A couple days back I did a post on LETTERS FROM THE FRONT LINES , and recieved the following comment on the post:
Just read this recent blog. I actually wrote chapter two of the book and was dissapointed you found it a "Pentagon effort to put a better face on the Iraq conflict." While I haven't read the book (so don't know its tenor), I hope my chapter at least presented a reasonably balanced account of life in Iraq. In fact after the excerpt you quote from me I go on to explain my view of why Iraqis feel such mixed feelings toward the US. The full excerpt reads as follows:
"For me, Saddam’s capture created such intense feelings because it was the first time in many months I let down my normally cautious guard and allowed myself any real feeling of optimism and hope. The greatest frustration we’ve felt over these last 9 months in Iraq is that our soldiers really want to be appreciated and liked by the Iraqi people. Whatever the politics, our soldiers on the ground don’t have grand or nefarious foreign policy objectives. They spend their days building schools, paving roads, training policemen, trying to catch ‘bad guys,’ and working to improve the lives of local Iraqis. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard soldiers complain that 'these people don’t get it,' or question 'why Iraqis don’t understand we are trying to help them.' In frustration, I have probably expressed similar sentiments myself. Prior to Saddam’s capture many of us clung to this wishful, perhaps overly-idealistic belief, that once Iraqis no longer feared Saddam they would be more welcoming of U.S troops, and peace and stability would follow. Of course the truth is a good deal more complicated, and even after Saddam’s capture Iraqi resentment toward Americans remains high. Iraqis have understandably mixed feelings toward U.S. soldiers. The most rewarding part of training Iraqis border guards, policemen, and soldiers is I get to witness Iraqis undergo an attitude transformation from resentment and distain for the United States to respect and appreciation. Iraqis are amazed that our troops follow orders, and accomplish missions without resorting to fear, threats, and physical violence. They are awestruck that we treat all people, even their ‘lowly’ privates, or suspected criminals, with respect and dignity, and are amazed when we train them to do the same. It is refreshing and gratifying watching the satisfaction these Iraqis feel simply by being treated humanely. At the same time, our other daily missions of conducting raids to route out 'extremists' and 'terrorists' is a very imprecise art, at best. As a result innocent Iraqis are often swept up in our arrests and subjected to degrading treatment at our hands. Having their doors kicked in and being pulled from their houses in handcuffs and blindfolds, or being shot at a traffic control checkpoint for driving too fast can’t help but harden Iraqis hearts in the same way that roadside bombs and suicide attacks continue to harden our soldiers’ hearts against the Iraqi people."
Anyway, like I said, can't vouch for the whole book but I too will be dissapointed if it turns out to be a propaganda machine either for or against the war. I know my letters were not intended for that purpose and hope they don't convey that message. Thanks Brian
Well, Capt. Baldrate, I'm sorry for making you sound like an apologist for the war. I was basing my comments on a pre-publishing email I had recieved as well as the book's press kit. What I quoted was what the press kit had quoted from your letter; given their selection of a relatively positive section as opposed to the later comments about hearts being hardened, combined with some of the other sections I had quoted in the post, seems to me to be a choice on the publisher's part to serve a propaganda purpose. Maybe I'm reading too much into it; maybe it's just good P.R. for a new book. I don't know - I'd like to see the finished product, but from what I can see in the press kit it doesn't look good.
Given what we've done to Iraq over the last three and a half years, not to mention the thirteen-some-odd years of sanctions, it's a suprise to me they're willing to cut us ANY slack. It's good to hear they reciprocate kindness with kindness; maybe ten years from now we can go back to Iraq, as some have done with Vietnam, and they'll recieve us as freinds and forgive us what we did. I don't know. (I'm still suprised the Vietnamese are as forgiving as they are, considering what we did to THAT country.)
I'm not one of these mythical leftists who rejoices at the idea of American soldiers being killed. I don't cheer when our troops die, as some assert - I'm tired of the bloodshed on both sides and, quite frankly, we had no cause to be there in the first place. I'm for pulling the troops out and trusting the Iraqis to take charge of their own destiny. I don't want to "see America defeated", but frankly that's the way it's looking, and I don't see many clear assertions of what victory would entail. (And if you can't articulate what "victory" means, don't tell me I'm for "defeat".)
As I said, I'm sorry for making you out to be something you're not, and I hope also the book takes more of the even-handed approach you've expressed than the gung-ho attitude that the press kit seems to present. We'll see.