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Tuesday, September 12, 2006


The Voodoo Men, Soldiers, and Love Among the Ruins

Major Jay Thomas Aubin, 36, the first soldier on Iraq Coalition Casualties' list died on March 21, 2003. 21 year old Marine Corporal Jonathan Benson died on September 9, 2006 -- his name was 2669 on the list. The voodoo men spoke and resurrected ghosts of Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill. But even as they were speaking about successes in the war against terror, details of Col. Pete Devlin's report about Anbar Provice appeared in print in the Washington Post: "The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents." "Even dating is Perilous in Polarized Baghdad" Romance is not dead in Iraq but the sectarian violence has cast its shadow on mixed relationships.

Situation Called Dire in West Iraq

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."

The "very pessimistic" statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. "I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document's sensitivity.

'Matters of the Heart'

BAGHDAD -- He was a dashing young computer engineer. She was a shy student at his alma mater. They fell in love over lunch last year in the university cafeteria and promptly became engaged.

As they prepared for a future together, the couple barely discussed a subject that, under Saddam Hussein's rule, amounted to a footnote in matters of the heart: He was a Shiite Muslim; she was a Sunni Kurd.

But now those labels are tearing the couple apart. Barred by their families from marrying anyone of the opposite sect, the couple has erased one another's cellphone numbers and stopped speaking.

"There is no hope in this country anymore for Sunnis and Shiites to fall in love," said Husham al-Gizzy, a 25-year-old engineer, as he buried his face in his hands and recounted the story.


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