Americans in Iraq will accept dissent in their peace and order efforts -- up to a point.
Many good people are working to create a climate of peace and order in Iraq after the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime. While progress is being made in many categories at a number of locales, dangers persist in the unsettled "postwar" period. Guerrilla attacks continue, and Americans are being hurt and killed despite the best of intentions of the newcomers.
Ideological approaches are important up to a point, but there come times when reality bites and tit-for-tat policies are necessary.
Lt. Col. Henry "Butch" Kievenaar of the U.S. Army is the military chief of a sizable section of occupied Iraq. Recently, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at his troops in the region of Hit, Iraq.
Kievenaar reportedly has gone out of his way not to interfere in community affairs and has done much to get his forces to help in the recovery. But he minced no words on this occasion.
"Bring me the guy who did it," he told local authorities. There was anger and turmoil among the Iraqis who resented the comment, but the colonel made it clear he would entertain no hostilities.
"We've tried to be as respectful and helpful as possible to the local population," Kievenaar, 40, told Patrick J. McDonnell of The Los Angeles Times. "But my No. 1 priority has to be force protection. How many times have we tried to be considerate to customs, feelings, etc., only to have one of our kids killed?"
Quite a contrast, right, with the kill, burn and pillage attitude of so many "conquerors," not the least of which was the Saddam regime? Critics may question why Americans are there, but they have to admit the venture is for progress rather than pogrom.
In an atmosphere supposedly aimed at pacification and reconstruction, attacks absolutely are not acceptable. The Army leader makes it abundantly clear he will do his best to get crucial things done affably but will remain ready to meet violence with violence.
"I put out the word," the colonel said. "Here's the thing we do: If you work with us, there's no problem. If you want to attack, you'll get hurt."
"All of these young soldiers are far away from home and family, but they will stay until their mission is completed," Kievenaar told the Los Angeles writer. "The way to get the mission done is to get all the infrastructure running, get people back to work and get a safe and secure environment where people aren't afraid to walk up and down the street. We do all that stuff and we're done."
He, like so many, realizes how monumental the task is. He knows the Iraqis are proud people and that many bitterly resent occupation, even if they hated and despised Saddam Hussein and his regime.
There will continue to be the violently rebellious zealots who want to get revenge and disrupt anything the coalition forces try, but they and everyone else have to realize they will pay a price. America, its troops and the people back home have to respect that approach and accept what transpires. We have far more than just hired guns on the job.