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IT'S ELECTRIC (U.S. troops describe a festive astmosphere across Iraq)
National Review ^ | 12-15-05 | W.Thomas Smith Jr.

Posted on 12/15/2005 12:27:58 PM PST by smoothsailing

December 15, 2005, 8:27 a.m.

It's Electric

U.S. troops describe a festive atmosphere across Iraq.

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

As Iraqis queue up at polling stations, some of the scenes look more like a series of regional block parties than what most Westerners would associate with an election day. Children can be seen waving flags or playing soccer. Adults are cheering, clapping hands, beating drums, singing, dancing, and waving at passing U.S. and Iraqi military vehicles. There simply seems to have been more energy in the run-up to this election than in previous ones. And why not?

December 15, 2005, is a day of "national celebration, a day of the national unity, and of victory over the terrorists and those who oppose our march toward democracy," announced Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.


Though bracing for any vote-disrupting violence, U.S. troops in Iraq are witnessing firsthand the celebration phenomenon.

I spoke with some of those soldiers and Marines Wednesday evening as they returned from routine street patrols and other duties, and prepared to move into the wings — just behind Iraqi Army and police forces — for what may prove to be one of the most important parliamentary elections in modern history. All say the festive atmosphere of the elections stems from a variety of factors, including the Iraqis' pride in their new nation, newfound freedoms, and trust in their Americans allies.

"On this side of the world, saying something and coming through and doing it means a great deal," U.S. Marine Maj. Neil F. Murphy Jr., spokesman for Multi-National Force West at Camp Fallujah, tells National Review Online. "Iraqis know that we mean what we say by staying and helping them get on their feet."

Consequently, he adds, "The Iraqi people are looking at this [election day] like an actual holiday." Not in the sense that it need not be taken seriously, but in the sense of what one Iraqi army soldier said: "This is the first time in my whole life I got to choose the government of my country!"


U.S. Army Major Chris Hanna with the 5th Brigade, 87th Division (Training Support) in Al Kindi describes the excitement of an Iraqi Army sergeant major, who, last week, for the first time — in a long time — loaded his wife and kids in the family car and drove to the grocery store: Something we Americans often take for granted. Earlier this week, the sergeant major voted with other soldiers and policemen who pre-voted so that they could secure the polling sites on election day.

"As we prepared to visit the Iraqi units and polling sites in Mosul, I noticed the ink stained fingers of all the soldiers who voted early," Hanna tells NRO. "I turned and looked over to the division sergeant major in the vehicle next to me and he was grinning from ear to ear. I held up my finger to see his, and he showed me his ink-stained finger and then a quick thumbs up. I'd never seen him so happy. Genuinely excited. He felt safe enough to go shopping last week, and now to vote on top of that? The optimism among the Iraqi soldiers and the Iraqis as we drove around Mosul is contagious."

Sergeant First Class Larry Bull, also with 5th Brigade, agrees.

"I've seen more smiles than anytime ever before," Bull says. "There seems to be an uplift of the spirits of all the individuals we pass from most everyone and all ages. I believe that the Iraqi people are seeing that the impossible might become the possible after the election. The vast majority of the populace seems to appreciate, not only the Iraqi soldiers, but us."

Sergeant Major James Keesee describes the atmosphere in Mosul as that of a "large playground."

Parents and their children are "walking the streets waving at the Americans and Iraqi-army patrols as they pass by," he says.

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Cooney says, "the streets are filled with children playing soccer," and a general "euphoria" has apparently washed away any real concern of hostilities.

Officers like Major Rob Dixon says the Iraqis are clapping their hands in praise and gratitude as the U.S. Army vehicle patrols pass by.


Despite the festive air, U.S. and Iraqi forces, as well as Iraqi civilians are still at high risk. The echoing crackle of sporadic gunfire could be heard in a few isolated incidents around the country on Wednesday.

And on Tuesday, just two days before the polls opened, guerrillas shot to death Sunni parliamentary candidate Mezher al-Dulaimi as he was fueling his car in Ramadi, and four G.I.s were killed by an IED near Baghdad.

Elsewhere, Shiite national assemblyman Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer narrowly missed being struck by a roadside bomb near Latifiyah, and Iraqi police arrested two guerrillas carrying 72 bombs they planned to detonate when polls opened in Iraq's notorious Triangle of Death .

"I want all the killing and bleeding to stop," says Iraqi Private Keis (for security reasons, Iraqi soldiers are only permitted to give their rank and first name to members of the media). "I want children to live a happy life."


Still, the positive energy is growing, and it is not unique to Fallujah and Mosul.

In Baghdad and elsewhere, U.S. troops are hearing, seeing, and experiencing what one Iraqi officer described as feeling like his wedding day, and another, a national birthday.

"This is huge," says Capt. Kelly Lewis with the 3rd Infantry Division's public-affairs office in Baghdad. "The Iraqis have worked so hard to make this happen. The American soldiers are simply going to make sure this happens."

Lewis adds, "I think we are going to see a very respectable Sunni turnout. They've seen what happens when they don't turn out." And they want a voice in the new Iraq.

What may be even more surprising is how they vote. "Most of the Iraqis I've talked to in the Tigris River Valley area are genuinely optimistic about this election," says Major Mike Doherty with the 5th Brigade. "What gives me hope is that most of the Sunni Arabs I've talked to, at least in this area, have voiced their support for [former Iraqi Prime Minister] Iyad Allawi — a Shia Arab — because of his stance supporting a united Iraq."


U.S. soldiers know — in much the same way their grandfathers hunkered down in troop transports in the English Channel on June 6, 1944, knew — they are participating in something far bigger than themselves individually.

"We can always say we were here," says Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman with the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq in Baghdad. "It's like the whole country is holding its breath right now. Everyone is anticipating this chance to change the direction of their country. This is truly an incredible time to be here, to be witness to something that is historic in so many ways."

U.S. troops also see the success of today's election is a death sentence for the insurgency. "This is where we turn the corner; where the Iraqi people make the decision to collectively put the insurgency in the ground," says Lt. Col. Scott Morrison with the 5th Brigade.

"Now, we will witness the power of the individual Iraqi citizen as they slough off the burdens of their past; discount the present feeble attempts of the terrorist and assume responsibility for their future," says Col. Michael C. Cloy, 5th Brigade commander and the senior military adviser for the 2nd Iraqi army (light) infantry division.

Master Sergeant Barry Kerby, also of the 5th Brigade, may have best summed-up the Iraqis' enthusiasm and expressive appreciation for the sacrifices made by Americans in that country. "With the exception of a child, freedom is the greatest gift one human being can give another," he says.


— A former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper, W. Thomas Smith Jr. writes about military issues and has covered conflict in the Balkans and on the West Bank. He is the author of four books, and his articles appear in a variety of publications.   

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: 109th; 4victory; airforce; army; bush; bush43; bushsfault; dnclosesagain; exmarine; iraq; iraqielection; marine; murtha; nave; navy; ratsloseagain; traitor
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To: smoothsailing

Tell them to stop. The Democratic Party cannot have this. Bush has to be Impeached. Democracy cannot spread to the Middle East. It will impead Hilliaries and my vision for American Socialism.

/sarcasm off

21 posted on 12/15/2005 12:40:22 PM PST by sr4402
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To: Moose4

So true.

Democracy and freedom here in the US are messy at times, too.

22 posted on 12/15/2005 12:40:39 PM PST by TomGuy
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To: smoothsailing

Zman may be belting down shots of rye at this point in some dingy stinking cellar.

23 posted on 12/15/2005 12:40:54 PM PST by Marine_Uncle (Honor must be earned)
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To: Senator Bedfellow

< chuckle>

24 posted on 12/15/2005 12:41:36 PM PST by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilisation is aborting, buggering, and contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: smoothsailing

This is great reading--BZ to the Iraqis who voted, and to our heroic troops who made it possible!

25 posted on 12/15/2005 12:42:05 PM PST by American Quilter
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To: Polyxene

Dean and Murtha and the rest of the 'rats wants the troops to know that they can't win, they're borken, and they should come home now.

26 posted on 12/15/2005 12:42:25 PM PST by Semper Paratus
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To: dead

Like Rush said, the Rats lost another big elecxtion today.

27 posted on 12/15/2005 12:42:40 PM PST by bert (K.E. ; N.P . Franks in '08)
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To: Moose4
We're watching a country being born here, before our eyes. Like all births, it's painful, loud, and messy. And what comes out is fragile and might not be all that attractive. But the bottom line is that it's still something magical, watching the people of Iraq bear a new society, something better than they had.

Well said.

28 posted on 12/15/2005 12:42:56 PM PST by American Quilter
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To: All; Gucho

29 posted on 12/15/2005 12:43:12 PM PST by anonymoussierra (Gloria, Gloria, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, Amen!!!)
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To: smoothsailing

This election should be an inspiration to our own democracy.

30 posted on 12/15/2005 12:43:39 PM PST by oldbrowser (Release the Barrett Report)
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To: smoothsailing

My appologies to moderators for posting this again, but it fits:

President George W Bush is the Freedom President. Once again the Republican Party drags the Liberals kicking and screaming like spoiled brats, blindly into the 21st century. George Bush is a visionary that sees the World as it can be, not as it is. He is the eternal optimist as well an eternal soldier. Never before have we had a leader who can visualize the power of people’s hunger for Freedom in the oppressed spirit, smoldering like a glowing ember in a wheatfield. Whether it is in a village in Afghanistan, a town in Iraq or facing a tank in Tiananmen Square the human spirit longs to feel the warm embrace of Lady Liberty.

W has blown the cool breath of Freedom onto the embers of Democracy on the Iraqi People who are in their infancy of self rule. Just as a toddler begins crawling and then reaching up to learn to walk before becoming an adult, we are witnessing that child nation take his first step. As our infant begins to walk in a room full of dangers, we can take pride in every step of that journey. There has been falls, cuts, bumps and bruises to get to the first step and there will be pitfalls along the way, but we and especially our Troops, should take great relief in the Freedom and hope for Iraq.

The fire is beginning to spread as the hope and hunger of the human spirit is being ignited. The oppression of the Middle East was not as severe or overt as was seen in Communist Russia or China with the physical presence of The Wall, since Saddamn’s wall was mental. They could come and go as they pleased if they had enough money or were connected, but their oppressors could snatch them off the street to be raped or tortured at any given moment. Now they are free to speak or write as they please and vote for their leaders. These flames are warming hearts and minds while pushing back the deep black darkness.

Over the next couple of years we will see a Government formed and a Leader chosen to lead the Iraqi people out of their darkness. We will see them taking ownership of their Country and their own personal Freedom. As they begin to understand that the oppression is behind them they will be taking their torches to the darkest corners of their Country. These flames will expose the terrorists from their hiding places and bring them to justice. The Wildfire will engulf the terrorist hidden in the brush to expose him as a hindrance to Freedom Worldwide. The average Iraqi as we saw on January 30th does not want to see his child blown up, rather has a heart that hopes for a new sunrise.

We are seeing sparks spreading across the tinderbox of Persia. Of all people, the PLO and Hezbola have seen the light as well as the peoples of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon. While these fires begin to burn bright in Bagdad we will see the sparks ignite into flames in these Countries as well as Iran and move around the World to the slave fields of China, Cuba and Korea. Once people understand that Freedom can happen in Countries like Russia, Afghanistan and Iraq, they will realize that Dictators are actually Sand Castles standing against an Ocean. They cannot quench the thirst for Freedom with threats or terror any longer.

President Bush has become one of the Great Visionaries of history. Just as the invisible hand of Capitalism is the most efficient form of economics, so too is the invisible hand of Freedom and Democracy. This hand will expose and capture the Terrorists around the World great and small. People will throw off their shackles of fear and follow the model of Afghanistan and Iraq to fan the white hot flames of Liberty. As America and her friends fuel these flames, millions will be freed from their oppression and take back ownership of their lands. As this Wildfire spreads throughout the World, despots cower in fear as they wait for their ultimate demise at the hands of God’s servant leader, the Freedom President George W Bush.

Pray for W and Our Freedom Fighting Troops

31 posted on 12/15/2005 12:44:19 PM PST by bray (Merry Christ-x)
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To: Moose4

I could not have said it better myself.

Great post.

32 posted on 12/15/2005 12:45:30 PM PST by Eagle of Liberty ("My job as the president is to see the world the way it is, not the way we hope it is." - W)
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To: smoothsailing

Enough of the good news, we want to hear about the bombs, the quagmire, the torture, the atrocities our soldiers are committing on innocent civilians, the CIA flights, and faulty intelligence. /s

33 posted on 12/15/2005 12:45:31 PM PST by loreldan (Lincoln, Reagan, & G. W. Bush - the cure for Democrat lunacy.)
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To: smoothsailing
"With the exception of a child, freedom is the greatest gift one human being can give another," he says.

It just takes your breath away.

34 posted on 12/15/2005 12:45:52 PM PST by McGavin999 (Reporters write the truth, Journalists write stories.)
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To: bert
Like Rush said, the Rats lost another big elecxtion today.

Erection? Are we talking about Slick Willie here? :)

35 posted on 12/15/2005 12:46:41 PM PST by RetiredArmy (I have no faith in any politician or political party any more. They all lie for their agendas.)
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To: smoothsailing

For the article alone, this writer will never get a job in the MSM.

36 posted on 12/15/2005 12:47:12 PM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: sr4402

There's only one word to describe that pic of F'n: "oily".

37 posted on 12/15/2005 12:47:17 PM PST by r9etb
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To: smoothsailing

You should be proud of your troops, your President, and yourselves for voting him in again.

The US has done wonders in Iraq. Now it is really up to the Iraqis themselves - and according to this article it seems that they are starting to understand that.

Great news!

38 posted on 12/15/2005 12:47:29 PM PST by ScaniaBoy (Part of the Right Wing Research & Attack Machine)
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To: smoothsailing

Awful, just awful news for the dems.

39 posted on 12/15/2005 12:48:03 PM PST by 1Old Pro
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To: ScaniaBoy

The above post was meant for You all!

40 posted on 12/15/2005 12:48:05 PM PST by ScaniaBoy (Part of the Right Wing Research & Attack Machine)
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