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The Mudville Gazette is written and produced by Greyhawk, the call sign of a real military guy currently serving somewhere in Germany. Unless otherwise credited, the opinions expressed are those of the author, and nothing here is to be taken as representing the official position of or endorsement by the United States Department of Defense or any of its subordinate components. Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.

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« Haider Ajina's News From Iraq | Main | Open Post »

October 05, 2005

Just Behind the Front Lines


The stories we hear from Iraq are mostly the tales of combat and death, told without the context of the changing world in which they occur. Why do we fight? Is progress being made? Away from the combat, other stories answer the questions, and they're beginning to be told:

The Washington Times

Iraqi Charter Gains Wide Backing

Support high even in Sunni areas, poll finds

By Andrew Quinn, Reuters News Agency

BAGHDAD -- Recent polling shows widespread support for a new Iraqi constitution to be voted on Oct. 15, even in strongholds of Sunni Arab groups that are fighting to derail the charter.

Mehdi Hafedh, director of the Iraqi Center for Development and International Dialogue, said his latest survey showed that Iraqis are exhausted by the continuing violence and that most are hoping the new constitution will be a first step toward the restoration of order.

"The Iraqi people want to finalize the political process as soon as possible. ... They want to establish a normal government and institutions," Mr. Hafedh said yesterday, adding: "Iraqis want this situation to end. It is untenable."

The poll of 3,625 Iraqis, conducted Sept. 14 to 19, showed 79 percent in favor of the draft constitution and 8 percent opposed. The remainder did not respond.

A high percentage of respondents said they intended to vote and that the level of violence likely would be reduced after the referendum.

USA Today:
Army To Return Saddam Palace Complex To Iraq

Former regime compound �belongs to the people of Tikrit'

TIKRIT, Iraq � The U.S. Army is returning Saddam Hussein's most elaborate presidential complex, a sprawling network of 136 buildings overlooking the Tigris River here, to Iraq's government.

It is the largest transfer yet in a delayed effort to reduce the profile of U.S. forces by moving them out of Saddam's palaces and former government buildings.

�It belongs to the nation, and it belongs to the people of Tikrit,� said Iraqi Col. Hammed al-Jubori, whose troops train on an island that's part of the massive compound in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

U.S. forces occupied palaces and other Saddam regime compounds after the invasion in spring 2003. Last year, Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. military commander in the region, told subordinates to start returning the palaces because the presence of American troops on symbolically important sites was an irritant to the Iraqi people.
During Saddam's regime, most citizens were barred from the walled compound.

Now, �maybe our families will have a chance to go and visit,� al-Jubori said.

Flight International looks briefly at the rebuilding of the Iraqi Air Force:
US Strives To Resurrect Iraq's Broken Air Force

The Iraqi air force�s once-formidable regional air power has been crumbled by two Gulf wars, with its fighter inventory in particular having been decimated. Many fighters were destroyed on the ground or in the air by coalition forces, while more advanced types, such as its MiG-29s, were flown to Iran to seek shelter. Tehran is unlikely to respond to a request for their return.
Planning staff at South Carolina-based Central Air Forces Command are now assessing what the Iraqi air force needs to develop a more robust � yet still limited � portfolio of counter-insurgency, airlift and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

And Tom Friedman joins the US Navy in Iraq:
Sinbad Vs. The Mermaids

Aboard U.S.S. Chosin
Mustapha Ahansal is a Moroccan-American sailor who acts as the Chosin's Arabic translator when it boards ships in the gulf to look for pirates or terrorists. "The first time I boarded a boat," he told me, "we had six or seven people - one Hispanic, one black person, a white person, maybe a woman in our unit. Their sailors said to me, 'I thought all Americans were white.' Then one of them asked me, 'Are you in the military?' ... It shocks them actually. They never knew that such a world actually exists, because they have their own problems. I was talking to one of their higher-ups in their Coast Guard and he said: 'It is amazing how you guys can be so many religions, ethnic groups... and still make this thing work and be the best in the world. And here we are fighting north and south, and we are all cousins and brothers.' "

The other thing that hits you on the Chosin is that many officers are women - so you hear women's voices all day long giving orders over the ship's loudspeaker and radio. And because the local Arab fishermen also hear this chatter, many of them probably think the Chosin is an all-female ship! The 110-foot U.S. Coast Guard cutter Monomoy, alongside the Chosin, has a female deputy captain, who often leads the landing parties that inspect boats in the gulf; one of the Navy's fast patrol boats, also alongside the Chosin, had a female captain. "Being a female boarding officer is a huge asset because they are so curious they want to talk to us more, so we can learn more things," said Renya Hernandez, the 24-year-old female exec officer of the Monomoy.
In trying to bring some democracy to Iraq, we are not just challenging the dictatorial-tribal political order here, but the male-dominated culture as well. In effect, we are promoting two revolutions at once: Jefferson versus Saddam and Sinbad versus the Little Mermaids - who turn out to be captains of ships. Succeeding in this venture, to stem the drift of the Arab world toward Islamo-fascism and autocracy, is so much more important than the war critics have ever allowed.

No one ever said it would be easy.

From time to time I point this out to my troops, if they express discouragement or wonder aloud about those at home who oppose us in our endeavors: "We're making history, they're making noise".


Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech on citizenship at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. There's an oft-quoted passage in that speech, and I've included it in it's slightly broader context here.

As the country grows, its people, who have won success in so many lines, turn back to try to recover the possessions of the mind and the spirit, which perforce their fathers threw aside in order better to wage the first rough battles for the continent their children inherit. The leaders of thought and of action grope their way forward to a new life, realizing, sometimes dimly, sometimes clear-sightedly, that the life of material gain, whether for a nation or an individual, is of value only as a foundation, only as there is added to it the uplift that comes from devotion to loftier ideals.
Today I shall speak to you on the subject of individual citizenship, the one subject of vital importance to you, my hearers, and to me and my countrymen, because you and we a great citizens of great democratic republics. A democratic republic such as ours - an effort to realize its full sense government by, of, and for the people - represents the most gigantic of all possible social experiments, the one fraught with great responsibilities alike for good and evil. The success or republics like yours and like ours means the glory, and our failure of despair, of mankind; and for you and for us the question of the quality of the individual citizen is supreme.
Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The r�le is easy; there is none easier, save only the r�le of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier."

Read it all..

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