This continues to be a hard fight in what I am involved in, the medium of public affairs and communicating to the media and public at large.
Many have said that we are not winning and that what we are trying to do is failed. Well, it is far from over and while there is a tremendous amount of hard work ahead, let there be no doubt that we have not failed or lost.
As we have said from the start of getting here in February (back for my second tour as my first one was 18-months), none of this will be easy and we as a nation, public, military and individuals will be tested as we will see casualties, we will see spectacular attacks that kill and wound not only our troops, but the Iraqi’s as well. These attacks against us, the coalition and the Iraqis do not mean we are defeated or that we are losing, but simply that we are engaged in a war and in war terrible things happen. We have not yet defeated our enemy which include al-Qaeda in Iraq and those that associated with them, Shi’a extremists and what we call the Special Groups and/or Secret Cells that are being supported by Iranian special operations forces; it includes the criminal element in Iraq that existed before we arrived and could to some degree flourished over time, but is finding it harder to do so as the rule of law gains momentum.
With that said, it was good hearing over the past week the latest polls show an increase in support for what is happening here. Perhaps the public is finally getting to see what we have seen on the ground, that being that incremental progress is in fact occurring, but can be overshadowed by those spectacular events that grab the headlines. Although horrific, those attacks are not the trends we tend to see. In the end, we believe we are making the difference for the enduring beliefs that the Iraqis themselves want the same things we do and that people all over the world do; the ability to provide for their families, watch their children get an education and grow up to raise their own families and have the chance at a better life.
Let there be no doubt, this country is badly broken, but we must not forget that it did not occur overnight and nor will it be fixed overnight. This really started in 1968 with the advent of the Ba’athists coming to power and what happened over time. In the life of a nation, perhaps an ancient land, but a new nation, we are just really beginning. Many will say that we have been here for over four years and that is too long. In the life of a nation, that is mere seconds.
We must take the long-term view as we do have national/strategic interests in Iraq and the region. Anyone who dismisses that is not a realist in today’s age. We cannot afford to be short-sighted in this endeavor by anyone at any level be it from the platoon, company, battalion, brigade, division, Corps, Force or our governmental levels. The ramifications are too huge to count.
Nobody does us any favors by being anything but forthright, transparent and honest when talking about what is happening in Iraq. I think you will find that since arrival here in February, that has been happening and in some way, perhaps is part of the reason for the change in polls/attitudes back home in what we are doing. We owe that to the families of those serving in Iraq who have entrusted the national treasure, that treasure is that of the son’s and daughters of our nation to something that is greater than “self.” What we set in motion today, tomorrow and the day after will set the course for our nation and that of the region for years and perhaps decades to come. What the end result will truly be will be told by the historians of the future.
None of us want to be here any longer than is needed, but at the same time, we do not want to leave before the job is completed — and we need to leave with our honor intact and the right lineage intact, not only for us, but for our nation and for those that will follow us.
Part of that was seen today. Today marks the date of the Death of the 7th Imam here in Iraq, one of the more holy dates in the Shi’a religion. On this day, literally hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (pilgrims) marched to the Kadamyah Shrine in the northern part of Baghdad. The key element here is that the Iraqi government planned for this event, the Iraqi Security Forces provided the security for the event that with no doubt is one heck of a target for any of the extremists/terrorist groups that are operating in Iraq. I have attached a few photos from that march today to give you an idea of the scope of how many people were marching and taking part in this event. Some of these were taken at 9 am this morning and then again at 12:15 today. It was estimated that there would be over one million people marching there today. It is a testament that this could occur in the middle of a war in a city that most feel (from the outside looking in) that is burning down around us. I guess it really isn’t.