US Marines on the futility and tragedy of Iraq

This article in the WaPo interviews young American Marines in Iraq and is sure to generate a lot of discussion. The stories these soldiers tell aren’t pretty.

It starts with a 20-year-old marine who quit his job as a firefighter after September 11 and joined the Marines because, he admits, he wanted to get revenge. But instead, he’s disillusioned and angry.

Sometimes I see no reason why we’re here,” Perez said. “First of all, you cannot engage as many times as we want to. Second of all, we’re looking for an enemy that’s not there. The only way to do it is go house to house until we get out of here.”

Perez is hardly alone. In a dozen interviews, Marines from a platoon known as the “81s” expressed in blunt terms their frustrations with the way the war is being conducted and, in some cases, doubts about why it is being waged. The platoon, named for the size in millimeters of its mortar rounds, is part of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment based in Iskandariyah, 30 miles southwest of Baghdad.

The Marines offered their opinions openly to a reporter traveling with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines during operations last week in Babil province, then expanded upon them during interviews over three days in their barracks at Camp Iskandariyah, their forward operating base.

The Marines’ opinions have been shaped by their participation in hundreds of hours of operations over the past two months. Their assessments differ sharply from those of the interim Iraqi government and the Bush administration, which have said that Iraq is on a certain — if bumpy — course toward peaceful democracy.

“I feel we’re going to be here for years and years and years,” said Lance Cpl. Edward Elston, 22, of Hackettstown, N.J. “I don’t think anything is going to get better; I think it’s going to get a lot worse. It’s going to be like a Palestinian-type deal. We’re going to stop being a policing presence and then start being an occupying presence. . . . We’re always going to be here. We’re never going to leave.”
“The reality right now is that the most dangerous opinion in the world is the opinion of a U.S. serviceman,” said Lance Cpl. Devin Kelly, 20, of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones, 20, of Ball Ground, Ga., agreed: “We’re basically proving out that the government is wrong,” he said. “We’re catching them in a lie.”

This is an immense article and you should read it all if you can stomach it. One last quote.

Asked if he was concerned that the Marines would be punished for speaking out, Autin responded: “We don’t give a crap. What are they going to do, send us to Iraq?”

The Discussion: One Comment

Americas’ occupation experience is lengthy and varied..Max Boot’s book on “Small Wars” is a decent primer on this aspect of American History.
We may in fact be in Iraq for awhile EVEN under President Kerry but there is a small chance that most of the dangerous assignments will be handled by the Iraqis. The Marines have the Shawanis Brigade, an Iraqi Specialized Special force, that is doing well under their tutelage and the recent joint attack in Samarra gives a SMALL glimmer of hope that we MAY see the begining of a competent, professional Iraqi Army…but training a modern Army from scratch will take years.

October 10, 2004 @ 7:27 pm | Comment

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