Quick update from Baghdad

Baghdad, Iraq — Quick update from Baghdad. I’ve been on the front lines here in Iraq for the last month, spending about three weeks in Salman Pak (just south of Baghdad) with the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, from Ft. Benning, GA, and spending another several days near the Turkish/Syrian border with a Special Forces team.

As one of the very few journalists (out of the hundreds who come here) who actually spends times out on the front lines, seeing with my own eyes the gunshots, the IEDs, the school openings, etc., etc. — rather than simply sitting in safety and reporting hearsay — I have personally seen evidence that the ‘Surge’ is working militarily. I have also seen, though, how broken and splintered this country really is, and what a difficult — and perhaps impossible — task it is to rebuild it in a way that accomplishes the US’s goal of having a stable ally in the war on terror. Certainly the government, and the people, must buy into that goal and dedicate themselves to its accomplishment — something that has not happened to this point, and something which may in fact never happen.

In my opinion, though, it is too soon to close the books on the idea of Iraq — both because of the growing portion of the population which does want peace and stability (and is willing to fight for it), and because, like it or not — and regardless of when or why it came to be so — a central front in the War on Terror, against al Qaeda and other extremists, is, in fact, Iraq. Whatever decision we make regarding nation-building in that country, we must continue to address the presence there of terrorists whose stated goal is not only middle eastern domination (the establishment of the next “Caliphate”), but the eradication of America and Israel, and of our way of life.

I’ve seen the torture and killing that al Qaeda inflicts on the people of Iraq — and, for those who would draw a moral equivalence between them and the US, or blame us for their action, I must say that, having seen them in person, no body, when finished, looks the way one dealt with by al Qaeda does. What they do was not “learned” from America, nor made possible by us — but they must be eradicated by us, lest their unspeakable and indescribable brutality spread to other reaches.

In two days, I will be back out on the front lines, in Baqubah (the place AQI declared to be the capitol of their 21st century Caliphate) with the 25th Infantry Division. From there, I’ll head back to Baghdad, spending a week with the Iraqi Special Forces and three more with the 1-4 Cavalry in western Baghdad, before heading home around the middle of October. There is a great deal of information which is not getting out to the public in America — primarily because so few are actually on the front lines telling it — and, in my opinion, it is of vital importance that people have access to it so as to make a more informed decision, one way or the other, on the US’s involvement here.

Photos are available here. All posts, articles, etc. — whether published in The Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, Human Events, the Washington Times, or simply blog posts — are available at my site, which is here.

Thanks for your support.

30 comments

  1. Mark Rountree says:

    Good report Jeff, thanks.

    As some PP readers will know, my brother is a physician serving in Iraq. His area reached 123 degrees a few weeks ago, and with all the armour it was rough.

    …But then it really got rough his air conditioner broke.

    American soldiers are giving everything they’ve got to save lives and stop evil. There is no amount of thanks that we can offer to make our debt to them whole.

    Thanks for reporting on it.

  2. Mad Dog says:

    “Last year, CBS News cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan were killed and correspondent Kimberly Dozier was seriously wounded when a car bomb exploded as they were working on a story about American troops in Iraq. A U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in the same blast.

    According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 112 journalists and 40 media support workers

  3. Mark Rountree says:

    Actually Mad Dog, it was the left-leaning CNN editors (sitting in their air conditioned offices on the high rent districts), specifically CNN News Executive Eason Jordan, who knowingly (and admittedly) lied to cover up the atrocities off Saddam’s regime.

    Eason made a deal with Saddam NOT to report atrocities in Iraq in exchange for keeping a CNN news headquarters there.

    Don’t lay that intellectually dishonest stuff on Jeff while you sit in your own air conditioned office.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17462-2005Feb11.html

  4. Jeff,

    Thanks for the updates, be safe. Will you please poll each soldier as to whether they would favor spending $3 Billion a week on Alternative Energy Development or War?

    thanks,
    Vic

  5. Jeff Emanuel says:

    Mad Dog, grow up. I’m here seeing what other journalists do, and you’re simply wrong. The fact that danger can find them does not mean that they are actually out observing events as they happen.

    And please find the word “hotels” in my post.

    Tool.

    I love how people in their nice air conditioned homes think they know what goes on in places they can’t imagine, over eyewitnesses. That takes a WHOLE lot of arrogance, my friend.

    A WHOLE lot.

  6. jm says:

    I’m not going to argue the point about where reporters should be, and I know enough from my family history to respect where you are and the awesome service you are doing there. My grandfather reported in three wars, from Okinawa, Korea, and Viet Nam. He got lucky and died of Alzheimer’s at age 83, so good luck to you 🙂

    I’m not going to argue your points about the brutality of the enemy; you are there and you’ve seen it. But I just don’t agree with this one point, and it seems to me to be handed down as gospel from the “air conditioned” neoCons down to the grunt, and I still can’t buy it.

    “like it or not

  7. John Douglas says:

    Jeff, good report, thank you for being with our soldiers and not hiding in the Green Zone.

    Mark, give your brother our best and thank him for his service to our nation. He and the others around the world doing the dirty work of blocking evil from our shores again are all heroes.

    Meanwhile the surge is working from all accounts and the left scrambles to figure out how to discredit it. Caught with their political pants down, Defeatists like Murtha, Kennedy, Levin and Kerry sit stone quiet while local Iraqis turn on the enemy and report their activities toour guys. And that is exactly what it will take to destroy Al Qaeda in Iraq.

    Keep up the good work GIs, we support you 100%.

  8. Bill_k says:

    Jeff,

    I understand where MadDog is coming from. You are not the only reporter brave enough to risk your neck to find the real story. Perhaps you were referring to all those pundits and politicians that would drop in for a few days, take the guided (and heavily guarded) tour and then return home declaring they had seen the whole picture of Iraq.

    Perhaps you are right that Iraq is not a lost cause. As soon as we get rid of the incompetents who created the mess, perhaps we can forge a real plan for success.

    Anyway, nice article. I look forward to more reports from you. I especially want to hear more about your travels around the Syrian/Turkish border.

  9. ChuckEaton says:

    “Come home safe, Jeff. Even if you must wear blinders to preserve your opinions.”

    It’s getting a little arrogant when you think reading the NY Times while listening to Wolf Blitzer and sipping lattes gives you a better perspective than someone who is blogging from the front line.

    You may or may not be for the war, but don’t be so closed minded that you can’t see a first hand account contrary to your opinion without assuming the writer is naive or a jingoist.

  10. Jeff Emanuel says:

    Chuck, I met Bill Edge over here while with SF up north. I believe you know him 🙂

    jm, that’s a very good question. In all honesty, based on the intelligence I’ve seen, and the operations that I’ve seen, (a) AQI is populated both by foreign insurgents and by native Iraqi Sunni extremists, and (b) they are much more concerned with their own Caliphate here than they are with expanding their reach around the globe.

    Whether it’s because of increased effective US military activity, because of their own goals and lack of organization, or — in my opinion — both, AQI lacks, in the words of a Special Forces intelligence officer, the “global reach” that is the hallmark of its big brother.

    They are very, very good at causing chaos and destruction here, and publicizing it globally, but I don’t honestly think, at this point, that they have the means, the organization, or the will to export their terror across the Atlantic. That being said, “big al Qaeda” is also watching Iraq very closely, and has said repeatedly that it is, to them, the central front in the fight against the US, so that must be taken with at least some degree of seriousness.

    The bottom line on this is, as you said, the war against (and for) them will always be — at least partially — wherever we are. As we have declared war on them — and on their ideology — it would seem to behoove us to continue to fight them where they are.

    The “wealth” issue, as you mention it with bin Laden, is largely a nonissue. Many, many individuals who lead (or participate in) terror attacks in the West or in Third World countries are wealthy men — from bin Laden, to Ayman al Zawahiri, Abu-Musab al Zarqawi, and a half dozen of those involved in the Britain car bomb plot, all of whom are physicians.

    Bill_k, to a degree I am, but not entirely. While many, many journalists leave the green zone and go to Forward Operating Bases, where Battalion and Brigade headquarters are located, or even to Combat Outposts, where Companies and Platoons are, the vast majority of those tend to settle in there, in those heavily fortified outposts, and still report what they hear from those who actually go Outside the Wire, rather than going out themselves. There really are only a handful of us who leave safety of any kind and really do everything we can to bring an eyewitness perspective to the people at home.

    With regard to Rusty‘s analogy — yes, that’s a very good one. That’s why all of the on-the-ground embeds, which involve living and operating with platoons for weeks at a time in their areas of operations, must be supplemented by bigger-picture briefs, aerial familiarizations, etc, etc. I would never claim to be an expert on 100% of the Iraq war — I learn new things almost every day.

    The point is that, as I learn them, good, bad, or simply important, I pass them along, straight from the source — entirely unfiltered and unaltered by reliance on hearsay or by editors who, like Mad Dog, may think that they know better than the guy on the ground, despite the 4,000 mile difference in location.

  11. rugby_fan says:

    Jeff I applaud you for your willingness to put your self in such grave danger. It takes the heart of a lion just to want to board a plane to Baghdad.

    I’m still not convinced your reports are anything less than political puff pieces, that are in fact, more biased, beyond comprehension even, of the evil, liberal MSM.

    And I am willing to take this belief a little more and predict that if Petraeus says anything other than Iraq is not a lost cause (which I also believe), he will not be immune to you claiming he is wrong and should be discredited.

    Perhaps a touch of honesty is in store when you report on the openings of schools and rebuilding of a society.

    Mention how uniformed police officers are being bought by militias to shoot US soldiers, and that children can’t go to school because they are afraid of being kidnapped. You know, proof “that the

  12. Mad Dog says:

    Jeff,

    One more set of eyes and ears in a country of 24 million and only You have the full story.

    Laffing the buttons off my remote control.

    You’re bragging about being on the frontlines of a battle that has no front lines. And, you think that is factual reporting!

    Very partisan and self serving, Jeff.

    I hate your attitude that you’re special over everyone else. Where exactly does that come from? The luck of never riding directly over an IED?

    So tell me again about all the journalists that died … how they weren’t on the frontlines like you.

    You glad handing —– Keep Fighting Ideology with armored vehicles, body armor, and bullets.

    Perhaps the harshest attacks ever on ideology in the past 100 years was out of Hitlers Germany.

    How many years did Germany occupy France? How many French civilians were executed for every German soldier killed by the resistance? And, still on D-Day, the resistance was an effective force against the Germans.

    How many ideologies have you seen shot in the head lately…

    But, come home safe… so I can kick some truth into your posts from time to time.

    MD

    p.s. Get an atlas, man. I’m far more than 4,000 miles from Iraq. Even when confronted with something as simple as that, you can’t get the facts, bubba.

  13. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    “Meanwhile the surge is working from all accounts and the left scrambles to figure out how to discredit it. Caught with their political pants down, Defeatists like Murtha, Kennedy, Levin and Kerry sit stone quiet while local Iraqis turn on the enemy and report their activities toour guys. And that is exactly what it will take to destroy Al Qaeda in Iraq.”

    YES! That’s the Douglas I know and miss. Where have you been my friend? Obviously still lost in your world where the only directions are left and right, where the only colors are black and white, and where the only people are liberal and conservative. how can you live in such an oversimplified world?

  14. Jeff Emanuel says:

    I’ve been blown up by IEDs several times, MD. Sadly for you, none have been big enough to be the last.

    Yet.

    BTW, claiming that I’m running around and belittling the few journos who actually <i>are</i> in the thick it of shows how little regard <i>you</i> have for the truth (see <a href=”http://jeffemanuel.blogspot.com/2007/05/from-iraq-underscoring-danger.html” rel=”nofollow”>here</a>), not that that would make any difference in the size of your head.

  15. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    Jeff, keep up the good work. I don’t agree with all of your conclusions, but I believe and trust your observations and I admire the fact that you have the balls to be there.

  16. Mad Dog says:

    Jeff,

    Let me know when you get blown to hell as a journalist.

    Since Eric Errorickson has labeled me one of those people that celebrate soldiers dying in Iraq, I thought I’d act the part.

    MD

  17. Mad Dog says:

    “As one of the very few journalists (out of the hundreds who come here) who actually spends times out on the front lines, seeing with my own eyes the gunshots, the IEDs, the school openings, etc., etc.

  18. rugby_fan says:

    Jeff you also forget that the WaPo, NYT, ChiTrib &c. have Arab reporters and photographers, who, you know, speak Arabic, so they can, you know, conduct interviews, get sources, you know, report and do those pesky little things journos do. Its hard to do that if you don’t speak their language and they don’t speak yours, perhaps why many of the journalists you and Michelle Malkin have such an irrational hatred of don’t actually leave the Green Zone.

    Please tell me that you are not on this trip to promote your ideology, that you want to actually have your views challenged.

    I need a laugh.

  19. SpaceyG says:

    Jeff: If you get a chance, look up my step-cousin Stefan Sturkie, Army. He’s been in Baghdad over a year, and has been told he’s headed home (Germany) soon. He’s at: sturkmet at gmail dot com, if you’re in the Green Zone at all and can send an email. He’s not in combat right now; doing more community outreach type of stuff.

    Stefan’s a funny guy, a seen-it-all, done-it-all-by-now type of soldier. He’d be a good interview I’m sure.

    You take care of yourself. We want all of you home safe more than anything else, no matter what you’re doing over there.
    Spacey G.

  20. rugby_fan says:

    And Jeff I should add that despite my (what I think) are strong criticisms of your work, I genuinely wish only for your safety.

    Dominus vobiscum.

  21. Mark Rountree says:

    Mad Dog,

    Please tell me you I misread this statement: “Have no desire to see spam in a can.”

    If you are referring to Americans dying in Iraq — that is not funny, it is not cute, and I cannot believe I just read this insensitive comment by a fellow American.

    If you did say this the way it seems then you, sir, make me sick.

  22. Jeff Emanuel says:

    <blockquote>And I am willing to take this belief a little more and predict that if Petraeus says anything other than Iraq is not a lost cause (which I also believe), he will not be immune to you claiming he is wrong and should be discredited.</blockquote>Rugby, you have me mixed up with Harry “I spent six days in Iraq!” Reid, who called Petraeus “out of touch” with what’s going on there.

    I personally – not that it matters – think Petraeus is one heck of a brilliant mind, and that if he says that it can’t be done – for whatever reason – then it probably can’t.

    That being said, here’s my personal opinion, just between us: I don’t think we’ll “win” in Iraq. I think, having seen what’s going on here firsthand, that we certainly <i>can</i> have a positive outcome, but that there are enough people like yourself – who have decided that something you don’t even have much knowledge of is a lost cause – or Mad Dog, who is so wrapped up in partisan @$$-holishness to get over his own big, inaccuracy-filled head, that we will decide not to succeed, even if a positive outcome <i>is</i> possible.

    Please tell me that you are not on this trip to promote your ideology, that you want to actually have your views challenged.

    Rugby, FYI, when you’re being shot at or blown up, or witnessing kids going back to school or getting medical care for the first time in years, ideology is far less important that you and those back here at home think it is.

    Just to interject a dash of reality into the sadly political discussion.

    I still like you as much as ever though, and thanks for the wishes 🙂

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