Monday, June 26, 2006

The Hidden Meaning of Haditha

It's ironic how the only time an Iraqi means anything to the American press is when he is killed. When he is killed by insurgents, he is remembered only as a sub-human contribution to body-count figures. Only when he is allegedy killed in cold blood by American troops does his life have any meaning to the American mediocracy. We only need ask John Murtha, the god-like expert, on anything military, and the truth will be found!!!

When Iraqis are killed by Sunni insurgents or Shia' militias, their deaths are represented by the American news media as (1) a fleeting, one-time report (2) simple body counts, and (3) supposed evidence that the United States is about to be toppled by the gigantic and well-oiled insurgency. When the smallest allegation is put forth that American soldiers have not followed their rules of engagement, however, that same news media generates a swimming pool of self-salivation.

Congressman John "Haditha" Murtha, who on a regular basis brings ever greater embarrassment to the Marines for his having been one, is now being considered as a witness in the Haditha case for both releasing and blowing out of proportion information that will make more difficult to conduct fairly the trials of several Marines currently being held in the brig at Camp Pendleton, California. That's okay, though isn't it? After all, the most important point is not to give the Marines fair trials, it would seem. Rather, Democrats and mediocrats bent on the destruction of George W. Bush will shrink at no foul deed to get the troops home--except vote in favor of a resolution asking for such when it may hurt their reelection chances.

Meanwhile, here are three other stories you won't hear much about, as they do not further the mediocratic wisdom that it is important that the US fail in Iraq.

First: Remember way, way back a couple of weeks ago when the Wicked Witch (aka. Abu Mousab al Zarqawi) was killed? I don't either, because the only news coverage there has been on the story is to claim that the documents found on the premises claiming that Coalition Forces were gaining the upper hand were fakes.

Second: Remember way, way back last week when American soldiers Kristian Menchaca and Thomas L. Tucker were brutally tortured and murdered by al Qaeda? The only thing most people remember about this is that it signalled a vast resurgence of al Qaeda strength shortly after the death of the Wicked Witch. Nothing else was reported, because American soldiers do not qualify in mediocratic wisdom circles as victims. It's good to have bloggers like this one and this one to keep the tragedy fresh in our minds and remind us what we're fighting for and against.

Third: A Marine sergeant implicated in the Haditha killings claims that his team was following Rules of Engagement and that the killings were an accidental tragedy. This story has also been flushed down the mediocracy memory hole, deemed by the self-styled elite as of no worth to either news seekers or the truth about the war on terror.

The Media Research Center noted a gigantically disporportional amount of attention paid by the media to the Haditha allegations as opposed to other related stories.

Haditha, a relatively sparsely populated area compared to the likes of Ramadi, Fallujah, and Baghdad, is disproportionally a hotbed of insurgent activity. Last summer within about a one-week period, a six-man Marine observation post team was captured and killed by local insurgents, and 14 Marines were killed when their vehicle passed over an enormous roadside bomb. Patrolling troops even today are nearly as likely as not in the Haditha area to be engaged by the insurgency, whether by small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades, or roadside bombs. It is also not hard to guess that average Haditha residents might be afraid to tell an accurate story of what occurred last November.

When taken into context, one can see how a house-to-house search following the violent death of a fellow marine might have turned into accidental tragedy. The mediocracy will not countenance this as a possibility, though. They have their mind made up. After all, they can quote several democrats (13 at last count, according to recent Congressional voting) to further their personal interests in removing coalition troops from Iraq.

Pending the outcome of the trial, let me say that if the Marines are found guilty, they should be punished. Even in war, Americans should act with class and dignity. I do not think, however, that the outcome will prove the historical facts to be anywhere nearly as bad as the media and John Murtha are painting them to be. It will be interesting, at that point in time, to see what sort of gyrations the mediocracy will go through to avoid having to apologize for its baseless innuendo.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An Outpouring of Community Support

One of the most beneficial parts of military service is the involvement of community before, during, and after its soldiers deploy. Support for the Triple Deuce has been overwhelming in all these phases, but is especially noticeable now that we have arrived back in Utah.

Shortly after I got off the plane last week in Salt Lake City, my youngest son solicited a ride atop my shoulders, which I was glad to do. One of the local television news crews took note, and we were glad to do a short homecoming interview with them. You can read or watch the story by clicking here (my interview begins somewhere in the middle of the story). The welcome home parties at the various airports were so large, that it often took several minutes for soldiers and their families to find each other.

The 2nd Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery is headquartered in Cedar City, Utah, with firing batteries in St. George and Richfield, and our Service Battery in Beaver. I live in north-central Utah and had occasion with my family to travel to St. George this past weekend, traveling through Beaver and Cedar on the way. I took several pictures of Welcome Home signs and banners along the way. I had no idea how many people in the communities, outside our own families, were interested in our safety and success.

As happens so often when time is involved, we've had to make a choice between two equally fun and supportive events this weekend, a fireworks show and tribute to the troops in northern Utah, and celebration for the troops in southern Utah. We elected the fireworks show because it is closer to home. It's difficult for us that we can't be to both.

Although I wasn't sure I'd be home in time, I was able to attend my 25th-year high school class reunion over the weekend. All of my old friends, and even classmates I hadn't known very well had become aware that I'd just gotten back from Iraq. They were at once supportive and very grateful for my service. On more than one occasion, classmates or their spouses were on the verge of (or into) tears as they expressed their appreciation. It's gratifying to me that, by a long shot, it's not just me that thinks what we're doing in Iraq is beneficial.

Of course the people of Iraq are better off for not only the Triple Deuce but for nearly all of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines that have served and are serving in Iraq. The benefit that one does not often contemplate, however, is the catharsis that obtains to a community as it sends its sons and daughters with trepidation into harm's way, as it prays for their safe return, and as it either welcomes them safely home or thanks and honors those of its families whose soldiers gave the last full measure of their devotion to the cause of liberty.

Such a regeneration is currently very evident in the cities and towns of central and southern Utah. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to serve. I am also newly grateful that my community can be involved in the celebration of service to Iraq.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Joyful Homecoming

I'm back home now, and I do miss the people of Iraq, but it's just as joyful being back home as I anticipated. Friends and family have reinforced the idea in my mind that it has been worth it to serve.

I still have and always will have a soft spot in my heart for the people of Iraq. I have seen that they have observed us and want to be like us. As Douglas commented to a recent post on this site: 'Freedom for the people of Iraq is just on the horizon.' They see it. They crave it. They will have it.

I'm back home now, so I'm no longer physically a part of the exciting struggle for Iraqi freedom. But I'm still on the sidelines, having changed from player to cheerleader. In that capacity, I expect to continue to furnish this web log with new insights and information far into the future.

We arrived in Salt Lake City at about 4 PM this past Saturday. My wife simply ignored the command that all people stay behind the yellow line on the tarmac and let the soldiers come to them, and I was grateful that she did. Of all the people who came to see me home, she obviously holds the largest place in my heart. It was a joyful reunion of best friends as we fell on each others shoulders and wept. I was grateful that so many of my extended family members could be on hand as well. It was back to old times as we went to an excellent Italian restaurant and ate and laughed to more than our hearts' content.

One of the more exciting events of the past few days was a ride on the city fire trucks last evening. My wife, along with the mother of a fellow soldier arranged for us, his wife, brothers, and sister, and my children to ride atop two trucks down main street and through various parts of town with sirens blazing. Reminisicent of when we went out in Iraq on convoy patrols, all of the vehicles traveling in every direction pulled to the side of the road to let us pass, most of them returning our waves of the hand.

The parade through town culminated in a reception at the city park, where, despite it having not been very well publicized, a great number of city residents turned out to greet us and thank us for our service. I think I was only brought to tears 4 or 5 times (that's pretty good for me) at seeing dear friends for the first time in many months. We thanked all those who had attended for being further proof that there is support for what we as individuals--and the United States military--had accomplished and are accomplishing in Iraq. We were able to give them a flavor of what missions we had performed while there. As well we answered their questions regarding what it was like to be away from the friendly confines of home. Service in the cause of liberty is a great character-building experience, not only for those who serve, but as well for those who support them and pray for them.

There seem to be too many things to get done in the short time that I have before I go back to my former job as a computer programmer. Actually, I think the problem is that this all does not yet seem real to me. It still lurks in the back of my mind that I am on Rest and Recuperation Leave and will have to return to Iraq in about two weeks. I'm trying to convince myself to relax--that there will be enough time to take care of everything in due course.

It was a herculean task that my wife, children, and I endured. At times it did not seem worth it. Looking back on it now, however, there is no question that it was. When the history books are modified to show a peaceful and prosperous Iraq, our little family will be able to take great satisfaction that we were part of it all--that I served, that my children were proud of me for doing so, and that my wife was gracious and loving enough to encourage it to be so.

Thank you as well to the majority of Americans that see beyond the petty politics and greedy griping to recognize Operation Iraqi Freedom for what it is: the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness for a greater number of God's children.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What I Will and Won't Miss

As I'll be heading home soon, I thought it would be fun to make a list of the things that will be hard to leave behind as well as those that I will be glad to.

Having thought I would never be called to embark on such a great adventure, and wondering on the first few days nearly a year ago how I would ever get through it, I'm surprised that my time in Iraq is quickly coming to a close, and that I have learned and grown so much. It has been worth it.

First I want to give you a list of the things that I won't miss about the experience, and then I let you know what will be hard to leave behind.

What I won't miss:

Porta-Potties. This one is at the top of the "won't miss" list for a reason. In the middle of the night when I was on leave I wanted to kiss the carpet because I didn't have to put on my boots and walk two hundred yards to use the bathroom. Then I got back off leave and summer came. If hell is anything like the heat baked chemical reaction of ammonia and sulfur inside a port-a-john on a 120-degree day, I beg Jesus to forgive me of all my sins and hereby swear that I will never commit another.

Military Food. You know it really isn't that bad, now that they have civilians taking care of it. Wednesday night is even fish night. But at my base they didn't have a McDonald's, let alone an Applebees or a McGrath's Fish House.

Military protocol and disorganization. I have developed a stronger belief in guardian angels when I see how successful the military is after realizing how disorganized we sometimes are. I do not like protocols, such as senseless duty assignments, rules that make no sense, nor how often a perfectly inconceived plan falls to crap the minute it is implemented. But what do you expect from an organization whose main goals are (1) to kill people, and (2) to break things? It's good that human nature is human nature the world over and that other organizations have to suffer from the same disorganization that we do. Our advantage is that we're disorganized on a much higher level than they are.

What I will miss:

My Buddies. We made a lot of memories, we had a lot of laughs, and we played a lot of basketball. I almost grew to love them as much as my own family, but not quite!!! Serving in a dangerous environment with casual friends turns them into something much dearer.

Being able to serve. Some of my fondest memories were when we were able to get stranded motorists back on the road, when we were able to protect Iraqi army personnel through the use of field artillery, when we were able to hand out toys and school supplies to the children, and when the people expressed their gratitude that we would leave our families for over a year to try and help them establish liberty in their country. Although it takes some soldiers and makes them harder, the experience mellowed and matured nearly everyone I came to know, especially including myself.

My newly-found friends. I've made several friends while I've been here, mostly from Iraq, but others from various countries across the globe. When will I ever get another chance such as this? My only regret is that I didn't take more opportunities to make friends and get to know better more of the ones I came to know. Some of these friends are the kind that last a lifetime. I hope that as the years progress we don't have to rely simply on e-mail; it would be nice to see them again, maybe when they come to America, or maybe when I take my family to Iraq in future, more peaceful times.

In the balance, the good far outweighed the bad. I prefer the friendly confines of my mother country, the United States, mainly because my family is there. But now that I have served here, the great country of Iraq will always hold a place in my heart. And I will always feel like I have a stake in--and pray for--her success.

May God bless the United States of America, the beacon on the hill. And may God equally bless the nation of Iraq.

Friday, June 09, 2006

“Not What I Expected”

Their experience with the Americans has been nothing like what Saddam had taught them all those years. Instead, Iraqis found out that most Americans are very courteous, kind, and respectful.

My new friend had already worked with the Americans here for a year or two before I got to this operating base, and he had made some very good friends of them in that time, so it wasn’t difficult for him to strike up a friendship with me. I was sad to be leaving friends behind that I had made at my previous operating base, but in retrospect, I’m glad I came here, because of a friendship I would have missed.

On one of the first days I arrived here, I went to the gym to work out. As I was sitting at one of the bench machines, I began to notice and observe a very dignified Iraqi gentleman who was working there. I felt strongly impressed to go speak to him. In nothing flat we had each made a new friend. I tried out some of my Arabic on him, and he was very impressed.

Over the next few weeks I would see him at the gym nearly every day. Part of my regimen was a half hour discussion with him of new vocabulary. We both began to look forward eagerly to these mutual education sessions. I became his English teacher and he became my Arabic teacher. It was soon clear that his English was better than my Arabic, so most of our discussion was in English, but he was very patient with me and very approving when I would understand and be able to use a new word, phrase, or concept in his native tongue.

My friend’s son is in college, and he had always wanted a computer. Being that I had stayed within my personal spending budget for several months straight, I was able to purchase a refurbished laptop for his son, for which he was profusely grateful.

We learned a lot about each others’ backgrounds, families, and religions over the next several weeks. I gave him my address, phone number, and e-mail so that he could contact me in the United States. He said that maybe his son would try to come to America to further his education, and I made it clear that he or any of his family that visited America would be always welcome in my home.

Knowing that I will soon be going back to the United States, my friend braved the somewhat dangerous roads to Baghdad in order to purchase me a dishdasha (a type of traditional robe worn by men), a yashmagh (headscarf) and khal (a sort of coil that holds the yashmagh in place). It is very nice and something that I will always treasure. Of all he gifts I have ever received, this one has perhaps the most meaning.

But what I treasure most is what he said during our discussion as he gave me my gift. He told me that Saddam had always taught the Iraqi people that Americans were mean and vicious and that they were to be feared. In Saddam’s public pronouncements, in the newspapers, and in the public schools, this became the party line. ‘So when the Americans first came to Iraq, we were afraid of what you would be like. But it was not what I had expected. We have found that you Americans are very kind and very generous and we are grateful that you are here to help us fix our country after all the problems of Saddam.’

It has not been what I had expected either. Just like anything you have never experienced is hard to imagine, Iraq has been much more than I expected. I’m glad that I have been here. I’m glad that I could serve. I’m glad that I have been able to make some very special friends.