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This is the JoCo Unravelling podcast, Episode seven with Darrell Cooper and me, JoCo Willink.
Let's go ahead and follow the thread where we get we left everybody hanging. Last time we cut it off, right as you were about to kick it off in Ramadi. And I mean, I think this is so much stuff I want to talk about in this one.
You know, we could start off talking about these the stakes at play in Ramadi, how there were so many people on the domestic side that were saying this war is lost. People even in the military who were saying this this thing is over. Anbar at least is done.
There were people all along from Petraeus up north to Mosul at the beginning with the 101st, other people in Tal Afar, McMaster and so forth, who were saying this thing can be won, but you've got to change your mentality. And so when you get to Ramadi, you mentioned that you picked up the counterinsurgency manual. And I don't know where you got it because it wasn't it wasn't published until December of 06 was not yet.
But I got the latest copy on the Internet. There's a draft copy. And that's I mean, on the not on notice. I said Internet, not on the supernet. It wasn't on the classified side. It was a draft copy that I got. And I just went and Google searched it and they had just put it out there. And it's kind of like the the the Marine Corps just released a document called Learning. And it's the first one that's been released in 20 something years, twice since 2001.
And, you know, the draft of that document, you know, you could find it way earlier than what it was actually released.
So, yeah, that that and this is in April. So when did you say it actually got formally released? December. Yeah, yeah.
I had been one of the early adopters. I was definitely an early adopter.
I, I know that I was the first person that I knew that had read. It was me. Like I didn't meet anybody else that said, oh yeah, here's the new manual.
And it was weird for me to to like dive into a manual and just say, OK, I got to have an open mind here looking at this, but seeing again, seeing the the hey, here we're all going after all these bad guys.
But it doesn't really seem to have a long term sustaining impact because it's been three years of us doing this made me say we've got to look some other way.
There's got to be some other way that this is unfolding for sure.
What did you get out of it when you guys I mean, you just sat down and read the thing basically straight through, right? Yeah, I sat down and read the thing straight through, and I'll tell you what I got.
Well, I'll tell you I'll tell you the one of the main things that I stole from it was security for the populace.
And that's the first thing that kind of made sense to me. Or I said, OK, right. How do we provide security for the populace, which is different, then I'm going to remove people. Right? I'm going to take bad guys providing security for the populace. And the idea that the decisive the decisive element in this war was not an airfield, it was not a mountaintop.
It was not a beachhead.
The decisive the decisive terrain in this war was the people. And I'm going to say it. It was the hearts and minds of the local populace.
So that was the main takeaway for me.
And then, you know, you just read through it and you realize that in order to do the kind of the kind of when you think of counterinsurgency, well, at least at the time, I think a lot of people, when they thought of counterinsurgency, what they thought of was hearts and minds, which is, hey, we're going out. We're going to build schools, we're going to give away food. We're going to we're going to give midcaps, you know, and go out and help people medically.
And it sounds so hunky dory. And you think, well, that sounds great. But then you look at Ramadi and you go, how could this possibly happen here and in the counterinsurgency manual? And explains that in order for those things to take place, you have to have control over the battlefield. And we didn't have control yet. So the first step in counterinsurgency is you got to get some kind of control in that situation. So that's another thing I realized.
And the fact that and this was I think Petraeus said this later, he paraphrased it later and it made sense. And I don't know, I got the idea. I understood it from the counterinsurgency manual, even though I don't think these words are actually in there. But he said this can't be a drive by counterinsurgency, meaning, hey, you can't just drive into a neighborhood, say hi and then leave. You've got to go in there and you've got to stay.
So that made a lot of sense to me. So there was some some things that I just had to open my mind and see in a different light and seeing that target board and knowing that.
For lack of a better way of saying this. We were losing and a lot of this comes back again to the book About Face by David Hackworth because.
He's the guy that said we're losing in Vietnam, he's the first kind of legitimate guy that said we're losing. And it wasn't that I don't know if the fort we're losing would have entered my mind had I not read that book. But, yeah, I'd read that book and I read that book a lot.
But B, as you just said, there was the populace in America was turning against the war. I mean, this is two thousand six. This is nasty. And there's no end in sight. And there's Americans coming home in caskets all the time.
And so so we've got much of the American populace saying, hey, we've had enough of this. We've got government officials saying we're not going to win. You know, it's an election year. It's an election year. It's just nasty.
So the fact that I had a little bit of, you know, I have a natural rebellious streak in me, and that's very beneficial sometimes from a leadership position because you're questioning what's happening as opposed to just accepting what's happening. So for me to say for me to question what we were doing and how we were doing, it was very good and very lucky. And also from a leadership perspective, I'm coming in there. I'm detached. Right. I hadn't been to Iraq in two years.
So I'm I'm I'm detached from it. Guys that are in the fight there in the fight, they're worried about the opportunity tonight. Tomorrow night. That's what they're worried about. They got a bad guy. Good. They're planning for another option. I've been looking at where it goes. I'm coming in it from a de facto detached position where I'm looking at it from thirty thousand feet going. So I come from the states where everyone saying, well, not everyone, but where a lot of people are saying we're losing, we can't win.
I show up there, I see this target board. It looks like we're not making any progress. I think we've got to do something different. And that cracks me into the the counterinsurgency manual. Three was it three to twenty four. That's the new one. Yeah. The insurgents. It took us a while to understand counterinsurgency. The insurgents understood their part of it real well. Talk about how we need to go and we need to build a school.
We need to open a pump station or whatever. They knew that they needed to go blow up the ribbon cutting U.S. troops would be out there giving candy to Iraqi kids and they would drive a suicide bomb into the crowd of kids. And after a while, we realized none of this stuff that we're doing matters if we can't provide security for the security of the city.
There's something that you said on the last podcast and I read listen to it. And it's funny because you said something along the lines of the insurgents realize that they had they they realized, I think you said a weapon or.
But you ended up saying they had they they knew what they needed, they knew what they had on their side, and I thought what they needed to get on their side or something like that. And I thought you were going to you said you said people. Right. And what I thought you were going to say was time, because that really is the ultimate weapon of an insurgency, is look.
Hey, hey, American. Hey, gringo, you want to stay here and, you know, lose, you know, 10 guys a week or 20 guys a week. Cool. We'll be here. We can we can outlast you. And we don't want to go home. We are home, you know. Are you Americans? You want to go home? I don't care what American you are. You want to go home. We don't want to go home.
We are home. And so we can outlast you. And and that's that really is time is the ultimate weapon in an insurgency. That's another thing. And here's a good conversation I had. So this was pressing into combat actually starting in in in Ramadi. This is something I completely took from the counterinsurgency manual. So we started doing these overwatch operations where we were going out and providing security for the populace via killing bad guys.
And so we started conducting these operations. And this was a couple of things I got from counter-insurgency. Number one, when you start a counterinsurgency enemy, activity is not going to go down. It's going to go up. Friendly casualties are not going to go down. They are going to go up. So so right there. Right there. It already feels wrong. When you start a counterinsurgency, it feels wrong and it looked looks wrong.
So the the people that are tracking cigarettes acts, which is a term for significant activity, which which which was a word that had its own meaning in its own life. You know, how many cigarettes were there today, meaning how many enemy activities, enemy attacks were there and the that would get tracked. It was a metric. And so when we started this counterinsurgency, guess what happens to the enemy attacks?
The enemy contacts, they go up. What happens to the US casualties? They go up.
So probably three weeks into this. We had conducted baby 10 overwatch operations, probably killed X amount of guys, I don't know, X amount of enemy 10, 20, and I get a an email from, like one of the guys up the chain of command. It wasn't it wasn't my commanding officer, someone up the chain of command for me. And it was something along the lines of, hey, here you are conducting these operations to take out IED and placers and insurgents and we're actually seeing an increase in enemy activity.
What metrics are you going off of that makes you think that this is even remotely effective? And why I just said it a little bit more hostile wasn't as hostile as that. But from the counterinsurgency manual that I had read, I replied, hey, I appreciate the feedback. The average counterinsurgency last seven years, it's been three weeks. Can I get some more time to measure the metrics? And they were like, OK, fair enough. But that was me having read this book and and pulled things out of it that were actually completely accurate to what we were living.
So watching those SIG acts go up was was rough. And I remember the the brigade commander, Colonel Sean MacFarland, you know, he was answering the mail on this kind of thing.
And we'd be sitting in the brigade meeting and he'd say, yeah, the division is looking at us saying, hey, how how are we supposed to think you're doing a good job here when enemy activity is increasing?
And, you know, he probably gave a similar answer to what I did. We're taking the fight to the enemy. And there's going to be there's going to be casualties. There's going to be blood. But that's that's the pathway to victory.
When the people become the ground that you're trying to win as opposed to an airfield or something like that in the counterinsurgency, it means that everything you do is got to be measured for for lack of a better term political effect as well as like tactical effect. Right.
And this is why this battle is just as fascinated me for a long time, because taking what I just said about everything you do is got to be measured for political effect. And you guys are going into a city that probably much of it hasn't seen an American who was sort of holding their ground in a year, maybe in some of these places. And you're going into a Sunni city with Iraqi security forces that are mostly, if not all Shia.
You've got to convince those Shia soldiers to treat the Sunni civilians that they're going to be encountering. With respect. Yep. You've got to you've got to convince the Sunni populace there that, hey, we're coming in here with this. Is this for everybody else out there? If you don't remember what 2006 was like, the very, very beginning of the year, al-Qaeda in Iraq, massive car bomb at the Samarra mosque, which is like one of the holiest sites in the entire Shia world.
And the Shia went insane. They're burning down Sunni mosques. They're, you know, sectarian cleansing, Baghdad neighborhoods, running Sunnis out. And it's at a point where the Shia militias have, you know, totally infiltrated a lot of the Iraqi police. People are getting arrested by the Iraqi police. And two days later, their families get a phone call from the Shia militia that now has that person and they're demanding ransom. And so you're bringing Shia soldiers into this Sunni city that hadn't seen an American has no reason to trust us at all in a long time.
And you've got to convince both of those sides to play nice that nobody is doing anything here. We're in control. And when you guys start talking to the tribes, which is really what I'm super interested in hearing about how you guys approach this, you know, in 2005, just another aspect of like the political side of this.
And by that I just mean inter-group, you know, group interaction.
The tribes had tried to unite and fight against al-Qaida back in 2005 and they got annihilated and all their leaders ran to Jordan. And everywhere else, the leaders ran to Jordan, the ones that survived. Because I want to say there was a twenty four hour period or 48 hour period where eight of the tribal leaders were killed. Eight of them. Yeah. So, I mean, that's that's like saying, you know, if you picture the the New York crime families in the in the 60s.
Right. Saying that. Oh yeah. All the heads of the families got killed, that that's that's what. And then the ones that were left. Yeah. They, they ran and they were junior too.
I mean a lot of them were younger. Right. Because a lot of people got killed and people got kind of. Yes.
Some people bumped up, some people fled, some people just faded. Yeah. I mean, all those things happened.
You had the glass factory, I think, in February of 06. January of January. January of 06, there's a there's a police recruiting drive, let's call it a recruiting drive for the young Iraqi men to come and join the Iraqi police where they can now get control of their city. There's a massive suicide bomb there. There was a guy by the name of Lieutenant Colonel Mackoff McGlaughlin, who was apparently and this happened before I got there.
So I don't know him, but he was with the two to eight out of Pennsylvania. So he's a reservist. They called the they called him the sheikh of sheikhs because he was, you know, just a great guy that had this great attitude that was trying to make things happen and got along with all the different sheikhs and understood what we were trying to make happen. So he's actually and this is what proves what kind of a leader he was. You know, this is a risky operation to have this big recruiting drive.
But they set security up and now they have several hundred young Iraqi men that are thinking, OK, well, it looks like we're going to take back our city from these insurgents, you know, and the and my sheik and some of the other sheikhs have said to come down here and join up with this Iraqi police. And the glass factory is an old glass factory and it's right outside of Camp Ramadi. So it's a good place to do it in Camp Ramadi, being an all American, you know, base with thousands of troops on there and a lot of firepower, the glass factories just outside.
So they run this recruiting meeting and the suicide bomber there is fifty five or sixty of the recruits are killed.
MacLaughlin McGlaughlin is killed, a Marine that was on security. Adam can Sergeant Adam can. He was on security. He was also killed.
There's another fifty five or sixty.
Iraqis from the Iraqis that were there to get recruited, that were wounded, so, I mean, you picture what I just just imagine that you're a young kid, you show up, we're going to take back Ramadi, you show up. The Americans are providing security. The Americans are going to make everything nice again. The Americans are aligned with my sheikh. My sheikh has sent me down here.
And then the insurgents kill everyone that you know and wound everyone else, and if you made it out of there unscathed, you were never going to think about doing anything like that again as far as you could.
You could tell this is a couple months before you guys got there, started this.
This is in January. You know, this is in January of 06.
Just all of those challenges stacked on top of each other, you know, convincing the Sunni that, A, we're going to protect you from, you know, let me interject.
Hold on. So one thing, when you were talking about the Shias, the Shia soldiers and some of them, I mean, who what's the what's the profile of someone that joins the Shia, the the Iraqi army in 20 seconds? That profile look like?
Well, yes, guess what? It's a it's a lower class person. We're talking about the front line grunts because there's there's the whole officer thing. And it's a it's just like any well, it's not it's the officer thing where these guys pay to get in position. They come from a family or whatever.
But the the the soldiers who joins the Iraqi army in 2006, who's who's a Shia yet they're they're Shia. They need money. They're not educated. They are looking for a job. And here you go. That's the same exact profile of who is joining the the Mahdi Army to go and fight for the Shias. You know, kind of that that's the exact it's the exact same profile.
So in the barracks room of so Leif, Leif Babin, who was one of the platoon commanders, he was running a troop of of Iraqi soldiers in their barracks on the American base.
They had a giant poster on the wall of Muqtada al-Sadr on their wall in the clear, like, hey, we we're here to fight.
And yeah, that's a picture of Muqtada al Sadr, you know, the sort of most vocal and rebellious leader of the Shia sect at this point. So that's why that's what you're looking at. It's crazy. And the picture I've tried to find it, you've seen on picture the picture of Muqtada al-Sadr with his kind of finger raised up. And I mean, he's a very he's a very he's a caricature, right.
He's he fits the exact image of what you would expect.
This fiery guy, charismatic guy, you know, he's got like a little crazy eyes to him. He fits that exact image. And so they got this giant poster and it has like lightning around it. So that's what that's what we must for subtlety in the Middle East. That's what we're dealing with. One of my favorite things ever is one of the insurgent groups that's been operating out in Iraq. They were until a year or two ago called themselves Euphrates Volcano.
I'm like, that's awesome.
Yeah, we're not sure if I'm giving you guys slack for a couple beheadings for that good name. We're not sure if we're like a roller derby team or an insurgent group, but we're feeling it.
Having that poster up there points to, I mean, another one. Right. So you've got to get the Sunni and Shia to play nice together. You've got to convince the Sunni in the city that we can protect you from al-Qaida after we haven't done that at all for years now. And al-Qaida has been the law of the land as long as you've been here. And when we recently failed to protect you, you know, the glass factory attack. But another one is that you've got to convince.
I imagine it wasn't hard with your guys, maybe. But do you have any issues where when you started to talk to the tribes with Americans or like these guys were shooting at us last year and you want us to give them amnesty work with them?
Or these guys got a poster of Muqtada al-Sadr in their barracks and we're supposed to trust these guys.
Like, how is that or are you talking about me with the SEALs in tasking unit? Bruiser? I would I would imagine that wasn't a problem. The there was a little their hardest challenge with the SEALs and tasking a bruiser was, hey, guys, we're going to be working with Iraqi soldiers pretty much all the time. Are they going to watch our back or are they going to watch our back? Can we trust them? And the answer is no and no.
So what do you do? You mitigate risk. You figure out how you can train them up enough. You figure out what how you operate with them, where you're you know, you've got four of those guys that are supposed to be doing something and you need two seals there to make sure that they're doing what they're supposed to be doing. So this was really before there hadn't been a lot of of, you know, will they end up calling it green on green, on blue, meaning a bad like a like an Iraqi soldier turns and starts shooting.
That happened more in Afghanistan. It happened some in Iraq. But at this point, it wasn't a huge threat. We fought about it. Of course, like you just don't feel comfortable when you've got a guy that's got a poster of Muqtada al-Sadr in his bedroom and now he's standing next to you with an AK 47. You know, there's there's definitely some trust issues. And then there was different types of guys. You know, if they're there's there's Kurdish some Kurdish soldiers that would be in some of these units and they would be very trustworthy and very squared away, like almost a different different level.
Actually, they they were straight up a different level. So if you had a couple Kurdish guys, you'd be pretty stoked on that. But, yeah, it was so so as far as telling my guys we're going to use when you're working with Iraqis, that was a little bit of a struggle.
But then when they understood why we're doing it, then they realized, OK, and even if even if they didn't agree with why we were doing it, because the the what I told them was, hey, we either get them up to speed where they can handle security in their own country, or we're going to be here forever and we're going to lose or we can get these guys trained up, get them out there so they can handle security and then we're good.
If that didn't convince my guys, here's the other half of it. And this is the this is the slam dunk for a seal.
By the way, we have two choices. We either take Iraqis with us or we don't work. Who wants to work now? You know, SEALs want to work and they want to get after it. And if that means we're going to take Iraqi soldiers, we'll take Iraqi soldiers. So I probably got there.
I probably got their hearts, 60 percent. They're just talking about the big strategic picture. But you got to tie it back to why it's good for them. And what's good for us is I get to go out and kill bad guys. And so, hey, this is what this is what's going to allow us to do that. Cool. We're on board. Let's make it happen where you guys operate.
And pretty much in the moment you got there. Yes, they had missions for you and ready to go. When you say they had missions for us, we had we developed missions. So the tasking that we turned over with, you know, they were tracking targets. We picked up some of those targets and within we were doing operations very quickly.
When did the you know, I mean, when did the actual operation to take the city back really start where you start setting up the cops around the city and really pushing?
So there was a there was like June or so maybe.
But there was a there was a I guess I would might call it a false start, which was when we got there, the first briefs that I gave my guys were, hey, we're going to go we're going to do a Fallujah on this. We're going to do what they did in Fallujah. We're going to do here because that's kind of where the planning was at. The two to eight had done a great job surrounding the city. And now you've got both the two to eight and the one one aide on Station four turnover.
And that means we've got double the combat power.
That means we're going to go through the city and crush it. Maliki, to his credit, who had just been elected. Prime minister as a Shia said, hey, if he knew what would happen if if he directed that to happen, it would be all the Sunnis saying, look at what the Shia is doing to us. They're killing us. And it would have caused a problem. He said. You need to figure out another way to do it, a less kinetic way of doing it.
That's the word we got. We actually got the word. So we had we were planning massive, massive multi multi battalion operations. So the word comes down. Actually, we were in the process of planning a battalion sized operation. We were going to support the first of the five or six. And the you're real quick.
This is fascinating because it's been written up in articles. And I think even in Tom Ricks book that that this was done intentionally, that it was a head fake, that we loaded up a whole bunch of men and materiel like we were going to come in like Fallujah in order to get some of the insurgents that had been nested in the city to back out before we started moving into neighborhoods.
And but we were actually planning on doing that as if that was the head fake. Then they faked me out to OK, and they faked out everybody that I talked to and worked with, including up to and including planning a battalion sized operation that we were going to execute. So if it was a head fake, it faked it had faked the brigade commander and the battalion commanders as well because we were all ready to execute that.
We get the word we're planning a battalion sized operation. We get the word no battalion sized operations are to take place in the city.
That's what word comes down. OK, so we change our battle plan a little bit. The the first the five or six makes it change their battle plan. And they do like a two company plus sized operation, which which is pretty close to a battalion sized operation.
And that but that was our first push into it to start establishing. We didn't establish a cap on that, but that was the first, hey, we're going to come in. We're going to stay. That one was only going to be staying for a few days, but that was a plan of staying. And then as far as that, I have to check the dates. I don't remember the dates of when we did the very first operation to go and seize ground where people were going to stay.
But there was in the time in a couple of weeks, there was these there was some turnover operations that happened where we tried to where we being American coalition forces tried to turn over certain certain control points out inside the city and the enemy would attack them and just cause complete mayhem. And they overran several positions, which, again, when people ask about what the enemy was like, I was going to say, what is your sense of them?
As far as like how were they as light infantry?
They used radio communications. They had maneuver elements. They would extract their casualties. They would bring in reinforcements.
They did what a what a military unit is expecting me, you figure, other than Americans at that point, they probably had more combat experience than just about any force in the world at the time for sure. And even even Americans.
Right. And read the two to eight when we showed up there had been on the ground for fourteen months. But guess what? The people that lived in Ramadi had been in there for twenty two years. Twenty eight years. They'd been in Ramadi since the war started in 2003.
So they had years and years of experience and a lot of them were former, you know, former regime military personnel. So that that helped as well.
I was reading the book talking about that very, very early days of the war. And somebody was up in I think this is what it was, is we were basically going around in those early days looking for a fight, looking for somebody from the Iraqi armed forces to actually stand and fight us. But they were always just melting away, melting away. So we said, well, we're going to go after Tikrit. That's where Saddam's from. It's like the the last place we haven't really gone into.
If they're going to stand and fight anywhere for sure, they're going to stand and fight there. And as journalists, I think it was a Dexter Filkins book, he followed the U.S. forces into Tikrit. They just melted away. Nobody fought us. And we go in there and he's talking to people, Iraqis on the ground with his translator. And he finds a guy who's Revolutionary Guard and he's like, Really? Wow, you're revolutionary. Yeah. So he he's like, really?
He said, you look around, it's like, that's my buddy. It's such and such. They're everywhere. Right. But we don't know who these people are at this point.
This is like, you know, fall of 2003, maybe late summer.
And it almost you know, it makes me wonder if in a situation like that, where even if you don't necessarily know, you're going to have a big insurgency. Right. You know, we have like the General Colin Powell mentality, if you go in with overwhelming force, if you have it available. Right. But in a situation where the enemy's not going to stand and fight, you like that, we're just the presence of your air power alone is enough for them to be like.
Well, with this right, is it almost it's so hard to justify this politically, but if we were going to go into Iraq. To try to sell it to the American people, that here's what we actually need to do, we need to go in there with 80000 ground troops, very limited air power and challenge these people, do a fight and say come out and fight us, draw them out and make them think like, you know, maybe we can actually go out here and fight these guys in order to draw them out and fight them.
Because, you know, in a situation where everybody just melts into the civilian population, the minute you show up with, you know, just a whole core and air power and everything like that, it's really hard to nail anybody down.
And then you end up with an insurgency. And it's I don't know if it's ever possible to sell to the American public that we need to go in here lighter than we actually could.
But I mean, I guess we did it in Ramadi. We did do it in Ramadi. And that's that's part of it. I wouldn't say we went in lighter, but here's the deal when you move into someone's neighborhood. They're either going to fight you or they're going to leave or they're going to comply. And so it has the same effect. What doesn't have the effect is, hey, we're here. Where are you? They go, we'll sing to you.
Leave, as I said earlier, that we have all the time in the world. You want to hang out here for six months. Cool. You're American. You're going back to America. I live here. So so if you go, hey, I'm here and I'm going to stay. That's why putting a timeline on a war doesn't work, doesn't work because they'll just hold up for a while.
And the other thing that's key to recruiting allies to they got to know that you're going to stay because the other people are for sure. They're definitely the enemy is definitely going to stay. So if you have a timeline on the end of your you know, my my fight card expires in 18 months. Cool. 18 months to an insurgent is a joke.
Yeah, he's in his house.
It's like it's like being on lockdown. Oh, cool. You're going be afraid to go. I can do that. I can hold my breath. I'll go work in my auto mechanic store down the street. I'll make money, I'll save up. I'll throw some ideas your way occasionally just to piss you off and make sure that you want to leave. And other than that, I'll wait eighteen months. No factor.
Yeah, maybe you know the insurgents too. It really adapted to trying to bring down the institutions and functioning of civil society. Right. I mean, they got to the point where they were killing garbage man, they were killing teachers, anybody who was necessary to make things work.
Yeah. And that's that's a that's a great point to to bring up. And, you know, there's been a couple of people that have commented, I saw on social media and otherwise about this podcast. And, you know, of course, people were. Painting me as sort of pro-American, patriotic and other completely one hundred percent accurate things, so I get it. One thing, though, that I see a lot of is people will say there was X amount of civilians that were killed in the Iraq war.
And it's a it's a horrible number. It's a horrible number.
It's I don't know if it's in the millions, but it's it's I've heard the millions get thrown around all the time. Hey, the civilians, there was a millions of, you know, whatever that number is killed during the Iraq war. And hey, if that number is ten, it's awful. If it's millions, it's it's it's exponentially more awful, but it's. The fact of the matter is those millions of civilians were not killed by American troops, where some of them yes, they absolutely some civilians died at the hands of Americans, whether it was in CROSSFIRE, whether it was an errant bomb droppings, whether it was in mistaken identity, like, hey, I say this all the time.
If you think I'm going to war and you're going to spare civilians and they're going to get a get out of death free card, it doesn't happen. Civilians are going to die. The percentage of Iraqi civilians that were killed by Americans is minuscule compared to the amount of Iraqi civilians that were killed by. al-Qaida in al-Qaida insurgents, Sunni insurgents and and Shia insurgents, like that's where the killing was. Now, if you want to take a if you want to take a very anti-American stance, you can say, yeah, but those conditions that allowed that to happen were because of America.
And to that, I'd say, yeah, well, it's it's tough to argue about that. And we could have done some things better to try to prevent that from happening. Absolutely. And, you know, looking back, hindsight is 20/20. Here's some things that we would have done different. We already covered some of them. You know, let the let the military stay intact. There's a bunch of that. The Iraqi military. I think they bear some responsibility.
I mean, not fully. We didn't kill those people.
But, you know, a lot of the fact is there was a state structure intact and we destroyed the state structure without having a plan in place.
We bear some responsibility for that, no doubt after that, the same way as, you know, your. What you you have an overcrowded military prison or something, and the place runs out of food and they're starving, you're not killing those people, you're not putting them in gas ovens or something like that. But you're responsible for, you know, what's going on there to, you know, to a degree. Yeah. And what you really need to take your metaphor, make it even more accurate is let's say there's a prison, a military prison, and it's overcrowded.
There's not much food. And look, but then what happens is now there's a riot and they kill each other. Right, because that's what happened. That's basically what happened in Iraq. That's a more accurate picture. Hey, there's not much food. There's not much water. We're not just dying of starvation. What they do is they start killing each other. So that being said.
When? Sure, America can take ownership of that. The people that are out there. Cutting off each other's heads, they have to bear some responsibility, too. I would say it's 90, 10. Sure, yeah.
But as an American, I don't take it like I don't mind bearing some of that responsibility, you know, on our side. And I think, you know, a lot of the decisions that we talked about in the first few episodes that were that were ended up being very bad decisions, things that are going to be lessons learned for the next hundred years in the American military hopefully were kind of made because we were imposing a certain view of how society works, kind of a naive view of how human groups work as we went in.
And Ramadi kind of represents the point where we started to say we got to work with this country as it is. Yeah.
You know, I just released a heavy sigh, which also people commented about. They said, whenever I disagree with you, I say I have heavily. And actually, it's not that I disagree with you. Sometimes it's I'm I'm actually in agreement with you. And I just just have additional information about whatever it is that you just said.
So some of those things that that when we watch them unfold and we think, well, we could have done this different, we could have done that different. There certainly was things, you know, that that. If we can go back, we do seem different, no doubt in so let me put it this way, actually, like when we think of how government works, how civil society works here in America, we think of something like what tribal patronage systems like they have on Iraq.
To us, that's corruption. That's nepotism. That should be illegal. Right. You have a whole social system that's built on this kind of stuff out there.
And you guys finally went into Ramadi and said, you know, we we need to we need to deal with the society as it is if we're ever actually going have a chance of winning this war.
This is you're making a statement that's accurate, is completely accurate. And I have some examples for you. Number one, when we got to Ramadi, some of the elements, some of the Iraqi army units that we were working with, they.
The guys that turned over with us, they're like, hey, listen, there's a real problem with these this Iraqi army unit. OK, what's the problem? The officers are skimming pay from the enlisted guys. They're taking some of their money every month. So we you know, that's a travesty and we need to fix this. We started pulling that thread and, ah, some of our interpreters who were either of Iraqi descent or or other other countries over there, but had spent time there like, yeah, hey, JoCo, that's the way the world works here.
You're the boss man. Your guys get paid money, you take your cut. There's no one. Look, they're going to complain about it. Sure. But this is a cultural thing that we're not going to change. So that was a big one. The whole way that we went about gathering intelligence and and actioning intelligence when we started letting those guys kind of take lead and figure out how they wanted to do it in their own way, all of a sudden we started getting much, much better results from them.
And then you can carry that all the way up the chain of command. I think that's actually what my original side was about when you told when you said, hey, there, they're a different culture. And when we try and impose our culture on them, it's not going to match up. It's just not going to match up. And you can get some of it. You can force it. You can force something to match up here and there, but you're not going to get it to align one hundred percent.
Then you've got to ask where you're going to focus your efforts, because if I'm trying to get this Iraqi army unit to be able to handle security in their own country and I waste a bunch of time and piss off the officers because I'm inciting a mutiny from their troops, because that guy is taking a pay cut, which is what happened to him when he was a young guy in the army. And that's just the way things are. Then you're going to waste your time doing a lot of things that you shouldn't be wasting your time.
They weren't going to be on time for some stuff.
They were going to say yes to things that they couldn't support. You know, that was kind of a cultural thing that I had to learn, you might say, to an Iraqi platoon commander, hey, can you have 30 guys for this operation? And he's going to say, yep, we are. You know, what he's going to say is, inshallah, God willing, but he's nodding his head. Yes, but that doesn't that doesn't mean yes.
It just means, if God willing, we will. So you can't plan on God's will. You need to plan with the numbers that you are actually going to have. So, yes, we spent a lot of time as a country.
And I think, you know, my vision or my attitude, my mentality was to not I think it is sort of a jujitsu mentality, right.
Hey, these guys don't want to do this, but they want to do that. And it looks like it's pretty close. I'm good. Let's roll with it. That is a having an open mind is very important.
Thinking that you're going to train an Iraqi soldier to think, operate and believe the same as an American soldier is not is not accurate. And the thinking that their platoon is going to function the same way that a SEAL platoon is going to function or that an assault force thinking that you're going to be able to teach them and have them buy into decentralized command out of the gate. It's going to take a long time. You can't just expect them to do decentralized command when they have been living under a centralized regime from the top down where you can be beheaded for making a mistake.
They're not super open to decentralized command. So you have to work with the leadership a little bit more to start to eat a move in that direction. But more important be how do we take what your culture is and how do we make it work? And that's a very important lesson to learn about any insurgency and working with people from other cultures. You you're not going to well, you can change people's cultures, but it takes generations. It's not going to happen in three months.
It's not going to happen in six months. Not going to happen in a year. It's going to take a long time and it's going to take deep.
It's going to take a deep effort and there's going to be costly, but, you know, we were able to change the culture of imperial Japan. They changed their culture, the culture and not all of it. But, you know, yes, we did change some of it. We sure as hell didn't change all of it. I mean, Japan still has a culture that is rooted the same. You could you could trace threads of the Japanese culture that exists today all the way back through World War Two or to all the way back to the samurai days.
You can do that. No problem. So thinking that you're going to change a culture during a six month deployment in a single task unit, not a good not a good place to put your effort.
What you can do is look at the culture, see how it operates and see how you can get to the end state you want. And just like decentralized command. Hey, look, here's what we want to get done. I'm not I'm not too concerned about how we get there. I just want to get there.
In Japan, at least, we had a long running national identity and culture we could work with where, you know, the over the elites in Japan, the bureaucracy that more or less stayed intact over the course of our conquest of the islands. Like, you know, you can make changes at the top and it kind of trickled down. The state had been in place for a long time and Japanese identity and culture had been in place for a long time.
You're dealing with place over here with that is not really in existence, especially out in the you know, out in Anbar and eastern Syria and the desert there. You know, I sent you a quote as we were leading up to this episode from a book where a guy, journalist was over in the Middle East and he had a Jordanian driver and interpreter. And this Jordanian is from Amman.
He's he loves the king over there. He loves them specifically because he's such a modernizer and a liberal. And this guy is very proud that Jordan is the most western of all the Arab countries. And then this journalist got surprised because he said, as I'm talking to this guy, the most cosmopolitan guy you can imagine, like from from Jordan. And he said they're talking about tribal dynamics in Arab countries and how it makes it harder to kind of form up state structures and overall national identities.
And he said, yeah, it's terrible. And he said, I'm not proud to say this, but, you know, if it came down to it, my tribe went against the king.
I love the king, but I'm going with my tribe. That's just he said it's not even a matter of choice of just of course, I would do that.
This is a guy who loved the king, loved the, you know, the country of Jordan. So you're dealing with people who are much more disconnected from this fledgling little, you know, thing we're calling Iraq, you know, post circa 2006.
What was it when you guys started going to the tribal leaders that summer? I guess probably start talking to him.
Yes. What was their initial reaction? I mean, had to have been skepticism at first.
Absolutely. And there's. Well, first of all, say this, there's a when I was off the coast of Somalia in like ninety four and we were standing by to go help, but so we were it was it was the closest I had ever been to doing something for real. We had our gear loaded. We had operational plans. We had briefed our plans. We had our magazines loaded. We are on standby. And we saw what obviously we had done a lot of intel briefing.
And one of the things that I will always remember is they had this saying that they told us to try and explain to us what we were dealing with, that there is a Somali saying, at least I think it's Somali might it might just be that region. But it was me against my brother. Yeah. Me and my brother against my family, my family, against my tribe, my tribe, against Somalia, Somalia, against the world. So so you have that kind of thing.
And I've always said that that's very much like a seal, a SEAL team, which is me and my me against my somebody me and my somebody against my fire team, my fire team, against my squad, my squad against my platoon and my platoon against the world or my platoon against my task unit, my task unit against my team, my team against the world. So they they absolutely have that.
And it is a. It is a deep. Cultural identity that you are part of this tribe, I mean, whole empires have come and gone. Yes. Millennia and their tribal identities have stayed intact. That's gotten them through, you know. I mean, and it's probably one of the reasons that the jihadis are so effective in these areas is the jihadis actually have you know, at least it's an ethos. They have an overarching, you know, kind of cause that unites them all together.
And they don't have all these little I mean, well, that's not true. They have plenty of internecine conflicts and everything. But, you know, they do have an overarching ideology. It's bring together like a larger group of people. And when they're going against tribes that can you know, the thing about tribes, like you said, me against my brother and so on, that's a lot of little lines of approach that you can go in to drive little wedges and break things apart.
And I mean, so, yeah.
You said I asked you if they were skeptical when you first showed up.
I mean, especially of the idea that we were going to stick around. I mean, they had to have been like. They had to have been skeptical, so after what they'd suffered recently, so I had a so for a couple of things here, first of all, there is violent battles happening every day and every night in Ramadi, violent. There's 30 to 50 enemy attacks a day. Many of these attacks are.
Dynamic, complex attacks from with multiple units, enemy units attacking strong points, the government centered in downtown Ramadi, which the Marines that were down there were just heroic out there for months on end. And that place would get attacked all the time. I could see we could see from the rooftop of my building, which was on the other side of the Euphrates River. You could see these firefights taking place all over downtown Ramadi all the time. So this is completely violent.
So all the residents can hear it probably is going on. It's not a huge city. Right. So, no, it's only like a few hundred three, three or four miles across from one.
So, yes, you can see they're hiding in their houses. Listen to gun battles, tracer fires everywhere.
It's it's it's like that. Right. So this idea for me, so I've got various lines of operation that I'm supposed to be conducting. I'm supposed to be doing the hearts and minds thing. I'm supposed to be doing civil affairs while building. I'm supposed to be doing direct action missions to get rid of bad guys. And the one that I kind of added was like, hey, we're going to support and do these overwatch positions.
And one of the lines of operation was tribal engagement, TV, tribal engagement, go out and meet the tribes.
So I'm looking at this and I'm a I'm trying to be a good seal, trying to be a trying to carry my load.
And I'm supposed to assign a small element of SEALs to be in charge of tribal engagement. I don't have the manpower to do it. I can't. Who am I going to take one of my one of my combat leaders that's out running operations. That's out leading troops. I'm going to take one of my senior enlisted guys that is making tactical calls on the battlefield. So I'm not going to sacrifice. And by the way, from a prioritize and execute standpoint, we aren't even close to making these people feel like we're there safe and secure.
So this is no time to say, all right, I'm going to take away my firepower, which is in support of these massive operations that are now happening. And I'm going to instead assign SEALs to do tribal engagement. But I still needed to do tribal engagement.
I happen to have a guy who was and I and I believe you might know this, he's a fleet Navy guy. He's a prior enlisted guy and his his officer.
Specialty, his M.O.s was like information operations or something like that. It wasn't psy ops, but I forget what it actually was. But he's not a seal, he's a and someday I'm sure I'll have him on the podcast because I'm sure it'd be great to hear this from his perspective, because you've got to picture this guy as a regular fleet Navy guy.
He shows up. He's part of MIT. So the task unit is made up of depending on when and where there's between thirty five and forty five seals.
The other people, the other 60 or 70 people that bring this task unit up to one hundred people is support people. So radio men and weapons guys and a bunch of QBs. And then I got this random kind of information operations officer. I don't remember what his actual job was. And he is he's a really nice guy. He's tall. And I just remember he's tall because when you see people getting in a Humvee, they're tall. It's kind of it's kind of awkward.
He has very limited combat training. He'd probably done some some training before we deployed, you know, hey, side in your weapon, learn some basic medical stuff. But but put very untrained. And so I'm looking at him. And he's also interestingly enough, he's married to. I want to say he's married to a Japanese woman and he's. Because I think he was maybe stationed in Japan, marries a Japanese woman and he's a Buddhist, so he's a Buddhist and he's a he's a like a white guy from from Ohio or something.
Really nice guy. So I said, hey, here's what's going on. And I said and I, I called him by his first name, but I'll just call him Jayjay for now, because that's you know, he was a Lieutenant J.G. So I go, hey, this is what's going on, man. We got these tribes out here and we want to get them on our side and we want to talk to him. I want you to start going out with the Army when they go out and start trying to talk to some of these tribal leaders.
He's like, yeah, yes, sir.
So he starts going out. And I'm not thinking too much of it at the time, not thinking very much of it. And he so he starts going out again and again. You see this guy, he's got like, you know, the stereotypical brand new Web gear, his weapon. He looks uncomfortable holding it. And by the way, he's going out on IED laden streets like he is taking a massive risk of being blown up and killed. You know, one of the groups he was going out with, though, I think it was the one three six.
In their first thirty six hours on the ground, they took mass casualties. I think they lost five soldiers to a couple IEDs. I mean, these guys are hanging it out there. And so he's going with these guys. So when I'm when I'm jesting a little bit about the way he looked, don't don't mistake that for me. Questioning his courage in any way, shape or form because he was loading up and going out into these unknown neighborhoods, trying to interact with these with the tribes.
So that is. That is where this tribal engagement began for me. I'm not giving anyone up if you know how to shoot a machine gun. Well, you're going to shoot machine guns. Who do I got that I can send to talk to tribes? Hey, how about how about a prior enlisted lieutenant, J.G. Information Operations Buddhist's.
That way when they say crusader Americans can be like crusaders. Got nothing to do with me, man.
So he starts going out and he comes back from one of these operations and he says, hey, I think I, I think I got something for you. And I said, well, what do you got? He says, I met this guy today and he says he wants to be part of Desert Protector. And I said, OK. And Desert Zozo Desert Protector was a program. And I really hope that I'm remembering this. Right. And for anyone that I mess this up, please just let me know.
And I'm sorry. When the Marine Corps pushed through Alkan, they as they moved from building to building, some of the locals started saying, hey, Marine, over there in that building down the street, there's a bunch of bad guys in there. You should go kill them. And we're just we're just locals and we live here. But there's bad guys over there and they'd go check it out. Guess what? There's bad guys.
And so whatever Marine element was in charge and I apologize for not being able to give them the credit by name, but they said, wait a second, there's a bunch of local people that don't want al-Qaida here. Maybe we should join forces with them. Maybe we should help them. Maybe they can help us. So they started this program called Desert Protector, which was, hey, we'll help you get our arms will. We'll work together and we'll start cleaning up the desert, get rid of all these bad guys.
Well, when Maliki. So these are all Sunni tribes now, Sunni tribal leaders that are like, OK, cool, you're going to give us guns and ammo and and we'll help you and we'll get rid of these people that are trying to terrorize us. Awesome. So we they start this Desert Protector program. So this guy and, you know, I just had read about this from after action report. That's how I knew about it. So Jayjay comes back to me.
This makes me want to get Jayjay on the podcast to hear his side of the story, because can you imagine what he was thinking? He comes back to me.
It takes a certain kind of personality to be able to do something like that. Yeah. And the good thing is, is he was older, you know, he was he was a GP. He was a prior enlisted guy. So he was like we were probably about the same age. So we we we you know, we had a good, very good relationship. So he comes back to me is like, hey, JoCo, I, I think I got somebody for you.
You need met this guy. It was sheikhs. It ended up being a guy named Sheikh Sadar, which the name meant nothing to me when I heard it, he said, I met this sheik. He wants to be a part of Desert Protector. And I said, OK, Desert Protector. When Maliki, the Shia had been elected, he looked out west and said, wait a second, we got these desert protectors. That's a bunch of Sunni militias running around the country out of out of my control, maybe not out of control, but definitely not in my control.
We any disband the program, stop them. So now desert protector's gone. Now rewind. We just had the glass factory open January, which meant we had no Iraqi police, but the Iraqi police were was what was going to be a government organization that would be supported by the Iraqi government, that was blessed by the Iraqi government to help fight the insurgents.
So I said to Jaji, I said, well, deser protector's done. It's been cancelled. I said, I'll tell you what, go back and tell him that the new Desert Protector program is called the Iraqi Police. And if he wants to get his troops and his tribesmen to join the Iraqi police, we'll give them training, we'll give them ammunition, we'll give them weapons and we'll give them uniforms. I said because also tell him that if he's got his guys running around in neighborhoods with machine guns and tracksuits on where we will kill them.
He needs to know that so Jayjay goes out, comes back, and it may and I wish I could remember this accurately within two, OK, and so he goes back and and I get the report back. He's in. That's the report he's in. He's in. I said, OK, at that point. And we had been doing this, you know, holding hands, doing this with the with a with a convention force. That's who that's who Jayjay had been going out with.
And I believe this was also the one three six. Great crew, and by the name of Colonel Dean, he was with them and so it turned into OK, he said, OK to this. And I'm like, Oh, OK.
So we ran and this is when we said, OK, we've done what we can do because I got 30 seals, like we can't run a big recruiting thing. And we did volunteer to train them, though. We said, OK, if we can get these guys here, we'll train them and start getting them wearing a similar uniform. And so this all happened.
And within a very short period of time, Jaji went to these one of these meetings and came back and said, hey, sir, you know, you can get this translated. But this is a document. There's a bunch of tribal leaders that are going to work together with us. And that was that was what became known as the the Anbar.
For everybody out there that doesn't know this.
This guy, Sittar, this tribal leaders, a younger guy, was one of the guys that came up after, you know, the godfathers all got wiped out the year before. I mean, this is the central guy who got all the tribes together and kicked off the Anbar Awakening.
He was he was very pro-American. We were after him like the year before and the year before. We had, like, actually the not even a year the task unit before us had we had a target package on this guy, meaning this guy is a bad guy and we need to go get him.
So we had a target package on him. Why? Why was he a bad guy? Why do they consider him a bad guy? Because he was running guns, because he was a gangster. And how do you become a how do you maintain your position as a sheikh? How do you get money? Is that you need money. You need power. How do you do that? Well, it looks like smuggling is going to work right now cuz we're smuggling.
That's what he's doing, smuggling guns and making things happen. And we immediately obviously pulled him from the target list. OK, this guy's on board. And this goes back to the quote that I talked about and one of the earlier podcast of the we're going to vote. We're going to we're going to bet on the winning horse.
So that's what he kind of did. He said, OK, here's the winning horse. And and General McFarland, who a colonel at the time, went through the same thing with his chain of command. They said, what are you talking about? This guy is going to lead a coalition. We have a target package on this guy. And he he he was telling the story, Colonel MacFarland. You know, he he was telling the story, you know, at the at the table, at the table for you for one of these brigade meetings.
He's telling the story of this, you know, to have lived through this. I'm so lucky to have been sitting at these tables and sitting at these meetings, you know, seeing this stuff unfold. But he's sitting at this meeting and, you know, he says, you know, the the general's wondering why we're going to work with a guy that's that that that we were targeting and that his run guns and his a smuggler. And you don't want to.
And and the colonel said, you know, I told him, hey, boss, the guy's a mobster. He's a gangster. That's what gangsters do. And now he wants to work with us and we need them. We need to move forward. And he convinced him because that's what we ended up doing. Even if you think about what we mean by a mobster, when we think of the mob, we think of the Italian mob, the Irish mob, the Jewish mob, ethnic mafias.
Right. These groups have come over here that have some external reason to be tight knit. You know, they're all from Sicily. They got the family, whatever it is.
And again, we've got a society over here that we've got bureaucratized and kind of all the rules are in place.
And anybody that's doing anything kind of off the grid, that's a criminal activity, that's corruption or whatever, that's something that we've worked through. Only over time, though, and there's a lot of little more local informal ways of social, you know, means of social regulation that are still at play in tribal societies like that. You think about something like in the U.S. where if you have a, let's say, the truck drivers union or the, you know, the longshoremen's union.
Right. And back in the day, like a couple cases of steaks and a couple of cases, a whiskey would go missing off the docks or whatever. And we've got all these things in place now to make sure that doesn't happen. Everything is stamped and tracked with RFID chips and bla bla bla bla bla. And I suppose that's fine. It's more efficient. There's you know, it's not that you should be able to steal things, but if you think about the little the the the more local level things that that used to facilitate, that guy's not taking those things home and eating them all himself.
Right. Those things are a is going to be given at the union hall for all the union guys. And he's going to go to one of the local restaurants. It's not some big chain and give them a discount on some of the stuff that he took off of there. And it's kind of it's providing these little sinews in that local community and making things work and giving that guy what they call an Iraq wasta. Right. He's got that.
He's got the juice now, which means what it does is now if he's just a wild criminal, that's not a good thing. But it does mean that you got somebody to go to if you need to, who has some authority, who has some juice in a community. And, you know, again, in America, we just don't think of things like that. Everything's corporatism bureaucratized and we don't we look at those things as almost an unnatural outgrowth when that's the natural state of things.
You know, we've got this, like, very complex machine put together together over here. Everything's handled much more local and formally over there. And, you know, you guys have to start learning how to think like that and learning how to work with that.
Yeah. Here's an example that I'm so glad you brought this up. So we got a guy that's a gangster. He was running. Guns and doing whatever he was doing, maybe he was even conducting or directing attacks against coalition forces. I don't know that. I don't really think so. This guy had this guy had his house kind of looked like the White House purposefully. I want to say he had a I want to say he had a life sized picture of John Wayne in his in his house.
I think I read that. Yeah, I think so.
So he's a real like he's a courageous guy, too.
They murdered his brother, ran off. His brother ran off. But, you know, his grandfather was like one of the people that led his grandfather led rebellions against the British. Right. This guy, he's he's he's a guy that he's not playing around. You know, he's a he's a gangster. He's a tough guy, but he's he's very pro coalition at this point.
And so one of the things that I did is we had you know, I mentioned that we were supposed to do civil affairs. So we start giving this guy civil affairs projects. And what does that mean? That that means we're giving him money, but and then distribute the benefits. So so I remember we did some project with him, and it was it was a really big summer when I was I want to say it was one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
One hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It was a road pavement or whatever, something like that. And and again, I remember I don't want to say I got pushed back, but I got some questions about like, hey, who you know, is it really worth one hundred and fifty thousand dollars to pave this road?
And couldn't the engineers do it? And, you know, along that line of questioning and I'm like, no, this is money to prop this, to give this to prop this guy up, but more importantly, to give this guy Wasta, to give this guy, hey, he's going to feed that hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
He's going to buy Iraqi army, get like 300 bucks a month at the time. He's going to buy two thousand dollars worth of worth of stuff to repair the road.
And then the rest of that money is going to pay his people and he's going to he's going to gain Awassa. And that's the kind of thing where that where it really helped. It made him more powerful and which is what we wanted because other people see it.
You hook up with the Americans and, you know, in this guy, the cool thing wasn't the point. I want to make clear here, this guy wasn't like some puppet. This guy wasn't some. You know, this guy we didn't insert America. This guy is not a Manchurian candidate that we put in here. Hey, here's here's a guy that. No, this guy is from Ramadi. He grew up there.
His family is rooted there. This is what this is his world. And he's not a plant. He's not some person that America is using as a puppet. No, he's a guy that is going to be powerful in this part of Iraq. And he's not following American orders. What he's doing is he's trying to build his country back. So I just want to make sure that that is clear because I could see people thinking, oh, they just got some shill to throw in there.
No, no, no. This guy, tribal leader, this guy is almost a sovereign entity and absolutely, absolutely.
This. And you can't you can't just insert a tribal leader.
It doesn't work because everything's built on legitimacy when it comes to the tribes.
And I also have to say this. When you want people to bet on the winning horse. You have to be the winning horse and one of the things that that took place. That allowed these tribal leaders to come on board was they started to see that we were going to win, they started to see that we were going to win. And, you know, I had many conversations when we got home from Ramadi about this.
And one of the things that I would say is that these these the hearts and minds and the civil affairs operations, those things can only take place after the sword has been unleashed and the enemy realizes that we will defeat them.
But more importantly, the local populace realizes that we will defeat the enemy. That's what allows.
Why would you look, you're you're in a lifeboat that's sinking and there's two boats you can get on one of them. It has a leak in it. The other one looks like it's going strong. Which one are you going to get in? So what you have to do is you have to go to that other boat. You have to put up you have to hack at it until it's going to go down and then the people are going to get inside your boat.
And that's this is a classic example of what happened. And, you know, it's interesting, I was talking to laugh the other day when we got done with this life, went and took over the junior officer training course and for SEALs. So the young SEALs are coming through this course. And one of the things that they had to do was to get different people come and talk about different conflicts. And they wanted someone to talk about counterinsurgency. And, you know, life was up.
His chain of command said, hey, you know, I can talk about counterinsurgency if you want. We can talk about the battle of Ramadi. And there kind of, you know, laughs a young lieutenant and and, you know, just from Ramadi. And it's almost like, oh, yeah, I get it. You want to tell your story. But, you know, we need to get a counterinsurgency. We need to get someone that's got a little bit more experience.
And I guess it was and again, I'm sorry if I'm telling this wrong, but it's something close. The officer in charge, the overall guy, was like, you know what? We're going to get a Green Beret because that's sort of the Green Berets. Bread and butter, right? The bread and butter of the Green Berets is counterinsurgency. You know, that's what they base their training on. And so he wanted to get a Green Beret to come to the junior officer training course and teach, teach counterinsurgency.
So they finally find a Green Beret and the Green Beret comes. And I think he actually ended up working there. And so life comes into his counterinsurgency class and the guy teaches the battle of Ramadi and said, this is the best example that we have of a counterinsurgency is what happened in the battle of Ramadi.
And as this progressed, you know, this as this was all taking place, this this sort of tribal engagement, again, in all the different lines of operations. So as this is taking place, this is sort of it's sort of a slow cooker that's happening because in the front front line, in front and center of this whole thing, there was sustained urban combat operations that were happening all over the city of base.
Oh, yeah. You guys, you had to put them on their back foot. I mean, did you start to notice, like, was there something that let you know you were making progress, like a decrease in the complexity of enemy attacks or this is what made it so hard was at first.
For months, you're not you're not feeling the progress you can hear about a little bit.
So the closest thing I would say was we would get the intel from the sheiks and their tribesmen that that progress was being made, that bad guys were leaving, that, you know, they the the tribesmen would conduct operations.
We'd hear about that. They'd be like, oh, we killed these guys. And it would get reported up the chain of command as a as a red on red, they call it, meaning there's infighting between tribes. And we'd be going, no, that's not red on red. That's good, guys. That's good guys. That's our people out there killing bad guys.
So we got so that would those who are you getting those like that word from who is calling it red on red. Like what level would you know I would have to dig in but at some point, you know, you'd get a report back that there was a red on red killing between this tribe and that tribe. And you'd be like, no, I wasn't between two tribes. That was between this tribe that we know that's on board and a bunch of bad guys.
And that's what just happened. And so, you know, we try and clarify and they'd understand. But but so we'd start to hear that. But there was no discernable reduction in the level of violence for the first. I mean, it was like five out of six.
I mean, actually. And I don't even know if at the end it look, it just didn't it didn't get better. It really didn't get better. There was there was one the last operation, the last big combat outpost that we put in, we put in in right in the middle of Ramadi. And when we put that when we put that last combat outpost in, I went I remember I actually have a picture. There's I think it might be in one of these books, the picture of myself and General or Colonel MacFarland at the time standing in this combat outpost.
And it was smack dab in the middle of Ramadi. And I had actually I think I actually cleared this with a couple army guys. And as the as a platoon guys platoon was out setting up some overwatch positions, the overwatch was normally in these situations there would be just, you know, life in his guys would probably kill, you know, between five and 20 bad guys. And on this particular last one that we did, there was no there was no bad guys killed.
Now that this is by no stretch, meaning that it's over because it was hard fighting that was going to happen. But if you had to ask me if there was anything, we're all there's less violence. That was that was the first indication that we got that maybe things might get better here.
But, you know, that was we were we were fighting. And, you know, Mike, Mikey Monsoor, you know that he was killed on September 29th. And so that's, you know, where weeks from going home at that point. And believe me, that hole that that that day was a fight. And so there was no real discernible. And that's one of the things there's no real discernible reduction in the level of violence. But when we got home.
That's when we that's when it's changed and it changed so dramatically, it was hard to believe. I remember there was the Sufia incident, I think was Sufia right in December when there was one of the holdout tribes that had been slow to come over to our side. And he came under attack by al-Qaida. Big, massive attack. And McFarlan General McFarland made the decision. He's not technically on our side yet. Let's go back him up. And that was in December.
Right. And then after that, it was like the tide broke.
It's that's a classic example of, you know, just great leadership from General MacFarland. Right. Hey, this guy has been causing us problems, but now we can help him. And let's see what that gets us for a loyalty in the long run. And what do we have to lose? Well, if he he hates us, he or he's he doesn't like us. Now, if we help him and he still doesn't like us, OK, we're still where we're at.
But if we help him and he likes us, well, then maybe we've made some maybe we've made some progress.
I mean, by I think got articles from people who were who were there visiting journalists who were there visiting in early 06, spring of 06, right around the time you were getting there, who came back a year later in the summer of 07. And they said American soldiers are walking around with no body armor in the middle of town. There's markets open.
And it's just it's crazy to meet the courage of the Iraqis who actually went out there and opened their businesses again and got their lives going, blows me away. And it just shows you how quickly things can change, you know, once people and how quickly people can adapt to a situation, once they feel safe and once they feel like there's something to look forward to tomorrow.
And that's why that tenet of counterinsurgency is security of the populace. Security for the populace is so important because until they have that, they're going to hole up, they're going to give passive support to whoever they think is going to not kill them, which it doesn't take long to feel that. It doesn't take long to figure out that the Americans are not going to kill you, but the insurgents will. So who are you going to help? You're going to help the people that will kill you if you don't help them.
And that's it. It's it's horrible. And that's why the sword of destruction has to be wielded with a heavy hand when you show up there against those insurgents. And at the same time, it has to be wielded with an accurate hand, because if you when you kill civilians, even unintentionally, it's still it can cause backlash. Now, I'll be perfectly frank with you and say that these people have been at war for so long that they actually understood, you know, they they actually would understand when something bad happened.
They they would understand and they wanted us to be there. You know, there was. I guess I would say there was, you know, that guys would always come back, oh yeah, there was people cheering when we when we killed these bad guys. And that was. I think that was powerful. Yeah, it was powerful. We got to wrap this up. There's one thing I want to leave us with. There's this quote from an Army first lieutenant.
I want to ricks books.
He's talking about this period. It was he was right about this period that he made this quote and he said that all the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, and then when they leave, you have a target list. And within a day they'll kill every Sunni leader in the country. There's an argument or is there maybe we'll cover this more as we go to the next episode or something to leave you with is where we there's some people that say by arming the Sunni tribes, call them Iraqi police.
If we want to tell them they're only going to operate in their own little areas, however we handle it, that we were trading, we were getting we were gaining short term security in but planting the seeds for like longer term instability because there's no way that the Shia were ever going to be OK with that.
No, well, let me say this, when you take the people of Ramadi from a vicious, war torn situation and you put them in a scenario where there's peace and there's prosperity.
People get. I'll use the word addicted, right, when life is good, people start saying, wow, we don't have to live the way we used to live.
And when when I came home and saw that there had been success because like I said, we didn't get to see it with our own eyes.
But when I came home and saw that the markets were open and there was kids playing in the streets and there was kids playing soccer and there was girls, school girls being taught and that there was peace and prosperity when I saw that. Two things, number one. The sacrifices that were made by the first off, the American troops, because it's not it's not our country, they're going over there and doing it. It's a hundred percent sacrifice, so the guys yeah, the guys from Task Unit Bruiser, knowing that their sacrifice that they made, that they sacrifice their lives, that there was an absolute victory there, knowing the Army soldiers, the Marines that laid down their lives to try and protect that civilian populace.
And and just knowing this, I mean, every every you know, when you when you're walking around with with these soldiers, with these Marines, with your own guys and and they get killed, you know that every one of those individuals that gets killed is a fucking travesty.
It's a travesty. And there's, you know, from from our time period there, there was. You know, for the one one aide was like one hundred one hundred soldiers kill for the two to eight, it was about the same. So every one of these guys is a travesty. And the the only thing that can make you feel better is when you look and you say, you know what? What those sacrifices that were made. Look at these kids playing soccer.
Look at this young girl going to school and being educated to look at this family being able to live in peace.
So that's part one. Part two is. When you see it, when we know when we got sent pictures home from what Ramadi was like and you'd see it on CNN or you see it on the news, you'd see what was happening. The other thing I would think to myself is. This might work this this I actually thought this will work this. That's why I started thinking this is going to work, because these people that live there, look, we've they've now shown that they had the kind of grit to stand up and fight and not so much the Iraqi army.
Yes, a little bit.
But the local populace that they if they got together, they would stand up and they weren't going to put up with these insurgents. And that meant. This could work and I thought, you know what, who's going to look like I said, Sheikh Satar Busia, he's a gangster, he's a badass, and if he's there, he's not going to let this happen again.
Why would they? And now we've got all these tribal guys working together. Why would they ever let there they're now prosperous and peaceful city. Why would they ever let it slide back? I think.
We're going to win, and by we I mean, I think the Iraqi people are going to win and be I think it's going to work.
And so those two things, knowing the sacrifices and then seeing the results was what was the you know, it was so it was enough to convince a critical mass of people in the American government that it could work.
I mean, because we were on our way out the door with our tail between our legs when you guys went into Ramadi.
And by the end of it, the people who were saying this is a winnable fight, you know, had enough juice in the government, the Bush administration, to push that argument. And they got their chance after the 06 election to, you know, we got the surge in 07. I mean, it's not an exaggeration to say that. I mean, all of that was riding on the outcome of Ramadi.
Yes. Had we lost Ramadi in that, we there's no way anything else would have happened. There's no way the surge would have happened. Absolutely. And the surge really was enough to to was a good tipping point to start really moving the rest of the country in the right direction with the same type of strategy that was used in Ramadi.
We're not going to do drive by, you know, counterinsurgency. We're going to get in there, wouldn't take control. We're going to show that we're going to protect the local populace and then, well, I'm sure we'll get into it next time, but.
You know, when a plant when a tree first starts to grow, its roots are very deep and it doesn't take much of a windstorm or much rain to uproot that thing and send it down the river. And although this this tree was looking green and was starting to grow roots, it wasn't there yet. Probably a good time to wrap it up for this one. If you listen to this podcast. Then, well, we appreciate you listening to it.
You can also check out our other podcasts. I got a podcast called JoCo podcast, got a podcast called The Warrior Kid podcast. And I got a podcast called Grounded. Darrell has got a podcast called Marter made. You can support all these podcasts by getting some gear from JoCo store or Origin Main. So JoCo store dot com or Orjan main dot com. I also have a consulting company. It's called Echelon Front Dotcom. We help people learn leadership and align leadership inside companies.
And with that, thanks for listening as things unravel, this is JoCo and Darrell.