BASRA, Iraq – Michael Yon is an independent writer, photographer and former Green Beret who was embedded in Iraq for nine months in 2005. He has returned to Iraq for 2007 to continue reporting on the war. Here is a portion of his latest dispatch for FOXNews.com.
One of the reasons I trust General Petraeus is that he just comes right out and says what needs to be said. The letter that he sent to our forces serving in Iraq (see full dispatch) is a case in point. The letter is more important than it might appear on first glance.
There is great stress in combat, and this particular type of combat can be very frustrating. Stress in combat increases the potential for something bad to happen. Strong commanders are the only thing standing between us and another Abu Ghraib or Haditha. If something like that were to happen now, it would be a terrible setback in a war that we can still win. I am in Fallujah now, and those who have closely followed the war will need little reminder about what happened here in April 2004, and how our reprisal to barbarism caused an escalation in the war. (Fallujah is much quieter these days, and there has been great progress in the Anbar region. Enough progress to actually get media coverage.)
The progress is very real. But the potential for a disaster is also real. During the last mission I went on with the Brits, we lost two soldiers to IEDs. There were civilians around who clearly knew what happened: 48 IEDs had been put out for us and killed the guys that came behind the vehicle I was riding in. (The enemy let us pass, then hit a convoy.) The potential was there for reprisal, but the British leadership was strong and the soldiers were very professional….
We are making progress but the odds are still against us. We cannot take chances or play fast and loose with our own values. In addition to something immoral occurring, it could be the final straw for this war. All it would take is a weak leader behaving immorally, or a tired leader not recognizing the stress level of his soldiers and reacting accordingly, and we might have the proverbial straw that breaks this camel’s back.