Michael Yon is an independent journalist 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 exclusively for FOXNews.com.
The atmosphere in Baqubah was choked with fear and local authorities were mired in inertia. But the people were relieved and looking for signs that the changes made in the past two weeks were going to last. Restarting food deliveries, after they had been stopped by Baghdad for almost a year, would be a strong indicator that stability was at hand.
After fueling the trucks in the convoy, we headed to Baghdad to get the food. The trucks took an exit down a route that we did not follow, because it had not been cleared of bombs. Sometimes bombs are so large they are buried under roads using earthmoving machines and sit for months waiting for someone just like us, taking a shortcut only to get launched to God.
The shortcut caused an hour difference in arrival times, and the break in contact led to frustrating hours of additional delay, tooling around Baghdad trying to find the warehouse, and re-establishing contact with all the trucks. But if there were any huge bombs waiting for us, we avoided them, and this dispatch got written.
While trying to re-establish contact with the convoy and find the Ministry and warehouse, we stopped several times so the mayor could make calls on his mobile, and each time we dismounted into the scorching brightness.
Snipers are a serious threat; some can get a headshot from impressive distances. The biggest threat against snipers is other snipers. ("Sniper" is a loaded word that evokes gag reflexes among true snipers, especially because British and American media misuse the word maybe 90 percent of the time, which itself is impressive.) Sometimes a "sniper" is just some guy with a rifle taking a potshot, but the bullet flies at the same velocity no matter whose finger squeezes the trigger.
Staff Sgt. Matt Hudgeons, above, shot a man in the stomach with that rifle less than a week before. The man fell off the two-story roof and crashed onto the street along with the rocket launcher he had been firing.
Each time we dismounted on our way to the warehouse, Matt's job was counter sniper. All this for food.
Please give me a sign. The closer we come to Sadr City, the more signs point to the potential for an Iraqi theocracy.
With a slew of delays behind us, by the time we made it, the Ministry and the food warehouse near Sadr City were closed. Civil servants leave at 2 p.m. This was a problem.
The drivers were afraid to overnight in Baghdad, and yet if they aborted home to Baqubah, the food mission would likely crash. The Iraqi media was watching. In fact, at least one Iraqi journalist had come on the convoy. The goal was to get the food flowing, but the real goal was to show people the food was flowing. A sense of normalcy leads to more normalcy.
The American press that flooded in for the kinetic fighting in Baqubah left when the shooting stopped. Their interest waned for covering these aspects of counterinsurgency. They were gone and missing the real story.
Nobody was even watching, but this play was not for the American journalists, it was for the Iraqi people. So with the drivers frightened and ready to abort, the mission could do worse than merely fail, it could backfire. (Like the entire war.)
The story in the Iraqi press might be that after 10 months of no food shipments to Baqubah, Arrowhead Ripper is launched, and ... food shipments do not resume, and Baqubah and Diyala province are abandoned by the Iraqi government. This would be a terrific media victory for Al Qaeda and its push to deepen the civil war here.
Some drivers wanted desperately to go home. The Mayor of Baqubah, caught between his job and his fear, was having second thoughts. Clearly he was scared, everyone could see it. He was leaning on the abort button and his angst reinforced the fear in the drivers.
Independent journalist Michael Yon’s dispatches from Iraq appear exclusively on FOXNews.com. Click to read Yon's online magazine MichaelYon-online.com.