Major E. writes from Baghdad:
The 4th of July was quiet here, and Camp Victory enjoyed steak and lobster–for lunch and dinner, topped off by Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Except for the troops out on offensive operations, many people got a bit of a break.
The highlight of my day was the noon prayer service, titled “General Washington in Prayer” (see attached file for photo of program cover). It was thirty-five minutes of patriotic encouragement where chaplains led troops and civilians in separate prayers for the people, leaders, and service members of the United States of America. We also sang the National Anthem, “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.” It is great to be reminded of the faith that helped found our country and maintain our national freedom.
This morning, I have been reading the headlines after waiting for a helo flight that was cancelled due to yet another sandstorm. As the drumbeat of bad news continues to bombard and often mislead the American people about what is really going on here, I wanted to bring attention to some of the today’s good news–the type of information that is rarely reported in major outlets and almost never analyzed for its true significance.
First, Monday’s statement by Dulami that encourages Sunnis to organize and participate in the upcoming elections is another important sign of progress toward a democratic Iraq. Second, hard-line Sunni cleric Al-Dhari just publicly denounced all kidnappings, including that of the Egyptian envoy a few days ago.
The under-reporting of events such as these which demonstrate the success of the diplomatic efforts going on is really unfortunate because it makes the public think that military engagements and insurgent violence are the only things happening here. The media focus on that is a disservice to the public because it vastly under-emphasizes the real news here in Iraq: steady progress toward a multi-ethnic, mostly secular democracy.
The Sunnis run the current insurgency and largely boycotted the elections last January, but we are seeing the payoff of the White House policy of carrot-and-stick that combines diplomatic efforts to draw the leadership into the political fold–while simultaneously taking the military offensive to the insurgents.
Make no mistake about the Dulami tribe’s prominent role in the insurgency. They are a driving force. One US intelligence officer I have spent some time with said that he was warned when he first arrived in theater by the person he was replacing that ‘all Dulami’s are bad Dulami’s,’ something I remember hearing from some Pentagon experts as well. He dismissed that as an over-generalization at first, but after many months on the ground and seeing dozens of cases where any detainee who had Dulami connections also had substantive ties to the insurgency, he now subscribes to the view of his predecessor.
So, to have the tribal leader of the faction that is a driving force behind the insurgency to publicly encourage broad Sunni participation in the upcoming elections is a significant development and is in line with the public behavior of many other prominent Sunni leaders and clerics since the elections last January. They are becoming more invested in the political process, which is a key indicator that our policy is working.
Now, to be clear, the Sunni leaders and clerics do not tell their followers to stop attacking U.S. forces, so there will likely be continued bloodshed in the coming months. But I have been traveling around the most dangerous parts of the theater talking with Americans who train the Iraqis and the seeing the Iraqis themselves in action, and believe that the Iraqis are more and more capable of defending themselves. They still need more time but are making steady progress.
It is also important to remember what would likely happen in Iraq if not for the tireless efforts of the troops who are taking the offensive to those who use terror against innocents and would impose a Taliban-style Islamic theocracy upon the Iraqi people and make Iraq an even stronger base for exporting terror than it was under Saddam. That outcome is something that cannot be tolerated, neither in terms of human freedom nor U.S. national security, so we must continue our efforts to stop them–and stop them we will with a policy that leads with diplomacy and follows with strength.
Just as our nation has succeeded despite difficult challenges before, during and since the Revolutionary War, the small steps described in today’s headlines reveal the success that we are having despite the challenges here.
We are moving forward in our national commitment to sharing the gift of freedom with the people of Iraq, so thanks for keeping the faith and keeping the breathlessly negative headlines in perspective.