Thursday, September 18, 2008

Heroic Marine Denied the Medal of Honor

It is wrong to deny the Medal of Honor to a man who multiple witnesses said pulled an insurgent grenade under his body and gave his life to save his buddies.

If sacrificing your life under these circumstances warranted the Navy Cross, then that award certainly should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

This appalling injustice must be corrected and this brave Marine honored appropriately. Here is the Associated Press article about Sergeant Rafael Peralta:

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Hero Marine Won't Get Medal of Honor


SAN DIEGO (Sept. 18) - A Marine sergeant singled out by President Bush for throwing his body on a grenade to save his comrades in Iraq will receive the prestigious Navy Cross rather than the nation's highest military award, military officials said.

The family of Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was posthumously nominated for the nation's highest military honor, told the North County Times of Escondido, Calif., they were disappointed he was not receiving the Medal of Honor.

"I don't understand why if the president has been talking about him," his mother, Rosa Peralta, told the newspaper, which was the first to report the bestowing of the Navy Cross.

Rosa Peralta said she was informed during a meeting with Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski that a committee could not agree on awarding the Medal of Honor to her son, who Marine Corps officials say was first wounded by friendly fire. She said the general mentioned the friendly fire aspect as part of her son's death during the discussion.

Marine Corps spokesman Mike Alvarez confirmed the meeting, saying only that it was a personal briefing between Natonski and Rosa Peralta to inform her that the secretary of the Navy would award the Navy Cross posthumously for extraordinary heroism.

The Navy Cross is the second highest honor for combat heroism a Marine can receive.

The secretary of the Navy's public affairs office in Washington, D.C., did not immediately return an after-hours telephone call Wednesday seeking comment.

Headquarters Marine Corps spokesman Maj. David Nevers told The Associated Press that the Navy Cross for Peralta "is not bestowed lightly."

Nevers said only 23 sailors and Marines out of the thousands who have served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have received the Navy Cross.

"The awarding of a medals of valor is a methodical process and carefully conducted to ensure the sacrifice and service of our Marines and sailors is appropriately honored," he said.

Peralta was shot several times in the face and body during a house-to-house search in Fallujah on Nov. 15, 2004, during some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

According to a report by a Marine combat photographer who witnessed the act, Peralta lay wounded on the floor of a house and grabbed a grenade that had been lobbed by an insurgent. He absorbed the blast with his body, dying instantly.

In 2005, Natonski, then-commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, ordered an investigation to determine the source of a bullet fragment recovered from Peralta's body.

"Following multiple and exhaustive reviews, the evidence supports the finding that Peralta was likely hit by 'friendly fire,'" the Marine Corps said Wednesday in a press release. "This finding had no bearing on the decision to award the Navy Cross medal."

Bush cited Peralta's heroism in a Memorial Day speech in 2005, saying the Marine "understood that America faces dangerous enemies, and he knew the sacrifices required to defeat them."

Peralta, who was assigned to Hawaii's 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, moved to San Diego from Tijuana as a teenager. He was 25.

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Please contact your Congressional representatives and urge them to award the Medal of Honor to this great American warrior.

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taliban Admits Receiving Supplies From Iran

If anyone has any doubts that we are in a proxy war against Iran (both in Afghanistan and Iraq), then check out this article:

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London Daily Telegraph
September 15, 2008

Taliban Claim Weapons Supplied By Iran

By Kate Clark, in Kabul

A Taliban commander has credited Iranian-supplied weapons with successful operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The comments by the commander, who would not be named but operates in the south east of the country where there has been a surge in Taliban attacks, were a rare admission of co-operation between elements within the Iranian regime and forces fighting British and American troops in Afghanistan.

"There's a kind of landmine called a Dragon. Iran's sending it," he said. "It's directional and it causes heavy casualties.

"We're ambushing the Americans and planting roadside bombs. We never let them relax."

The commander, a veteran of 30 years who started fighting when the Soviet Union was occupying Afghanistan, said the Dragon had revolutionised the Taliban's ability to target Nato soldiers deployed in his area.

"If you lay an ordinary mine, it will only cause minor damage to Humvees or one of their big tanks. But if you lay a Dragon, it will destroy it completely," he said.

A "Dragon" is the local nickname for a type of weapon known internationally as an Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) or "shaped charge" and has been used with devastating effect in Iraq by Iranian-backed groups. It is shaped so that all the explosive force is concentrated in one direction - the target - rather than blasting in all directions and weakening its impact.

A former mujahideen fighter who knows the Afghan arms market well and who asked to be known as Shahir said the Dragon mines came directly from Iran.

Iran has denied these allegations, but Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador in Kabul, said the British Army, which is deployed in south-western Afghanistan, had intercepted consignments of weapons which they believe were "donated by a group within the Iranian state".

The only other possible source, the arms expert said, would be Pakistan's Tribal Areas where a relatively sophisticated arms industry has grown up. "Until now," he said, "no-one in the Tribal Areas has been able to copy these mines. Both the metal and the explosives are different, very high quality and very effective, obviously not Chinese or Pakistani."

He said there were two routes for Iranian weaponry getting to the Taliban. "There are people inside the state in Iran who donate weapons. There are also Iranian businessmen who sell them."

Iranian-made weapons, he said, whether smuggled or donated, were the most popular among Taliban fighters and fetch premium prices on the open market. "A Kalashnikov rifle made in Iran costs two to three hundred dollars more than one made anywhere else" he said. "Its beauty lies in the fact that it can also fire grenades, up to 300 meters. This is something new and it's in great demand."

Iran, a theocratic, Shia Muslim state should have little common cause with the Taliban, an extremist Sunni Muslim movement which massacred hundreds of Afghan Shia civilians and killed nine Iranian diplomats when it was in power.

Only the worsening relations between Iran and America might explain the weapons supply.

Sir Sherard said Iran was playing "a very dangerous game".

He added: "I suspect some of their agencies genuinely don't know what others are up to. We've seen a limited supply of weapons by a group within the Iranian state, not necessarily with the knowledge of all other agencies of the Iranian state, sending some very dangerous weapons to the Taliban in the south."

Kate Clark's full report is on BBC2's Newsnight on Monday Sept 15 at 10.30pm, and the BBC World Service on Thursday Sept 18 at 10.10am.

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The stakes are increasing as Iran continues its aggressive confrontation with the rest of the world via its surrogate terrorist groups.

Can you imagine Ahmadinejad with a nuclear weapon?

Charles M. Grist

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Getting Better in Iraq – Notes from a Soldier Who’s Been There, Done That

The following article was written by a retired Army officer and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and he tells it like it is:

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Washington Post
September 14, 2008
Pg. B4

This Time, Things Are Looking Up

By John A. Nagl

BAGHDAD--When I retired from the Army in June, my comrades in arms laughed at my summer vacation plans: another August in Iraq.

But I had unfinished business here. When my unit left Iraq in September 2004, one of my battle captains presented us with coffee mugs to celebrate our return home. The sardonic inscription: "Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003-2004: We were winning when I left." We weren't, and we knew it. We had lost 22 men and more than 100 had been wounded during our combat tour. The decline of the U.S. project in Iraq over the following two years made it all too easy to believe that their sacrifices had been for naught.

I've played the history over and over in my mind. Early mistakes by U.S. officials -- disbanding the Iraqi army and firing almost all the civil servants needed to run a society -- provided tinder for the Sunni insurgency. Things worsened as U.S. commanders withdrew our forces from the cities to large, comfortable bases from which they commuted to war. By the time my unit left, the Sunni insurgency that had erupted in Fallujah in the summer of 2003 had spread to the heart of Baghdad. Sunni and Shiite militias were pushing Iraq to the brink of full-scale civil war. And the pages of Army Times magazine were filled with the faces of fallen friends.

But studding this bleak narrative were signs of hope. As early as 2003, some of Iraq's minority Sunnis came to understand that their future lay not in resisting U.S. forces but in working with them. After neglecting Sunni tribes for years, our military began paying some to break ranks with the radicals of al-Qaeda in Iraq, leading to the Anbar Awakening of late 2006.

Enter the "surge" and a new U.S. strategy: to protect Iraqis by living among them. Military units left the comfort of their bases and, with counterparts from the maturing Iraqi army and police, manned the smaller encampments that dotted the country's cities and provinces. U.S. casualties also surged as we cleared Baghdad and surrounding communities in the summer of 2007.

Then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved against Shiite militias -- first in Basra in March 2008, then in the massive Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad known as Sadr City. Operations continue in Mosul and Diyala, and so far the success is undeniable.

Route Irish, which runs from Baghdad International Airport to the International Zone, used to be the most dangerous road in the world. When I drove down it last month, I saw flowers being planted in newly rebuilt medians, a touch that would have made the late Lady Bird Johnson smile. Guard rails -- which we'd had to tear down to prevent IEDs from being hung behind them -- are being reinstalled.

Walking through the famous Dora market in Baghdad, I felt naked without a weapon. But then I reminded myself that I was safe, protected by the Sons (and Daughters) of Iraq. I visited a packed athletic club started by a Dora entrepreneur with a micro-loan from my West Point classmate, Lt. Col. Tim Watson. Festooned with posters of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, the gym has a waiting list for membership. The deputy manager of the bank in Dora, who was sporting gaudy costume jewelry rather than an abaya, was happy to see us but made it clear that she didn't have time to chat; the line of women waiting for pension payments stretched out the door.

Everyone I talked to, Iraqis and Americans alike, stressed that the security gains are fragile and reversible; there were two car bombs and a suicide vest attack in Mosul three days after our visit. But the improvements in Baghdad and Basra are striking, with increasingly competent Iraqi security forces on every street corner -- although they will continue to need our advice and assistance for some years to come.

I am no cheerleader for the war in Iraq. We've made horrible mistakes that cost the lives of too many of my friends, American and Iraqi. It took us too long to learn from our errors and adopt an effective counterinsurgency strategy, and even now the war is far from won.

But the way ahead is becoming clearer, with a road map provided by men such as Col. Dominic Caracillo, a brigade commander in the 101st Airborne whose men patrol a patch south of Baghdad that used to be called the Triangle of Death. The soldiers now laughingly refer to it as the "Triangle of Love." A year ago, there were as many as 50 attacks every week; now there are just a few. Caracillo is overseeing a drawdown of U.S. forces; his brigade of about 4,000 soldiers is shipping out, to be replaced by a task force of fewer than 1,000. This force will not conduct counterinsurgency operations, but will support the newly created 17th Division of the Iraqi army. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Jassim Mohammed Hassen al-Frejee, faces his own challenges: He's short of helmets and body armor, and he'd sure like to have some heavy artillery of his own rather than having to rely on ours. Still, as Caracillo says, Ali's forces are "good enough for the enemy they have to face."

So they are -- as long as we continue to back them with air support, intelligence and U.S. combat units, whose numbers are steadily diminishing. Iraq will need American advisers for years to come. For starters, it takes five years to produce a competent fighter pilot or tank company commander. Moreover, Iraq faces significant external security threats, as well as the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Shiite militias and Sunni insurgent groups. But U.S. forces will increasingly be able to turn combat over to the Iraqis, allowing the United States to scale back its involvement significantly.

When I came home from Iraq in 2004, we weren't winning. Four years later, the situation has changed dramatically. I can scarcely bring myself to say it out loud, but this time, we were winning when I left.

John A. Nagl, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, was an operations officer in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. He helped write "The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual."

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We’re getting there, but we can’t ease up. The Obama “quitter” solution won’t work; the McCain way will allow us to leave Iraq in victory.

Charles M. Grist

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Our prayers are with the families and victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. We also stand solidly behind the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are still seeking justice for these brutal attacks.

May God bless the heroes of September 11th as well as the brave men and women who are serving on battlefields throughout the world in the relentless War on Terror.

Charles M. Grist

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Marine Reservist Uses Science to Defeat IEDs

As a "Warrior Citizen" or member of the reserve forces of the United States, I have been proud to serve my country as both an Army warrior and as a police officer "warrior" on the street.

During my time in the military, I have also had the pleasure of working with reservists and/or National Guardsmen from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. All are dedicated professionals who have TWO jobs - civilian and military.

This story from the Boston Globe tells a great story of a Marine reservist whose civilian talents helped develop a system to detect IEDs before they could hurt our troops:

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Boston Globe
September 10, 2008

Reservist's Science Talent Lights Safer Way In Iraq

By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff

For seven months, Marine Sergeant Jason Cox patrolled near Fallujah, Iraq, from the turret of a Humvee, a gunner for a squad whose greatest fear was the unseen. Roadside bombs were the gravest threat, and often went undetected until it was too late.

So Cox, a graduate student in chemistry at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, put his scientific background to the test, designing a groundbreaking device that used infrared imaging to detect improvised explosives from a safer distance. With the help of other members of his unit, Cox worked during his few off-hours to modify existing thermal-imaging equipment to identify specific light characteristics, then tested the technique on patrols.

Able to identify remotely detonated devices from more than 200 yards, Cox's system proved an immediate success and marked a critical advance against the bombs. Cox's research, conducted during his tour in 2006, has now spurred the Marines to purchase new detection technology that incorporates Cox's findings.

Cox, a five-year reservist in the Marine Corps and a Worcester resident, was recently honored for his work with the US Navy and Marine Co rps Achievement Medal. The award recognizes Cox's "initiative, perseverance, and total dedication to duty," which honored "the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."

Cox, a 27-year-old who returned in 2006 after his tour and is researching pharmaceuticals at WPI, said his brainstorm was born of intuition and necessity. "This particular threat was very dangerous, and infrared and night goggles couldn't see it," he said, describing a specific type of explosive widely used against American troops at the time in and around Fallujah. "I became curious if there was another way to image things, and we found a way to make them really stand out."

The device allows military personnel to locate roadside bombs' triggering systems, which are almost impossible to see with the naked eye or other imaging techniques, by recognizing differences in thermal expansion, or how materials swell when heated. The technique is mainly used at night.

Cox's breakthrough earned him instant popularity among his fellow Marines, as well as some good-natured mockery of his bookish leanings. But Cox said he has been touched by the military's gratitude and takes great pride in helping protect other service members.

His platoon commander, Staff Sergeant Chris Singley, said Cox's system is used throughout Iraq and has doubtlessly saved lives.

"The biggest thing he did is create standoff distance," Singley said. "Instead of seeing it at the last minute, we were able to have some warning."

For his thesis adviser, Venkat Thalladi, Cox's discovery showed the value of scientific expertise on the front lines. Cox's work paid immediate dividends, he said.

"With pharmaceuticals, it could be one year, two years, or 10. There's no way to tell," said Thalladi, an assistant chemistry professor. "Here is a person who with simple deductive logic saved lives in real time."

Cox, who grew up in Southborough, received his bachelor's degree in 2005 and had entered graduate school when his unit was deployed to Iraq. Upon his return, he resumed his studies and is working toward his degree while serving in the reserves.

Like many who serve in combat, Cox struggled with the transition back to civilian life. For a time he drank heavily, he said, and last December was charged with assault and battery for his involvement in a bar fight. The charges were continued without a finding and will be dismissed if he stays out of trouble, Cox said.

He said he has worked to help other returning veterans adjust to the home front. While he deeply regrets what happened, Cox said the incident also provided a wake-up call.

"That was a silver lining," he said. "I realized I had a problem."

Married with a 4-month-old daughter, he is savoring life at home, but would proudly serve a second tour. "I enjoy working in the lab," he said. "But I enjoy being a Marine equally."

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America could never fight or win any war without the courage and dedication of its Warrior Citizens.

Charles M. Grist

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Opinions Vary on Iraq Troop Withdrawal Options

I know it's been awhile since my last posting (sorry about that). I have been traveling again, but it looks like that is slowly coming to an end. My pre-retirement medical exams, etc. may keep me in the Orlando area until I begin my terminal leave. We shall see.

Both Americans and Iraqis are debating when and under what circumstances American troops will begin to withdraw from Iraq. The following New York Times article offers some interesting perspectives, but some of the Iraqis who were interviewed have political agendas for their groups:

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New York Times
September 9, 2008
Pg. 6

Should U.S. Forces Withdraw From Iraq?

By Stephen Farrell

BAGHDAD — As Iraqi and American diplomats negotiate how long and under what circumstances American troops will remain in Iraq, Iraqis are also debating the issue.

For Iraqis, as for Americans, the answer is far more complex than a simple “stay” or “go.” For both it is about blood, treasure, pride, dignity and a nation’s sense of itself and its place in the world.

But a lot more Iraqi blood than American has already been spilled, and stands to be spilled again, if the politicians get it wrong.

On the streets of Iraq, the questions being asked about the continuing American presence are about sovereignty, stability and America’s intentions in Iraq’s past, present and future: How many American troops will stay? How quickly will they go? If they stay, where will they be based? To do what? With what powers? And under what restrictions?

For the most part, Iraqis’ views fall into three categories. One group, which includes many followers of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and some intensely nationalist Sunni Arabs in parts of the country that have suffered the worst since the invasion, simply want the Americans to leave, period. They say no amount of American effort now can make up for the horrors of the occupation, including the destruction of society and the killing of innocent civilians.

A second group takes a similarly dim view of the occupation, but worries that the brief period this year of improving security in Iraq will be vulnerable if the Americans abruptly withdraws. They say that the United States has a moral obligation to remain, and that continued presence of the occupiers is preferable to a return to rule by gangs and militias.

A third group worries that without a referee, Iraq’s dominant powers — Kurds in the far north and Shiites in the center and south — will brutally dominate other groups.

The Americans are not the first to face such quandaries in Iraq. In August 1920, only two years after his declining colonial power had emerged from the devastation of World War I, the British secretary of war, Winston Churchill, wrote (but did not send) a letter to his prime minister that contained this assessment of Mesopotamia:

“It seems to me so gratuitous that after all the struggles of war, just when we want to get together our slender military resources and re-establish our finances and have a little in hand in case of danger here or there, we should be compelled to go on pouring armies and treasure into these thankless deserts.”

A millennium and a half earlier, in A.D. 694, the Umayyad provincial governor Al-Hajjaj also faced a fractious Baghdad. His response to one angry crowd was a speech learned by all Iraqi schoolchildren: “I see heads before me that are ripe and ready for the plucking, and I am the one to pluck them, and I see blood glistening between the turbans and the beards.” The turbans melted away.

Five years later, Al-Hajjaj faced a rebellion in a troublesome region to his east, which forced him to move troops from Iraq. That rebellion was in Kabulistan, now part of Afghanistan, a historical parallel that drew a wry smile from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American forces in Iraq, when it was pointed out to him last month. General Petraeus will soon move up the chain of command to take over the Central Command region, making him responsible for an area that covers both Iraq and what was Kabulistan.

Names and governments change, but there is nothing new under the Mesopotamian sun.

The debate goes on. Following are some Iraqi perspectives on whether and how American troops should stay in their country.

Opinions of the Iraqis

The Choice Is Not Ours: America Wants to Stay

I don’t expect that the Americans will leave Iraq because they reached the maximum level of political influence in the region. America is controlling the future of energy, so I believe it’s not to America’s benefit for it to leave Iraq. -- ISMAIL KABABCHI, 38, a restaurant worker in central Baghdad

America will not leave Iraq. I think my grandsons’ grandsons will watch Uncle Sam and his blue jeans. The idea that America will depart is a kind of delusion because America came for its interests in Iraq. Iraq represents the most important treasure in the struggle among the superpowers for it includes plenty of wealth in addition to its important geographic location. In the long run, America will not leave Iraq because it reached the treasure of the world. -- SAID AL-MAJMAYI, 50, a painter in Baquba

Or Maybe It Doesn’t

I expect that the Americans will leave Iraq sooner or later because they can’t control the security situation. I expect their departure within the next few months because of the achievements of the Iraqi security forces and the Awakening in terms of security and stability. That will help the American forces leave Iraq and save the rest of their dignity before the situation turns bad again like between 2004 and 2005. -- ABU ABDUL QADER AL-JUMAYLI, 60, a retired army officer in Falluja

The withdrawal is coming, no doubt. America has lost its influence in Iraq to a very great and dangerous degree. The No. 1 country in the world didn’t imagine that it would become a toy in the hand of radical parties and armed groups, or some powers which will ally with America at daytime and conspire against it at night. -- MATEEN OMAR OJI, 32, a teacher in Kirkuk

America Must Leave Iraq Now

We want to push them out immediately. We don’t need them, and we don’t want them. We have two governments, the Iraqi and American governments. We are confused about who we need to obey, the Americans or Iraqis. And both the American and Iraqi governments are hurting the Iraqi people. -- ABDUL RAHMAN HAMED HUSSEIN, a social worker in Abu Dshir, south of Baghdad, who follows the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr

I want them to leave because they caused destruction for us, they have robbed us and they never gave us any of what they had promised to give us. If a civil war breaks out after their departure, it would be their doing. It’s going on now because of them. They are inflaming it. Iraqis have proved that they are not being seduced by the American actions. Their departure is the beginning of the road toward stability. What ever happens after their withdrawal, it will be finished within a year. -- MUHAMMAD SNAD, 36, an electrical technician in Mosul

We Don’t Love the Americans, But Withdrawal Is Worse

I am not with the coalition forces’ withdrawal from Iraq currently, because chaos and destruction will be all over Iraq. Even before the Americans came, we used to have genocide, destruction and wars. We know that the Americans came for their own benefit, yet they are our only solution. -- NISREEN HASSAN, 25, a teacher in Sulaimaniya

The presence of the American forces will make Iraq a regional and international power. If the Americans withdraw, Iraq will be subject to domination from neighboring countries which support terrorism in Iraq to protect their interests, so the departure of the American forces doesn’t serve Iraq’s interest. -- ABD MUHAMMAD AL-BEDEER, Samawa

If It’s Not the Americans, Someone Else Will Take Over

The coalition forces are the best solution to Iraq’s situation, they are just like a strong dam against the outside and the inside enemies and even the neighboring countries. They are all wolves — the Arabs, the Persians and the Turks. -- JALEEL MAHMOOD, 31, Sulaimaniya

Staying is the best thing for Iraq. If the Americans depart, half of Iraq will go to the Kurds and Iran will take the other half. We need a safety valve. America occupied Iraq and must solve the problems before its departure. America’s departure will increase the problems. -- AMJAD SALAH, 34, a driver in Basra

The Dream Deferred: Please Go, Just Not Yet

I don’t want them to leave right now, but I don’t want to see them here forever. Sooner or later the Americans have to leave Iraq or understand that our policy differs from their policy. They have to recognize the sovereignty of Iraq. I’d love to keep good relations with America rather than telling bad stories to my kids about it. -- HUDA HANI, 33, a Shiite employee of the Ministry of Higher Education in Baghdad

I’m against the Americans’ withdrawing before we have a fully independent government and security forces. I witnessed many terrible things with the Americans, and I don’t want the same thing to happen with the next generations. It would be better for both sides to have a scheduled withdrawal. -- MUHAMMAD MAHDI, 28, a Sunni graduate of the College of Arts who now works as a taxi driver in Baghdad

No one accepts the residence of the occupier, but the withdrawal should be studied well and not randomly. Things are getting better now, and we don’t want anything to affect that. The Americans are probably one of the reasons behind the previous chaos, but their quick withdrawal will generate bigger chaos. -- SALIM MUHAMMAD, 40, Najaf

Saying No and Meaning Yes

All of them declare in public that they are against the Americans remaining in Iraq. They demand Iraqi liberation. They always raise the same slogan: Independence for Iraq. But in private sessions or meetings they are always telling me and other reporters that the Americans must stay, and that if they leave right now it would be a big mistake. The reasons for this political hypocrisy are like a disease. Most of the Iraqi politicians suffer from it. Their aim is to maintain their reputation in the public eye. -- TAREQ MAHER, an employee of The New York Times in Baghdad

In public we say we do not want American troops, but our hearts say they should stay in Iraq until we become a state of institutions based on democracy and dialogue, not violence. Most of our recent leaders are tiny in the political world and the Americans want to teach them how to be leaders. Really we need them to stay more. They are a fence against Iran’s ambitions toward Iraq. -- AHMED HASOON, 38, a teacher in Basra

Never Mind the Troops, I’m Leaving Iraq

At night in all seasons, especially in summer, it is so very, very hot because we are suffering from electricity shortages and water shortages. So many times I have to buy my baby’s milk from the black market. The American forces have been here for such a long time, and still it is not stable and nothing is sure. Sometimes I feel that I should leave Iraq and claim asylum or refugee status, so that later on I would be lucky enough to get another nationality, which would make me feel respectable and that I have some rights. As an Iraqi now I cannot help my country improve. But maybe later on with a new nationality I would be able to come back and do something. Only then will my voice be heard. -- ANWAR ALI, an employee of The New York Times in Baghdad who is seeking asylum in the United States

Reporting was contributed by Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Kirkuk; Riyadh Mohammed, Ali Hameed, Mohamed Hussein and Anwar J. Ali from Baghdad; and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Mosul, Salahuddin Province, Falluja, Kirkuk, Diyala Province, Najaf, Karbala, Basra and the Kurdish-administered northern region of Iraq.

* * * *

We will continue to negotiate the terms of our troop drawdown. Hopefully the Iraqis will work with us to make sure that the pace does not risk losing the security gains we have made together.

However, in the end it is their country. When they decide they don't want us there, we will have no choice but to leave.

Charles M. Grist