Friday, June 16, 2006

# Posted 7:51 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT IF THE MEDIA WERE CONSERVATIVE? How would they report the war in Iraq? If you want to take a glimpse through the looking glass, I strongly recommend reading Michael Fumento's cover story [subscription only] in the Weekly Standard entitled "The New Band of Brothers". I would hardly call it a ringing endorsement of the war, even though it thoroughly illustrates the incredible bravery of our soldiers.

Fumento filed his dispatch from Ramadi, where he was embedded with the 1st battalion of the 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, the very same unit immortalized by Stephen Ambrose and HBO. Although Fumento (himself a vetern of the Army airborne) chose Ramadi because the combat there is the most intense, I would venture that the title of his story represents a conscious effort to cast the soldiers of this war as the descendants of those who fought in the Second World War, rather than in Vietnam.

The situation on the ground, however, is far more reminiscent of 'Nam than it is of Normandy:

All Ramadi is tremendously undermanned by coalition forces. With the current numbers, there's no hope of outright defeating the insurgents, and no Falluja-style operation seems to be in the works.

The Falluja fight inflicted terrible physical damage on that city, as I observed repeatedly on patrols there, and in any case would be difficult to replicate since Falluja had two natural barriers against which to pin the enemy, the Euphrates and Tigris, while Ramadi has only the Euphrates.

It's believed such an attack would also permanently alienate the local Sunni leadership, which must play a role in stabilizing the area. Finally, remember that it was the Falluja fight that made Ramadi what it is today. Do we want to draw in jihadists and gradually kill them or simply scatter them again and let them take up residence elsewhere in the Anbar desert?

Yet as Fumento himself observes, gradually killing the jihadists may take a very, very, very long time. To illustrate his point, he recounts a surreal incident in which an M-1 Abrams tank (named for the general who commanded US forces in Vietnam from 1968 on) was disabled by an IED:
You can't just abandon an Abrams, because it has unique equipment and armor. If the bad guys get hold of a single vital piece they could use it to determine ways of defeating these otherwise almost invincible behemoths. Further, they could sell the information to anybody with a vested interest in blowing up M-1s. You also can't just call in an airstrike on a tank, as is routinely done with downed aircraft. That's fine for destroying secret electronics, but blasting a tank just spreads out the parts.

To make things even more dicey, the Abrams carries a powerful 120mm main gun and three machine guns. The rounds for these weapons were "cooking off" in the fire, flying in all directions. They would continue to do so for the rest of the night, making retrieval too dangerous.

So the troops set up a perimeter and waited. As with the real downing of the Black Hawks in Somalia, the burning tank attracted bad guys from throughout the city. They kept pouring into the area to kill the infidels. But with their night-vision equipment and laser pointers, Americans own the night. The enemy came in droves and they died in droves. "The insurgents were so desperate to gain momentum against us that they were literally running into the streets to plant IEDs right in front of us or throwing them over walls," says Claburn. "It was purely amazing." By the time the rounds had stopped flying and the tank was recovered, 30 jihadists were confirmed dead. Disaster had been averted. But the price in blood was high. Two more soldiers from Headquarters Company had died when another IED ripped their Humvee apart. Later the engineers whose job it was to detect and remove IEDs came into Col. Clark's office, apologizing with tears in their eyes. "I told them you tried; you did your best; but you can't get all of them all the time," Clark said.
The image of an enemy almost immune to the human cost of the war is once again reminiscent of Vietnam. Even if we kill ten of them for every one of ours, our national will may be the first to break.

Of course Fumento hopes it won't. I hope the same. From a strategic and moral perspective, I believe that this is war we must win. Yet from the view on the ground in Ramadi, it is very hard to see how we are making much progress.
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Is it not true that we are undermanned in Ramadi BECAUSE centcom and the govt of Iraq have decided to make it a lower priority, securing Baghdad first, with 50,000 Iraqi troops (the best available?) ? And that other troops are being used to hold the rest of Anbar, including Fallujah, but also the towns near the Syrian border?

Theres a yin and a yang here - focusing only on "strategy" a al Bill Roggio and Wretchard can miss the reality on the ground, and leave one vulnerable to charges of being a "keyboard warrior" OTOH, dispatches from particular places, including not only ones like what you quoted, but equally good dispatches from less conservative publications, still need to be placed in a larger strategic context, if were going to draw strategic conclusions.
"Yet from the view on the ground in Ramadi, it is very hard to see how we are making much progress."

Okay, tree vs. forest problem here. Ramadi is one city, admittedly an important one, in one province, again a critical one, in Iraq.

Ramadi is the exception in Iraq, not the rule, and that, in war, is progress.
While it is true that Creighton Abrams was the top General in Vietnam from 1968 on, it is also true that he made his name in combat as a tank unit commander in World War II--which is why they named a tank after him. So your silly aside is even more silly. Maybe if they named a desk after him in tribute to his service in Vietnam, you'd have a point.
If the press were conservative it would adress legitimate issues [like not enough troops in a specific location] while acknowledging the overall progress as outlined in the recovered docs from last week's raids. I think a good way to view how the perspective on a war changes is to go back and read the coverage of the "Good War" prior to and then after June 21, 1941. It was only after Operation Barbarrosa that it became the "Good War" because the international avant garde now saw it as a war to make the world safe for the gulag. Orwell's passage in 1984 of changing enemies in midspeech was his illustration of how the printing presse's at The Nation, The New Republic, etc. were stopped and the editorials rewritten with a 180 degree pivot following that event. War" because the international avant garde now saw it as a war to make the world safe for the gulag.
"Yet as Fumento himself observes, gradually killing the jihadists may take a very, very, very long time."

It will take forever if the jihadists can be replaced with new recruits. How many potential jihadists turned 18 last year? How many will next year? Any army can fight forever, if it is continually resupplied with men, money and munitions. The question is: how do you cut off that supply?
We won the war 3 years ago. We are now in the midst of an occupation.

And their are only two ways to "win" an occupation. Either stabilize the situation and withdraw, or annex Iraq as the next Puerto Rico or Somoa.

We've had some good news recently. The completion of appointments to the Iraqi cabinet and the killing of Zarqawi. Of these the cabinet is really the most important development. A political solution is the only possible solution in Iraq and Zarqawi and his band of Al Qaida brothers, though a serious problem, pales in comparison to the purely sectarian violence going on.
Unfortunately, in this instance, that includes you David.


Al Qaeda in Iraq Died For Our Sins
June 16, 2006:
Al Qaeda in Iraq has been virtually wiped out by the loss of an address book. The death of al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was not as important as the capture of his address book and other planning documents in the wake of the June 7th bombing. U.S. troops are trained to quickly search for names and addresses when they stage a raid, pass that data on to a special intelligence cell, which then quickly sorts out which of the addresses should be raided immediately, before the enemy there can be warned that their identity has been compromised. More information is obtained in those raids, and that generates more raids. So far, the June 7th strike has led to over 500 more raids. There have been so many raids, that there are not enough U.S. troops to handle it, and over 30 percent of the raids have been carried by Iraqi troops or police, with no U.S. involvement. Nearly a thousand terrorist suspects have been killed or captured. The amount of information captured has overwhelmed intelligence organizations in Iraq, and more translators and analysts are assisting, via satellite link, from the United States and other locations.

Perhaps the most valuable finds have been al Qaeda planning documents confirming what has been suspected of terrorist strategy. Also valuable have been the al Qaeda assessment of their situation in Iraq. The terrorist strategy is one of desperation. While the effort continues, to attempt to trigger a civil war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq, this is seen as a losing proposition. The new strategy attempts to trigger a war between the United States and Iran. This would weaken the United States, and put the hurt on Iran, an arch-enemy of al Qaeda. Other documents stressed the need to manipulate Moslem and Western media. This was to be done by starting rumors of American atrocities, and feeding the media plausible supporting material. Al Qaeda's attitude was that if they could not win in reality, they could at least win imaginary battles via the media.

Zarqawi considered al Qaeda's situation in Iraq as "bleak." The most worrisome development was the growing number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police. These were able to easily spot the foreigners who made up so much of al Qaeda's strength. Moreover, more police and soldiers in an area meant some local civilians would feel safe enough to report al Qaeda activity. The result of all this is that there are far fewer foreign Arabs in Iraq fighting for al Qaeda. The terrorist organization has basically been taken over anti-government Sunni Arabs. That made the capture of Zarqawi even more valuable, as his address book contained a who's who of the anti-government Sunni Arab forces. This group has been hurt badly by last week's raids.

The government deployed two infantry divisions and over 40,000 police in and around Baghdad to prevent "revenge" attacks by terrorists not yet rounded up by the growing wave of raids. Al Qaeda has announced an increased number of attacks. These have not occurred, although it is believed that more attacks are possible, as many attacks in various stages of preparation can be rushed forward before they are aborted by a raiding soldiers or police. At the moment, most al Qaeda members appear to be scrambling for new hiding places.

The damage done by the post- Zarqawi raids has spurred the Sunni Arab amnesty negotiations. These have been stalled for months over the issue of how many Sunni Arabs, with "blood on their hands", should get amnesty. Letting the killers walk is a very contentious issue. There are thousands of Sunni Arabs involved here. The latest government proposal is to give amnesty to most of the Sunni Arabs who have just killed foreigners (mainly Americans). Of course, this offer was placed on the table without any prior consultations with the Americans. Naturally, such a deal would be impossible to sell back in the United States. But the Iraqis believe they could get away with it if it brought forth a general surrender of the Sunni Arab anti-government forces. The Iraqis, after all, are more concerned with Iraqi politics, than with what happens in the United States. Iraqi leaders believe that the U.S. has no choice by to continue supporting Iraqi pacification efforts. However, the spectacle of amnestied Sunni Arabs bragging to Arab, European and American reporters about how they killed Americans, might have interesting repercussions.
"I would venture that the title of his story represents a conscious effort to cast the soldiers of this war as the descendants of those who fought in the Second World War, rather than in Vietnam."

Maybe both. Grandfather in WW2, Dad in Viet Nam etc...
It's my opinion that without the defeatist U.S. (and Euro) media, the Iraq war would have been over long ago. The enemy takes heart with every report of U.S. anti-war polls, U.S. soldier bodycounts, etc. Although al-Quaeda are dying like flies, these media lice give them hope. Not too much was broadcast about the vote of 93-6 against "cut and run" in the Senate last week, was there?
"What if the media were conservative?" They would be posting the corpse of Zarqawi on the cover of Time Magazine so children could see it in supermarkets (as mine did). They would be hailing Bush's visit to Baghdad is if it were some major event and not a desperate photo-op. They would be acting as if the completion of the Iraqi cabinet somehow means the "Iraqi people" now have a government that "serves and represents them," and not one that has little power outside the Green Zone. Oh wait a minute, this is what the so-called "liberal media" has been pimping for a week now. Get a grip. We're in trouble in Iraq because we have a complete vacuum in leadership at the Pentagon and at the White House. We lost Iraq when Rumsfeld scoffed at the looters in April 2003 and denied the existence of an insurgency. Blaming the media for our troubles in Iraq is the last refuge of scoundrels. Read the cable between Khalilzad and Condi Rice in today's Washington Post if you want to know what Iraq is "really" like. And Khalilzad isn't exactly a member of the pacifist Bush-hating left.
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