Okay, I lied (about not posting political/military stuff for awhile). I mentioned previously that Michael Yon (read a bit about him here) has spent more time embedded in Iraq than pretty much anyone. He's got a new book coming out detailing what he saw: Moment of Truth in Iraq. My copy is on its way, and I will post a review as soon as I devour it. Meantime, he's got an interview in National Review that is really compelling reading. A few excerpts are included below.
As a side note: Yon didn't really go to Iraq to be a cheerleader and he's as big a critic as anyone of the numerous and dire mistakes we've made. But he found that what he was seeing on the news did not comport with what he heard was happening from the soldiers he knew over there so he went over to find out for himself. As a result, he's had the opportunity to watch the troops closer up than just about anyone, and is a compelling and credible commentator on the character of the American soldier and the value that represents for all of us.
"The American soldier is the most dangerous man in the world, and the Iraqis had to learn that before they would trust or respect our folks. But it is only after they see with their own eyes that we are even happier helping to build a school or to make a neighborhood safe that we really got their attention."
"We are winning partly because in the most violent sections of the country this became a war of competing values, terrorist values vs. American values. Few people with a choice choose al Qaeda."
"When al-Qaeda murderers detonate a bomb in the middle of a crowd of school children, our guys rush the kids to the medics. Then they go kill the terrorists. They are really good at both. They may enjoy hanging out with kids more than killing terrorists, but it’s a close call."
"American soldiers love dogs and you will find dogs on every big base in Iraq even though it’s completely against the rules. When I embedded with the Tennessee National Guard the base was full of them — mostly sleeping right outside the dining hall. But at night those dogs were out patrolling the perimeter. The dogs know whose side they are on."
"Many Iraqi kids have been brought back to the U.S. for medical treatment after soldiers found them sick. I recall the case of Rhma in 2005 in Mosul. Cute little girl with a heart condition. The soldiers got the case rolling, and before long good-hearted American citizens had her in New Mexico getting treated. I recall a story wherein her mom was so surprised because she thought Americans must hate Iraqis, and then she realized we don’t hate them at all."
"Infantry soldiers are great to talk to because they really don’t have time for anything but the unvarnished truth. Some army or state department bureaucrat might issue a memo like 'The tenuous security situation in Ramadi makes it advisable to don protective headgear in situations in which visitors may be exposed to hostile fire.' The infantry will just put up a sign that says 'The last dumbass who didn’t duck got shot in the head.'"
"The best thing the U.S. is going to get out of Iraq is a great generation of leaders who have had a unique experience in American history of trying to help freedom and democracy and the rule of law take root in a culture that has never known them. Someone should write a book about what that experience could mean for American democracy."
If you're interested to read more in-depth stories from Yon, you might start here, with this pretty stunning story about Kiowa helicopter pilots in Mosul.
[Incidentally, Scott 'www.ewav.com' Christensen has contributed some nicely balanced counterpoints to all my Iraq cheerleading here.]