Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Listen to the Marines

They know things about Iraq now that most of the rest of us only dimly realize.

A lieutenant:

“The culture here – they lie, they deceive, they steal, they don't trust each other. In order to survive. That's what Saddam Hussein's era bred in them. If they wanted to survive and do well, they had to go behind everyone's back. After 20 or 30 years of Saddam, they can't break away over night.”

A sergeant:

“We have to convince them that we're here to protect them and their family. But we also have to convince them that we're not just blowing smoke. They need to know we aren't here to take anything, steal anything. We're here to find out who the bad guys are so it's safe here for us and their families.”

The unspoken conclusion in both cases: This will take more time. The relevant question on the campaign trail isn't whether this is "victory" or "defeat;" it's "how patient are we willing to be?"

Too bad for us these fellows hadn't even seen a journalist, much less spoken to one, till Michael J. Totten turned up in their gritty little corner of the war. He has to ask you to help him keep it going, because no one else will.