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What's working and what's not in the U.S.-led effort to crush the Iraqi insurgency? Journalist Brian Palmer, who was "embedded" with U.S. Marines in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, gives us an uncensored, inside look at the perilous struggle between U.S. troops and their elusive adversaries.

"I don't see any more good coming out of being here," Lance Corporal Damon Broussard told Palmer. "You can only make so much progress and then you have the guys hiding behind the scenes planting IEDs and stuff...You can only do so much until you friggin' slam your face into the wall so many times."

Palmer reports on the war from the city of Hit - about 70 miles west of Baghdad - where it's difficult to distinguish friends from enemies.

The Marines spend their days combing large stretches of land for buried weapons and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which have killed thousands of people since the war began. They enter homes - without warning or warrants - on the hunt for suspected terrorists.

"I think they say for every 1-5-5 round you find or one grenade you find, you're saving two or three lives," Staff Sergeant David Marino said. Marine combat engineers with metal detectors accompany some missions but they are often in short supply.

Since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February more Iraqis than ever have been buying, carrying or stockpiling weapons, according to report on April 3, 2006 by New York Times Iraq correspondent, Jeffrey Gettleman. In the last six months the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq has been declining, while the number of Iraqi civilians killed has gone up, the paper reported.

Many of the Marines Palmer followed lived on bases in populated areas and were separated from the citizens of Hit, as well as their enemies, by a few blocks of concrete and razor wire. There is still no local police force in Hit, and the Iraqi soldiers there are not yet capable of operating without U.S. troops.

While embedded, Palmer found himself caught in several combat actions, among them a mortar attack in Iskandariyah and a firefight outside Hit. Three Marines from the battalion he embedded with were killed on their 2006 tour in Iraq.


David Brancaccio interviews writer Christian Parenti about his latest trip to Afghanistan. Parenti provides an insider's view of what's really going on in America's "other war." Parenti is a correspondent for THE NATION, and the author of three books: "The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq", "The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America from Slavery to the War on Terror," and "Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis."

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