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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Tis the Season... (updated)

...for some suggested reading on Islam and practicing Muslims.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the festive activities of the season, both my own Christmas doings, like attending a choir concert at the National Shrine in DC and participating in a Soldiers' Angels adopt-a-CSH (CSH=Combat Support Hospital) care package effort, as well as the Hannakah traditions being shared by friends and colleagues. It reminds me of when I first learned about the Jewish faith as a pre-schooler in South Carolina. It reminds me that while we have different faiths, we're muddling our way through living together in harmony as Americans.

During the last 6 years, there have been many commentaries on whether that harmony, particularly as acheived in a republic like ours, is ultimately incompatible with Islam. The discussion has extended to whether US intervention in predominantly Muslim areas can offer contructive solutions based on principles and liberties similar to those we take for granted. Since our men and women continue to be in harms way based on the premise that we can, a three part Q&A series with a Muslim American over at National Review Online was very encouraging and resonated with what I believe: that faith in God does not have to divide us.

So, it's slightly off-topic for my blog, but I wanted to recommend reading Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. [HT: Small Wars Journal Blog]

And, actually, as Dr. Jasser is a former lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, these articles may not be that far off-topic for a Soldiers' [Sailors'!] Angel's blog after all. :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Not for Nothing, Take 5

Haven't done one of these posts in a while, but these words from LtCol JJ Dill, USMC, posted over at Blackfive.net reminded me of something that I think about alot...

...our current success is a result of nearly 5 years of counter-insurgency operations. A general officer recently summed it up perfectly last week as we toured the industrial area of Hit, an area that just a few short months ago was abandoned and now is by all accounts flourishing and improving everyday, by stating, "Every step we took, every footprint we left over the past four years have allowed us to get to this point today." It was not chance or luck. The Sheiks and tribal leaders didn't just wake up one day and decide to join the CF and risk their lives to fight against AQI and the insurgents...we had to earn their trust, prove to them that our objectives were genuine and noble, and we had to fight the enemy with everything we had to show our determination.

So what is it that I think about? I think about the emails and letters that I wrote to my adopted soldiers and marines. I think about the times I struggled with what to say, especially in late 2006 when one of my soldiers was beyond frustrated with the apparent futility of his efforts. The frustration was aggravated but increasingly frequent changes of duty. No consistency in his day to day activities and no apparent progress being made. It saddens me just a little that he returned home in early 2007, before he had a chance to see the fruits of his labor, the impact of his persistent presence for over a year. While things weren't going well and progress seemed ellusive, his steps in the sand and his truck's tracks down the road were part of what got Iraq to where it is today. As his frustrations were peaking, Bill Roggio was posting about the Anbar Salvation Council and the Anbar Awakening (The Anbar Tribes vs. al Qaeda, Continued, November 2006) and solid glimmers of hope. I continued to write letters and emails, offering encouragement, gratitude, and cookies, and prayers.

A year on... Well! My soldiers and marines (yes, they're "mine" forever) and all the others who have done one or many tours in the desert have helped give the Iraqis a chance. A chance that the Iraqis seem to be embracing.

I hope that my soldiers and marines (and all the rest!) who've done duty in Iraq can see that from wherever they are today.