View Full Version : US Troops Want To Stay

05-23-2007, 09:37 PM
THE DEBATE ABOUT the war in Iraq often focuses on America's national security, other countries' opinions of the United States, "what is best for the troops," and, of course, the Bush administration. Only on the rarest of occasions is lip service paid to those who will feel the effects of our decisions on the war most immediately, most acutely, and for the greatest length of time--the Iraqi people. At the end of the day, Americans can, in the short term, simply click off their television sets and forget about the situation in Iraq. For the men, women, and children living there--and the American soldiers fighting for their security--no such option exists.

While in Baghdad, I spoke with many soldiers about the current situation and the effect of the American political debate on their lives and actions. Though their views, like those of American civilians, span the spectrum of possible opinions, most of the troops I met had one thing in common: an understanding that the Iraqis need our help--at least in the near term.

"'It would be a disaster if you leave now'," said Lt. Colonel James Crider, Squadron commander of the 1-4 Cavalry ("Quarter Cav"). "I've had several Iraqis tell me that. They want us here--not forever, but for now, until they can take care of themselves."

"I had people coming up to me as we patrolled the neighborhoods saying, 'We heard you were leaving!'" another officer with Quarter Cav told me. "They don't understand our process; they don't know that

this is just rhetoric, or that it will be vetoed. All they know is that the leaders of our Congress said that it's a lost cause, and that our government has voted to pick up and go home."

Such statements by America's political leaders are "terrible," an Army public affairs officer told me. She continued, "I understand political posturing and all that but it really is terrible. If the war is lost and we need to go home, then why do we need to stay here five more months, when I could die or my friends could die before we go home? The war is either over or it isn't; this just doesn't make sense. . . .What we want is to keep helping the people here. The people at home who say these things, they don't understand that these are people who have to live here after we leave, whatever the situation is. These people and the things that happen here aren't real to them, and they can't understand unless they've been here and seen it."

Like many Americans at home, there are some soldiers who would like nothing more than to see the United States end its involvement in Iraq as soon as possible. There are many more, though, who, having established a presence on the ground, and having spent time among the people of Iraq, want to see this mission through to its successful conclusion, not only for America's sake, but for the sake of the people of Iraq whom they have gotten to know during their time in country.
had a remarkable conversation to this effect with a bespectacled infantry captain, who was on his second tour in Iraq and had been there since just before Gen. Petraeus's confirmation as the new head of MNF-I. We spoke at length about the war, and about the differences between his first tour and now. I asked what he thought about the mission in Iraq, and what he thought our prospects for success were. Gazing pensively at the ground, he took a moment to collect his thoughts, and said, "Well, politically, staying here probably isn't the best decision." Given the situation at home, he added, "winning here seems less possible all the time, even though we're now doing what it is we probably should have been doing all along." Moving on from that moment of near despair, he paused and glanced up, looking earnestly at me through his thick, military-issue glasses, and said, "There's not a single one of my soldiers who doesn't look at the neighborhood we're in, look at the children there, and not want to do whatever they can to give these kids as bright a future as possible. We want to finish this job, and we know we can do it."

Another obstacle to success, though, is the Iraqi people themselves. "What has to happen here," one noncommissioned officer told me, "is that the Iraqi people have to take a chance, risk their lives, and stand up against al Qaeda and everybody else. Once they decide that they

want freedom and peace, and want to work with us, then it will all be over. . . . It's easy to live as a coward. If they want to be free, they will have to take the risk."

That risk has finally been taken by a good number of the people in Anbar Province, an area that has seen a turnaround in the past six months that has been nothing short of remarkable. It is happening in a somewhat different way in southwestern Baghdad, in the district of Abu Dischir, where, rather than throwing out the large number of Sadrists present in the area, the people have learned to coexist peacefully both with the sectarian militias and with the Coalition.

Once the example set by these areas is followed by regular Iraqis in all of the other boroughs, quarters, and districts--once the Iraqi people, who are accustomed to being under the thumb of a tyrant, decide once and for all to stand up for themselves--then this war can finally be won, and al Qaeda, the Sadrist hardliners, and the other violent sectarians can be driven out. But only if the American and Iraqi governments maintain the will to do so.

Both sides will have to live with the consequences if the wrong choice is made. The belief amongst so many of the troops I spoke with is that these people deserve a chance at a better way of life, and that we should continue to do everything we can to help rebuild and secure this nation and to smash those who would destroy what the Iraqi people are building.

That after so much work and so much bloodshed we ought now to abandon the Iraqis to their fate is a notion held by almost no one I've encountered here in Iraq; rather, it appears that such ideas are much more common on the home front. What the troops, and the Iraqi people, appear both to want and to need is the support and the resources that will allow them to establish a free and secure state--and, more than anything else, the time to do so successfully.

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations military veteran who served in Iraq, is a leadership fellow with the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia, where he also studies Classics. In addition, he is an associate director of RedState.com and a columnist for the Athens, GA Banner-Herald newspaper.


05-23-2007, 10:12 PM
Good article. Too bad congress doesn't read such things.

05-24-2007, 12:32 AM
They read it and take it for what propaganda it represents.

Good article. Too bad congress doesn't read such things.

It is tough being an American in these days. Your life was made tougher when you committed to those that would gladly slit your throat if you were simply important.

05-24-2007, 10:02 AM
They read it and take it for what propaganda it represents.

How many soldiers do you have contact with, on a daily basis?

05-24-2007, 10:21 AM
Not counting your G.I. Joe dolls PB.