"One of our hosts at Forward Operating Base Justice said they would be happy to welcome Keith Olbermann as an embed. And Chris Matthews (last heard smearing U.S. troops as participants in "ethnic cleansing"), too. The rooms at The Tiger's Lair (pictured above) are spartan, but toasty warm. How 'bout it, boys?" taunts fearless truthseeker Michellel Malkin, just back from her week-long embed with FOB Justice, inviting Chickendove war critics to put their reporters' notebooks where their mouths are.
"I left Iraq with unexpected hope and resolve," writes fierce word warrior Michelle Malkin, just back from her whirlwind embed -- together with Hot Air colleague Bryan Preston -- with Forward Operating Base Justice in Baghdad, overflowing with first-rate reportage and her usual thoughtful punditry, a most riveting read, with much more to come. A few excerpts from "What I saw in Baghdad," her syndicated column:
Modern war in the Middle East is no longer as cut-and-dried as shooting all the bad guys and going home. We are fighting a "war of the fleas" -- not just Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads, but multiple home-grown and foreign operators, street gangs, organized crime and freelance jihadis conducting ambushes, extrajudicial killings, sectarian attacks, vehicle bombings and sabotage against American, coalition and Iraqi forces. Cell phones, satellites and the Internet have allowed the fleas to magnify their importance, disseminate insurgent propaganda instantly and weaken political will.
I came to Iraq a darkening pessimist about the war, due in large part to my doubts about the compatibility of Islam and Western-style democracy, but also as a result of the steady, sensational diet of "grim milestone" and "daily IED count" media coverage that aids the insurgency.
I left Iraq with unexpected hope and resolve.
"Most people in the states don’t realize that most of Baghdad’s violence is confined to areas where Shia and Sunni mix," reports Michelle's colleague Bryan Preston. "No one so much as threw a rock at us, and the troops were greeted in a friendly manner nearly everywhere they went. Only in Hurriyah did we see overt hostility, but it never went beyond the sly insult stage." Camp Justice -- former headquarters of Saddam Hussein's military intelligence unit and the site of the Butcher of Baghdad's recent hanging -- is in upper right of aerial photo above.
Not that it's going to be easy. Citing the Dagger Brigade's two imperatives -- “Continue mission!” and “Duty first!” -- Michelle carries a message from the front for all who are willing to hear:
The troops I met scoff at peace activists’ efforts to “bring them home now.” But they are just as critical of the Bush administration and Pentagon’s missteps -- from holding Iraqi elections too early, to senselessly breaking up their brigade combat team, to drawing down forces and withdrawing last year in Baghdad and Fallujah, to failing to hold cities after clearing them of insurgents. They speak candidly and critically of Shiite militia infiltration of some Iraqi police and Iraqi Army units and corruption in government ministries, but they want you to know about the unseen good news, too.
Bryan Preston has a lot to say about what went wrong -- from "no plan for the postwar period" to "media misconduct and malpractice leading to flagging homefront morale" -- but returns home, like Michelle, with a message of "hope and resolve":
Iraq is still very winnable. There are mistakes in every war. Iraq is a hideously complex environment to work in and its complexity has to be taken into account. Communities like Al Salam and Khadimiyah in Baghdad prove that at the end of the day most Iraqis value security and the chance to have a normal life above any notions of jihad and sectarianism, and we can work with most Iraqis to make their country safe. Most Iraqis want our troops there now, just not forever. Our troop morale is very high and they are focused on goals that they believe are attainable and will make Iraq stable. Most of the troops we spoke with support the surge; a minority don’t but it doesn’t seem to be a contentious issue. Democracy in Iraq probably won’t look like democracy here when the fight is over (and presuming that we here at home see it through), but if we correct our mistakes and change the media and political dynamics here, we can and should win. The price of failure is that Iraq would become a true hub for an al Qaeda that would see its “victory” in Iraq as Somalia times 100. Iraqi oil dollars would fuel this new terrorist power as long as Iraq’s oil infrastructure holds out. From secure bases in Iraq, the terrorists’ aims and capabilities would be practically limitless. Faith in America as a war ally would be shaken from Europe to Asian and everywhere else.
Hope is not a strategy, but coupled with resolve, we've got a fighting chance. Thank you, Michelle and Bryan, for giving us reason to hope and reaffirming our resolve.