Thursday, August 16, 2007

'An Irritating Contradiction' to What the World Wants to Believe

The German magazine Der Spiegel, no supporter of the Iraq war or the Bush administration, has just published a lengthy article on , is the surprising progress (from Der Spiegel’s point of view) of the surge in Iraq. (“Hope and Despair in Divided Iraq”). It is well worth reading.

Citing Ramadi in particular as an “irritating contradiction of almost everything the world thinks it knows about Iraq,” the article says the peaceful situation there today:

is proof that the US military is more successful than the world wants to believe. Ramadi demonstrates that large parts of Iraq -- not just Anbar Province, but also many other rural areas along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers -- are essentially pacified today. This is news the world doesn't hear: Ramadi, long a hotbed of unrest, a city that once formed the southwestern tip of the notorious "Sunni Triangle," is now telling a different story, a story of Americans who came here as liberators, became hated occupiers and are now the protectors of Iraqi reconstruction.

Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters (“German Mag: US Military in Iraq More Successful Than World Wants To Believe”), cites numerous quotes from the piece, asking over and over, “Can you imagine any American journalist writing such words?”

Here's another example:

Since June, Ramadi residents have only known the war from televison. [sic] Indeed, US military officials at the Baghdad headquarters of Operation Iraqi Freedom often have trouble believing their eyes when they read the reports coming in from their units in Ramadi these days. Exploded car bombs: zero. Detonated roadside bombs: zero. Rocket fire: zero. Grenade fire: zero. Shots from rifles and pistols: zero. Weapons caches discovered: dozens. Terrorists arrested: many.

Here’s another outstanding passage from the Der Spiegel article, thanks in particular to the golden-tongued observations of US Army Captain Lauer:

The US military is more successful in Iraq than the world wants to believe.

The Iraq war came within a hair of returning to Ramadi in early July. The attackers had already gathered four kilometers (about 2.5 miles) south of the city, on the banks of the Nasr canal. Between 40 and 50 men dressed in light uniforms were armed like soldiers and prepared to commit a series of suicide bombings. They had already strapped explosive vests to their bodies and loaded thousands of kilograms of explosives, missiles and grenades onto two old Mercedes trucks. But their plan was foiled when Iraqis intent on preserving peace in Ramadi betrayed them to the Americans.

Army Units of the 1st Battalion of the 77th United States Armored Regiment -- nicknamed the "Steel Tigers" and sent from an American base in Schweinfurt, Germany -- approached from the north and south. But the enemy was strong and they quickly realized that in order to defeat it, they needed air support. Before long, Apache combat helicopters, F-18 Hornet and AV-8 Harrier jets approached, the explosions from their guns lighting up the night sky on June 30.

The "Battle of Donkey Island," named after the wild donkeys native to the region, lasted 23 hours. The Americans forced the enemy to engage in trench warfare in the rough brush, eventually trapping them in the vast riverside landscape. It wasn't until later, after the soldiers lost two of their own and killed 35 terrorists, that they realized the scope of the disaster they had foiled.

Three of the captured attackers, who claimed to be members of al-Qaida in Iraq, revealed their plan to plunge Ramadi into chaos once again by staging multiple attacks in broad daylight. By unleashing a devastating series of suicide attacks on the city, they hoped to destroy the delicate peace in Ramadi and bring the war back to its markets, squares, streets and residential neighborhoods.

Two weeks after the battle, Ian Lauer is walking through Ramadi's western Tameem neighborhood, the edges of which melt into the vast Syrian Desert. Lauer, a captain, is in charge of Charlie Company. He hasn't forgotten the Battle of Donkey Island. The members of his company have just emerged from four armor-plated Humvees and are now strolling toward a nearby mosque.

"A few months ago, you couldn't have taken a single step here without getting shot at," says Lauer, a fair-skinned 30-year-old who still seems oddly pale under his suntan "We couldn't leave our fucking camp without being fucking shot at," he says. "Now it's peaceful and it's fucking great."

Great, naturally, unless you happen to be one of those clinging to what “the world wants to believe” about the US losing the war in Iraq--and because you have some personal stake in the bad guys winning.

In that case, you find this kind of news an “irritating contradiction” to what you want to believe.

You may recall that in early July, just around the time of the Battle of Donkey Island, Harry Reid, Carl Levin, and Dick Lugar were in Washington trying to push through Congress a plan to admit failure and pull out of Iraq. (“Sensing a Shift, Reid Will Press for an Iraq Exit”). They are convinced that there is no military solution. I think the recent Ramadi says otherwise.

Personally, I welcome the input and honesty from Der Spiegel (and O'Hanlon's and Pollock's honest assessment in the New York Times last week in A War We Just Might Win). I also welcome the good news these stories are reporting from Ramadi and elsewhere.

In fact, I think it's fucking great.

But if you just find it irritating, why in the world would that be?

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