Moment of Truth

The war in Iraq and how to proceed from this point are difficult to debate. People have erected entrenched positions and are not open to evidence that might undermine those ideas. Moreover it is hard to find contemporaneous eye-witness accounts as to what is happening on the ground in Iraq.  Michael Yon’s on-site accounts provide a notable exception.

Micheal Yon is a former member of the Green Berets who has managed to become perhaps the most useful and prolific independent embedded journalist in Iraq. During his years in Iraq he has traveled with various different US and British troops throughout Iraq. His willingness to follow these troops into dangerous areas, armed only with a camera, has earned him the trust and respect of Coalition  forces.

Yon has regularly posted dispatches on his blog from Iraq. Now Yon has published a book, Moment of Truth in Iraq, which extend the stories behind these blogs to a more complete narrative.

When Yon first traveled to Iraq in 2004, he was frustrated by the US military establishment’s inability to deal with or even recognize the best way to deal with the Iraq insurgency. The Iraqis needed security and normalcy. There were simply not enough troops to provide these.  His critique angered some in the military and Yon had difficulty in returning to Iraq.

After the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the Coalition’s inability to provide security allowed Al Qaeda to gain a foothold. Al Qaeda’s goal was to further de-stabilize Iraq by trying and many times succeeded in instigating sectarian violence.

Yon’s thesis is that the reason that Al Qaeda did not ultimate succeed in 2004-2005 when it might have is the same reason that hope remains in Iraq.  Al Qaeda does not rule, it destroys. In areas, where they dominated they proved cruel lords, raping and killing indiscriminately, while rigidly enforcing rigid religious rules on others. Al Qaeda has no problem deliberately killing civilians to seize political advantage. Iraqis have come to recognize Al Qaeda do not offer a promising future.

On the other hand, while Americans have made mistakes, by and large,they  want to help Iraqis. With the recent surge in troops, American have been able to provide more security. Iraqis have seen Americans kill Al Qaeda and quickly returned to help build schools. Iraqi have seen American troops take personal risks to mitigate damage to civilians. Iraqis have seen American troops help fairly mediate disputes between Iraqis while they rebuild. It is this inherent goodness on the part of American troops on the ground that makes victory in Iraq possible.

Early in the war, some who disagreed with the war used the abuses at Abu Ghraid to make this event a symbol of the war and unfortunately of American troops. Perhaps with time the Yon’s famous picture from Iraq will come to be the iconic image of the Iraq War. It shows an American soldier sheltering a young Iraqi girl as he pulls her from the site of a suicide bombing.

As a consequence of the surge and the strategy employed by General Petraeus, Yon concludes:

“The war isn’t over yet. Victory remains in question. The choice is ours, the time is now — for a moment of truth in Iraq. What are we going to do?”

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