Michael Yon has an excellent piece in The New York Daily News on the war in Iraq between Americans and Iraqis one side and al-Qaeda on the other. As Yon describes it:
When it comes to Iraq, being there matters because of the massive disconnect between what most Americans think they know about Iraq, and what is actually going on there.
The current controversy about the extent to which Al Qaeda is a threat to peace in Iraq is a case in point. Questions about which group calling itself an offshoot of Al Qaeda is really an offshoot of Al Qaeda is a distraction masquerading as a debate.
Al Qaeda is in Iraq, intentionally inflaming sectarian hostilities, deliberately pushing for full scale civil war. They do this by launching attacks against Shia, Sunni, Kurds and coalition forces. To ensure the attacks provoke counterattacks, they make them particularly gruesome.
Five weeks ago, I came into a village near Baqubah with American and Iraqi soldiers. Al Qaeda had openly stated Baqubah was their worldwide headquarters — indeed, Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed just a short drive away.
Behind the village was a palm grove. I stood there, amid the crushing stench of death, and photographed the remains of decapitated children and murdered adults. I can still smell the rotting corpses of those children.
That disconnect is slowly going away as more and more people get the real story of what’s going on in Iraq. Another factor is that the opposition to this war keep overplaying their hand — their conceit is that they believe that the war is already lost — yet it’s becoming more and more apparent that many of them are so invested in the notion of American defeat that they’re unwilling to rationally consider the situation.
The coalition has been scrambling to find a workable strategy for Iraq for years now — and the real story on the ground is that Gen. Petreaus’ strategy, having already worked in Tel Afar, is working now that it’s been applied across Iraq. The opposition wants to go back to the old Rumsfeldian way of doing things — leaving territory to unprepared Iraqi troops who quickly end up in the employ of militias or slaughtered by al-Qaeda. It’s ironic that that those who demanded a “new strategy” in Iraq got exactly what they wanted and now want to advocate the old strategy that’s already failed.
Yon is correct — al-Qaeda is in Iraq, and we have reasons both moral and pragmatic to fight them there. We cannot do that from 35,000 feet — counterterrorism just doesn’t work the way we see it in the movies. We have to accept the reality that we will have a protracted engagement with al-Qaeda in Iraq, and failure is not an option. The problem is that so many are so heavily invested in a political narrative of American defeat that they cannot look at the situation through any other lens — however, it’s precisely that kind of groupthink that creates foreign policy disasters.
The political narrative and reality aren’t even remotely alike — and the more people hear the truth from people like Michael Yon and other independent journalists creating a kind of high-tech samizdat movement from Iraq, the more the convenient political narrative will be exposed for the sham that it is. Our troops in Iraq are fighting bravely, putting their lives on the line for a mission that can and will be accomplished. It’s our chattering classes that are a paragon of failure, self-interest, and partisan blindness. While we point fingers at a dysfunctional Iraqi government, the sad truth of the matter is that our own unnecessary sectarian war doesn’t exactly reflect well on our democracy.