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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

'Confederate Yankee' interviews MP's in Iraq

    Bob of Confederate Yankee has had the opportunity to interview U.S. soldiers currently serving in Baghdad, Iraq, specifically, MPs (military police) from the 615th Military Police Company MSC: 89th MP Bde, also known as the "Bloodhounds." Below is a copy of the interview (in case he moves), but I highly recommend you visit his site. There are more posts, which are not included here, which are located at the end of this article. Have a great day!
I was able to interview SSG Jason Oliver and SPC Kimberly McGuiness.

Josh Manchester also interviewed SSG Oliver and SPC McGuiness in a podcast at The Adventures of Chester.

SSG Jason Oliver from Cypress, Illinois, has been in the Army 7 years, and is currently the Team Chief for a Police Transition Team in Baghdad.

Q: A recent cluster study by Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the British medical journal The Lancet states that more than 600,000 Iraqis have died since the 2003 invasion by violent means. While you cannot expect to answer for the rest of the country, does this seem to be a reasonable figure based upon your experience in Baghdad?

SSG Oliver: It’s a tough question to answer. I only see a small portion of the big picture. As a Team Chief for the Police Transition Team it is something that I see and that I report, but I don’t keep count on everything, just report what I see. I do find it is hard to fathom that there have been that many Iraqis killed since 2003.

Q: Most media reports coming out of Baghdad paint a picture of a city under siege, with roving Shiite and Sunni death squads operating virtually at will, kidnapping people of the street, summarily executing them, and dumping their bodies in the street. Is this an accurate presentation of life in Baghdad?

SSG Oliver: First off, I think that siege is not the appropriate word to use. Yes it has a duel meaning, but when I think of a siege, I think back to Medieval Europe with royal courts placing rival castles under siege and cutting off all outside support, lasting from months to years. So is the city under siege, I don’t think it is. Beyond what the media portrays, there is more to this city that the so called “death squads”. You still see a continuous flow of commerce in and out of the city. I know that the locals live in fear and that many have duel identities, but this to the Iraqi people has become a sign of the times. They have learned to adapt to the ever changing political climate and try to live as normal a life as they can. I cannot count the times when my patrol has traveled through the city with the streets full of life, little street side venders selling the newest gadget in the area, bistros busy with hungry locals standing in line to grab the fresh “Falafel or Kebab” and the females musing about in search of the best cut of meat and freshest fruits and vegetables to serve the family. I read an article the other day about an increasing number of tattoo shops in the Baghdad area. In the article it stated that tattoos are forbidden in the Islamic culture, but some people feel that it is one way that, if they should be killed, they will be identified so the proper notification can be made and the family does not have to grieve more that they have to. The people adapt, they know when most bad things are going to happen, and they take precautionary steps to prevent them from being caught up in whatever may happen. As strange as it may sound, I have a lot of respect for a majority of the Iraqi people. While we are here to help control the chaos, they live in it.

Q: As a follow-up to that question, do you see any signs that the sectarian violence in Iraq may abate any time soon?

SSG Oliver: I would love to say yes, but it is up to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to come together and end the bloodshed.

Q: What has been your experience working with the Iraq police units you have been training? Do you find them to be reliable, motivated and properly equipped for their roles?

SSG Oliver: Good and Bad. All in all, the Iraqi Police try to perform their duties daily, but they do lack things that would make them more effective. Most of the police have minimal training and that is where our job comes into play. The Police Transition Team helps fill the gap by providing training and mentorship to the IP’s to better educate them on the basic police fundamentals. They do, however, need new and better equipment. They use unarmored vehicles to conduct their patrol which puts them at an even higher risk of injury and death. The now this and can sometimes use it to their advantage, but this is not always the case. Overall, the IP’s are as effective as their equipment allows them to be and if they should get the needed equipment, then the IP’s could assume a better role in their respective communities and perform in a more efficient manner.

Q: Are there any anti-Iraqi forces that seem to be behind the bulk of the attacks that are occurring in your area of operations, and are U.S. and Iraqi forces "on the same page" when it comes to going after those carrying out these attacks?

SSG Oliver: It has been my experience operating in the city that allows me to say that for the most part, both U.S and Iraqi forces are on the same sheet of music. They do work together well, but the Iraqi Security Forces do have advantages that Coalition Forces do not have. We are bound by our rules and regulations were as the Iraqis have more lenient laws which allow them some better opportunities.

Q: We have a national election coming up in one week, where it seems that the Democratic Party has a very good chance of capturing the House of Representatives from Republican control. I wrote a post a week ago explaining that if Democrats win control of the House, they might cut off funding for the war. Based upon your own experience in Baghdad, what effect do you think it would have if you and other U.S. forces were summarily pulled out of Iraq?

SSG Oliver: If your child takes their first steps while holding on to your hands are you just going to let go and hope they continue on their own? No. Most people would continue to support and encourage them until they can continue on their own without support. I feel the same applies here. The Iraqi government is very young and still needs assistance from outside sources so they can develop and grow. The US government has pledged to help build Iraq into a model for the region, and if we were to pull out to early, the Iraqi Government will stumble from its already young state and possibly fall, which would put US forces back into a situation that could possible be worse. We need to stay, maintain and support the Iraqi Government until it can handle all aspects without US assistance.

Q: This is completely up to you. Please use this opportunity to tell us anything and everything you would like readers to know about your experiences in Iraq. Unlike newspaper journalists, I have virtually unlimited space, so please take as much time to tell us what you think the American people should know.

SSG Oliver: First, I want to thank everyone that supports our troops. This is by far the most important thing. Second, I wish that people back home could see everything that happens here, not just the gruesome stories of a war torn country. There is so much more to everything that the Coalition is doing in this country that goes unnoticed. Things such as seeing Soldiers interacting with the local children, giving them school supplies, toys and even sharing their candy and whatever other things the Soldiers have. I cannot remember when the press ran a story about U.S Soldiers establishing an aid station out in a community that allowed many Iraqis to receive medical attention that they would have otherwise not received. The media needs to rethink the coverage and produce a balance of both the good and bad, and maybe then the world will not think that this is a completely war ravaged country.

SPC Kimberly MCGuiness from Fletcher, North Carolina, is a .50-caliber turrent gunner on a Humvee conducting Police Transition Team duties in Baghdad.

Q: A recent cluster study by Johns Hopkins University researchers published in the British medical journal The Lancet states that more than 600,000 Iraqis have died since the 2003 invasion by violent means. While you cannot expect to answer for the rest of the country, does this seem to be a reasonable figure based upon your experience in Baghdad?

SPC McGuiness: I don't know the answer to that question due to the fact that it is outside of my job to keep track of how many violent deaths there have been. I would say that their have been many but I don't know the exact number.

Q: Most media reports coming out of Baghdad paint a picture of a city under siege, with roving Shiite and Sunni death squads operating virtually at will, kidnapping people of the street, summarily executing them, and dumping their bodies in the street. Is this an accurate presentation of life in Baghdad?

SPC McGuiness: There are always two sides to every media report. People hear about the bad things because its news worthy. In my experience, it is true that locals are fearful of being kidnapped and executed but I can't tell you for a fact that it is Shiite vs Sunni. There are violent things that happen but you can't really pin point the source of the problem.

Q: As a follow-up to that question, do you see any signs that the sectarian violence in Iraq may abate any time soon?

SPC McGuiness: I can't tell you for sure if it will let up. You have people in this country that want all Shiite governments and those that want the Sunni's in power and you have that divide between the two. If an understanding can be reached then yes but until that divide closes, it could be sometime before the healing and rebuilding can happen.

Q: What has been your experience working with the Iraq police units you have been training? Do you find them to be reliable, motivated and properly equipped for their roles?

SPC McGuiness: I feel as if they had better vehicles, better equipment and more armor on their vehicles that they could perform more efficiently. Also they don't get paid that much and for the amount of danger there is out in Baghdad, the pay doesn't seem to quite add up. They are afraid to die just like everyone else and if they were better equipped it might make them more comfortable in their job.

Q: Are there any anti-Iraqi forces that seem to be behind the bulk of the attacks that are occurring in your area of operations, and are U.S. and Iraqi forces "on the same page" when it comes to going after those carrying out these attacks?

SPC McGuiness: In my experience, the Iraqi forces and the US forces quite often are on the same page but other times there are things that hinder movement. There are things that the Iraqi forces can do that US forces cannot do and we have to handle situations differently. With the Iraqi forces, Iraq is "their turf" whereas with the U.S we still have soon guidelines and rules that must be followed. There are always going to be some anti-Iraqi forces that think what we are trying to establish is wrong and that take matters into their own hands.

Q: We have a national election coming up in one week, where it seems that the Democratic Party has a very good chance of capturing the House of Representatives from Republican control. I wrote a post a week ago explaining that if Democrats win control of the House, they might cut off funding for the war. Based upon your own experience in Baghdad, what effect do you think it would have if you and other U.S. forces were summarily pulled out of Iraq?

SPC McGuiness: In my experience, what we are doing here is working. Rome wasn't built in a day and it is going to take time. If we were to be pulled out of Iraq too soon, we will find ourselves back here down the road trying to undo what we could have fixed if we would have stayed. We are working on training the IP's how to perform their job's better and better ways to do things so they can support themselves and not be afraid to police one another.

Q: This is completely up to you. Please use this opportunity to tell us anything and everything you would like readers to know about your experiences in Iraq. Unlike newspaper journalists, I have virtually unlimited space, so please take as much time to tell us what you think the American people should know.

SPC McGuiness: People only see the bad things that happen here. You hardly ever hear about soldiers interacting with the locals and building relationships with the children. Soldiers handing out book bags and school supplies or just a small gesture of giving them candy to show them that we do care and humanize ourselves to them. The future of Iraq is in the people. Yes there are some people that resent the US being here and that will not stop until we leave but there are those that thank us for being here and that they feel safer because we patrol their streets and the crime has been lessened do to our patrols. We are making a difference.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 6, 2006 09:15 AM TrackBack

A Completely Unscientific Election Prediction, Soldiers Say Democrat War Plans "An Extreme Betrayal", Talking with the BloodHounds, Cheney Hunting For Office., On Day of Saddam's Sentencing, Liberals Attack Republicans, Mission Accomplished: Saddam Sentenced to Death by Hanging, Blogger Book Pimpin', SRT, Kerry's "Apology" Was All-Too Insincere and NY Times Justifies 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
    These are the fabulous articles I was referring to earlier.
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