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Just received a copy of an email exchange between a reader and the Washington Post reporter who wrote the article about the 3rd ACR in Iraq. According to this account, The Washington Post has a copy of that letter from the mayor - and has since it was first delivered.
The original email:
Mr. Ricks,The reply:
I enjoyed your article about the 3rd Armored Cavalry in Iraq. I was pleasantly surprised to see anything with a positive tinge about Iraq from a major media outlet. One note, your description of Mayor Najim Abdullah Jabouri's dissatisfaction with the 3rd Armored's rotation out of Iraq doesn't leave reader with the knowlege of overwhelming gratitude he has for our troops and what they have accomplished. A letter from the Mayor to Col. McMaster can be found here: http://powerlineblog.com/archives/013133.php#013133
and here: http://www.mudvillegazette.com/archives/004167.html
I hope you will consider printing this letter as an addendum to your article so the American people can see a first hand example of the gratitude of Iraqis that have recognized the sacrifice and dedication of our troops.
Thanks for writing. I likewise found pleasure in finding something good to write about in Iraq--beleive me, I have looked.Here's the account of that lunch that appeared in the final story:
Yes, the mayor gave me a copy of the letter when I had lunch with him. But one thing Americans have done in Iraq is take things too much at face value. Read between the lines of the letter: The mayor is indeed grateful to the 3rd ACR, but he also is threatening to quit because it is leaving.
Tom Ricks (in Taji)
Even now, McMaster said, he understands that his success is "fragile." The city's mayor, Najim Abdullah Jabouri, is unhappy that McMaster and his unit are leaving Iraq this month. "A surgeon doesn't leave in the middle of the operation!" the mayor said intently to McMaster over a recent lunch of lamb kabobs and bread. He waved his finger under the colonel's nose. "The doctor should finish the job he started."And here's the letter, incase you want to read between the lines:
McMaster and Hickey tried to calm him down. "There's another doctor coming," Hickey ventured. "He's very good."
The mayor wasn't mollified. He said he has seen other American units here before, and they didn't coordinate with Iraqi forces like McMaster's has. "When you leave, I will leave, too," the mayor threatened. "What you are doing is an experiment, and it isn't right to experiment on people."
In the Name of God the Compassionate and MercifulIt may be true that the mayor is disappointed in the departure of the 3rd ACR - he may even be dejected to the point of despair.
To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.
To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.
To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.
Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.
I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.
The leaders of this Regiment; COL McMaster, COL Armstrong, LTC Hickey, LTC Gibson, and LTC Reilly embody courage, strength, vision and wisdom. Officers and soldiers alike bristle with the confidence and character of knights in a bygone era. The mission they have accomplished, by means of a unique military operation, stands among the finest military feats to date in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and truly deserves to be studied in military science. This military operation was clean, with little collateral damage, despite the ferocity of the enemy. With the skill and precision of surgeons they dealt with the terrorist cancers in the city without causing unnecessary damage.
God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women. From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget. To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land. Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.
Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.
NAJIM ABDULLAH ABID AL-JIBOURI
Mayor of Tall ‘Afar, Ninewa, Iraq
But why didn't the Post print the letter?
I'm reminded of another letter the Washington Post rejected:
Few readers here will forget Robert Stokely's moving tribute to his son Mike. Shortly after we published that the Washington Post ran a piece titled "A Life, Wasted" written by the father of a Marine who was killed in Iraq.This time they had the letter first. I wonder what stopped them?
At the time I recall thinking of the contrast between the two stories - and their placement. Probably nothing better defines the divide between the old guard media and the blogs - I would have published either story here. (In fact, a link to the Washington Post story was included in that day's Dawn Patrol.) But apparently the Post is a bit more choosy in what they present.
It seems Mr Stokely saw that Washington Post column too, and submitted his story to them. They rejected it, explaining "we rarely publish pieces that have been published elsewhere or have been widely circulated." That criteria having been met here, it would seem.
Update 21 Feb: The New York Post reports the story of the letter.
What concerns me more than the WP handling or more likely mis-handling of this story, is the seeming inability of the US Command Structure to do what its end-customers want to get done. What good can come from annoying our primary supporters in any particular area?
If the 'locals' are pissed because of yet another short-term troop rotation, is that not the BIG story? I understand that forces need to be rotated out, but surely there is some case to be made for a continuing 'officer-corps' to be on permanent station in a CRITICAL Zone. How damaging ot continuity is this continual shuffling of units, and more importantly of command personnel?
I guess what I am asking is; Does the current rotation system actually get the job done or does it merely 'help' the military? Are there any studies on this factor ?Posted by dougf at February 17, 2006 09:23 PM
I see your point, but that's asking quite a lot. I think Col McMaster would be the first to tell youu that he can be replaced - and I don't mean because he's eager to get out.
A bit of an adjustment period will follow. Some elements in the city will likely try to take advantage of that - test the new guys and their relationship with the local authorities, attempt to sow disunity or create mistrust and suspicion. Interesting times may ensue.
Ultimately the Iraqi people will take charge of their destiny - or not. Until then, it's probably best that they don't come to view any specific US military leader as their only hope.Posted by greyhawk at February 17, 2006 10:01 PM
I appreciate the basic post and commentary ... as well as the exchange in the above two comments. All professionally offered without the customary rant I've come to expect on many blogs. The two comments provide food for thought ... there are merits to each. Well done.
WSPosted by Well_Seasoned at February 17, 2006 10:58 PM
I wish I'd seen this post before I did mine this evening. It's a perfect illustration of today's journalists...or so they like to be told.Posted by DagneyT at February 17, 2006 11:34 PM
"called" not "told"!Posted by DagneyT at February 17, 2006 11:34 PM
Wild. Good reporting, Hawk.
BTW, I linked to this, but Blogger seems to have eaten the post -- after it was published and visible on the page! Not sure why; that's two posts of mine that have vanished into the ether today.Posted by Grim at February 18, 2006 12:55 AM
I'll take a somewhat contrarian view.
Some Iraqi attittudes are changing in relationship to co-operating with Multi National Forces.
The troops view of the Iraqi's in their AOR will be will what they initially encounter.
Obviously, from the letters, the 3rd ACR found a community that "desired" MNF assistance, as a result a postive relationship was formed.
I'm pretty sure, their is no shortage of units that have been to such places like beautiful downtown Sammarra, where the "desire" for a positive relationship may have been less than genuine. Not rotating units, doesn't create the possibility of a "New Beginning".
Not to discount Col McMasters accomplishment, but what was the attitude of the Community Leaders of TalAfar when the previous unit rotated in?
Posted by Soldier's Dad at February 18, 2006 03:55 AM
"This time they had the letter first. I wonder what stopped them?"
I love a little tongue in cheek... can we all spell "political agenda".
And as equally distressing is the little spittle of a comment from Mr. Ricks, "I likewise found pleasure in finding something good to write about in Iraq--beleive me, I have looked."
I can only presume that he was looking in the same place he looked for rewards from the tooth fairy.
Posted by Some Soldier's Mom at February 18, 2006 07:48 AM
The above two commenters are not related. :)
Soldier's mom: I'd bet if another reporter wanted to look for a good news story about Iraq they could start by checking the trash cans at wherever that lunch was held - Ricks' copy of the letter can probably be found there.
Soldier's Dad: My guess is the attitude of the community leaders was "desperation". You're right, some locations aren't so willing to be assisted by the coalition. No single city is representative of Iraq.Posted by Greyhawk at February 18, 2006 10:48 AM
Why let the truth stand in the way of bashing the troops? Good helk, don't you realize there's a war on and right wing nuts and neo cons to flog?
And of course, calling them on their bias (ie rubbing their noses in it) just proves to them what rapacious bullies we are for insisting on the facts and no spin or distortion.
If there is ANYPLACE we would be losing ground it is with the MSM, but then they are a few bricks shy of a load to begin with or just cowardly...Posted by Cricket at February 18, 2006 06:04 PM
They didn't print the letter because it is quite long.
Thomas Ricks impresses me greatly.
His ability to distinguish between the Generals, the Joint Chiefs, and the civilian Pentagon leaders, and his willingness to say the former loathe the latter, well, it's encouraging to read.
When I see men with four stars on their shoulders carrying water for the nimcompoops in the White House, I lose a lot of faith.Posted by JS Narins at February 19, 2006 01:53 AM
"They didn't print the letter because it is quite long."
Do you mean it would have run off the edge of the page, or that Washington Post readers have limited attention spans?Posted by Old Soldier at February 19, 2006 11:11 AM
They WP publish the letter because they either didn't want to or were told to downplay the positive and up play the negative. As far as disparaging our troops and the military's decision on rotation, these people find it hard to trust anyone. They need to have another unit come in and see that together they can work as one to save their own town. They are taking continuous "little" steps toward fighting for their own freedom and liberty. But like any subjugated people they are "still afraid." Who wouldn't be? As they begin to trust themselves and their ability to not be helpless, they will experience less of this "panic." But, I am convinced that, after reading thier letters, they will succeed. They do not yet see their own amazing strength and resilience. But, they will! Yhey have tasted freedom. They will not be eager to give it up to anyone! Look at all they bhave accomplished.Posted by devildog6771 at February 19, 2006 08:35 PM
"They didn't print the letter because it is quite long" is doublespeak for spin. When you have something that good coming out of the southwest Asia quagmire, you can't just let readers make up their minds that good things are happening; that would destroy the credibility of the paper. You have to cherry pick and insert things to spin.Posted by Cricket at February 20, 2006 02:57 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(14) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)