One Veteran's Voice

05 January 2006

Healthy Debate

The following was copied and pasted from comments on The Un-Apologetic Atheist's blog. He reposted part of "Building Walls" with his own analysis, and it set off a good debate on the war. The Atheist has a pretty cool blog, and there's always some spirited debate going on in the comments, kind of like here. Someone suggested that I use haloscan for my comments to block the wackos-- I think that's a good idea, and blogger has some features to block those kind of people as well, but in my experience it is better to acknowledge someone than block them right off the bat, unless they're just flat-out malicious.

In any case, Tbone65 is the owner of Tbone's War Journal, a decent milblog. He and I are at odds on many issues, but we came to some consensus towards the end.

TBone65 said...

What he says is true to some extent...and yes, I've been there too...but he omits certain facts.

First of all, the Mahdi Army has a political agenda NOT driven by any heavy handed US tactics. Their war is a power play for dominance of the Shia population in the South, specifically in Najaf.

The leader of the Mahdi Army, Muqtada Al-Sadr, is a young firebrand with delusions of grandeur. He derives his assumed power from the fame of his father, who was an esteemed Shia cleric and Grand Ayatollah. Muqtada is not an Ayatollah, and has not graduated from the Hawzah, or Shia divinity training. This makes him a fraud in the eyes of most Shia in Iraq, who look to Grand Ayatollah Sistani for spiritual guidance. The power play is between Al-Sadr and Sistani, with Al-Sadr using his father's Shia credentials to bring himself to secular power.

In this situation, the US is a convenient target to show Al-Sadr's followers how committed he is to "the cause", and to attract more followers.

This is the politics of Iraq. The dynamics existed before the liberation/occupation. Have subsequent US actions brought negative consequences back on US soldiers? Perhaps...but, this is the nature of war. Hey soldier, what the fuck did you think you were signing up for when you were in the recruiter's office? Did you think war was going to be orderly and nice? Every read Clausewitz? Does the fog and friction of war sound familiar?

One last comment. Your post highlighted this:

Day to day tensions with checkpoints, run-ins with heavy-handed US patrols, and convoys that hog the road (or worse, I saw countless Iraqis run off the road by overzealous US drivers), have been alienating the average Iraqi for years.

Perhaps your soldier hasn't been on too many combat patrols on dangerous roads. If he had, he would know that survivability relies on speed and aggressive driving. Driving fast helps because the enemy sniper and IED triggerman has less time to react and blow you up. Fuck what Mr. Iraqi driver thinks. Additionally, the American driver is constantly worried about a vehicle borne IED man coming up to him and detonating next to the convoy. So your man's post is filled with reality, but also filled with holes. I am driving aggressively because I don't want to die. If he wants to die, that's his business.

He soldier, tell the fucking whole truth. Don't "cherry pick" the truth to fit your agenda. And don't say you've been there and done that, when it's obvious you haven't. If you have been on those kind of convoys, were you sleeping?
1/04/2006 2:56 AM

TBone65 said...

I have to apologize for my tone in the above post. I went to oneveteran's blog and read his was articulate and fairly on point. My apology is in making assumptions about his combat experience. If in fact he has a BSM w/ V device, he must have been combat tested at some point. Sorry dude. I agree the way we drive might piss them off, but like I said previously: if my aggressive driving saves me and my boys, then fuck what they think.

Once again, sorry for the quick trigger finger.

1/04/2006 5:37 AM

The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

TBone - Your point is valid and well-taken, though. Thanks for pointing out the rest. I believe my point is not whether or not the tactic is a better tactic (I have little doubt that it is, just as using WP shells in a city is far more effective and helps troops survive), but whether or not the peoples will see this as a sign that the army "protecting them" is actually not interested in truly being on their side. As long as they feel that, guys like Al-Sadr Junior can take advantage of their apathy and/or hatred for us, to continue supporting himself among the populace-- the "power play" as you call it. Note that I am not pointing a finger in accusation of supporting the enemy's power-base, only pointing out that it is a large factor in feeding it.

That "screw them when it comes to my boys" attitude is precisely why I think the Iraqi will have such a difficult time accepting American ideals as they are being offered, and believe that they should shoulder the load with us. Which is too bad-- I really wish the best for the Iraqi people, but like the British who tried to administrate them almost a century ago, I'm not sure we can develop a working plan, either. The only answer to this will come from educating ourselves about all the angles as best we can, and trying our best to see it from the perspective that is NOT our own. It may not come at all.

As such, I also greatly appreciate your lesson on the history of Mahdi and Muqtada Al-Sadr. If you would ever care to write some remarks on your opinion on the history and future of that operation, and its impact on future US policy in the region, perhaps after you exit active duty, I would be delighted to feature it, here.
1/04/2006 8:26 AM

Diane S. said...

Anyone fighting against a foreign occupying force is not a terrorist, they are a patriot. That's not to say I'm cheering on the guys shooting at U.S. forces over in the 'Raq. I'm most definitely not. But I do get it; we are a foreign occupying force. We never had any business over there in the first place, and we need to leave.

UA, when the Chinese, the Iranians, the European Commonwealth, or hell, the Swiss come marching in, I'll grab the first gun I can get my hands on and defend America-The-Beautiful to my death. Or more likely, I'll hide my pansy ass behind someone like you and pass the ammunition.

This is my home. I'll defend it.

If only we could defend ourselves from the Bush Administration.
1/04/2006 10:11 AM

JPourtless said...

If only it was the Bush administration alone against which we must defend ourselves.
1/04/2006 11:45 AM

mariemon said...

The comments to this post show the true power of war. War is ugly, dirty, and will drain you of your very soul. There are no winners, only survivors. Our troops are moved around like pieces on a chessboard, to be removed and discarded at the whim of the players in DC. I wish we could sign up every son and daughter of every congressman to fight in Iraq. Hell, let's send the Bush twins too. Bet they all come home tomorrow!!!
1/04/2006 6:10 PM

TBone65 said...

Well said mariemon. War is all those things you described. Another thing it is: inevitable. A tool of diplomacy. The only thing that keeps those who are willing to take away our way of life at bay.

Knowing it's sometimes a necessary evil, the government must make sure force is meted out in a judicious way. That is not always an easy task considering the myriad of variables life throws at us.

I believe folks like you provide the yin to war's yang...thanks for being there for us.

1/05/2006 1:20 AM

OneVeteran'sVoice said...


"Fuck what Mr. Iraqi driver thinks."


That's why we're losing. I heard this so many times from so many American soldiers in Iraq in so many different forms. The end result of this kind of thinking is torture, Abu Ghraib, paying for stories in the Iraqi press, and all the other shameful and counterproductive things that have occurred.

And yes, I went on many, many, combat patrols. And yes, I ran a few drivers off the road. And you know what, it wasn't always cause I had to, or even because I felt threatened (although I suppose I felt threatened every time I left the FOB). I abused my power because I could. That's the god's honest truth. And I think if you do some soul searching, you might come to a similar conclusion about some of your own actions. Or maybe you're above reproach, I don't know you. You sure acted like you knew me, though.

Tbone:"And don't say you've been there and done that, when it's obvious you haven't."

Me: I bet I've killed more people than you, does that make me more of a man than you?

BTW, Tbone, I accept your apology for the quick trigger finger.

Does driving fast and crazy make you a harder target to hit? Sure it does. But I would contend that it also leads more people to shoot at you. Would I still do it, if I was back in Iraq. Yep.

I don't blame the troops, or even myself (too much) for my own actions. I was put in an impossible situation, asked to win over the hearts and minds of a country of very foreign people who had already turned against us by the time I arrived (March of 04). We need to start getting the fuck out of Iraq, NOW. As fast as possible, without sending them into complete anarchy. Make them step up and do the bitch work. It doesn't take Apaches, or tanks, the insurgents don't have any of those. It takes the will of the Iraqis to stand up against violence, to lay down their arms and stop killing each other. Without that, which is not something we can really give them, no amount of military support will defeat the insurgency. Didn't Vietnam teach us anything?

BTW Tbone-- I enlisted shortly after the Sept 11 attacks to protect and defend the constitution. Not Iraq. And I will continue to protect and defend the constitution, against all enemies, foreign, AND DOMESTIC. No one really knows what war is when he/she enlists, but I had an idea. I am just saying that I was asked to fight a bullshit war that was mismanaged, poorly planned, and doomed from the get-go. I will fight again if the cause is just. I will never, however, go back to Iraq. I would rather go to jail if they call me up on the IRR. Hell, that might happen. Iraq is not worth my life, and I won't risk it again there.
1/05/2006 8:12 AM

TBone65 said...

I agree on getting out of Iraq...soon. The throwing them into anarchy part is the real question though, isn't it. We are trying to get them to do the "bitch work". I personally trained the ICDC around the same time you got to Iraq (my second time) and saw how inept and fucked up they were. You can send a monkey into space, but if you can't get him to read the check list, then he's worthless. Some of those guys were excellent, but some couldn't hack it. The training takes time.

As far as killing goes...I don't think it takes a man to kill someone. Killing another human being is a necessity in war if you want to come home and mow your grass...but it doesn't make me happy. I don't like sucks. I don't like hurting people or seeing people get hurt. I lost a teammate and another good friend over there. Three more of my buds were non-RTD injured (all better now) and that makes me feel like shit. But you know what? I signed up for it. I didn't have the chance to pick and choose which parts of the oath I would live up to. Part of one of those oaths says something like follow the orders of those appointed over me and that is what I do. If civilians don't do what the boss says, they get fired; if we don't do what the boss says, we go to jail or get killed in combat. Little different world for us.

I don't want to go back to Iraq either. The place blows. I was in Baghdad in spring of '04. I know what you guys did because I read daily SITREPS. Didn't some of your Bradley guys guard a compound on BIAP? Maybe I saw you downtown sometime. I was riding in the no-armor NTV real, real fast ;)
1/05/2006 10:34 AM

OneVeteran'sVoice said...

I was stationed at camp war eagle near sadr city, 19kilo. I am sure you know all about that friendly borough of Baghdad, and all the anarchy that went on there in 2004. When I was on active duty, I kept my mouth shut, followed orders, and was consistently promoted ahead of my peers. I kept my oath, no article 15's, no court martials, nothing. So I know exactly what you're talking about. With that said, I am out now, and I don't have to obey shit. I am just speaking what I believe to be the truth. I always dug the SF dudes, thanks for fighting for what you believe in. You truly have a right to support the war, if you want to. You also have more power to end it than you know.

3 Other Voices:

The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

Thanks for featuring me. I'm glad to see people "from all sides" starting to really talk to one another. That's what keeps a country like ours healthy-- not to mention free.

1/06/2006 09:56:33 AM  
Elmo said...

That was great Brian, thanks. I've already had it out with a self proclaimed "tough guy" returning from Iraq. turns out he was a 71L and never saw shit for action. The same thing happened after GWI. Anyway, Robert is correct, we need civil debate. You both have given great examples of how to accomplish this...thanks again!

1/06/2006 04:57:58 PM  
Anonymous said...

3/29/2006 04:44:41 PM  

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