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May 18, 2007

Laying The Foundations For Peace

I was excited to get the email, a few days ago. This is the kind of thing we have been asking for: good news we can share, news about what we are doing right in Iraq and Afghanistan. Something positive to counter the constant rain of negativity in the mass media. And it didn't disappoint. The scene was Operation Matador, the subject, Silver Star recipient Corporal Mark Camp:

...then-Lance Cpl. Camp and his company were sent to New Ubaydi on a house-clearing mission. As Camp’s squad entered one of the houses, insurgents hiding in a closet and in an underground crawlspace opened fire, shooting four Marines. Camp, outside, heard the gunfight and immediately ran inside to help. Three separate times he entered and exited the building to recover his squad members and clear the house of insurgents.

Camp.jpg On May 11, Camp was again tested. This time, his company was heading to another small town to clear other insurgent strongholds. Camp was standing at the top hatch of his amphibious assault vehicle when he noticed an eerie silence. Camp was instantly on alert – but that could not stop the roadside bomb that detonated at that moment, hitting the vehicle and throwing the man standing next to Camp into a nearby field.

Shrapnel dug into Camp’s right thigh, and the explosion lit his hands and face on fire. He was thrown back into the burning vehicle, and he began beating out the fires all over his body and head.

Then, Camp heard the call of one of his teammates still trapped inside. As he crawled back into the wreckage, heat was cooking off ammunition all around him, ammunition that ricocheted inside even as insurgents continued to fire from outside. And then there was another explosion. Camp fell back out of the vehicle, on fire once more. Again, he beat his body until the flames subsided.

His comrade was still in the vehicle. So Camp went back inside and tried to grip the Marine’s pack, his helmet – anything – but by then Camp’s skin was melting from his hands. Camp later told the Columbus Dispatch, “I [was] screaming for someone to help me . . . someone with fresh hands."

Corporal Camp was not the only one to receive a medal recently. Major Derek Bonaldo received the Bronze Star for his work training Iraqi forces for the difficult work of securing Iraq's future:

For most of his Army career, Derek Bonaldo worked behind a desk as a self-described paper pusher. But on May 1, 2006, he was in the middle of his first firefight near Baghdad, Iraq.

Bonaldo, a major in the 91st Support Division, based in Dublin, was training several Iraqi National Police officers at a checkpoint on the road between the International Zone and the Baghdad Airport when insurgent snipers on a rooftop opened fire.

Bonaldo.jpg We happened to be going by and providing support, and we got caught in the fray, the 36-year-old said. We brought in helicopter support, cornered them and got them with help from other units.

It was my first combat tour and my first combat action.

It was a personal choice to go to Iraq, he said, and he was not required to do so. Hes not a Rambo, he said, but he felt that he needed to step up and relieve some troops that had have been on several tours already.

Although he had never trained troops before, he was assigned to an 11-member transition team as a logistics adviser to the Iraqi National Police and a liaison between the national police and the U.S. military.

His goal was to make the national police first responders self-sustainable. He instructed them in battlefield operating systems during training and prepared them for combat. He also kept his superiors informed on the Iraqi officers readiness.

The aim is to wean the Iraqi government off U.S. support and show them they can do it themselves, he said.

The main challenge was showing them there is an infrastructure, he said. Its in its infancy but its there on the Iraqi side.

By infrastructure, Bonaldo means items such as fuel, ammunition, uniforms and food.

His team was one of hundreds in Iraq, at least as of December, when there were 5,000 military transition personnel in the country, he said.

Recently, my husband returned to Baghdad from a tour of the outlying provinces of Iraq. He was pleasantly surprised at much of what he saw. An embedded reporter from the LA Times describes their stop in Haditha. It is the desert but it was, my husband said, the most beautiful place he saw in his travels. A place he could imagine living one day:

On a recent day, U.S. forces walked the downtown streets, talking to shopkeepers, inquiring whether Marines are treating residents with respect.

"Yes, yes," said Mohammed Alnear, whose shop, Cleopatra Ceramics, sells pottery materials. At a bicycle shop, the proprietor said he remembered "the terrible days" when insurgents with AK-47s roamed the streets and residents "were like scared animals, hiding." With encouragement from tribal sheiks, young men are enlisting in the local police force. Still, the force is still only half of its authorized strength.

Marine commanders say their success in reducing insurgent violence in Haditha and other areas of Al Anbar is an indication that a "surge" of troops, like that being tried by the Army in Baghdad, can succeed. But they note that a surge is a beginning, not an end.

Rasheed indicated that he remained concerned that the Americans, in their haste to hand over control to Iraqis, might leave behind a City Council whose members are, in effect, insurgents in disguise, waiting for the U.S. departure.

"We have to be careful," Rasheed said through an interpreter. This time, it was the Marines' turn to listen and nod.

One key to winning back the trust of Iraqis everywhere is the discipline of Marines and soldiers. Jim Mattis, in Iraq for a visit, counsels Marines that sometimes the most effective weapon is a friendly wave: (via W. Thomas Smith Jr.)

As he met recently with U.S. Marines at several locations across the sprawling Al Anbar province, Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis explained what he termed "wave tactics" to combat the Sunni Arab insurgency in its longtime stronghold.

Mattis, who led Marines against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and insurgents in Fallouja in April 2004, is urging his troops to show respect to ordinary Iraqis and exercise restraint in the use of deadly force to prevent civilian deaths and injury.

The Marine Corps has even asked a consultant about the best way to wave. Answer: Make eye contact, don't just wave mechanically like a beauty queen on a float.

For Mattis and the Marine Corps, the message is not new. As he led Marines into Iraq in 2003, the general sometimes called "Mad Dog" ordered his troops to be aggressive in fighting Iraqi forces but to show "soldierly compassion" toward civilians and prisoners.

No doubt this will be spun by some on the left as some startlingly new tactic, but it's old news for Mattis, who has always advocated a blend of 'chivalry and ferocity': taking the fight to the enemy with gusto but displaying gentleness and courtesy to innocent civilians. It 's just another twist on the Marine motto, "No better friend, no worse enemy".

In his talks to the Marines, Mattis was quick to emphasize that nothing in his call for restraint toward civilians should be seen as limiting an aggressive response toward insurgents.

"Kill the right people and protect everybody else, protect, protect, protect," he said in Haditha.

If there is a seeming contradiction between the two parts of his message, it's one that Mattis believes Marines have to master.

"If you can't ride two horses" at the same time, Mattis told Marines at Al Asad, "you have to get out of the circus in this part of the world."

In Baghdad, Mohammed tries to reason with those who have no grasp of history:

We must keep fighting those criminals and tyrants until they realize that the freedom-loving peoples of the region are not alone. Freedom and living in dignity are the aspirations of all mankind and that's what unites us; not death and suicide. When freedom-lovers in other countries reach out for us they are working for the future of everyone tyrants and murderers like Ahmedinejad, Nesrallah, Assad and Qaddafi must realize that we are not their possessions to pass on to their sons or henchmen. We belong to the human civilization and that was the day we gave what we gave to our land and other civilizations. They can't take out our humanity with their ugly crimes and they can't force us to back off. The world should ask them to leave our land before asking the soldiers of freedom to do so.

The cost of liberating Europe was enormous in blood and treasure and thereafter it took half a century of American military presence to protect Europe's nations from subsequent threats—now if that made sense during a cold war, and it did, then I don't understand why would anyone demand a pullout from Iraq (and maybe later the middle east) when the enemies are using every evil technique, from booby trapped dead animals to hijacked civilian aircrafts to kill us and destroy the human civilization.

Yes my friends, I will call for war just as powerfully the bad guys do and I must show them that I'm stronger than they are because those do not understand the language of civilization and reason. They understand only power, and with power they took over their countries and held their peoples hostages. Everything they accomplished was through absolute control over the assets of their nations through murder, torture, repression and intimidation.

The policy of the United States and her allies needs to adjust to make better use of the energy God - or nature or whatever you name it - blessed them with. We need to see a firm policy not afraid of making tough decisions replace the Byzantine debate of withdrawal. This became America's destiny the day it became a superpower. A destiny to show responsibility toward her own people and toward the world, and running away from this responsibility won't do any good.

Otherwise those who prefer to bury their heads in the dirt today will be cursed forever for abandoning their duty when they were most capable. I don't understand why someone who has all the tools for victory would refuse to fight the enemy that reminds us every day that it's evil with all the daily beheadings, torture and violations of all humane laws and values.

Some will keep on blaming America and her policies and they will consider anything America did and does wrong whether America stayed or left, fought or ran away, negotiated or boycotted. There will always be those who blame America for everything that goes wrong in this world but that doesn't mean America has to listen to them. America instead should listen to the spirit of America and what it stands for.

Reaping the fruit won't be today, it will be in the future after patience and great fighting.

He could not know this, but thousands of miles away, the leader of the free world was echoing those very sentiments.

I know. I was sitting not ten feet from him as he spoke these words to a group of military veterans:

I'm always amazed at the men and women who wear our uniform. Last week ...I was in California at Fort Irwin. And I had a chance to visit with some who had just come back from Iraq and some who were going over to Iraq, and it just amazes me that these young men and women know the stakes, they understand what we're doing, and they have volunteered to serve. We're really a remarkable country, and a remarkable military, and therefore we owe it to the families and to those who wear the uniform to make sure that this remarkable group of men and women are strongly supported ...

I tried to put this war into a historical context for them... I told them that they're laying the foundation of peace... the work we're doing today really will yield peace for a generation to come. And part of my discussion with them was I wanted them to think back to the work after World War II. After World War II, ... after we defeated Germany and Japan, this country went about the business of helping these countries develop into democracies. Isn't it interesting a country would ... have a bloody conflict with two nations, and then help democracy succeed? Why? Because our predecessors understood that forms of government help yield peace. In other words, it matters what happens in distant lands.

And so today, I can report to you that Japan is a strong ally of the United States. I've always found that very ironic that my dad, like many of your relatives, fought the Japanese as the sworn enemy and today one of the strongest allies in keeping the peace is the Prime Minister of Japan. Something happened between when old George H. W. Bush was a Navy fighter pilot, and his boy is the President of the United States. Well, what happened was the form of government changed. Liberty can transform enemies into allies. The hard work done after World War II helped lay the foundation of peace.

How about after the Korean War? Some of you are Korean vets, I know. I bet it would have been hard for you to predict, if you can think back to the early '50s... that an American President would say that we've got great relations with South Korea, great relations with Japan, that China is an emerging marketplace economy and that the region is peaceful. This is a part of the world where we lost thousands of young American soldiers, and yet there's peace.

I believe that U.S. presence there has given people the time necessary to develop systems of government that make that part of the world a peaceful part of the world, to lay the foundation for peace. And that's the work our soldiers are doing in the Middle East today. And it's necessary work. It is necessary because what happens in the Middle East, for example, can affect the security of the United States of America. And it's hard work, and we've lost some fantastic young men and women, and we pray for their families, and we honor their service and their sacrifice by completing the mission, by helping a generation of Americans grow up in a peaceful world.

I cannot tell you how honored I am to meet with the families of the fallen. They bear an unbelievable pain in their heart. And it's very important for me to make it clear to them that I believe the sacrifice is necessary to achieve the peace we all long for.

All of us, American and Iraqi, Republican and Democrat, long for peace. But it very much matters what kind of peace we settle for. There was peace under Saddam, but it was the peace of the graveyard; of the plastic shredder, the torture and the rape room, of brutal repression and the silencing of dissent. We did not care that thousands of Iraqis were being brutally slaughtered because their anguished screams never made it into our living rooms. There was, you see, no free press in Iraq.

And so, because as CNN president Eason Jordan admitted, the media kept far too much news to themselves, we slept the sleep of the complacent.

No more. Our eyes have been opened, and those who rail against the administration for not intervening in Darfur have no business telling us to break our promises to the children of Iraq, the ones who (my husband tells me on the phone) appear like magic when a military convoy drives into town asking for candy, toys, and above all, sunglasses!

Why do they hate us so? Why are the children of Iraq so afraid of us?

What we do in this life matters. Forms of government matter. This would be a far different world, had it not been for the Marshall Plan, for the reconstruction of a war torn Germany and Japan. But these things took time. And patience.

They took vision. We are laying the foundations for peace in a land we never brutally conquered, nor occupied because we wished to show mercy, and because our own political divisions forbade the deployment of an occupying force.

This is new territory, an undiscovered country. But America is the greatest nation on the face of the earth. If not us, who? If not now, when? If we do not reach out a hand across the rapidly growing cultural gap between stagnant Islam and the constantly changing West, what hope is there to avoid a larger confrontation?

We are laying the foundations for peace, foundations that could last for generations. And men like Harry Reid say we cannot afford to wait a few months.

The man is an ant on the monster truck tire of history.

Posted by Cassandra at May 18, 2007 12:56 PM

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Comments

broken link? http://http//www.defenselink.mil/heroes/index.html

Posted by: An Incredulous Reader at May 18, 2007 03:59 PM

Yikes! Thanks for telling me! Should be fixed.

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at May 18, 2007 04:03 PM

fixed!

Posted by: An Incredulous Reader at May 18, 2007 04:10 PM

Contrast John Murtha, retired Marine colonel and alleged congressman, and Douglas Zembiec, Major, deceased, Marine Corps, hero in the truest sense of the word.

There's your answer. Who would you rather spend and eternity with? Or just five minutes?

Tyranny or freedom; it's our choice.

And please forward our best regards from this humble reader to your Man, in all his travels for the Corps. You and he are never far from thoughts and prayers, until his missions are done.
Vaya con Dios, always.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 18, 2007 04:13 PM

Awesome post - thank you!

Posted by: Lisa in DC at May 18, 2007 04:50 PM

"A place he could imagine living one day"

Must already have the trapeze and disco ball installed......

*sicker*

*dusts off hands, pushes back keyboard and saunters away.*

Posted by: Sly2017 at May 18, 2007 05:38 PM

You are a cold, hard woman. You know that, don't you?

[Wheeling away in her red scooter chair] (yes, I *saw* that)

Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at May 18, 2007 05:42 PM

" ... until his missions are done."

and THEN what?

Posted by: An Incredulous Reader at May 18, 2007 07:39 PM

And then we're in trouble, I suspect, if I know Don :p

The snark cannon are always loaded.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2007 08:45 PM

It would be more accurate to say that men like George Bush thought -- and still think -- that we couldn't afford the three-times-greater number of troops that would always have been necessary to pull it off. (Assuming, of course, that one ignores the much higher-priority need to use such troops to try to prevent the REAL spread of potential nuclear terrorism, as opposed to the trumped-up variety. And, yes, this is the obvious reason why I also oppose intervention in Darfur.)

As for "waiting a few months": how many times, O Lord, have we been told to do that since this started -- and at times when the superficial evidence looked much more convincing? Nor, despite your husband's sentimental tales, is there the slightest evidence in the actual Iraqi and American casualty figures that our latest attempt to play Whack-a-Mole with too few hammers is doing the slightest bit of good.

So let's knock off the purple idiocy that Reid is "an ant on the monster truck tire of history";. If we continue to screw around pointlessly in Iraq, and in the process allow nukes from Iran or Pakistan or North Korea to fall into terrorist hands, you'll find out what the word "monster" means.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at May 18, 2007 08:49 PM

What a joke.

Like the Democratic Congress would ever be capable of sustaintaining a military commitment against Iran or North Korea.

Give me a break. We had 12 years of violated UN sanctions and an international coalition going into Iraq and they still bailed. We have none of those things backing us if we were to take on either Iran or N. Korea. Don't make me laugh.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2007 08:57 PM

I tell you what Bruce: if you can come up with a comment that's even halfway serious next time, I'll think about responding to it.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 18, 2007 08:59 PM

I'm sorry that you believe we are actually accomplishing something in Iraq. It deeply saddens me that so many have given their lives in an illegal war built on lies.

I pray all remaining troops can come home safely.

Posted by: Matthew at May 19, 2007 08:59 AM

And I'm sorry that on no evidence but your own partisan bias, you're so ready to give up.

It's sad when people are so ready to discount the opinions of those who are actually over there doing the work, but there you have it. When someone's mind is already closed, they are unwilling to consider the possibility that they might be wrong.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 19, 2007 09:17 AM

Really, Matthew? It saddens me that so many are willing to give up on a noble and honorable mission based only on opinions formed by giving credence to a sensationalist and self-interested media that wouldn't know a lie if it bit them on their ass.

I pray for the thousands upon thousands of Americans and Iraqis that will die if you and your misguided ilk succeed in destroying our country's credibility, backbone, and conscience with your cowardly policies of appeasement and surrender.

Posted by: DaveG at May 19, 2007 12:59 PM

Cassandra, that was brilliant. You're an incredibly talented woman. I had goosebumps by the time I finished reading it.

If Dubyah cared about the polls, all he'd need do would be take that speech on the road with a few mods. That's what the country needs to hear, and it shows the depth of the man.

Posted by: Casca at May 21, 2007 01:07 PM

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