Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How Soldiers Get "Actionable Intelligence" in Iraq

Michael Totten, on the yeomen's work by our troops:

The soldiers and the Iraqis discussed the rather mundane minutiae of joint community projects. I wrote down much of the dialogue, but it is not terribly interesting and, besides, I wouldn’t want to reveal too much about who these Iraqis are and what they do. Everyone in the community knows they work with Americans. What they don’t know is that they also pass on reliable and actionable intelligence to the military about the identities and whereabouts of terrorists and insurgents.

The Army has come a long way since they first arrived in Iraq, and Lieutenant Pitts was shaping up to be a real American Arabist.

We still hadn’t done anything, though, except hang out and socialize with Iraqis. I knew the drill, however. I often work the same way in the Middle East as a reporter when I’m not embedded. Much of what I do in the Middle East is have dinner and tea, and sometimes alcohol, with Middle Easterners and learn how their culture works and what they think. Most Arabs will tell you far more and answer more honestly over food and drinks than they will if you rattle off a list of pre-packaged questions like you’re pumping them for information. Government officials usually skip the formalities and the socializing, but few others do.

Our soldiers are doing far more than peacekeeping, if anyone is still under that impression. They are building and re-building, and earning trust and respect from the Iraqis. And gratitude:
“The soccer field you’re building,” said our host to the lieutenant, “is great for the kids, but it also helps with security. Insurgents were using that area as a base. Thank you, thank you.” He put his hand on his heart.

“Listen,” said another Iraqi, who wore a long black beard as well as a dishdasha. “I have something to tell you, but it has to be away from the children.”

He said this in English so the children would not understand. A young man led them outside and suggested they play with their new toys on the lawn.

“When you came and liberated this country,” he continued, “Iraq had 25 million Saddams. America is turning us back into human beings. That soccer field is not for a specific person. It is for everybody. We appreciate that. We believe that if Americans have something that is ours, they will return it to us. If the Iraqi government has something that is ours, we forget it.”

More than just shooting.

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