Sometimes, there's good news from Iraq too. I love this little story (from yesterday's AP). It's a great lesson in honor and respect flowing both ways. It might be the best $130,000 we've ever spent in Iraq--and a better ambassador for the American people we could not have found if we had tried.
Sheik Horn floats around the room in white robe and headdress, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of village leaders. But he's the only sheik with blonde streaks in his mustache -- and the only one who attended country music star Toby Keith's recent concert in Baghdad with fellow U.S. soldiers. Officially, he's Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn, but to residents of the 37 villages and towns that he patrols, he's known as the American sheik.
Sgt. Horn, 25, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., acknowledges he had little interest in the region before coming here. But a local sheik friendly to U.S. forces, Mohammed Ismail Ahmed, explained the inner workings of rural Iraqi society on one of Sgt. Horn's first Humvee patrols.... and [Sgt. Horn] started making a point of stopping by all the villages, all but one dominated by Sunni Arabs, to talk with people about their life and security problems. Moreover, he pressed for development projects in the area. He boasts that he helped funnel $136,000 worth of aid into the area. Part of that paid for delivery of clean water to 30 villages during the broiling summer months.
Sheik Ahmed, Sgt. Horn's mentor and known for his dry sense of humor, eventually suggested during a meeting of village leaders that Sgt. Horn be named a sheik. The sheiks approved by voice vote... Some sheiks later gave him five sheep and a postage stamp of land, fulfilling some of the requirements for sheikdom. Others encouraged him to start looking for a second wife, which Sgt. Horn's spouse back in Florida immediately vetoed.
But what may have started as a joke among crusty village elders has sprouted into something serious enough for 100 to 200 village leaders to meet with Sgt. Horn each month to discuss security issues. Sgt. Horn doesn't take his responsibilities lightly. He lately has been prodding the Iraqi Education Ministry to pay local teachers, and he closely follows a water-pipeline project that he hopes will ensure the steady flow of clean water to his villages.
...To Sgt. Horn's commanders, his success justifies his unorthodox approach: No rockets have hit their base in the past half year. "He has developed a great relationship with local leaders," said Lt. Col. Bradley Becker, who commands the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. "They love him. They're not going to let anyone shoot at Sheik Horn."