For me, there was only one overriding reason to go to Iraq last week and that was to say thanks to the Americans who are fighting a brutal war, to simply say "thanks."
This trip wasn't about O'Reilly running around trying to play foreign correspondent. It was about meeting as many soldiers and Marines as possible, giving out crates of "Factor" gear, signing books and pictures, and telling each and every military person to their face that I respect their service and that most Americans do as well.
Thanks to Evergreen International and its President Dale Smith, the "Factor" team, and all the cargo got to Kuwait and Iraq in very good shape.
Our first stop was America's huge base in Kuwait, a country which appreciates the fact that we liberated them from Saddam in 1991.
While in Kuwait, we met with American forces who are supporting the men and women fighting in Iraq, just to the north.
Now the U.S. base in Kuwait is not only important for the Iraq conflict, it also stands as a bulwark against Iran, which has designs on the entire Gulf region.
After an evening in Kuwait, we got up at 5:00 in the morning and flew into Baghdad aboard a military transport. That's an experience in itself, especially when landing because the pilots have to do evasive maneuvers which are well, let's just say, interesting.
Upon landing in Baghdad, we were immediately taken to Camp Victory. The next three days were spent going to various bases. We visited the - we visited, I should say, the First Cav, the Striker Force, the Tenth Mountain Division, and the MPs.
Now what everybody has to understand is that these men and women are under a lot of stress. They're far away from home in a hostile environment, fighting against an enemy that kills women and children and actually hides behind women and children in the pursuit of murder.
In the face of all that, U.S. and British forces have performed with discipline and restraint. And morale isn't bad. Very few Americans complained when I talked with them.
Now as far as the big picture is concerned, I can't tell you how things are going all over Iraq. I do know that the USA continues to be aggressive and is determined to control the bad guys.
In my opinion, our forces are performing brilliantly under exceedingly difficult circumstances.
Even though I can't accurately forecast what will happen in Iraq, I can tell you a few things with certainty: Iran is manufacturing many of the bombs that are killing our military people. Iran's also paying terrorists to kill Americans. Seventy percent of coalition casualties come from bombs — 70 percent.
All Western people, every one, are now targets in Iraq. Even though the north and the south of that country are relatively calm, kidnappings and murders can happen anywhere.
This conflict reminds me of Northern Ireland, where the British military had to fight terrorists who threw bombs and then melted away into the inner city. It's almost impossible to defeat terrorists using those tactics.
The Iraqi military is getting better, but they still need Americans with them in any combat engagement. The local Iraqi police are just about helpless. Many are corrupt. Many others are afraid.
Four thousand Iraqi police have been murdered. More than 10,000 badly injured. The USA cannot count on the Iraq police, period.
So control of Iraq must come down from the top. Iraqi army will have to provide security. Whether that will happen, nobody knows.
Al Qaeda is still causing trouble in Iraq, but has been badly beaten down by American forces. Once again, Iran continues to send terrorists across the border and continues to send bombs to kill Americans.
“The Factor” was given top shelf access. We saw a lot of things we even can't tell you about because they were off the record. But I can tell you this. The U.S. military is determined to defeat the bad guys. Our forces are organized, disciplined, and they understand the evil they face. They also understand that many media in America don't support the mission. And they know many Americans feel the Iraq situation is hopeless.
But no matter how you feel about Iraq, you should be proud of our military. The media likes to concentrate on the bad stuff, and there is plenty of that. But the sacrifice these brave men and women are making should be acknowledged by us all.
And one final word directed to those families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq and to those military people who have suffered injuries: No matter what happens in the future in Iraq, the USA has freed millions of people.
The Kurds to the north, for example, now have their own well functioning society. A few months ago, the Kurds paid for this commercial that I want to play for you again right now:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam's goal was to bury every living Kurd. He failed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan just want to say thank you for helping us win their freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Summing up, I think I thanked about 3,000 of our troops in person. I wish I could have thanked all 140,000 of them. They are truly American patriots.
And that's "The Memo."
Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
A couple of weeks ago we had New York Yankee outfielder Johnny Damon on the "Factor" talking about the Wounded Warrior project. Well, we're happy to report that, because of that interview, the Wounded Warriors have raised more than $200,000 to help injured American service people.
Now we posted information about the program, the Wounded Warrior program, on billoreilly.com.
Also, last call for billoreilly.com Christmas gifts. —The elves are working overtime.— We can still get you the stuff in time for Christmas but you need to move it!
Remember, "culture warriors" in your lives want the book. They want the mug. They want the hat. So check out billoreilly.com, the Christmas kind of place where everybody wins. And that's never ridiculous.