U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force, from Boston, Mass., walks with Col. Mohammad Faisal, Hit deputy chief of police, Mayor Ahmed Mahmud Abd al Munim, Sheik Faisal al Nimraqi, and Falah Hassan, City Council 3rd in charge, along the streets of Hit, Iraq, Nov. 29, 2008. A meeting is held in Hit with the newly appointed mayor, and other government officials to discuss economic and political issues.
USMC Photo by Lance Corporal Lindsay Sayres.
This is a must read and I decided to put the whole thing on the front page (no jumps).
Major General John Kelly emails his speech at the handover of Marine territory to the Iraqis today:
TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY CEREMONY
MAJOR GENERAL JOHN F KELLY USMC
I MARINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE (FORWARD)
AL ASAD, IRAQ
9 FEBRUARY 2009
It might surprise some here today of what a Marine is proudest of in the nearly three years he's spent on the ground in Iraq since March 2003. It is not the triumphs of the invasion and the rush to Baghdad, Tikrit and Bayji that I lived, while the rest of the world held their breath and watched as we defined military power and prowess. It isn't the fights we had over the summer of 2003 against an emerging insurgency in the Northern Babil Province, or the two battles of Fallujah in April and November of 2004. Or clearing Ramadi, or holding Karma, or cleaning out Al Qaim over the years. It's also not about the number of terrorist we've killed, and the network they served all but destroyed, today making Anbar, Iraq, the Middle East, Europe and the world a safer place protected for now at least against a sick form of extremism no decent man or woman could ever embrace. That the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that have fought here in Anbar and Western Ninawa Province, and the men and women who commanded them these last five years, are at least has good as the best in the world at this business.
What I am very proud of is the number of human beings we did not have to kill because we never stopped extending the hand of friendship even in the darkest of days gone by, and the damage we didn't do because we resorted to force last, and always restrained its use when we did go to the guns. The other things I am proud of are the cows we purchased for widows to make a living, chicken farms we established or expanded, agricultural experts we hired and brought in to help farmers save their fields and increase production, and advise the shepherds on how to cull and strengthen their flocks. Of the thousands of tons of seed and fertilizer we bought and distributed to reestablish a farm industry destroyed by over a decade of UN sanctions, and exacerbated by the current drought. Of the hundreds of miles of irrigation canals we repaired or opened up, and the schools and clinics built and stocked with supplies. The impact we had on the province's health. By fixing or building sewerage plants and systems, and water treatment facilities, we began to reduce infant mortality by reducing the unseen killers of the new born-killers that thrive in filthy water. And then there was the cholera epidemic this past summer-that didn't happen; the dreaded tuberculosis outbreak in Hadithah-that we miraculously contained and treated without the loss of a single life.
I am also very proud of the Iraqis we Americans, along with our brothers in the Iraqi police and army, safeguarded as the insurgency was systematically defeated. It wasn't all done with guns and violence, but as much with the kinds of nation building and "hearts and minds" programs we established for the people of Anbar, and now those of Western Ninawa, who are today working with us, and not fighting against us. And when the few remaining Al Qaeda do crawl out from under whatever rock they call home, those who once aided them now reject their presence and the venom they spew, and tell us where to find them. Of the month-long voter registration drive in August without a single accusation of fraud, without a single violent incident, and with 100% of the eligible registered. Of the election just held with nearly 100% of those registered walking miles even when you knew full well hundreds and even thousands of you might die. You ignored the threats of death. With the full knowledge that the terrorists were frantically building vehicle bombs, and outfitting as many suicide bombers as they could talk into their murderous assignment, you gathered at polling places in your millions and exercised the right of free men and woman and the forces of evil here never had a chance of stopping you. By dipping your fingers in a bottle of ink you sounded the death knell of terrorists and extremists who only destroy, never build. Who kill, and never nurture. Who want to tear down societies now, but have no plan for the future. Who simply can not stand the thought of men and women living their lives the way they want to live them safely in their own homes with their children, and enjoying the God-given rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
It's harder-infinitely harder-fighting this kind of war as patience, and innovation and economic development are the most effective ammo, with trust, influence and personal relations the most effective and really only usable arrows in the quiver. In this dangerous world we live in the sad fact is that the kind of war we are fighting today in Iraq was made possible only after all those who have to be killed because they are murderous irreconcilables, are dead. And diplomacy and good will only work once these kinds of men are hunted down and killed or put in cages, and those more reasonable men and women are finally convinced they can't win with the gun, are tired of dying, and realize their only hope is through dialogue.
These are the things I am proud or as I end my third, and I am sure my final, tour here in Iraq; however, what I am proudest of is why we came here and regardless of what the talkers back home thought this was all about, those of us on the ground that were putting our lives on the line had the noblest of all intentions in 2003, and they guide us today as well in our every action. Reasons only the American military would march forward to do with happy hearts, and without regard for our own lives or wellbeing. Not for land, or oil, or prestige, or for anything else other than our country's security, and another people's freedom. I know it sounds naïve or corny, but our Iraqi brothers and sisters who have come to know us the best, believe it the most.
As we surged into Iraq six years ago the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the Coalition came not to conquer a nation, but to free a people. We sincerely believed we came to help free Iraq from a terrible tyrant who not only ordered the deaths of thousands of his own countrymen he was morally and ethically bound to protect as the leader of a nation in the modern era, but also crushed the spirits of the living holding you all in a grip of fear that turned brother against brother, sons and daughters against their parents, and Muslim against Muslim. A man that fostered murderous religious, ethnic, and social suspicions and hates as the means to keep you divided.
This is what those of us in uniform who have served here are proudest of, and not any number of cynics or the entire chattering class can ever take that away from us. We who serve the colors risked everything in this endeavor, while they throw their darts. We fought here in the unimaginable heat of Iraq's summer, and they criticized. We walked the most dangerous streets in the world hunting the most murderous men on earth, and they slept safe at home in their beds. We send the people we hold as dear and precious to us-as close as our own sons and daughters-home to be buried, and the best they can do is case doubt on our mission, our motives, and our humanity. They should come to Anbar and see what we have done together as partners in the same fight, and, as a sheikh recently said to me: "as brothers now and forever because we have endured the same agony for four years and emerged victorious. You never wavered and we have won."
Our success here over the last year, indeed since we came, has been a result of trusting those who could be trusted, and standing firm against those who would do us-and you-harm. In the last year we did many things with the Iraqis to build that trust. We took calculated risks to advance the return to normalcy, risks we could take with confidence because we knew the Anbar ground better than any non-Anbari on the planet. By living with them we understood the minds of the local citizens and how they were exhausted by the murder and the violence that took so many of them everyday, and for so many years. We grew more and more convinced that it was over everyday and everytime we had a conversation that reflected hope, rather than hopelessness, in the voices of parents. Parents like any on earth who now talked of a future for their children that included education and not ignorance, health and not disease, moderation and not extremism, life and not death or maiming in a meaningless spiral of violence. At the end of the day we in the military always knew we could win the ten second firefight" because we are better at fighting-and dying-for what we believe in than any terrorist regardless of what sick ideology he might worship could ever hope to be. The trick was to know how to recognize an opportunity for engagement at the human level, then exploit it for the good without value judgment or cultural arrogance.
These are the things I am proud and proudest of, but what makes me eternally grateful is the relatively small number of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines I have lost or had maimed in comparison to what it was like the last two times I was here. Eternally grateful, but their loss and suffering still breaks my heart and I think about them everyday. I will think about them for the rest of my life because I failed to bring them home. I will never forget them, or their families. I am painfully aware that for their families, and their buddies who knew them best in their squads, sections, and platoons, that their single casualty is for them an overwhelming statistic. Their grief, is my grief, forever...but I still thank God there were so few this time.
These men and women served because they are the best of their generation. They understood above all else the notion of service to one's country, and of selfless devotion to duty. They died for their buddies, for their Army and their Marine Corps, and for millions of their countrymen who will never know their names but sleep safe in their homes every night because of men and women like them. They are part of our legend now, and we will never forget them:
We mourn the loss today of Lance Corporal Drew W. Weaver 0311 USMC. He was killed in action 21 February 2008 fighting alongside his buddies, and for the country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Major William G. Hall 7202 USMC. He was killed in action 30 March 2008 fighting alongside his Marines, and for the country he loved.
We mourn the loss of today of Lance Corporal Dean D. Opicka 0351 USMC and Corporal Richard J. Nelson 0341 USMC. They were killed in action together 14 April 2008 fighting alongside their buddies, and for the country they loved.
We mourn the loss today of First Lieutenant Matthew R. Vandegrift 0802 USMC. He was killed in action 21 April 2008 fighting alongside his American & Iraqi buddies, and for the country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter 0311 USC, and Corporal Jonathan T. Yale 0352 USMC. They were killed in action together 22 April 2008 fighting alongside their buddies, and for the country they loved. (Both these men to be awarded the Navy Cross (posthumously) on 20 February 2009.)
We mourn the loss today of Lance Corporal Casey L. Casanova 0621, Lance Corporal James F. Kimple 0411, Corporal Miguel A. Guzman 3521, and Sergeant Glen E. Martinez 1345, All U.S. Marines. They were killed in action together 2 May 2008 fighting alongside their buddies, and for the country they loved.
We mourn the loss today of Private First Class Aaron J. Ward 3110, a soldier of the United States Army. He was killed in action 6 May 2008 fighting alongside his buddies, and for the country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Specialist Christopher McCarthy 91k, a soldier of the United States Army. He died here in Iraq serving the country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Lance Corporal Kelly E. Watters 0311 USMC. He was seriously injured on 23 May 2008 fighting alongside his buddies, and for the country he loved. He lost the struggle for his life yesterday at the Naval Hospital, Behesda, Maryland. He was surrounded by his family when he went.
We mourn the loss today of Lieutenant Colonel Max A. Galeai 0302 USMC, Captain Philip J. Dykeman 0302 USMC, and Corporal Marcus W. Preudhomme 0151 USMC. These Marines were killed in action together 26 June 2008 fighting alongside their buddies, and for the country they loved.
We mourn the loss today of Staff Sergeant Danny D. Dupre 0369 USMC. He was killed in action 114 July 2008 alongside his buddies, and for the country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Corporals Stewart Trejo 2131 USMC and Corporal Adam McKiski 2131 USMC. These Marines died together 7 July 2008 fighting alongside their buddies, and for the country they loved.
We mourn the loss today of Sergeant Michael h. Ferschke 0321 USMC. He was killed in action 10 August 2008 fighting alongside his buddies, and for the country he loved. (His wife Hotaru gave birth to a son in Okinawa, Japan, on 14 January 2009. His boy's name is Michael H. Ferschke III.)
We mourn the loss today of Private First Class Daniel A. McGuire 0311 USMC. He was killed in action 14 August 2008 fighting alongside his buddies, and his country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Lance Corporal Stacy A Dryden 3052 USMC. She died here in Iraq 19 October 2008 serving the country she loved.
We mourn the loss of Corporal Aaron M. Allen 0311 USMC. He was killed in action 14 November 2008 fighting alongside his buddies, and for the country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Gunnery Sergeant Marcello R Valasco 3537 USMC. He died 19 November 2008 here in Iraq serving the country he loved.
We mourn the loss today of Master Sergeant Anthony Davis, a Solider of the United State Army, and Captain Warren A. Frank 0302 USMC. These Americans were killed in action together 25 November 2008 fighting alongside each other, and for the country they loved.
We mourn the loss today of Lance Corporal Thomas Reilly 0311 USMC. He was killed in action 20 December 2008 fighting alongside his buddies, and for the country he loved.
To the people of Anbar and Western Ninawa - our friends and allies - I wish you well and pray that you will see this experiment in democracy through that has been bought with so much suffering and pain. Treasure this new and wonderful way to live your lives, cherish it, nurture it, make it grow, never stop trying to make it better as it is gift from God to you, and your children.