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As a Military leader I am a calculated risk-taker.  I believe policy makers, senior officers, junior soldiers and the public should know who their leaders are and what they stand for.  I also believe the same people should hear candid observations and opinions from the leaders who are in what history will no doubt show is struggle for the survival of civilization as we know it.  

MISC. Observations

The Press

Threats of Iran

The Problems with Islam 

We are losing this WAR(?), says who?...

The Garden

Gays in the Military

15 Month - combat tours

One Soldier’s Thoughts on the War

Women should not be in combat

Who We Fight...

My View of Mohamed


MISC. Observations

People criticize the President for leading us into Iraq, but if he had not responded as strongly as he did to the 9/11 attacks, and the growing threat of Sadam, the country most assuredly would have criticized him for insufficient action and accused him of being ineffective.


I visited ground zero in New York City.  I feel it should be a pilgrimage for every American.  When I was there, looking at the gaping hole that used to be the Twin Towers I was in awe.  The level of loss was unfathomable.  I thought about the people that did this.  I don’t remember the mafia movie,  but the line the Don used to express his anger was something like “I want them dead!  I want their families dead! I want their homes burned to the ground!”  I can only imagine what President Bush thought about when he looked into the still smoking rubble.  With the most powerful military on the planet at his fingertips, I feel he used great restraint compared to what retribution could have been unleashed.


There are two things happening in our country which cause me to lose faith in America.  One is the outright defeatists who say we have lost or are loosing in Iraq.  The other is Americans who choose to turn and run at the first sign of bloodshed.


One of Americas biggest weaknesses in dealing with the Middle East is it’s ever present need for rapid and measurable change.  Near instant gratification and solutions finalized in the length of time it takes to show a TV sitcom is the prevailing mindset.  Change will come to the Middle East but it will take time and commitment – and this is not something American politicians or the public are built for.


To me, there is a sense of relief that President Bush takes stands and is clear on issues; to include Iraq.  His decision to invade was resolute, and I believe history will show it as the correct course of action.  While many would argue his "Stay the course" strategy needs to change, I am not convinced the strategy has failed.  To the contrary, I see indications it is working, just not at the pace the American public demands.


American politics have become far too polarized.  I have the perception far too many politicians, on both sides of the isle, are more concerned with opposing their rivals, and bending to the result of the latest poll, rather than governing with genuine intent to make the future better.  


It is my belief history will ultimately show the world the decision to go to war in Iraq was the right one.  In my opinion, the choice to ignore a growing threat and willful evil in the world is a far greater wrong than the choices which bring a country to war.  I also believe history will show many flaws in how the war and the rebuilding of Iraq were carried out. 


As Americans, we have culturally always stood behind people who make a strong decision, stick to it, and follow a course of action.  Even in failure for a daring decision there is respect.  Americans deplore inaction or vacillating on a decision.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the Military.  “Attack, Attack, always move forward”.  Many consider former President Carter’s most noteworthy act as President the decision to attempt the rescue of the American hostages in Iran with the “Desert One” military operation; despite the fact the mission ended in failure.


Many people blame the unrest in the Middle-East on the Israel - Palestinian conflict or the Unites States' support for Israel.  Is there anyone who really believes that if Israel had not been created in 1948, that this part of the world would be prosperous and peaceful? 


The American Revolution was fought because (as history records it) the American people had taxation without representation, which is bad enough.  ...but try Saudi Arabia, the people (who are not a part of the royal family) live in a system where they have no taxation and no representation.  They don't even have a point to begin to address their grievances.  Is it any wonder why most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals "displeased" with our support of Saudi Arabia?


People in the United States worry about what would happen if the flow of world oil were disrupted or the price of gas increased substantially.  Paying $5.00 or more for a gallon of gas would be painful, but the US would manage.  Many do not consider what such and increase would do to a third-world country; gas really would be unaffordable to the population.  Struggling businesses would close, workers would not work, and in the poorest of areas life-sustaining food shipments would not reach the people; mass-starvation would be one result.  Think about that the next time you think about the value of cheap oil. 


One description of the Iraq situation overall and agreed to by most soldiers is "good idea, bad execution"; meaning we did the right thing by removing Sadam, but since then many things have been done poorly"   


Anyone who does not believe Iran is supporting insurgents in Iraq, or believes the Iranian government when they state their nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, and not the development of nuclear weapons - has their head in the sand and is blind to history.


I have yet to find anyone who can give me an example from history of a war that went smoothly and according to plan.  Today is no different; war is and will always be an exercise in chaos.


Any of our presidential candidates or politicians who say we should immediately pull our troops out of Iraq might as well say we are going to have to send troops back to the Middle East in the future for a much bigger fight which will kill a lot more Americans.  

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The Press

Response to: “Reporters in Iraq put lives on line” Sunday, October 15, 2006 – Stars and Stripes.

            I have never liked the Press much.  Both as a police officer and a military officer I have always perceived the press as looking for the headline that will bring them the most attention with little regards for the accuracy of what they are reporting or the effects it will have on the person being interviewed.  When reporters have interviewed me, I have been more concerned with how they will twist my words rather than being concerned if I am giving them the information the public needs to know.

            My view is changing.  In large part because of the violence directed at the Press here in Iraq and elsewhere.  They still report.  Now, I perceive not so much for personal glory, but because what is happening here in Iraq and other parts of the world needs to be told.

            Those who speak out about wrongs and have opinions counter to fundamentalists, be they Islamic or Sectarian, risk death by doing so in Iraq; or speak out about the wrongs of a government, as is surely the case in the murder of Russia’s Anna Politkovskaya.

As an ingrained American Civil Liberty, “Freedom of the Press” means not only freedom from censorship and being able to say what you want, but also not being persecuted and murdered for it.  Not fighting for this basic right will enable hatred and evil to create a wall of silence where tyranny will prevail.

To all of the reporters and journalists in harms way, we stand with you; Stay the course.

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Threats of Iran

            The threats made by Iran, or any Middle Eastern culture, are many times heard by Westerners in the context of a “western” threat.  In the West, for the vast majority of threats, the “Western ear” knows it is not a threat which will be carried out.  Many times (most times), the threat has little more weight than a boast or a “face saving” measure.  Even in law enforcement, a person who is claiming to be the victim of a threat must state why they believe the threat made against them was genuine and should be taken literally.  Western media is full of examples of people making threats that are given little or no weight.  Even in our day-to-day language terms such as “hollow threat” or “saber rattling” are common euphemisms to denote what little value is place on threats.  The result of this is the “western” public places little or no weight on a threat that is made against them.  

            In Middle Eastern cultures, and Iran, this in not the case.  The cultures of the Middle East are communal cultures and relationships and “face saving” is of the utmost importance. (but that is the subject for another entry)  When interacting with a person from a Middle Eastern culture, the “intent” can be as important as the act.  If you ask a person for something they will most likely be very accommodating, and respond positively.  In their mind they leave the agreement with the genuine “intent” to complete the arrangement.  Later, depending on circumstances, if the arrangement is not fulfilled this is not necessarily viewed as a failure, because the original intent was there.  

            When a person of a Middle Eastern (communal culture), makes a threat this should be given much more weight than a threat made by a westerner.  It can also be inferred, at the time the threat is made, there is full intent to carry it out.  The threat itself many times is a response to having “lost face”; i.e. “Saber Rattling” from the US directed towards Iran, but this threat is made with the intent to carry out the action.  Iran’s “face saving” measure is to respond with “genuine” threats, which should be received literally.  

Due to the face saving nature of Middle Eastern culture, a threat should be responded to in one of two ways: challenge the threat and be prepared for combat or engage in dialogue and provide the “threat maker” an opportunity to save face.  The cost of combat between the US and Iran would be immense.  The cost of dialogue with Iran is low and may have the desired result. 

Recently (May 06) Iran’s President Ahmadinejad invited President Bush to meet and discuss issues.  President Bush’s response was to rebuff the offer and continue the administrations “silent treatment”.  I am concerned as to the long term result of this course of action.  In the relationship oriented culture of Iran, refusing an offer to dialogue is highly disrespectful.  The American concept of “the silent treatment”, does not apply to this situation, it may only makes a bad situation worse.

The bottom line:  the threats made by Iran against the US are extremely serious and should be taken as Iran having the full “intent” to carry out the threat. Most assuredly, the threats are not “hollow threats” or “saber rattling”. 

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The Problems with Islam 

       I am not an Islamic scholar, nor a Christian scholar, or a scholar of anything else for that matter.  But I have done my share of reading and studying of the Koran and Islam.  Add to that to what I have personally observed of the actions of the vast majority of Muslim people and I am left with the impression Islam does not yet embrace some fundamental concepts which will enable the followers of Islam to progress into a modern society.   

       While the culture and norms of an Islamic community are very different from what I am used to, I have observed there are three basic ideas which have been largely adopted by western society which are lacking in the Islamic world.  The ideas of forgiveness, proportionality, and covetousness do not appear to be at the forefront of Islamic thinking or actions by Muslims and until they are, Islam is destined to be a warring, fragmented, primitive society which will drag down all cultures it comes in contact with.     

       Although I am currently serving as a soldier in the heart of the Muslim world, most times I feel little more than a spectator to one tragedy after another here in the Middle East.  Recently, I opened a newspaper and on one page I read accounts of sectarian killings and escalating violence which seem to have no end.  Mostly the Sunni verses the Shia; bombing, kidnappings, murders; with each event, pure rage from the victims and vows for revenge in an escalating power struggle.  

       To contrast this, I read the account of the Amish school shooting tragedy in the USA in 2006.  If ever evil had a face, it was found in the perpetrator who brutally murdered innocent children at an Amish school house.  The Amish, devoutly Christian and viewed by most Westerners as a fringe group, showed the rest of the world just what it means to embrace the concept of forgiveness.  The killer’s home was not targeted and his family was not persecuted.  Quite the contrary, the killer’s family was embraced by the community and the healing from the tragedy began. 

       I am not able to quote Bible passages by number and my church attendance record is far from stellar, but many of the Christian ideas of forgiveness remain with me: “forgive those who trespass against you”, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, “turn the other cheek”.  All ideas which are much easier said than done.  

       Had the Amish tragedy occurred in an Islamic community in the Middle East, I am hard pressed to believe further killing would not have ensued.  With each atrocity committed in the Muslim world, I see grieving families burying their dead followed shortly thereafter by vows of revenge then acts of violence.  I have yet to hear of anyone standing up and saying they will forgive the perpetrators.  Until the concept of forgiveness is embraced within the Islamic culture, the cycle of violence will never end. 

       The second idea which seems, by my view, foreign to the Islamic world is the idea of proportionality.  Does the punishment fit the crime?  All cultures must come to terms with how to handle those who commit crimes or offend others.  At times, as a police officer, I feel the West is far too lenient in how criminals are treated.  If you were going to commit a crime anywhere in the world you would be hard pressed to find any justice system as lenient as in the USA.  It is not a perfect system by any means, but it does allow for redemption and second chances.   

       I see within the Islamic culture, no punishment seems to extreme, no infraction too minor.  Stealing a load of bread could result in justice being wrought out in the form of amputation of a hand.  Fail to show proper reverence to the Quaran or the Prophet Mohammad and many would call for your death.  If you are a woman, and the mere belief exists about a single violation of honor, death may be imposed with impunity in the form of an “honor killing”. 

       The Christian concept of “an eye for an eye” is many times quoted as a justification for capital punishment.  If you kill someone, you should die.  The “eye for an eye” passage is not about equality in punishment it is about the proportionality of the punishment. Prior to this concept, the perpetrators of even minor crimes were routinely punished to excess.  This concept is still practiced within the Islamic world; to its detriment.

       The third thing, which is more obscure than the first two is the idea of “covetousness”, to look at what another has and “covet” it.  Whether it is because of Islam, or because of a culture formed in a barren desert environment over centuries, the Islamic Middle East looks to their neighbors and the rest of the world with envious eyes.

       This concept has also formed the basis of the Middle Eastern belief that the reason things are not more prosperous and there is so much unrest is because of the West.  While there are aspects of this which may be true, it also has hampered Middle Eastern eyes of looking inward to their own responsibility.

       Maybe it is because of rigid social classes found in this part of the world; no matter your efforts, you will never rise above the class you were born into.  Maybe it is because Islam has the example of Muhammad, who was a ruthless military conqueror who took the possessions, wives and land of the people he was victorious against. Whatever the reason, few in the Middle East will blame themselves for their situation.  Rather than seeking improvement and prosperity, fixing blame consumes much of the Islamic and Middle Eastern thought. 

       While these cultural ideas which have taken root in the Western world enable us to live in greater peace, the lack of them in the Middle East will and have caused generations of conflict and bloodshed.  Ultimately, until these ideas are adopted violence, hatred and oppression will be the cornerstone of Middle Eastern life.   

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We are losing this WAR(?), says who?...

       The “WAR” in Iraq was won when the statue of Saddam was pulled from it’s mount in Baghdad and the dictator was pulled from a spider hole and captured.  The ruthless Ba’athist government was removed.  Objective accomplished.  There were minimal casualties, rapid overwhelming victory of one military over another.

       Immediately following this event, the real challenges began-Nation Building.  Messy, difficult, imperfect, but absolutely essential.  Yes, there has been more loss of life, both Coalition and Iraqi and while I would never minimize the death of anyone, soldier or civilian - Coalition or Iraqi, I am awestruck by the magnitude of what has been and is being accomplished. 

       Iraq is a country of 26 million people.  The military Coalition barely numbers 150,000.  If the vast majority of Iraqis did not want us here, we would not be here.  Although it is a “two steps forward, one step back” process, progress is being made.

       Yes, to date, we have lost over 3,100 soldiers.  This sounds like a lot until you consider in the last 4 years over 500,000 soldiers have been trough Iraq.  The forces which oppose us have been reduced to road-side bombs and hit and run attacks, mostly on civilians.  In military terms, while frustrating, this amounts to little more than harassment. 

       In the same span of time, during WWII over 350,000 soldiers were lost;  Vietnam more than 50,000; We lost more soldiers on the first day of the Normandy invasion than in all of Iraq.  The loss of life in comparison to the global changes which have occurred, have been unprecedented.  If you factor into this the minimal disruption to the way of life on the average American and the success of this campaign seems obvious.

       Improvements continue everyday, but it will take time.  Time not measured in months, but in decades.  I wish the American people would look at this as a 20 year endeavor rather that an extended 2 year fiasco.  

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The Garden

       Many people who read and study Iraq have a difficult time gaining an understanding of what the conflict is about.  Many who are in Iraq fighting the battle also have the same questions.  As for me, there is a perspective or vision which I see that makes it clear to me.

       We are growing a garden.  The fruit of the garden are the ideas of liberty, civil rights, women's rights, healthy businesses, freedom from tyranny and modern world ideas of equality.  The weeds of the garden are hatred, fundamentalism, poverty, crime and mass violence against the innocent. 

       We have removed the overgrown weeds and now are attempting to nurse the fragile fruits of the garden to take root in difficult ground.  The weeds grow every day and are continually uprooted by us.  If we abandon the garden, the weeds will choke out the fruit, and spread to other gardens.

       In time the garden will grow roots and be able to survive against the weeds, but until then we must continue to weed the garden daily.

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Gays in the Military 

       The military has a policy towards individuals who are gay.  It is called “Don’t ask, Don’t tell”.  This means if someone does not openly say they are gay or conduct themselves in a way which clearly shows they are gay, then you (military leaders) do not pursue someone to try and determine if they are gay. 

       It is my prediction this will change. 

       I am not gay and I do not understand, nor am I comfortable with the idea of a gay lifestyle.  I do believe it is a sexual disposition from birth.  People who are gay can no more change their orientation than a straight person could be convinced to be gay.

       Why do I say it will change?  …because of my observations of kids today.  I spent a number of years as a School Resource Officer (Police Officer in a school) at a blue-collar, lower income middle school (6, 7, and 8th grades) in the heart of conservative Colorado Springs.  I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes; openly gay students and couples.  What was more surprising was it was considered by all the other students to be very “uncool” if one was “anti-gay”.

       Now, as a supervisor of junior soldiers (who many years ago used to be a junior soldier), I can see the attitudes have changed.  Fifteen years ago if you told me a given person in a unit was gay, I would have told you with certainty the morale will break down and the presence of a gay soldier would be unreasonably disruptive to the mission. 

       Today, I am not so sure.  Judging by the conversations I am included in or overhear, most junior soldiers have little if any negative attitudes towards people who are gay.  Most young people today know someone, or at least have been presented with someone who is openly gay in the media and do not have the same negative reaction as a generation ago.    

       If you candidly ask anyone who has spent any amount of time in the military if there are gays in the ranks, there are.  You will also find that soldiers who have spent any time in a demanding job, (i.e. combat) don’t really care what someone else does behind closed doors.  They do care if the other person will carry their weight when things get tough. 

       It is my expectation that in the not too distant future the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy will evolve into a “Professional Conduct” ethic; soldiers will be mandated to conduct themselves respectfully and professionally toward members of the opposite or same sex.  

       So whether you are for, indifferent to or against openly gay soldiers, all I can say is be prepared for the open attitudes of the majority of today’s young people to bring about a policy shift.  The shift may not happen tomorrow, but it would not surprise me if the junior soldiers of today, ended up retiring with their openly gay fellow soldiers. 

…and if you would have told me 15 years ago I would write a piece with this viewpoint, I would have told you it would not happen in a million years.  That was a quick million years.

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15 Month - combat tours

     Somewhere on paper this must sound like a good idea.  Keep the troops in the combat zone longer, thereby reducing the overall number you have to send over the years.  Whoever made this decision is a long way from the troop on the ground.  Carrying out this plan will have devastating effects on our troops and overall military readiness.

     I fully expect my unit to lose 50% of it soldiers within 6 months of returning.  This attrition is due to the time and hardship unnecessarily imposed on the soldiers.  I feel many at the policy level do not understand the soldiers getting out can not be replaced through more recruiting.  Most of the soldiers choosing to leave are the most experienced and educated, with years of experience they take with them.  

     I see cash bonuses going up for soldiers to stay in.  This will only work to a level; and while soldiers (like everyone else) can be motivated in the short term with money, long term there needs to be more.  As with many organizations the Army's biggest problem is how to treat soldiers well and match soldiers skill sets with the jobs they want. The soldiers I have encountered are most frustrated with ineffective leadership and painful bureaucracies far more than dealing with the enemy.

The Army needs to apply the lesson of business - it is more cost effective to keep good employees than try to find and train new ones.

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One Soldier’s Thoughts on the War

By LTC Chris Petty 

            The importance of history is rarely seen by those who are living it.  The war in Iraq and the conflicting attitudes of Americans at home bear out this enduring truth.  Yet, even today, we find ourselves locked in the greatest struggle of our times. America and the secular free world are in a war with radical Islam. Some are appropriately calling this the ‘Long War’.  History looks back on the recent struggles of the last century and judges our nation strong.  When faced with totalitarian fascism during World War II, America was resolved and proved strong. When faced with the strong threat of communism against our capitalist system of the Cold War, America again stood strong.  Once again we are faced with a great historical tide. This time it is the lovers of freedom and liberty against those that would shackle free men and women with their twisted and repressive view of God’s will and enslave us under their versions of Sharia Law. 

            Those who understand history understand that patterns do repeat themselves.  The most basic pattern is the looming buildup of a nation’s enemies followed by the often slow responses of the established powers to meet the threat, often at their peril. We can trace it back to the Greeks versus the Persians, the Huns and Visagoths versus the Romans, or the Allies versus the Axis powers.  If anything, history teaches that we are usually are too slow to respond decisively to the threat until it is, or almost is, too late.  The significant difference today is that so much more destructive power can now be wielded by so few.  We are now faced with a new rising tide of danger.  We can not make the mistake of ignoring it until it grows stronger and more powerful than it already is. We are not at war with Islam, but we are at war with radical Islam, a dark and growing threat—make no mistake about it. 

America did not start this war; it has been steadily building for at least 25 years.  Many believe the “Ft Sumter” of this war was the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. It became more visible in 1993 when al Qaeda attempted to bring down the twin towers on American soil the first time.  And don’t forget the other direct attacks against us; the USS Cole, the Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the Khobar Towers, along with numerous failed and intercepted plots.

On September 11th, 2001 America received a stark wake-up call, and an undeniable sign that our enemies were intent on our destruction.  The war had finally come to our shores, and we realized that we were, in fact, in a real war all along-- a very different war, but a real war that threatened our population and our way of life.   

And so, we went on the offense.  We toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, and eliminated the state apparatus that directly supported and enabled that terror that had reached out and hurt us at home.  Most people supported this action because the Taliban government could be directly traced to supporting al Qaeda.  Unfortunately, this war did not stop in Afghanistan.  The defined boundaries of nation-states mean nothing to our new enemy.  This enemy is threaded through numerous nations with loosely connected cells of personnel, leadership, training, supplies, and financial support.  These networks know no borders and respect no sovereign, accept their radical ideology.  These cells thread through Pakistan, Iran, Syria, the horn of Africa, the Philippines, even Europe. This enemy is truly global in his reach.  Yet even with the challenges this presents, we now understand that we must go on the offense to defeat him.  And this brings us to Iraq.

Iraq, under Saddam, represented a connected thread in this war.  Granted, that thread was not as obvious as the Taliban thread in Afghanistan, but it was connected nonetheless.  Iraq was a radical regime that supported terror, an enemy of freedom, and certainly a future exporter of terror.  Remember, it was Saddam Hussein who paid sizable cash rewards to Palestinian suicide bombers who killed innocent Israeli civilians.  He also used WMD on his own people in genocide programs. In addition, US and intelligence agencies around the world agreed that Iraq was a looming threat and that he was trying to pursue WMD programs.  In hindsight, his WMD capability was overestimated, but what they did not overestimate was his danger to the region and the world.  And so our leadership decided to bring the war into Iraq. 

We understand all too well that Iraq looks tough right now.  But just imagine a world with Saddam still in power ten years from now, as he has increased his support for terror, figured out how to build his arsenals, and tried desperately to get his revenge on America.  However you feel about the justification for this war in Iraq, I will tell you from personal experience that our real enemies here are the hard-core radical Islamists, who are coming in from other countries and holding this nation hostage, even as we try to help.  There is also ethnic fighting here.  It is the result of decades of oppression being lifted while Sunnis, Shias, Kurds, and various sects and tribes try to position themselves in the vacuum of power created when an oppressive dictator suddenly disappears. Yet, overwhelmingly the largest force of turbulence here is still al Qaeda trying to establish a foothold to grow and export their radical views on the world.

We are not growing terrorists here. We are fighting on the central front in the Long War. The terrorists know that Iraq is the great battleground in this global war, al Qaeda’s number-two man, Zawahiri, said as much.  As a result, they are flocking to this battlefield in their holy war like moths to the flame.  In this way, the US and our allies are able to play offense rather than defense.  In our new reality, where so few bad actors can now do so much damage, this is the only way to play.

This war on radical Islam is real, and it will be with us for decades to come.  In the end, it will come down to the side that has the greatest will to succeed.  If the enemy wins in Iraq, he will grow and become more emboldened.  In addition, he will have new access to populations and tremendous resources for his growth, funding, and arming efforts.  He will then become a more powerful and dangerous threat.  He will not leave us alone.  He has not left us alone for the last 25 years.  His attacks have only grown in reach and destruction.

Unfortunately for our side, our western societies are more concerned with tolerance than for standing up for what is right and standing against something that truly threatens us.  This seems to work fine in civilized, secular societies.  But this is very dangerous when faced with an intolerant enemy bent on your destruction.  Appeasement is not effective against this enemy. Our enemy is ruthless and decidedly intolerant and violent.  How many videotaped beheadings do we need to see to understand what we are up against? Why do you think everyone is too scared to criticize them publicly?  Just look what happened when a Dutch newspaper ran a cartoon of Mohammed—people around the world were killed!  They threaten and terrorize to get their way.  They are determined to win.  In this light, our “tolerance” may be the fatal flaw in our western secular societies that could lead to our slow and painful demise.

No one, in their right mind likes war, unless it is the best choice of two evils.  In our case, we can chose to do nothing, and let radical Islam grow in strength and reach--choking off countries in its dark path. All the while, our nation will suffer greater devastation from attacks against us that will eventually make the Twin Towers look like child’s play.  Or, we can identify our enemy, find him where he lives and trains, and eliminate him as a threat.  And perhaps more importantly, deny him the fertile ground for future growth.  Iraq is, without any doubt, one of these places. It’s tough, it’s costly, and it costs us precious lives, but the alternative for us and our children is even worse.  Again, perspective is important here through the lens of history.  We lost more soldiers in the first day of the Normandy invasion than we have lost so far in Iraq. Both are painful reminders of the noble and worthwhile sacrifices sometimes required from a nation dedicated to fighting for good and protecting its citizens from future harm.

I think soldiers, more than anyone, understand the importance of this struggle. Unfortunately, the world does contain great evil.  The great evil of our time is radical Islam and it must be confronted, because it does not seem capable of reforming itself from within, as did our Christian tradition during the Reformation period. And as the old quote goes, “all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” The battle between good and evil is taking place here every day.  We see the innocent people here being held hostage and terrorized by a minority of the population.  I have had the experience of helping liberate hostages on this battlefield.  These are people who were kidnapped, tortured, and would have been killed.  Evil is real and it is around us here.

I am very hopeful that Iraq will ‘work’.  I am honestly not sure it will.  But I still think it is the right thing to do for the world.  And when I grow old, and my grandson asks me what I did in the Army, I can proudly say that my country sent me to war to rid the world of a terrible dictator, to try to bring freedom to Iraq, and to fight for a time on the central battlefield in this ‘Long War’.  I will tell him that it was our great hope as soldiers to help turn back the terrorizing grip of radical Islam on the world, so that one day Islam itself will have the chance to reform and join the community of peaceful and tolerant religions that can coexist in the world.

And those are my thoughts.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Petty commands an aviation battalion based at LSA Anaconda, Iraq

A note from MAJ Burns:  No matter what your opinion on Iraq and the larger implications of the Middle East and Muslim relations, understand the position of the person who wrote this. A Battalion Commander in the theater of Iraq probably has the widest view of anyone serving in the Army.  He deals down to the level of the individual soldier on the ground and up into offices of Generals. He has a full view of the entire theater of military operations.  The views from someone with this breath and scope is always worth pondering.

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Women should not be in combat 

I have been asked a number of times about my view of women in combat.  My answer has always been the same – women should not be in combat.  Men should not be in combat.  No one should have to be in combat.  Combat is a horrific event no one should experience. Maybe one day no one will have to, but not today. 

Women are in combat here in Iraq.  Moreover, women are essential to the combat mission in Iraq.  The days of columns of soldiers facing off on an open field are well behind us.  Today, warfare is conducted in cities intermixed with civilians.  Female civilians and enemy female combatants are now a part of the modern battlefield.  If for no other reason, female soldiers can intermix and interact with female civilians better than a man can.  On the modern battlefield, a single photo of a male soldier physically searching a female civilian can be a PR dream for insurgents in a Muslim culture. 

Some say a woman does not have the fortitude to handle combat the way a man can.  There is an Arabic term for this belief “Bal-lone-nee”.  As a whole, women are no less brave than men and no less capable of pulling a trigger.  I have also met female soldiers who I believe are on the upper end of the bravery scale and would have much less hesitation pulling a trigger.  The image of a mother bear protecting her cubs come to mind.      

As a whole, women are not as physically strong as men.  Some women really can’t handle combat physically and/or emotionally.  Some men can’t either.  This makes it all the more important to pick our countries warriors carefully and based on demonstrated ability.   

Would a man take more risks to protect a female soldier?  Some yes, but I think no more than a woman would take protecting a male soldier.    …or any soldier protecting a fellow soldier.    

So, in the near future WHEN the draft is enacted, our daughters should be called along side our sons.  If that thought disturbs you, then you have another motivation to be against war and another motivation to make sure small wars do not become big wars.  How?  Go early, go big, go home.     

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Who We Fight...

A few days ago at a Joint Coalition Forces compound people were going about their business as usual; soldiers, civilians, administrators probably even a few local families.  The compound is a stabilizing force in the area and provides jobs, resources and protection to the surrounding villages.  The compound is guarded by a combination of locally trained security forces and American soldiers. 

I am sure it was a day not much different from any other; trying to build in a region where a few violent fanaticals try to destroy what is being built.  One of the local guards saw a small boy (4 or 5 years old) wandering in the middle of the compound and crying. 

As a police officer back home I have encountered this situation many times.  I am sure most cops will tell you they love the reward of putting criminals in jail.  What they may not tell you, is there is private kind of satisfaction when you reunite a lost child with their family.  It is no real effort because the family is usually looking for the child; but to the child, it means the world. 

The guard approached the small scared child and asked him what was wrong.  The child through tears said he forgot what to do.  Forgot what to do?  The guard asked him what he meant.  It was then the child lifted his shirt and revealed the bomb that had been strapped to him, explaining that he knew he was supposed to do something with it, but could not remember what. 

I can not fathom the twisted kind of evil coward who would put a bomb on a child and send the child to kill civilians.  Some would say we don’t understand the culture and resolve of who we are fighting; I understand it.  It is pure evil and it is who we fight.       

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My View of Mohamed

One can not be in a predominantly Islamic country and not give thought to the founder of the religion of Islam, Mohamed.  According to the Islamic faith, Mohamed (which can be spelled a number of different ways) was a man who lived in the sixth century and is accepted by Muslims to be a Prophet of God.  Mohamed is also the founder of the Islamic faith.

If you ask a person to put Mohamed into a category of other “like type” people from history most would probably include him with other prominent religious figures, Jesus, Buda, Moses, or Gandhi.

After studying about Mohamed from a non-religious perspective I now place him into an entirely different category of historical figures.  I place him with historical figures such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, Hannibal and Adolph Hitler.  Mohamed was an extremely successful and innovative military commander.  This skill as a military leader, which many westerners do not realize, subsequently enabled him to rapidly spread the Islamic faith. 

Mohamed was a revolutionary military strategist who was able to unite many formerly hostile tribes into a cohesive army.  Some of the military ideas, revolutionary and innovative for that time period, were leading battles from the front, sharing captured wealth with his soldiers, and actively using espionage and intelligence gathering as a part of an overall battle plan.  In many, if not most of the battles Mohamed fought he was victorious against numerically superior forces.  His success in battle is a testament to his skill as a military leader. 

The inclusion of Adolph Hitler in the same category as Mohamed was not in any way intended to demean the Muslim faith system or its followers, but to point out a strong military tactical similarity between the two.  Both Mohamed and Hitler used the calculated use of brutality to achieve military goals.  Additionally, he used political assassinations and the calculated use of atrocities or what western military thinkers today would consider “war crimes” to achieve political and military goals. (i.e. execution of prisoners and civilians, enslavement of women and children)       

For me, it is easy to see why a person of the Islamic faith can respect and idolize Mohamed.  From a historical military perspective, Mohamed is probably the first and most successful insurgency leader and his influence and example can still be felt today.   

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This site was last updated 02/03/08