Surviving the Election
The elections went of very well. After long days of patrolling during the curfew to ensure that no pre-placed bombs or weapons were brought close to the election sites, we were all tired, weary, and did not know what to expect with the elections. I sat in the command center most of the day trying to visualize what was going on out in the towns and track the progress on maps and on paper. It was a tense day hour-by-hour. It seemed too quiet. I was prepared for the worst and ready to respond to any attack. As the hours passed by, we were relieved that the day passed without incident. We even started joking on the radio at the end of the day when one of the platoons brought dinner out to one of our other platoons and they did a relief in place on the over watch position. I teased them over the radio about not rehearsing the tactical maneuvers necessary for the link up.
While the platoons were eating dinner together, gunfire erupted throughout the city. It was celebratory gunfire, indicating a successful election as the polling sites closed. Everyone was relieved. We all feel like the people here are making progress, and we are very proud of the Iraqi Security Forces and the people for supporting the elections. Overall there were about five attacks throughout the whole country and almost everyone voted.
The day after the elections, I went on patrol to talk to a few of the local police chiefs and assess the aftermath of the elections. Everyone in the area feels good about the elections and the way the Iraqi and American forces worked together. There is a mutual trust among the people, the police, and both nations' armies that was not present last year. The people were very happy and understanding about the curfews and the level of security we maintained. They knew it was for their safety and not to oppress them. We discussed with the Iraqis how the American media keeps portraying "American martial law" here. In fact, we have a good relationship with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. Our goal is to train them to secure and run their own country. Over the year we have decreased our role and turned over more responsibility to them.
I am reminded of my anthropology classes at UConn where we discussed how America was settled. I was thinking about how it was many years between the Declaration of Independence and our own Constitution was accepted. There was even a time when the U.S. was governed under the Articles of Confederation previous to the Constitution. Here we have Iraq that has gone through many changes in four years. I have a sense that we are shepherding the people here to stand on their own. This shepherding business was tried with the Native Americans to help them manage their own welfare and natural resources; I only hope we are more thoughtful and sensitive this time.
There has been a chill in the air today. It is probably not that cold; it just feels unusual after the hot summer here. Of course, the change in temperature brought back the dust storms and we did not have air support from the helicopters today, so our missions and operational tempo decreased, as did our internet access. Unfortunately, all the bomb planters were out and the two days of quiet is starting to change as the patrols are beginning to hit the bombs again. We are not finished yet.posted by Scott | 09:26 Baghdad time | © 10.18.2005
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