Jewish World Review May 6, 2003 / 4 Iyar, 5763
Syrian border diarist: Only trouble in Iraq seems to be news
NEAR THE SYRIAN BORDER, IRAQ
The kids say it's going to be all right. I'm embedded with Tiger Squadron,
3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, out of Fort Carson, Colo. We crossed into Iraq
11 days ago, and we've travelled from the Kuwait border up through the
Karbala Gap into western Iraq and out to the Syrian border. In every town
and village we passed through, children lined the streets, grinning and
waving and giving us the "thumbs up" sign.
The behavior of the children is a reasonable indication of the attitude of
their parents, thinks First Sergeant Jim Gowdy of Apache Troop. "If Mom and
Dad were telling them the Americans will eat their livers, the kids would be
afraid to approach us the way they do," he said.
As we were coming up from the south, through the region populated primarily
by Shi'ia Muslims, long oppressed by Saddam Hussein, we expected a friendly
reception. But the extent of the greetings were a bit of a surprise, because
American convoys moving north toward Baghdad were not a novelty by the time
we were coming through.
The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment is the first conventional American unit to
go west of Ar Ramadi, so the kids out here were seeing American troops for
the first time. And these are chiefly Sunni Muslims, thought to have been
more loyal to Saddam.
Our encounters with adults also have been mostly pleasant. Major Paul Gass
heads a six person civil affairs team attached to Tiger Squadron. He and his
interpreter, Staff Sergeant John Pullen of the 66th Military Intelligence
Company, haved shared tea and roast goat with a group of shepherds, who were
clearly delighted to be hosting Ameriki, and politely turned down
invitations to meals and tea in three villages they visited. At a
checkpoint, Iraqis whose cars were being searched for possible contraband
arms were grinning and offered us cigarettes.
There is some ambivalence. An onion farmer west of Hut who spoke broken
English approached our convoy during a maintenance halt. "Thank you thank
you for rid of Saddam," he said. But then he asked: "When you go back
Here in the Wild West, Tiger Squadron is relieving a company of British
Royal Marines, who have been in the area for a month. Al Qaim, on the main
road into Syria, and the surrounding region is a hotbed for smugglers. And
this is the area from which Scud missiles were launched at Israel in the
first Gulf War. But the Brits say they've taken no casualties from hostile
fire. They say most of the locals are friendly, and that some who were
initially hostile are warming up.
By no means everyone is friendly. There have been two incidents in Fallalah,
a town near Ar Ramadi, where soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division and from
Saber Squadron of the 3rd ACR had to fire into a crowd to suppress rioting.
A grenade thrown at Saber squadron soldiers wounded five, two seriously. A
rock was thrown at one of our vehicles on the road march here. And as we
crossed from Kuwait into Iraq, one of the locals gave our soldiers the
But friendlies and passives seem far to outnumber hostiles.
These observations from the back of a Hummvee on a road march do not
constitute a thoroughly representative sample of Iraqi public opinion. But
likely they are a better reflection of it than what you have been seeing on
the television news.
Even when television journalists are professional and unbiased - which isn't
as often as it should be - what they show is still a distortion of reality,
because of the nature of the medium. People know where the TV cameras are.
They come to where they are when theant to make a political statement. A
crowd of thousands shaking their fists in front of the Palestine Hotel in
Baghdad may reflect Iraqi public opinion. Then again, it may not.
Journalism also has a bias against good news. It isn't exciting. Right now,
I'm cursing my luck because I'm with Tiger Squadron instead of with Saber in
Ar Ramadi where the "action" is. Trouble is exciting. Trouble is news. But
an emphasis on trouble can present a distorted picture of reality. The
reality seems to be that though there are pockets of hostility, a
substantial majority of Iraqis are glad we came, and do not - at least not
yet - resent our presence.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
04/28/03: Loser generals : They shot (off their mouths) and missed
04/25/03: A war we could lose
04/21/03: The "Collaborators' News Network"
04/14/03: Axis of Weasels is coming to its senses?
04/11/03: Peace will be a mess
04/08/03: It's a mad, mad (Arab) world
04/03/03: Ah, the life of a war correspondent this time around
04/02/03: The difference between hopes and expectations
03/31/03: Iraq is a steppingstone, not a final stop
03/24/03: European media and former 'human shields' are beginning to get it
03/20/03: Was getting the UN involved worth it?
03/18/03: South Koreans no longer behaving as if they were the French of Northeast Asia --- why?
03/11/03: Ultimatum's moment of truth
03/11/03: Thank you, Turkey, we needed that
03/07/03: The fight against Saddam isn't a distraction from the war on terror --- it's is the main event
03/04/03: Bioterror nightmare approaching --- how it could likely happen
02/27/03: Iranian student: Can America hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?
02/25/03: Yahoos on both the Left and the Right are trying to prevent government from maximizing technology in protecting us
02/20/03: Anti-war group gets it right about great humanitarian tragedy in last Gulf War
02/18/03: Iraqis: Why are these people marching for tyranny?
02/07/03: French kiss(ed)-off
02/05/03: Does the FBI have the ability to protect us from terrorists already here?
02/03/03: The "Axis of Weasels"
01/29/03: A bit of the jitters
01/27/03: The world's mediocre intelligence agency
01/21/03: By reaffirming GOP opposition to racism, president demonstrates willingness to confront liars
01/16/03: Why the United States should withdraw all of its military forces from South Korea as rapidly as we reasonably can
01/14/03: Federal incompetence driven by political correctness, not trampling of civil liberties, is what we should fear
01/09/03: Bag this boondoggle: The V-22 Osprey would hurt our national defense
01/07/03: Another Korean war?
12/26/02: Learning from Canada's economic suicide
12/24/02: A moral dilemma: Support a vicious fascist dictator or the poor and downtrodden?
12/20/02: Time to tell the truth: The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights
12/18/02: Nothing better illustrates Trent Lott's unfitness for the post of Senate
Majority Leader than his desperate efforts to cling to it
12/16/02: Debunker mentality: It's hard work not seeing ties between Iraq and al-Qaida
12/12/02: GOP ideologues turning on Lott --- better sacrifice the leader than the party
12/06/02: Curing our democracy of afflictions
12/02/02: Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time
11/27/02: What Saddam faces
11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
11/19/02: A draft would harm the military
11/12/02: The 2002 elections and Nixon
11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack … by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same
standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred" …
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections
© 2002, Jack Kelly