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January 12, 2009
SoI: AnbarBy Greyhawk
Third in a series, previous entry here.
More from Adam Weinstein, on the near-future of the Sons of Iraq program.
Anbar grassroots movement reaches milestone:
“They have invested in the future of Iraq. And the Government of Iraq is offering them hope and an opportunity to play yet another important role in the future of this country,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, the chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multi-National Corps - Iraq. “They’re going to be part of that.”
The transfer process – dubbed “the leading edge of reconciliation” by MNC-I’s deputy commanding general, Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter –begins on Feb. 1, 2009. On that date, Anbar’s Sons of Iraq will join thousands of other members across the country, transferring from the Coalition forces to the responsibility of the Iraqi Government -- which has promised them long-term employment in the army, police, civil service and other meaningful job fields.
The groundwork for the transfer was set in late December, in a series of meetings between SoI leaders and representatives of the Iraqi government. “The Government invited the SoI leaders to stand up and ask questions,” Kulmayer said. “And some of them ask pretty tough questions.”
In Anbar, the SoI leaders’ concerns revolved around how all their men would be paid and employed after the Coalition forces handed the reins over to the Iraqis. The registration process has been challenging, but all parties agree that the SoI should be taken care of, given their sacrifices and contributions to normalcy and peace in western Iraq.
“In 2008, approximately 500 Sons of Iraq have been killed in the line of duty, and more than 750 wounded,” Kulmayer said. “That’s men out there risking their lives to secure and protect Iraqi citizens and their neighborhoods. It’s a substantial sacrifice.”
Judging from previous transfers, the sacrifices of Anbar’s SoI will not go unrewarded. In Baghdad - home to more than half the nation’s 95,000 or so Sons of Iraq - the members have already received their second monthly paychecks from the Iraqi government. Many of the Baghdad SOIs are now in training to be police officers or workers for a variety of civic projects and other meaningful jobs. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from Baghdad,” said Iraqi Army Major Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, vice chairman of the Iraqi Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation.
The transfer has special significance in Anbar province, where the original Awakening movement was born. In late 2006, Anbar was among the most violent areas of Iraq, with elements of Al Qaeda in Iraq operating freely in populated areas.
Al Qaeda had launched a deadly campaign of intimidation and violence campaign against the citizens of Anbar, which included the indiscriminate killings of dozens of innocent Iraq men, women and children as well as Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. It was here that dissatisfied Sunni tribal leaders first found common ground with the Coalition against al Qaeda, and started neighborhood watches to push the terrorist group out of their communities.
“We helped organize them and eventually began to fund them to provide critical infrastructure and security throughout Anbar,” Ferriter said, “And it quickly spread to many of the other provinces.”
Some of the Sons of Iraq had previously fought against the Coalition. But Ferriter points out that “reconciliation is something you do with your adversaries, not your friends.” And, as he told a group of SoI leaders in Anbar on Dec. 20, “There is a common agreement: We don’t want these men to turn to Al Qaeda.”
The SoI volunteers’ success in Anbar helped turn the tide of war in dramatic fashion. Today, Anbar averages less than one attack per day, and the province was returned to Iraqi control in September. “The blows we have struck against Al Qaeda in Anbar have implications far beyond Anbar’s borders,” the White House said in a release last September.
Kulmayer is confident that the Sons of Iraq transfer will be no less historic. “It’s so important to look at this as a reconciliation issue,” he said. “If you go back to the beginning, you had insurgents, who reconciled with the coalition. And now we’re following that up with a reconciliation between the Sons of Iraq and their own government.”
“That,” he said, “is the way to put Iraq back together.”
More to follow...
Posted by Greyhawk / January 12, 2009 7:28 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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