The View from Iraq

The cover of American Legion magazine’s July 2007 issue reads “VIEW FROM IRAQ: REAL LIFE IN THE WAR ZONE.” Inside is an interview with an Iraqi soldier, First Lt. Mohamed Raad, age 28, a member of the 1st Iraqi Army Battalion.

As the U.S. Senate readies to vote on another withdrawal amendment, and as September (the month when Gen. David Petreaus reports on the progress of the “surge” strategy) looms heavy over the Bush administration, it would perhaps be good to hear from Iraqi soldiers, like First Lt. Raad, who are able to hold back a complete terrorist takeover of Iraq only with the assistance of the U.S. military.

Ideally, this Iraqi soldier would testify before the U.S. Congress and hear directly from senators like Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is quoted in today’s Washington Times as saying Americans “want this mission to end.” Ms. Boxer and her colleagues, including an increasing number of Republicans, should have to look First Lt. Saad squarely in the eye and tell him, “The mission is over; we’re going home. Good luck.” 
Following is an excerpt from the Q-and-A in American Legion with Raad:

Q. Do you think the United States should keep its forces here or bring them home?
A. I think the U.S. should stay for maybe another year. I believe we can make a lot of progress in that time. We must make the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police stronger. I do believe that when it is time for the United States to leave, our two countries can remain good friends. But it would be a mistake to leave too early.

Q. What is the biggest problem the Iraqi Army faces?
A. Intimidation by terrorists. I hate the terrorists. The terrorists care about nothing. They killed my brother in Baghdad seven months ago because they thought he was me. He was just a civilian. First, terrorists asked me to build IEDs for them. I refused. The terrorists had told me that they would double my pay and keep me safe.

Q. Why did you refuse?
A. Because we cannot give in to terrorism. Most of the terrorists are foreigners coming in from Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. I hated Saddam and was happy to see him executed, but nobody was crossing the border when he was in charge. If we kill 100 terrorists, more keep coming in. We have to close our borders. My father would like me to quit the army because he is scared and still upset about my brother. One executive officer in our battalion quit because terrorists called his family and said they would kill them if he didn’t leave. Two company commanders have also left because they were scared. I won’t give in to terrorism. This is my life. I like the Iraqi Army. I won’t quit.