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UMM HIJARAH, IRAQ - Judging from their faces, the men of Umm Hijarah liked what they heard from Sheik Col. Raad after the search.

Here is the latter part of it. I was able to get this much of it because Capt. Sean Begley volunteered his interpreter.

“I went to the neighboring village for help in catching the terrorists and also I have heard your needs. I’m going to try to help you. We are trying our best to get rid of the terrorists. Our first objective is that we have to work together. The more information you give us, the more we achieve our goal. I lived in a village of 50 homes, but we didn’t cooperate with the terrorists.

“You have to cooperate with us. The terrorist is not against the Americans, he is against everybody. You have to help each other. You have to speak out if you see a foreigner, a terrorist.

“Before, they took advantage of the old regime and now they want to destroy everything. During Saddam Hussein, we never got anything. Now it is our time. No more tyranny. Do not ever let any foreign terrorist come into the village. If you see any foreign terrorist, you can capture him and we will come and get him. You are not going to get anything from these terrorists.

“For example, look at your Iraq National Guard. They get a lot of food at the chow hall. They are never hungry. You also can join the army.

“We have to be together. We have to all get together from the north to the south.

“Your town is better than most towns. It is related to my town. But unfortunately we found VBED (vehicle-born explosive device) in front of the mosque. This as low as they can go. So, I want you to pay attention to the ways they are using to do destruction. They are like a fish in bad water. They are anti-Islam. They are ruining the Islam name. If you hear anyone from the terrorists preaching jihad, do not give yourself to them.

“The mask is for the terrorist, not the proud Iraqi Army. We will follow them anywhere. We are not afraid of them.

“We promise we will visit you often. We’re going to leave the water and the food for you guys. Please check for any pork!” That’s a joke, the interpreter said. “Thank you for the coalition forces!”

The men cheered. It wasn’t ecstatic, but it was by any definition a cheer.

When he finished, the men filed past a big pile of water bottles that the soldiers had placed near the holding area. When a few tried to carry away cases instead of individual bottles, the muktar intervened and limited each to a single bottle. They also picked up packets of MREs.

Most of them waved and smiled at the departing Americans.

Published May 31, 2005