Baqubah Update: 05 July 2007 (Michael Yon Online)
As with the Battle for Mosul, which I held in near monopoly for about five months during 2005, the most interesting parts of the Battle for Baqubah are unfolding after the major fighting ends. But as the guns cool, the media stops raining and starts evaporating, or begins making only short visits of a week or so.
The big news on the streets today is that the people of Baqubah are generally ecstatic, although many hold in reserve a serious concern that we will abandon them again. For many Iraqis, we have morphed from being invaders to occupiers to members of a tribe. I call it the “al Ameriki tribe,” or “tribe America.”
I’ve seen this kind of progression in Mosul, out in Anbar and other places, and when I ask our military leaders if they have sensed any shift, many have said, yes, they too sense that Iraqis view us differently. In the context of sectarian and tribal strife, we are the tribe that people can—more or less and with giant caveats—rely on.
Most Iraqis I talk with acknowledge that if it was ever about the oil, it’s not now. Not mostly anyway. It clearly would have been cheaper just to buy the oil or invade somewhere easier that has more. Similarly, most Iraqis seem now to realize that we really don’t want to stay here, and that many of us can’t wait to get back home. They realize that we are not resolved to stay, but are impatient to drive down to Kuwait and sail away. And when they consider the Americans who actually deal with Iraqis every day, the Iraqis can no longer deny that we really do want them to succeed. But we want them to succeed without us. We want to see their streets are clean and safe, their grass is green, and their birds are singing. We want to see that on television. Not in person. We don’t want to be here. We tell them that every day. It finally has settled in that we are telling the truth.
Now that all those realizations and more have settled in, the dynamics here are changing in palpable ways.
The people were jubilant. None of the kids—and by the end of the day there were hundreds—asked me for anything, other than to take their photos. These were not the kids-made-brats by well-meaning soldiers, but polite Iraqi kids in situ, and the cameras were like a roller coaster ride for them. The kids didn’t care much for the video; they wanted still photos taken. While the kids were trying to get me to photograph them, it was as if the roller coaster was cranking and popping up the tracks, but when I finally turned the camera on them—snap!—it was as if the roller coaster had crested the apex and slipped into the thrill of gravity. Of course, once the ride ended, it only made some clamor for more. Iraqi kids that have not been spoiled by handouts are the funniest I have seen anywhere.
So apparently our new strategy and tactics are indeed working, although slowly. I’m not sure, though, that it could be done any faster.
A media that cares about informing the public might want to speak up on this, at some point.
Go read the whole thing. With bonus photos of cute Iraqi kids, smiling, one with her two front teeth missing!
What’s not to like?