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One Coloradan’s experiences in Iraq

Posted by Richard on June 20, 2005

Stories about local men and women serving in Iraq are probably fairly common in small cities and towns throughout the country. They’re almost unheard of in big-city papers, where they might interfere with the "Vietnam/quagmire" meme. The MSM don’t much care what our men and women on the ground in Iraq think. They prefer the relentless flood of negative dispatches from reporters esconced in their hotels and fed information and images by "stringers" with ties to the terrorists.

The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, CO, just across the state from me, published one Coloradan’s story on Sunday — a fascinating article about Col. Jim West, a 58-year-old Grand Junction business owner who volunteered for duty in Iraq and is now on his second tour. It’s based on his letters home and a phone interview with him.

I didn’t find this article myself; I didn’t even know the Grand Junction paper’s name, much less its website. Arthur Chrenkoff, writing on the other side of the world from me, pointed to it. An amazing thing, this Internet.

What seized Chrenkoff’s attention, and with good reason, is Col. West’s information about suicide car bombers. Most of them are non-Iraqis — mainly Palestinians, Syrians, and Saudis. Apparently, not all of them are eagerly embracing their opportunity to meet those 72 virgins (emphasis added):

"He was trying to drive into a busy checkpoint and the Marine guards wounded him and disabled his car before he could reach the intersection and activate the bomb," West wrote. "When they opened the door to remove him, they found him chained to the seat with his hands taped to the steering wheel. He had an activation switch on his body that he could use but they also found a remote-control activation device under the front seat. It was hidden in the floor of the car so he probably didn’t know it was there… He was going to die whether he wanted to or not."

A guard activated a radio-jamming device immediately so the bomb couldn’t be detonated, West wrote.

The driver was "yelling and very agitated and had a glazed look," West said in a telephone interview. It turned out he also was heavily drugged, West said.

The driver, a Palestinian, was treated for gunshot wounds to the legs suffered when the guards fired to stop his car. West said he didn’t know what happened to him afterwards.

He did, however, follow some as they recovered in the hospital from wounds suffered in battle.

"Some of them are very sullen," but one he remembered, was completely different.

"He was just so happy to be alive" while he was being treated for bullet wounds to the stomach and shoulder.

"He couldn’t believe our people were doing that."

But there’s much more to West’s story, and it’s well worth reading. He describes himself as "the top oil person for the reconstruction." Among other things, he’s supervising the building of a pipeline under the Tigris River that will carry 2 million barrels of oil a day to Turkey. He’s impressed by the Iraqis and optimistic about the future:

Cast against the threats against him and his team is the exhilaration he witnessed when millions of Iraqis purpled their fingers in January to show they had cast ballots in a free election.

“The people of Iraq continue to amaze me,” West wrote home. “Following the election and its overwhelming success, the people seem to have developed a new vision. Maybe it’s the fact that they, as a people, have stood up to the insurgents and made their statement for freedom, or maybe they have finally realized that this election was a first step in becoming a free and independent nation. Whatever it is, they have a zeal about themselves that I don’t think will ever be extinguished. They have tasted freedom and no one can take that from them.”

Indiscriminate killing of women and children is the work of outsiders, he said.

“There’s no plan to it, other than to terrorize the populace,” he said.

“To me, the key is to get the government up and running,” he said. “We’re doing that. Eventually the tide’s going to turn.”

But West is a realist, not a Pollyanna:

“… It’s a huge task to rebuild this nation because Saddam Hussein allowed it to degrade so badly during the last few years of his reign. Much of the equipment and technology that is currently being used to produce and refine the oil is over 20 years old. … This alone would make the rebuilding difficult but now you introduce the insurgents and the terrorist groups that are trying to destabilize the country and we are faced with an almost impossible feat.”

When he started work in Iraq, he said it seemed as though the Americans were welcomed by about 90 percent of the Iraqis.

“That’s probably lowered some now,” he said, to about 75 percent of Iraqis supporting the American presence and 5 percent who would “kill you if they could.”

Very interesting article. RTWT.

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One Response to “One Coloradan’s experiences in Iraq”

  1. […] the horse’s mouth a couple of weeks ago. Shortly after, so did readers of Chrenkoff and my blog. In the Daily Sentinel story about Grand Junction’s Col. Jim West, he not only reported that […]

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