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Memo to Pres. Bush: Be Wise with Iran

President Bush,

Currently you are riding somewhere between 30% and 39% in approval ratings among the American public, some fairly recent polling has had you as low as 24%. This is nothing to write home about. The cause of this demise stems from alleged mishandling of Iraq and New Orleans, GOP corruption, Harriet Miers (what was that?), and various other small missteps along the way. Throughout the last 4 years of challenging times for you, I am proud to announce that I was one of those 24% and am still one of the 39%. I can’t say that I was not without my doubts in your administration, certainly there were tough times of trying faith, however I have stood by you and apparently so have many more people and some have even started to jump on your bandwagon. The new Iraq strategy provided by Petraeus is providing you more political capital, the complete ineptitude of the democratic congress has largely overshadowed any issues you have had, and the race for the 2008 election is starting to take the front page stories… in short, things are looking up for you and your legacy.

But don’t screw it up! You are starting to scare me with much of the Iran rhetoric of late, statements from within the Administration (as well as my favorite GOP Presidential candidate) are sounding very much like the rhetoric leading up to the Iraq war in 2002-03. Resorting to force in Iran too soon is the worst thing you could do and would completely ruin your legacy. I understand you want to be doer for good in the world, but this is not the way to go about it. I agree with you that Iran cannot have nuclear weapons, there is no arguing that here. I also agree that Iran is actively pursuing such weapons (as demonstrated by the appointment of hardliner Jalali as the new nuclear negotiator for Iran). However, there is still plenty of time to try diplomatic or, perhaps, other subversive means to quell their quest.

It is obvious that the Ayatollah and Jalali will play the diplomatic game for as long as possible.  They will string us, the UN, and the IAEA along as we try to talk through the issue, all the while developing weapons under our noses. Most conservative pundits and Israel would argue that this is enough to justify a strike. It is not, at least not yet. You have not tried everything, or you have not put enough time into some strategies.

First, continue with severe diplomatic pressure and sanctions. The latter of these will have minimal impact as Russia and China will completely ignore them, but it is the point that matters. Press the UN for more action and insist that the IAEA get unfettered access to all Iranian sites. Basically, do everything you have done up to now.

Second, and most importantly, use what you already have in place to your advantage. A couple of years ago in your state of the union address, you spoke to the Iranian people and gave them your support. Your policy has been to support opposition groups inside and outside of Iran. This is what you are not doing enough of. You need to realize how unique the Iranian people are. About 75% of the Iranian public is under the age of 30, meaning they do not remember the revolution of 1979. It is not personal to them; they don’t have the revolutionary spirit. A majority of these young people despise their government and want a new democratic on in its place. A good percentage even like the U.S. and support you. Do you realize how much power this gives us in Iran? But don’t be foolish into thinking that you cannot lose that support. The Iranian people are also very proud and nationalistic. They still relish in the Persian Empire that was around in 500 BC, they despise being called Arab and Middle-Eastern. An attack on their country from an outsider, regardless of one’s intention will ruin all good will. They will turn to their government and uphold them. Why waste such an opportunity with a premature attack.

You have massive amounts of troops in countries on both of Iran’s eastern and western fronts, you have a large Navy contingent in the Persian Gulf and the Indian ocean. All of this gives you a significant show of force. Additionally, you have the Kurds and Iranian internal opposition groups; your greatest weapons. The Kurdish areas in norther Iraq are, for all intents and purposes, autonomous and doing well economically. This allows them some freedom of movement and shows that they are capable enough for strategic involvement. Northwestern Iran has a province called Kurdistan and is full of Kurds, who would like nothing more than to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Further south in Ahwaz you have Arabic opposition groups, while these groups are likely not pre-disposed to like us, they will likely take our support against the mullahs. Use them. There are Baluchi opposition groups in SE Iran and other Persian groups throughout the country that you can use to our advantage. And, finally, there are moderates in the government that will quitely support you. Perhaps people like former President Khatami.

You have so much opportunity for positive peaceful, or not-so-peaceful but at least without American intervention, change. Do not even consider going to war until these options have been exhausted. Even if there is a violent revolution in Iran like in 1979, at least the Iranian people were the ones to do it. They will be personally invested in it and will hopefully take care to uphold a new democratic government. That is one of the struggles in Iraq, the people don’t own it; it was not their revolution. Do you think the American revolution would have been as strong had France fought our battles for us? Of course not, revolutions are always more successful when brought on by the people themselves. Even if it is with foreign support. Remember the Iranian people are smart, educated, and sophisticated compared to most of the rest of that region. They are not Iraq. It is a whole new ballgame.

In closing, President Bush, I implore you to be wise here. Do not ruin another possibility for change in the Middle-East. I will not support you in a war with Iran without a dire, dire need, and there is not anywhere near enough evidence yet. As of now I predict that in the long term your Presidency will be remembered as one of the best and most influential. It will be Trumanesque – despised in office, yet revered 50 years later. A pre-mature attack against Iran will ruin that.

Steven Swint, Editor-in-Chief

Dry Fly Politics & Mitt Report

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The Gettysburg of the Iraq War

Every war has one battle, one location, one incident that is a turning point one way or another. Arguably , the most famous of these for our country was the Battle of Gettysburg, and the subsequent Gettysburg Address by President Lincoln in the Civil War. In today’s environment, we have been waiting for such an event in Iraq, something that will hopefully lead to victory. That event may have occured this weekend in Anbar when President Bush and nearly his entire war cabinet met with members of the Iraqi government, all of this following Iraq’s success in pacifying Anbar last year. Frederick Kagan wrote about this on National Review, it is a MUST read. I’d love to hear your comments about it.

The Gettysburg of this War

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Perceptions of Iraq Improving at Home

Prior to starting this blog, I like most Americans, was wavering in my support for the Iraq War. In 2002 and 2003 I was all for military action in Iraq. I, like nearly everyone in the world, believed Iraq had WMD’s, I criticized the UN for their “if you do it one more time!” routine without ever backing it up, and I believed that Saddam had to go (although I did not believe he was a direct threat to America). As the war continued and dragged on and as the media only reported the negatives in Iraq, my commitment weakened and by May of this year I was leaning towards withdrawing the troops. That all changed once I started the blog and actually started researching what was really going on. Within two weeks of doing this research I was (and still am) 100% convinced of how essential it is that we stay in Iraq and I was also convinced that the surge was starting to work and the tide was slowly changing there.

Previous columns highlighted my reasoning for such beliefs, but I was ever more frustrated. The word was not getting out to the American people. However, that looks like it is starting to change. Last week a couple of analysts from the Brookings Institution, Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack (who were staunchly against the War from the beginning) said, “we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory,’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.” They continued, “there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.” While these quotes are far from throwing support behind the war, they emphasize a current trend among the media and other observers that Iraq is not as bad as some thought. The one question I have for the above individuals is what constitutes ‘victory’? I would think that a ‘sustainable stability’ is exactly what we are looking for in order to be victorious in Iraq; a stable government that can provide basic services and freedoms and can also provide relative security from insurgents and terrorists. I think we should be looking for stability more along the lines of Morocco or Indonesia rather than Canada or Sweden (at least for the relative short term). But I digress.

Even the AP is getting in on the act. Robert Burns wrote in a column that, “the new U.S. strategy in Iraq… is working.” He further adds:

Despite political setbacks, American commanders are clinging to a hope that stability might be built from the bottom up—with local groups joining or aiding U.S. efforts to root out extremists—rather than from the top down, where national leaders have failed to act.

Commanders are encouraged by signs that more Iraqis are growing fed up with violence. They are also counting on improvements in the Iraqi army and police, which are burdened by religious rivalries and are not ready to take over national defense duties from U.S. troops this year.

Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson writes, “We’re winning in Iraq. Ok, I said it. It’s crazy. Stupid. Naïve. Hopelessly optimistic. And true. Something has changed, and the cut-and-run crowd in Congress did not get the memo. They insist the war is lost and we should get out yesterday. But the war has taken a turn for the better, like a patient making a sudden recovery after years on life support.”

These are just a few examples from among many articles that show that the perceptions of the current situation in Iraq is starting to change. It is very refreshing to finally be hearing good news out of Iraq.

However, the most significant sign that things are changing here at home does not come from the media but by what the people think. In a Gallup Poll released today says that, “the additional troops are ‘making the situation better’ rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was ‘not making much difference’ dropped to 41% from 51%. ” While the 31% and 41% numbers respectively are nothing to write home about, it does show a recent trend of increasing support for our mission in Iraq.

This current situation makes me wonder if Iraq will follow the trend of most of America’s previous wars – e.g. the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and WWII. In each of these wars we lost major battles and were struggling during the initial and early stages in the War. In fact in the Civil War, the Union was losing for the first 3 years and only Lincoln’s resolve kept us afloat. It looks like this same pattern could be what is happening for us in Iraq: early loses, strong negative public sentiment, and then, finally, victory.

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Is Obama OK with Genocide in Iraq?

Barack Obama up until now has been a strange enigma in my mind.  On the one hand, he is among the most left-wing senators in our country and I completely disagree with him on most of his policies.  On the other hand, he seems to be a genuine and honest person.  He does not seem to be overly tainted by Washington politics…yet.  And he is generally likeable and charming.   I have wondered if the race for President came down to Giuliani v. Obama, would I really consider voting for Obama?   Me, a right-wing conservative?   Well, up to last week, the answer was yes, I would consider it (though not likely).    

Anyone who reads this site fairly regularly is aware that I believe that success in Iraq is essential to U.S. national security, U.S. long-term interests, and to the preservation and rebirth of America’s image world-wide.   I have also argued that if the sole reason we stay in Iraq is for humanitarian reasons alone it would be worthwhile and justified.    So, when I read the comments of Mr. Obama on Iraq last week, you could imagine my extreme disappointment.  He essentially said that maintaining troops in Iraq for humantiarian problems and preventing Genocide in Iraq is not enough of a reason to keep our troops there

Now before I get into his justifications for this remark and my interpretation of what he is saying, allow me to interject something about what the Left (of whom he is a significant part) is suppossed to be about.   The left continually supports human rights and life, they are suppossed to be the U.S. humanitarians, they support Amnesty International, condemn U.S. actions across the world that are remotely deemed as insensitive and hurtful, and they are currently staging a large advertising campaign to raise awareness for the genocide in Darfur.  Aside from Obama’s obvious lack of understanding about the realities of the War, this is what is most disappointing in him.  He and candidates of his party should hold the line that they don’t agree with the war, they believe that political success is highly unlikely, but if only to save lives we should maintain a presence in Iraq.  Very disappointing and really causes the left to lose even more credibility.

Now, back to Obama’s specific statement.  Is he saying that the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people is not as important as the loss of another 1-2 thousand American lives?   That is what it sounds like to me.  Many of you may think that 1-2 thousand more American lives are not worth it, but personally I think that is sad.  In a situation like this in Iraq that we essentially created, I personally would be willing to make such a sacrifice, and when I signed my name on the dotted line to join the Military, that is exactly what I said I was willing to do. 

To emphasize his point Obama said the following:

 “Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now—where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife—which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea,” he said.

What a completely stupid and asinine argument.  It infuriates me that he could be this short-sighted and moronic.  The problem with his argument is that we had nothing to do with the problems in the Congo and Sudan.   We did not cause them.  In Iraq, we are the reason the Iraqi’s are in the situation they are, for good or bad.  Al Qaeda in Iraq is there because we ousted Saddam and they see an opportunity to take advantage of the situation in attempt to earn themselves another country from which to field their operations.  We have an obligation to the Iraqi people to help them and protect them from people who commit atrocities like those AQI has committed.  We have no such obligation for Sudan or Congo.  

Further, regarding the deployment of US forces his argument is off on the wrong foot immediately.  Our troops are already deployed there for a military engagement mission.  The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is in no way the basis for our deployment there, but it should be part of the mission now that we are there.   He is right that we should not engage in war or deploy troops solely for such reasons, but that is hardly applicable to the situation in Iraq.  Thus, he has a complete lack of understanding of what is happening there and what our mission is.  Obama then added the following:

It is my assessment that those risks (of genocide) are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnet for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions,” he said.

Wow, what can I say here?  I am almost speechless. He is wrong, wrong, wrong.  If we left too early AQI, Iran, and other groups would push into Iran harsher and faster to establish a new Taliban like state, to build a new Islamic Republic, or just to gain political power at the expense of anyone who stands in their way.  These groups are not just there to attack Americans, they are smarter than that.  When they see our weakness and wavering they push harder and are more ruthless, but the one thing remotely holding them back is the presence of American troops.  For evidence of this read Michael Yon’s blog.

I am extremely disappointed in Barack.  I recognize that he is a politician and is trying to earn votes, but this is unacceptable.  Primarily because it is a poor and not-thought-out argument.  It makes him look ill-suited to serve as commander-in-chief and leader of the free world.

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Wisdoms of Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is one of the mose revered men of the 20th Century.  While not everyone thinks highly of him, most people do.  He was a steady leader for his country in a time of immense crisis in the heat of World War II.  He was a close ally with FDR and the two of them together lead the West to victory in the “Great War.”

I am by no means a Churchill historian (although we do have a common ancestor not too far back), but I respect what he was able to accomplish.  A few weeks ago I was looking for a specific quote that was attributed to him and, as a result, read many of his other quotes, a few of which are quite applicable today. So I thought I would share some of those; a nice light read heading into the weekend.

Applicable to our current political situation

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last” — Amen to that

“I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents”  — If this is true, Bush could be the best President ever!

“It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government except all others that have been tried.”

“It’s not enough that we do our best, sometimes we have to do what’s required.” –Terrorists seem to follow this (at least according to the rationality of their own mind)

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry up as if nothing ever happened.” — Congress?

“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.  The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforseeable and uncontrollable events.”  — Bush and Rummy could have used this in ’03, Dems and Libs from then on (at least the first sentence).

“One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it.  If you do that, you will double the danger.  But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.”  — Reagan and Bush understood this.  The rest of America (or at least 71%) doesn’t.  By the way, Terrorists get it too; see Mogadishu and now AQI in Iraq.

“To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years.  To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.”  — Hence why Iraq is so difficult and why we Americans need to be more patient.

“So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.” — We eptomize this.

“We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire.  Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down.  Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

“Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”  — Fantastic!

Some fun and perhaps inspiring ones:

“For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

“I am prepared to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

“The British nation is unique in this respect: They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.”  — This could be the truest thing he said!

“Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.”

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

“All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

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Criticism of the Anti-Iraq movement; the Case for Iraq part II

The phrase “anti-war movement” is a stupid phrase.  Everyone should be anti-war.  I am against War, I wish we could avoid it, I wish people did not have to die; but sometimes it is necessary.  As a result, I will refer to those who are known as anti-War as anti-Iraq.  Those who are against the current military situation in Iraq (it is not a War by the way, despite what Bush or Pelosi want to call it) usually have asinine and ridiculous arguments against it.  We all know what they are, so I am not going to bother rehashing them.  Why? because their arguments can all be broken down to two things:  emotion and our reason for being in Iraq in the first place.

Let’s start with Emotion.  The biggest reason why so many people can’t take the arguments of the “anti-Iraq” movement seriously (even if they support withdrawl of the troops) is because the anti-Iraqis’ arguments are based on emotion and not on rationality or reason.  Watch a YouTube video of anti-Iraq folks, actually listen to the arguments they make, or even just have a conversation with one while playing devil’s advocate and supporting Bush;  they will see bulging blood vessels and red faces and hear childish name-calling and irrational conspiracy theories, these from otherwise normal and rational people.  It is amazing.

The problem with allowing excess emotion to dictate your argument is that it prevents one from looking at the big picture and attempting to look objectively at the current situation we are in.  Every argument against Iraq is premised on our reason’s for being in Iraq in the first place.  It is argued that Bush lied, there were no WMD’s, etc etc.  Whether those things are true or not doesn’t matter.  The reasons for which we went to Iraq in the first place is completely irrelevant to where we go from here, completely irrelevant.  Why we are there does not change the fact that we are there.  We can’t go back and change the past, we have to make do with the situation we now face.   So let’s ask some questions and attempt to answer them honestly and rationally:

If we withdrew from Iraq today…

…what would happen to the U.S. image world-wide? Would it become worse or be better than it now is?

… what would be the plight and future of the Iraqi people?

… what would happen to the Iraqi government?  Will maintain democracy?

… what impact would such a move have on the security of the greater Middle-East?  Who would it help, who would it harm (if anyone)?

… what impact would it have on terrorist movements across the World?  Would the US be safer from Terrorist attacks?

… what would Iran and Syria do?  Would Iran attempt to install an Islamic government based on their theocracy?  If so, is that a bad thing?

… would Iraq fall into full civil war that would evolve into another Somalia or Sudan?

… what would happen to the booming economies in the Northern (Kurdish) and Southern parts of Iraq? 

… who would control the oil? Would the Iraqi people benefit from it?

… what do China and Russia do?  Do they seek to exert their influence more?

… what economic impact does it have on the US?  Does it promote or denigrate American economic interests and influence throughout the World?

When I look at these questions and try to answer them as a student of International Relations and not as a political commentator, I cannot see a positive outcome for the United States in any of them.  Undoubtedly, the terrorists would be encouraged and have more resolve, just look at the way they treated Mogadishu in 1993, they still use that in propoganda, imagine what they would do with Iraq.   We would completely lose all credibility in the international community; we may only have a little now, but we still have some, it would be gone if we left.  Other’s would know we were weak and timid and do not follow through.  It would be the beginning of the end for the U.S. as a world power.

Some of you may say, “so what, why do we need to be a world power?”  That is an understandable question, but now ask yourself, “if it were not the US, who would it be?” There are three possible answers: 1. China – a communist country who denies its citizens freedoms and is a human-rights disaster; 2. Russia – a country headed back into communism, ruthless; 3. No one would really step up and non-governmental groups, like terrorists, would stage coups and attempt to impose their will on people across the world, primarily in 3rd world places like Africa.  None of these answers are nearly as good as having the US as at least one of the world’s superpowers. Despite our many failings, we are still a democratically elected country – no matter how much a person may despise Bush, at least they know that his time is limited, and that is more than the Chinese, Russians, or Iranians can say.  We still have a strong moral compass and our economic system, despite imperfections, has spurred economic growth through out the world, from Europe to Asia.  And, finally, we still are there to help others when times get tough, we provide more humanitarian support than anyother country in the World, not only that but our military prowess allows countries like Canada, Netherlands, and New Zealand to live in peace and prosperity without having to build huge militaries and defenses, they know that we have their backs and will protect them if needed. 

Certainly, if we pulled out early from Iraq, we would still have some influence in the World, I do not want to say that we will become like Canada or Norway (nothing against those countries, their influence is just minimal. I love Canada, I lived there for two years; it is a wonderful place).  But certainly we would be harmed indefinitely.  There is absolutely no good that can come out of our early departure from Iraq.  So regardless of how loud the anti-Iraq movement is, from both the Left and the Right, realize that this is arguably the most important endeavor we have been in since WWII.  Why we went there is irrelevant, we are there, so let’s finish the job and make the world a better place.

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The Case for Staying in Iraq, Part I

I am convinced more than ever that we need to maintain the course we are on in Iraq or at the least, keep an active and large presence of US troops there.  Last night my wife and I were flipping through channels and we were sucked into a PBS special on the Iraq War.  Most of it felt like there was a negative slant, but at least PBS (or whoever produced it) seemed to at least try to be objective.  During and following the show my wife, who isn’t really into politics and world affairs like I am, was very intrigued and we entered into a long discussion on the situation there and the politics of Iraq in this country, including the anti-war movement.  It was really fun to talk about it with her, and I told her I would write about our discussion today.

So in this installment I simply want to highlight Michael Yon’s latest column on Iraq. He says it better than I could.  In part II or III (if necessary), I will really get into the meat of my arguments in support of our current efforts in Iraq and why we cannot bring the troops home too soon.

The big news on the streets today is that the people of Baqubah are generally ecstatic, although many hold in reserve a serious concern that we will abandon them again. For many Iraqis, we have morphed from being invaders to occupiers to members of a tribe. I call it the “al Ameriki tribe,” or “tribe America.”

I’ve seen this kind of progression in Mosul, out in Anbar and other places, and when I ask our military leaders if they have sensed any shift, many have said, yes, they too sense that Iraqis view us differently.  In the context of sectarian and tribal strife, we are the tribe that people can—more or less and with giant caveats—rely on.

Most Iraqis I talk with acknowledge that if it was ever about the oil, it’s not now. Not mostly anyway.  It clearly would have been cheaper just to buy the oil or invade somewhere easier that has more.  Similarly, most Iraqis seem now to realize that we really don’t want to stay here, and that many of us can’t wait to get back home.  They realize that we are not resolved to stay, but are impatient to drive down to Kuwait and sail away. And when they consider the Americans who actually deal with Iraqis every day, the Iraqis can no longer deny that we really do want them to succeed. But we want them to succeed without us.  We want to see their streets are clean and safe, their grass is green, and their birds are singing.  We want to see that on television.  Not in person.  We don’t want to be here.  We tell them that every day.  It finally has settled in that we are telling the truth.

Now that all those realizations and more have settled in, the dynamics here are changing in palpable ways.

One of the key elements that I see in this is consistent progress in Iraq – Mosul, Anbar, now Baquba.  Slowly and surely we are beginning to see the domino effect that we hoped to see in 2003.  Considering how (relatively) stabilized the norther Kurdish areas, the southern provinces are, and the progress of many of the central provinces surrounding Baghdad are making, there is reason to be optimistic for real success and victory if we American’s can just keep our emotions in check and our eye on the big picture (this issue of emotions is HUGE and will be addressed in a subsequent entry).

Yon continues:

And so on 05 July, or D + 16, after the meeting, Iraqi leaders including the Deputy Governor of Diyala, and also Abdul Jabar, one of the Provincial chair holders, headed to some of the most dangerous areas in Baqubah on what Americans would call “a meet and greet.” At first the people seemed hesitant, but when they saw Iraqi leaders–along with members of their own press–asking citizens what they needed, each place we stopped grew into a festival of smiles.

The people were jubilant. None of the kids–and by the end of the day there were hundreds–asked me for anything, other than to take their photos. These were not the kids-made-brats by well-meaning soldiers, but polite Iraqi kids in situ, and the cameras were like a roller coaster ride for them. The kids didn’t care much for the video; they wanted still photos taken. While the kids were trying to get me to photograph them, it was as if the roller coaster was cranking and popping up the tracks, but when I finally turned the camera on them–snap! –it was as if the rollercoaster had crested the apex and slipped into the thrill of gravity. Of course, once the ride ended, it only made some clamor for more. Iraqi kids that have not been spoiled by handouts are the funniest I have seen anywhere.

 American soldiers just watched, but during one of the impromptu stops, an Iraqi man who might have been 30-years-old came up and said that he’d been beaten up by soldiers from the 5th Iraqi Army. He had the marks on his face to lend initial credence.  But most striking was that he hadn’t gone to the Iraqi leaders, nor did he come to the man with the camera and note pad. He did what I see Iraqis increasingly doing: he went to the local sheik of “al Ameriki tribe.”  In this case, the sheik was LTC Fred Johnson.  (Note: I have not heard anyone calling the American commanders sheiks, but during meetings around Iraq, American officers often preside like sheiks and with sheiks.)

More and more Iraqis put their trust in Americans as arbiters of justice. The man said he was afraid to complain to Iraqi officials because he might get killed, but he wanted to tell LTC Johnson, who listened carefully. When the man pleaded for anonymity, Johnson said he needed written statements from witnesses. The man pointed to some witnesses, and then disappeared and came back with statements, and I can say from my own eyes that Johnson was careful with those statements, guarding them until he could get alone with an Iraqi general later on 05 July.

On D +1 and for those first few days of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the Iraqi leaders seemed mostly inert. But now on D+16, only about two weeks later, they are out politicking, showing their faces in public, letting the people know they are in charge.  And, unlike the tired cliché of a politician in a parade, they truly have been working behind the scenes. I know because I sit in on the meetings, and listen to the progress reports as items on the lists get checked off. I hear the whining as each section of Baqubah seems to think they are the forgotten ones. “Why the Sunni getting help first?” They ask. But then in another neighborhood, “Why the Shia getting help first?” But I watch the sausage-making.  LTC Johnson will say, “Mike, c’mon.  It’s time to make suasage and you need to see this.”  It’s messy and frustrating.  But food shipments have resumed to Baqubah after 10 months of nothing.  Not that Diyala Province is starving: Diyala is, after all, Iraq’s breadbasket.

 

The efforts highlighted here are indicative of the work that our troops are doing across Iraq.   We are even working on creating situations like this in the most dangerous areas of Iraq, places like Sadr City.  Obviously there are still plenty of problems in Iraq, for instance the political leadership is mediocre and as stable as house of cards at best, but at least there is political leadership.  It seems as though the Iraqi people are finally realizing that we want them to succeed, we want to help them succeed, but we also want to go home, so they better get their act together.  They are! So, let’s utilize a little more patience and have some rational thinking and the U.S. may come out of Iraq as heroes rather than as villains.

(note:  In the rest of Yon’s article it discuss how it is known that Al’Qaeda is attacking the Iraqis and he also has some wonderful pictures of Iraqi children in Baquba)

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