Thursday, January 10, 2008

Totten's Latest

Michael J. Totten has another installment. The article and comments are recommended reading.

They have to be careful when they talk about politics even indirectly. One mid-level officer, whom I shouldn’t name so I won’t get him in trouble, strongly recommended that I read Fiasco by Thomas Ricks. “Especially make sure you read the chapter called How to Create an Insurgency,” he said. “Ricks gets it exactly right in that chapter. But you can’t quote me by name saying that because it’s another way of saying the insurgency is Paul Bremer’s fault. And Bremer outranks me.”

Talking above their pay grade isn’t the only thing the Iraqi Police officer I call Ahmed was concerned with. “The Iraqi Police in this area are considered enemies by some people because we work with the Americans against the insurgents,” he said. “So we don't want our pictures to be shown in any newspapers.”


For all the hatred in the Middle East, there is also forgiveness, and moderation. Where are the moderate Muslims? ask many Americans. I find the question bizarre. I meet them every day in Iraq, and everywhere else in the Middle East, too. The problem is they have a hard time getting attention in newspapers and magazines that wallow in sensationalism.

“What happened before, happened,” said Omar, returning to the discussion of the American invasion with the Iraqi Police. “One mistake was committed, but it's gone. Let's just close it and not keep analyzing the same problem again. According to our analysis, American troops are now here to help Iraq.”


Every mosque in the Fallujah area – and there are more than 200 of them – broadcast pro-American messages from minaret loudspeakers. The messages inside the walls are as pro-American as the ones outside. The Marines have fluent Arabic-speakers listening in so they can keep their ears close to the ground of public opinion. If the mosques turn against Americans again, the Marines need to know.

When Mahmoud says Al Qaeda does not belong to Islam, he is not speaking theologically. I’m afraid Al Qaeda does belong to Islam if you look at it that way. But he is right that Al Qaeda does not belong to Islam as it is currently lived by the people in his community.

Totten's reports stand in sharp relief against the narrative most Americans are hearing. The man comes across as truly non-partisan.

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