September 18, 2007

"not just pretending to be friendly "

Don't miss Michael Totten's latest. Even if you are becoming bored with good news from Iraq, this is just too cool. The pictures of the people...awesome. It's not just that al Anbar province as a whole is peaceful, it's this one special place. Ar Ramadi! Al Qaeda central!

....Ramadi has changed so drastically from the terrorist-infested pit that it was as recently as April 2007 that I could hardly believe what I saw was real. The sheer joy on the faces of these Iraqis was unmistakable. They weren’t sullen in the least, and it was pretty obvious that they were not just pretending to be friendly or going through the hospitality motions.

“It was nothing we did,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Drew Crane who was visiting for the day from Fallujah. “The people here just couldn’t take it anymore.”

What he said next surprised me even more than what I was seeing.

“You know what I like most about this place?” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“We don’t need to wear body armor or helmets,” he said.

I was poleaxed. Without even realizing it, I had taken off my body armor and helmet. I took my gear off as casually as I do when I take it off after returning to the safety of the base after patrolling. We were not in the safety of the base and the wire. We were safe because we were in Ramadi.

Only then did I notice that Lieutenant Colonel Crane was no longer wearing his helmet. Neither were most of the others.

I saw no violence in Baghdad, but I would never have taken off my body armor and helmet outside the wire. I certainly wouldn’t have done it casually without noticing it. If I had I would have been sternly upbraided for reckless behavior by every Soldier anywhere near me.....

You know, nobody's saying that all of Iraq is like Ramadi, or necessarily will be like Ramadi, or that Iraq's ten-thousand problems are solved. But I read things like this, and I remember the times I've written about the tremendous potential Iraq has...and all I can say is, Ha! I was right.

.....I asked Captain McGee the same question. I have no plans to do this. [live in Ramadi] The question is purely theoretical.

“You would probably be okay downtown,” he said, “but you would definitely be fine just north of town. If you tried that in February you would not have lasted four hours.”

“You trust the locals that much?” I said.

“I do,” he said.

“The only people I trust with my life in this country are the Kurds,” I said.

“I trust these people almost as much,” he said. “Are they petty? Yes. Are they tribal? Yes. Are they Arabs?” He rolled his eyes. “Yes. Do they believe in conspiracy theories? Yes. But they have their act together now.”....
Posted by John Weidner at September 18, 2007 5:09 PM
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