Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Direct From Iraq

I haven't linked to him before, but Michael Yon has been blogging from Iraq, and this is from his latest post, "Empty Jars":
The enemy in Iraq does not appear to be weakening; if anything, they are becoming smarter, more complicated and deadlier. But this does not mean they are winning; to imply that getting smarter and deadlier equates to winning, is fallacious. Most accounts of the situation in Iraq focus on enemy "successes" (if success is re-defined as annihiliation of civility), while redacting the increasing viability and strength of the Iraqi government, which clearly is outpacing the insurgency.

The Mosul police are now strong enough to launch successful undercover operations, and have been fanning out across Mosul and surrounding villages, snooping and listening for snippets. On July 15th, police working undercover in a village Northwest of Mosul heard a group of villagers talking about a weapons cache, but the location was not mentioned. Iraqi forces locked down the village, searched and found a weapons depot from Syria into Mosul. Iraqi police also found and rescued the 28 year-old woman I mentioned briefly in the last dispatch. She was the wife of a Mosul journalist, and had been kidnapped and held for ransom by members of a beheading cell. After the village search, police hauled four men to a Mosul station for interrogation, and alerted the Americans.

Soldiers from A Company, 1-24th Infantry Regiment, headed to the police station to find out what the cops were learning, and I asked LT David Beaudoin, who was leading the patrol, if I could tag along. I had first met Beaudoin some months ago after a car bombing that claimed some of our people. Since that time, I had come to know Beaudoin as quiet, always polite, and well-liked by the soldiers. It was Beaudoin's mannered countenance that everyone saw as we arrived and sat down in a police colonel's office. The colonel was engaged in conversation with the Iraqi journalist, the husband of the 28 year-old woman who had been released.

As details of the kidnapping emerged, the surface of the big picture rippled with a winding current of revision. The kidnappers had threatened to cut off his wife's head, the journalist explained, kill him, and the rest of his family. But they would take $45,000 in exchange for "civility."

Evidently, the journalist had not been targeted for exercizing the power of the press; it was the promise of precedent that attended this abduction. Only months earlier, four men kidnapped the journalist's brother-in-law and demanded ransom of $50,000. The family negotiated the fee down to $5,000. A deal was struck, the money paid, and the "civility" delivered. Now, apparently, the same four kidnappers were back for the balance: $45,000. But the Iraqi undercover police, listening to people talking in a marketplace, picked up the trail that led to the rescue, and their eavesdropping also unleashed a cascade of avalanching proportions.
Here's more:
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.