Assessing Iraq

posted at 1:03 am on January 17, 2007 by Bryan

Michelle and I spent four days patrolling the environs around Forward Operating Base Justice in north and west Baghdad last week. FOB Justice is near one functional neighborhood, Khadimiyah, one mostly recovered neighborhood, Al Salam, one dysfunctional neighborhood, Al Hurriyah, and an al Qaeda-influenced area the name of which I never learned.

map

Camp Justice is in the upper right.

FOB Justice sits in a mostly Shia area, but it is just across the Tigris from Adamiya, a Sunni area that produced pops of AK gunfire every night and, on a couple of occassions, we heard the sound of mortar fire coming from that direction. But the convoys we were on were never shot at, and our troops never fired a single shot, which by itself is significant considering the fact that we were in Baghdad and did drive and walk through some sketchy areas. Most people in the states don’t realize that most of Baghdad’s violence is confined to areas where Shia and Sunni mix. No one so much as threw a rock at us, and the troops were greeted in a friendly manner nearly everywhere they went. Only in Hurriyah did we see overt hostility, but it never went beyond the sly insult stage.

hurriyah

Hurriyah’s godfathers failed to serve chai, the first sign that they weren’t happy to see us. About three weeks ago, US forces discovered two Sunni hostages in the building next door to this one, which is a mosque. These fellas a) weren’t happy about the raid and b) weren’t happy that US forces raided a building next door to a mosque. Iraqi Army troops raided the mosque itself, but didn’t find anything.

This isn’t to say that everyone in Iraq loves US troops or that FOB Justice’s area of operation is Disneyland. Troops from FOB Justice frequently run across Haifa Street (including the trip bringing us back from the International Zone, hours after a fierce fight had taken place there) and troops from Justice have unfortunately been killed in combat or by IEDs; last fall a colonel was killed by one of the sophisticated Iranian-made IEDs. IEDs are a constant threat across most of Iraq. We ran across Mahdi Army militia fighters a couple of times on one patrol (and I have video); their intent was to check up on the Americans while staying far enough away to avoid a clash.

mahdi

Mahdi fighters graze US troops on scooters and then run away! run away!

When you embed with a unit you strap on the helmet, suit up in body armor and go where they go and see what they see. Upon our arrival at FOB Justice, the commander, LTC Steve Miska told us we would have unlimited access and he lived up to his word. While on patrol the troops watched out for our safety, but back on the base we had no minders or anyone keeping tabs on us or telling us what to write.

Before setting off on this post, I want to stress that I don’t think spending a few days in Baghdad has turned me into an expert on the war. I’ve followed the war like you have since it began and obviously following the conflict day to day informs what I think about things. But I’ve now been in Iraq and I’ve seen the war up close. So while I don’t claim to be an expert, I guess you could call me a quick study.

This post is mostly about mistakes. The troops didn’t sit down with us and tick off all the mistakes that they think we have made in Iraq to date, so what follows isn’t their gripe list being published under my name. They did answer our questions forthrightly and we learned much from interviewing them and just talking with them over chow and listening to their crosstalk in the Humvees. So this post is made up of my observations after seeing the war up close and following it from afar, including mistakes, fumbles and ways forward to win–and what victory actually looks like.

1. No plan for the post war period. Our military crushed the Iraqi military in three weeks, winning the war easily. But the post war period has been so messy that a consensus has developed that we can lose the war and that we are in fact losing it. The reasons for this are many and, like Iraq’s history and makeup, complicated. Iraq spent 35 years under a level of brutality and police state paranoia that can’t be wished away or even driven away by any military force, no matter how powerful. Iraq also is a mix of Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd, Baathist and victim, tribe and family, and that make it an inherently complicated place to do anything. The defeat of Saddam’s regime did far more damage to the country’s basic civil order than anyone could have anticipated, and that collapse can only be remedied through time with an intense effort not to rebuild the country along any of its old lines of operation, but as an effort to build it as an essentially new country. Going in, the Bush administration apparently believed that the removal of Saddam would remove only a yoke of oppression, and didn’t factor in that Saddam’s removal would also destroy the country’s basic law and order. We in the West have a hard time appreciating this, I think, since so much of what we do is based on a medium and long range view of the future. As free people, we tend to think we can count on the day after tomorrow and thus we factor a long time horizon into the way we think. When you live in an unfree society where your life can be taken away from you on the tyrant’s whim, I think that this produces more of a short term world view. The day after tomorrow doesn’t represent hope, it just represents the equal possibilities of danger and survival. Saddam’s ouster removed the threat of capricious state murder, but also removed that same threat from groups that would otherwise have been at war. It also removed the basic civil services and order that were all part of the regime. All of this disorder feeds the insurgents, terrorists and militias.

Had we taken this into account, our planning for the post-war would have encompassed far more federal agencies from the outset, and they would have been mobilized to work with the military to introduce a free state version of the civil order that went away with Baathist rule. To date, the situation in Iraq still isn’t being addressed holistically. It’s still being addressed more as a war than as an effort to create a free nation from the ruins of a failed police state. You have to address security and community at the same time. Security obviously comes first, but right behind it the roots of civlization need to take hold and start growing. The military is tasked with security and rebuilding and it is doing both as well as it can, but it needs help from the rest of the government’s resources. For example, the Army’s civil affairs officers negotiate with locals over nearly every detail of daily local governance in pacified and transitioning areas. That work really would be better handled by non-military agencies, which would operate within the military’s security aegis but would not themselves be military officers. Housing and Urban Development might take on this work, or maybe a refitted Peace Corps (and yes, they’ll need extensive re-training in order to work in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq and get over their tendency to mistrust the military–Peace Corps types do tend to be liberals, after all). The military needs the intel that would result from this work, but doesn’t need to be in a position where its battle trained officers have to negotiate contract minutiae even while they have to keep a constant lookout for threats from Iraq’s lethal environment. Having to be warfighters and mayors at the same time greatly increases the stress of an already complex enviroment.

2. Leaving Iran alone. An intelligence officer in Iraq (not at Camp Justice), used the phrase “uninterrupted flow of weapons and ammunition” when I asked him how much Iran was influencing the violence in Iraq. The fact is, Iran has been sending more and more weaponry into Iraq in the past year to 18 months, and it has been assisting the insurgents and the militias (Shia and Sunni alike) in supplying what the Army calls “explosive force projectile” IEDs. These EFP-IEDs are easily hidden and incredibly destructive, and their construction is simply beyond the ability of the warring groups within Iraq. Iranian Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard trainers have been directly assisting and training the militias as well, making them more dangerous to the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi people and to our troops. Iran must be dealt with and it must be taken out of Iraq, or Iraq will remain a violent, lethal place for our troops and its people. As long as Iranian arms and expertise get into Iraq uninterrupted, Iraq will not become stable and our troops will have to remain there in large numbers. The Iranians want Iraq to remain unstable and they want us to have to keep a large force there dealing with the insurgents, terrorists and militias, which is why the ISG’s belief that chaos in Iraq is against Iran’s interests was met with such derision by the troops in Iraq. And believe me, it was.

3. Pullbacks and soft failures. Leaving Moqtada al-Sadr alive was a mistake, when we had him surrounded in 2004. According to an officer familiar with the 2004 siege that nearly ended Sadr’s life (this officer was not at FOB Justice), our troops were two rooms away from Moqtada during the seige when the order came from outside Iraq to leave him alive. The reason he was allowed to live remains a mystery to the troops in the field, and feeds the notion that they’re not being told all that they need to know to win this war. Sadr has grown as a threat from surviving his most direct confrontation with the world’s most potent military. He has also grown as a political force, though, and he still can pivot toward peaceful politics if he is wise enough to make that choice. So far, he’s proven unwise, and many people in Iraq have come to recognize it. The pullback from Fallujah likewise taught the insurgents and militia that we’re reluctant to settle scores and battle against direct challenges to our authority. Abu Ghraib continues to be a major public relations disaster, and is continually used to smear our good troops in the field every day by the left in the West and by the terrorist propagandists around the world. Abu Ghraib is one of many points upon which many on the left have made alliance with the terrorists, as they both use it to run a PR pincer attack against the US military. The fact that the military cleaned up the Abu Ghraib mess, and the fact that the terrorists themselves do worse things every day as part of their mainline strategy, doesn’t deter the left/terrorists in their continual Abu Ghraib-based attacks. Continuing to use Abu Ghraib by pundits in the west is unserious and reflects a basic ignorance of the fight; either that, or an alliance with the enemy.

mookie

Mookie’s mug is everywhere.

4. Iraqi elections held too early. The triumph of the purple fingers was actually a failure, according to more than one Iraqi we spoke with. Iraq wasn’t yet ready for self rule and still isn’t. Its people hadn’t yet learned that radicalism is a road to their own destruction. They elected pro-Iranian Shia leadership that has proven weak against the Shia militias and has tilted heavily against the Sunni, to the point that the Sunni tend not to trust the national government. It’s difficult to see how the Iraqi government as it’s presently constructed can bring about national reconciliation, deal with the security threats and build up trust among all of Iraq’s various sectarian and ethnic groups.

5. Misunderstanding the fundamentals. War is about killing people and breaking things in order to achieve a political or existential/security objective. The Iraq war was about removing Saddam as a threat, and that mission was accomplished in 2003. We’ve been arguing over how much of a threat Saddam really was ever since, but the fact is that he’s dead and gone and no longer a threat, thanks to the 2003 invasion and successful campain against his forces.

The rest of the effort in Iraq has been about replacing the Baathist regime with something that won’t threaten us and won’t allow Iraq to become a breeding ground for terrorists with global reach, both to keep that security threat in check and to create in Iraq an example for the Middle East so that the region might become more free and thereby produce fewer terrorists. Those missions have also been accomplished or at least stand as being items we can currently check in the positive column. Calling Iraq a “civil war” misunderstands the nature of Iraq and the term “civil war.” Most of Iraq’s warring parties don’t have any chance at taking over the entire country and don’t seem interested in doing so. Most of them are reacting to the vaccuum of power since the iron grip of Saddam slipped off the country. Most of them are reacting to threats they perceive are either coming from the presence of foreign troops, or from the presence of Wahhabi-influence terrorists (al Qaeda) or from fellow Iraqis who belong to the other major sect of Islam, or from Iran. Most militia fighters would probably lay down their weapons if the overall environment improved, and by that I mean improvements in the basics: the economy and education as well as the security environment.

That said, we have also misunderstood the basics of Islamic and Iraqi culture. President Bush said in his second innaugural that all people want to be free and has based his war strategy on this idea. The truth seems to be much grayer than that; most people want to be free, but some people want to control the freedom of other people, and some people are perfectly content to farm our their decisions to others they perceive as authority figures. Additionally, the western definition of freedom doesn’t yet hold sway in places like Iraq whose contact with the west mostly consists of warfare or selling us oil. Underlying that, Islamic principles don’t foster individual freedom so much as they command modes of behavior, and that culture informs every single aspect of life in Iraq. An Iraqi federal police colonel who lives a very secular lifestyle underscored this to me when he said, in a meeting with US Army troops present, that if Ayatollah Sistani tells him to fight the Americans who are currently training his forces to take on the terrorists, then he will fight us. Islamic loyalty would trump common sense and any notion of freedom, since he knows full well that taking on the US Army would result in his own death and more destruction in his country.

6. Assuming Iraq will conform only to unreasonable expectations which are based on ignorance of counterinsurgency warfare. The troops in Iraq will tell you about three successful American occupations if you ask them–the Philippines, Japan and Germany. The latter two took five years to go from defeated enemy to ally, and decades after that before they really stood on their own feet. The Philippine insurgency took 8 years to quell and that country still has myriad problems that keep it from enjoying true First World status a century after the US put down its insurgency. Iraq is a far more complex place than either Japan, Germany or the Philippines and should therefore be expected to take longer to make the full transition to standalone state. But not knowing the history of America’s counterinsurgency operations has led us to want quick, clean victory where it just isn’t possible and never was.

7. Media misconduct and malpractice leading to flagging homefront morale. This one isn’t so much a mistake as just part of the modern world. The media is incurious, generally unethical in its approach to reporting Iraq and far more skeptical of the US military than it is of the insurgents, the militias and even the Iranians. The media hardly ever reports on victories in Iraq because the kinds of things that demonstrate real success just aren’t sexy, and perhaps because at their core they don’t believe in victory. It’s sexy to talk about US troops engaging insurgents on Haifa Street and killing every last one of them, but that’s not a real victory in the terms that govern the Iraq conflict. Street fights and reports about them play into the enemy’s hands, in fact. The media poo-poos events like the re-opening of schools in Iraq because as defined on American terms, re-opening a school doesn’t mean much at all. But in Iraq, the re-opening of a school represents a community in the end state of achieving normalcy. A community that has a functioning school also has a liveable level of security, it has functioning services like power and water and has families that aren’t so worried about local violence that they won’t send their children outside their homes. It means there are probably jobs in the area, and it means that those jobs give families a level of economic security where they can think about their children’s future. Re-opening a school in Iraq means civil society itself has returned to that school’s community. It’s a big deal. But the media doesn’t understand that and doesn’t care to, preferring to focus on combat operations and sectarian killings while it farms its daily reporting duties out to very dubious agents and stringers. The MSM’s methods in Iraq feed the insurgency’s propaganda needs and damage our efforts to win.

Having said all of this, Iraq is still very winnable. There are mistakes in every war. Iraq is a hideously complex environment to work in and its complexity has to be taken into account. Communities like Al Salam and Khadimiyah in Baghdad prove that at the end of the day most Iraqis value security and the chance to have a normal life above any notions of jihad and sectarianism, and we can work with most Iraqis to make their country safe. Most Iraqis want our troops there now, just not forever. Our troop morale is very high and they are focused on goals that they believe are attainable and will make Iraq stable. Most of the troops we spoke with support the surge; a minority don’t but it doesn’t seem to be a contentious issue. Democracy in Iraq probably won’t look like democracy here when the fight is over (and presuming that we here at home see it through), but if we correct our mistakes and change the media and political dynamics here, we can and should win. The price of failure is that Iraq would become a true hub for an al Qaeda that would see its “victory” in Iraq as Somalia times 100. Iraqi oil dollars would fuel this new terrorist power as long as Iraq’s oil infrastructure holds out. From secure bases in Iraq, the terrorists’ aims and capabilities would be practically limitless. Faith in America as a war ally would be shaken from Europe to Asian and everywhere else.

So whether we win ugly or pretty, we have to win. And we can.

friendly

Iraqi boy tries to cross the language barrier, is envied by most Hot Air readers.

friendly2

US troops in Iraq have such a scary reputation that kids feel perfectly safe gathering around Humvees.

Addendum: I’ve noticed a small amount of insurgent noise from a liberal for my claiming to have been on “patrol” Baghdad. I suppose it depends on one’s definition of patrol, but in one case we were on foot in a neighborhood that looked like it would make a very good sniperville, and during that long stroll Mahdi fighters briefly separated our group by driving right through our column on scooters. You see about half the Mahdi guys we saw in the photo above–I was a little slow on the draw with my video camera when they showed up out of nowhere. In another case, as I was standing in front of a mosque shooting video that’s relevant to this whole AP/Jamil Hussein story and keeping myself moving so snipers couldn’t draw a bead on me, two explosions went off less than 5 minutes apart, a few blocks from where I stood. The threat of IEDs and suicide attacks is constant, and nearly everywhere. We drove through a neighborhood that one of the officers described as “AQIZ”–al Qaeda. If that’s not “patrol” then call it something else, but insults are a bore. I won’t quibble over a word choice here and there and I’m not going to wander into the weeds with people who don’t seem to be interested in honest give and take. I figure it’s just someone’s petty way of attacking us for going over there and coming back with a shred of optimism. Or, more likely, because we’re conservative and we exist.


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Comment pages: 1 2

All wars are difficult to win ( even the Gulf War, over in four days, was difficult to win ). All wars involve serious risk. All wars are costly, with some people paying a disproportionate share. All wars are potential disasters.

Look at history: wars are nearly always won by the side that believes it cannot afford to lose. There does need to be a Triumph of the Will ( you don’t need to be a nazi to realise that )

Janos Hunyadi on January 17, 2007 at 1:14 AM

Thanks for the enlightening summary, and welcome back.

Scotsman on January 17, 2007 at 1:31 AM

Comprehensive and great reporting Bryan. If all else gets addressed or redressed, how to fix #7?

Entelechy on January 17, 2007 at 1:31 AM

Welcome back!

see-dubya on January 17, 2007 at 1:41 AM

This is a fantastic read, and should be distributed to as many other forums and blogs as possible. Thank you for your time in Iraq, and thank you for a realistic and eye opening view of Iraq and its future.

Vincenzo on January 17, 2007 at 2:24 AM

The answer is WAR. War on the MSM. There have been some victories. Anchormen dismissed in dishonor are evidence.

However, we take the rest too lightly. While it is fun to hear their ridiculous rants, it seems they have the upper hand.

They operate just like terrorists and insurgents. Outrageous statements and positions and no accountability. They surround themselves with sycophants and get aide and comfort from political leaders.

The war is over. The “insurgents” rarely attack US troops so all of the “troops at risk” talk is exaggerated. When they report 600,000 Iraqis dead – we should DESTROY them for repeating such lies.

It is time to scrutinize each network and expose their corruption. How does CNN survive the “pass for Saddam” story?

People love a good scandal. Scandalize CNN and MSNBC. What are they paying their people? Do they bribe folks for stories? Affairs, prostitutes, drugs – come on!!!

Agrippa2k on January 17, 2007 at 2:32 AM

Absolutely fantastic post. A well-written account of a truly mind-bending experience, I’m sure. I know I am not speaking only for myself when I say thank you and MM for putting yourselves in harm’s way in order to bring us this insightful look at our involvement in Iraq.

I agree with most of your points, but #7 especially. I believe our affluence has led us to expect instant gratification, and in this case, that is just not going to happen.

Again, thank you both, and everyone who helped to bring us this fresh look at Iraq and our role in the Middle East.

hillbillyjim on January 17, 2007 at 2:35 AM

We can win in Iraq. But we need to win in the US first.

William Amos on January 17, 2007 at 2:52 AM

Glad both of you are back, safe and sound.

Kevin M on January 17, 2007 at 6:08 AM

Wow! First class job. FIRST.CLASS. As I mentioned at Michelle’s Vent, y’all have just carried the “new media” upwards at least one order of magnitude.

Well done, you should be very very proud of your work, your professional approach. I know I’m proud of the two of you. You have served your country well. Thank you.

Zorro on January 17, 2007 at 7:09 AM

Well done, man!

Mortis on January 17, 2007 at 7:09 AM

Welcome back, and thanks for a good report on the security situation. You’ve more to say, I’m sure, and what you’ve said here shows the ability to make some sharp reflection on both past, present, and future. It’s often difficult to decide what temporal level is best to work on. Discovery of mistakes come easy when the past is focused on. I knew we were in trouble back when Jay Garner couldn’t take his choice of people and got loaded up with a bunch of lawfare experts. Too much OPLAW. Security being a precondition for other things reflects thinking in the present, but I’m reminded of how relative the term “security” is, and how evasive are things like quality of life, solace, or peace of mind. Too much PARANOIA. A grievance-fear driven mentality that sees threat everywhere isn’t likely overcome with the passage of time. It’s gonna take reeducation or community mental health initiatives. The level of futures thinking is usually something most people let smarter people than them think about. Too much COMPLACENCY. A global war like this one, and a job as big as Iraq, call for getting off one’s rear end and getting involved in a positive way, not just seeking comfort, status, or what we’ve seen too much of, advantage in the disorder.

dapro on January 17, 2007 at 8:16 AM

I guess mistakes happen in all wars. The question is: are these mistakes fatal? Can our country be brought back into supporting the war?

We tend to wax nostalgic about WWII, forgetting one very key difference–the Japanese attacked us and the Germans declared war on us.

A preemptive war is a whole other kettle of fish. In hindsight, the admin’s first mistake was assuming that this would be quick and easy; their second mistake was not planning for the opposite of quick and easy and not preparing the country for it. People never seem to learn that bad news isn’t like wine, it doesn’t get better with age.

Water under the bridge. It should provide some lessons as we continue fighting the radical Islamists around the world.

Good report.

honora on January 17, 2007 at 8:34 AM

A great read!

infidel on January 17, 2007 at 8:36 AM

Bryan – you need edits (making same mistake I did for years)
the word media is plural (lumps all together, as in many)- think of as ‘they.’ First below is just a typo, after that is suggested edits for section on the media.

farm our their decisions = farm out
The media is incurious = media are incurious
unethical in its approach = in their approach
than it is of the insurgents – than they are of
The media hardly ever reports = report
But the media doesn’t = media do not
and doesn’t care to = do not care to

8^)

Ron C on January 17, 2007 at 8:36 AM

Fantastic report, Bryan – one of the best I have read about what is happening in Iraq in many months!

8^)

Ron C on January 17, 2007 at 8:38 AM

I miss it so much out there.

A lot of nights I lie awake in bed toying of reenlisting to going back out there. Its a stressful, tiring lifestyle, but I’ll be damned if you don’t miss it like hell when you’re NOT the one helping out anymore.

Ringmaster on January 17, 2007 at 8:46 AM

Great analysis, Bryan.
Can’t wait to hear more.
I am really glad that you made the trip and glad that you are back.

gatewaypundit on January 17, 2007 at 9:02 AM

Great job Byran!

csdeven on January 17, 2007 at 9:04 AM

Great report!!

Welcome back, Bryan

Chuck on January 17, 2007 at 9:15 AM

Thanks for the insight Bryan and welcome back.

vcferlita on January 17, 2007 at 9:39 AM

Outstanding professional analysis Bryan.

Happy to hear everyone is home safe.

AZ_Redneck on January 17, 2007 at 9:40 AM

Good read. I’m with Entelechy – what to do about the MSM here???

pullingmyhairout on January 17, 2007 at 9:44 AM

I’ll be damned if you don’t miss it like hell when you’re NOT the one helping out anymore.

Ringmaster:

You’ve inadvertently explained why the Left cannot–and will never–understand why our troops do not support their views.

Like you, our military is made up of honorable men and women who are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. Having made those sacrifices, they are rewarded with a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. Such noble people find it difficult to leave a life of service behind because they are left with an aching void that sitting behind a desk at a bank or an ad agency just cannot fill.

Those who don pink shirts and shout “Truth to power!” or sit in their cushy swivel chairs at the NYT just don’t get it–and they never will.

IrishEi on January 17, 2007 at 9:47 AM

Thank you for sharing so much.

Candy Slice on January 17, 2007 at 9:48 AM

So glad you’re back home safely. Awesome report! Thanks so much for doing this.
-Hope

tikvah on January 17, 2007 at 10:04 AM

A concise and brilliant analysis that puts the ISG report to shame.This is the report that should have been handed into Congress.

tomk59 on January 17, 2007 at 10:21 AM

Absolute must read for everyone Bryan.
I really believe the MSM has all this blood on their hands. Instead of looking at the real problems and showing how they could be solved, they dwell on mistakes, in the mean time, proving to the malitia’s they are winning. That kind of reporting must be exposed for what it is…..Propaganda. Thank you Bryan.

oakpack on January 17, 2007 at 10:30 AM

We tend to wax nostalgic about WWII, forgetting one very key difference–the Japanese attacked us and the Germans declared war on us.

Honora, Saddam attacked Kuwait; that war never technically ended until his regime did. ObL declared war on us, in large part because containing Saddam required Kufr troops on Saudi soil, which offends the sensibilities of many Muslims. Decades before that, the Iranian Mullahs declared war on us, taking over sovereign US territory after Dhimmi Carter ordered the US Marines not to defend it.

The biggest problem with the ‘anti-war’ crowd is the notion that we can decide whether there’s a war or not. You may not want to go to war, but war may want to come to you. The faction of Islam that we have chosen to name Islamofascism has been at war with Western Civilization for a long time now. The only question is whether we will submit to the rule of the Caliphate, or fight it.

The Monster on January 17, 2007 at 10:38 AM

Excellent work Bryan, welcome home.

I hope to see more of this from the major news media … what’s so funny?

Thank you for this fine report, I’m glad SOMEBODY got off their ass and did it. You’d think at least FOX would be over there doing this once in a while.

I wish FOX would give Michelle a one hour show and let us see what she and Bryan saw over there. This can’t be our little HotAir secret.

Tony737 on January 17, 2007 at 10:53 AM

Wonderful analysis Bryan; so glad you and Michelle made it home safely.

dalewalt on January 17, 2007 at 11:12 AM

REMINDER: DIGG this! And don’t forget the report on Michelle’s site as well!

IrishEi on January 17, 2007 at 11:14 AM

Great work, Bryan. Welcome back, and keep the quality journalism coming.

Nethicus on January 17, 2007 at 11:22 AM

That said, we have also misunderstood the basics of Islamic and Iraqi culture. President Bush said in his second innaugural that all people want to be free and has based his war strategy on this idea. The truth seems to be much grayer than that; most people want to be free, but some people want to control the freedom of other people, and some people are perfectly content to farm our their decisions to others they perceive as authority figures. Additionally, the western definition of freedom doesn’t yet hold sway in places like Iraq

This is the part that scares me.

Great indepth analysis and explanations Bryan.Welcome Home! Thank you!

labwrs on January 17, 2007 at 11:45 AM

Thanks for the balanced view. To me, “winning” is pumping our tankers full in the Persian Gulf in view of the sizeable Hussein Memorial Parking Lot. How do you define winning?

Valiant on January 17, 2007 at 12:30 PM

Thank you for your honest reporting.

crosspatch on January 17, 2007 at 12:37 PM

I hope some folks in D.C. are peeking in on this.

infidel4life on January 17, 2007 at 12:53 PM

“The defeat of Saddam’s regime did far more damage to the country’s basic civil order than anyone could have anticipated”

WHAT basic civil order?? You mean the two civil wars, two wars of conquest, endemic corruption, and unremitting general police-state brutality? The only reason there was any “order” was that any group formed for any political reasons was slaughtered.

This “there was order before the invasion” meme is the most egregious and pervasisve myth perpetrated about Iraq; it’s close cousin to Michael Moore’s kite-flying Iraqi kids. Yes, in Anbar province and Baghdad there was slightly less chaos, but only because they were the brutal enforcers enjoying the spoils of the oil money.

Here’s the numbers: 2 million dead over 24 years, or about 83,000 a year, during Saddam’s reign. Compare that to the anti-war IBC count of around 50,000 for the violent four years following liberation.

TallDave on January 17, 2007 at 12:54 PM

Yaayyy!
Wonderful! Reams and reams of material and miles and miles of video. Outstanding! Good job!
Does this mean you are no longer “chickenhawk bloggers” ?
Wouldn’t that make you offical “War Correspondants”?
War Bloggerspondants … oh never mind. Just great effort and work, you’ll look back on that trip as one of the finest memories of your lives.

naliaka on January 17, 2007 at 1:15 PM

Welcome back and thanks for the great summary. Your story just reinforces my belief that we are way too soft on our enemies and some of our alleged “friends”.

shooten on January 17, 2007 at 1:35 PM

An Iraqi federal police colonel…said…that if Ayatollah Sistani tells him to fight the Americans who are currently training his forces to take on the terrorists, then he will fight us. Islamic loyalty would trump common sense and any notion of freedom…

What will it take to get Sistani to order the killing of the innocent to stop, and instead kill AQ and the insurgents? If that’s how we win, that what we should do.

JustTruth101 on January 17, 2007 at 1:41 PM

Welcome back Bryan and Michelle, excellent report!

All your observations and suggestions are spot on. But what gets me is:

our troops were two rooms away from Moqtada during the seige when the order came from outside Iraq to leave him alive. The reason he was allowed to live remains a mystery to the troops in the field, and feeds the notion that they’re not being told all that they need to know to win this war.

This is the most disturbing fact, and I believe, one of the reasons the country is still in turmoil.

Who gave this order?

PinkyBigglesworth on January 17, 2007 at 1:52 PM

Some of the best reporting I ever read from Iraq. WTG.

Dwilkers on January 17, 2007 at 1:53 PM

Good job Bryan, and Welcome Home!

R D on January 17, 2007 at 2:39 PM

Well done and welcome back to both you and Michelle.

Your report caused me a lot of different emotions, from nail-spitting anger (reading about the pullbacks and letting Mookie off the hook), puzzlement (reading how Iran in sending weapons in and us apparently doing nothing to stop it), to downright frustration (reading of the media and their slant and how it’s affected the homefront). But out of all of that, you still managed to convey a sense of optimism that all is not lost – if we have the will to win.

Thanks.

thirteen28 on January 17, 2007 at 2:53 PM

We have won the war. Saddam is out of power…and dead. The Baathiists are out of power. There are no WMD in Iraq. They have had three elections with nearly 100% turnout. They have a new government and a constitution. We’ve won. The Iraqis decided that, with their new found freedom, they wanted civil war. So be it. Let them have their civil war. Time to declair victory and get out.

shackler on January 17, 2007 at 3:17 PM

ps-great report!

shackler on January 17, 2007 at 3:17 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful report. Thank you.

Sacwannabe on January 17, 2007 at 4:15 PM

AWESOME report Bryan!!

What’s that sound? Oh that’s just the MSM’s market share dwindling… I. CAN. NOT. WAIT. For Hotair TV’s first primtime broadcast!

Theworldisnotenough on January 17, 2007 at 4:27 PM

Simply put………GREAT !!!I wish some in the msm would have the grapes or nads to even give an editorial like this or report, however we already know they are not man enough to admit anything like you reported even if they already know it. It amazes me that the NYT can find all our sensitive information but can’t tell it like you did Bryan.THANKS a million

bones47 on January 17, 2007 at 4:28 PM

Well done, thanks for the informative analysis.

Patriot33 on January 17, 2007 at 4:32 PM

No plan for the post war period.

In Tommy Franks autobiography, he said that he wanted to retire after Afganistan, but he was begged to stay. He said that he would stay only through the invasion, and leave the reconstruction to the next guy. He knew it would take years to accomplish and he didn’t want to stick around that long. I think people accepted Franks leaving because they thought the invasion would be the hard part and the reconstruction would be relatively easy. This explains why we really lost momentum after the invasion. There was no clear vison from above as to what needed to be done.

BohicaTwentyTwo on January 17, 2007 at 5:05 PM

A terrific read, but hardly the first reasonable analysis of the situation. I believe the invasion was the right move. But we should have just shot Saddam in his hole and left town. The Iranians believe they can run Iraq, and I really wish them luck. I thought we could make it work.

When the Iranians are loosing soldiers every day to other Muslims, we’ll see what happens. I do not believe any nation with a majority Muslim population that believes democratic institutions are immoral can support a democratically elected government.

Show me the Muslim democracies. When they bring it about themselves, then I will believe it. It’s time to go. Better to build a border fence with the money.

doufree on January 17, 2007 at 6:29 PM

I am looking to more reports from your trip. This was very informative and useful. Thanks for your efforts and insights.

Mallard T. Drake on January 17, 2007 at 6:41 PM

bones47,

Your comments are spot on. We have to confront the attitudes of the Left here in the USA. The soldiers feel the real effects the left’s campaign of self hatred over there. The MSM is costing and destroying peoples lives because they want to change news and not actually report it. There is something really really wrong with that!

Egfrow on January 17, 2007 at 7:18 PM

This is really excellent work, Bryan! Many thanks to you and Michelle for getting the real deal info to take back to the rest of us conservative bloggers here in the U.S.!

I have been waiting for Michele’s (and your) return from Iraq so that we all could read and find out what is really going on in Iraq; without the typical MSM bias of what I call the “coverage ugliatarians” like Keith Olbermann and…well…probably anyone and EVERYONE over at CNN!

I am already much more encouraged from what I have read here at Hot Air, as well as Michele’s blog and Pajamas Media!!

The message that Michele shared with us from the troops has really stuck in my mind:

TROOPS ASK FOR TIME, PATIENCE & UNDERSTANDING…

In other words…LET THEM DO THEIR JOBS AND STOP WITH THE KREEPY KEITH OLBERMANN/CNN LOONIE PROPAGANDA ALREADY!!

Our troops are going to win this thing FOR US…DESPITE THE HILARY “bash Bush’s plan” CLINTONS, DICK “cut and run” DURBINS, and all the rest of the “WE DON’T THINK BUSH’S INCREASE OF TROOP LEVELS WILL WORK” naysayers WHO DON’T HAVE A CLUE AS TO WHAT THEY WOULD RECOMMEND (except for idiots like Wesley Clark who not only doesn’t have a clue…but wants to “talk” to the maniacal “leaders” in Iran and Syria…)!

Speaking of the troop surge, apparently the news already has AlQaeda fleeing Baghdad!

Take THAT Wesley Clark!! Your limp-wristed, namby-pamby suggestion to “talk with Iran” probably had them LAUGHING THEIR A**SES OFF!!!

GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA…AS MICHAEL MEDVED SAYS, “THE GREATEST NATION (AND TROOPS!!!!!) ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH”!!

Talkwisdom

Christinewjc on January 17, 2007 at 7:47 PM

Malkin survived! Kos kiddies cried.

Kokonut on January 17, 2007 at 8:21 PM

Great job Bryan and Michelle. It takes some courge to go there and to do what you did. Nothing like of course what our troops are doing but just the same a snipers bullet or car bomb is a indescrimante thing. Kudos to the both of you and of course to the USA Military! Thank you men and women.

auspatriotman on January 17, 2007 at 8:30 PM

Bryan, I haven’t seen a report/essay like this in a long long time. I’m truly impressed. Your report asks crucial questions. It shows more than one perspective. It talks about the good. It also talks about the bad. Then it throws out suggestions for solutions. It creates new ideas to explore. It expands on old ideas never solved. It connects concepts. It was enlightening. It was disturbing. It was straight forward. It is how and what and honest and true report should be. My God I’m so embarrassed and ashamed for all those MSM field reporters. This report just made them all look like fools. Then they have the nerve to knock bloggers like you and Michelle.

David and Goliath = Bryan and MSM

One punch knockout!

Thanks Bryan for a job very very well done.

Danilo on January 17, 2007 at 8:43 PM

Very nice report. Very very nice.
Comments :I never was comfortable with the elections – I have wondered for some time if the White House would have preferred a longer time table, but felt they had to rush it because of hostile Democrat pressure. I also believe that the idea that the battle for Iraq was the hard part and the reconstruction would be easy also came a bubbling up from the Liberal Left media point of view. Can’t believe that the military ever held that view In these cases, a military like that of Saddam’s, tightly controlled, tightly focused on Saddam’s direction (or else) is never a match for a highly self-motivated well-equipped military. All the primarily military analysis pegged the battle situations very accurately prior to the actual engagement. It was the press getting simple concepts wrong, asking stupid questions about tactics – no concept of war and strategy and clearly no desire to educate themselves. The MSM has badly botched all its recent war predictions and reporting from the Gulf War thru Afghanistan and now Iraq. The triple threat! Three strikes, you’re out!
AS for life in Iraq, your comments are wonderful – it’s amazing how it seems horrible the first two days, then after a while, the eye becomes less twitchy and begins to notice all the normalcy just in the background.
One other thing, to be living and working in such a tough place, people develop a tremendous comaraderie. It becomes a let down to return to the US – everything is so easy, it’s boring.

naliaka on January 17, 2007 at 9:14 PM

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