Michael Totten has posted another characteristically excellent, in-depth report from Iraq — this time from Fallujah, as the Marines there train the local Iraqi Police and prepare to leave patrolling of this once volatile, now startlingly calm city in their hands.
As always, Michael provides insightful, informative reporting that’s hard to come by elsewhere — thoroughly engaging and well worth reading in its entirety.
If you like Michael’s work, consider dropping something in the tipjar that makes his travels possible. (I just did so myself.)
Update 2/12: Part III is up now. A few among many especially relevant excerpts, addressing the unfortunate disconnect between popular perception and what Totten has witnessed on the ground:
According to planet-wide conventional wisdom, United States soldiers and Marines are on an abusive rampage in Iraq. Relentless media coverage of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib – which really did occur, but which the United States didn’t sanction or tolerate – seriously distorted what actually goes on in Iraq most of the time. The United States military is far from perfect and is hardly guilt-free, but it’s the most law-abiding and humane institution in Iraq at this time.
Such people do not wish to recklessly fire their weapons and harm civilians. Their rules of engagement are sharply restrictive, much more so than most American civilians have any idea. The rules are certainly more restrictive than Iraqi civilians expected when the Americans showed up in force in 2003.
I’ve said before that American soldiers and Marines aren’t the bloodthirsty killers of the popular (in certain quarters) imagination, and that they are far less racist against Arabs than average Americans. They are also, famously, less racist against each other, and they have been since they were forcibly integrated after World War II. This is due to sustained everyday contact with each other and with Iraqis. The stereotype of the racist and unhinged American soldier and Marine is itself a bigoted caricature based almost entirely on sensationalist journalism and recklessly irresponsible war movies.
You know who else is in Iraq and therefore knows what the country is really like? Iraqis. (Of course.) They see and experience much of the same kinds of events George Packer and I have seen and experienced. They don’t learn about Iraq from Reuters and Hollywood. And they are less anti-American than they were during the initial invasion in 2003 – at least many of those who have had sustained contact with Marines and soldiers. Sustained contact with the “other” breaks down bigotry all around, even in war zones.
The violent strain of anti-Americanism in Fallujah and the surrounding area has ebbed almost completely. People here know Americans are not the enemy. They know Americans protect them from murder and intimidation from the head-choppers and car bombers. They know Americans provide medical care to Iraqis hurt by insurgents and even to insurgents wounded in battle.