American Soldiers Will Live With The Memory Of Killing Iraqi Civilians For A Lifetime

by James Glaser
June 25, 2003

I have met veterans from every American war since WW II that have lived with the memory of killing innocent civilians. Some that never personally shot one, still have the vision of those dead women and children playing in their mind.

Most Americans think of war and combat as brave men pitted against evil foes trying to take a beach or putting the flag on top of some hill. That is nice for Hollywood and that is right where we get those ideas about war, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Sorry to burst your bubble America, but men in war are scared like never before in their lives. Combat can be sheer terror for those fighting and it is the desire to live that keeps men fighting. After the battle or an attack on your own position some men vomit from the intense release of adrenaline while others break into a sweat and shake. When the fighting is going on you can be calm and effective in your particular job, but when it is over many fall to pieces until they need to get under control to fight again.

It is no different for the men and women that are now serving The United States in Iraq. During the battles on the way to Baghdad these Americans fought just as intensely, as in any of our other wars and they came out on top. I am sure every combat trooper saw Americans killed or wounded and like in every other war, stories about other units were told everywhere.

Now those battles are over and that intense fighting that released all of that adrenaline is in the past. Men are still getting killed almost every day and that causes the fear to set in. Troops are on edge looking for that one bullet fired that can take their life. Everyone is nervous and all Iraqis look like a potential enemy. Like in other wars, as you walk by a group of civilians you can feel the hate directed at you and it feels like their eyes are drilling into your back. Our troops are jumpy, ready to react to any provocation.

This is the situation that gets lots of civilians killed, occupying troops in a hostile environment, where snipers and unprovoked attacks are killing those troops. Young Americans trained to kill are now supposed to switch duties and become peace keepers, a job they have no skill for.

Every day there are new stories about some one from another unit that was killed. In the enlisted ranks this "scuttlebutt" has a way of sounding official. " I heard it from a Gunnery Sergeant over at the Marine compound."

The fact that every day in Iraq the temperature goes over a hundred does not help. In full body armor our troops are as hot as can be and they know a moving target is harder to hit, so they are always on the move. Long hours, heat, and fear all take their toll.

The American media has reporters in Iraq, but either by design or orders from Washington, the perils that our troops find themselves in goes unreported. The citizens in Great Britain are just as worried about their troops in Iraq as we are about ours. The difference is that British newspapers have a free rein about what they report and the London Evening Standard newspaper published a report about American troops in the war zone. I would personally blow this type of article off as being antiwar propaganda except for the fact that photos and names of the American troops interviewed about the war are published.

This is a real report about our troops by Bob Graham titled "I Just Pull The Trigger." Sergeant First Class John Meadows revealed the mindset that has led to hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians being killed alongside fighters deliberately dressed in civilian clothes. "You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not" he said. "Like, the only way to get through s*** like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home."

Sgt. Meadows said men under his command had been seeking help for severe depression: "They've already seen psychiatrists and the chain of command has got letters back saying these men need to be taken out of this situation, but nothing's happened."

Sgt. Meadows goes on to say " For me, it's like snap-shot photos. Like pictures of maggots on tongues, babies with their heads on the ground, men with their heads halfway off and their eyes wide open and mouths wide open. I see it every day, every single day. The smells and the torso burning, the entire route up to Baghdad, from 20 March to 7 April, nothing but burning bodies."

Sgt. Quinones explained, "There are psychiatrists who are trying to sort out their problems but they say it's because of long combat environment. They know we need to be taken away from that environment. But the group's tour of duty has been extended and the men have been forced to remain as peace keepers."

American combat troops are coming off a mindset where they must kill the enemy and now they must help that same enemy. These troops have no training on how to make that adjustment and the continued daily attacks only make that change harder.

Specialist Anthony Castillo, "We're more angry at the generals who are making these decisions and who never hit the ground and who don't get shot at or have to look at the bloody bodies and the burnt out bodies and the dead babies and all that kinda stuff." Sgt. Quinones added, "Most of these soldiers are in their early twenties and late teens. They've seen, in less than a month more than any man should see in a whole lifetime. It's time for us to go home."

Now these same American troops that had to go through the combat phase of this Iraqi war are standing guard trying to keep the peace. Every day the are being attacked. Many times innocent civilians are shot and killed because of provoked or unprovoked attacks. These guys are on the edge and should be rotated home, but Washington doesn't understand what we are doing to these Soldiers and Marines.

Chances are President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have never seen a combat death as neither of these men have ever fought for their country. To these two men, death is a funeral parlor with flowers and soft church music. Death in the combat zone is dirty and stinky. Nothing is prettied up by a funeral director and many times the blood and body fluids of the enemy or your best friend are stuck to you for days. These men will never forget this war and those bodies. It is past time to take them home.

Those in Washington won't listen to the advice of their Generals and are winging this war on their Hollywood ideas of how this post combat war should go. Our troops know this war is not over and daily our men and women have to put a close friend into a body bag. That memory sticks with you. Every day now American and British Medics and Corpsman are trying to keep some wounded soldiers and Marines alive.

The American media keeps this hidden from us. These words by American troops will never see the pages of an American newspaper as it might upset those pushing for this war and nobody in the American media, wants to upset potential voters for President Bush. The British citizens must be made of stauncher stuff that our fellow citizens or maybe because they were attacked for several years in WW II there is no need to try and hide what war is really like. People in Britain already know, only the American public is clueless about the horror of what we are doing to our troops and the Iraqi people.

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