Michael J. Totten

December 15th, 2008

Michael J. Totten is an independent journalist from Portland, Oregon.  He specializes on the Middle East, and his work has been published in numerous prestigious newspapers and magazines.  He also publishes articles on his blog

He published an article today, On the Hunt in Baghdad, reporting on an Army unit he accompanied on an operation.  Their mission was to apprehend a dangerous, high-level terrorist leader.  It’s a refreshingly honest report on what he saw, without the bias that so often infects the reporting of big-media journalists. It’s among the most realistic reports I’ve seen coming out of Iraq.

Following a tense encounter with people in a house where the terrorist had reportedly just been, Totten reports:

Every person in that house did one of two things that night: they either covered up for the terrorist leader, or they revealed they were deathly afraid of him. There is no chance whatsoever that none of them had ever heard of the guy. He is a notorious mass murderer on the loose in their own city. Imagine meeting an adult American who says he or she has never heard of Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden. It just doesn’t happen. …

I stepped out of the house and into the courtyard again, not quite sure what to do with myself. So I paced. And I needed some air. There was a tremendous amount of emotional violence in that house. I could feel it. All of us felt it. All of us knew we might be shot or even blown up at any moment. But I noticed, only in hindsight, that no one had been struck or even shoved by a single American soldier. The raid was intense, but it was also restrained.

I have been inside dozens of Iraqi homes with American soldiers. This episode was nowhere near typical. The aggression was deliberate, and it had a purpose – it kept the residents from thinking they might try something stupid. We were in much more danger, at least potentially, than they were. No one inside the house would be harmed if they didn’t start something, but any of them might have shot at us at any moment.

Check Totten’s blog regularly.  It’s one of the few places you can find straight reporting on American soldiers and Marines on the ground.


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