A roadside bomb exploded north of Baghdad early Wednesday, killing one U.S. 1st Infantry Division soldier and bringing to 900 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since the beginning of military operations in March 2003.
Maj. Neal O'Brien of the 1st Infantry Division said the most recent soldier killed was on patrol in a Bradley fighting vehicle in Duluiyah, 45 miles north of Baghdad, when the bomb detonated shortly after midnight Wednesday.
On Tuesday, two U.S. Marines and two U.S. soldiers were killed in action in Anbar Province, a Sunni-dominated area west of Baghdad.
Vote for Bush!!!
Not really. Apparently the support Bush is getting from the enlisted and reserve ranks is a little soft.
From the Washington Post:
"Sometime around Election Day -- rumors on the base say between November and January -- troops from Fort Stewart will be deployed to Iraq. Most here belong to the 3rd Infantry Division, the one known during the war as the tip of the spear. They are the troops who fought in Najaf, led the march into Baghdad, seized Saddam International Airport and Hussein's palaces, who led the fighting the day the iconic was pulled down. So for most, this will be their second tour. But the mood going in this time is very different.
The second time, it's hard to maintain the conviction that the citizenry of Iraq is entirely grateful to be liberated. Spouses have been trained to be on alert for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and all have heard the story of the soldier who came home and, when his wife asked him to change the baby's diaper, flung his wife across the room. Any sense of adventure is dampened by the existence of a new Heroes Walk on base, 45 saplings planted in honor of the men of Fort Stewart who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But some soldiers say the picture is murkier, particularly if their families are around. In the weeks leading up to deployment, soldiers are psyching themselves up by listing all that they fight for: family, buddies, their home town, democracy and God. Last time around the sentiment extended naturally to the president. Now that connection for some soldiers is what pollsters call soft.
Paul Rieckhoff fought with the division and has since left the Army. This week, he is launching Operation Truth, a nonpartisan group dedicated to telling the public about the war in Iraq from the perspective of those who fought there.
"People can deal with it if it's honest and up-front," he says about the deployments. "But they've broken their word so many times it gets frustrating. Everyone says they love George W. Bush, but when you get over there and see your buddies blown up and then think: 'What the hell are we doing over there?' You start to think: 'Who do I hold responsible?'
"My overall encapsulation is that the public will be overwhelmingly surprised at how many people coming back from Iraq will not vote for George W. Bush."
says David Segal, a professor at the University of Maryland. "In the past the antiwar movement was rooted in college campuses," he says. "Now the major movement against the war is in reserve families."
"We are the stepchildren, here to be abused," says Michael Ray Gibbins, eating his lunch at Fort Stewart with two buddies from the Texas National Guard at the end of a day that started at 3 a.m.
Gibbins lacks the sense of, well, reserve that keeps some career soldiers quiet about the election or the war.
"They ought to shoot the person who made us go over there," he says.
And now a message from Stan Goff:
In 1970, when I arrived at my unit, Company A, 4th Battalion/503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, in what was then the Republic of Vietnam, I was charged up for a fight. I believed that if we didn't stop the communists in Vietnam, we'd eventually be fighting this global conspiracy in the streets of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
I'd been toughened by Basic Training, Infantry Training and Parachute Training, taught how to use my weapons and equipment, and I was confident in my ability to vanquish the skinny unter-menschen. So I was dismayed when one of my new colleagues--a veteran who'd been there ten months--told me, "We are losing this war."
Not only that, he said, if I wanted to survive for my one year there, I had to understand one very basic thing. All Vietnamese were the enemy, and for us, the grunts on the ground, this was a race war. Within one month, it was apparent that everything he told me was true, and that every reason that was being given to the American public for the war was not true.
We had a battalion commander whom I never saw. He would fly over in a Loach helicopter and give cavalier instructions to do things like "take your unit 13 kilometers to the north."
In the Central Highlands, 13 kilometers is something we had to hack out with machetes, in 98-degree heat, carrying sometimes 90 pounds over our body weights, over steep, slippery terrain.
The battalion commander never picked up a machete as far as we knew, and after these directives he'd fly back to an air-conditioned headquarters in LZ English near Bong-son. We often fantasized together about shooting his helicopter down as a way of relieving our deep resentment against this faceless, starched and spit-shined despot.
Yesterday, when I read that US Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush, in a moment of blustering arm-chair machismo, sent a message to the 'non-existent' Iraqi guerrillas to "bring 'em on," the first image in my mind was a 20-year-old soldier in an ever-more-fragile marriage, who'd been away from home for 8 months.
He participated in the initial invasion, and was told he'd be home for the 4th of July. He has a newfound familiarity with corpses, and everything he thought he knew last year is now under revision. He is sent out into the streets of Fallujah (or some other city), where he has already been shot at once or twice with automatic weapons or an RPG, and his nerves are raw.
He is wearing Kevlar and ceramic body armor, a Kevlar helmet, a load carrying harness with ammunition, grenades, flex-cuffs, first-aid gear, water, and assorted other paraphernalia. His weapon weighs seven pounds, ten with a double magazine. His boots are bloused, and his long-sleeve shirt is buttoned at the wrist. It is between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit at midday.
He's been eating MRE's three times a day, when he has an appetite in this heat, and even his urine is beginning to smell like preservatives. Mosquitoes and sand flies plague him in the evenings, and he probably pulls a guard shift every night, never sleeping straight through. He and his comrades are beginning to get on each others' nerves.
The rumors of 'going-home, not-going-home' are keeping him on an emotional roller coaster. Directives from on high are contradictory, confusing, and often stupid. The whole population seems hostile to him and he is developing a deep animosity for Iraq and all its people--as well as for official narratives.
This is the lad who will hear from someone that George W. Bush, dressed in a suit with a belly full of rich food, just hurled a manly taunt from a 72-degree studio at the 'non-existent' Iraqi resistance.
This de facto president is finally seeing his poll numbers fall. Even chauvinist paranoia has a half-life, it seems. His legitimacy is being eroded as even the mainstream press has discovered now that the pretext for the war was a lie. It may have been control over the oil, after all. Anti-war forces are regrouping as an anti-occupation movement.
Now, exercising his one true talent--blundering--George W. Bush has begun the improbable process of alienating the very troops upon whom he depends to carry out the neo-con ambition of restructuring the world by arms.
Somewhere in Balad, or Fallujah, or Baghdad, there is a soldier telling a new replacement, "We are losing this war."
Nothing but lip service:
The infamous Army Times editorial from last year.(Read the whole thing at the link.)
In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap -- and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.
For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary -- including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.
The chintz even extends to basic pay. While Bush's proposed 2004 defense budget would continue higher targeted raises for some ranks, he also proposed capping raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, well below the average raise of 4.1 percent.
The Senate version of the defense bill rejects that idea, and would provide minimum 3.7 percent raises for all and higher targeted hikes for some. But the House version of the bill goes along with Bush, making this an issue still to be hashed out in upcoming negotiations.
All of which brings us to the latest indignity -- Bush's $9.2 billion military construction request for 2004, which was set a full $1.5 billion below this year's budget on the expectation that Congress, as has become tradition in recent years, would add funding as it drafted the construction appropriations bill."
Support our troops! Get Bush outa' there!