Thank G-d the mass media didn't exist in 1776, or 1863, or 1941 for that matter...
I have been home from my second tour in Iraq for roughly a year and I am deeply disturbed by the spiteful nature and viscous partisanship that has hijacked our nation's discourse of the 'long war' on terror and our war in Iraq. More, I am alarmed by the lack of perspective of many contributors to this website. In some ways, I feel as though we have allowed ourselves to be blinded by our own hubris- as if any challenge not easily overcome by our mighty nation signifies pending defeat and failure. Because of the importance our perceptions will play in our success, I would like to address a few of the huffingtonpost's chicken-littles' misinterpretations ...
As a Marine Infantry Officer, on long patrols through the dusty cityscapes and rural farm areas of Iraq's Al Anbar province, I would often halt my patrol to speak with locals. I'd ask them, "Wayne Mujahadeen?" Or where are the holy-warriors, the term used to describe terrorists and the like. Whether talking to a merchantman or farmer on these patrols or even in meetings with city council member of local Sheiks, the answer I would most often get is, "La Mujahadeem, Whoa Munafakeen!" Which translates to, "They are not holy warriors, they are hypocrites."
It seems the Iraqis are smarter than we are. On this site, I have read with great remorse posts by the well-educated elite of our society- politicians, leaders, authors, activists and even entertainers. Recently, many have claimed that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. Well, I agree. However, this civil war is not between Iraqi Sunnis, Iraqi Shias, and Iraqi Kurds, it is a civil war between Iraqis, working to recover from 35 years of Bathist rule and radical Islamists, financially and logistically supported by either Syria, Iran, or Al Qaeda, who are attempting to drive a wedge between the Iraqis and incite an Iraqi civil war.
Some naysayers point to the recent, and tragic, bombing of Al-Askariva "Golden Mosque" in Samara as evidence of inter-Iraqi civil war. It isn't, rather it is evidence of the efforts by an isolated minority working to create civil war between Iraqis. While some on the site have cried "wolf" or "civil war," they should be waiting with bated breath to witness the reaction of the Iraqi government, the Iraqi security forces, and most importantly the Iraqi people. And while violence has indeed escalated, 10,000 Iraqis have also come together in Basra for a joint Sunni and Shi'a prayer session. Most Iraqis are smart enough to understand the tragedy of the Al-Askariva bombing. While the Munafakeen hoped it would be the first blast of a civil war, it is equally as likely to be a unifying event. Further, I am astounded at the lack of coverage and support for the largely independent operations conducted by Iraqi Security Forces. By enforcing curfews, an impossible task for them only a year ago, they not only gave credibility to their fledgling government, but they prevented the outbreak of civil war.
Even more recently, Monday's NYT Op-Ed by Nicholas Kristoff, (Read it here) set off a wave of defeatism. Citing a recent Zogby international poll he states, "US Soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq- and soon." He goes on to say "By a two-to-one ratio, the troops said that 'to control the insurgency we need to double the level of ground troops and bombing missions.' And since there is zero chance of that happening, a majority of troops seemed to be saying that they believe this war to be unwinnable."
However, less than 30% of US troops want an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Kristoff fails to ask the most interesting question- why do most US troops want to stay in Iraq for an additional 6 months? If things are so hopeless, why not withdraw immediately? I don't know the answer to this, but it is the question that responsible members of the media should be asking before jumping to dangerous conclusions that the war is an unwinnable Vietnam. (On an interesting side note, check out what veterans who have served in both wars think here.)
Similarly, the polling data of Iraqis used by proponents for immediate withdrawal is also misconstrued. They claim that up to 80% of Iraqis want us out. Like I said, I want us out too, but not immediately and most Iraqis agree. In fact, the misappropriated polling date demonstrates that only 23% of Iraqis want us out immediately, but for some reason the other 77% want us to stay at least another 6 months. Why? Probably for some of the same reasons many of our own troops want us to stay another 6 months.
I believe there are two reasons 3/4 of US troops and Iraqis DO NOT want us to abandon our responsibilities to reconstruct a broken society by immediately withdrawing from Iraq. For one, most of us understand that we are not facing a Nationalistic insurgency. While the majority of the insurgents are Iraqi, few are politically or religiously motivated. Most are simply doing their best to feed their families. This is why few Iraqi insurgents conduct suicide attacks (Suicide study). Committing suicide is no way to feed one's family. Secondly, while some claim we have lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, it is really the Islamic extremists who are losing the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Iraqis are smarter than most Americans give them credit for- every day they witness the fact that the Munafakeen are not killing Americans, rather they are killing thousands of Iraqis. Even Osama sees the strategic error in this, but apparently he is unable to control his lieutenant Zarqawi. Read it here.
In an age when headlines can move markets or determine the outcome of a war, our success in Iraq will depend upon our ability to abandon partisanship and engage in a more informed and constructive dialogue of the many challenges our nation faces. We should be honest about our shortcomings, but we should also be honest about our successes and a little optimism wouldn't hurt either. While reading some posts on this site, I often ask, what would some of this site's bloggers have written in Valley Forge alongside General Washington? Or in 1863 as the Confederate Army threatened Washington? Or in May of 1940 when Winston Churchill rallied the British to abandon the policy of appeasement convincing Parliament to prepare for war? As we face our generations' challenges, it might be good for us to have a little historical perspective. Until we do, I will have to keep calling my Iraqi friends and fellow Marines stationed overseas to get good news and an optimistic outlook on the war in Iraq.