Yeah, I love Michael Yon and Michael J. Totten’s writing styles and solid reporting on the real situation in Iraq.
Some truncated excerpts from their posts/reports:
Michael Yon: Let’s ‘Surge’ Some More:
I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.
The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about “GoArmy.com.”
As the outrages of Abu Ghraib faded in memory – and paled in comparison to al Qaeda’s brutalities – and our soldiers under the Petraeus strategy got off their big bases and out of their tanks and deeper into the neighborhoods, American values began to win the war.
Iraqis came to respect American soldiers as warriors who would protect them from terror gangs. But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier helping rebuild a clinic, school or a neighborhood. They learned that the American soldier is not only the most dangerous enemy in the world, but one of the best friends a neighborhood can have.
The huge drop in roadside bombings is also a political success – because the bombings were political events. It is not possible to bury a tank-busting 1,500-pound bomb in a neighborhood street without the neighbors noticing. Since the military cannot watch every road during every hour of the day (that would be a purely military solution), whether the bomb kills soldiers depends on whether the neighbors warn the soldiers or cover for the terrorists. Once they mostly stood silent; today they tend to pick up their cell phones and call the Americans. Even in big “kinetic” military operations like the taking of Baqubah in June 2007, politics was crucial. Casualties were a fraction of what we expected because, block-by-block, the citizens told our guys where to find the bad guys. I was there; I saw it.
Michael Yon: Stake Through Their Hearts: Killing al Qaeda
The sun was setting over Nineveh as four terrorists driving tons of explosives closed on their targets. The terrorists drove their trucks straight into the hearts of the communities.
The shockwave from detonation far outpaced the speed of sound. Buildings and humans were ripped apart and hurled asunder, turning a wedding party into hundreds of funerals.
But the attacks were not over. Yezidi men grabbed their rifles, and while two more truck bombs rumbled toward Qahtaniya and Jazeera, a hail of Yezidi bullets met them. The defenders who fired the bullets were killed with honor while standing between evil and their people. Two other truck bombs detonated on the outskirts of the villages.
Until recently, such terror attacks inside Iraq could have coerced the village into sheltering Al Qaeda. Yet this time, the “jihadists” got an unexpected reception. Local men grabbed their rifles and poured fire on the demons, slaughtering them. Nineteen terrorists were destroyed.
Times have changed for al Qaeda here. Too many Iraqis have decided they are not going to take it anymore.
The young men come to Iraq to fight like infantry soldiers, only to find themselves terrorized into wearing suicide vests.
In 2005, I wrote about a young Libyan who was happy to have been captured by American “Deuce Four” soldiers in Nineveh because Iraqis were mistreating him and trying to force him blow up some Mosul police. Like many foreign fighters, the Libyan was not hardcore. He was so grateful to be captured that he began telling his entire sad story.
The best thing about foreign fighters is that, contrary to myth, often they do not want to die, and when they get caught, they blab everything.
Michael Yon: Guitar Heroes
The Predator peered down on the terrorists planting the bomb. There were too many targets for one Hellfire missile, and it’s better to conserve the weapon when possible, since the Predator must fly far to reload.
A group of four Kiowa Warrior pilots were only a few minutes away from the enemy, but their helicopters were on the ground and the engines were cold, while the pilots were waiting in a building near the runway, playing Guitar Hero to pass the time.
A soldier interrupted the Guitar Hero session, telling the pilots to get in the air. Orders would come over the radio. The pilots abandoned Guitar Hero and raced out the door into the cold night to their OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, economy-sized helicopters that would make a Ford Pinto seem spacious.
Lopez and Boise could not see the enemy, but the Predator could, and so they set up for a “remote” Hellfire shot, meaning they would fire the weapon “blind” in the direction of the target, and the missile would “lock” onto the laser reflection as it approached.
The Predator was lazing the target, invisibly marking the group of six men. Boise launched the Hellfire…
The Predator was striking the gavel for the Hellfire to deliver justice, but the terrorists apparently realized the verdict a fraction of a second too late. The detonation appeared silently on the Predator thermal, while seconds later the sounds of the explosion rumbled over the base. The remains of the terrorists glowed hot on the infrared imagery.
Total time from playing Guitar Hero to getting airborne and delivering justice was an astounding twelve minutes. Apparently at least five terrorists were killed, while at least one escaped, though he probably needs new eardrums and might ask for a raise before trying that again.
Michael Yon: The Hands of God
He was dressed as a woman as he walked down the alley toward the mosque full of worshippers. It was Friday, just before Ashura, and the air was chilled.
The bomb strapped to his body was studded with ball-bearings so that he could kill more villagers as they gathered for prayer. The detonation would eviscerate and dismember those closest, shattering bones into fragments, but the ball-bearings would ensure lethality beyond the percussive edge of the blast wave, ripping through the flesh of people who might not have been knocked down by the explosion.
There were no soldiers in his path to stop him; no police to alert to the man in women’s clothes. There were only villagers. The man dressed as a woman was to be the agent of their deaths. He kept walking down the alley toward the mosque where more than one hundred people were praying, a mass murderer masquerading in a woman’s garb.
The closer a counterfeit comes to the genuine article, the more obvious the deceit. As the murderer dressed in women’s clothes walked purposefully toward his target, there was a village man ahead.
But under the guise of a simple villager was a true Martyr, and he, too, had his target in sight. The Martyr had seen through the disguise, but he had no gun. No bomb. No rocket. No stone. No time.
The Martyr walked up to the murderer and lunged into a bear hug, on the spot where we were now standing.
Unproven claims successfully disguised as facts in the media can be persistent obstacles to finding the truth. Once something is put in print, it becomes referenced as fact by other people who seldom check the source.
So it was for the thwarted bomb attack in this village, which quickly found its way into media reports, described as yet another incident of sectarian violence, which on some level it was.
In front of the walls pocked with craters from the ball bearings, truth was more nuanced. But apparently no journalists visited the village to find out what really happened and what it tells us about the people who live here.
Michael J. Totten: Hope for Iraq’s Meanest City
The insurgency arose in Fallujah before spreading to the rest of the country. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that the insurgents—now on the run elsewhere in Iraq—were first beaten here in the City of Mosques.
Many Fallujans initially welcomed Zarqawi and his lieutenants as liberators from the hated American occupiers. But the jihadists did not fight for freedom. Instead, they enforced Islamic law at the point of a gun, establishing a brand of fascism even worse than Saddam’s. They murdered sheikhs who opposed them. They butchered their enemies’ families, burning women alive and slashing children’s throats with kitchen knives, and massacred other families for accepting food from Marines. City officials, tribal authorities, police officers—anyone in charge of anything was targeted for destruction.
By late 2006, Fallujans had had enough. Though they had little desire to be ruled, or even nurtured into self-rule, by Americans, the jihadist alternative was clearly worse. So Fallujah formed an alliance with its former enemies. The alliance is one of convenience, and possibly temporary, but it was forged in the crucible of the most wrenching catastrophe Fallujans have experienced in living memory.
While the Americans were lucky, in a sense, that al-Qaida so thoroughly disgusted the locals, Petraeus’s strategy shift was crucial to beating the insurgents. Before the surge, American counterinsurgency had followed a “light footprint” model: soldiers and Marines lived on large protected bases and did everything they could to avoid casualties. The thinking was that this approach not only protected the military; it also would keep Iraqis from viewing Americans as oppressive occupiers. But the light footprint model prevented the Americans from providing security to Iraqis, who began to regard their occupiers as not merely oppressive but incompetent to boot.
When Petraeus surged additional troops to Iraq in January 2007, the light footprint model was replaced with aggressive counterinsurgency operations that, perhaps counterintuitively, prioritized the protection of local civilians over American forces.
U.S. Marines and Iraqi police have forged a straightforward agreement with civilians: we’ll keep you safe if you identify insurgents and lead us to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapons caches.
The Marines’ final mission is the make-or-break mission, as all final missions must be. The third battle for Fallujah will be decisive. After the Americans leave, the city will either transform into a relatively normal backwater that nobody cares about—or tear itself apart. If Fallujah goes, Baghdad goes, and all of Iraq will follow.
Michael J. Totten: Builders of Nations
“We’re trained as infantrymen,” Captain Stewart Glenn said. “But here we are doing civil administration and trying to get the milk factory up and running.”
“We make up all this stuff as we go,” Lieutenant Mike Barefoot added.
While most Americans go to school, work traditional day jobs, and raise their families, young American men and women like these are deployed to Iraq, Kosovo, and Afghanistan where they work seven days a week rebuilding societies torn to pieces by fascism, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and war. It is not what they signed up to do. Some may have geeked out on nation-building video games like Civilization, but none of the enlisted men picked up any of these skills in boot camp.
Just down the street from Lieutenant Bibler’s station is a massive construction site. A local Iraqi contracting company is building a water treatment plant with American money.
Solar-powered street lights are being erected all over Fallujah to take strain off the failing electrical grid and keep the city well-lit during outages. Locals are hired to pick up trash that accumulated during the periods of heavy fighting, and new weekly garbage collection contracts are being awarded. The city government is being rebuilt from scratch. Micro loans are given to local shopkeepers to jumpstart the economy.
“We hire day laborers for twelve dollars a day to clean up certain areas,” Captain Steve Eastin said. The average monthly salary in Fallujah is around 300 dollars, so twelve dollars a day isn’t as stingy as it may sound. “We’re paying to have the mosques repaired. Iraqi Police Chief Colonel Faisal helped convince the imams to trust us. He’s well-educated and speaks the language of justice and democracy.”
Every mosque in the city was anti-American during the peak of the insurgency, but every single one has flipped in the meantime. Every day the imams exhort the people of Fallujah to support the American effort. The Marines know this because they have Arabic-speakers who sit in and listen to what gets said.
Combat operations are finished in Fallujah, but this was still a mission of war. If the Marines and city leaders cannot get Fallujah back on its feet, the city could fall again to the insurgency
Michael J. Totten: Anbar Awakens Part I: The Battle of Ramadi
The ideology of AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] is to establish the Islamic Caliphate in Iraq,” he said. “In order for them to be successful they must control the Iraqi population through either support or coercion.
Al Qaeda was initially welcomed by many Iraqis in Ramadi because they said they were there to fight the Americans. The spirit of resistance against foreign occupiers was strong. But the Iraqis got a lot more in the bargain than simply resistance.
“Al Qaeda came in and just seized people’s houses,” said Army Captain Phil Messer from Nashville, Tennessee. “They said we’re taking your house to use it against the Americans. Get out.”
“Market Street [the main street downtown] was completely controlled by Al Qaeda,” Lieutenant Welch said. “They rolled down the streets, pointed guns at people, and said we are in charge. They had crazy requirements for the locals. They weren’t allowed to cut their hair. Girls were banned from going to school. They couldn’t shave or smoke. One guy defiantly lit a cigarette and they shot him four times.”
There was another soccer field north of the city in the ‘Sofia’ area,” he said, “a kids’ soccer field. It was also used as a dump site. AQI killed civilians by castrating them, stuffing their genitals in their mouths, and cutting off their heads. Al Qaeda killed a lot more civilians than they ever killed soldiers.”
Captain Jay McGee concurred. “Suicide car bombers rarely attacked the coalition,” he said, meaning Americans. “They almost always attacked Iraqi security forces and civilians. They know the U.S. will leave eventually, but AQI ultimately must fight Iraqis and destroy Iraqi institutions in order to prevail.”
“One night,” Lieutenant Markham said, “after several young people were beheaded by Al Qaeda, the mosques in the city went crazy. The imams screamed jihad from the loudspeakers. We went to the roof of the outpost and braced for a major assault. Our interpreter joined us. Hold on, he said. They aren’t screaming jihad against us. They are screaming jihad against the insurgents.”
“A massive anti-Al Qaeda convulsion ripped through the city,” said Captain McGee. “The locals rose up and began killing the terrorists on their own. They reached the tipping point where they just could not take any more. They told us where the weapon caches were. They pointed out IEDs under the road.”
“In mid-March,” Lieutenant Hightower said, “a sniper operating out of a house was shooting Americans and Iraqis. Civilians broke into his house, beat the hell out of him, and turned him over to us.”
“One day,” Lieutenant Hightower said, “some Al Qaeda guys on a bike showed up and asked where they could plant an IED against Americans. They asked a random civilian because they just assumed the city was still friendly to them. They had no idea what was happening. The random civilian held him at gunpoint and called us to come get him.”
“The mosques in Ramadi all have pro-coalition messages now,” Captain McGee said.
“How do you know this?” I said. “Do you actually attend Friday services?”
“We have relationships with the imams,” he said. “We have very good relations with all of them.”
“The Abdullah Mosque next to our outpost was hit by insurgent fire,” Captain Messer said. “The Marines are giving them money to fix it.”
You don’t believe the mainstream media on local politics when they suck up to certain parties.
Why believe them on what’s really happening in Iraq when they portray only death and hatred from the Iraqis?
Hey Ignorant World – There is PEACE in Iraq!
Michael Yon’s Moment of Truth – Get Your Library to Stock It