“We’re trying to make it slightly less obvious that we’re having a meeting here,” Lieutenant Pitts said.
Two families of men, women, and children met us on the lawn inside the gate. Hugs and formal greetings in Arabic were exchanged. Everyone seemed happy to see everyone else. The soldiers had been to this house before. No one but me was a stranger. I was instantly made to feel welcome, however. No people in the world are more hospitable than Arabs, and that includes Iraqis in war time.
A handful of soldiers went inside and made their way to the roof. There they could watch the entire street with their night vision goggles and take out anyone stupid enough to mount an attack on the house. Soldiers are killed in Iraq every day, but it’s still hard to feel nervous even in Baghdad when you’re surrounded by these guys. ...
“The soccer field you’re building,” said our host to the lieutenant, “is great for the kids, but it also helps with security. Insurgents were using that area as a base. Thank you, thank you.” He put his hand on his heart.
“Listen,” said another Iraqi, who wore a long black beard as well as a dishdasha. “I have something to tell you, but it has to be away from the children.”
He said this in English so the children would not understand. A young man led them outside and suggested they play with their new toys on the lawn.
“When you came and liberated this country,” he continued, “Iraq had 25 million Saddams. America is turning us back into human beings. That soccer field is not for a specific person. It is for everybody. We appreciate that. We believe that if Americans have something that is ours, they will return it to us. If the Iraqi government has something that is ours, we forget it.”
Our host for the evening nodded in agreement.
“We support you,” the man continued. “You support our back, we support your back. But you must understand: If you pull back, we will pull back. I will have no choice but to pull back if I can’t depend on you. It will be much harder for us to stand together. But as long as you stand firmly behind us we will support you against Moqtada al Sadr and the other bastards in the area.” ...
It's long, but well worth reading in full.The Belmont Club looks at 350 years of history in the West:
At first humanity's traditional habituation to God provided assurance that man would never be left wholly alone with his inner temptations. Some guideposts would surely remain. "Religion is simply too entwined with our moral experience ever to be disentangled from it, and morality is inseparable from politics." But that underrated the ambition of the ideologues. Once God had left the room the stakes went too high: and God's vacant throne glittered irresistibly before them. The natural impulse of demagogues was not, as Rousseau might have thought, to retain God as an absent, but beneficent Constitutional Monarch in whose extended absence Parliament ruled. For ambitious men the goal was to supplant the Creator altogether the better to rule on earth as gods. God's death not only became politically expedient, but necessary for the attainment of unlimited power -- the ground on which the 20th century unfolded as it did. But in the beginning this danger was imperceptible. ...An Iraqi hero gave his own life to save four American soldiers and eight Iraqis.
But the Iraqi government still has a long way to go, says Omar.
"The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.
In the last few weeks, the major political parties in Iraq have kept taking turns at damaging the political process and ultimately their own government. First, the ministers of both the Accord Front and Allawi’s bloc withdrew from the cabinet almost simultaneously, just as the unjustified summer recess was starting.
Last week, the Kurds and Shias added their share of the damage by announcing their new coalition of four parties. The move is wrong in both timing and principle; on the one hand, the date for Gen. Petraeus’ progress report in September is getting near. On the other, it’s a step in the exact opposite direction to what is needed in terms of the surge — the lifeline America has extended to save the country and allow the government in Baghdad to win the confidence of its people. ...
If this story sounds familiar, it is -- except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I've described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia.
Ultimately, the United States prevailed in World War II, and we have fought two more land wars in Asia. And many in this hall were veterans of those campaigns. Yet even the most optimistic among you probably would not have foreseen that the Japanese would transform themselves into one of America's strongest and most steadfast allies, or that the South Koreans would recover from enemy invasion to raise up one of the world's most powerful economies, or that Asia would pull itself out of poverty and hopelessness as it embraced markets and freedom.The lesson from Asia's development is that the heart's desire for liberty will not be denied. Once people even get a small taste of liberty, they're not going to rest until they're free. Today's dynamic and hopeful Asia -- a region that brings us countless benefits -- would not have been possible without America's presence and perseverance. It would not have been possible without the veterans in this hall today. And I thank you for your service. "