Dispatches From Iraq: Ghosts of Anbar, Part IV of IV

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.


After villagers tipped off the Iraqi police about an IED emplacer some days earlier, the Iraqi army and U.S. Marines launched several raids based on further tips.

On the way to the raids, Iraqi Lt. Hamid took a sidebar and raided the wrong house. Staff Sergeant Rakene Lee asked Lt. Hamid why he had raided the wrong house. It appeared to be an accident, but nobody was hurt and the people were treated well. (Except of course that their house got raided.)

Fortunately, everyone had gone in easy and not blown doors off with explosives. Those mistakes also happen sometimes. Sometimes our own guys blow down doors to the wrong homes.

Back in the early days of the war, this might have seemed like an innocent “Oh well that’s war” type mistake, but after spending all this time with Iraqis I now see that it was in part actions like that, which also blew open the door in Iraq for Al Qaeda to come in.

Counterinsurgency is all about perception. Perception is how reality gets interpreted by people. It can be shaped, cajoled, hardened or distorted by innumerable influences. A paragraph in the Ethics section of the Army’s new COIN manual makes this clear:

Counterinsurgents that use excessive force to limit short-term risk alienate the local populace. They deprive themselves of the support or tolerance of the people. This situation is what insurgents want. It increases the threat they pose. Sometimes lethal responses are counterproductive. At other times, they are essential. The art of command includes knowing the difference and directing the appropriate action.

For all the raids that unfolded that night, Lee kept everyone in order so that nobody started ripping people’s houses apart during searches -- although there had been very specific information about the target houses.

At one of the houses, Iraqi soldiers said that there had been a lot of shooting on a recent night. What had all the shooting been about? Were insurgents trying to take over?

No, the old man said, it was just a couple of brothers having a shootout over a small land dispute. “OK,” the Iraqi soldiers shrugged it off. It was just a shootout between brothers. Nothing more to ask about.

There are many similarities between Iraq and home, but at the end of the day, a Cain and Abel shootout is not even something that warrants paperwork. Tribal law. This is not Kansas. Some things are very different.

Click here to read Michael Yon's full dispatch.

Links to previous Ghosts of Anbar portions:

Click here for Part I

Click here for Part II

Click here for Part III


Independent journalist Michael Yon’s dispatches from Iraq appear exclusively on FOXNews.com. Click to read Yon's online magazine MichaelYon-online.com.