Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Good stories are not uncommon, but rarely reported.
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
?I was walking beside the Marine, then we heard gunfire, and I saw that the American Marine was shot. Then I realized it was just me and him, so I quickly started shooting at the enemy." ? Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps
Portions of Iraqi Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim's citation for bravery reads: "...[A]s the firefight ensued, under a hail of enemy fire that was accurately targeted on the wounded [U.S.] Marine, and without regard for his own safety, Private Imad Jassim moved forward into the enemy fire and came to the aid of the wounded Marine. He dragged the wounded Marine out of the line of fire to a covered and concealed position...reengaged the enemy...aggressively pushed forward...dislodged the enemy fighters.... His efforts clearly saved the life of the Marine...."
On the evening of May 30, 2004, Jassim and his fellow members of 4th Platoon, India Company, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) were jointly patrolling the streets of Al Karmah, near Fallujah, with leathernecks from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. All at once, the patrol was ambushed from the rear by enemy insurgents. A U.S. Marine was instantly struck down with a gunshot wound to the leg.
Reacting as they had been trained to do by their U.S. counterparts, the Iraqis swung into action.
Jassim, who was standing closest to the Marine when the latter was hit, immediately returned fire.
Sergeant Abdullah Sadoon Isa, Corporal Eiub Muhamad Hussane, and Private Ahmad Lazim Garib raced toward-and-beyond the downed American. Constantly under fire and simultaneously returning fire, Sgt. Isa quickly positioned other members of his platoon between the wounded man and the enemy.
Jassim and another private, Kather Nazar Abbas, stopped shooting long enough to begin dragging the American to a position of relative safety. Bullets and at least one rocket-propelled grenade zinged past their heads as they managed to pull the Marine behind a wall. A U.S. Navy medical corpsman rushed forward to render first aid. The Iraqis and the Americans continued battling the enemy force.
The response to the ambush was textbook. "The ICDC ultimately assaulted through the enemy's position and pushed them out," said 2nd Lt. Charles Anklin III, of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.
On Friday, Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, and Col. John A. Toolan, commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 1; decorated the five aforementioned Iraqi soldiers for their "heroic achievement" during an awards ceremony at Camp India in Nassar Wa Salaam. The awards included two Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medals and three Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medals. Each of the medals included combat "V"s for valor.
"You've witnessed the bravery of these soldiers from India Company, who were willing to shed blood with Marines to make sure we get a free Iraq," said Toolan, before a gathering that included Iraqi military leaders and local village sheiks. "The important aspect is that the Coalition and Iraqi forces have worked together, and the bond you see between the ICDC soldiers and Marines has become rock-tight."
Private Jassim added that the firefight created an even stronger bond between Iraqi (ICDC) soldiers and American Marines. Speaking through an interpreter, he said, "I feel very, very bad the Marine was shot because they are like my brothers now, but I'm ready to go out again. I'm always ready."
The ICDC soldiers not only saved the life of an American, but their actions served as an example of the ongoing coordination and positive developing-relations between the U.S. and Iraq. This was good news. It was not an isolated event. Unfortunately, so little of this kind of news ever gets any ink.
This is one of the many "positive" albeit rarely told stories coming out of Iraq, U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) told NRO from his Washington office on Saturday.
Wilson believes such stories must receive equal time with the negative ones if the U.S. military is to continue garnering needed support at home and abroad. He should know. A 31-year veteran officer of the U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard as well as a current member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Wilson has recently traveled to both Iraq and Afghanistan as part of congressional delegations. And his keen interest in the futures of both countries is both professional and personal. Wilson has four sons. The oldest three are military officers: Two are serving in the Army. One is in the Navy. The oldest son is currently stationed in Iraq.
Last Thursday, Wilson was part of a group meeting with Iraqi president Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar; al-Yawar said that there were more representatives of the various news media per capita in Iraq than anywhere else in the world. The Iraqi president added, that may well be the reason there seems to be only "bad news" coming out of Iraq.
"Of course, we want the media there," says Wilson. "But problems arise when there are too many reporters in one place, all in competition with one another, all trying to outdo each other." According to Wilson, there is a growing consensus on both sides of the political fence ? particularly among those who have toured Iraq ? as well as among members of the new Iraqi leadership, that competition for the "big story" is forcing reporters to concentrate on "the ten percent negative stories, while ignoring the 90 percent good, positive stories." That's not only unfair. It's strategically dangerous.
Recalling comments made during a meeting between U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid and a congressional delegation in Afghanistan, Wilson said, the rejection of good stories by competing media is not just a belief shared by members of the Republican party. "I remember [Democrat] Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee making the comment that 'good news has no legs, and bad news has wings,'" he says. It's simply a reaffirmation of the newsman's clichéd adage, "If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead."
That's not to say there aren't important negative stories coming out of Iraq. But there are just as many ? if not more ? important positive stories that could be written about events taking place in that country. Unfortunately, stories about hospitals being renovated, little girls learning the basics of math and science for the first time, or five brave Iraqi men being decorated for saving the life of a wounded American, are not nearly as dramatic as a roadside bombing or an assassination.
? A former U.S. Marine infantry leader and paratrooper, W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of national and international publications. His third book, Alpha Bravo Delta Guide to American Airborne Forces, has just been published.