Ask questions about the war to a Summit County soldier
December 19, 2005
EDITOR’S NOTE: The local author who pens this column is currently working for the U.S. Army in Iraq. For security reasons, we will not print his name. The goal for the column is to generate questions and answers about the war in Iraq. Please send all questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will forward the letters to the author, who will answer them to the best of his ability.Greetings to my fellow Summit County residents. I bring this article to you from Central Iraq. I had this idea several years ago when I was in Afghanistan – I wanted to update Summit County residents on what was happening in the war.Currently, I have spent hundreds of days in Iraq and I am in the twilight of my 21-year Army career. I want to provide you with a different perspective as a fellow county citizen and soldier. I also want to give you the chance to ask me questions. I think it is imperative for you to understand the facts, not just the assumptions of others who report the war in Iraq or the Global War on Terror (GWOT) from their desk in the U.S. or the fortified Green Zone within Baghdad. One of my concerns currently is my friends and fellow county residents are not getting all the facts. When I get the chance to return to Summit County each year to rest and relax, to see our beautiful mountains, to ski, and to interact with folks, I am convinced I am doing the right thing. However, I am concerned that many of our fellow county residents do not know or understand what we are doing or how we are doing. County folks I have spoken with ask great questions, and they voice their frustration with not getting all the facts. Maybe I can help. Here are some facts for your consideration • We are winning, but we must maintain constant pressure over time with the international community and across our government agencies. Our troops will defeat the enemy; they are confidant, courageous, and competent. We also need the will of the American people to sustain for the long haul• You will never see a headline in the U.S. about an Iraqi school opening, a power station built and coming on line, or a community doing well. Only the negative things get coverage in the media. • The insurgency is in four of 18 provinces in Iraq, not all 18. You do not hear about the 14 provinces were there is no insurgency and where things are going well. The insurgency in Afghanistan is primarily in Kandahar province (home of the Taliban) and in the mountain region on the Pakistani border. The rest of the country is doing well. • Iraq now has more than 200,000 soldiers/police under arms and growing. They are starting to eclipse the U.S./coalition forces. Their casualty rate is more than double that of the U.S. There are more than 70,000 soldiers under the moderate government in Afghanistan and growing. • Most insurgent scholars state the insurgencies in the four Sunni provinces in northern/central Iraq and in Southwestern Afghanistan will be there for the near future, but they will stabilize and become small enough so the moderate governments will be able to keep them under control. • Whatever happened to Baghdad’s infamous airport road where I was shot? It has dropped from the media headlines and is now relatively safe. A year ago, the Baghdad airport road became the greatest symbol of supposed American failure in Iraq because of a rash of bombing and shootouts, including incidents that caused 37 deaths in April and the tragic mistaken killing of Italian agent Nicola Calipari. In October of this year, only one injury occurred on the road in October; there were no killings. • In Washington, where pessimism is running high about Iraq these days, Iraqis themselves are confidant. Look at education. Primary-school enrollment has jumped 20 percent over the Saddam years, according to the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index. In a country where 22 percent of adults never attended school, this is a momentous change. It is also a change going almost entirely unreported by U.S. news organizations. • Some media is beginning to report the good. The Washington Times has begun a new series titled On Balance, which is attempting to show the other side of the stories other than the spectacular. What I ask all of you to understand is our primary enemy is not the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is al-Qaida and its ideology. We are at a period now that is similar to the 1920s where Communism and Nazism had not taken hold in Russia and Germany. The ideology of al-Qaida is out there. It has not taken hold in any country in the Middle East. We need to make sure it does not and we are doing that, but it will be a hard problem with a long commitment. We as citizens have to stop focusing on the things Americans have done wrong, like Abu Ghraib, and start talking about and understanding this enemy. Al-Qaida is all over the world. Their goal is to get the U.S. out of the region and come to power in the Islamic countries of the region. Their goal is to establish a Caliphate (under a single Islamic ruler) that goes from the Atlantic in North Africa to Indonesia in the Pacific. Fifty years after this happens, their goal is to rule the rest of the world. Al-Qaida has no beliefs that they can defeat us militarily. They see our center of gravity as being the will of the American People. The media influence is what al-Qaida is playing too.The battle against al-Qaida is not primarily military. It is political, economic, and ideological and we must include the international community. We must not let al-Qaida get hold in any country; it will result in our worse nightmare. Picture life in Afghanistan under the Taliban – this is the goal of al-Qaida’s ideology.If you look at al-Qaida’s geography, a military solution is not paramount. Its network is all over the world. They are a virtual organization connected by the internet. They use it to proselytize, recruit, raise money, educate and organize. I ask you to stay connected, stay educated and remember who are enemy is. I hope this has shed some light from your “Summit Soldier’s” perspective. My goal is too stay connected with you twice a month. If you have questions of me, please let me know, and I will try to get you an answer. Have a great ski season.