Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Mountain Top, PA
Member Number: 1751
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Re: "Be Not Afraid"... A very cogent argument for staying (very long)
But today, based on what I know firsthand about this war, I respectfully disagree with Joe and the crowd of people who share his view that this war cannot be won. On this one point, because I just happen to be a person who has seen this doctor operate on a part of this patient, and I was able to see firsthand that the work he did in 2003/4 is still holding today, I think we don?t call the code unless and until Petraeus says so.
In the short time since Petraeus took charge here, Anbar Province??Anbar the Impossible??seems to have made a remarkable turnaround. I just spent about a month out there and saw no combat. I have never gone that long in Iraq without seeing combat. Clearly, some areas of Anbar remain dangerous?there is fighting in Fallujah today?but there is also something in Anbar today that hasn?t been seen in recent memory: possibilities. There are also larger realities lurking up on the Turkish borders, but the reality today is that the patient called Iraq will die and become a home for Al Qaeda if we leave now.
But now the AQ cancer is spreading into Diyala Province, straight along the Diyala River into Baghdad and other places. ?Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia? (AQM) apparently now a subgroup of ISI (the Islamic State of Iraq), has staked Baquba as the capital of their Caliphate. Whatever the nom de jour of their nom de guerre, Baquba has been claimed for their capital. I was in Diyala again this year, where there is a serious state of Civil War, making Baquba an unpopular destination for writers or reporters. (A writer was killed in the area about a month ago, in fact.) News coming from the city and surrounds most often would say things like, ?near Baghdad,? or ?Northeast of Baghdad,? and so many people have never even heard of Baquba.
Baquba has been an important city in this fight for several years, and for various reasons. It?s critical to keep in mind that AQM and others had the specific goal of starting a civil war, and this was plainly clear by early 2005. When the Golden Dome was obliterated in Samarra in 2006, and blood gushed into the streets, the politically inconvenient truth about the malignant potency of Al Qaeda was undeniable. In a perverse anniversary commemorated earlier this month, the two lone minarets left standing in Samarra after the 2006 bombing, were unceremoniously flattened in attacks that resulted in reprisals nearby in Babil Province and as far removed as Basra.
At least part of the reason we are not seeing even wider-spread open-necked reprisals for the recent bombings (though the reprisals have been serious) is because our current leadership under Petraeus is adroitly pushing political buttons behind the curtains. Based on things I saw, heard, and even videotaped while out among Iraqi tribal leaders in Anbar, unseen hands are reaching out and finding peace with tribes where others found war. Based on what I see all around Iraq, and not just in Anbar, I believe intuitively that most of this war can be ended through smart politics.
Smart politics is not transparent. The best politician leaves no traces of his handiwork in the resolution of complex issues, because if the resolution is to hold, the local parties must be able to claim responsibility with confidence, even to the extent of believing they did it themselves. Further, success in complex negotiations involves compromise, which (after open hostilities) can be perceived as caving and taken as an indication of undue influence from outsiders. That kind of perception gets people killed over here.
Smart politics leaves more people standing with their heads, and so discretion has to be seen as vital to the war effort. Reports claiming that no political progress is happening here because the Iraqi parliament seems stalled are tantamount to claiming that when the US Senate bogs down the stop lights don?t work on Main Street USA. At the same time, no one is interested in going for the broomstick once they?ve seen the man behind the curtain, so smart politicians don?t let that happen, especially when the stakes are this high.
Al Qaeda was never at this table and no one is planning to set a place for them now. They are mass murderers anywhere they can be: Bali, Kandahar, London, Madrid, New York and now, Iraq. This enemy is smart, resourceful and tough, and our early missteps created perfect conditions for the spread of their disease in Iraq.
Political solutions only work with people interested in a resolution where all parties can move forward. Al Qaeda is more interested in an outcome where they dominate through anachronistic anarchy. Our philosophies are so fundamentally different that fighting is inevitable. They want to go backwards and are willing to kill us to do so. We are unwilling to go backwards, and so they started killing us. Finally, we started killing back, but only seriously so after they rammed jets into our buildings, by which they hoped to cause the same chaos and collapse in America (where they failed) that they are fomenting in Iraq (where they are succeeding).
The doctor has made a decision: Al Qaeda must be excised. That means a large-scale attack, and what appears to be the most widespread combat operations since the end of the ground war are now unfolding. A small part of that larger battle will be the Battle for Baquba. For those involved, it will be a very large battle, but in context, it will be only one of numerous similar battles now unfolding. Just as this sentence was written, we began dropping bombs south of Baghdad and our troops are in contact.
Northeast of Baghdad, innocent civilians are being asked to leave Baquba. More than 1,000 AQI fighters are there, with perhaps another thousand adjuncts. Baquba alone might be as intense as Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in late 2004. They are ready for us. Giant bombs are buried in the roads. Snipers?real snipers?have chiseled holes in walls so that they can shoot not from roofs or windows, but from deep inside buildings, where we cannot see the flash or hear the shots. They will shoot for our faces and necks. Car bombs are already assembled. Suicide vests are prepared.
The enemy will try to herd us into their traps, and likely many of us will be killed before it ends. Already, they have been blowing up bridges, apparently to restrict our movements. Entire buildings are rigged with explosives. They have rockets, mortars, and bombs hidden in places they know we are likely to cross, or places we might seek cover. They will use human shields and force people to drive bombs at us. They will use cameras and make it look like we are ravaging the city and that they are defeating us. By the time you read this, we will be inside Baquba, and we will be killing them. No secrets are spilling here.
Our jets will drop bombs and we will use rockets. Helicopters will cover us, and medevac our wounded and killed. By the time you read this, our artillery will be firing, and our tanks moving in. And Humvees. And Strykers. And other vehicles. Our people will capture key terrain and cut off escape routes. The idea this time is not to chase Al Qaeda out, but to trap and kill them head-on, or in ambushes, or while they sleep. When they are wounded, they will be unable to go to hospitals without being captured, and so their wounds will fester and they will die painfully sometimes. It will be horrible for Al Qaeda. Horror and terrorism is what they sow, and tonight they will reap their harvest. They will get no rest. They can only fight and die, or run and try to get away. Nobody is asking for surrender, but if they surrender, they will be taken.
We will go in on foot and fight from house to house if needed. We will shoot rockets into their hiding spaces, and our snipers will shoot them in their heads and chests. This is where all that talk of cancer and big ideas of what should be or could be done will smash head-on against the searing reality of combat.
These words flow on the eve of a great battle, but are on hold until the attack is well underway. Nothing is certain. I am here and have been all year. We are in trouble, but we have a great general. The only one, I have long believed, who can lead the way out of this morass. Iraq is not hopeless. Iraq can stand again but first it must cast off these demons. And some of the demons must be killed.
And while the battle rages, that prayer card will be in my pocket:
Be Not Afraid
You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live.
Be not afraid.
I go before you always;
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.