Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Long Road Home

The Long Road Home
By Martha Raddatz

This book was suggested to me by a friend who has two son-in-laws in Iraq at this time and whose daughter is scheduled to go in November. One of the sons-in-law was wounded in the battle and has returned to Iraq. None of us who read the papers and watch TV News can have any understanding of the emotions of family whose sons and daughters are in harms way on a daily basis. He, of course is a strong advocate of the war while I remain equally as adamant that we are fighting the wrong war in the wrong place. There can be no disagreement that radical Islam is on a worldwide effort to take over civilization as we have known and enjoyed for many years. We must be actively engaged wherever they appear and wipe them out one by one. There is no reasoning with them. You convert, live as a slave or die. Those are their only options. My disagreement is in how we are fighting this enemy of civilization.
Ms. Raddatz has written an outstanding first hand account of the events that took place on April 4, 2004 in Sadr City, Iraq. By piecing together the memories of those survivors the book reads like a novel it is so complete and relentless. It all starts with what is considered a peacekeeping mission. A patrol on a routine visit to the city with “honey” wagons is attacked by hundreds if not thousands of Mahdi militia under the leadership of Moqtada al-Sadr, a Muslim Cleric opposed to Americans being in his country. The “honey” wagon patrol consisted of trucks which sucked up raw human waste from the streets. This was not an accident. It was a near total collaboration by most of the citizens. Children were actively engaged including throwing lighted torches and firing weapons.
While the patrol was quietly doing their job the people barricaded all of the major streets leading to the area where they were working. They piled refrigerators, cars, carts, dead animals and everything else they could find. The patrol trying to extricate found it impossible and made their stand in a tall building and fought awaiting rescue. The rescuers had the same problem trying to reach them driving in through the debris while being under constant attack from rooftops, windows and alleyways. The greatest numbers of casualties were the rescuers. It took three attempts before the patrol was extricated. The third and successful try consisted of seven tanks. Eight of our men died that day and over sixty were wounded.
A soldier back at base camp sitting in a stupor asked his officer why they left their tanks at Fort Hood, Texas. The reply was that we didn’t want to look like an Army of Occupation and therefore left the heavy military vehicles at home.
I cannot lay blame for what happened. Up until this day resistance had been light and scattered. The emphasis was as peacekeepers with our troops doing things to improve their lives. After this occurred however I do blame those in authority as they were slow to realize the new situation and found the only way to respond was to send in the troops on foot or in open trucks where they have been sitting ducks for snipers and the ever increasing deadly roadside bombs.
My thought would be that the next time a similar happening occurred we should have sent in tanks and other heavy military vehicles with orders to shoot at any target without regard to civilian casualties. Further we would immediately call in air strikes on buildings in near proximity to the action. In today’s Daily Star I read that air strikes are now at the highest level they have been up to now in support of the Army and Marines. This is good to know but why were they so reluctant to use air power before this year?
This book is a must read by all Americans who care. The courage and devotion of these men is inspiring to read. We must always show our respect and gratitude for these young men, women and their families back home.

Jack B. Walters
3961 N. Hillwood Circle
Tucson, AZ 85750
(520) 722-2958
July 15, 2007

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