Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
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While other U.S. troops were battling Tuesday to win control of Baghdad, commanders of the 82nd Airborne Division were beginning to give another city back.
A convoy of Army Humvees rolled up to a large beige, block house on the east side of the city of Samawah, about 120 miles south of Baghdad. It was the home of Hakim al Hukeen, a sheik who had just returned from 13 years of exile in Jordan. Several hundred men and boys from his extended family crowded the sandy driveway to greet the U.S. commander, Col. Arnold Bray.
Bray, a ramrod-straight, 6-foot-6 African-American, walked to the door amid a throng of men wearing earthen-tone robes and head scarves of both red and white and black and white checks. The meeting was a stark contrast to how U.S. troops entered the city 10 days earlier with bombs, artillery shells and machine-gun fire.
Bray and his staff are starting the transition from an Army occupation back to Iraqi self-rule. U.S. commanders have concluded that the local sheiks and their followers are the strongest organizations through which they can work. The 82nd's troops ousted the pro-Saddam Hussein militia and are turning to leaders in the majority Shiite Muslim community.
"We are soldiers who came here to liberate this nation," Bray told the crowd, after apologizing for the suffering caused by the war. "We did not come to occupy. . . . We're trying to figure out how to let the people of Iraq and this region resume control of what you built and Saddam destroyed."
"We are now trying to make sure we leave in place your leadership to fix what has been broken and somehow try to reconcile some of the sadness that you feel," Bray told the group. "It will not be easy, and it will not happen overnight. But with your leadership and your commitment, this region will be as great as the people who compose it."
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