Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Deployed to the Sunni Triangle, working directly with the people of Iraq became the duty which consumed the majority of my time during my tour there. I was responsible for processing claims against the U.S. government when an Iraqi believed we had committed a wrong against them and claimed compensation for loss of property or life.

It became clear very early on during the process of interviewing the hundreds of Iraqi's who made such claims, that often times their loss was not a result of our actions, but the actions of insurgents, Al Qaeda.

One day an old woman approached me, surrounded by several men from her village, as was customary for those occasions when women engaged me directly during this process. As she spoke and I listened to her story being translated to me, I remember watching her hands. They were extremely chapped from years of hard, laborious work and stained orange, I assumed from working with some type of plant. They told as much a story as she did.

The woman, a widow, and mother of just one remaining young teenage son, told me of the foreign men who had forced themselves into her home, which turned out was a very small shack set off away from other homes, for a night of lodging and meals. Obviously a particularly poor woman, even for an Iraqi, fearful for her and her son, with no food to offer and a very small shack to live in, against custom she had refused to the best of her ability. The next morning as her son rode his bike down the road, a roadside bomb just happened to go off next to him, killing him. Obviously the bad guys were making their point to her and the rest of the village about not cooperating.

Now, the last of her children, preceded by their father, was gone and she had nothing left.
She was asking me for any possible assistance, money for food, because without her son who had been working, making at least a meager amount of money for food, she was now unable to provide for herself.

My translator, a particularly unforgiving man, with no love for Sunni's, who'd suffered at the hands of Saddam Hussein was clearly becoming, for the first and only time, emotionally moved by the events of this poor woman's life. You could hear it in his voice, see it in his expressions, and sense it in his body language. For the first and only time, I heard him gently address an elderly woman using the Arabic word for "mother." Usually he wanted me to have everyone thrown in jail, but this time, he showed pity and compassion.

I wanted to give the woman everything I could, but my hands were tied and I was unable to forward her claim. It didn't qualify. My only solace as she left was that the tight-knit nature of Iraq's extended families, clans, villages, and tribes would answer her needs for provision.

On days like this, when the claims clearly turned out to be the work of Al Qaeda inflicting pain into the lives of Iraqi's, my job was a frustrating one. Asking us to compensate them for losses occurring by the hand of Al Qaeda initially made my head spin and my blood boil, both because of the logic behind such requests and the heartbreak it brought hearing the pain inflicted on some really wonderful people by some of the world's most evil characters.
But these also became opportunities to implore action.

As I explained to the Iraqi's, these were times for them to take up arms against Al Qaeda. It was time to ask the American's for help ridding their villages of Al Qaeda, not cash for criminal acts committed against them by "Ali Babba." Eventually some did begin informing on Al Qaeda and other criminal elements. We were able to gain actionable intelligence which was followed up on.
Nearly three years later, over the course of the last six months, that retaliation against Al Qaeda has turned into a large movement across much of the Sunni Triangle.

A coalition of sheiks and their tribesmen have come together in defiance of Al Qaeda, openly fighting against them. The numbers of Sunni's who have joined the police forces and the numbers of tips relaying information about Al Qaeda coming in from the Iraqi people has gained tremendous momentum. There is a full fledged fight from the Iraqi's against Al Qaeda taking place in many parts of the Sunni Triangle.

My prayers are for that to momentum to build into Baghdad and the surrounding areas. Anbar province is turning the corner and without the chaotic influence of Al Qaeda elsewhere in the country, Iraq has a much better chance for success.

After all, Al Qaeda is set on killing as many Iraqi's as it takes to accomplish their goal of taking over at least part of that country. Recently, they attempted to rig a newly built girls' school with explosives and detonate it during class time.

This and their other murderous, maniacal efforts to destabilize the country and establish a theocratic base of terrorist operations, as Zawahiri again openly declared recently, intentions he and Osama bin Laden have stated so many times before, continue to prove why we need to stay in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Pre-Election Predictions Come True

Going into the 2006 elections, I argued that putting the Democrats in power would not serve the national security interests of this country very well, at all.

Not that all Democrats were incapable of acting with competence and responsibility in this arena; that would be painting with too broad of a brush and simply unfair. What was a fair assessment, however, was that those who would take the reigns were not.

Nancy Pelosi’s comments that Iraq was not a war to be won, but a problem to be solved foretold what was to come.

The inability of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s actions to reflect an admission, willingness to concede, or comprehension that our Marines and soldiers daily faced Al Qaeda in Iraq stood out then and does so even more today.

I posed the question and have many times since, “If Al Qaeda is a threat worth pursuing throughout the world, why not pursue them in Iraq?” Yet they try desperately to run from the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Most Democratic leaders have avoided the politically messy questions concerning Iraq. How do we address the Islamic state Al Qaeda desires to establish in Iraq? How about the power it garners Iran? What of the genocide that is sure to be unleashed on a level we’ve probably not seen since Rwanda? What impact will running away have for emboldening others who may want to harm us? What about the message it sends friends and allies about how much they can depend on the U.S. when times get tough? What are the consequences for having lost a war because we didn’t have the resolve to win?

These inquiries are not usually made of them by journalists, and when they are, they go unanswered, circumvented in a way that only a politician can not answer a question. In doing so, they promote their political agenda while ignoring the reality of the consequences for surrender in Iraq.

Even today, while the majority of Democrats are trying to force a timetable for capitulation in Iraq, these questions remain unanswered.

Through an almost fanatical obsession with creating defeat in Iraq by virtue of attempting to cut off funds for the troops, establishing unrealistic timetables for arbitrary withdrawal, and dates certain for surrender, they show their inability to grasp the challenge of national security and prove what was foretold.

The only sensible voices on that side of the aisle have been Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson. Although Senator Lieberman was partially thrown overboard by his party, at least his position has remained consistent with sound national security policy. Senator Nelson’s rhetoric and actions through the Iraq debate have been fair, reasoned, logical, and have to this point, demonstrated a grasp of the challenges in Iraq, as well as the impact our decisions concerning Iraq have on the entirety of our national security.

Maybe those two should be running that caucus? Unfortunately, I doubt the far-left ultra-liberals, who seem to have taken over that party, would allow that to happen.

Beyond Iraq, the leadership in Congress has provided some other interesting proof of ignorance concerning the threats we face in the world. When Congressional Quarterly quizzed House members on national security matters, the man the Democrats had pegged to chair the Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes, flunked.

Reyes did not know the religious background of Al Qaeda, the very thing that fuels them, nor did he know what Hezbollah was.

I can understand when the average Congressional representative might not be up to speed on such things, they each have their expertise, and there are Republicans who have failed the same quiz in the past. I’m confident a lack of knowledge on such matters among members of Congress often leads to some of the unintelligent debate we see on the subject.

But to appoint someone as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who can’t correctly answer basic questions about the two most predominant terrorist groups in the world helps prove my thoughts about the Democratic leadership being ill-equipped to act on matters of national security.

Ever notice how they often avoid the fact, sometimes to the point of denial, that we are engaged in a war against terrorists? I cite the recent House Armed Services Committee memo which even bans the use of the term, “Global War on Terror.”

Most recently the House Intelligence Committee has forwarded legislation to have our intelligence agencies study the effects of global warming on national security. Let me get this right: Iraq is not a war to be won, capitulation in Iraq would not have an impact on national security (otherwise why would they push so hard to do so?), the leader of the same committee doesn’t know who the terror groups are, and even after 9/11 there is no war on terror? But we can have those responsible for tracking and protecting us from terrorists, divert their time and money to study the THEORY of global warming?

I think it’s time to send some members of the House and Senate “Thank You” notes for helping prove my point. I don’t think I could have scripted it any better.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Harry Reid Needs a Refresher Course on Terrorism

Last week Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that part of the war on terrorism being fought in Iraq was lost. It was lost unless of course the President started following Harry’s plan. And the sooner we follow Harry’s plan, the sooner we could achieve victory.

But Senator Reid’s plan calls for a nearly immediate surrender in Iraq, regardless of the conditions in Iraq and regardless of the fact that Al Qaeda is still operating there. So the sooner we quit the fight, the sooner we win?

Is that like telling the entire Husker football team, up by 14 in the 4th quarter against Oklahoma that the sooner they all walk off the field, the sooner they’ll win? Maybe I should be telling my children that the sooner they quit doing their homework, the sooner they’ll all turn into little Einstein geniuses. Better yet, why doesn’t Harry tell Hillary and Barack that the sooner they stop running for President, the sooner one of them will win the Presidency?

Those would all be plausible outcomes in the Harry Reid School of Logic. But, his logic isn’t tracking, nor is his timing.

His comments came as the UPI was reporting that “U.S. military officials say Baghdad and the rest of Iraq are getting better rather than worse. Sectarian murders have dropped. Civilian casualties and the number of attacks on civilians are down by approximately 50 percent in Baghdad. Across Iraq, civilian casualties are down by 24 percent with attacks against civilians dropping by about 17 percent countrywide.”

His comments came as the LA Times was reporting that some 200 Sunni tribal leaders were announcing “the formation of a national party to oppose insurgents like Al Qaeda and reengage with Iraq’s political process.”

His comments came as Max Boot was reporting on briefings from Multi-National Division-West in Iraq that attacks in the Anbar province were “at a two year low” and that tips to coalition forces “were soaring.”

So while only 60% of the additional troops have arrived, signs and trends for progress continue to emerge, and at worst General Petraeus says we’re having mixed success, Harry Reid was saying the war is lost.

If looking at the situation from Al Qaeda’s perspective, I’d say he was correct; the U.S. has lost, because politicians like Harry Reid have lost the will to fight and win. I’m sure that every Islamic terrorist in the world rejoiced at his comments. Their plan for success is working.

The intent of the terrorists has always been to make the fight difficult. They know, from our demonstrated actions and rhetoric that if a fight gets tough or confusing, we have a history of quitting.

Some of us have been trying to prove the terrorists wrong, but Harry Reid and friends are desperately trying to prove the terrorists right. His comments bring them one step closer to victory and their goal of establishing another country from which to spread their brand of Islam.

Maybe that important fact has been lost during the debate over Iraq. We need reminded of who we’re fighting and what their intent is.

Some have lost sight of the fact that we fight an enemy who sees weakness (like an unwillingness to fight) as something to exploit. Any demonstrated weakness only emboldens them to act with more violence, not less.

They don’t have an “American mindset” which sees compassion where weakness exists. They see brutality where weakness exists, and an opportunity to force a choice between conversion to their brand of Islam or death.

From their viewpoint, our only options are religious conversion or death. Negotiations, political solutions, compassion, tolerance, and compromise are not on the table; they are not options Al Qaeda will entertain.

For our part, looking inwardly to examine our national policies in the Middle East, trying desperately to find the faults in our national character, or simply blaming America first as reasons they hate us are all pointless ventures.

We can subject ourselves to the throes of self-loathing, but the fact is we are loathed by them because our society, our nation is not an extreme Islamic theocracy. Until the day we all convert to belief in an extremist version of Wahabiism and at the same time decide to implement the same type of theocracy the Taliban and Al Qaeda subjected Afghanistan to, we will be hated and attacked by them.

Many here in America also do not comprehend the depth of their intolerance and hatred for everyone else. One of the very few things we’ve experienced here that would resemble a similar hatred among one group for others, simply because they are different, and a willingness to turn that hatred into violence is the acts of the Ku Klux Klan.

Of course, September 11, 2001 can also be a pretty good reminder of their hatred, violence, and evil.

In the end, maybe Harry Reid needs refresher courses in history, what drives terrorists, what emboldens them, why they want us to lose and die, who we’re fighting, and how wars are won. But it probably wouldn’t matter, because he only seems concerned with how elections are won.