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Stereotype of the Month Entry
(8/26/07)


Chief Wahoo Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

INDIAN COUNTRY
CORNERING AL QAEDA IN THE STICKS OF ANBAR PROVINCE

By RALPH PETERS

August 26, 2007 THE Iraqi Police station in Karmah doesn't look like anything run by the NYPD. Behind the concertina wire and high walls, sandbagged fighting positions crown the compound's rooftops. This isn't about busting shoplifters.

War-scarred and long hostile to the American presence, Karmah lost its appetite for the murderous version of Islam enforced by al Qaeda. Guided by the sheik of the local Jumaila tribe, volunteers helped us push out the terrorists.

But the threat's still there, if much reduced. The Karmah police compound a fort, really is manned jointly by Iraqis and U.S. Marines, and a U.S. Army training team lives on site. Cooperation is good, but wariness remains: After incidents of betrayal elsewhere in Iraq, our troops keep their guard up.

It's a tough place to serve. Yesterday's creature-comfort highlight was the delivery of lukewarm chow to break the monotony of MREs, the military's brown-bag field rations (Marine field cooks are among the secret heroes of this war). Yet, spirits are remarkably high the men of Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines are doing what they signed up to do.

Capt. Quintin Jones, Lima company's commander, spends a great deal of time on the outlaw roads in his slice of Anbar Province. An upright man in every respect, from his military bearing to his professional ethics, Jones takes care of his Marines, giving his lieutenants all the freedom of action he can, but checking up to ensure that the mission stays on course.

After his stop at the police station, the captain's convoy mounted up again. An M-1 tank led the way, with a second big-boy bringing up the rear of the small group of Humvees. While Karmah takes the occasional mortar round or a burst of sniper fire, Jones was headed east, past the "edge of the empire."

And an M-1 tank coming down the road toward you has a very persuasive effect the point is to demonstrate strength so you don't have to use it.

As the convoy pushed into the countryside, dusk faded toward darkness. With al Qaeda gone, children played by the roadside, something that hadn't been seen here in years. Instead of running away, the kids waved and yelled for attention, trotting alongside the Marine vehicles.

SHANTIES gave way to a stretch of Iraqi McMansions, new homes erected by truckers making their fortunes in the cross-border black-market trade. Deformed at birth, the garish homes wore necklaces of debris. The brute glow of old-fashioned fluorescent lights pulsed through their windows.

The road turned to dirt and sand, and the lead tank kicked up a screen of dust that made it hard for the following drivers to see. At checkpoint after checkpoint, Iraqi volunteers in the Provincial Security Forces (PSF) locally recruited supplements to the police and unpaid community-watch volunteers with Kalashnikovs stood guard to prevent the terrorists from returning to create more havoc.

The neighborhood-based security effort has been a great success the locals know who should be there and who doesn't belong. But the convoy was headed beyond the pacified zone. The current approach of our Marines and soldiers in Iraq is to secure one area, ensure that it stays secure, then expand the pacified territory village by village. It's one of the few "classic" counterinsurgency techniques that really works.

In the dust-thickened night, we maneuvered through a barrier complex guarded by new allies who, just months before, fought against us as members of a hardcore insurgent force. They still don't love us. But they hate al Qaeda. And they want a role in their province's future. Fighting against us cost them dearly, on all counts.

At last, the convoy reached a village in a still-contested area. We had gone back to the Middle Ages, albeit with a few battered cars in evidence. Marine sentries, kneeling with their rifles ready, could have been moonlit recruiting posters. You couldn't help feeling proud of the disciplined contrast they offered to the unkempt world around them.

LIMA Company's 3rd Platoon had arrived at 2 a.m. in a surprise operation. Using Internet satellite imagery, the platoon commander had identified the family compound he wanted to use as his outpost base. When the Marines showed up in the darkness, the family was asleep in their yard, a common practice in the summer heat. Startled at first, a dozen or so relatives quickly cleared out to neighboring homes.

There was no jackboot behavior. The Marines pay $25 per day to use a home an enormous amount to a poor Iraqi farmer. And the Marines also pay for anything they damage (which leads to hilarious claims). Capt. Jones' standard is that his Marines will leave any home they occupy in better condition than they found it in.

Frankly, that isn't hard. One of the first things 3rd Platoon did after establishing its security perimeter was to clean up the litter in the yard. It was a major project.

The platoon commander, 2nd Lt. William Over, was running on adrenalin when we showed up. This is a conflict that belongs to junior leaders, to men like Over and his nuclear-powered platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Kent Pendleton.

Lt. Over reported that the villagers had been even more welcoming than usual. No problems. The tack-tack of rifle fire had sounded intermittently to the north, across a creek, but the Marines hadn't been attacked directly. Pushed from other areas, al Qaeda was known to be concentrating in a small town a few kilometers away.

(One of Capt. Jones's challenges earlier that day had been restraining the Iraqi security forces from launching a premature attack on the new al Qaeda base the Marines have a plan to do the job right, but the Iraqis want the terrorists dead now).

MARINES unloaded supplies in the darkness. More sandbags. Rations. Water. Inside the house, the Day-Glo green of chem sticks provided just enough light to avoid stepping on weary Marines asleep on the packed-earth floor, rifles beside them (dozens of plush rugs were stacked in a bedroom, but the Marines didn't touch them). Other Marines cleaned their weapons by flashlight or ate their field rations now that the heat had broken.

Outside, the half moon blued the packed earth of the courtyard. Cats dashed across the open ground and a wild turkey perched on a roof, silhouetted against a luminous sky. Capt. Jones held a last pow-wow with Lt. Over: the promised metal detectors had been unloaded at the police station by mistake fortunes of war and would be delivered the next day; one energetic NCO was in danger of working himself into exhaustion; the village census check needed to be wrapped up as quickly as possible.

And the isolated platoon had be prepared to fight at all times.

The Marines in that hamlet don't think of themselves in grandiose terms. But they're turning the tide against Islamist terror. Home may be far away, but the strategic defeat al Qaeda is suffering in Iraq is vital to our own security. Lt. Over and his men aren't just securing another hardscrabble Iraqi village in the killing heat of Anbar. They're protecting you.

Ralph Peters' new book is "Wars Of Blood And Faith."

Rob's comment
The main stereotype here is the headline. The right-wing NY Post has done this kind of thing before. Clearly it doesn't care about offending Indians.

A few lines in the article reinforce the headline:

Incidentally, the whole premise of this article is badly flawed. Al Qaeda is in Iraq only because Bush invaded Iraq. We're fighting a problem that exists solely because of us.

Related links
Enemy territory as "Indian country"
Indians in the military


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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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