Operation Arrowhead Ripper: Day One


Civilian casualties are occurring, despite much discretion being used on the firing. I saw three MLRS rockets hit targets downtown today (June 20) and more were fired. Watched the video feed from the TOC as some of them hit. The targeting was perfect. Our guys had cleared out the civilians, but the enemy starts shootouts using civilians as cover. American officers are trying to account for civilian casualties; media is asking and command is still unable to answer, which of course looks like a cover-up. From what I see on the ground, there is no cover-up. The number is unknown but certainly there must be some.

Michael Gordon is a NYT reporter who is in the battle. Gordon will be an important resource. The commanders take a break from fighting each day to have meetings with each other, and Iraqi officers, and he comes off the battlefield with one of the commanders to the briefings. I saw Gordon today, his shirt stained white from sweat. Gordon and I were at a commander briefing when one of the battalion commanders, LTC Smiley, talked about how his soldiers shot some terrorists today (June 20); on different occasions today, women and children came out and “gave aid” to the wounded terrorists. My guess is that the number of civilian casualties is not high. Gordon has been running with other soldiers, so it will be important to hear his accounts. From what I’ve read so far, Gordon has been very accurate and on target.

By the end of the first day (June 19), about 30 enemy had been killed, 1 U.S. killed and 5 WIA. At least two soldiers were heat casualties, including one who was with my group.

The combat has only just begun, and media has now figured out this is serious business. During the morning brief (June 20th), Major Robbie Parke mentioned that CNN, TIME, Reuters and some others, are trying to get out here now. Problem is space. Looks like Gordon and I are mostly alone for now. Others are said to be in Baqubah, but if they are here, they are missing some of the most important parts, and if they were at the important commander’s meetings, I would have seen them.

The heat is intense for the enemy and for us. Soldiers, during any chance, would lay-down during the heat of day, and in complete body armor and helmets, fall asleep in the dirt. I took photos of course. Our guys are tough. The enemy in Baqubah is as good as any in Iraq, and better than most. That’s saying a lot. But our guys have been systematically trapping them, and have foiled some big traps set for our guys. I don’t want to say much more about that, but our guys are seriously outsmarting them. Big fights are ahead and we will take serious losses probably, but al Qaeda, unless they find a way to escape, are about to be slaughtered. Nobody is dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. Our guys want to kill them, and that’s the plan.

A positive indicator on the 19th and the 20th is that most local people apparently are happy that al Qaeda is being trapped and killed. Civilians are pointing out IEDs and enemy fighters, so that’s not working so well for al Qaeda. Clearly, I cannot do a census, but that says something about the locals.

Much going on here in Baqubah. Unfortunately I have no assistant with me, and so no time for photos or video.

More soon.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack Lavelle · 13 years ago
    Michael: I bought your book and I'm looking forward to reading it on a long flight Friday night to Santiago, Chile from Dallas. Nine hours, they tell me.

    I am another of the people back home who appreciates what you are doing. You are OUR eyes and ears, and we have learned to trust your reporting.

    Keep your head down and try to find a cool spot. I live in Phoenix. So I know the heat.

    A buddy of mine was a Buffalo driver in Baghdad and he did tours in Iraq. Loved IED-hunting. I sent him 10-paks of Copenhagen to keep him going.

    When he got home a year or so ago, I asked him: Which is hotter, Phoenix or Baghdad? He said, Phoenix, but Baghdad smells worse.

    I'm praying for you, bud.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gerald Hunt · 13 years ago
    I bought your book a couple weeks ago and read it in two days. I couldn't put it down. For those of us who care about what's happening in Iraq, from the ground level, your website is outstanding and the book is one I'll purchase for my family and friends. Great work .... excellent insights! Our brilliant politicians oughta read it.
    I have two sons currently serving in Iraq. Both are SF warriors. One is flying Blackhawks with the 160th Nightstalkers. The other is training up Iraqi SF in the Baghdad area. The Nightstalker son is on his 6th Iraq mission. He was in Tal Afar when you were embedded with the troops. The other son has served two tours in Iraq and was in Baqubah at the time you were reporting about Operation Arrowhead Ripper. I wonder if you guys ever crossed paths? God bless you and God bless our troops!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Duquette · 13 years ago
    just read the report about arrowhead ripper, don't worry about vid man. keep your head down. we need your voice of truth. Photos dont tell it all. You do.
    and again..Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gunny T · 12 years ago
    I've just recemt;y become aware of who you are, and now I'm following your reporting. I liked your reporting about the P.I. and Abu Sayaf / Morons. My son will be deploying to Afghanistan with the 2nd Marines shortly, and I'll be keeping close track with your reporting. May God Bless you and keep you safe and well!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mustafa Kazemi · 10 years ago
    Impressive works Mike, as usual. No wonders if you're called the world's best war correspondent. You're inspiration and motivation to thousands now.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Rayne · 10 years ago
      I agree with you on ,that keep up the good work,Mike ! Bless you !
  • This commment is unpublished.
    ATHandly · 7 years ago
    Micheal, who were you with when you were reporting in Baqubah? I was in 5/20, we were the spearhead of Arrowhead Ripper. I don't remember many, if any reporters/journalists integrated with our battalion. So I was curious whom you were with when you witnessed your account?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Clem De La Cruz · 7 years ago
    I was there and participated in Arrowhead Ripper. It has been one of the more memorable moments in my life. I spent six months fighting in Baqubah, six months that I will never forget
  • This commment is unpublished.
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