Dispatch From Downrange
Dispatch From Downrange –IRAQ
Well, the New Year here started with a bang. As I mentioned in my last installment of “Dispatches From Downrange” the first couple of days were marked with several acts of aggression against us as well as the Iraqis we are working with. The all out Shia-Sunni civil war seems ever more possible each day. Why they are killing each other is something I just can’t wrap my head around. The culture is so different from what I would even consider sane. Besides the Shia –Sunni conflict, add a healthy dose of Al Qaeda under the name of “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” known as the ISIL, and the powder keg that is Iraq is lit. Considered terrorist by the sitting Shia-dominated Iraqi government, this is the same group, at the time of this writing, holding parts of Fallujah and Ramadi. Fallujah is the city that saw the most fierce fighting between the US forces and the insurgents during the war as well as the same place where the four Blackwater contractors were shot, burned, and then hung from a bridge spanning the Euphrates river.
Besides the conflict over which branch of the Muslims in Iraq is being slighted, there is religious warfare here too. In the U.S., a dispute over religion may spark a protest or maybe a heated debate, but here it is the spark that causes wholesale slaughter.
Yes, I fully realize I look at the situation from an American standpoint, one that as far as I am concerned, is the correct one. Many would say that means I can’t appreciate what the people in “those” other countries are dealing with. I don’t agree. I’ve been in many of “those” countries in the past few years, and something strikes me as very common. Something that is as far from politically correct as can be, but then again I’ve never worried about that too much.
Look at the list of Muslim dominated countries I’ve included here. These are taken from a world census a couple years back.
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mayotte, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, The Gambia, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Western Sahara, and Yemen.
Do you see a common thread here? I can only pick out one on the list that is not in turmoil. The only one that is really doing well and that is one of the most westernized on the list, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Of the countries on this list, the United States has people in most of them trying to help them refrain from killing themselves. In most, we are seen as an enemy, as the great paymaster that everyone they don’t agree with, answers to. We are the enemy of their beliefs as far as they are concerned. Those beliefs that have them slaughtering each other through their culture of non-tolerance, repression, and hatred. Those ideas that have been mutated from the mainstream by decades, maybe centuries, of uneducated leaders and religious teachers that, 1: can’t read their own text they are teaching, and 2: add their own radical slant to the teachings. The radical Islamic follower is so far away from the original Islamic belief that it is hard even to recognize. Most of the people here line up behind their tribal leaders. Yes, even the government works or attempts to, through the tribal process. It is very much the same as it was ages ago where one tribe fought another or the leadership made some deal for convenience with each other, and their people followed blindly behind them.
When I was in Afghanistan, I saw most people living in squalor. Many were goat herders and farmers. This was their way of life, and they wanted nothing to do with progress or lifting themselves out of the dark ages. In fact, they ridiculed, and many times murdered, their own countrymen who tried to improve their own way of life. In Iraq, the situation is much the same. The people, for the most part, are struggling just to maintain their ramshackle lives living in houses that we would have long ago bulldozed down had they been in the U.S.
Some of these countries have unlimited resources. They sit on the world’s oil reserves and rich mineral deposits. They COULD use those assets to improve their lot but instead they do something else that I have found is common across the board here. They line their own pockets at the expense of everything else. Iraq is rated as having the world’s most corrupt government. That corruption, (here comes another politically incorrect comment) the out and out theft is also a part of this culture. Theft, bribes, deceit, and loyalty that can be bought and sold for pennies is common.
Have I become cynical? No, I don’t think so. What I have become is more of a realist, and I tend to see things a little more black and white than before. What I also know is I’m not alone in my opinions. I read and listen to all those that say we are the problem and we are the oppressors and “The Great Satan.” Well, I don’t see our country falling into civil, religious, ethnic, fanatic war with itself. I don’t hear much about other mainly westernized countries falling apart either. Sure, we have economic issues and all but, it doesn’t lead to the fanatical warfare in the streets of the countries on the above list seem to favor. The question is why? I think the reasons starts with the letter “R”. Let’s see what starts with that letter. Right? Royalty? Resources?
Well, enough of this rant and yes not everything is about my dog this time. There is some good news, though. The PSD operator that was shot three times two weeks ago returned to duty yesterday. He is little worse for wear but just as committed as ever. When I left the police department to come here, I mentioned about how the men and women that do this sort of job are a little different and see a mission, a calling, and a cause. The example of our PSD operator is exactly that. He didn’t want to leave his team, so he fought to return. It’s honor, it’s character, and it’s rare these days.
Enough for now, call to prayer is sounding outside and it is hard to concentrate on the writing.
From just a few miles from nowhere, and squarely in the Anbar province,
I’m Jon Harris, and this is
A Dispatch From Downrange-Iraq