Easter is a celebration of renewed life. This was true when it was called Ostara, after the heathen goddess of the same name. It is the focus of the Christian holiday, which is about the return from death of Jesus. In time, there may be an Iraqi holiday:

The first candle

It's the day that brought me back to life. It's the 9th of April and I'm free, and they will not steel my joy again and they will not silence me. A year ago at the same date, the thieves and criminals prevented me from celebrating my freedom in the open air, and today thieves, criminals and fanatics are doing the same, but they will not steal my happiness that is making my soul fly and dance with joy and they can't stop this.

A year ago, words failed me as I met the 1st American soldier, and I still remember his name, "corporal, Adam" and all I could utter was "thank you!" how could I ever put my whole life in few words? How could I have thanked that soldier enough? How could I have told him what it meant to me to see him and his comrades--who brought me back to life--at last? Thank you Adam, Lieutenant Antonio, Captain Brian Curtis and all the coalition soldiers who I can't remember their names, and those I never met.

It's the 9th of April and I feel safe! And I don't care what those 'political experts' on the newspapers and TV channels, say about the 'occupation', deteriorated security and 'unemployment'. You can't understand this, because you never experienced real fear this long. Let me tell you about it, as I'm one of those who passed Saddam's filthy test of life.
The statue fell and with it, horror fell. You don't know what it means to be scared to death most of your life, brothers and sisters. I knew that and I faced it during the reign of evil and darkness. I was afraid to talk, I wasn't allowed to think and I wasn't allowed to feel... I wasn't allowed to love.

How dare anyone imply to me how should I feel? And who they think they are, those who try to put words in my mouth? I'm alive and I'm free, and I have the right to say whatever I feel and chose the words I like. No one will tell me again what to say and what to feel.
Yes, it's the 9th of April. I lit the 1st candle today to celebrate my 1st year, as a free man and no one will prevent me from celebrating. I, who the earth is no longer enough to contain my feelings, I who have wings now, and I don't have to carry an ID... I'm Iraqi. I have the right to wander through my country southwards and northwards, without being stopped by someone to ask me who I am and where I'm going. I'm the son of the 9th of April....

I'm the son of the 9th of April, tyrant's clowns, and you have to fear me, you who betrayed me every minute and every day, and you want to chain me again???
You know why it's impossible now? I was a slave and I never knew who I am.... and now I'm free! Thanks to all who dared to tell the truth and didn't fear the consequences. And as for you, who saved me and my people, I can't thank you enough. My voice goes feeble and my eyes swell with tears as I think of the Iraqis, Americans and all the coalition soldiers who gave their lives to free Iraq and make this world a better place. God bless their souls and all those who decided to fight to the end and never been discouraged, even in the toughest moments. I hope you can call me brother, because I'll never fail you, as you never failed me.
This time, the 9th of April has come again and in what way! The powers of darkness and evil are trying to stifle my candle with their foul breaths but this time I'm alive and free and I will face them, and I will lit it again and again... and again.

Iraq has a number of problems right now, as everyone knows. To me they look like problems with solutions:
Hopeful signs: US forces surrounding Najaf have been observing a pause in operations because of al-Arbeen, a Shi'ite holiday (that is, particular to Shi'a Islam--it has to do with the martyrdom of a Shi'ite hero). Sadr's forces in Karbala have answered by entering into a similar cease-fire. The hostage taking that we've seen lately is also a hopeful sign, as odd as that may sound, because it means that the Shi'ite insurgents recognize that they are outgunned and are turning to defensive measures.

The Sunni insurgents in Fallujah have been involved in negotiations with the Iraqi Governing Council. So far, they've made demands that aren't serious, but the USMC has made good use of the time by bringing up an additional battallion and extra supplies. We've succeeded in evacuating about a third of the civilian population of the city with no large noncombatant casualties--small enough that I can't report any for certain. Al Jazeera is reporting the death of two military intelligence officers in Falluja this morning, but I don't know if they know what they're talking about or not. They've got videotape of two dead somebodies, but whether or not they're ours I couldn't say.

If it proves that these are, in fact, two separate fights that happened to occur at the same time--it's worth remembering that we started the fight with al-Sadr, which undermines the theory that there's coordination--we'll be all right.

The Sunni insurgents probably have to be defeated on the battlefield, but there's every reason to think we can come to an arrangement with the Shi'ites. Al-Sadr's accused of a terrible crime--the murder of a superior cleric, al-Khoei, inside the Shrine of Ali. A lot of his support will fade as evidence of his guilt becomes public. Some of it won't, because it's tribal. Those who have relied upon tribal connections to his family for protection over the years will stand up and fight for him. If they lose him, they lose their protector, and that's frightening in a tribal society.

The worrying situation is if the foreign elements have been successful in unifying the opposition. Iran and Syria are backing two different horses, but if they've decided to shake hands and each back proxy forces, the fight will be a lot longer and bloodier. If we can't convince them to withdraw their support by negotiation, we may have to widen the war.

There's a third possible player, too, which is Hezbollah. The head of Lebanese Hezbollah is a cousin to al-Sadr. Hezbollah is the best guerrilla/terrorist army in the world, and would be stiff opposition if they commit to the fight. On the other hand, the Marine Corps owes them for the 1982 embassy bombing. There won't be a troop morale problem if we have to go after them, whatever the casualties--it's a debt keenly remembered.
There are those who think that we are out of our depth:
In Fallujah, you are fighting fighters. This is an integral part of their culture--to fight and not allow surrender. We're not talking about West Point here. This is a way of life. No one can win the battle in Fallujah, unless your army withdraws. That would be the only kind of victory you could achieve. Your only victory can be to minimise the loss of life--both in your forces and within the civilians of Fallujah. It is a fiercely independent and tribal system that is operated there. Our 'fixer' in Iraq learnt to shoot a gun, ride a horse and swim at the age of seven.
Fair enough. The enemy is brave. Remember, though, the Talibani who smoked scorpions? He got an admiring interview in the British press. How could we ever hope to fight such a warrior? In the Phillippines, the warrior culture ranged against us produced men who would leap out of trees with spears, facing certain death in order to kill just one American. My wife's grandfather, in the US Cavalry, saved General Black-Jack Pershing from such an assassin.

There are parts of America which can claim the same. I grew up in a hunting and fighting culture, too, in the American South. My pass-times as a teenager included racing cars down mountain backroads at speeds I smile to remember. I've carried a pistol almost every day since I came of age, and I never leave home unarmed, in case I'm called upon by fate to do my duty as a citizen to defend the common peace.

The US military certainly has a warrior culture of its own. But it has another thing that is worth at least as much: professionalism. The lessons of endless wars like this one are gathered and taught in Quantico, Virginia. There is a school there called "The United States Marine Corps Small Wars School of Excellence." They know what they are doing. Give them time, and trust, and they will carry you to victory and Iraq to freedom.

In the meantime, happy Easter. The renewal of life follows the harshness of winter. This is meant to be a promise in the cold and difficult times, a thought to warm you as you huddle by the fire. Spring is coming. Have faith.

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