Bill Ardolino of INDC Journal is back in Iraq. He has been in Fallujah in the past and now comments on the difference he sees since the surge has begun to take effect:
I’ve attended a Fallujah City Council meeting, a recruiting day for the “Fallujah Protectors” (neighborhood watch), the establishment of the city’s last police precinct and a meeting of “muktars,” traditional cultural leaders of specific neighborhoods who work with Marines to improve infrastructure. Tomorrow, my CAG unit will distribute food bags downtown. Almost none of this access or interaction was possible in January, and the cooperation with American personnel is widespread and animated.
The surreality of the change can be summed up by this afternoon. I sat chit-chatting in a downtown precinct with Iraqi cops and newly-minted neighborhood watchmen, junior security officials drawn from the same labor pool that previously drove the insurgency.
Through a local interpreter, we talked about their changing opinion of Americans, Iraq’s prospects, the misery of living under al Qaeda, the joys of kabob and favorite soccer teams. Their open and friendly nature is hard to reconcile with the violent history of American-Iraqi interaction in Fallujah, and many of them charitably chalk it up to a “misunderstanding.”
The icing on the cake:
Towards the end of a long conversation with one group, I said, “Well, I wish you luck. And I want you to know, besides the marines and soldiers that you meet here in the city, there are many civilians back in America who hope for Fallujah’s success.”
The afternoon’s joking died down as the interpreter translated and each of them earnestly told me “shukran” (“thank you”). And one young guy blurted out in halting English, “We like you!”
I think we all really do hope and pray for Fallujah’s, Iraq’s, and Afghanistan’s success. Hopefully we’ll see more of this.
While we continue to see the promising changes in Iraq due to the superb efforts of our military, Petraeus and the Iraqis, the Democrat leadership continue to demonstrate their political investment in defeat. Unfortunately, instead of targeting President Bush, they are now denigrating our soldiers. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign, chimes in on the Senate floor:
“And let me be clear, the violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from al Qaeda said to these tribes we have to fight al Qaeda ourselves. It wasn’t that the surge brought peace here. It was that the warlords took peace here, created a temporary peace here. And that is because, there was no one else, there, protecting.” [note video of his statement is available here]
Sorry, Senator Schumer, while you may not like it and it may not fit you political aspirations, our soldiers are playing a key role. Ultimately, this is part of what appears to be a Democrat strategy to marginalize Petraeus’ upcoming report and the promising news coming from Iraq – too bad it has taken a personal turn against our military.
UPDATE: Yep. The strategy is to sully Petraeus’ stellar reputation. HotAir has also picked up the story.