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Chapter 6 – Aftermath of OIF 102 Feb

The War According to Rory Quinn, Parts One and Two

The one Marine that we interviewed who most resembled Dick Winters of Band of Brothers is Rory Quinn. Quinn joined Battalion 3/7 as a staff officer in the S-3 Operations Section during the 2004 deployment, then commanded Lima Company for the 2005-06 Ramadi Deployment, and then served as the Battalion Executive Officer for 3/7 during the 2007 Ramadi Deployment. Winters had served as both a company grade officer (Lieutenant through Captain), commanding a company, and then as a field grade officer (Major through Colonel), as second-in-command of a battalion, just as Quinn would do over 3 tours in Iraq with Lima Company and 3/7. This career progression is unusual, and speaks to the individual qualifications of the officer and to the needs of the service during a demanding war time situation.

We found that the best net assessment of the phases of the evolving Small Wars environment in Iraq came from Rory Quinn’s own words, largely unedited, near the end of the 2007 Ramadi Deployment, which Doug Halepaska recorded in his first interview with Quinn while on an embed with 3/7 in Ramadi.

“Let me give you a quick history lesson,” began Quinn, talking to the former 3/7 machine gunner turned DEA forensic chemist using his vacation to travel to scenic Ramadi.

“I’ve thought for hundreds of hours on this, so what I am going to give you will seem like the first time I am hearing this. But no one has talked about this publicly. But it is not like I am a genius. Every body you meet [among the Marines] think about things like this. You have to commit it to paper, or it disappears. [This should] be understood by every American.”

“The United States lost the first two battles of Iraq, and we won the next three, and we are winning the sixth one. That’s the war. The war is not a four year war. There have been six battles. We are in the sixth one now. We just potentially moved into the seventh. If you could understand the dynamics, you’d understand that this is not a situation where you should bury your head in the sand and say, ‘it is not working.'”

“The first phase was March 03 to May of 03. We lost this one big time. Yes, we won the Invasion, but we lost the Occupation. The moment when we lost was the Museum in Bagdad being looted.”

Halepaska, the forensic chemist, asked, “Why are you picking the looting of the Museum as a major reference point?”

Quinn replied, “No single event will be perfect, so you are grasping for a generic symbol. And the reason why that is the thing that indicated we lost is because the minute the museum was looted, it became obvious to the world, and most importantly the Marines on the deck and the soldiers, that our leadership had devoted zero thought to what would happen to Iraq after the Invasion. And all of Dusty Soudan’s bitterness from OIF 2 is a result of that. The same lack of planning that resulted in Museums being looted is going to account for the poor tactics of OIF 2.”

Halepaska asked, “This is the same theme developed in Cobra II [a book by Gordon and Trainor]?” Halepaska had always read military history far above the level expected of his pay grade while an enlisted Marine. He was a warrior-scholar in service to the country, which is what he had in common with the current generation of Lima Marines he had traveled around the world to join on his own funds and using his government vacation time.

“Right, exactly,” confirmed Quinn, who was outlining his thoughts on a whiteboard. “The second phase is May 03 to April 04. We lost this one. This year was characterized by a continued discontent by the populous as our lack of planning compounded upon itself to make them more and more unhappy — we can’t get electricity working, we can’t provide heaters during the winter time, we can’t get food out — so that by the Spring of 04 [the people had been lost.] The people in April 2003 when the statue fell, they basically said, ‘OK, let’s see what the US has to bring to the table. I am ready to follow you. What do you have?’ And we had nothing. We had no generators, we had no organization, no blankets, no anything, we had nothing. And for a year, the population said, ‘come on, give me something, give me a reason to get on board, I want to follow you guys.’ We continuously did nothing, nothing, nothing. We did presence patrols, that was good. The Marines in 3/7 did tremendous things in Karbala in the Summer of 2003. The Marines were loved when the left Karbala.”

Bing West’s book, The Strongest Tribe — which cites Quinn repeatedly — confirms the performance of 3/7 in Karbala in Summer of 2003. Indeed, West notes that the Commanding Officer of 3/7, LtCol Matt Lopez was a popular favorite for mayor of Karbala, an office which, of course, he could not hold.

“General Mattis’ OIF 2 Plan was perfectly suited for OIF 1, post-invasion,” continued Quinn. “But the people start to get disatisfied [meaning that the assumptions which drove the planning for the 2004 Marine Deployment in Iraq were based on the Marines’ experience in Iraq in 2003].”

Looking back, continued Quinn, “I could explain the entire war effort — and the entire insurgency — based on economics. The people simply follow the money — not because they are money grubbing, but because they have to provide for their families — whoever has the money, that’s who they follow.”

“Are you talking about Iraqis being paid $500 to shoot an RPG at a hummer,” asked Halepaska.

Speaking in 2007, Quinn replied, “And today, we give them a job. And so they don’t want to shoot an RPG at a hummer. But when there’s no options for them, they take the $500 and they shoot the RPG at the hummer — because they have to, because their kids are starving.”

Halepaska noted that Brad Watson, whom we will meet in the coming chapters, also described the war according to economics.

“Exactly,” replied Quinn, “and Brad was the first guy I ever met who explained the war in those terms, and now I see he is completely right.”

“The things that made us lose the second battle of the war in 2004 are: Economics — a year of not being able to provide essential services to the Iraqis; Blackwater — the proximate cause which causes the battle of Fallujah; and, on a separate axis, Abu Gharib. Blackwater was March 30, and the encirclement of Fallujah is in early April. And then Abu Gharib breaks about April 10 or so. Those things, collectively, make the people think, ‘OK, hold up, you are attacking a city in Al Anbar Province? I got it, 4 people got killed, 4 Americans got killed, but you killed 400 Iraqis just by escalation of force incidents like shooting at cars at checkpoints. I am not willing to go to war with you over 400 people getting killed,’ the Iraqis will say. ‘It’s a problem, but I am still willing to engage. But now hold on, we killed 4 of your people, and you are going to take down a city?’ The Iraqi people can say, ‘It wasn’t even us that killed them, it was the insurgents.’ Furthermore, the Iraqis look around and say, ‘no electricity, no water, no jobs — why should I side with you.'”

“So, the foreign fighters who were in Iraq — the AQ [Al Qaeda] types — who are the leadership — and if there are 50 insurgents, one guy is the AQ leader, and there are 49 Iraqis working for him. So the country blows up in April 2004. I would say the month after April 2004 was the low point, because we kept using Karbala-type (2003) tactics in a Fallujah type environment. That’s when Dusty Soudan had his heart turned to a shriveled, black bitter thing.”

And that’s where we will end Rory Quinn’s oral narrative — a bit akin to the Celtic warrior tradition — of the 6 battles of the Iraq War until Chapter 12, when we will continue reciting “The War According to Rory Quinn,” as a useful framework which incorporates the tactical perspective into an operational and strategic overview. But, it is useful to note that Quinn’s reference to both Dusty Soudan and Brad Watson serve a larger purpose. Lima 3/7 has been the subject of several books so far, including David Danelo’s Blood Stripes. In the first edition of the book, Danelo relied solely on an interview with Dusty Soudan for a chapter about the internal dynamics of a platoon in Lima Company commanded by Brad Watson. Soudan’s views were expressed in that book, so they serve as a reference point with a limited scope for us to adjust from as authors who are writing our book at a later date. Quinn was aware of the characterization of Watson by Soudan as expressed in Danelo’s book. At the least, Quinn was making an effort to explain why Soudan would have the views towards Watson that were expressed in Danelo’s book, while not detracting from Soudan’s right to hold those views.

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This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.

About

This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.