Friday, July 27, 2007

Paradise: Baghdad...

I am not sure if I should be excited about this but; recently, I have found myself waking each morning most anticipating two daily events: time spent in the gym or running and the authoring of this Blog.

In anticipation of writing tonight’s post, I had developed two separate topic pieces. The first was to be a post concerning the appropriate steps that need to be taken, in my estimation, for Fred Thompson to successfully secure the Republican Party nomination for President. This would have been written with a focus on what Senator Thompson needs to do to garner the votes of military and veterans in particular.

The second idea was to run with last night’s theme and incorporate experiences from Ramadi into a response to the recent news of The New Republic / Private Beauchamp fiasco. I wrestled throughout the day with which story I would present tonight.

And then, while walking to my residency in the fraternity house, an issue totally separate came to mind. And it is that issue that I am going to discuss tonight.

The Baghdad Anomaly

There was a particular period of time during my days in Iraq that saw the country undergo a dramatic change of direction. For many reasons, this period should be studied in depth. One of the notable reasons is to detect what went wrong and prevent it from happening again should we ever face a similar situation. There’s also another, and maybe more currently pertinent, reason to study this transitional period. Better understanding of it may give us a clearer picture of the enemy we are facing today.

So, tonight, I want to relate some events that I partook around the summer of 2003 in and around the area of Baghdad, Iraq.

As it is vital to the comprehensible understanding of tonight’s accounts, one must be aware of my own role during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was in the Third Infantry Division and just a young private. Upon completing my Advanced Individualized Training in 2002, I was assigned to Fort Stewart where it was quickly made clear that my unit would be deploying to Kuwait in a short time. This was well before any of the winds of war in Iraq were present.

That September, on my Mother’s birthday no less, my unit shipped to Kuwait. I was a member of the Second Brigade’s Reconnaissance Team, a unit composed of cavalry scouts and forward observers, of which I was the latter. Our mission in Kuwait was not out of the ordinary. The Third Infantry Division had been rotating brigades through Kuwait for some time now as part of what was then deemed “intrinsic actions.” Our purpose was to train with other international forces in the country, including the Kuwaitis themselves, to better prepare all sides should Saddam Hussein again become aggressive towards his neighbors to the south. Our presence in Kuwait was also a great deterrent against such aggression. This had been such a long standing mission for Fort Stewart units that we were the only division in the army, at the time, that maintained desert-tan painted equipment as opposed to the Army’s accepted O.D. Green camouflage. This was scheduled to be a six month deployment.

Because of our availability in the region, along with our continued training for just such a mission, we were utilized heavily during the invasion of Iraq. The story of the invasion and the Third Infantry Division’s actions during it are well documented. Less accurately depicted is what occurred after we occupied Baghdad.

Upon the successful toppling of the Hussein-led government in Baghdad, my unit was assigned with the authority to maintain security at the capital city’s main train station. I recall nights spent at that train station absolutely vividly. In many ways, time spent at the train station was the most surreal and interesting period in my life. Our security was always augmented by three older Iraqi gentlemen. They were very highly educated engineers and had vested financial interests in seeing the train station maintain safety. I was involved in countless memorable conversations with these gentlemen. Their knowledge was their most remarkable quality; one of them, in fact, had completed extensive advanced academic work in Europe. Had they been Americans, they would no doubt have held positions as Chief Officers in some capacity and would have been deep in financial luxuries. But, here they were in Baghdad, content to sit in folding chairs day-in and day-out and support the Americans in assisting them.

Many of the events that occurred during those nights in the train station will remain personally held tales. Unfortunately, the revelation of those events might incriminate some of my buddies still on active duty. Not because we performed any outlandish acts, but because we were often guilty of breaking General Order #1 while in the presence of these gentlemen. Let it be said that our Iraqi engineer friends were very welcoming home-makers who often treated us to extended-course meals at their homes and always ensured that we had plenty along the ways of entertainment during long nights positioned at their rail hub.

The level of calm that immediately followed the downfall of the Baathist regime in Baghdad was remarkable. It now seems asinine to suggest that the following events occurred, but they did. My unit used to travel to city center Baghdad, abandon our Humvees but to a couple rotating guards, drop all of our protective gear, enter restaurants and eat full-service meals. Imagine this: I used to travel to this same area of the city and receive a haircut from an Iraqi barber who would wield a straight-edged blade without so much of a raised eyebrow from my compatriots. There was even an instance that our Humvee, by its lonesome, left the Baghdad International Airport after escorting an official and traversed the streets of Baghdad in search of pirated DVDs. Occasionally, I will tell stories of complacency, of soldiers asleep while behind the gun atop a Humvee, that occurred during this period and then wonder how I ever let one partake in such lazy and dangerous activity. And then it occurs to me that this sort of activity was a product of the environment that we then knew.

Of course, this fun wouldn’t last. After being promised a return home during a celebration on July 4th, we were quickly informed that such guidance was misinformed and that we would be, instead, augmenting units in a then unknown city called “Fallujah.” Upon settling in our camp outside of the city proper, we began to travel back to Baghdad during our “off” days to return to the luxuries that were once common fare for us. About once a week, we could look forward to one of these trips to city center Baghdad. And then, one week, peculiarly, these much anticipated journeys ceased.

We were informed that the unit that had replaced us in Baghdad, the First Armored Division, had let the city fall into chaos. I remember all the fun ending with the report of the death of a soldier in the same city center that I had once loved. He had apparently been waiting in line for some sort of comfort object, perhaps ice cream at a stand or a coke- objects that I, too, had once waited in line for- when he was approached from behind and murdered. I believe that the instrument of death was a gun, but it could have been a knife. The story, in its full accuracy, escapes me now. The accuracy of the story is less important than the nuances that surround it. It was at this point that Baghdad began its quick fall into violence.

At the time, the violence in Baghdad seemed quite isolated apart from the limited fighting we were doing during our patrols on the outskirts of Fallujah. We attributed the conflict in Baghdad to the lesser abilities of our Armored Division counterparts. Of course, in retrospect, that was not the case. The First Armored Division is certainly as capable as any in the world and the up-rise in insurgent activity, ultimately, manifested itself in areas far outside of their jurisdiction.

So this raises many questions that I have yet to hear quality answers. The answers lack, in part, because this is now a forgotten part of Iraq history. But this soldier, nonetheless, wonders, “What happened?” There was a notable period of time in Iraq between the fall of the government in Baghdad and the beginning of the greater insurgency conflict as we now understand it, which was void of violence. Why was this? Did the “bag guys” really need a month to two to regroup and retaliate? Or was it the case that, during this two month gap, combatants from outside the country were being filtered in?

I have no good answers. I hope, however, that by continuing to spread the experiences that I remember, some may come to pass. And, hopefully, these answers can go a long way in helping us understand the enemy that we currently face.


stu said...

I am just a civilian and i Allways wondered the same thing. When i was reading your story I was hoping you would have an answer. I started reading blogs from Iraq because of all the mixed messages I was getting from the media. When the war broke out I was laid off so i had plenty of time to watch the cable news shows. When the statue went down the Iraqis, in my perspective met the soldiers with flowers. As the days went by the media was complaining the the troops were not met that way. I constantly wonder about the woulda, coulda shoulda's. You hear about us that we should have had 500,000 troops clamping down on everything including jay walking. Or were an occupying force and we are making too big of a foot print. There is so much more I could say but i'm already rambling on.

thank you so much

49erDweet said...

Thanks for your insightful and reflective post. Your question is extremely important. An honest and thorough answer could go a long way toward eventually reuniting the divergent political beliefs of the two main camps of political thought now splitting our nation.

Of course those whose minds are already solidly set in concrete would receive little benefit, but then "who cares"? As responsible citizens, those folk are worthless, anyway.

Dr. Ferris said...

I have my own opinion about who is responsible for teh violence in Iraq, and it isn't Islamic fundamentalists. One need only look to the origins of all teh Warsaw-Pact style weapons in teh country, including some of the newest RPG types that Russia manufactures, to get an idea of who is ultimately pulling the strings.

In short, I think the organisation orchestrating all this violence is the same group that was behind Saddam in teh first place - that is, the international Left. Leftists did not simply disappear when the Soviet Union went belly-up, and in fact have become even more creative and more ruthless to compensate for their loss of a steady income from the old USSR. Saddam's Ba'athist and secular Iraq was an old ally of theirs, and a long standing source of revenue for their other operations, in particular those against Israel. They were initially caught by surprise by President Bush's success in forming a Coalition against Saddam, despite their efforts (they were equally unsuccessful both in preventing action against Saddam as a result of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and failed to have the UN sactions lifted as well). Over the years, however, the Left has been busy both in building an insurgency in Iraq through Syria, and in winning over the Iranians to their side (in part, by helping them with their nuclear weapons program). The Left's terrorist infrastructure in Iraq now has become highly organized and complicated, having elements that distribute newer and better IEDs from Iran, recruit insurgents both within and outside of Iraq, smuggle in arms and munitions, and run propaganda opeations in the West in support of their efforts.

In my opinion, the international Left is the engine behind all this activity. Most of the Iraqi people hated Saddam and like the Coalition. It has taken a considerable effort, using kidnappings, targetted assassinations and mass killings, to cow most of the population back into subservience - and even so, many Iraqis still join their national army and police force, despite the risks.

To me, that's the biggest untold story of the conflict. Due to teh media, the left is instead widely seen as pacifists who are against the Coalition on moral grounds. The Left's long association with and support for the Ba'athists in general and Saddam in particular has been mostly forgotten.

Tano said...

Dr. Ferris.

That is perhaps the nuttiest theory that I have heard in a long time.

You seem to have taken on the pathology of the typical paranoid nut - to construct some grand conspiratorial black-hole into which you can pour everything bad that is in the world, and everything you dont like, and give it one simple label - in your case, "the left".

Could just as well have been "the right", or "the jews", or "the space aliens".

I dont think there is much of a success rate from calling down into the black hole and advising the nut to pull himself out, but for what its worth - come back Dr. Ferris!

Dr. Ferris said...

A bit of trivia then:

Remember back in 1991, when these "illusionary" Leftists were protesting in favour of letting Saddam keep Kuwait? I remember hearing their arguments at a meeting held in a Methodist church.

Anyone still remember Abdul Rahman Yasim? Or has he slipped down the memmory hole?

How about when Leftists were still protesting the UN sanctions on Iraq? I seem to remember a figure of a million Iraqi children being killed off, give or take. The biggest outing I remember was in 1997, on the Washington University campus near DC. Some representatives of the MeK were there too.

The same folks, mainly from the ISO, were behind the late September 2001 formation of International ANSWER. Just a figment of my addled brain, mind, although they do have a website up still. I expect the notes praising North Korea have been taken down a long time ago, but I could be wrong - I haven't checked back on it in a long time.

Then there's all the weapons these insurgents seem to never run out of. In particular, the RPG-7V2s are especially impressive, and brand-spanking new. The specially machined IEDs we're facing now certainly come from Iran, but the new weapons and copious amounts of ammunition for them clearly come from further afield. Most of it looks very much like Russian or Chinese makes, but of course I'm sure that's simply a coincidence.

I'm pretty sure Saddam was a secular leader of a group called the Iraqi Ba'ath Party. That groups did appear to claim to be secular, socialist, and Leftist in their day - that is, back before when Saddam "found Allah" and stopped killing mullahs. I do remember lots of Leftists voicing support for his regime, lauding his success regarding "improved literacy and women's rights" (I kid you not). Michael Moore called the Ba'athist-led insurgency back in teh beginning equivalent to our "Minutemen". George Galloway, a very Leftist British MP, had all sorts of nice things to say about him too, and on occasion still does.

But never mind all that. Never mind as well documented crossover aid from one established group of Leftists to others (say, the IRA's training of FARC bombers or aid from Hugo Chavez to FARC guerrillas, or the PKK's recent recruiting drives on college campuses, using PLO activists to help out (the last one I went to was a Brown University). And let's just forget that truckload of explosive jackets recetly intercepted crossing over from the Syrian border. And so on, and so forth.

What do I know. Better I go hide deep in a big black hole, hiding safe from all those Jewish neo-con space lizards that are REALLY behind it all.

One thing. Is it so ridiculous to assume that as the Leftist PLO used terrorism to cow Palestinian dissent, as the IRA used bombings and kidnappings to cow dissent amongst the Irish, as FARC useskidnappings, terrorism and urban bombings to cow opposition amongst Columbians, and as Syria uses car bombs, terrorism and assassinations to cow Lebanese dissent, to assume that people who set off bombs in markets, at mosques and at funerals, who assassinate popular Iraqi mullahs, who seem to be replete with lots of state-of-the-art Russian and Chinese-made small arms and AT rockets, and who likewise seem to be the darlings of many on the Left, might not necessarily be part of a pious, spontaneous, indigenous movement?

Just asking. Anyone else have an opinion?

cjkinsey said...

Dr. Ferris,

I agree with Tano, and don't really want to follow you down your black hole, but want to try to help quickly.

You show no evidence as why these are "left" people vs a word such as right or extremists.

As to the weapons, they might have come from the weapons depots that were left unguarded after we invaded Iraq. I picked this site, since it is not a "left" site.

The other and final point that kept jumping out at me, is that we, the United States, were supporting Saddam and providing weapons. Remember Rumsfield and Saddam pictured back in the 80's under Reagan?

Now back to the actual post, I am really struggling with how to respond, but here goes. I don't think you are going to find one answer to your question. Rarely in life things as simple as options 1 or 2. Where 1 and 2 are mutually exclusive, more commonly however things are affected by 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, where 1 and 2 are in conflict, but both exacerbate the conditions of 3. You get the point.

A place to go about the war, are some of the people that were right about the invasion, before it was started like Juan Cole.

I would encourage you to check your assumptions. When you say things like Fallujah, the previously unknown city. This is important, because this is a city of over 350,000 people, which has steadily grown in size since 1947. The people and people outside of the US have know about this town for a long time.

We have been occupying Iraq for 5 years, at what point is it ok to have come to some conclusions?

Dr. Ferris said...

In order:

You show no evidence as why these are "left" people ....

The fact that Saddam's regime was Leftist (and not "Islamic) and that the old Iraqi secret police are orchestrating much of the violence. That Syria also has a Leftist, Ba'athist regime that is funneling weapons to the insurgents. That the weapons coming through Iran mostly originate from either Russia or the PRC. That the Left in the West has had a well documented relationship with Saddam's government, and has consistently attacked the Coalition activities and Western policies (even going so far as to blaming the WTC attacks on the Bush administration).

I could go on forever on this one.

As to the weapons, they might have come from the weapons depots that were left unguarded...

Not the brand new stuff. Certainly not the state-of-the-art RPGs we've been seeing that can penetrate M1A1 armour. Ammunitions stocks amongst the insurgents would have long since been depleted by now without outside resupply, which again seems mainly to be routed through Syria and Iran.

The other and final point that kept jumping out at me, is that we, the United States, were supporting Saddam and providing weapons.

I've heard this one too, over and over again. What the US was doing in the late 1980's was trying to negotiate an end to the Iran/Iraq war - what military stock we did send went to Iran, not Iraq, as part of what was known at the time as the "Iran/Contra Affair".

When I've pressed people to give me an account of any weapons we sent to Iraq, no one can give me a straight answer. This might have something to do with the Iraqi Army being overwhelmingly stocked with Soviet-era equipment (this being due, again, to that long-standing relationship between these two secular, socialist countries). Invariably the Bell helicopter sales come up as the only transfer of anything that could be remotely construed as a "weapon" - thereafter these utility helis get described as everything from assault choppers to gas distribution systems, etc.

In short, these "weapons transfers" atributed to the Reagan administration never occurred. Saddam's arsenal overwhelmingly came from the old Soviet Union and the PRC, with some of his more modern weapons systems (such as Exocet missiles and Mirage aircraft) coming from France. His chemical weapons in particular were of Russian make - many of the "dual weapons" shells found, for example, have Cyrillic markings on them. About the only thing the Iraqis got were agricultural credits, specifically designed so that they had to be spent on food stocks, and mainly because due to Saddam's warmongering and socialist policies his people were starving to death at the time.

I don't think it controversial at all, given the preponderance of weapons and munitions from traditional Leftist sources amongst the insurgents, the overwhelming support for the anti-Coalition narrative from Leftist sources, the open co-operation between the Iranian theocracy and traditional Leftist regimes (such as that of Chavez in Venezuela), and the regular intercepts of weapons, munitions and bombs across the Syrian and Iranian borders, to assume that the Left is, as a transnational entity with considerable experience in instigating and maintaining violent terrorist-style insurgencies, orchestrating yet another instance of this brutal form of LIC in Iraq.

Far from the evidence being sparse, it's so obvious as to be unavoidable. By contrast, the Leftist narrative regarding the origins and progress of the insurgency variates between equivocating to ridiculously absurd, and is in many cases supported by outright lies (such as, for example, the story regarding US military aid to Saddam's Iraq, or the faked casualty figures in the Lancet reports).

To summarize, the Left's involvement in Iraq is the 800 lb. gorilla that no one seems to want to discuss. When someone does bring it up within so-called "liberal" circles they are roundly ridiculed, as I have been. Yet without discussing the ICP, the Leftist affiliation of the Ba'ath, the long-standing collusion between Western Leftists and Ba'athist movements in general, and Saddam Hussein's Ba'athists in particular, how can this connection go unexamined in any serious analysis of events?

Here's a good source for info on the region:

It deals more with Syrian machinations, but you should find some good articles about Iraq as well. If you're an objective reader, you'll also come to better understand the recent alliance of convenience between Islamic fundamentalists and Leftist activists (and thus be better able to make sense of that arrangement, such as why Noam Chomsky would feel moved to pay a cordial visit to Hezbollah, why the Left has become so virulently anti-Semitic of late, and so on).

Brazell said...

Dr. Ferris --

We usually reserve wacky theories *for* the International Left, not *about* the International Left.


Though, about the main article -- again, a wonderfully written article that I really enjoyed reading.

I was really hoping you had an answer to the last hanging question, but I think that something that is important to focus on is when terrorist groups -- and the nations supporting them -- began to focus on Iraq, and it was only after it was clear that Hussein and the Iraqi Ba'athists would not prove to be much opposition. There is a spike in rhetoric from Islamist terror-leaders calling for the "front lines" of the War against the West to move to Iraq, and specifically, Bagdhad. Something that has generally gone unnoticed, as well, as if the level of collussion between known terrorist groups and Ba'athist supporters in Iraq prior to the American invasion, regarding what should happen if there was an American invasion.

The trump to this evidence has always been the misperception that certain groups are ideologically opposed to one another, therefore, they won't work together, but facts simply suggest otherwise.

Anyway, keep up the good work and thanks a lot.

peking said...

The left did not go away when the Wall came down. They, and their enablers/supporters in the Western media and so called elites, continue to try to dismantle all of our institutions. One need only visit their tortured logic and their sympathy/alliances with all who oppose true Democracy. Their version of freedom comes at a price. Thank you, Dr Ferris.

Dr. Ferris said...

Other fruitcake theorists:

"...U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Al-Arabiyah in an 8 December interview that the United States plans to consult with other Middle East leaders as to whether it should apply more pressure on Syria to take action against militants crossing its border into Iraq. Armitage said that former Ba'athists from the deposed Hussein regime are funding attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces from inside Syrian territory..."

"...Syria and Iran have been working hand-in-glove all along to stoke the fires of sectarian violence in Iraq. Syria has been aiding and abetting al-Qaeda and the Sunni Ba'athists, while Iran has been funneling tremendous assistance to al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and other Shia factions. In the parlance of the streets, Syria and Iran have been playing both sides against the middle..."

"...That the spectrum of opposition to the coalition forces in Iraq comprises many factions often with conflicting political, religious, tribal or simply criminal aims is well known. However, in the context of high-profile attacks by mujahid groups, particularly the latest anti-Shi'a campaign waged by al-Zarqawi and other groups, the posting is a useful reminder that the continuation of Ba'athist groups under new names is behind much of the religious branding of the violence in Iraq..."

If we can get past obvious causes, how can we possibly understand the subtle nuances? If we don't know who are enemy is, how can we fight them effectively?

Ah well. I've done what I could. The rest of you will have to do your own research.

peking said...

Dr Ferris has best articulated what I have always thought. The Left (and its many supporters and enablers did not cease to exist when the Wall came down. Such an organization, (well entrenched in the Western media and elites) continues to dismantle our institutions and make alliances with any and all who would work against true Democracy. One need only visit the tortured logic of people who profess to support freedom for all.

Dr. Ferris said...

To be fair, I don't think they're diabolically trying to "destroy Democracy". They're just involved in lots of criminal enterprises that generate income, and are keen to preserve all those revenue streams.

I'm sure if Marxists found more lucrative ways than narcotics trafficking, resource nationalization, organ harvesting, seditionist terrorism and infiltrating civil bureaucracies to make a quick buck, they'd go that route. Besides, Leftists can be very fond of democratic institutions - so long as it's their own hand-picked despots that are being elected into power for life.

But I digress. I meant to point out hte Left's rather obvious involvement in leading and supplying the Iraqi insurgency, and would rather not meander into a long-winded discourse on the particulars of any of their other criminal operations worldwide. We'd be on here for weeks if I did that.

Ikez said...

Thanks for your service and for bringing us your accounts on this site.

On the topic of who/how the post war violence originated I have seen plenty to lead me to believe that Saddam's regime had a plan in place since the mid 90's (when Clinton was threatening attacks and did attack a few times with missile strikes) for how they would handle an occupation.

That's why the postwar documents being found showed training for carbombs, IED's, suicide attacks going back to well before the invasion as well as Saddam Hussein's intention and follow through of bringing in willing foreign suicide bombers. There were multiple camps in Iraq seen by UN inspectors and others of where suicide bombers would be trained. One was videotapes by CBS and al Jazeera. I can provide a link if anyone is interested.

I have been writing about the post invasion insurgency for a few years and have a site about it,, if anyone is interested. This is obviously on a small part and another major part of it is the cooperation between members of Saddam's Fedayeen, IIS, Republican Guard and other proxies with al Qaeda and the foreign fighters. I invite those interested to take a look at some of my posts on this subject on my site.

Dr. Ferris said...

Thanks Ikez, I will. It looks like you know far, far more regarding the particulars than I do.