Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2003]
A Shreveport Judge's Report on Iraq
Last Wednesday night, I attended a lecture by Judge Don Walter, a federal judge who was asked to serve as part of a
THE LECTURE: I really am not into public speaking as I am sure you are about to find out. But my adventures in Iraq taught me something that I would very much like to share with you. I have been fortunate over the past 5 or
In mid-April, I got a call from DoJ asking if I would be willing to go to Iraq for up to
Let me begin with a disclaimer, I was in Iraq for fewer than
We were divided into 4 teams. We were the southern team: Mike Farhang, an AUSA from
During the first two weeks, we talked to a few hundred Iraqis and interviewed about
What changed my mind? When we left mid June,
Worse things happened with the knowledge, indeed with the participation, of Saddam, his family and the Baathist regime. Thousands suffered while we were messing about with France and Russia and Germany and the UN. Every one of them knew what was going on there, but France and the UN were making millions administering the food for oil program. We cannot, I know, remake the world, nor do I believe we should. We cannot stamp out evil, I know. But this time we were morally right and our economic and strategic interests were involved. I submit that just because we can't do everything doesn't mean that we should do nothing.
We must have the moral courage to see this through, to do whatever it takes to secure responsible government for the Iraqi people. Having decided to topple Saddam, we cannot abandon those who trust us. I fear we will quit as the horrors of war come into our living rooms. Look at the stories you are getting from the media today. The steady drip, drip, drip of bad news may destroy our will to fulfill the obligations we have assumed.
WE ARE NOT GETTING THE WHOLE TRUTH FROM THE NEWS MEDIA. The news you watch, listen to and read is highly selective. Good news doesn't sell. 90% of the damage you see on tv was caused by Iraqis, not by US. All the damage you see to schools, hospitals, power generation facilities, refineries, pipelines and water supplies, as well as shops, museums, and semi-public buildings (like hotels) was caused either by the Iraqi army in its death throes or Iraqi civilians looting and rioting. The day after the war was over, there was nearly
If we are doing all this for the people, why are they shooting us? The general population isn't. By my sample, 90% are glad we came and the majority doesn't want us to leave for some time to come, but there are still plenty of bad guys, the Baathists who lived well under Saddam. The thugs of the old regime still hope to return to power, and there are plenty of them, mostly located in Sunni areas. Then too, Saddam, in the Ramadan amnesty, let every murderer, butcher, rapist and violent criminal loose on his own people. There are interests, including organized crime, with a desire for anarchy and profit. There are disruptive forces from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria. We saw poverty on a scale that I have never witnessed except in pictures of Haiti.
I saw one little girl: she was slender, very pretty, about 5 or
We went to a second palace by the airport. It is surrounded by a lake which was created by diverting the Euphrates water which limited agricultural irrigation downstream. His palace in Basra was used by him only once I am told. Basra functions fairly well except for the power. There are
Consequently, it is easier for the Brits to govern, unlike Baghdad. And they are doing a good job of it. They are doing it at the moment by using
I find it difficult to explain how differently they think. I remember telling Mike, "I don't think we are on the same page with this fellow." Mike said, "Don, I am not sure we are in the same library." For a large percentage of the Iraqi people, and they are most adamant, family and tribe are everything, religion and state are one and the same. That they don't understand us is our biggest problem in the middle east. They perceive our way of life as a threat to theirs,... and it is. They fear the modern world is about to run over them, destroying family life as they know it, educating and freeing their women, forbidding honor killing... coca colas, jeans, lack of parental respect and respect for the old ways and religion. And to defend their way of life and their religion, they will die with the same fervor with which the Christians marched to the lions. In their fear of western life, some will fight and kill us; but I remain convinced that the majority want a secular society and the best that the west has to offer.
We are not hated by everyone. Of the hundreds I talked to, the overwhelming majority thanked us for being there. Hundreds of adults and children on the roads waved and smiled as we passed by. We went to the law school with about
Still they need help and I am trying to get some help for them from our law schools. LSU has refused, Seton Hall and Rutgers have promised to help; I have not contacted Tulane, Loyola or Southern yet.
Upon returning to Baghdad, I went to the Ministry of Justice to review the situation in the south. I took advantage of the situation and said the following: "I have read a little of your history. I know you are a proud people who have risen from the ashes in the past, so I must tell you that I am saddened and disappointed. I have talked to hundreds of you over the past five weeks, almost everyone educated and privileged. What I have heard is what you want from us, how the Americans have to fix this and give you money and equipment, protect you from you own. The only adults planning on the future were those law students in Basra who had lost everything - their books, their desks, their records, their school. And they were doing something about it on their own. You need to do some of these things for yourselves. If you are depending on us to do everything, you are going to be sadly disappointed."
I got a few nods from the judges, but the translator said to me: "Thank you. I have been waiting for someone to tell them that." Our soldiers, God love them and keep them; they smiled every time I got a chance to talk to them. They want to come home, but I did not hear one word of complaint nor a question as to why they were there. This is boring, HOT, dirty, and dangerous work. They stand in
Origins: It's true that Don Walter (not "Walters," as his name is commonly misreported), a
How much of this speech is original material is another matter. Many readers have noticed similarities between this piece and a letter from an Army engineer in Iraq, and instances of the same letter being sent out under different soldiers' names have since been uncovered.
Last updated: 16 October 2007