Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A closer look at the U.S. mission in Iraq, from inside Iraq September 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:18 AM
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LIKE MANY AMERICANS, I’ve become somewhat apathetic about the war in Iraq. The conflict has dragged on for so long that I’ve lost interest and become more focused on domestic issues such as the depressed economy, high unemployment and the healthcare crisis.

Really, I’m almost ashamed to admit that indifference given I am the daughter of a Korean War veteran and the sister-in-law of two full-time Air Force men, one of whom is currently on his second tour of duty in Iraq. But days, even weeks, pass by when I don’t think much at all about those still serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. I’m just being honest here and I’m not proud of myself.

Yet, with the recent deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, I took note and wondered exactly how my deployed Air Force brother-in-law feels about the situation.

I e-mailed a list of questions and, as I expected, my relative provided some thoughtful insights from his current home at Joint Base Balad. He emphasized that his comments are solely his and not representative of the U.S. military or the U.S. government.

From his perspective, my brother-in-law seems unimpressed with the big to-do about the “last combat brigades” exiting Iraq. He writes:

To call what used to be “combat brigades” by the new “advise and assist brigades”  moniker is like calling a potato a spud. Spin it any way you want, there has been no real change to the mission. Officially, we’re providing training and support to the Iraqi security forces and police. We no longer lead any offensive missions. That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing for quite some time now!

For him personally, the ongoing draw-down means that as Air Force personnel rotate out of his Iraq assignment, they won’t be replaced at the same level. He’s slated to return to the Midwest in early December.

Next, I asked, “How do you define the results of the U.S. action in Iraq?”

He terms the “democratically” elected government as “very shaky” and “extremely ineffectual” since the elections last March.

One of the problems right now is that a lot of different factions are trying to undermine this fragile government by launching numerous attacks upon the security forces, the police, and even the common citizens. I guess the thought is that the government will not be supported if they can’t even provide for the safety of their own people! Who will be the winner in this mess? Only time will tell.

Whether a prevailing attitude among soldiers or not, my military brother-in-law says he never thought the U.S. could “solve” any problems in Iraq. Rather, he hopes that, as a result of the U.S. mission, life will be better for most people there. However, he adds:

We’ll have to wait around for 20 or 30 years to see how it plays out.

Additionally, he shares this take on Iraq’s future. (Maybe his opinion is nothing new, but I find it interesting.)

I have a personal opinion that Iran will have a great deal of influence in the (Iraqi) government because they are the neighbors and because of a common religion with the majority of Iraqis. China will gain a lot of economic advantages in the oil fields. U.S. companies aren’t investing here because the safety of their workers and security of their equipment and infrastructure cannot be guaranteed. China doesn’t worry about these problems and already has some leases in place; reportedly, they have gotten some real bargains too.

Those comments about China remind me of something my father, who fought on the front lines during the Korean Conflict, once told me. The Chinese, he said, would send 8 to 12-year-old boys out ahead of the troops into the battlefield. At the front of the line, those youth would be the first to fall, exactly as the Chinese soldiers intended. The Chinese main force would then rush into battle, over the nearly dead, screaming boys.

So my brother-in-law’s conclusion that “China doesn’t worry about these problems” touched a nerve with me. Given that observation, it would appear to me that attitudes have changed little in the 57 years since the Korean War ended. Maybe not a fair assumption, but…

China doesn’t worry about these problems….

That scares me.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling