Saturday, July 7, 2007
“Never, never, never, never, never give up.” Sir Winston Churchill
“We regard Iraq’s success to be our success.
And, God forbid, Iraq’s failure will also be ours.”
Zalmay Khalilzad, then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on February 20, 2005
I still remember the faces and the voices of the Iraqi men, women and children I met in 2004. When my team and I left to come home, some of those Iraqis who became our friends cried real tears. I was going home to my family and to safety. They were remaining in a life filled with uncertainty and fear. (Above photo of me and some Iraqi school kids courtesy of Captain Matt Pedersen.)
Needless to say, some of that survivor’s guilt remains and it probably always will. Now that I’m close to entering my last year in the Army, it’s unlikely I’ll go back to Iraq. Because just knowing an American can be deadly, I can’t even try to contact these friends who may or may not be alive.
In the modern world of instant gratification and self-absorption, we sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. There is an inherent goodness in the vast majority of the Iraqi people and it’s sad that our political leaders and even our military leaders seem to be moving toward an end-game in this war. The need of many of our people to “get past” the war or “move on” to more “pleasant” subjects means that we may very well leave Iraq before the job is done.
During the American Revolution, only a few million people lived in the colonies. I once read a history book that said the largest the Continental Army ever became was only about 30,000 soldiers. The vast majority of the patriot warriors’ fellow citizens either supported them quietly or remained publicly neutral because of fear. Some continued to support the enemy.
The people in Iraq have a history much longer than ours, so we can imagine how hard it must be for them. It’s not surprising that they are constantly terrified of the brutal insurgent enemy even as they try to squeeze a living out of that war-torn country.
Yes, the various political factions should try harder to work together – the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds. Yet the citizens themselves don’t always find that there’s such a great difference. There are Sunnis married to Shiites and a great many Iraqis would be very happy to live in a secular country where everyone could just get along, raise their families and enjoy life.
The Iraqis will hopefully get that chance – if we don’t leave that nation to fall into a protracted civil war from which another dictator will surely arise. The leading candidates for such a dictatorship are probably among the Shiite religious leaders. That’s right – Iran, Jr.
Our service men and women have done a remarkable job in Iraq. They have sown the American spirit among the Iraqi people and they have spread good will everywhere they went. Sadly, many have given their lives in the process.
It could only be “intellectual arrogance” that led some of our leaders to believe we could conquer a nation of 25 million people, remove their government, their soldiers and their cops, and then solve all the problems with only 140,000 troops. Our own soldiers always knew there was a better way. Although the politicians have admitted their errors, it may or may not be too late.
As I help send more soldiers to the war zones, I am filled with confidence in their capabilities, their determination and their sense of duty. They believe in their missions and they are patriots as great as those who won our freedom over two hundred years ago.
Unfortunately, their ultimate success will depend in large part on a bunch of political animals in the halls of Congress. This is where the Vietnam analogy might play out and our warriors could be withdrawn before the job is done. I hope this is not the case.
General Douglas MacArthur may have said it best: “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”
SFC Chuck Grist