Trying to Carve a Better Future for Iraqis

It's difficult to tell what's going on in Iraq.

It's complicated.

But those in charge of the war are relying on a very simple notion that Iraqis are just like the rest of us.

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is fond of challenging the Iraqis by saying, "The Iraqis must love their children more than they hate their enemies."

Perhaps it is that simple.

If only Iraqis could get past the brutal violence, fear and crushing hopelessness, they could see their choices with similar clarity.

The violence and extraordinarily complex hatred played out in the streets and homes of Iraq is difficult for Americans to understand.

It creates a dangerous misconception that Muslims -- particularly Iraqis -- are a different species that does not value life.

That's not true.

There are extremists -- just like there are in the United States -- but most Iraqis do love their children and do value life.

Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli is arguably staking his career and possibly the outcome of the war on the premise that Iraqis are just like people anywhere else.

There is a sea of military terms like "multiple lines of operation" or "combined effects" in his plan to save Baghdad, but, buried within the jargon and numbers, is a simple notion: Iraqis love their children more than they hate their enemies.

Taking Back Baghdad From Violence

"Operation Together Forward" is Chiarelli's plan for U.S. and Iraqi forces to take back Baghdad from the daily cycle of violence that has racked this city and now claims the lives of more than 1,500 residents every month.

The operation includes plans for securing areas prone to violence by searching for weapons, restricting movement, and improving residents' lives.

Chiarelli's main goal, or "commander's intent," is to create jobs and give Iraqis faith in their government.

He says the "key is giving the Iraqis something that they want, that will show them that their government cares for them and is going to provide for their future."

He hopes to do that with "quick-win" projects, such as better sewers, water and garbage pickup.

The cornerstone of the plan, or "second and third order of effects," is to create hope for a better future.

That means creating a secure environment and the prospect of a better life.

The enemy in Chiarelli's war is hopelessness and despair.

It's fought by an army of hatred -- the infamous death squads and militias.

Chiarelli wants an economy that gives these insurgents-for-hire peaceful options.

"The insurgency is a way to earn money, and many people join the insurgency just to earn dollars. … So they can take care of their families just like anyone else," said Col. Diana Bodner, who is in charge of the American teams that live and work with Iraqi police.

Bodner equates the infamous militia death squads to gangs in the United States.

"We see gang activity in the United States, and we see militia activity here," she said. "People have the desire to be involved in something."

Up to Iraqis to Do Heavy Lifting

"I am happy because we are safe," said a resident of Dora, one of the Baghdad neighborhoods secured by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. "The shops are open, and we can move around freely."

Although the resident openly thanks soldiers, others worry what will happen when they leave.

Chiarelli says he and his troops are committed.

"We are going to do what it takes to help the Iraqis win," he said.

Military leaders are quick to point out that coalition forces can set up the conditions for economic revival.

But the Iraqi police and army who will have to do the heavy lifting.

American soldiers closest to the Iraqis are the ones most likely to praise their Iraqi friends.

"I'm proud of them," said a combat-hardened captain working with Iraqi police in Mosul.

He acknowledged that Iraqi police not only risked their lives coming to work, but also the lives of their families and their extended families.

The insurgents regularly kill family members of police or soldiers.

"They are courageous, if you ask me," the captain said.

The captain was on his way back to Mosul from meetings in Baghdad.

His Iraqi police friends had just fought off coordinated attacks on nine police stations.

Four officers were killed. For him, and the Iraqi police in Mosul, that was a good day.

Iraqis have a difficult choice. Ultimately they have to choose whom and what to support.

Do they risk their lives and those of their families for an uncertain future?

It's a choice based on faith and fueled by hope that they can make the world better for their children.

Chiarelli and the thousands of American, British and coalition soldiers are trying to make that choice easier for them.