Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Tide Is Turning (2)

Almost two weeks ago, I wrote that The Tide Is Turning about changes appearing in Iraq and across the Arab world. Now comes word in a Michael Totten piece that, at least in some areas, the changes have been more rapid and more complete than I'd dared hope.

Ramadi has changed so drastically from the terrorist-infested pit that it was as recently as April 2007 that I could hardly believe what I saw was real. The sheer joy on the faces of these Iraqis was unmistakable. They weren’t sullen in the least, and it was pretty obvious that they were not just pretending to be friendly or going through the hospitality motions. ...

What he said next surprised me even more than what I was seeing.

“You know what I like most about this place?” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“We don’t need to wear body armor or helmets,” he said.

I was poleaxed. Without even realizing it, I had taken off my body armor and helmet. I took my gear off as casually as I do when I take it off after returning to the safety of the base after patrolling. We were not in the safety of the base and the wire. We were safe because we were in Ramadi.

What brought about this kind of change, and this scale? It was the experience gained — by us and by them.
The Iraqis of Anbar Province turned against Al Qaeda and sided with the Americans in large part because Al Qaeda proved to be far more vicious than advertised. But it’s also because sustained contact with the American military — even in an explosively violent combat zone — convinced these Iraqis that Americans are very different people from what they had been led to believe. They finally figured out that the Americans truly want to help and are not there to oppress them or steal from them. And the Americans slowly learned how Iraqi culture works and how to blend in rather than barge in.
This kind of change cannot be reversed. Experience, once gained, cannot be lost. As others have said, "you can't unring a bell."

There's a lot more in Totten's piece. And the pictures are great. Recommended. While you're at it, why not also see why Victor Davis Hanson says doomsday is not just around the corner, in Iraq or a number of other places.

UPDATE: With the changes Totten reported, al Qaeda moved is "caliphate" headquarters from Anbar to Diyala province. Now, as Ed Morrissey reports, the same thing is happening there. But this time it's not just Sunni tribes forming an alliance against al Qaeda. Diyala province has a mixed Sunni and Shia and Kurdish population, and all these groups are joining forces with the local government and the U.S. forces, proving that they can and will cooperate across sectarian divides for the common good.

The tide continues to turn.

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