Monday, September 24, 2007

No Illusions

“I think some of the guys in the 2nd PSF battalion were insurgents, mostly nationalists who got tired of Al Qaeda. Some were Baathists or belonged to the 1920s Brigade. Al Qaeda started killing them off so they switched sides. One PSF guy in particular knows a little too much about taking IEDs apart. He knows exactly how to dismantle these things, as if he built them himself. I asked him how he knows so much and he said he used to be a TV repair man.” He laughed and shrugged. “But, hey, he’s on our side now. We call him the TV Repair Man and don’t worry too much about it.”

“Did the average Iraqi here switch sides or were most of them always against Al Qaeda?” I said.

“The average Iraqi post-Fallujah was not very happy with us being here,” he said. “If the insurgency only attacked Americans, the people of Ramadi would not have been very upset. But Al Qaeda infiltrated and took over the insurgency. They massively overplayed their hand. They cut off citizens’ heads with kitchen knives. The locals slowly learned that the propaganda about us were lies, and that Al Qaeda was their real enemy. They figured out by having dinner and tea with us that we really are, honest to God, here to help them.”

More fresh good stuff from Michael J. Totten.

The consensus among the people he talks to on the ground over there is that the turning is authentic. Not a marriage of convenience. Both the Iraqis and the Americans want it to work. The less-good news it, it probably can't work as a template for Baghdad or the Shi'ite regions of the country. But in those three largely rural Sunni provinces, Americans and Iraqis have a great chance to start doing what we wanted to do from the beginning.

If you're stuck here at home but still want to help, this might be a good time to revisit Spirit of America which has experience in just the right kind of projects that can build on this rare opportunity. It was active in Ramadi and Fallujah before things fell apart there, and it is back with a spate of new projects. Donations are tax-deductible.

And don't forget to throw a few bucks Michael J.'s way while you're at it.