What to Keep in Mind

Zarqawi’s Dead. The War on Terror and the Call to Jihad Continue.

Zarqawi’s death is pretty fucking awesome. What’s the impact, though? The commentators on the cable news networks were all over the board. FOXNews played the same footage all day of five Iraqi police dancing around in what looked like a secure compound. Wow, that’s what the real Iraqi on the street is thinking! While I know that the Iraqis I worked with made their own chants and dances with killing Zarqawi (and not terrorists or bin Laden) as the focus, I think Iraqis probably aren’t too excited about their situation even without him around. Iraqis feared Zarqawi but they still have no daily life amenities and probably won’t for a very long time, long after we leave.

Here’s my opinion: Zarqawi already acquired his legacy. He already achieved his goal of becoming the most powerful figure in a mujaheddin warring state. He spent his entire life chasing the legend of the mujahed from prisons to Afghanistan to Kurdistan to Iraq. He died as a soldier; that is, replaceable. His damage has already been felt.

He has defined the last two years or so in Iraq more than any other person. Zarqawi brought true terror to Iraq. In a country which was prior to his arrival full of ex-military and nationalist insurgents and tribal conflicts, he brought in radical Islam which he had picked up and applied to his unique bloodthirst while being persecuted in Syrian and Jordanian jails, terrorizing simple anti-occupation militants in Iraq into becoming Muslim extremists themselves. He took over Baghdad and its surrounding areas from the weaker, less extreme groups. The Fallujah rally call brought fighters to Ramadi to help his cause. Beheadings and intimidation made other leaders wilt and forced tribal chiefs to succumb and aid his people.

Zarqawi is not really about killing Americans like the Administration says. He grew up hating authority and got thrown in jail where he fell in with hardliners who sought overthrowing what they saw as a corrupt Jordanian government. He was always a bully who used his size and psychotic behavior to scare others into obeisance. He grew his loyal network in prisons and was released as a result of a king’s gesture of amnesty. He wanted to fight the Russians. He wanted to kill the Jordanian royalty. That the Administration flatly characterizes him as wanting to kill Americans is simple-minded. He wanted to be a mujahed.

Read more about him from Wikipedia.

Will there be any effect in Iraq because of his death? Bin Laden and Zawahiri did not approve of Zarqawi. They sided with him out of convenience but his assault on Shi’ites and his beheadings drew no one to the Al-Qaeda cause of jihad. Yes he was bombed and has become a martyr but consider the effect he would have with airtime like Hussein did during his trial. Consider that Zarqawi will probably become another footnote in this long war to the west as a result of his unremarkable death, like Hussein’s sons already have become. But also think about how much experience and sheer willpower Zarqawi brought to the extremist cause.

He is a major loss. If his followers cannot produce as brazen and dedicated person as him, then the savageness and ferocity of the attacks in Iraq may drop off, returning to the more strategic message of Al-Qaeda.

Perhaps the insurgents are getting careless. There are reports that some insurgents were killed while loading arms onto railcars in broad daylight in Ramadi. Zarqawi was supposedly behind the head boxes in Baqubah. He was supposedly tracked through his “spiritual advisor”. Maybe what this means is that the insurgents felt like they had such a grip on certain parts of the country that they could show themselves in public more. Our military being what it is, a patient, relentless stalker, was probably surprised by these new opportunities. This would point to not only a depressing look at the situation in Iraq in terms of security, but also an opportunity to take out some key figures. Many of Zarqawi’s loyalists have already been killed, for example, and this signals an end of Zarqawi’s brutal chapter in history.

Life Goes On

My buddy Ryan is leaving for Ranger School. I think almost everyone is rooting for him to do well as he suffers months of sleep deprivation, starvation, and a massive loss in body mass as he’s punished and pushed to his limits. While getting selected for Special Forces these days is sort of seen as a guarantee as long as one doesn’t quit, Ranger School is probably one of the most brutal schools in the military. I really hope he makes it. He’s one of the best people you could ever meet and if he makes it through, he’ll be a super soldier. Ranger tabs are hard to find!

While I was in Iraq, I got in trouble for posting what was basically positive things about what we were doing over there. I got put in the doghouse for a while. Well, recently I was notified that I’m going to be returned to not-shitbag status, and it feels good because I feel like I have my word back. The bad part is that I will probably deploy. Not that I’m scared or unwilling to go because a lot of parts in Iraq were some of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life, but I know it distresses and hurts those close to me. It has not and will not be easy.

Gay Marriage

It’s important to keep in mind that while about 250 U.S. service members have died just since I left Iraq in February, conservative senators have come out and said that defending marriage from attack by same-sex legislation is the most important issue of our time. Jon Stewart crucified Bill Bennett on his show when talking with the issue.

Stewart also pointed to clips of senators like Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma stating, big poster of his family included,

“As you see here, and I think this is maybe the most important prop we’ll have during the entire debate, my wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship.”

And then Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader!

“Marriage is for our society that union between a man and a woman, is the cornerstone of our society. It is under attack today. Right now there are 13 states who passed constitutional amendments in the last year and a half to protect marriage. Why? Because in nine states today, activist judges, unelected activist judges are tearing down state laws in nine states today. That’s why I will take it to the floor of the Senate, simply define marriage as the union between a man and a woman.”

And nothing about gays would be complete without Rick Don’t Call Me Santorum:

“I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance. Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?”

One Last Thing for Me to Keep in Mind

This time last year, I deployed to Iraq. The rest of the year was inhaling dirt and coughing up brown phlegm and lots of mud and sweat and brown and grey.

I went running the other day, and while I was running, I noticed how green the trees were, how warm (but not hot) the sun was upon my skin, and how sweet the grasses and flowers smelled as I filled my nostrils with their smells. I felt alive and it felt great.

There are around 140,000 service-members in Iraq, and even more people as contractors or foreigners. And Iraqis get little water or electricity every day as the summer looms.

Things are pretty fucking good here. I keep that in mind every day now.