Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just Walk On By

Michael Totten has a remarkable article about a night out in Baghdad. Totten drove around with a unit visiting families in Baghdad. But these were house visits of an extraordinary kind. Or perhaps more extraordinarily, of an ordinary kind, because they had been going on for a long time. As Lieutenant Larry Pitts explained: (emphasisis mine)

“We’ll collect info on Shias in Sunni areas and Sunnis in Shia areas,” he told me. “We make the best of it by going out and meeting the local people. It works because we have a decent reputation around here that we’ve been cultivating for a long time. Reporters would get it more if they were with us from the beginning.

In a society where survival is based on trust relationships, Lieutenant Pitts and his men were going the rounds of friends who were literally willing to trust them with their lives. The Americans were received as guests into the homes of their Iraqi friends where the conversation consisted of a mixture of bantar, a little shop-talk about community projects and then finally to the hard business of finding enemy agents who might be lurking in the neighborhood.

Pitts and his men respected the boundaries of loyalty which governed Iraqi society, careful never to pit one set of allegiances against an equally valued rival set of allegiances. And after the coffee was put away and the jokes had been cracked, the question the Americans had for the Sunnis was whether they knew of any Shi'ite death squads in the vicinity; and the correspondening question for the Shi'a was whether any Sunni killers were lurking about. In this circular fashion the Americans found out the killers of all stripes without crossing any red lines in the Iraqi code of honor. They were all honorable men, including the Americans who lived within the peculiar ethical niche they had carved out for themselves.

To Totten's mild surprise some of the American officers appeared to have a working knowledge of Arabic. Inquiring, he found they had learned it by immersion.

“How long did you study Arabic?” I said to him during a lull in the conversation.

“I haven’t studied it,” he told me.

He hadn’t? Most non-native speakers can’t hold down a conversation until they have studied Arabic formally for several years.

“I just listen very carefully before our interpreters translate,” he continued, “and I’ve been picking it up. I still need Nathan to help with the nuances and specifics, but I understand basically what they are saying. And they understand me even though I am not speaking correctly.”

The Army has come a long way since they first arrived in Iraq, and Lieutenant Pitts was shaping up to be a real American Arabist.

The entire evening that Michael Totten was describing was an operation of war, not only in that each house was secured by American soldiers hidden in the darkness, scanning each approach with their night vision equipment, but in that the Lieutenant and his men were embarked on political and intelligence warfare of the serious kind. Totten writes:

This was an intelligence gathering operation. It was, more or less, spying. The only difference is that the soldiers were up front about it, even though (and this is not contradictory) no one said anything about intelligence gathering yet. Nobody had to. Everyone knew what was up. The United States military has better things to do in Iraq than socialize just for the sake of socializing.

That doesn’t mean the food and gifts and chit chat were a sham. The friendship and affection between these Americans and Iraqis is real. Several soldiers and officers told me that what surprises them most about their time in Iraq is how emotionally attached they’ve become to Iraqis in general and to specific individuals in particular. They didn’t expect it, but that’s what happened. And it’s considered a waste of that friendship to talk strictly business. The business wouldn’t be possible anyway if the friendship and trust weren’t there first. ...

“We’ve been getting to know these people for months,” Lieutenant Pitts told me before we arrived at the house. “We thought if we got to know them as people and promised to protect them from violence that they would help us win the war against the insurgents. And it works.”

“In the four years you have been here,” our host said, “only lately have you finally come around and talked to us about what we want and need.”

Recently Barack Obama declared that there was no military solution in Iraq. And Obama is doubtless correct. But his statements imply a belief that politics and security are separate tracks. That security operations consist of shooting and that political work consists of diplomats sitting down with national officials, ambassadors and foreign ministry officials. "No military surge can succeed without political reconciliation and a surge of diplomacy in Iraq and the region. Iraq’s leaders are not reconciling. They are not achieving political benchmarks. The only thing they seem to have agreed on is to take a vacation."

What Obama might be missing is the idea that quantity -- such as the quantity of time spent understanding the language, culture and the people involved -- often creates a quality of its own. The activities that Michael Totten described belong to a limbo world that would have fallen between the doctrinal cracks of the armed forces and the state department. It is a world in which kinetic operations, counterinsurgency, political work, development and personal friendship form one continuum.

Later in the evening Michael Totten and Lieutenant Pitts move on to another meeting. It is with a Sunni in a Shi'ite area and the encounter is more furtive. Totten is witness to a conversation in which an Iraqi clearly puts his life in Pitt's hands. Totten is allowed to overhear the conversation -- and thereby hold the Iraqi's life in his hands -- because of a trust relationship. Totten is with Pitts and Totten is American.

Those [previous] men were Shias who lived among Sunnis. Next we would meet with a Sunni who lived among Shias. We drove for five minutes, parked the Humvees, and quietly, casually, walked to a different part of the neighborhood. I had no idea where we were going, and we seemed to take random turns to disguise our intent and direction in case anyone watched. Then, out of the blue, Lieutenant Pitts tried not to look obvious as he rang somebody’s doorbell. ...

The Iraqi man works for the Baghdad government at a ministry I will not identify in the Green Zone. He showed us his card. “I would never show this card outside the gate in this neighborhood,” he told me. ...

Jaysh al Mahdi kidnapped eleven people from this area, killed them, and left their bodies in the dump,” the man said. “I can provide you with the names of the people who did this.” ...

Considering where the man worked, I believed his information was credible. So did Lieutenant Pitts. “Colonel [omitted] in the Iraqi Army works with intel files,” the man said. “He pulls files on individual Sunnis and has them assassinated one by one. I know someone who killed 25 people. I reported him to the Iraqi Army and they reported him to the U.S. Army. He was detained for two days and let go. What the hell is going on?”

Lieutenant Pitts shook his head. “I will take care of it,” he said.

“I told this to a different Iraqi Army Colonel,” the informant said, “a man who I thought could be trusted. He said he would help, but he didn’t do anything. You know, Iran is providing weapons to these people. The same guy who killed all these people wants to operate in the [omitted] area. I would give you chai [tea], but it’s the middle of the night.”

And here we come to the secret heart of counterinsurgency warfare; one not easily described in terms of "exit strategies" or "diplomatic engagement" or "effects-based operations". It is a place where the human terrain counts for as much as the topographical one; where a social Global Positioning System is as important as the one provided by satellites revolving in the heavens above. This is not the war the US armed forces knew how to fight. It is one they have learned to fight. And whether the scene of action is shifted to Afghanistan (as Obama wants) or to the Horn of Africa; whether the conversation is conducted in an Ethiopian tribal language or Pashtun they will be about the same things.

“Thank you, lieutenant,” the man said.

“And from now on we will only speak on the phone. For your protection. If I see you on the street I will just casually say Salam Aleikum and walk right on past.


Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Indeed, it is considered rude to conduct business without at least some chit-chat. The idea of sitting down at an appointment and getting straight away to business is foreign even in places like Dubai. I recall many a meeting with many different desk jockeys that had to start with chit-chat.

In a way, this is necessary. In many ways the same trust we individuals will place in organizations and members of organizations does not exist. The connection has to be one on one.

Our soldiery is learning how to operate in a foreign culture, I think the learning curve is finally flattening out. They are managing to exploit the divisions along their natural fault lines instead of trying to crack their own divisions.

8/21/2007 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

In the first part, Totten quotes a "man with a beard" several times. I'm don't think Totten meant it that way, but the guy (and his concerns) comes across as hinky. If I were going to telling and taking in Good Secret Stuff, I don't think I'd want "the man with the beard" in the same room - but maybe there was nothing "the host" could do to prevent that.

"The man with the beard" said something else that Totten quoted, that if we pull back, then he will pull back, too. I've seen these sentiments quoted before by Iraqi's. I'm interpreting it as a sort of emotional blackmail, as in, "If you leave us, we'll be very very bad and it will be all your fault."

I don't know what Iraqi's want to hear in return when they say stuff like that. That America will stay in their misbegotten backwards sandbox for the next many decades bringing the quality of life up to what is enjoyed in Sprinfield, Anywhere, USA, while allowing them to continue the various barbarisms they insist are part of their "rich cultural heritage"? Do they understand that they're simply not worth it to the American taxpayer - that we are NOT getting our money's worth in trying to educate them and bring them democracy?

Or is it merely an instinctive throwback to the victimhood response with which all Arabs greet everything.

8/21/2007 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The second guy talks about death squads being organized and conducted out of government ministries. The lieutenant says merely, "I'll take care of it."

How? Does he have *that* much power?

8/21/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I think the psychological tipping point in the fight against Islamic extremism will come when the Muslim on the street is convinced that the US and not al-Qaeda is going to win in the long run. On the terrorist battlefield most people sit on the fence until they feel comfortable betting their lives on the side they have decided will win in the end.

The biggest liability people like Pelosi carry is that they virtually exude betrayal. The psychological question foreigners put to themselves when they look at an American politician asking them to follow them into conflict is 'can I trust this man with my life?'

And unless this liability is expunged the stink of abandonment will follow these politicians everywhere they go. All declarations to the effect that they will "fight in Afghanistan" or "invade Pakistan unilaterally" will be undermined by the conviction that these politicians will make a beeline for the door at the first setback; bug out at the first serious domestic political criticism of their policies.

When you look back at Ronald Reagan his greatest achievement was to convince his public -- for the first time since the October Revolution -- that Communism was beatable. He took the world public to the psychological tipping point. And from that instant the October Revolution was not only beatable, it was doomed. Most of his Presidential predecessors came to office subconsciously convinced that the Soviet Union -- that the socialist world -- was forever. One reason why the fall of Communism took the diplomatic and intelligence establishments by surprise was because it was unthinkable until Ronald, John Paul and Margaret made in conceivable.

I don't want to over-rate the psychological factors of war but they are in their own way quite important.

8/21/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Nahncee: I'm interpreting it as a sort of emotional blackmail

It isn't. What he is saying is that working with Americans is dangerous. If the Americans do not protect him he will have to back off or die.

Would you give information to the police about the mafia if the police said they couldn't protect you?

Hope this makes sense,

Michael J. Totten

8/21/2007 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger R said...

I have no problem with this "grass roots" process, nor with our troops using their brains prior to using bullets: We are in fact the good guys! We brought them their individual freedom. They have to gather up fellow believers and march into government organizing their world.

Our government, the US political class, has failed the American citizens in a massive way: We have not been educated as to how this game is being played, we have been ignored, left alone to be batted about via the media and others who have a special agenda.

The Democrats seem to want only one thing: A return to political dominance in the Congress and the Executive branch, even Judicial if the opportunity arises. Iraq, for them, is just a means to an end, but if this means gets in their way, they will abandon Iraq faster than Ted Kennedy can exit a sinking car!

The Republicans seem to want a strong economy while this war goes on and on, like a bleeding ulcer!

Of course, another argument could be that the natural course of creating a sense of individual freedom for those Iraqis will take years and when America applies a "cost benefit ratio" it just might conclude this to be a bad investment from many angles or perspectives.

I want to see some Iraqi oil at my local gas station...sooner, rather than later. I don't want to see an Iranian bank in Iraq, nor a constant exchange of political leaders going to and from these two countries, especially when our military can take to their parliament bomb residue from IEDs that have killed American soldiers to prove who is aiding such killings!

I don't like being a sucker, and as these months (yea I know--it's been years) go by, I keep getting this sickening feeling that we are being played as suckers!

Where's the honest conversations our government should be having with us, it's voting citizens?

Or it that just a fantasy? Probably is, yea it is.

8/21/2007 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...


Convincing people who like and trust the americans is easy. Convincing the rest, the majority, to go along with a strategy requires a sale. The deal that this gentleman was willing to buy with his life was some certainty that he wouldn't be betrayed.

Actually this exchange says more about the americans than the Iraqis.


8/21/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger F said...

Not to put a mercenary tinge on it, Totten lives on donations his readers make. There's a link at the end of the article if you'd like to help support him. I encourage readers to visit that link. F

8/21/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger John J. Coupal said...

Lt. Pitts' quote: "...Reporters would get it more if they were with us from the beginning..."

The 2nd meaning of those words is the most important:

As members of the MSM, reporters felt that the Iraq War was wrong from the start. They were never "WITH" the American troops - from a strategy standpoint - at any time.

Advocacy journalism drove the final nail into any claim of press impartiality on Iraq reporting, further eliminating MSM believability.

8/21/2007 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Derek: Actually this exchange says more about the americans than the Iraqis.


8/21/2007 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Michael, do you think the Iraqi's, like the ones in this piece, delineate between American military and American politicians ... and American voters?

Do they understand the very thin line they're walking themselves in *our* perceptions ... not just their perceptions that we'll cut & run?

In other words, when the "man with the beard" tells the Lieutenant "if you back off, then I will back off, too", does he understand he's not telling the right person?

8/21/2007 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

One reason why the fall of Communism took the diplomatic and intelligence establishments by surprise was because it was unthinkable until Ronald, John Paul and Margaret made in conceivable.
there's some unfinished business with regards to the chinese communist party. and the longer it goes on the more the chances increase that ron john paul and margarets work will be undone.

8/21/2007 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Nanhcee -- from a practical perspective the Iraqis that are talking to the Lt. have no other Americans to talk to.

But what we have essentially in our American political class is collapse. Based on a mutually hostile and exclusive set of interests.

The political class wants a free-ride on relatively painless and non-apparent risk from nuclear weapons pointed mutually at the Soviets as they pointed it at us.

This accounts for the end of history blather and the exuding of betrayal that Pelosi or Kos show as Wretchard points out.

They can HAVE it their own way, but only to a point. After we will abandon the Iraqi allies (who have some value after all) and throw away our hard-won military ability to go into places like Baghdad and find out what's going on, we will have nothing left BUT nukes.

And we'll be forced to use it. To reduce the one billion Muslims to something south of that number. By a wide margin.

Because Al Qaeda won't stop fighting even if the notion is sold that they will.

The Sex Pistols had a song "Safe European Home" that seems to be the fantasy of the political class of the entire West. Eventually that fantasy will die. Let's hope it does while we still have options short of nukes.

8/21/2007 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Nahncee: Michael, do you think the Iraqi's, like the ones in this piece, delineate between American military and American politicians ... and American voters?

I doubt that very much. But like Whiskey said, who else can they talk to?

They could have addressed the point to me since I was there, too, but they didn't.

Middle Eastern people in general don't understand how American civilians, government, and military work together and separately. Iraqis understand it even less because until recently they were completely cut off from the world.

The Kurds seem to have a better handle on how America works. But they're more interested in America and were partially freed from their isolation eleven years before the Arabs were.

Michael J. Totten

8/21/2007 11:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife
Colonel Beddard was on the Bennet Show with Jed Babbin.
Said the Army gave up on Counterinsurgency Warfare after Vietnam as too dangerous, thus the rather slow re-learning curve.
He co-wrote the manual with Gen Petraeus.

Too bad Petraeus was not in charge from the begining.
I remember exchanging some links with Wretchard to some really good articles about his leadership in Mosul.
Have to see if I can find those e-mails on my old computer.

He concurred that the Pelosi's here instilled concerns with betrayal there.
Latest example of such being the interpreters in Basra, preceded by the Shias and Kurds following Desert Storm.

8/22/2007 02:54:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"too difficult" not "too dangerous"

8/22/2007 02:57:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

A symbolic visit to a Wahhabi outpost
On Bill Bennett's Morning in America this morning, Steve Emerson added a personal note concerning the mosque at which President Bush spoke today:
"I've gotten ten copies [of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion] there over the years," he said.
Here is the audio clip of Emerson's interview
concerning the underreported story of the President's visit to the Islamic Center of Washington.

The president spoke there in honor of its fiftieth anniversary. He was returning to the mosque where he spoke on September 17, 2001, when he instructed Americans that "Islam is peace." This time around he directly addressed Muslims:
(Karen Hughes does not toil alone in the difficult task of selling the ROP)
Probably doesn't help much to try to mainstream Wahhabists so we can all get along.

8/22/2007 03:16:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"You say that the "pro-American Arabs of Anbar" are "easy to read these days." Why are they easy to read and Sadr not? What makes them easy to read?"

I will get to this in several upcoming articles.

"Is it because they have been bought by the Americans?"

They definitely haven't been bought.
Let's not discuss now, though.
Wait until I write about them in detail.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten

8/22/2007 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger The Count said...

Maybe Joe Wilson was on to something after all with all the sipping of tea.

Who you sip tea with makes all the difference I suppose.

8/22/2007 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Too bad Petraeus was not in charge from the begining. I remember exchanging some links with Wretchard to some really good articles about his leadership in Mosul.

If the British Army is driven in ignominy from Basra, it will be the result of an institutional British failure to find a solution to the problem of fighting a guerilla/terror war in the Middle East. If the US Armed Forces succeeds in stabilizing Iraq the credit will fundamentally be due to an institutional shift; that the ground forces changed to where a commander like Petraeus embodied what they wanted to do.

We haven't won yet in Iraq. And clearly the enemy is not standing still. But the focus must remain on learning faster than the enemy can improve. In my personal opinion both friend and foe have evolved drastically since 2003. If we could have replaced Franks with Petraeus in 2003 it would not have been the same.

What has managed to retain its antideluvian form despite everything is the debate in Washington. There the points of reference remain Vietnam and decision to go into OIF. It's like an old-time vinyl record stuck in a groove. Five years from now the newspapers will still be on about Vietnam and Valerie Plame. They wil still be about "going after" Osama Bin Laden as he personally constituted the core of the world's instability rather than its manifestation. Sometimes I think that Creationists could sweep aside Darwin by simply citing Washington DC as proof of the impossibility of evolution; as direct evidence of an unchanging Paradisal state, where not only is it possible to remain in the wrong year, but entirely feasible to remain in the wrong century with no one ever the wiser.

But to win the War on Terror it won't be enough to confine evolution to the military. The politicians and intellectual leaders of the country -- on both sides -- must learn at a faster rate than the enemy. A successful campaign should not rely on becoming lucky enough to find a smart commander. God blesses America, it's true. But heaven helps those who help themselves.

8/22/2007 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Shaun Mullen said...

There is something rather sad about this post: Another scramble amidst the flames to pull something positive out of the conflagration that is Iraq.

Good thing that you still have Michael "It's All Good" Totten as he posts yet another payback to the pro-war sycophants who bankroll his travels and read your blog.

It's over bar the shouting, Wretchard, and the admirable if minor progress represented by the surge is a hollow victory without the political progress that no less an authority than General Petraeus repeatedly states is imperative if the U.S. is to leave Iraq with any semblance of success.

8/22/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Whiskey says that if we do what the elite West-types want to do, we'll end up where all we have left are nukes. Seems to me a pretty good argument could be made that we'd have saved ourselves gazillions of dollars and a nation that is so split as to possibly be irreparable if we'd just nuked the whole Middle East back to the Stone Age on 9/12 and started all over again.

Other observation on Totten's report is that a lot of my/our frustration with the Iraqi's has been their refusal to step up to the plate and help themselves for several years now ... that we can't do it all for them. They need to be encouraged to keep helping us to help them.

I'm really not too interested in their fears that if they do, they'll be killed in return by their homegrown terrorists. If they do NOT, they'll also be killed in return just because, so isn't it better to go out fighting back?

As for Shaun Mullen - bleh. What a waste of space. A stupid person feeling the need to put in 2 cents on the behalf of stupid people everywhere.

8/22/2007 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Toll Rises Above 500 in Attack
In a few days, 10,000 of our men will be ready to protect our areas,” said Kheder Aziz, who was sobbing on a street in Kirkuk. “All the Sunni Arab tribes living around us are responsible, either because they helped with the attack or knew what would happen.”

8/22/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Three Marks on the Horizon

The mantra that “there is no political progress in Iraq” is rapidly becoming the “surge” equivalent of a green alligator: when enough people repeat something that sounds plausible, but also happens to be false, it becomes accepted as fact. The more often it is repeated—and the larger the number of people repeating it—the harder it is to convince anyone of the truth: alligators are not green, and Iraqis are making plenty of political progress.

There may be little progress on political goals crafted in America, to meet American concerns, by politicians who have a cushion of 200 years of democracy. Washington might as well be on the moon. Iraqis don’t respond well to rules imposed from outside their acknowledged authorities, though I have many times seen Iraqi Police and Army of all ranks responding very well to American Marines and soldiers who they have come to respect, and in many cases actually admire and try to emulate. Our military has increasing moral authority in Iraq, but the same cannot be said for our government at home. In fact, it’s in moral deficit because many Iraqis are increasingly frightened we will abandon them to genocide. The Iraqis I speak with couldn’t care less what is said from Washington but large numbers of them pay close attention to what some Marine Gunny says, or what American battalion commanders all over Iraq say. Some of our commanders could probably run for local offices in Iraq, and win. To say there has been no political progress in Iraq in 2007 is patently absurd, completely wrong and dangerously dismissive of the significant changes and improvements happening all across Iraq. Whether or not Americans are seeing it on the nightly news or reading it in their local papers, Iraqis are actively writing their children’s history.

When I wrote the op-ed piece, “I Have Seen the Horror,” published August 3rd in the New York Daily News, I cited three areas that had experienced dramatic change in 2007—change that convinces me the “surge” is working:

8/22/2007 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger gilliam said...

I encourage everyone to watch the videos at www.freedomswatch.org

8/22/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What will become of the progress if the Iraqi government (like ours) continues to lag far behind the people?

8/22/2007 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

On July 16, I was with American Army forces, Iraqi Army forces and 1920 fighters when together they went off to hunt Al Qaeda.
The 1920s guys were in front of us. They got hit by a bomb that was almost certainly planted by terrorists.
A major gunfight ensued.

Anyone who says Al Qaeda is not one of the primary problems in Iraq is simply ignorant of the facts.

I, like everyone else, will have to wait for September's report from Gen. Petraeus before making more definitive judgments. But I know for certain that three things are different in Iraq now from any other time I've seen it.

1. Iraqis are uniting across sectarian lines to drive Al Qaeda in all its disguises out of Iraq, and they are empowered by the success they are having, each one creating a ripple effect of active citizenship.

2. The Iraqi Army is much more capable now than it was in 2005. It is not ready to go it alone, but if we keep working, that day will come.

3. Gen. Petraeus is running the show. Petraeus may well prove to be to counterinsurgency warfare what Patton was to tank battles with Rommel, or what Churchill was to the Nazis.

And yes, in case there is any room for question, Al Qaeda still is a serious problem in Iraq, one that can be defeated.
Until we do, real and lasting security will elude both the Iraqis and us.

8/22/2007 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

To an enemy in need of assets, a press that is increasingly disengaged is like an empty car with keys in the ignition—begging to be stolen.
How the keys came to be left in the car, and how the inevitable theft managed to go unreported are questions for a different dispatch.

To really understand the dynamics of the Battle for Mosul, it suffices to say the enemy started with a media advantage that they continue to exploit even now.

8/22/2007 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The War as We Saw It

As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.
(Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

8/22/2007 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Has Maliki Ended The Insurgency? breaking news

Earlier today, the Italian news service AKI reported that the presumed leader of the largest insurgency in Iraq will start cooperating with the Iraqi government. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, one of the highest-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's government, reportedly pledged to work with Iraqi and American forces to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq:

The leader of Iraq's banned Baath party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, has decided to join efforts by the Iraqi authorities to fight al-Qaeda, one of the party's former top officials, Abu Wisam al-Jashaami, told pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. "AlDouri has decided to sever ties with al-Qaeda and sign up to the programme of the national resistance, which includes routing Islamist terrorists and opening up dialogue with the Baghdad government and foreign forces," al-Jashaami said.

Al-Douri has decided to deal directly with US forces in Iraq, according to al-Jashaami. He figures in the 55-card deck of "most wanted" officials from the former Iraqi regime issued by the US government.

In return, for cooperating in the fight against al-Qaeda, al-Douri has asked for guarantees over his men's safety and for an end to Iraqi army attacks on his militias.

Recent weeks have seen a first step in this direction, when Baathist fighters cooperated with Iraqi government forces in hunting down al-Qaeda operatives in the volatile Diyala province and in several districts of the capital, Baghadad.

This could be game, set, and match for the Iraq War. Some smaller insurgent elements assisted in clearing Baqubah as a test to see whether an alliance with Americans would work. Apparently, the experiment worked. If al-Douri accepts the authority of the elected Iraqi government, then almost all of the resistance in western Iraq will disappear -- leaving AQI very exposed.

8/22/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Here's Michaels response to the above article:
"There are some very good points in that article.

I'm negotiating with a newspaper editor right now as we speak about writing an op-ed on the surge. I am insisting on having an ambiguous answer about whether or not it is working or not. He strongly wants me to come down on one side or another, but I refuse. The situation is too complicated, and I'm in no mood to arrogantly pontificate on it.

We'll see if ambiguity sells in the media. He is resistant, but I am still trying.

8/22/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

(The War as We Saw It )

8/22/2007 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The War as We Saw It
Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs.
Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all.

Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made

— de-Baathification,
the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and
the creation of a loose federalist system of government —

places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

8/22/2007 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Yon's View

"Many Vietnam veterans fear that our leaders never learned the lessons they paid dearly for.
And mostly they are right. However, some of our officers—like James Mattis and David Petraeus—have studied the lessons of Vietnam in great detail.
But for a long time, although these two officers realized we were in the middle of an insurgency, it was tantamount to “un-American” to call insurgents insurgents.
They were “dead-enders,” and since there was no insurgency, there was scant need for counterinsurgency warfare.

Had these two officers been running this war from the beginning, it probably would be finished by now.

Despite that Petraeus has the cockpit as under control as it can be, the jet is still nosing down.
The only way this is going to work is if the majority of the subordinate commanders, and our troops, are applying the difficult lessons of counterinsurgency.
Lessons that we failed to apply for most of the first few years of this war. Lessons our Vietnam veterans paid for in full. Lessons lost on others from wars here long ago and seldom mentioned these days.
Lessons whispered by the Ghosts of Anbar.

8/22/2007 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Recently Barack Obama declared that there was no military solution in Iraq. And Obama is doubtless correct.

No Obama is not correct. Not even close. And it is important to grasp that.

The Military is much, much more than a bunch of 18yr olds killing everything in sight. But Obama, with no military experience, and with very little government experience, and with a marginal grasp of history, doesn't realize that.

The only reason there is any change in Iraq is because the American military is there, on the ground, making a difference. Without the military, there would be no change. Our immense economy is leverage only against functioning economies.

I am sooooo glad GWB is in control.

8/22/2007 09:20:00 PM  

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