June 24, 2005

A Second Lieutenant's Grim Commentary From Iraq, Part II



For the second round of our “interview,” my 2nd Lieutenant friend and I had the benefit of an “audience.” He’d copied his entire address book onto his initial responses, so all his friends, family- everyone he was in contact with while stationed in Iraq- got to see our conversation. He explained:

“I find it funny- the reaction I received from my first batch of responses to your questions. People have apparently been wondering these same things (and probably more) but have been unable or unwilling to ask for clarification. This baffles me. One of the good things about being here is that I can shed some light on an otherwise murky situation. So if anyone has any more questions (anything, seriously I am not in a delicate mental state or anything) go ahead and ask.”
It felt good to know that many more people besides me didn’t want to feel manipulated by events any more than we probably already had been. Here's Part 2:
Thanks again for illuminating me. Funny that I should get some serious details about Iraq from you on the same day that figurative shit blows up all over the place back in the States. Namely a thing that’s been absolutely frustrating to me is the inference that so many people make here at home- that any dissent about anything war-related hurts or demoralizes you guys. Help me out with this since I don’t get it- I’m concerned that you’re stuck in an untenable situation, and it’s my fault for saying something about it?

Being labeled a traitor for showing anti-war sentiment, that is absolute garbage. As a real American (meaning someone who actually has read the entire Constitution and someone who takes its defense deadly serious) I support any form of discourse which furthers the public’s enlightenment of any situation. Whether it be abortion, stem cell research, flag buring, the war in Iraq...whatever. I love the fact that I am fighting for a country that allows and encourages that sort of FREEDOM. 3 years ago, in the very place I sit at this moment, people would dissappear for private dissent, let alone public. I relish the fact that people I totally disagree with have the right to speak their minds and disagree with me. That we as citizens have not only the right but the responsibility to question our leaders about the direction they are taking us.

What worries me is that if our best-trained troops are having a hard time (other than, of course, whatever kind of hard time you all may have expected), then it’s gotta be worse than an extremely dangerous situation, like you just said. What I guess I’m not getting is if that’s in any way harmful to you guys. I know this is a 30-year-old (and older) argument too, so I guess no one’s figured it out yet. I figure you’ll tell me if I cross a line, or say “Dammit Keir, what the hell did I tell you about that casual disregard for bullshit?” I know dude, I know. It’s just really, really been smelling bad for a while now, though, you know?

I can’t give my true opinion of what is going on over here because I am an Army Officer which precludes me from enjoying many of the freedoms I defend, however let me make one thing clear...Anti-war sentiment does not derail my morale nor do war hawks bolster my morale or that of my men. When you are where we are, “knee-deep in the shit” as we say, the only thing that matters is accomplishing the mission and getting you and your people home alive. And, sorry to say, when it comes to a lot of the missions that we do here, getting home alive actually becomes number one pretty quick. As the character in Black Hawk Down says, “I think it don’t really matter what I think...when that first bullet flies by your head all that politics goes right out the window.”

That is about as true as it gets. All that really matters in combat is the guy next to you...you’re fighting for him and not much else. If that bursts anyone’s bubble...sorry but it is the truth. So, for those of you who don’t understand what we are doing over here (you aren’t alone, trust me) or who think this whole thing was a blunder... go ahead and say so. It doesn’t bother us as long as you don’t start criticizing us soldiers along with everyone else. The important thing to remember is that a soldier doesn’t get to choose his wars. He simply goes where he’s told and tries to make the best of it. So keep supporting those of us over here doing the hard thing because our elected representatives told us to. But maybe those representatives need a wake up call if they are failing to represent you accurately...that’s the beauty of democracy.

I just read a report that a company called KBR is providing poor quality food to certain units in the field in Iraq. It seems to be the umpteenth example of someone’s poor decision to fight this war on the cheap. Actually, speaking of that, how often have you or your men run into serious problems with equipment- as in not having what you’re supposed to or if any supply issues are a legit gripe or much ado about nothing?

Well first of all as you may know “KBR” stands for Kellog, Brown and Root which is the longest running logistics supplier for our nation’s military in existence. I believe they were supplying troops in WWII. The other interesting thing is that KBR is a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton, which as we all know was led by VP Cheney in the years prior to him taking office. Another interesting thing about KBR is that it recieved a “no bid” contract to provide chow hall services and other logistical support to the Americans in Iraq. The whole thing stinks of old boy, insider shit. However, to answer your real question, the food is pretty damn good here. Decent quality and selection and tastes pretty good too. Overall, the food situation is way better than if the Army was doing the cooking...trust me. Everyone here is glad that they have private contractors providing chow.

You mentioned last time that the nature of the media there is a necessary evil. I don’t want to misinterpret anything so could you elaborate on that a bit? It seems to me that that the embedding process destroys objectivity.

The big thing that the Army controls is the media’s movement within Iraq because it is too dangerous for them to operate outside the green zone without us escorting them. Other than that, we don’t have all that much control but we do shape what they see and subsequently what they report. As for bad news, there is so much of it that it is hard to paint a positive picture of this “quagmire” as Rumsfeld calls it. I really don’t know what you all are getting back home as far as news is concerned but the real answer as far as I see is diversification. Read as much as you can, from reputable news sources with either liberal or conservative bent, independent stuff, blogs, watch documentaries, talk to people who are deployed and you might scratch the surface. Shit, I’m here and I still don’t fully know what is happening.

Well, that is my soapbox rant for the day. When you get on a roll you really lay down some interesting shit, man. Hope all is well and that your band continues to rock. Feel free to use the name I thought up the other day, “Jam Nut Actuator and the Tubeless Regroover.” Those are all things on tanks that make a good name for a funk band. Anyway, take care and have fun at the reunion.

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