All of us who comment (and commentate) on events, past and present, bring our own unique experiences and perspectives to whatever subject it is which we choose to write on. In the case of my RedState/Human Events colleague’s and my impending trip to Baghdad, Iraq to cover the current state of the Iraq war, my personal perspectives and experiences are both a major driving force behind my motivation to go, and a major part of what, I believe, will make my personal reporting on the war a bit different from what is currently available in the mainstream media.
As has been mentioned here in the past, I was in the Iraqi theater at the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom’s (OIF) commencement, working as a tactical air controller with a Joint Special Operations Task Force, responsible for providing short- and long-range communications and airstrike and artillery control for coalition SpecOps teams in-country, among other tasks. Simply the nature of working in such an elite force led to my being fortunate enough to be a part of some landmark experiences and successes, like the rescue of prisoner-of-war PFC Jessica Lynch – the first successful rescue of a US POW since World War II.
Being a part of such a resoundingly successful mission – and there is no doubt that the “major combat operations” phase of OIF was just that: a resounding success – was an extremely rewarding experience. However, having participated in such a successful operation has made me more sensitive – and more attuned – to the less-than-stellar 3½ years since those “major combat operations” ended. While I have sought, wherever possible, to find the silver lining in events and developments there, it is inarguable that mistakes (whether seemingly right at the time or not) have been made between the operation’s beginning and the present. Where possible, I have done my best to point out the missteps and poor decisions as I have seen them, and to recommend improved courses of action; however, though I have often doubted the country’s, the Congress’s, and the President’s will and resolve, I have never doubted that our troops have both the ability and the determination to complete this mission as successfully as it was begun. All they have needed was the right leadership and the right commitment from those leaders – and, to this point, they have rarely gotten that.
The situation in Iraq appears to be on the upturn at this time, though, and it is for that reason – as well as for the simple reason of wanting to see with my own eyes the state of something for which I was present at the inception – that I am especially desirous of returning and reporting from the battlefront itself.
Are we “winning?” Are we “losing?” Can it even be described in such simple terms? Given my personal experience in the theater, and my vested interest not only in our nation’s success, but also in getting the real story out in front of the American public, I am greatly looking forward not only to seeing the situation with my own eyes, but also to bringing a perspective tinged with experience to the current reportage on the Iraq war – a perspective the likes of which may not have been seen before.
Apart from bringing my own personal experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom to my war reportage there, my colleague, Victoria Coates, and I have an academic interest in common which we hope to use to bring information back to the American people on another topic, which she wrote on yesterday: the missing Mesopotamian antiquities from the Baghdad Museum.
This case of the Iraqi antiquities, and of the cultural heritage of the nation (and the region), encompasses an interesting and fortuitous dovetailing of Dr. Coates’s and my personal and professional interests. A professional art historian and a classical archaeologist can have much to say about the situation in Iraq vis-à-vis these artifacts, and we hope that our experiences in that field will add another element to our reportage.
However, speaking for myself, the primary reason for traveling to the Middle East and inserting ourselves into a combat zone is simply this: to assess – and experience – the current situation on the ground, both within the “Green Zone” and outside of it, and to report on the facts on the ground – whatever they may be.
So, while I am greatly looking forward joining my colleague Dr. Coates in getting our “academic boots on the ground” in Baghdad, it is my old, dust-covered, blood-type-labeled combat boots which I am most looking forward to putting on the ground and getting on the move in the War on Terror’s most dynamic combat zone later this month, for the purpose of seeing what is going on for myself, and for the purpose of using my perspective and experiences to bring information and insight back to the American people which cannot be found anywhere else.
Mr. Emanuel, a special operations military veteran, is a columnist and a director of conservative weblog RedState.com.