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Michael Yon discusses Al Qaeda in Iraq
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, August 05, 2007

Key passages:
When it comes to Iraq, being there matters because of the massive disconnect between what most Americans think they know about Iraq, and what is actually going on there.

The current controversy about the extent to which Al Qaeda is a threat to peace in Iraq is a case in point. Questions about which group calling itself an offshoot of Al Qaeda is really an offshoot of Al Qaeda is a distraction masquerading as a debate.

Al Qaeda is in Iraq, intentionally inflaming sectarian hostilities, deliberately pushing for full scale civil war. They do this by launching attacks against Shia, Sunni, Kurds and coalition forces. To ensure the attacks provoke counterattacks, they make them particularly gruesome.
1st Sentence - that's why I have a tendency to give more credence to the Michael Yons of the world when it comes to "what is happening" in Iraq than, say, Harry Reid or John Murtha.

2nd & 3rd sentences - Al Qaeda is there and whether it is a "pure-bred" strain of AQ international is irrelevant. It has to be defeated. However, all you have to do is listen to AQ's number two, - Zawahiri - call for fighters to join the effort to know that AQ international certainly recognize AQI as their own, whether the terrorism experts in Congress do or not.

4th sentence - AQI is an accelerant. If you have a small slow burning fire the way you accelerate its fury (and size) is to throw an accelerant on it, like gasoline. If you throw enough on the fire, it can get out of hand and cause all sorts of damage. That's what AQI is attempting in Iraq. It is the primary source of the huge vehicle borne IEDs which go off in the marketplaces and other crowded areas.

Yon summarizes:
Anyone who says Al Qaeda is not one of the primary problems in Iraq is simply ignorant of the facts.
Fairly clear an too the point, wouldn't you say?

Which brings Yon, who has spent, literally, years in the war zone and is someone who has indeed reported not just the good, but the bad and the ugly to the following about the current situation in Iraq:
1. Iraqis are uniting across sectarian lines to drive Al Qaeda in all its disguises out of Iraq, and they are empowered by the success they are having, each one creating a ripple effect of active citizenship.

2. The Iraqi Army is much more capable now than it was in 2005. It is not ready to go it alone, but if we keep working, that day will come.

3. Gen. Petraeus is running the show. Petraeus may well prove to be to counterinsurgency warfare what Patton was to tank battles with Rommel, or what Churchill was to the Nazis.
Or said succinctly, at this time, we're actually making progress in Iraq.

His conclusion:
And yes, in case there is any room for question, Al Qaeda still is a serious problem in Iraq, one that can be defeated. Until we do, real and lasting security will elude both the Iraqis and us.
Clear enough?

This is what defeatists like Murtha are trying desperately to short-circuit by forcing the withdrawal of our troops. As it is going presently there actually exits a good chance we might defeat AQI and be able to establish real and lasting security. And that would be unacceptable to John Murtha and his caucus.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

No no no. America is the problem, understand? If we weren’t over there, AQI wouldn’t be there either. We should leave and allow the Iraqis to live in peace with each other, rather than dragging the entire country into a civil war over our stubborn insistance on adhering to Bushalliburtons failed democracy project.
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Or at a minimum, once we’re gone AQIZ will defeated in a *Flash*

Or the country has been handed over to Iran and how does that feel you Neo-Con Chickenhawks?

Or something, any way redeploy NOW, it’s all Chimpy McShruburton’s fault....I’d talk longer but there’s a panel discussion at the YearlyKos I just can’t miss, "The New World Order and Counter-Paradigms to US Imperialism-A Maine Perspective."
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Yes, of course, the question of whether Al-Qaeda in Iraq is the same thing as Bin Laden’s organization, and how much of the violence is being caused by AQ — these are questions so irrelevant that Yon doesn’t even have to address them.

Whether one is on the ground or not, anecdote is not fact. Someone who is here in America and points to actual facts and figures about the number of Al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq has more credibility than Yon, at least until he’s willing to say something more than "I saw a bunch of dead bodies and I assume Al Qaeda killed them all."

So what we get from the article is:

a) Happy talk propaganda about how the civil war in Iraq is really all caused by Zawahiri’s mind control and the Iraqis would all love us and love each other if it weren’t for AQ;

b) The same "Iraqis are standing up" nonsense that Petraeus was peddling in 2004, and

c) Appeals to the greatness and wonderfulness of Dave Petraeus, because obviously if we have a wonderful enough general we can certainly win an Iraqi civil war.

The Yon articles — with their anecdotes in lieu of facts and their peddling of blood libels about Muslims serving children for dinner — are a reminder that a brave government propagandist is still a propagandist. Just as, from your point of view, an evil lying lefty who’s fighting in Iraq is still an evil lying lefty.

So as things stand, Yon is bravely embedded with the troops, but he’s also trying to bring about America’s defeat (by keeping America stuck in the Iraq civil war forever).
Written By: M.A.
URL: http://
P.S. - The idea that someone "on the ground" in Iraq automatically knows more about what’s going on there reminds me of something Bill James wrote, about why you shouldn’t assume that baseball people automatically know more about who’s a good player and who isn’t. He pointed out that you can’t actually know who’s playing well and badly by just watching them play; you have to look at the statistics and see how they’re doing — which means that an outsider who looks at all the statistics may know more about the quality of play than an "insider" who only cares about batting average or RBI.

Same thing here. Success in Iraq is measurable, and the facts and figures — does Iraq have a government, does Iraq have more or fewer of its own brigades, is Baghdad getting more or less electricity, is Baghdad still too dangerous to walk around — are available to anyone. A brave propagandist like Yon, who offers no actual facts or figures for his assertions, is much less credible than a moonbat who points out that "securing Baghdad" hasn’t, statistically, made Baghdad more secure.

In other words, "Michael Yon says" is the equivalent of those managers who claimed that a .200 hitter was really great because he "hits in the clutch."
Written By: M.A.
URL: http://
Exercise for new readers: for each comment above, figure out whether it’s a parody or not. It’s not as easy as you might think.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Well, I know Joe and Shark so .. my money is on them. I figure M.A believes his own stuff.
Written By: capt joe on the road
URL: http://
I’m gonna go with Capt Joe means...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Interesting. I’m one who has thought that al qaeda is not a major danger, except for the possibility they could try to provoke civil war. If Yon is right, I’ve underestimated al qaeda’s capacity. Thanks for the link to this kind of reporting; obviously, I can’t just trust Yon’s conclusion more than any other analysis, but in this case he seems pretty convincing.
Written By: Scott Erb
I have a few questions:

1. If it is vital to understand who the insurgents are, why doesn’t the media tell us exactly what group does what attack instead of the mainly generic articles? I’d like to know if the Iraqi press is better at identifying the factions and their activities.

2. Do these guys call in to claim responsibility anymore? Or is that 1970’s -80’?
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
A brave propagandist like Yon, who offers no actual facts or figures for his assertions, is much less credible than a moonbat who points out that "securing Baghdad" hasn’t, statistically, made Baghdad more secure.
Parody? Naw, M.A. is in it for the sh*ts and grins. Nobody is that stupid! Well, nobody outside the state of Maine.
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Oh, and for anyone who thinks people from far away will know just as much as people "on the ground" that is pretty much disproved by the fact that the NYT sends people to Iraq (hmmmm, why?)and why companies open field offices in far away countries, and why we have regional managers for Taco Bell, etc.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Final question:

Do you ever get the feeling that the reason some people want to leave immediately and damn the consequences is that they don’t mind the idea of being able to pin all sorts of bad things on Republicans for the next 20 years?

I for one hope we can extend it out to Hillary, then I can be like John Kerry and call it "Clinton’s War" like he did with "Nixon’s War."

Written By: Harun
URL: http://
LOL! Clinton’s war! Yes, when I heard Kerry call it "Nixon’s war" I was appalled. Nixon may have been too slow to end it, but he did end it — and it was inherited from JFK and LBJ. I don’t like war, I don’t like an assertive foreign policy, so I’ve been against the Iraq war from the start. But Joschka Fischer, former German Foreign Minister and Green party member once said "we’ve always said nie wieder Krieg (never again war), we also need to say nie wieder Auschwitz." I am seriously considering the arguments made that we need to continue in Iraq because of the humanitarian dangers. The Yon reporting, while not definitive, is very thought provoking. The war may be wrong. Leaving too soon may be wrong as well.
Written By: Scott Erb
M.A. said:
Whether one is on the ground or not, anecdote is not fact.
The Yon articles — with their anecdotes in lieu of facts . . .
. . . Yon, who offers no actual facts . . .
Anecdotes can well be factual and verifiable as such. That which someone offers "in lieu of facts" would be lies or opinions perhaps but not anecdotes and information of the sort that Yon provides, which we would be foolish to dismiss out of hand as you recommend.

I take your point that anecdotes do not of themselves show the whole picture — of al Qaeda in Iraq or anything else — but it is incorrect to say that something is not an actual fact simply because it is an anecdote.

And just because the value of anecdotes for overall understanding is limited, it does not follow that anecdotes are entirely without value or do not give worthwhile insight. After all, the statistics you seem to favor can be based on faulty information or be inappropriately derived or even dishonestly slanted. They’re not necessarily facts themselves.

By they way, respecting baseball players, you most certainly can "actually know who’s playing well and badly by just watching them play" in a given game; you just can’t tell whether they tend to play as well or badly all the time.
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Yon is doing some great work. Thank God for the internet for providing access to this guy’s accounts.

I wish Yon were available upon return to match his accounts with the Thomas Rick’s and other "beltway" commentators who claim they know everything going on in Iraq.
Written By: Mark Eichenlaub

One of the most important aspects of the progress being made is the progress of the Iraqi army. Obviously the better they are, the more safer any handover will be. Yon is probably one of the better sources for this type of information. I was also happy to hear that their divisions are now ethnically mixed (we do that in Afghanistan, too) which to me says there’s hope we won’t get a "Shialand" solution.

What’s funny is that the national level political progress is so slow, but I wonder if we intuitively think that would be the easiest and most important part, but maybe its not. Sunni blocs leaving the government (during the break) might mean they have more confidence in the military and thus think they can work for a better deal, that sort of thing.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Harun, stories like this really cause me to wonder if we’re not setting up more problems in the future. It’s a risky strategy.
Written By: Scott Erb
really cause me to wonder if we’re not setting up more problems in the future. It’s a risky strategy.

ALL solutions create future problems, Dr Erb.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
" Nixon may have been too slow to end it, but he did end it"

No, he did not "end it". He ended American military participation. The war continued. This is not like the riddle about the tree falling in the forest.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Timactual, fair enough. I guess the new book on Nixon by Robert Dallek coming out claims that the White House knew as early as 1971 that the war was lost and there was no way to win it, but politics led them to drag it out past the election. That seems counter-intuitive, why would have getting the US out in 1971 have hurt his electoral prospects? I’ll have to give it a read and see how well documented the book is.
Written By: Scott Erb

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