Steve Benen has a few posts up apropos of the Memorial Day weekend. First up is a post that links to this link to NY Times story about Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division, stationed in Iraq.
But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.
“I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”
His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.
A small minority of Delta Company soldiers — the younger, more recent enlistees in particular — seem to still wholeheartedly support the war. Others are ambivalent, torn between fear of losing more friends in battle, longing for their families and a desire to complete their mission.
With few reliable surveys of soldiers’ attitudes, it is impossible to simply extrapolate from the small number of soldiers in Delta Company. But in interviews with more than a dozen soldiers over a one-week period with this 83-man unit, most said they were disillusioned by repeated deployments, by what they saw as the abysmal performance of Iraqi security forces and by a conflict that they considered a civil war, one they had no ability to stop.
The article goes on:
When the battle was over, Delta Company learned that among the enemy dead were at least two Iraqi Army soldiers that American forces had helped train and arm.
“The 29th was a watershed moment in a negative sense, because the Iraqi Army would not fight with us,” Captain Rogers said, adding, “Some actually picked up weapons and fought against us.”
The battle changed the attitude among his soldiers toward the war, he said.
“Before that fight, there were a few true believers.” Captain Rogers said. “After the 29th, I don’t think you’ll find a true believer in this unit. They’re paratroopers. There’s no question they’ll fulfill their mission. But they’re fighting now for pride in their unit, professionalism, loyalty to their fellow soldier and chain of command.”
To Sergeant O’Flarity, the Iraqi security forces are militias beholden to local leaders, not the Iraqi government. “Half of the Iraqi security forces are insurgents,” he said.
I’ve been saying for a while, a big difference between Iraq and Vietnam is that our supposed allies weren’t shooting at American troops in their spare time.
Its worth reading both Benen’s post and the NY Times article.
Benen goes on with this post about Blackwater. It seems that recently Blackwater employees in Iraq have gotten into at least two firefights last week. Details are fuzzy in both. In one, an Iraqi driver was shot dead. In another, a Blackwater convoy had a tense standoff with Iraqi Interior Ministry forces, which only ended when a US Military convoy intervened according to the Washington Post. I wonder form that intervention took.
The Washington Post also has another interesting tidbit…
Interior Ministry officials said Blackwater has not applied to operate as a private security company in Iraq. That process has been completed by several security firms with U.S. government contracts, including ArmorGroup International and Aegis Defense Services, two British companies.
Tyrrell wrote that Blackwater is “working lawfully in Iraq,” adding, “We comply with all contractual obligations, including obtaining all appropriate registrations in the very dynamic environment in Iraq whose requirements for registration and licensing are always evolving.”
Put another way… the Iraqis don’t seem to think that Blackwater is in their country legally, but the company is clearly there at the request of the American government. Seems kind of an odd situation for a sovereign country.
And another thing… (as one of Steve Benen’s commentators asks): are Blackwater employees readily identifiable as not being American troops? Somehow, I doubt it. In the minds of the average Iraqi, when they see something done by a Blackwater employee, they automatically assume its done by “Americans.”