AR-RAMADI, Iraq -- This week in a primetime White House news conference, President Bush described recent fighting in Iraqi areas of ar-Ramadi and Fallujah as "tough." It is tough, war always is. During my first 40 hours on the ground, anti-Iraqi forces haven't stopped shooting at the Marines, making it more difficult to get around.
But that's not to say progress isn't being made and those who are inciting the violence aren't being brought to justice -- it is, and they are. And it would be refreshing if just one member of the vaunted White House press corps or one of the television channel's chattering chumps would show a sliver of confidence in America's armed forces and their ability to defeat the terrorists with whom they are engaged in Iraq. I can report that the troops here -- specifically members of the 1st Marine Division out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and the Army's 1st Brigade from Fort Riley, Kan., with whom I am traveling -- are "performing brilliantly," as the president said Tuesday night.
In fact, in ar-Ramadi, it's going a lot better than some might perceive. While much of the media's attention has focused on Fallujah, where four American civilians were killed, here in ar-Ramadi, Marines and soldiers are socking it to the enemy. "The fighting has been intense, but we've been kicking butt everywhere we go," is the way one Marine sergeant described it to me.
Earlier this week, these young Marines and soldiers were engaged in a violent, early-morning firefight with anti-Iraqi forces that resulted in four enemy dead, nine detainees and 16 weapons captured. Fighting with them were friendly Iraqis who aren't going to let their cities and towns become safe havens for terrorist cells. Those anti-Iraqi forces, it should be pointed out, are a mixture of foreign fighters, some Baathist loyalists and members of terrorist cells. While the press back home complains that Iraqis are "rising up" against American forces, they overlook the fact that there are a lot of foreign fighters involved in, and inciting, this violence. They've come into this country to disrupt and prevent democratic reforms from taking place.
During last week's attack, 12 U.S. Marines were killed. Now, several days later, members of the 1st Marine Division returned to that same neighborhood and captured nine more terrorist leaders. One of those terrorists who was wounded in the previous attack had been treated in a hospital and was recuperating in the home of a "friend" when U.S. Marines, with the cooperation of Iraqis in the neighborhood, knocked on the door and took him into custody.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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