Thursday, July 21, 2005

Michael Yon reports

I've been reading Michael Yon's reports from Iraq as he has traveled with the troops and they've been an excellent window on the war. Yon isn't sitting poolside in the green zone in Baghdad writing like he's out in the trenches. Yon's recent series "Walking the Line" was nothing short of brilliant, especially in that he managed to hook up with Jeffrey Mellinger, the Command Sergeant Major for Coalition Forces in Iraq. Hanging onto Mellinger's belt as the Command Sergeant Major went from end to end of Iraq is literally reporting that this war hasn't seen, ever. (See "Walking the Line", Parts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five at Yon's site.)

Today, Yon takes us along on a raid and discovery of a weapons cache and gives us a narrative of how our soldiers and our bases there aren't the clay pigeon targets the MSM would have you believe they are:

::::::::Our bases have something called Counter Battery Radar (CBR), and when a mortar or rocket is launched, the computers on the CBR can calculate the POO before the bomb lands. The enemy knows this, and they know we can fire “counter battery” cannon or mortars, or that we might have jets and helicopters just moments away, or forces on the ground nearby. Lately, Iraqi police have joined the list of options for killing mortar teams. It’s increasingly dangerous to be a terrorist here.

And so the enemy plays a game of fire and flee, hauling the mortars around town, setting up the tubes (or rockets), firing a few shots, and moving out quickly. To buy a little more insurance, the enemy often picks a POO close to a school or a mosque, knowing that Americans will be reluctant to shoot at schools, and usually will not fire at mosques. In fact, mosques are off-limits without higher approval unless you are clearly taking fire from them. But this isn’t a case of giving the enemy a safe haven for launching bombs at our soldiers. Insurgents have learned the hard way that higher approval is not a high hurdle when the same mosque is used for a shield more than once. If a man does not respect his own sacred ground, he should not expect others to. A man should never hide behind religion like he’s hiding behind his momma’s leg.

The CBR is effective. The enemy shooters can only strike briefly. If they take one extra shot, or take a few extra seconds scrambling away, they will die. Our cannons, our helicopters, US soldiers and snipers, the Iraqi police, or some combination of these, will kill them. As frustrating as it can be to have an enemy firing two or three round volleys at Coalition and Iraqi forces, the fact is we can take those punches. It helps knowing that every time an insurgent sets up he’s like a buck drinking at the river. Our hunters are always looking for tracks and laying ambushes. Sooner or later, bam! Head on the wall.
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Very good stuff, indeed. Take the time to read Yon's stuff. He's no cheerleader for the war effort but he's sure not a doomsayer convinced that virtually everything that's happening there is blowing up in our faces, either. Definitely worth your time if you want to stay informed.