Tuesday, May 28, 2013

As I took time to remember my fellow veterans this Memorial Day for the sacrifices they have made for our freedom, I was reminded of the quote "For those who fought for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know." I was also reminded of my oath "...to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic..."  I pray that all my brother and sisters who have served and continued to serve remember their oaths as our Constitution, the foundation of our freedoms, remains under constant attack.  I pray that those who took the oath and lost their way find their way back before our Constitution and liberties are gone.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Prayers for Boston. Prayers for Justice.

Our prayers go out to Boston and all of those affected by Monday’s Patriot Day bombing.  While most Americans held their breaths while the FBI and authorities tracked down those responsible, Michael Moore and Chris Matthews were among the many that accused “right-wing extremist” of carrying out the bombing.  Salon magazine even published an article on Tuesday titled “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.”  We now know that none of those politically motivated, baseless accusations were wrong—two Muslims from the Chechnya border region of Russia.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A day of remembrance-A call for vigilance.

Ten years ago (September 11, 2001) was the 20th anniversary of my Marine Corps bootcamp graduation. It was a day that I had planned a quiet personal reflection of the past 20 years. Little did I know was that it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Now that day has new meaning for me, as it does for every American. I will never forget the evil that that happened that day in the name of Islam. I hope that every American understand the enemies of freedom the way I have come to know them over the past ten years.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Iraq’s Awakening in Perspective

Much is being written about the Sahwa or Awakening in Iraq, and many are trying to take credit. From analysts confined to the safety of Washington Beltway offices to journalists trying to make up years inadequate coverage of events in Iraq, many are trying to become instant experts on the Awakening to be the first to explain a phenomenon that is far more complex than most superficial explanations to date. Thomas Ricks, for example, provides only fragments information and draws the wrong conclusions. Likewise, David Rose, whose Vanity Fair article titled "Heads in the Sand" provides unique insight into U.S. Marine Corps engagement efforts going back to 2004, misses many important details of the events he attempts to describe while making assertions that cannot be supported. Understanding both the origins and complexities of the Awakening that began in al-Anbar Province Iraq and spread across the Iraq is critical in understanding U.S. success in Iraq. It is also important in understanding U.S. Marine efforts in Southern Afghanistan, known by some as “Talibanistan.” This fall, the Marine Corps History Division will release a unique examination of U.S. Marine efforts in al-Anbar Province focusing on the Awakening. What makes it significant is that is includes the first-hand perspective of leading Anbaris who played important roles in the Awakening. This project is a peer reviewed collaboration between three Marine Field Historians, Colonel Gary Montgomery, Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Wheeler, and myself. In the meantime, as this project goes into the production process, I travel to Southern Afghanistan to begin recording the history of Marines as they take on a new role.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Untold Story of Iraq. Part 5 Iraqis in Control II

As my blogs have been leading up to all spring and summer, last U.S. Marines formally turned over the governance and scurity of al-Anbar Province to the Iraqis. This is an important and historic landmark in the Iraq War -- one that represents U.S. and success in both Iraq and the War on Terror. For a full report on how al-Anbar went from the most volitile province in Iraq to a model for all of Iraq, please see my full report at http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=28412.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Untold Story of Iraq (Part 4): Iraqis in Control

NOTE: Having recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan I finally had a chance to read two great books Among the People: U.S. Marines in Iraq by Lieutenant Colonel David Benhoff (Read more about this book at here) and Michael Yon’s much anticipated book Moment of truth in Iraq: How a New "Greatest Generation" of American Soldiers is Turning Defeat and Disaster Into Victory and Hope (Read more about this book at here). I highly recommend them!

The Sunni-dominated al Anbar Province largely abstained from participation in Iraq’s landmark 2005 elections. However, now that they are free of both the Baath Party’s and al Qaeda’s oppressive control and influence they have embraced the concept of democratic self-government, albeit with an Iraqi twist. Fallujah, like much of al-Anbar Province and Iraq as a whole, is structured around tribal leadership, which is one reason why Iraqis hesitated to embrace democracy. However, tribal leaders are now supportive of the democratic process because they are now included in it. Importantly, women, once excluded from government and the debate on important issues, are now participating in Iraqi government and society.
In a previous post, I reported that I attended I had the privilege to attend a Fallujah City council meeting. There I witnessed Fallujah’s leaders taking charge of their city’s governance and work to resolve important issues in the community. I also witnessed two Iraqi women attend the meeting, representatives of the Iraqi Women’s Engagement program. To me, this was a clear sign that women were not only participating in government, but also that the issues and concerns of women were being addressed. During the meeting, I witnessed Fallujah’s sheiks come together for a common good, and being integrated into a larger provincial governance. Their biggest challenge, was gaining the full support of Iraq’s central government. While Marines and other U.S. representative attended the meeting, we were only there when called upon to offer advice and offer U.S. support when needed. Nonetheless, it was very clear that, with U.S. help, Iraqis are building provincial and municipal governments that provide self-governance and self-reliance. Currently, Anbar’s political parties are now active in the political process in anticipation of the upcoming fall 2008 Provincial elections—demonstrating that Anbar is moving forward in the democratic process.
In addition to Anbar’s move to democracy and the promise of new economic prosperity, social changes are taking place that are beginning to transform Anbari society. Anbaris are no longer isolated or indoctrinated by state-owned media. New radio and television stations, along with new newspapers, magazines, and improved Internet access, are helping to not only educate and inform Anbaris, but include them in the discussion of issues and exchange of ideas. For the first time in history, local Anbari leaders are using the media to engage their people, to include call-in programs where locals can talk to their officials about important issues. A few days after I attended the city council meeting, local leaders, including Fallujah mayor, Saad Owad, and Colonel Faisal, Fallujah’s Police Chief, participated in a local call-in talk show where Iraqis asked questions about issue while also voicing their concerns. This is truly historic—unheard of in Iraq’s history and certainly not tolerated if al-Qaeda had succeeded in imposing it will on the city.
Meanwhile, a program called Iraqi Women’s Engagement is helping empower Iraqi women while improving their position in Iraqi society and government. The program is also working with other U.S. agencies to help Anbar’s Civil Society organizations provide for those Iraqis excluded from other programs—such as widows, the disabled, and the elderly. Amid the social changes and improved security, more parents are sending their children to school, and many older Iraqis are attending adult literacy programs, vocational, training, or attending one of al-Anbar University’s seventeen colleges across al Anbar, including a woman’s college.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Untold Story of Iraq (Part 3): Economic Regeneration and the Promise of Prosperity

Security has fostered relationships that allowed U.S. Marines and other U.S. agencies in al Anbar Province to partner with local Iraqi leaders to build local democratic governments, establish the rule of law, and improve Anbar’s economy while rebuilding long-neglected infrastructure and restoring vital services. Across the province, U.S. and Iraqi cooperation is building new hospitals, schools, and government buildings. It is improving roads, railways, and bridges. What is more, cooperation is building new power plants and sewage treatment facilities, and improving the area’s oil refineries and fuel distribution centers.

As the quality of life improves through the restoration of vital services, U.S. agencies are creating business development centers and helping Iraqis obtain micro-financing and foreign investment while encouraging wealthy Iraqis, yes they do exists, to invest in their country’s future. Such programs are already helping increase output of Anbar’s established cement, tile, and steel fabrication factories. Likewise, investment is helping improve irrigation for livestock and farm products.

Many prominent Iraqis have traveled around the Middle East and have seen examples of the region’s prosperity. They understand Iraq’s potential and have a shared vision for al Anbar’s future. This common vision includes thriving agriculture, mining, and manufacturing industries, and even a growing tourism industry. In fact, Anbari leaders hope to turn a popular resort on the shores of Lake Habbaniyah into a world-class resort attracting tourists from all over the region.

In addition to the promise of new economic prosperity, social changes are taking place that are beginning to transform Anbari society. Anbaris are no longer isolated or indoctrinated by state-owned media. New radio and television stations, along with new newspapers, magazines, and improved Internet access, are helping to not only educate and inform Anbaris, but include them in the discussion of issues and exchange of ideas. For the first time in history, local Anbari leaders are using the media to engage their people, to include call-in programs where locals can talk to their officials about important issues.

Improved security means more parents are sending their children to school. Likewise, more opportunities are encouraging many Iraqis to attend adult literacy programs or vocational training. Al Anbar University, which oversees seventeen colleges across al Anbar, including a woman’s college, is enjoying increasing enrollment. Meanwhile, a program called Iraqi Women’s Engagement is helping empower Iraqi women while improving their position in Iraqi society and government. The program is also working with other U.S. agencies to help Anbar’s Civil Society organizations provide for those Iraqis excluded from other programs—such as widows, the disabled, and the elderly. Furthermore, as a reflection of Anbar’s progress and goodwill, Ramadi, al Anbar’s capital, has applied with Sister Cities International in hopes of promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation with a sister-city in the United States (see Sister Cities Web site). However, this news goes untold, keeping Americans as uninformed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Untold Story of Iraq (Part 2): Security

Iraq’s security is greatly improving with the surge of U.S. troops and counterinsurgency strategy, but its largest province, al Anbar, is improving at an accelerated rate and stands out as a model for the rest of the nation. Marines sought to implement a counterinsurgency strategy when they returned to Iraq in 2004. However, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had sought to impose Islamic law on the Sunni dominated province and turn it into a safe haven to launch attacks on Baghdad. This led to a drawn out kinetic contest for both security and the hearts and minds of the Iraqis living in al Anbar. Only when Anbaris realized, after centuries of indoctrination and isolation, that al Qaeda was the enemy, not the United States, did this begin began to change.

The Sahwa, Awakening, movement created an opening that allowed U.S. Marines to work with the Iraqi Army and police toward a common goal of protecting the Anbaris from AQI’s murder and intimidation campaign. While developing a more proficient Iraqi police and military, Marines secured the cities and towns across al Anbar, from Fallujah and Ramadi in the east, up the Euphrates River valley to Hit, Haditha, and al Qaim on the Syrian border. After first establishing security check points controlling access into the cities, searching everyone and requiring identification cards for all Iraqis, Marines divided cities into neighborhoods or precincts to control movement and further restricting al Qaeda and foreign insurgents. Iraqi police controlled the checkpoints entering the city while the Sons of Iraq worked with Iraqi police at precinct checkpoints to their own neighborhoods. Marines moved from hardened bases into smaller outposts within these “gated communities,” and began living with Iraqis police where they conducted joint patrols to engage the population and root out remaining insurgents living in the cities. Meanwhile, Marines simultaneously worked with tribal and business leaders, government representatives, and Imams to provide humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, and provide vital services. These efforts brought significant success, which neutralized the enemy in al Anbar and set the conditions for bigger and broader gains. Not only were Anbaris pointing out weapons caches, but they were pointing out insurgents and their supporters—eliminating whole terror cells and their financial supporters.

As the Iraqi police and Army recruitment grew, Marines provided the necessary training for them to defeat AQI on their own. However, by living and working with the Iraqis, mentoring them and setting examples for them to follow, they built comradery, trust, and respect. With Anbar’s key cities secure, Marines reduced their presence while demilitarizing the cities and began turning more responsibility over to the Iraqis. This allowed Marines to turn outward to the outlying areas where they began driving AQI terrorists father out into desolate desert regions, and pursuing them relentlessly. In the cities, Marines fell back into support and mentoring roles, and then turned their attention to assisting with improving al Anbar’s economy, local government, infrastructure and vital services, rule of law, and education. Currently, this transition is providing a sense of normalcy to Iraqi life, and other provinces are now trying to emulate al Anbar, which stands as a model for all of Iraq. Meanwhile, U.S. Marine trained Iraqi Army brigades are defeating AQI cells and Muqtada al Sadr’s Iranian backed militia in other areas both inside and outside al Anbar, thus setting the conditions for these provinces to follow the al Anbar model.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Untold Story of Iraq (Part 1)

Traveling around Western Iraq has left little time for writing. Nonetheless, my travels expose the untold story of Iraq—untold in-part because few Western journalists venture to this area. Many of those journalists that do come to here are respected by Marines for attempting to report the full scope of what is taking place here in al Anbar Province. Others journalists, like Sudarsan Raghavan, the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, are not. Raghavan came to Fallujah under the pretenses of covering Fallujah as a whole, but ignored the city’s security, clean streets, new construction, and cooperation between Iraqis and U.S. forces. Instead, he attempted to gain access to the high security detention facility after Marines had told him he couldn’t go there in an effort to cast a shadow over Fallujah’s progress and the U.S. presence here. Raghavan then moved to Basra where he provided reports sympathetic to Muqtada al Sadr’s Iranian supported militia that terrorized the population.

Having crossed paths with a few journalists here, I have come to better understand why the full story of Iraq is not being told. According to two journalists I spoke during my travels, most Western journalists will not come out here because there is no shooting going on here. They also told me that they are willing to write about the progress in al Anbar, but that most editors and producers do not want that story. It comes down to the old cliché—“if it bleeds, it leads.”

Iraq’s untold story begins here in al Anbar Province, the largest province in Iraq. It is an area that some Iraqi and U.S. officials wrote off as untamable two years ago, but has become the model for Iraq.

Iraq’s untold story is first one of security. Aside from Iranian backed militias in Sadr City and Southern Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and similar terrorist groups are crippled throughout most of Iraq. Here in Western Iraq AQI is neutralized. Ongoing operations continue to hunt down AQI remnants with great success. In regard to Sadr’s militia’s, Iraqi military success in Basra is a sign of what promises to be a final showdown in Sadr City. Second, Iraq’s untold story is one of economic regeneration and the promise of prosperity. Not only are Iraq’s schools, hospitals, and infrastructure improving, but factories, refineries, and businesses are beginning to return to life—attracting foreign and domestic investment. Meanwhile, job training programs are providing new skills. Third, Iraq’s untold story it is one of social progress. Iraq’s democratization brings with it the rule of law, and women are being given bigger roles in Iraqi society. Finally, Iraq’s untold story is one of cooperation and friendship. In all areas, Iraqis are working with Americans towards common goals in improving Iraq’s security, infrastructure, and economy. I will elaborate on each of these areas in up coming posts. For more see:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Visit to Downtown Fallujah

With limited Internet access the past couple of weeks I am playing catchup.

Last week I returned to Fallujah to attend a City Council meeting and visit Marines of 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines operating out an old hotel in the heart of Fallujah in the Fallujah City Government complex. Four of these Marines were completing their second tour in Iraq, and another was serving his third—all five serving previously in the Fallujah vicinity. Expecting a more hostile environment, 2nd Platoon arrived after the Awakening Movement had taken root in Fallujah. They were surprised to find that instead of being shot at, or parents pulling their children in the gates of their compounds, the children played freely in the streets, and adults came out of their compounds and waved. Children often came up to them and held their arms as they walked down the street, or begged them to play soccer, while adults came up to them to talk. These young American diplomats told me they occasionally had meals with Iraqi families, or shared a cup of chai tea. They also told me how they frequently delivered food bags to the poorer families, and school bags filled with school supplies to the schools in their precinct.
That night I went out with second squad on a mobile patrol through the city as they showed their replacements the city. While there were no women out that late, men and boys sat on the front steps of their compounds, whereas others socialized in groups on the sidewalk. Some storeowners sat in their stores hoping for a late customer. Everywhere we went the Iraqi Police and Sons of Iraq kept a diligent watch on the city, controlling movement from precinct to precinct. We stopped in one neighborhood and dismounted for several minutes as the patrol leader had a friendly conversation with an Iraqi man smoking a cigarette on his from porch.
The “Samurai” of 2nd Platoon left Fallujah with their battalion this week after seven months in the heart of Fallujah. The entire battalion left without a single casualty or a single moment of combat.
Meanwhile, the Awakening has not only led to better security in Fallujah and al Anbar Province, as well as better relations with U.S. forces, but has led to more tips from locals regarding finding weapons caches and killing al Qaeda terrorists.

For on the massive weapons caches: http://www.mnfwest.usmc.mil/MNF/mnfw_IM.nsf/(ArticlesRead)/7845BE14884DFC39432574300072CD2C

For excellent unbiased journalism on Iraq:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fallujah now versus then

I traveled into the heart of Fallujah today, to the infamous bridge known to Marines as the “Blackwater Bridge” where the charred mutilated bodies of four American security agents working for Blackwater were hung for the world to see in an al Qaeda propaganda stunt custom made for al Jazeera’s cameras. Iraqis know the bridge as the King Faisal Bridge, named for Iraq’s first monarch after World War I, who personally dedicated the bridge in 1927. Today, characteristic of the “awakening” taking place, the busy bridge was rededicated to King Faisal, and leading the rededication ceremony was Colonel Faisal, head of Iraqi Police in Fallujah. Colonel Faisal is an amazing man, whom I am told fought against us in both wars. A greatly respected man, he is representative of “the awakening” here in al Anbar Province. However, because of his strong relationship with U.S. forces here and his commitment to eradicate al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) here, he is a target for AQI terror and assassination. Each member of Colonel Faisal’s personal body guard detail has a personal reason to keep him alive, because each member has had someone in their family killed by al Qaeda. The King Faisal Bridge is important to Fallujans, and its rededication an important milestone in reconciliation and progress here in Fallujah and Western Iraq. (For more see http://www.mnfwest.usmc.mil/MNF%2Fmnfw_public.nsf/unitSites/mnf-west)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Return to Fallujah

In the three and a half years since I left Fallujah, the many of the same Iraqis who fought against us when I was here in 2004 now work with us against a common enemy. They realized that al-Qaeda wanted total control of the population, and used terrorism against the local population to achieve that goal. This included murdering children in horrific ways to get people to plant roadside bombs or become suicide bombers.
Al Fallujah is one of several cities along the Euphrates River where many of Iraq’s Sunnis lived. Although ar Ramadi was the political capital of al Anbar Province, al Fallujah holds a significant position of its own. Its proximity between Baghdad and Syria and Jordan made it a crossroads for the smuggling trade and the Iraqi Baath Party maintained considerable commercial interests there. Even before Saddam came to power, Iraqi’s considered Fallujah a dangerous and unfriendly place—an ancient criminal safe haven and a cesspool of organized crime. Because of its ancient history as a way station for merchants, smugglers, and thieves crossing the desert, some considered this rebellious and independent city a hideout for bandits and terrorists long before the fall of Saddam.
Before Operation Vigilant Resolve in 2004, Fallujah was a large city of 250,000 to 300,000 people, concentrated in a relatively small urban area compared to familiar cities in the U.S (there are many estimates of the cities population). Fallujah’s people are composed of several tribes, of which a hand full of larger tribes vie for control of the city—control of its government, its businesses, its crime—even control its people. While the tribal Sheiks, influential Baathists, and city elders held some power, the Sunni Imams, or religious leaders, claimed a larger share of it for themselves, using their abilities to influence large groups of followers. With three Muslim colleges renowned for Islamic fundamentalism, and seventy-two mosques, Fallujah is Iraq’s Wahhabi capital and is known as the “City of Mosques.” These Wahhabis hoped to establish an Islamic Shariah government in Iraq, intimidating both secular Iraqis and Shias. The convergence of Arab tribal culture, crime, and Wahhabi Islam conspired to make Fallujah a rebellious, independent city, and a potential threat to Baath interests. For these reasons, Saddam kept many of his best troops on the large cluster of bases outside the city now used by Coalition forces.
Following the Baath Party’s fall from power in 2003, Fallujah’s larger tribes began vying for control of the city’s government, businesses, people, and crime. Amid this factional climate, some tribes and factions began attacking and terrorizing their enemies, which invited retaliation and the full fury of vendetta and counter-vendetta custom. Meanwhile, the Wahhabi Imams (religious leaders) joined the foreign fighters, who came for inspired by anti-western rhetoric and religious fanaticism, and began to assert their power for not only control of the city, but for Iraq.
When media generated public outcry ended Operation Vigilant Resolve before it reached its objectives (see the previous blog), Fallujah’s terrorists and guerrillas operated with impunity, and became an al-Qaeda base of operations for attacks on Baghdad. Nicholas Berg and others, as shown on al-Jazeera, were beheaded here. Both senior American and the new Iraqi leadership realized the ending Operation Vigilant Resolve had been a mistake and allowed the U.S. Marines and Army to secure the city in the fiercest urban combat since Hue City in Vietnam.
Since then, the residents of Fallujah have been returning and rebuilding the city. Despite periods of violence in 2005 and 2006, the city, along with all of al Anbar Province, has embraced U.S. forces in a common cause. The U.S. Marine model has greatly influenced the new counter insurgency strategy developed by General David Petraeus and implemented by General Raymond Odierno. Now Fallujah is a place where children can play freely in the streets, and Marines can enter more as guest. Nonetheless, al-Qaeda in Iraq is desperate, and is expected to attempt deadly attacks to disrupt the peace and attract needed media attention.

What the numbers really represent

(Delayed post from 2 April 2008) For the past couple of weeks the media has concentrated on the five-year anniversary of the Iraq War and the 4,000 casualty figure—defining the U.S. effort here in such narrow terms as it had since Vietnam while ignoring the overall effort and reports of progress. There are many ways to put that number in perspective, such as that about that many die every year on California’s highways, or that the annual murder rate in the United States exceeds that number, or that in past wars more than that would die in a single battle. However, none of these comparisons tell the full story. The true measure of U.S. involvement in Iraq is that we, the United States and the West, are making friends from former enemies for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. These are enemies that once sided with both the Nazis and Soviets, and isolated from the West for centuries, they were indoctrinated to hate us. Now for the first time they are getting to know us, and as some Iraqis told me during me last deployment, liking us. Contrary to the claims of some intellectuals, isolated themselves in Ivy covered buildings, the United States is a beacon of freedom, democracy, hope, and opportunity in this region.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Iraq Beyond the Headlines

As I prepare to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan for another tour, I reflect on my last assignment and the significant events that have occurred since my return. In 2004, I arrived in Fallujah during Operation Vigilant Resolve, which ensued shortly after the terrorists ambushed and murdered four American contractors working for Blackwater. I soon discovered a huge disparity between what was really happening in Iraq and what was being reported to the world. However, America’s misunderstanding of Iraq became very apparent when I read emails or letters from my family and friends back home and I was forced to dispel myths about Iraq as I encountered them—and there were a lot.
During that deployment, I felt that what was being reported was often inaccurate, just plain false—or simply just a few pixels of a much larger picture where what was missing told the real story. Everyday we found weapons cashes, captured insurgents, and helped rebuild local infrastructure. Yet our countless tactical successes went unreported, failing to give our armed forces the credit we deserved. Instead, journalists provided narrow or distorted accounts of what was happening—filled with hasty and unqualified commentary on things they did not fully understand. What is more, journalists focused only on casualties, violence, and Iraqis expressing anti-American sentiment. All of this helped create a mythology about the conflict that adversely influenced public opinion on the war.
I quickly began to grow very frustrated with the media and it did not take very long for me to realize that Americans were not getting the full story about Iraq—or Fallujah for that matter. My original blog, Patriot Log, came from an effort to explain to my family and friends the real story of our military and Iraq—the story that the media is not telling. In this new format, I endeavor to continue telling the story of Iraq the media is not—from my own eye witness perspective.
To understand the Western media’s failure to accurately report the war in Iraq, I will briefly recap six years of observation and research.
During Coalition operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001, the few Western journalists attempting to cover the conflict could not get close to the fighting to accurately report what occurred. Many became reliant Arab journalists or al-Jazeera, the dominant Arab satellite station, for material. Al-Jazeera dominated media coverage with reports sympathetic to al-Qaeda and Taliban.
In an effort to overcome this failure, the Western media committed nearly a thousand media personnel to covering the Iraq War, “embedding” them with Coalition forces. This unprecedented media effort gave the world full reports of the war from every front. Meanwhile, a few unembedded, or unilateral, journalists in Baghdad were controlled by the Iraqi Information Ministry and provided contradictory reports. Nonetheless, Al-Jazeera exceeded the Western media effort, recruiting hundreds of Iraqi journalists across the country, and in the end dominated Iraq War coverage.
When Coalition forces liberated Baghdad, most Western journalist went home. Those few who remained dis-embedded themselves, and reported from the safety of Baghdad’s Green Zone fearing death and kidnapping. Instead of going out on patrols with Coalition forces, they began to monitor the Arab media, and hire local Iraqi reporters, called stringers, to gather information and sometimes ghostwrite reports. Therefore, a year later when terrorists murdered and mutilated four Americans working for Blackwater in Fallujah, only al-Jazeera was on hand to record the gruesome images and cheering crowds. Western journalists, without any real knowledge of what had transpired, wove reports from fragments of hearsay, and used al-Jazeera for material.
Intelligence operatives had quickly identified those responsible for the murders, and U.S. Marines planned to use let covert action deal with those responsible and ordered an attack. However, the incident evoked public outrage was viewed as the last straw in a long series of events. CentCom overruled the Marine’s plan and ordered an attack.
As U.S. Marines closed on the city and confidently took out enemy strongholds confirmed by covert operatives with coordinated assaults and precision bombs, they also helped Fallujans evacuate the city.
Not surprisingly, al-Jazeera dominated news coverage and provided a drastically different view, making it look like U.S. forces trapped Fallujah’s population in the city and massacred them indiscriminately. Few Western journalists accompanied troops into the city, and only one television crew represented all five major U.S. television networks. Western journalists reporting from the safety of the U.S. Marine base outside the city never seemed to grasp what they reported. They provide factual errors, blatant distortions of events, and incomplete reports. They dismissed government reports, instead preferring to report al-Jazeera’s narrative of events.
Believing al-Jazeera’s accounts of Fallujah, both the Iraqi and Arab leaders demanded an end to the fighting. U.S. Marines were close to securing Fallujah and decisively defeating Fallujah’s guerrilla forces when ordered them to end their assault. Fallujans and Jihadists alike proclaimed victory and celebrated in front of al Jazeera’s cameras. Thus, for the second time in two weeks, the United States changed its position based on misleading or sensationalized media coverage. The result allowed guerrillas and terrorists inside Fallujah to regroup while delaying the inevitable. Those who understood history quickly compared the sudden change in support for the war following the series of incidents in Fallujah to what happened in the Tet Offensive during Vietnam where the media portrayed America’s victory as a defeat.
The Iraq I return to is significantly different than the one I left. Following the important elections in 2005, Iraq suffered a period of sectarian violence as Shia and Sunni extremists, neither representing their respective majorities, sought for control of Iraq—particularly the important Muslim city of Baghdad. Despite this, Sunnis in al Anbar province and Fallujah began to see al Qaeda for the terrorists they were and began to turn against them in what became known as the awakening. Meanwhile, U.S. troop increases combined with targeted operations and a revised counterinsurgency strategy have succeeded in providing security and stability in Iraq. Nonetheless, the work in Iraq is unfinished. With al-Qaeda greatly diminished, but not out, Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia fights a determined proxy war for Iraq. Except for a surge of journalists covering key events like Iraq’s landmark elections, only a handful of journalist cover events in Iraq, most remaining on the scene for only a short time. Moreover, they continue to report from the safety of Baghdad’s Green Zone, and rely on local Iraqi journalists to compile their reports. NOTE: The preceeding summary is carefully documented in my definitive study The Battle for Hearts and Minds: A Case Study of Media influence in the Iraq War.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Our Troops Report Progress in Iraq

January 25, 2006—Returning soldiers and Marines report progress in Iraq in a variety of ways. Lt. Colonel Oscar Hall told the Army Times that he saw the number of improvised explosive device attack decline from 14 per day to two during his tour. Meanwhile Scott Wilson, a journalist with the Chico Enterprise Record, returned from his National Guard assignment Iraq to report the progress in light of the war’s reality. Moreover, he tells us about the media bias and narrow reporting he witnessed—something that I’ve been telling the world since my return.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Osama's Truce

Yesterday Osama Bin Laden offered the United States a truce. Imagine that? Yet in the same video-taped speech he promise more attacks on the United States. Osama is in hiding. Al Qaeda is in retreat. The United States had dealt al Qaeda a damaging blow and in constant pursuit. Bin Laden escapes only because he is a snake, and like a snake he can never change. A truce with al Qaeda will of course never happen. Nonetheless, Bin Laden desperately hopes to buy time--time to slip away because we are closing in--time to rebuild al Qaeda. We did not kill his second in command last week, but we did in fact kill has chemical weapons specialist. Go USA!
Patriot-at-Large, USMC, Fallujah, Iraq Veteran.