October 17, 2003

Many Troops Dissatisfied, Iraq Poll Finds

Despite its many failures in confronting the lies of
the _resident and "all the _resident's men" (before
and after the coup of 2000) or investigating any of
its numerous scandals with anything like the veracity
in trashed Clinton-Gore on a daily basis, the WASHPs
deserve commendation for running this story, and
others on this painful subject...
Washington Post: A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit's morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist. The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32521-2003Oct15.html

washingtonpost.com
Many Troops Dissatisfied, Iraq Poll Finds


By Bradley Graham and Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 16, 2003; Page A01


A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a
Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those
questioned described their unit's morale as low and
their training as insufficient, and said they do not
plan to reenlist. The survey, conducted by the Stars
and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of
the respondents complaining that their mission lacks
clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as
of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs
they were doing had little or nothing to do with their
training.

The findings, drawn from 1,935 questionnaires
presented to U.S. service members throughout Iraq,
conflict with statements by military commanders and
Bush administration officials that portray the
deployed troops as high-spirited and generally
well-prepared. Though not obtained through scientific
methods, the survey results suggest that a combination
of difficult conditions, complex missions and
prolonged tours in Iraq is wearing down a significant
portion of the U.S. force and threatening to provoke a
sizable exodus from military service.

In the first of a week-long series of articles, Stars
and Stripes said yesterday that it undertook the
survey in August after receiving scores of letters
from troops who were upset with one aspect or another
of the Iraq operation. The newspaper, which receives
some funding from the Defense Department but functions
without editorial control by the Pentagon, prepared 17
questions and sent three teams of reporters to Iraq to
conduct the survey and related interviews at nearly 50
camps.

"We conducted a 'convenience survey,' meaning we gave
it to those who happened to be available at the time
rather than to a randomly selected cross section, so
the results cannot necessarily be projected as
representing the whole population," said David
Mazzarella, the paper's editorial director here. "But
we still think the findings are significant and make
clear that the troops have a different idea of things
than what their leaders have been saying."

Experts in public opinion and the military concurred
that the poll was not necessarily representative, but
they characterized it as a useful gauge of troop
sentiment. "The numbers are consistent with what I
suspect is going on there," said David Segal, a
military sociologist at the University of Maryland at
College Park. "I am getting a sense that there is a
high and increasing level of demoralization and a
growing sense of being in something they don't
understand and aren't sure the American people
understand."

The paper quoted Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander
of U.S. forces in Iraq, saying in a Sept. 9 interview
for the series that "there is no morale problem." He
said complaints among troops are "expected" and part
of "the Army's normal posture," whether the soldiers
are deployed or not.

"We haven't had time to study the survey, but we take
all indicators of morale seriously," said Bryan
Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman. "It's the reason
we've instituted several programs to address morale
and welfare issues." A White House spokesman had no
comment.

Some military experts pointed to good news for the
administration in the survey. Military historian Eliot
Cohen, who serves on a Pentagon advisory panel, noted
that the proportion that said the war was worthwhile
-- 67 percent -- and the proportion of troops that
said they have a clearly defined mission -- 64 percent
-- are "amazingly high." He added that complaints are
typical. "American troops have a God-given right and
tradition of grumbling," he said.

In the survey, 34 percent described their morale as
low, compared with 27 percent who described it as high
and 37 percent who said it was average; 49 percent
described their unit's morale as low, while 16 percent
called it high.

In recent days, the Bush administration has launched a
campaign to blame the news media for portraying the
situation in Iraq in a negative light. Last week, Bush
described the military spirit as high and said that
life in Iraq is "a lot better than you probably think.
Just ask people who have been there."

But Stars and Stripes raised questions about what
those visiting dignitaries saw in Iraq. "Many soldiers
-- including several officers -- allege that VIP
visits from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill are only
given hand-picked troops to meet with during their
tours of Iraq," the newspaper said in its interview
with Sanchez. "The phrase 'Dog and Pony Show' is
usually used. Some troops even go so far as to say
they've been ordered not to talk to VIPs because
leaders are afraid of what they might say."

The newspaper also noted in that interview that its
reporters were told that some soldiers who had
complained of morale problems had faced disciplinary
actions known as Article 15s, which can result in
reprimand, extra duties and forfeiture of pay. Sanchez
said he did not know of any such punishments, but he
added that they would have been handled at a lower
level.

The paper's project recorded significant differences
in the morale of various units, but overall found that
Army troops tended to sound more dissatisfied than Air
Force personnel and Marines, and that reservists were
the most troubled.

Uncertainty about when they are returning home was a
major factor in dampening morale, according to the
newspaper. The interviews were conducted at a time
when some reserve and regular Army units were learning
that their tours had been extended. The Pentagon has
since sought to provide a clearer rotation plan and
has begun granting troops two-week home leaves.

Although Pentagon officials say they have seen no sign
yet of a rise in the number of troops deciding against
reenlisting, the survey suggested that such a surge
may be coming soon. A total of 49 percent of those
questioned said it was "very unlikely" or "not likely"
that they would remain in the military after they
complete their current obligations. In the past,
enlistment rates tended to drop after conflicts, but
many defense experts and noncommissioned officers have
warned of the potential for a historically high
exodus, particularly of reservists.

2003 The Washington Post Company
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Posted by richard at October 17, 2003 09:08 PM