PFC Isaac Kindblade | 'We Don't Feel Like Heroes Anymore'
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'We Don't Feel Like Heroes Anymore'
By Pfc. 0aIsaac Kindblade
Tuesday 05 August 2003
I am a private first class in the Army's 671st Engineer Company 0aout of Portland. I just wanted to let you know a little bit of what we are up 0ato, maybe so that you can have another opinion of what's going on over here in 0aIraq.
We have been in country since Feb. 14 and were a part of the 0aThird Infantry Division's march into Baghdad. In fact, as a result of some 0aserious miscommunications, we were the front line of the charge on two very 0adistinct occasions.
We haven't been a huge part of the war. We are bridge builders, 0aand we were here in the event that the Iraqis blew up the bridges on their 0aretreat. They didn't, so we didn't have to do much.
We were scheduled for 13 missions at the start of the war. We did 0athree or four bridge-related missions. We fill in where we are needed, whether 0ait be guarding enemy prisoners of war, operating traffic control points, patrols 0aon the Tigris River or guard duty of police stations. Our primary mission at 0athis point is transportation, because we happen to drive very large trucks.
A lot is being said about poor morale. That seems to be the case 0aall over the place. It's hot, we've been here for a long time, it's dangerous, 0awe haven't had any real down time in months and we don't know when we're going 0ahome.
I think a big aspect has been the people here. When the war had 0ajust ended, we were the liberators, and all the people loved us. Convoys were 0alike one long parade. Somewhere down the line, we became an occupation force in 0atheir eyes. We don't feel like heroes anymore.
We are doing the best we can, trying to get this place back on 0aits feet so we can go home -- making friends with the locals and trying to 0aenforce peace and stability.
A lot is made of our military's might. Our Abrams tanks, our 0aApache helicopters, computers, satellites, this and that. All that stuff is 0agreat, but it's essentially useless in peacekeeping ops. It is up to the 0asoldiers on the ground armed with M-16s and a precious few words of Arabic.
The task is daunting, and the conditions are frightening. We 0acan't help but think of "Black Hawk Down" when we're in Baghdad surrounded by 0aswarms of people. Soldiers are being attacked, injured and killed every day. The 0arules of engagement are crippling. We are outnumbered. We are exhausted. We are 0ain over our heads.
The president says, "Bring 'em on." The generals say we don't 0aneed more troops. Well, they're not over here.
It would take a group of supermen to do what's been asked of us. 0aMaybe people back home think we are. Hell, maybe we are. I'm 20, and I can't 0ahelp but think that serving in a war is a rite of passage, earning my generation 0aa place in the history books.
I'm honored to be over here, and I realize that this is the 0aexperience of a lifetime. All the same, we are ready to come home.
Pfc. Isaac Kindblade of Cornelius enlisted in the Army at age 17 before his graduation from Valley Catholic High School in Beaverton.
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Iraqi Shiite Voices Rise Against 0aUS
Anger at Perceived Disrespect Replaces 0aGratitude
By Hannah Allam
The Philadelphia 0aInquirer
Tuesday 05 August 2003
KUFAH, Iraq - Iraqi mothers raise their children with an ancient 0asuperstition against handling the white drapes that Muslims wear to the grave. 0aThese days, however, the burial shrouds are slung across shoulders and waved 0ahigh in the air by thousands of Shiite men as a chilling symbol of their 0awillingness to die rather than succumb to the U.S.-led occupation of their 0ahomeland.
Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims, who suffered for decades under 0aSaddam Hussein's Sunni Muslim-dominated regime, initially expressed gratitude to 0athe American military for toppling the dictator and restoring their right to 0aworship. In turn, they were awarded most of the seats on the 25-member interim 0agoverning body that U.S. administrators assembled last month.
But recent U.S. raids on religious centers, the reported arrests 0aof Shiite scholars, the stationing of troops near shrines and other perceived 0acultural missteps have turned America's most powerful Iraqi ally into the 0agreatest potential threat to the U.S. effort to rebuild the country and reshape 0athe Middle East.
"We are now carrying burial shrouds always to remind us of 0adeath," said Sheik Raysan al Assadi, the keeper of the oldest mosque in the 0aShiite holy city of Kufah, south of Baghdad. "We must be ready to sacrifice our 0alives if Americans attack our religion or traditions."
Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr wear images of his father, Mohammed 0aSadek al-Sadr, on their white burial shrouds. (Detroit Free Press Photo/Mandi 0aWright)
The most worrisome scenario for America is that Shiite 0aresentment, especially if it's armed and financed by neighboring Iran, could 0amerge with Iraqi nationalism and with secular anger at the failure to restore 0aorder and basic services into an Iraqi version of the 1979 revolution that 0atoppled the shah of Iran, who had been a longtime U.S. ally.
A second danger is that rising Shiite anger could fracture Iraq, 0aa nation that in the past has been unified only by force, into a Shiite south, a 0aSunni Muslim center and a Kurdish north. That would encourage Iran, Iraq's Arab 0aneighbors and Turkey to intervene to protect their interests.
Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. ground commander in Iraq, 0ahas acknowledged that religious extremists are emerging suspects in attacks that 0ahave killed dozens of American service members since President Bush declared 0amajor combat over May 1.
The most worrisome figure for American officials is Moqtada al 0aSadr, a fiery young Shiite cleric whose father was a venerated ayatollah who was 0amurdered by Saddam's regime in 1998.
Sadr, said to be his 20s, seeks to make Iraq a Shiite theocracy 0alike Iran, and he called recently for forming a religious army to protect Iraqis 0afrom what he described as brutal American forces. Sadr's speeches regularly draw 0athousands, but Iraqis don't agree on whether his followers truly believe in him 0aor show up out of respect for his father.
"Moqtada al Sadr does not represent most Shiites," said Ahmed 0aSabah, 22, who sells scarves around the corner from Sadr's headquarters in the 0asouthern holy city of Najaf. "He's too young to lead us. He doesn't yet have the 0awisdom of a leader."
A spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq, speaking on the 0acondition of anonymity, called Sadr a rabble-rouser angling for political gain. 0aThe spokesman said Sadr was walking a thin line between freedom of speech and 0aincitement to violence, a charge invoked by U.S. officials who shut down an 0aanti-American newspaper in Baghdad last month.
"As long as he does not create an armed militia, he's welcome to 0acollect support around him," the spokesman said.
All signs indicate that Sadr plans to form a full-fledged Shiite 0aarmy, though some of his assistants admitted they're having difficulty gathering 0aweapons and signing up volunteers. So far, mosque records show, about 10,000 men 0ahave registered for service in the "Mehdi" army, named after a Shiite imam who 0avanished hundreds of years ago and is expected to return to slay infidels.
American Lt. Col. Chris Conlin, the commander of the 1st 0aBattalion, 7th Marines, which controls Najaf, said his Marines had enjoyed good 0acooperation with local leaders from the moment they arrived three months ago. 0aUnlike many other Iraqi cities, Najaf has electric power 24 hours a day, and a $48 million project is under way to overhaul the power plant. Conlin said that 0aeven Sadr's group was friendly until U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer 0aappointed an interim Governing Council that didn't include Sadr.
"I think what really happened is that Sadr is upset because he's 0anot on the Governing Council," Conlin said. "And in an act of desperation, he 0awent to the pulpit and preached this idea of creating an Islamic army for 0ajihad."
Cloaked in a white burial shroud, Sadr appeared before about 0a7,000 people in Kufah on Aug. 1 and delivered a blistering sermon in which he 0aurged men to join his army instead of the new Iraqi military overseen by 0aAmerican troops. He joined in chants of "No to America" but stopped short of 0aurging attacks on the U.S. military.
"When people joined the Iraqi army established by the United 0aStates, they wronged themselves and they wronged Muslims," Sadr told the 0acheering crowd. "They joined for money, but material things are not more 0aimportant than ethics and morals. I pray that they will leave this army and 0afollow God's order."
Sadr may be the loudest voice calling for Shiite resistance, but 0athe two most respected Shiite clerics also are expressing growing hostility 0atoward the American presence.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who occupies the highest Shiite post 0ain the world, advocates a strict separation of religion and politics. He refused 0aan invitation to meet with Bremer in a move that made clear his position on U.S. 0aforces in Iraq.
The other key cleric, Mohammed Baqir al Hakim, has advocated a 0asecular government through his Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in 0aIraq and has a brother on the Governing Council. Many Iraqi and American 0aofficials are concerned about Hakim's ties to Iran, where he spent the past 20 0ayears in exile.
U.S. officials accused Hakim's group of creating false 0aidentification for Iraqis streaming in from Iran, and conducted three raids on 0aSCIRI offices. Ghaleb Zanji, the editor of the group's Al Adala daily newspaper, 0asaid the only weapons that American troops found in the raids were two rifles 0athat were properly licensed to employees. Zanji said the troops seized 0acomputers, notebooks and photos, hampering publication of the newspaper.
U.S. officials wouldn't comment on the raids or the four people 0awho reportedly were detained during one of the operations.
"We don't know how to act with them; we don't know what they're 0athinking," Zanji said. "We know for a fact we're on the Governing Council, we 0aknow freedom of the press is guaranteed in America, but we didn't know the 0aAmericans have two standards. It's freedom for the United States and injustice 0ahere. They're unpredictable in their behavior, so they have lost the support of 0amost Iraqi people."
The spokesman for U.S.-led forces disagreed that most Shiites 0aharbor anti-American feelings. He said they were still basking in the ability to 0apractice their religion openly, which Saddam brutally oppressed. Bremer and top 0aU.S. military officers meet regularly with religious leaders and have begun 0amultimillion-dollar reconstruction projects in Shiite holy cities.
"We don't feel threatened at all by the Shiites. They are 0aenjoying political and religious freedom, and working with us on the Governing 0aCouncil," the spokesman said. "These people are coming out into the light and 0ablinking at the brightness that's out there."
Images of revered imams now are mass-produced on key chains, 0aposters, T-shirts and jewelry that used to depict Saddam. But alongside those 0awares, street vendors hawk grainy, bootlegged videos of Shiite demonstrations 0aagainst U.S.-led forces, and worshipers sprinkling perfumed water pour into 0aIraq's shrines to pray for an Islamic government and for the Americans' swift 0adeparture.
Before Saddam's ouster, 32-year-old Emad Sadq hid rare Shiite 0atexts from the dictator's security forces in his gold shop in Baghdad, which 0astayed open until midnight. Now Sadq tucks his jewels away at dusk for fear of 0athieves but leaves religious writings in a pile near his cash register.
Sadq gathers with other Shiite shopkeepers in the evenings to sip 0atea and debate whether they were safer under Saddam. He and his friends said 0athey were happy to be rid of the leader but that they resented the Americans, 0awhose presence had brought satellite dishes, revealing clothing and other 0aostensible threats to their religion. Like most Shiites, Sadq said, he'll wait 0afor guidance from al Hauza, a religious authority made up of the most esteemed 0aShiite scholars, before deciding whether to join resistance efforts.
"The Americans have technology, yes, but they lack morals," Sadq 0asaid. "We are not against Western civilization and development, but we should 0atake the good things only. We don't want the bad, immoral parts of their 0aculture. The biggest danger now is the killing of the soul, not the body."
Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Drew Brown in Baghdad 0acontributed to this report.
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