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The Good We Did | National Review Online


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I know this guy. I was there.

March and April of 2008 were the worst two months of my life. My unit in Iraq, the 2d Squadron (“Sabre Squadron”), 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Caldwell, a small base a mere 15 miles from the Iranian border. Astride smuggling routes that helped sustain the al-Qaeda insurgency (who says Sunnis and Shiites can’t work together?), we were responsible not just for securing the border, but also for reclaiming thousands of square miles of territory that was firmly in al-Qaeda’s grasp.

No one will write any history books about our small corner of the war, but for us, in March and April particularly, the fight felt historic. It felt worse than that.

In a six-week span, our unit of fewer than 1,000 troopers — a tiny fraction of the Surge — suffered almost 20 percent of the total American casualties in Iraq. The IEDs were so overwhelming that we even briefly closed our main supply route — which largely cut us off from ground resupply — leading to grim jokes about the Alamo, Dien Bien Phu, and other famous massacres. We were never in that level of danger, of course, but our losses were shocking, and when I think of them today (as I do every day), they shock me still.

Let’s be clear: Isolating an American base meant terrible consequences for the people of Diyala. Al-Qaeda could run rampant, and it did. A female suicide-bombing ring sprang up — terrorists raped women to shame them into becoming living bombs. An entire village was massacred when terrorists suspected its men of sympathizing with the Iraqi government. Civilian casualties skyrocketed, not as “collateral damage” from American attacks but as the intentional targets of al-Qaeda’s reign of terror.

A very poignant telling of the story. Thanks for sharing this, Jared.

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