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Malkin’s year-in-review: The surge, the military, and the media

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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 24, 2007 04:35 AM

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Poster hung at the desk of Capt. Travis Patriquin, who was killed in Ramadi on Dec. 6, 2006 in an IED explosion

Remember when the Associated Press told you what the top 10 stories of the year were–and that was the end of discussion? No more. One of the wonderful benefits of the Internet is that it ended the monopoly of the MSM Deciders. Permanently.

Here’s the wire service’s list of what news directors and editors voted the biggest stories of 2007. They picked the Virginia Tech massacre as the number one story. Sure, it was a tragedy. But the top story of the last 12 months–the one with the largest historical ramifications, the one that should define the entire year? Come on.

For the remainder of 2007, I’ll be posting year-in-review retrospectives drawing on my monthly archives to spotlight the blog posts and topics that interested you and me. The ones that generated the most discussion. Or backlash. Or laughter. Or tears. The ones that have stayed in my heart and memory bank long after I hit the “publish” button.

Let’s start with the beginning: January 2007. For me, what happened in January defined the rest of the year. We rang in 2007 with vehement Democrat opposition to the “surge” in Baghdad. In the ensuing 12 months, Democrats tried and failed repeatedly to sabotage and undermine this military campaign. Their poisonously partisan allies at MoveOn attempted to smear Gen. David Petraeus. Their fellow travelers in the MSM fought tooth and nail to obscure the successes of the counterinsurgency tactics with their relentless “grim milestone” drumbeat. But by year’s end, even anti-war Democrats and adversarial media outlets alike were forced to acknowledge that undeniable military progress and security improvements had been made.

Is there still a long way to go? Hell, yes. Were there other ancillary factors that contributed to the decrease in violence and the “awakenings” in Anbar province and Baghdad? Yes again. But go back to January. Refresh your memories of the anti-surge rhetoric and the conventional wisdom.

Here’s a reminder of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution opposing the surge, which passed 12-9 on Jan. 25:

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the panel’s chairman, said the legislation is “not an attempt to embarrass the president. … It’s an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq.”

…Biden, who sponsored the measure with Hagel and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the measure is aimed at getting the administration’s attention. He noted that Bush has said he will be moving forward with his Iraq plans he outlined in a Jan. 10 address regardless of what Congress says.

The measure “is designed to let the president know that there are many in both parties, Democrats and Republicans, that believe a change in our mission to go into Baghdad — in the midst of a civil war — as well as a surge in ground troops … is the wrong way to go, and I believe it will have the opposite — I repeat — opposite effect the president intends,” Biden said.

And here’s a reminder of what anti-war Democrat Rep. Brian Baird said upon his return from Baghdad this summer:

As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change substantially for the better. I believe Iraq could have a positive future. Our diplomatic and military leaders in Iraq, their current strategy, and most importantly, our troops and the Iraqi people themselves, deserve our continued support and more time to succeed.

I understand the desire of many of our citizens and my colleagues in Congress to bring the troops home as soon as possible. The costs have been horrific for our soldiers, their families, the Iraqi people and the economy. If we keep our troops on the ground we will lose more lives, continue to spend billions each week, and, given the history and complex interests of the region, there is no certainty that our efforts will succeed in the long run. We must be absolutely honest about these costs and risks and I am both profoundly saddened and angry that we are where we are.

Knowing all this, how can someone who opposed the war now call for continuing the new directions that have been taken in Iraq? The answer is that the people, strategies and facts on the ground have changed for the better and those changes justify changing our position on what should be done.

Wrong-way Biden insisted the anti-surge resolution wasn’t meant to embarass the president. Uh-huh. Opponents of the Baghdad mission insisted they didn’t want America to fail. Uh-huh. Here’s a reminder of a Fox News poll in mid-January that exposed which Americans were rooting for success and which Americans were rooting for defeat:

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That’s right. 49% of Democrats either wanted us to lose in Iraq or “didn’t know” if they wanted us to succeed.

As our troops succeeded, surge opponents went from arguing against the strategy to arguing whether violence dropped in Baghdad to arguing about why that decrease occurred. We’ve come a long way–though we’ve still got a long way to go. As Gen. Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 23:

“The way ahead will be neither quick nor easy.”

***

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Jan. 11, “In the Slums of Baghdad:” As an Army convoy prepared to depart after dropping off blankets, an Iraqi boy came out to say goodbye clutching a stuffed toy–and an American flag.

In early January, Hot Air’s Bryan Preston and I traveled to Iraq and were embedded in Baghdad for a short–but amazingly unforgettable– time with the troops at FOB Justice. With photos and video, we fact-checked the Associated Press’s error-riddled reporting about mosques attacks and purportedly immolated Sunnis–to which the wire service responded with an astounding non-correction correction.

In addition, we interviewed Iraqi citizens and American troops engaged in the very same successful counterinsurgency efforts that would be adopted later in the year as part of the fanatically opposed–and now, highly praised–surge.

In fact, we arrived in Kuwait as some of the first waves of troops headed to Baghdad to mobilize for the surge–and the next, day I was up in the wee hours of the morning with a few of the troops at FOB Justice watching President Bush’s speech announcing the strategy. The troops we talked to were frank about the administration’s failures and missteps over the course of the war, but endorsed the surge based on their own experience. We followed up last month with Captain Aaron Kaufman, one of the officers who had briefed us back in January. He talked about the military success of COIN strategy and the road ahead toward political solutions. We owe Gen. Petraeus a great debt for his leadership. But our brief visit with the troops at FOB Justice alo underscored that under Gen. Petraeus serve America’s most brilliant, dedicated, and courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

In January and throughout the year, hostile MSM journalists and far Left character assassins demonstrated vile contempt for those men and women. On January 31, Washington Post blogger and NBC military analyst William Arkin set the tone for the troop-bashers with his unhinged rant equating all American soldiers with mercenaries. He was outraged that troops interviewed by NBC News asked their fellow Americans to support their mission:

So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?

I can imagine some post-9/11 moment, when the American people say enough already with the wars against terrorism and those in the national security establishment feel these same frustrations. In my little parable, those in leadership positions shake their heads that the people don’t get it, that they don’t understand that the threat from terrorism, while difficult to defeat, demands commitment and sacrifice and is very real because it is so shadowy, that the very survival of the United States is at stake. Those Hoover’s and Nixon’s will use these kids in uniform as their soldiers. If I weren’t the United States, I’d say the story end with a military coup where those in the know, and those with fire in their bellies, save the nation from the people.

But it is the United States and instead this NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary – oops sorry, volunteer – force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.

Definite Jerk of the Year material. But far from alone. NBC flirted with the moonbats in initially refusing to broadcast simple thank-you tributes to the troops from Freedom’s Watch. And Bobby “Don’t you know I’m an Important Embedded Journalist Who Can’t Be Bothered to Follow the Rules In the Green Zone?” Calvan has some stiff competition in the troop-bashing journalist of 2007 contest.

Here’s a flashback of some of my favorite photos while embedded with the troops Arkin snidely likened to “mercenaries” with “obscene amenities:”

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Iraqi children in a western Baghdad homeless encampment welcome American troops

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The digs at FOB Justice

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Meeting with Iraqi Army soldiers and local firefighters–and watching for signs of JAM (Jaish al Mahdi — the Mahdi Army)

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Sheikh Mohammed Bagher (r) of Khadamiya speaks to troops about security and the economy

***

Yesterday, FNC’s Chris Wallace asked Gen. Petraeus about the media’s dwindling coverage of the Iraq war and its allergic reaction to the surge success in Baghdad over the past year:

WALLACE: General, it seemed to us that you haven’t been in the news much recently, which probably is a good thing from your point of view, since you came back from Washington in September.

But we decided to check it out, and the Media Research Center says that the three evening network evening newscasts did 178 stories on Iraq in September when you were here. But in October, as the surge took hold, there were 108 stories. And in November, that dropped to just 68.

General, any thoughts about why success in Iraq isn’t news here at home?

PETRAEUS: Well, clearly, there are other more newsworthy items — the political campaign issues in the states, understandably; challenges in Pakistan and other places.

And so as you note, probably this is a sign of progress, that, in a sense, no news is good news. In fact, actually, there was one nightly news show a week or so ago that said the news from Iraq is that there is no news, that there were no attacks in a certain area or something like this.

So again, we’re not reluctant to see that. The only reluctance would be that America continue to remember its soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians who are serving out here in this very important endeavor.

patriquinpic.jpg Which brings me back to two unforgettable soldiers the blogosphere helped immortalize as 2007 began. At the very beginning of the post is a photo on the desk of fallen hero Capt. Travis Patriquin. A special ops soldier serving in civil affairs, fluent in Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Pashtun, and Portuguese, Capt. Patriquin had compiled a brilliant PowerPoint presentation illustrating the very counterinsurgency tactics that presaged the Anbar awakening.

Tragically, Capt. Patriquin didn’t live long enough to see just how on the mark he was and what a difference he was making.

But Mary Katharine Ham put Capt. Patriquin’s plan to video–YouTubing for the ages:

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Another soldier whose words resonate from beyond the grave is Army 2nd Lt. Mark J. Daily. On Jan. 19, a reader e-mailed me that the 23-year-old had been killed in an IED attack in Mosul along with three other soldiers. He was named the ROTC’s outstanding cadet for 2005 and also a Distinguished Military Graduate, the highest ROTC award.

daily.jpg The OC Register mentioned Daily’s Myspace page in a profile here. I reprinted his entire message explaining why he had joined the military. On Jan. 31, his immortal words were read on the Senate floor. In February, the Los Angeles Times picked up on 2LT Daily’s story. He rated his mood “optimistic.” According to the Times: “In a 2005 videotape of his officers’ commissioning ceremony, Daily told the crowd that the U.S. Army is one of the few militaries in the world that teach not only tactics but also ethics. ‘I genuinely believe the United States Army is a force of good in this world,’ he said.”

I’m reprinting his Myspace message once again here in full, on Christmas Eve 2007, as a reminder that we and our children can sleep soundly tonight, nestled snug in our beds, because of the rough and ready, tough and steady, men and women of the United States military.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

WHY I JOINED
Current mood: optimistic

Why I Joined:

This question has been asked of me so many times in so many different contexts that I thought it would be best if I wrote my reasons for joining the Army on my page for all to see. First, the more accurate question is why I volunteered to go to Iraq. After all, I joined the Army a week after we declared war on Saddam’s government with the intention of going to Iraq. Now, after years of training and preparation, I am finally here.

Much has changed in the last three years. The criminal Ba’ath regime has been replaced by an insurgency fueled by Iraq’s neighbors who hope to partition Iraq for their own ends. This is coupled with the ever present transnational militant Islamist movement which has seized upon Iraq as the greatest way to kill Americans, along with anyone else they happen to be standing near. What was once a paralyzed state of fear is now the staging ground for one of the largest transformations of power and ideology the Middle East has experienced since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to Iran, Syria, and other enlightened local actors, this transformation will be plagued by interregional hatred and genocide. And I am now in the center of this.

Is this why I joined?

Yes. Much has been said about America’s intentions in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and seeking to establish a new state based upon political representation and individual rights. Many have framed the paradigm through which they view the conflict around one-word explanations such as “oil” or “terrorism,” favoring the one which best serves their political persuasion. I did the same thing, and anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).

I joined the fight because it occurred to me that many modern day “humanists” who claim to possess a genuine concern for human beings throughout the world are in fact quite content to allow their fellow “global citizens” to suffer under the most hideous state apparatuses and conditions. Their excuses used to be my excuses. When asked why we shouldn’t confront the Ba’ath party, the Taliban or the various other tyrannies throughout this world, my answers would allude to vague notions of cultural tolerance (forcing women to wear a veil and stay indoors is such a quaint cultural tradition), the sanctity of national sovereignty (how eager we internationalists are to throw up borders to defend dictatorships!) or even a creeping suspicion of America’s intentions. When all else failed, I would retreat to my fragile moral ecosystem that years of living in peace and liberty had provided me. I would write off war because civilian casualties were guaranteed, or temporary alliances with illiberal forces would be made, or tank fuel was toxic for the environment. My fellow “humanists” and I would relish contently in our self righteous declaration of opposition against all military campaigns against dictatorships, congratulating one another for refusing to taint that aforementioned fragile moral ecosystem that many still cradle with all the revolutionary tenacity of the members of Rage Against the Machine and Greenday. Others would point to America’s historical support of Saddam Hussein, sighting it as hypocritical that we would now vilify him as a thug and a tyrant. Upon explaining that we did so to ward off the fiercely Islamist Iran, which was correctly identified as the greater threat at the time, eyes are rolled and hypocrisy is declared. Forgetting that America sided with Stalin to defeat Hitler, who was promptly confronted once the Nazis were destroyed, America’s initial engagement with Saddam and other regional actors is identified as the ultimate argument against America’s moral crusade.

And maybe it is. Maybe the reality of politics makes all political action inherently crude and immoral. Or maybe it is these adventures in philosophical masturbation that prevent people from ever taking any kind of effective action against men like Saddam Hussein. One thing is for certain, as disagreeable or as confusing as my decision to enter the fray may be, consider what peace vigils against genocide have accomplished lately. Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are.

So that is why I joined. In the time it took for you to read this explanation, innocent people your age have suffered under the crushing misery of tyranny. Every tool of philosophical advancement and communication that we use to develop our opinions about this war are denied to countless human beings on this planet, many of whom live under the regimes that have, in my opinion, been legitimately targeted for destruction. Some have allowed their resentment of the President to stir silent applause for setbacks in Iraq. Others have ironically decried the war because it has tied up our forces and prevented them from confronting criminal regimes in Sudan, Uganda, and elsewhere.

I simply decided that the time for candid discussions of the oppressed was over, and I joined.

In digesting this posting, please remember that America’s commitment to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his sons existed before the current administration and would exist into our future children’s lives had we not acted. Please remember that the problems that plague Iraq today were set in motion centuries ago and were up until now held back by the most cruel of cages. Don’t forget that human beings have a responsibility to one another and that Americans will always have a responsibility to the oppressed. Don’t overlook the obvious reasons to disagree with the war but don’t cheapen the moral aspects either. Assisting a formerly oppressed population in converting their torn society into a plural, democratic one is dangerous and difficult business, especially when being attacked and sabotaged from literally every direction. So if you have anything to say to me at the end of this reading, let it at least include “Good Luck”

Mark Daily

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