Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Michael Yon Report, June, 2007

Dr. Bob brings this to our attention, saying...

This piece is his finest. Whether you support the effort in Iraq, or think it detestable and vile, or are in the vast masses of uneasy disenchantment and fearful frustration about this conflict, you owe it to yourself to read this. Finer writing, sharper analysis, and keener insight you will find nowhere else.

He is absolutely right. This most recent essay by Michael Yon will stand as one of the most credible reports of this war to date. In a matter-of-fact manner he lays out the mistakes and keeps moving. Hind sight may be clear, but too often when it reveals tragedy there is a strong tendency on the part of those responsible to rush to denial. But Yon is a reporter, not a policy maker. He has a heart and deep sympathy for those given the mission to execute policy. And to some degree he shows understanding, if not sympathy, for those whose errors in judgement have led to more problems than solutions. I have been following his reports since the start of this war.

As one of those who Dr. Bob describes as regarding this war as "detestable and vile", I read these lines with appreciation for Michael Yon's candor. His willingness to lay out ugly realities and keep moving does nothing but underscore the sincerity of what he says next. He clearly likes General Petraeus and wonders why his likes could not have been in charge from the beginning. But he doesn't waste energy on recrimination, speaking his mind and getting on with the narrative.

I don't say it carelessly: This essay is essential reading.
Like it or not, what Michael Yon says is important, timely and factual.
No one who wants to be informed will skip this piece.

Smart politics leaves more people standing with their heads, and so discretion has to be seen as vital to the war effort. Reports claiming that no political progress is happening here because the Iraqi parliament seems stalled are tantamount to claiming that when the US Senate bogs down the stop lights don’t work on Main Street USA. At the same time, no one is interested in going for the broomstick once they’ve seen the man behind the curtain, so smart politicians don’t let that happen, especially when the stakes are this high.

Al Qaeda was never at this table and no one is planning to set a place for them now. They are mass murderers anywhere they can be: Bali, Kandahar, London, Madrid, New York and now, Iraq. This enemy is smart, resourceful and tough, and our early missteps created perfect conditions for the spread of their disease in Iraq.

Political solutions only work with people interested in a resolution where all parties can move forward. Al Qaeda is more interested in an outcome where they dominate through anachronistic anarchy. Our philosophies are so fundamentally different that fighting is inevitable. They want to go backwards and are willing to kill us to do so. We are unwilling to go backwards, and so they started killing us. Finally, we started killing back, but only seriously so after they rammed jets into our buildings, by which they hoped to cause the same chaos and collapse in America (where they failed) that they are fomenting in Iraq (where they are succeeding).

The doctor has made a decision: Al Qaeda must be excised. That means a large scale attack, and what appears to be the most widespread combat operations since the end of the ground war are now unfolding. A small part of that larger battle will be the Battle for Baquba. For those involved, it will be a very large battle, but in context, it will be only one of numerous similar battles now unfolding. Just as this sentence was written, we began dropping bombs south of Baghdad and our troops are in contact.

Northeast of Baghdad, innocent civilians are being asked to leave Baquba. More than 1,000 AQI fighters are there, with perhaps another thousand adjuncts. Baquba alone might be as intense as Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in late 2004. They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers—real snipers—have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.

The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.

Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cutoff escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.
Michael Yon is still a believer. And I remain opposed to what is happening. Although I don't like what I see, I understand and appreciate what is happening. The flypaper concept is working, but it is also creating as many flies as it attracts. As he said at the beginning of his essay...
Al Qaeda and associates had little or no presence in Iraq before the current war. But we made huge mistakes early on and are pumping blood and gold into the region to pay for those blunders. When we failed to secure the streets and to restore the stability needed to get Iraq on its feet, we sowed doubt and mistrust. When we disbanded the government and the army, and tolerated corruption and ineptitude in reconstruction, we created a vacuum and filled the ranks of an insurgency-hydra with mostly local talent. But when we flattened parts of Fallujah not once, but twice, primarily in response to the murders of four of our people, we helped create a spectacle of injustice and chaos, the very conditions in which Al Qaeda thrives.

I am not convinced that additional violence is the proper course of action, but like the layman confronting an arm or leg rotting away from infection, frostbite or irreparable damage from an accident, I also know that amputation is sometimes the only way that life can be saved. I honestly don't know what might be better. All I know is that what is happening is despicable and I want it to come to an end as soon as possible.

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