12-21-2007, 12:03 PM #1
Great read (letter from my cousin in Iraq)(long)
22 November 2007 (Thanksgiving)
Gentlemen; This letter is solely my personal opinion and not that of the US Army or the US Government.
Introduction. My cousin Craig asked if I was interested in writing a letter to your radio show to give an eye witness account and describe what I see happening in Iraq. My experience here is not like anyone else’s; I suspect that everyone experiences Iraq differently.
Most people come to Iraq with very specific guidance as a member of the military, the state department, or a contractor. When I got here in April 2007 I was briefed by Brigadier General Phalon on where he wanted us to be in a year and then told us to figure it out. After a few months and a change of command we were told to have the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Command ready for operations by December 2007 (less than a year). Out transition team has been working long hours to make that happen. With our new boss we now get one day a week off, but I still go to work and we are still working long hours. What else am I going to do; I’m in Iraq?
To understand what I’m going to outline in this letter it is best to know that I think people are worth any amount of effort it takes to bring them freedom, liberty, and security – even if their comprehension, experience, and expectation is far below that standard. The Special Forces motto is “de oppressor liber – free the oppressed”. Maybe I’ve been in Special Forces too long; I actually believe in this motto even after being exposed previously to situations similar to Iraq.
If you ask me what are the three most important subjects in Iraq they would have to be the people, the government, and Islam. Counter-Terrorism must be included as a method intertwined with the three; focusing on the enemy as well as the friendly situation.
1. People. I was talking to one of the Iraqi colonels that I work with this last week and he made some very interesting comments. “The Iraqis are very simple people who want very little out of life; steady work, a secure environment, and a stable government. When Sadam was in power they only had two TV stations and few radio stations. Sadam used one of the TV stations basically to tell the people everything he expected them to do. They didn’t have the chance, nor were they allowed to make very many decisions for themselves. They had little to no connection with the world outside of Iraq. When we took Baghdad the people were excited to have a chance at democracy. The problem is they had little knowledge and no experience with democracy”. The Iraqi colonel went on to say, “that if they had a chance to go back and re-do the elections today they would have voted differently and there would be different leaders in their government today”.
It is odd to see a majority, a large population being terrorized by the few. The minority uses such horrific methods to keep the majority in check, but it is the fear of death and the need to protect their families that immobilizes them. Many were forced out of their homes and to relocate to neighborhoods where they share the same religious or tribal affiliation. The average Iraqi is now very cautious in his movements. Recently though, they have begun to organize neighborhood watches and to look out for each other.
The rule of law has not taken hold in the neighborhoods yet, but is quickly catching on. They don’t trust the police as many of them are affiliated with criminals, insurgents, or terrorists. As the majority begins to understand that it takes their participation to make the change they are gradually taking back control of their neighborhoods.
After so many years of ruthless governance the people have lost all contexts with fairness, honesty, and the rule of law. They fully understand that those things are needful, but have not seen them modeled, so it is only a theory that has yet to be proven in their society. In their context the tribe is the center of society and tribal survival is paramount. It is perfectly acceptable to exploit your neighbor, take the law into your own hands, and to define law as what will give you the best advantage over another tribe.
But, even in this bleak description there is a glimmer of hope. The Iraqis don’t like the current situation and are desperately seeking an alternative. Being held back for years by evil traditions, misconceptions about democracy, and mistrust for anything that is not Islamic has only made them more thirsty for a drink they have yet to taste.
2. Government. The best interests of a dictator are not conducive to educating the populace in self governance. Iraq has not seen true self governance for centuries. The people don’t know what it looks like and don’t understand the work that goes into self governance. As I said earlier, they had very little connection with the outside world and were basically told what to do, all the time. The culture developed into an observer / spectator involvement with government. They don’t know how to do it. They can talk about it, they can picture it in their minds like day dreaming about heaven, but they don’t know how to do it.
The sub-culture of Feudal tribal rule flourished under Sadam. Tribal leaders made deals, money passed between the leaders, and the people were paid by their leaders after the leader took his cut. If there were several levels of tribal involvement each leader at each level took his cut, paid his subordinates and then passed what was left over to the next level and so on. By our standards this is a form of corruption. By their standards it’s what they expect out of government.
In Iraq there are three levels to this corruption. The standard where mostly honest people participate in the Feudal system and govern with a degree of fairness. The next level is where the elected officials, military officers, and others in government take advantage of the system for their own benefit. This level is seldom prosecuted as they can hold their accusers hostage with the fear of taking their corruption to the next level, criminal corruption.
Criminally corrupt officials will use any means to gain and keep power. They use their office to force people out of their homes, have people arrested under false charges, and manipulate the system to eliminate their rivals as well as to become rich and powerful.
We can work with those who are applying the Feudal system with honesty. They readily convert to the rule of law when given a chance. But, without the rule of law the corrupt and criminally corrupt rule Iraq and the situation becomes even worse when they use Islam to cloak their activities.
Part 2 next
12-21-2007, 12:05 PM #2
3. Islam. Ideology is the most important target in this war. We must remember that Iraq is not the war; it is only one battlefront in the Global War on Terrorism. We can capture, kill, disrupt, or destroy all the terrorists and their activities and still not win. If we can’t stop the flow of new recruits into militant Islam we will never reach stability in the Middle East. The foremost militant ideology today is that of Militant Islam, though it is only one of the roots that must be destroyed in order to kill the tree of extreme ideologies.
To simplify the complexity of the situation you must divide Islam into four groups; Muslims, Islamists, Extremists, and Militants. There are many Muslims who live in harmony with other cultures and live a peaceful style of Islam. They are happy with their environment and are content with just making a living and living in peace. The problem is; the other three groups of Muslims are not content and are continually trying to stir up peaceful Muslims to take on a more active roll in spreading the State of Islam.
Islamists make up the majority of Muslims in the Middle East and are considered to be moderates by Muslim standards, but would definitely be considered extremists by western standards. These are, “people who want Islamic law to be the primary source of law and cultural identity in a state. They differ over the meaning of this objective and the means of achieving it.” This group tends to support Extremist goals for taking over a state and even terrorist warfare in other states as long as they don’t have to get directly involved.
“[Extremists] want to establish and govern Islamic states based solely on the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet as understood by the first generations of Muslims close to Muhammad. [They] differ over the final form of these states and the proper means for achieving them.” Most westerners don’t understand what it means to follow the example of Muhammad. Both Islamists and Extremists want to follow the literal teachings of Muhammad, many of which are distasteful and flatly unlawful in western societies. Can you imagine a church in America that carries out death sentences for those who break Islamic law, does not recognize the government’s right to govern, restricts religious freedom, denies women’s and children’s rights, as well as denounces secularism, capitalism, and democracy? If you can then you can image what it will be like to allow Islamists and Islam Extremists full and unconstrained rights to practice their religion in the United States.
“[Militants] are the Jihadis, the holy warriors and today’s most prominent terrorists, whose movement is part of the larger [Islamic] Movement (but note that most [Islamists] are not Jihadis).” Militant terrorists make up the group that most Americans can identify as the enemy. The fact still remains that the enemy is all those who support the Militant Ideology, who want to take over every government and subdue the whole world under Islamic Law.
The misconception most Americans live with is that Islam is a peaceful religion being taken over by Extremists and Militants when in fact it is just the opposite – it is an Extremist Religion fighting to keep moderates from changing their identity and taking over their faith.
Being a Christian I fully support the Iraq War. I don’t agree with anything Islam is trying to do, but I do believe our misguided Islamic brothers deserve a chance to change and learn a better way of life. I am more than willing to give them freedom and liberty, even though they fundamentally don’t believe in these principles. If we were subjects to a dictator like Sadam, they would not have come to our rescue. They would have come to subdue us to Islam, not to give us freedom and liberty as we know it. We are doing something that none but a few nations who have joined this coalition would do (not one Muslim country is participating directly in this coalition). We are trying to help the Iraqi people improve their way of life from the inside out. We can’t do it for them.
4. Counter-Terrorism. The Muslims truly believe in what they are fighting for, just as we are willing to die for freedom, liberty, and security (the things we believe in). We wouldn’t be in the army if we didn’t believe in our way of life. Many of the insurgents and terrorists have come to know that they were mislead by the Militant Ideology used to recruit them. Many have returned to their homes in Saudi Arabia and other countries and have spoken out against what motivated them to go fight in Iraq in the first place; but unfortunately, the ideology machine keeps turning out what seems to be an endless supply of new recruits.
Fighting this war is much more than capturing, killing, disrupting, or destroying terrorist targets. It includes the lethal and the non-lethal means required to neutralize a target. All targets need to be on the Target List not just Military Targets that deal directly with the threat. All the options possible for effecting targets should be considered for both the Military and State Department. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have found the proper mix, combining lethal and non-lethal means that greatly multiply our effectiveness. It takes a lot of thought to correctly neutralize a target. This is a thinking mans war and not one for quick fixes.
To win against a world-wide ideologically based enemy you must neutralize the ideology as well as the enemy forces. A local community that supports an insurgency must be on the target list just the same as all the terrorist leaders. The non-lethal means of interdicting that community as a target must be taken as seriously as the lethal means for the more kinetic capture of terrorists’ leaders and their forces. Additionally, everything we do and don’t do, whether it is lethal or non-lethal must be part of the Information Operations Campaign. Actions on the objective should include actions to support public knowledge of the operation and the discrediting of actions taken by the enemy.
Local communities may see the good done there, but the truth can be twisted and used against us in the surrounding communities. We can no longer hold fast to the belief that our actions will speak for us, “louder than words”, and that an Information Operations Campaign is not an honest method of conducting war. Saturating the environment with straight forward information is important, but when people believe local rumors and terrorist propaganda more than the facts you have to be more aggressive in your approach.
I am surprised that President Bush does not have an Information Operations Advisor. The IO advisor would be responsible for putting the President’s message and our actions into perspective for the people of other nations where terrorists twist his messages and our actions to work against us (in their language).
Coupling security operations with lethal action when necessary and non-lethal as needed will give strength to the Information Operations Campaign. This is where population and resource controls (PRC) come in. The community becomes part of the solution as they separate themselves from the terrorists and insurgents. Information Operations help separate the community from the false ideology, re-evaluate their relationships, find an alternative belief system, and gain a more secure environment. The government proves its trustworthiness by successfully cutting out corruption, arresting criminals, and targeting terrorists, which all leads to the population returning their trust in the government.
The Military and State Department are not structured or capable of doing it all. We can mentor and advise the military and the government, but the Iraqi government must help by meeting more than just the physical needs of the people, and the people must find cohesive values that will unite them as a society.
The Shiites and Sunnis truly feel threatened. Shiites are the minority; in the entire Muslim world they are found almost entirely in Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Sunnis feel they will be unfairly treated if the Shiites are in power. Outside fighters from Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia make up more than half of the insurgent fighting force in Iraq. Oddly enough, they all want the same thing, but don’t trust each other enough to work together to achieve their goals. Finding a common bond is more important than anything else the Iraqi government can do right now. An Information Operations Campaign Plan can help make this happen.
Fighting terrorists in the Global War on Terrorism is going to be a long war; probably longer than the Cold War. If we don’t stop trying to fix everything with a quick Military solution we will go bankrupt. The State Department and the Military have to work hand-in-hand along with a mature foreign policy from Washington. The United States has a lot to offer, but we can’t force people to except our way of life or our solutions. Until we agree upon who and what the threat is we will continue to be unsuccessful. The simple non-solution is to capture or kill all the terrorists. Until we can stop the spread of false ideologies there will continue to be those who are willing to stand up and take the place of the terrorist leaders we capture or kill.
We have smart people, working long hours, fighting the bureaucracy to make things work. There is no reason for us to except things as they are. We, the human race created this mess, and we can solve it. The majority of the world’s population wants it solved. The United States can be the catalyst for change as long as we don’t get sucked into short-term solutions and throwing resources at problems. We have an abundance; enough to meet the needs of the entire population of the world. The simple facts are we have enough for everyone in the world to eat, we have enough to clothe them, we have enough of everything we need – we have a problem with distribution, selfishness, and greed directly opposing freedom, liberty, and security.
5. Summary. There are many problems facing Iraq; bad traditions, a mislead and under educated society, and down right greed. When I first got to Iraq I heard that one out of every five Iraqis had already fled the country and when they left they took the best educated and brightest of their society. That may be so, but there are a lot of good people here who are willing to sacrifice for their country. I meet them every day and I’m willing to stay here and help them.
Men that I work with, like Colonel Tariq, Colonel Yunaas, Colonel Jumaa and Brigadier General Abdilalah, continue to sacrifice for their country and their families. COL Tariq was shot in the face while on his way to work one morning. He still comes to work. COL Yunaas had his house confiscated and his family had to live in Syria for a time. COL Jumaa was an engineer and has volunteered to work here in the Counter-Terrorism Command because he thinks the security of Iraq is at stake and he can contribute best in this command. In fact that is why they all are here. BG Abdilalah sleeps at work and tells the neighbors he is a copier repairman and is away on business, so his family will be safe. The Iraqi officers who work with me are continually targeted by the terrorists and insurgents.
Sometimes it is hard to stay positive and model correct principles when the Iraqis are so slow to change their corrupt traditions. Being an advisor requires that I teach, mentor, and advise as well as to have the patience to allow change to take place. We can change things as fast as we can work, but with people it takes a long time. People have to understand, see a good model, practice the new activity without stress and then practice it under stress before they will change. This job requires a new way of thinking and America has the solution – Democracy with individual freedoms, liberty, and security based on the rule of law. I believe it!!!
Bibliography – quotes about Islam from
MILITANT IDEOLOGY ATLAS EXECUTIVE REPORT November 2006; Editor & Project Director: William McCants, PhD; Project Coordinator: Jarret Brachman, PhD; CTC Director: LTC Joseph Felter, PhD
This letter is solely my personal opinion and not that of the US Army or the US Government.
Chief Warrant Officer Four Jeffery J. Hardin
US Army Special Forces Advisor
Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Command
12-21-2007, 04:15 PM #3Former Member
- Join Date
- Jul 2005
What a wonderful letter. He is a smart man. I bet you are proud of him. Thanks for sharing this with us.
12-21-2007, 04:25 PM #4
12-21-2007, 04:37 PM #5
Great letter. I have argued with many people about how Iraqis do not know how to deal with or handle democracy since they were ordered around thier entire lives.
12-21-2007, 08:13 PM #6
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