29 June 2004

Hearts and Minds

From the Herald Tribune. This is the thinking on the street in Iraq. Among the poor and the hopeless:

He[Falah, a 23-year-old man in a shabby checkered shirt, said to an Iraqi reporter.] boasted about driving a friend to stage attacks on U.S. patrols. The two wait in a farm field by the main road. When the Humvees roll by, his friend fires a rocket-propelled grenade, Falah said. The two hit the ground. The soldiers open fire, but the Iraqis lie still until the patrol leaves.

"I really didn't ask my friend whether they have a boss or not and whether they organize their work or not," he said. "I really don't care as long as I can take part and drive the Americans out of our country. We are all resistance."

[. . .]

U.S. commanders acknowledge that military might alone cannot defeat the insurgency; in fact, the frequent use of force often spurs resistance by deepening ill will.

"This war cannot be won militarily," said Major General John Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, which oversees a swath of the northern Sunni triangle, as the area is called. "It really does need a political and economic solution."

Remember when the slogan of the week was 'hearts and minds'? It was just before the war in Iraq started last year. We were gonna go there and 'win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people'. Now, I knew they wouldn't act like the French after D-Day, but I was hoping this hearts and minds thing would work out. I know what it was like when we kicked over Grenada, and then I went back a dozen years later to the day. I showed my wife the airport and the town of Port Georges, and when it was known I was a veteran of that operation, we were treated to drinks and good wishes. The thankfulness of the people was overwhelming to me, and moved me, and there will always be a bond between me and the residents of Port Georges. It is what I had hoped would happen with our troops in Iraq.

I know it happens on a small scale there, and it gladdens me that there are success stories, but I was hoping for more. I was hoping for more good news on TV and on the Internet. There's a guy who (god bless him) keeps count of the dead and wounded over there, both American/Coalition and Iraqis. [Today in Iraq] He does it in memoriam and I make it a daily stop, because this Administration wants to hide the true realities of war. I think it's sad he has to do it and I'd hoped there wouldn't be a need after 'Mission Accomplished'.

My point is that I wanted to see the bonds that developed between the people in my mother's town in Germany and the American soldiers who occupied it. Some still return to visit the people they 'liberated'. I hope at least some Iraqis will smile when they look back on their interactions with the occupying forces the way my old uncle did when he thought of his friends in the U.S. infantry. I hope some Americans will return there, years from now, to bring their grandchildren to meet their 'Iraqi cousins' the way my people in Germany welcome their 'American cousins' of the 101st Airborne, regardless of who is in the White House. The way I was welcomed back in Grenada. Sadly, I don't think that will happen anytime soon.

Hearts and minds, it's what moves the people in the street, and it is amazing how we can forget that so easily. There are two routes to victory. Kill 'em all or make them like you. The first is out of the question, at least so far on our part, so the second is preferred. All we've managed to do in Iraq is kill them and make them hate us. Hearts and minds.

Update 16:15: From MSNBC:

The Arab satellite station [Al-Jazeera] broadcast a videotape showing the three Turkish hostages, believed to be contractors, kneeling in front of three militants as one read a statement.

“For the sake of you, our brothers, and Muslims of the people of Turkey ... we will release these hostages and send them safely home,” the statement said.

This is why the Iraqi Street follows these guys. Because they know how to win the favor of the people. Now the Muslims in Turkey like them too. I thought we hired a PR firm to help us in this regard? Hear anything about that lately? Assholes.

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