If you read the local paper that may or may not be skewed in one way or another, you may question yourself if you really know what is happening in Iraq.  Are things getting better? I have done one tour in Afghanistan and three six month tours in Iraq as an US Marine.

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Following a positive and successful tour in Afghanistan, I was deployed
to Ramadi Iraq in 2004. Centrally located near the war torn Fallujah
City, military bases in Ramadi were mortared, fired upon or attacked
daily by suicide car bombs. My third day in country resulted in my
first of many Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks on my Marines
and my first wounded.  Fighting was regular and local government
conditions were still in the infant stages at best.  The local Iraqi
Police was corrupt and unorganized and the Iraq Army was still in their
re- training phase of their growth from the harsh defeat during
Operation Desert Storm.  The city council did not exist nor was there
any solid stable local leadership that served the people.  Insurgent
cells intimidated local populace were coordinated and complex which
maximized their command structures in their favor to successfully
attack the Coalition Forces.  For the following 12 months, Coalition
Forces would have a daily professional fight on their hands.  The area
was marginal at best.

   Fast forward to 2007. Following a proper gradual fight against a
counter insurgency, which would normally take 10 years according to
doctrine, the timely surge and continuation of Marines in the area,
successfully began to not only defeat the localized cells of insurgents
but began in parallel, developing the local civilian and military
efforts.  Insurgents are not ignorant, they cannot afford to be.  Many
insurgent cell leaders bet to out wait the American forces in hope that
the American people would tire of the campaign and demand US forces to
be withdrawn, much like that of the Vietnam War.  Insurgent cells
cannot defeat Coalition Forces tactically head to head which is the
major reason they prefer their weapon of choice the IED as it gives
them an advantage against a superior force.  Once insurgents realized
this was not to be the issue as the 2007 surge was introduced and the
American people supported the actual troops on the ground, Coalition
Forces tactically witnessed the initial breakdown and eventual and
continual failure of the insurgent command and control structure which
catapulted American forces to continue to obtain the upper hand and
gain momentum.  This set the stage for my successful third deployment
in Iraq.

   

In 2008, as my convoy approached Ramadi Iraq, if it was not for the
boarding Euphrates River, I would not have recognized the city.  A
solid infrastructure had been born. Localized government, city councils
established, local and Highway police were established and becoming
more affective every day.  The last mortar or suicide attack was well
over a year ago and many sections that were under Coalition Forces
control in 2007 had been relinquished to the Iraqi Army for their
control. The same could be said for the northern sections of Iraq where
I would spend the next seven months.  Imagine that you do not have
electricity, running water or safe food to eat, none the less have
tyrants who want to kill you in your neighborhoods simply because you
want something different.  It was an eye opening experience when I was
deployed to Afghanistan to see poverty in the worse fashion. To see
hate towards innocent people and now I began to see those types of
idealism beginning to disappear in Iraq.  In my remote area, there was
no law except for US Marines. As our deployment continued, we began an
Iraqi Police station to begin the building and training process to fill
our role once we departed and begin a transitional phase for the Iraqi people.  Unlike deployments of the past, we had hundreds of local
citizen volunteers to become dependable professional policemen. This
may seem typical now, but in the past, such acknowledgment would mean
certain death to you or your family. However this deployment, not only
where local citizens publicly volunteering but because the police
station was just being established and not yet recognized, all of them
volunteered to work for free. We equipped them with uniforms and food
but no daily wages as of the time. When I asked why they are willing to
work for free, one Iraqi said that he had to do something to make his
country succeed and that he knew we would not let him fail after all we
have already done so much for his people. This was astonishing to many
of us that had done multiple tours in Iraq, because we would have
greatly desired to find one individual with such attitude in the past.
Now, we had dozens.

   

After establishing the law of the land for our area by locals, we
continued to train them in not only police work but problem solving and
public service. This quickly became infectious  and the economy in
the area grew at the rapid rate especially as we begin to pay them as
police officers once they were a recognized organization by the
government. However, now too many people wanted to be policemen, but we
wanted to capitalize on the growth momentum and positive turn which
initially resulted from the previous year during the 2007 surge. We did
this in many ways but a popular technique was to donate water treatment
purification facilities to local tribes in the area. Then we screened
water facility repairmen to fix and maintain the facilities then we
established local store owners where there were none,  basic road
repairmen and through the occupations and eventually local city council
boards, and government representatives in Baghdad for the area.

   

The general populace was tired of the insurgency and did the most
important act that I witnessed in all of my deployments, they fought
back. Not us, but them. Local citizens risked death threats to inform
local Iraqi police of possible enemy cells in the area. Then with
Coalition Force reinforcements, the police solved the areas issues and
threats.  Because of the safety net of the Coalition Forces, local
citizens made a difference. That is when we knew we witnessed the
turning point of the people and I had seen a new Iraq being born.
Local Sheiks in the area tried to monopolize tribal leaders for
economic gain. A similar tactic of the “old Iraq” governed under a
dictator. Sheiks would demand that all policemen be hired from sheiks
instead of having the best man for the job. This is where the Coalition
forces successfully regulated the economics in the area which created
positive competition.  Furthermore, Coalition Forces inspired general
contracts in the area to include dozens of new construction contracts
for schools, sewers, hospitals and government offices. This allowed the
local citizens to utilize their own talents and make a positive
contribution to their city with the protection of American forces at
hand which continually made the economy there become stronger.
Fighting and actual combat was a simple task for Marine leadership in
theater, however, very little was conducted because of the rapid growth
of the well trained Iraqi Army and police forces that patrolled the
area and kept law in their territory. Coalition Forces simply gave
small rudder adjustments to insure success at this point. The Iraqi
people did the rest. 

   

It was not out of the ordinary for us to conduct combined medical
engagements where American surgeons would be stationed in secure areas
as local Iraqi citizens would seek desperately needed medical attention
for free. We routinely invited tribes to attend these events under our
protection and at the same time train Iraqi doctors to become
proficient towards the threats of the local diseases.  Men, women,
children would attend by the hundreds. We would stay as long as it took
to attend to them all while at the same time ensuring a safe haven and
secure village as the local police would prevail once again. 

   

As my deployment came to an end, after the short 7 months, we utilized
the carbon copy playbook that all Coalition Forces are using in the
area and applied it with success.  Iraqi Army units were successfully
taking charge of their areas of responsibility, local police
departments were serving and protecting their regions and at the same
time economic growth in the area and the Iraqi government became
stronger and stronger.  As of recent as August, 2008, the entire Al
Anbar province has been relinquished back to the Iraqi people control,
which Ramadi is a major part of.  This was something that we never
expected back in 2004 as forces on the ground.  The Iraq of today is
not the Iraq we documented during Operation Desert Storm, nor is it the
Iraq that was once under a dictatorship and viewed on our TV sets.
Today’s Iraq is very similar to another country when it began back in
1776.
Following the multiple deployment returns, I have repeatedly sat at
dinners and at soccer games and gladly answered curious quizzers of
Iraq’s current condition. What is really happening in Iraq? They ask,
and repeatedly I see the astonished looks on their faces with the
answers I give them, almost in disbelief. Why don’t we hear these
facts? I have no reason to lie.  In fact you will get the same answers
as I have given if you ask any of the several thousand Marines that
have participated in either campaign.  Besides, what TV news reports
and newspapers tell you, you don’t hear about new police stations being
formed by volunteers, hundreds of new jobs being created, new
elementary schools being opened or ordinary people cherishing the
opportunity to have an ordinary life in Iraq.  So do you really know
what is happening in Iraq?

Comments

  1. I’m curious as to what you think of the recent killing of Afghan civilians by US and NATO forces? Do you think there should be a change in policy or should the Americans do nothing about these accidents?

  2. Great article…
    Over the years we have learned through you…
    Much of what you saw and did you shared with us.. You taught us well!
    And, the Iraqi’s too.
    Thank You!

  3. Thanks for all that I got to “see” through your vision and experiences through the years now Major B. I’m so very proud of you and your Marines !!

  4. Great post. So proud to follow you all these years. I expect nothing less from our Marines! You all have the grit to see a job through. Our troops have made a difference in the world. Not many can say that. Regan was right. God bless you!

  5. I have read a lot of articles about what’s happening in Iraq, and them all express different things. In my personal opinion The soldiers are only risking their lives and probably they are gonna die, because the american government don’t wanna do anything to avoid this catastrophe.

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