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I am lucky enough to know an individual who has given service to his country for decades, and is now putting his life on the line for us in Iraq. He's included me along with several of his friends and family on a broadcast e-mail list, where he periodically updates us on progress from his perspective. I'm going to modify just a couple of items in here to protect his privacy, but otherwise leave this unedited. Because of its length, you'll need to click the link below to read it.
I find his courage and his faith humbling in the extreme, especially since I know what a fine human being he is. May we have faith in him and his comrades in the same measure.
Dear Family & Friends,
I am alive, well and leading a very purpose driven life.
Your messages, prayers and warm wishes continue to be a source of comfort for me over here. I have to restrict my personal communications to my immediate family for the moment, who are all doing great and also appreciate the support from many of you. I am now at a very remote and austere site. We do have a satellite modem but we can only use it for personal messages on a very limited basis which works out to about 15 minutes every several days for each of us. It is the same with our satellite phone time. This situation will improve in coming weeks as we are supposed to be getting some very expensive communications equipment for personal use.
Our mission is going very well and we have already accomplished several gratifying things. As with my deployment last year, it is enriching and inspiring to work with coalition forces that help us in the Global War on Terrorism. Many new countries have sent their best into the fray and some of our old friends have increased their commitment. I can’t speak to the underlying motives of the numerous countries that are sending their troops, but I can tell you what motivates the coalition friends I have come to know … pure patriotism and a love for the freedom they have only recently gained after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe or dictatorships in other countries.
While prepping to go into the field, we spent 3 nights at one of the more elaborate palaces in Baghdad. Most of the furniture and some of the gold-plated fixtures had been looted from the place but the structure is being maintained in as near pristine form as before the Liberation (minus a few rooms in one wing that were JDAMed reportedly while Oudai was on the third level…he apparently emerged injured but alive reinforcing his fleeting notions of immortality). Although not the largest of more than 70 palaces built for Hussein, it is considerably more expansive and opulent than Hearst Castle which is America’s most obscene monument than any one man built for himself. On a brief stop in Babylon we saw some of the original ruins and a near-complete recreation of, you guessed it, the ancient City of Babylon. Locals say that SH thinks (thought?) he is (was?) the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar.
It is well-known that the Kurdish people of Iraq strongly support what we have and are doing here. What has been a stark surprise to me is that the vast majority of Shia as well as Suni are also extremely happy with their Liberation and the overthrow of the Bathe Party that plundered and tortured and murdered for so many years. The only exception to this seems to be the town of Tikrit which of course is where Saddam came from. As reported, there are still terrorists and common thugs who commit random and planned acts of violence both against us and their own people. Our convoys must continue to travel rapidly with rifles loaded and pointed out the windows for immediate response. However most Iraqis seem desensitized to these precautions and greet us with waves and smiles.
Many indigenous former English teachers are working as translators. Our translator told me that under Hussein rule, he made about 5,000 Dinar per month, which is the equivalent of $2.50 US. Since the Liberation he says that teachers now start at the equivalent of $60 US per month and their scale now goes to the equivalent of $120 per month and that scale is continuing to rise. Other Iraqis we work with confirm that the wages for more than 90% of the jobs in Iraq have gone up considerably. The 10% who took a reduction in pay (or lost their jobs) were ‘government’ employees who were making many times more than the rest and of course the less than 1% of Hussein favorites who were continuing to build palaces and elite resorts with the blood of their destitute people.
I used to think that the “fertile crescent” described in the Old Testament had long since dried up into a barren desert. I was wrong. Although much of Iraq is very desolate, any place I’ve been within 20 miles of the Tigris or Euphrates Rivers is lush and green. There are dense groves of date palms as far as the eye can see. Thick crops of corn and wheat and barley and spelt abound.
In other Arab countries I’ve been like Kuwait and Bahrain and the UAE, only the disparaged Bedouins raise any kind of animals as a means to live. About half the Iraqi people live outside the squalid towns and cities and have beasts of burden rather than automobiles and tractors. Large herds of sheep and camels and goats can be seen roaming with their shepherds. Donkey karts are a common form of family transportation. Ox and water buffalo are still used to plow fields. These old world people seem to be among the happiest judging by their constant smiles. As the lead medic in my team I have to stay abreast of a few other animals. We have daily encounters with several species of scorpions and vipers that abound in the deserts of Iraq (good picture taking for my boys).
Why are we still here?
Any confidential orders or information I am privy to is directly related to my team mission and we are just one piece of the big picture. So what follows is nothing more than my interpretation of public directives from our President and his Cabinet and information that can easily be verified by reliable (?) media sources. I believe our first priority is the security of our homeland against foreign and domestic enemies. Our second priority is the preservation of the freedoms pioneered by the founders of our Democratic Republic. Our third priority is to maintain and promote free trade with other nations of the Free World. Our fourth priority is to aid people in countries that are not free. I do not believe that any of these priorities can be mutually exclusive anymore given the current state of our planet. Let’s see how these priorities relate to the intensely publicized operations in Iraq.
Here are the (unclassified) general missions that are being prosecuted since the inception of the latest permutation of OIF, Operation Desert Scorpion:
1. Arresting Terrorists. Apprehension of suspected terrorists and other criminals is happening every day. It is done in a most efficient and ethical way. With the technology and intelligence available to U.S. and coalition troops there is significantly less killing on either side than during any conflict of this scale to date. I know that much of the media harps on the fact that Iraq was not a hub of terrorism until after we invaded. It is true that terrorists from other countries have been identified in Iraq and their express intention is to make us fail. So what? Like flies to the fire, if they have evil intent then so much the better that we deal with them here rather than on our own soil later.
2. WMD – The much publicized search for weapons of mass destruction… I believe that some form/s of weaponized nuclear, biological or chemical agents still exist in Iraq today and will be found. If that doesn’t happen; so what? It is a matter of irrefutable record that Saadam possessed and used nerve agents and was seeking to develop nuclear and biological weapons. If we find any, they will be destroyed which should be the main point. If not, great…I never thought WMD was the main reason for the Liberation of Iraq anyway.
3. UXO – Unexploded Ordinance. It is interesting that so much focus is placed on unconventional weapons like WMD when all of the terrorist killing is being done with conventional weapons. Almost all of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) you hear about around here uses some part of Saddam’s arsenal as the base charge. There are literally billions of tons of land mines, bombs, rockets, missiles, grenades and ammunition that were stored not just in military magazines but schools, hospitals and mosques. It is quite possible that the world has never seen an arsenal as large as the UXO that is lying around this country. It is being confiscated, accounted for and disposed of as quickly as possible and what political party could be against that?
4. Reconstruction of Iraq. After getting rid of one gang of bad guys, it is only proper that we help these people rebuild and get a chance to actually determine their own destiny before some other despot or gang torments them again. Everyone knows that oil is huge around here. I hope we are smart enough to finance the reconstruction of this place with the existing oil. I am only involved in the Reconstruction end of the game in very indirect ways. However, from what I have seen, Iraq could be more than just another fossil fuel football. With some technical assistance, these people who are already proud of their agrarian heritage could take the former Garden of Eden (?) and turn it into the Bread Basket of the World.
I respectfully ask that you pray for the people of Iraq that they will stay free from oppression from outside their own borders or from within their own cultures. Pray for the leaders of our country that they will stay the course in continuing to empower our intelligence and defense forces in prosecuting the Global War on Terrorism. Pray for the leaders of a minority of other countries that they have the discernment to see that financing or harboring terrorists is not in their long-term interests. Pray for the families of the coalition forces of the free world who have given their loved ones temporarily or permanently for the cause of World Freedom.
As you can tell I am keeping motivated for the mission. It is easy for me to do so as I am very blessed in my role. I can see tangible evidence of our progress almost every day. I get to meet with my family every 3 months or so in a safe place. [My wife] no longer has problems paying the bills while I am gone. Active duty military men and women here who are not part of “special units” are not so blessed. They are not adequately paid. They have no assurance of when (if ever) they will return. They get less credit than “special units” and yet the US infantryman, both Marine and Army saw more combat during the invasion, sustained more casualties; and the “regular” Army continues to lose more personnel while holding the line than any of us “special” people. Thankfully, none of the casualties we see now compare to the sacrifices made in our father’s wars in WW2, Korea and Vietnam.
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