The Fight for Freedom in Iraq by Captain K. Knox Nunnally


On August 5th, 2005 at an isolated American outpost in Western Iraq, a ceremony was held to honor the courageous actions of six men. These six men were soldiers of the Showani Specialized Special Forces Unit of the New Iraqi Army. They were all that remained of a company of 120 men that had formed one year earlier in Fallujah to fight for a free Iraq. They were the proud remnants of a unit that had fought alongside their American allies in every major battle in Al Anbar Province since “Al Fajr,” the Battle for Fallujah in November 2004. They were survivors of combat, assassinations, death threats as well as administrative promotions, which took many to newly formed units in the rapidly expanding New Iraqi Army. After serving their typical two-month tour away from their homes fighting the insurgency they were now on the eve of going home for a well-deserved week of vacation with their families and loved ones. 


During the ceremony they were all recognized for their excellent service over the past two months, but one in particular was singled out for special honors. He was the unit’s leader, Lieutenant Isak Ibrahaim. Younger than most of the men he led, he was none the less admired and obeyed by all. Though not a veteran of Saddam’s old Army like several of his men, he was respected and trusted because unlike many other Iraqi officers, he went out on patrol with his men. He refused to order them anywhere he would not go himself; he always led from the front. He earned the respect of not just his men, but also the Marines with whom he served. Lieutenant Ibrahaim was a Marine’s type of leader. Through special paperwork a new 9mm pistol was issued to him by my command for his superior leadership in the field. One week after the pistol was issued, a Coalition patrol found his blood soaked body on a back street in southern Baghdad. His pistol was never found. His family said that gunmen stormed his house in the middle of the night and brutally executed him while his wife, parents, brother, and four children watched helplessly in horror. The gunman announced he was being shot for being a “collaborator” with the Americans. He died at the age of 30, as a true Iraqi Patriot. He believed in a new Iraq and he died fighting for that dream. His personal sacrifice for freedom - like thousands of other Iraqis – is not forgotten by this American veteran of the Iraq War.


So what exactly was Lieutenant Ibrahaim fighting for? Why did he and countless other Iraqi nationals risk their lives and sacrifice their last full measure? I think I know. Every day, these brave people are shedding their blood and sacrificing their lives for a better Iraq in which a person’s worth is based on ability and results - not tribe, religion, or gender. They are doing it for a country in which the law not the whims of a psychopath and his cronies - decide the fate of the accused. They are doing it for a nation in which all groups big and small have a voice in the future of their people and country. In short, they are doing it for freedom.


Many in America ignore this reason for fighting in Iraq today and it is neglected almost completely in the debate over the war. Turn on the TV today and chances are the coverage is over tactics, troop levels, or even just the reporting of casualties. What is not depicted and only rarely cited and remembered is the true cause of the fight; the cause of freedom.


Freedom for our own Nation is the foundation of everything that defines us as a culture and a society. It is what our forefathers first defined in the Declaration of Independence “…that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” These great cornerstones of our society that were later elaborated upon in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights are the moral truths that define our people and our nation as an example for the rest of the world community, both 232 years ago as well as today. The initial framework and proven success of these revolutionary ideas gave inspiration and hope to countless other nations and peoples in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia for the creation of other free societies that followed slowly but surely in the wake of our successful one. For what our Nation celebrates as freedom was never created uniquely for the American people and North America, but rather was created as a checklist of rights that were identified as natural and unalienable to all of mankind.


It is because of my strong personal beliefs in these rights and ideals and my absolute desire to defend and advance them that I left home after high school and attended the United States Naval Academy in order to become a United States Marine. Four years later, I became an Infantry Lieutenant to fight for the same cause that Lieutenant Ibrahaim would fight and die for in his sovereign country.


On September 11th, 2001, I was in training in Quantico, Virginia. While sitting among 200 other new Lieutenants in a land navigation class I was told by our senior officer that our nation had been attacked and that we would soon be going to war. We watched the video footage in stunned silence as did the rest of America that day, but the difference for us was that we knew we would be the ones responsible for settling the score by risking our lives and the lives of the young Marines under our command. In the days that followed as we learned the ideology and identity of our attackers, something else became clear to me. Our American principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were being directly challenged. 


Since those early days of the War on Terror, I have had the honor and privilege of leading Marines during three successive combat deployments to Iraq. I have fought Feydeen, and insurgents in cities like An Nasiriyah, Baghdad, Tirkrit, Abu Gharib, Fallujah, Iskandaryia, Hit, Haditha, Al Qaim, Ar Rutbah, and countless other towns across Iraq. The time spent during these deployments and the time between them while preparing for the next has been the most rewarding and trying of my life. I served with amazing men who I will never forget and whom I will call brothers for the rest of my life. I helped liberate an oppressed nation from a dictator, contributed to its rebirth as a young democracy, and furthered the spread of democracy in the broader Middle East. I fought along side of my brother Marines on dozens of battlefields across Iraq and saw with my own eyes the emergence of a new, great generation of American youth. 


This generation like many others before is being tested. Unlike many before, it was not required to fight for its cause, rather it was asked to volunteer for it. Today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other outposts around the globe, American values are being defended by an all-volunteer force. Everyday, these mostly college-aged men and women willingly throw on sixty pounds of body armor, ammunition and gear, and lace up their combat boots to step out into harm’s way. 

As a junior officer fighting this insurgency, I have learned first-hand the grim realities of an ugly war with a brutal and despicable enemy. I have seen American troops at their finest hour, and the enemies of freedom at their worst. As I now leave the Marine Corps to rejoin the civilian world, I have taken some time to reflect on my past three deployments to Iraq. This has required me to reevaluate my own core beliefs in God, County, duty and morality. The effect of my experiences is a reaffirmed faith in each of these beliefs and a deep satisfaction of what my Nation, and my fellow veterans --both American and Iraqi- are accomplishing in Iraq today. Like many American generations past, my generation fights today for freedom, and we are teaching our new Iraqi allies the virtues of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It has been an honor and a privilege not only to do this for the people of Iraq, but also to give back to my Country, which has given so much to me.


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