Friday, December 23, 2005

Maybe They Really Do Hate Us...?

Since long before I was assigned to active duty and came to Iraq, the western news organs have been publishing all kinds of negativity about Iraq, including that most Iraqis hate us and want us to go home. But from time to time I would see pictures on the internet (too many of them to be part of a digital-photo-doctoring conspiracy) of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens shaking hands, smiling with each other, and working together.

I'll admit that since I've been here I have only met and talked with somewhere between 500-1000 Iraqis (mostly children), but nearly all of them have been genuinely friendly to me (and no, the adults were not afraid to speak their opinions, such as that they are frustrated in some cases by the American military's predominance here, and that one man I met from Tikrit actually likes Saddam Hussein a lot.)

Since so few of them actually hate the military, what is it, if anything that they hate about us?

As I was reading the Qur'an and a commentary on it the other day a supreme irony occurred to me. What they hate about America and the west is not the liberty we're helping them to achieve, but how it appears to them that we westerners have turned life into a trash pile of permissiveness with the liberty that we have forgotten how to use correctly. I'm sure they're somewhat afraid that they'll get our values as part of the package.

A couple of examples will suffice as illustration of what they more than likely hate about us:

The Sanctity and Beauty of Womanhood. Islam teaches that woman is the supreme creation of God and should be protected and respected like nothing else. Yet what do Muslims (not just in Iraq) see on their newly acquired satellite dishes? They see that western decadence, as portrayed by upwards of 90% of everything coming out of Hollywood, has transformed women from creations requiring humble respect into objects of magnetic attraction that are often good for nothing more than to be ogled, abused, and discarded.

The Reality of a Creator. According to the prophet, Muhammad, God (Allah is the name of God in Islam) created the earth in several periods, following which he created Adam as the first man and Eve as the first woman (see, for example, Sura #2 in the Qur'an). According to Islam, most of Darwinian Evolution--that man descended from protozoa--is a blatant falsehood. Yet what do Muslims read on their internet news sites of interest? That only evolution can be taught in American schools, that the theory of evolution has become regarded by many of the American "movers and shakers" as fact, and that no other theory, including merely that earth and man may have come about as a result of intelligent design, may be taught in their hallowed halls.

Would you feel threatened by these "values" coming out of the West if you were an Arab Muslim? I'm not an Arab Muslim, and I feel threatened by these values!

My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (and for that matter nearly all of Christianity) agrees with the above-described fundamental Islamic beliefs. But if one had only satellite television and western-exported movies from which to judge, one would have great cause to worry that Islamic civilization is in danger from western "values".

It is wonderful that so many "everyday" Americans express their support for the troops here in Iraq. It would be doubly wonderful if as many of these Americans would express their support for the Judeo-Christian values that made our country great and demand that they once again become publicly enshrined. Coincidentally, these are values that in more cases than not agree with Islamic values.

If more of us Americans spoke up about our values, then maybe the truth about American society would emerge from and overcome the filth that a few islands of elite debauchery are using to deceive the rest of the world as to what American values really are. Actually, if more everyday Americans would speak out about and demand public respect for the values they hold dear, then there would really be nothing about which Muslims could hate us at all.

Living in Fear is Living a Lie

Natan Sharansky recently wrote a book called The Case for Democracy, in which he writes (and I paraphrase) that anyone living in a "fear society" is obligated to lie about what it is like to live in that society; otherwise they risk being obliterated from that society.

That may be turning out to be what it was like to live in Iraq, not only under Saddam Hussein, but also under the insurgency. Now that Sunni leaders have encouraged their followers to vote, and they turned out in droves to do just that, they are starting to let their true feelings come out. And coincidentally, I am perceiving a similar thaw in the atmosphere at The New York Times, because suddenly many positive anecdotes (which have been here in Iraq for the reporting all along) are coming from its pages.

A recent Times article, entitled Freedom From Fear... includes the following excerpt:
A new willingness to distance themselves from the insurgency, an absence of hostility for Americans, a casual contempt for Saddam Hussein, a yearning for Sunnis to find a place for themselves in the post-Hussein Iraq - the boys' themes were their parents', too, only more boldly expressed.
The blessings of liberty belong to all mankind. I am glad to be serving in a country where the light of freedom is being seen and desired by more and more of God's children.

Is it that the weight of popular opinion has compelled the Times to hedge its bets on Iraqi success sooner than the US Democrat party? I wonder how much sooner and more widespread the success may have been had so many western news organs, including the Times (at least until now) not wished so desperately for it to fail. If they will continue and make general their practice of reporting what actually happens in the world, there is yet hope for unmitigated success in Iraq.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Helping a Stranded Motorist

I reported the tow strap from my humvee as missing today. I should be able to get another one fairly easily.

On our way back from a patrol mission, we came across several men in two vehicles that were having problems with one of them. He explained to me that their was water and oil everywhere in the engine compartment of one of the vehicles. I finally understood that he was looking for a rope to tow the broken down vehicle with the vehicle that was still in tact.

It finally dawned on me that we had a tow strap on the front of our humvee (every humvee has one) and the army wouldn't miss it nearly as bad as it would help these men. So we gave them our tow strap and they were delighted at our willingness to help. Soon they were back on their way down the road, smiles on their faces.

It may not be much, but a whole bunch of small things will help the Iraqis understand that most Americans care about them very much and are willing to be of service to them every chance we get.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Marvelously Wonderful Day in Iraq

As I woke up yesterday morning and surveyed the landscape at my guard post, a most peaceful and optimistic feeling enveloped me. I had a feeling that December 15th would turn out to be a remarkable day. Immediately I knew that it was at least a great day for the Iraqis in my area of operations as it appeared that nearly every registered voter turned out early to cast his or her vote.

When I got back to our Foward Operating Base (FOB) yesterday afternoon, I couldn't wait to listen to and read about what had happened across the country while I had been at work. The first sign that the day had been a remarkable one for Iraqis was that National Public Radio (NPR) actually had quite a few positive things to say about it.

The stories agreed, from the impartial Fox News to the liberal leaning CNN, that it had been a marvelously wonderful day for Iraq. Much less violence than in the previous January elections. Much less tension among voters. Hundreds and hundreds of voters waiting much more patiently in long voting lines than Americans do. Sunni militias protecting, rather than attacking, polling places. Hordes of smiling people showing their purple fingers to the cameras. Sunni clerics encouraging everyone to vote, and huge Sunni turnout, including in the city of Ramadi and the provice of Al Anbar, which had seen only 2 per cent turnout for the October referendum.

There are still a lot of things to accomplish here, but anyone (that means you, too, Democrats in congress) who can't see the enormous progress that has happened in Iraq is willfully blind. It has been a privilege to be present at the making of the best of Iraqi history.

The Latest Democrat Stunt

I have to admit, only one member of congress said it, but it sure didn't take long for the Democrats in congress to cast a shadow over the overwhelming success of the Iraqi elections as only they can do.

Following the election, republicans in congress are putting together a resolution expressing support of the marvelous job the US troops are doing here in Iraq as well as solidarity with the millions of Iraqis who flocked to the polls yesterday in search of their dream.

I'm confident several million Iraqis would support the resolution, yet somehow in yet another in a long string of Democrat stunts to discredit liberty for anyone other than themselves, Democrat Nancy Pelosi calls the resoltion a Republican stunt. I'm surprised that Shumer, Pelosi, Biden, Byrd, Kennedy and company aren't on the injured reserve list more often, considering they don't have stunt doubles (as far as I know).

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cautious Optimism About Upcoming Elections

The bulk of the Iraqi voters will head to the polls tomorrow (December 15th), but already, positive signs are indicating that it will be a positive election.

Iraqis living abroad are voting in much greater numbers than in the January elections. There has been significant drop in violence in most areas over the last few weeks. News stories show candidates going door to door in formerly violent areas campaigning and encouraging people to vote for them. And hundreds of Sunni clerics who encouraged a boycott of the January elections and the October referendum are encouraging their followers to vote tomorrow.

I pray often for the success of the Iraqi people at achieving liberty and plenty. Tomorrow may be a turning point of success in the history of Iraq. But even if the elections are a resounding success, the insurgency has no plans of giving up. So I will continue to pray that the Iraqis can continue to build their dream. And I hope you will remember them in your prayers as well.

Helping Hands Make Happy Iraqi Children

Thank you to so many of you, including all the members of my extended family, for the toys, clothing, and other items that you have sent to us here in Iraq. They are being put to good use. We have visited several villages over the last few days, and when the children see the humvees coming, they run toward us. "Mister, mister!" they say, "Football?!" Their favorite gift to receive is a soccer ball. We're actually running short of soccer balls, but we've handed out many other toys, clothing, games, and candy. It is fun to see the children so happy, and to try out some of my limited Arabic with them. I tell them we will return soon with more soccer balls.

Each year, my extended family gets together for a Christmas party, which I missed this year. My wife had an excellent idea this year; instead of keeping the gifts that they normally give to each other, they would wrap and open gifts which would then be boxed up and sent to the Iraqi children. We began passing out some of those gifts here yesterday.

I miss my family, but what a unique opportunity this has been to work together as a family (and friends) to reach out in sharing and caring to people who don't yet enjoy the blessings of freedom, opportunity, and plenty that we in Wulayaat Mutahida (United States) enjoy. I told some of the adults that brought their children to receive a gift from us that these gifts were from their friends in Wulayaat Mutahida.

We still need school supplies. We could definitely provide help by handing out shoes and socks and other clothing. If you can help out, please contact a local national guard family (or national guard armory) to find out how. If you would like to let them know who is sending the gifts, please sent us a photograph.

Don't forget...they always love more soccer balls.

P.S. Someday soon I hope to post a picture on this site of the Iraqi youth kicking the pants off the American Army guys in a soccer game.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Glimpse of Iraq

I just came across a very informative blog, called a Glimpse of Iraq ( It is sometimes humorous, sometimes patriotic, sometimes frustrated, but always a worthwhile treat if you want to learn more about what it's like to live in Iraq.

A Sometimes Tense Relationship

The other morning I was manning our guard post as a Marine convoy came by. Another convoy had just barely gone past in the opposite direction, requiring serveral civilian vehicles to pull to the side of the road. Just as the civilian vehicles began to accelerate onto the road and go about their daily business, the marines appeared, catching a large group of civilian cars on a narrow piece of road where there was no room to again pull to the shoulder. I certainly hope that the Iraqis in those vehicles did not understand the filthy English employed by the Marine turret gunner that morning as his required them to pull off and stop again, but I am confident they understood perfectly his body language.

I'm sure that this Marine has seen much more of the traumatic and violent than I have during his stay in Iraq, but nonetheless, I was very frustrated by his utterly disrespectful behavior. Perhaps he was concerned that one of the cars may have been a VBIED (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Exposive Device), but besides the fact VBIEDs are uncommon in this area, the convoy ultimately passed by within inches of the string of civilian vehicles, a behavior out of keeping when one fears a potential VBIED. My opinion, then, is that this particular Marine just likes to yell at people whom he has decided to treat as less than human for what ever reason. I wish I could have given him a lesson in common courtesy and respect. But then again maybe he could have given me a lesson from experience of not knowing who's in the insurgency and where they will strike next. I don't know...

It seems, from what little I've observed so far, that the Marines are not as well liked as the Soldiers by the Iraqis. Marines, probably because they generally get the tougher combat responsibilities, seem to have less patience for the Iraqi people.

During a recent, jovial roadside conversation (while fellow soldiers were searching his car) an Iraqi man, with a twinkle in his eye, said "You are different than those in the brown uniforms." But I wonder how my outlook might change if I become the target of indiscriminate insurgent violence. I'd rather not find out...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Inta Athke min u Liberal Amrikaan

The other day my platoon took our interpreter with us on a mission. We had some free time before we went out on the actual mission, so he and I spent a delightful time getting to know each other and about our differing religions and countries. In the course of our conversation, we agreed that most Iraqis want the multinational forces to stay in Iraq in order to help them stabilize their fledgling republic. To this he added a comment, the gist of which was, “Besides, I think you would want to fight the insurgents here and get rid of them so that they don’t come to America and cause the same problems in your country that they are causing in mine.” <>

Inta athke min u liberal Amrikaan, I laughed with him in my halting Arabic. He was very pleased to discover that I thought him smarter than American liberals. Unlike American liberals, my interpreter makes a living of actually living here, and he cannot afford to be an appeaser of the insurgents. Such Americans, let alone having never been here to see what it’s like to live in terror, make no empathic effort to comprehend what it must be like to exist in a country where indiscriminate violence can come with lightning speed, unpredictability, and cold finality.

Appeasement is not compromise; a compromise involves reasonable assurance that both sides will give something toward a constructive end. Appeasement is a broken tool in the tool bag of the weak.

<>An appeaser extends courtesy to someone who--a reasonable person can with 100% confidence predict--will not return the courtesy. Appeasers have no lasting values, and are they are willing to gamble everyone else’s values that just maybe this time the appeasement will yield reciprocation, even though it never has before. <>

My interpreter is old enough to remember what life was like under Saddam Hussein, and he does not want to suffer ever again under a similar regime, which will be the result if the American liberals have their way. Like my interpreter, many Iraqis have caught hold of the dream of liberty. The dream will be achieved only through sacrifice. For those who work toward achieving the Iraqi dream, compromise is healthy, but appeasement is not an option.

So, dear reader, which are you? Like the American liberal who sits on his sofa and says that we should appease (read: give in to) the insurgency? Or do you support my interpreter and millions of other Iraqis who have seen the dream that is America, and who are willing to sacrifice in order to live a similar dream?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Building the Iraqi Dream

A couple of months ago I visited with a man from Baghdad. He was very friendly to me, but it was his opinion that he wanted the American military to leave Iraq as soon as it was possible for Iraq to protect itself. I have to say that I have the same desire. He told me that he and I are friends, but that he would rather I were in Iraq as a person rather than as a soldier. I expressed my hope that someday I would be able to bring my family to an Iraq that is safe enough to do so. “And I would be glad to invite your family to my home,” he said.

I explained to him that the United States has an abundance of good things because Americans are generally a peace-loving people who can trust each other. I told him that I am here as a soldier to help provide protection and support to the Iraqi people so that they can have the setting to build a similar Iraqi dream.

Yesterday I visited with a man who was very concerned because he doesn’t have the necessities of life where he lives. I asked him if there were Iraqis who would be able to come and build him better water, electrical, and other facilities. “Yes”, he said, "but I cannot guarantee them that it would be 100% safe, so they will not come.” “In nearly every city and town in the United States we do not have this problem,” I explained to him. “This is because nearly everyone in America respects other people’s property and trusts that other people will respect his property.” I told him that I hoped our being here (the United States military) would help bring about a similar level of trust in Iraq so that they can share the same blessings that citizens of the United States enjoy.

I am not sure why the insurgency would want to deny such blessings to the citizens of Iraq.

Who is to Blame?

I visited with an Iraqi man yesterday, who observed that two years or so ago, when the Americans first came to Iraq, there was much less animosity between the Iraqis and Americans than there is now. We still have a somewhat good relationship, he felt, but not as good as it once was, when once upon a time the soldiers would take off their body armor and play soccer with the youth, unafraid of the possibly lurking insurgent sniper.

The negative difference between then and now is fault of the insurgency. <>

Question: If the relationship between the Iraqis and Americans was better before the insurgency through propaganda swelled its ranks with people from all over the Middle East and elsewhere, what does this tell you about the poisonous nature of the insurgency? Americans and peace-loving Iraqis must stand together to root out the cancer in our midst.

There is one time when it is important to fight, even to the death. When someone or something, whose goal it is to rule over us with an iron fist, seeks destroy our liberty, whether it be a Hussein, a bin Laden, or an al Zarqawi, it is important to fight to defend our families and the liberty that God intends for us to have.

Which Part of Iraq did al Zarqawi Grow up In?

The answer: he grew up in Jordan. Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi is NOT an Iraqi. So what is he doing here? Many think it would be best if he went home. The problem is, many Jordanians do not share this view. As a result of recent murders in Jordan masterminded by al Qaeda, Zarqawi's home country does not welcome him, having developed the same negative view of his insane fanaticism as have most other Muslims around the world. His indiscriminate targeting of civilians and peacekeepers indicate that he has little love for much more than himself. <>

I recently met a man from Jordan, whose good friend lived near to Zarqawi at one time. According to this man’s friend, Zarqawi was not a good Muslim. He did not attend the mosque, he did not pray, he drank alcoholic beverages to excess, and he treated women with disdain, to include sexual debauchery. Only when Zarqawi became hateful of the United States and things western did he pretend to be a good Muslim, with a similar pretense of having the best motives for Islam and the Iraqi people. I suspect that those who know Zarqawi would still say that he is not a good Muslim.

If Zarqawi is not a good Muslim, why are the insurgents siding with him and fighting against peace-loving Iraqis? It is my opinion that Zarqawi is seeking for nothing more than power and personal aggrandizement. He has promised his followers that they will receive some of this power if they are successful in overthrowing the Iraqi dream. He has a perfect knowledge of his fraudulent attempt to be a leader among good Muslims--because he is not one.

Developing Relationships at a Checkpoint

Yesterday my platoon and I spent a couple of hours at a military checkpoint visiting with the people who happened to be traveling the road that day. We apologized to them that we were taking up some of their important time, but that we have had problems with insurgents placing roadside bombs on this stretch of road, and we wanted to let them know we were trying to find out information to counteract this problem and provide the people with a safer route to travel.

As I visited with the people (through our interpreter) I noticed my cultural biases begin to fade away. I noticed that, just as with Americans, Iraqis come in all shapes and sizes, and have varying personalities. They are a very gracious people. Many of them have large families, which bring them great joy. They were all grateful for what the American military is doing to try to protect them and help them improve their country’s situation.

The more I visited with them, the more they seemed like someone I had known all along. The animation of one of them reminded me of my uncle. The dignity of some of the older men reminded me of older men in my hometowns whom I had grown to respect. And one of the women was a school teacher like my mother used to be and other members of my extended family still are.

I thought to myself after we left the checkpoint that more than ever I realize that we are all God’s children, and in many ways we are all alike. But I am glad that God saw fit, in his infinite wisdom, to allow us to develop different cultures, the exposure to which gives greater depth, color, and meaning to life.

I made a point to ask each person or group of people at the checkpoint whether they had any bad experiences with the American military. Nearly all had had only good things to say. Interestingly they cited many specific examples of how the Americans had helped them to improve their lives. In one case, however, a gentleman was not afraid to explain to us that his family and friends have had problems getting caught between the insurgency and multi-national forces. I sensed his frustration, and as I thought about this, my frustration level grew as well. I am frustrated at the goal of al Qaeda and the insurgency, which seems to be only to wreak indiscriminate death and destruction. American and other military forces’ main objective is to serve and build up Iraq and her people. The insurgency has no other goal than to tear down and destroy.

One of the greatest enjoyments that I receive while serving in Iraq is in getting to know the people and discovering with them that, although we have different religions, we have very similar values. We fear God, we practice charity for our fellow men, we place great emphasis on the importance of family, and we believe that God will reward in the next life those who strive to do good in this life.

As I get to know more of the Iraqi people, I am growing to love the Iraqi culture. I just wish the insurgency did not make it so difficult for me to become their friends.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Patience in Achieving Liberty

The Founding Fathers of the United States of America worked together against a common enemy in achieving their independence from Great Britain. It was not until this independence was achieved that they realized that, even though they agreed on the concept of liberty, they had different ideas on how to preserve this liberty. Why should we expect that Iraqis would not have their own ideas of how to preserve this liberty as well?

It is disingenuous for anyone to claim that we are forcing our US Constitution upon the Iraqis. Our Constitution was motivated greatly by Judeo-Christian values; theirs will rightly be influenced by Islam. All are great religions, but each approaches the concept of right versus wrong from slightly difference perspectives. I see no problem with this. I feel that the United States is simply aiding Iraqis in their ability to achieve their liberty as best they see fit, and a United States Constitution will not fit the Iraqi way of life. It is up to Iraqis to determine how they will safeguard their liberties, with our protection and consultation as they deem appropriate.

There is one concept in all of this that is universal. People everywhere yearn to be free to think, to choose, and to do as best they see fit for themselves and their families. “Cutting bait and running” now would be one of the great travesties of world history. A remarkable light is about to dawn. It is worth our patience as the light of liberty gestates in this part of the earth.

An Iraqi man was recently asked, “Would you like the Americans to leave Iraq?” “Yes, I want you to leave,” he replied, “maybe in fifty years when we have learned to take care of ourselves.” I don’t think it will take nearly that long, but it has taken much longer than it might otherwise have, because those who know little or nothing aid and abet the insurgency with their ill-thought and ill-timed comments.

The transfiguration of a society from one of despotism to one of freedom rarely happens in a day. Even the United States of America, the country which enjoys the greatest freedoms in all the world (and is thus the most prosperous) required several years before its independence was not only won, but stabilized. The Soviet Union has been progressing toward greater freedom since the mid-1980’s and still has a ways to go. Therefore, just because the attempt at freedom in Iraq is already 2 and a half years old gives us no reason to despair. Often if the big mouths would keep their big mouths shut, success would be lasting and better publicized.

Many, many good things are happening here in Iraq, which unfortunately are not being reported nearly often enough in the media. Why???

Happy End to a Misunderstanding

On our way back to our operating base today, we came across someone who seemed very distressed about something or other. I, being the one with the best command of the Arabic language (which was really very little command at all) was pressed into the service of translator for our Battalion Commander, who happened to be in our convoy. The Iraqi men we encountered claimed that insurgents had shot at them, and that they had hidden behind a dirt berm to avoid being hit. They showed us a large collection of spent bullet casings in the middle of the one-lane asphalt road.

Our fellow soldiers further down the road were able to track down the suspected insurgents, whom we questioned. I had great fun (or was it trepidation) trying to convey the thoughts of the Battalion Commander and the head of what turned out to be a US-Military-contracted group of Iraqis who were actually a road-repair crew. And their side of the story was that they had been shot at first by the other group.

It turns out that both groups of men mistook the others for insurgents and were simply trying to defend themselves. All in all, no one was hurt, and both parties were very glad that we were there to arbitrate the dispute.

Later on our route we stopped and searched a sedan. We explained to the occupants that several roadside bombs had been found on roads in this area and we were, therefore, searching all vehicles in the area. They were greatful to us for trying to protect them, and were more than happy to have us search theirs and all cars in the area; the insurgents often place explosive devices after dark that do not discriminate between military and civilian vehicles, so many of those living in our area of operations feel threatened by the insurgents, not feeling safe about traveling the roads during hours of darkness.

We may not always be successful, but we're glad to do our best to help bring the Iraqis we serve a life where they can live free of fear.