Michael Cleverly: Letters tell of service, sacrifice in occupied Iraq
September 18, 2003
We must acknowledge that we are in a guerrilla war, which is asymmetric and with multiple participants and fight it as such. We must step up and make significant improvements in security across the country and have successes in getting the bad guys or the entire Iraqi population will lose faith in the coalition.
– Lt. Col. Charles J. Fisher, M.D.
Some people would suggest that anyone who is currently serving in or has served in Iraq and doesn’t concede that he or she is working directly for the Halliburton Corporation is a brainwashed dupe of Dick Cheney. This is impoverished reasoning.
Whether you believe that the humanitarian effort in Iraq is a peripheral benefit of President Bush’s corporate takeover of that country and its oil fields or believe that our motives have been nothing but altruistic from the start, we have no right to doubt the intelligence or integrity of those who are over there doing the dirty work.
June 17. Members of the team and the delegation returned from Basra during the afternoon. As they were finishing supper in their apartment they heard the sound of people in the street below. A group of over 250 men from an organization called the high council for the liberation of Iraq (with members from various religious groups) were walking along Sadoun Street towards a demonstration in the square near the Palestine and Sheraton hotels. The square is several blocks from the team’s apartment. An American tank is permanently positioned behind razor wire pointing over the square. The group carried banners with messages such as “Where is your democracy as you say …?” “Yes for free opinion, no for dictatorship,” and “The old Saddam injustice come back in a new face in the name of democracy.” Delegates and team members joined the group and were welcomed by them. The demonstration was well-organized and completely nonviolent. At one point the American soldier manning the tank gun swung it from side to side, raking across the crowd and causing them some concern. CPTer Anne Montgomery spoke to a soldier about this, after which the gun was static, though still directed at the crowd. When an army jeep with a mounted gun went around the demonstrators, the organizers brought the demonstration to a close and the crowd dispersed quietly.
– Peggy, Christian Peacemaker Teams
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We were driving over to the World Health Organization and we passed a traffic roundabout near the Palestine and Sheraton hotels. As we were circling the area there was a demonstration taking place. There are demonstrations that happen from time to time, because people want salaries or their jobs back or the U.S. to leave or any other cause they deem necessary to demonstrate about. This is a privilege the Iraqi people were forbidden to practice during Saddam’s regime. As we passed this “demonstration,” we saw a photographer choreographing where people should stand so they would be in the shot. It was basically a fake demonstration. These people were just demonstrating for the camera and after the picture was taken, they left and went back to their jobs or families. I believe there could be several demonstrations like these that occur all the time for the media to give you all the impression that the Iraqi people want us out of Iraq today. This is simply not the truth. I am begged daily by Iraqi colleagues not to leave the Ministry of Health until they feel they have it all under control.
– Capt. Shaun Stevens, U.S. Army Civil Affairs,
Coalition Provisional Authority, Ministry of Health
The aphorism is that truth is the first casualty of war. Truth, delicate and winsome thing that it is, appears differently to all of us, it would seem. One can hit the streets of Baghdad and find people who will say that things were better under Saddam, just peachy. I can find people on the streets of America who will state with absolute certainty that murdering a physician who performs abortion is a perfectly rational and moral act. I’ve long been of the opinion that the average man on the street, from Boston to Baghdad, is dumber than dirt. Bear in mind that it was your average American that made “Laverne and Shirley” the top-rated TV show for years. So much for your man on the street.
People are afraid to go to work because of the terror attacks and the thugs and bad guys out stealing cars, committing rapes and murder, etc. We cannot turn a blind eye to the impact on civil society of this lawlessness. We need to stop these events and at the same time get our story out. For example, we have delivered more than 9,000 tons of critically needed pharmaceuticals in 90 days from a standing start. When we were assigned this responsibility, no drugs had been shipped for 14 months and a war had occurred. Since May 26, we have accomplished this delivery and distribution of all these critically needed drugs. All this in spite of a 75 percent loss of warehouses and supplies from post-war looting and a 65 percent loss of trucking transportation due to the same causes. After the bombing of Najaf, we delivered 70 tons of critical supplies in 12 hours. We accomplished this despite the fact that the power was out, and we had to find the supplies and load the trucks by flashlight. This was truly a team effort. We had our soldiers (352 Ca, 82nd Airborne, CPA-MOH) and Iraqi ambulance and truck drivers, and the acting minister of health, all working together to support the medical community in Najaf in saving the lives of the terrorist bombing victims. Following the terrorist bombing of the U.N. compound, we put together a 250-bed receiving triage ward in 45 minutes. Additionally, volunteers went to the U.N. bombing site to help dig out the victims. Never once in any of these events did I hear a single complaint. All I heard was, “How can I help?” and “Can I help you?” They frequently tell us how inspired and appreciative they are of our effort and commitment. I don’t know what information makes it home to the American public, but there are a lot of committed Americans here who are making one hell of a difference. Every day we go in harm’s way. Every day someone is killed or wounded. The terrorists think they can win by shedding American blood and drive us out of here. They are wrong. We are not afraid. We believe in our mission here.
– Lt. Col. Charles J. Fisher, M.D.
As much as I would like to see President Bush and his entire administration with new jobs in 2005, I believe that it’s important for us not to confuse policy with those who are executing it. The men and women in the military serve both Republican and Democratic administrations. They execute policy popular with the right and popular with the left.
Even the most credible argument can be weakened when those expounding it are obdurate or unfair, and no matter what our position on the situation in Iraq, we should appreciate those who serve with a higher purpose.