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REPORT FROM USMC in Anbar Province

MGen John Kelly USMC, CG MNF West, senior Marine in Iraq.

From: Kelly MajGen John F (CG)
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2009 9:53 AM  

Election Day

I don't suppose this will get much coverage in the States as the news is so good.  No, the news is unbelievable. Something didn't happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today.

Once the most violent and most dangerous place on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters.  No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100.  No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.

What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives. With the expectation of all of the above (suicide bombers) they walked miles (we shut down all vehicle traffic with the exception of some shuttle busses for the elderly and infirm) to the polling places.  I slept under the stars with some Grunts at Combat Outpost Iba on the far side of Karma, and started driving the 200 miles up the Euphrates River Valley through Karma, Fallujah, Habbiniyah, Ramadi, Hit, Baghdad and back here to Al Asad.  I stopped here and there to speak with cops, soldiers, Marines, and most importantly, regular Iraqi men and women along the way.  It was the same everywhere.  A tension with every finger on a trigger that broke at perhaps 3PM when we all began to think what was almost unthinkable a year ago.  We might just pull this off without a bombing.  No way.

By 4PM it seemed like we'd make it to 5PM when the polls closed.  At 4:30 the unbelievable happened: the election was extended an hour to 6PM because of the large crowds!  What are they kidding?  Tempting fate like that is not nice.  Six PM and the polls close without a single act of violence or a single accusation of fraud, and nearly by early reports pretty close to 100% voted.  Priceless.

Every Anbari walking towards the polling place had these determined and, frankly, concerned looks on their faces.  No children with them (here mothers and grandmothers are NEVER without their children or grandchildren) because of the expectation of death. Husbands voted separately from wives, and mothers separately from fathers for the same reason.  In and out quickly to be less of a target for the expected suicide murderer.  When they came out after voting they also wore the same expression on their faces, but now one of smiling amazement as they held up and stared at ink stained index fingers.

Norman Rockwell could not have captured this wonderment.

Even the ladies voted in large numbers and their husbands didn't insist on going into the booths to tell them who to vote for.

One of the things I've always said was that we came here to "give" them democracy.  Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy.  After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy - they take it for themselves.  The Anbaris deserve this credit.

Today I step down as the dictator, albeit benevolent, of Anbar Province.  Today the Anbaris took it from me.  I am ecstatic.  It was a privilege to be part of it, to have somehow in a small way to have helped make it happen.

Semper Fi.
Kelly

Comments   

# BobinTX 2009-02-06 17:20
Well Done, Marine!
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# Jamie G 2009-02-06 18:20
Ditto. Well Done, Marine. You and your men are heroes.
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# CleoinOK 2009-02-07 00:00
Today's victory makes it all worthwhile--the pain, the suffering, the lives lost, the monies spent.
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# KeaponLaffin 2009-02-07 12:18
1st off. Thank you for your service. Not only your service to my own beloved US of A, but indeed the service US Military members provide to many peoples across the world.

My favorite paragraph is the following:
One of the things I've always said was that we came here to "give" them democracy. Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy. After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy - they take it for themselves. The Anbaris deserve this credit.

Now I'm not going to say anything much about the 'arrogance' bit. I'll take that as boots-on-the-gr ound believing-what- you-have-do-to- keep-it-togethe r type deal. As an ordinary citizen I'd ascribe that arrogance you speak of to be the arrogance of politicians, not our Brave Men and Women. I'm probably not expressing myself correctly.

The now former Commander in Chief and (directly through) the US Military did not 'give' democracy to the peoples of Iraq. You gave them the Opportunity. Which IS a priceless gift.
They took that Gift and made good use of it. The thing that annoyed me the most about the MSM media coverage was stuff like 'They can't form a democracy, they don't know how, look at their history'...I know I read/heard some MSM coverage that straight up said 'The Iraqi people are culturally incapable of forming a democracy'.
I don't even know how to express my rage at those views. It's beyond racism. I don't even know if there is a word for it.

If you want a word for what you and your fellow Men and Women of the US Military 'gave' the Iraqi people..that word is : Hope.

In summary. Again I cannot thank you enough for your Service. You are correct, you did not 'give' the Iraqi peoples Democracy. You did give them the Opportunity, which is no less important. You fought on the forces of Light and Life against the forces of Darkness and Death.
You protected and defended the innocent against evil men.
You signed up for Service to defend and protect the US of A. You automatically went above and beyond the call of duty by protecting and defending the Iraqi people with the same Honor, Duty and Dedication with which you would protect your own.

You did your job as a Marine. You fought against Evil and Evil lost.
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# Jim Gonzales 2009-02-07 19:54
I wanted to say Thank You for all that you and your men are doing over there. I hope the citizens over there grow to appreciate the right to vote that all your efforts have given them.
We're very grateful for all your sacrifices. We depend on you.
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# Ron Fee 2009-02-15 04:18
It is just a shame that the American Press is not reporting this news as it should. There were a few small blurbs, as far as I could see, in the newspapers. This should have been banner headlines showing the American people, and troops, that what they have sacrificed in tax money and blood is not all in vain. But if the papers had lauded this accomplishment that might have looked a little bit favorably upon President Bush, and the American press would never do that.
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