Tuesday, July 26, 2005

"Empty Jars" 

In very possibly the best blog post you will read all summer, Michael Yon describes counterinsurgency in Iraq at a micro level. By all means read the whole thing, but consider particularly his take on the local status of foreign jihadis:
Still, of all the clawing hands weighting the legs of the new Iraq, the foreign "jihadists" get the least respect and are mostly despised. Local terrorists, even those who trade in newly-minted matyrs, seem to view jihadists as the lowest of the low-- as if the volunteers-come-hither are merely fungible foreign idiots, worth less than the wads of floppy third-world currencies crumpled in their pockets. The foreign fighters are a sort of toxic waste film drifting and floating on the surface of this civil war. Their touch is stain...

I was sitting in the TOC when intelligence arrived that a top Mosul terrorist was in a certain location nearby. It so happened that LT Orande Roy Sr, along with his Deuce Four Stryker platoon, was also nearby. Minutes later, LT Roy rolled up on a dozen Iraqi men. The soldiers began to detain and separate the men when they spied one man slowly reaching into his pocket and wrestled him down. Specialists Joseph Vanvranken and Darrell Blanchard searched him and found a hand grenade and pistol in his pocket. As these were revealed, the other Iraqis, as if on cue, started pointing to the man with the grenade and the pistol saying he was a bad guy, or perhaps the bad guy.

In the excitement, a baby boy began crying. The man holding the boy was having little success in comforting him, so another man looked concerned for the child and asked to hold him. Of all the men there, LT Roy said, the man who reached for the child seemed the calmest, safest and friendliest.

About that time, one of the younger American soldiers walked out to LT Roy holding a vest filled with explosives at arm's length--luckily, his handling of it had not detonated the device. LT Roy decided to detain everyone, and as one soldier reached for the child, the friendly man started to shudder, his calm facade faltering. Adding to the mix, the interpreter noticed that one of the men had a foreign accent. He was Libyan.

The Libyan, like so many "jihadists" who come to Iraq itching for action in the holy war, found himself treated as exspendable bomb casing. He started confessing everything. In fact, he had no sooner sat down at the table in the detention facility here on base than he had filled three pages with his detailed handwritten confessions. He had crossed the border from Syria into Iraq on foot, intent on fighting a holy war, as an infantryman engaged in direct combat with American soldiers. He did not want to be a martyr, merely a jihadist. He did not want to die in Iraq. His Iraqis "hosts" had threatened to kill him if he refused to wear and detonate the explosive vest while mingling into a crowd of Iraqi police. But the Libyan did not like that plan and now was angry at the Iraqis who were trying to force a holy jihadist to become an unwilling bomb, and he was telling everything. Another cascade.

And the calm man, who appeared so clever and confident while standing there comforting a crying infant? How the picture changed when a young American solider stepped into the frame, reached for and gently took the child. Without his prop, the actor faltered, his illusion cracked and shattered as he shuddered before the soldier. This man who cowered behind a crying child was one of the top insurgent leaders in Mosul.

Michael Yon's reporting from Iraq is some of the very best work that has ever been done on blogs.


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