There was a horrifying attack today against Americans in Fallujah, Iraq. The attack was against civilian contractors working for the US-Iraqi coalition. State department officials say rebels ambushed the contractors' SUV with gunfire and rocket propelled grenades. Four people were killed, all of them US citizens.
The rebels then dragged the bodies through the streets celebrating.
Not far from the scene of that attack was another. Five US soldiers were killed when a bomb exploded under their armored personnel carrier. The deaths make this one of the bloodiest days this year for the coalition, but according to one general, those attacks are not eroding the Army's resolve.
Lt. Gen Dan McNeill spoke with WTOC this afternoon while in town for a United Way meeting in Beaufort. He says this was never supposed to be easy, and he's got a pretty good idea of what's going on over there, since he spent 53 weeks leading coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"I've been in the Army now 35 years and have seen a lot of operations," said McNeill. "Arguably the one we're in now is one of the most difficult I've seen."
One of the operations he's seen first-hand was Vietnam, where he engaged in some of his first action. But McNeill stops short of saying there's much similar between Vietnam and Iraq. "I'm asked that question often, and I don't compare them, other than the fact it's combat," he said.
McNeill says his position lets him see more than what the TV cameras can show, and it is a tough fight. But he's not pessimistic about how things are playing out. "It does not obscure the fact that what we're doing there is right," he told us. "That we're winning this fight, and the people of that region have great reason to have hope."
The United Way of Beaufort County may seem like an odd place to find a deputy commanding general, but meeting organizers say it's not that much of a stretch to have him speak at their annual meeting. "I think community building is something our armed forces and government is trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan, and obviously we're trying to do the same thing here in Beaufort County," said the group's Alex Schuford.
Lt. Gen. McNeill's been recommended for a fourth star and will find out in a few months if he's approved for the promotion.