What I did do, though, was walk the streets and breathe the air. I talked to the people, spent time in their homes, heard their calls to prayer. I rode in vehicles down torn up roads, through deep puddles full of questionable contents, hoping that this was not the time some insurgent pushed a button and sent us all beyond the veil. It happened to friends of mine, good men and true, men who were better soldiers than I.
Even in those days there were debates. Should we have invaded Iraq? Was our cause just? The big picture will be debated for years to come, and it is, to use an Army expression, above my pay grade. Big picture aside, in our little sector of Baghdad, we had tremendous moral clarity. Our enemies were blowing up children, snatching people from their homes in the middle of the night, beheading people with knives, and attacking their own country's infrastructure. What they were doing was evil, and we, flawed though we may have been, were attempting to counter that evil with good. We were working to bring order when our enemies wanted chaos, we were working to bring security when our enemies wanted terror, we were working to bring peace when our enemies wanted war.
We thought we were making progress, that we were leaving the country better than we found it. The Iraqi police and army were improving, elections were held, and we were moving to an advisory role.
Then this ISIS thing happened. I don't know how it will all end. Perhaps they've had a brief flash of success and then order will be restored. Perhaps the country will break apart with even more death and devastation.
The whole mess troubles me deeply, though not as much as it surely troubles the people who live there. I wonder about the people I talked with and worked alongside. I think of the Iraqi Army soldiers, I think of our interpreters. I remember one interpreter who helped me to my feet after I unheroically tripped and fell during an awkward encounter with AK fire.
I do not know the best way forward, and I do not claim to speak for the U.S. Army or any branch of the U.S. government. I hope and pray that this whole situation has a positive outcome.
Please pray, if you are the praying sort. If these ISIS chaps all meet a violent end, I cannot say I will shed a tear, though I will pray for their souls. May God have mercy on us all.