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Kevin T. Cole, Esq.                                            
Interviewed in Portland, Maine on May 28, 2004

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Deployment in Iraq, the Cradle of Mankind
© Copyright 2001-2014. Pamela Trudo. All rights reserved.

Q: What’s your legal background?

A:  I graduated from the University of Maine School of Law in 1992. I took a number of courses in a number of different areas because I had several interests and I wanted to explore them. I took some courses in a summer program in 1990 in Salzburg, Austria and in Hungary in East-West trade relations and comparative fundamentals of human rights.  That is where I met Barbara Lundgren, my spouse and law partner.

When I got out of law school I went to a couple of interviews and then said, “I’m not sure I really want to do this.” Barbara and I agreed to hang a shingle out front and see what came in for business and, not unsurprisingly, over half was family law. We ended up doing a lot of work in the child protective arena with the Maine Department of Human Services, both as guardians ad litem and as parents’ attorneys.

Q:  What is your military background?

A: I was in ROTC at the University of Maine at Orono back in 1977 and was commissioned in the Transportation Corps. I wanted to go on active duty, but at that time there were not a whole lot of slots. A friend of mine who had been a year ahead of me called me one day from the Engineer Officer Basic Course and said, “Hey, are you looking for an active duty slot? The Corps of Engineers has some.” I said, “O.K.”

I transferred to the Corps of Engineers and went to the Engineer Officer Basic Course at Fort Belvoir in Virginia late in 1977. At that time I was Horizontal Construction Platoon Leader of Delta Company, 133rd Engineer Battalion, Maine Army National Guard. While I was at the Basic Course, there was held a board of officers looking for people to come onto active duty from the Guard and Reserve. They only had one slot for my class. Fortunately, I got it. I worked a deal with another lieutenant and took his slot in Germany for three years. I was a bridge platoon leader working on mobile assault bridges, which are no longer in the inventory. I conducted several tactical river crossing operations on the Rhine, the Main and the Danube Rivers.

I came back to the States to attend the Engineer Officer Advanced Course and then went out to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where I was an operations officer at both the battalion and brigade level and commander of a training company. We trained soldiers seeking a number of different specialties including heavy equipment operators and truck drivers.

One day, just after I had returned from the Combined Arms and Services Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I got a call from my assignments officer who said, “I have some bad news for you. I don’t have many assignments in the continental U.S.” I said, “So what? Send me back to Germany.” He said, “It’s done.” Back to Germany I went and spent another three years over there. I was with the 78th Engineer Battalion, which is a combat engineer battalion. I served first as S2 (Intelligence and Security Officer) and then as Headquarters Company Commander during that tour.

In 1986, I came back and worked in the Engineer Branch Assistance Team of Readiness Group Seneca, at Seneca Army Depot in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  Seneca Army Depot now is closed. We were working with the New York National Guard and Army Reserve units evaluating their training programs and assisting them in improving their readiness postures in the event of mobilization. I did that until 1989.  Then I came off of active duty and went to law school.

Q:  Why did you go to law school?

A:  I had always wanted to go to law school. I took the LSAT’s back in 1983. I was going to go then, but when I got the call to send me back to Germany, I couldn’t pass that up. I like Germany a lot so I put law school on hold.

I’m not unhappy about that. I think that going to law school when I did was probably as good a time as it could have been. As a single parent with three kids, it would have been difficult had I gone earlier. With the kids being a little bit older, one in kindergarten and the other two in grade school, the timing was better.  I bought the house I’m in because the location was perfect for all of our school needs. It’s three blocks from the law school, four blocks from Nathan Clifford Elementary School and about eight blocks from King Middle School.  The kids could walk to school and so could I.  Had the kids been younger, or had our house been further from the schools, I would have had serious childcare expenses.

Q:  When you started your legal career, were you always in the Reserves?

A:  Yes. I was not in a troop unit the first few years. When I came off active duty, the first year I was in the Individual Ready Reserve. I didn’t have a unit. At the end of that first year I became an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) and I worked for the Army Research Laboratory in Watertown, Massachusetts as the Facility Management Officer for Watertown Arsenal. When that installation closed, the Army Research Laboratory tried to obtain authorization for me to be the interim commander of the installation as it closed. But, the general decided he really didn’t want a reserve officer to do that. So, that didn’t work.

I was in Watertown from 1990 until I was promoted from major to lieutenant colonel in 1996. That year Hurricane Fran hit North Carolina. I was activated for thirty days to go down to North Carolina and work the “Tree Off” program. At that point I was in the process of looking for a new home and picked up an IMA position as Real Estate Officer of the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers. I worked with the same folks in Savannah with whom I had worked during Hurricane Fran. It worked out very well.

I held that position for a couple of years. Then in 1999 I got a letter saying that there was a team leader position open in a Facility Engineer Team, which was part of the 416th Engineer Command. I went out for an interview and got the position as Team Leader of Facility Engineer Team 21, based at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. That’s a position I’ve held since then.

Q:  Do you have to go down to Massachusetts one weekend a month?

A:  Yes. Rather than doing our annual two weeks of training all at once, we go around and assess the facilities that are owned and operated by the Army Reserve throughout New England. We usually take two or three days prior to a drill weekend to go to a facility and do an assessment. Then during our drill weekend, we work on the Engineering and Environmental Facility Assessment Report.

Q:  Do you have an engineering degree?

A:  No, I don’t. My undergraduate degree is International Affairs with a focus on political science and a concentration in German

Q:   Then the US government gave you all the necessary training?

A:  Yes.

Q:  When were you called up to active duty?

A:  I got a phone call on a Monday night the last week of January of 2003. The call was from Colonel Steve Robinson, Director, Facility Engineer Center--Northeast, Fort Mead, who was my immediate supervisor. He said, “I think there is a mistake here and I’m going to try to get it resolved. I have a message here that says your team is activated effective the 2nd of February.”   He added, “I don’t think this is real, but we have to presume it is. So, go ahead and execute your mobilization plan. And, I want you and your team to come to Fort Mead on January 31st.”

January 31st was Friday. So, I had four days’ notice. We were down there the 31st and February 1st. On the 2nd I returned home to Portland. The 3rd was spent trying to organize my personal affairs.  On the 4th, we went down to Devens and FedEx’d our stuff to Fort Benning in Georgia.  Then, on the morning of Feb. 5th, my team gathered together outside Fort Benning and we reported for duty.

Before we deployed in late March, I had the opportunity to go back home on a four day pass.  Barbara and I worked late into each night going through the files, talking about the cases, and preparing motions to substitute counsel. Fortunately, the judges are pretty reasonable here.  I was stuck; there was nothing I could do. We didn’t know where we were going until three or four days before we actually left.

We arrived in Kuwait at 4:26 a.m. on the 20th of March, which was six minutes after the American forces had crossed the Iraqi border. We spent the first day in our chemical protective suits and masks. It seemed that every time we got an “all clear” and took our masks off, there would be another SCUD alert two minutes later, and back on the masks would go. It never failed--it always happened at the least convenient opportunity.

After having spent the whole day putting our masks on and taking them off, we finally got on the bus and got to Camp Arifjan, where we were assigned sleeping space in a warehouse filled with bunk beds with just about enough room to squeeze between. The beds were full. It was around midnight and I went out looking for a shower. I was in the shower covered in soap when we got another SCUD alert. I grabbed a towel, grabbed the mask, and ran out of the shower tent and into the bunker.

The next day we moved into a tent city outside the main part of Camp Arifjan, called Camden Yard. We spent three days there with the 36th Engineer group from Fort Benning. The next day the Group, with my team in tow, packed up and headed to Iraq. We crossed the Iraqi border south of Basra and headed west, south of the Euphrates River. We spent the first night in tents in the desert. There was a storm that was rather nasty. We spent the night trying to sandbag the tents—other units’ tents blew down in the storm, but ours held.  If you can imagine a sandstorm in heavy rain—it was like blowing mud!  Two days later, when the weather broke, we continued on to Tallil Air Base, where we stayed for three weeks.

Q:  Did you meet any resistance on the way?

A:  No. We saw the result of some resistance. There were burned vehicles all around and the oil pipelines were on fire. There had been sandbag bunkers that had been built on the overpasses on the road. We saw some potential resistance but our timing was pretty good. That stretch of road later on had some problems. The bunkers on the bridges were eradicated because people would come back and reoccupy them. We were lucky.

We were at Tallil for three weeks. Then we went back to Arifjan, where we spent a couple of weeks working for the G7 cell of the 416th Engineer Command,  and then we went north to Balad Southeast Airfield, 45 minutes north of Baghdad, which had been the Iraqi Air Force Academy. Our equipment was supposed to have come with us on the aircraft when we had deployed from Fort Benning, but it hadn’t. Instead, it was shipped by freighter; while we were back in Kuwait it showed up on the docks at Al Shuabah, the port of Kuwait. We politicked with a unit going north to have the equipment put on a flatbed and hauled to Balad.

We went to Balad with the idea that my seven-person team would be the department of public works for Balad Southeast Airfield and Logistics Support Area Anaconda. Our goal was to develop a master plan for the installation; put the utilities back into operation . . . the water, the power, and the sewer… and work with the engineering community to establish projects to improve both the quality of life for the soldiers living there and the security of the installation.

When we got there we weren’t sure whether Balad was going to be an enduring base or whether U.S. forces were going to occupy it only for a short period of time. My team went under the assumption it was going to be an enduring camp and designed it for ten to twenty years. As it turned out, it is an enduring camp.  I would be surprised if U.S. forces weren’t there for more than twenty years.

Q:  What were some of the obstacles in developing and implementing the master plan?

A:  One of the biggest problems we ran into for planning purposes was that we had some difficulty determining who was going to be occupying the installation and what its primary uses would be. We had population projections that went anywhere from three thousand to twenty-three thousand people. How do you plan a community when you don’t know how big that community might become in the next few months, let alone the next few years?

We sought approval of the development of a tent city to house a population of three thousand and ended up only with funding for one thousand. One thousand was nowhere near enough and we weren’t allowed to build the tent city as we wanted. But, we managed to construct an overflow area that could connect into the power grid so units could erect their own tents and connect both lights and environmental control units to house between two and three thousand if they had to. With a summer time high temperature above 130 degrees, environmental control units were not a luxury.  Without them, heat related injuries would be frequent.  The tent city location we selected had been a Yugoslav shantytown for the construction workers who built the air base in 1982.

How do you get all the organizations that want to do things at that installation to understand that it can’t be all things to all people? How do you try to get a population number and a balance that you can reasonably rely on? For master planning I think that was one of the biggest challenges.

One of the challenges we ran into with respect to water was that the water plant we renovated was located in the Iraqi military housing area, which was a kilometer away from the boundary of the installation itself and did not have an American guard force. If you’re purifying your water in an unsecured area and pumping it underground into the installation, obviously somebody could tamper with the water. Poisoned water doesn’t work well. Although we rebuilt the water plant and the water was good, how to secure it became a problem.

That debate was still ongoing when I left. We had water purification units withdrawing water out of the canal and purifying it and pumping it into large water tanks at strategic locations throughout the installation. But the problem with that is that the water is coming out of the irrigation canal. The irrigation canal has the ability to be shut off. If you shut the irrigation canal off, the water goes away and you’ve got water purification units that can’t produce any water. It’s not a good thing.

My focus was to get the potable water and the irrigation lines from the Tigris back into operation because the Tigris is not going to dry up. That’s a constant water source. And then the water would have to be protected from poison between the Tigris and the installation’s main tanks, a distance of about two kilometers. That’s a lot easier than trying to secure the irrigation canal valves, some of which are up in Samarra, and to ensure that the water is flowing in the right direction and in the right quantity to service the base.

Q:  How far away is Samarra?

A:  Samarra is a good half hour or forty-five minutes away, I would guess.

We had a challenge with the sewer system, as well. We bought new pumps for the sewage lift stations, but the problem was that everybody in the world over there had received baby wipes from their pals in the States; baby wipes are non-flushable. Both soldiers and civilian contractors were throwing them into the porta-johns that were being sucked out by truck The trucks were dumping into the waste system rather than convoying under guard to the sewage treatment plant outside the base. We didn’t want the trucks going outside the gate unescorted to dump at the sewer plant and come back in because a bomb could be put into one of the trucks. The baby wipes clogged up the pumps and we spent $5,000 on pump repairs in two weeks. We put screening in the manhole into which the trucks were allowed to dump to catch the baby wipes, which could then be removed and burned; the drivers would remove the screens and pump in the baby wipes anyway.  Ultimately, we felt we had no choice but to queue the trucks and escort them to the sewage treatment plant.  That created its own problems, such as when one of the trucks crushed the water main into the village of Albu Hassan.

We got involved in looking at the protection issue outside the perimeter fence. There was much farmland out there. We were interested in what the ownership interest was in the farmland and what it would take to establish fields of fire or a buffer zone in which no high crops would be grown.

The CREST (Corps of Engineers Real Estate Support Team), the folks I worked with in the Savannah District, was in Baghdad. I contacted my old boss and said, “Come up and let’s find out what the property ownership is here.”  CREST showed up with an Egyptian translator. We grabbed one of the civil affairs folks and headed down to the registry of deeds in Balad. The registry didn’t have the ability to identify a piece of land and tell who owned it. It worked the other way. There was a list of everybody who owned land, but no equivalent of a plot plan.

What they said was that the land surrounding Balad Southeast Airfield was actually owned by the Ministry of Finance of Iraq. The Ministry of Finance had sold interests to the farmers granting them a twenty percent undivided ownership in a particular parcel plus the profits. If you look at it, it is the equivalent of a medieval arrangement with the Ministry of Finance as the overlord. You have the farmers who occupy the land and farm the land, but they only have a twenty percent interest in it. If the government, for any reason, wanted to take the land, it would have to pay the farmers the twenty percent interest they owned, but no more. If the farmer decided he wanted to build a house on the land, he had to get a permit to do it. If he didn’t get the permit and built a house anyway, then if the government took it, he would get nothing for the house. Only if he had a permit for the house would the government have to pay him the value of the house.  I suspect that Baath Party members got permits pretty easily, but that others may not have.

Now you throw in two other variables: first, you have hereditary sheiks whose families really were the overlords before Saddam came in. They retained their belief in their ownership of the land and so they wanted to be involved in any land transaction. When you want to do anything involving real estate, you supposedly have to go out and politic with them to get their permission. Then you have other sheiks who were appointed by Saddam. They, too, think that they own the land.  So, you have to appease two different sets of sheiks plus the Ministry in order to effect even the peaceful creation of an easement.  The guidance was: if you want to go out and take some land, just take the land and then see who shows up to complain about it. If someone shows up with a deed, you can go down to the registry and verify that it’s an accurate deed. And then you can go from there to determine whether any cash should change hands.

Q:  Is that what you did?

A:  I was trying to avoid that sort of behavior. We did some of that anyway, though. We politicked with folks. We talked to anyone who said they had an interest in the land we sought and we paid the farmers to cut down the crops to create a buffer zone around the base. Common labor was a dollar a day. That was more than they were accustomed to getting. As time went on, it became ten dollars a day, but that’s still not a lot of money.

From a security perspective and a population perspective, it makes sense to annex the land that is between the installation and the housing area. That gives you a secure zone and you incorporate the water plant inside the perimeter. If you’re secure from the Tigris all the way in, that solves your water problem.

Q:  Were people in the Ministry of Finance still doing their jobs?

A:  Yes, I think so.  There were other ministries that were still operating.  I see no reason to believe that the Ministry of Finance would have been an exception, although I couldn’t say what that ministry might have been doing, since I saw no banks.

Electricity was an issue also. There are electrical plants but they don’t operate continuously. Electricity is rationed. They flip a switch for one town to have electricity and another one not to have electricity. Later on they’ll flip the switches the other way. Maybe you get four hours of electricity a day; maybe you don’t.

Balad was fifteen to twenty minutes down the road. It was a good-sized community. There was another community out the south gate, too. It was smaller. We were not on the grid because the cable that came into the installation had been cut. But the housing area’s cable was still active. Our Air Force probably had bombed the cable at the same time it had destroyed the base’s switchgear during the invasion in March.

We entered into a contract to install a fairly substantial non-permanent power plant. We based the size of the power plant on how much power the base would use with everything running the way it was supposed to. The problem was that the existing distribution network couldn’t handle that amount of power coming through it. So, when I left,  we had more power than we could use.

I don’t think it will be a long-term problem. First, we didn’t have enough power; we were buying generators right and left and wearing them out. Then we had plenty of power but no way to get it to where it needed to go. It’s kind of like watching a St. Bernard pup grow. The hind legs grow too tall and the front legs catch up.

There are probably some areas of the base that will take a while to get onto the power grid. I did not want to hook us up into the Iraqi power system again. We would have been a major consumer of electricity.  If there was a problem on the grid, I felt we would have been accused of having caused it.  Also, since we would have been dependent upon the Iraqis for supplying electricity, we would have had to have had our own back up plant anyway to minimize the effects of a power failure.

Q:  I heard there was a woman attorney in Iraq that you knew who ended up being killed.

A:  Yes, sort of.  I understand that she had been trained in law, but I don’t think she had been practicing recently. She had been married to an Iraqi air force officer. About two years before we showed up, he had had a heart attack and died. She and her kids still were living in the military housing area. She wanted a job, which was quite rare for an Iraqi woman. Because she was an educated woman, because she had a couple of kids still living at home, and because she wanted to improve her situation, I suspect she wanted to tackle her life’s challenges herself and in her own way. She thought it looked like a good opportunity to work for the Americans. It put her into contact with members of the American military who could help to improve her and her family’s quality of life for a long period of time.

The social mores in Iraq say, “Women don’t work outside of the family.” Murder is one of the problems you can face in a society where women are not allowed to work on religious grounds.  A woman serving in a key position in Iraq--I can’t imagine a more dangerous situation than that for her.

This woman worked for us and was on the payroll of the department of public works. She was doing a census in the Iraqi military housing area on who was living in what quarters and what their family relationships were, because extended family members had moved into the quarters. That was a source of concern: who was supposed to be there and who wasn’t? We wanted to establish a baseline so we would at least know who was new.

There were rumors that she had had some romantic inclinations with one or more of our soldiers. I heard that those rumors were disturbing enough to her family that they had killed her. All the evidence that I heard led in the direction of its having been an honor killing. That was not uncommon in the Iraqi society. She was a very nice person and she was trying to benefit herself and her family. It happened in her home. Whoever did it burned her bedroom with her in it.

Q:  You had to work with people in the surrounding communities?

A:  I worked with the local sheik.

I also worked with the water purification engineer in Balad. He had control of the gates for the irrigation canal. I needed to coordinate with him to make sure he wasn’t going to do the annual canal cleaning on a particular day and then all of a sudden we wouldn’t have had any water. He agreed not to do that until we went back and told him it was okay. That did not happen before I left because, while we had repaired the pipe to the Tigris, we had difficulty regulating the amount of water that was going into the storage tanks.  We needed to establish better communications between the folks who were operating the plant and the pump station out in the military housing area and the water purification teams on the base. There was no telephone communication. I suspect that, by now, they have fixed that and have cleaned the canal.

I enjoyed the Iraqis. They were very friendly folks. They really have very little. Their villages look like they did three or four thousand years ago except that somebody has run extension cords into the villages and others have spliced into the cords.  Sometimes the cords and splices work and sometimes they don’t.

Q:  No telephones or televisions?

A:  No telephones, unless they are satellite phones, which are very expensive and fairly rare. They have some televisions now. Saddam wouldn’t allow satellite televisions because the Iraqi people might have used them to find out what was going on in the world. Televisions were rare in the past.

Q:  Did they share with you how they felt about the American presence?

A:  The people with whom I spoke were happy that Saddam had gone. You have to understand that Iraq is not a homogeneous society at all. It’s a group of tribes, kind of like the American Indians having conflicts between each other a few hundred years ago. You can have village against village.

I didn’t run into very many people who were opposed to the Americans being there. The Iraqi Air Force was very happy that we were there because their members were conscripts into the military for life. That kind of control you would not willingly give to anybody. They were happy to have some freedom and happy to have an opportunity to improve their lives because they weren’t earning all that much for their services. Even so, the standard of living for the Iraqi Air Force members in the military housing area was higher than that in the surrounding communities.  That generated some animosity.

When the air base was built, Saddam’s folks came in and negotiated briefly with the local sheik about acquiring his land. As I understand it, the negotiations broke down for a few minutes whereupon Saddam’s folks dug a hole, put the sheik in the hole, covered it over and that was the end of it. One could argue that it was an effective way to do business in the short run, I suppose. But it’s certainly not the way we would ever do business. 

There was Iraqi concern about what would happen when the Americans came in to take the base. Part of that concern was that we would take the land outside the base and there would be an expansion. That is why creating a buffer zone was a particularly sensitive issue. We didn’t want to give the impression that we were going to continue to take the land and, if they made any noise about it, that we would follow Saddam’s lead. They didn’t know. They had no idea. They probably were thinking: “Who are these people, anyway?”

Q:  When you were there, what stories did you hear coming from the American news media and the Arab news media? Were you getting much news from either source?

A:  We didn’t have much to do with the Arab news media. We would catch CNN on the Internet. You get the headlines from what’s being broadcast back in the States. Some of the reports were not accurate. I would look at the news to see what would be likely to be causing folks back here in our families distress. I would read about a mortar attack and I would email back home, “That’s not us. We’re okay”

We did have some mortar attacks. It seemed to me that they were not well organized and the folks didn’t know how to aim the weapons. Most came from the north but they came from different points. Some were from across the river.

The news media are going to focus on the hot spots and, unfortunately, that is going to give people the wrong idea. Every place was not a hot spot all the time. I spent a lot of time outside the wire and a lot of time in various different communities, including two trips to Tikrit and three or four trips down to Baghdad.  I didn’t run into anybody by whom I felt threatened or who I felt harbored an overt anti-American philosophy.

Q:  You weren’t scared?

A:  No, most of the time I wasn’t. There were a couple times when I was concerned. That concern was based on intelligence that we had received to anticipate certain difficulties. One time, for example, when I went out to the village of Albu Hassan, I was concerned because we had set up the appointment with the sheik well in advance and we had intelligence suggesting that we should be alert for potential assaults and explosive devices planted in the road. I thought that it was not the wisest move to make appointments several days in advance because if the enemy wanted to lie in wait they could do that. If you’re impromptu it’s harder to organize an attack.

Nothing occurred. Why not? I think it was because we were in the sheik’s area by his invitation. He knows everything that goes on inside his area and I don’t think anybody from the outside would have been able to get in there. Ironically, that is probably less true now, since the Americans went in and confiscated most of the weapons from the Iraqis, leaving them little means with which to protect themselves.

There is a dilemma there. If you are an Iraqi in Albu Hassan or Al Bakker, there is no bank. You have to keep your cash in your house. You’re going to go down to the marketplace in town. How do you get there? You get in your car and drive with your wad of cash. If you have a weapon, the first checkpoint you come to probably is an American checkpoint; if you don’t have a weapons card, they’ll probably put you in jail or at least confiscate your weapon and detain you for several hours.  They will want to know why you have a wad of cash. On the other hand, if you don’t have a weapon, then the first checkpoint you hit is a robber’s checkpoint.  They will take your cash and might even kill you.  Either way, your family doesn’t get fed.

It’s a circle game. The problem I had in trying to get weapons cards for folks was that for a while it was taking three or four weeks to process applications. Security wanted to check people’s backgrounds to make sure that they weren’t posing a threat to the Americans and that they weren’t part of the Baath party. I can’t imagine the kind of challenges that those folks are facing  . . . not being able to protect themselves in an environment in which it is absolutely necessary to protect oneself.

Q:  Did Operation Iraqi Freedom feel like it was working when you were there?

A:  That is a very difficult question. It goes back to what our motivation was in getting involved in the first place. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have all the facts on which to base a judgment. What was this focus on weapons of mass destruction? Were there weapons of mass destruction? If so, what were they? Where were they? What happened to them? Did they cross the border into another country? Or, were they destroyed?

There were weapons all over the place. There were munitions all over the place, but, weapons of mass destruction? I never saw any. I saw more munitions sitting around available to be used by anybody than I ever would have imagined possible. But, is that why we were there? I don’t think so.

The philosophy changed once it had become clear that weapons of mass destruction were not there. It became an effort to liberate the Iraqis from Saddam. I don’t know what the original motivation was. I don’t know if we’ll ever know. So, what is the goal? Is the goal to liberate the Iraqis? Which Iraqis? Who are we liberating and from what? Do we know?

Was it working? I think that certainly some things were working. Some people were becoming rich beyond their wildest imagination. I think that’s true in any combat situation. I think there is a lot of concern about what the ultimate direction is going to be. What is this Iraqi government that is being put together? Who does it support? Who does it not support? What kind of a regime will it be?

The Iraqis have an incredibly difficult time in getting away from the social mores of the Saddam regime. For example, there were policemen who thought because they were policemen they could do anything they wanted. This is not the rule of law, folks, this is the rule of the local sheriff. It doesn’t work very well.

We had a problem with one of them. We had entered into a vehicle lease arrangement from an outfit out of Samarra, I think. Drivers had been hired to deliver these vehicles to the installation. Halfway down the road there was an Iraqi police checkpoint and the police were not happy with the documentation, so they put all the drivers in jail and confiscated all the vehicles for their own use. Our forces got word of that from outside sources, researched and verified it, went into the town, recovered all our vehicles, got all our guys out of jail, and put the police chief in jail.

This was the kind of thing that would go on all the time . . . putting somebody in jail.  It would be incumbent on the guy’s family to find him and bring him food, because the jailors wouldn’t feed him. Then the family would pay off the police chief to let him out.

We have to get away from that mentality if we want to have the rule of law in Iraq, but that’s not something you get away from in a couple of years. I hear people say that we should get out of Iraq soon.  Getting out of Iraq soon is a recipe for civil war and a blood bath.

We can’t get out of Iraq soon. We have to stay there and finish what we’ve started. Now that we have torn down the Saddam regime, we have to replace it with something better and we have to make sure that the something better, whatever it is, really works and is likely to work for a long time.

I think it would be nice to get the United Nations involved. The French were opposed to our invasion of Iraq and one of the reasons probably was that they had a lot of contracts with Iraq. With Saddam gone, the money stopped. The Germans, too, wanted to get in there and make money through contracts. Because they expressed some reservations about the US going in, I think there was some reluctance to allowing them to contract for anything. I don’t think that’s unexpected but it does militate away from international cooperation, at least with the European Union, in furthering our goals in Iraq, whatever those goals may be.

Q:  You’ve been back in the States two months. Is there a chance you may be sent back to Iraq?

A:  There’s always that possibility. As a lieutenant colonel at my age, I have another fifteen months left before I have to retire. Even after I retire, they can call me up. Presuming my team is still on the books in a couple years, we probably will be back there. Everybody’s being told to anticipate redeployment in a year.

Q:  Are you going to pick up your law practice in the meantime?

A:  I don’t know. I have to pick up my life first. There’s a lot to do.

Q:  Anything further to add?

A:  My experience in Iraq was definitely valuable. Iraq is the cradle of mankind. To go and see how the folks are living there today and to presume it is roughly the same as it was thousands of years ago is moving. To see how incredibly fertile the land is and yet it bears nothing is illustrative too. If you irrigate, anything will grow. There were geraniums growing spontaneously out of the earth soon after we repaired and restarted the irrigation system. Water would run off from a shower and the next thing you know grass would be growing everywhere. And yet it is so barren everywhere. All that is required to turn central Iraq into a paradise is labor.

With labor and a little technology, there is a lot of potential throughout Iraq. If we are able to establish a stable Iraqi government and if we are able to bring Iraq into the mainstream of the world community, the Iraqi people will benefit and benefit very well. I could see the average Iraqi family doing pretty well in another twenty years if things go in the right direction. If not, I can see a lot of dead Iraqis. I suspect it could spill over regionally into an incredible conflict.

Where we are going to go, I don’t know.

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