September 18, 2007

Anbar Awakens Part II: Hell is Over

This is the second in a two-part series. Read Part One, The Battle of Ramadi, here.

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RAMADI, IRAQ – In early 2007 Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, was one of the most violent war-torn cities on Earth. By late spring it was the safest major city in Iraq outside Kurdistan.

Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq had seized control with the tacit blessing of many local civilians and leaders because they promised to fight the Americans. But Al Qaeda’s rule of Ramadi was vicious and cruel. They turned out not to be liberators at all, but the Taliban of Mesopotamia.

Al Qaeda met resistance, after a time, from the Iraqis and responded with a horrific murder and intimidation campaign against even children. The Sunni Arabs of Ramadi then rejected Al Qaeda so utterly they forged an alliance with the previously detested United States Army and Marine Corps and purged the terrorists from their lands.

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Combat operations are finished in Ramadi. The American military now acts as a peacekeeping force to protect the city from those who recently lost it and wish to return.

It is not, however, completely secured yet.

“Al Qaeda lost their capital,” Major Lee Peters said, “and the one city that was called the worst in the world. It was their Stalingrad. And they want to come back.”

In July and again in August they did try to retake it and lost pitched battles on the shores of Lake Habbaniya and Donkey Island just on the outskirts. They destroyed a bridge over the Euphrates River leading into the city with a dump truck bomb. Four other bridges in Anbar Province were also destroyed in acts of revenge in the countryside by those who no longer have refuge in cities. And just last week Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the indigenous Anbar Salvation Council that declared Al Qaeda the enemy, was assassinated by a roadside bomb near his house.

That murder can’t undo the changes in the hearts and minds of the locals. If anything, assassinating a well-respected leader who is widely seen as a savior will only further harden Anbaris against the rough men who would rule them.

“All the tribes agreed to fight al Qaeda until the last child in Anbar,” the Sheikh’s brother Ahmed told a Reuters reporter.

Whether Anbar Province is freshly christened pro-American ground or whether the newly founded Iraqi-American alliance is merely temporary and tactical is hard to say. Whatever the case, the region is no longer a breeding ground for violent anti-American and anti-Iraqi forces.

“As of July 30,” Major Peters said in early August, “we’ve have 81 days in the city with zero attacks since March 31.”

“We’ve had only one attack in our area of operations in the past couple of months,” said Captain Jay McGee at the Blue Diamond base. He was referring to the Jazeera area immediately north of the city and including the suburbs. “And we haven’t had a single car bomb in our area since February.”

Violence has declined so sharply in Ramadi that few journalists bother to visit these days. It’s “boring,” most say, and it’s hard to get a story out there – especially for daily news reporters who need fresh scoops every day. Unlike most journalists, I am not a slave to the daily news grind and took the time to embed with the Army and Marines in late summer.

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When the Army Soldiers at Blue Diamond took me along on their missions I could see why so many reporters write off Ramadi as a place where nothing happens: I was sent along in a convoy of Humvees to the outskirts of the city in a palm grove to attend an adult literacy class for women.

The class was cancelled at the last minute, though, so our trip to the palm grove was actually pointless. But Iraqis descended on us from their countryside houses and kept us busy happily socializing for hours.

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Experiences like this are now typical for the infantrymen of the United States military, but extraordinary for a civilian like me who isn’t accustomed to casually hanging out with Arabs in Iraq’s notorious Sunni Triangle.

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I was greeted by friendly Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad every day, but the atmosphere in Ramadi was different. I am not exaggerating in the least when I describe their attitude toward Americans as euphoric.

Grown Iraqi men hugged American Soldiers and Marines.

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Young men wanted me to take their pictures with their arms around American Soldiers and Marines. The Americans seemed slightly bored with the idea, but the Iraqis were enthusiastic.

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Children hugged State Department civilian reconstruction team leader Donna Carter.

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Ramadi has changed so drastically from the terrorist-infested pit that it was as recently as April 2007 that I could hardly believe what I saw was real. The sheer joy on the faces of these Iraqis was unmistakable. They weren’t sullen in the least, and it was pretty obvious that they were not just pretending to be friendly or going through the hospitality motions.

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“It was nothing we did,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Drew Crane who was visiting for the day from Fallujah. “The people here just couldn’t take it anymore.”

What he said next surprised me even more than what I was seeing.

“You know what I like most about this place?” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“We don’t need to wear body armor or helmets,” he said.

I was poleaxed. Without even realizing it, I had taken off my body armor and helmet. I took my gear off as casually as I do when I take it off after returning to the safety of the base after patrolling. We were not in the safety of the base and the wire. We were safe because we were in Ramadi.

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Only then did I notice that Lieutenant Colonel Crane was no longer wearing his helmet. Neither were most of the others.

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Donna Carter helps an Iraqi boy with his English class homework

I saw no violence in Baghdad, but I would never have taken off my body armor and helmet outside the wire. I certainly wouldn’t have done it casually without noticing it. If I had I would have been sternly upbraided for reckless behavior by every Soldier anywhere near me.

But in Ramadi the Marines are seriously considering dropping the helmet and body armor requirements because the low level of danger makes the gear no longer worth it. Protective gear doesn’t look intimidating, exactly, but it is hard to socialize properly with Iraqis while wearing it. It creates a feeling of distrust and distance.

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When we got back in the Humvees I was required to don my helmet again in case we hit a bump in the road.

Bumps in the road are now officially seen as more hazardous than insurgents and terrorists in Ramadi. (There is a lot of hard metal inside a Humvee that you can bang your head up against.) I have my doubts about the relative dangers of each in the real world. Ramadi isn’t totally safe yet. But this kind of juxtaposition is absurdly unthinkable in Baghdad.

The Iraqis of Anbar Province turned against Al Qaeda and sided with the Americans in large part because Al Qaeda proved to be far more vicious than advertised. But it’s also because sustained contact with the American military – even in an explosively violent combat zone –convinced these Iraqis that Americans are very different people from what they had been led to believe. They finally figured out that the Americans truly want to help and are not there to oppress them or steal from them. And the Americans slowly learned how Iraqi culture works and how to blend in rather than barge in.

“We hand out care packages from the U.S. to Iraqis now that the area has been cleared of terrorists,” one Marine told me. “When we tell them that some of these packages aren’t from the military or the government, that they were donated by average American citizens in places like Kansas, people choke up and sometimes even cry. They just can’t comprehend it. It is so different from the lies they were told about us and how we’re supposed to be evil.”

The literacy class for women and girls may have been cancelled, but the local would-be students wanted me to take pictures of them at their desks. So the classroom was opened and they sat in their seats for staged photos. We had no language in common. It was just obvious, from their beckoning hand gestures, what they wanted me to do. They seemed to be proud that they were learning to read, and that women and girls were allowed to be schooled again now that Al Qaeda is gone.

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Earlier this year these very same people would have treated me as an enemy to my face had I shown up. Al Qaeda is gravely mistaken if they believe they can flip Ramadi back into their column by assassinating Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha.

Shortly before Sheikh Sattar was killed near his home he explained the Anbari point of view to Fouad Ajami, the Johns Hopkins University professor from South Lebanon.

“Our American friends had not understood us when they came,” he said. “They were proud, stubborn people and so were we. They worked with the opportunists, now they have turned to the tribes, and this is as it should be. The tribes hate religious parties and religious fakers.”

*

“Old school methods defeat insurgencies,” Captain McGee said, “not brute force or technology. The key is to kill existing terrorists and prevent additional recruitment. Al Qaeda must have a safe haven or they will barely be able to operate.”

That doesn’t mean they can’t operate at all, but it does mean they can’t control territory, work out in the open, or oppress others from above. They are hunted now and must spend an enormous amount of energy avoiding detection instead of stirring up trouble. The former would-be “liberators” have become hated fiends who lurk in the shadows and lash out in rage at the society that has rejected them. Victory for them, in this place, is all but impossible now.

“Having the Arabic press note that AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] is rejected by Sunni Arab Iraqis is better than any message we could ever put out,” Major Lee Peters said.

It is not reasonable to expect violence in Ramadi to wind down to absolute zero before the rest of Iraq is secured. But the city has been successfully transformed from a war zone to a place that, like Beirut and Jerusalem, suffers acts of terrorism of the kind the world is long used to. The hokey phrase “war on terrorism” just fails to describe what happened before, when a city of 450,000 people was chewed to pieces by an army of hundreds of sadists and killers, where every single day was September 11.

Surveying the destruction was distressing, especially after meeting some of the children who survived the experience.

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Terrorism is emphatically not what it used to be. We all knew that, of course, when hijacked plans were used to destroy skyscrapers in New York. Previously, terrorism was what the Irish Republican Army did. Many innocents were murdered in Britain, but Northern Irish separatists never made a crater out of a city of nearly half a million people. Nor did they even want to. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians in restaurants and coffee shops and probably would do to Tel Aviv what Al Qaeda did to Ramadi if they could. But they can’t and likely never will be able to do so.

Al Qaeda may be a relatively small part of the “insurgency” in Iraq, but their destructive power nearly reached that of a state for a while, at least in this area. I don’t know of any place in Iraq that has suffered this much violence since Saddam Hussein’s genocidal Anfal Campaign against Kurds. Baghdad is nowhere near as torn up as Ramadi.

The city is still in terrible shape, but its regeneration is unmistakable.

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“How safe is it here, really?” I asked Major Peters. “What if I rented a house here for a month and lived alone without any protection? What would happen to me?”

“You could rent a house here for a while,” he said, “and be okay without bodyguards, but I wouldn’t stay too long. Something might happen to you eventually. Remember AQI wants to retake the city. They might eventually find you.”

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I asked Captain McGee the same question. I have no plans to do this. The question is purely theoretical.

“You would probably be okay downtown,” he said, “but you would definitely be fine just north of town. If you tried that in February you would not have lasted four hours.”

“You trust the locals that much?” I said.

“I do,” he said.

“The only people I trust with my life in this country are the Kurds,” I said.

“I trust these people almost as much,” he said. “Are they petty? Yes. Are they tribal? Yes. Are they Arabs?” He rolled his eyes. “Yes. Do they believe in conspiracy theories? Yes. But they have their act together now.”

I patrolled Market Street downtown with Sergeant Hicks and Lieutenant Markham. Kids loudly cheered as we drove past. Some children ran all the way up to the Humvees and knocked on the doors, beckoning us to get out.

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When we did dismount our Humvees every civilian on the street except vendors dropped what they were doing and came forward to greet us.

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I photographed a freshly painted cell phone store that looked new.

“That’s when you know life is coming back to normal,” Sergeant Hicks said, “when they open a cell phone shop.”

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“It’s amazing for us to see people out on that street buying and selling things,” Captain Phil Messer said to me later. “That never happened for the first months we were out here. Literally zero businesses were open. People were scared shitless of Al Qaeda. If you pissed them off they would show up at your house in the middle of the night, rape your women in front of you, kill your sons, and say you will not help the Americans. Huge numbers of these people just fled to Syria.”

I saw young Iraqi men picking up trash that had been dumped all over the city when there was no garbage collection during the fighting.

“This cleanup operation is a big deal for counterinsurgency,” Sergeant Hicks said. “We’re helping them organize it, and it shows Al Qaeda that the people are with us now. They would have been killed if they tried this before.”

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Iraqi children may know only a handful of words in English, but mister and picture are two of them. Every kid in Iraq demands to be photographed. I heard “Mister, Mister, Picture Picture!” literally hundreds of times whenever I stepped into the streets of Ramadi. Some kids would say “Mister, Mister, Picture, Picture,” dozens of times all by themselves.

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I saw so many pictures of crazed Iraqis wearing ski masks and carrying rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs before I went to Baghdad and Ramadi that I slowly started to think, against my better judgment, that such people are typical. I never once saw anyone like that. They are around, obviously, but they are not in any way typical.

These are the typical faces I saw in Iraq.

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They are the ones I now think of when trying to figure out what the United States should do in Iraq. They are the ones who will have to suffer the consequences the longest.

Some of the Soldiers started handing out candy to children. Mass pandemonium broke out.

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American Soldiers hand out candy to Iraqi children

Iraqi kids will shove and even punch each other to get a piece of candy. The Soldiers should probably hand this stuff out a little more orderly.

The kids are cute, but their aggressiveness is a little distressing.

“One thing these people really understand,” a Soldier sadly told me by way of explanation, “is pain.”

*

Back at the Joint Security Station – a large rented house where Iraqi and American Soldiers live side by side and keep tabs on a small piece of the city – the Iraqis taught Arabic to the Americans. The Americans taught English to the Iraqis. The Iraqis gently helped the Americans with their Arabic accents and used basic books as learning tools where words were spelled out in both Arabic and Latin alphabets. The Soldiers and Marines were learning basic Arabic, what you would expect to learn in an Arabic 101 class at most. The Iraqis were a little bit farther along in their English, but not much.

The Iraqis made tea for Americans. The Americans made coffee for Iraqis.

I could see that these men (and they were all men) felt genuine affection for each other. The Soldiers and Marines clearly thought of me, a fellow American, as more of an outsider than the Iraqi Army Soldiers who also were there. They ate, slept, worked, fought, bled, and died next to each other in the heat of battle against those who had earlier taken over the city. My status as a fellow American seemed to count for less with the Soldiers and Marines than the trauma they shared with their Iraqi counterparts.

I did not hold it against them.

“We Americans and Iraqis have been through hell together here,” said Captain McGee.

When I visited the police station in Mushadah just north of Baghdad, where American Military Police are training the Iraqi Police, most Americans saw the Iraqis as lazy, corrupt, and contemptible. In Mushadah the Americans seemed to relish the opportunity to complain about the Iraqis to me, a fellow American, whom they clearly felt they had much more in common with. They were sure I would sympathize with their complaints, and they were right. It does not bode well for the future in Baghdad. Anbar Province really is different, and it’s not just because Al Qaeda has been driven out.

The Iraqi Army Soldiers in Ramadi were also much more friendly with me than were their counterparts in Baghdad, who politely said hello to me but never, not once, said anything else.

I started to prepare an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) for myself – Chicken Tetrazzini, which somehow tastes the least processed of all the MRE options – and flipped through an old issue of Air and Space magazine that Lieutenant Hightower had fished out of his desk for me.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” an Iraqi Soldier said to me when he saw what I was doing. “You eat Iraqi food,” he said. “MRE food no good.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “I don’t mind.”

“No!” he said. “We give you Iraqi food. Come with me.”

An Iraqi cook had prepared a delicious meal of barbecued chicken and rice with a spicy red sauce I had never eaten before. The Iraqi was right. It was much better than MRE food.

“We have one Iraqi lieutenant here who speaks pretty good English,” Marine Lieutenant Jonathan Welch told me. “You should talk to him. He has a sarcastic sense of humor and a really interesting point of view.”

“That would be terrific,” I said. “Can you introduce me to him?”

He went to find the lieutenant, but came back with bad news.

“He won’t talk to you,” he said. “Apparently some reporters recently spent a few days with him and his men. They wrote an agenda-driven story with a few quotes yanked out of context. He said the story was a total lie and that he refuses to have anything to do with the media.”

I heard complaints of that sort about the media every day from American Soldiers and Marines, but this was the first time I had heard it, albeit indirectly, from an Arab Iraqi.

Lieutenant Welch didn’t mind talking to me, though. None of the Americans refused to talk to me even if they were suspicious of journalists.

What did he think of the Iraqi Army and Police in Anbar Province? I hadn’t heard any complaints yet, not from one single person.

“The Iraqi Army here is very good,” he said. “One of the best battalions in Iraq.”

“Have they been infiltrated?” I said. “I went to a police station in the Baghdad area and was told that perhaps half of them work with Al Qaeda.”

“They’re not infiltrated here,” he said. “Most of the Iraqi Soldiers here are Shias.” Al Qaeda is exclusively Sunni and views Shias as infidels worthy only of slaughter. “They are Muslims, but very secular in their outlook. They are no more religious than Sunday Catholics. The Shias in the army work very well with the Sunnis in the army here. There isn’t any friction at all. It’s sort of like when the U.S. Army integrated black and white Americans. It breaks down bigotry. The Shia Soldiers helped rescue Sunni civilians from Sunni terrorists and reduced sectarian tensions on both sides.”

“Why is the Iraqi Army here in so much better shape than in Baghdad?” I said.

“One reason,” he said, “is because most of these people have been in the army longer. They were among the first to sign up. They have more experience, and the bad ones have been weeded out.”

“Are they competent?” I said.

“Do you mean are they tactically proficient?” he said.

I nodded.

“Fairly,” he said. “There are coordination issues at the battalion level, but otherwise they’re pretty good. The Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police are actually one of the most encouraging things I have seen here. Some of these people were paid for the first time only yesterday.” He said this in August. “They are incredibly dedicated.”

Like everyone else I talked to, he was frankly stunned by the changes he has seen in Ramadi.

“This place has made an amazing turnaround,” he said. “Everyone knew about Ramadi. It was another Fallujah, but it was worse than Fallujah. I did not want to come here. I was supposed to have an easy deployment in Karbala. Most guys coming out here were looking forward to combat. Not me. I had already done it. If you told me a few months ago what it would be like now I wouldn’t believe it. A little while ago we went to a soccer game. Lieutenant Tierney put it together. They have sixteen soccer teams now. We bought them uniforms, balls, water for the field, everything. They had a huge opening ceremony. Hundreds of people were there. It was incredible. Just incredible. It was a real storybook turnaround. This is why we fight. This is why what we do is worth doing. This is what makes the sacrifices, like Lieutenant Hightower having metal enter his body, worthwhile.”

Lieutenant Hightower was standing right next to us when Lieutenant Welch said that. He was hit with an IED a few months ago. Pieces of shrapnel tore up his leg. He nodded at what Lieutenant Welch said, agreeing that getting “blown up,” as Welch put it, was worth it.

“That is the most encouraging thing,” he said, “seeing American Soldiers at soccer games at a stadium that recently was used as a graveyard.”

*

“We’re learning to use local conflict resolution strategies,” said Colonel John Charlton. “Living with Iraqis every day helps us understand local culture. We’ve actually become attached to these people on a personal level. We feel responsible for their safety. We’re concerned about what will happen to our Iraqi friends if we don’t succeed in this country.”

I heard quite a number of Soldiers and Marines express the same sentiment. Whether it’s true or it isn’t, and whether it’s supposed to be this way or not, sometimes I sensed they feel like they’re fighting for Iraqis more than they feel they are fighting for Americans.

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“We play soccer with the Iraqis,” Captain McGee said. “They always win. We taught them American football, though, and we always beat them at that. They can’t even throw the ball right.”

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Iraqi children play soccer under the protective umbrella of American Soldiers

“All the mosques now have pro-US messages now,” Major Peters said. “They used to be anti-American, in part because AQI barged in and told them to broadcast anti-Americanism or die.”

“We have excellent relationships with every imam and every mosque in the city,” Colonel Charlton said. “Terrific relations. There are no negative comments about the coalition in mosques whatsoever. Previously there was. Partly because they hated us for a while, and also because AQI said to broadcast anti-American messages or they would be killed.”

“We get positive atmospherics from the locals,” Captain McGee said. “They say We feel really safe with you out here. We want to make sure they never think of us as an oppressor.”

Soldiers and Kids Poster Ramadi.jpg

If that ever happens (again), the Americans in Ramadi will be in deep trouble. They should count themselves lucky so far.

“We still haven’t seen a re-emergence of nationalist cells even four months after defeating Al Qaeda,” he continued. “That’s because we’re helping with projects and humanitarian aid.”

Marine and Kids Ramadi.JPG

“Who exactly do you mean when you say nationalist cells?” I said.

“Baathists,” he said, “and a myriad of small Sunni rejectionist groups who wanted to eject coalition forces but did not harm Iraqis. They could have chosen to come back, but so far they haven’t. Partly, I think, it’s because personal contact with Iraqis over time has disproved the conspiracy theories about how we’re supposedly here to steal oil and women.”

Half the world seems to believe Americans invaded Iraq for the oil. I hadn’t heard about Americans supposedly invading Iraq to steal women, but it makes sense now that I’ve heard it. Many Iraqis compare the American invasion of Iraq, fairly or not, to the far nastier Mongol invasion of Iraq in the 13th Century. That was the chief point of reference for many of the nation’s Arabs (but not Kurds) when the Americans first showed up.

Other strange conspiracy theories abound. I never saw an American wearing a red beret, but apparently some Iraqis believe red berets are dyed in human blood. Perhaps the most amusing theory, which I know many Iraqis believe to this day, is that American Soldiers and Marines have what they call “cold pills” so they can’t feel the blistering heat of the summer.

“I demand cold pills!” an Iraqi officer said when he barged into the office of Colonel John Steele at Camp Taji.

“Listen,” the colonel said to the Iraqi and pointed at his own forehead. “You see these beads of sweat on my forehead that are running down toward my nose? That’s because I feel just as hot as you do.”

One American soldier told me about a time he was having tea in a friendly Iraqi civilian’s house.

“It’s hot today,” said the Iraqi, “but at least you have your air conditioner on.”

“What do you mean?” said the Soldier.

“Your air conditioner,” the Iraqi said and pointed at the Soldier’s bulky body armor.

The Soldier laughed out loud.

“That’s body armor,” he said. “Not an air conditioner!”

“Come on,” the Iraqi said. “We all know those are air conditioners.”

The Soldier took off his body armor and handed it to the Iraqi. “Here,” he said. “Put it on and see for yourself.”

The Iraqi donned the armor and suddenly felt even hotter.

“Hmm,” he said. “It is pretty hot. But I’m sure it will get cold after a while.”

*

Ramadi was eviscerated by war. It is still an emergency room case by the standards of the West, but it slowly recovering now that it’s safe to rebuild.

“Electricity and water are major priorities,” Colonel Charlton said. “Right now they have electricity for eight hours a day.” Recently they had zero. “It’s better now because the insurgents aren’t sabotaging the power grid. The electricity and sewer workers are working the hardest. They have a sewer system here, but it was broken by IEDs planted under the roads. Restoring basic services is a priority because it provides stability. The lack of services made people unhappy and exploitable.”

Open Sewer Ramadi.jpg
Sewage still runs in the streets

“AQI destroyed the cell phone tower and TV station,” Major Peters said, “but we put the tower back up.” I was able to make phone calls to the United States from Ramadi without even replacing my SIM card with an Iraqi card, but the system is still unreliable, and only around a third of my calls were ever connected.

“You see all these people working on the side of the road?” Captain Phil Messer said. “You would not have seen that even four months ago. It was absolutely unheard of.”

13 million dollars have been spent by the American military on rubble removal alone.

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One of the many vast swaths of cleared rubble

“Female Army Soldiers are working on women’s outreach programs,” said Major Peters.

“We’re like the Peace Corps with muscles here,” one Solider told me. That seems about right. And they’ve cleared a relatively safe space for civilian aid workers to move in and help, too.

“Each member of the municipal government has a partner with civilian reconstruction teams who specialize in various areas,” Colonel Charlton said. “At first judges and lawyers were afraid to even meet with us. They had to meet with us in secret. Military lawyers are being sent in to help now, and also civilian experts. They had no place for criminal trials, but we’re helping them build that now. There is also quite a bit of progress toward implementing the Rule of Law. The Iraqi Police were arresting people and no one really knew why or had documentation. People started just getting warehoused. We’re training them on proper police procedures and documentation, and showing them how to build case files. They all attend a detainee handling course to ensure against prisoner abuse.”

I don’t know what the population of Ramadi is now. It was around 450,000 people before the war, and it sharply declined during the fighting when so many fled. But the population is growing again, partly because many Sunnis are moving there from Baghdad, and also because many who left are returning.

“Every couple of days now people come home,” Captain Messer, referring to the small part of the city he’s responsible for. “They swing by the station and tell us they’re moving back and ask if it’s okay if they return to their houses. Of course it’s okay. They don’t have to ask that. But they don’t know. We tell them welcome home, welcome back to the neighborhood. And they always invite us over for dinner.”

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These men asked us to sit down and have tea with them, but we had to keep walking

Ramadi, and Anbar Province in general, still have serious problems.

“We still have to worry about potential destabilizing factors in the future,” Colonel Charlton said. “Reconstruction delays, economic stagnation, the isolation of Anbar by the government. Any of these things could happen. The central government needs to come out here and create some good faith.”

“They are pretty strongly against the government here,” Captain McGee said. “But last I heard that wasn’t any kind of a crime. Half of America opposes our own government, so…so what?”

The biggest problem, of course, is that Al Qaeda isn’t dead yet. Last week’s assassination of Anbar Awakening movement leader Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha is only the most recent grim reminder that Ramadi is still a part of Iraq.

“AQ will try to re-take the city,” Colonel Charlton said. “I am certain of it. They’ve already tried. They came in from Samarra, swung around, and approached from the south through the desert.” They did the same thing again even more recently. “It was an attack planned at the AQ national level and it erupted in a day-long fire fight. The whole province is a major failure and defeat for Al Qaeda. They need to ‘fix’ this, so to speak.”

The city, and the rest of Anbar Province will continue to suffer the tragic consequences of its geography even if it manages to repair its politics and its culture. Will another insurgency erupt? Will the Sunnis of Anbar declare war on the Shias in Baghdad? Well I don’t know, this is Iraq. But whatever happens, and whether it’s good news or bad, never again will Al Qaeda find a warm home here.

Post-script: 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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Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 18, 2007 01:31 AM
Comments

A fantastic piece once again, Michael. Thank you so much for reporting the truth and risking your life in the process.

I've posted about your piece informing my readers.
thanks again

John
InfidelsAreCool.com

Posted by: John at September 18, 2007 03:13 AM

Definitely the most encouraging piece of news I've seen from Iraq in quite some time. Do you think that in order to replicate the success you've witnessed in Ramadi elsewhere in Iraq, it will require the current troop levels to be maintained indefinitely and possibly a significant expansion of the U.S. Army to facilitate this?

Posted by: EmbersFire at September 18, 2007 03:23 AM

OK, OK, you got me! I'm donating.

Great piece.

Posted by: Scott P at September 18, 2007 05:31 AM

Michael,

What can I say but WONDERUL, WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL ! I shall make sure all my friends and relatives read it, as it is almost like a rare gem that must be seen to be truly appreciated :-)

Last week Hillary sealed her fate (as BIGGEST LOSER in 2008) by essentially calling the honorable General Petraeus a liar. Do you believe that!! Why isn't she posting comments here ? She is already trying to switch peoples' attention from her disgraceful comments to General Petraeus to her new healthcare plan... which she may herself need VERY SOON as she already looks haggard and worn out by her campaigning. TOO UNHEALTHY TO EVEN THINK OF BEING PRESIDENT. Her and her EQUALLY UNHEALTHY husband will NEVER HAVE THEIR DYNASTY IN THIS DEMOCRACY. The American people will not allow it, and EVERY one of my friends and relatives (and I've polled about 20) does NOT plan to vote for Hillary - case closed!

AND NOW, back to my point (sorry about going off on that tangent)....

Because of work by people like you and our fine military, we must continue down this long road to helping these wonderful, long suffering people finally flourish and enjoy their freedom!
Stay safe my friend.

Sincerely,
Ed

Posted by: Ed at September 18, 2007 06:10 AM

Love the bit about "cold pills."

BTW Mike you're sounding more and more like a military type yourself, captitalizing "soldier" ;-)

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 06:26 AM

YOUR ARTICLE IS THE TYPE OF INTROSPECTIVE OBJECTIVE, "JUST THE FACTS" THE REST OF THE MEDIA OBSCURES WITH THEIR BIAS. GOOD SHOW.

Posted by: GARY SNYDER at September 18, 2007 06:39 AM

It sadly reminds me of some of the wonderful things we did with the Vietnamese. We can only hope the trust and frienships spread. God bless you and your work.

Posted by: Michael C Moehlenkamp at September 18, 2007 06:46 AM

Great reporting! The other media like TV and newspapers just don't do excellent reporting like this anymore. It is amazing that a single person is able to out-report entire organizations like the New York Times.
I have donated in the past, and will do so again. Good job.

Posted by: Keith at September 18, 2007 06:55 AM

Reading your article reminds me of a splinter. Pain is necessary because it warns of danger and impending catastrophe. Pity the leper. Who doesn't enjoy the feeling of pain ebbing away? The memory of how it felt compared to how it feels now is euphoric. You can almost feel the pain of Ramadi subside as the residents recover from the removal of Al Qaeda's 'splinter'. Other cities and countries aren't so fortunate. Thanks for the unobstructed view.

Posted by: CCC at September 18, 2007 07:26 AM

Wow. Michael, that was one of the greatest articles I have ever read. Thank you so much. Keep this up and you will begin to give Michael Yon a run for his money. Thanks for all you do.

Posted by: Cincy at September 18, 2007 07:31 AM

Excellent reporting, especially the much needed comparisons with the Kurds. Who knows, there might even come a day when a significant minority of Westerners not only know who the Kurds are, but have an idea that if over 7 million Iraqis can live in peace there might be hope for the rest.

You have some wonderful photos of the kids. Looking at them you just know that their parents have to be pretty decent people that we should be able to find a sustainable common ground with.

Take care.

Posted by: H. Short at September 18, 2007 07:38 AM

Michael,

This was a great piece with a wonderful blend of humor, realism, and clear writing about how things are on the ground. I'm particularly interested in this quote:

“It was nothing we did,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Drew Crane who was visiting for the day from Fallujah. “The people here just couldn’t take it anymore.”

I think this Lieutenant Colonel just about said it best in regards to Iraq. Iraq will become the nation it needs to become not because of anything we do, but because of what they will do. Iraq will go in the direction its people choose it to go, whether back to dictatorships or democracy, or theocracy.

I think it is about time we let Iraq alone.

Posted by: Dan at September 18, 2007 07:42 AM

Dan: I think it is about time we let Iraq alone.

It's about time that thugs, dictators and international terrorist organizations left Iraq alone, too.

I'm sure we'll be happy to leave once they do.

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 07:58 AM

Outstanding read! Thank you for taking the time and risk to report the real deal.

Posted by: Mark at September 18, 2007 08:03 AM

My heart swells.

Thank you for bringing this to us.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 18, 2007 08:11 AM

I believe there are only 3 REAL reporters in Iraq right now.

You are one of them.

Keep up the excellent work and stay safe.

Cheers,

knewshound

http://www.knewshound.blogspot.com/

Posted by: knewshound at September 18, 2007 08:25 AM

Dan: I think it is about time we let Iraq alone.

As a fence-sitting skeptic, I can't go with you on that one, certainly not for Anbar in light of this article and other recent reports in harmony with it. We are obviously doing far more good than harm in Ramadi. There are many chapters yet to be written, but we must press our advantage while we have it. Regardless of who gets credit for the changes that have taken place, we are well-positioned to help consolidate them.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 18, 2007 08:42 AM

Wonderful piece Micheal. It got me wondering, how is Al Jazeera reporting this? If at all. Once again, thanks.

Posted by: Kevin at September 18, 2007 08:49 AM

Oh yes. Wonder how this private security mess will affect things? If the US government plays it right they will allow the Iraqi's to take action against the company first. Talk about a goodwill gesture. Your thoughts please.

Posted by: Kevin at September 18, 2007 08:51 AM

Michael,
In america we have reached an incredibly sad state of affairs with the mainstream media. They were the very people that tried to teach us not to trust the Nixon's of the world in the sixties and now they have become worse than any corrupt politician.

People like you have to be heard and supported in order for there to ever be a change in the ridiculous crap we see on an every day basis. Thank you for your commitment and risks you have taken to bring a small part of the truth to this side of the ocean.

Iraq and the worldwide fight against AQ are complicated problems, but your reporting demonstrates that commitment and perseverance do pay off.

Thanks

Gary

Posted by: Gary Howorka at September 18, 2007 08:52 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/18/2007
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 18, 2007 08:54 AM

Great reporting.
Why is it that we can't get this type of journalism across the board?

How could we start a, say, Adopt an Iraqi family in Anbar program, for instance. We could send items, direct to military people on duty with the names of Iraqis on packages, for delivery. Perhaps it would be a way to show that Americans hope and pray for their peace as well. I would be willing to get the ball rolling.
Barry

Posted by: Barry Singer at September 18, 2007 09:16 AM

I write a weekly column of conservative views and information in Red Bluff, CA, and often devote space to the suppport of the war, "the rest of the story". I will use, w/attribution, as much as I have space for, because it is so much more worth reading than anything I can write. With the web address at the end, hopefully there will be some more traffic from our "red county" readers, maybe some financial support, too. Sadly, the lack of interest in covering progress and victories by US military and Iraqis has been the norm; Totten, Yon, Roggio have all, through the net, done well to counter that.

Posted by: Don Polson at September 18, 2007 09:40 AM

Gary Howorka: [The media] were the very people that tried to teach us not to trust the Nixon's of the world in the sixties and now they have become worse than any corrupt politician.

They used to be a lot worse:

As Martin Lee and Norman Solomon noted in their 1990 book Unreliable Sources, Hearst "routinely invented sensational stories, faked interviews, ran phony pictures and distorted real events."

We should always read all reports with a skeptical eye, including MJT's. I am certain he would not object. He's knows that if he pulls anything egregious in the age of the internet he's gonna get nailed, and occasional tough but civil interrogation about his biases makes him a better reporter and serves to clarify his work.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 18, 2007 10:06 AM

I was in tears from your report. Thank you for showing the good that is happening in Iraq. You're right, your independence allows you to cover such stories, which need to be told.

Posted by: Linda at September 18, 2007 10:07 AM

What an excellent, encouraging article, and the pictures really do speak a thousand words. If it weren't for you and a few other independent journalists, no one in America would know anything about Iraq except the daily body count of American dead, or the news ALERT when some bloody violence happens, and the mainstream journalists descend on it like vultures. I have yet to see any coverage of happy people in Iraq on my television. All I hear is that the situation is hopeless, the Iraqis all hate us, and the sooner we all leave, the better. Oh, and there was never any point in going to Iraq but to ensure a supply of oil. Maybe you should ping Alan Greenspan to this article, along with all the members of Congress.

Posted by: David M at September 18, 2007 10:13 AM

Thanks for bringing some good news MJT!

So how are the folks in Anbar looking at the Central government etc? Getting the Sunni to boot out AQI is great, but what about reconciliation with the rest of the nation? Or would more Sunni prefer to split the country back apart? did you talk to anyone about options they see for the future?

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 18, 2007 10:31 AM

Thanks for bringing some good news MJT!

So how are the folks in Anbar looking at the Central government etc? Getting the Sunni to boot out AQI is great, but what about reconciliation with the rest of the nation? Or would more people in prefer to split the country back apart? Did they have other ideas? Did you talk to anyone about options they see for the future?

Thanks again for all the great reporting :)

Posted by: Ratatosk at September 18, 2007 10:40 AM

With a courageous son who's stationed at Camp Taji, it was wonderful to reconfirm what he has been saying about the improving conditions and how grateful the Iraqis are toward Americans. Thank you for your insight....if only our politicians could report the goods news to America. Thanks for your dedication to bringing the truth to us. Proud mom of Spc. Corey Blatchford, USArmy

Posted by: Doris Blatchford at September 18, 2007 10:42 AM

Thanks for a great article. Keep up the good work.

Ken

Posted by: Ken at September 18, 2007 10:45 AM

Ratatosk,

To quote Andrew Sullivan (who has been a useful war skeptic of late), "the vast majority [of Iraqis] want Iraq to remain as one country. They just differ over who should run it."

Reconciliation is going to be tough and there are not any direct, immediate reasons for optimism. But it looks to me like Anbar is worth staying in for its own sake. The possibility exists that we will overstay our welcome, but it's also possible that a critical transformation is taking place. Even if Iraq falls apart later, today's changes may be lasting.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 18, 2007 10:56 AM

Good stuff Mr. Totten. I was a military interrogator in Ramadi last year. I talked to hundreds of locals, some were truly evil bastards, but most were intimidated rabbits and more or less innocent. It would infuriate me to no end that these rabbits refused to fight back and take Ramadi from AQIZ. Once it was obvious that these folks were not going to help us fight AQIZ, I would tell them how things could be without Saddam and without the terrorists. I hope a few of them listened and played a part in getting a better life for themselves. The revitalization of Ramadi truly makes what I did worth every minute of aggravation I had. As many others have said, thanks for getting real news like this to Americans.

Posted by: Jay at September 18, 2007 11:09 AM

Beautiful article - gives me hope. Thank you so much.

Posted by: Joan at September 18, 2007 11:16 AM

Creamy,

I don't think the Kurds want Iraq to remain one unit.

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 11:21 AM

Michael,
Thank you for a great article. It is what is; just great reporting. You put the information out there and let the reader make up their own mind. It's something that I greatly appreciate. If only the lamestream media could just do the same and report. Keep up the great work.

Leave it to Dan and other people that think the same way; the "surge" is working well it's time to go home. LOL American soldiers and Marines are "defeating" the terrorist lies about our soldiers, Marines and they didn't have to use a gun. You'd figure that liberals around the US would be jumping for joy. Except, they couldn't abandon those kids you took pictures of fast enough. If anything we should be surging more, hell take out the Big Red 1 in Bosnia and stick them in Iraq. We have finally reached a tipping point in Iraq and the Democrat leadership want to destroy the goodwork our servicemen and women have fought and bled for. Talk about ASS-Backwards.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 18, 2007 11:24 AM

MJT: The one question I have about this article is this....Do you have any sense of what the Anbarites (Anbarians?) know / think about what the Kurdish areas are like?

Your portrayal of the Kurds makes it seem like there situation should be the goal of these folks, but is it? Or when they speak of Kurds is it all anti-sectarian / ethnic conflict?

I guess I want to know it they are jealous of the Kurds or if they think that they can achieve the same?

Posted by: AlanC at September 18, 2007 11:25 AM

Would this have been possible without the cruelty of AQ occurring first?

Posted by: exhelodrvr at September 18, 2007 12:13 PM

Edgar,

You're right, and in fact, I misinterpreted Sullivan — apologies, and thanks for the nudge. He was referring to Sunnis:

92 percent of Sunni Arab Iraqis see attacks on US forces as acceptable, compared with 50 percent of the Shia. I don't see progress in these self-reported findings. Worse: the vast majority want Iraq to remain as one country. They just differ over who should run it.

The poll Sullivan references was jointly sponsored by ABC, the BBC, and NHK. The full ABC article has links to a complete pdf report with charts and the questionaire (translated into English, of course) and a sidebar explaining the poll methodology.

The "92 percent" number Sullivan quotes was in response to this question:

Do you think that...[read item] is an acceptable or unacceptable activity by al Qaeda in Iraq?
a. Attacks on US and coalition forces

I'm having some difficulty resolving the dissonance between that statistic and MJT's report.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 18, 2007 12:33 PM

Mr. Totten:

Please consider removing this from your wonderful article:

“I trust these people almost as much,” he said. “Are they petty? Yes. Are they tribal? Yes. Are they Arabs?” He rolled his eyes. “Yes. Do they believe in conspiracy theories? Yes. But they have their act together now.”

I suspect it could be considered a disrespectful comment by an American soldier and thereby endanger that soldier.

Thank you.

Posted by: cliff Thier at September 18, 2007 12:35 PM

Pete,

they didn't have to use a gun. You'd figure that liberals around the US would be jumping for joy. Except, they couldn't abandon those kids you took pictures of fast enough.

Um, perhaps you didn't read the article well. The Sunnis in Ramadi didn't turn on Al-Qaeda because of us. They did so because Al-Qaeda pressed their hand too hard. So if it wasn't because of us, what the hell are we doing there?

Furthermore, I'm quite happy that Sunnis and Americans are hugging and not fighting. I'm quite pleased with what has happened in Anbar. But again, WE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! The good Lieutenant Colonel said so himself, and he's on the ground in Ramadi.

In fact, the events of Anbar this past year signals to me that a withdrawal of American troops will NOT lead to a widening conflict.

Posted by: Dan at September 18, 2007 01:05 PM

cliff: I suspect it could be considered a disrespectful comment by an American soldier and thereby endanger that soldier.

I don't think the Iraqis get that pissed off when American soldiers call them "petty."

But it probably does piss them off when American soldiers invade their country and shoot them with machine guns.

Hey, come to think of it, there are people called "insurgents" that already got pissed off because of that. This soldier has been endangered for quite some time. And since he can't call the police, the poor guy has to carry a gun around for self-defense!

This is an outrage! Give him a new name and put him into the goddamn witness protection program IMMEDIATELY!

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 01:12 PM

BBC News: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has again raised the spectre of a conflict with Tehran, warning the world "to prepare for the worst... and the worst means war".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6998118.stm

Oh no!!!! Not Ze French.... Let's throw in the towel now, not. Mr. Kouchner’s world class brown-nosing of the current US administration aside, the prospect of facing French military power projection as well as American really isn’t giving any of us in Tehran additional sleepless nights. In fact, any alliance with France surely makes a US victory LESS likely...

Putting geopolitics, "Axis of Evil," "Marg bar Amrika" and whatever Mr. Ahmednejad thinks of Israel today to one side for a minute, I firmly believe there are some things Americans and Iranians can all agree on: namely that the French are crap – at both war fighting and pop music.

Le Microrapteur is interested in what exactly posters here think the CESMs might bring to the US order of battle in Kouchner’s putative "war with Iran?"

Et Voila!! Regardez mes braves… This is Le Microrapteur’s list:

1. An oldie, but a goodie: Paris could raise their national security alert status from "Run" to "Hide" -- leaving the tactical leeway to ramp up to "Surrender" or even "Collaborate," if things get really nasty...

2. Sending an expeditionary type force from the sunlit uplands of Christendom to the black heart of the Dar al Islam. In this instance bussing a crew of CRS riot cops (excuez moi, Knights Templars) from central Paris, across the Peripherique ring roads and into the concrete sprawl of Paris’ not-so-gay suburban housing projects in order to batter a few Renault torching Maghrebi "gangbangeurs” (ah…Saracens) could fit Kouchner’s bill.

3. Vote in large numbers for the racist anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic proto-fascist Front National of Jean Marie Le Pen. Oh… they do that anyway, do they? Even in peacetime? Ok…nice people… onwards.

4. Aha…Perhaps the frogs will bomb us Iroonis to death with their world famous Armee de L’air? It’s the world’s oldest airforce (apparently) founded in 1909… pulverised by the Luftwaffe in 1940 and they've never looked back. Ooooh La La... excuzez moi while I pissez dans mon pants… the French Airforce are coming. Mon Dieu, non…

Look, American combat aircraft are cool. Everyone knows they are the best. Tom Cruise and Richard Gere wouldn’t “fly” them in the movies if they were second rate would they? Paramount and the Scientologists wouldn’t let them. And American jets are called things like “Nighthawk,” “Fighting Falcon” and “Eagle.” These are Deadly Birds of Prey. This is Cool.
The main French warplane is called the "Mirage." A Mirage is an optical illusion common in desert conditions whereby something appears to exist, until you get up close, at which point it vanishes into thin air…. Plus ca Change...

5. Mon Dieu…. Perhaps they’ll hit us wiz ze Special Forces? Les Commandos… Zut Alors! Unfortunately, Frenchmen are not hard. They are soft. If I’m not mistaken, the toughest regiment La France possesses is called "The Foreign Legion," thus named precisely because it is composed of people who are NOT French -- in fact, nowadays they are mainly Serbian war criminals on the lam. Not bad when it comes to shooting up West African child soldiers, but I don’t fancy Paris’ Slivovic swilling Chetniks’ chances in Iran’s salt deserts. And anyway, our Persian women are too good looking for them to want to fight us.

But this is where it gets nasty, I’m afraid.

6. What if the French use their Doomsday Weapons? Not nukes, silly… La Musique. Might not La belle France assault Iranian troop formations with a shocking and awesome rolling barrage of dire French Europop, played at unbearable volumes... Like Noriega in Panama but worse. Coz it’s French pop music. The worst music in the world.

Good Lord it might just work! We martyrdom crazed Shia loons may yet face being crooned into submission….

This is serious. It's dangerous stuff, French Pop Music. Comparable - I would argue - to most WMD... Indeed, according to Wikipedia, French Popular Musique (“Le Pop”) is so inhumane and repellent that – officially at least - no other country maintains any stockpiles of this odious material whatsoever.

It is outlawed under the terms of the 3rd Geneva Convention on Basic Human Taste, The Oslo Common Sense Accords and of course the NPT (Normal Pop Treaty). However, French popular music has not officially been used as a weapon in combat or counter-insurgency operations by Paris since the notorious "Charles Aznavour gramophone -- Berber donkey riots” in the Oran Casbah, during the vicious struggle against the Algerian Independence movement back in the 1960s.

Nevertheless, France insists on retaining an independent - non NATO - rubbish pop music stockpile as a detterent, the so-called "Force de Crappe."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/aznavour-oran/donkey-gonads-atrocity/07091720STR.asp

Janes Defence Weekly have reported that in 1983 President Mitterend sent a complete K-Tel “Best of Johnny Hallyday" double box set CD to Saddam Hussein as a birthday gift during the Iran-Iraq war, but that this was never actually deployed in combat. Subsequent searches by UNSCOM inspectors prior to the 1990-91 Gulf War for an alleged Iraqi Mobile Rolleur-Discotheque programme proved inconclusive.

http://janesdefenceweekly.co.uk/hallyday-iran/iraq11231

According to uncorroborated reports from Iraqi dissidents, the Hallyday disc was in fact appropriated by none other than Uday Hussein himself. He is said to have used it during casual, family-oriented weekend-break torture sessions of Kurdish intellectuals at his summer Necrodrome in Kirkurk. Uday apparently claimed the double album had a "happy, catchy beat: nice for raping..."

http://amnestyinternational.co.uk/Iraq-Uday/Hallyday15626sqa

Uday’s fondness for “les chansons Francaise” is of course famously backed up by the testimony of PUK Kurdish activist and former prisoner, Kofte Doner-Shashlik, who in 1995 told Human Rights Watch he had been repeatedly exposed to track 7, disc 2 (Hallyday’s Francophone cover of “Da Do Ron Ron”) on loop for a 24 hour period. He finally managed to chew both his own ears off, rather than continue listening. This physically impossible act of self mutilation so delighted Uday Hussein that he granted the man an immediate pardon. Shashlik’s story inspired the 1996 straight-to-video movie “Hallydays in Hell” starring one time Jedi, Mark Hamill as Uday Hussein. It was a project Hamill himself credited with keeping the shredded remnants of his acting career in the doldrums for a further decade.

http://HRW.reports/Iraq/Shashlik/Shit-music-torture.1997/Frenchcrap.

http://hallydaysinhell-the-movie.com

Guys and Dolls... please THINK about this before rushing headlong into a needless and bloody military adventure whilst allied with France… Why not rush headlong into a needless and bloody military adventure on your own. It’s safer.

Look, in the very worst case scenario, all the Iranian government probably wants to do is take over the whole world and rule it with an iron fist forever.

I ask you, is that really so bad compared to the very real risk of American troops getting friendly-fired by, say, Vanessa Paradis' "Joe Le Taxi" played indiscriminately at 50,000 Watts...? Because if the French use their music as a tactical battlefield weapon that is what will happen. Ask yourselves, is freedom and prosperity really worth it? Picture this: a battleground – red and brown – somewhere near Abadan:

-Jeezus H… Sarge, What the F*** happened to Specialist Monterres?

-Damn it all, Kaplowski. Back blast from a LAW created a shock wave... one of Monterres' $42,000 Carbon-Kevlar-Goretex mesh Haliburton earplugs flew out just as we were taking that Persian ridge... Unfortunately this was the exact moment our “allies” in the 2nd Battalion Vichy Weaseleur Dragoons decided to play… uh... 'That Song...'

- The…. Not the cab driver one? Holy Shi’ite. Poor Monty. Another goddam fuckin' "Bleu on Bleu..."

- Damn straight, soldier. Monterres was exposed to weapons grade “Le Pop” for over 13 seconds. I put him out of his misery as humanely as I could in the circumstances.

- You… sawed his head off with a Leatherman tool?!

- War is Hell kid. But French music is worse. And the sawing noise – coupled with Monterres’ pitiful screams – helped drown that shit out. Believe me, it’s what he would have wanted.

US Military psychologists also warn that any sudden contact of American troops with dreadful French popular music could lead to chronic and widespread PTSD - Post Traumatic Song Disorder. Army medics note that – unlike in WW2 - the vast bulk of today’s US forces are only familiar with good music and will be wholly unprepared for the aural-psychological battering prolonged battlefield exposure to crappy French tunes represents.

“It’s really a hangover from Vietnam. That’s when American music really started to rock. The 60’s, you know. And these guys serving today, they grew up with a whole range of great stuff from Johnny Cash through Eminem to The Ramones, James Brown to Tupac’” said Dr. Tammy Mowton.

“You can’t expect them to go out there under fire, to kill, to be killed, to destroy shit, to eat shit – I mean MREs, to defend nascent democracy, guard playgrounds and through happy coincidence also inadvertently secure cheap energy supplies for the US economy, all the while confronting Islamo-fascist terrorists in their own swampy breeding grounds - whilst trying to remember eachother’s combat nick-names under fire…. And on top of it all, we expact them to listen to Jean Michel fucking Jarre and come back in a healthy frame of mind? These boys are only human. Everyone has their limits.”

The French Ministry of Defence are quick to point out that Jean Michel Jarre (formerly Jean-Michel Jarre) dropped the hyphen from his stage name back in 1991, coincidentally just after Operation Desert Storm. But according to Dr Mowton, this is completely irrelevant.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Michel_Jarre

On top of this, were the French to use Euro-pop music in anger during any conflict with Iran, there is the very real danger of proliferation and a twisted regional electro-synth chanson based arms race.

If you Americans go to war alongside France and the Saudis see just how deadly French pop-tastic synth-rock can be in a combat situation, they’ll want their own collection. Then it’ll be the Syrians, then the Iraqis, followed in short order by Egypt, Pakistan, Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Yemen and so on… no doubt if Iran survives the audio onslaught, the first thing on the regime’s wish list will be a double “A” side Maurice Chevalier 12”.

Sans doubte Paris will be more than happy to fuel this madness, but is pandering to the short-sighted avarice of France’s Musical-Industrial complex really the way to guarantee regional stability in the Persian Gulf?

Microrapteur thinks not.

You see, the problem is countries in the Middle East don’t understand the logic or culture of deterrent. Ask any Western statesman, military general or even Hi-Fi owner and they’ll tell you all about the MAD doctrine. This works on a balance of Terror: ie. You would have to be fucking MAD to even consider listening to French pop music in the first place, let alone playing it at volume. Because if you did, your enemy/neighbour might get MAD themselves, dig out an even worse French album and play it back even louder. And that would be… Terrible.

The Middle Eastern mentality is different. We are mad already. Once “Le Chat Musiquale Quittez Le Sac,” frankly it’s game over. End-ex. Your whole American way of life could be threatened.

Or perhaps it already is….

A recent policy study commissioned by the Washington based neo-conservative think-tank the PNAC (Prog-rock and Nice American Country) entitled “Oh My God, Bill! Hordes of Killer Sand-Niggers are Coming Over The Hill to Eat our Children, or Maybe Do Something Even Worse: A Strategic Response” suggests it may already be too late.

http://PNAC.com/omgbhsncoheocomdsew/report/2007/Froggi/11200sql

The report’s authors, J David Schlepper III and Dr. Uzi Phudnik cite intelligence sources linked to Paris-based freedom loving neo-Stalinist Iranian dissident group, The Democratic Popular Front for the Eternal Glory of Maximum Leader Maryam Rajavi, who claim Iran may already possess significant stockpiles of near weapons-grade Frankish pop music.

“The regime in Tehran has long wanted to acquire a viable “Le Pop” capability and worryingly, we think they have succeeded,” Dr. Phudnik said.

“According to our sources, Iranian government scientists have managed to do this by scouring the international black market for the necessary pre-cursors and then reverse engineering them. Basically, Tehran has stockpiled vast quantities of Celine Dion albums under the noses of both the UN inspectors and international community. ”

While not technically French per se, Ms. Dion is a Francophone Quebecoise and many analysts argue that most, if not all, of her songs contain significant quantities of “Merde,” the crucial raw material used to produce French popular music.

“The Iranians have acquired literally tens of thousands of Celine Dion albums using clandestine procurement methods such as e-bay, yard sales, dime stores and going through people’s garbage. We believe they may have managed to separate enough “Merde” to manufacture at least five crude tactical French “Le-Pop” MP-3s.” Dr. Phudnik added.

David Schlepper agrees.

“We totally reject Tehran’s claims that their Dion CDs are for peaceful purposes. President Ahmedinajad’s recent speech claiming Celine Dion was ‘OK music to drive to, I suppose: da da daa daa… once more /open door/I know my heart go on and on and on…la la la… death to the Jews…’ simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Anyone who has witnessed Tehran traffic at first hand knows that Hard-Core Polish Blitzkrieg Techno is far more suitable for the lethal conditions on most Iranian roads,”

“But the real nightmare scenario would occur if the Mullahs were to load one of these songs onto, say, an iPod Nano and give it to a crazed death loving terrorist Jihadi. This crazed death loving terrorist Jihadi could then smuggle the iPod into an American city by disguising it as an innocuous every day object, such as an iPod… and potentially he’d be able to play a French song on US soil through those neat little speakers you can get.”

And according to PNAC, it gets worse:

“We already know a lot of Black Muslims out there are Black – and as if that wasn’t bad enough, most if not all, are Muslim. What if the terrorist hooked up with a sleeper cell of ‘Brothers’ with access to a sound system in da Hood? We’ve all seen MTV Base, need I go on? Imagine the devastating effects on, say, downtown Cleveland if terrorists hooked up an Iranian “Doomsday” iPod up to a 5,000 Watt Bustin’ Sounds style turbo rig and let fly with that Froggie ‘Je t’adore, mon amour’ faux guitar synth crap?”

But PNAC’s fears are as nothing compared to lurid reports coming from the office of the US Vice President himself.

“According to our sources the Iranians might even have acquired a real, live French peasant style Accordion. Certainly that is their aim,” Mr. Cheney told a recent meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cheney claimed the Accordion may have originally been a gift given by the Elysee Palace to Kazakhstan’s Premier Nazarbayev to congratulate him on winning 99.7% of the popular vote in the 2002 elections. The Iranians, Cheney believes, have paid as much as $40 billion for the device, but were as yet “unsure how to play the damn thing.”

But critics in Iran dismiss such allegations - especially the unsubstantiated accordion story - as politically inspired scaremongering.

“Both the PNAC and Dick Cheney are following a Zionist agenda,” said Iranian deputy Minister for Culture, Sports and Open Toed Footwear, Hassan al-Ghuna.

“The position of the Iranian government is very clear: we signed the NPT because we like nice music. We prefer to see a Middle East completely free from shitty French music, and indeed free of all rubbish Euro-pop derivatives. But this must be consistent. It has not escaped our notice that the Zionist entity has a thriving crappy domestic pop music scene.”

Al-Ghunna cited the band Teapacks and Dana International as prime examples that Israel was trying to maintain a qualitative, monopolistic edge and sought to dominate the region with crappy home-grown French-style Eurotrash bands.

The Iranians argue Israel receives regular large scale support - to ensure its Euro-pop music scene remains worryingly sub-standard - by being unfairly granted annual admission to join the dire Eurovision Song Contest.

“This is unjust. Israel is not even in Europe,” said Al-Ghunna

“If the Jews want to compete in Eurovision so much they should all move back there,” he added.

Iranian analysts have noted with concern that the Teapacks song “Push the Button” - which Tehran believes refers to Ehud Olmert loading a Vanessa Paradis album into a massive CD deck aimed at the Muslim world, and then pressing play - is partly sung in French.

“Not only that, but Teapacks’ keyboard player Noam Yankelevich, also plays… an Accordion!” Al Ghunna exclaimed.

“This is a very difficult instrument to play, not that we've ever tried, but if that Zionist one isn’t bloody well French, then I don’t know what is. And this is scientific fact – a real Accordion – it’s there in the photos of Yankelevich. Look, real, real… not one of Cheney’s lies. Check the link. It’s a real one this time!”

http://www.yle.fi/eurovision/main.php?2596

Dark Days indeed mes amis….

Of course, I, Microrapteur, doubt the French would dare use their apocalyptic music in a war with Iran. As I have outlined, the risks to global stability are simply too great. Plus I reckon, they’d be too scared, comme toujours.

And remember, people, we in Iran may have weaponised Dion….

So, what could our Fromage Munching Simian Submissive chums do to help guarantee you Yanks a memorable military victory if points 1 – 6 outlined above don’t deliver?

Ah easy…. If all else fails…

7. Get the odious Thierry Meysann to write a best-selling book about how, despite all evidence to the contrary, the French actually fought in the war and won.

- Another Day of Life - Don't Bomb Iran -

Posted by: Le Microrapteur at September 18, 2007 01:19 PM

Microraptor is a macro-spammer.

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 01:21 PM

Great job, as always. I try to get this out to as many people as I possibly can; please tell the servicemen you meet over there that more people are praying for them than are praying against them.

TWH

Posted by: tom at September 18, 2007 01:30 PM

I was stationed in the Al Anbar province during the height of its violence. When I first arrived we were mortared every night, hit 2 IEDS, and lost a friend to a sniper. By the end of my tour we were no longer mortared. Talks/planning of civilian infrastructure were taking place. It's good to hear the fruits of our labor along with the efforts of the Iraqi people are starting to show. Thanks for the report

Posted by: Chuck at September 18, 2007 01:31 PM

exhelodrvr: Would this have been possible without the cruelty of AQ occurring first?

Not according to the Army and Marines in Anbar.

Make no mistake, fixing Baghdad is going to be a lot harder.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 18, 2007 01:35 PM

FYI.

Israelis were flying Mirages during 6-day war of 1967.

Posted by: leo at September 18, 2007 01:38 PM

Great reportage, Mr. Totten.

Pics of kids are simply amazing. Choked me up...in a good way.

Pic of men who asked you to sit and have tea: Except for them sitting in the street, has the same look and feel of Avenue A between 13th and 14th here in NYC's East Village.

Will you get a chance to meet Sattar's brother Ahmed?

***

"We thank everyone [in the United States] who is sending their sons here. I'd like to let them know their sons in Anbar are in the safest place they ever could be." (Shaykh Sattar, July 30, 2007, in an interview with WaPo's Ann Scott Tyson)

"Although they killed Sattar, there are a million Sattars in Anbar" (Sattar's brother Ahmed, Friday, September 14, 2007, after burying Sattar and succeeding him as head of Anbar Salvation Council)

Posted by: robert stevens at September 18, 2007 01:39 PM

I suspect it could be considered a disrespectful comment by an American soldier and thereby endanger that soldier.

No.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 18, 2007 01:41 PM

fabulous report, personal in feel and sweeping in scope. thank you.

Posted by: Huan Vu at September 18, 2007 01:50 PM

Thank you for all the work and sacrifices you have made in order to bring America this unabashed and honest look at what is really happening in Iraq. It is probably the most important and needed gift any citizen could provide their country. As valued as those who also risk their lives to defend it, you have risked yours to tell the story of these brave people fighting al-Qaeda.

My thanks to you sir, AJStrata

Posted by: AJStrata at September 18, 2007 01:50 PM

Dan said I'm quite pleased with what has happened in Anbar. But again, WE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!.

Dan, I happen to agree with your point that it took the Iraqis to finally stand up for themselves for this type of environment to exist, but clearly you have not read most of MJT's recent posts, nor are you apparently familiar with the changes in tactics that are frequently discussed in detail on this site.

It was precisely because of the security afforded to this community that they were able to repel the insurgency responsible for the raping in killing MJT details in his missive. They were simply not capable of doing it without the US' assistance.

At any rate, the one theme I continue to find most compelling in MJT's posts is the one of education and awareness. I found this to be the case when I was there. Communication counters ignorance and bigotry. This war is no different than our society here at home with respect to this issue.

All it takes is for people (even of contrary views) to start talking, and to begin to truly understand what they initially assume are contrary views. The body armor cooling story still cracks me up.

Great work, Michael! Thank you.

Posted by: Rob at September 18, 2007 01:51 PM

My son while in Iraq as an Army sniper serving two 12 month long tours told all of us at home each time that the locals want us there and go out of there way to show it. While he was stationed near Al Asad he told us the locals would give them home grown veggies and soda pop. In turn my son would hand out pens and pencils and paper to the kids. He once broke up a fight between a bunch of kids fighting over a pencil. He then asked us to send what we could so he could distribute the supplies. The Iraqis where my son was denounce the actions of those who have chosen their country as a staging ground against the USA. All of the pictures in this story show the real thing over there. These are families with kids just like us here at home. All they want is to live in peace.

Posted by: Bob Lamb at September 18, 2007 01:56 PM

Michael - excellent and interesting reporting. I took a long break from reading your (and all other) blogs for about 6 months or so (a career change took up most of my time) and I began reading your blog again right after you returned from Iraq. As you know I donated to you several times last year and I was hoping that your new career would have continued success. IMHO your writing has improved and your articles have more substance to them than before.

As for the comments - dogma still prevails as the same people tend to make the same statements ad nauseum to convince themselves that their beliefs are correct, although there are many who have interesting ideas and opinions too - nice to see that Tosk is commenting again. I spent quite a bit of time working on my own dogma and questioning everything I believe thanks to him. Strange how most everything we all believe today will be considered to be quite incorrect 100 years from now, just as so many things that people thought what was considered to be "true" 100 years ago we think is very incorrect today.

Very nice to hear some good news out of Iraq, maybe there's a chance for success after all - we can hope anyway. Very interesting to read about the complexities and tribal/cultural differences that make up Iraq - makes it very difficult to generalize about what's going on or what should be going on there and have it be meaningful. Keep up the excellent, objective, and unconventional reporting. I'll be donating again soon to your endeavors.

Posted by: markytom at September 18, 2007 02:04 PM

exhelodrvr: Would this have been possible without the cruelty of AQ occurring first?

Ditto MT: No.

Nor would it have been possible without the work of Col. Sean MacFarland, the late Capt. Travis Patriquin and the Ready First Brigade. MacFarland was given free hand in Ramadi by superiors after Anbar was considered all but lost.

Great interview with MacFarland on NPR on Friday. Listen here.

Says Macfarland of learning of Sattar's assassination: I felt like I lost a member of my Brigade.

Posted by: robert stevens at September 18, 2007 02:08 PM

Dan:

Your inference that events in Anbar indicate that a precipitous U.S. withdrawl from Iraq will not lead to widening conflict is illogical.

Per Michael's article, U.S. troops are still in Anbar and have respulsed 2 separate efforts to retake the city by AQI forces. Judging by the gratitude of the Iraqis Michael met, the Anbaris do not think U.S. troops are overplaying their hand, overstaying their welcome, or have become superfluous to their security.

While I do not doubt that the majority want the U.S. presence to be as brief as possible, it does not appear that they want them to leave now. I suspect it will take a fairly significant period of calm before Anbaris feel secure enough to press for the inevitable U.S. withdrawl.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at September 18, 2007 02:16 PM

One last thing. This is an absolute must-read: "Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt" by Dave Kilcullen, Small Wars Journal, August 29, 2007

Posted by: robert stevens at September 18, 2007 02:22 PM

exhelodrvr: Would this have been possible without the cruelty of AQ occurring first?

Not according to the Army and Marines in Anbar.

Exactly! Al Qaeda's brand of 'chemotherapy' was deadlier to the host than to the disease (U.S.) it was intended to fight, and the patient finally got wise to it. A popular Arab adage is, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Just because a common enemy was neutralized doesn't negate that we're still enemies on another level.

Posted by: CCC at September 18, 2007 02:41 PM

Dan:
It is quite clear to anyone not bent with an agenda, that the reason these good people were able to resist the terrorists was because of the military. If our forces were not there to help the folks with security and provide muscle when needed, any resistance would be met with murder and chaos. The locals had no way to protect themselves or be safe in resistance. None of this would have taken place without the cooperation of both parties. You have a clear bias against our military being able to make a difference for the better. The tribal leaders have all been quite clear. They needed the help of our soldiers, and turned to them in their time of need. Our soldiers needed their help as well. No war is ever perfect, and not having to go to war is even better. Al-Qaeda want's this area back badly, and I find it hard to believe that you would be blind to the fact that if we left them before that threat is gone and before their own troops can effectively protect them, there would be unimaginable evil brought to the doorsteps of those who are trying to rebuild a peaceful life.
Our troops, along with the good people of this city had everything to do with it.
If it will help you to see this clearly, just pretend there is a Democrat in the White House. That seems to be the deciding factor with the left as far as the military in concerned.

Posted by: Mike at September 18, 2007 02:42 PM

Dan,

I've read quite a few of your posts, and as much as I would like to disagree with you on all of them, as an Iraq war vet I cannot. I've been there and seen just how difficult the situation is. But there seems to be one unmistakable point that you have overlooked. Yes, you are right, the turnaround in Ramadi did not happen because of the Americans, it happened because of the Iraqis changing their minds. We cannot deny however, that it could not have happened WITHOUT American support. They have the will, we have the firepower. Did you see the picture for part 1? The Iraqi spear with the American muscle behind it? This turnaround has occurred because the Iraqis and American forces are working TOGETHER. This is not the time to pull our forces out, not when the Iraqis need our help so badly. If we pull out now, AQI comes back and brutalizes these people all over again. Can you imagine the retribution AQI will take on the people of Ramadi and Anbar pronvince for working so closely with the Americans? If we left, within 60 days there probably wouldn't be much left there aside from rape rooms and mass graves.

Posted by: Will at September 18, 2007 03:19 PM

Dan- Are you even reading and understanding what I'm writing or are you trying to provoke me on purpose? Michael has been reporting on the surge and the effects especially in Anbar Province. You can't even deny that the reports have been positive, so now you resort to insulting our troops and claim they weren't the reason for the turn around. Horse$hit. AQI were squeezing them too hard because they were being the A-holes they really are.
Now, I don't know why the Sunni's didn't initially believe the Americans were the good guys. They seemed to make the right choice when given all the information. So, they aren't necessarily dumb. Maybe, they were brainwashed by Saddam's regime. Maybe, they believed Al-Jezeera's lies about our soldiers. Or maybe they believed the American left (Kerry: Americans terrorizing Iraqis in the middle of the night. Murtha: the Marines were "cold blooded killers". Durbin: comparing our soldiers to Nazis. and so forth...).
Reading Michael's article I do know that the people he's visited;
1. They are grateful the Americans were there.
2. They feel safe because they are there. Something that wouldn't have happened without the surge.
3. A lot of misconceptions are being righted by the Americans presence. The Ramadi residents are learning that the Americans aren't the bad guys.
4. More needs to be done to secure what has been achieved.

You liberals love saying that we need allies. Well, here's our chance. We have a population that basically allied with our enemy and thought the worst of our troops. In my opinion this goodwill can go a long way not just in Iraq, but around the middle east. And you think because they turned our way for the "wrong reason" or the surge is working for the "wrong reason" the best thing to do is abandon them? Where's the freakin logic in doing that?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 18, 2007 03:24 PM

Michael - Thanks for the insightful report. This is good news - proof that we are learning to fight an insurgency.

I guess that the basis of most counterterrorism operations is to see what works in one area, make that area into a safe or green (?) zone, then use that as an example for other areas. Most Iraqis have been opposed to terrorist organizations for a long time. (There were all of those anti-terrorism protests that the media ignored.) Hopefully, there are many areas in the country that will be willing to work with us, now that we've proven that we can do it.

It's not surprising that the villagers turned against al Qaeda. I don't think our presence inspired al Qaeda to be any crueler than usual. The violence sounds pretty standard for these hate-based supremacist groups. They're doing similar things in Thailand. I'm surprised it took so long for someone to hit back.

But the fact that we were there to help them rebuild is what will make the difference. People who had previously relied on tribal alliances for security can see the benefits that come from working with a large nation-state. If we do this right, that realization may be the thing that keeps Iraq from descending into a Talibanesque feudal state - another 'perfect Islamic state'(as Osama once called Afghanistan)

Another cultural exchange idea - we send toys and money, and they send recipes (especially for the lime chicken and the red sauce)

Posted by: mary at September 18, 2007 03:33 PM

Great reporting as usual

More good news
I just read over at Captains Quarters that Rueters is reporting the hospital beds in Baghdad are largely empty as well as the morgues. Both were overflowing with dead and wounded not to long ago.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 18, 2007 03:40 PM

Robert:

You are correct the Kilcullen article is crucial reading for anyone attempting to stay informed about Iraq. He writes without any apparent spin about the credit Iraqis deserve for the tribal revolt and the revolt's posible long term dangers. The most suprising thing he mentions is the amount of support the central government has been giving to the "Sunni" tribal forces leading the revolt. Thanks, for the link.

Posted by: Mark-In-Chi-Town at September 18, 2007 03:44 PM

all these hipocrties and bullshits.what about gaza and westbank.who kill all those palestinian ? aqi ? muslim will never ever forget.

Posted by: distoten at September 18, 2007 03:48 PM

"“It was nothing we did,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Drew Crane who was visiting for the day from Fallujah. “The people here just couldn’t take it anymore.”"

I think he's just being modest. He knows the Iraq's couldn't have done it without American support just as we couldn't have done it without the Iraqi's turning against al Q.

Yet another wonderful job, Michael. Thank you.

Posted by: Greg at September 18, 2007 04:20 PM

Great reporting... Awesome news! Thnx for it!

Posted by: winston at September 18, 2007 04:44 PM

“You know what I like most about this place?” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“We don’t need to wear body armor or helmets,” he said.

I could not have been more surprised had you said that their rifles had been replaced with pellet guns. Wow.

Excellent job as always Michael.

Posted by: Hollowpoint at September 18, 2007 04:48 PM

Thank you for your story. I happened across this while trying to gather as much information as I can trying to become a more informed parent of a soldier first time deployed to Iraq 14 days ago.
I find it somewhat reassuring that we are making some positive difference's when the majority of what we see and hear is negitive. I will make this a regular stop from now on. Thank you again for your frank reporting and view.

Posted by: Al from Maine at September 18, 2007 05:30 PM

How many americans did these tribes killed in the past 4 years while they were allies of Al-Quaida ??
Are you sure they love us and not our money ??
Are there any guarantees that they will never turn their guns on us again ??
In Vietnam, the old counterinsurgency was "Search, find and destroy he enemy", now in Anbar it is : "Search, find and bribe the old enemy into not killing you anymore"
ahh, progress is priceless, what a kodak moment !!

Posted by: james at September 18, 2007 05:32 PM

How many americans did these tribes killed in the past 4 years while they were allies of Al-Quaida ??
Are you sure they love us and not our money ??
Are there any guarantees that they will never turn their guns on us again ??
In Vietnam, the old counterinsurgency was "Search, find and destroy he enemy", now in Anbar it is : "Search, find and bribe the old enemy into not killing you anymore"
ahh, progress is priceless, what a kodak moment !!

Posted by: james at September 18, 2007 05:32 PM

James,

I guess that's for history to decide

Posted by: joefrommass at September 18, 2007 05:40 PM

is this article telling you all what you want to hear? is sounds like a classic puff piece. where is the analysis? why is everything so much better now? the implication is that the locals are fed up with al qaeda, so that they ran them out. things can never be this simple. i've spent time in the middle east, and allegiances shift with the cash in the wind. i wouldn't be surprised to find out that the local "sheiks", are positioned at the end of a u.s. generated cash flow, and that these tribal leaders are running things in the province. which could mean that they control what happens to al qaeda in the area. which could also mean that they are in effect al qaeda.

Posted by: kenneth at September 18, 2007 05:43 PM

Great article. This is textbook counterinsurgency -- what happens when you push past the tipping point. Anbar shows the way ahead for all the other communities willing to stand up for themselves and take local responsibility.

For our part, I think we've lost a lot of the organizational hubris and well-meaning stupidity that characterized the first few years of the campaign. Between our newfound acceptance that we don't have all the answers, and the locals' willingness to take a chance on working with us, I think this is the key to Iraq.

Question is, can the Anbar model be replicated elsewhere, before the naysayers finally declare defeat and pull us back?

Posted by: Sherisse Kyle at September 18, 2007 05:46 PM

Another superb report! Thank you for bringing us such heartening news. God bless our troops and the Iraqi people. And you, Michael. I'll hit the tip jar on my way out.

Posted by: Kyda Sylvester at September 18, 2007 05:52 PM

Perhaps the IAF were also flying mirages during the 2006 war with Hizbollah? This may explain the disproportionate civlian casualties on the Lebanese side. Maybe the Israeli ground forces were French as well?

Posted by: Roy at September 18, 2007 05:58 PM

I enjoyed the article and comments very much until the name calling buy the Bush supporters began.
Does everything have to be politicized?

Posted by: Allan Birmantas at September 18, 2007 05:58 PM

James: I understand that some people are not true allies and only love us for whatever reason, be it money or security or whatever.

However, clearly in Anbar province they have learned that we are not the enemy. We are not there to kill them or rape them or steal from them. They are beginning to trust us, and they welcome our muscle once they trust us.

The worst thing we could do is to leave them now, leaving them for Al Qaeda to sweep back in and punish them for collaborating with us. We would be leaving them as sheep for the wolves.

And if we leave them now, they will hate us.

Posted by: David M at September 18, 2007 06:03 PM

Kenneth: You sound like a child who didn't get what he wanted for Christmas. What's the matter? Can't you accept that possibly our national sacrifice has actually accomplished some good for the Iraqi people, and they are grateful? Do you really think every Iraqi only cares who hands him some money? These people have been terrorized, first by Saddam and the Baathists, and then by Al Qaeda. I'm not talking about Abu Ghraib panties on their heads, I'm talking about beheading and rape and blowing things up. They have lived in HELL. Now, they have 16 soccer teams and cell phone stores and hope. HOPE. Maybe they can actually take a walk down the street and visit their neighbors without fearing for snipers or car bombers. I'd say that kind of change would make them like us. Maybe just a little. No more having family members dragged out of the house at night and beheaded or shot. We don't do those things. And the Anbar people are hoping we will stay and keep the bad people out so life can get back to normal. If we leave them now, Al Qaeda will come back with a vengeance, and there will be no more soccer games, and payback will be hell. Should we just leave them now?

Posted by: David M at September 18, 2007 06:18 PM

Well done Michael!

May the peace of Ramadi spread as wildflowers across the countryside.

Posted by: Jim at September 18, 2007 06:22 PM

So then when do we actually withdraw?

Things go badly? We can't possibly withdraw, because they'll get worse.

Things go well? We can't possibly withdraw, because they'll get worse.

At what point do we actually let Iraqis decide their own future on their own without American crutches?

Posted by: Dan at September 18, 2007 06:33 PM

Michael, this is wonderful, detailed news. I'm gratified by the toughness and kindness of our brave American troops in Iraq. I've posted your report with excerpts on my blog, "TheLeftIsEvil," a Townhall.com blog.

Great work!

Posted by: Sally Morem at September 18, 2007 06:36 PM

It's not only about what US forces did but what they stopped doing. Once, thanks to Petraeus, the US forces switched tactics, the percieved difference between AQI and the US forces widened.

COIN is politics with guns. Once the US "party" made themselves a much better proposition than the AQI "party", the voters (local Iraqis) switched sides.

Great reporting.

Posted by: Mr Jones at September 18, 2007 06:39 PM

I believe Donna Carter is a friend from way back. In Jacksonville Beach. If so, I'd love for her to contact me. I hope she sees this. I hope it's she!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at September 18, 2007 06:45 PM

I believe Donna Carter is a friend from way back. In Jacksonville Beach. If so, I'd love for her to contact me. I hope she sees this. I hope it's she!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at September 18, 2007 06:47 PM

Dan,

Probably about the same amount of time it took for us to leave Germany. In other words we'll be dead before the U.S. leaves Iraq.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 18, 2007 06:47 PM

Well, it seems modern counterinsurgencies don't have a very good track record.

Posted by: Dan at September 18, 2007 06:47 PM

Thanks for reporting this, Michael. It's a hopeful story. I have to remind myself that it's just a few data points out of a larger picture, but I hope it indicates a trend that will continue.

Out of curiousity, are there any NGOs operating in Anbar province, helping with reconstruction? Such as the actual Peace Corps, or H4H, etc?

Posted by: Andrew Snelling at September 18, 2007 06:48 PM

I agree with most everyone here, another great article! Look forward to a Fallujah article now... :)

BTW, don't know if anyone else mentioned this, a small mistake:

“Fairly,” he said. “There are coordination issues at the battalion level, but otherwise they’re pretty good. The Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police are actually on of the most encouraging things I have seen here. Some of these people were paid for the first time only yesterday.” He said this in August. “They are incredibly dedicated.”

I think you meant "...are actually one of the most..."

Posted by: Randy at September 18, 2007 07:03 PM

Kenneth,
Here are your answers:

"is this article telling you all what you want to hear?"
Since he doesn't write for a traditional media outlet, the benefits he would gain for being biased are small. New York Times reporters have to be liberal because that is what their readers expect. Since Michael doesn't have subscribers with a year's subscription, what is the point? If he goes to Iraq and writes a lot of bad news the state of his website doesn't change at all; anyone for or against the war can read this blog.

"is sounds like a classic puff piece. where is the analysis?"
So if he reports what he sees and it is positive and you want it to be negative then it is a puff piece. But if he adds his analysis (opinion really) then others will call him biased. Can you see the problem here? By the way, if the news is negative but you want it to be positive then you call it a hack job, right Kenneth?

"why is everything so much better now?"
From the article, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq had seized control with the tacit blessing of many local civilians and leaders because they promised to fight the Americans. But Al Qaeda’s rule of Ramadi was vicious and cruel....The Sunni Arabs of Ramadi then rejected Al Qaeda so utterly they forged an alliance with the previously detested United States Army and Marine Corps and purged the terrorists from their lands.

"the implication is that the locals are fed up with al qaeda, so that they ran them out."
It is not an implication, it is stated clearly in the piece.

"things can never be this simple. i've spent time in the middle east, and allegiances shift with the cash in the wind. i wouldn't be surprised to find out that the local "sheiks", are positioned at the end of a u.s. generated cash flow, and that these tribal leaders are running things in the province. which could mean that they control what happens to al qaeda in the area. which could also mean that they are in effect al qaeda."
Is this the kind of analysis you expect?! After reading Mr. Totten's work for a while, I know that this kind of bush-league, conspiracy stuff doesn't get posted. By the way, why is it easier to believe that the US is "in effect al qaeda" than to believe that a bunch of tribespeople didn't want to get their heads chopped off so they switched sides and sided with the people that would protect them?

Posted by: Keith at September 18, 2007 07:04 PM

This article goes a long way to show how diplomacy is far more successful than force. Living and working alongside them, toward common positive goals for their nation, can be done without being a soldier. It is time to scale back our military presence, and increase our diplomatic presence, and let the Iraqi people determine their own future.
Diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and specific goal-oriented military missions are the only ingredients that will help stabilize the region indefinitely. In the long run, a large military occupation by foreigners only breeds contempt, distrust and resentment, and fuels the cause of the insurgents. We can't be everywhere, and where we're not will simply become their new stage of operation. We simply don't have enough troops to be successful in securing every region required to force peace upon the people, they have to fight for it themselves.
I can appreciate the anecdotal portrayal of the area by this journalist, but the picture is much larger than a small pocket of neighborhood cooperation.

Posted by: Cat at September 18, 2007 07:14 PM

This article is nothing, but pure propaganda. If our country was so concerned about human rights and liberty and freedom, it would be on the side of the Palestinian people who are fighting Israeli Apartheid for nearly 60 yrs now!

Iraqis will never allow foreigners to run their country! They are not stupid people!

Posted by: concerned american at September 18, 2007 07:18 PM

Excellent reporting. Wish we had more of your kind in the media reporting on Iraq. Very encouraging read.
Thank you.

Posted by: Kathy at September 18, 2007 07:31 PM

concerned american: If our country was so concerned about human rights and liberty and freedom, it would be on the side of the Palestinian people who are fighting Israeli Apartheid for nearly 60 yrs now!

When did Michael say the Iraq war was about "human rights, liberty and freedom"?

MJT drives an SUV. That's why he supported the war.

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 07:32 PM

Wheee! USA! USA! WOW! Bush was right all along! Yahoo! All those pictures of American soldiers and Iraqi children are enough to warm the heart of a snowman! Good job, Micheal. Not only is Ramadi a happy place, but Michael also "didn't witness any violence in Baghdad." !!!! We won that too! YEHAAAA!

Posted by: Ed at September 18, 2007 07:33 PM

Everyone is so keen on withdrawing our forces from Iraq / Middle East. Why? Since when do American forces conquer and then leave? We are still in Germany and Japan and Korea. Those forces number in the hundreds of thousands. I see no reason why we should not station a very large force in Iraq. They will be needed to counter Iran and Syria (and make sure the Saudis don't mess with the oil market). It's no different than what our forces have done in Germany and Korea, keeping the Soviets and the NK Commies at bay. Besides, of what use is the 1st Marine Division when it is sitting on its ass in Oceanside CA? They can't be put on the Mexican border (at least not on our side of it) and they certainly are not going to be tasked with killing Islamic crazies at UC Irvine. If we are not going to use our soldiers to kill the enemy (enemies) then let's not have a standing army at all.

Posted by: russ at September 18, 2007 07:41 PM

Wheee! USA! USA! WOW! Bush was right all along!

Yup.

Yahoo! All those pictures of American soldiers and Iraqi children are enough to warm the heart of a snowman!

Well my heart is basically an ice block, and they warmed it ever so slightly.

Good job, Micheal. Not only is Ramadi a happy place, but Michael also "didn't witness any violence in Baghdad."

Correct and correct again.

!!!! We won that too! YEHAAAA!

Yeah, we're getting there.

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 07:42 PM

Wow.

Posted by: Johnny Griswold at September 18, 2007 07:44 PM

Concerned American,

Quick, who won the Series in 1959?

Posted by: guinsPen at September 18, 2007 07:44 PM

russ: If we are not going to use our soldiers to kill the enemy (enemies) then let's not have a standing army at all.

"Kill the enemy"?

Russ, what do you think we are? A bunch of freaking barbarians?

Let's not sink to their level.

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 07:45 PM

Too early to tell if the hell is over. Troops will stay in Iraq so Bush can invade Iran. It is amazing how some people still believes the lies of the past and see them as untruthful truths.

Posted by: David at September 18, 2007 07:50 PM

Oops, sorry. Did I say that we need to kill the enemy? I meant that we should lie down and let the enemy kill us. There, hope that's better.

Posted by: russ at September 18, 2007 07:52 PM

What a superlative bit of reporting! Thank you very much. May the good news continue.

Posted by: Richard Walsh at September 18, 2007 07:55 PM

russ: Oops, sorry. Did I say that we need to kill the enemy? I meant that we should lie down and let the enemy kill us. There, hope that's better.

Ok, well lying down and letting them kill us is a bit much.

What about challenging them to a battle of wits? Or a game of Twister?

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 07:57 PM

concerned american,

"This article is nothing, but pure propaganda. If our country was so concerned about human rights and liberty and freedom, it would be on the side of the Palestinian people who are fighting Israeli Apartheid for nearly 60 yrs now!"

That was brilliant! perhaps the best comment I ever read! You are hereby excused from ever having to post here again! simply brilliant!

Posted by: joefrommass at September 18, 2007 07:58 PM

Dear Concerned American and Ed: You can swallow the Kool-aid of the mainstream media and the Democratic party if you want, but our brave and caring soidiers and marines are making a difference in Iraq. Our goal is to leave them a functional, secure people, able to protect themselves and govern themselves after we leave.

If we leave now, we leave them as victims of the flood of al Qaeda despots from Saudi Arabia end elsewhere who hope to kill and terrorize them into submission.

Is this how we will honor the 3000 American dead? Shall we now pull out and leave the Iraqi people to the tender mercies of al Qaeda or the Baathists? Shall our dead count for nothing? I think not.

It is easy to be anti-war, but it is difficult to save a people from destruction. We are doing the right thing. We need to stay there until we can depend on the locals being able to care for themselves. To leave now would be an insult to every American GI who gave his or her life to save these wonderful people.

We will leave Iraq when it is time to leave. Not before. We abandoned them to Saddam's tender mercies after Gulf War I, we will not do that again. When our commanders in the field say it is time to leave, we will leave.

Posted by: David M at September 18, 2007 08:01 PM

David M: You can swallow the Kool-aid of the mainstream media and the Democratic party if you want, our brave and caring soldiers and marines are making a difference in Iraq. Our goal is to leave them a functional, secure people, able to protect themselves and govern themselves after we leave.

We're going to leave the Marines in Iraq?

Is that such a good idea? And are you sure they can govern themselves?

Posted by: Edgar at September 18, 2007 08:04 PM

distoten, you write "muslim will never forget", but you are so very wrong. Certainly there will always be a sad branch of this beautiful religion that thrives on the evil that is hatred, but as with all other religious fringe groups, the Love and Forgiveness of the One True God will shine through the Human Soul and sideline you sorry asses. Truly, my eyes weep, and my heart breaks for you. Allah be with you.

Posted by: Matt at September 18, 2007 08:05 PM

Dan:

How about we leave when the professional military leaders-- like the ones Michael interviewed in this very story-- say it's time for us to leave?

With all due respect to your feelings and liberal sensibilities: would it be all right with you if we left a decision this vital to the people who actually have a clue about the subject?

After all, even you must agree that a doctor is more qualified than a bus driver to decide when a cast should come off a broken limb.

And for the record, if you think that ANYONE wants to leave more than the military, you are completely insane. The difference is, our military won't leave until they accomplish their mission... no matter how much you "feel" like they should.

Posted by: Devil_Dog at September 18, 2007 08:07 PM

Dan: At what point do we actually let Iraqis decide their own future on their own without American crutches?

That's an easy question Dan. When do you stop using crutches? When you no longer need them.

Iraq can not defeat the insurgents on their own. They do not have a fully functioning government, which means no (effective) police force. No way to investigate crimes. No material support to combat anti government and terrorist elements.

We give them the muscle that they need to achieve STABILITY. Once they have stability, then they can START building their nation. Once they are finished building their nation, we can withdraw without fear of a failed state forming.

It's something that takes dedication, and patience. You can't build a country from the ground up in a day, or a month, or a year. Maybe not even in a decade. What we have to realize is that people in the Middle East already have very little trust for Americans because of the lies given to them by their media and governments. If we bail out on the Iraqis now, we stand no chance of ever changing that.

Posted by: Will at September 18, 2007 08:08 PM

Everyone should want a successful resolution of the chaos in Iraq. My question is how you get to that point. I am a Ugandan who saw my country go through 20 years of chaos after evicting a dictator (with Tanzanian soldiers). The Tanzanians left pretty quickly and the chaos ended when we had a successful invasion - by Ugandans who took over running the country. Iraqis will have to decide for Iraq - I don't understand how conservative people can justify the spoon feeding ($9 billion/month) of an entire country, while they don't support issues at home related to US citizens. WHAT IS THE EXIT PLAN? FORGET STRATEGY THERE IS NONE!!!!

Posted by: JohnK at September 18, 2007 08:10 PM

Like Americsa is going to spend a trillion dollars and then just leave? As Bush 1 would say "Ain't gonna happen". America will get a return on this investment even if it takes 50 years.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 18, 2007 08:12 PM

WHAT IS THE EXIT PLAN?

Will just gave the exit strategy.

Is it just me or did someone empty out the troll asylum tonight?

Wowza. Nothing like a positive story from Iraq to liven things up.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 18, 2007 08:24 PM

JohnK,

Ugandans are generally pretty laid back people. Chaos in Uganda is something the rest of the world can live with. On the other hand, chaos in a country sitting on a quarter of the world's oil reserves, with five nutball neighbors, one of which has or will soon have nuclear weapons, and which is home home to the holiest shrine of some of the world's looniest religious loons ... well, that's chaos we can all do without.

Posted by: Hathead at September 18, 2007 08:53 PM

One of the best photojournalism pieces I've read in a long long time. I hope those children can grow up to know freedom like never before.

Major kudos to the Army units you were traveling with.

Posted by: Corona at September 18, 2007 09:14 PM

What a great report. I served in Korea and 40 years after my return I had two young Korean women come up to me and say THANKS ! Keep up the good work. The check is in the mail.

Dr. D

Posted by: Dr. D. at September 18, 2007 09:19 PM

Hey JohnK, thank you for the Ugandan perspective.

Are there any Zimbabwean government officials reading these comments? What about Haitians? Sudanese? Please write your comments in; we need to tap your wealth of sound public policy experience.

Posted by: Keith at September 18, 2007 09:21 PM

What percentage of the total Iraq population does Anbar represent? I don't think success in Anbar is going to scale to all of Iraq and the US doesn't have enough troops to do in Anbar in the rest of Iraq. So, this is a feel-good story but I still don't think there is a military solution to the Iraq problem.

Let Iraq divide into three states. One will be an ally. One will be an ally of a supposed ally (S.A.) and one will be unfriendly. Bomb the unfriendlies as necessary.

Posted by: Graham at September 18, 2007 09:24 PM

Dogwood: Is it just me or did someone empty out the troll asylum tonight?

Most of the idjits are drive-bys. There's just a lot of fresh links 'cause the dispatch has such propaganda value.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 18, 2007 09:30 PM

Dan,

At what point do we actually let Iraqis decide their own future on their own without American crutches?

Democracy doesn't come from microwave ovens. Freedom isn't "just add water." There is not a Cliff Notes version of responsible citizenship in developing nations.

If we don't have enough time to do it right, we surely do not have enough time to do it over.

Are you due to rotate in-country? You act a lot more panicked about our participation than anybody I know who has been faced with actually going. Why are you so nervous out of the service?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 18, 2007 10:00 PM

libtards are 100% useless

Posted by: Sir Christopher at September 18, 2007 10:05 PM

Why you americans can be so dishonourable and disrespectful to your leaders and soldiers who risk their lives for the american cause.

How many Sept11 do you want to occur in your country before you wake up and see that what Bush has been trying to do was to contain the enemy in her nest or where it should be contained.

Or were you so dumb and preferred that the enemy was to be contained on american soil as per se Sept11. By stationing all american soldiers on american soil and to fight ghosts and phantoms like what was experienced in Sept11???. In Iraq, american soldiers were at least fighting with physical forces; and not phantoms whilst killing leaders of AIQ, etc.

Stop being dumb and refrain from acting and thinking like cowards. It is stupid people and cowards who cause the american failure in Vietnam. It is the failure of the american resolve that causes failures.

Keep to the motto: "United we stand and Divided we fall".

Posted by: motiti koae at September 18, 2007 10:56 PM

Nice report, different for sure...

But there is something interesing ahoy!

George Terrorist Bush decides that God told him that Al Qaeda is there in Iraq & Iraqis will welcome Americans as liberators (Bush's God was wrong)-> so he goes and invades a country in which there was no Al Qaeda > Iraqi people hate Americans because they are big liars and a bunch of goons who will shoot at anybody (you see, this is the civilisation that America wants the rest of the world to adopt, nice)> Al Qaeda, which had no presence in Iraq enters Iraq because there is no Saddam Hussein -> Al Qaeda is even worse than the Americans (oh boy, do surprises never end) -> Iraqis decide that between the two evils, Americans are much better -> Iraqis start liking the Americans because Al Qaeda is there and they actually start welcoming Americans as liberators (Yahooooo!, Bush's God was indeed right)...

Nice, very nice indeed

Posted by: Narsi Santhanam at September 18, 2007 10:58 PM

To Dan and all those who claim that this proves that it would be best for Iraqis if we left, so they can fix their own country: did you not see the picture created by the Iraqi child in Part I, where U.S. "muscle" was powering the Iraqi sword to slay the dragon? That's perhaps the perfect distillation of what we wish to accomplish, and I don't know whether to be more proud of the child or disappointed in us that s/he gets it and so many Americans don't. Without American muscle, the Iraqi sword is useless. Likewise, without the Iraqi sword, American muscle is useless. It took us four years to figure out the latter, and now that we've learned it and implemented it to such stunning effect in what was once the headquarters of the insurgency, far too many of us want to undercut it from the former end.

To Michael J: I remember reading your dispatches from the anti-Syrian front lines in Lebanon two years ago, and they were so powerful and moving that I donated $50 — don't laugh at the number, the rest of you, it's a lot to me — to the Spirit Of Freedom fund. Somewhere along the way, whether it was time or fatigue with the general situation in the Middle East, I quit reading, and I hereby apologize for that. It takes a brave person to go over and discover the truth for oneself, and a selfless one to report it back to the rest of us unvarnished. Obviously, as a person who supports this mission, I'm glad to hear that you had good news to report from Ramadi, but you didn't go in knowing that would be what you were about to discover. Even if the place had still been hell, you would have reported that. Your dedication to the truth — the actual truth, not the "truth" of a preconceived anti-war (or pro-war) bias or the "truth" of the overarching narrative that we are losing — far outweighs my appreciation for the specific story you have told. I wish there were more reporters who had half the guts and dedication you display. Long story short, you deserve some money too, and the check's in the mail (as soon as I can put enough money in so it won't bounce).

Oh, and finally, to guinsPen: that's a tough Turing Test question to ask. I'm a baseball fan and I can't even tell you who won the Series in '59. '55, yes; '57, yes; '60, yes; '61, yes; but ask me that question on the battlefield and you'd have to shoot me. (I do know who LOST that year, though: the White Sox.) As soon as I hit the "Post" button I'll Google it because it will drive me mad. Thanks a lot. :)

Posted by: marchand chronicles at September 18, 2007 11:10 PM

Check out what Americans from BLACKWATER are doing.

Posted by: Basil at September 18, 2007 11:38 PM

Michael,

I spent 30 years as an on-air reporter in the so-called "mainstream" broadcast media, most of it with CBS, ABC, and CNN. My time included four years in Vietnam (until the last day of the war, April 29, 1975); six years in SE Asia afterwards covering boat people and Afghanistan "I," ten years in Central America (where I watched an average of 55 dedicated SOF operators slowly, slowly turn around El Salvador by applying classic COIN tactics) six trips to Iraq under Saddam; then Desert Storm, and finally, Chechnya "I," (where in 1996 I first saw al-Qaeda face to face; it was chilling).

This background is a preface to saying that your reporting from Iraq is superb. You do what any professional reporter should do, but many don't, and that is you focus on what is right in front of you, with facts, details, photos, and very good representative "sound bites." You let what you see tell the story, and you don't color it. You are an honest reporter.

No doubt you realize you will never get credit nor be recognized in the mainstream (except perhaps as a "nuisance") because what you are writing, reporting, and saying is politically incorrect, not what they want to hear. With some notable exceptions like John Burns of the NYT much of the "mainstream" is ideologically and emotionally invested in an American defeat in Iraq.

It was exactly the same in Vietnam; I was there and I know. If ever you have a few hours read Jack Laurence's book "The Cat from Hue." Jack did three tours in Vietnam for CBS News, and is widely regarded as the premiere TV reporter of THAT war. He openly admits his biases on pages 532-534. Interestingly, 32 years later, he now supports our effort in Iraq.

Expect no "mainstream" recognition, no Pulitzer prizes, but take courage from the fact that among those who "know," your work is respected and appreciated.

Best wishes, and "keep your head down."

Peter Collins
Arlington, VA

Posted by: Peter Collins at September 19, 2007 12:00 AM

As the parent of a Marine in Anbar Province, I want to say thank you for honest, riveting reading. It makes me even prouder of my son and my country's military.

Posted by: Rick at September 19, 2007 12:15 AM

Do we still believe that we can win these people over with candy bars, palsy-walsy embraces, tea-time etiquette, we, the illegal invaders and occupiers of their native soil? They are all victims and witnesses to our brutal and humiliating abuses, and in their heart of hearts there cannot be anything but vengeful hatred against us, their unprovoked oppressors.

Posted by: louis miccio at September 19, 2007 12:16 AM

Do we still believe that we can win these people over with candy bars, palsy-walsy embraces, tea-time etiquette, we, the illegal invaders and occupiers of their native soil? They are all victims and witnesses to our brutal and humiliating abuses, and in their heart of hearts there cannot be anything but vengeful hatred against us, their unprovoked oppressors.

Posted by: louis miccio at September 19, 2007 12:17 AM

Michael:

Thanks for reminding me why I have been here 15 months.

Posted by: CW3 Kavanagh at September 19, 2007 12:56 AM

louis miccio:

You can't be serious. However I do think that the whole Iraq nation-building exercise was a waste of 3000 precious young American lives. We should have just divided it into 3 parts, allied with Kurdistand and bombed the hell out Shia/Sunni-stan. Saturation bombing.

Posted by: Manco at September 19, 2007 01:04 AM

I would like to thank you for your article and let you know we had 2 Marines whose stories agreed with what you reported. They were both in Anbar Province in Ramadi and elsewhere. How encouraging to hear a journalist tell it like it is. They will both be going back. It is very gratifing to know that the truth is getting out. Please keep it up. Your part of the equation is vitally important. I cannot send to you financially; I would if I could; but I will pray for you. We are doing our part; thank you for doing yours.
Again thank you Michael for laying it all down to bring forth the truth.

2 Marine Mom

Posted by: 2 Marine Mom at September 19, 2007 01:49 AM

That's excellent reporting.
When I was in Iraq this last year as a mobilized Army Reservist, I heard reports of what was happening in Anbar. And it truly is amazing how that place turned around. I wish the rest of the country outside of Kurdistan had that level of improvement.
Unfortunately, unless we let the bad guys run rampant through the rest of the nation to show the Iraqis that's their alternative, most may not see the light like the Anbaris did. Iraq is a difficult situation with no easy answers.

Posted by: Johnkel at September 19, 2007 01:56 AM

Michael,

It looks like you got a lot of new readers with this one, and more than a few who will stick. Yesterday was a 43K day. That's not Instapundit hits, but the mortgage might get paid this month and that's not nothing.

Still, it's kind of a zoo in here just now.

As for the guy who wanted to know who is killing Palestinians, is the correct answer Taliban in Gaza a.k.a Hamas?

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 19, 2007 02:06 AM

Always we beleive whoever would like to lie to us. We beleived Bush at his play of" Saddam MDW", we beleived him that we are going to Iraq to install democracy, and what? We found out every thing is rib off. Now, they are coming to us by using such paid off writters to convence us that Ramadi becomes our loyal ally,and their Sheiks substitute their frocks, they forget what happened to their brothers & sisters in Abu Ghraib,they forget about who was raped and killed by our army, or raped( by the way to kill some body in the Arab world is not bad as rape) Rape scar never heal, because it is shame, and shame stay alive for generations? Now, writers are coming to tell us those people just swept every thing under the rug, killing & shameful acts they endured by our forces and our mercenaries. I think Sheik Abu Reishah example should not escape us. This is just ellosion, it is the Bush administration approach to prelong the Americans existence in Iraq, in which it will cause a lot of loss in lives of our armed forces and Iraqis. And here is the other fold, Iraqis said we don't invite the Americans, they invaded our land, occupied it unlawfully, toppled our government which is 100 times better than the mess we are in now, majority are testifying?.
I heard it on many news channels that Iraqis will sue USA for all the losses in economic, lives,honor crimes were committed by USA forces or by those who were given the chance to do so under the suppervision of USA forces( they say in time of Saddam, there was law & order in every corner of Iraq, people were not worry like what is happenning now), they will sue about all losses cause during the time of occupation there, because the more the occupation last the more of economic deterrence will, they sue about their cultural heritage lost from their museums under the suppervision of USA forces, they will sue for all this destruction in Iraq caused by the USA complacency, they will sue for sowing the seeds of the ordeal of sectarianism, which started at the Bremer era. Besides, I would like to tell those perrots, who repeat after Bush, and say that our arm forces setting there until Iraq, all Iraq become peacefully safe, that is crazy? because the majorities of Iraqis are saying, hay, redskin, just withdraw and leave us alone we will manage, and they say there is no way that Iraq will calm down as long as the occupation is there? In fact,Iraqis accuse Americans forces and other forces, that they are the reason for all this sectarian fighting, and the majority of them point the finger to USA administration in creating some factions to blow Iraqis, kill and cause destruction in order to make execuse for theose call " we couldn't withdraw before we estalish peace in Iraq" and many Americans join Iraqis on this point and say most of the hell goes in Iraq is American administration made. We experienced a lot of this administration lies & deception, and it is not strange to find it making up such crime under the desguise of Al Qaidah or any other imaginary faction.
Michael Totten and collague, please spare this nation of this kind of illusion, because we are good hearted people, we are honest, we beleive most of the highly elegant talk, but we are sparely very disoppointed when we discover it is mere lies? please, again spare us the disoppointment.

Posted by: Mike at September 19, 2007 02:42 AM

Excellent work and excellent website! I don't trust the American media to report the truth about Iraq like you do. An earlier poster said that you are one of three real reporters in Iraq. I wish he would have indicated the other two. I'll have to check his blog.

Posted by: Pugnus at September 19, 2007 02:43 AM

Hey Dan, don't mess with this libs "kool aid", you've got you're own to deal with...

Posted by: Michael Hazzard at September 19, 2007 03:13 AM

To concurr with Sheikh Abu Reisha, about the Americans not understanding the Iraqis & the tribes in specific, here is an anecdote related to me by an Arab-American friend working in the Green Zone.

During a meeting around mid-2004, which included "specialists" on Iraq covering the nature of Iraqi society, culture and Iraqis'perception of the MNF, a frustrated British delegate, after much (irrelevant) discussion, wondered whether "the participants had read the writings of Gertrude Bell on these matters".

After an awkward silence, one of the "specialists" had this question:

"Is she State or DoD?"

Posted by: Iraqsushi at September 19, 2007 03:41 AM

Great stuff Michael. I have linked you at The Monkey Tennis Centre.

http://monkeytenniscentre.blogspot.com/2007/09/smiles-democrats-dont-want-you-to-see.html

I noticed some discussion earlier about the ABC/BBC poll of Iraqis. The very fact that the poll was released on the day of the Petraeus/Crocker reports to Congress shows that it was driven by political, not news-reporting considerations. And some of the findings are contradictory and highly suspect, as I discussed in this post:

http://monkeytenniscentre.blogspot.com/2007/09/medias-tet-offensive_11.html

Posted by: Mike at September 19, 2007 04:32 AM

The part with the cold pills and personal a/c was unforgettable!

The defense industry should develop such technology. Soldiers who'll have access to a futuristic cold pill will need much less water, shade, electrolytes and rest than their enemies. A personal mini air conditioning unit or weather-sensitive electronic clothing shouldn't be dismissed either.

Posted by: Bright Sky at September 19, 2007 04:33 AM

I'm sending a link to this article to everyone I know, as God knows they won't see, hear or read about the transformation of Anbar Province anywhere else. Excellent work, Mr. Totten!

Posted by: Stiiv at September 19, 2007 04:34 AM

Wow what a great piece! Its too bad articles like this never see the front page. I really enjoy how the piece doesnt speak of doom and gloom. Instead it paints a picture of how things really are. I should know. CPT Philip Messer mentioned int his article is my company commander.

Posted by: SPC Adam Escott at September 19, 2007 05:18 AM

Excellent and informative, all the stuff we do not get from the NYT. My cousin just landed in Anbar 2 weeks ago with a Marine medical team so I am interested in reading anything about that area. I don't know who "Mike" is that posted but to call Al Qaeda "imaginary" is beyond stupid. Tell that to the relatives and friends of the 9/11 victims. He doesn't write like an American or maybe just poorly educated (maybe he's a college student.)

Remember it took 8 years to win our own revolution then more years to get our government right.

Posted by: Sandy at September 19, 2007 05:20 AM

Wow, you know you have written powerful truth when it attracts so many Bush-haters and ignorant, illiterate America-bashers.

Posted by: David M at September 19, 2007 05:29 AM

Truly wonderful article. Job well done ! Has anyone sent this to the Presidential Candidates for 08? We'll never see it in the mainstream media though because it's a "positive" article and not "negative." Only negative news sells papers, or make the National News. I hope this gets sent to the politicians who want us to "cut and run."
Thanks for sharing this article. I enjoyed the read.

Posted by: Joan Kranz at September 19, 2007 05:30 AM

Thank you for an article that brings the continuing peace to my heart. My son served 04-05. He would email home how much of a diference he saw happening. Sadly he died 10/30/05 from injuries inflicted by an IED.
I was a "dove" at the begining of this war who saw the need to oust Sadam. I was saddened to change my veiw that the world sactions and peaceful measures would topple him. Sadly that did not happen.
I am in no means a "hawk" who wants war but a person who wants the Iraqi's to have a stable environment to choose her way in life.
Thank you for letting Chuck and me know that what they saw is continuing.

Posted by: Karla at September 19, 2007 06:12 AM

Michael,

Another great story! I used to tease my wife. "Yes, Ramadi is save. You can rent an apartment while I'm here." Wasn't so a few months ago. I'd like the chance to go again and see the continued progress.

-Eric

Posted by: Eric Holmes at September 19, 2007 06:58 AM

Mike,

I noticed some discussion earlier about the ABC/BBC poll of Iraqis.

There was one post, mine.

And some of the findings are contradictory and highly suspect, as I discussed in this post:

I was disappointed by your critique, as it is rife with innuendo and speculation. For instance:

And I could be wrong, but I very much doubt that the polling was carried out by a team of crack Swedish civil servants.

You don't have to risk being wrong on the facts and drawing wildly inappropriate conclusions as a consequence. You can just read the description of the methodology. They published it. I linked to it.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 19, 2007 07:06 AM

Dan:

"So then when do we actually withdraw?

Things go badly? We can't possibly withdraw, because they'll get worse.

Things go well? We can't possibly withdraw, because they'll get worse.

At what point do we actually let Iraqis decide their own future on their own without American crutches?"

We will withdraw eventually. What I do not understand why are you so anxious to leave right now?

Does it matter to you where American soldier servers in Kansas or in Anbar if this soldier no longer have to be in danger?

What is your hurry? What are you afraid of?

Oh, and at this moment American crutches are needed even in Anbar.

Posted by: leo at September 19, 2007 08:13 AM

god bleeess everything

Posted by: juanita_cung at September 19, 2007 08:13 AM

peace on earth by angels plus heros

Posted by: jemani_leung at September 19, 2007 08:15 AM

I discovered this website because it was linked by one of the news syndicates. The same was true for Michael Yon's blog. The syndicates have their issues but I do appreciate being referred to such excellent sidebar journalism, that gives us deeper insight into what happens beyond the flash news.

I read through everyone's comments tonight, even though it took a long time. Every opinion is important and each argument may contain merit. What I read through today, sadly, did little to address the article's content.

As an American, this article gives me a boost in pride and patriotism. I live and work in China with international people. When I hear words deriding the US and foreign policy, I point to articles like this and say, unabashed, "what is your country doing to help?"

One of the beauties of coming from the USA is our diversity in thinking. I don't know where MJT is politically. I don't agree with Dan or Creamy or Pete or David or Kenneth or Sherrisa or.....but we have that freedom to express our beliefs. For freedom to continue and prosper, people must moderate themselves by tempering their own cause with respect for dissenting views.

My personal view is that we belong in Iraq permenantly and should have at least 3 major installations there. I think that we should be nurturing a combat alliance with the Iraq Army that will prepare for the impending battlefields of Iran and/or Syria. I believe we have only fought a minor battle in Iraq and the true war is yet to come, one that will claim far more than the small percentage of fatalities we have borne these few years.

Iran is a threat to the stability of the world. Every world power is quoted in the press about how to manage the rogue. If Iran excersises military muscle, it will be a far greater conflict than what has been seen in Iraq. Al Qaeda is not our greatest threat, Iran is. And Iran has the potential to criple the world by destroying the world supply of middle-eastern oil.

Our president isn't a fool or a liar, but he cannot speak the whole truth openly. He has struggled with dignity and honor to try to preserve our national energy needs through such strategic advances as exploration of American fossil fuels and alternative fuels, protecting Persian Gulf oil supplies and routes and fostering greater relations with China. Our next president, whomever of whichever party, will also have to broach the grave energy crisis and plan to act aggressively and strategicly.

MJT, great writing and pics!

Posted by: Kevin China at September 19, 2007 08:25 AM

Somehow I'm going to find something to donate.

All Americans need to read this before they decide to cut and run.

Who could abandon those children?

Posted by: Zaphod at September 19, 2007 08:25 AM

I am so proud of you guys over there and for what you are doing- I pray that everyone of you guys get home to us and that the Lord protects you- My brother was in Viet Nam and he came home- So I pray that you will too- Enjoy reading what you guys do over there with those people and the children- you are truly not only soldiers but missionaries for all of us- Will keep you in my prayers!

Posted by: Audrey at September 19, 2007 08:35 AM

Why does this article contradict 99% of what we've known is true about Iraq? I don't doubt the writer's story completely but why should it surprise anyone that the people in Anbar (5% of Iraq) don't like Al Qaeda and want them thrown out.

This temporary truce with the American occupiers is completely understandable. Plus, the religious leaders have been heavily compensated with American money in return for this truce.

Iraqis don't want to be occupied. And they will fight back against any outsiders---Al Qaeda or US troops.

This article clearly demonstrates that the situation in Iraq is complex and ever changing. And it always makes clear that Iraq will not "fall into mass chaos" WHEN the inevitable American withdrawal occurs.

Iraqis have made it clear they approve of attacks against Americans. They'll accept our temporary security---in some isolated areas---and they'll strike back when they choose and when the American payoff isn't perceived as high enough.

Who could blame them? Would any of us want our country occupied?

Posted by: Julio Soy at September 19, 2007 08:35 AM

"Why does this article contradict 99% of what we've known is true about Iraq?"

I laughed out loud at this comment. Maybe because it's true ? I read and support Michael because he tells the truth, unlike some people I could name. Thanks for some light humor this morning.

Posted by: Michael Kennedy at September 19, 2007 08:39 AM

This article clearly demonstrates that the situation in Iraq is complex and ever changing.

A gift for the obvious I see.

And it always makes clear that Iraq will not "fall into mass chaos" WHEN the inevitable American withdrawal occurs.

It does no such thing. Whether the country falls into mass chaos upon our withdrawal all depends on when we leave.

If we leave before the Iraqis are fully capable of defending themselves, then AQI will most likely return with a vengeance.

If we leave once the Iraqis are fully capable of defending themselves, then the threat of mass chaos is reduced to little or nothing.

What most people don't seem to understand is that just because Anbar is much improved, that does not mean the entire Iraqi military or police or government are fully functional.

To alleviate the threat of mass chaos upon our withdrawal, the Iraqis must have the ability to meet the logistical needs of the police and army.

And it will take several more years to get the Iraqis to that point.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 19, 2007 09:01 AM

Julio: This article clearly demonstrates that the situation in Iraq is complex and ever changing.

So is a game of Twister. But that doesn't mean you can't win it.

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 09:05 AM

Kevin- Since there wasn't any other Pete than me that has posted a comment, I'll assume you were disagreeing with me for whatever reason. I take that as an insult to be lumped in with Dan and Creamy. First, I don't understand a person like Dan that if we left Iraq yesterday it still wouldn't be soon enough for him. Or Creamy a squeshy middle of the roader that can't take a stand when our country is at war. AT War. But you know what Kevin; I don't want to silence them. Never once have I posted on Michael's blog or anyone else's blog that these point of views need to be censored. If there is censoring going on check the LEFT. Manilow intiately didn't want to do the VIEW because Elizabeth Hasselbeck was on the show. Or the shit that people like Bruce Willis, Dennis Miller or Jon Voight get for showing support for the mission. I'd appreciate it if you didn't try to lump me as person that wants to silence debate. I'm not afraid to debate these people.
Here's another thing to think about, Kevin. I agree with you; we should have permanent bases in Iraq. The fact that the middle east is the source for the Jihadis, we need a base of operations there. And I'm proud of Bush. I do disagree with him on somethings like immigration, but you can't call him a WAFFLER. I know he's sincere in wanting to protect us against the terrorists. But personally I don't give a damn if it's a Republican or Democrat that "wins" this war. Like I've said before "I probably don't have anything in common socially with Senator Liberman, but I wouldn't have a problem with him as President because he's one of the few Liberals that actually wants to protect the country. How's that for accepting other people that don't agree with me on everything?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 19, 2007 09:37 AM

Kevin China,

For freedom to continue and prosper, people must moderate themselves by tempering their own cause with respect for dissenting views.

The syndicate links have resulted in a wave of fresh contributors, which will doubtless recede within a day or so. Lots of know-nothing blabs from both the left and the right, to be sure. Also lots of military people and military families stopping by, whose transient comments are a pleasure to read. Since ordinary Americans have not been called upon to make tangible sacrifices for the war and the burden is being borne disproportionately by this small segment of the population, I'm glad to see their spirits lifted.

In any case, the comment section for this dispatch is not representative of our usual suspects. This open thread was one of the better ones of late. Unfortunately, the usual suspects are also capable of endlessly entertaining the question "are, or are not, the anti-war left traitors?"

I hope you'll stick around, for two reasons. First I have a rather severe tactical disagreement with you about how to approach the problem of Iran and Syria, and it would be nice to have a robust debate on the subject. Second, I am in complete agreement with you about the value and the necessity of honest. civil dissent. The trend towards civility around here has been positive of late, and further contributions from you would reinforce that trend.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 19, 2007 09:55 AM

"If our country was so concerned about human rights and liberty and freedom, it would be on the side of the Palestinian people who are fighting Israeli Apartheid for nearly 60 yrs now!"

Palestinian Arabs have been attacking and killing Jews for longer than 60 years.

Jews are also worthy of "human rights", even when the majority of Arabs, perhaps, want to see them dead or thrown into the sea. The Nazis were on the side of the "Palestinian people", but their support had very little to do with "human rights".

Liberty and freedom is something you will find in Israel but not in most Arab countries. Allowing the Arabs to invade and destroy Israel is not likely to increase anybody's freedom. But it will result in a few million dead Jews and refugees.

Your ideas about human rights and liberty frighten me. Thank G-d the US is not in the side of the anti-Semites.

I have studied in an Israeli university. My dormitory flatmates were Arabs. Show me a university in an Arab country university where Jews and Arabs study together in peace and with equal rights.

I bet you have never been in Israel, otherwise you would not use the term "apartheid", which you have no doubt heard somewhere, and somebody told you it was a bad thing, hence you concluded Israel must practice it.

The truth is that in Israel mosques and synagogues are standing next to each other, neither burning, and Jews and Arabs live in the same cities and have the same rights (except most Arabs do not have to serve in the army). I myself ate in Arab restaurants, stayed in an Arab hotel, and was surprised that Arab taxi drivers are much more responsible drivers than most Jewish taxi drivers. If you call that "apartheid", I suggest you should never, ever visit an Arab country and make yourself known as a Jew there.

I would love to live in a world where the system practiced in Israel is considered the most racist of apartheid systems! Would love to. It would be beautiful, because it would mean that Jews could live in any other country without being subject to attacks.

But as it stands, Israel is, apart from the US and Morocco, I believe, the only country in the world where Jews and Arabs are not segregated either by law (like in Arab countries) or by fear of anti-Semitic attacks.

It is BECAUSE your country is concerned about human rights and liberty that it supports the Jewish struggle for survival. A cheaper move would be to support the anti-Semitic majority, allow them to murder all the Jews, and get all the oil in the world in exchange.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at September 19, 2007 10:03 AM

This is the finest piece of reporting I have read since the fighting began. Keep up the truthful reporting so we get the correct picture of what is going on in Iraq.

Posted by: Mel Ratz at September 19, 2007 10:08 AM

Andrew Brehm: Jews are also worthy of "human rights", even when the majority of Arabs, perhaps, want to see them dead or thrown into the sea.

Maybe you should go and talk to some real Arabs.

The ones I've talked to want nothing of the sort. All of them agreed--without exception--that the Jews should be given life jackets and inflatable rafts BEFORE they get pushed in.

I've never heard ANY Arab interpret the "throw them in the sea" comment as a license to launch millions of people (some of whom can't even swim), in the sea without proper safety gear.

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

Pete Dawg, addressing Kevin China: Or Creamy a squeshy middle of the roader that can't take a stand when our country is at war. AT War.

I figured this would come up eventually. I'll address it at some future point when someone who's capable of holding a civil conversation brings it up.

I'd appreciate it if you didn't try to lump me as person that wants to silence debate.

Hmm, where did he do that? The only passage in his post that could possibly apply is this one:

For freedom to continue and prosper, people must moderate themselves by tempering their own cause with respect for dissenting views.

There's nothing there about silencing debate. Nevertheless, I do think that sentence applies to you, since you plainly do not temper your own cause with respect for dissenting views.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 19, 2007 10:20 AM

So much to say, so little time. Just let me observe:

Mike ("http://none/"), it is obvious that you are not a native English speaker, therefore your posture as "one of us" (e.g., "our troops") is false and you are at best trolling. As such your opinions are hardly valuable except to those of us who wish to better know our enemy.

I am probably doing wrong in acknowledging you as no one else has done so to this point. Just to let you know that you weren't getting away with anything.

I bet you come from a shame culture and humiliation is a big problem for you, so you should run away from this blog because everyone is laughing at you for your pathetic attempts to influence the debate.

You are a joke, "Mike." You're not worth the price of a bullet to send you to the hell you deserve.

Posted by: nichevo at September 19, 2007 10:23 AM

Edgar- You are priceless... Please keep the quotes coming. They are hilarious. I'm still laughing about Schwarznkennedy Quote;

"Yeah, but they were all bad."

Arnol Schwarznkennedy

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 19, 2007 10:25 AM

I detect a curious sudden change in Edgar's personality.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2007 10:25 AM

I read your story and I was please to find out what really is happen there. Everytime I read in the paper of what is happen make me sad for so many are losing their lieves and I pray that someday everyone will stand up to these people an fight for their country and freedom which is so important to them and us. I even enter a prayer in my prayer book at church for our military men and women and the childrens and their parents that one day those countries will have the freedom they deserve and more.

Keep leting us know how things are going there and God protect you all.

Posted by: Elizabeth at September 19, 2007 10:42 AM

So do I Micheal. I do like the sarcasm though. It's somewhat refreshing every now and then in a long thread as this one.

Posted by: Johndakota at September 19, 2007 10:44 AM

MJT: I detect a curious sudden change in Edgar's personality.

Nobody would have the audacity to try to impersonate me.

And really, how could they?

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 10:45 AM

John Dakota: I do like the sarcasm though. It's somewhat refreshing every now and then in a long thread as this one.

You aren't being sarcastic, are you?

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 10:48 AM

Andrew Brehm at September 19, 2007 10:03 AM,
Edgar at September 19, 2007 10:11 AM,

Please, do not feed this troll.

Posted by: leo at September 19, 2007 10:48 AM

Edgar, addressing Johndakota: You aren't being sarcastic, are you?

Single sarcasm: "Nice earmuffs."

Double sarcasm: "I don't like your earmuffs."

Triple sarcasm: "Nice earmuffs."

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 19, 2007 10:59 AM

Please, do not feed this troll.

Edgar's sarcasm in that post made me laugh, as opposed to other comments that have resulted in my head swinging uncontrollably from side to side.

Sarcasm = good.

Trolls = bad.

Edgar + Sarcasm = Good.

And that's about as far as my math skills will take me.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 19, 2007 11:00 AM

Creamy,

I find this comment section to be far more civil than most. Especially when you consider the subject matter and the volume of posts here. It is also the most intelligent (hope I spelled that right) of the comment sections that I visit. Michael paricipates here which is unusual for an administrator of a blog this size. I think that contributes to the relative civility I witness. For an inteligent discussion of the great question of our times I think this is the place to be.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 19, 2007 11:01 AM

Thanks a lot for your very honest and wondeful report..I´m very sad because news like your never will be in large newspapers and news tv´s but I feel grateful because I know the true facts in Irak.
Also I thank President Bush for you vision to liberate Irak from tyrans and terrorists.My pray is for the US troops.
God Bless America..FOREVER!...

Posted by: Kalakaflaca at September 19, 2007 11:03 AM

I do appreciate the tone found here.

I was cruising through the comments section on another blog yesterday and the usual characters (left, right, center, plus fringes) had turned the place into the blog equivalent of Sunday morning talk shows where everybody yells and no one listens.

It got old fast.

I actually learn stuff here from people on all sides of the issue, which is nice.

Posted by: Dogwood at September 19, 2007 11:06 AM

leo: Please, do not feed this troll.

Leo, I suppose you didn't notice that when Patrick first called me a "troll," I began a long, terrible and bloody vendetta against him. I don't think he enjoyed that.

But I did.

Pretty soon, Leo, everyone will be laughing at you. You'll be helpless--reeling from the blows and unable to mount even the flimsiest defense. I will mop the floor with you, wring you out and then soak up the excess water with your lifeless body.

Forget that. I'll get an Israeli mop--an oversized squeegee for those who don't know--and violently sweep you down the drain with the rest of the sewage.

Unless, of course, you apologize for calling me a troll right away.

Then it's cool.

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 11:15 AM

Creamy- Point taken... I went to public school; I probably was late for Reading Comprehension that day because I coulnd't get the condom on the cucumber.

I'll be more than willing to hold a conversation with you on your fence sitting. And I'll remember in the future that the term "squeshy middle roader" is an insult to you. LOL ;p

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 19, 2007 11:18 AM

OHHHH SNAP! Raise the rooof Yo! FIGHT FIGHT

Just kidding.. anyway let's get this train back on track.

Posted by: Johndakota at September 19, 2007 11:19 AM

Excellent work, thank you. I will be reading your updates and sending money! Finally a reporter I can support - good news or bad, I just want to read the story and decide what to think on my own. I don't do political or old media anymore; too much bias (either way, doesn't matter), way too many "teasers", bad commercials and stupid comments. Michael, you are my "news" sunshine! Thanks again and keep your head down and eyes open...come home safe! ~grace

Posted by: grace at September 19, 2007 11:21 AM

Edgar,

"Unless, of course, you apologize for calling me a troll right away."

Please, do not construed this as an apology. It is merely an explanation.

I called you a troll, you say. Am I wrong or are you?

If I understand correctly expression 'feed the troll' used in cases when one (it would be you in this case) replies to troll giving ammo to said troll for future remarks.

Now, do you still want me to apologize or should you?

"Pretty soon, Leo, everyone will be laughing at you. You'll be helpless--reeling from the blows and unable to mount even the flimsiest defense. I will mop the floor with you, wring you out and then soak up the excess water with your lifeless body."

That is assuming I care enough to get upset with you. BTW, I love philosophy behind Aikido.

PS. How is my "defense" doing so far?

Posted by: leo at September 19, 2007 11:45 AM

TRUE QUALITY WORK !!!!!!!!!!!
I NOW SEE HOPE FOR THE 1ST TIME IN YEARS, LETS HOPE WASHINGTON BOTH SEES AND USES THE GREAT WISDOM THAT SHOWS SOMETHING WORKING THIS WELL!!

Posted by: RANDY at September 19, 2007 11:55 AM

leo: If I understand correctly expression 'feed the troll' used in cases when one (it would be you in this case) replies to troll giving ammo to said troll for future remarks.

Now, do you still want me to apologize?

Yes, but not to me. Apologize to the English language for writing that absolutely ridiculous sentence.

Then get me a translation of what it means.

Brian: 1
Leo: 0

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 11:59 AM

(have to use my real name to verify my victory)

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 12:04 PM

Leo... up to the plate. He's got the potential to make something big..

Here's the pitch.... ohhhh swing and a miss.. BOOOOOOO!

Posted by: Johndakota at September 19, 2007 12:04 PM

Leo's Aikido stance doesn't seem to be working for him today. It was a nice try, and back in preschool it may have been a winner.

Posted by: Johndakota at September 19, 2007 12:12 PM

LEO- You should've taken the out Edgar gave you. It's not too late.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 19, 2007 12:24 PM

Another great entry, fantastic work. However, I am concerned about the longer-term problems: Sunnis in Anbar are working with us these days, but will they ever be able to work with a government in Baghdad? It almost seems that at this rate they will become nearly as independent as the Kurds. Anbar is working on local security, but will they be able to overcome a "home turf" mentality and see themselves as a part of a larger Iraq? Are we merely backing a local force that will eagerly turn its gun against Baghdad in the future?

Posted by: Mark at September 19, 2007 12:37 PM

Edgar,

You are absolutely correct. My English is terrible. I can try copy-paste my last message if it mill help you. Please, let me know.

Brain: 2
Leo: 0

Posted by: leo at September 19, 2007 12:52 PM

leo: You are absolutely correct. My English is terrible. I can try copy-paste my last message if it mill help you. Please, let me know.

Don't bother. This is between us--I don't want other people reading it to suffer.

It wasn't nearly as bad as when you used an extremely bizarre "boy kisses girl" analogy to explain IED attacks in Iraq, though.

That was just weird.

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 01:09 PM

"It wasn't nearly as bad as when you used an extremely bizarre "boy kisses girl" analogy to explain IED attacks in Iraq, though."

Finally, I am confused. What are you talking about?
Oh, I get it. Do you believe each and every Edgar on Earth is one and the same?
"boy kisses girl" analogy, hah? Remember reading something like that a while ago. Do not remember writing it though.

Brain: 3
Leo: 0

Posted by: leo at September 19, 2007 01:25 PM

Read about another assination today in Lebenon Seems he was an Anti Syrian politician. The eight one in less than three years. Two steps forward one step back.

Posted by: joefrommass at September 19, 2007 01:38 PM

I read about it too.

I wonder how much more of the same it will take for Lebanese to realize who their real enemy is.

Posted by: leo at September 19, 2007 01:51 PM

Makes me so happy to hear this. God bless our troops.

Posted by: Joyce at September 19, 2007 02:11 PM

so, after rading this report, are we ready to display the "Mission Accomplished" banner once again ??
Is the champagne cold ??
Can someone hand me a glass ??
Does anybody realize that these Anbar tribes already have a lot of america blood on their hands ??, do you folks think they are a bunch of boy scouts or what ??, what happens when we stop paying them not to kill us again ??, I do not trust any of these people, be it Kurd, Sunni or Shiita, I would have to be extremely innocent to do that, these people are killers who like our money for the time being, they do not love us, they love our money, get that ??

Posted by: james at September 19, 2007 02:20 PM

Creamy, a healthy skepticism is necessary for dealing with ANY reports of events.

Even the best of the media can get it wrong and there aren't many "best" around any more.

One thing the internet reinforces is that critical thinking is a must for the 21st century. I don't care whether the reports come from MSM or MJT, you have to put your critical thinking cap on.

(And yes, I trust MJT's reporting far more than the MSM.)

Posted by: chiropetra at September 19, 2007 02:52 PM

Oh, James you silly wabbit... I've been reading the post here. The only that seems to think "Mission Accomplished" is Dan, because he wants the troops to leave now. Michael is writing about the effects of the "Surge". Which no sane person can deny is paying positive dividends.
Now what are you really trying to say? You don't think their coming over to our side isn't legitimate; so should we kill'em all.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 19, 2007 03:10 PM

James,

Are you that guy that got tasered yesterday?

Posted by: joefrommass at September 19, 2007 03:11 PM

leo,

I've been posting on this blog for years and I figure Edgar's got another 3-6 months before he steps over the line and gets banned. He's got a weird anger thing going that he controls most days, but eventually it's going to boil over. I hope commenting here isn't the therapy the counselor prescribed, because it doesn't seem to be working.

Try to ignore him for a while. It stinks to watch him luring out hostility and maintain your silence, but he mostly quiets down if you do. He is not over the line in to bannable behavior, most of the time, and it is going to take a lot before Michael kicks him because he did pull a tour in Anbar during the ugly days.

In between civil commentary developing better understanding and bannable trolling, there is a considerable gray area. Edgar engages in obnoxious behavior on a regular basis that is shy of banning. He lures out uncivil comments and adopts unsupportable poses only to ridicule the vociferous responses it gathers. He answers detailed analysis with rude irrelevancies and otherwise acts like a twerp.

For right now on this blog, twerps who've pulled a tour in Anbar get a pass. I figure that will last about two more trips into the Red Zones before Michael adopts a more strict policy for veterans. Until that happens, don't feed the twerp.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at September 19, 2007 03:12 PM

Regarding the Sunnis becoming nearly as independent as the Kurds, maybe that's not a bad thing. There is no confidence in the central government, so perhaps the only way to generate enough governance to keep things stable is at the regional level. At this point, I'd strongly support any measures that lead to stability, even if they remove any long term chance of a unified Iraq. If you can't put Humpty back together, at least salvage enough goo to make omelets.

I suspect this won't lead to guns being turned on Baghdad in the future, but I'd love to hear Michael's view on that. The Anbarites may be too war weary to try and expand their influence for a long, long time.

But that could change if Sunni refugees from the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad resettle in Anbar and bring their resentments with them.

Posted by: DMoore at September 19, 2007 03:16 PM

Patrick,

I'm sorry. I know I humiliated you pretty badly.

But you were such an easy target.

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 03:34 PM

Pete,Joe, just address the fact that these guys have been killing americans for the last 4 years, and now that they have a fall out with Al-Quieda, we are steping in with money to try to buy their loyalty with no assurance that in the long term it will happen, they have killed us before and I do not trust that they are not going to kill us again, it is that simple, I do not trust them. If I was out there I would not turn my back on them. A BBC reporter asked an iraqui kid in Basra, "what are the iraqui police doing about all the terrorists planting bombs on the road to kill british soldiers ??", the kid looked up and said, "what are you talking about ??, the policeman are the guys planting the bombs". The 4 navy seals from Blackwater killed in Fallujah died because they trusted the iraqui police when they asked for directions, the policeman pointed them into the road going into the town and told them to go that way, then they used their cell phones to call insurgents in town warning them 4 americans were coming down the road, that is how they lost their lives, these guys were navy seals but they made the mistake of trusting the iraqui police. This is what I am talking about, these people are untrustworthy, liers and killers and no amount of them smiling at our guys is going to change my opinio of them.

Posted by: james at September 19, 2007 04:02 PM

Edgar and Patrick,

If you can't get along, please do the rest of us a favor and ignore each other. Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2007 04:30 PM

Patrick,

If you can get away with homophobic, misogynistic, and physical threats veiled as "jokes", I think Edgar is treading on very firm ground, regardless of how annoying you'd qualify him.

If you consider this annoying or a threat to you.. just remember it's only a "joke"

Posted by: Johndakota at September 19, 2007 04:59 PM

James- Take a deep breathe... bud. Nobody here and especially me have advocated that we set the next Boy Scout Jamboree in the middle of Ramadi. Based on Michael's reporting and what the Marines are telling us the population has turned. Now, you don't trust them. Fine, but the Marines out there seem pretty content on getting along with these people as opposed to killing them. If it comes down to a choice of protecting our Marines and the population of Ramadi; I choose our Marines. But the population there are saving our troops. They giving our men tips on where the terrorists are. They are giving tips on where the IED's are. Now if the population reverts to its "evil ways" and the commanding General there reports that Anbar will not be pacified unless we use "brute" force. So be it. Until that day comes. I trust what the Marines are telling us now, since it's there ASSES on the line.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 19, 2007 05:00 PM

Pete Dawg,

*handshake*

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 19, 2007 05:04 PM

James,

I agree with you about the overall quality of the people the army is dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Problem is, the region is filled with scumbags and the Americans are forced to co-opt them nonetheless.

To use an example of how to get the job done, take Syria. They use various groups to accomplish various ends, even though they privately despise them (do you really think Syria "likes" Hizballah, for example?)

It's a dirty game but that's the way they play in this part of the world. Everyone does it.

It's like Twister. You have to be really flexible--even if it seems totally wrong and unnatural--to win the game.

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 05:07 PM

chiropetra,

(And yes, I trust MJT's reporting far more than the MSM.)

I apply Reagan's formula: trust but verify. I trust MJT. I also verify MJT.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 19, 2007 05:09 PM

Creamy-

handshake right back at ya! What's this funny sensation overtaking me? Is is it creamy goodness?? ;p

Peace in your hood, fool...

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 19, 2007 05:17 PM

james said "these people are untrustworthy, liers and killers and no amount of them smiling at our guys is going to change my opinio of them."

James,

There are trustworthy and untrustworthy people in every society.

I'm sure that they don't give a damn about us, but we and they, for the moment at least, have mutual interests. They hate AQ and so do we. They wish to have normal secure lives and we wish them to live mormal secure lives. Perhaps they have come to understand that we are a just nation who really mean them no harm.

What would you have us do bomb them?

Posted by: joefrommass at September 19, 2007 05:32 PM

joe, pete, edgar, I need to leave but I will comment on your comments later, I am just sick of this bloody mess with no end in sight, I saw this movie before and it was called Vietnam, so much blood spilled, so much treasure spent, so much of both wasted. I got to go.

Posted by: james at September 19, 2007 05:39 PM

Michael, I've never tipped a blogger before but threw $20 in your bucket. I know it's not much but hopefully a bunch of people are doing the same thing. Keep it up.

Posted by: Jon at September 19, 2007 05:52 PM

Edgar, that must have been some game of Twister you played in Fallujah.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2007 05:56 PM

Joefrommass: What would you have us do, bomb them?

They're brown people. Isn't Chimpy McHilterBurton supposed to bomb brown people?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2007 05:59 PM

MJT: Edgar, that must have been some game of Twister you played in Fallujah.

I had trouble bring the boards in at first. The locals started a rumor about how I was spreading a "satanic" ritual and the whole bit.

The sort of warmed to it eventually, but when the tribal sheiks saw a game in progress they freaked out. Something about the mass of tangled bodies piled on top of each other looking like Abu Ghraib.

I think they were more worried about al-Qaeda using it as propaganda, actually. If someone photographed a bunch of men wrapped around each other on a rainbow mat they could present it as a form of torture:

"The American crusaders put one officer in charge of the rainbow dial. He spins it and his soldiers force the man to assume a contorted position according to what it reads, even if other men are already in close proximity and their bodies will touch."

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 06:17 PM

I've been posting on this blog for years and I figure Edgar's got another 3-6 months before he steps over the line and gets banned. He's got a weird anger thing going that he controls most days, but eventually it's going to boil over.

Patrick, the last one who got told to chill was you. Relax. I think you're the one with the weird anger thing. Edgar, OTOH, is making me laugh.

Posted by: Yehudit at September 19, 2007 07:32 PM

Michael,

Caught tail (15-20 seconds) of your interview on Hue Hewitt show couple of hours ago.

I am sure it was very interesting. Regret missing it.

My congratulations.

Posted by: leo at September 19, 2007 08:14 PM

Patrick,

I honestly have nothing against you. The only thing that you said that irked me was the "troll" accusation.

I have anger only towards al-Qaeda.

Posted by: Edgar at September 19, 2007 09:29 PM

"I wonder how much more of the same it will take for Lebanese to realize who their real enemy is."

I suspect a lot of them do know who their real enemy is but won't say it out loud so they won't end up in the same place as all the people assassinated by Syria.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at September 19, 2007 10:33 PM

Michael, I have never said this to a reporter before. PLEASE COME TO MOSUL. The Corps of engineers have spent lots of money and risked many people lives taking reporters to various project sites only to have them report on the same RUMOURS they came with. Please come see the schools, health clinics and police stations that are making a difference here.

Posted by: Sarah at September 19, 2007 11:01 PM

Michael T:

How do you respond to the following accusations from us lefties?

1) Paul Krugman writes in his NYT blog that Shiek Risha was basically setting himself up as a U.S.-backed local warlord.

2) Echoing the concerns of Mark Lynch's blog, Krugman says that many of the Sunnis in the Anbar government blame the central government for the assassination, not AQI. Have you heard this sentiment? What does this foretell for the prospects of Anbar's eventual participation in an Iraq-wide government?

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/the-president-who-cried-peace/

3) One of Krugman's readers writes: "By its actions in Anbar, our government has committed itself to the partition of Iraq." Is it possible to arm the Sunnis to weed out al-Qaedan extremists without also weakening the central government's hold on outlying Sunni provinces like Anbar?

4) People who oppose continuing the war (I'm certainly one of them, but I can't verify the argument independently) have noted that much of the much-argued reduction in violence (especially in and around Baghdad) can be explained in terms of the expulsion of Sunni from Shiite neighborhoods and vice versa, along with the continued mass migration of hundreds of thousands out of Iraq. As the talking point goes, the death rate has to go down when there are fewer and fewer people to kill.

Whether or not these population trends account at all for the statistics Patreus has been touting, it makes the idea of a unified, multiethnic government seem impossible, since it would consist of two sides who have recently run each others constituents out of their homes.

5) If we were to leave, it seems highly unlikely to me that AQI would play a major player in post-withdrawl Iraq. After all, the only reason AQI was able to get control of Anbar in the first place was by rousing anti-American sentiments. With us gone, wouldn't AQI lose most of their popular support?

Posted by: Bryce at September 20, 2007 02:52 AM

Fine piece of journalism! It's crucial that truth rather than embellished agenda driven lies (such as those propagated by CNN and the so called established media) are told. How can people the world over make the right decision based on falsified facts? Thanks for putting things in the right perspective.

Posted by: Poh Yee at September 20, 2007 03:29 AM

A little late to this party, am I, eh?

It's a good story, Mike. The pictures of the kids are sort of moving and sad.

If the rest of the Iraqis loved us as much as you suggest the Ramadis do, I would no longer be opposed to this mission.

If the local power structures hate you, though, there will never be peace until you or the local power structures are gone, no matter what the people think.

Which brings me to this:

http://images.dailykos.com/images/user/3/Daily_Security_Update_for_19_Sept__07.pdf

6 attacks in Ramadi, Sep. 18.

You must have visited at the absolute valley of the violence cycle.

Posted by: glasnost at September 20, 2007 04:04 AM

If relations between the MNF and Iraqis were this good in the rest of Anbar, we wouldn't be seeing results like we're seeing in this survey:

http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/2007/09/what-iraqis-thi.html

Original data:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6983841.stm

And folks, don't blame the BBC's bias, because it was conducted jointly with ABC and a Japanese networks.

Some fun facts: 70% of Iraqis think things have gotten worse since the surge. 47% want an immediate withdrawal. Apparently one percent of Sunnis support the American presence in Iraq and ninety-three percent see attacks on coalition forces as acceptable.

There is a massive disconnect between how the locals Mike Totten saw in Ramadi acted, and the results of this survey.

What the truth is, I can't say, but when you combine numbers like these with the continued large number of attacks on US troops every day in Anbar, I can't believe that most Sunnis feel like this towards the US. I'd like to, but I can't.

Posted by: glasnost at September 20, 2007 04:24 AM

Maybe it's a reflection of stuff like Ramadi that we've moved into a tie with Al-Queda on the "who's to blame for Iraq?" question. Six months ago we were ahead.

Posted by: glasnost at September 20, 2007 04:34 AM

glasnost: 6 attacks in Ramadi, Sep. 18.

Here they are, extracted from the PDF.

  • 58. 18 Sep Bodies found with gunshot wounds & signs of being tortured in al-Qaim. 3 UB
  • 59. 18 Sep IED found/cleared in Al Asad.
  • 60. 18 Sep IED attack on MNF-I patrol in the city centre. NFI
  • 61. 18 Sep IED attack on MNF-I patrol in Haqlaniya. NFI
  • 62. 18 Sep IED attack on MNF-I patrol IVO Haditha. NFI
  • 63. 18 Sep SAF attack on MNF-I patrol in the city centre. NFI
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 20, 2007 05:02 AM

glasnost: There is a massive disconnect between how the locals Mike Totten saw in Ramadi acted, and the results of this survey.

I brought this up earlier, glasnost. Search the comments for "ABC". ABC published a useful sidebar about the methodology; I didn't see anything like that on the BBC.

I'm really not sure what the answer is. All I can say is we need more data points. I wish that MJT's article had significant verbal interviews with Iraqis. The pictures tell a story, at least, and they are apparently representative of his experience. But it's incomplete.

Bill Roggio's interview with his interpreter in Fallujah yields some insights.

[Resistance] is a normal thing, and a right for everyone.

I think that helps to make sense of the 92% number that troubled Sullivan (and me). That's a common Arab formulation.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 20, 2007 05:39 AM

Patrick,

I am never for banning anybody no matter how outrages comments might be.

I believe, when you are talking to somebody (anybody) on Internet you are talking to everybody.
And often you can get in to very interesting conversation with someone else in return.
Also I might affect a mind or two (Am I getting presumptuous? Wow! This stuff is contagious!) in the process.

Anyway, as you suggested I will try to let it slide gently.

Thank you.

Leo

Posted by: leo at September 20, 2007 06:05 AM

Another interview, this one by Bill Ardolino, to help fill in the blanks. From the intro:

While the insurgency is on its heels in Fallujah, the man’s desire to avoid individual identification bespoke residual fear that tempers current optimism.

From the interview:

INDC: Why was there so much conflict with the Americans initially?

Mukhtar: We thought America wanted to steal Iraq. And from our perspective as Muslims, you should fight against thieves. And all the people around the world ... it's the same in America ... if Iraq went to America to take America, all the people would fight against Iraq. I think we can agree about that.

INDC: What do you think of Americans now?

Mukhtar: The Americans now are peaceful -- more than us (laughs). They are helpful and give humanitarian support for the people here.
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 20, 2007 06:11 AM

Bryce, I think most of your points are valid, but I'm not sure that's bad.

I would expect that the leaders of the tribes in Anbar are warlords. If they weren't, they wouldn't have been able to stand up to AQI.

Yes, I think we have committed ourselves to the partition of Iraq, to some degree. However, we were already in that situation, given the independence of the Kurds. Iraq wasn't going to be unified without Kurd and Sunni acceptance anyway.

I would agree that any decrease in violence in Baghdad is more likely to have resulted from the partial completion of ethnic cleansing rather than the surge of troops. It does not look like the surge of troops into Baghdad has helped much, although the accompanying change of tactics does appear to have helped in Anbar. I think it's worth pointing out that Pentagon statistics and Petraeus' are very different, and other sources of year over year statistics do not show improvement. I don't think the picture is clear on if there's been improvement in the violence, and if so how much.

I think it's debatable whether Anbar will be able to fight off AQI in the future without help. Michael's info indicates they are currently welcoming the help, but it's not clear how widespread that sentiment is.

Posted by: DMoore at September 20, 2007 06:30 AM

Please post pictures of the Iraqi food. Nobody in America knows what Iraqis eat.

Posted by: mike at September 20, 2007 08:21 AM

Glasnost,

How in the hell can you conduct an accurate poll in a place like Iraq? Seriously, the margin of error must be incredible.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 20, 2007 08:40 AM

Glasnost: There is a massive disconnect between how the locals Mike Totten saw in Ramadi acted, and the results of this survey.

There is, yes. That doesn't mean I'm the one who is wrong.

I didn't go everywhere in Iraq, obviously, or see everything. Neither did those surveyors. They couldn't possibly.

The plunge in violence in Ramadi, in all of Anbar, is absolutely extraordinary. You saw the photos of Soldiers and Marines without helmets. That isn't for no reason.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 20, 2007 08:46 AM

From the methodology: Notably, all the photos from Anbar and Baghdad are from the neck down; no respondent in either of these provinces consented to have their faces shown, an indication itself of security concerns there. In other areas – notably the far more secure Kurdish north – respondents smiled genially for the camera.

Nonetheless, even in Anbar, where insularity is high and resentment over the U.S. invasion seethes, an interviewer reported, "I have noticed that the respondents answered very seriously and were not afraid to tell me their answers to these questions."

Good Lord, when did they conduct this survey? Is this data even remotely current?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 20, 2007 08:52 AM

Great article! My husband is in the Army and is there in Ramadi right now....Yes he is getting pretty bored! Theyre just pulling guard shifts and sometimes small missions! Just so glad it's this way :) Thanks for this! And the pics were great too!

Posted by: Mallory at September 20, 2007 09:25 AM

MJT: That doesn't mean I'm the one who is wrong.

Maybe because I have an informal scientific background, I'm comfortable with noisy data, uncertainty, and probabilities in a way that some other people might not be. There is a seeming discrepancy here, but there are many possible explanations for it. I'll wager that cultural misinterpretation accounts for at least some of the distance.

Setting out to decide whether one of you is 100% right and the other 100% wrong is likely to mislead us. Instead, I hope we can find ways to explain the discrepancies. The poll may be flawed; your window into Iraq may be narrow along some dimensions. Still, it seems unlikely that either source is 100% fictional. :)

ABC has provided a lot of useful info about how the poll was conducted. We should use it.

when did they conduct this survey?

From the main ABC article:

This survey, based on face-to-face interviews of 2,212 randomly selected Iraqis across the country Aug. 17-24,

This poll has been widely quoted, BTW. Gary Langer of ABC wrote an op-ed for the New York Times. Andrew Sullivan picked it up, which is how I came by it. If someone feels like offering a serious critique of it, rather than the usual casting of aspersions on the beeb, that would be a useful contribution to the debate.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 20, 2007 09:36 AM

One thing about this development of the Iraqis supposedly coming over to our side and kicking Al-Qaeda out is how long this has taken to occur.
The Iraqi attitude towards AQI didn't just change recently, it was hostile to them from the beginning. What has seemed to change recently is the tactics of the US forces who seem to be pissing off Iraqis just a little bit less now to where the militias feel they can finally act on the pent up anger they've had toward AQI for years. I remember watching a Frontline program more than a couple of years ago and the Austrailian journalist Michael Ware, one MSM (Time, CNN) journo who has done outstanding work (he embedded himself with Sunni insurgents ferchrissake, what is it with Aussies and anatomically larger than average testicles?) strongly made the point that the insurgents and the locals were very hostile to the AQI types and wanted them out. The only thing keeping them from doing that then was the bond they shared with AQI in the desire to attack the occupiers. For one thing, if the occupying forces hadn't showed up in the first place neither would have AQI, and the continued presence of these occupiers was keeping the Sunni militias from directing their full efforts against AQI.

If eliminating AQI is the objective now it seems to me that it's time for the US to just step back and let the very well-armed militias have at 'em. If AQI doesn't enjoy any support from the local populace and their fighters are also vastly outnumbered by these militias, how could they have a chance? An immediate pull-out and abandonment isn't necessary. What would be wrong with pulling US troops back to Kirkuk (where they are obviously welcome) and supplying support and arms to any militia who wants to kick the stuffing out of AQI? I get impatient when I hear statements like 'we can't leave Iraq to Al-Qaeda' when the scenario seems to be one where the only thing giving AQI staying power is the insistence on our forces staying. Talk of Al-Qaeda taking over Iraq like they did with Afghanistan (even though they didn't really) is alarmist and just more fear mongering of which this American public sure as hell doesn't need any more.

Posted by: John Mc at September 20, 2007 09:38 AM

Creamy: Setting out to decide whether one of you is 100% right and the other 100% wrong is likely to mislead us.

I doubt the survey is 100 percent wrong. Some of it seems about right. And I certainly don't claim to have canvassed the entire country and figured everything out.

One thing I learned some time ago is that Iraqis crazily contradict themselves in their own heads. Also, they have entirely different mental categories than we do, and as a result we don't always understand how to ask the right questions.

Something I picked up in Lebanon: even many Arabs who hate terrorism and hate Hezbollah will go out of their way to exalt "the right to resistance" as an abstract principle. It is very important to them. If you ask questions about "resistance" uncarefully, you might get some pretty misleading data.

I would love to see the results of a survey where someone like Fouad Ajami wrote the questions.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 20, 2007 10:54 AM

Hey Michael,

Do you have any empathy for General Pratraeus now? The Left just dragged him thru the dirt and all he was doing was his job that Congress appointed him to do. Now, Glasnost comes in throws a "Molotov cocktail" and starts questioning your reporting. I'm an adult. I know that Disney shouldn't open up resort in Anbar, but I also know that something is starting to change there. As confirmed by other INBEDs are starting to report. So ABC has a poll that supposedly states something contrary to your experience, big deal. You haven't made any wild eyed statements; "Like, wow it's so great I'm going to move in."
In my opinion you haven't done nothing, but report honestly. I don't sense any kind of bias or agenda. I never understood or heard of a "troll" on blogs before this one, but it seems to me that Glasnost fits that description. In my humble opinion.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 20, 2007 11:20 AM

Pete,

Glasnost isn't a troll. It is hard to square my report with the survey he quotes, and I am not going to suppress contrary data dismissively. I need to incorporate all valid data. I am honestly trying to figure out what the hell is going on in that country, and it's hard. I think Glasnost is sincere. And we don't always disagree.

The Iraqi interpreter Hammer told me something I will not forget: "You can't understand Iraq because you can't get inside their minds. When you get inside their minds...it is a crazy mind."

Steve Vincent quoted an Iraqi woman who said "I hate Americans, I hate Saddam, I hate Iraqis, I hate myself! I need a Valium."

I needed a Valium when I got home from Iraq. I didn't take one, but I did take four days to sit on the beach to decompress.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 20, 2007 12:05 PM

Uh oh, Michael got busted fabricating a story.
All those smiling people were probably photoshopped too. For shame Michael.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 20, 2007 12:09 PM

Michael,

Thank you for your opinion on whether Glasnost was a troll or not. I think it's unfair to use a poll to judge whether you are telling the truth or not. Especially a poll in Iraq. It's like judging apples to oranges. Now if you while out on patrol took a scientific survey or poll and it differed with the ABC poll, then I'd say "Well, maybe Glasnost has a point." I don't think he does when comes to this.

PS. Poll's make me suspicious. Just take that generic poll that the media loves to unleash on America. What do think of America's economic future? or some question like that. Since Bush has come into office it seems to be always negative. Which doesn't make sense judging by the historically low Unemployment rate. But when you digg deeper, the person poll always say that they are doing great, but they're worried about the poor schmo down the street. Talk about two thing contradicting each here's perfect example.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 20, 2007 12:33 PM

Pete: the person poll always say that they are doing great, but they're worried about the poor schmo down the street.

A good point, which may explain why so many Iraqis think the surge is making things worse.

I don't know. I don't understand the Iraqi mind. None of us do.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 20, 2007 12:40 PM

Thank you for documenting and getting this information out there. I think what are soldiers are doing is great. They are the true form of Patriotism. All the Antiwar people should realize that this isn't just a war on terrorism it is a war on evil too. We all need to be behind our president and our soldiers. God Bless.

Posted by: Ruthann at September 20, 2007 01:05 PM

Michael,

Thanks for post. When able, I shall contribute.

I owe you and Yon!

P.S. Peace Corps with muscle. Just commented on Belmont Club on just that subject, Armed Peace Corps with embedded media.

Salaam eleikum!

Posted by: Marzouq at September 20, 2007 01:54 PM

Michael, in your opinion, what do you see happening after the surge runs its course next spring and we need to demob and get back to the 130 k troop level ??
What happens when we are forced to reduce our presence in Anbar ??
Is it possible for AQ to come back once we reduce our forces in Anbar ??, we did this in Diyala before, we turned it over to the Iraqui army and look what happened, the mostly Shiita army begun to go after the local Sunni tribes and pretty soon the place was a mess again, killing and revenge killings followed by ethnic cleansing, I do not believe for a second that these Sunni tribes in Anbar have any sympathy for the Shiita rulers in Baghdad, they are going to end up being local warlords and not much more than that.
In he end we may own a watch in Iraq, but the Iraquis own the time. After spending so much blood and treasure, I see no end to this bloody mess, I ask myself, if this war is winnable in any way, how come we have not won it after 4 and a half years ???, nobody can tell us when the end of this nightmare is, how many more american kids are going to get blown up in Iraq ??, almost half a trillion dollars spent ( that is $ 500,000,000,000), all borrowed money, and for what ??, 3,792 dead, 12,537 badly maimed and wounded, as of today, tens of thousands of PTSD cases in the next 5 years and all for what ??, when does this end ??, do we americans have the right to feel cheated and deceived after all this ??, how many of us would have supported this war had we known that there were no WMD's to begin with ??, does the fact that Iraq has the second largest known oil reserves in the world have anything to do with us invading and occupying the country ??, should the american armed forces be the private militia of the american oil companies ??.
Comments welcome.

Posted by: james at September 20, 2007 02:29 PM

james: Comments welcome.

  • Sentences should begin with a capital letter.
  • Text is easier to read when it is broken into paragraphs.
  • In general, one question mark is sufficient.
  • A single, thoughtful, targeted question is more likely to generate a useful answer than a slurry of talking points.
Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 20, 2007 02:48 PM

A few thoughts:

First, thanks to those of you posting who serve, served, or have family or friends serving, or have unfortunately lost family or friends.

Second, I want to echo the comments about the quality of discourse here. Truly excellent.

On to substance:

Bryce, I suggest that if you want to delve into the mindset of our counterinsurgency tactics, you read Dave Kilcullen's "Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt" on the Small Wars Journal. He addresses the causes of our recent successes as well as the risks going forward with this bottom up approach.

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2007/08/anatomy-of-a-tribal-revolt/

He's also one of General Petreaus' top advisors, so this is straight from the horse's mouth.

He directly addresses a couple of the questions that you raise in his article:

"AQI’s “pitch” to the Sunni community is based on the argument that only al Qa’ida stands between the Sunnis and a Shi’a-led genocide. The presence of local Sunni security forces – which protect their own communities but do not attack the Shi’a – gives the lie to this claim, undercuts AQI’s appeal, and reassures Sunni leaders that they will not be permanently victimized in a future Iraq."

Iran has promised to fill the void if we withdraw. If anything, that will help drive the Sunnis back to AQI or possibly look to Saudi Arabia or other Sunni nations for support.

At this point, the costs of staying indefinitely are pretty well known, both in terms of blood and treasure. I think that monthly casualties will slowly decline from where they are now, and eventually the "Iraq War" will end with a whimper, not a bang.

The consequences of a withdrawal are a bigger unknown. Violence may decrease, but I doubt it-everyone is going to try to fill the resulting power vacuum, and everyone knows that everyone else is going to try to fill the vacuum. An American withdrawal may put the Middle East in the same situation as Europe right before Archduke Ferdinand's assassination-ready to explode from an inconsequential spark.

Posted by: MartyH at September 20, 2007 03:03 PM

Michael-

I went to lunch and just sitting there in the park thinking about Glasnost comment's just got me angry. Glasnost is free believe whatever wants, but when you have one set of evidence (your pictures, your interaction with the local population and The Marines) and his/her evidence a poll. What gets me is that he uses a poll to discard or discount what you saw that day. That to me is an insult. It goes directly towards your honesty and honor. I doubt if it were reversed; where you had to go thru hell just to get back to base and the Poll said 99% of the Iraqi people love the surge, would Glasnost discount what you reported? Or would he jump around like his ass was on fire and say "See, See, the surge isn't working." To me the cordial and civil thing to do if he didn't believe you would be to say "Boy, you had a great day considering the rest of Ramadi was hit with attacks."

Michael, in business it's good to know your customer. The reason I read your blog is to get an honest report on what is going on over there. I don't necessarily want to know how Iraqis think. I just want the truth. The Good, bad and ugly. Like I said I don't see anything in your reporting that breaks that trust. So like my cousin is Hawaii says:

"Don't stress, bro..."

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 20, 2007 03:03 PM

James, buddy your back. You promised you'd respond to what I commented on yesterday. Your current post is pretty long. When I get home from work I'll try to anwer your questions. Remember...
breathe...

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 20, 2007 03:20 PM

James: That half a trillion dollars would have looked more impressive if you added the no cents:
($500,000,000,000.00)

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 20, 2007 03:51 PM

Pete, you say the population in Ramadi and Anbar has turned, they are giving tips to the marines about IED’s , etc,etc, well that is part of the deal, we are paying for that, $$$$ is the main factor here, I do not have any problem in buying a cease fire with these tribes, I just want to remind you that these same guys have been killing us and have been our enemies for the last 4 years, it is obvious that the marines in the field prefer to pay not to be attacked rather than continue to fight them, that is okay with me, if staying alive means you pay to stay alive then so be it, I just have problems with the PR part of it, that is, the claim of breathtaking progress, I do not see it that way, I see this as a temporary break out of mutual convenience, that is why I ask Michael above, about what happens after we demob and reduce our presence in Anbar.
Edgar, I have serious doubts about winning the game, even if it resembles twister, the area is full of scumbags, okay, how can you trust anybody then ?, see Edgar, if this war was not costing us as much as it is ($12 billion a month, and as far as the number of Americans dying, for 2007, 739 thru August 31st, or 92.375 per month and the seriously wounded 2,191 thru August 31st or 273.875 per month) I would not care if we play the twister game until the year 3000. And where are the benefits?, a democratically elected government, the first in the history of the Arab world, that happens to be allied behind the curtains with our main rival in the area ( Iran ) ?, I do not expect to see a Shiita led government in Iraq that is pro U.S. and anti-Iran, that is just not going to happen, never. The Sciri (and their BADR brigades trained and armed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards), the DAWA party, Muqtada Al-Sadr (and his Mahdi Army) who hates our guts and has already killed hundreds of Americans, none of them will ever be anti-Iran, for they know that the day we leave, whenever that is, they will be facing the Sunnis, and the only country in the area whom they can go for help is Iran, they know that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, and the other Sunni countries in the area are going to be on the side of the Sunnis in Iraq.
Joe, we already trying bombing the living crap out of them, remember the days of Shock and Awe ?

Posted by: James at September 20, 2007 04:24 PM

Tom, I stand corrected, thanks for the cents.

Posted by: James at September 20, 2007 04:27 PM

James: 273.875 serously wounded per month

I think it would be permissable to round that off to 274.

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 20, 2007 04:32 PM

Yehaa, (no ofense Tom), you are right, 274 it is and lets make the number of casualties 92 as well. Where in South Texas are you ?, you do not have to answer if you do no want to, as far as me, I am in California.

Posted by: james at September 20, 2007 04:39 PM

James: it is obvious that the marines in the field prefer to pay not to be attacked rather than continue to fight them

That's not what's happening at all. Be sure to read Part One of this series.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 20, 2007 04:53 PM

San Antonio James.

"Remember the Alamo"

Posted by: Tom in South Texas at September 20, 2007 04:56 PM

James,

America had indeed sacrificed much in this war. The statistics that you sight are true. There is indeed a high price to pay for staying in Iraq. You are also correct when you say that oil is one of the reasons that we are there, if there were no oil there we would not be there. I won't try to answer all of your points as that would take a lot more time that I have right now.

I don't believe there was any 1 compelling reason to invade Iraq even though Bush sited WMD as the primary reason which were never found. I think that there were 20 or so reasons for our desire to remove Saddam including his support of terrorism, His desire to reconstitute his WMD program of which he had the infrastructure for, His oil wealth which could finance such a program, The fact that he invaded 2 of his nieghbors and gassed his own people, his violation of all of the terms of the first gulf war and the attempted assasination of a former president among other things.

We could argue all day if it was the right thing to do, it is certainly more difficult than most of us thought it would be. I think history will have to be the judge of that. If we can bring some stability to that part of the world then and reduce the influence of the ideology of radical Islam than perhaps we will look back someday and see the fruits of our sacrifices.

The reason we remain is because if we leave before completing the job the situation will become drastically worse and our scrifices will have been for nothing. 3700+ lives as a large number, but relatively small compared to the sacrifices past generations have made more than 12,000 Ameicans died on Okinawa in 3 months in WWII and I could list many single battles in American history in which we lost more tahn in this entire war. You may not believe that the situation is improving in Iraq but MJT and many other witness as well as statistics are saying different. Time will tell

Thomas Sowell said this today
"Whatever the situation when we went in, international terrorists have chosen to make this the place for a showdown battle. We can win or lose that battle but we cannot unilaterally end the war. It is the terrorists’ war, regardless of where it is fought."

Posted by: joefrommass at September 20, 2007 05:09 PM

Tom, I have never been there, maybe some day I will visit. Michael, I will do as suggested, any thoughts on my questions ?, got to go again.

Posted by: James at September 20, 2007 05:12 PM

Joe, thanks fo answering, you are right about the casualties (now approaching 3,800) versus WW II or even Vietnam, I will post a comment on my thoughts on that tomorrow, I got to get going, it is back to school night for my kids and I need to be there.

Posted by: james at September 20, 2007 05:17 PM

James,

Please, give it a time. We need it no less than Iraqis if not more.

Posted by: leo at September 20, 2007 05:57 PM

MartyH,

That Kilcullen article is a real gem, all right. It was nice to finally read who the hell AQI really is:

We often short-hand the enemy as “al Qa’ida” but in Iraq we primarily face tanzim qaidat al-jihad fil bilad al-Rafidayn (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s organization, which swore allegiance to bin Laden in 2004, is now taking strategic direction and support from Al Qa’ida central, and whose archaic name literally means “the qai’da organization for jihad in the land of the two rivers”, i.e. Al Qa’ida in Iraq, AQI). This group’s foot-soldiers are 95% Iraqi, but its leadership is overwhelmingly foreign. The top leaders and several key players are Egyptians and there are Turks, Syrians, Saudis, Chechens, Afghans and others in the leadership cadre.

I have no way of judging the reliability of that chain-of-command assertion, but the name and the foot-soldier nationality tidbit ring true -- e.g., that would explain why we seem to take very few actual foreigners prisoner.

At this point, the costs of staying indefinitely are pretty well known, both in terms of blood and treasure.

I'm not sure about that. Kilcullen talks about some low-level cooperation between the central government and the Awakening that I hadn't known about. But high-level reconciliation is going nowhere. I'm worried that if Sunni and Shia can't work things out, our military could end up trying to supervise a full-on civil war.

That would suck. The instant one side perceives that we've given the smallest lift to the "other" side, we're going to be hated again. It would officially qualify as "overstaying our welcome".

The consequences of a withdrawal are a bigger unknown.

Agreed, but only in a relative sense.

Violence may decrease, but I doubt it-everyone is going to try to fill the resulting power vacuum, and everyone knows that everyone else is going to try to fill the vacuum.

I also think this is likely, but the funny thing is, for years I've been hearing scattered Muslims, both interviewees and pundits, assert that we're the irritant that's triggering the hostility. We Americans just don't seem to be able to process that idea and make sense of it, because first, we're reluctant to give up influence and second, Iraqi culture is opaque to us.

An American withdrawal may put the Middle East in the same situation as Europe right before Archduke Ferdinand's assassination-ready to explode from an inconsequential spark.

That may happen regardless of whether we stay or go.

Posted by: Creamy Goodness at September 20, 2007 06:30 PM

CG-

I think the ME erupting in flames is less likely if we are there just because anyone who attacks us dirrectly is going to get his butt handed to him on a platter. That will mean a continuing proxy war against Iran at a low level for an ideterminate amount of time.

That said, if a binding Iraq referendum were held and the majority voted to ask us to leave within a reasonable specified timeframe, I would be more than happy to honor that request. Perhaps you do break up the country into three regions (Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd) and something like one of the following two questions:

Should all American combat forces be withdrawn from Iraq within X months, which is the shortest feasible time possible?

Should all American combat forces be withdrawn from your region in Iraq within X months, which is the shortest feasible time possible?

Perhaps the best thing we can do for each other at this point would be following the results of this referendum regardless of which way it went.

Posted by: MartyH at September 20, 2007 07:39 PM

Simply terrific, Mr. Totten.

As an active-duty marine, I have had a core belief in this effort from the start, but regrettably admit to having felt discouraged from time to time by the almost universally negative world media coverage. Your piece is very important to even the "believers".

When I see the faces of those kids and the eyes of their adoring parents then contrast this with the repeated calls by some in our midst for a quick pull out, I am left awed by the seeming lack of compassion by such individuals. Do they not consider the consequences of a rapid disengagement strategy or do they simply not care? Is it more important to win a PR/"I told you so" victory over the President than to do what we can to help ensure these people, these real flesh and blood Iraqi people, can remain rid of Islamist radicals and live in peace?

Kevin
Major, USMC

Posted by: Kevin at September 20, 2007 07:52 PM

Dear Mike: Any culture that stops a man from eating an MRE and brings him barbecued chicken surely has hope of salvation :)

Posted by: David M at September 20, 2007 08:59 PM

Kevin,

I also believe in the effort. But regardless of that, I want to thank you very much for your service to our county as well as to the people of Iraq.

Posted by: Gary Rosen at September 21, 2007 12:04 AM

James- I'm trying understand your logic; really I am. But in my opinion you are beating a dead horse. Either, the tips are coming in thereby helping the Marines kill and capture the terrorists or they are not. You want to cast aspersions on why, really what is the damn difference? It would be like arguing with someone that rolled (3) (3) on dice and landed on Boardwalk; instead of getting (2) (4). So what you still get to buy Boardwalk. The truth is that the majority of the tips are coming from Iraqis that are tired of being terrorized. Judging by their actions they want peace with the Americans.

Contrary to what liberals think of why Americans join the military, joining up because they were stupid to do something else is not why they join. These guys aren't just going to let there guard down, because things are good.

Maybe, you check this blog out "Ready to Make Nice..?" -- [Jim Spiri - in Iraq]. The unit he is inbeded with just started a new relationship with a Sheik that has just returned for mysterioius reason from Syria. The colonel seemed competent enough. He didn't run up give the Sheik a kiss on the cheek and say "Friends forever." These guys are being vetted by the Military. I have yet to see any reports where the Anbaris have duped the Americans. We all know it would be front page news considering how much the Lame stream media loves negative news when it comes to Iraq. Until that happens, for arguements sake could you please come up with something else?

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 21, 2007 12:09 AM

There is, yes. That doesn't mean I'm the one who is wrong.

I phrased my statement carefully. What does "wrong" mean, here? I don't believe that any pictures you took are fake. I also don't believe that this poll was faked, either.

The plunge in violence in Ramadi, in all of Anbar, is absolutely extraordinary. You saw the photos of Soldiers and Marines without helmets. That isn't for no reason.

Basically, what your visit demonstrated for certain, is that some unknown chunk in size of Ramadi was very calm for a week. And that some people in Ramadi, of an unknown number or percentage, definitely act friendly towards the troops, and seem to you to be really sincere about it. Everything you heard secondhand needs to be assigned a probability value, rather than being taken as a certainty.

You could point out similar limits of certainty about this poll. I'm inclined to give greater weight to systematic data over non-systematic data, myself. It's also important to remember that you measured one city, Ramadi, whereas this poll measured a few Sunnis in many, many locations.

I suspect that Ramadi is at the high end of the pro-US curve among Sunni opinion in Iraq. That doesn't mean the data you provided is wrong, Mike. It's just a question of what conclusions shall we draw?

I think you should go to Tikrit, Mike. If you can find a way to be safe there.

Posted by: glasnost at September 21, 2007 10:47 AM

PeteDawg:

Since you're attempting to engage civily with Mike, I'll try it myself.

If you think contrary data is wrong that I provide, try presenting a logical argument as to why you think it's wrong. With prodding, you eventually did that. Good work. I think your logical argument was cr*p, but I applaud you for proividing it.

Your first instinct, however, like most right-wingers and warhawks on here, however, was to react to contrary data as a threat to you personally. In your world, Mike was supposed to see someone presenting contrary information to his as evil. Mean. Unfair. Something to be destroyed.

This is, basically, a catastrophically self-destructive worldview. It's also one that leads you to act in an insulting and hostile manner, but that's beside the point. The point is that it's not even good for you. When you shut out information that contradicts your pre-formed opinion, you lose the ability to adapt. Your approach and mentality is the reason why it took the Bush Admin 4 years to implement COIN tactics effectively in the first place: they saw all the people pointing out that things were going wrong as trolls, instead of considering the possibility that they were correct.

Posted by: glasnost at September 21, 2007 10:53 AM

One last thing, Mike. The poll question didn't ask if the respondant supported "a right of resistance". It asked if the reader found "violence against US forces acceptable".

Your larger point about cultural misinterpretation, is, of course, something to keep in mind as a possibility regarding the poll. I'd need to see the specific cultural misunderstanding in question demonstrated, though.
I think your point here is good as an example of what could have happened, but not as what specifically has happened.

Posted by: glasnost at September 21, 2007 10:59 AM

I also don't believe that this poll was faked, either.---- glasnost

My guess is that by June of 2008, this poll will have turned out to be almost completely GIGO. It is ridiculously out of sync with the OBVIOUS reality on the ground. By ANY measure August 2007 is 'better' than say November/December 2006, or even March/April 2007. It might still be 'crappy' but it is 'better. For 70% to believe that the surge has made things worse is asinine even for Iraq where logic usually does handstands just to appear semi-functional. Which reminds me that the MSM seems not to be focusing much on Iraq these days ? Wonder why that might be ? If things are worse there now, should not the media be in full scale defeatist mode(oops I mean, 'information' mode)?

But as you say, who knows. Time will tell. And now that the clowns in Congress have self-confessed their own uselessness, time is not in as short supply as it might have been.

By next summer the situation in Iraq will likely be 'definitive' one way or the other. Until then I appreciate the 'windows' that MJT provides into that world.

Posted by: dougf at September 21, 2007 11:10 AM

What gets me is that he uses a poll to discard or discount what you saw that day. That to me is an insult.

More dumping on you, Pete: this is the core of what is wrong with your thinking. I'm not discarding what Mike saw. I'm questioning it.

Mike himself knows that he's one source of information among many and subject to limitations. Mike understands the need for people to choose what they believe. I don't think he's offended if I choose not to believe him as long as I don't accuse him of malicious or dishonest actions (without evidence).

If it's an insult not to be believed, than the act of seeking truth is a declaration of war on everyone who has sought it before you. And all the other journalists who are covering the same subject as Mike? Insulting! They should go home! He's already reported The Truth! Right?

All information is discounted by contrary information. That's life. Get used to it. Rather than take it as an insult, take it as a further contribution towards a shared goal - not to be the one who "got it right", but to understand what's going on.

Posted by: glasnost at September 21, 2007 11:11 AM

Glasnost: I suspect that Ramadi is at the high end of the pro-US curve among Sunni opinion in Iraq.

Probably.

Fallujah, from what I have heard and read, is also in much better shape than it was, but it's edgier and less friendly. That's the kind of city it has always been, though, so no surprise there.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2007 12:01 PM

Glasnost,

Ramadi wasn't just quiet for a week. I also published a graph of attacks in the area since January, and the drop was extraordinary.

Keep in mind that they track old IEDs as "current attacks" on the days they are found, even when they don't explode. They probably shouldn't do that, but they do, and it's misleading. Makes Ramadi look more violent than it actually is.

The Marines wouldn't consider formally adopting a no-helmet policy if only part of the city was safe for a single week.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2007 12:07 PM

Pete : If these tribes are for the moment helping us vis a vis AQ, I have no problem with it, you are right about the 3+3 or 2+4 as far as the result adding up to the same, I have no problem with that. I just do not trust these people, as I said, my main problem is the American blood on their hands, I know I am beating the horse to death but that is of importance to me when it comes to trusting someone, specially in a part of the world, that as someone else said, is full of scumbags. I do not understand your comment about liberals and the reason why Americans join the military. I have not read the blog about Ready to Make Nice ?, the mysterious sheik coming back from Syria (of all places), being very friendly and so on and so forth, so far so good, I hope it works out and he does not double cross them in the long run, time will tell.
I am very concerned about the long term outlook for our role in Iraq, sometimes I feel we are like a naked and to a large extent innocent child playing in a sandbox full of scorpions, I know there is a lot of oil underneath the sand, but it is not going to be easy or painless getting to it.
Please read the following article and perhaps you will understand my fears and concerns about our Iraq adventure. Remember, I believe almost 20 of the 9/11 attackers were citizens for one of our so called allies in he region, Saudi Arabia, they were not iraquis.
With friends like the Saudis, who needs enemies ?
The article follows :

Saudis quietly go about 'business' in Iraq
By Dahr Jamail

Reporting on Iraqi benchmarks in mid-September, US President George W Bush and his team of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker sought to pin some of the blame on Iran. Eschewing diplomatic language during his testimony, Crocker boldly said, "Iran plays a harmful role in Iraq." Petraeus added that Iran is fighting a "proxy war" in Iraq by aiding Shi'ite extremists and providing weapons that are killing US troops.

Anyone doubting that Bush is not serious about taking on Tehran should note his words from last month: "We will confront this danger before it is too late." On September 17, The Daily Telegraph in London reported that the Pentagon has already drawn up plans for massive air strikes against 2,000 targets across Iran.

The great irony is that while these accusations toward Tehran are supported by thin evidence, plenty of evidence does exist that another of Iraq's neighbors, US ally Saudi Arabia, is supporting resistance groups in Iraq, and intends to continue to do so.

A neighborly mess: Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia
"Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene" in Iraq, wrote Nawaf Obaid, neo-conservative ally and a former security adviser to the Saudi government, in a shockingly frank editorial for the Washington Post last November.

He warned the Bush administration, sinking ever deeper into the quagmire of Iraq: "America must not ignore the counsel of Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. If it does, one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis."

Obaid's warning, in response to talk of a possible US withdrawal from Iraq, noted the current Saudi political stance of "I am my brother's keeper" toward fellow Sunni Arabs in Iraq. Clearly, the Saudis do not consider all Iraqis their brothers, particularly the Shi'ites.

The editorial said, "As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de facto leader of the world's Sunni community, constituting 85% of all Muslims, [Saudi Arabia's] options are to provide Sunni military leaders [primarily members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency] with the same types of assistance - funding, arms and logistical support - that Iran has been giving to Shi'ite armed groups for years or to help establish new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias."

Obaid admitted that Saudi involvement in Iraq carried great risk and "could spark a regional war, but the consequences of inaction are far worse", and that his country had "pressed other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council ... Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman - to give financial support to Sunnis in Iraq".

Arming the neighborhood
Last month, the Bush administration announced new arms packages for Israel and seven Arab nations comprising military equipment worth US$20 billion to Saudi Arabia, more than $30 billion in military assistance to Israel and $13 billion to Egypt.

To some extent, the arms packages are an extension of US policies that have been in place for years in the Middle East. For example, since 1998, Saudi Arabia alone has received more than $15 billion in US weapons.

But these sales have had little impact in the region other than arming everyone to the teeth. In her article "The Saudi arms deal: Congressional opposition grows", Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, points out, "The United States has had little success in the past using arms sales to buy leverage in the region."

From Washington's viewpoint, the sale has two objectives: bucking up the Saudi-dominated six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and countering Iran's influence. But the sales will likely cause Iran to respond by boosting its arms caches.

A dangerous side-effect of the sales is the addition of more arms into a region where each country has distinct objectives in the region and inside Iraq. The sales set the stage for Iraq to be the flashpoint for a potential proxy and/or regional war.

But most dangerous for Iraqis and US troops, the sales reward a country that is providing an estimated 45% of all foreigners fighting US troops and Iraqi government forces.

Destabilizing Iraq: The Saudi role
A "clear" view of Iraq is now visible only through a blood-soaked kaleidoscope of contradictory and conflicting US policies. While the Bush administration regularly lashes out at Syria and Iran for aiding militias and foreign fighters in Iraq, according to official US military figures reported in the Los Angeles Times on July 15, about 45% of all foreign militants targeting US troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia. Fighters from the kingdom are believed to have carried out the majority of suicide bombings in Iraq.

Who is to blame for the influx of fighters? General Mansour Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, blames forces inside Iraq for the flow of Saudi human bombs into Iraq. If he is to be believed, "Saudis are actually being misused. Someone is helping them come to Iraq. Someone is helping them inside Iraq. Someone is recruiting them to be suicide bombers. We have no idea who these people are. We aren't getting any formal information from the Iraqi government."

But Iraqis are quick to point the finger across the border. Lawmaker Sami Askari, an adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, accuses Saudi officials of following a deliberate policy of sowing chaos in Baghdad: "The fact is that Saudi Arabia has strong intelligence resources, and it would be hard to think that they are not aware of what is going on."

Askari claims that imams at Saudi mosques regularly call for jihad against Iraq's Shi'ites and that the Saudi government has funded groups to cause chaos and bloodshed in Iraq's predominantly Shi'ite south.

But in large part this continues to be conveniently overlooked by the Bush administration so that massive arms packages can be sold to Saudi Arabia, access to the vast oil reserves continues unabated, and the Saudi royal family's long-standing connections to the Bush family remain unmentioned in mainstream circles.

There are rare days, however, when the boat does get rocked. Just days before the $20 billion arms package was handed to the Saudi monarchy, Bush administration officials voiced their anger at the "counterproductive" role of Saudi Arabia in Iraq. They accused the kingdom of regarding Maliki as an Iranian agent and actively working to undermine his government and of offering financial backing to various Sunni groups inside Iraq.

Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Iraq and now Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in the New York Times recently, "Several of Iraq's neighbors, not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States, are pursuing destabilizing policies there."

But this is the exception rather than the rule. The cozy relationship between Washington and Riyadh continues, largely unscathed.

And destabilizing they are ...
"Mosul is where the Saudis are the most active today because it is already primarily Sunni and there are a few Kurds," said Sureya Sayadi, a 46-year-old Kurdish-American woman who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Sayadi, from Kirkuk, Iraq, fled to the United States with her family when the US left Kurds in the lurch after encouraging them to rebel against Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the 1991 war against Iraq.

A teacher and a medical doctor, Sayadi fills the rest of her time facilitating the work of an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that assists Kurdish orphans and victims of honor killings. She is busier than ever as the number of both has escalated dramatically in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. She believes Bush administration policies "have empowered Islamist political parties whose clerics promote honor killings" and have "destroyed Iraq's judicial system and altered its laws to justify the killings". She said, "One of our Kurdish employees has heard from the community that the Saudis are taking over parts of Kurdistan by promising people education."

In recent conversations with her NGO colleagues, Sayadi has found that within the past two years, the Saudi government has financed the construction of at least 50 mosques in Irbil and Suleimaniya alone. They are also active on the Turkish-Iraqi border and in Kirkuk and Halabja. She explained, "They go to areas where there is the most poverty and suffering, stepping in to offer services that people are not getting from the government - health care, education and sometimes employment - and in the process implant[ing] their fundamentalist ideology."

Sayadi believes the Saudi monarchy is directly involved in funding "at least four new Islamic groups in Kurdistan. They are exploiting the fact that Kurds are mostly Sunni."

During the summer of 2005, members of al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sunna cells were among several extremists arrested in Irbil, and most of them were Kurds. Prior to this, Saudi mosque-building in the area during the 1990s combined with the return of Kurdish militants who had fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan is believed to have led to the emergence of such groups as Ansar al-Sunna.

The perception was that these men aspired to radicalize the general population by replicating the Afghan model in Kurdistan. Reinforcing this trend around that time, Saudi Arabia established links with these Kurds to counter the power of Saddam. In 1992-93, Islamist Kurdish groups worked under the Saudi-based International Islamic Relief Organization and other "charities", which pumped $22 million a month into Kurdish areas. Today, Saudi names have been replaced with Kurdish names.

In the decade following the 1991 war, when Saudi "charities" constructed 1,832 new mosques, alarmed Kurdish officials instituted restrictions. Wahhabi teachings followed in Saudi Arabia had been translated into Kurdish and imported into the region, accompanied by the Salafi strain, a puritanical, strict interpretation of the Koran adhered to by al-Qaeda.

In 2003, US air strikes targeted bases of Ansar al-Sunna on Iraq's northeastern border with Iran. These same radical groups, thanks in large part to Saudi backing, are now alive and flourishing in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

"Islamists from Saudi Arabia are offering money to young Kurds, visiting their schools, marrying Kurdish girls and taking them back to the kingdom," Sayadi said. "Kurds have always been quite secular - none of us practiced the hijab [body covering] - but now Kurdish women are being forced to do this. There is segregation of men and women. People in sheer desperation and hope for aid are turning more fundamentalist. The environment is ripe for fundamentalism, and Saudi influence is increasing rapidly. They are creating a hope-filled impression among the people that Islamic assertion is the way to resist the West.

Kurdish girls assisted by Sayadi's NGO have revealed that Saudi Islamists are pressuring Kurdish women to adopt a fundamentalist ideology in exchange for free religious studies in Kurdish universities. From her experience with Kurdish refugees in southeastern Turkey, she said, "In both Iraq and Turkey, Islamists are operating in a similar fashion, leaving no stones unturned to convert people to fundamental Islam. They are buying poor Kurds desperate for survival and feeding them ideology."

Sayadi's 35-year-old unemployed nephew Mushtaq, with a Kurdish mother and a Shi'ite Arab father, used to drive a taxi between Beji and Baghdad. "A man with a Saudi dialect called his mother, my stepsister Gailas, and ordered her to raise $2,500 to free Mushtaq. They called from his cell phone and had him appeal to his mother to give them the money. She raised the money and brought it to a suburb in Baghdad where they had instructed her to go, only to find her son's burned taxi and his hacked body wrapped in his prayer rug. The men said they did it because he was Shi'ite."

What do you think?

Posted by: james at September 21, 2007 03:56 PM

James- That is a lot of stuff to digest, but it's stuff I've seen before. I'll tell you what I think about it later.

This is the link to Jim Spiri
http://blogs.phillynews.com/philly/spiri/2007/09/september_19_2007_camp_taji_ir.html
It might calm your fears about the Military's interaction with our new "allies.

Let me explain what I meant about Liberals in regards to Army recruitment. Rep Charles Rangel is a prime example of what I'm talking about. He states that the main reason Americans join the Army is because they aren't necessarily intelligent enough to do anything else. Or there aren't any jobs for them to do; so all they have left is the Army. While there might be a few that fit that description, the vast majority are intelligent and educated.

I'm just pointing out that aren't some barbarian mob that doesn't know what there doing; like vetting the Sunnis in Anbar.

Posted by: Pete Dawg at September 21, 2007 05:32 PM

You're right, Mike. I was just breaking down, abstractly if you will, the information presented into levels of certainty. I believe the army's graphs, in this case, regarding the steep falloff in attacks from January, but nevertheless it's a step down in certainty than what you can say about the week you actually saw personally.

Posted by: glasnost at September 22, 2007 09:13 AM

The Blackwater incidents coming to light in today's WaPo and NYT are an example of what I would phrase as the inherent asymettry of testimonial journalism.

Also the fundamental improbability of consistent good behavior from an armed force occupying a foreign country under hostile and violent conditions.

Posted by: glasnost at September 22, 2007 09:16 AM

Glasnost-

You asked about thoughts on the ABC/BBC polling results. Polling is an interest of mine, so I'll weigh in with my thoughts.

First, doing an accurate poll is not easy. There are issues of question bias, selection of people to poll, the environment in which the poll takes place, the (conscious or unconscious) biases of pollsters themselves, etc.

So, for example, the exit polls in the US 2004 election were wrong, despite the fact that somewhere on the order of $10 million was spent, and that they had been done for a number of cycles.

There are a ton of questions that can be asked about methodology. My biggest question would be how they picked the people to ask-how do you get a random sample of people in Iraq? My second question is how the polling was actually handled. Verbally asking questions in person introduces lots of problems; doing it over the phone is better if the phones work; a written survey in private is probably best, but then you have taken illiterate Iraqis out of the sample pool, which may or may not skew results based on literacy rates. The point is, it is really, really, really hard to get good data that you can trust in the First World; it may be impossible in the Third.

If you take the poll data at face value, though there are some contradictory and interesting results.

Pete hit upon one point: "the person poll[ed] always say that they are doing great, but they're worried about the poor schmo down the street."

That's the case here as well. In Question 10, 69% of respondents say that their security is better or worse than six months ago (roughly timed to the beginning of surge troops first arriving); 39% believe that is the case for Iraq as a whole (Question 11). This effect shows up again in Question 20, where the Question 11 is asked in a slightly different format.

Question 13 shows support for a unified Iraq growing in the last six months to 62%.

The results of Question 14 are eye opening for me. The Iraqi Police are the organizations with the highest confidence at 69%! The Iraqi Army is next at 66%. Local militias, tribal leaders, and the Iraqi government all fare poorly. Coalition forces get a 58% no confidence vote and 85% unfavorable rating.

Question 20 asks:

"As you may know, the United States has increased the number of its forces in Baghdad and surrounding provinces in the past six months. For each item I name, please tell me if you think this increase of U.S. forces has made it better, made it worse, or had no effect." The six items are: security in surge areas, security in non-surge areas, conditions for political dialogue, the ability of the Iraqi government to carry out its work, pace of reconstruction, pace of economic development. The results:65-70% "Worse" for every single question.

With 85% of the respondents having little confidence in coalition forces, and 2/3 seeing nothing good coming out of the surge, you see signs of a disaster coming in Question 21: "When should US forces leave?" To me, this is the "Rubber meets the road" question.

Despite all of the negative results of the previous question, only 47% of Iraqis want us to leave now.

So, in summary, I think taking an accurate poll during a war is a virtually impossible task. But if you believe this poll, then look at the answer to the most important question: the Iraqis do not want us to leave yet.

Michael, thanks for the excellent report and the use of your bandwidth.

Thanks again those who serve.

Posted by: MartyH at September 22, 2007 10:33 AM

Link to poll in question:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/10_09_07_iraqpollaug2007_full.pdf

Posted by: MartyH at September 22, 2007 10:55 AM

This is very encouraging. I keep fingers crossed to go on in this direction. But be prepared for a long road, years at least.
BTW: what about to involve UN as a peacekeeping force in pacified regions?

Posted by: nevertheless at September 23, 2007 03:27 AM

Glad to read an encouaging article about Ieaq. If we pull out of there now those men, women and children will have suffered in vain and died in vain, as well. Why don't our politicians visit somewhere like Anbar instead of just in the Green Zone. Of course they won't talk to Iraqi citizens, hell they don't even talk to American citizens. The only thing thety care about is the nest election, the next bit of hell raising they can do with the other political party. Great group! Both parties.

Posted by: Ruth Skidmore at September 23, 2007 07:20 AM

Michael,

A beautiful report. You are in our prayers. We support our troops and our truthful journalists 100% in this area.
God Bless you and what you're doing!
Terra

Posted by: Terra Fields at September 23, 2007 08:33 AM

Michael, I've followed your work for a long time. You did a great job with your work in Lebanon, Palestine, and even a visit with some mutual acquaintances in Tel Aviv surrounding the recent Hezzballah-Israeli conflict.

But this is your best. Such an inspiring superbly written account of an emerging bright future for the good people of Anbar out of hopeless conditions. I just hope and pray that their tribal leaders have set an example for tribal leaders throughout Iraq.

I wish you would move on to Mosul. The 172nd Stryker Brigade brought a good measure of calm to the city before they were extended to Baghdad to waste their time under commanders who didn't understand how counter insurgency is done. I have a young friend in Mosul and worry about her safety. But good reporting like yours doesn't come out of Mosul.It would be wonderful if you would go there.

Posted by: Dan C. at September 23, 2007 04:24 PM

Thank you for reporting on the Reality of Iraq (or at least one part of it)

My father was in Iraq from 2003-2004 as a lead safety scientist for the WMD Search and disposal team. It is certainly nice to hear first hand accounts of unbiased reality from Iraq much akin to what my father told to me.

I believe we're doing a great thing there and I am sickened that over 1/2 of our politicians want us to fail just so they can say "I told you so" to President Bush.

I donated to you. Thank you sir.

Posted by: Steven Weinbrenner at September 23, 2007 08:16 PM

It is so refreshing to read a report that shows just what our soldiers are able to do when allowed to do it right. My husband is stationed in Ramadi now and he has told me that it is so much better then it was when he was over there last year. Even though last time he was somewhere different. I am very proud of our military and I am sick of those who want Bush to fail just becasue. Every one needs to read their history and see that changes doesn't happen fast and cannot be won if politicans get in the way just because their party wants to see Bush fail.
Keep up the good work and the great reporting.

Posted by: Kathy D'Angelo at September 24, 2007 09:27 AM

Michael -

The slogan on "Soldiers and Kids Poster Ramadi.jpg" reads "Iraqi army and police show the way to a great future".

Posted by: Aviv at September 25, 2007 02:14 AM

Not to single out any individuals here, but bickering over the various polls and graphs of Iraq on a comment forum is a troll's burden. The fact of the matter is that Iraq is in a larger struggle for survival against an evil ideology that's bent on the destruction of western freedoms and civilization.

While the Ramadi story can not be conclusive by nature, it points out yet another instance where Iraqi's are actively rejecting AQI and Americans are apparently winning the hearts and minds of the local Iraqis. In contradiction we see dozens of reports in the MSM claiming the war's been lost even since the horizon of the surge. The phenomenon of the Iraqi Awakening spreading throughout Iraq may very well be a crucial turning point of the war. It remains to be seen. Yet, the MSM has been so invested in our defeat they missed it and now they must deny it to save face! In the meantime propagating FUD about the war in Iraq is in the interest of Iran and their terrorists allies, it should not be ours!

Posted by: kwood at September 25, 2007 12:59 PM

As someone who is submerged in Ramadi's culture and deals with Iraqis everyday, I believe that more coalition members with a heart for the Iraqis are needed. CF leadership needs to be hand chosen. And if those CF members that work hand in hand with the locals are the ones with their minds and hearts focused on the building up and equiping the Iraqis, then foundational productivity will rapidly increase in Ramadi.

Posted by: S at September 27, 2007 12:54 PM

thnx very much for this story.. i'm living in alramady right now ,i want you to beleive me that we wanted to work together with u.s from the beginning and al qaeda is our first enemy so we don't know whom broght al qaeda to al anabar because i'm sure that there wasn't Qaeda befor the libriation!!

Posted by: ramady son at October 8, 2007 12:45 PM
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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn