From a soldier, last October. I hear so much about 'support the troops', many times I believe that concern for the troops is anything but genuine. After all the best way to support the troops is through supporting the TRUTH. And most importantly. NOT PUTTING THEM IN HARMS WAY UNLESS ABSOLUTLY NECESSARY!!!!!!<br><br><blockquote><font size=1>In reply to:</font><hr><p>The Iraq War will haunt America<br><br>I am an ex-Military Intelligence officer who served 10 months in Baghdad; I was the senior intelligence officer for the area of Baghdad that included the UN HQ and Sadr City.<br><br>Since Bush exposed my person and my friends, peers, and subordinates to unnecessary danger in a war apparently designed to generate income for a select few in the upper echelon of America I have become wholeheartedly anti-Bush, to the chagrin of much of my pro-Republican family.<br><br>I fail to understand how Bush can be so strong regarding national security matters. As a 'footsoldier' in the 'war on terror' I can personally testify that Bush's administration has failed to effectively fight terrorists or the root causes of terror. A lot of people have already discussed the faulty reasoning for going to war and how the war in Iraq is not related to the war on terrorism, but even within the execution of the war, there are significant failures by the national leadership to execute the 'war' on Iraq and to 'reconstruct' Iraq.<br><br>For instance:<br><br>1. Bush stated that our troops would have everything we would need to fight in Iraq. Why then was I given only 19 rounds of 9mm ammunition for my only weapon, a pistol, when I crossed the border into Iraq on April 8th, 2003? Why did hundreds of soldiers in my unit not have armor inserts for our body armor? Why did we have to use 'creative accounting' to come up with cash to pay Iraqi sources for information- sometimes even using our personal funds? When we needed cell phones for Iraqi sources so they could contact us without putting themselves in danger, why were they unavailable? (Perhaps because every other person within the highly ineffective CPA had one?)<br><br>2. The White House and the DoD failed to plan for reconstruction of Iraq. Contracts weren't tendered until Feb-Mar of 2003, and ORHA (the original CPA) didn't even come into existence until January 2003. This failure to plan for the 'peace' is a direct cause for the insecurity of Iraq today.<br><br>Immediately after the 'war' portion of the fighting (which really ended around April 9th, 2003) we should have been prepared to send in a massive reconstruction effort. Right away we needed engineers to diagnose problems, we needed contractors repairing problems, we needed immediate food, water, shelter, and fuel for the Iraqi people, and we needed more security for all of this to work - which we did not have because we did not have enough troops on the ground, and CPA decided to disband the Iraqi Army. The former Iraqi police were engaged far too late; a plan should have existed to bring them into the fold right away.<br><br>Unemployment is also a contributing factor to the lack of security, since idle hands are dangerous when those hands belong to people who are hungry, thirsty, and armed. The fact that Iraq was mostly a socialized industrial economy within its cities was known. Why then was the employment of urban Iraqis during reconstruction not a priority? Establishing massive reconstruction efforts that employed millions of Iraqis would have gone a long way toward proving to the Iraqis that we were there to help them, not steal their oil and get rich from reconstruction contracts paid for by the American taxpayer.<br><br>3. Contractors hired by the national decision makers (no-bid contractors) contributed to problems in Iraq, instead of helping. They did this by having CPA driving out or discouraging some international and non-US NGOs who were working the same areas that contractors like Bechtel were hired to fix. When areas were being double-tapped, CPA would instruct the NGOs to go away and let the contractors do their work. Additionally, the sub-contractors employed by US contractors hired Iraqis - but they found Iraqis in rural areas outside of urban areas (to reduce the amount they would have to pay them - urban areas have a higher average daily pay) and then bring the rural Iraqis into urban areas to conduct work. This resulted in a lot of irritated, unemployed urban Iraqis in areas where they could see work being done, but no work (and no pay) for them. And the rub of all this is that the rural Iraqis didn't really need the work - most rural Iraqis were subsistence farmers, with a loose barter economy in the undeveloped areas outside of cities. Yes, they were poor, but they could survive on the food they could grow; poor urban Iraqis were squeezed into neighborhoods like sardines and depended on income and handouts to live.<br><br>4. CPA was as much our enemy over there as the people planting roadside bombs and shooting weapons at us. Several times they put US profit or CPA authority as more important than security for either Iraqis or the US troops over there. CPA was mostly staffed by young republicans who want to put CPA-Iraq on their resume so they won't be left out of the grand old party.<br><br>One example of this: In early May 2003 CPA had designated a Sunni to be governor of Najaf, which was militarily under the control of a battalion of the 7th RCT of the 1st Marine Division. Najaf is The City for Shi'ites, so they didn't like this Sunni Mayor. The Shi'ites protested. The Marine Battalion Commander decided to hold free elections for an interim mayor to replace the Sunni. Many different factions in Najaf put forward candidates; posters were put up all over the city, and people tried to sway the vote using street-corner speeches. The week the election was to be held the Marines had managed to rebuild a local TV station using their unit funds, and they televised that elections would be held, with registration of voters occurring prior to voting. This was to be democracy in action: the people speak and give their power to an elected individual. This was in late May 2003 if I remember correctly.<br><br>Several days later CPA suspended and then cancelled the election because they said that the Marines didn't have the authority to hold elections or change the CPA's designated Mayor. What had been a victory for the US and the people for Najaf had been turned sour by CPA's 'don't step on our turf' mentality, and their fear of having an elected official in a major city that wasn’t handpicked by them. By doing this the Marines were made to appear impotent, and the Shi'ites of their Most Holy City lost any hope for the US occupation of their land.<br><br>Is it any wonder that Sadr found an audience for his anti-American rhetoric in Najaf? How many lives (American, Iraqi, and others) were lost because of the disaffected Shi’a that this CPA decision created?<br><br>5. Back to the point of Bush promising that we would have everything we would need. The thing we needed most over in Iraq wasn’t bullets, body armor, cash, air conditioning, hot chow, or armored vehicles, although we were short on all of these things; the thing we really needed the most was training and preparation. We had no or very little training on urban combat tactics, raids to detain or kill targeted individuals, collecting, reporting, analyzing, and using human intelligence, developing sources of information, using interpreters, bomb / unexploded ordnance detection and disposal, handling of detainees, questioning detainees, use of non-lethal force, cordon and search operations, and riot control. This lack of training has caused the deaths of untold numbers of soldiers and Iraqis. Unfortunately we have gotten experience in some of these areas, but we paid too high a cost in blood for our ‘training.’<br><br>As an example, did you know that a .50 caliber machinegun will penetrate through four or five houses if they are made of the simple dried-mud construction that many buildings in the poorer areas of Baghdad are made of? How many casualties were caused by incidents caused by our ignorance of this fact? And how angry would you be if a family member were injured or killed by U.S. gunfire, even if it was an accident? I don’t blame our troops; we used the tools we were given, and never were we given training on minimizing innocent casualties during complex urban encounters, often at night, in close-quarters. We did the best we could with what we were given; but what we were given wasn’t enough. Our government owed us and the Iraqis better.<br><br>We were given only minimal training on compensating innocents for military-caused damage to their person, family, or possessions. We did dozens of raids, if not hundreds of raids, in my area of Baghdad alone. Sometimes the raid was against the wrong person or an innocent, but only occasionally did we compensate them for destroyed doors, days lost at work, or injuries. How angry would you be at the local occupying force of your neighborhood if they were constantly breaking down your front door, seizing random property, cash, and documents, and detaining all the males and some females for indeterminate amounts of time? How many of these angry Iraqis are fighting us now? If training had highlighted how important it was to keep Iraqis happy with us and our presence, perhaps the death toll would be much lower than it is now. But again, the government failed to train or prepare us adequately.<br><br>Once in Baghdad it quickly became apparent that we would have to identify individual insurgents in an extremely densely populated urban area. This was a task that we as a combat unit and I as a military intelligence officer were certainly not prepared for; it was unlike anything we had ever done in training. It was something more akin to the job of FBI agents or CIA analysts, and it took us months to even feel like we were approaching the problem the right way. We were more or less amateurs at the job, although we tried very hard and did the best we could, considering we had no training or preparation for our task of ‘hunting down terrorists and insurgents.’ Why didn’t the government have us start training for this type of war before we started having our troops blown up by roadside bombs?<br><br>We never trained to handle any significant number of detainees, and certainly never had to rely on questionable local translators to do basic initial questioning of detainees. Our ability to determine the guilt or innocence of any particular detainee was severely limited by our inexperience and lack of training doing what are basically ‘police’ arrests of individuals. We are an Army trained to fight enemy units, not individuals. We are very good at killing or capturing even small teams of the enemy. But we were not prepared to fight an enemy who we can’t identify; in the words of the operations officer I served with, “It’s not like they have Terrorist T-shirts or Terrorist membership cards.” If the bad guy you are after doesn’t have any weapons or bombs under his bed, how do you know you have the right guy? And usually our decision was, if in doubt, detain the guy. And usually that guy would be detained a long, long time. There were systems in place to try to ensure that we only detained and imprisoned the bad guys, but the detention of individuals and trying to act as judge, jury, and attorney was something that none of us were trained to do. And unfortunately that probably means a lot of innocent people were detained, and for every innocent person detained, that means an angry extended family that may have been at least neutral to the US occupation is now ready to pick up an AK-47 and take a few satisfying shots at the ‘infidel occupiers.’ The government should have prepared us better, and they didn’t. Again, American and Iraqi lives lost are the price paid.<br><br>And regarding translators: if the government was serious about taking down Iraq and liberating their people, why didn’t we start creating a huge pool of Arab linguists? We had to hire scores of local translators for use with our combat patrols and raiding operations, and we still never had enough. And how do you know that the translator you hired isn’t selling information about your unit to people who want to do you harm?<br><br>Thank you for reading this. I use the term ‘government’ quite a bit in this letter, but make no mistake: I blame the national decision makers of our government for the incredible cost in human life that this unnecessary war has cost us Americans and the rest of the world. And the chief decision maker, the CEO of America, ‘President’ Bush, needs to be held accountable for the horrible decisions made while his administration held the reins of power.<br><br>I would like to add that it is my opinion that the vast majority of the US military that went over to Iraq really believed that we were there to help the Iraqi people and liberate them. I and others I served with did the best we could to preserve innocent life. But we were given a task to do without the tools, training, or troops enough to do it, and it makes me really angry to hear Bush touting the war in Iraq as a successful means of fighting terrorism.<br><br>At least before the Iraq war the average angry anti-American Arab would have to cross the Atlantic to get to us; now they can shoot a mortar at us or drop a roadside bomb off on their way to work. The decision to invade Iraq will haunt America for decades to come.<br><br>I'm sure this has gone on long enough. If there is anything I can do to help get Bush out of office, please let me know. I've left the military and am currently setting up my own business, but have time and flexibility to spare.<br><br>-Andrew Balthazor<p><hr></blockquote><p><br>;userID=79282<br><br>