Saturday, March 06, 2004

Final post

My time in Iraq has finally come to a close. I am finally back in the nation I was representing half way around the world. My mood on returning home was very excited and happy. Though, I didn't really feel any fear from it, I sometimes didn't think I would return home. We all learn to brush those things aside in my mind so we can do our mission. Yet, despite the excitement I had of coming back. For some unexplainable reason, I feel like I left a part of me back in Iraq. I feel almost like it is my second home. It is a feeling I can't describe, except that I both love and hate Iraq. I'm not some propagandist pretending that the US Army soldiers all love Iraq and want to help. For alot of soldiers it is just a job they have to do. It is hard to be an American soldier and not trust any Iraqis and seeing them all as the enemy. However, most soldiers I've talked to know the insurgence is separate from the population.

My opinion of why Iraq is in shambles now is lack of the military commanders being willing stick out their neck and kick some ass. In the Infantry, we are all firm believers in firepower. Other MOSs have different views about this, but for the most part, Infantrymen for the most part believe in being heavy handed. I know this will get me in trouble with the peace mongers who believe war is never necessary. I don't really care, this is how I feel. For example, before Christmas, many military compounds throughout the city of Iraq would be attacked on a nightly basis. Days before Christmas came, a big pre-emptive artillery and mortar attacks began on known positions insurgence would attack from. The show of force immediately quelled the attacks. While on leave, I talked to an MP who had been in the center of Baghdad where they would get hit by IEDs and mortars all the time. After these counter-attacks, all the anti-coalition attacks came to a screeching halt. For about a month after the counter-attacks, they still weren't attacked. Until the insurgence finally understood it was over and started to come out and attack again. Right after the war, there were no attacks on us at all. Any insurgence would not dare attack Americans. But, that was of course after the war when you could use all the firepower you needed to overcome the enemy. Now, alot of patrols are reduced to having to do patrols in m249 SAWs which fire a caliber of 5.56mm. I think the SAW is a good infantry weapon, but I still think if many more patrols had .50 caliber machine guns, the insurgence would think twice about attacking. When I went on patrols, and always we had .50 caliber machine guns mounted on the vehicles, no one messed with us. All the grenade attacks and such used against military vehicles were because the hmmwv didn't even have a turret for someone. I firmly believe you should have at LEAST a m240 Bravo machine gun which is 7.62mm on a patrol. In the Infantry, we all firmly believe if you get attacked, you want to bring to bear as much firepower as you can as quickly as you can. In other instances where the the Army took crap from no one, when 3rd Infantry Division went to Fallujah and replaced the green 4th Infantry Division. My friends in Fallujah at the time said 3rd Infantry Division stopped most of the violence and didn't have any casualties for awhile. That is why I think it is necessary to be heavy handed in places like Tikrit and Fallujah, it is a matter of life or death. Plus, we've had many Iraqis come to our own commanders and tell us the American forces are being too nice to Iraqis, and the insurgence is taking advantage of it and using those opportunities to attack.

As for how do I feel about Iraq. I've seen a few towns that looked just like Somalia. When I got into Iraq, I didn't like Iraqis, and to me seemed all like the enemy. Until, I got put in a neighborhood which is one of the best in Baghdad with highly educated and rich Iraqis. We would talk about politics alot while I was on watch. They all were thankful for the fall of the Regime. In the beginning, they told me a pessimistic picture of how the Iraqi public felt. Since they owned alot of businesses and interacted with Iraqis. My friend Zeyad despaired alot for the Iraqi people. He told me how frustrated he was with the military being unable to restore all the social services and utilities. He told me he feared it would lead to another event like Somalia with people all over shooting at Americans. He also expressed his frustration with the Iraqi people being so impatient with the US military. Saying he wished they weren't so stupid. It was a feeling of being let down. That most of the civilians believed America would come and everything would instantly get better. In Iraq, and probably all over the middle east, the USA is seen as a god-like entity that can fix anything overnight. In the early months after the war ended, he told me alot of the attacks were by hungry and confused people. Alot of them starving, and so that effected their thinking and made them desperate. He and many other Iraqis said this and said once all the people started to get alot more food to eat, the attacks would stop. Zeyad found out he had a distant relative he never heard of after the UN building bombing. One of his relatives was in the building and was injured in the explosion. A few months before I left to a different compound, he expressed a big change in the way Iraqis were thinking. He told me of many times he was in taxi cabs with other Iraqis and they were all starting to be more optimistic and looking forward to the future and a better Iraq. I learned alot from him, I in fact plan to eventually go back to Iraq and see him again. I could write for hours about what he told me and what I have witnessed. In all, my feelings about Iraq was a roller coaster ride. Sometimes I would despair for Iraq, and other times I believed it will get better. Other times, when I heard about an American dieing, I would be so furious with Iraqis and wanted to crush Iraq with all our fire power. I on many occasions hated and cared for Iraq.

It was frustrating for me to go home and listen to some people who didn't believe in what was happening in Iraq. Though, almost all of the people I talked to said they didn't believe the picture the media was drawing of Iraq. Not one person didn't show their support for the American soldier. All of the people I talked to said the American soldier is really the only hero we have left, because of all the so called heroes in sports being caught with drugs. Even though it was not an attack on the US military and it's persons, it still felt like a very personal attack sometimes. Do I believe the war in Iraq is the war on terror? I think it is. It is better in my opinion to be taking the fight to them, rather than having to fight it on our own soil. I wish people could move on from the argument about Iraq never being a threat. What's done is done, we need to move on. We all need to stand strong and stay the course in Iraq. Someday, the Iraqis will learn how to deal with the terrorists, and in a couple years I think the violence will stop for the most part. It is sad how much of a heavy price they are paying in the war against the terrorists. Yet, it humbles me to see them wanting to step up to the plate and fight even harder against the terrorists. In past times, where 200+ IP and civilians were killed in car bombings. I talked to an IP who came to our compound all the time. I expressed my sympathy for the people. He seemed totally undeterred by the incidents. Also that the people wanting to be IP and help out was growing, not shrinking. I've said it in the past, but I really see the IP, ICDC and Iraqi Army as brave as our own fire fighters were on 9/11.

I believe Iraq will someday be a beacon of light for freedom. All the evidence of how the Iraqis feel about democracy and just how they act proves they want this and are determined to achieve it. I look forward to the future to one day see this come true.