Greetings all, I am starting this thread because there seems to be a hunger for news that you aren't seeing back home. We see things all the time here and never realize that most people would love to know even small amounts of the real stories. So to start, I will take the messages forwarded to me by other military members and pass them on to you. I am sorry, but in the past few months I have deleted scores of emails that really contrast the news you hear today. That is why I believe so many of your family and friends like mine are skeptical when we say invest in Iraq. Many people believe this country will implode within a year.
Iraqi Army Soldier: A story of common courage
By U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Zabaldo
Office of Security Transition, Public Affairs Office
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A little more than a year ago, shortly before President Bush flew onto the USS Lincoln off the coast of San Diego and announced the end to the war in Iraq, Soldiers of the old Iraqi Army were already on their way home resigned to defeat and an uncertain future.
Also uncertain has been the understanding of exactly what Soldiers in the new Iraqi Army have gone through since that time. There are no stories of Iraqis with medals pinned to their chests like armor plating. There are no stories of courageous actions of Soldiers taking hills and enemy machinegun positions. The true story of Iraq is that of a nation that will one day do well by that standard. And stories like that of Iraqi Army Lt. Col. Ahmed Lutfi Ahmed Raheem - an officer in this country's newly rebuilt army.
Ahmed hasn't stormed any enemy positions lately. But he shows up for work everyday, like a lot of Soldiers in this army. And in this country, being typical is a standard that "courageous" never met.
For Ahmed, the decision to serve his country again began more than a year ago - 7,731 miles, and three weeks before the announcement on the USS Lincoln.
"April 9, 2003," Ahmed said. "I don't forget this day."
"I was on my way home to Baghdad after my brigadier boss had told me the war was over and to go home," Ahmed said, describing his last moments as a major in the old Iraqi Army air defense unit he had been with for nine years. "He said it was an order," he added.
"So I walked home from our station in Al Hillah, south of Baghdad, but I didn't change my clothes," Ahmed said, "And I came to a Marine checkpoint on a bridge in Baghdad. And I still had my uniform on and the Marine sergeant stopped me ..."
"'Where are you going?' he asked me," Ahmed said in his accented but surprisingly good English.
"And I tell him, 'I am a major in the Iraqi Army and I was ordered to go to my house'" Ahmed said, finishing the backdrop to a life-defining moment he had not seen coming; and on what was supposed to be just a long 50-plus mile walk home to his wife and five children.
The encounter would prove to be a pivotal one for the military veteran because for the next two anxious minutes, Ahmed went through what must be emotions impossible to describe to someone who has never known he was about to die. It was more the result of the 33-year-old's lifetime of experience with the ways of Saddam Hussein.
Ahmed, though, was actually two minutes away from a rebirth of sorts.
"He looked at me for a while and I thought he was going to kill me," Ahmed said. "But he didn't kill me," he added.
"Instead he came to the position of attention and saluted me as an officer," Ahmed said, "And said, 'Sir you can go.'"
"I took a few steps and began to cry," he said, "Because I think, 'Why do I fight these people for ten years?
"This moment changed me from the inside," Ahmed said. "What he did was kill me without pistol. He killed the old major in the Iraqi Army who fought America from 1993 to 2003.”
Ahmed was advised by a U.S. Army officer to apply at the recruiting center in Baghdad and was ushered into the army a short time later as an "officer candidate." After training, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the new army having made the cut for promotion from his former rank in the old army.
Ahmed's story, though, doesn't end there. The now 34-year-old engineering graduate from the University of Baghdad and career Iraqi Army officer has since endured great personal tests in his first year of service in the new Iraqi Army that have reaffirmed his commitment to serving his country.
In February 2004, Ahmed, a Soldier whose face belies his real age with the tell-tale signs of a man who has lived a hard life, was at the Baghdad Recruiting Center when a blast killed more than 47 earlier in the year. The psychological toll was great, but he came back.
Several weeks ago, he saw the aftermath of the latest blast at the center only minutes after the attack that left another 35 dead. The wounds were re-opened, but he came back.
And a little more than a month-and-a-half ago on May 15, he was kidnapped by members of the Shiite Muslim Cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army on a bridge in Baghdad when a vehicle filled with five armed men forced his truck to the side of the road before forcing him into the front seat of their car for transport to a hidden safe-house.
Ahmed was beaten and pistol-whipped before being knocked unconscious only to be interrogated later by the insurgent terrorists for his association with the new Iraqi Army and the Coalition.
Ultimately he was told not to work with the Coalition anymore and released by the militiamen, but not before they stripped him of his uniform, weapon, cell phone and the vehicle that had been issued to him by the Coalition.
"I said, 'Sir I lost my pistol, my mobile, my uniform and my vehicle,'" Ahmed said, describing the humiliating moment he faced upon returning to the OST headquarters later that day to report the catastrophe.
He had begged the militiamen to kill him thinking the loss of equipment was the end of his military career. But when the Coalition officer Ahmed worked with found out that everything he had been issued had been lost that morning, the officer's response surprised Ahmed.
"And when he saw me crying," Ahmed said, "He stood up and gave me another key to a vehicle. And gave me another pistol and another mobile phone."
"'Don't worry, we trust you,' he said," Ahmed said.
"I really love America for this," Ahmed said. "This is what I wish I could tell every Iraqi."
Ahmed, like so many others in the Iraqi Security Forces that show up for work everyday, knows that security and protection from the individuals bent on denying Iraq its chance at freedom is paramount to his country's future.
"I want to provide security to my country," Ahmed said.
"Saddam Hussein didn't just destroy the buildings and the streets," Ahmed said. "He destroyed something inside of all Iraqis. He destroyed the truth and something inside us.
"You know what Saddam Hussein did inside us from 1979 to 2003?" asks Ahmed. "He was president of Iraq for 25 years. In this period of time what did he teach Iraq? What did Saddam teach Iraq? Fight. Take your rifle. Take your pistol and fight. Fight, fight. Fight for what? Eight years with Iran - fight for nothing. And he told us to go to Kuwait and steal. And he laughed. He taught the people how to steal. He made people forget Islam and the Al Koran.
"So now inside of all Iraqis it is just to 'fight,'" Ahmed said. "And now we're fighting between us.
"I do my best, though," Ahmed said. "I do my best to protect my country and to give my country its security."
And he does one more thing that doesn't earn medals in any army on earth: he continues to show up for work.
And in the face of suicide bombings, targetings, and abductions and beatings, in Iraq, this is just the typical story common to all the 230,000-plus Iraqi Army Soldiers and police service officers choosing to serve their country.
It's not a story of the courageous actions of Soldiers storming enemy machinegun positions. And there are no medals awarded for the simple act. But it's a typical story of valor in this country.
And a standard that courage never met.
House Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515