April 30, 2007
A short journey with an American army unit, at war
Part 2 of 2
With each new day, the 1-4 tightened up security in and around the Babel College.
That’s Major Baer in the big college kitchen. He works hard, and likes to talk about his wife back home. Major Baer is proud to be married to her, that’s for sure. He just keeps on talking about her, and then goes back to work.
There Must Also Be Those Who See Tragedy
Our new plan in Iraq involves our soldiers getting out more with the Iraqi people. A first test of its viability comes as a group of soldiers set out to meet their neighbors.
There were many family members around, and though the men were happy to see us, they seemed skeptical that we are going to stay, voicing concerns that our soldiers have come there before, but not stuck around. As soon as the Americans leave, the terrorists move back in, which leaves the locals in the middle of what amounts to a gang war, and we are one of the gangs.
LTC Crider, the battalion commander of 1-4, assured the people that the Americans are there to stay until the Iraqis can take over, but I sense that Iraqis are more worldly than we might imagine. Many Iraqis seem to understand that the real decision-makers are Americans at home. Maybe with the 1-4 moving in, some would know they can move back.
Despite so much bad news, much of which I deliver, it’s heartening that most of the Iraqis are not fearful of Americans. What many Iraqis REALLY want—and they say it clearly—is to communicate directly with Americans at home.
If You Want Peace, Work for Justice
War Incurs for U.S. A Profound Outside Odium
Some people at home complain that we will lose more soldiers by putting more out with Iraqis. They probably are right. Heavily armed Iraqi police and soldiers have had hundreds of chances to kill me personally, and haven’t done so yet. They are not all our enemies.
Though we will almost certainly lose more soldiers by weaving them more tightly with Iraqi forces and people, this is a price we must be willing to face. I might feel guilty writing that we have to take these chances if I were not planning to stay out with them.
The new troops who are flooding into Iraq are coming with an entirely new plan in mind. They will move out into the neighborhoods. In each of nearly 80 neighborhoods, our people will make “Combat Outposts” and staff those with American and Iraqi forces or police.
The Iraqi commanders tend to want to tell Americans what they think. Video from this meeting was instructive. The Iraqi Police Colonel conveyed his ideas on how to handle terrorists. Idea number #1: Don’t run.
One police station nearby had just been flattened days before, and he said the station had become a graveyard, and he had walked amid the carnage. As this meeting progressed, a sharp firefight could be heard going on nearby.
The Iraqi Police commander, Colonel Rod, was concerned that the outgoing American commander, LTC Jeff Peterson (sitting closest to Iraqi commander on left side of photo) would forget about him and his Iraqi Police battalion when Peterson goes back to
There is a side to this war that cannot be captured in any kind of statistics. The importance of personal relationships among the soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts cannot be captured in quick stories or numbers. A huge part of this war comes down to personal relationships and respect. It’s not about killing. That’s only a small part of it. It’s about building: building bonds that build societies. Giving Iraqi civilians a real alternative to those who create and then flee from civil havoc. Terrorists don’t pick up the trash on the way back from blowing up the electrical stations.
Iraqi food is better, for me, than the food on our bases. Yet not everything is peachy here between Americans and Iraqis. Maybe an hour after this, an Iraqi police threw a rock at an American soldier, and another American soldier stepped up quick-like and there was some shouting, but Iraqi and American leaders let them work it out and the soldiers and cops settled things down by themselves.
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