...,1st Draft

Chapter 17 – Aftermath of Ramadi 1 Deployment23 Mar

The city walls are all come down
The dust, a smoke screen all around
See faces ploughed like fields that once
Gave no resistance
– U2, “A Sort of Homecoming”

The War According to Rory Quinn, Part Four

In listening to “The War According to Rory Quinn,” it becomes clear that Operation Iraqi Freedom was a war of what popular author Malcolm Gladwell calls “tipping points.” The basic idea of tipping points is that small things accumulate to make a big difference, and the change in phases often occurs in a short period of several weeks. The United States lost Phase One of The War According to Rory Quinn because it did not have the economic resources required to stabilize society in Iraq when it won the Invasion in 2003. The United States lost Phase Two of the War According to Quinn because it failed in thousands of small ways — lack of food, lack of electricity, lack of economic support in every aspect — resulting in the tipping point in April 2004 in which anti coalition forces won over much of the populous to their side. But, the United States won Phase Three simply by not losing also in countless small tactical engagements such as those in Husaybah in 2004 and in Ramadi in 2005, resulting in another tipping point on November 28, 2005, when Sunni insurgent leaders met with General Casey, Ambassador Khalizad, and LtCol Turner, among others, at the Government Center in Ramadi to negotiate a deal against the insurgent process. As Doug Halepaska noted, the population was “sitting on a fence at that point, teetering back and forth.” A tipping point had been created by the United States not losing in Quinn’s “Third Battle of Iraq.”

In Gladwell’s description of Tipping Points, certain key individuals — mavens, connectors — play a key role. The mavens and connectors in the Tipping Point phases described by Quinn would include the insurgent leadership, as well as the Sunni tribal leaders — the Sheiks. But, on the Marine side, the mavens and connectors of the Tipping Points engineered in Anbar from 04 to 07 would include the key leaders who stayed with 3/7 for multiple tours. Quinn himself, who served 3 tours with 3/7, including one as Lima 3/7 CO, and one as 3/7 XO, would be one of them. So too would be Marines such as Link, Mejia, and Bellmont, who had ridden into Iraq in the back of Amtracs in the same platoon in 2003, and served as NCOs leading fire teams and squads in Husaybah in 2004. Carpenter, who served 2 tours with Lima Company, then 2 more tours (and ultimately a 3d after the writing of this book) with 3/7 would be another.

Gladwell’s book on Tipping Points notes the importance of a human channel capacity — the “maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us.” For humans, the channel capacity seems to be set at about 150, which may explain the reason that a military Company has not grown beyond roughly that size over a long period time. By the time Lima 3/7 had made its third Iraqi deployment, Quinn, Bellmont, Mejia, Link, Carpenter and the other multi-tour veterans were known quantities to each other and they also knew the terrain in their zone of action.

Quinn continues his narration of the Iraq War in Six Phases by picking up where we left off in Chapter 12 at November 28, 2005, which he uses to mark the end of Phase Three. “In December 2005 — even though Lima Company had an incredibly violent attack — was basically a peaceful month. In December 05, in Ramadi, people started sending tips in, started reporting weapons caches, started ratting on insurgents, they started cooperating with us more than they had in the past. I would submit that the Al Anbar Awakening started in November of 05. In January 06, Al Qaeda realizes that they are in deep shit, so they launch a major murder and intimidation campaign — what we call an M&I campaign. They assassinate something like 6 key sheiks in Anbar. On January 5, 2006, Al Qaeda blows up with a suicide vest a bunch of Sunni police recruits at the glass factory here, 500 meters from where we are standing. This is Al Qaeda killing Sunnis. Think about the implications here. They are desperate at this point to keep the Sunnis from cooperating with the Americans so they start murdering Sunnis, they start murdering Sheiks to communicate, ‘you better not fucking cooperate.’ The great story about the glass factory bombing is these people today [October 2007] are our cops. The police recruits are standing in line at the glass factory because their tribal leadership has told them to join up. Suicide bomber comes in, detonates his vest, kills somewhere between 30 and 70, wounds a hundred more. The survivors get up, help load bottom halves of legs, hands, legs, torsos into a truck, truck drives off, and then these men get back in line and become Iraqi police who are serving today. That’s the level of their commitment to defeat Al Qaeda at that point. But what the press reports is: another senseless killing in Ramadi, the war is lost, there is no point in continuing. But meanwhile, we have already won the third Battle of Iraq, but no one understand that the third Battle has happened. In March of 2006, the [media and public] think it’s a three year, pointless war. But, we are in the fourth Battle of Iraq.”

Quinn outlined his four phases on a whiteboard while he discussed each for Halepaska’s sake. “On January 5, there was the suicide bombing at the Glass Factory. During January, 6 key Sunni Sheiks are assassinated. On February 12, the Samarra bombing goes off on the Golden Mosque on purpose to make Sunnis kill Shiites. [Al Qaeda] is trying to stoke conflict. It would be like my going to your house at Thanksgiving and telling your mom, ‘Doug said your turkey sucks,’ and then tell your dad, ‘Your wife said that you’re a lazy bastard and never help around the house,’ and then go to you and tell you, ‘Your dad thinks you are a punk.’ Unless you all communicate, you are going to be angry at each other because I am actively stirring the pot. Yet, again, the press just says, ‘The Halepaska Family is in chaos.’ No kidding it is in chaos, someone is actively stirring the pot. Well, in August of 2006 this is the globally famous event: Sheik Sattar’s father is killed, and his two brothers. The minute that Al Qaeda had to kill more and more tribal leaders to keep these people on board, we just won the Fourth Battle of Iraq. The people are so primed at this point to get on board with the coalition — we just don’t realize it. In August of 2006, I did not understand we were about to win the war. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that I could see that.”

Quinn compared the idea of pulling American troops out of Iraq in the middle of these “Battles” to pulling firefighters out of the Southern California wild fires occurring in late 2007. Americans would dismiss that idea as implausible because of the threat to their property. In the same way, Quinn argued that the ongoing American commitment to Iraq was directly relevant to the threat revealed on 9-11. “It’s 9-11 today,” Quinn told Doug Halepaska. “But people don’t get it. People have had the convenience of forgetting about it. It’s always been 9-11.”

“So, on September 14, 2006, Sheik Sattar founds the Al Anbar Awakening. His father and two brothers were murdered, and their bodies were left exposed to the sun. They weren’t allowed to bury them — [a major violation of Islamic burial protocols]. Because of that killing in August, Sheik Sattar takes a few weeks to get himself organized, and on Sept 14, he founds the Al Anbar Awakening. It is a pivotal event — it says, ‘we resent Al Qaeda, the terrorists. Our friends, the coalition forces, are to be supported.’ And Sattar says, ‘no one attacks coalition, everyone attacks the terrorists. That’s your duty.’ He said, ‘go join up to be a policeman. Provide for your child. Get paid. Become part of the government. Become part of the system. We’re going to drive these terrorists out.’ The tribal leadership of the country has decided the terrorists are not worth supporting anymore, we are supporting the coalition. Get on the train.”

The War According to Rory Quinn, Part Five

“From September 06 to March 07, the people rise up,” continued Quinn to Halepaska at the 3/7 headquarters in late 2007. “They follow Sheik Sattar. It is not only Sheik Sattar. But he is a useful medium to understand the rest of the dynamic. It is much more complex. It has to do with police leadership. It has to do with specific citizens standing up to be police officers. To say that the sheiks lead the victory is simplistic and not true. But, it is close enough to the truth.”

Halepaska, the chemist, asked: “It was the people on the ground, the policemen, the police chiefs, who actually did the fighting?”

Quinn responded, “I would say those people you describe are the leaders. Sattar is also a leader. And Sattar is a very impactful, very charismatic political leader. But it was other guys who actually took the city back. But generally Sheik Sattar’s awakening is what did it.” One of the Tipping Points described in Gladwell’s book of the same name is the drastic drop in crime in New York in 1992 after decades of relative disorder. The shift occurred in several months time, and hinged on small things, such as policing of subway toll evaders. So too, the Tipping Point described by Quinn in the months following September 2006 seems to have hinged on the political will of leaders like Sheik Sattar and the key Sunni police chiefs, but expressed in myriad small details filtered out through the population — the “other guys” of Quinn’s 5th Battle of Iraq.

Halepaska interjected, “I’m thrilled we’re getting so much done in such a little time. I have another three weeks to go. I am hoping by the time I leave here, I will have it down.” Halepaska, a Reserve Marine who had been activated to serve at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after 9-11, was using his vacation from his job as a DEA Chemist to conduct these interviews, having paid for his own travel. It was, to use a phrase from Irish band, U2, a sort of homecoming.

“From September 06 to March 07, this is the time where the victory occurred.” Quinn emphasized his words, a natural story teller twice over by virtue of his Irish heritage, and his teacher parents. “This is the critical moment where Iraqis were killing terrorists. Taking baseball bats and walking around the city and clubbing people to death. Taking guns and going to their neighbor and talking to their neighbor, who they know is a terrorist supporter, capturing the guy, and saying, ‘who do you work with?’ And he says, ‘no body.’ And they hold a gun to his head, and they say, ‘Bullshit, who do you fucking work with?’ And he says, ‘Halepaska.’ And they say, ‘Oh yeah, where is he?’ And he says, ‘He lives about nine houses down.’ And they’d go and they’d kill you. Or what they’d actually do is they’d say, ‘I’m about to shoot you in the fucking head. Do you want to get on board? Are you going to be part of this movement?’ And if you say no, you get shot. And if you say yes, you get accepted, and they watch you like a hawk. Once you demonstrate that you are on board, and a lot of times you got on board. You might only have been working with the terrorists in the same way that people get caught up with the Mob. You didn’t really want to be there. But, guess what? There’s no jobs. There’s no aid coming in. There’s no international organizations. You have no choice but to work with the terrorists.”

Halepaska recalled an interview with Brad Watson in 2005: “That’s what Watson said once, ‘the Iraqis respect strength.'”

Quinn confirmed, “They do. Every body respects strength, particularly the Iraqis. This entire country has battered wife’s syndrome. You could call it beaten dog’s syndrome. They behave the way a battered woman behaves. They have no self confidence, no sense of self worth. They believe that you are going to abandon them at any moment. So they will do whatever you want in the short term. Meanwhile, we are trying to say, ‘No, stand up. Be a leader. Schedule a trash route for trucks to drive through your neighborhood.’ The challenge of being a coalition member in 07 is that you’re trying to give them a sense of confidence, a sense that their municipal trash service can work in the city. Show them that electricity can be repaired, and that Iraqis can maintain the electrical network. And they assume that they are going to fail. Because of the battered wife syndrome. But if you’ve ever dealt with a rape victim, they exhibit irrational behavior because they are scarred from a traumatic event. This is from Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda would decapitate people in the streets and then put a note on their chest saying, ‘don’t work with the Americans during the Third Battle of Iraq, May 04 to November 05. Historically, when we look back on it, we would say that was counterproductive behavior, but this was not a group of Mattis’ we were fighting. These aren’t a group of Pattons, a group of JFKs. They don’t have worldly leadership. They are not inspired, learned men who are working for the benefit of people. They are thugs, criminals, mafioso type — and so, of course, they behead people, and undercut their own success.”

“But in Phase Three, in November 05, most Americans just say, ‘this is two and a half years of this war, and there is no end to it.’ But, [the Marines’ perspective was], ‘we’re about to win for the first time.’ For the whole time, soldiers and Marines on the ground have been saying, ‘things are improving,’ but people hear me say that, and respond, ‘it is just cliche. People have been saying that for years.'”

“By March of 2007,” continued Quinn, coming to the end of his description of Phase Five of Six in his master narrative, “the people rise up, as embodied by Sheik Sattar’s movement. Citizens become police officers — not really because they weren’t paid. They just put on a blue shirt, and it was like Wyatt Earp in the West. And they drove Al Qaeda out of Ramadi. Now, this had happened previously, in Al Qaim. And it is happening, now [October 2007], in Baghdad. But people won’t get it for six or eight months from now. They won’t see it. By March 31st, 2007, the people have cleared the city.”

Here, again, we place a bookmark in “The War According to Rory Quinn” until Chapter Chapter 22.


Act 3 of Senator’s Son
Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13
1/6 deployment when Awakening occurred in Ramadi, Winter, 2006

Leave a Reply


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


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