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Michael Yon: Maysan

Annie

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Probably the best war correspondent today, but his messages haven't been one sided, and the photos always compelling. Here's his and excerpt from his latest 'dispatch':

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/maysan.htm
A Small Battle in the Media War

Morning run: Basra Air Station, Iraq.

As we drive to meet the Merlin helicopter, our vehicle displays a British flag on the dash. We pass teams of British soldiers at Basra Air Station as they conduct morning runs, preparing for the next combat, perhaps only hours away.

Numerous British units are stationed in Basra, including the Queens Royal Lancers, whose motto is “Death or Glory.” There is no assurance of Glory. I spent most of April 2007 with the Brits, which turned out to have been the most deadly month for British forces since the beginning of the war. The loss of any fallen soldier is significant. We lost about a hundred; the Brits lost about a dozen. The word “about” is not used to suggest a casual callousness about the fallen, but for a more specific conveyance: persons who are listed as wounded in action often later succumb.

While progress in Anbar is robust enough to make mainstream news reports, down in southern Iraq, the enemy is resurging. They are well-resourced, resilient and intelligent, and capable of landing hard punches. They recently “shot down” a C-130 with IEDs planted by the landing strip. The enemy may be good, but American and British forces are much better. On my previous two missions with the British Army, with the 2 Rifles first and the next day the Duke of Lancaster Regiment, they killed roughly a total of 40 enemy fighters, and they did so without sustaining a scratch to a British soldier. On the next mission with British forces, the enemy would successfully engage us, taking two British soldiers.

As the British increase their forces in Afghanistan, they are drawing down in Iraq. Although the drawdown in Iraq is based on pragmatism, the enemy apparently is attempting to create the perception of a military rout. So while the British reduce their forces in southern Iraq, they are coming under heavier fire and the enemy makes claims of driving “the occupiers” out.

In reality, the Brits were about to transfer authority over the Maysan Province to the Iraqi government. Thus, the day’s purpose, although seemingly more ceremonial in nature, was to counterpunch in the perception war, by focusing on the progress being made by the Iraqi Security Forces in the region. Some of the biggest battles in Iraq today are being fought not with bombs and bullets, but with cameras and keyboards. For whatever reasons—and there are many—today, when Western media is most needed here, it’s nearly gone.
Trees falling in the forest

One by one, the 18 provinces of Iraq are being turned over to the Iraqis. The big event for today was the handover of Maysan Province to Iraqi control. Media were all invited. Dozens of reporters came from places as far apart as Tehran and Los Angeles, though the few Western journalists would easily fit into a single helicopter. And that Merlin helicopter would fly us from Basra Air Station to FOB Sparrowhawk where the ceremony was to occur.

Flying in Iraq can be an adventure. The enemy has surface-to-air missiles. I was present in Mosul when American forces captured more than two dozen such missiles, and I recall a different day, rolling on a mission in Baghdad, when a radio announced that there was another “Fallen Angel.” Minutes later came another call. No survivors.

Tail-gunner view from Merlin helicopter on 18 April 2007.
Flight to Maysan

British and American commanders readily say that those who were previously seen as liberators are now increasingly perceived as occupiers. Some of the shift in perception follows merely from being here so long that our moves are increasingly likely to be interpreted negatively. Though I have seen British and American soldiers treating Iraqis with respect and kindness—often putting their own lives at risk to reduce danger to Iraqis—the simple act of moving from point A to point B often creates frictions, even when we are moving by means of the smallest possible footprint, in this instance by flying.

Smaller helicopters often fly very low using maneuverability as cover. Larger aircraft usually fly a little higher, and rely more on countermeasures to foil missiles. Countermeasures can be seen activating from helicopters over Baghdad every single day. This is no secret: Millions of Iraqis must see the flares popping out of aircraft to foil surface-to-air missiles. Yet, the countermeasures often seem to pop for no apparent reason. No missile is tracking us. Pilots say that the sensors still can be foiled by a glint off the water, or a refinery gas fire, for instance...
 
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Annie

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Interesting how little play the better news gets:

http://instapundit.com/archives2/005585.php

May 24, 2007

VIA MEMEORANDUM, I see that lefty bloggers are raining scorn on Joe Klein's report on Anbar, which I linked yesterday. Apparently, Klein's a victim of anonymous sources in shiny uniforms leaking Administration propaganda.

Well, possibly. Here at InstaPundit, however, I have a report from a non-anonymous source, who (I suspect) isn't shinily clothed. Here's the latest email from Michael Yon, who is actually in Anbar, and has been for a while:

Am in the city of Hit, out in Anbar Province, with Task Force 2-7 Infantry. 2-7 took over this section of Iraq on 08 February. The area of operations comprises approximately 4,000 square km with an estimated 100,000 people. On 30 Jan, as the last of the previous unit departed, 3 mortar rounds landed about 50 yards from where I sit, wounding about 8 of the departing soldiers. Since that time, there have been no mortar attacks on base – and only one possible small mortar attack in the entire 4,000 sq km. The last battalion took nearly 150 wounded and 15 killed in action in 14 months. They fought very hard while building the ISF, and I hope those soldiers, Marines and others would be happy and proud to know that their efforts set the conditions for the current success here. Following a major clearing operation that 2-7 IN executed with Iraqi Police when they initially took over, the guns are mostly quiet now. IEDs are still a threat but are few. Over the first one-hundred days, 2-7 has taken one wounded Soldier, and unfortunately a Marine was killed by an IED.

Otherwise, 2-7 hardly have fired their weapons. Today, I accompanied LTC Doug Crissman, the commander, to three meetings with Iraqi police and civilian leadership. The meetings were important but thankfully more administrative than combat oriented. Subjects included police recruitment and local politics, and actually seemed more difficult to navigate than "simple combat." And to think that only in January of this year, this city was a daily battle. Today, there are clear signs of development and the civilian population was out shopping. In addition to basic services being restored, the city of Hit has rebuilt its library. Citizens had stored away the books during the war here. They are preparing to re-stock the library. Glenn, you know that I do not hesitate to deliver bad news. I have no bad news to deliver today. The town of Hit clearly is doing much, much better. "Anbar the impossible" might be possible after all.

You know, if I didn't know better I'd think that some of the lefty bloggers would actually be happier if things were going badly. Meanwhile, to me the big news about the Time story was that Time was finally catching up with what warbloggers on the scene -- Michael Yon, J.d. Johannes, Bing West, etc. -- have been reporting for quite a while. Instead of criticizing Time for straying (if only a bit) off the current Democratic message, people should, if anything, be criticizing it for taking so long to get to the story.

Some related thoughts -- including, actually, a better criticism of what's going on in Anbar than you'll get from Klein's critics on the left -- here.
posted at 12:28 PM by Glenn Reynolds Permalink
 

onedomino

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You know, if I didn't know better I'd think that some of the lefty bloggers would actually be happier if things were going badly.
I do not think there is any question about that assertion. It also pertains to most elements of the MSM. If the Iraq event is not a homicide bombing, secular murder, or IED attack, it gets almost no exposure in the media. Even if the event is a successful military operation, unless it involves the capture of some high ranking Al Qaeda pos, it receives little coverage. The first of the following links has been previously posted. It offers some YouTube video showing activities of the MultiNational Force in Iraq; most of which could not be further from the MSM light of day. The second link is from the US Army Corps of Engineers - Gulf Region Division. It shows video concerning reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Such reconstruction efforts almost never appear on the MSM unless it is to report about waste or corruption. Much of the Green-Zoned MSM and their stateside studio cronnies are determined to see America lose in Iraq. The following few video clips offer some counterbalance to the black perspective streamed everyday by the talking heads on TV.

MultiNational Forces Iraq: http://youtube.com/profile_videos?user=MNFIRAQ&p=r

US Army Corps of Engineers GRD: http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=USACEGRD&p=r
 

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