Poles hanging tough in Iraq
The Polish ambassador to Iraq was wounded in an attack Wednesday. In spite of the general unpopularity of the war, the President and Prime Minister of Poland, twin brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski are urging Poles to hang tough and keep their troops in the country.
You can read the whole story here, but here are the highlights.
By Gabriela BaczynskaWARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will not withdraw its 1,000-strong troop contingent from Iraq after the Polish ambassador was wounded in an attack on his convoy in Baghdad on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said."Desertion is always the worst option," Kaczynski told reporters. "This is a difficult situation, but those who became engaged and were there for years and then withdraw are making the worst possible mistake."The Polish ambassador, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, was wounded and one of his bodyguards was killed when his diplomatic convoy came under attack in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday.
A few things that might interest you, the troops Poland has in Iraq are mostly from GROM, the Polish Special Forces. GROM means “thunder” in Polish and is an acronym for Grupa Reagowania Operacyjno-Manewrowego "Operational Mobile Reaction Group." In the communist days they used to train with Spetznatz, the Soviet Special Forces – and are rather perversely proud of this, in spite of a strong dislike for all things Soviet.
The war is generally unpopular in Poland, but not enough to generate a really strong popular opposition so far. The defense minister remarked a while ago that of course wars are unpopular, property is destroyed and people get hurt.
So why is Poland in Iraq at all? What possible interest do they have in the situation there?
I will venture a couple of guesses.
Firstly, Polish armed forces previously had no combat experience since the Second World War – with the exception of participating under Russian pressure in the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed the “Prague Spring” of 1968 – an acutely embarrassing memory for them.
But now the Poles actually have more soldiers with combat experience than Germany does - a fact which always provoked big grins in my English classes in Warsaw when I pointed it out.
More importantly, the Poles are earning their way into the Western alliance. It cannot have escaped them that the West Europeans allowed the US to take on almost the entire burden of their defense for two generations. The combined military forces of the NATO countries, minus the US, do not have a tactical air force to their name and would have trouble fielding even a single combat division.
What they saved on defense spending, they spent on building cradle-to-grave welfare states, while sheltering behind a wall of American steel.
And make no mistake about it, the danger was real and eminent. The Polish government last year started releasing the secret Warsaw Pact plans for the invasion of Western Europe, originally scheduled for the early 1980s. The Russians are furious with them, the Poles could not care less.
Without an American presence in Western Europe, it would certainly have been lost.
I believe this explains a lot of West European anti-Americanism. Bluntly speaking, by failing to demand that they carry a fair share of the burden of common defense, we took their manhood from them – and they hate us for it.
The Poles, and a lot of the East Europeans are determined not to make that mistake, and we shouldn’t either. With western civilization in crisis, we need friends and allies, not welfare clients.
Steve Browne lived in Poland and Eastern Europe for 13 years, speaks fair Polish and his two children are half-Polish. His father-in-law is a former officer in the Polish Army Secret Chancellery. In 2001 he trained with GROM vets at the International Police Defense Tactics Association summer camp on the Baltic coast.