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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This is not what I expected in Baghdad: Iraq

Once again I find a piece on memeorandum that shows more than just good news From Iraq, more than just ad news from Iraq, but gives us a look at Iraqi's, our military and aspects of the surge that are not commonly discussed in the MSM.

Michael Totten, yet another embedded independent journalist that risks life and limb to bring news from Iraq has an excellent article with pictures and statements from our troops.

I am going to provide a few excerpts that struck me here, then at the end, I will link to the whole piece, which is something that needs to be read by everyone, no matter what side of the issue you are on.


The surge started with these guys. Its progress here is therefore more measurable than it is anywhere else.

I have to add here, that while reporters from the MSM hide out in the Green Zone and rely on rumors from stringers to write their articles, people like Trotten go to the RED Zone to bring us first hand, eyewitness accounts of how things are going.

Just to the right of my knees were the feet of the gunner. He stood in the middle of the Humvee and manned a machine gun in a turret sticking out of the top. I could hear him swiveling his cannon from side to side and pointing it into the trees as we approached the urban sector in their area of operations.

This was all purely defensive. The battalion I’m embedded with here in Baghdad hasn’t suffered a single casualty – not even one soldier wounded – since they arrived in the Red Zone in January. The surge in this part of the city could not possibly be going better than it already is. Most of Graya’at’s insurgents and terrorists who haven’t yet fled are either captured, dormant, or dead.

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The strategy of clearing and holding instead of what was the strategy of clearing and moving on, has, indeed, helped our military win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi citizens that are beginning to understand that we have adjusted what didn't work and found a formula that does work.

We slowly rolled into the market area. Smiling children ran up to and alongside the convoy and excitedly waved hello. It felt like I was riding with a liberating army.

Graya’at’s streets are quiet and safe. It doesn’t look or feel like war zone at all. American soldiers just a few miles away are still engaged in almost daily firefights with insurgents and terrorists, but this part of the city has been cleared by the surge.

Before the surge started the neighborhood was much more dangerous than it is now.

“We were on base at Camp Taji [north of the city] and commuting to work,” Major Jazdyk told me earlier. “The problem with that was that the only space we dominated was inside our Humvees. So we moved into the neighborhoods and live there now with the locals. We know them and they know us.”

Lieutenant Lawrence Pitts from Fayetteville, North Carolina, elaborated. “We patrol the streets of this neighborhood 24/7,” he said. “We knock on doors, ask people what they need help with. We really do what we can to help them out. We let them know that we’re here to work with them to make their city safe in the hopes that they’ll give us the intel we need on the bad guys. And it worked.”

Michael Trotten also points out that where the U.S and Coalition forces were once regarded with distrust, they are now welcomed with smiles and happiness.

Dozens of Iraqi civilians milled about on the streets.

“Salam Aleikum,” said the soldiers and I as we walked past.

“Aleikum as Salam,” said each in return.

They really did seem happy to see us.

This is not what I expected in Baghdad,” I said.

“Most of what we’re doing doesn’t get reported in the media,” he said. “We’re not fighting a war here anymore, not in this area. We’ve moved way beyond that stage. We built a soccer field for the kids, bought all kinds of equipment, bought them school books and even chalk. Soon we’re installing 1,500 solar street lamps so they have light at night and can take some of the load off the power grid. The media only covers the gruesome stuff. We go to the sheiks and say hey man, what kind of projects do you want in this area? They give us a list and we submit the paperwork. When the projects get approved, we give them the money and help them buy stuff.”

I am going to stop here and send you to Totten's site to see the rest of this amazing phenomenon because he is doing the work, funds himself, and there is so much more in this peice that I cannot do the justice to it that he has done.

Where the surge has been in full force, it is working and people are starting to live their lives again without fear.

There are still places that the surge hasn't gotten to and that is where you find violence and fear still, but one neighborhood at a time, one province at a time, the U.S., Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security forces are winning hearts and minds and more importantly, LOYALTY from the Iraqi citizens and THAT is what will allow political reforms to happen.

One step at a time.

Go. Read this wonderful piece. Enjoy it.

At the end of it, donate something to help Michael to continue to bring us the truth, bad and good from Iraq.

Thank you Michael, we appreciate it.

For the good news in other parts of Iraq, see our previous piece.