Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting Off On Donkey Island

"Evil news rides post, while good news baits."
John Milton, Samson Agonistes, Line 1538.

This past Sunday, the Washington Post carried a lengthy article on its front page about a recent battle in Iraq, written by Ann Scott Tyson. It is, I believe, a classic study in factually good news from Iraq, caught up in the entrenched bad news analysis meme. She and her editors simply sought to stretch and twist an exceptional story of victory, though it was somewhat modest in size, into a foreboding tale, fraught with the same old and tiresome lessons that certain news outlets continually try to impose on war stories out of Iraq.

Her facts are, so far as we know, accurate. But the headline, and her "lessons drawn" are right out of deep discount central. You almost have the feeling she thought she was on the trail of Tet.

MSNBC also carried the story, but has apparently now -- a mere three days later -- determined it is no longer newsworthy and has actually taken the link down!

Wrechard at Belmont Club analyzed the MSNBC version, and concluded:
Of course, once the local American reinforcements arrived the al-Qaeda unit was doomed, but their fate was sealed earlier. The three Humveee patrol fixed, disrupted and cut up a force three to four times their size and immobilized an enemy unit that saw its mission change instantly from the infiltration of Ramadi to surviving. It's an amazing story.

Yet, neither Belmont Club's link to the MSNBC story, nor a search of the MSNBC news site using MSNBC's own search engine, yields any remaining Donkey Island story link. It has simply disappeared, including the Today Show version. All you get, as of noon today, August 22d, is "Page not found."

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

The Washington Post version of the story factually relates the circumstances of a rather intense roadside firefight back on June 30th, initially between a small patrol of 9 American troops from the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, and a vastly numerically superior contingent of 70 or so al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terror fighters (the MSNBC version said 40). The American patrol unexpectedly came upon them while riding on patrol along swampy trails near the Nassar Canal, just south of Ramadi in Anbar Province.

While both the canal and the Euphrates River tend to "compartmentalize" the city of Ramadi, neither is "wide enough to seriously limit crossing" hence such recon partols are considered a military necessity in the area.

Our guys were driving along near the canal looking for water-based weapons smuggling operations, and at around 9:15 pm, they suddenly happened on the AQI contingent, and two “semitrucks” that, as was later determined, had been used to smuggle the terror fighters and weapons around several checkpoints, and into the area. Both sides were surprised at the contact, and a firefight ensued that lasted much of the night. Our guys won the engagement, big-time.

But the "lessons" portion of the story Tyson tells is fraught with exaggerated concerns and misgivings that seem plainly unjustified in the context of the very facts she cites.

As she reported, captured video and other intelligence from the insurgents later showed, that the AQI terrorists had trained for months in the lake region north of Ramadi, and were apparently seeking to launch terror counterattacks in and around the city, including proof of a desire to assassinate a local tribal chief just south of Ramadi, one "Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, who founded the main pro-U.S. tribal alliance, known as the Anbar Awakening." The clear outcome of the battle, in light of the high AQI casualties, compromised intelligence and captured weapons cache, is that neither of those two AQI objectives will be attempted at any time soon. But she doesn't say that. Instead she describes this demonstrably failed attempt, as a battle,

which would not only reveal their enemy's determination to retake Ramadi but also throw into question the region's long-term stability if the Americans were to leave. It suggested, moreover, that preserving the city's fragile, hard-won calm would call for heavier fighting than anticipated.

Sheik Rishawi was one of the first tribal leaders in the largely Sunni region to begin working closely with the Americans last fall, in order to fight AQI. It was back then that, as stated in the article, several “influential Sunni tribes around Ramadi, weary of the violence and executions of their leaders, joined with the U.S. military to oust the hard-core Islamic insurgents.” Though unstated in the story, they were also outraged by the constant terrorizing of civilians, and the attempted imposition of extremist Sharia, or Islamic law on the populace. No doubt that was buttressed by the fact that recent intelligence obtained from captured AQI demonstrated that the terror organization is teeming with foreign fighters and leaders, which has no doubt contributed to the rivening between Sunni Iraqi tribal leaders and AQI related groups.

Clearly, neither the Americans nor the highly trained AQI insurgents anticipated running into one another that night, but the ensuing roadside battle, later dubbed by someone as the Battle for Donkey Island, turned out very poorly for AQI. Donkey Island was a small strip of land in the canal that a few of the AQI fighters swam to in an unsuccessful attempt to flank the American fighters during the battle. As soon as they discovered the AQI fighters, the Americans quickly backed up their three Humvees about 100 yards, lining them up three abreast, and where they also got cover from a small ridge. The fire fight had ensued. Some time later (around 11 pm) additional reinforcements from the I-77 Charlie Company, and no doubt some form of air cover, joined with the nine Americans in the battle, but at no time did American troops outnumber the insurgents.

Two Americans were killed and eleven were injured in the all night violent exchange, while nearly half, or 32, of the AQI fighters were killed. Both American deaths tragically occurred the next morning while troops were disarming AQI “suicide vests” on the dozens of AQI bodies. They were shot by a wounded terrorist.

Largely disregarding the overall tenor of what she was covering, you could tell that Ms. Tyson, or perhaps an editor, were intent on reporting uncertainty about the outcome of the struggle, including raising questions about the entire current surge operation. But the facts, even as she reported them, simply do not support those conclusions.

Take for example, just the highly misleading headline attached to the story:

A Deadly Clash at Donkey Island
On a Routine Night Patrol Near Ramadi, U.S. Troops Stumble Upon a Camp of Heavily Armed Insurgents Poised to Retake the City

Deadly Clash

Plainly, the deadliness of the clash was heavily weighted to the al-Qaeda fighters who were crushed by the engagement. Months of planning for a series of terror attacks, simply went down the drain for them. And in spite of having significant numerical superiority, they were utterly outgunned and suffered nearly 50% killed, or 32 dead. The two Americans deaths both occurred the next morning after the firefight, when two troops were attempting to disarm the suicide vests of the dozens of dead AQI fighters, and were tragically shot by a wounded terrorist.

On a Routine Night Patrol – Stumble Upon Insurgents --

Secondly, the article strongly implies that our troops, while on patrol, only stumbled on the enemy. You would almost think it was a dumb mistake, stumbling upon insurgents. But that is exactly what recon patrols are all about – discovering enemy movements while on patrol in order to keep them from succeeding in surprise attacks on your defensive positions. Prarie Pundit pretty well nailed that aspect of the "battle."

Heavily armed

Thirdly, the statement that the insurgents were heavily armed is just plain silly. They had AK-47s, a few machine guns and some grenades, as well as the suicide vests. And, in the trucks were whatever arms they had smuggled into the area for future attacks in the area. In any event, all were lost to AQI.

Poised to retake the city

And finally, the most outrageous statement was that they were "poised to retake the city." That is just plain unadulterated rubbish. This AQI terror group planned to launch a sneak attack on at least one tribal leader of the region, in order to try and undermine local support for us in our mission, and to launch additional terror attacks. But it was seventy (or forty) fighters. They failed miserably at both, and paid a very heavy price. However, the suggestion that they were poised to retake the city is nonsense.

But you have to dig well into the story to find one small accurate assessment in the story, which the author couches in the opinion of the U.S. military.

U.S. commanders said the battle was a major defeat for al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents, showing how hard it is for them to operate in Anbar, where they face an increased U.S. troop presence and rejection by the Sunni population.

And the story ends with Tyson quoting a general assessment by General Petraeus, noting al-Qaeda in Iraq has largely lost in Anbar Province, which she follows with quotes from local commanders suggesting contradictions -- i.e., that further AQI attacks in Ramadi will likely occur.

Her over all tone is a “forced” note of pessimism that seems largely unjustified.

As Prarie Pundit quite correctly noted:

What the story really shows is that some relatively inexperienced troops overcame a numerically superior force and prevailed. This is the kind of action that deserves medals and commendations. It does not deserved to be used in someones talking points for defeat.

With stories and assessments of success quickly emerging, even among former war critics, there certainly seems to have been a sea change in the statements and attitudes of national Democrat politicians, who all now seem to be scrambling to align themselves with evidence that the mission in Iraq has turned the corner. Today's Washington Post story on the subject notes in a gentile manner, the "refocus" of the Democrat message.

A few days ago, Representative Brian Baird, (D-WA), long a critic of the battle in Iraq, stated that we may need to stay there longer. Some, as today's Post noted, are even beginning to turn on leadership, such as Representative Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), who has recently begun waivering on troop withdrawal deadlines.

"We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning," he said, adding, "I don't know what the [Democratic] leadership is thinking. Sometimes they've done things that are beyond me."

If the tide of the battle of Iraq continues to turn, and begets success, he's not the only one who is going to be raising that very question. After all, only two months ago, Harry Reid was calling General Petraeus, "out of touch," and even strongly implying that the General was lying.

As for the Democrat Presidential contenders, watching them scramble for position may well challenge the triggers of the world's least sensitive hypocrisy meters. Not two days ago, Barak Obama confidently assured the world that it was too late . . . there could be no victory in Iraq. But today the Post story quotes him saying,

"My assessment is that if we put an additional 30,000 of our troops into Baghdad, that's going to quell some of the violence in the short term," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) echoed in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "I don't think there's any doubt that as long as U.S. troops are present that they are going to be doing outstanding work."

What's it going to be, Barak?

And Hillary Clinton is now even saying that the surge strategy is working! But where was she last week?

For the troops fighting and putting their lives on the line, however, all of these positions du jour must seem very unsettling. After all, these people claim to be leaders running for President, which would make one of them the Commander in Chief.

As a child I often wanted to see the noblest of motives in others. So my father used to somewhat cynically remind me from time to time, "Just remember . . . everyone lives on Selfish Island."

For the legions of Americans who had lost a measure of faith in the real liklihood of success in Iraq, the leapfrogging siren songs of the political opposition may have seemed somewhat enticing -- for a while. But now, watching them all hastily swim away from their positions, away from their Donkey Island, just has to furrow more than a few brows.

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At 12:48 PM, April 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I should enlight you on a few things about that night, being I was there... first of all red platoon( three vics ) at the time got lost during their platrol and did in fact stumble apon the enemy. 2) the scouts (1-77 AR HHC) came to their aid, within 20 mins the scouts were on site to help. 3) the weapons the enemy had ranged from mortars, rpgs, ied's and a large amount of ak's rpk's and what not

At 12:35 PM, June 26, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... The writer of this blog is a cunt!

At 4:40 PM, June 26, 2008, Blogger Trochilus said...

The scribbler of the prior comment, whoever he or she may be, is a foul-mouthed, misogynist little twit.

At 10:47 AM, July 11, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9:01 AM, February 17, 2009, Blogger JD-Dine said...

do u know anything about the soldier that was medevaced by an apache?

At 8:31 AM, August 22, 2012, Blogger scout 9G said...

who got Bronze stars? I got aPH, and went home. so get your facts straight.

At 7:01 AM, August 15, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the guy who wrote this article, shame on you! And I like how you added in that we were an inexperienced force. Idiot! To the person who said that RED got lost, and that you guys (scouts) showed up in 20 minutes; you my friend are a wrong. We were never lost that night, but driving back from checking out some “intel” that we had got from fixed wing. Our lead truck saw the two trucks off in the distance, and being that we were driving blackout (no lights, and using NVG’s) they didn’t see us coming when we decided to check it out. Furthermore, the scouts got lost, resulting in the first truck arriving at my truck to drop off ammo at about, 75 minutes after first contact. However, I am very thankful that you did show up, so please don’t take this the wrong way. Facts are facts, I can’t change that. This was just to clear a few things up. R6D out! ;)

P.S. R7D, I miss you! ;)


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