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.



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

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

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

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 Mark Tempest 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 5:15 AM, Blogger Mo 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 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.

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.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) replaced Combined Joint Task Force 7 on May 15, 2004. The land forces component of United States Central Command that carried out the initial invasion of Iraq, sportsbook, designated the Coalition Forces Land Component Command, was established by Commander, US Army Forces Central Command, in 2002/3, to oversee two corps-sized organizations, I Marine Expeditionary Force and V Corps.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Stivel Velasquez said...

With whom, or what, is the United States at war? The answer to this question has far-reaching implications costa rica jaco hotels for strategy, for public diplomacy, and for foreign and domestic policy alike. It may seem that the answer is obvious; but it is not.


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