There is something that seems to be commonplace with people who have been in a combat zone—a strange affection for the place and the people, even if it was horrific, and years later you are still so glad to be at home on American soil. In my case, my years in Iraq were wonderful as well as difficult, but thankfully never horrific, and when the US Embassy in Baghdad was attacked earlier this week, that old feeling of wanting to be there “like, yesterday” came roaring back. I texted my friend CW4 (Ret) Stephen Conway, who flew Chinooks and Apaches while I was in Baghdad, and he felt the same way. I queried him by way of text, “You’d be willing to trade your Chinook for an Apache gunship?” His reply was, “You better believe it!!! Just long enough to bring the noise!”
All sentimentality aside, my first thought was how very glad I was that this did not turn into an incident that was reminiscent of Tehran in 1979 or Benghazi in 2012. And while I want my focus to be on how quickly and well the Marines responded, I do think it is noteworthy that the White House is occupied by a Commander-in-Chief who is solidly behind our soldiers, no matter where they are, and did not hold back on sending help immediately when it was needed. Thank you, Mr. President!
In this day of nearly real-time ability to watch what is going on, I was particularly impressed by several things. The first was the calm demeanor of the Marines posted on the rooftops of the Embassy. All kinds of mess and vandalism were going on down in the outer courtyard, but it would have been a mistake to engage, and they stayed cool. The second was that the real issue, as far as Hezbollah was concerned, was front and center. No attempt was made to hide Hezbollah’s hatred for the U.S. And, let us not forget that one of the reasons Hezbollah hates the U.S. is because the U.S. is an ally of Israel. Here are some of the tags spray-painted on the walls by the protestors:
--"This embassy has been given to Palestine" is my current favorite bit of graffiti.
Newsflash: Baghdad is not anywhere near Palestine, guys, but that is definitely where Hezbollah lives. And please remember that part of Hezbollah’s foundational premise is that Jews are blasphemers and are damned for all time and throughout history, and destruction of Israel will bring about the "reappearance of the Imam.” (The Mahdi or Islamic Messiah) The protestors/ militia are openly being backed by Iran, and the impressive as well as reasonable responses on the part of our leadership will be discussed below.
--"America is an aggressor & must leave the region quickly" If we do that, Iran will step up to de-stabilize the region, and the Marines will be doing more than defending the Embassy.
--"This was never an embassy but a den of terrorists & spies" said Hezbollah. Lovin’ the irony…
SecDef Mark T Esper said, “We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy.” Buh-bye, Benghazi. No one is absurdly implying something along the lines that the attack came about as the result of a homemade video, and no one is hanging the Embassy staff or defenders out to dry. Hallelujah. All souls are safe.
SecStat Pompeo: We responded defensively to the Iranian proxy attack that killed an American citizen and wounded American and Iraqi soldiers. Now, Iranian backed groups are threatening our Embassy in Baghdad. Yep, that pretty much says it all. It was a defensive action.
POTUS: "Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will…" "…Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!"
In a way, the third statement is the most impressive to me of all. The understanding all over the globe for all embassies of all nations is that the host country is responsible for protecting the diplomatic corps in each embassy. I am glad that the president is taking that stand, rather than something like, “Oh, that’s ok, we’re the strong ones; you don’t have to do your job and help keep Iran out of your country, even though they have been your sworn enemies for decades.”
Of course, the non-lethal “fireworks” coming out of the Apaches were a beautiful show of force, but the best part of all is that the Embassy is still functioning, no one was hurt, and the message is clear: “We will leave when IRAQ says they want us to, not IRAN.” May God bless the Leathernecks, and those who lead them.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner