Monday, June 27, 2005

nation of dreams

I want to begin by apologizing for allowing so much time to pass since my last post. We have been extremely busy. Sorry to worry you. Thank you for your e-mails and comments of support and concern.

I appreciate all of your comments regarding amnesty for insurgents. Valid points were made by all and the discussion certainly proved to be productive. I still believe that for amnesty for insurgents to be considered by national leaders is way too premature. The way things have been going since the 16th when I posted the article even strengthens my belief the insurgency is crumbling and desparate.

On the evening of June 30th, Boots In Baghdad MAY be included in a radio program about military bloggers in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more information check out Radio Open Source. For a list of stations click here or to see how you can listen live online click here. And to all the potential guests generated from the radio show, welcome to Boots In Baghdad. I encourage you to browse through the archives to get a glimpse of how things are going in Iraq from the perspective of a soldier on the front end. You may enjoy some of the following posts from the past:

-Brick Wall Rolling
-One Last Night of Chaos
-Yes, We CAN Win this War
-Shadows in the Darkness
-From the Suburbs to Downtown

Hopefully within the next week Boots In Baghdad Films will be up and running. There will be a link appearing underneath Boots In Baghdad Photographs to the right. I will be posting various video clips in hopes of offering further insight into the lives of American soldiers here as well as what life here is like for the local populace and the soldiers of the new Iraqi Army. The new page is ready to go, I just need to find the time to upload the video clips.

We have been extremely busy lately working side by side with the Iraqi Army. We have been doing mounted and dismounted patrols, raids, as well as guard shifts. It seems like every day the Iraqi soldiers are getting more professional and better at what they do. Their numbers are constantly increasing as well. The locals continue to show their support for the coalition and frustration for the insurgency.

On the evening of the 19th we were called out of bed and sent out into sector because there were reports that somewhere between 50 and 100 insurgents were going through a residential area and arbitrarily shooting innocent Iraqi civilians. Most of the car bombs have been targeting Iraqi civilians. The insurgency is no doubt a bunch of ruthless terrorists who are getting more and more desperate. They are starting to understand they aren’t going to win this. The Iraqi people are supplying great intelligence. The threats that our translators, Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police are receiving are no longer having the effects they used to.

This evening again we were called out on an emergency mission that wasn’t scheduled. We raided several key targets with the Iraqi Army. Rolling through the city afterwards on the way back to the base we were in a convoy with about ten Iraqi Army trucks. The Iraqi soldiers were in the beds of the trucks. The locals of all ages lined the streets cheering on their new Army. Progress is certainly becoming less and less subtle. I knew exactly how these Iraqi soldiers felt. I was reminded of being marched in a single file line behind the USO volunteers through the Atlanta International Airport, having the entire airport cheering for us. No feeling in the world comes close to the pride felt when the people you bleed and sweat for show their love and support.

For the people of Iraq and these Iraqi soldiers those feelings are magnified as they together battle the hardships of living and surviving in the harsh and merciless environment that is home to them here in Iraq. The support of the people is the key that unlocks the boundaries of a soldiers passion. NOTHING can defeat a soldier with passion. Today on the streets of Baghdad I witnessed a mere fraction of the national transformation that has been occurring.

I have always believed that success is taking your dreams, making them goals, and working hard to accomplish those goals. Iraq, in my opinion, is changing from a country struggling to survive to a nation of dreams and goals now working harder than ever to achieve and conquer goals that just a few months ago seemed by many to be impossible. The streets were not flooded with Shia's and Sunni’s today. They were filled with the people of Iraq... thanking, cheering and supporting the men and women who sacrifice daily on their behalf. There is definately a strengthening sense of determination.

Bear with me these last couple of months. We will continue to be busy. I'll do my best to keep you informed.

I have posted some new pictures at Boots In Baghdad Photographs.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

what the hell is this?

U.S., Iraq Consider Amnesty for Insurgents

By PAUL GARWOOD, Associated Press Writer

U.S. and Iraqi officials are considering difficult-to-swallow ideas — including amnesties for their enemies — as they look for ways to end the country's rampant insurgency and isolate extremists wanting to start a civil war.

Negotiations have just begun between U.S. and Iraqi officials on drafting an amnesty policy, which would reach out to Iraqi militants fighting U.S. forces, say officials in both the Iraqi and American governments.

But foreign extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, responsible for Iraq's bloodiest attacks, would not be offered any amnesty, the Iraqi and U.S. authorities told The Associated Press in recent days.

The amnesty proposal is seen as a key weapon to split the insurgency between Iraqi and non-Iraqi lines and further alienate foreign fighters like al-Zarqawi.

Iraq's minister for national security said Sunday an amnesty policy is being drawn up, but he said insurgent groups first must do more to convince authorities they are serious about making peace.

"Those who had committed homicides and caused blood shedding for the innocents will be excluded from this amnesty," said the minister, Abdul Karim al-Inizi. "Talking about issuing an amnesty soon is premature as this depends on whether the insurgents want to take a step forward."

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Venable said the Iraqi government has raised the amnesty issue and "we look forward to working closely with the Iraqi government as this idea develops."

"Any successful counterinsurgency strategy requires the U.S. and Iraqi authorities to do everything possible to split the insurgency and persuade as many Sunni elements as possible to join the peaceful political process," said Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who says he has been involved in informal talks.

"This does not mean blanket amnesty," he said. It could, however, mean negotiations that lead to "pardoning or ignoring the actions of movements and opposition elements that supported the insurgency when this was done out of nationalism, fear," Cordesman said.

The Pentagon is helping formulate an amnesty policy, but officials stressed on condition of anonymity that the work is being carried out in response to requests by Iraqi authorities, who are desperate to be seen as leading the process.

"These (amnesty) discussions are in their early stages. Any kind of amnesty program would have to be driven by the Iraqi government, not the U.S. government," a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity, citing security and political concerns.

But he added that the American government "hopes people who took part in crimes against Iraqi, U.S. or coalition personnel or civilians would face justice."

The middle men are influential leaders from the once-powerful Sunni Arab minority, whose ranks have spawned the bulk of Iraq's anti-U.S. insurgents. Sunnis enjoyed the patronage of Saddam Hussein, a secular Sunni himself, but lost out after his fall.

Some Sunni leaders have said they have been meeting with associates of anti-U.S. militant groups to try to persuade them to lay down their arms.

Exactly who any amnesty would apply to remains unclear, but the U.S. and Iraqi governments say they have begun drawing up such a policy to curb the stream of suicide bombings, assassinations and kidnappings.

The issue is politically charged with the potential to enrage many Iraqis and Americans.

"I think eventually we will probably talk with people who have killed Americans," said Kenneth Katzman, an expert on the Persian Gulf region with the U.S. Congressional Research Service. "We may not see anybody at the table who has killed U.S. soldiers but we will see groups represented who have killed Americans."
The diplomatic efforts are being driven by a growing realization that military force alone can't end the insurgency.

Iraqi officials say "many" homegrown militant groups opposed to the U.S.-led occupation want to join the post-Saddam political process now a sovereign Iraqi government is in place.

But the government says it won't negotiate with al-Zarqawi and other jihadists using Iraq as a battleground to wage holy war.

Iraqi authorities reinstated capital punishment after the June 28 handover of sovereignty from the U.S.-led occupation authorities. Several convicted murderers responsible for beheading Iraqi policemen were sentenced to death last month.

During the past two weeks, leaders from Iraq's Sunni and Shiite communities announced they have been meeting with insurgent groups to try get them to lay down their arms.

"Over the past six months, we have been in touch with people representing about 80 percent of the Iraqi resistance in different parts of the country, who are asking how can we guarantee anything positive from the other side," said legislator Salih al-Mutlak, leader of a Sunni Arab umbrella group.

Al-Mutlak said his group, the National Dialogue Council, has been a go-between for U.S., British and Iraqi officials on one side and Iraqi insurgents on the other.
Al-Mutlak said Iraqi insurgents have demands of their own: They want guarantees that attacks against Sunni cities will stop; that thousands of detainees will be released from U.S.-run prisons; and — most importantly — that the U.S.-led occupation will end.

"They want to reach an agreement, but would like to see evidence that the other side is really positive," al-Mutlak said.
Associated Press writers John Lumpkin in Washington D.C., and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

I am of the firm belief that if you kill an American, whether it be a soldier or civilian, you must be brought to justice. No question, without fail, you will pay for your crimes. Killing Americans is an act of war. We are currently engaged in a war against terrorism here in Iraq. Whatever happened to, "you are either with us or against us!"?

If you help kill American's in a completely indirect way, you are still helping kill Americans. I am still not over the whole Al Sadr thing. We should have killed him. He was responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. If insurgents in Iraq are given amnesty, I will reach a level of rage most people couldn't imagine. I am counting on my nation's leaders to step up and keep their word on this one.

As for the Iraqi people. They are with us side by side. They are suffering and have been suffering and are sick of suffering. If you think it is going to help America's relationship with the people of Iraq to give amnesty to the insurgents and the groups that have been killing their children, their parents, their siblings... their COUNTRY, then you need to get out of your D.C. office and spend a day with me. These people are strong and they are dilligent. They are not ready to surrender their dignity. They have pressed on too long and sacrificed too much to give up now.

I completely understand the intricacies involving the situation in Iraq right now. Fighting a guerilla insurgency of terrorists is a very complex and difficult task. However, I think this amnesty talk is way way way too premature. We are nowhere near that level of desperation. We are still winning this war. We are still making progress. The insurgency is crumbling slowly... but it is crumbling. There isn't an overnight solution. So, quit looking for one.

What are your thoughts on this ?

***Make sure you check out new pictures at Boots in Baghdad Photographs.***

Friday, June 10, 2005

back in Baghdad

Well after a few days of travel I am back in Baghdad. I am currently at Camp Liberty and should be returning to FOB Justice within the next couple of days.

I had a great time with family and friends while I was home. Thanks to all of them for their love and hospitality. I was, however, ready to get back here and finish what I started.

I have posted pictures from back in the day at Boots In Baghdad Photographs. They are all pre-Boots In Baghdad pictures but ought to hold you over until I have some new pictures and new experiences to share with you. There are also a couple of pictures from my R & R up there.

Boots In Baghdad is now accepting fiscal donations. To contribute see the right sidebar.

Thank you all for your patience and continued support the past few weeks. I am eager to get out there and pick up where I left off.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

stuck in Kuwait

I have been in Kuwait for almost thirty-six hours now waiting for a flight to Baghdad. I was supposed to leave last night but the flight got cancelled. I have a formation this afternoon to find out when my next flight is scheduled. I'm just ready to get back to my guys and back to my war. I'll let you know once I'm back at FOB Justice and begin working again. Take care.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Kurdish Media on Syria had an interesting article yesterday entitled "Syria Should Stop Playing With Fire."

There are no American troops in Syria. And there are no other active, armed movements bent on destroying the Syrian government, whether Kurdish or Islamist. So, why this violence against our people? Why do we still have hundreds of Kurds in jail, tortured daily? Why do the Kurdish families receive daily, the bodies of their missing loved ones? And now we have the tortured and mutilated body of Sheikh Khaznawi, a genuinely peace loving, progressive, Sunni Muslim cleric, a rarity in Syria, Western Kurdistan and the Arab Middle East. Ten thousand people in Qamishlo demanded from the Syrian government, in vain, his safe release soon after "the disappearance".

Someone needs to step up to Syria. Shexmus Amed goes on to say:

But it is high time that the USA too abandoned their softly softly approach to this Baathist dictatorship. Not only does Syria continue to facilitate the passage of Jihadists into Iraq to be used as suicide murderers, but it also acts as a "liberated zone" where terrorists can enjoy some rest and recuperation before returning to carry out more raids in Iraq and Kurdistan. Early last month the US Marines engaged an apparently large and well armed group of Jihadists on the northwestern regions of the Al-Anbar province, trying to infiltrate into Iraq. If Syria was genuinely interested in cooperation against Jihadists, then they would have carried out a parallel operation on their side of the border to prevent the retreat of these terrorists back into Syrian territory.

Instead Syria is allowed to play cheap and dirty politics. Large chunks of intelligence apparatus and military forces withdrawn from Lebanon have now been stationed in Syrian Kurdistan. Such is the twisted world of the Middle East that even the peaceful liberation of an Arab country, under pressure from the UN and the US, occurs to the further detriment of an already brutally oppressed part of Kurdistan. One could have reasonably expected that Syria, always complaining of limited resources in its fights against Jihadists, would employ this extra military and intelligence capacity to combat Jihadists on its own territory, instead of arraying them against the Kurds.

The USA should put Syria on notice. If not, the Kurdish leaders in Arbil and Suleymaniyah should do so. If Syria does not stop the ongoing murder and persecution of the Kurds in its own territory and if it does not stop the crossing of Jihadists and fascists into Iraq and Kurdistan, then the very existence of the Syrian state may be in danger. Not only will the Kurds feel entitled to assist, politically and militarily, their brethren in Western Kurdistan, but the USA also may well be amenable to the partition of Syria’s Kurdish territory and its incorporation into Southern Kurdistan. Thus, at least the Arab yoke will forever have been thrown off the entire length of Kurdistan. The great Sunni Muslim cleric and Kurdish patriot, Martyr Sheikh Muhammad Mashuq Khaznawi, would have approved.

I can't say I disagree. It is certainly time for the U.S. to start getting serious about pressuring Syria to change their ways. I've said before and I say again, American soldiers are dying in Iraq because of Syria's wreckless support for terrorism both within Syria and in Iraq. To read the entire article click here.

I leave Sunday morning to return to Baghdad. I look forward to once again giving you the story first hand.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

dear baghdad

Dear Baghdad had a great Memorial Day post.

I write to you on what is known in America as, Memorial Day, a holiday where both the fallen heroes and the serving men and women are honored by the people of the United States. Washington, DC is the home of the Arlington National Cemetery, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial among others, thus thousands of veterans and those who support the troops get in their motorcycles and pour into Washington to participate in what is known as "Rolling Thunder."

He goes on to address the challenges Iraq faces with the insurgency.

Take it any way you want, everything begins with the end of the insurgency and it must end in a way where the mainstream perceives it as a dark chapter in the New Iraq's history. As long as the insurgency is continuing, the very hope (the only thing that we have gained from Operation Iraqi Freedom so far) can be lost amid the bloodshed and the bombings.

If you have some free time check out Dear Baghdad. I myself am a big fan.