My blog buddy Peter lives in NYC. He recently lost his uncle, Marine Captain Robert Secher in Iraq. It has hit him very hard. If you would like to read what Peter has written about his uncle,here is the link to his latest post about him. Newsweek has written an article about Robert, and I want to share some of it with everyone. Peter describes him as a “real Clark Kent”. But he still couldn’t escape the carnage that has become Iraq. He asked for the toughest assignment, and was sent to Anbar to train the Iraqi security forces. He wanted to write a book about his service in the Marines and specfically about his time in Iraq. He believed in his mission there. He did express frustration with what was happening and questioned the loyalty of some of the Iraqi recruits to the radical Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr.
A letter he sent to Peter was published in the Newsweek article. Robert wrote it shortly after he was arrived in Iraq:
“My first impression of the Iraqis is that I really like them. They are warm and hospitable and the friendliest people I’ve met. I also feel very sorry for them. Their lives are out of their hands and they have known nothing but dictators (Saddam) and occupiers (us) for years. As we convoyed at high speeds thru the town (speed is the best defense against IEDs) you could clearly see the look on the eyes of the people: sick and tired. First a generation of Saddam, now insurgents and occupiers. Everyone makes promises and no one keeps them.”
Part of the next letter he wrote to Peter 3 months after the last one:
“My 3 month informed opinion (based entirely on what I see in the Hit region) is that this war is futile. Even the Iraqi soldiers tell us that when America leaves, they’ll quit. They trust us because they know Americans can take care of them, but they don’t trust their government, or the Ministry of Defense, and they especially don’t trust their officers […] Funny, I feel the same way sometimes.”
After he had been there for 6 months, his frustration seemed to deepen.
“The biggest lesson I have learned over 6 months here is that the Iraqi culture is incapable of maintaining a western style military. The Arabic-style military […] is distasteful to western soldiers: officers who hit their men; officers and senior enlisted men who regularly steal from their men; using leadership to openly grant yourself more food and ’standard of living’ items while your men go without […]”Many of our [Iraqi] soldiers went AWOL; new food supplies came in yesterday from Ramadi but were grossly insufficient; new soldiers arrived but their initial military training is substandard and you can tell they are really just here for a paycheck […]”
A month later he wrote this to his father:
“This is such a long process. Maybe 20 years from now I’ll look back with pride that I helped make a difference in Iraq, but right now I’m just not into it. I just want to come home alive. […] The war in Iraq itself, yeah, it was the right thing to do, but the way it was carried out, man, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney have nothing to be proud of. But I’m still glad to be here. At least I can say I was here, and 20 years from now that will be all that matters. I did my part (though my attitude was less than desirable). […]”
The last email from Robert was two days before he was killed:
How are you? I will be down in the city […] operating out of firm base 1 until probably Nov 1 so I won’t have access to email very often. I should make it back up to camp every few days to shower and do laundry, and I’ll check my emails then. The clearing operations are continuing throughout the town. It’ll be sleep all day and go on operations each night (searches and raids). A lot more interesting than being on the camp. Give my love to [stepmother] Lucy, I’ll talk to you all soon.
Why did I write this post? Because it is a slice of the war, from someone who lived it and died in it. A Centurion was what the article describes him as. Robert questioned things but took pride in doing the best he could for the Iraqi’s. The entire article shows his highs and lows during his time in Iraq. But he never waivered in his feeling that he was doing something to help make life better for the Iraqi people. I just wish he could of come home and wrote his book.
We are losing so many wonderful men and women like Robert over there. Thousands of injured soldiers return home to try to start life again without arms, legs or with massive head injuries. For me, the cost is just too high, and the chances of building a country that can sustain itself gets weaker and weaker as each day passes.
It has to stop. When do we say enough of our best and brightest have died in that oil-rich desert thousands of miles from home? WHEN PEOPLE?