Earlier this week, we junior enlisted soldiers were asked to write a paragraph about our experiences in Iraq. Supposedly, these statements were going to be read by someone important, a retired general maybe. Maybe they’re trying to find out what the soldiers think. Anyway, this gave me a good oppurtunity to say what I think to someone who might have some say in what happens in Iraq. Here it is:
As a veteran of the war in Iraq, I feel it gives me and fellow soldiers more of a right to say what the war in Iraq is really about than non-veterans. Before I deployed to Iraq during OIF1, I was full of optimism for what we could do to help the people of Iraq. One of our missions, after all, was to “win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.” And in that regard, we have failed miserably. In the year I was in Iraq, I saw kids waving American flags in the first month. Then they threw rocks. Then they planted IEDs. Then they blew themselves and others up in city squares full of people. The only conclusion I can come up with as to why this has happened is the way the American troops have treated the Iraqi people as a whole. From random raids of whole city blocks, to checkpoints that interrupted the daily lives of the Iraqis, to incidents of torture and even massacres, a majority of Iraqis now feel as though the American soldiers, once hailed as heroes and saviors, are now seen as conquerors. Civil war has erupted in the streets, and Americans are caught in the crossfire. And the insurgents feel as though they need to repel the foreign invaders. And this is not the fault of American troops on the ground. They are whisked away from the U.S. and sent to a foreign land where they are largely not welcome, being told to be alert for anything and everything. They experience lack of sleelp, in a hot country, and have an overbearing op-tempo. I see this not as the fault of soldiers on the ground, but rather as a failure of overzealous officers looking for promotions, and politicians and administrators increasingly frustrated from a lack of positive results in the war. Hundreds of billions of American dollars, thousands of Americans’ lives, and tens of thousands of Iraqis lives have all been wasted in this war. I feel as though many more soldiers want to say things like this, but are afraid of retribution, and who’s really listening anyway?