I'd like you all to meet one of my friends that I convinced to send me a publishable email when his platoon wasn't fighting in Sadr City. Please welcome 'Just the Average Savage" (or J-TAS as I call him), an active-duty Infantry NCO with multiple Iraq tours, to the blog. The "Average Savage" part is his taking a queue from John Kerry to name himself...
He's got a few things to say about Iraq. He's pissed off at the ROE, he's really pissed off at the media, but most importantly, he's pissed off at you:
Major B - Allow me, if I may, to remark on the lack of morale of the American Soldier in Iraq.
Reality: Soldiers in Iraq do not feel they are making a difference. They feel things are out of control. They are scared, and they are angry. They want to come home.
But let me also tell you what they do not feel: Powerless, weak, satisfied.
As news agencies dance around with Baghdad talking about the escalating sectarian violence, I take pictures of dead bodies left in the wake. As CNN talks about Sadr city residents threatening uprisings if Bush meets with the prime minister of Iraq, I listen to rockets pound Sunni mulhalas. I track their splashes. I chase firing all over Baghdad. Guess what I haven’t done. Kill anyone.
Do I feel unable to face the violence? No, that is not the case. I am frustrated that I am here, and no one will let me fight.
Let me tell you a little something about ROE (Rules of Engagement). In Baghdad thousands of people are moving around all the time. Many houses, all of them, have guns. On a general scale, none of them are planning any wrongdoing at all. But they don’t think that Americans can accomplish anything, either, because they know we can’t search at will, can’t shoot at will, can’t detain at will.
If you wish to stop a car approaching a checkpoint, you must first post a sign a long way down the road, if it is ignored, you must verbally warn them, and use a green laser to get the drivers attention. If still ignored, you must fire a warning shot with an M4, then a M240, then, finally the kill shot. If at any time the car turns away, all you can do is TRY to pursue it, never shoot at it. Technically, similar rules exist for dismounted operations, and that puts more soldiers at risk than you can possibly imagine. I’m not sure Johnny on the street has this information, but Muhammed in the mosque sure does.
I can’t even tell you how pissed it makes me to hear a JAG officer suck in breath as he tries to think real hard how to explain the murky depths of our ROE. A system that used to be a way of allowing soldiers to avoid hurting civilians by using certain weapon systems at certain times has once again degenerated into a complex “Cover Your Ass” legal trick for higher command. Believe me, it isn’t there because Colonels and Generals WANT us to fight this way, it is there because YOU do.
That is right. If you are an American, and you are reading this, you share fault. Give CNN ratings, fall in line with those that have hounded the steps of the American Soldier criticizing his every fault while looking away from the success of his missions, and heralding at the tops of their lungs the number of dead without ever talking about the value of the lives lost. Long after specials on fallen soldiers and the human toll are just file footage, soldiers such as I will remember the deaths of the ones we cared about, and know the price of that cost. And while they talk about how out of control the violence in Baghdad has become, soldiers grind their teeth wishing they could just do the job they know. Wishing they could take all the weapons from the people in this city, clear every house, stop all traffic, and most of all, secure Sadr city.
There it is of course, the most feared Sadr city. Home of the strongest force in Baghdad, waiting to be let loose at the slightest whisper of the man who REALLY controls Baghdad [J-TAS note: Sarcasm intended].
Shia Imams preach the control of Iraq and Iranian support. They talk about the weakness of Americans, and the things they will do if America continues to interfere with their destruction of the Sunni. And the media of my home laps it up. They sing doom on every station, until it has gotten to the point even soldiers begin to hear and believe that nothing can be done in this stupid country.
So here it is people. My permission form, my request, perhaps my last act. I want to take back Baghdad, because living here and not doing anything is just making it easier for me to be killed. Because a straight fight gives me better odds than waiting for the IED. Because I am tired of my friends being hurt while criminals hide in mosques laughing about how easy it is to put in shots on the Americans. Because I have to order a soldier to get in a turret to wait for a sniper to shoot him in the face or throw a grenade at him, but if I order him to shoot at a car, I will be investigated and jailed. Because I know better than Wulf Blitzer what the American Army can do to our Enemies, and I volunteered to do it.
You have no idea the levels of suck I am prepared to take to get a real mission done. You have no idea how little food, sleep, and comfort I will take on to ensure that the people who want to hurt me die. And the only X Factor in this, the only brakes, is you.
For all the hope of America that we will be safe, no one has ever said, “I can’t wait until our soldiers charge in there and kick ass!” When people say that our soldiers aren’t doing anything over here, that we need to come home, they never bring up that we don’t do anything because of all the pressure THEY THEMSELVES HAVE PUT ON US.
The movement against the war has TWO sides. One, that soldiers should come home because they can’t make a difference and this is a mistake. Two, soldiers over there are unable to do the job, and when they try, they kill the wrong people, torture prisoners, and dishonor themselves.
You have the finest army in the world, America. Best equipped, highly trained, and already established on the ground in Iraq. If the people at home stopped merely wishing things would get better, and tell us to make them better no matter what, it would. We are ready to fight, are you?