Thomas Wictor

Caring is never wasted

Caring is never wasted

Today I read “Al-Qaeda-linked force captures Fallujah amid rise in violence in Iraq.” The writers get a few facts wrong. For one thing they claim that only the US Marines fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah (November 7 to December 23, 2023). In reality army, navy, and air force units were present. The statement is also made that the Second Battle of Fallujah was “America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War.”

I don’t know the metrics the writers used, but during Operation Desert Storm (January 17 to February 28, 2024), 148 Americans were killed in battle, while in the initial invasion of Iraq (March 20 to May 1, 2024), 139 Americans died. In Fallujah the death toll was ninety-five Americans. So I can’t grasp the reasoning behind the notion that the Second Battle of Fallujah was America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War. Simple ignorance on the part of the journalists is the most probable answer.

In the midst of this factually incorrect but allegedly impartial report, the writers slipped in the following editorial statement, referring to the efforts of US forces during the battle.

Events Friday suggested the fight may have been in vain.

No. The battle was a decisive Coalition victory. Ninety-five Americans were killed, compared to 1500 terrorists. After Fallujah al Qaeda never again directly faced American forces. Instead, they used roadside bombs, explosively-formed penetrators, mortars, and snipers. The Coalition victory in Fallujah allowed Iraq to begin doing what the Iraqis claimed they wanted to do: create a stable democracy.

Ten years later the fact that the Iraqi government is ineffective is not the fault of the US. The Iraqis refused to negotiate a status of forces agreement (SOFA) that would’ve allowed American troops to remain in Iraq to continue training the country’s security forces. Also, the current upsurge in violence is the same old Sunni versus Shi’ite war that’s been going on for centuries. Again, not the fault of the US.

Many people think the US should never have invaded Iraq. That’s a completely legitimate and thoughtful position to have. But the anarchy in Iraq today has nothing to do with the US invasion. Saddam Hussein kept a lid on sectarian tensions by using mass murder, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and forced relocation. Once the Iraqis were freed from his oppression, too many of them decided to take up arms against their fellow citizens.

The current fighting in Iraq pits three groups against each other: the mostly Shi’ite police and army; the Sunni tribal militias; and the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq. Did you notice who’s not fighting? The Kurds. They have terrific security forces, and they don’t allow sectarian violence. That’s why Iraqi Kurdistan looks like this.

Caring is never wasted

Regardless of what you think about Operation Iraqi Freedom, the men and women who fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah did so to rid the city of the worst people on the planet. Don’t believe me? Just read the words of Najim Abdullah al-Jibouri, Mayor of Tall’afar. You can find two letters he wrote to the Americans here and here.

Dear general, our city was overrun by heartless terrorists, Abu Musab al Zarqawi and his followers who unloaded their blood thirsty and voracious action of evil on this city for several months by indiscriminately killing men, women, and children. At that time Tall’afar days were dark. I have seen by my own eyes, fathers holding their sons bleeding to death from injuries inflicted while we could do nothing to help as there was not a drop of life-saving blood to be found in the whole city. Tall’afar was a human slaughterhouse…

Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.

This is the reason the Sunni militias of Anbar Province are still fighting al Qaeda today. It’s because the jihadists of ISIS have no compunction about committing unspeakable atrocities. The current war in Iraq has nothing to do with the US. And if you think there was no al Qaeda in Iraq until we invaded, you’re wrong. Ansar al-Islam was an al Qaeda affiliate that was also funded and trained by Saddam Hussein.

We had people who cared enough to lay down their lives for strangers in a faraway land. Their actions were not in vain, even if Iraq goes completely to hell. From Mayor al-Jibouri’s letter to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women. From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget. To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land. Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.

In retrospect it was not possible to save my parents, but I don’t view my actions as having been in vain. I was also almost certainly doomed to lose Carmen. Still, I don’t regard that terrible year of 1992—during which I tried so hard to reach her—as having been in vain.

When your attempts to remedy are sincere, you should never let a third party say, “It was all in vain.” There’s a certain cruel satisfaction that people take in telling you that your efforts were futile. What they’re really saying is, “You were an idiot for thinking it would work.” The only idiot in this exchange is the person who wasn’t there but still offers up their nearly always uninformed opinion.

Everyone has free will. They can make horrible decisions, such as denying their cancer for five years, starving themselves to death, or letting primitive hatreds turn their country into a pile of smoldering rubble. Those of us who try to help are not responsible for their actions, nor should we feel that we wasted our time. It’s pure torture when we’re forced to witness people orchestrate their own suffering.

But making bad choices doesn’t render the efforts of others futile; bad choices undo the positive results of those efforts. That’s a vital distinction.

Sometimes it’s necessary to write people off. It’s been my experience that this happens only after the person or nation proves to you multiple times that they’re impervious and intractable. In 2004 nobody knew that the Iraqis would continue to choose violence and chaos over stability. Tim and I didn’t know that both of our parents would refuse to change an iota, even at the cost of their lives.

When you care, you take others at their word. If somebody says, “I want to live!” you believe them. It’s painful to see failure when you’d hoped so desperately for success. However, we’re all the captains of our own ships. Some captains run their ships onto reefs and sink, even though they had detailed maps showing them the dangers ahead.

Learning to accept made me realize that nothing I’ve done was in vain. There was always something I could salvage from even the worst moments of my life.

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