In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Friday, December 24, 2004

Who is to blame?

Brig. Gen. Carter F. Ham is a man of integrity, honor and is one man I would follow anywhere. He sent Christmas letters to the family members of every Task Force Olympia soldier. He knows my soldiers by their first names. And he is the first person to visit a wounded soldier. He is a great man. Yesterday, in our studio, he told CNN that he blames himself for the suicide bomber incident at Marez when in fact it’s anybody’s fault but his own.

Everybody is asking how a person could “infiltrate” our FOB and detonate a bomb. The talking heads: “Are the military bases susceptible for more of these kinds of attacks? How did this happen? Is there not enough security on our bases? How could a general let this happen?”

I don’t think people realize that we have anywhere from 100 to 1,000 local workers on any base, and that we search every single one of them. Yes, we have found numerous contraband on locals before. Yes, we work side-by-side Iraqis, whom we emplace our trust. We search them too, and we’ve also detained them for insurgent activity. The problem with this war is we don’t have a defined enemy, and those who are supposed to be our allies often run and hide until the fighting is over.

Who is the enemy? Well, for one, they don’t wear a uniform and two, we are trying to give these people freedom, which means while we’re killing bad guys, we’re also employing people who look no different than the ones we’re killing. This war is hard. In Korea, Vietnam and WWII, we knew who we were fighting to some extent. Yesterday, I had guard duty and rather than looking for a uniformed soldier, I looked for an enemy who looks just like the people we’re helping. Imagine playing basketball with a group of total strangers, with everybody wearing white T-shirts. You have no idea who’s on your team. Well, that’s our challenge; we don’t know who we can pass the ball to.

As we’ve tried to give the Iraqis the lead in the security of this area, we have seen their shortcomings and a few victories. Freedom is earned, not given. And if this country is to succeed, its people must step up. When the terrorists, insurgents or whatever you want to call them attacked the police stations last month, the Iraqi Police abandoned their post. Then, Iraqi National Guard went into those stations along with us and regained control of the city. (So, as I said, there are Iraqis who will fight for freedom. I just wish there were more.) Many of the Mosul Imams are crooked, encouraging the locals to stand up against us or kill the Iraqis who work for us. I don’t understand this at all; they’re supposed to be holy.

Back to the suicide bomb, how could somebody pass our checkpoints, get by our guards and possibly bring a bomb inside a protected mess hall. Well, I don’t have the answers for you. I can tell you that it’s not Gen. Ham’s fault. All I know is that we are doing everything we can to win this war; I just don’t think the Iraqis have.

THIS IS JUST MY OPINION, NOT THAT OF THE ARMY’S. THANK YOU AND HAVE A NICE DAY.

78 Comments:

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

go sminkie!!!!!!!!!!!! we love ya!!

 
At 11:04 AM, Blogger Bigs said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:14 AM, Blogger Bigs said...

Mr. Sminklemeyer, this is another well written article with deep thought and as usual encouraging. General Ham is a leader with Intergity. He too will take this incident and live with it for the rest of his life. I believe this man is a great leader and is focusing on a picture of faith that one day great leaders of Iraq will step up and lead this their Country.
I believe this is why there is so much resistance from members of other countries, and other people who lead by scare tatics. I was once told the Iraqis need a "Martin Luther King" with a dream for his people to step up to the plate. Your General,Irag's Politicians, military base workers, soldiers (Inluding Iragis), are planting Seeds for that Dream!
GOD BLESS AND MERRY CHRIST-FILLED CHRISTMAS!!!

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

I'm not there, YOU are.

But, I've been there...different war..36 years ago.

Your right, the all look the same. Who is with you, or against you? I never could tell. But, I never was in a base, and so I had not the problems of someone who was. Where I "worked", there was nothing but someone who was either trying to kill you or someone who was helping them. So we killed most of them and hoped God would tell the innocents... that we meant no harm, but did it anyway so that we might live.

The fight that we (you) are in, is no different. You must make choices that others might not understand. You must protect yourself and your buds. Make no mistake that they want to destroy you and anyone that is American or helping Americans.

Most people want to think that this is just a bunch of Saddam's leftovers fighting us. True, there are those, but they are not the most important, dangerous ones. The are not the ones that have been brainwashed that everything Western, American or different than them must be killed. The Sucide or Murder Bombers. These Bombers want only to kill. Killing themselves is an extra benefit that will make sure, that they have all the virgins that they disire.

You must understand and work with the fact that they want to kill you and destroy any work or assistance that you want to give.

You must understand that even though, most of the world does not know or understand, that this is THE START of the war between Extremist Islamists and the remainder of the world.

There is no turning back, backing away. The mission is defined, it is ordered and verified.

Complete the Mission.

I am sorry that I am too old to fight. But you will fight for me, your friends will fight for me and my children and grandchildren will thank you.

This is my post

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger another_army_mom said...

Mr. Sminklemeyer
Your story was very touching and inspiring. General Ham is a great man which is why he makes a great leader he's not afraid of what others think he just knows the job needs to be done and the enemy is trying to shift the focus and bring division which is why it is great you are writing on his behalf. My prayers are going to increase for all of you. You mentioned in one of your stories you were near the ancient city of Nineveh this is where GOD instructed Jonah to preach to the people for they were wicked and didnot know the truth. Jonah didnot want to do this he believed the people didnot deserve saving. So the Lord arranged for a whale to swallow Jonah for three days and nights Jonah was in the belly of a whale. When he decided to obey the Lord the whale went up onto shore and spit Jonah out of his mouth.
Do you see how the Lord works? The bible says his eyes are on everyone (good and evil) I believe this war is spiritual and that is why we face such opposition and reluctance from other countries, but the Lord will prevail and he will bless the U.S. for staying obedient!!
GOD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU AND ALL THE TROOPS
HAVE A MERRY CHRIST-FILLED CHRISTMAS AND A VERY JOYOUS NEW YEAR!!!!

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Rightwingsparkle said...

Dropping by from Mudville to wish you a very Merry Christmas! God bless you and keep you safe!

 
At 2:54 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS SR. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO! You leave me speechless again! If you knew me, you would know this is not easy!

Hang in there!

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

"Well, that’s our challenge; we don’t know who we can pass the ball to."

I love the allegory. Your writing is great...duh, I guess, considering your job.

I have so much respect for you and everyone like you, who receives a sucker punch like this, but keeps on kicking. It seems so frustrating and overwhelming, however you remain brave and steadfast. Not running away in the face of adversity, and not compromising yourself.

 
At 5:44 PM, Blogger Eagle1 said...

The General was right in the sense that in the military the responsibility cannot be shirked. That's one of the great (and sometimes awful) burdens of command and why those who bear those burdens are men and women of great integrity. How different from some parts of the civilian world!

But your understanding of his position and the difficulty in facing a guerrilla force are commendable. Thanks for your service (and while I appreciated sentiment in your post before this one, I must disagree slightly with you in one area - unlike the military, there are few occupations in the civilian world which require risking one's life to get the job done and that's why military service is just a little more special). Keep up the good work!

Have a Merry Christmas!

 
At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are just cannon fodder there in Iraq, nobody cares about what you think and what you feel. The best option is to leave Iraq while you are still alive, go back to your family. You do not have to fight rich man's war.

There is no honor, no integrity, no just cause in occupaying Iraq.
Judging by your own analysis, I presume that you are at loss who to fight, you do not understand between right or wrong, you just kill anybody you might be in some way persieved as being a threat to you or your buddies. So eventually, you will go crazy as many other vietnam vets. Grazy soldiers never win wars, they always lose. Remember Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia.

You still have a choice to go back to your country, home, to your family alive and well. Nobody cares about crippled, limbless vets. They will ignore you, then pity you, then forget you.

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

To Anonymous above:


To use your words: there is no honor, no integrity, no just cause in writing such a vicious email under "anonymous". If you are against the US involvement in Iraq, put your money where your mouth is, and speak in a forum, where people might respond to you. But do just blast someone like this is cowardice.

 
At 8:10 PM, Blogger patrickafir said...

Hey Smink: Merry Christmas from home. Thank you so much for your service--it means more to us than we could ever rightly express. We're thinking about all of you right now, and holding you in our hearts with pride, respect, and love. Please stay safe, and remember that you're always on our minds!

 
At 5:15 AM, Blogger Molicious said...

Merry Christmas Smink! You'll be in our thoughts. Stay safe.

 
At 6:48 AM, Blogger Pat in NC said...

Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. May you experience some joy being with your buddies. My heartfelt thanks to you for serving our nation. You remain in my heart and prayers. Stay safe and come home when the time is right for your departure. I believe in what you are trying to accomplish.

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Bigs said...

Anonymous, my 1st thought was to woop you as..... for the comment you made to Smink. Then I thought that was your opinion and you have a right to your opinion. We don't have to agree on everything, but let me ask you this. Are you an American? Have you served your Country, did you vote?
I respect the military people over there. I'm sure not all of them agree about being over there but they are there for their country. For someone to say pack your bags and go home is weak and shows cowardness.
The Iraq people have a great opportunity given to them by the USA and other Soldiers.
So Anonymous I guess the reason you wrote anonymous is that you are to shallow of a person to leave any trace of who you are.

 
At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Bigs,

I stand by what I said in my previous post, I do not to wish to repeat myself.

If you want an unbiased view of what is really going on in Iraq, I suggest you visit the following sites.

www.iraq-war.ru
www.libertyforum.org

Where I get news reports and discuss the Iraq war with people of similar to mine views. You are more than welcome to join me there and persuade me that the views that I hold are wrong.

Killing, pillaging, bombing entire cities, torturing POWs are not acts of bravery at all.

The bravest act in this situation is to defend one's country, oppose the occupation, spread the truth, resist the lying corporate media and stop being a mindless soldier, who's follwing orders of his utterly corrupt superior politicians.

As for the blogger, he is just a lying PR man. His main job is to lie, distort the truth, spin the news, spread propaganda. I suspect that he might be Iraq at all.

As for my nationality, I am happy that I am not an usan citizen.

 
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and, we're happy that you are not a US citizen too.

 
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