Letters from the Front Lines: Iraq Election – Part II

Guest Commentary

Editor’s Note: The following correspondence was sent to Dr. Paul Kengor–the executive director of the CVV–by Lt George Kipp, Baqubah, Iraq.

Sir, the voting that took place on the 15th of October was the end goal of months of preparation by Iraqi Forces and US. Although in the article, I emphasized the role of the IA (Iraqi Army) and IP (Iraqi Police), the local leadership in my Battalion’s AO (area of operation) was also very important. My unit, Task Force 2-34 Armor, based out of Baqubah Iraq, had to educate the locals on what democracy was, how a constitution would work, and also the basics of how to run a city council meeting. It was hard for us to remain neutral to the constitution. We were neither allowed to show support for or against it, we were only allowed to educate people that there was a constitution and that there was going to be a vote on it soon. We printed hundreds of copies of the constitution but couldn’t hand it out, because it would seem like we were endorsing it. So we gave them to the IA and IP to hand out. At city council meetings, we would go over with the local leaders on what the constitution did, and how it would affect them, and so on. Most of the leadership in Iraq are educated individuals but have little-to-no idea how a democracy works. For the most part, they see it as just being able to do whatever it is that you want.

The AO that my battalion controls is about the size of Rhode Island. We have several small towns that we are in control of, Kahn Bani Sa’ad just north of Baghdad, Al Abarra just north of Baqubah, Kan’an and Narwhan both just east of Baghdad. Most of this area is Sunni with small sections of Shia. There is a sizable Kurdish population in Kan’an but there are no other Kurds anywhere else in our AO. The leader of the Kurds in Kan’an is one of our most trusted locals. He is very influential and is not afraid of the Iraqi Forces (AIF). He has been targeted multiple times with car bombs and drive-by’s, but he said he isn’t afraid. He says he is only afraid of God, not man. He helped organize the voter registration process. For the whole month of September, the Iraq government conducted voter registration. The sites to register were in smaller numbers than voting sites, but it was a time of great concern for the US. Again, we couldn’t go near the sites, for fear of looking as if we were trying to affect the registration process, but we patrolled near by. We were required to get updates on the registration process everyday, so we would ask local kids to go into the registration building and get us the information we needed. We can get Iraqi kids to do a lot for a few pieces of candy.

When it came to the election, the coalition forces were around, but tried to stay behind the scenes. Although we were incredibly involved, there was much we couldn’t touch or do. At times, it was frustrating not being able to tell them exactly what to do, we had to let them do it themselves, they needed to learn and create a government of their own. We could educate them on what they could do, but never told them what to do.

I would like to be able to go into more specifics on exactly what my unit did for the election, but because of the security issues that we have, I would feel uncomfortable to talk numbers. Surprisingly to us, our AO and Iraq for that matter, was relatively quite on the 15th. The only incidents we had, occurred the day before, and the only major problem we had was several hundred people trying to vote at the wrong location. We were able to bus them to the proper polling site, but because of the vehicle ban it was tough getting them moved and finding busses.

Respectfully,

George H. Kipp
Baqubah, Iraq