30 June, or what it means to be out of the cities

Darkness in the neighborhood
Darkness in the neighborhood

This was the view of my world, an hour before the start of 30 June. Dark, quite, not much moon. Alone. Many people, I suspect, fear darkness because of the great unknown. I have come to embrace it, for all the potential it holds. It’s fitting, then, that this was my image heading into 30 June.

In 2003, I spent the dark hours listening, watching. If I found you, I probably tried to kill you. Depending on how you view things, I was probably either a great guy, or the harbinger of death. I usually vote for the former.

But like then, I have been quietly waiting for the arrival of 30 June, waiting through the nights, listening, looking. Waiting, since the US and Iraq signed the security agreement which said that US forces would be out of the cities, villages, and localities by 30 June. Or maybe on 30 June. Whatever.

Out of the cities. It such a simple thing, that is really so very complicated.

The US, I fear, is very worried about not just security in Iraq, but all of the folks and groups here who really, really, really hate America. In the grand scheme of things, that’s probably less than 1 billionth of the total population of Iraq, but when you line them up, shoulder to shoulder, or AK47 to AK47, car bomb to car bomb, it’s a bunch of folks. And US forces have been in the cities, because that’s where they are, and they’ve been in the cities because that’s where we have been.

Some, but not all, of those same people also hate 1. the government of Iraq, 2. the Iraqi military, 3. the Iraqi police, 4. other Iraqis, and / or 5. something else about the Iraq of today. If the US were to actually get out of the cities, what would this do to the Iraqis themselves?

Together, these form something of a Jungian struggle — protect ourselves, but protect them, too.

But for the Iraqis, I think this all has been so much simpler. US, get the hell out of the cities, and in due time, get the hell out of Iraq. Love ya, love what you’ve done for us, but it’s time for you to be going. Ready or not, the Iraqis seems committed — socially, politically, and every other way you can think of — to taking care of themselves, their way.

Not long after we got here, we started to throw around the phrase by, with and through. I am unsure how many of us here really understood what our leaders meant when the started to use this phrase, but I think I picked up on it pretty early on. Instead of waking up and deciding what we needed to do that day, we needed to start waking up in the morning and asking the Iraqis what they wanted to do today, and if there was anything they needed us to do to help.

If others didn’t pick up on that back then, they’re seeing it today. Because that is the really of today. There is very, very little that US forces can or even want to do unilaterally — or, entirely on our own.

In four words, Iraq belongs to Iraq.

And I’m just here for the comic relief. I saw something in the paper the other day, saying that in this new era, post 30 June, information was going to be key. Information, and how it’s used in cooperation between the two countries. I firmly believe this — and not just because I’m an information guy. And it’s not just information about what the bad guys are doing — it’s information about repair parts, about new training techniques, about best practices, or ideas for new or unexpected problems. It’s about waking up in the morning, and sharing information about what to do today.

It’s exciting. In many ways, it may seem to observes that I’m still sitting in the dark of the night, watching, listening, taking it all in. Which is fair, I suppose. But this is their deal now, completely. If I can help, I will, If they need me, I hope they’ll ask. I will work as hard as if I was about to send my own soldiers out into harms way, because in many ways that has not changed — it’s just that the first guy going in the door is probably going to be an Iraqi, not an American. So be it, and good for them. I hope we help, not hinder. Iraq stands on the brink of such amazing potential, I hope they are able to realize all that they can be.

3 thoughts on “30 June, or what it means to be out of the cities

  1. Art,

    On July 1, HST, your family was wonderful enough to spend part of their vacation with me. They are all amazing, but let me say your children are especially wonderful. Attentive, respectful, beautiful, smart, active, inquisitive, patient, and loads of fun. I think you know this, but I wanted to let you know others think so, too. Your wife and mom are pretty special, too.

  2. And on July 4th, it’s nice to hear a quiet, respectful overture to the Iraqis. I too, hope we can set our egos aside and let them do what they need to do.

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