Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Rough Start to Ramadan

In my post below on 8 June, titled "Al-Anbar Awakening", I briefly described the success we have experienced in this province. In large part, this is due to the support received from tribal Sheikhs who have taken a stand against AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq), foremost among them is Sheik Sattar. At the beginning of Ramadan last week, Sheikh Sattar and some of his personal security team were killed by an IED (roadside bomb) placed near his compound ( AQI has since claimed responsibility. We heard the explosion, and grimaced as always, hoping it missed whatever its target was. The news of his death followed soon thereafter. It was depressing. The funeral was attended by his fellow Sheikhs and many of the area's Coalition and Iraqi commanders. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki said Sattar would be remembered as a martyr--a hero.

Sheikh Sattar, 39 at the time of his death, began to speak out against AQI when some of his family members were killed by their attacks. He reasoned with his fellow tribal Sheikhs: "AQI kills Iraqi Sunnis and claims they were killed by Shias, and then kills Iraqi Shias and claims they were killed by Sunnis. They don't love Iraq; they don't follow Islam." He became head of a tribal coalition that worked in cooperation with Coalition Forces to resist AQI efforts in Sunni dominated Al-Anbar. The council was funded and supported by Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri Al-Maliki. President Bush mentioned Sheikh Sattar's death in his formal address this week. The consensus is that this loss will fortify Iraqi's resolve to resist AQI and stabilize their government.

Most Soldiers and Marines I know shy from the term "hero"; it is used too loosely. Heroes are those who lived, fought, and died in ages past. I think of the "Greatest Generation"; I think of the founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine. It's very likely none of these men thought of himself as a hero. A patriot is merely someone who is committed to doing his duty, someone who places the welfare of others and future generations before his own. I believe Sheikh Sattar is a patriot. His life exemplifies the words of Jefferson, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time-to-time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." And Thomas Paine reminds us that no price is ever too high; for "the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph". I am interested to see how future generations of Iraqis value the life and courage of Sheikh Sattar. I, for one, am encouraged by his example.

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