The violence is caused mostly by the IED -- a terrible thing which remains the terrorists' weapon of choice. The Marines were confronted with several earlier in the week, but the good news is that the security situation in Ramadi is a great deal better today than it was just a few months ago when I was last here.
It is better, in part, because there are now a lot more Iraqis providing security in this area, which was not the case during my last visit to this region. In fact, only a few months ago, there were no Iraqi areas of responsibility in this city. Today, there are Iraqi Army troops operating right next to soldiers and Marines. Now, they have their own areas of operation with some logistic support from the Americans.
As Lt. Chad Cliver told me, the Marines of 3/7 "work very closely with Iraqi Army troops as well as Iraqi police." Over the past several months, they have spent time training the Iraqis who are making a lot of progress -- so much so that Cliver says, "before we leave here we will have turned over most of Ramadi to the Iraqis themselves."
But it is that kind of steady, persistent progress that American troops are making over here that accounted for the successful election today. Throughout the week leading up to E-Day, numerous Marines with whom I spoke expressed confidence that the day would be a success.
I asked Lt. Col. Roger Turner, the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines when I first arrived here, if he thought the terrorists could be held in check and that the elections would actually take place. Turner was confident, saying, "I think it will take place [because] the people of Ramadi very genuinely want to participate in elections." He explained that though the terrorists are desperate to disrupt the day, their violent tactics are backfiring on them and they are being "overtaken by events and the momentum that the democratic process starts to gain here."
When election day was over, I asked Lance Corporal Jeffrey Heath if the day was a success for the Marines. His reply: "Absolutely. This is why we're here -- to help the Iraqi people gain the kind of freedoms that we take for granted back in the States."
A profound and inspiring explanation from a brave and dedicated Marine. If only the kind of optimism that is so abundant here in Iraq were more prevalent in Washington.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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