July 17, 2003

Soldiers Learn They’ll Be in Baghdad Longer Than Expected

Many military officers, both active and retired spoke
out prior to the launching of this foolish war. Many
intelligence professionals and State Dept. old hands
too...Their names are scrawled on the John O'Neil wall
of heroes (I will post it soon to the site soon)...Now
it is the turn of the GIs. Men like the Staff Sgt. who
quoted by the WASHPs recently. Men like those quoted
here by (incredibly) AnythingButSee...But that's what
I mean when I say that the Bush cabal can intimidate
the US mainstream news media, but they cannot control
the weather...Here is another clap of thunder...Here
is another torrent..Yes, a perfect political storm is
brewing..."Out, out damn spot!" The woods are on the
move. They are getting closer to the castle
walls...MacBush will be removed legally (by electoral
defeat or some other constitutional process) unlike
the way he was installed...


Soldiers Learn They’ll Be in Baghdad Longer Than Expected

By Jeffrey Kofman

F A L L U J A H, Iraq, July 16— The sergeant at the
2nd Battle Combat Team Headquarters pulled me aside in
the corridor. "I've got my own 'Most Wanted' list," he
told me.

He was referring to the deck of cards the U.S.
government published, featuring Saddam Hussein, his
sons and other wanted members of the former Iraqi

"The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld,
George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz," he said.

He was referring to the four men who are running U.S.
policy here in Iraq — the four men who are ultimately
responsible for the fate of U.S. troops here.

Those four are not popular at 2nd BCT these days. It
is home to 4,000 troops from the 2nd Brigade of the
Army's 3rd Infantry Division. The soldiers were
deployed to Kuwait last September. They were among the
first troops in Baghdad during the war. And now
they've been in the region longer than other troops:
10 months and counting.

They were told they'd be going home in May. Then in
early July. Then late July. Then last week they heard
that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had
mentioned them on Capitol Hill.

"The 2nd Brigade is — the plan is that they would
return in August, having been there something like 10
months," said Rumsfeld.

He added: "The services and the Joint Staff have been
working with Central Command to develop a rotation
plan so that we can, in fact, see that we treat these
terrific young men and young women in a way that's
respectful of their lives and their circumstances."

Solid words from a solid source. Soldiers called their
families. Commanding officers began preparations.

‘I Don’t Care Anymore’

Now comes word from the Pentagon: Not so fast.

The U.S. military command in Iraq said Tuesday it
plans to complete the withdrawal of the Army's 3rd
Infantry Division by September, but officials said
they could make no hard promises because of the
unsettled state of security in Baghdad and elsewhere
in Iraq.

"If Donald Rumsfeld were sitting here in front of us,
what would you say to him?" I asked a group of
soldiers who gathered around a table, eager to talk to
a visiting reporter.

"If he was here," said Pfc. Jason Punyahotra, "I would
ask him why we're still here, why we've been told so
many times and it's changed."

In the back of the group, Spc. Clinton Deitz put up
his hand. "If Donald Rumsfeld was here," he said, "I'd
ask him for his resignation."

Those are strong words from troops used to following
orders. They say they will continue to do their job,
but they no longer seem to have their hearts in the

"I used to want to help these people," said Pfc. Eric
Rattler, "but now I don't really care about them
anymore. I've seen so much, you know, little kids
throwing rocks at you. Once you pacify an area, it
seems like the area you just came from turns bad
again. I'd like this country to be all right, but I
don't care anymore."

Wondering Why

What they care about is their families. Sgt. Terry
Gilmore had to call his wife, Stacey, this week to her
that he wouldn't be home in a few weeks to see her and
their two little children.

"When I told her, she started crying," Gilmore said,
his eyes moistening. "I mean, I almost started crying.
I felt like my heart was broken. We couldn't figure
out why they do it. Why they can keep us over here
right after they told us we were coming home."

Sgt. Felipe Vega, who oversees the platoon, sat alone
in the platoon quarters, writing a letter. A photo of
his wife, Rhonda, was taped to the wall above him.

It is Vega's job to maintain morale. That's not easy,
he told me, when the Army keeps changing the orders.

"They turn around and slap you in the face," he said.

When asked if that's the way it feels, he said, "Yeah,
kicked in the guts, slapped in the face."

Losing Faith

The 2nd Brigade originally came to Kuwait for six
months of exercises. Then they stayed to fight the
war. Like the others, Vega thought that would be the
end of it.

"What was told to us in Kuwait," he said, "was the
fastest way to go home was through Baghdad. And that's
what we did."

But more than three months later they are still here.

"Well it pretty much makes me lose faith in the Army,"
said Pfc. Jayson Punyhotra, one of the soldiers
grouped around the table. "I mean, I don't really
believe anything they tell me. If they told me we were
leaving next week, I wouldn't believe them."

Fighting words from men who are eager to put down
their weapons.

Posted by richard at July 17, 2003 11:41 AM