The Mushadah complex

Michael Totten:

“Al Qaeda terrifies locals,” said Major Mike Garcia from Canyon, Texas, before he put me in a convoy of Humvees with 18 American Military Police on their way to the small town of Mushadah just north of Baghdad. “The only people Iraqis may be more afraid of is their mothers. When we arrest or detain people and threaten to call up their mom, they completely freak out. Please, no, don’t tell my mother they say. Women are quiet outside the house, but they severely smack down their bad kids inside the house. When your Iraqi mother tells you to knock something off, you knock it off.”

The American military has slowly figured out how to leverage Iraq’s culture to its advantage, but it only works to an extent. Locating, killing, capturing, and interrogating terrorists and insurgents is the easy part. The hard part is training Iraqis to do it themselves.

Our destination in Mushadah was the local police station where American Military Police train and equip Iraqi Police, and where it’s still too dangerous for either Iraqis or Americans to walk the streets.

“I am not trying to scare you,” said Captain Maryanne Naro, from Fort Drum, New York. “But don’t get out of your vehicle unless something catastrophic has happened to it.”

I walked the streets of Baghdad every day with soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen in Mushadah.

“It’s pretty bad up there,” she added. “AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] is all over the area because they’ve been pushed out of Baghdad, Ramadi, and Fallujah.”


This is a long and interesting report. It appears that the dregs of al Qaeda and of Iraqi society have combined in a dysfunctional mess in Mushadah. It needs a lot of work. One of the things I like about Totten's reporting is that even when the news is not good, he does not pile on political spin or use it as an excuse for defeat. I also come away from the story liking the Americans who are having to deal with the mess.


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