Saturday, October 27, 2007

Not Worth Another Soldier's Life

Today's WaPo has a piece by Joshua Partlow, reporting on soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, who are ending their Iraq tours. For most, it's their second tour. In the months they have been in Iraq, they've watched as Baghdad has careened from dysfunctional to devastated. The battalion has lost 20 soldiers during this tour. When asked if it was worth the sacrifice, Sgt. Victor Alarcon said no. "I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life."

The battalion's staff Sgt. Richard McClary wishes that more Americans knew what was really going on in Iraq. "They just know back there what the higher-ups here tell them. But the higher-ups don't go anywhere, and actually they only go to the safe places, places with a little bit of gunfire. They don't ever [expletive] see what we see on the ground."

While those higher-ups in the administration & pentagon tout stats of lower levels of violence lately, soldiers who live daily in the front lines of the disaster that is present day Iraq have their doubts. As Partlow notes:

"American soldiers estimate that since violence intensified this year, half of the families in Sadiyah have fled, leaving approximately 100,000 people. After they left, insurgents and militiamen used their abandoned homes to hold meetings and store weapons. The neighborhood deteriorated so quickly that many residents came to believe neither U.S. nor Iraqi security forces could stop it happening. . . . The focus of the battalion's efforts in Sadiyah was to develop the Iraqi security forces into an organized, fair and proficient force -- but the American soldiers soon realized this goal was unattainable. The sectarian warfare in Sadiyah was helped along by the Wolf Brigade, a predominantly Shiite unit of the Iraqi National Police that tolerated, and at times encouraged, Mahdi Army attacks against Sunnis, according to U.S. soldiers and residents. The soldiers endured repeated bombings of their convoys within view of police checkpoints. During their time here, they have arrested 70 members of the national police for collaboration in such attacks and other crimes."

Lt. Col. George A. Glaze is the battalion's commander. He equates his soldiers' role with that of a "bouncer caught between brawling customers." Baghdad's neighborhood battles, the resettlement of Sunnis or Shiites, depending on which militia can control the area, will not end. When this redistricting by force has settled these brawling customers in their new divisions, how long before neighborhoods begin battling each other at their seams?


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