Update From Iraq

Well, here it is…my much anticipated final update from Iraq!! In less than 2 weeks the majority of us we will load up our aircraft and fly them to the port in Kuwait so they can be shipped back to the US. We will remain in Kuwait for about a week, waiting to join up with the rest of our company, then get on the "Freedom Bird" and be on our way home. Once in the states, we will do about a week of out processing at FT. Hood, Texas, then home to "Fort Living Room", and the end of a VERY long year.

This update is coming out a little later than normal, but we have had a pretty tough month of March, and one heck of a week this past week. You may have heard in the news that Al Sadr lifted the cease fire on the 12th of March. Well, the terrorists wasted no time at all sending rockets and mortars into many of the areas, including the hospital at Baghdad (yes, they are bombing the hospital), the coalition forces in Basrah, and of course, our FOB. In fact, our area is suddenly one of the most heavily attacked areas in Iraq. There are good reasons for this, most of which I can’t tell you, but just know that there has been some severe butt kicking dished out from our side as well. The fighting became so intense that Al Sadr decided to reinstate the cease fire a few days ago. Unfortunately, many of the terrorists don’t think he is radical enough, or doing enough to drive the Americans and coalition forces from Iraq, so they are taking matters into their own hands. Right now the majority of the violence is targeted against those Iraqi’s who are supporting the new government, and helping the coalition forces. This is mainly those who have volunteered to be Iraqi Police Officers. The majority of patients we have hauled this month have been Iraqi Police shot point blank in the head. The terrorists are very good at blending in with the townspeople, and they are very proficient at killing. The worst part of this whole conflict is that women and children are sometimes used as bargaining chips or shields in this ugly game, and time and time again we see children between 2 and 5 years old in the back of our helicopter with either gun shot wounds to the head, or burns covering a majority of their body. They are almost always female, and they rarely make it after we get them to the hospital. Many of these patients are being transferred from Basrah to us for transport to Balad, which is where they send all the head and neck injuries. I can handle the soldiers and the Iraqi Police being injured, but seeing the little kids on the litter is hard to take.

These terrorists know that they are in a fight for their lives and for their very existence. They realize that radical Islam could be wiped out and they might never see their ultimate plan of eliminating Israel fulfilled. Luckily for them, it is likely that the American people will elect a president that has the same agenda they do…to remove US troops from Iraq and allow Iran to stabilize the Middle East. I’m not sure how anyone could possibly vote for a candidate who has an agenda that is aligned with those who want to bring harm to our country and our allies, but it seems they have convinced themselves that it’s a good idea. I am also confused by the claim that Democrats are the party of human rights, and freedom for all people. Don’t the Iraqi’s fall under the definition of all people? The terrorists are surgically eliminating all those who have helped the Americans in this fight for freedom, and they are doing it right under our nose, with 140,000 US troops in the country protecting them. What do you think is going to happen if we withdrawal, or lets call it what it really is, surrender? Many of you may not recall what happened back in 1991 after the fist Gulf War. President Bush Sr. was ready to roll into Baghdad and eliminate Saddam Hussein. General Norman Schwartzcoff had intelligence on Saddam’s exact location, but the United Nations stepped in and required us to withdraw immediately without taking out the Iraqi leader, stating that our mission was only to drive Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which we had already accomplished. During this time, we had made a lot of deals with the Iraqi locals, telling them that if they helped us with human intelligence on Saddam’s location, we would protect them and help them rebuild their government as a democracy. When we pulled out, those who were found to have provided information to the Americans were brutally tortured and murdered by Saddam and his sons. This was also a good excuse for Saddam to kill anyone he felt was a threat to his dictatorship. Thousands were executed…mostly because the US failed to keep our promise. It is no surprise that the Iraqi’s were more than skeptical to help us when we came back in 2003. Unlike Americans, the Iraqi people don’t soon forget when they are lied to. (We have befriended many of the local vendors who have permission to sell items on our FOB, and they still talk about this event, though they have come to love and trust the Americans again). So, what do you think is going to happen to the Iraqi people if we pull out again without stabilizing this country and teaching them how to defend themselves? I can tell you, it will be another mass slaughter, and it will be of biblical proportions. I have yet to see Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpten, or any of the other civil rights leaders, stand up and proclaim that we can not leave these people to be massacred. Do we really want to elect a president that will allow this to happen? I am not a huge fan of Senator McCain’s policies. In fact, I feel he is a very liberal Republican, but I will say that he has the right strategy for Iraq, and that is victory. He was part of the last war we lost on public opinion, with all credit going to the media. You probably know that John McCain was a prisoner of war in the "Hanoi Hilton" for 7 years, but did you know that he had the opportunity to be released after only 4 years of captivity? His dad was a Navy Admiral, and through negotiations, it was agreed upon that McCain would be released to show some type of good will on the part of North Vietnam. McCain refused to accept special treatment, and remained an additional 3 years with his fellow prisoners. I don’t agree with his stance on all of the issues, but I have the deepest respect and admiration for his service and his sacrifice to this great nation. In your wildest dreams, can you imagine Senators Clinton or Obama not accepting preferential treatment, even at a restaurant? Can you imagine them serving in the military of the country they want to lead? Before I came here, I will tell you that I often wondered why we didn’t just nuke this place (and Afghanistan) right back to the Stone Age. I wondered why we were risking our soldier’s lives for people who don’t even want freedom. But I am here to tell you that I have seen and talked with those who want to be free, those who don’t believe radical Islam is the way to go, and those who just want to raise their children in peace. The majority of those living in this country just want the same thing you want, to live life free of the fear of terrorism. Unfortunately, most of them don’t have that luxury, and we are their only hope. If we pull out of here before the job is complete, we will not only be robbing their country of the possibility of living without terror, but we will pretty much secure the probability that the United States will soon be living with the same fear.

While I was training at Ft Sill, my wife spent hours and hours writing inspirational messages on 3x5 cards (365 of them) so that I would have something uplifting to read each day while I was here. (Yes, she is amazing!) On one side is a scripture message, and on the other is either a famous quote or a picture of our family at various times in our lives. She wanted me to be inspired by those who came before me and made it through difficult situations. I can never repay my wife and daughter for their love and support during this year. I put many of the pictures, scriptures and quotes on the wall in my room so I could remind myself that I would make it too. I tell you all that to say this…each day I would read one particular quote taken from a speech made by President Bush shortly after 911. It states… "We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength, they are invited by the perception of weakness, and the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets and in our own cities." I truly believe that the reason we have not been attacked in America since 911 is because we are engaging the enemy on his own soil. This is why I am here!

So, if you still have doubts on whether or not we should remain in Iraq and see this obligation through, let me revisit some of the original questions and beliefs that everyone had, since the truth has been twisted and perverted beyond recognition...

Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Remember, the UN drug their feet and gave the Saddam 14 months to hide these weapons, some that were small enough to fit in a suitcase. Syria does not produce their own weapons, or at least not that we are aware of, yet they offered to send weapons to Hezbollah during their most recent skirmish with Israel. I would look there. Until we do, we can’t say there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Do the Iraqi’s want freedom and democracy? The citizens of Iraq stood in the streets for hours, despite the possibility of snipers or suicide bombers, just so they could vote. By the way, over 80% of the population voted, while only about 50% of Americans voted in the last elections. Do we want freedom and democracy? Maybe that’s a better question.

Is this war all about the oil? How much did you pay for gas today at the pump? $3.50? I actually WISH this war would have been about securing the oil for our own interest and bringing it back to the US so we could pay 99 cents a gallon. I would volunteer to provide security to those who are pumping the oil into tankers to bring back to the US. But I can promise you that is NOT happening here. The Middle East is not even our primary or secondary source of oil, so if this war is all about oil, we have failed miserably and should regroup and attack Venezuela, which is our primary source of oil. If you still think we came here for the oil, your hatred for President Bush has taken over your common sense, and you have already "drank the Kool-Aid", so nothing I can say to you is going to change your mind.

Al Qaeda was NOT in Iraq before 911, and there is no link between Saddam and the terrorist! Dream on. I know there has been a LOT of mixed intelligence on this, but I am here to tell you the truth. There is a place just south east of Baghdad called Salmon Pak. Prior to 911, it was used as a joint training camp for terrorists and the Iraqi Special Operations units. It also housed a large facility that was used to make chemical weapons. Pre-war satellite imagery clearly shows the fuselage of a large jet, probably a Boeing 707, and some railcars, which it is believed were used to plan and rehearse the hijacking of the airliners on 911, and the Madrid, Spain train bombings. We received this intelligence from highly reliable sources, and it was confirmed from some Iraqi defectors who drew an almost exact replica of the facility, and described the training that took place there. Just like the weapons of mass destruction, many who didn’t want there to be ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda have supplied their own intelligence to deny the link. However, it is still being used as a terrorist strong hold, and is the only place in the country that we are ABSOLUTELY not allowed to fly over due to the probability of being shot down. Even the Democrats concede that Al Qaeda was in EVERY MAJOR COUNTRY in the world, including the United States, but they weren’t in Iraq??? Let me pour you some more Kool-Aid.

You want some more positive results from this conflict? Young girls are now allowed to attend schools (of which the US military has built hundreds), women in many places now have rights, including the right to vote, the country has an increased infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewage systems. The US military has provided thousands of jobs to those who would otherwise be out of work in a third world economy. And one of the most important accomplished is this…the day after Easter Sunday, I was watching CNN. The correspondent was reporting on the violence that was going on during OUR most Holy of days (you remember we don’t attack them during Ramadan, out of respect for their religious observances). She had followed an Iraqi family to a Christian church service on Easter. That’s right…Iraqi’s can now openly practice religions other than Islam, without the fear of being beheaded. I watched as the cameras followed this family to a church in the middle of Baghdad. I was amazed. I knew that after the fall of Saddam, thousands of Christian Missionaries had entered this country, again, without fear of loosing their lives, to fulfill the "Great Commission". But I didn’t realize that Christian churches had been set up and were worshiping openly in the streets of Baghdad. This would not be happening if we had not toppled the regime of Saddam. If you are a Christian, what more do you need to know about whether this was worth it or not?? Yes, on Easter (thanks primarily to the attacks on that day) it was announced that we had surpassed the level of 4,000 casualties, but there is only one way to ensure their deaths were in vain…pull out before we are finished. I noticed they aren’t keeping track of the number of dead terrorists, but I can tell you that it is enough to make them feel like their backs are against the wall, that they are making their last stand. Although, they are quite confident that the American people will do most of the work for them on election day. All they have to do is keep up the pressure and kill a few more soldiers, and they win the war of public opinion. Please don’t let this happen.

Well, I will climb down off of my soap box now and let you get on with your lives. I wanted to thank all of you who wrote back to me and commented on how much you look forward to my updates, and how you appreciate being told the truth rather than relying only on the media for your information. I have truly enjoyed writing these, as it helped me to reflect on what happened over here, and helped me to decompress after a particularly tough mission, or a tough month. It was a very long year, but I would not trade this experience for anything. Thank you for your emails and letters, your Christmas gifts to all of us, the Skyline chili (which I finished off tonight!) along with all the other real food products, season 6 of "24" (which I finished off last night!), the case of Oreo cookies (double stuff, of course, also finished off last night!) and most of all, the thoughts and prayers that have kept us safe all year long. I am very fortunate to have family and friends, and some people I don’t even know, that made it a point to pray for our safety on a daily basis. We could feel the protection all around us, and never truly felt that our lives were in immediate danger. As we head home to our families and close this chapter on our lives, please continue to pray for those who are replacing us, and the other brave men and women who may be here for quite some time. They do this not for money or medals, nor for a pat on the back. They do it because it is the right thing to do, and the fine people of our country deserve to be protected. Never forget that freedom isn’t free, as someone has paid the price for the blanket of protection that we enjoy everyday. It has been an honor to serve my country for the last 24 years, and a privilege to serve next to these men, and all that came before them. I am certainly not a hero, but I have been in the company of heroes. God bless you all.

Saving lives, one flight at a time…

Rich

Richard J. Clark, CW3
Indiana National Guard

I got this E-mail from Greg Turner after becoming a member of National Write Your Congressman*. We discussed the sorry state of our economy, the price of gas and the war in Iraq and how nothing will change until the good people of America get involved and hold our elected officials accountable. This is what he wrote:

It was a great pleasure meeting you today and I was touched by your passion for those in Iraq. As I promised you, here is a letter from my close friend Richard Clark. He wrote this after a year long tour of duty and was quite passionate about letting folks like us know about the real situation in Iraq. He is a devout Christian with character beyond reproach. Please send this to others that you know.

Subject: Final Update from Iraq!!

Greg Turner
Independent Representative

*The National Write Your Congressman is not a lobbying organization and does not show partiality toward parties or issues.