Are We Succeeding in Iraq? A
Soldier's Perspective on Uprising of Muqtada Al-Sadr
by Joe Roche
I am a soldier with
the 16th Engineering Battalion of the 1st Armored Division. Our
unit is presently in combat against the uprising of Muqtada Al-Sadr.
This situation is
extremely sensitive. Had we entered this prematurely, victory
would not have been possible. We have been involved in preparations
and much planning. Today we are scoring amazing successes against
this would-be tyrant.
I ask that the American
people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the timid among you
who are portraying this as a disaster. It just isn't true.
Last April, while
the main war was still going on, I gave a class to my company
about the threat posed by Sadr. Though my fellow soldiers didn't
appreciate having to attend a class at 8 am, they can tell you
that what is happening now is no surprise.
Our evaluation over
a year ago was that Sadr presented a formidable and possibly
impossible threat. Last summer, as my unit covered Sadr City
- the sprawling part of Baghdad that Sadr controlled then - his
militias made a show of force in defiance of the effort to open
Iraq to new freedoms. Sadr intimidated most of Iraq's Shia leaders
and the community at large. He welcomed many foreign fighters
to train and assist his militia in terrorist tactics and guerrilla
Our leaders acted
with caution and care to secure ever-stronger cards against Sadr
while working to achieve four main goals.
The first goal was
to isolate Sadr. Second was to exile him from his power base
in Baghdad. Third was to contain his uprising. And the last was
to get his hardline supporters to abandon him and to encourage
moderates to break from him.
This has been done
brilliantly. Sadr is losing everything.
Goal one: Sadr's
so-called Mahdi Army militia is fighting alone. The people of
Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf are not supporting him. His forces
Goal two: His one-time
powerbase, Sadr City in Baghdad, has been lost. Sadr has been
exiled. We have him on the run.
Goal three: Other
Shia leaders are breaking from him. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani
has left Sadr's call for jihad and uprising to flounder on deaf
ears. Bremmer and General Abizaid stunned the Shia community
by negotiating a calm in Fallujah. That tail-spinned Sadr's ability
to intimidate Iraq's Shia leaders. The Iraqi people of Najaf
and Karbala are offended by this Baghdad thug coming to their
cities and trying to hijack them into conflict with us.
Sadr and his Mahdi
Army militia are insulting the most sacred sites of Shia Islam
daily. This is offending Iraq's Shia leaders very much.
Our units, in fact,
are operating within 500 meters of the most sacred Shia religious
sites, and the local people are not resisting. This is what the
pessimists among you are preventing you from understanding. Something
like this would have been impossible before Sadr and his militia
thugs went into there to hijack Iraqi Shia Islam. The people
of Najaf and Karbala know we are not there to conquer and occupy
the religious sites; we are there to liberate them from this
Goal four: Now Sadr's patrons and mentor in Iran are breaking
from him. Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri in Qom, Iran, is no
longer backing him. Haeri was a close intimate to Sadr's respectable
father. Sadr has been abandoned.
I'm not blind to
the casualties this is causing us. My battalion should be home
reunited with family and friends after serving a full year here.
Instead, we are still here where the temperature is reaching
115-125 degrees. And some of my fellow soldiers have fallen.
Your soldiers are
working their hardest. Be strong and persistent in your faith
with us. Sadr's militia is desperate, so they are dangerous,
but keep this in perspective. The pessimists would have you believe
this is a disaster. Don't listen. I think some of them believe
their reputations require our failure because they have been
so negative. Eliminating Sadr's threat is part of the mission.
We are further ensuring the liberation of the Iraqi people. This
has to be done, and we are doing it.
Don't be seduced
by those who would rather that we sit back and just enjoy the
freedoms past generations of Americans have sacrificed to gain
for us. This is our time to earn it. I remember President Bush
saying after the September 11th attacks: "The commitment
of our Fathers is now the calling of our time."
# # #
U.S. Army Specialist Joe Roche, an adjunct fellow of The National
Center for Public Policy Research is on active duty in Iraq,
serving with the 16th Engineering Battalion of the 1st Armored
Division. This essay is taken from a longer letter written by
the author based on notes he made while on combat missions against
Sadr's forces. The entire letter is available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/2004/05/new-e-mail-from-front-in-iraq-i-ask.html.