Don’t expect to see news like this from the MSM or the alt.weaklies. We are winning this war – not just the ground battles, but the hearts and minds, too:

Think about everything you’ve heard about the conditions in Iraq, the role of U.S. forces, the multi-layered complexities of the war.

Then think again.

I’m a journalist. I read the news everyday, from several sources. I have the luxury of reading stuff newspapers don’t always have room to print. I read every tidbit I could on Iraq and the war before coming.

Everything I thought I knew was wrong.

Maybe not wrong, but certainly different than the picture in my head.

There is garbage on the streets, in yards, in open areas. There is a stench. There is grime. But there are also people.

They are vivid, unlike their surroundings. They are excitable and friendly and conversational. They live in conditions I hope I don’t have to experience in my own life. Yet, if my neighborhood saw two wars, the breakdown of the national and local governments and decline of municipal services, I’m not sure I wouldn’t be in the same boat.

I still haven’t seen U.S. troops engaged or encounter car bombs or explosives. But I did see them play backgammon with some local police and Iraqi soldiers. I saw them take photos with more locals and make jokes mostly lost in translation. They gave advice and expertise to local troops on how to conduct a neighborhood patrol. They drank the local customary tea, and many admitted they’ve become addicted to it. They know several locals by name. I didn’t hear one slight or ridicule of a very distinct culture. One soldier mentioned it might be a good idea to clean up the trash around one polling place, and another commented on the status of women in the culture, but they were nothing but respectful, friendly and buddy-buddy with the Iraqis they mingled with today.

And this is good stuff.