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Thanks and Praise

November 16, 2007


If you haven’t already seen or read about this amazing photograph, the story is at Michael Yon’s site.

The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ” Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” 

The church is now operational, as seen in this recent post:

It was the local Muslims, according to LTC Michael, who first came to him for help to protect the Christians in his area. That’s right. LTC Michael told me more than once that the Muslims reached out to him to protect the Christians from al Qaeda. Real Muslims here are quick to say that al Qaeda members are not true Muslims. From charging “rent,” al Qaeda’s harassment escalated to killing Christians, and also Muslims. Untold thousands of Christians and Muslims fled Baghdad in the wake of the darkness of civil war.  Most of the Christians are gone now; having fled to Syria, Jordan or Northern Iraq.

It’s looking like the fires are being put out. What a blessing!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Timmy C. permalink
    November 18, 2007 3:36 pm

    I already know you disagree with his prescriptions, but what do you think about this characterization (esp the parts I bolded) of the state of Iraq?

    “I don’t know whether it was the sheer agony of the debate over Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony, or the fact that the surge really has dampened casualties, or the failure by Democrats to force an Iraq withdrawal through Congress, or the fact that all the leading Democratic presidential contenders have signaled that they will not precipitously withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, but the air has gone out of the Iraq debate.

    That is too bad. Neglect is not benign when it comes to Iraq — because Iraq is not healthy. Iraq is like a cancer patient who was also running a high fever from an infection (Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia). The military surge has brought down the fever, but the patient still has cancer (civil war). And we still don’t know how to treat it. Surgery? Chemotherapy? Natural healers? Euthanasia?

    To the extent that the surge has worked militarily, it is largely because of what Iraqis have done by themselves for themselves — Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders rising up against pro-Qaeda Sunni elements, taking back control of their villages and towns, and aligning themselves with U.S. forces to do so. Some Shiites are now doing the same.

    There has been no equivalent surprise, though, in Iraqi politics, yet. If you see that — if you see Iraqi politicians surprising you by doing things they’ve never done before, like forging a self-sustaining political compromise and building the fabric of a unified country, then you can allow yourself some optimism.

    So far, though, too many of Iraq’s leaders continue to act their part — looking out for themselves, their clans, their hometowns, their militias and their sects, and using the Iraqi treasury and ministries as looting grounds for personal or sectarian gains.

    As a result, what you have today is more of a spotty truce, with U.S. soldiers still caught in the middle. That is a quiet strategy, not an exit strategy…

    Indeed, I continue to believe that everyone has us where they want us in Iraq: We’re holding up the floor for Iraqi politicians to do their endless tribal dance; we are bogged down and within missile range of Iran, so if we try to use any military force to disrupt Tehran’s nuclear program we will pay a huge price; and as long as we are trapped in Iraq, we will never even think about promoting reform elsewhere in the Arab world — to the relief of all Arab autocrats.

    No question, there has been more local cross-sectarian dialogue lately, particularly between Shiite and Sunni elders. But that seems to be the limit of Iraqi politics.

    It still feels to me as if we’ve made Iraq just safe enough for its politicians to be obstinate, corrupt or reckless on our dime. Even the moderate Kurds must have developed some kind of death wish, allowing their radicals to simultaneously provoke both Turkey and Iran and risking the island of real decency the Kurds have built in the north.

    General Petraeus’s strategy is to keep trying to knit the different militias and tribal fragments in Iraq together into a national army and government so we can shrink our presence. I truly wish him well. But I don’t see it happening without two things: some shock therapy — like a firm U.S. withdrawal signal — to spur Iraqi leaders, and a regional settlement. That is, without resolving the cold war in the Middle East that now pits America on one side and Iran and Syria on the other, I’m not sure you can stabilize Iraq, Lebanon or Israel-Palestine.

    Letting everyone know that we’re not staying there forever would be the best way to catalyze both local and regional negotiations and give us something we don’t now have: leverage. Just letting Iraq recede into the back pages does not serve our interests.

    If we’re going to just forget about Iraq, let’s do it when we’re gone — not when we’re still there.”

  2. Timmy C. permalink
    November 18, 2007 3:38 pm

    And oops, I meant to include the source, it was one of Freidman’s lasts columns talking about Iraq, titled: “Remeber Iraq”

  3. November 19, 2007 12:06 pm

    It’s just awful!

    Baghdad by night — juice bars, neon lights, bustling streets

    A few weeks ago you were arguing that the security situation was like a burning builiding with no hope of recovery. Harry Reid declared the war “lost” after only a few days of the surge in full progress. Now you move quickly on to complaining about the lack of political progress. Things are not perfect but they are far from hopeless and impossible.

    I would appreciate it if you commented on the post instead of just dumping talking points. I have mentioned this frequently as a source of frustration. It is not a real conversation.

  4. Timmy C. permalink
    November 20, 2007 10:07 am

    Hey Dave, not really trying to do a “data dump” on you, but asking an honest question as to your view of the big picture of where things were.

    Please do try to quote me accurately. I did use the analogy of the state of Iraq as a burning building…but I did not say there was no hope, just that all we could do with our forces was slow the burn…it would take Maliki and company to make systemic changes to “prop up the building” and that we should give them time to…. But that shy of their work that there was little we could do but slow the causalities as the building moved to collapse…

    I also said I hoped it would slow the burn…and I too am thankful that instead of 35 bodies dumped on the streets a night, now there are “only” 5 a night. And that there were “only” 16 suicide bombings last month down from 30 last summer. I really do pray for that to continue and get better.

    But I don’t confuse that with systemic health.

  5. November 20, 2007 11:42 am

    I’m sorry but I call bullshit. You clearly meant that the surge was hopeless and doomed to fail, just like a fireman rushing into a collapsing building: what’s the point.

    You baselessly questioned Petraeus’s data, and therefore his integrity.

    You even questioned whether his strategy was something new.

    You have consistently refused to rejoice in ANY good news, and I am tired of it.

    I am not arguing for “systemic health” and stop baiting me into that line of thought. I don’t have time to argue, I just wanted to share some positive images and news. If you want to look at it in the most negative way possible, that’s fine. There’s been false hope before- at least for some of us- and it could always fall apart again.

    But I can’t help noticing that the party line has gone from pooh-poohing elections, to harping on securitiy, to now pooh-poohing any political progress. I call bullshit.

    I don’t want to argue. If you find these images moving or interesting, I’d love to hear about it. There’s still a lot of progress to be made, I just am in the mode of wanting to focus on solutions and good news. That helps me.

    Follow the link above. Does it really matter so much if the politicians can’t get it together yet if life is getting back to normal?

    BTW, your suggestion in a recent comment about “no al-Queda” in Iraq: that was part of the Surge. The fact you suggest it as a novel approach to me means you really haven’t been getting good info about what’s going on. Which doesn’t surprise me because the Democrats have been mocking the idea that al-Queda has been in Iraq or is somehow connected to the violence in the last couple of years.

    I’m still very busy and I have to go– I don’t want our friendship to suffer though- so maybe it’s time to cool it for a while. I don’t want to argue, I just want to share positive news. That’s all I can really do right now.

    I love you man. I wish we could talk about this all over beers, I think it would feel a lot more congenial.

  6. Timmy C. permalink
    November 22, 2007 9:58 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving Dave:

    Agreed that a table with frosty beers would likely make for a much better setting for our chats… We actually have to do that someday not too far away… If you and the rest of the Grecus want to make it over to DC, I’ll reserve a table at Capitol City brewery… (or there is a decent chance we’ll be back in LA sometime next quarter)

    And think that giving further political or foreign policy debate a chill for a while is likely a good idea…

    But if you’ll excuse a bit of defensiveness on the bullshit-esque nature of my previous comments, here is what I was saying, with less than hopeless parts in bold:

    “Iraq is a burning building, almost completely in flames….We have 140-150 thousand American “firefighters” in the middle of that burning building and pretty much we all agree, those firefighters can do little more than slightly effect the rate of the building’s burning, and that on their own, they cannot save it….

    I respect those who say: “give the Malaki government a chance to prop up the building, but if they don’t, get out for there is no good we can do either way.” I’m in that camp…”

    And later:

    “I don’t think Iraq is a disaster, but rather a disaster in the making, and that there may still be time to shore up the building, but that the troops alone can’t do it. Hence the description of it as a “burning building” not a demolished husk.”

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