Monday, October 8, 2007

Stories from Iraq You Won't Find Anywhere But the Blogosphere

First, Michael Totten goes face to face with Al Qaeda

I had a much better experience when I embedded, so to speak, with the Iraqi Police in Kirkuk. I trusted the Iraqi Police in that city enough that I was willing to travel with them without any protection from the American military, even though Kirkuk is still a part of the Red Zone. Kirkuk, though, is an outlying case. The Iraqi Police there are Kurds. The Kurds of Iraq are the most pro-American people I have ever met in the world. They are more pro-American than Americans. There is no Kurdish insurgency, and the only Kurdish terrorist group – Ansar Al Islam, which recently changed its name to Al Qaeda in Kurdistan – is based now outside a town called Mariwan in northeastern Iran. The Iraqi Police in Kirkuk may be corrupt, but they aren't terrorists or insurgents.

The Kurds have problems of their own, even so, and not every Arab region of Iraq is the same shade of dysfunctional. Every complaint I heard about the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police in and around Baghdad was balanced with genuine praise for the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police in and just outside Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, which until recently was the most violent war-torn place in all of Iraq. If these Iraqis were typical – and make no mistake, they are not – the American military might have little reason to stay.

Captain Dennison and his men took me to the Al Majed station just outside the city on the banks of the Euphrates River.

Then, Victor David Hanson give us his perspective as he returns from a trip to Iraq

The brilliance of U.S. army and marines officers has not been fully
appreciated. I met scores with PhDs and MAs, from Majors to Colonels, who are
literally all at once trying to defeat al Qaeda gangs and Shiite militias,
rebuild government facilities, arbitrate tribal feuds, repair utilities and
train Iraqi army and police. As was true of the last trip to Iraq, I am left
with three general impressions about the military.

(1) Our army and marines are far too few and overextended. The United
States must either radically increase the size of these traditional ground units
or scale back its commitments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Through
constant rotations, we are literally burning out gifted officers and lifetime
professionals— and will lose their priceless expertise if they begin, as I fear,
retiring en masse due to the sheer exhaustion.

(2) There is more optimism about success among the battlefield soldiers
than present with analysts in Baghdad. The sudden decrease in violence has left
many units stunned that Iraqis who used to try to kill them are suddenly
volunteering information about terrorists and landmines, and clamoring to join
the joint security force. Usually those behind the desk are the optimists, the
soldiers who die the pessimists. But instead there is genuine feeling on the
front that after four frustrating years of ordeal, at last there are tangible
signs of real, often radical improvement.

then there is this from MSM favorite the Washington Post

For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring
about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost
faith in that broad goal.

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure
of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and
perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing
experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal
record of providing basic services.

"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be
no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To
me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."

Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any
future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government,
not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.

Of course, we can't really expect the Washington Post to analyze this in any sort of a fair way. It will be a long time before there is reconciliation. Thousands of years of bitter rivalries won't be wrapped up in months. That said, if those differences are debated in the sort of back room, hardball, political sort of a matter, does it really matter how long it takes for these groups to reconcile. It is of course Bush's fault for making reconciliation the center piece of his surge strategy. It need not be. The key is that the violence stops so that all of these groups can spend the next generation reconciling the way we do: with spin doctors, smear campaigns, and other dirty tricks that are the hallmark of any functioning and vibrant democracy.

No comments: