Video: A long way to democracy

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 3/7/2007 7:21:21 PM ET 2007-03-08T00:21:21

We fly fast and low. There's a one-star general on board, and the Army's not taking any chances, because Tuesday this same flight was fired upon and was hit by a single shot but was able to fly on.

We're about 100 feet off the ground to avoid small arms fire.

"This is dangerous country," says Brig. Gen. John Campbell. "A country at war. Driving is very dangerous. Our men and women are at risk every single day."

We ride in heavily armored Humvees. A short ride, but in a very dangerous neighborhood — the Karada section of Baghdad, where nothing is left to chance.

In an Army that loves its acronyms, the hot new initials are JSS — Joint Security Station. It means that instead of just five big bases, the Army is opening 40 new small bases in neighborhoods, with Americans and Iraqis living and patrolling together, in one building, under the Iraqi flag.

Brian Williams: You think you are winning this war in this neighborhood?

Yes, says a confident local Iraqi chief of police. Campbell is very aware that this is but one tiny piece of real estate in a much wider war.

Williams: Can you see why the folks at home don't see a big victory — a big goal that's attainable? It seems like a bloody slog every day.

Campbell: You've been here, Brian. You understand this fight. It's a counterinsurgency fight, and it's going to take time. It's not one victory and it's all over.

At a briefing inside the neighborhood police station, while an Iraqi general gives an upbeat assessment of progress, a man just beyond him won't show his face. He's an Iraqi translator and he feels he can't, because he'll be seen helping the Americans, who are seen as the enemy by the attackers just outside these walls.

These neighborhood outposts have made neighborhoods safer in small ways, but they can't compete with the big car bombings.

Another short ride by Humvee and we are led to a bombed-out building and told to go inside and wait for our helicopter ride home. It's too dangerous on the ground for the choppers to sit and wait for us. The big Black Hawks finally arrive and kick up enough debris to briefly turn day into night.

From the air, the general talks about the ground war.

"We have victories every single day here in Baghdad," he says.

But it's hours later, after we land, when we learn three more American soldiers have been killed and dozens more civilians killed in a bombing. It helps to explain why American commanders are anxious to declare victory one police station at a time.

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