Monday, August 20, 2007

Op-Ed: "The War As We Saw It"

A dissenting op-ed, written by several infantrymen and non-commissioned officers in the 82nd Airborne Division, appeared in the NYTimes yesterday (Sunday). It is extremely unusual for servicemen to write an opinion piece like this. The article takes dead aim at the increasingly rosy proclamations about Iraq emanating from the White House in recent weeks as we lead up to the September briefing by Petraus. In short, the authors argue, "To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched."

Here is a more extensive excerpt:
As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)...

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force....

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run....

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Add these gentlemen's names to the now long list of military people, from generals on down the line to enlisted men and women, who have harshly criticized the Bush Administration's execution of the war in Iraq and who see a bleak future ahead if we do not significantly alter our course. Who do you believe, the military people who are actually fighting and dying, or the neo-cons pushing the same old line from their comfortable armchairs along the sidelines?

For the full essay, see:
"The War As We Saw It"


  1. I saw a clip the other day of a soldier who very firmly stated that if you want to support the troops, you get a pen, a piece of paper, an envelope, & a stamp. Then you write your representatives in Congress & demand that this war be put to an end.

    What I would like to know is when the mainstream press will acknowledge that President Bush, or anyone he refers to, is not an accurate source & if you really want to know what is going on in Iraq, you ask almost anybody else.

    What about the people of Iraq? What do they think? We have accounts from soldiers filtering through, but what about Iraqi citizens?

    On Al Jazeera you hear from them. And you see them. You hear their anger and you see their tears.

    What do they think?

    That we should go? That once their IMF debt is wiped clean, & we pull the mines out of their fields, & our utopian inflicted free market is removed, they might be just fine & can handle Iraq themselves. Afterall, it is their country.

    Or perhaps they would want us to stay. To help in security matters, as is so often the answer to calls for an immediate withdrawel.

    Well I bet that would be contingent on absolutely no permanent US military babes. That they would want to begin to formulate their own democracy. One that is what they want, not what we in this country say it should be.

    And once we in this country hear from the Iraqis, the soldiers, & the families of those who've lost loved ones, once we hear from all of them, then Bush can deliver whatever status report he wants to, & we the people can decide what should be done.

    And then we'll be able to live with ourselves & the decision that we are able to make given all the "facts on the ground."


  2. oh, silly Justin. Facts are so bothersome. They just get in the way of the point I am trying to make...

  3. oh, well by all means Dr Jones, please do elaborate.

  4. I think there are some signs of the type of skepticism you suggest. For instance, on the lead up to Gen. Petraus's report to Congress in September, a recent poll showed a majority of Americans do not trust that they are going to get the straight deal on Iraq in the report.

    I'm with you, though, overall. Part of the plan from the beginning was to "manage" the information getting to the U.S. people. No images of dead American soldiers coming home. No data on the number of Iraqi casualties, military or civilian. Only "embedded" reporting. And on and on.

    There is a real cynicism about American democracy, citizenship and democratic oversight.

  5. I guess I'm not talking about cynicism. I mean absolutely fed up.

    It's odd to think, that this was the war they were all going to get right. Precision bombing, warm welcomes for returning troops, in & out, and yes, no coffins and no Halberstams.

    This was going to be the one where we picked ourselves up and really fought one hell of a war.

    But instead we have Walter Reed, high Iraqi civilian deaths & cover-up after cover-up getting blown.

    Now there are times when I feel people are coming around. Then I read the Journal Star comments section to stories about Alexandra Svoboda.

    It's enough to just make a fella want to get piss ass drunk.

    And curious if you noticed, my reference to military babes. Yep, mind always in the gutter.

  6. I don't mean that the populace is cynical, although many are and have removed themselves from the political process because they don't believe it works for them, I mean that the Republican approach to politics is very cynical about democracy. They believe Americans are, by and large dumb and/or not paying attention. So, they can manipulate information, make ridiculous arguments not substantiated by the facts on the ground, etc., and get away with it.

    This is, in fact, why the best response for people fed up with the system is NOT to bail out, but to massively engage the system. If the system were overwhelmed with people power, it would respond. But people have to organize and engage.

    One of the strange things right now is the fact that so many Americans oppose this war, but that is not translating into any real, broad ACTION. Why aren;t people pouring into the streets to demand an end to this war? Why isn;t their opposition translating into more protest action?

  7. I would add that those Republicans in power now have utter contempt for democracy. You see it manifest everywhere, in everything they do, in everything they say.

    And when I say absolutely fed up, I mean when? Because yes most people are opposed to the war, but some of those same people think we should just make Iraq one large parking lot.

    So in order for an "against the war" sentiment to form into massive protest, it would seem to need an event so outrageous, so unbelievable, that it would question the very foundations of where we are as a society.

    Those marches on war anniversaries, those people power displays are there, but I'd argue that many, many people think that form of protest is icky. That it's just nonsense.

    So where does that leave us? Majority unrest, moderate disgust, minority action.

    How would you convince people who are done with politics to not bail out? That protest is American democracy in action. That if we do bail out, then we are going to end up in a Neocon version of this country that will be bad. Very, very bad. Nightmarish even.

  8. Sad note: Two of the authors of this opinion piece were killed in Iraq last week (mid-September) when their vehicle crashed. Another was seriously injured.