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A soldier’s story
More from Iraq

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Editor’s Note: These are the thoughts of a gay soldier — a North Carolina native — who has been deployed to Iraq. Because of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, he must remain anonymous.

My reaction to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s death was a mixture of shock and excitement. It’s a great win for the Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Army. It was disappointing to hear some of the locals portray the coalition forces as villains — I heard some of them say that Zarqawi wasn’t dead and American soldiers beat him to death. In my opinion this was a bad man — he was responsible for the deaths of so many — he didn’t deserve to live. The overriding opinion of the Iraqi military, civilians and Coalition Forces soldiers I have spoken with indicates that most people feel justice was done.

I will say I found it interesting that the media both in the U.S. and Iraq happened to announce the incident the same day Iraq filled three major cabinet positions in the new government. Then add on President George W. Bush’s surprise visit to Baghdad. Is that political spin to turn Bush’s numbers around? For the soldiers and everyone over here involved, his visit was a great morale booster.

I don’t actually believe Zarqawi’s death signals the end of terrorism in this country. There’s already a new leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq — Abu Ayyub al-Masri — and new threats, like the Russian hostage executions and the bus hijacking.

We are, however, making strides in intelligence gathering. The information that led to the strike that killed Zarqawi came directly from within the Al-Qaeda network.
The officers and soldiers of the Iraqi Army I work with were and still are very excited. They actually cheered and gave me high fives. They were chanting “Thank You America!” It was an experience I will never forget.

This weekend there will be new measures for cracking down on security in Baghdad. The new Iraqi Minister of Defense and Minister of Interior are implementing new security measures, over 75,000 soldiers from the Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces will conduct raids and man checkpoints. It is thought that the Sunni neighborhoods could pose the biggest threats — although there are insurgents throughout Al-Qaida from many walks of life.

I’m very excited about the accomplishments here in Iraq. The Iraqi Army is getting trained and the mission I serve on is downsizing by 20 percent when we leave. If that continues then the U.S. Forces that make up the majority of the Coalition Forces will be home sooner. The American public wants that — and so do all of us. This is not a fun place to live, it’s not Charlotte by any means. It’s a dirty, sand-filled, hot and nasty hell for most of us.

I will be in Baghdad soon so I plan to give you an overview from my perspective. I hope that things continue to improve here in Iraq. We will continue to be vigilant in the search and capture of the insurgents that attack us each day. I believe the people here are finally feeling some sense of positive movement and the start of what they hope is a bright and wonderful future.

— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte

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