Faster, Please!

General Kelly, USMC

This speech was given last September to the San Diego Military Advisory Council at breakfast, by Major General John Kelly (USMC). He’s now the Commander, Multinational Force-West, in Iraq. At the time, he was the deputy to Lt. General James Mattis, a legend among our warrior class, and a great phrasemaker. General Kelly turns out to be every bit as eloquent as his boss, for whom he was substituting that morning in San Diego.

I read it every now and then, good for the spirit.

…we are winning, we are really winning. No one told me to say that, I saw it for myself. The higher command in Baghdad told us four years ago when we first took responsibility for the Al Anbar not to worry about victory, as no one–military or civilian–thought it possible. That thirty years from now when the rest of Iraq was a functioning democracy, Al Anbar would still be a festering cancer within.

…by relentless pursuit by a bunch of 19 years olds with guns who never flinched or gave an inch, while at the same time holding out the carrot of economic development (the sheikhs in Anbar) have seen the light and know AQ can’t win against such men. By staying in the fight, and remaining true to our word, and our honor, AQ today can’t spend more than a few hours in…al Anbar…without being IDed by the locals and killed by the increasingly competent Iraqi Army, or by Marines. That’s the way it is today in this war, but it is also the way it has been since the birth of our nation…

…a few years ago…we were just south of Iraq along the Iraqi-Kuwait border, and poised to launch an attack that would take us over the next three weeks 650 miles into the guts of Iraq, far beyond Baghdad and indeed to Saddam’s hometown palace in Tikrit. When the artillery fires commenced just as the sun went down, and the evening sky above us was one endless formation of Marine, Navy and Air Force fighter aircraft speeding north to smash targets deep in Saddam’s vitals, I was sitting taking it all in with my driver Cpl Dave Hardin from Dallas, and with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. The reporter asked me a question that I’d never considered in my entire 36 years in the Marine Corps as both enlisted man and officer before the asking, but one I took up in my mind when he did. He pointed out the size and capability of the Iraqi forces in front of us that was many, many times bigger than we were in men, tanks, and artillery. He emphasized much to my discomfort the massive supplies of chemical weapons Saddam was thought to have, and the multiple means he had to rain their terrible kind of death upon us. He asked if I’d ever contemplated defeat. If it was even possible? My thoughts immediately took me back to trips I’d made to Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Inchon Korea, and Vietnam, and the conversations I’d had with veterans of those battles, mostly old men now. They tell of friends who made it, and many who didn’t. About the good times, and the bad, but mostly about the good as is typical of our veterans. My response to the reporter was something like: “hell these are Marines. Men like them held Guadalcanal and took Iwo Jima, Baghdad ain’t shit.”

That last line is on a bogus Marine poster that runs around the net every now and then, along with another one that shows half a dozen really mean looking Marines, and a quotation from General Mattis to Iraqi sheikhs, which I can paraphrase: “I come in peace. I did not bring artillery. But I say to you, with tears in my eyes: If you (mess) with me, we’ll kill you all.”

That Kelly could see clearly last September that we were winning in Anbar is significant, it seems to me. He recognized the great, oft ignored fact of this war: that once the Iraqis realized that the Americans couldn’t be beaten, and weren’t going to leave, the whole balance of power shifted. I’ve said that before, but it can’t be repeated often enough. And as the balance of power shifts in Iraq, there is a ripple effect throughout the whole region.

Just ask Khamenei, who is scrambling to buy time, regroup, and find some way to end the humiliation of his failing jihad.

Exciting times indeed.