- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

Would you care to guess who said this: “To the courageous men and women of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall Afar [Iraq] from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life”? Is this an excerpt from a Pentagon or presidential citation? Nope.

“To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.” Was that on a plaque from the local Kiwanis Club? Wrong again.

“To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days and stole our confidence in our ability to re-establish our city.”

Give up? That is a letter from the mayor of Tall Afar in the Iraqi province of Nineveh. Mayor Najim Abdullah Abid Al-Jubouri wrote it to express his gratitude to American soldiers. Chances are you have not read this letter. I have only found it in a few small-circulation U.S. newspapers. It certainly conveys an impression opposite what much of the mainstream media and some politicians have been telling us.

Tall Afar was the main base for the terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi, who, the mayor said, held it hostage: “Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.”

The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) arrived in Iraq in 2003 and began attacking insurgents in Fallujah. Last year, they went back for a second tour, this time in Tall Afar. The mayor’s letter sums up the result: “This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered … the courageous soldiers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3rd ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.”

One returning soldier from this regiment is Chief Warrant Officer Roger Wood of Fort Carson, Colo., a helicopter pilot who arrived home last weekend. He tells me, “There’s a lot of good going on in Iraq,” adding that “negative stories” he’s seen on the news “are discouraging.” Warrant Officer Wood says he has noticed a “big difference” since his first tour in 2003 in the way Iraqi soldiers and police operate. He says they are increasingly confident and able to operate independent of American forces. “Iraq will come around,” Warrant Officer Wood predicts. “Baghdad will take a little longer, but as people see change and acquire hope, we’ll see a new Iraq.”

The mayor of Tall Afar concludes his letter: “God bless this brave regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget. To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. This sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. … Let America, their families and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.”

The U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches recently condemned U.S policy in Iraq for “raining down terror” on helpless Iraqis. They should talk to the mayor of Tall Afar and tell him to his face they think Zarqawi’s “reign of terror” should not have been ended.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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