View from the Turret
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Iraq: A Marine Corp-Machine Gun View from the Turret
What I know about Iraq comes from my observations from the Marine Corps Humvee. Yes, I have Masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies, and yes I am almost done with a PhD from one of England’s finest Universities, but all of that is irrelevant compared to what I learned on the desert sand of Iraq.
On May 1, 2003, I was just outside of Nasariya, Iraq. It was a blistering 90 plus degrees, I was fixed inside the turret of my Humvee, we wore our full combat load including the NBC suit (protective suit from chemical weapons). We were sleep deprived, reeked of something awful, and obviously, were overworked. Our vehicle’s command radio [called a PRC 119] screeched with the DO’s voice [Duty Officer], and he informed us that President Bush announced, the “Mission was Accomplished”. After weeks of combat, those of us in the humvee, sitting with no shower and crappy food, were thrilled to know that the sacrifices we were undergoing were about to be over. We were proud of the job we did, and we were ready to go home.
Several weeks later, we were still in Iraq, and I know some of us felt like Bush was lying to us. Mainly, my team and I came to the understanding that there was no way the “Mission was Accomplished”. The cities were in total chaos. Looters and rioters were running about, there was massive criminality, and the streets were full of trash. The face of the Iraqis told the entire story. Everyday we stayed they were increasingly becoming frustrated. Not necessarily at us as combat troops, but they were getting angry at everything that was occurring. The lack of civil services, the ongoing violence, the lack of drinking water, the sheer absence of functioning toilets, and a whole host of other problems. I could not figure out what “Mission Accomplished” even meant. Did Washington really know what was happening?
Several months later, my Uncle mailed me a magazine article that had George Bush’s speech published in it. I was still in Iraq, and as I read his words, a hollow breeze entered my soul, and my heart sank with jarring melancholy. Bush’s whole speech told the story:
“Our mission continues…The War on Terror continues, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide.”
Image Credit: Juan. E. Diaz
As I read those words, I felt betrayed. We were told the war was going to be 3-6 months, just like the last Gulf War. Bush told us that Iraq had WMD’s, and Bush said the Iraqi’s would welcome us as “liberators”. At the beginning of the war, I was skeptical to begin with, obviously there was work to do in Afghanistan, but I was sure we would leave just as we did in 1991. However, Bush’s speech made me realize my government totally fabricated this rhetoric to us, and I was sure Washington was doing the same to everyone else as well.
The following day, my team and I were on patrol outside a town called Safwan. I was in the turret behind a 240-golf machine gun, and all I could think was, “This country is a giant sand box. It’s going to be decades to rebuild it, how long is the Pentagon planning on staying here?” I spent the next several months on patrol, dodging angry Iraqi rioters, barely missing IED’s, and sometimes providing security for convoys heading into Baghdad. Towards the end of my deployment, the brutal honesty of the war hit me. My moral conclusion became clear, I was sure the guys up at the top had no idea what was going on. The level of incompetence was astonishing
Upon my return home in 2004, many Americans were growing weary of the war. Personally, I observed a growing antiwar movement that reminded me of stories my Vietnam veteran relatives told me. As a 23 year old, I found employment in Naperville Illinois, and outside our building, local liberal activists were organising protests to the war, almost daily. Day after Day, I saw the crowd getting larger. I never thought I would feel such anxiety towards other Americans, and I was just confused.
Image credit: A Marine Corp-Machine Gun View from the Turret
How could Americans be protesting again? I thought back to my time in the turret, thinking to myself, “if we are smart, we are going to end this thing in Iraq quicker than later, otherwise it’s going to get ugly in the states and in Iraq”. A few years later, I discovered General Petraeus was stating much more eloquently something of a similar stroke, “An Army of Liberation has a very short half life”.
Mark Twain wrote, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots.” Twain’s imagery is so relevant for the discussion regarding the Bush administrations state-run deception. While the Iraq war was fully underway, the realisation of the true costs/consequences would not be seen until the boots of American soldiers arrived. Bush’s remark, “Our mission continues…The War on Terror continues”, illustrates the fact that the falsely advertised “quick and easy war” proved to be a patented fraudulent discourse. Those of us, low ranking NCO’s, could identify this from the very beginning, but who were we to say, we were just enlisted Marines.
More than anything, Americans should know that Donnald Rumsfeld, Condoleza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Doug Feith, Paul Bremmer, George Tennet, Scooter Lobby, and a whole list of others blatantly betrayed the US military. Just ignoring partisan politics, they ruined the military integrity and the Oath of Office. They told us Iraq was an immediate threat, it proved to be false, and then they mismanaged us all the way to hell and back. They were not courageous leaders; they were immeasurable clowns, utter morons, mega-ego masturbators, and ethical failures. Quid pro quo analogy: if an NCO looses his rifle in war, he goes to jail for life. These guys failed our nation, they cost thousands of lives, yet they get huge speaking gigs, and live luxurious lives. Where is the justice in that? They get mansions, and we get PTSD, bad memories, betrayal, and friends Killed in Action.
The effects of this war will not bee seen for several generations, but those of us on the ground know a few things. Beyond the national borders, the financial loss, and those killed in action, these political leaders betrayed the US military in Iraq. They broke the back of our incredibly capable conventional force. They messed up, and the military paid the price.
Jake Diliberto is a Political Scientist, Ph D. candidate at the University of Birmingham, resident scholar on US National Security & research fellow at the Centre for International Policy. Specialised in Religious Conflict and Guerrilla Warfare. He served as a US marine in Afghanistan and Iraq.