Eye on the Middle East Jul/Aug 2005

In this troubled world, it’s always a plus to live in a safe place where the neighbors are friendly and always ready to lend a helping hand. Good neighbors are even more important when you live in a rough neighborhood filled with people of bad intentions.

When the United States decided to do something about the infamous Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi house of horrors, there were friends at home and abroad willing to help shoulder the task and set the oppressed Iraqi people free. And despite the assault by those questioning the wisdom of intervention and pointing to the trumped-up issue of the allies’ failure to locate weapons of mass destruction, the good results are becoming more evident with every passing day.

Free elections are now a reality in a country that hadn’t had a shot at a ballot box in decades. Today a free press has its say every day. Rape and torture houses are no more, and crops are replacing the mass graveyards in the fields once worked by the ancient Babylonians. Life is far from perfect in Iraq, but it is also a far cry from what it was.

America and the Iraqi people owe a great debt of gratitude to the much-underestimated and sometimes maligned members of the coalition who stuck it out when the going got rough. All of which says, in more ways than one, that it is good to have friends around when it comes time to do the heavy lifting.

The so-called insurgency has caused much trepidation among those who have not yet learned there is a price to pay for freedom—yours, mine, and the freedom of those unable to defend themselves. And in Iraq the stakes are immensely high. The terrorist operatives are Islamist radicals who see democracy in Iraq as a death knell for the old ways of oppression, brutality, and the life-stifling demagoguery of their brand of governance and pseudoreligion.

At the core of the action for freedom are men and women in uniform who have served with noble honor and distinction and given of themselves so unselfishly. They have seen our reasons for being there with a clarity not often found in the vision of some of our peers.

And, yes, for every one of them, staying alive in the service of the country is item number one. Roadside bombs, snipers, and fanatics bent on suicidal homicide are a constant hazard. That’s when it helps immensely to have a friend or, better still, many friends to help ensure your safety.

Most of us remember the tragic problems encountered when it was discovered that our Humvees, personnel carriers, and trucks were not adequately armored to survive blasts from roadside bombs and other explosive devices. In true, can-do American fashion, the ground troops and service personnel began to jury-rig their vehicles to withstand the explosions. The Marines and Army both found ways of creating armor plating that would improve protection for the soldiers.

The Marines decided to put in a call to a friendly neighbor to see if it could help. And indeed it could. The neighbor was Israel, in particular the Israeli firm plasan Sasa that has a world of know-how protecting vehicles from bomb attacks because of its experiences in Lebanon and the intifada.

As a result, the Israeli firm was awarded a $100 million subcontract to supply the armor for Marine trucks in Iraq. It’s always good to live in a neighborhood where you can reach out for a friend. Our Marines learned that in Iraq.

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