The Mighty U.S. GI’s: Lied To, Used, and Losing
By Amer Jubran
“I am surprised that the forces are not using air-lifting C-130 airplanes to avoid ground transportation, which is costing U.S. about a hundred soldiers every month,” said commanding Colonel John Jumpier of the U.S. Air Force during a press conference in December. About 2,000 military convoys must use the Iraqi highways to supply the spread-out U.S. forces with water, food, fuel and other essential supplies. Jumpier said, “It will not be efficient to serve our troops, but it’s a chance to save some lives.” He added, “I know that there will be an increase in the chances of getting these slow and low altitude flying C-130’s shot down, but it’s a risk that we should take.”
A first look at this statement and one would conclude, correctly, that it is a very dangerous situation on the ground for U.S. occupying forces. Their lack of control inside the cities of Iraq is now matched by their lack of control over the highways between them. When U.S. military leaders have to decide which deadly option to choose from, it reflects a tone of despair where the safety of the troops is no longer an important issue. No one is able to define the mission of the troops in Iraq, or for how long this mission will last. No one at all, including George W. Bush, can explain the U.S. strategy in Iraq. This is because there is no strategy. With the Iraqi resistance raging, it is not clear why the U.S. is occupying this country and why the U.S. is so willing to sacrifice its soldiers there.
While news sources are divided between either concealing or exaggerating the number of those killed in Iraq, other important statistics about U.S. soldiers are forgotten. These statistics give a shocking picture about the truth of what is happening in Iraq. For example, CBS’s 60 Minutes reported last fall that 300 soldiers migrated to Canada when they received orders to join their units heading to Iraq. 60 Minutes went on to say that 5,500 U.S. soldiers had deserted for fear of being killed in Iraq. Some refused to join units leaving for Iraq, but most of them escaped after arriving in Iraq by fleeing to neighboring countries such as Turkey and Jordan. As one soldier stated: “They deceived us when they described our mission to Iraq as a walk in the park.” He added: “I took off so that they won’t write on my grave, ‘Deceived Dead GI in Iraq.’”
Smuggling American GI’s is a booming business in Iraq these days. For $1,000 and his/her weapon and uniform, any U.S. soldier can get him or herself out of Iraq through Kurdistan. Last April, a female U.S. soldier was captured by the Kurds, allies of the U.S., dressed like a Kurdish woman with a face veil, attempting to cross into Turkey.
According to the New York Times, a Pentagon study revealed that one in every six soldiers who served in Iraq requires immediate psychological treatment. Over a million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last two years. Steven Robinson, a Times military expert, believes that the number needing treatment could jump from one to three soldiers in every six. “There is a train loaded with people who need help that will be coming to town for the next thirty five years,” said Robinson.
These figures are the worst for the U.S. since the Vietnam War. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was supposed to be short and swift. Soldiers were promised that it would be an easy victory and that they would be home in time for the summer of 2003. Instead, urban fighting like that in the city of Fallujah last November, which provided unlimited possibilities for resistance hideouts, booby-trapped houses, and roads full of roadside bombs, put U.S. soldiers in the position of having to live every single minute of the day in fear of an attack. In addition, seeing Iraqis and not being able to distinguish who is a friend and who is an enemy causes severe anxiety to soldiers. Paul Raykhouve, commander of a Florida National Guard platoon who served in Iraq for ten months, was quoted during CBS Sixty Minutes saying: “The enemy is everywhere, in every street, looking at you from every window, in every alley. One cannot think straight because of nerve-wracking fear.”
Frightened troops lacking both certainty about their mission and a strong conviction about what they are doing often end up committing war crimes, such as killing prisoners or injured people. They see in these crimes an opportunity to get even with their enemy. Racism combines with fear to make this killing possible. It then becomes important to win acceptance among other soldiers to justify the crimes. The poor training and poor education of these soldiers also stands in the way of reason and critical thinking. They learn to copy existing models of behavior, without a code of ethics or outside authority to prevent violations of rules of warfare. Even those soldiers who are not convinced that it is okay to commit war crimes find it hard to resist.
Both the political and military leadership of the U.S. forces are directly responsible for providing a large-scale cover-up of these crimes. Soldiers are subjected to an emotional extortion known as “Uniform Code of Loyalty and Secrecy.” Furthermore, the political strength of the U.S. is used to provide immunity for these soldiers from an international war crimes tribunal. This leads to normalizing the criminal behavior of servicemen, who know they can act with impunity.
Caught in the frenzy of mass killing, most soldiers develop psychological stress and mental trauma as a result of serving in Iraq. This stress, predictably, has been taken out on defenseless Iraqi civilians. Many Iraqis are killed everyday simply because U.S. soldiers suspected that they were resistance members. The horrific stories about U.S. soldiers executing wounded Iraqis or sexually assaulting Iraqi prisoners reveal the severe psychological conditions that U.S. troops are living under.
Upon finishing service in Iraq, these soldiers will no longer have Iraqis to murder at will. The weapons they were trained to use will be left behind. These two things—without their knowing it—had become important in their lives. Without them, their return to U.S. society, where there is little social support, will often mean poverty, alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, divorce, and suicide. In order not to face themselves, the lies they were told, and the crimes they committed, these soldiers will return to what they learned in Iraq—crime, drug trafficking, prostitution, rape, armed robbery, child abuse, racism, and rallying around the flag.
The government of the U.S. will then have to engage in another massive cover-up. This time it will be to avoid admitting any responsibility for the psychological illnesses of its servicemen, and for providing no resources to treat them. Damaged soldiers will become a supply of felons to the U.S. justice system, which long ago stopped caring about any kind of social justice. The justice system will in turn deliver the veterans to the prison system, America’s largest growth industry.
Information about the number of U.S. casualities in Iraq is available on a web site of the Pentagon known as the “War Hub” at www.pentagon.gov. This information covers only those who are officially U.S. citizens enlisted with different military services. Hired security contractors, or mercenaries, and recruits who are not citizens who enlisted to obtain a “green card,” are not counted or mentioned. A large number of the green card recruits are from Mexico and Central America. There are no organizations to look after their rights or help them once they’re in Iraq. Most of them are buried in Iraq when killed.
A videotape produced and distributed by the “Majles Shora Al-Mojahideen in Fallujah,” one of the most important military wings of the Iraqi resistance, showed a burial site discovered outside the Iraqi city of Samara with tens of bodies in U.S. military body bags. The dead were dressed in U.S. uniforms. It is estimated that as many as 40 percent of the U.S. troops serving in Iraq are green card recruits.
The website of the Pentagon divides the causalities in Iraq into three categories:
1)”Combat Casualities”—1,300 dead, and 9,000 injured since March, 2003. Both figures are false.
2) “Non-Combat Casualities.” The site does not report how many of these were injured or killed. Last fall, “60 Minutes” concluded that the figure could be around 3,000 killed and over 25,000 injured.
3) “Coalition Casualities”: Information under this category was posted briefly, then deleted. The figures showed 750 killed and 1,034 injured. It is not clear who these people were. If they were “coalition forces,” then why are their countries not claiming them?
The U.S. government has gained a reputation of systematically lying to its population and the rest of the world, but a few facts about Iraq are emerging despite efforts to conceal them:
• Political stability and security in Iraq is non-existent. This goes to the heart of the claimed U.S. goal in Iraq. The U.S. justified its removal by military means of Saddam as a way to create a better and more stable country. Instead, Iraqis are caught in poverty, hunger, and terrible violence every day as a direct result of U.S. forces. Iraq is not a better place today, as Tony Blair and George Bush have claimed. And after Fallujah no one any longer believes the U.S. is trying to bring freedom to the Iraqis.
• That great lie, the “war on terrorism,” has failed to crush what the U.S. calls international terrorism. U.S. citizens are not safer today than they were on September 11, 2001. In fact, the most powerful force in the U.S.—its military machine—is now completely vulnerable to lethal attacks by the ever-growing Iraqi resistance. Normally, the military is established to attack those labeled enemies of the state. In the case of the U.S., its military is designed to twist the arms of those who do not agree with its imperial agenda. The American Empire is clearly involved in practicing terrorism by military means to achieve its strategic interests everywhere around the globe. But in Iraq, the mighty U.S. military, with over 150,000 well-armed troops, is very nervous and suffers from low morale, and in the eyes of the world has lost the moral edge. Furthermore, the war is not a well-supported cause in the U.S. This time the risk of getting killed in Iraq is real. This time the enemy is real.
The U.S. public must decide on supporting a policy of war that is killing their own children and the Iraqi people, or fighting against the war by taking drastic measures—measures that go beyond vigils and feel-good political demonstrations. We may be sure that if what we are told about Iraq by the U.S. government does not look good, the actual truth must be a great deal worse. Knowing the truth is a big burden. The truth about Iraq is that America’s “Mighty GI’s” are not so mighty!
—January 2, 2005