Monday, January 03, 2005

I'm still alive

Yes could it be, am I actually posting something? Yes I am still alive. A little beat up but alive. Life has been quite a challenge as of late but it seems to have a glimmer of hope, so I will hold onto that and live my life the way I should. Anyways enough of my ranting about life. Here is the latest email from Dave the marine in Iraq.

Email from Dave - Dec 31, 04

Dear Dad -

For the past six weeks, the Regiment has been busy cleaning up the city and chasing down remaining pockets of insurgents. There have been some very stiff, isolated battles where the Marines continued to perform with the same tenacity and heroism that made them so successful in November. Unfortunately these efforts have not come without a price. We have lost additional Marines and many more have been wounded during these ongoing operations.

The city itself sustained severe damage during the battle itself and in the months leading up to the fight. It took a Herculean effort by the Marine engineers and Naval Construction Battalion Sailors ("Sea Bees") to clear the city. At the height of the battle, there was so much rubble on certain streets that they were impassable even for our tracks and wheeled vehicles. I am amazed at the amount of work these Marines and Sailors have done to get the city somewhat habitable by the civilians. It really is incredible how much effort went into making the city safe for the returning population after the Marines fought so hard to take it. No other force in the world would have made such an effort to take an enemy city and then immediately turn around and begin significant efforts to clean and reconstruct. All of that said, if you saw the city now you would probably still consider it tremendously damaged.

The end state of all the work has been conditions that permit the population to return. To be honest there have been very mixed emotions on having the civilians re-enter the city. On the one hand we know that the city will never be as safe as it was for the few weeks when it was empty following the major fighting. On the other hand, we want to try to get the population back to their lives and participating in Iraq's future - starting with the elections on 30 January.

Once again you would be proud of the Marines and how well they are dealing with all of the challenges that they face daily. Over the past month, the Regiment has received ten battalions of Iraqi army and security forces. Of course they are all fledgling units with only cursory training. Some show up without boots and never having fired their weapons. You have to understand that inheriting such units is a tremendous drain on the combat power of our own battalions. They require an incredible amount of supervision and support just to sustain them. Of course it difficult for the Marines who just took the city to turn around and mentor new Iraqi units while at the same time "clean up the mess." As you would expect, the Marines just shoulder the load and continue surprise us with their endurance and commitment.

Elections are less than a month away. The combination of the smashing defeat the enemy suffered in Fallujah along with the prospect of looming free elections has made them desperate. They regularly threaten the people by telling them that any one who goes to vote will be killed by the muj. They claim to be watching the polling places and continue to state that they will wage suicide attacks on the crowds that assemble there.

You have probably seen from the news that the ongoing murder and intimidation campaign on the Iraqi security forces has continued as well. We recently received a report that an Iraqi soldier in our area was drug from his home and beheaded. The muj barged into his house as he and his family were eating dinner and simply drug him out to his front yard and beheaded him while his wife and children were held inside only feet away. This sounds shocking but it is the world in which the Iraqi people live here and one that would only get worse if they did not have the coalition to help keep the muj at bay. Plainly stated it is pure savagery.

The insurgency is a collection of different elements that have gotten together out of a marriage of convenience and who are galvanized by a common enemy - us. The greatest irony is that the two most prominent players in the insurgency are former regime members from the Ba'ath party and the international Islamic extremists. These two elements are deeply in bed together but they do what they can to keep their alliance secret. The old regime henchmen hide out here in Iraq or just across the border and pump money and direction into the insurgency so that they can some day resume power. The Islamic extremist take the training and money offered by Sadaam's cronies and do the bidding of these criminals so that they can create a sectarian state not unlike the one the Taliban created in Afghanistan. How in the world can you call yourself a holy warrior and be in league with some of the greatest criminals this region has known?

Slowly but surely the people are returning and as you can imagine, there is a high degree of caution on both sides. Overall though, we have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of hostility from the people. Most just seem to want to live their lives. The Marines have seen this and have responded with an equally surprising degree of compassion. However, there is no doubt the muj will do their best to continue their fight without any compunction of putting the "innocent people" in the middle. They are well aware of the danger of the people seeing first hand that we are not "infidel animals" that are waiting to rape their women and children as they have been told. When the enemy senses this crack in its intimidation campaign, it will make the people pay in order to get them back in line. Time will tell how it will work out but we know the next several weeks are going to be tough.


Click on the link to see the source. The Green Side


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