we'd get radio calls all the time alerting us to a possible car bomb with a description as vague as "black BMW 3 series". I hated those calls. What did my command want me to do whenever I saw a black BMW 3 series in Iraq (they were all over the place where I was in 2004, it seemed like every 4th car could fit the "black BMW 3 series" description)? I always was a smart-ass and radiod back and asked if they wanted me to destroy all of the BMW 3 series cars that I saw. Of course the answer was no.
Don't even bother me with this stuff. I just want to go home was all that I was thinking.
That might work.
Or make sure that we don't start wars that aren't truly necessary to our actual security and not just to attempt increase our power and posture in the world.
I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I'd imagine that a sizable portion of the emotional pain I feel regarding the war in Iraq that I experienced is a result of me realizing that much of it was a fruitless endeavor. I sacrificed and gave everything I had to our country and I have nothing positive to show for it. I don't see how any of what I did made the world a better or more fair place.
I know I probably was drinking too much of the koolaid when I joined the Army, but I really thought that I was joining the Army to protect our country and to help make the world a better place. I saw what was going on in the Balkans and how our military was being used to help provide stability and to stop genocide there. I idolized the Special Forces whose motto is "de oppresso liber" (or liberator of the oppressed). I first joined in 1997 and I received an ROTC scholarship in 1998. When I graduated college in 2002, I owed the Army 4 years of active duty service. I never envisioned that I could have ended up in Iraq destroying lives,families, and communities in 2004. That is not what I signed up for. That is not what I was taught in my childhood what the Army was supposed to be about. We were supposed to have learned a serious lesson about war after Vietnam. It's obvious that we've learned the wrong one -"Unquestionable support for our Soldiers regardless of whether or not they are fighting a just war", not "don't fight wars that are just".
My positive intentions and desires to improve the world around me was manipulated and perverted by those at the very top. The energy and desires that I had to make the world a better and more fair place was instead directed at the opposite.
At least if I would have been fighting in a justified war or if I really did make Iraq a better place I could play the "zero sum" game. I could say to myself "sure I did some pretty shitty things in the war, but at least I turned Iraq into a burgeoning democracy and a shining example of what the middle east could look like. The children of Iraq will be able to grow up and enjoy prosperity and liberty on par with that of my own children". Instead I'm left having to accept the reality that I did some shitty things in the war, left Iraq a more broken country than it was under Sadam, and the children that I impacted will be left with horrifying memories of their families being murdered around them.
I really didn't intend this to turn into another one of my war rants. At some point I need to get over myself and move on, but I constantly find myself being drawn back to the war. It has been nearly 8 years since I've been in Iraq yet it is still constantly front and center in my mind.
we'd plan these elaborate large-scale raids where we'd target 6-10 houses in a smallish community and hit them all at once with 400+ Soldiers and all of their accessories. On more than one occasion I remember getting the neighbor's house or being a block or two off from the intended target.
I really felt like crap for doing it, but we'd kick int he doors, throw stuff all over the place, segregate the the women, children, and men and start to process the people we thought we should detain. Kids and women would be crying and all hell would be breaking loose in the houses. Then, the battalion intelligence guy would say that we got the wrong house, we'd cut the zip-ties off of the wrists of the men and leave as fast as we came and hit the supposed correct house.
Talk about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis... I always felt terrible for panic I caused - especially after having kids of my own. I couldn't imagine how I would feel to be woken up in the middle of the night to a group of 20-40 heavily armed Soldiers with Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles ripping up my house, scaring the crap out of my kids, and arresting me and taking me away from my family.
Actually, I really feel like crap for most of the stuff I did in Iraq. I had a lot of opportunities to display compassion and to soften my presence and I blew most of them. I really could have made a difference at least to the small sector that I worked out of as a Platoon Leader and been a much kinder and gentler person. The sad truth is that I was probably just as scared doing what I was doing in Iraq as the Iraqi people were of me and I was just trying to survive long enough to get home. "Violence of execution" is a major tenant of operations and how the military functions and, as a younger and more naive guy, I executed all too well without enough restraint.
I know that this is starting to turn into a lengthy rant now, but my experiences in Iraq in 2004 really shifted me hard to the left and made me a much kinder and gentler person.
"Accordingly, the collision of policy and reality first took place on the ground in Trieu Ai village and its like. The American forces, including their local commanders, were confronted with a reality that the policymakers had not faced and would not face for many long years. Expecting to be welcomed as saviors, the troops found themselves in a sea of nearly universal hostility."
"If one man and his tiny team could claim more KIAs [killed in action] than an entire battalion without raising red flags among superiors; if a brigade commander could up the body count by picking off civilians from his helicopter with impunity; if a top general could institutionalize atrocities through the profligate use of heavy firepower in areas packed with civilians - then what could be expected down the line, especially among heavily armed young infantrymen operating in the field for weeks, angry, tired, and scared, often unable to locate the enemy and yet relentlessly pressed for kills?"
I hate to say it, but much of Vietnam sounds like my experience in Iraq. In many cases I think the comparison is over used as Iraq is unique in its own right, but some of the similarities are startling. I don't intend to elaborate on this thought right now, but I know that the US says that it learned a lot of lessons from Vietnam, but it appears that it learned the wrong ones.
I wasn't stressed to get more "kills" than anyone else by my chain of command, but there was a bit of competition between units over stuff like that. My platoon was golden in terms of our combat experiences when I was in Iraq until Falujah kicked off in November 2004. Between March 2004 and Nov 2004 (just prior to Falujah) my platoon fired more main gun tank rounds than any other platoon in our division - and I had a platoon that was made up of 2x tanks and 2x Bradley Fighting Vehicles (a normal armor platoon has 4 tanks). In one of our firefights, my platoon was credited with killing 26 (presumably) enemy personnel. Nobody in the battalion of combat engineers that my platoon was attached to could touch us in terms of combat power, experience, or kills. In many ways, I held a special position of prestige in the unit based on what my platoon did in combat and my officer evaluation report reflected that.
This unsaid competition between units gives us ruinous results in both wars. Local civilian populations pay the price and react with anger and continue to view the American military as ruthless occupiers and the goals of these wars are never able to be realized as a result.
Training, exercises, and the general culture within the Army stresses force protection before any other objective. When in doubt, shoot it. We are trained to kill and reminded of that constantly. When I was in basic training I remember having to sound off with "one shot, one kill" at the Drill Sergeants command. The "kill" mentality and do whatever you have to do in order to protect yourself and your unit is exactly the reason there have been an estimated 100,000-1,000,000 dead Iraqi civilians during the war. I remember hearing in briefings in 2004 that they estimated that only about 5,000 enemy/insurgent personnel were operating in Iraq at the time. Did we really need to kill that many civilians to get 5,000 "enemy"?
I don't know if I'm making any sort of a coherent point here, but writing about the war is extremely draining on me and I don't have the will to re-read what I wrote to proof read it.
I'm going to have to look up the earlier film about those same people.
I've been going through my own struggle with returning home and I would think that it would be therapeutic to hear how others have fared before me. Maybe I'll even learn something and get some direction. For the most part I do alright, but I get into some serious slumps where I just want to drop out of the world. I have a hard time caring about anyone or anything else and I don't feel much or any of an emotional attachment to the people I should feel an attachment to. My kids mean the world to me, but I feel so distant from them at times and it really hurts. I'm sure that these guys who were featured in the documentary will say the same thing, but returning home and trying to live a normal life is the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. If I could drop everything and be back in Iraq tomorrow and never come home, I'd do it.
I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm just rambling my mind a little bit. Thanks for the links to the film.
Most of them are things that you'd say over the radio and probably don't have any meaning to most people and I won't get into most of them.
"shot, over" and my knee-jerk reaction is to say "splash, over".
I used to work with a bunch of other ex-military guys and we all carried radios on our hips at the job. The ex-Army guys would randomly say "shot, over" all the time on net and the rest of us would race as fast as we could to reply with "splash, over". Or at least I would. Maybe they were just messing with me, which could be the case. I was a very broken person at my last job (which is the reason why I lost my job) and I had a lot of problems with PTSD and stress...
Early Thanksgiving morning in 2004 I was conducting a patrol with a section of armor from my platoon. I was approaching an Iraqi Army checkpoint located at a bridge that crosses the Diyala river just north of Baqubah when a whole bunch of tracers came at us from a wooded area somewhere north of my position. I couldn't see anything, but I knew that enemy were in the palm grove so I called for artillery fire into the area. I explicitly state that I wanted HE (high explosive) rounds yet they sent me illumination rounds (giant flares that light up the night sky like it was day), which really made me happy. I loved the idea of negating the advantage that I had with my thermal and nigh-vision optics and providing the enemy with a easy opportunity to identify my precise position.
It was a cold and miserable morning. It was wet from the rain and I spent the rest of the morning stopping and searching random cars as they crossed the bridge. I don't remember what I spent the rest of the day doing, but I do remember that our thanksgiving dinner was phenomenal. The hot chow that was served to us was usually very limited in quantity and shitty in quality, but both the quantity and quality of our thanksgiving dinner was amazing.
My favorites definitely have to be the following:
Cypress Hill - "How I Could Just Kill A Man"
Cypress Hill - "Hole in the Head"
Cypress Hill - "Hand on the Pump"
Notorious BIG - "Gimme the Loot"
Notorious BIG - "Things Done Changed"
Notorious BIG - "Ready to Die"
Notorious BIG - "Suicidal Thoughts"
NWA - "Straight outta Compton"
Listening to some of those good ol' "murder tracks" definitely puts me into a crazy mood and gets me amped up to get back into the fight. I think I say this in every one of my war posts, but it is so true. War brings out the worst in people.
How many things like this were reported in our news when the war in Iraq was going on at full speed? I was living in Germany during much of the war and I didn't have cable television until a few months ago so I really don't know.
Geeze. And we wonder why they don't like us over there...
Most people aren't aware of or don't care about what really goes on in the wars in the Middle East. Mass media repeats over and over again terms like "surgical strike" and they glaze over civilian casualties. The government doesn't keep track of or report the full extent of civilian casualties and Americans go on believing that those deaths are minimal to nonexistent. Terms like "collateral damage" are used when discussing dead boys, girls, women, and men who are killed during an errant drone strike and it further sterilizes our actions and makes them palatable to Americans.
Much of America grows up playing war related video games and watching movies that doesn't capture the full nastiness of war which further makes war a more palatable action. You shoot and kill someone on the game, the pile of pixels falls off the screen, and you don't see the end result and you grow numb to the experience.
The flag waiving veterans that you do see are mostly veterans who haven't actually participated first hand in combat. Those veterans seem to preach or suggest that there is glory to be had in war and that combat is a patriotic function. Meanwhile, combat veterans who are broken by the war and their experiences remain quiet, battling their demons in silence. Americans who don't know better mistaken this silence for a withheld story of valor or heroism an believe, wrongly, that this silent veteran is just humble and modest. At least in my case, much of my actions in the war left me with feelings of shame and guilt.
In a semi-anonymous forum like this I let a lot of my thoughts and emotions run freely, but aside from the Doctor's at the VA, nobody I actually talk to know much about what I did when I was in Iraq. Nobody that I interact with regularly has any idea of the full nastiness of war and ugly it can be or what I did. And I do realize that my silence is feeding the American misconception on war. I've posted one of my combat award certificates on this forum before, but I've never shown anyone that I really know some of those details about myself.
I do realize that much of my opinions on war are contradictory. I'm not proud of what I did, yet I make sure everyone knows that I'm a veteran. I sport an avatar on this forum for a Bronze Star Medal and I proclaim that I served as an Infantry Platoon Leader in my signature yet I'm ashamed of what that actually entailed.
I kind of lost the point that I wanted to make with this post, but I spent too much time writing it to just trash it. The two things that I wanted to try to work into this was:
1) In the 20th century, for every 1 Soldier killed in war approximately 10 civilians were killed. This number was compiled by the red cross.
2) It is estimated that between 100,000 and 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war. The number is so vague because the DOD doesn't bother to keep track of this number itself. How many people are aware of that?
War is a criminal action. The politicians who wage it need to be held accountable for it. However, as a society, we all need to take responsibility for it as well. The American people step back and allow our politicians to wage these wars. How many protest have you seen demanding a stop to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan? I do realize that I'm just as much of the problem as anyone else is (if not more so because of my silence regarding what I saw and did in war myself). I need to get more active and I need to demand accountability for our politicians actions in starting these wars.
Profile InformationMember since: Wed Aug 15, 2012, 01:17 PM
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