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Iraq around the clock

"Iraq around the clock" Continued...

Issue: "Gay marriage backlash," Dec. 6, 2003

The timetable to turn over Iraq to the Iraqis is driven not by the death toll of allied forces, but by growing demands from troops to "rotate" home. Most troops in Baghdad are scheduled to leave in the spring. Gen. Dempsey said their replacements will not be "green troops." Most have served in Afghanistan or the Balkans. Still, many will be new to Iraq and its unique hazards.

A too-rapid exit, some locals fear, could push Iraq into civil war or renewed dictatorship. Staying on has downsides, too. "We are in a condition of descending consent," said Col. Roy Baker, who commands an armored unit in Baghdad. "We've got a year at most to do this job and go home."

For officers like Col. Baker, daily in the trenches, improving security-and fast-is the first way to build respect on the streets of Baghdad. And the best way to honor the sacrifice of fallen comrades like Sgt. Martinez.

Mr. Miniter is author of Losing bin Laden: How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror

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