Friday, May 20, 2005

Iraq War In Contrast

Reading around the blog-o-sphere, I found some interesting contrasting views of the war.

For instance, if you haven't heard about Fallujah in the news lately, it's because of these marines and men like them:

Today was a perfect example of how far we have come on the backs of the incredible young Marines, Soldiers and Sailors who have been a part of the Regiment since we arrived in February 2004.

By mid-morning, we were sitting in a meeting with the local imams. The senior imam or "mufti" brings other important imams in a few times a month and we discuss ongoing issues inside the city. The imam meeting is in addition to various reconstruction meetings with contractors and bureaucrats as well as the perpetual development of the Iraqi security forces. What is unique about the imam meeting is that like so many other things happening now, the meeting itself would have been beyond impossible as recently as October. Now the imams request the meeting and sit down with us in order to reduce friction and work toward improving the quality of life of the Fallujahns.

As recently as October, we sat outside the city in day long battles. Over the inevitable din, you could hear cries for jihad and resistance resonating through the loudspeakers of the city's 60+ mosques. Certainly from the Marine point of view, the mosques were thought of as facilitators of the terrorists and a key ingredient in stoking the spiral of violence that consumed the city for much of the past thirteen months and beyond. Today we sat with some of the same men who controlled the speakers and discussed ways to get ambulances into the city faster and enhancing understanding among the variety of cultures that now make up the daily life in the city.

Make sure you read the rest.

Ibn al-Rafidian in Iraq posts about Cultural Contrast:

Try to imagine the disorder & your car is in a complete traffic jam. Suddenly, a soldier appears, starts to kick your car pointing his gun at you, and yelling at you to get your car out of his way as if you could carry the car with your hands or put it in your pocket. Even when you manage to pull the car aside, you can't guarantee not being annoyed. I had referred to many incidents in previous posts & I'm quoting one here:

… my same brother was in a traffic jam when he noticed in the car mirror a bunch of Humvee cars. So he managed to step aside near the sidewalk to avoid annoyance usually caused by the Americans when they pass through streets. What astonished him is that the Humvees' drivers chose to force their cars through a very narrow space beside his car scratching his car and breaking the radio aerial. My
brother says that the soldiers in the Humvee looked at him in the same way of
Saddam's henchmen and bodyguards.

From This Is Your War, a story about being attacked with an IED:

[snip]In a rush things came back into focus for me, like I had been dropped back into my body. Suddenly the world was moving to fast for my mind.
junior was shouting about seeing the IED tossed from a car heading in to opposite direction. It bounced twice on the asphalt and exploded a foot from our left rear bumper.

"I saw it! It was shaped like a tall can of beer! It bounced and rolled toward us before it it exploded! I saw it explode!" Somebody had just tried to kill us. Had targeted us. My vehicle. My crew. My men. Me. [snip]

I finally got the message across, the IED had been thrown at us from a car. We could still, maybe catch it the the fuckers before they got away. I [went] from fear, from being afraid for the lives of my men and myself, cut through the shock of the event and was consumed by white hot rage.[snip]

I jumped out of the truck and stepped onto the highway in front of traffic, daring anyone to confront me. Please, I thought, give me an excuse to start shooting. Let just one of you act stupid right now. My M-4 was on BURST, finger on the trigger as I sighted on cars and trucks facing me. Walking into to face of the traffic, pushing them back. Cars were backing away from me as I advanced on them.
I became dimly aware of Agie beside me. [snip]

A charcoal colored BMW caught my attention on the frontage road to my left.
"Get the FUCK back!" I pointed my rifle at the driver. He slammed on the breaks and jammed the car in reverse. This section of road was mine. I owned it and I wasn't going to let anyone on it.[snip]

I took a deep breath of Iraqi air and looked at the sky, hearing the explosion again. Sam, the terp came up to me.
"Was close, yes"
"Yes. Hey, you got a smoke I can borrow? Borrow..."
I laughed at my choice of words as he dug into his pocket for a pack.
"These fuckers, cowards," he said as he handed my the smoke and a light. " They throw things and run away. No..." He searched for the words and cupped his hand near his [groin].
"No balls..."
"Yes!" His face light up and he gripped my shoulder. "Yes, no balls!"

Then he talks about the next day, going on patrol, passing the same area and having a can fall out of the lead vehicle.

Going back to the original post, he talks about going to a firefight:

We circled the same block twice, coming out near a block of apartment buildings Saddam built for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. One of the areas where we were less than popular. [snip]

The two platoons waited for something to happen. Random shots and bursts of fire echoed off the concrete walls and asphalt. A truck load of IA commandos, drinking beer from 24oz cans, drove by with a prisoner. They cheered and slapped the bound EPW in the back of the head until one IA fell out of the truck bed and landed on his face only after being drug a few feet, his boot caught on the tailgate. The IAs laughed as they picked their buddy up, threw him on top of the EPW and sped off. I wanted to ask them where they got the beer.

Interestingly, Sam at Hammorabi points to a story about four Palestinians arrested in Baghdad, somewhere around the time that "This is your war" talks about going to a fire fight at apartments built for families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Sam says of the four:

The Iraqi Fox Brigade arrested 4 Palestinian terrorists who carried out the explosion of the market in East Baghdad few days ago, which resulted in the death of many Iraqi civilians and damaged the shops and markets there.[snip]

They stated in their confession that they lived for many years in Iraq. Some of them worked as security agents for Saddam regime. They stated that they receive the order from other Palestinians who are linked with Syria.

I don't know if these incidents are connected, but it did seem an interesting coincidence.

Then there is Major K at Strength and Honor, an intelligence officer in Iraq. His posts also show, from one day to the next, the contrast in the daily activities of the war effort.

Here he talks about meeting with the Presidential security detail:

Almost every week, LT C. and I meet with Col K. and his men from the Presidential Security Detail. I look forward to this meeting every time. They are charged with protecting the Iraqi President, Mr. Talabani. We meet to exchange information, see if we can help each other, and discuss the latest threats against our areas of responsibility. They are the nicest people that you could ever meet. Every time we come, they serve us lunch, and it always an impressive spread. Other than security issues, We talk about our families, life back home, plans for the future, our shared values despite religious differences and how beautiful Sulimaniyah is.

An earlier post talks about needing supplies for his Iraqi counterparts and informants:

Body Armor. Not the big bulky stuff that we wear, but the level IIIA, concealable stuff that cops wear, to outfit my informants, so that no one knows that they are wearing it. We have plenty of our own, but none of this type. We could use about 5-6 sets, preferably size medium.[snip]

- MP3 recorders with at least 64MB of memory - for documenting bad guys behaving badly

Obviously, Major K is seeing the inside, grinding work of tracking down the bad guys. His older posts deal with some of the things he has to do to get this going. One thing he mentioned was that he was never an intelligence officer before and that he basically had to start from scratch deciding what he needed to do, how to obtain and coordinate information, cultivate informants, etc.

I wonder if any military folks read his site and think about the kind of training they need to do in the units regarding this aspect of the war?

There is Neurotic Iraqi Wife whose husband has been working as a contractor for the Coalition while she lives outside of Iraq. They have been separated for much of their short marriage (just like many newly weds in the Coalition forces) and is now cleared to return to Iraq and live with her husband in the Green zone.

There are so many things on my mind and I have to admit that Im scared. Yes, scared. Really scared. Not scared for my life cuz that has already been planned out for me, but scared for my marriage. As much as I love my husband I keep begging God, praying that he's worth all this. Im ashamed, real ashamed admitting this but its the truth. This will either break us or make us and Im praying its the latter.

I sound like the most ungrateful wife alive,no??? I dunno, I dunno if what Im feeling is natural, I dunno anymore. I cant believe am going to Baghdad after all this time, I really cant but most importantly I cant believe that I will finally be with HUBBY...And just thinking about that makes me anxious, real anxious.

I wished her luck, but we may not hear from her for awhile as she gets in country and gets situated. I loved reading her blog because it was a personal account about being separated from her husband and worrying about all the things that one must worry about when newly married and having this thing between you and your loved one.

In the meantime, my first and favorite bloggers at Iraq the Model are talking about the new government and the process of writing the constitution:

In what appears like an attempt to override the disputes created by the low number of Sunni law makers included in the "constitution writing committee"; a number of new initiatives to allow more influence for the Sunni in writing the constitution are on the horizon.

What seems to be the most acceptable initiative is one I read about in the morning papers of today; it suggests the establishment of an additional constitutional committee from Sunni Arabs. Abbas Al-Bayati, a member of the Assembly form Jafari's block said that "when we reach an agreement on adopting this plan as a solution, then we will move to the other step of choosing the members of this committee".

While at the same time, Saleem at Iraq Rising reports his issues with Jafaari and al-Sistani:

Ja3fary is becoming a joke in Baghdad, every time there is a crises or an important decision to be made he runs to Najef to consult and get his orders from Sistani and his Iranian puppet masters.

Today, and only one day after C. Rice’s visited us, he keeps to form and heads down to see his boss Sistani. This begs the question about who is really in charge here in Iraq; Ja3fary or Sistani. I certainly don’t remember voting for Sistani on the 30th of January.[snip]

How can they expect the ordinary Iraqi citizen to stand up to the terrorists if he does not believe that the government that represents him is working for his benefit and self-interest. Alienating the population by this weak and shortsighted leadership sends the wrong message and makes the average citizen want to shut his doors or worst run away from the country.

But the brothers at Iraq the Model point to Jaafari and Sistani talks in a positive light:

Meanwhile, Sistani urged PM Jafari to work on including more Sunni members in the "constitution drafting committee". This committee is comprised of 55 members; 28 of who are from the She'at dominated block of the "United Coalition" while there are only 2 Sunni members in it so far.

Sistani may be the moderating voice. I'm torn about whether this is a good sign or not. In the same post and elsewhere in the blog-o-sphere, there are disussions about Jafaari's "deba'athification" of the government:

Jafari also rejected the idea of starting negotiations with the militant

The brothers wrote, but Iraq Rising has a different opinion on the matter:

Firstly - It seems that the issue of De-Ba’athification, that the PM is insisting on, is causing much hardship and consternation amongst the lives of many Iraqis who (rightly) feel that this ‘witch hunt’ is unfair and tinged with a certain hint of revenge about it.

(The majority of civil service employees under Saddam were members of the Ba’ath party. Just as it were in Russia under Communism, you had no choice about it. For Ja3fary to turn around and sack everyone who had anything to do with the Ba’ath is a wrong policy and smacks of a witch hunt to me).

Of course, if you don't read Chrenkoff you wouldn't know that anything else was going on in Iraq except bombs and political wrangling. He always has his round up of Good News From Iraq. This posting talks about a number of important Sunni leaders deciding to play ball with the new government and begin distancing themselves from the Zarqawi folks:

As the report notes, "the significance of the conference was underscored by its attendees. Participants included members of the Muslim Scholars Association, a group of Sunni religious leaders, among them some of the most extreme figures who have influence with the insurgency. Also present were leaders from cities in the 'Sunni Triangle,' including Mosul, Haditha, and Salam Pak, which is bubbling with insurgent activity. Representatives of Waqaf Sunna, the powerful administrating body of Sunni religious affairs, attended as well." It is an important development, if only because it will allow Shias and Kurds to formally negotiate with the Sunni community about the future of Iraq.

Speaking of the Kurds, our friends in the north are still concerned about Kurdistan's autonomy and guarantee of a federal Iraqi state:

Has this story made the news rounds yet:

Iraqi Government removes the word federal from oath

Obviously, when Jafaari talks about "deba'athification" and Talabani, Kurdish Iraqi President goes along with it, it's because a strong part of their constituency feels that this is important to insure their security:

Anyway back to the main point, you'd honestly think this government is more obsessed with screwing us than protecting their own people
In just 2 days, they've discovered shallow graves of executed Iraqis civilians, market explosions ripping apart shoppers, more bombings outside police recruitment stations and this without all the other unmentioned everyday bombings kidnappings and beheadings of Iraqi civilians and what are their ministers doing? Just sitting there playing X and O with their constitution

What have we done against them anyway, on the other hand look how willing they are in appeasing baathists and even giving them ministries in the govt without being elected.[snip]

Isn't about time they start taking away the baby gloves just cos' they happen to be sunni, its about time someone stands up and says "TOUGH u didn't participate, no seats. Next election is in 9 months time, hope u learned your lesson.[snip]

So yes how about seeing some yezidis, chrisitians and on a gender level, women for these roles, and what is it with ex-baathist monopolizing the sunni roles in everything anyway do they not come in other flavors, oh wait they probably do but just happen to get gunned down. They're great in terrorizing and holding hostage their own people aren't they.

So much for a new Iraq, it still looks like a society who are still ruled by people who love their crime and injustice.

Another member of the blog was unhappy with the language used by Rice and the media during her visit:

Ladies and Gentelmen:
after the renaming Kurdistan to Northern Iraq ,"Kudistan Democratic Party" is renamed to "Kurdish(!?) Democratic Party" by United States of America and Ameican offical news agencies, Happy new name to Kak Massod Barzani.[snip]

Our lands name is Kurdistan and it will be kurdistan fo[r]ever and nobody can change it.

In a recent article from theBaltimore City Paper, the reporter talks about the endeavors of an American unit stationed in Kurdistan and their interactions with the locals while exploring the American policies on Iraq and Kurdistan:

Since the Shi’ah-dominated Iraqi government in Baghdad has a monopoly on the state’s oil production and is using oil revenue to fund reconstruction, “nothing comes back into Kirkuk,” 116th Maj. Darren Blagburn, 36, says.

All that would change if Kurds had their way. [snip]

But any Kurd attempt at taking Kirkuk from Iraq could instigate large-scale violence due to what Blagburn calls the city’s “competing social demographics.”

“In order to keep a unified, peaceful Iraq,” Blagburn adds, “Talabani must keep the Kurds back.” [snip]

Col. Kamal, in a moment of candor after the emotional visit to the Halabja shrine, is more direct. “Arabs were troublemakers from the beginning,” he says. “This is our land, but no one will call it our land. It’s the 21st century, and we don’t even have a country.”

And the U.S. government hopes it stays that way. In the meantime, American diplomats tread a fine line between their tacit recognition of and open respect for Kurdish accomplishments and their demand for a unified Iraq. And they wait as Talabani and his landless people plan their next move.

While they do, the National Guard will be here, dancing, eating kebabs, and sharing tables with overweight Kurdish generals. And watching.

Else where in Iraq, the war continues and Michael Yon is there to record it:

Sometime that night, Sergeant Anthony Davis, one of the men who had been trapped in the Stryker, died from his injuries. He was 22.

The news brought a fog of sadness to the men that rolled with them on their missions back into Mosul that night. And the next day, when Kurilla was back with his men, they rolled out again, this time talking with shop owners and others who might have information about attacks, past or pending.

A mission or two later, riding along with B Company on a raid, we picked up a couple of prisoners at the first target location. One of the prisoners started spilling information, so they took him along to ID another target house when, Blam! A Stryker in front of us hit an IED. It was a large explosion, but only one of the eight tires blew out, so we drove on, hitting another house, getting another prisoner, and coming back home to FOB Marez.

Since that day, six days ago, four more Americans and an interpreter have died from suicide strikes in the AO. Yesterday there were multiple large IED attacks here, two SVBIEDs downtown, and the men of Deuce Four keep soldiering on.

For some, the war is over, but will probably never be forgotten. As are most soldiers, Smink at 365 Days in Iraq feels profoundly changed:

But most days, I go through the motions, trying to joke around and saying all the right things. Most people would look at me and think everything is OK. But those who know me see it. They see the difficulties I have remembering things and how I don’t have the same desires to set the world on fire. In counseling, I find myself embarrassed to share my problems and the dreams. And then when I do, I start sobbing like a little girl and I feel worse. My counselor says I’ll never be my old self; that I am forever changed.[snip]

I certainly do not write this for attention or to get it off my chest. Rather, I write it to inform you. To let you know that if you have a soldier or you know a soldier who just returned, that there are days he or she would probably want to lay in bed and do absolutely nothing. I wish it were different, but it’s not. Soldiers are strong, determined people, but also very human.

Returning to Michael Yon, he is the photographer/journalist that took the picture of the little girl dying in the arms of a soldier after a VBIED struck their unit.

Another post is of pictures of many other children and their parents mugging it up for the camera. At the bottom of the post, he wrote:

The teachers make these kids study. The classrooms are always clean and the students well behaved. I have come into classrooms where the kids are studying English. Hard to get out of those rooms; they all want to say "hello!"

Some day this war will end.


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