Friends:

My friend Chris has been on the ground with the Marines in Iraq for the past year. In general I’m pretty opposed to the war and am generally a raging liberal, but having a buddy running around dodging carbombs makes the position a lot more firm. Another friend at work was in the Army for many years and over drinks discussed the very moment he lost his faith in the administrations motives. I think it really crushed him. I think a lot of people out there are doing terrible things because they believe in leadership which is embarrassing at best and are now coming around to the realization that there is no man behind the curtain. As far as I’m concerned, every bumper should have two stickers “Support our troops” AND “End the war”. They’re not orthogonal ideas.

Anyhow, Chris has been sending me emails and pictures of whats going on over there and thankfully he’s now coming home. I’m happy for his wife and kids – they must have gone through a lot. Here is his sign-off email and I think it’s worth reading. Just a note, he has signed all of his emails “peace” for the past year. I hope you are all well.

“Folks,

This will be the last e mail you receive from this address as we will be starting our long journey out of here soon.

I attached two photos of things that I will not miss about being here. The first was an attack in which 3 of my Marines were injured. Two were sent home and one of them was stuck in the wreckage of the vehicle. We had to cut him out and get him on a helicopter while we attempted to kill the people responsible for his injuries. People will surprise you in such situations as often it is the person thought a coward or a follower that can step forward and lead with great courage and perseverance. We have had some hard times over here but the Lord has been with us and everybody will recover from their injuries eventually.

The second is a photo of incoming mortar fire. Rarely is anyone injured or killed by this which is usually inaccurate because the insurgents know that radar guided artillery fire usually fires back quickly enough to blow them to bits if they hang around for an accurate shot.

I have learned a lot over here some of which I would like to forget. Please let me offer some parting thoughts on a few topics:

MEDIA COVERAGE: Those who know me well would probably call me a news addict. However, since I have been here I have lost all confidence in the American media’s ability to report the full story. Rather than give a wide view of situations such as these they gravitate more towards the sensational story that they think American couch potatoes want to see. Most of the news outlets have some sort of political drive behind them (from both ends of the spectrum) that causes them to miss the full story in favor of bits and pieces that drive home their agenda. A lot of coverage is given to American casualties and potential mistakes and crimes but little is spent covering it from the other end. Terrible things have happened here at the hands of the various Islamic Insurgent groups in the name of their drive to a caliphate that never gets reported. For example, large amounts of children were killed recently in an insurgent attack which never made the news. A lot of roadside bombs now are no longer command detonated but can and do kill indiscriminately the first vehicle that drives by. My armored HMMWV may take a blast from a few buried artillery shells but a car with a family in it will not. I would estimate that over twice as many civilians are killed by IEDs than US Forces and I have personally witnessed such messes but that IS NEVER REPORTED. The bottom line is don’t believe everything you read and if you want the full story you need to consult multiple news outlets to get it. The 24 hour cable news phenomenon makes a lot of people think they are arm chair generals. Do not be one of those people.

DEMOCRACY: There are a lot of Iraqis risking their lives daily in an attempt to get their nation to the next level. However, this is a very old society and their understanding of time is vastly different than ours. Joe Six Pack American thrives on instant gratification. The land where you can have it your way at the drive through or order a commemorative Elvis Plate Set on the internet and have it show up at your door the next day needs to adjust its expectations accordingly when dealing with other societies. The rest of the world does not work that way. The 230 years of American History is a blink of an eye over here. Our democracy did not spring to life in its current painful form overnight and neither will this one. Impending civil war not withstanding, what is happening here cannot be judged on an hourly daily basis like the NYSE. These things take patience especially when dealing with a different culture. Iraq is an unnatural nation similar to the former Yugoslavia under Marshal Tito (now Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia etc) if so the ethnic fractures may be too much for democracy to heal but it will still take many years until we know for sure.

POLITICS: The Iraqi democracy will ultimately succeed on the backs of the Iraqis. Whether we pull out of here next month or in 2020, most of us will ultimately go on with our lives. However, the quest for better national security will continue regardless of who is in power. While I understand that people vote for their politicians based on the issues, all Americans need to understand that we will not get very far if all our time is spent on partisan politics. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, vote for the politician who is willing to compromise and do what is best for the people…ALL THE PEOPLE.

I just want to sign off by saying that the heroes in wartime situations like this are the families left behind to continue their lives as if everything is normal. My wife is one of those people and she has shown great strength, perseverance and support throughout the last year. I am truly a lucky person to have such people in my life and for that I will be eternally grateful. Please support such people whenever you can.

PEACE,

Captain Christopher (lastname) USMCR

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