A Letter to the Editor

  • Published
  • By the Commanding General
  • Multi National task Force - West
I have just had the privilege of returning to Iraq and more specifically to Al Anbar Province for my third tour. I say privilege for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to again serve with young Americans -- the best of their generation -- in combat. A second reason is there is no greater honor for any man or woman than to protect one's country in time of grave danger, while wearing the nation's cloth. Finally, I do not think there can be anything more gratifying on this earth for an American than to participate in the freeing of a people from the grip of a tyrant, then helping those same people realize the benefits of democracy. To actually exercise the God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I have been away for three years. What I have found in the week I have been back can only be described as shocking. When I was here last, dozens of improvised explosive devices detonated everyday in Al Anbar. Fire fights were as common as IEDs, and mortar and rocket attacks a nightly routine. The emirs of al Qaeda and other equally murderous groups predicted our imminent defeat as they pursued a sick form of extremism no rational man or woman here, or anyplace else, could fathom.

Many in our own country for any number of reasons began to lose faith -- but the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who fought our enemy to a standstill never doubted or waivered in their determination to win.

Several days ago, I walked through the market section of Fallujah. It was bustling with Iraqis of all ages buying and selling products of every description. Adults waved, pressing forward to shake hands, and many, like good businessmen everywhere, tried to make a sale. Kids swarmed around the Marines trying out the few English words they learned in schools that are all now open. Parents no longer fear to send their boys and girls to learn, a practice that under the extremists was often a death sentence.

When I last visited that city, it was the most dangerous place on earth. It was a gunfight going in, and a gunfight coming out everyday. The majority of the city's population lived in stark terror from the most evil men on the planet. It was the same then in Ramadi, Hadithah, and all the way along the Euphrates River Valley to the Syrian border -- but no longer. Like Fallujah, the schools are open, markets thrive, and post-war recovery gains momentum across Al Anbar.

This war is not won, but is being won, and today primarily by the Iraqis themselves. Al Qaeda is not defeated, but it is on the ropes. Its membership knows that if they are foolish enough to come out of the holes they hide in, they will not only meet tough young Americans standing firm and unafraid, but also Iraqi police and soldiers in vastly increased numbers and effectiveness.

Iraq is still a dangerous place, but nothing like it was only a short time ago. We should see this thing through because it's the right thing to do, the American thing to do, and we have the new "Greatest Generation" in just enough numbers willing to give up the comfort of their homes and defend us all while spreading freedom to a people who have never known it.