Sunday, February 08, 2004

Interview with two US officers on leave from war in Iraq: "I wasn't even able to eat Christmas dinner because I lost my appetite after seeing the news. I came back home but many of my men will not be coming back, and some will be coming back horribly scarred and injured. Makes you really think about what Christmas means and to value being with your family.

"O2- I started crying in front of my whole family and all my friends when I saw that come on the news. I won't let my wife turn on the news right now. I am going back in a few days and I want to just relax and forget the war for a few days. I don't think I can put it out of my head, but I am trying. I knew one of the guys killed on Christmas Eve, and some of the guys that got wounded in the last week were my friends... I want to talk about this and tell people how bad it really is in Iraq. It is a complete slaughter and it is only going to get worse. The attacks in the last month or so have been meticulously well planned and executed. We are seeing a level of sophistication that the chain of command did not ever expect... These guys have been trained to fight guerilla style and they don't give up. We are in deep sh.t now that they have started to get more organized."

"O1- I don't think that some of the higher level planners expected this kind of resistance and guerilla activity. We tried to tell them months ago that it wasn't just Baath party members and Saddam supporters. Some of the most highly trained guerillas are Shiite and Kurdish. We are going to be in some real trouble if the Kurds ever decide to join together with the Shiites and fight against us. Throw the Sunni radicals into the mix and it's total chaos with our guys stuck smack in the middle. It's one giant cluster f..k and the US soldiers are going to be the one that gets hurt and killed. That country is on the brink of civil war right now. Years of subdued hatreds are now boiling over. That is why you see all the different targets that are being hit by the car bombs."

"O1- You know, right after the invasion, the average Iraqi was happy to see us get rid of the Saddam regime. You ask the same Iraqi how they feel about us now, and they will openly admit that they hate us as bad as Saddam, or even worse than Saddam.

JS- Why is that in your opinion? What made them change their feelings toward US forces?

"O1- You want to know the biggest reason? We still haven't accomplished the mission we started out to do. Iraqis will tell you they don't fell any freer, there is hunger all over the place, over half the country is out of work, there is a huge lack of clean drinking water, and their children are dying everyday from contaminated water, and from our cluster bombs. The people do not see us living up to our promises of liberation and democracy. Until we do what we promised them and get out of there, they will keep killing us and hating us."

"We can't even go out in convoy with anyone from Halliburton or Bechtel without drawing a crowd of angry Iraqis. They hate the Halliburton and Bechtel guys worse than they hate the soldiers. It's like painting a target on your back just to travel with those contractors and try to protect them.

"O2- Let me jump in here. I want to say that I am extremely mad that Halliburton and Bechtel have better equipment than our own troops do. The contractors have fully armored Hummers and the best body armor. The have us escort them in our lightly armored Humvees and they ride in heavily armored vehicles. That is bullsh.t and every American needs to know about it."

"Now I am just about done with the Army's bullsh.t and the Pentagon is about worthless as sh.t. It is going against everything the Army has ever told me. I am just sick of seeing good men and women die. In the end is it going to really mean anything that all these Americans shed their blood in the sand? I don't think most of America really knows how bad it is. We getting our asses kicked and no one is winning this thing.

"O2- If you look at it really hard, the only ones that come out ahead are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of those corrupt old bastards. I mean come on, if all the soldiers who are actually fighting this war can see that, what the hell is wrong with the American citizens? We knew it was about oil from the beginning. Oil and building huge bases that the US will have to staff for years to come. There is no end in sight for the people serving in this war."

"I'm proud that I served my country, I am proud to be an American soldier. That is why it is so hard for me to say stuff like this about our leaders and the government. I hate doing this, but what the Pentagon and Bush are doing to our soldiers makes me sick. I also get sick when I think about how many Iraqi civilians I saw killed and terribly maimed. I have seen hundreds of kids missing body parts or dying from dysentery and diarrhea from contaminated water. I saw orphans who had lost every family member and were starving in the street.

"There are whole packs of orphans roaming around Baghdad and some of the other cities. They scavenge for scraps and beg for food. It got really bad after the Red Cross and the UN pulled out. Seeing hundreds and hundreds of maimed and starving children is one sight you will never forget. I can't sleep sometimes, and I hear the kids crying in my nightmares. I saw little kids with injuries like I never dreamed possible."

"I was near a hospital for a few weeks after the ground war ended. I saw hundreds of dead kids, and kids dying from gangrene and infection. If you ever smell someone who has severe gangrene and flesh rotting you would know what I was talking about. That is one smell you will never forget. To see a little child with their arm or leg rotting off is one of the most gruesome sights I could have imagined."

"The madness and chaos that hit the whole country was completely overwhelming. I know a lot of my guys will come home with PTSD or worse. We had a lot of guys flown out for going off the deep end. You could just see it in their eyes. They were right at the breaking point or already over the edge... I just want to be able to look back on my service with total pride and that is not really what I feel right now. I hate the ones in power that have made me question my sense of duty and honor. I get so confused about it and there is no one you can really talk to about that."

"I think it [post-traumatic stress disorder] is probably affecting at least half the men over there. It's probably way more than that out of the ones in combat situations everyday. They have had to evacuate at least 5000 soldiers for mental reasons already. Who knows how many are having problems and are afraid to tell anyone. I know that I will never be the same again. I have nightmares and can't sleep very well. I know I won't ever forget some of the things I saw, there is no way you can ever wipe out the sight of dead kids and women, or seeing your men get slaughtered."

"I think I said way too much if I know what's good for me. That is one thing that I am really upset about. I go off to fight for democracy and freedom in Iraq, and I am scared to have my name on this interview when I get back home to this supposed democracy. That just pisses me off that I am afraid to speak out in my own country. How the hell are we supposed to bring democracy to Iraq when the government is going after all the soldiers that have been speaking out?

"O2- You have to have been out of the country for a few months to notice it. I almost felt like I was coming home to a police state or something. They were screening everyone at the airport and pulled aside some elderly guy who was a prominent anti-war activist."

"I know that some of my family has spoken out against the war. If they were to try and arrest my mom or dad they would have a real fight on their hands. I don't think the government realizes how volatile something like that would be. How ironic it would be if I go back to Iraq to help them get a freely elected democracy, and they put my family in jail for trying to protect our own democracy? We are in real critical times right now. I don't think many of the military or their families actually support this war. I don't know of any other time of war when so many people with military family have spoken out in opposition of a war.

"Some of the men in my unit have family members that go to all the protests, and are very active with anti war groups. Imagine if the FBI were to just start arresting all those people. That is a very real possibility if you look at the lengths the FBI and Homeland Security has gone to keep track of protestors and activists."

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