Maybe it's the heat (oh hey look at that, the thermometer is reading 132F!), maybe it's just having seen my ga-zillionth (yes that's a number) IED explosion, or maybe it's just having lost a friend to what can only be described as "continued sectarian violence in the capital city of Baghdad." But at some point, once the dust has settled, I have to step back and ask, "What the f*ck is happening?"
Here's the situation as I see it:
For a place practically devoid of water... these people are swimming in hate. They hate Saddam for what he did to them. The Sunnis hate the Shiites because they can't oppress them any more. The Shiites hate the Sunnis because they were oppressed for so long. They hate Americans because we're not gods and we can't fix everything over night. They hate me and my buddies simply because we don't believe in their particular religion. They hate the heat, because lets face it, this kinda heat is only suppose to exist in the after-life of hell, not the here and now life. They hate their fellow countrymen for blowing perfectly good buildings up. They hate, they hate, they hate.
We fight IEDs. We illuminate entire road sections all night long with artillery flares... just to prevent IEDs from being planted. We patrol roads by flying up and down them 24/7, trying to detect IEDs. And while we have armor - the Iraqis don't - and we know this, so we try and protect them. But they hate us because we only get 6 out 10 IEDs before they blow up. But yet they know who is planting the IEDs. They know where they sleep and where they store their caches... but they refuse to help us. It's like the gang wars in LA
and in NYC... everyone in the neighborhood witnessed the crime, but doesn't say a word to the cops... and then bitches about how the cops aren't doing a good job keeping the city safe.
And then there are the public works projects. I'm telling you - you cannot comprehend the sheer size of help we've given the Iraqi people. They come to us, "Mr American, we have no water. We need new pipe. You give?" And we're more than willing to help out, and we build new water pipes to their neighborhood. And three weeks later the insurgents blow the freakin' pipes up. But when we go down there to investigate the bomb damage, they throw rocks at us and curse us. It's like this, imagine you drove to work everyday on a highway full of potholes, and the town finally repaves the highway, but three weeks later some asshole tears up all that new asphalt... who would you be pissed at? The town or the jerk who tore up the ground!?
And lets not forget what the Iraqis do to other Iraqis! We've got Sunnis killing Shiites, Shiites killing Sunnis and Kurds killing... well... the Kurds mostly mind their own business. ...But that doesn't mean they won't join in the killing if things get boring enough 'round here. And that's the problem: Iraqis don't think of themselves as IRAQI,
...nope... they're Sunni, or Shiite or Kurdish. They don't think of themselves as a nation, and that means they don't place their loyalty to their nation, but to their particular religious sect. How do you make people respect themselves as a nation?
And what the hell is up with using civilians as shields? True story - flying slow over a LZ
/PZ, our crew chief called out, "Shit! Sir we got three men, standing in a crowd, with AKs at our 9 o'clock, 200m firing and they're firing at us." Do we engage them? Usually not. We were able to extract and get away from them. But what about the times when we simply can't fly away to safety? What about when it is killed or be killed? I'm sorry, but I am gonna give the order to fire back. But that's not the point. Who does that!? Who stands behind unarmed people and takes pop shots at heavily armed American troops? And why aren't the other people flipping out at those gunman!? If I was in a crowd and my buddy started lighting off firecrackers right beside me - I'd kick his ass for trying to get me killed!
A lot of times I am reminded of old western movies. Everyone in town is some shady character just looking to strike. People cheat, steal and kill... and the only thing keeping the town from going down the crapper is the tough handed sheriff. And the theme for Iraq should be "the way of the gun" because that's all they respect and know. We're the tough sheriff, doing our damn hardest from keeping the town from bursting at the seems. This IS
the Wild West.
And personally it's been very important for me to see as much of Iraq and the war as possible. That's why I try and make friends with people in all kinds of different MOSs and sometimes tag along with them. And I've stood out on the gate and screened people through. And I've had the crowds of Iraqi children come up to me looking for candy. And I'll never forget this one time I threw a handful of candy to them and they swarmed it like bees. And there was this one little Iraqi boy who was clearly the weakest of the group and the others beat the living snot out of him because he wouldn't give up his candy. And of course we stopped it - but not really, because all we did was delay his inevitable ass kicking. Iraqis only know violence - even at such a young age. And that's our biggest problem. We can't get the community leaders to sit down and hash out their problems in a civilized, democratic, fashion. They keep killing each other everytime we make some progress!!!
Seriously, how were we so wrong when it came to our expectations of what the Iraqi people would be like? You have to ask yourself, was it the decades under the crushing thumb of Saddam that drove them to thirst for violence... or were they always this brutal, and only kept in check by Saddam? I mean, they've got some real potential. And it's not like they don't have our support! If they got their act together and stopped raging against the machine, they could really turn things around.
I just don't understand it, though. I lost a friend today and I feel like shit. They're losing dozens of friends each day, and yet they do nothing but perpetuate the circle of violence.
Your men have to follow your orders. They don't have to go to your funeral.