I don’t blame the President, like so many others do, for pulling us out of Iraq completely in 2011.  We had no legal protections like we do in many of the other countries we have bases, and quite frankly the Iraqis were trained about as good as they were going to get at the time.  The President was not the architect of the pull-out, merely the catalyst.  I spent just under half of the eight years we were in that country on the ground there, and by my last trip there were some clearly definitive improvements over my first trip.  There was still a long way to go for the country to lift itself up and become self-sufficient in its own sovereignty, but without a good, clear Status of Forces Agreement to protect our service people it would not have been good to stay there any longer.

Now, after things in neighboring countries are spilling over, and the Iraqi army turned tail and ran, we are sending a small number of advisers back over there to see if we can help the country pull its head out of its ass and reclaim the land that roughly 1000 members of an Al Qaeda offshoot known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, not ISIS like many of the sensationalist, mis-informed media would have you believe) a violent, vagabond organization, bent on creating a Sunni Islamic caliphate from Iraq westward to Syria and south through the rest of the Levant (look that one up yourself), whose methods are considered so out there, so violent, that AQ, the parent company has disavowed them as members of their cause.  Spilling forth from northern Syria, this violent band of misfits cut a swath through the heart of Sunni Muslim countryside, slaying en masse, Iraqi troops who either surrendered or were captured during their disorganized retreat from some of the largest cities and most important economic industries in the country.

Hard fought battles were waged through the eight years of war for highly contested areas such as Mosul, Kirkuk, Bayji, Baqouba, Tal Afar, Ramadi, Fallujah and countless other places where I lost friends, not all of which died, many of them are alive and kicking but are regularly haunted by the experiences they had in these places.  Now, we are going back and try to help a country which has only marginally demonstrated the ability to govern itself without an atrocity generating dictator at the helm.  Despite this, unlike many of my peers and fellow countrymen I am not angry about it.

I am not angry that the work of 4500 souls has gone unfinished.  I am not angry that my teenage son who comes of age in the next year could be caught up in the same conflict I spent so many years of my life fighting in.  I am not angry that there does not seem to be an end to the 1500 years of conflict that has waged in the region.  I am not angry about any of that, saddened and disheartened maybe, but not angry.

What does make me angry is my own country.  It is not that we are sending folks back there, that is the job we signed up to do, but don’t be deceived by the wording of no combat troops are going to the region, who do you think we will send PAC clerks, cooks or maybe even finance folks?  The type of advisers we will be sending are combat troops, they are the ones who know how to lead, train and inspire the uninspired to defend what is theirs from those who would take it from them.  I am angry at my fellow country, citizens, fellow veterans and politicians who have somehow turned this into a Democrat v. Republican, liberal v. conservative, media fueled agenda.  Some of the hate fueled vitriol that has been dispensed on a daily basis in the press and in social media has moved me beyond anger at times to mere disgust.  On top of everything gas prices have begun to rise, yet again, as speculators have done what they have done for the last decade, falsely inflate prices now for gas that has already been paid for at a lower rate when oil required for the future has not gone up yet in price in order to be refined for gas I have no need to buy yet.

One of the reasons I am retiring is because I am tired of war.  I spent the first decade of my career training for an enemy that did not exist anymore, just to go fight one we were only marginally prepared for.  If not for those 19 assholes on 9/11 I probably would never have gone to war.  I probably would never have learned of loss or hope, pushed myself to the limits I have at times, trained and gotten selected for the most professional organization I could ever have gotten in to, or, felt fear turn to something completely different as I went in to situations that had potentially life threatening consequences.  There is nothing like the feeling as you wait for the ramp to drop on a CH-47 as you land on a LZ in Al Anbar province during the year 2005.  There is nothing like walking down the streets of northwest Fallujah in the middle of the night 7 or 8 months after it being retaken.  There is also nothing in the world like watching a child’s eyes as their father or relative lay dead near them; no matter how old they are or how cruel that person may have been, you will witness the birth of an enemy right before your very eyes.

War is hell and man is good at war.  It does not matter how high the moral ground we walk on, we can rarely hold it without violence.  We can limit the damage as much as possible for those who do not have a dog in the fight, but sooner or later, inadvertent or intentional, you will feed the cycle of creating an enemy.  Our current battleground has existed for thousands of years before we came into being as a nation and the nations there have been fighting the majority of that time, either with each other, internally or with nations with the intent of expanding their empires.  Today’s current crises are not born from the last decades actions, that is merely the current fertilizer used to grow out the seeds of discontent.  The crises today are the results of hundreds of years of tribalism and infighting coupled with short-sighted boundary defining by the Imperial masters who knew they could not hold on any longer.  Any action we take should be an example for the right people to rise up and take the reins.  The circle will be broken at some point, I just hope that my friends who will carry on the warrior traditions after I am gone do not suffer for it and return to their families whole.

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