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thedrifter
12-20-05, 05:45 AM
Iraqis, U.S. cooperating to improve the country
Barker offers his final journal from Baghdad
By Lt. Col. Robert "Scott" Barker
Stationed in Iraq
Monday, December 19, 2005

This will be my last update from Iraq, as I will be departing on Sunday,Dec. 11, after almost one year here in country. It has been a wonderful experience: challenging, frustrating, and rewarding at the same time.

I am certainly a more knowledgeable Army officer as a result of my time here. I suspect that my experiences in Iraq will not only benefit me in my remaining military years, but they should also prove to be a valuable reference for many other future day-to-day circumstances.

Despite the wonderful experience, I am very anxious to get back to my family who awaits my return. My original return date was supposed to be on/about Jan. 1, 2006, but the powers-that-be have decided to grant me an early parole so that I may make it home by Christmas. I am thankful for that.

As things gear up for the Dec. 15 elections, I think I’ll use my last update opportunity to touch on a topic that is not often written about in the media: cooperation among the Iraqi population, the Iraqi government, and the coalition forces.

In particular, I will highlight one particular incident that happened in August of this year and involves the Iraqi Minister of Defense, Dr. Sadoun al-Dulime, as the central character.

Aside from being non-aligned politically, Minister al-Dulime is very much in touch with the Sunni population in the Al Anbar province. This is the vast western area of the country that is mostly desert and the home of some of the most dangerous areas still out there that confront the combat forces — both coalition and Iraqi — to this day.

Fallujah and Ramadi are two of the larger cities in this province; Dr. Sadoun is from Ramadi and greets many a tribal leader and sheik in his office on days when the normal business crowd is thinner than normal.

On a Saturday afternoon in mid-August, he received a visitor from the Ramadi area who was pacing in his outer office very nervously awaiting his turn to go in and talk to the minister. The young man eventually got his chance and, after about five minutes, the minister called me into the office and translated what the young man had just told him.

It was some actionable intelligence on a terrorist for whom the coalition had been looking for some time. The wanted man’s name was Abed Hamed Theib, and he was a former brigadier general for Sadaam Hussein in the Mukhabarat — Iraqi Intelligence.

Mr. Theib was believed to have been the chief planner and coordinator of a few attacks against several U.S. Marines out in the Hadytha area in early August. These attacks killed over a dozen U.S. Marines who were mostly from one area in Ohio.

The young visitor from Ramadi stated that immediately after the Hadytha attacks, Theib had escaped to Syria and had remained low for a few weeks; he had just recently returned to Ramadi about three days before and was in the process of planning another attack against the coalition forces.

The informant then explained where the house in which Mr. Theib was staying was located. The description went something like this: start at the Ramadi mosque and head down the main street toward the health clinic; once you get to the health clinic turn right and go about 50 meters until you reach the next street. Turn right again and go down to the fourth house. This is Ali’s house, but Ali is a good man, and he is not involved with the activities being planned by Theib.”

Dr. Sadoun knew the importance of passing this information along to the coalition as soon as possible, so he asked me to write it up in English and draw a strip map to the suspected location of the wanted terrorist. I did this and carried it over to the U.S. Embassy and discussed it with the deputy commander of the coalition forces.

The commander was out of the area at the time, but it was quickly faxed on a secure line out to the Marines in Ramadi and the house was put under surveillance for a few days until they were satisfied that all the known associates of Mr. Theib had been identified. The Marines raided the house around 0300 in the morning a few days after we received this information and captured Theib and a few other terrorists.

I don’t believe that this information ever made it into the media. Actually, most of the good things going on here in country don’t seem to make it into the mainstream media for some reason. There seems to be a passion for highlighting the negative and ignoring the positive developments.

The Iraqis are certainly improving their own capabilities and taking the lead on many fronts in the on-going insurgency war. It is only a matter of time until they become completely self-reliant. The question remains whether the American public has the patience to stick with them until that time. I certainly hope so.

As for Mr. Theib, he will most likely never see any sort of freedom again. I hope that the families of those Marines killed at the hands of Mr. Theib know that the one responsible has been captured and detained.

He is probably lucky he was captured by U.S. forces instead of the Iraqis. If this scenario were to repeat itself today, it would likely be Iraqis conducting the surveillance and apprehension. Personnel like Mr. Theib were sometimes shot and killed while trying to escape from Iraqi security forces back in August.

Today, it is less likely that a suspected insurgent is killed by Iraqi forces. As I had mentioned in previous updates, human rights is one topic that is still in the developmental stages among the Iraqi security force population; it is not one of their strong points, but they are making progress.

There are so many other topics that I could write on. Maybe I’ll ask for an extension so that I can see this process through to its end state — nahhh!!! I may have developed an affinity for the locals, but I certainly have not gone completely native.

I will miss the Iraqi people, but will be watching their collective progress from afar. I will not miss the sand and dusty air; nor will I miss the nasty sand flies that leave an itching bite that puts a northern Illinois chigger to shame.

It is time for me to head back to the States. I have other matters that need my attention back on the home front, and I can’t wait to get back there.

It has been my privilege to serve my country and to serve the people of Iraq in this very important environment. The vast majority of the other Americans and other coalition partners with whom I have worked here in Iraq feel the same way.

Things are certainly moving in the right direction. Hopefully, the election of the new government and the secure environment that is starting to take hold will be enough to pull the country through on its path to a democratic future. I, for one, am convinced that our efforts here in this situation will prove to be the correct approach when all is said and done.

As the Iraqis say, Insha’ allah — if Allah deems it to be.

Ellie