This blog records my experiences as a Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader in Al Al Asad, Al Anbar Province, Iraq 2007-8. My comments may be delayed several days. I invite your questions & comments. If you are reading for the first time, please refer to the first entry – John Matel Goes to Iraq – for background.

Above is the original intro to this blog. Below is my flight out of Iraq. The planes are big inside.

This blog had more than 20,000 visitors in September. I know that some are repeat customers, but it still shows some interest.   It is a record I will probably never again reach.   Being in Iraq was exotic; I am now going prosaic.

I tried to give an accurate picture of what was happening in Iraq.  It was not as scary or dangerous as I expected and certainly not as bad as we read in the media.  I was lucky to arrive at an inflection point, when violence was down and when we really started to win.

The Marines and our military in general are very impressive.  I ambcertain that there has never been a better military force in the history of the world.  They are fantastically disciplined. For example, our military personnel are not allowed to drink alcohol while deployed in Iraq and as far as I saw they didn’t.  

How amazing is that?  Our purpose was to respect Muslim customs.  I saw our Marines do that repeatedly in many ways.  They risked their own lives rather than risk the lives of Iraqis.  This is something special in the annals of war. When I tell people about this, I know some don’t believe me.  It is hard to believe.  

Sometimes people are just mistaking our military for their own prejudiced stereotypes.  Many Americans these days have no direct contact with the military, so they get their impressions from old TV shows like “M*A*S*H* or from the likes of Oliver Stone or Michael Moore.  Just say no to these things.  They are fictional accounts not designed to be fair or accurate.

I cannot blame the average guy.   Before I went to Iraq, I believed a lot of things that were not true.  In fairness, much of the bad news was true before the surge.  As I try to explain, the bad news is not wrong, it is just old and outdated. 

I learned a lot in Iraq about the military, the Iraqis, war, peace, leadership and myself.   It was a great experience.  I am very glad that I volunteered and also glad to be finished, but it is finished.  I will continue to write the blog.  It helps me understand when I write.   This will be the last “Matel-in-Iraq” entry.   And this entry serves as the official ending marker.  I will put a link to it in the intro to the new blog page.

If you are looking for “Matel-in-Iraq” just do back from this page.  If you are looking for “World-Wide-Matel” go forward.