Obie returns from Iraq war
Oberlin senior Cameron Leverett took some time off before graduation last year for a reason one might not expect from an Obie. Last December, as he was preparing to enter his last semester, he was called from the Marine Reserves to serve in Iraq.
Leverett, an economics major and member of the basketball team, enlisted in the Marine Reserves when he was a College first-year.
“Basically, it was an opportunity for me to do something for the country and see if it’s something I’d like to do after school,” said Leverett.
Beginning in February 2005, Leverett worked seven months in Iraq for the Command Operations Center. He returned home only this month. As a Watch Chief, he was in charge of planning and executing operations at the battalion level.
While he worked on operations in 12 different cities, he mostly worked in two western Iraqi cities, Haditha and Hit.
In Haditha, he guarded the dam that supplied 85 percent of Baghdad’s power from destruction or takeover by insurgents. In Hit, the largest city in western Iraq, his battalion worked to clear the city of insurgents and make it safe for voting.
In the Review’s interview with him, Leverett addressed everything from Oberlin politics to the Iraq war with open-minded curiosity, including his interactions with Iraqis he met.
“There is a language barrier, of course, but everyone is interested in getting to know each other,” said Leverett. “It is hard for us to understand each other, but we still understand each other, if you know what I mean.”
When asked what he thought to be the most important thing American troops are doing in Iraq, Leverett spoke in the familiar terms of freedom and independence, but with a sense of practicality and frankness.
“Obviously, the most important thing is giving people the opportunity not only to be free and to go on with their lives but to set them up with forces so they can defend themselves from the insurgency,” said Leverett.
In discussing misperceptions Americans might have of the war, Leverett said the documentary Gunner Palace was misleading.
“To me, watching that show is like watching an army recruiting video,” Leverett said of the documentary, which one film critic described as “a deep, imbedded look at the complex realities of Iraq.”
He continued, “It makes Iraq seem luxurious and fun, but it’s a whole heck of a lot more dangerous over there. They might have lived like that, but it’s not how we lived.”
Leverett said he thought the American news media, for the most part, report fairly what is happening in Iraq.
“Some facts are wrong, but not to the point where they’d misshape somebody’s point of view,” Leverett said.
The only strong dislike that Leverett expressed in the interview was for the controversial Arab news station Aljazeera.
“I hate Aljazeera,” he said. “I don’t know how they do it. They follow us out the gate. They flip the story to the insurgent point of view and make up their own stories.”
Leverett spoke acceptingly of anti-war protests, from those at Oberlin to the one Cindy Sheehan has led.
“To me, obviously, she’s a mother in mourning,” Leverett said of Sheehan. “Should Bush meet with her? If he meets with her, then he has to meet with 2000 other parents who lost their kids in Iraq who are all mourning in the same way. She is just for protesting, though. That’s the beauty of being American, that’s what we’re fighting for.”
Leverett, whose battalion had 48 casualties, mentioned several times the constant danger one faces living in Iraq.
“After seven months, there is some stuff you kind of get used to,” he said. “I don’t know if some people realize just how dangerous it is. Imagine driving down Highway 58 and having to drive down the middle of the road because there’s a bomb there and you don’t know where it is.”
Shortly after returning to the United States, Leverett was one of 20 marines selected for the quality of their service to have lunch with Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Mr. Cheney, he’s awesome,” said Leverett. “Going in, I thought it was just a publicity stunt, but he was great. You can tell if somebody just shows up, and he wasn’t like that. He wanted to know everything. Even though he’d just had surgery, he would have sat there for 24 hours.”
Until Leverett returns to school next semester, he will work for Northwest Mutual Firm as a financial writer. He is unsure what he will do after college.
“I think I’m looking forward to just having the freedom to do
what I want,” Leverett said about returning to Oberlin. “In Iraq,
you wake up every day at 5:45, but you might go to sleep at any time. It’s
so routine, but at the same time, its not. At school, you have the freedom to
just go to class, or go sit outside, whatever. You’re just free.”