mm107: The War as We Saw It – New York Times

August 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Read. This. Now.


August 19, 2007 Op-Ed Contributors

The War as We Saw It



VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. 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. 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.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

Found this sooner rather than later courtesy of the newest member of MUDGE’s blogroll, Talking Points Memo, blogroll2 turned on there (later, sorry to admit, rather than sooner) by well informed Older Son.

The writers in this Op-Ed piece in today’s NYTimes are serving soldiers. As TPM points out, courageous two ways: just serving honorably in this no-win cauldron; and speaking out so publicly while on the front lines. Citizen soldiers, manifestly.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The War as We Saw It – New York Times

The prosecutors of this war remain oblivious to the reality of this conflict, and will undoubtedly ignore this opinion piece — after all, consider the source: the news equivalent of the anti-Christ.

So they’ll continue to ignore the hard truths.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

I am proud to have such citizen soldiers serving and protecting us. For in spite of all of the above, and indeed, proving it by writing it, they tell us,

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

It’s it for now. Thanks,