The Iraq War: By The Numbers And On The Ground

Fantasies of war

According to the National Priorities Project, the cost to U.S. taxpayers for the war in Iraq is about to surpass $300 billion. The cost in American lives currently stands at 2574. Given the unrelenting violence, the Pentagon reportedly plans to increase the number of troops in Iraq to roughly 135,000. There is simply no end in sight. As to what it is like for the young men and women serving in this hostile foreign land, Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post offers a glimpse into their lives and experiences:

‘Waiting to Get Blown Up’

Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos considered the simple question about morale for more than an hour. But not until his convoy of armored Humvees had finally rumbled back into the Baghdad military base, and the soldiers emptied the ammunition from their machine guns, and passed off the bomb-detecting robot to another patrol, did he turn around in his seat and give his answer.

“Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat,” he said. “Then ask how morale is.”

Frustrated? “You have no idea,” he said.

As President Bush plans to deploy more troops in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers who have been patrolling the capital for months describe a deadly and infuriating mission in which the enemy is elusive and success hard to find. Each day, convoys of Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles leave Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad with the goal of stopping violence between warring Iraqi religious sects, training the Iraqi army and police to take over the duty, and reporting back on the availability of basic services for Iraqi civilians.

But some soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division — interviewed over four days on base and on patrols — say they have grown increasingly disillusioned about their ability to quell the violence and their reason for fighting. The battalion of more than 750 people arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait in March, and since then, six soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded.

“It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we’re driving around waiting to get blown up. That’s the most honest answer I could give you,” said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio, a muscular former backup fullback for Baylor University. “You lose a couple friends and it gets hard.”

“No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do,” said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. “We were excited, but then it just wears on you — there’s only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here,” he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, “there is no enemy, it’s a faceless enemy. He’s out there, but he’s hiding.”

“We’re trained as an Army to fight and destroy the enemy and then take over,” added Dugger, 26, of Reno, Nev. “But I don’t think we’re trained enough to push along a country, and that’s what we’re actually doing out here.” [full text]

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One response

  1. Having just read David’s article with the comments from US troops in Iraq I feel compelled to add an additional comment. As an Australian, my country is directly involved in the Iraq conflict and now, is likely to be asked to join a “peace keeping” type force in Lebanon. I am attaching a depressing comment from one of our local independent websites:

    “Events in Lebanon are terrible. Hundreds of innocent civilians are dead. The daily media images are horrific. It’s time for the US government to use its muscle to enforce a ceasefire.

    Agreed. But in another corner of the Middle East the US is using its muscle – with these results:

    January: 1,778 civilian deaths
    February: 2,165 civilian deaths
    March: 2,378 civilian deaths
    April: 2,284 civilian deaths
    May: 2,669 civilian deaths
    June: 3,149 civilian deaths

    Thousands of civilian deaths every month – 14,423 in the first half of the year – according to United Nations figures.

    If Lebanon is bad, Iraq is a hundred times worse. Literally”.

    It is often difficult to think rationally about these dreadfully sad events. One tries to take a balanced view but I am finding that the ‘balance’ tips from one side to the other, by the hour.
    I feel saddened by the soldiers’ comments in David’s article. I also feel saddened by emails I am receiving from my friends in Jerusalem, Beirut and Pittsburg.

    Don Bowen
    Sydney

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