IED triggermen captured outside of Fallujah, Anbar Province. Photo by Michael Fumento
So how can it be that last year AQI fled the province and now we’ve handed military control of a pacified al Anbar to Iraqi forces, in what the AP properly called “a stunning reversal of fortune?”
Further, how could this have occurred just two years after the Marines themselves, who were in charge of Anbar military operations, admitted in a classified report that “there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation” and we were “no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency” or “counter al Qaedas rising popularity . . .”
The answer is they didn’t.
What we knew of the report, by Marine intelligence office Col. Peter Devlin, and which instantly became “the conventional wisdom” on al Anbar, came via essentially a single source. That was Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Ricks, in a Sept. 2006 article “Situation Called Dire in West Iraq: Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says,” and a follow-up in late November, “Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker.” It’s obvious now that either the report itself or the Ricks’ presentation of it missed the mark worse than an F-16 bombing Baghdad and hitting Basra.
Cpt. Travis Patriquin, father of the Anbar "Awakening."
I wrote that the city was slowly being taken, relying in part on my own experiences as contrasted with those reported from my Ramadi trip the previous April, when AP reporter Todd Pitman, with whom I was embedded, observed the "sheer scale of violence in Ramadi is astounding.” I observed both morale and tactics. One of my convoys into the city during the second trip, I said in an interview with Human Events, “believe it or not, was in broad daylight. My God, to think about a broad daylight entrance into Ramadi down Route Michigan six months ago, people would have thought you were crazy.” I also conducted countless on-site interviews with non-politicized military (I’ll trust a sergeant’s opinion any day over that of a high-ranking officer), and available data.
Machine-gunner from 1/506th, 101st Airborne Division lays down suppressive fire during April 2006 ambush in Ramadi. Photo by Michael Fumento
Instead what we got was a report as seen through two filters: First, Ricks selected his interviewees who, since by definition they agreed to discuss a classified document, probably held a grudge against current military actions. The second filter was Ricks himself, hardly the epitome of even-handedness as author of the best-selling book about Iraq whose title says it all: Fiasco.
Much of what Devlin did write was certainly meaningless to readers without background knowledge. “If youre thinking this doesnt reflect doomsaying media interpretations of [Devlin’s report] indicating theres no functioning government in the Anbar, youre right,” I wrote in “Return to Ramadi.” They have no EPA or Department of Education certainly. Were not going to change that system soon and theres little reason to do so.”
Perhaps Ricks was trying to pull off an Iraq version of the media’s Tet Offensive offensive, a battle that crushed the Viet Cong and yet the media declared it a terrible U.S. defeat. Life imitated art as portrayal sucked the life out of our war effort. In any case, others in the mainstream media seemed to have that idea.
NPR relied on Ricks to pronounce “we’ve lost the fight” in Anbar. “The message is, stay the course,” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann declared, “But in the huge Anbar Province, word from our military is that weve already lost there politically.” Jim Miklaszewski told NBC Nightly News viewers that "The top secret report . . . says theres no chance the U.S. military can end insurgent violence in al Anbar” and “the U.S. is preparing to eventually concede a large piece of Iraq to the enemy . . . ” CNN’s Michael Ware used Ricks’ “revelations” to opine “we only have a third of the troops there that are needed to even begin to make a dent in al Qaeda.” (Incidentally, some pundits have said success in Anbar was a direct result of “The Surge.” In fact, “The Awakening,” in which fed-up local Iraqi tribes turned against AQI and other terrorist groups, began a year before “The Surge” did.) So much for needing three times the troops to “make a dent.”
The writer next to a sign proudly displayed at a tiny forward operating base in Karmah, northeast of Fallujah, Anbar Province.
Most important, Reid suggested that had there been a Senate Democratic Majority (as there is now), it would try to force withdrawals that year. It would indeed have been Tet déjà vu.
But there’s still time for a Tet II. Victory in Iraq is years away yet. This even as Afghanistan is heating up and a July ABC News/Washington Post poll found 45 percent of Americans think the conflict not even worth fighting. And that’s the “good war,” remember? Ricks’ rotten reporting and the slavish devotion to it in the mainstream media dare not be forgotten.