. century and it is well known by any fifth grade child.

Bin Laden and the CIA: as a legal matter most probably you are right; we are not able to prove it (if there is proof it is kept secret by the CIA). As a historical and political chain of facts (including video footage) leading to this conclusion it is true. But everybody knows: the truth is NOT what you can legally prove.

Posted by: nevertheless at September 14, 2007 10:05 AM

Pete Dawq: in 50 years the US will be Spanish just as Europe will be Muslim. That is the world today. Why does it mean that the US or Europe make sg. wrong? In the history many periods that was thought to be eternal ended. And it is not the end of history that the US is English and Europe is Christian. Change is not winning or being defeated; it is simple a change. The start point of your reasoning is a belief which is not rational.
Furthermore the US took back much more freedom rights from the people (i.e. lost much more) than Europe in the recent years. Take this into account when you judge about right direction of politics.

It is interesting to read what in America people learn about WWII (I mean the US saved the world form Hitler to rule even in the 21. century). We have no choice to see what would have happened without the US but the history and especially WWII is a little bit more complex than to make such simple statements. And because of its simplicity this statement is most probably not true.

Posted by: nevertheless at September 14, 2007 10:33 AM

Nevertheless- Please excuse my inferior intellect. I didn't attend a major university, but it isn't a "oversimplification" to stay that without America's help Europe would have been ruled by the Third Reich. The Brits were pratically begging the US to join the war and Russia couldn't have retreated far enough to save it's heavy machinery without Roosevelt's help. So please don't insult me and try to say that Europe would have even survived without America's help.
Assimulation, my friend something that is going on in America despite the Left's stupid multi-cultural wish. The Mexicans that our sneaking over the border aren't wishing that America duplicates Mexico's political system. They just want to be a part of the American system. While the Muslims in Europe want to be ruled with "Sharia" law, they want the Muslims to be in control. That is a huge difference between America's demographics and Europe's in 50 years.
The Bush Administration hasn't taken away any citizens rights. There are no "detention" camps like they did under (DEMOCRAT) Roosevelt. We are capuring the terrorists and the intelligence they are getting is saving American and European lives.(Example: the terrorist cell in Germany) The only ones that should be afraid as long as Bush is in charge are the terrorists. As far as I know you can still stick a crucifex in a jar of piss and the government won't break down your door, but give a Muslim the googlie-eye and your a racist.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 14, 2007 12:43 PM

What do you make of Jane Fonda's latest pronouncements on Iraq?

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,”

Cretin.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article2461214.ece

Sorry. Not Fonda. I meant Alan Greenspan. What a know-nothing, leftard appeaser he is...

Oil? Pah.....

The Iraq war is - as MJT pointed out to me the other day - in no small part about US Marines protecting playgrounds from AQI.

If only that child friendly USMC mission statment were more widely known, Britain's odious McCanns could've asked for a couple of detachments of battle hardened Jarheads to be posted outside their apartment in Praia de Luz, before the "mystery invisible pederast predator" snuck off with their little girl.

Posted by: Microcredit at September 16, 2007 05:52 AM

Well after having been in the Anbar area since Jan. of this year i feel the need to stay there and finish what we started. Of course we have lost men in our unit, both to injury and what have you but, when in a community for a certain amount of time you start to learn the people and the faces. You learn where the shady people are and where the decent folks live. Its a war zone and It will get cleaned up and buildings fixed, it just takes time. We have worked our buts off to make our area a place where the markets can open back up and the children can play again without the fear of months past. I feel if they pull us out to soon it will never get back to normal and be rebuilt, we just need to stay there for a little longer and complete the mission, Id volunteer to stay an extra year if i knew they were going to pull us out to soon, the people here some who we call friends, need us for just a little bit longer. Id say 3 years we could have it back to normal. By the way Mike good writing, and hope to see you here again soon.

Posted by: Brooks "DOC" at September 16, 2007 08:09 AM

The Marines consider the Navy (except for Corpsmen) absolute pussies because they have showers at least once a week aboard ship and racks to sleep in.

The Navy considers the Air Force to be pussies because they get dorm like conditions two to a room. Luxury living compared to Navy barracks.

Posted by: M. Simon at September 16, 2007 05:27 PM

The success of the Marines comes from the ethos:

"No better friend, no worse enemy"

i.e. it is Marine Corps doctrine to make friends with the locals.

Posted by: M. Simon at September 16, 2007 05:42 PM

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Posted by: dsdsa at September 18, 2007 05:49 AM

Michael,
I just returned after 16 months at Camp TQ, we secured many of the routes south and east of Ramadi (was with the 34th ID).

I thank you for writting the most accurate and honest assesment of the Al Anbar awakening I have yet seen. We saw the worst of it last year and helped turn the tide, by working directly with the Iraqi Police force. The most frustrating thing for me is the ease at which people are dismissing the absolute 180 degree turnaround that has occurred. It is NOT trivial and those that paint as such, slap me and all the soldiers and Marines who spent 1,000s of hours patrolling and interacting with the local populace.

A major event that turned the tide against Al Qaeda, was the February bombing in Habbaniyah that killed 50 and wounded 100, mostly women and children.

For those that hate Bush, fine, hate Bush. Do NOT impugn the work and progress that the armed forces have made on the ground, with blood and sweat.

Thanks for your work,
CPT Tadd Vanyo
HHC 2-136

Posted by: tadd vanyo at September 18, 2007 11:13 AM

Thank you for the work that you are doing. I am glad to get a real report from Iraq. The news here in the states is not worth listening to.
I hope that the Iragi people will soon have peace in their country and our troops get the unending honor they deserve.
I will be using this web site for my reliable news from Irag from now on.

Posted by: qb at September 18, 2007 11:25 AM

Posted by: Dan at September 10, 2007 03:07 AM

This is to the poster named DAN!

You are an idiot. It wouldn't matter what the U.S. Military did in Iraq, you would always look on the negativ side. It is obvious that you were probably rejected by the military and now feel as though it is your personal crusade to try and point out everything that we did wrong. Is the military perfect, hell no! However, the work that our young men and women are doing is amazing. Having served in Iraq for a year near the beginning, I remember what it was like when it was the wild, wild west. To see the progress that we have made is phenominal. Then to have some stay at home momma's boy question the bad things that happened pisses me off. Before you critizies anything you should get off your ass and spend a month or two there. What a jerk!

PS.... Mike, that was a wonderful piece.

Posted by: Raymond at September 18, 2007 12:37 PM

www.tragichope.org

Posted by: jrdf at September 18, 2007 01:02 PM

Thanks for the report.The news makes me feel proud of OUR Troops,Shit hot job! I printed the picture that the little girl made with the Iragi sword and american "muscle" Great Pic.and have it in my shop so I can share it every day. God Bless All of You!!!

Posted by: skeeter at September 18, 2007 01:06 PM

Awesome job! Keep up the good work and stay safe :)

Posted by: Scott at September 18, 2007 05:25 PM

Just wanted to say thank you for the beautiful articule. My husband, a Sergeant with the US Army is over in Ramadi now, he's been there since January of this year. He is currently serving his second tour. Although I dont agree with the US still being over there, and I obviously don't enjoy my husband and father of my two year old son being away from this family, it was nice to hear something somewhat positive from the news media. It just gives me a little bit more hope to go on for when I get up tomorrow morning- another day without him home. Thanks again.

Posted by: Shannon at September 18, 2007 07:07 PM

Just want to comment on Dan's and Michael's and Katrina's irrational commentary, even though enough attention may already have been given to this matter.

Dan, Michael and Katrina's writing style suggest they are relativists who have failed to grasp that order is order, and chaos is chaos. Something that is different is not "just" differnt, but equal, rather, all things human are ordered along a spectrum of order and chaos. Some behaviors and ideologies are more orderly, others disorderly and dysfunctional.

Order is very difficult for humans, and it easily breaks down when elements of instability are introduced, just as any machine will break down if a wrench is thrown into it's geargox.

Relativists often assume all people are born perfectly Utopian, and then only go "bad" when indoctrinated by authorities to act in unaltruistic ways toward one another. Thus is it always a conspiracy theory about the puppeteers of societies manipulating naturally good people into conflict with one another for their own advantage. The relativist never accounts for how the first puppeteer went bad, nor do they allow the human any way to figure things out on his/her own - it is assumed all are programmed. The relativists own escape from programming is never substantiated, rather, only claims of being more "evolved" are offered.

Even Noam Chomsky rejects relativism. Chomsky agrees with other experts in the field of thinking and perceiving, noting that the claim that "nothing is right or wrong, but only relative to some arbitrary standard" could only be a true claim if there was some non-arbitraty standard which made that claim really true, not just relative.

Even if this Iraq conflict was the result of puppeteering, the interaction of the soldiers and civilians is still real to both of them, and has to be dealt with in harsh reality, not in the classroom of relativistic theory.

There have been suggestions that the Coalition should just have stayed out of Ramadi, and then Al Queda would not have moved in, and then Al Queda would not have to have been moved out with much collateral damage.

That is a way of thinking typical to relativists, and is often called historicizing, or in other words, fantasizing about how things in the past could have been different. Clearer thinkers, such as physicists and scientists, will tell you that the past is quite done and over with, and likely happened in the only way it could have happened, and fantasizing about it can't change it. In "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life" F. Nietzsche made the assertion that people engage in historisizing, or refashioning the past, for the purpose of gain in the present. That seems to be the case here with Dan, Michael and Katrina. Specifically, these three are manifesting the third type of refashioning the past described by Nietzsche, namely, to recast the past in order to shine a bright light on one's victimhood for the sake of validating claims for "justice", which are typically claims for material assets and power.

What is the claim for "justice" in this case? As it turns out, many people make a hodge podge in their minds of all the events of their lives, and will in some cases be anti-authoritarian only because they were raised by overly-authoritarian parents. It is actually a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, where look alikes and sound alikes are blamed for the crime of the actual perpetrator. The hate of societies authorities is often the hate of parents, bullies, and other people who dominated one during childhood.

War is a breakdown of order, an order which is imposed by authorities on the populace because it is the only way a populace can live together in semi-peace. Most people are actually quite bad, and their good sides only come out when it feels safe to be good, which means there must be some order imposed, and subsuquent days must be somewhat predictable in outcome - one must be reasonably assured of one's day to day safety. Orderly societies tend to flourish because no mental power has to be wasted on worry for self preservation.

The role of the Coalition forces in Ramadi was essential, not incidental. While the catalyst of the reform of Ramadi was the change in allegiance of the local leaders and populace, it was only the catalyst and still required the serious killing power of the Coalition forces to reduce the number of Al Queda fighters. The Ramadis pointed, the Coalition killed.

Furthermore, it may have been necessary for Al Queda to move in to Ramadi so that the people there could get to know them, and know they did not want them there. The turning against AQ by Ramadis required their abuse by AQ.

It would be nice if there was never any war. It would be nice if every American was an oligarch and we could all objectively debate what to do about foreign policy. But that is impossible. So we have what we have.

I hope to see further peace in Iraq, and hope the Iraqi people and their children can have happy times in the future, and that their future be one of rule of law and compassionate spirituality, free of oppression, including Islamic oppression, which is not a cultural relativism, but gross immaturity.

Cheers

Posted by: Rob Harvey at September 18, 2007 07:07 PM

To Nevertheless:

regarding your post on 9/14/2007:

You made this statement at the end:" and because of it's simplicity, it is probably not true"

That is a logical fallacy. One engages in logical fallacy for 1 of 2 possible reasons: (this matter has been studies since Aristotle, and likely further back) 1) because thinking accurately and rigorously is difficult for humans, we sometimes make these kinds of mistakes known as logical fallacy - it might sound good, but is actually very wrong. 2) purposeful deception.

For instance, here is a statement that is very simple, and very true: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Also, from Ockam we get the phrase often called Ockam's Razor: "The simplist explanation is usually the correct one"

You commited a few logical fallacies in your post(s). I always suggest to people to study up on the logical fallacies, and then attempt to write and debate without making any of those fallacies. It's really not at all easy. Without the logical fallacies, good argument can only be composed of facts, common sense, and sometimes careful analogy and game theory statements like "that which does not kill us makes us strong", or "weakness invites attack", etc.

Cheers

Posted by: Rob Harvey at September 18, 2007 07:27 PM

If the general public were regularly exposed to this kind of story - even ALONG WITH the daily crap everyone's already getting - it would be so beneficial.

The US media are so autocratically aligned with liberals. How worthless they are.

How pathetic.

Posted by: Frank at September 19, 2007 12:18 AM

Great Article. I was stationed in Ramadi from June 2006 through February 2007 with the 1st Armored Division. While there, Ramadi was a "No Man's Land." It is a great feeling to know that my blood(yes, blood) sweat, and tears is now bearing fruit. I really feel that if progress can be made in Ramadi that it can be made throughout the rest of Iraq. Im not a strategist, but surely some of the things that have been done in Ramadi, can be done in other cities in Iraq. RIP all of my fallen comrade soldiers (American and Iraqi).

Posted by: Gary at September 19, 2007 01:14 AM

Again I finish one of your pieces smiling. Against reporting like this the NYT and WAPOST should just fold up their tents.

I have one niggling (small, insignificant) comment. I bet that Operation Murphy's Burrow is actually Operation Murphfreesboro named after a proud city in Tennessee.

Posted by: Belasarius at September 19, 2007 11:36 AM

Absolutely riveting and articulate article, Michael! If the mainstream media made one-tenth the attempt at objective reporting that you achieve, Americans like myself would hail our guys in uniform and their thoughtful, energetic effort to bring autonomy and peace to the Iraqis.
As an aside, it is fruitless to respond to misanthropist pacifists such as Katarina, folks. Her comments reveal a deep-seated hatred of heroism and heroic attempts to militarily deal with the murderers in our world who hate freedom, as much as Katarina hates freedom-fighters. You can't argue with the Katarinas of the world. You must simply condemn them and ignore them, and let them live daily with their mean-spirited vindictiveness while the rest of us embrace happiness and the willful destruction of all those who seek to thwart happiness.
One more thing. Joe's post was spot-on.
Thank you again, Michael, for your independence and eloquence.

Posted by: David at September 19, 2007 11:38 AM

Mr. Totten,

I applaud your efforts to bring all of us this insightful, objective and downright intriguing piece on Ar Ramadi. I especially enjoyed the many pictures that you included as well. Most of all, I enjoyed the accuracy and precision with which you related, truthfully I can add, the previous and current situations in Ar Ramadi. I know it to be true because I was there. I recommend that the people who feel so uniquely qualified as to provide their heavily opinionated comments on these events weigh their wealth of "knowledge" against my acutal experience. From September 2005 to March 2006, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment saw daily, if not hourly, enemy contact and countless IED strikes. As this article points out it was described many times as the wild west of Iraq. Airstrikes were required almost weekly in the city and the threat of indirect fire was constant although commonly inaccurate. Ask the Marines of 2/5, 3/8, or 1/6 what this world was like and I assure anyone that their stories will closely mirror this article and my words. Although I was detached from 3/7 in May of this year, I would happily forfeit my current duty if I was able to return to the Cutting Edge.
As of April of this year, 3/7 was sent right back to Ar Ramadi. Originally, I was surprised to hear of the changes taking place in Al Anbar, but I was certain my brothers would still encounter some resistance. As it turns out, most of the correspondence I have seen and heard describes a night and day difference in the operational environment. Instead of combat patrols with contact "highly likely", my brothers relate to me the many productive humanitarian missions, the success story of the Iraqi Police finally becoming prolific and effective, and the quiet nights.
From my time in Ar Ramadi, I know this turn was from the collective decision of the Iraqis of Ar Ramadi and no one else... period. However, I also know that it was supported and protected in very large part by the Marines and Soldiers that have served there and continue to serve there. It is their discipline and vigilance that has allowed this story to play out as it has, without any crimes against the populace of Al Anbar in what was the most active sector in all of Iraq. I pray for their safety and continued success in supporting the blossom that is now Al Anbar. Thank you again Mr. Totten for the eloquence and the ever fleeting time you put into this work.

- Semper Fidelis.

Posted by: Sgt Joshua Carson at September 19, 2007 06:37 PM

Mr. Totten:

I spent just under a year in Ramadi, from July 2005 to February 2006. I was sent home on medical leave, so I was not able to see some of the progress made in the months I was away. When my unit finally left, the only stories taken home were ones of death, corrupt Iraqi Police, bumbling ISF soldiers, and crooked Sheiks.

It is quite refreshing to read your article on the progress our soldiers, marines and the Iraqi people have made since I left. Thank you for venturing out to cover a relatively uncovered story. You are a credit to your profession, and a majority of journalists could benefit to learn from your maturity and courage.

This is truly an example of the potential the rest of Iraq posesses to finally achieve some semblence of peace.

Thank your for your efforts.

Respectfully,

SSG Colket
U.S. Army

Posted by: SSG A.C. at September 20, 2007 01:04 PM

Michael,
I am one of the Navy Seabees that helped setup JSS Malaab, COP Apple, other outposts and was at Corregidor. Ramadi October 06'-April 07'. Awesome report. I remember all of those situations and events like it was yesterday. It's good to have someone like you overthere telling the truth about progress over there.
Stay Strong

Posted by: Ben at September 21, 2007 02:01 PM

I, too, was in Ramadi from June 2006 until February 2007. Since then, I have been discharged to get a life... uh, I mean, education. I will never forget the experience or my brothers. Life sucks when you're there, but reading the article and looking at the pictures brings back memories. It was my unit that secured "No Man's Land." 1-37 AR, the first unit to occupy the previously unoccupied central Ramadi. We made the difference. The Marines.. they helped, I guess. But it still bothers me to read comments from people like Dan. It is obvious he does not benefit from first-hand experience, but he insists on wild speculation. He claims that so much didn't need to be destroyed, that the U.S. military didn't follow COIN TACSOP... yada, yada, yada... I'm sorry Dan, are you the author? Have you been there? What have you witnessed? It is because of you that there is such a big problem in the United States. You speculate, you fabricate. Actually, Dan, much of it did have to be destroyed, unless you prefer more Americans in bodybags. When I was there, we always went through the escalation of force before using heavier assets (CAS, FA). Unfortunately, many times it is just not possible to engage AND destroy targets under cover. They shoot at us from inside buildings, Dan. I'm sorry, but we can't all be Delta Force and clear every building with small arms. It's just not feasible. Unless you like bodybags.

Posted by: Michael J. Sanchez at September 21, 2007 11:35 PM

Michael,

This was an amazing read. I have long wanted to read an "independent" man on the street report, without any huge political bend to it. This report delivers!!!! Thanks so much for your bravery & for your words, they definitely show the war on a more personal level.

Travis

Posted by: travis at September 27, 2007 06:47 AM

Mr. Totten,
Beautifully written article. Thank you so much for being brave enough to visit Ramadi and report the positive work that is going on now. This is the second news article that I have been able to locate that reports the truth. I have been hunting for seven months for someone to report the good things happening in Ramadi. My husband is a Marine Major near Corrigedor in Ramadi. He's been keeping me up to date about all the wonderful things the Iraqi Army, Police and community have been able to accomplish is such a short amount of time. This is the first article that gives credit to the Iraqi people wanting to and working towards rebuilding their country. I will forward these news articles to all my friends and family. Keep up the awesome work.

I read through the previous posts. I grew up in a Navy household and married a Marine. For your own safety, don't tell a Marine they are part of the Navy. It might not be pretty. LOL It's a Marine pride thing.

Pam G

Posted by: PamG at September 27, 2007 11:53 PM
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The Men Who Would Be Orwell
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