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Friday, July 28, 2006

This seems awfully familiar

Ah, how time changes, or doesn't

Waiting to Get Blown Up'
Some Troops in Baghdad Express Frustration With the War and Their Mission

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 27, 2006; A01

BAGHDAD, July 26 Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos considered the simple question about morale for more than an hour. But not until his convoy of armored Humvees had finally rumbled back into the Baghdad military base, and the soldiers emptied the ammunition from their machine guns, and passed off the bomb-detecting robot to another patrol, did he turn around in his seat and give his answer.

"Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is."

Frustrated? "You have no idea," he said.

As President Bush plans to deploy more troops in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers who have been patrolling the capital for months describe a deadly and infuriating mission in which the enemy is elusive and success hard to find. Each day, convoys of Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles leave Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad with the goal of stopping violence between warring Iraqi religious sects, training the Iraqi army and police to take over the duty, and reporting back on the availability of basic services for Iraqi civilians.

But some soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division -- interviewed over four days on base and on patrols -- say they have grown increasingly disillusioned about their ability to quell the violence and their reason for fighting. The battalion of more than 750 people arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait in March, and since then, six soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded.

"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you," said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio, a muscular former backup fullback for Baylor University. "You lose a couple friends and it gets hard."

"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do," said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. "We were excited, but then it just wears on you -- there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here," he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding."

"We're trained as an Army to fight and destroy the enemy and then take over," added Dugger, 26, of Reno, Nev. "But I don't think we're trained enough to push along a country, and that's what we're actually doing out here."

"It's frustrating, but we are definitely a help to these people," he said. "I'm out here with the guys that I know so well, and I couldn't picture myself being anywhere else."
'Never-Ending Battle'

After a five-hour patrol on Saturday through southern Baghdad neighborhoods, soldiers from the 1st Platoon sat on wooden benches in an enclosed porch outside their barracks. Faces flushed and dirty from the grit and a beating sun, they smoked cigarettes and tossed them at a rusted can that said "Butts."

The commanders in Baghdad and the Pentagon are "looking at the big picture all the time, but for us, we don't see no big picture, it's just always another bomb out here," said Spec. Joshua Steffey, 24, of Asheville, N.C. The company's commanding officer, Capt. Douglas A. DiCenzo of Plymouth, N.H., and his gunner, Spec. Robert E. Blair of Ocala, Fla., were killed by a roadside bomb in May.

Steffey said he wished "somebody would explain to us, 'Hey, this is what we're working for.' " With a stream of expletives, he said he could not care less "if Iraq's free" or "if they're a democracy."

"The first time somebody you know dies, the first thing you ask yourself is, 'Well, what did he die for?' "

"At this point, it seems like the war on drugs in America," added Spec. David Fulcher, 22, a medic from Lynchburg, Va., who sat alongside Steffey. "It's like this never-ending battle, like, we find one IED, if we do find it before it hits us, so what? You know it's just like if the cops make a big bust, next week the next higher-up puts more back out there."

"My personal opinion, I don't speak for the rest of anybody, I just speak for me personally, I think civil war is going to happen regardless," Steffey responded. "Maybe this country needs it: One side has to win. Be it Sunni, be it Shiite, one side has to win. It's apparent, these people have made it obvious they can't live in unity."

It was dark now save for one fluorescent light and the cigarette tips glowing red.

"I mean, if you compare the casualty count from this war to, say, World War II, you know obviously it doesn't even compare," Fulcher said. "But World War II, the big picture was clear -- you know you're fighting because somebody was trying to take over the world, basically. This is like, what did we invade here for?"

"How did it become, 'Well, now we have to rebuild this place from the ground up'?" Fulcher asked.

He kept talking. "They say we're here and we've given them freedom, but really what is that? You know, what is freedom? You've got kids here who can't go to school. You've got people here who don't have jobs anymore. You've got people here who don't have power," he said. "You know, so yeah, they've got freedom now, but when they didn't have freedom, everybody had a job."

Steffey got up to leave the porch and go to bed.

"You know, the point is we've lost too many Americans here already, we're committed now. So whatever the [expletive] end-state is, whatever it is, we need to achieve it -- that way they didn't die for nothing," he said. "We're far too deep in this now."

1961-1973: GI Resistance in the Vietnam War

1968 – Collapse of morale
Up until 1968 the desertion rate for U.S. troops in Vietnam was still lower than in previous wars. But by 1969 the desertion rate had increased fourfold. This wasn’t limited to Southeast Asia; desertion rates among GIs were on the increase worldwide. For soldiers in the combat zone, insubordination became an important part of avoiding horrible injury or death. As early as mid-1969, an entire company of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade sat down on the battlefield. Later that year, a rifle company from the famed 1st Air Cavalry Division flatly refused - on CBS TV - to advance down a dangerous trail. In the following 12 months the 1st Air Cavalry notched up 35 combat refusals.

The period from 1968 to 1970 was a period of rapid disintegration of morale and widespread rebelliousness within the U.S. military. There were a variety of causes contributing to this development. By this time the war had become vastly unpopular in the general society, anti-war demonstrations were large and to some degree respectable, and prominent politicians were speaking out against the continuation of the war. For a youth entering the military in these years the war was already a questionable proposition, and with the ground war raging and coffins coming home every day very few new recruits were enthusiastic about their situation. In addition, the rising level of black consciousness and the rapidly spreading dope culture both served to alienate new recruits from military authority. Thus, GIs came into uniform in this period with a fairly negative predisposition.

Their experience in the military and in the war transformed this negative pre-disposition into outright hostility. The nature of the war certainly accelerated this disaffection; a seemingly endless ground war against an often invisible enemy, with the mass of people often openly hostile, in support of a government both unpopular and corrupt. The Vietnamese revolutionaries also made attempts to reach out to American GIs, with some impact.

From mild forms of political protest and disobedience of war orders, the resistance among the ground troops grew into a massive and widespread “quasi-mutiny” by 1970 and 1971. Soldiers went on “search and avoid” missions, intentionally skirting clashes with the Vietnamese, and often holding three-day-long pot parties instead of fighting.

Morale is dropping, we already have alleged atrocities, what's next?

This Army is getting to the point where it cannot function in the field. Not enough men, too many of the wrong men replacing them, no sense of progress. And the assclown neo cons want to invade Syria and Iran? Please.

posted by Steve @ 12:22:00 AM

12:22:00 AM

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