March 18, 2005 12:36 p.m.
It’s been two years since the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I’ve been asked to write something about the anniversary.
This is tough, because so much has happened since that day when my cameraman, Christian Galdabini, and I watched bombs and missiles rain down on Safwan Hill, then stormed across the Kuwaiti border with Alpha Company of the 3rd LAR into southern Iraq.
So many brave Americans and innocent Iraqis have lost their lives. So many more have been wounded and have had their lives altered forever. And too much progress has been made but not reported.
I still believe the Iraqi people are better off now than they were under Saddam. No one should underestimate how important freedom and democracy are, especially to people who’ve never had it before. If you could've seen the faces of the Iraqi people as we rolled into their villages and towns with the United States Marines, you'd understand my convictions. I didn't see fear or resentment or anger. I saw celebrations, excitement, curiosity, and thanks. We didn't get the finger, we got thumbs-up.
Of course, there were plenty of people shooting at us, but the non-military men and women and the children welcomed our arrival with smiles and waves. We were treated like emancipating heroes. In subsequent conversations, Iraqis told me they'd lived in fear under Saddam's rule, and were nothing but grateful the Coalition had sent him packing.
I'm not trying to speak for the Iraqi people, and I don't know if a majority would say today that the fear of suicide bombers is better than the fear of Saddam and his thugs. I don't know if they'd say a democratic future is better than whatever Saddam had in store for them, but if I had to guess, I'd bet they'd choose what they have now — the chance to shape their own future themselves.
Being embedded was by far the most difficult thing I've ever done. Physically and mentally exhausting, it was a true test of endurance and an incredibly dangerous assignment, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Then again, I was only in the trenches six weeks. It's almost impossible to imagine our troops doing it for six months or a year or more. It was awe-inspiring to watch the Marines at work, witnessing firsthand their courage, dedication, and patriotism, risking all for their country and for the chance to liberate the Iraqi people. They will forever have my admiration and respect, as will my boy Christian, and our engineer Dusty Grubish, who also risked it all daily, carting our satellite dish across the desert, setting up and breaking down the equipment under often ridiculously harsh conditions, getting us a signal without fail so we could transmit the sound and pictures back home.
We're all bonded for life by the experience. These are things I recognize not just on the anniversary, but every single day.
One of the main reasons for going to war has been heavily questioned and criticized, since no weapons of mass destruction have been found. I've sometimes been accused of “drinking the Kool-Aid,” but I still believe the stuff was there in the fall of 2002, when efforts to resolve the conflict failed and repeated warnings were issued. We know Saddam had deadly poisons and gas at SOME point, and there are no records proving it was all disposed of. I still think Saddam had WMD's during the buildup to war, and decided to either bury the materials or secretly move them across the border before the fighting began. I mean, if you had stuff you didn’t want anyone to know about, and were given six months to clean your room before it was searched, I’m sure you’d find a way to get rid of the contraband, whatever it was. The fact nothing's been found doesn't prove it wasn't there.
[Ed. note: Click the video tab in the upper right to watch Leventhal's reports.]
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Just wanted ya to know that your reports, while being shoulder-to-shoulder with the front line troops, will always be in my memory as a vivid reminder of the Best of the Troops and the Best of the Journalists. Your personality and the professionalism in your reports are the perfect combination for future combat journalists to "connect" with those of us at home who anxiously await "fair and balanced" information. Your sincerity and integrity make you welcome in millions of viewer's homes anytime. Take care.
John (Magalia, CA)
Just read your article on your embed. That is probably one of the best I have read, as it layed everything out right out on the line. While everyone seems to be seeking Pulitzers, you seem to be reporting just what happened while you were there and what you have seen since. No wonder I am a FOX News fan!
Keep up the good work and for the Marines you were with....OOH RAH!
Great write up on your imbed experience! How did you get to be a reporter? You seem to have more common sense than 90% of the other people that I see on network news. They seem to truly want to be great reporter, but you make it look easy.
— Robert (Memphis, TN)
I read with a lump in my throat, the recollections you have of the first days of shock and awe. I watched those days on FOX, and with admiration I watched you and Greg and the others bringing us the truth from the front lines. I say the truth because in my war (Vietnam) much of what we saw was not. I want to commend you and your collegues for the exemplary job you did in reporting a fair and balanced representation of our troops in Iraq. I have a nephew who spent three tours over there during the war and it's aftermath. He, as others I have talked to who have been there, report much more positive results that some of the media reports. If we are to pursue endeavors to promote democracy to others, we need a fair reporting of those endeavors. I congratulate you for the quality of the reports you made from the battleground, the closeness you shared in those vehicles with our heros, and the guts to hang in there.
Thank you for taking us with you on that adrenaline-filled ride into Iraq. For many nights in a row, I would wake up at 3 am and secretly turn on the TV (hope that I wouldn't wake up my beautiful wife). Watch you and the other FOX reporters, caked in sand and sweat, telling us what you could - making us proud of our soldiers.
I look forward to reading your book about your experiences; reading a book from another reporter who was there now.
Stay safe. Cheers.
— Todd (Savannah, GA)
Thanks for the anniversary "ramble" - I have to tell you that my husband and I were riveted to FOX News and your reports from Iraq at the beginning of the war. We are so impressed with your willingness to put yourself in such a dangerous environment in order to bring the truth to the world. You made an incredible sacrifice (esp. considering you have a family) and it is a testament to your professionalism. For all you knew, the WMD's could have come flying at you at any moment. It was amazing to be able to experience what was happening the way we were able to, thanks to you and the other embedded journalists. I cannot help but be a little envious that you were able to experience the making of history. And that you got to meet liberated Iraqis and share their joy in person. Not to mention how you were able to showcase the courage, bravery and dedication of our military. Thank you and thank you for the sacrifice your family made while you were there.
- CR, Manchester NH.
As well as being extremely well done, your efforts in reporting from the field were very important to the general public and to the families of the soldiers. It allowed us to see the dedication and bravery of our soldiers in action and to also see how fair and balanced they were in pursuing their goals. They and you make us proud.
I, and I'm sure you and many other Americans, would like to see more reported on all the good progress made in Iraq and not have it pushed aside by the sensationalism created by the insurgents' actions.
— Glenn (Rocky Mountains, Colorado)
I can't believe its been two years since I tuned into FOX every morning to watch your reports from Iraq. I'm not surprised you would go back so readily, my patriotism skyrocketed after 9/11.
I so enjoy your ramblings! I miss not seeing your handsome face every morning during my daily FOX & Friends viewing (maybe you could be a guest host some time for one of the guys) - think about it....
your loyal viewer,
JoAnn (Des Moines, Iowa)