Lt Col Buzz Patterson:
Today our troops are fighting a war that Islamic jihadists declared against the United States more than 25 years ago. Unfortunately and undeniably, there are voices in our nation urging Americans to turn their backs on our troops, cut off their funding, and force them to abandon their missions in Iraq in ignominious defeat.
We simply cannot and must not let that happen. We learned that lesson in Vietnam, and we can ill afford to repeat it in Iraq.
We are winning this war. I write those words from my desk in the Red Zone in downtown Baghdad as hundreds of Iraqis working with my company -- Shia and Sunni, Arab and Kurd -- execute security, construction and logistics missions throughout the capital and Sunni Triangle. We have been here now over three years.
American-Iraqi Solutions Group, which I helped co-found in March 2004, has been intimately involved with creating the new Iraqi security services. Our principal business as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor is to build bases for the Iraqi army and police and then supply them with water, food, fuel and maintenance services. We are on the cutting edge of the exit strategy for the U.S. military: Stand up an effective Iraqi security structure and then we can bring our troops home.
I see no civil war between the Shias and Sunnis as I travel practically every day on the roads of Iraq with my Arab and Kurdish security team. The potential for renewed internecine warfare faded earlier this year, when al Qaeda failed to reignite the waning sectarian struggle the second time around with another attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
The perfect storm at the beginning of 2007 created the necessity of reconciliation. The Sunni Arabs who had used al Qaeda as leverage in the political struggle to re-establish their minority rule faced genocide in Baghdad from the Shia death squads. With pressure from the new Democratic majority in Congress, the Shia government of Nouri al-Maliki realized that time was running out for a dominant American presence in Iraq and finally allowed the U.S. military to clean up Sadr City, thus alleviating the death-squad activities.
Both the Sunni and Shia Arab sides of the Iraqi political equation (the Kurds have sided with us from the beginning) now see that there is no alternative to American protection. As a result, Sadr's people and the Sunnis have both returned to parliament. As always, democracy is messy, but it is working. We have to be patient, particularly because this nascent reconciliation has left al Qaeda as the odd man out.
Just as the rockets landing in the Green Zone are from a foreign source -- Iran -- the jihadis who destroy themselves in explosions aimed primarily at mass killings of Shia civilians are almost all foreigners. This is al Qaeda, not Iraq.
Even more to the point: The Iraqis basically ignore the al Qaeda car bombs, mourn the dead and then go to work, to school, join and continue to serve in the military and police -- and life goes on. There is no terror if no one is terrorized.
Let us, the American people, not be terrorized into retreating before our enemy -- al Qaeda -- just when they have begun to stand alone, stripped of allies, in a country beginning to enjoy the fruits of a democracy we have sacrificed much blood to help create.
Mr. Andress, CEO and principal owner of American-Iraqi Solutions Group, is author of "Contractor Combatants: Tales of an Imbedded Capitalist" (Thomas Nelson, 2007)
30 August 2007
Lt Col Buzz Patterson: