Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Good news from an unusual source and a soldier's noteworthy comments

Salon.com News | The Shiite earthquake

Juan Cole is a fairly severe critic of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. In Slate he wrote: "The Sunni Arab populace continues largely to support the guerrillas. Over half in a recent poll said that attacks on the U.S. military in Iraq are legitimate."

Wow. Only "over half"? That suggests it's not even 60% among the most resentful of the Iraqi population. That's much better than I'd have guessed.

Like most of the world, I am very much hoping Sistani was right about this election. I am a strong critic of Bush/Rumsfeld, but I thought they were right to stick with the deal they made with Sistani (not, of course, that they had a choice!). We'll see how it goes.

On more of the good news front, a BBC quote from Lt Bryan Suits:
It was slow to start, but it finished like a carnival everywhere I looked. I was proud to stand between Iraqis and the men who would deny them freedom. It was an exhausting four-day event for me and my men, but they slowly understood how monumental these days would be in the future.

Two brothers, both in their late 70s, drove to the polls to cast the first vote in their lives. Civilian vehicles weren't allowed on the road for 24 hours, but the polls were six kilometres away. If they couldn't drive they couldn't vote. As an American, it was an easy choice for me to make. They voted.

An hour later they stopped us as we patrolled, and they thanked us profusely. Their sons and grandsons also joined in with an impromptu circle dance called a "dabka". One of the men said: "God sent you to give us freedom." My Iraqi translator, who's a practised cynic, became silent and looked away. The man put his hand on my American flag patch and then kissed his hand. I pulled the flag from its Velcro and handed it to him. My translator took a picture as I started to choke up. My translator pulled his hat down to his eyes and turned around. He wanted to appear unmoved, but was failing badly.

The Iraqi police and army seemed to grow more confident as the day went on. This was definitely their show and they received the thanks and congratulations from their people. That was great to see. The collection of the ballot boxes was a celebration and the atmosphere continued on Monday morning. The police and Iraqi Army have won their first battle and they have new credibility.

I'm leaving Iraq in three weeks and I'll start the rest of my life as a newly married man. My wife is a police officer and an unapologetic American idealist as well. Luckily, I never have to worry whether this year was worth it. My men and I are grateful to the Iraqi people for their bravery. It's our ticket home.

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