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August 21, 2014

Hindsight

Amen:

It was in the sands of Ramadi that I learned most people want to be masters of their own fate. When we were providing area security for a week-long recruitment drive to re-establish the Ramadi police force, the turnout was overwhelming. More than 1,000 applicants stood in line when death approached in the form of a suicide bomber. The blast killed more than 60 and wounded at least 50. On that day, as on many days before and after, Americans and Iraqis were killed by the same enemy. They fell in pursuit of freedom. One for the other's; one for his own. No matter how things turn out, there was a time when Americans and Iraqis stood united against hate and evil.

How many nations in the course of human events have sacrificed so much to give an unfree people a shot at self-determination? Did Alexander defeat Darius just to give Persia its freedom? Did Caesar conquer Gaul and then say, "Now it's your turn to govern yourself." No other country in history has defeated its enemies only to hand over the reins of government to its native population.

In a region governed by strongmen and factions that imprison or kill each other, there was a time not so long ago when the Iraqi people held their own destiny in their own hands. We, those who fought and sacrificed—and the Iraqis who bravely assisted us—are the ones who placed it there. We join the long line of veterans who fought for another's benefit. We cannot control what people do with a gift, we cannot even be sure they will appreciate it, but that doesn't mean we cannot be proud of the sacrifice that it took to give it.

Posted by Cassandra at August 21, 2014 05:10 PM

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Comments

Freedom is the most expensive drug in the world; to assure your supply, give -- not sell, give -- it to others. -- unknown, DI, MCRD, 1969

Posted by: htom at August 21, 2014 06:10 PM

What a wonderful thought.

I have never heard that one before. Thank you so much for sharing it, htom.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 21, 2014 06:15 PM

In a region governed by strongmen and factions that imprison or kill each other, there was a time not so long ago when the Iraqi people held their own destiny in their own hands. We, those who fought and sacrificed—and the Iraqis who bravely assisted us—are the ones who placed it there. We join the long line of veterans who fought for another's benefit. We cannot control what people do with a gift, we cannot even be sure they will appreciate it, but that doesn't mean we cannot be proud of the sacrifice that it took to give it.

Very nice.

Posted by: Grim at August 21, 2014 10:25 PM

Freedom is difficult to learn, harder to master, and almost impossible to appreciate when a birthright. Sort of like English.

Posted by: spd rdr at August 22, 2014 08:30 AM

When I first heard it, I thought it a flip explanation of our involvement in Vietnam (and it may have been meant as such.) Then I thought it was a hippy rendering of "Let go, and let God." I'm beginning to think it's one of the great moral imperatives; alone, you cannot be free. World, continent, country, state, church, tribe, family, self, none.

Posted by: htom at August 22, 2014 08:47 AM

Freedom is difficult to learn, harder to master, and almost impossible to appreciate when a birthright.

That last is something I find myself pondering all the time as people wax grandiloquent on the Internet about how their "freedom" is being taken away from them and police are "occupying" their cities and towns. When I see that sort of nonsense, I often find myself thinking of this quote from a young Lieutenant who died in Iraq:

I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as "freedom fighters" or "misguided anti-capitalists." Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said "the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life—to murder, and you get paid to save lives." He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me, into all the moral insecurity that living in a free nation will instill in you. He "oversimplified" the issue, or at least that is what college professors would accuse him of doing.

....In his other e-mails and letters home, which the Daily family very kindly showed me, he asked for extra "care packages" to share with local Iraqis, and said, "I'm not sure if Irvine has a sister-city, but I am going to personally contact the mayor and ask him to extend his hand to Dahok, which has been more than hospitable to this native-son." (I was wrenched yet again to discover that he had got this touching idea from an old article of mine, which had made a proposal for city-twinning that went nowhere.) In the last analysis, it was quite clear, Mark had made up his mind that the United States was a force for good in the world, and that it had a duty to the freedom of others. A video clip of which he was very proud has him being "crowned" by a circle of smiling Iraqi officers. I have a photograph of him, standing bareheaded and contentedly smoking a cigar, on a rooftop in Mosul. He doesn't look like an occupier at all. He looks like a staunch friend and defender. On the photograph is written "We carry a new world in our hearts."

The article it came from was written by Chris Hitchens, and is well worth a re-read.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 22, 2014 10:26 AM

There was an old quote, I believe it was from Lincoln, along this line. Paraphrasing, probably badly, it went, " A free man can extend his freedom only by extending it to others." It tended to confuse the anti-war types I encountered in college after returning from 'Nam. Seems like the Lt. developed the same idea on his own.

Posted by: DaveJ at August 29, 2014 03:26 AM

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