Michael Yon On Iraq By Mark Noonan

From an interview over at NRO:

Lopez: What is al-Qaeda’s view of masculinity and how does it differ from the American military’s?

Yon: Al-Qaeda models a street gang notion of masculinity in which the cruelest, most destructive and bullying are seen as the toughest and most admired. Raping children and murdering their parents is a gang-banger’s way of asserting his masculinity. And a lot of al-Qaeda recruits are young gang members who join up for the money, the drugs, and the guns.

For the American soldier the ideal of masculinity is “protect and serve,” especially the weak, and women and kids. It means killing the bad guys.

When al-Qaeda murderers detonate a bomb in the middle of a crowd of school children, our guys rush the kids to the medics. Then they go kill the terrorists. They are really good at both. They may enjoy hanging out with kids more than killing terrorists, but it’s a close call. Our guys really like killing terrorists…

…Lopez: Why do you spend most of your time with infantry troops and not special forces?

Yon: Our Special Forces are great. I used to be one of them. But a lot of what they do can’t be written about. I did a Special Forces mission a few weeks ago. In fact it was my last mission to date. Meanwhile infantry soldiers are great to talk to because they really don’t have time for anything but the unvarnished truth. Some army or state department bureaucrat might issue a memo like “The tenuous security situation in Ramadi makes it advisable to don protective headgear in situations in which visitors may be exposed to hostile fire.” The infantry will just put up a sign that says “The last dumbass who didn’t duck got shot in the head.”…

…Lopez: Tell me about the Iraqi security forces.

Yon: Well here’s the good news: whatever problems they have, lack of courage is not one of them. Iraqis are brave fighters. Any badly led or badly trained unit can panic under fire, but few Iraqi soldiers are cowards. I have seen Iraqi regulars and even militia perform courageously under fire. Some units are better than others, but some like the Iraqi 2nd and 3rd Divisions have solid reputations.

The bad news is that it takes a long time to train a modern army and the hardest skills to train don’t necessarily have to do with engaging the enemy in combat on any given day. There is an old saying “amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.” Logistics, administering a base that is really a small city, moving 20,000 men cross-country to attack “from the march”: those are partly MBA skills and they just take a while.

Bottom line: They have improved amazingly. On my first stay in Iraq in 2004-05, I would often take cover whenever I saw an Iraqi soldier with a gun. In 2007 Coalition forces held the city of Mosul, against heavy terrorist opposition, with one U.S. battalion, about 750 men. We could do that only because Iraqi security forces, army and police, bore most of the burden. The Iraqis do most of the fighting these days….

Read the whole thing.

The truth about Iraq is not what we see in our conventional MSM reporting, and it certainly isn’t what we see on television – even the most honest and informed MSM reporters (and there are some who are quite good) simply can’t tell the whole story. To get the whole story you have to piece things together from a wide variety of sources, and constantly check the view your getting with those who have been there the longest and seen things at their worst – Michael Yon is one such man, and his contribution to understanding the war – for those who want to take the time to do so – has been invaluable. In a normal world, Yon would already have a couple Pulitzer’s…he’ll, instead, have to settle for the respect of those who have read his work over the years (which, in the end, is probably better than a Pulitzer, anyways)

This content was used with the permission of Blogs For Victory.

PS: You can buy Michael Yon’s new book, “Moment of Truth in Iraq: How a New ‘Greatest Generation’ of American Soldiers is Turning Defeat and Disaster into Victory and Hope,” here.

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