View Full Version : Reporting From The Front

09-04-07, 07:22 AM
New York Post

September 4, 2007 -- For the past 10 days, Post military col umnist Ralph Peters has been report ing from Iraq. His final report from the war zone appears in these pages today - one day after President Bush's touch-and-go visit and on the eve of what's likely to be a make-or-break congressional debate on the future of the war.

A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, he has been on the ground with soldiers and Marines, and has spent time with high-ranking officers in Baghdad as well.

For those who understand the necessity of the conflict, and who wish the troops and their commanders well, Peters has been a bearer of good news.

His evaluation: What was once an untenable and seemingly out-of-control military situation has undergone a profound change - for the better.

There is room, he says, for guarded optimism - a real possibility that America can finish what is shaping up to be a crushing defeat of al Qaeda forces.

And that defeat, he predicts, will resound throughout the Arab and Islamic world, where Osama bin Laden's forces have been boasting of their ongoing humiliation of America.

The results, notes Peters, have been dramatic. For example:

* Baghdad's Haifa Street, a hellhole of bombing attacks and nonstop mayhem at the beginning of this year, has been largely tamed - thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division.

* And Anbar Province, once an al-Qaeda-in-Iraq playground, has been all but pacified - due largely to the innovative tactics and almost-infinite patience of the U.S. Marines.

Attacks against U.S. troops are down nearly 80 percent since January, and most of those now being recorded are relatively minor incidents, compared to the bedlam of last winter.

More importantly, the troops are winning the peace as well as the fight: They are working to stimulate Iraqi economic development by working on smaller-scale "micro-projects."

The result: A level of Iraqi involvement in their own neighborhood development, in cooperation with U.S. forces, that is inspiring.

Yet almost none of this gets reported on the network and cable news broadcasts or in the major national newspapers.

As Peters notes, too many journalists have staked their reputations - not to mention their hopes - on a fulfillment of their dire prediction of a U.S. defeat in Iraq.

That's led congressional Democrats - some of whom share the journalists' politics, others of whom have simply been misled by their reports - to press for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Yet that would be a profound mistake - reinvigorating not only the forces of al Qaeda and its allies, but of neighboring Iran, as well.

Tehran, simply put, is licking its chops at the prospect of a U.S. pullout.

None of this is to say that final victory is imminent in Iraq. The situation could be reversed very quickly - if the terrorists stage a counteroffensive, or if Congress undercuts support for the troops.

But what is clear is that an important corner has been turned. The situation, for the time being, seems under control. Previous policy mistakes, both military and political, have been reversed.

It's taken a lot of hard work - and a terrible cost in the lives of brave men and women on the front lines.

But it's vital for Americans to understand what really is happening in Iraq, notwithstanding the near-nonstop clamor of the gloom-and-doom media reports.

There is light at the end of tunnel.

Ralph Peters has been there; he's seen it - and Post readers are more knowledgeable for his efforts.


09-04-07, 07:27 AM


After being briefed by U.S. commanders and Iraqi leaders, the president said the decision to reduce the 162,000- member U.S. force will depend on how well the rest of Iraq reaches the level of security in Anbar.

"Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by military commanders on conditions on the ground - not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results and the media," he told hundreds of cheering Marines.

"In other words, when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq it will be from a position of strength and success - not from a position of fear and failure," he said.

Bush, on his way to an Asian summit in Australia, was accompanied to the dusty airbase by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Steven Hadley.

Bush stood in 110-degree heat in front of two Humvees near the airbase tarmac as he urged Congress to wait until it hears testimony from U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker next Monday.

"Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker tell me if the kind of success we're now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces," the president said.

During his six-hour visit to Iraq, Bush also talked with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is being blamed in Congress for his government's failure to make political progress.

Bush said the change in Anbar was an example of what could happen in Iraq. He said last summer he was told that it was lost to the terrorists.

During his visit to the airbase, the president stopped at a small building where a Marine Cobra helicopter pilot told him that troops were not getting enough time at home and did not have enough time for training.

"Morale?" asked Bush. "How's morale?"

"Very high sir," the pilot, Capt. Lee Hemming, said. With Post Wire Services


September 4, 2007 -- President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq yesterday, and said U.S. forces there will be reduced if the security situation continues to improve.

Bush flew secretly to the al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, once a terrorist stronghold, for a war council on the eve of a showdown with Congress over Iraq policy.