INSIGHT FROM IRAQ

An after-the-fact report excerpted from a C-130 pilot‘s letter home (name withheld).
Forwarded by 1stAdmPAO

On Nov. 6, 2004 I was honored to fly the Iraqi VP Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaffari - heavily favored to be elected in January - from Baghdad to Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. He sat up on the flight deck, and I invited him to get up on headset to visit with us for a little bit.

Talk about an intelligent man! He is a medical doctor that could easily pass as a history professor in any university in America. He no doubt knew more about our own campaigns for freedom than most Americans do. He named places, dates, anecdotes about US history and compared them to the struggle underway for Iraq today.

I pointed out that our own Revolutionary War took years to end, even against the will of some, or at least the apathy of many of the American colonists. He agreed and continued with the histories of many of the world's democracies. Our press seems to forget that building a true democratic nation cannot be accomplished over night. Our own country went through, and continues to go through growing pains. Nearly 100 years after the Declaration of Independence, our country went to war with itself. It should be no surprise that violence is occurring here… and for many of the same reasons - fear of government, struggle for power, fear of liberty, repression of weaker peoples, religious fervor, etc.

The conversation turned to Iraq under Saddam. He described the mass graves. Told of his own family members being killed under the regime. I said it seems like every family can point to some relative who was persecuted under the Hussein family's terror. He agreed, and then again pointed out why the people in the Sunni-triangle region are resisting.

Most of the resistance is not Iraqi. Afghanis, Jordanians, Iranians…t he terrorist melting pot has gathered and now hold the people captive with fear and lies. He admitted that the terrorists have left no option but violence to end this. It is regrettable, but is the reality… something most of us have known since September 11th.

Dr. al-Jaffari then told me of his family, all intelligent, successful people and then asked about my own family. I told him of my five beautiful girls and showed him a picture of them all. We talked about families, and the perceptions of the Iraqi people. He was shocked to see four children in an American family. He said he thought most American families had two, maybe three. He is the youngest of twelve boys, and I think three girls, and has five children of his own.

We talked about the birthplace of civilization, of Abraham and the foundation of Christianity and Islam. His English is decent, and he was an easy conversationalist. I have no concept of his political leanings, or his intent for Iraq other than security and freedom. But as a person, he strikes me as decent and steadfast. He said he was excited about President Bush's re-election… which immediately gained favor with me.

He then said a curious thing… that he viewed the soldiers in Iraq as his own children. He called me his son, and my co-pilot his daughter and struggled to find the right words to explain what he meant. I do not know if this is a common thing in this culture but regardless, it struck me as intimate. Despite his struggle with words, his point was made clear.

He was implying that it pains him to see the sacrifices here, but is made proud by the courage and commitment of the American Soldier…t he same feelings we would experience when our own children suffer, or succeed. He was so grateful. It was really humbling for him to say such wonderful things to us personally, and the US military as a whole. And I wish those things could be heard by everyone in America.

The people at home just don't get it. One day… one day, they might. Freedom is the goal, and as Dr. al-! Jaffari noted, forgetting your past will certainly lose your future.

I think Iraq is in good hands.

May God's will be done here.

P.S. - My crew was selected as the top C-130 unit for October!