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The question, via Powerline
So some research is required, in the best tradition of getting at the truth, using radio, cable news, and the blogosphere: any of our military readers on the ground in Iraq care to chime in? Who is right? McCain, Ware? Or is it somewhere in between.If this is the point in question:
McCain: "There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today."
Ware: "To suggest that there's any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I'd love Senator McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll."
I'm a few weeks away from returning to Iraq, and haven't been there in two years, but I've spoken with an awful lot of folks who are now and have been - and I'd have to agree with Ware. McCain is correct only with qualifiers (qualifiers such as "with lots of big guys in armor, with guns, and the high ground secured"), and none are offered in the quotes. I don't think McCain is any more accurate in his description than John Murtha is with his - and reporters aren't likely to grant McCain the unquestioned pass they will Murtha.
And that opens McCain to comments like this:
Ware: "I mean, Senator McCain's credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, has now been left out hanging to dry."
And that's unfortunate (though a bit excessive) - because on a related topic upon which there is consensus, I think Senator McCain nails it:
The debate in Congress has an “Alice in Wonderland” quality about it: we are debating efforts to micro-manage a conflict based on what the conditions were three months ago – NOT on what the reality is today. Conditions have changed in Iraq. The Baghdad Security Plan – the “surge” – is working far better than even the most optimistic supporter had predicted. The progress is tangible in many key areas despite the fact that only 40 percent of the planned forces are in Iraq.Ware's comments can be read back at Powerline:
“Allow me to review some specifics. In Baghdad, the military has reported an increase in real-time actionable intelligence, provided to U.S. and Iraqi forces by a newly confident population. Prime Minister Maliki, who prevented U.S. troops from conducting certain Baghdad operations last year, has given the green light to American incursions throughout the city, including Shiite strongholds. All of the Iraqi army battalions called for under the plan have arrived, many at or above 75 percent of their programmed manning levels. Bomb attacks and murders are down since the surge began. Civilians killed in Baghdad numbered 1222 in December, 954 in January, and fell to 494 in February. There are reports of Sunni and Shia moving back into neighborhoods from which they had fled constant and horrific violence. Markets that have been subject to horrific car bombings have been turned into pedestrian malls that facilitate commerce and thwart terrorists.
“Moqtada al-Sadr has fled, possibly to Iran, and has ordered his followers not to oppose the new Baghdad Security Plan. The Madhi Army, purportedly dedicated to the expulsion of Americans from Iraq, does not today openly challenge either U.S. or Iraqi forces. American troops are engaged in reconstruction efforts in Sadr city, with the cooperation of the local mayor. And in western Baghdad, our troops are establishing new outposts in areas [red tabs] that have been conduits for al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) penetration into the capital city, and have begun to clear these areas of terrorists and insurgents. The net result of all this is that key Shiite leaders are now claiming that the Baghdad Security Plan was their idea, and are taking credit for the increase in security – a development that would have unthinkable three months ago.
“There is progress outside Baghdad as well: Throughout Anbar Province, Sunni sheikhs have banded together to fight al Qaeda in Iraq, and are pouring recruits into the police forces. Sixteen of 26 tribes in that western province are now working against al Qaeda. With numerous senior al Qaeda leaders killed or captured, the younger, less experienced leaders are making mistakes, such as targeting respected sheikhs and murdering children, that have alienated Sunnis and their leaders.
“In Ramadi, hundreds of Iraqi police last week conducted a major sweep.
“In the surrounding areas, including Haditha, and Hit, U.S. and Iraqi are conducting operations against al Qaeda and insurgents while protecting the population.
“In Diyala Province, U.S. forces expelled al Qaeda forces from one of their major bases in January, seized major weapons caches, disrupted fighter networks, and cleared cities and villages of al Qaeda fighters. A U.S. Stryker battalion has reinforced Diyala and is conducting major operations against AQI forces seeking to reconstitute. At the same time, other U.S. forces in Diyala are acting against rogue Madhi Army leaders in the province and are holding the Diyala and Tigris Rivers to combat re-infiltration into Baghdad.
“On the belt to the south of Baghdad, al Qaeda has come under heavy U.S. pressure in recent weeks, with American forces destroying car bomb factories and uncovering major weapons caches in areas such as Yusufiya, Latifiya, and Salman Pak.
“In Mosul, U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed and captured numerous al Qaeda operatives since December.
“In Samarra, American and Iraqi troops have captured al Qaeda facilitators and north of the city, Salahuddin Province, American troops have moved off of their Forward Operating Base and into the town of Bayji, an important hub on the road network.
If any Senator believes that our troops’ sacrifice is truly in vain, the dictates of conscience demand that he or she act to prevent it. Those who would cut off all funding for this war, though I disagree deeply with their position, and dread its consequences, have the courage of their convictions, and I respect them for it.
If, on the other hand, you believe, as I do, that an increase of U.S. troops in Iraq, carrying out a counterinsurgency mission, provides the best chance for success in Iraq, then you should give your support to this new strategy. It may not be popular nor politically expedient, but we are always at our best when we put aside the small politics of the day in the interest of our nation and the values upon which they rest.
Those are the only responsible, the only honorable choices before us.
BLITZER: What about this vote? The tug-of-war, the political battle unfolding here in the Senate. The House of Representatives calling for some sort of timeline for a withdrawal of combat forces.So I suspect that on that point, the reporter and the senator are in near agreement.
How does this play out in Baghdad? What do people there where you are, Michael, say about this?
WARE: Well, on the ground, it barely passes without a flicker. Of course, people take notes of the domestic politics back in D.C., in the United States. But honestly, that seems so far removed from the reality here on the ground.
People are still dying in the dozens every single day. There may be a security crackdown, but al Qaeda's suicide car bombers are still getting through. And we're finding 20, 30 tortured, executed bodies on the streets of the capital every morning, and American troops continue to die every day.
And just this afternoon, we've seen a double suicide truck bomb attack, followed by ground infantry assault by al Qaeda launched against an American position. Now, that was repelled, but eight American boys were wounded in the process.
Do you think anyone enduring that is paying attention to artificial deadlines that are going to get vetoed by the president? And even if they were to pass through the legislative process, would only serve al Qaeda and Iran, America's enemies? No. People are focusing on the near game -- Wolf.
And props to McCain for this line, too: ”I strongly recommend to the White House that the president read the list of pork to the American people when he vetoes this bill.”
The President did mention some of the pork specifically, and gave a shout out to Iraq the Model in his speech this morning to the cattlemen's association or whatever group that was...Posted by Miss Ladybug at March 29, 2007 02:57 AM
Maybe both are true. Yes, the daily toll of bombings, etc... is severe and dire (Ware). But that doesn't mean the overall trajectory of the situation isn't going in the direction McCain says it is. McCain is simply pointing out glimmers of hope that support his view that momentum is changing in the coalition's favor.
Ware is directly involved in the day-to-day. But he's not exactly going to appreciate the larger trends and stakes upon which the U.S. leadership has to make judgements. Ware is looking through the soda straw just as the MSM accuses soldiers of seeing things. McCain has the benefit of info on the whole picture that maybe Ware doesn't have, and is taking the strategic view.
That said, this is a guy who said he watched insurgents load chlorine (?) somewhere, and still hasn't come clean about where he got the footage of the soldier being shot by the sniper that CNN ran. Maybe Blitzer could ask him about that next time.
Ware is also melodramatic and one of those "insurgents are ten feet tall and their victory is inevitable" reporters who's spin allows them to survive out on the mean streets.Posted by jordan at March 29, 2007 02:49 PM
McCain is correct in that much of life in Baghdad is normal. Michael Ware thinks the whole city is on fire because his job (or at least what he considers to be his job) is to always be seeking out the nearest explosion. If he stuck around in one neighborhood for a week straight he'd be bored off his rocker, because chances are not a dang thing would be happening there. No one's going to pay him for that, so he doesn't make the effort to get at the real truth, just the sensational truth. Note that both are still the truth, just unbalanced in either direction.
I'd gladly go back to Baghdad alone and just hang out before I'd ever go solo to places like Southcentral LA or various sections of Detroit. My little sister was robbed at gunpoint in her neighborhood pharmacy in Houston at approximately the same time I was likely walking down the middle of the street in Baghdad and drinking chai with the locals. Okay, so she didn't have to dodge the occasional roadside explosion and sniper fire, but so what. Violence is violence.
Bottom line: Ware has been there too long. He needs to rotate home so he can screw his head back on, assuming that would help at this point.
Don't. Believe. The Hype.Posted by Buck Sargent at March 30, 2007 06:30 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(3) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)