In the last two months, a U.S.-backed policing movement called Concerned Citizens, launched last year in Sunni-dominated Anbar province under the banner of the Awakening movement, has spread rapidly into the mixed Iraqi heartland.
Of the nearly 70,000 Iraqi men in the Awakening movement, started by Sunni Muslim sheiks who turned their followers against Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are now more in Baghdad and its environs than anywhere else, and a growing number of those are Shiite Muslims.
Commanders in the field think they have tapped into a genuine public expression of reconciliation that has outpaced the elected government’s progress on mending the sectarian rift.
“What you find is these people have lived together for decades with no problem until the terrorists arrived and tried to instigate the problem,” said Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Airborne unit in the Iskandariya area south of Baghdad. “So they are perfectly willing to work together to keep the terrorists out.”
As late as this summer, there were no Shiites in the community policing groups. Today, there are about 15,000 in 24 all-Shiite groups and 18 mixed groups, senior U.S. military officials say. More are joining daily.
Harry Reid says “the war is lost”. His fellow Democrats, especially those running for President, say there is a civil war in Iraq. The LA Times doesn’t create a picture at all of “civil war.” Obviously the Democrats aren’t reading their talking points lately from the American News Media (D-USA).
For the first time, however, returning to Baghdad after an absence of four months, I can actually say that things do seem to have gotten better, and in ways that may even be durable. “It’s hard to believe,” says a friend named Fareed, who has also gone and come back over the years to find the situation always worse, “but this time it’s really not.” Such words are uttered only grudgingly by those such as me, who have been disappointed again and again by Iraq, where a pessimist is merely someone who has had to endure too many optimists.
So the following observations do not come so much from the brass: Al Qaeda in Iraq is starting to look like a spent force, especially in Baghdad. The civil war is in the midst of a huge, though nervous, pause. Most Shiite militias are honoring a truce. Iran appears to have stopped shipping deadly arms to Iraqi militants. The indigenous Sunni insurgency has declared for the Americans across broad swaths of the country, especially in the capital.
Emerging from our bunkers into the Red Zone, I see the results everywhere. Throughout Baghdad, shops and street markets are open late again, taking advantage of the fine November weather. Parks are crowded with strollers, and kids play soccer on the streets. Traffic has resumed its customary epic snarl. The Baghdad Zoo is open, and caretakers have even managed to bring in two lionesses to replace the menagerie that escaped in the early days of the war (and was hunted down by U.S. soldiers).
The nearby Funfair in Zawra Park—where insurgents used to set up mortar tubes to rocket government ministries, and where a car bombing killed four and wounded 25 on Oct. 15—is back in business. “Just four months ago, you could hardly see a single family here,” says Zawra official Hussein Matar. One of our translators succumbed to the tears of his son recently and took him to Zawra for his 9th birthday. It was the boy’s first visit to a Baghdad amusement park; the war has robbed him of nearly half his childhood.
Read the whole thing….. it isn’t all roses, but it is most certainly a different picture of Baghdad then we are used to hearing about since the surge from CBSMSNBCCNNHarryReidNancyPelosi.
But it is also most certainly a testament to the outstanding abilities of our military men and women stationed in Iraq who have turned a civil war/terrorist last stand into a burgeoning American victory in World War III.