Monday, March 20, 2006


(Excerpt from Miranda Devine)

A soldier friend stationed in Baghdad for the past two months has been sending me emails with such arresting lines as: "It's late here and I [have] to get the Chief of Staff back to the Palace." From his office in the fortified military and government area, the Green Zone, he scans the web for news about Iraq and compares it with his reality. "Baghdad is not burning down around my ears," he wrote last week. "Things were tense a while back, but violence was within limits. Callous thing to say, but that is the reality around here." The only "quagmire" he sees is "the soft patch of ground out by the rifle range and no civil war in sight".

He exhibits a soldier's sang-froid. "We are expecting to be very busy the next few days. The terrorists are extremely media savvy (it's the only area they get to win) and will be looking for big headlines. End of religious festival, big crowds and convening of new government." But with the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion tomorrow, he says, "the only people who seem to have lost both their grip on reality and their nerve are the western media".

His reality is quite different: "I am more and more impressed with the Iraqis every day. There are problems, to be sure, but I do not know of any country that has gone through the sorts of upheavals that this one has without any problems. "One just has to remember the catastrophes of the French Reign of Terror, or the Russian and Chinese revolutions, not to mention the disasters that were Vietnam and Cambodia."

He also sent me a letter which has been circulating among soldiers for a month, from the mayor of Tal 'Afar, near the Syrian border, praising the "lion hearts" of the US 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment who have changed the city from "ghost town in which terrorists spread death and destruction to a secure city flourishing with life".

The violence of revenge attacks on Sunnis across Iraq, after last month's bombing of the Shiite Golden Mosque in Samarra, led many commentators to declare the civil war they have been predicting for three years had arrived. But others point to signs the crisis has spurred Iraq's political leaders to sort out their differences and work to form a national unity government, three months after their third successful election. And as Sunni politicians engage in the process, there are encouraging reports of infighting among Sunni insurgents.

Last Thursday Iraq's new parliament was sworn in and 82-year-old Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi told its first short session: "We have to prove to the world that a civil war is not and will not take place among our people. The danger is still looming and the enemies are ready for us because they do not like to see a united, strong, stable Iraq."

"I think it is right that we are here," wrote my friend last week on his 39th birthday, "and that we support these people against the thugs, criminals and terrorists who would try and turn back the clock on them".


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