Since everything that follows jibes 100% with what I've heard from others either in Iraq or returning from Iraq, I'm passing this little piece along. It is so true that we, "the people" including the US media do not know enough about what is really going on in Iraq to voice an informed opinion on it, especially if our opinions aid the enemy.
"Following the article I sent about Bush's national address and troop increase, I thought it was a good idea to let you all know what the perspective is over here. I'm tired of hearing the media's skewed version, the politicians squabbling over what they read in a report, and the average ill-informed American ranting about things he knows NOTHING about.
I've been over here a couple of months now, and I've learned more about this country than a year's worth of watching CNN. I've sat in mission briefs with Colonels, talked with village elders, had tea with Sheiks, played with the kids. And I agree with the President. We need more troops and we need to take greater action.
There are 3 major factions here. The Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. The Shiites are in the majority, but Sad dam was a Sunni, so he kept the Shiites in check. Everyone hates the Kurds, who are Christian and in the vast minority. The Kurds received the brunt of Saddam's murderous tyranny. Now that Saddam is gone, the Shiites have taken control of Baghdad. The largely peaceful Sunnis are now the victims of radical Shiite terrorism. So the young Sunni men, who can no longer go to work and support their families, do what all young men would do. They join the Sunni militia and battle the Shiites. And thus the country sits on the brink of civil war.
But this war is between them. They largely do not concern themselves with the U.S. troops. The insurgents who battle the Coalition Forces are from outside the country. And the biggest problem down here isn't the insurgents. Its the politicians. The local politicians. Even though the country is controlled by Prime Minister Nourial-Maliki, downtown Baghdad is controlled by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. The Shiites follow Al-Sadr and thus the Prime Minister does what Al-Sadr says. Think of it as if a warlord controlled New York and blackmailed the President into diplomatic immunity.
When 1st Cav (mainly 2/5 Cav) came here in 2004, they took downtown Baghdad (known as Sadr City) by force. It cost many lives, but after a year, we held an iron grip on the largest insurgent breeding ground in Iraq. The insurgents were afraid of the Horse People, and rightfully so. But when 1st Cav left, al-Sadr influenced the Prime Minister to kick out the Coalition forces from that area of Baghdad. He said the Iraqi military forces could hold the city. But all that happened was al-Sadr regained control of his city, and it is now a heavily guarded fortress. A place where insurgents and terrorists can train and stockpile arms. And we cannot go back in because the Prime Minister won't let us. Our hands are tied.
So where does al-Sadr get his backing? From Iran and Syria. Iran supplies him with money and Syria supplies the terrorists. The insurgents that battle the Coalition Forces are from Syria, Somalia and dozens of other places outside of Iraq. Iraq is literally a terrorist breeding ground. They have terrorist and sniper schools here. Why not? They train by teaching them to attack the military forces here. And they have an endless supply of these training tools. They have factories in Sadr City to build bombs. Both Iran and Syria have openly proclaimed their number one goal in life is to destroy the great Western Devil and the little Western Devil (America and Britain). Iran wants to control Iraq to further this purpose. Al-Sadr will get to "run" the country and live like a king, but in reality Iran will pull the puppet strings. Iran will have access to thousands of radical Shiites who will do whatever Al-Sadr tells them to. And Iraq will be used as a breeding ground for terrorism. Terrorism that will be targeted directly at America and Britain. The Iraq Study Group advised we should let Iran and Syria help with rebuilding? Bravo to President Bush for striking that idea down and vowing to keep those two countries out of Iraq.
So how do the Iraqi people feel about everything? Of course they don't want the Americans here. But they would far rather have us here than the Iranians. My platoon visited an average Sunni village on a patrol a few days ago. Their only source of income was to farm, as they could not go to the city to work for fear of violence. Many of the young men had already run off to join the militia for no other reason than to feed their families. They had no school or hospital near them and the community was dying. The village elder's granddaughter was very sick and I was able to treat her. Afterwards he invited me and my Platoon Leader to sit in his house and have tea with him, and we talked about the situation.
The people want peace. The Shiites kill the Sunnis because Al-Sadr tells them to do so. The Sunnis fight back because they have no choice. They are glad Saddam is dead (Sunni or not), but do not want to replace him with another dictator in a politician's clothes (which is what Al-Sadr will become). And they especially don't want Iran in charge. Many innocent Iraqis will die if this happens. These are the words that came out of the elder's mouth:
"We do not want America here, and America does not want to be here. But you cannot leave because the militias control the country. America must use the might of its giant army and sweep through, root out and destroy the militias. Then Iraq can be free and you can leave."
What appears to have happened within our diplomatic community, is that Prime Minister finally realizes that his days are numbered. If Al-Sadr remains, he will be kicked to the curb. So hopefully he is about to allow us to reenter Sadr City, root out and destroy the enemy. A dramatic troop increase will allow us to do this. And the Horse People are back and ready to finish what they started over 2 years ago.
If leave now, it will be a failure for democracy. Iran will control Iraq and the end result will be more terrorist attacks on America. The American people don't want soldiers dying over here, but its better than American civilians dying over there. Do NOT forget 9/11. They will do it again. The moment we loosen our grip on the noose, they will do it again. And the only way to root out the evil here is to stop beating around the bush, increase troops and destroy the insurgents once and for all. The Iraqi government cannot do this on their own. The Iraqi security forces are inadequate for this task. We are the only ones who can stop Al-Sadr.
Feel free to share this with whomever wants a real soldier's opinion about the war."