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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein



The insurgents, more than a year ago, shifted their focus from killing US troops to primarily killing each other. Although they are content with picking off 5 or 10 of our people every day they look to book their big numbers, 20 or 30 a day, from their countrymen. The green zone is under constant mortar fire, with all personnel ordered to wear flak vests when outside of any building or bunker. This supposed, safe harbor for Iraqi governmental officials, U.S. troops, State Department officials, and mercenaries has also sustained its first suicide bomb, probably from a bomb smuggled by its constituent parts. Its worth mentioning, as Larry Johnson former CIA official correctly pointed out, the suicide attack that destroyed that bridge in Baghdad wasn't a suicide attack but a tactical target. That doesn't bode very well when thinking about logistics, movement operations or say rapid withdrawal.

We brought Kurdish Peshmerga in to help police Baghdad during the surge. Forgetting how bizarre that it, it seems the local usa commanders are aware that the Iraqis are so infiltrated they cant be trusted. I saw a report of Iraqi police begging for ammo at a checkpoint because they had none. That wasn't a mistake, I figure. We have also stopped major training operations, realizing that the Iraqis would never stand up so we could stand down.

Let's recall the plan from 2005 which was to 'clear, hold, and rebuild key cities, 2006 - transition to Iraqi forces and start leaving in 2007. None of which worked. So we are trying again, except instead of hiding out in massive bases and driving like a bat out of hell through the neighborhoods to get back to the huge flat panel tvs and hot chow, we are building small outposts which even though they are in the neighborhoods, are set back from the public, armed with rocket launchers to destroy any truck bombs and hopefully avoiding any Beirut barracks copycats. Petraeus has said "If you want to protect the population, you've got to live with it", he has made these outposts vital to the counterinsurgency effort. Except these are bunkers, hardship duty stations, requiring constant vigilance, with troops just sleeping when they are not on duty. Attacks on these smaller outposts have become commonplace, and they are being attacked "every couple of days". The much touted high-tech biometrics that have been given out in order to help identify insurgents, a key factor in reducing violence, are not tied to any central database.

The U.S. is trying to rely on an advisory system, pairing up people with Iraqis to help with leadership. Something that should have happened 4 years ago and seems ridiculous now, not to mention dangerous given the level of infiltration. No matter, it wont be effective because the advisers have not been placed yet. The advisor teams will be "chosen this summer". Presumably when they somehow get more troops from somewhere who are well trained to do the job.

Additionally, the Ministry of the Interior is completely dysfunctional. Responsible for running the police force and ensuring the security of Iraq, “25% of the personnel” in the Ministry are corrupt or working for the insurgents. U.S. commanders repeatedly have asked that the ministry be replaced or rebuilt. 5 years in and we are still having to provide leadership and advice to Iraqi troops and commanders.

It seems the commanders on the ground are sincerely trying to fight this war, with the extra help of more troops through this current surge, and yes, popular perception is much more valuable than a company of Rangers but painting fake rosy pictures in the US press is not the answer. The U.S. lack of intelligence on the ground is a massive failure of command. Without being able to trust a big portion of the Iraqi government itself, and not trusting the local cops, the U.S. outposts are virtually blind to any threat and much not able to understand the neighborhoods they live in.

The few translators which are still in Iraq, are unable to appear in public or reveal their identities without being killed. How can they be used effectively? The assassination and intimidation strategy the insurgents have conducted has been very successful.

The frustration you hear from commanders about the U.S. press is just frustration with the fact that they don't seem to be getting anywhere and are looking around for someone to blame. Sadly any counter insurgency person can tell you that 5 years of occupation, screw ups, Abu gharib's, Haditha’s, and Fallujah’s, and the general dislike and contempt for the locals, has doomed this war long before they tried this one last Hail Mary.

People would have you believe that writing about the war truthfully is 'hurting the war effort' or 'helping the enemy' but the Iraqis' perception is put together by what they see everyday and you cant hide the truth. In the same way that even though the republicans control a number of media message outlets and have silenced and hamstrung the U.S. attorneys, the public can understand that the war is lost, Bush sucks, and the republican leadership are a bunch of crooks. People ain't that stupid especially when their lives depend on it.

With the initiative in the insurgents hands, no intelligence capability, and having lost most, if not all, of the Iraqi popular perception and a vast insurgent infiltration of the Iraqi infrastructure, the result of this surge is predictable. Another win for the inviolate rules of counter insurgency warfare.