Baqubah is surrounded by our forces and there is sharp fighting. Apaches firing occasionally, artillery, air strikes and some loud rockets that flew in all the way from Fallujah. Casualties on both sides, but looks like first day is going well. I was present when LTC Fred Johnson informed Iraqi officials that the city is surrounded. LTC Johnson was forthright about the attacks unfolding. There was gunfire just outside during the first meetings. The biggest part of the plan is to trap and kill as many al Qaeda as possible, and to eventually leave the city completely in Iraqi hands. The Iraqi leaders I have seen are thankful and are taking part. Their biggest complaint was that the attack started just as students are trying to take their National Exams. So, early today there was a large gathering of students who wanted to take the exams, but the schools are closed. Bad news is that this is the latest serious disruption to Iraqi lives, but I do find it heartening that the biggest complaint is about the National Exams. It's hard not to respect people who see helicopters shooting rockets, and who are hearing the explosions from the shells and rockets, yet they are thinking about exams.
This is a serious battle, and much more important that the news is making out. My guess is that most media have little idea of the consequences or magnitude of the Battle for Baqubah, and so it's slipping by. I've posted on the attack: http://michaelyon-online.com/wp/be-not-afraid.htm
Follow the link for more.
UPDATE: Bob Owens warns against the coming media counterspin: "Once reality slowly dawns on the media that they are misunderestimating the scope and scale of the assault, steel yourself for a rush of inaccuracies as they seek to get something, anything published, much of it based upon rumor, some of it based upon outright propaganda and lies. We saw the same during and after Fallujah, when the U.S. military was accused of using napalm on civilians. We don't even have napalm."
Stay tuned. And when reporters get it wrong, don't be afraid to use their names in correcting them.