Archive for Friday, December 21, 2007

Iraqi town’s transformation inspires hope

December 21, 2007


— The helicopter flies low over flat farmland dotted with palm trees, just south of Baghdad. This is an area that looks bucolic but used to be called the Triangle of Death.

Until recently this region was known for the most brutal al-Qaida atrocities, including the beheading of corpses in Shiite funeral convoys. Al-Qaida in Iraq controlled the rural, Sunni areas while Shiite extremists infiltrated the mostly Shiite town and drove out Sunni families.

I flew down here to look at a stunning transformation. Al-Qaida has been badly hit (but not finished); Sunni tribesmen now work with U.S. troops.

Shiite extremists are standing down, for now. Sunni and Shiite sheikhs are holding reconciliation meetings, some organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace, an American think tank. The Rasheed outdoor market in Mahmoudiya is busy selling piles of tomatoes, grapefruits, oranges, clothing, machine parts and sundries; not so long ago it was a burnt-out eyesore. An Iraqi army unit is working in strong partnership with U.S. forces.

These gains could be reversed, but this tortured town is enjoying a tentative peace. It provides a textbook case of the Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine, which emphasizes protecting the civilian population as much as fighting.

The best way I can give a sense of the situation is to provide some snapshots of some of the Americans and Iraqis involved in the transformation.

¢ The colonel. Lt. Col. William Zemp, commander of the 3d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, is a man with a plan. In his bare-bones headquarters, he is focused on "peace enforcement" rather than fighting. With only a 400-man combat team, his goal is "to utilize all assets and address the conditions that make the violence exist."

That means partnering closely with an Iraqi army unit and building relationships with Sunni sheikhs. It means helping the local mayor rebuild the town, with a team of U.S. civilian experts embedded in his unit.

"In September we were fighting, and less than 24 hours later we were doing a humanitarian mission, identifying needs," he says. "A military commander has to work with the people who have fought his soldiers, and mediate with political officials."

¢ The tribal leaders. Sheikh Mizer Hamdani and his brothers are eager to welcome Zemp to their huge diwan, lined with brocaded couches. Hamdani wears a traditional black cloak and checkered headdress, but he has a doctorate from Utah State in civil engineering. He admits he was opposing the Americans only months ago.

"The Americans changed in the last year," he says. "Now they are trying to listen. They choose the right people."

Hamdani is a Shiite, but his tribe - like many others in Iraq - also includes Sunnis. He leads one of the new Sunni paramilitary groups fighting al-Qaida, and his brother Hassan participates in USIP reconciliation efforts.

As the Americans leave, Hamdani huddles with Steve Jones, a civilian city planner on Zemp's provincial reconstruction team, to discuss building a water-treatment plant.

¢ Mayor Moayed Fadhel Al Ameri. With a brush of gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, the mayor talks of the need for reconciliation. A participant in the U.S. Institute of Peace effort, he relates how Shiite sheikhs recently renovated a Sunni mosque while Sunnis rebuilt a Shiite shrine.

But he is nervous about radical Shiites who still hide in the town and fears the new Sunni paramilitaries could be a problem in the future if the government doesn't give them jobs. "The extreme right and the extreme left only want power," he says.

¢ Gen. Ali Jassem. The commander of the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division is a professional soldier who fought the Americans during the invasion of Iraq.

In his headquarters, with large area maps on the walls and a historic painting of Arab horsemen fighting in the desert, the tall, straightforward commander dismisses the idea of loyalty to sect or ethnic group. He says sternly: "We must put Iraq first before tribe, political parties, families." He is a Shiite married to a Sunni who gave one son the Shiite name Hussein and a second the Sunni name Omar.

In a new military accused of sectarianism, this is the kind of Iraqi soldier who gives hope that the army may yet jell. He wants to re-establish order and lawfulness in his country. He enjoys the trust of the tribes.

Once opposed to the Americans, he says emotionally of Zemp's troops: "These guys support us."

These portraits can't tell us what's in Mahmoudiya's future, but they do explain some of the positive changes going on - in army doctrine, in the tribal turn against al-Qaida, and in the improvements in the Iraqi army. They also reveal an Iraqi public tired of violence and eager for an alternative.

Things could go sour, but Mahmoudiya shows the possibilities for an outcome that could permit Americans to go home. I came away from my visit convinced there's at least a chance to consolidate recent gains.

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


marcdeveraux 10 years, 4 months ago

trudy is a babe in the woods, as soon as the money and weapons run out ,supplied by the u.s. , these people will be right back at war, with or without us.they join us because of the fact we have the weapons and money.trudy flys to a few cherry picked spots and says all is well. trudy, try a car or bus and see how safe it is. more propaganda to keep the money flowing

marcdeveraux 10 years, 4 months ago

i guess some of us are not concerned about bush and the defense industry sending us down the river so that a few can make big money. our economy is in shambles, due to the folks who support bush. the u.s. simply does not have the money (tax payers) to fund this war. the iraqis will win ,just as north vietnam did. they fight a unconventional war, and will wait us out. the roman empire learned the very same lesson (the hard way),read your history,stop dreaming of a democratic middleast filled with converted christians.we as a nation are broke, and the rest of the world is going to buy us up, bit by bit, as the dollar is almost worthless.

Mkh 10 years, 4 months ago

marcdeveraux (Anonymous) says "our economy is in shambles, due to the folks who support bush. the u.s. simply does not have the money (tax payers) to fund this war."


It's time for people to look at this war from a realistic perspective. Frankly it doesn't matter what your ideology might be about this war, or war in general, the simple mathematical facts of economics is all the reasoning necessary to end this War and our foreign occupations immediately!

We cannot continue to have the Federal Reserve print Billions out of then air every week to fund our overstretched military operations and occupations. This practice is not only racking up Trillions in debt but it has collapsed our Currency and caused terrible Inflation at Record Levels.

Bush has more than doubled the size of the Federal Government over the last seven years. He has increased government spending and debt more than any President since FDR. The combination of the Bush Administration's/Congress's out of control spending/debt, the exporting of jobs/sovereignty, and the blanant economic assault from the Federal Reserve is causing massive problems with working class America.

This trend simply cannot continue. Meanwhile we have serious infrastructure issues and major issues right here at Home that are going to require Billions to repair in the coming decades. But if our spending continues this way it will be impossible, causing this once strong nations to slowly crumble under itself as it enters the next Great Depression.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 10 years, 4 months ago

i guess some of us are not concerned about bush and the defense industry sending us down the river so that a few can make big money.

So what are you going to do about it?

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 10 years, 4 months ago

the simple mathematical facts of economics is all the reasoning necessary to end this War and our foreign occupations immediately!

I wish we could get the House to see that. They keep giving Bush money for the war. I thought Pelosi was going to change things. She did: things got worse!

Mkh 10 years, 4 months ago

75x55: "Too bad we didn't have this sort of thinking back on 9/12/2001. We could have just filed the insurance claims, rebuilt and moved on: After all - the only thing that matters is money, right?"

Well yes. This isn't Soviet Russia 75x55. The economy is the life line of millions of Americans. If it fails, people loose their jobs, their homes, and go into deep poverty, etc.

Is killing Iraqi's more important to you than the health of the US economy? Btw, what in the world does 9/12/2001 have to do with Iraq? You're confused.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 4 months ago

" If she has even a bit of hope now, I would interpret that to mean that things are much, much better in Iraq."

If a bird sh*t on your head, you'd give it precisely the same interpretation.

Mkh 10 years, 4 months ago

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho (Anonymous) says: "I wish we could get the House to see that. They keep giving Bush money for the war. I thought Pelosi was going to change things. She did: things got worse!"

The Congressional Democrats are useless Establishment trolls that cannot be relied on. They put on their little song and dance about ending the war to collect Votes, but it's all a big ole pile of stinky BS.

Can you imagine how great it would be to put the Anti-War Republican Ron Paul in the White House and completely flip the deck on those fakes in the Democratic party? Oh what sweet justice that would be. The Dems would be truly exposed as the liers, crooks, and slaves to the Ruling Elite that they really are.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 4 months ago

75 X 55-- just because you can't think of any other solutions doesn't mean that randomly blowing stuff up is an acceptable one.

Mkh 10 years, 4 months ago

Wow 75x55...were you drinking vodka with RT this morning?

75x55: "So, pray tell , what pulled our trigger for "this War and our foreign occupations" ?"

Well, that too has all be triggered by Money. Our Wars and Foreign Occupations are about securing vital natural resources and dominating the geo-political landscape, and they started well before 9/12/01. In recent history we can point to the Great War as really the catalyst for this initiative. Some historians would go back to the Rothschild Family's bankrolling of both sides of the Napoleonic Wars, but let's keep things simple.

Then after WWII we see an aggressive push to establish the goal of a "New World Order" in which the US/Europe will dominate the global sphere of Economy. The domination was of course led by force through the US Military, and then instituted through non-democratic organizations such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, SPP, FTAA, etc.

Today, we have a new page in the chapter unfolding as the New World Order becomes complete, and that is the destruction of America in order to bring about a more power consolidated governmental and economic body called the North American Union, which is eventually to be merged together with the EU, African Union, and Asian Union under the command of the UN and World Bank.

It's all a game that the Elites have been playing to ensure Global domination in terms of economics and politics.

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