BAGHDAD, Iraq (CAP) - The soldiers quickly fan out, a camouflage crescent that moves swiftly door to door, street to street. In their midst huddles a gaggle of ghosts, a posse of witches, a frightened flock of Arabian knights and princesses, and the latest Iraqi civilian PR move.
Operation Treats launched earlier this week in several Baghdad neighborhoods to generally positive reviews. A joint operation involving US troops, Iraqi security personnel and several hundred quivering youngsters, Operation Treats is a short-term attempt by the United States to once again curry favor among the Iraqi people by introducing one of its most loved and unique holidays to the beleaguered residents of Baghdad.
"We sincerely expect to be met not with flowers and parades, but with smiles and Snickers bars," said Gen. Thomas Sully, commander of CIV-ILCOM (Civilian Liaison Command), the in-country military branch responsible for disseminating Bush administration truth to the Iraqi people. "Our goal is simple: lay down cover fire, get the kids to the door, treated and out, then move to the next house.
"The kids really get into the whole Halloween scared shitless thing," Sully added, "I can tell you that."
Sporting a mere $2 billion price tag, Operation Treats is proving to be a surprise hit in what to date has been a lackluster year for troop/civilian relations. The operation owes its success wholly to Gen. Sully and his staff, which has been working diligently all month to arm the Iraqi people with candy and their kids with costumes.
"You ask them what they want to be for Halloween and they are all like alive, just a normal kid, Syrian, which of course won't do at all," Sully said. "We've been lucky enough to get some really great American costumes for the kids, everything from Spiderman and A-Rod to more general costumes like televangelist and realty TV star.
"We'd like to think we're dong our bit to help the next generation of Iraqis 'get' America," Sully noted.
The operation has been winning high praise from Pentagon and White House sources, and even President Obama took time during last Saturday's weekly radio address to congratulate Gen. Sully and CIV-ILCOM.
"Terrorist kids don't have candy, and I think the Iraqi people now understand that, and are, uhh, less antagonizing for that understanding," Obama said, going on to note that congressional Republicans would have been opposed to the program had they been informed.
Operation Treats is scheduled to run through the end of the weekend, although Pentagon officials say that it could be extended longer if it continues to generate positive press.
- Rich Gray