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SUNDAY, AUGUST 5, 2007
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OP-ED

Correcting misimpressions about the situation in Iraq

By Lance Cpl. Charles Williams
Special To The Decatur Daily

In order to understand Iraq, the first thing one needs to realize is that Iraq is no more simply the sum of its splashy events you see in the news than the U.S. is the sum of its heiress imprisonments, custody battles over dead supermodels’ children, or latest political squabbles. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but as a deployed Marine, let me provide you with what I see compared to the charges I understand are being laid at our doorstep

The Iraqis aren’t stepping up to the plate:

I constantly hear the obligatory “bravery-of-our-troops” from both sides of the political aisle. Something I don’t hear enough of is commentary on the bravery of the Iraqi Army soldiers and Iraqi police members.

What happens to you if you join the American military? You might die. What happens if you join the Iraqi police? One night a group of fanatics follows you home and tortures your family to death in front of your eyes before doing the same to you and dumping your body in various parts of the city as a warning to others.

Who would take this bargain for a paycheck of $100 a month? Yet the ranks of the Iraqi police and Iraqi military are swelling with new recruits.

The war is not winnable:

I am stationed in Fallujah, in the heart of the so-called “Sunni Triangle.” Remember that place? It was the “center of the insurgency,” the place where the embittered Sunnis, angry at being removed from the positions they enjoyed under Saddam, would never surrender.

Our problem was that insurgency members had the ability to maneuver unobserved by Coalition forces. The solution was to disperse American units, and pair them with Iraqi police and Iraqi Army units. This also speeds up the development of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army’s professionalism, as well as significantly bolstering their confidence.

Deprived of their ability to murder and instill fear at will, the insurgency withers and dies.

Mao Zedong taught to survive, a revolutionary must move through the masses like a fish through a stream. With the local populace turning against them, the tribes organizing against them, and the police and military acting against them, the insurgency is rapidly becoming a fish out of water, and they know this.

That is why you will see an increase in desperation attacks. Whether you are the Kamikaze bombers of Japan or the last German soldier thrown into the Battle of the Bulge, if you are forced to resort to such tactics, it means that you are losing.

American troops are caught in a civil war:

In fact, the ethnic conflict in Iraq is largely limited to Baghdad, where roving gangs control limited (and increasingly smaller) sections of the city through murder and intimidation. The captured letters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq, note multiple times the need to foment sectarian conflict among the Iraqis. You don’t have to create what already exists. The reality is that many Iraqi families have both Sunni and Shiite branches, and during the Iraq-Iran war many Shiites fought willingly against Iran.

As part of that dispersion and pairing of American troops with Iraqi security forces, we live in joint security stations, which are scattered throughout the cities. Here Sunni Iraqi police and Shiite Iraqi Army live, eat, and operate together on a daily basis to oppose the insurgency in their shared area of operations. If they are supposed to be at war with each other, they seem to be uninformed of it.

Real support for the troops means bringing them home:

This one truly angers me. We have lost more than 3,500 of our brothers, sisters, friends, parents, husbands, and children in this war. Currently we can tell ourselves that these losses are the price we pay to bring freedom and hope of a decent life to 23 million people who had known only fear and oppression. That’s something worth dying for. If we willingly choose to retreat, then our brothers and sisters have died for... what?

Iraq, without our support, does not have the ability to stand up to her criminal gang elements that receive support from ideologically driven networks in Syria and Iran.

If we leave now, then there is little doubt but that the people here will be plunged into a world filled with blood, chaos, and pain. Undermining support for our ability to complete our mission of saving them from that is undermining support for us, whether that is the intent or not.

The troops on the ground are neither impressed nor convinced by people telling them that they have lost.

The Iraqi people that I have met are hospitable to a level you rarely find in the United States. They take you in, feed you, and give you room in their houses. The children try out their school-English on you to elicit candy and pencils. Across many areas of Iraq they are also scared. Some talk to us anyway, others try to hide from both sides by faking ignorance. Slowly, despite the danger of reprisal, the numbers who choose us is growing. When was the last time you risked death for something you believed in?

Despite the impression you may get from the news, the average day for an Iraqi citizen is as normal as an average day for you who live in the land of gang warfare, and pop-celebrity frenzies.

Take a look at the locations of the stories you read. Most likely they are from Baghdad and two or three other cities. Now pull up a map of Iraq. See how the vast majority of this country is never mentioned. Elsewhere, markets open, children go to new schools, mosques pray five times a day, and farmers re-dig irrigation ditches from the Euphrates and herd goats from the river, just like they have for 4,000 years. It’s peaceful, hot, sweaty, and maybe a little boring.

Lance Cpl. Charles Williams is a member of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment in Fallujah, Iraq. His parents are the Rev. and Mrs. Mitchell Williams of Decatur. His e-mail address is cpwillia@gmail.com.

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