June 19, 2007

Yon On Baqouba

Hatched by Dafydd

Michael Yon has a new dispatch up about the fighting in Diyala province (northeast of Baghdad) and in the southern outskirts of Baghdad. (Hat tip to Scott Johnson and Power Line.)

As always, there are parts I disagree with: Yon continues to beat the "civil war" drum in Iraq; and he states, several times, echoing a long-time Democratic meme, that "al Qaeda and associates had little or no presence in Iraq before the current war."

I have no idea whether he is a Republican, a Democrat, or something else (or nothing!)... but while arguing that al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion, it's pretty hard to get around Musab Zarqawi's Ansar al-Islam compound/training camp -- which operated in Kurdish Iraq years before the invasion. Zarqawi, of course, soon changed the name of his group to al-Qaeda in Iraq and had many juicy exchanges with al-Qaeda number two, Ayman Zawahiri.

But the meat of Yon's dispatch is that, while we made terrible mistakes at the beginning that allowed events in Iraq to deteriorate, we have since rectified and refined our operations there... particularly by appointing Gen. David Petraeus to command of all forces in Iraq:

Throughout 2006, my belief grew that Petraeus should be running this war. And though I had reached my own conclusions, others thought the same....

These words flow on the eve of a great battle, but are on hold until the attack is well underway. Nothing is certain. I am here and have been all year. We are in trouble, but we have a great General. The only one, I have long believed, who can lead the way out of this morass. Iraq is not hopeless. Iraq can stand again but first it must cast off these demons. And some of the demons must be killed.

Where Yon's writing truly lifts off is when he describes battles and campaigns, either post-hoc or anticipatory. Here he talks about the struggle that is to come in Diyala province and its capital Baqouba, and what it will entail. (This is the only long quote from Yon's long article; you should read it all. Yes, I know everybody who quotes from a source says "you should read it all"... but in this case, you really should. All the other times I said it, I was deliberately and perversely misleading you, just to waste your time. But this time, I promise I'm telling the truth!)

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.

The writing is riveting, but more important is what Yon tells us: That despite earlier mistakes -- mistakes about which I am less condemnatory than Michael Yon, since we were in terra incognita, while hindsight is... you know -- today, we are doing things far more right than wrong. We are winning and turning the tide of battle, even according to the previously gloomy Michael Yon.

But he warns of a brutal campaign to come: Steel yourselves, he says, for mass-media reports of mass "civilian" deaths (because terrorists and insurgents are technically civilians... get it?) and horrific, ungentlemanly conduct from our troops. Imagine, surrounding a city, cutting off all escape routes, and then systematically exterminating thousands of al-Qaeda operatives without even giving them a chance to save face by relocating to the province next door. Outrageous!

We often hear of some "neocon" (which the drive-by media now appears to define as any Republican who supports the Iraq war) who used to be a cheerleader for Operation Iraqi Freedom but now repents, confesses that it is not only unwinnable but the greatest war crime in human history, and has joined up with Mother Sheehan to call for all Republicans to be purged from office. Rarely do we hear of the opposite, a person more optimistic today than he was yesterday. The systemic bias of the elite media does not recognize that such people exist, even when confronted by them.

They will not recognize Michael Yon, both because of his message of hope, when they preach only despair; but just as important, because Yon is that most wretched of creatures: a true "citizen journalist." He didn't go to Columbia or any other J-school; he simply writes, in common-sense but compelling prose, what he sees (and as often photographs it as well, which ticks off yet another batch of newspaper folks). Worse, he is a former Special Forces soldier himself... so how could he possibly (argue the elites) cover Iraq objectively?

(For that kind of objectivity, you need someone who graduated from an accredited journalism school and is an active anti-Iraq war protester.)

It's not that Yon flies below the media's radar; rather, they have deliberately tuned their radar so that it cannot pick up people like Yon... like wearing special glasses that filter out the color red. Thus their narrative -- being uninformed by trenchant observers and brilliant wordsmiths like Yon -- floats disconnected and incomplete above the battlefield, struggling to see through the haze of gunsmoke...

The anointed journalist peers through the shifting smoke, and he manufactures fantastic visages of gods and demons (or often a duckie and a horsie). He writes, not about what he has seen (which isn't much beyond the insides of Green Zone bars and mess halls), but what he confabulated in place of real data. His narrative becomes a convenient fairy-tale that just happens, by sheer coincidence, to reinforce everything he always believed about the war before leaving the New York office.

I love Yon for the same reason that the J-school media hates him: He brings to his stories a new organizational principle that generates a unique story line. I disagree with much of what he says; but he says it with zest and sincerity, and he tries hard to back it up.

And that's why you should read it all. It's time better spent than watching reruns of the Sopranos or 24.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 19, 2007, at the time of 2:10 PM

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Tracked on June 22, 2007 6:06 AM


The following hissed in response by: BigLeeH

I have to admit that I have always rather liked Yon's assertion that there was a civil war going on in Iraq. When the American left applies the term "civil war" to a modern conflict the operative definition is "any war that is none of our d**n business and we should just butt out." For some reason Conservatives never contest that definition, they just deny that there is a civil war going on. "We have a legitimate vital interest" they reply "and we can't just butt out... so it can't be a civil war!" This brings the conservatives into a needless conflict with the plain meaning of the words.

I like Yon's notion that "Yes, of course there is a small-scale civil war going on in Iraq. There are significant domestic armed groups fighting over territory and resources. It is inconvenient but manageable. Given that there is a civil war, here are the adjustments we need to make to our strategy to achieve our objectives."

The above hissed in response by: BigLeeH [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2007 3:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

i read it all, but like your stuff better, though he may have more frontline info:

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 still maintain that the MOAB should've been dropped on Fallujah, right after we warned the 'innocent' to get out.

Von continues:

When we eviscerated Fallujah, Al Qaeda, who had not been here before, swarmed in and grew like a tumor.

Remember those last two Von quotes...early in his "new dispatch". Von then goes for a 'longie' up until he meets General Petraeus...the continues the 'longie'.

Hold on...Stratfor has just sent an email on this, "Iraq: A New Offensive in Diyala". i read it later, since Von beat them to the 'scoop'.

Von continues:

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.

Good stuff...but a Shift from his earlier statements (see above)...as he continues:

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.

We are still not going to use a MOAB, and i don't see a lot of difference from what we are about to do in Baquba compared to what we did originally did in Fallujah. Fact is, if i hadn't been keeping up with Dafydd's analysis on the SURGE, then i would be all over Von right now.

Anyway, i read his "new dispatch", he has a 'scoop', and his 'Tune' has changed.

Personally, i don't care how we WIN...as long as we WIN!!! MOAB'ing Fallujah was the way to treat the 'this patient' back then, and MOAB's are still gathering dust and moths...so to speak.

Stratfor: "Operation Arrowhead Ripper, led by the U.S. Army's third Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division, began early June 19 in Diyala province."

Stratfor ends with this: "Of course, the jihadists in Iraq are not going to simply go away. They have proven to be a resilient and innovative opponent for Iraq's government and the U.S. military, and some will escape the latest coalition operation. The United States will attempt to impede the most destabilizing and violent jihadist attacks. Meanwhile, Washington's negotiations with Tehran will continue, and Iraq will remain fragile."

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2007 5:47 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist


Coalition troops have simply followed the jihadists; a U.S. Stryker battalion has been operating in eastern Baqubah for several months, and more than 2,000 Kurdish peshmerga fighters were deployed to Baqubah the week of June 10 to assist with U.S. security operations already under way.


Meanwhile, the coalition is turning up the heat elsewhere; elements of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division began sweeping through other Sunni strongholds south of Baghdad in Babil province the weekend of June 16-17.

i don't read Von, but just added him to my Favorites...in bookmarks terms only. Why hasn't Von (forget MSM) been mentioning June 10th, June 16-17...it's not a secret?! Is he trying to now join the 'Dafydd's Band-Wagon'? Dafydd has been supporting the SURGE and General Petraeus for quite some time now...since the beginning or close to it.

Kudos to Dafydd on this!!!

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2007 6:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

"Operation Arrowhead Ripper" is starting to catch on...run a google search. Only a few right now, but growing...with Time now joining in, under a search for "Arrowhead Ripper".

Can MSM miss this one? Looks *HOT*, and they may have no choice.

Karmi smells blood...

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2007 6:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Run it on any search engine. "Arrowhead Ripper" is all over the place now, and growing.

The smell of blood is so strong now, that i am expecting a reply to my email to Kos (say an hour ago) to arrive by this coming weekend.

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2007 8:45 PM

The following hissed in response by: Cincy

If you have not / are not reading Michael Yon's reports you are doing yourself a real disservice. While not as prolific as Bill Roggio or Michel Totten, Yon is still one of the most fantastic resources you will see for a boots on the ground perspective.

And he is as straight foward and as honest as they come. He tells it like he sees and he sees it in vivid living color. And that is because he is embedded with our troops when he writes. He is not pontificating from the Green Zone. He is in the thick of the action and he has the greatest respect from, and thus acess to, the troops with whom he lives.

I have never agreed with his bald assertion that Iraq is in a civil war, becuase the term is used as a bludgeon against good policies by opponents of the war. But he understands counter insurgency better than anybody reporting on the war (with the possible exception of Bill Roggio) and he has championed Petraus because he saw Petraus successfully apply counter insurgency tactics in Mosul, Tal Afar and other areas of north western Iraq at the begining of the insurgency. He knows hist stuff and he is a GREAT resource.

Personally, I refer to him as the Erni Pyle of our time. His writing is compelling and if you have not done so you need to read some of his old reports. MOABs are simply NOT the solution in Iraq. Petraus' counter insurgency plan is the best chane we have.

The above hissed in response by: Cincy [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 20, 2007 8:13 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Greetings Cincy,

If you have not / are not reading Michael Yon's reports you are doing yourself a real disservice.

Yes, a disservice, and i have since starting reading him. Yon has Part 2 out now. Von points to another reporter, Michael Gordon of the NYT's, here.

SIDE NOTE: Other outlets are now mentioning that there is also a "Operation Phantom Thunder" going on? i'm not sure what its about yet, unless its in conjunction with Operation Arrowhead Ripper.

Personally, I refer to him as the Erni Pyle of our time. His writing is compelling and if you have not done so you need to read some of his old reports.

i'll find time to do that soon (as to reading his "old reports"), but for now i am into these new movements of the 'SURGE'.

MOABs are simply NOT the solution in Iraq. Petraus' counter insurgency plan is the best chane we have.

i still say that we should've used the MOAB on Fallujah...things have changed since then, and General Petraeus is running this battle in Iraq now, so perhaps this is not the time or place for using a MOAB (though i would certainly support its use).

Speaking of General Petraeus...here is a recent interview that is interesting. (Power Line's Scott 'pointed' me to it.)

The interviewer asked one question, that seemed silly - "Would you like the surge to continue indefinitely?" - though General Petraeus answered it as if it was not:

“It depends on what the sense is for the prospects of achieving Iraq’s constitution. I hope that we can put time back on the Washington clock. Al-Qaeda is keenly aware of the Washington clock. They are obviously going to have a surge of their own. You saw an example of this yesterday. They wanted to make sure that the headlines about the launch of the offensive don’t create too much hope."

Loved the "Washington clock" part, and 'noted' the "surge of their own" along with Al-Qaeda seeking to use "headlines" to their advantage.

General Petraeus is clearly 'Sharp', and gave a great interview. One exchange was of special interest to me, and has me asking (for now) - 'Are we going in circles here?'...so to speak of the following:

"Is it not too late to halt the violence?":

“There is a period of omnipotence. There was a period in the beginning when there was a ‘golden hour’. Inevitably, it does not matter how much you were viewed as a liberator, over time you will be seen as an occupier. The interesting dynamic here is that we have been here long enough to become liberators again for certain sectors of the population, those that are affected by extremism.”

OK...back to the MOAB's. ;-)

We have gone from "liberator" to "occupier" and now back to "liberator"!?!?! In my humble Low and Ignorant Insane swamp hermit's opinion, this is not the way to fight a Battle or a War...especially against this Enemy. We're foolishly fighting to 'wIn' what seems more like a 'Popularity Contest' (one that we can never win) than a Battle or War.

That's my 2-cents...for now. ;-)


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2007 7:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

The mistake we made in Fallujah, by not leveling it, keeps coming back to 'haunt' us.

Found the following at Michael J. Totten's site:

Give the keys of Iraq to the Iranians and join the insurgency.

That was the 3rd "Modest Proposal" (of 4) offered by Dan Simmons on "How to Get Out of Iraq".

That is pretty much where we are at now. Von finally did a update today, and the rumors appear to be true, that most AQI leaders escaped. Von calls his ending "jagged".

Bush '43' said that this War Against Terror, Terrorists, and the Supporters of Terrorism would take at least a decade (perhaps decades) to win, but support for it fell in less than a half-decade. More from Dan:

General Casey said in late 2005 –“The average counterinsurgency in the twentieth century has lasted nine years. Fighting insurgencies is a long-term proposition, and there’s no reason that we should believe that the insurgency in Iraq will take any less time to deal with.”

Figuring that America's policies are governed by 4-year (even 2-year) election cycles, making it to even a decade in Iraq will be impossible. More from Dan:

When we bugged out of Vietnam, there was zero probability that the local insurgents (the Viet Cong) or their victorious North Vietnamese Regular Army allies would pursue American forces and interests around the world or back to the continental United States to continue the battle. There is almost 100% probability that victorious al-Qaida in Iraq and jihadists who have been fighting there for four years now – as well as their state sponsors (who are also the greatest state sponsors of jihadist terrorism in the world) Iran and Syria – will use the shattered, failed, and newly Islamist state of Iraq as a safe haven and recruiting and staging area for attacks on Americans and American interests everywhere, not excluding the continental United States.

The Battlefronts in this War are about to do some shifting, with the American Homeland becoming one front, and 'Thangs will really get rough at that point. BTW, this Enemy doesn't use Timelines to win...

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2007 9:13 AM

The following hissed in response by: Trickish knave

I know that this post has moved to the bottom of the page but I htought this piece my Michael J. Totten was really good. He talks about the surge from a perspective of having been in the area a lot and traveling around talking to residents of the war torn states.

The 'surge' can not yet have failed

The above hissed in response by: Trickish knave [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 28, 2007 10:53 AM

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