RALPH PETERS can't find it:
I'M trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.Read the rest.
Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view's clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn't give me the right skills.
And riding around with the U.S. Army, looking at things first-hand, is certainly a technique to which The New York Times wouldn't stoop in such an hour of crisis.
Let me tell you what I saw anyway. Rolling with the "instant Infantry" gunners of the 1st Platoon of Bravo Battery, 4-320 Field Artillery, I saw children and teenagers in a Shia slum jumping up and down and cheering our troops as they drove by. Cheering our troops.
All day - and it was a long day - we drove through Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. Everywhere, the reception was warm. No violence. None.
And no hostility toward our troops. Iraqis went out of their way to tell us we were welcome.
Instead of a civil war, something very different happened because of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. The fanatic attempt to stir up Sunni-vs.-Shia strife, and the subsequent spate of violent attacks, caused popular support for the U.S. presence to spike upward.
Think Abu Musab al-Zarqawi intended that?
In place of the civil war that elements in our media declared, I saw full streets, open shops, traffic jams, donkey carts, Muslim holiday flags - and children everywhere, waving as our Humvees passed. Even the clouds of dust we stirred up didn't deter them. And the presence of children in the streets is the best possible indicator of a low threat level.
Southeast Baghdad, at least, was happy to see our troops.
And we didn't just drive past them. First Lt. Clenn Frost, the platoon leader, took every opportunity to dismount and mingle with the people. Women brought their children out of their compound gates to say hello. A local sheik spontaneously invited us into his garden for colas and sesame biscuits.
It wasn't the Age of Aquarius. The people had serious concerns. And security was No. 1. They wanted the Americans to crack down harder on the foreign terrorists and to disarm the local militias. Iraqis don't like and don't support the militias, Shia or Sunni, which are nothing more than armed gangs.
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