To many of the Iraqis I’ve spoken with, terrorists are fair game. Kill them. But if we kill justice while doing so, we will create terrorists out of farmers. Here the Marines are creating farmers, police officers, shepherds, and entrepreneurs out of insurgents. To do that, they have to be seen as men who respect and honor legitimate systems of government and justice.
Now I started to understand why the Army officers had been telling me the Marines are more advanced in counterinsurgency. Normal Marines have morphed into doing vintage Special Forces work. Many of our Army units are excellent at this work, but the Marines, at least these particular Marines, did seem to have an edge for it.
They were even studying Arabic in their filthy little compound. Lightweight study, but they were showing the Iraqis they were making the effort. The Iraqis appreciated it. I have yet to see an Army unit undertake such a clear effort to learn Arabic.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Over the next several days, I saw how much the Iraqis respected Rakene Lee and the other Marines who were all courageous, tactically competent, measured, and collectively and constantly telling even the Iraqis to go easy on the Iraqis. It’s people like Rakene Lee who are winning the moral high ground in Iraq. It is people like this who are devastating al Qaeda just by being themselves. Over those same several days, I would also see the Iraqi Lieutenant Hamid treat prisoners with respect and going out of his way to treat other Iraqis the way he saw Americans treating them. Lieutenant Hamid, in his young twenties, seemed to watch every move of the Marines and try to emulate them.
No wonder Anbar is a success.