An e-mail from the front, via a friend of the letter writer:
Happy Halloween to everyone there! I was reflecting today that this is the first time in 5 years that I haven’t dressed up for Halloween. And, no, uniforms don’t count!!
I wanted to get an update off to all of you and let you know we’re all doing fine over here! As of course most of you know by following the many media accounts, we continue to face serious challenges in Baghdad. We are, however, inching ahead in securing the most violent districts. I stand in awe of the young soldiers and marines who shoulder the heaviest load in this fight – literally going door to door through some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city and engaging the enemy in vicious, close combat. These guys are without a doubt among the toughest, most battle-tested warriors the world has ever known! We regularly hear about soldiers serving their 3rd and even 4th tours over here. One cannot help but marvel at their courage and devotion to duty. We all take pride in their service to our great nation.
Despite what you may hear at that end, I have yet to encounter anyone over here who does not believe 100% in what we are doing in Iraq. I know it’s on everyone’s mind. Sure, we have good days and bad days. Life is precious and every life lost is a grim reminder of the wretched cost of war. At times, I think we all wonder whether we will ever untangle this knotted mess and whether it’s really worth the cost. But then, in the very next instant we will hear a report of another incident in which Al Qaeda terrorists or Sunni insurgents massacred an innocent family in their own home. or of a suicide bomber detonating his vest outside a crowded market during Eid al Fitr while shoppers are busy buying last-minute toys and sweets to give as gifts to their children. We are again reminded of what is at stake not only in this part of the world but wherever peace-loving people choose to live their lives. It is, in my opinion, utter nonsense to think we will be safe by withdrawing and seeking refuge within our own borders and rolling up the ol’ welcome mat. As we all know, many people in Bali, Madrid and London had that very same thought. We are left with one alternative and that is to take the fight to this enemy. to give them no quarter. anywhere.
On a happier note, we continue to work closely with NATO officers to “stand up” the Iraqi Army senior leadership. It is just amazing how many diverse and even former Eastern Bloc countries comprise NATO today. I can remember a time not long ago when we stared many of these same countries down across the so-called Iron Curtain. Who would have ever thought 20 years ago that a country such as Ukraine (a former Soviet republic) would become a member of NATO? In the Joint Operations Center here in the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, I work closely with a Ukrainian officer representing NATO. He is a Lieutenant Colonel like me and served in the old Soviet Army back in the 80s while I was serving as an American Army officer in (then) West Germany. LTC Vasily is an intelligent, highly qualified and capable officer and we work very well together, trade notes, and share many a laugh.
I find it ironic that many Americans through the years thought the Cold War was unwinnable and never anticipated that we would one day be working side by side with our former adversaries securing peace in a war-ravaged land many thousands of miles from the plains of Western Europe. The Cold War lasted for some 40 years, exacted a huge toll on our national psyche, and tested our collective will. Yet, somehow we prevailed…
Sure there are differences between that conflict and this one and of course there are people who would love to tell me just how dissimilar the two conflicts really are, how you cannot really compare the two, etc., etc. But, I have seen firsthand the depths of evil to which the Muslim extremists can go and I can assure you that as a threat they are every bit as dangerous as the Communists were. or any enemy we have ever faced, for that matter. More important, as the president has said, they are patient and they are determined. They will not relent until they achieve their aims. I’m afraid we are in for another long, protracted ideological struggle. I really believe we will win this one, too, as long as we stay united. We have to. Our children and our grandchildren are depending on us.
Good-bye for now.