the Christmas holidays I managed to find two US
soldiers who were back from Iraq. They were both
somewhat willing to be interviewed and describe
their time in Iraq in their own words.
was imminently returning to Iraq within a few
days and the other was home for an unknown length
of time. Both knew at some point they would be
returning to a bloody guerilla conflict, and they
did not know if they would be coming back.
holidays for them were overshadowed by the somber
nature of seeing the news reports of troop deaths
on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. During their
festive times they always had the specter of Iraq
looming at the back of their minds like a ghost
of Christmas past. I was really amazed that they
were able to forget about the war and just enjoy
being with their families, even if only for a
could see the strain in their faces, and an almost
haunted look in their eyes. They were doing their
best to put aside all the bloodshed and horror
they had recently seen, and get into the holiday
spirit that the whole country was enjoying.
of all the troops they had left behind were weighing
heavy on their minds. Neither one knew the other
before coming back on leave. They had met in the
airport and realized they were both returning
to the same hometown for leave. On the trip home
they got to talking, and shared their experiences
as officers leading combat troops on patrols and
talked to one of the men first and conducted an
initial interview with him. He mentioned that
he knew of another officer in the area who had
come home for leave who might also speak out about
Iraq. I knew I had to get them both to describe
their experiences as officers in charge of combat
units. I have interviewed many enlisted men and
gotten their eyewitness accounts of Iraq, but
had not been able to get any officers to talk
will present the interviews as they occurred,
in the men's own voices as they requested. I wanted
to give them the opportunity to speak directly
to the American people and the world. I have changed
as little of the actual interviews as possible.
I have left out some personal details, and any
unit details, which might be used to identify
these soldiers. I am dedicated to protecting them
from military reprisals and harassment, and I
have taken every precaution to keep their identity
will refer to them as O1 and O2.
When did you deploy to Iraq?
I went with a unit from Afghanistan to Iraq. We
got there a good little bit before the official
war started. Believe me when I tell you that there
were some units already across the border doing
scouting and intelligence gathering and other
missions like bomb targeting and artillery plotting.
About a month before the war started. I don't
want to get to specific on that date. They are
going to be looking for any small way to track
Okay, before we go any farther, I want to get
into the details behind breaching the Iraq border
before the war officially started. If the US did
break the border that is a violation of the Geneva
Convention and a whole list of international treaty
declarations and charters. It violates the UN
charter and goes contrary to NATO treaties and
had been a group of international peacekeepers
and many humanitarian organizations that maintained
that the US illegally invaded Iraq weeks or even
months before the actual war was started. The
US has denied any of these accusations, but I
have heard from several US soldiers who say that
the border was breached for weeks before the invasion.
Was it? And if it was, how extensively?
I really didn't want to get into this one. I know
that there were at least 100 or more special ops
and CIA types in Iraq in the months leading up
to the war. This is pretty open knowledge among
many officers and higher level NCOs. In the weeks
right before the ground invasion there were various
Spec Ops and Intel guys in Iraq doing target location
and plotting, working with the Kurds in Northern
Iraq, trying to find Iraqis to fight on our side,
and gathering intelligence on where the WMDs might
I don't know anyone who went in early, but I know
guys who talked to some spooks who said they had
been right in downtown Baghdad about a month before
the ground assault. I can't verify that with any
hard facts, but it was pretty openly known. We
completely ignored some of the same international
conventions that we said Iraq violated in 1990
when they invaded Kuwait. I find it very disturbing
that we went to war over that in 1991, but then
broke a whole bunch of the UN charters when we
Let's get off this one, I wanted to talk about
other things that have been bothering me. The
border thing is done long ago; my guys are still
Okay, let's move on to the recent casualties.
While you were talking to me yesterday you mentioned
opening up Christmas presents and seeing the news
reports about the deaths on Christmas Eve. How
hard is it to be home and know your fellow troops
are still dying and getting maimed?
I can't stop feeling like I shouldn't be back
home. I left a whole lot of my men over there,
and a few have been killed while I was home. That
really makes you feel like sh.t, and you want
to be there to get some payback or something.
I wasn't even able to eat Christmas dinner because
I lost my appetite after seeing the news. I came
back home but many of my men will not be coming
back, and some will be coming back horribly scarred
and injured. Makes you really think about what
Christmas means and to value being with your family.
I started crying in front of my whole family and
all my friends when I saw that come on the news.
I won't let my wife turn on the news right now.
I am going back in a few days and I want to just
relax and forget the war for a few days. I don't
think I can put it out of my head, but I am trying.
I knew one of the guys killed on Christmas Eve,
and some of the guys that got wounded in the last
week were my friends. I hate being here and feeling
helpless to do anything. I want to be there trying
to lead my men safely on patrol, and make sure
they can come home to see their families again.
I'm sorry if talking to me is making you think
about all that stuff while you are trying to rest
and be with your family.
I want to talk about this and tell people how
bad it really is in Iraq. It is a complete fu..ing
slaughter and it is only going to get worse. The
attacks in the last month or so have been meticulously
well planned and executed. We are seeing a level
of sophistication that the chain of command did
not ever expect. Many of the officers knew that
they were going to be dealing with well trained
Iraqi army and militia units. There might or might
not be outside support and insurgents, but I know
the Iraqis are more than capable of messing up
your day. These guys have been trained to fight
guerilla style and they don't give up. We are
in deep sh.t now that they have started to get
I don't think that some of the higher level planners
expected this kind of resistance and guerilla
activity. We tried to tell them months ago that
it wasn't just Ba'ath party members and Saddam
supporters. Some of the most highly trained guerillas
are Shiite and Kurdish. We are going to be in
some real trouble if the Kurds ever decide to
join together with the Shiites and fight against
us. Throw the Sunni radicals into the mix and
it's total chaos with our guys stuck smack in
the middle. It's one giant cluster f..k and the
US soldiers are going to be the one that gets
hurt and killed. That country is on the brink
of civil war right now. Years of subdued hatreds
are now boiling over. That is why you see all
the different targets that are being hit by the
Yeah, we are in a real meat grinder right now.
The real danger is that the whole country will
erupt in civil unrest and the US troops will be
caught between many different rival factions.
I don't look forward to going back there, but
I don't have a choice.
You know, right after the invasion, the average
Iraqi was happy to see us get rid of the Saddam
regime. You ask the same Iraqi how they feel about
us now, and they will openly admit that they hate
us as bad as Saddam, or even worse than Saddam.
Why is that in your opinion? What made them change
their feelings toward US forces?
You want to know the biggest reason? We still
haven't accomplished the mission we started out
to do. Iraqis will tell you they don't fell any
freer, there is hunger all over the place, over
half the country is out of work, there is a huge
lack of clean drinking water, and their children
are dying everyday from contaminated water, and
from our cluster bombs. The people do not see
us living up to our promises of liberation and
democracy. Until we do what we promised them and
get out of there, they will keep killing us and
hating us. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute.
Every American needs to ask themselves what they
would do in the same situation. I guarantee you
that they would not sit back and do nothing. They
would want to fight back in whatever way possible.
Good point! I get really mad when they kill or
injure one of my men, but I have to examine why
the attacks are happening. I am there to lead
and protect my men, and that means I have to be
aware of what is causing the attacks and what
would stop them. I have asked many Iraqis what
it will take to get the attacks to stop. They
all tell me that the US needs to do what they
said they would do, and leave them to run their
own country. The majority of Iraqis believed that
the US would come in, get rid of Saddam, and then
go right back home. You and I both know that is
not going to happen anytime soon. We are going
to be there for at least another year or more
in a very large force. There is no way that Bush
and his cronies are going to give up all that
oil and contracting dollars.
Every day that we stay in Iraq, the resistance
builds, and the attacks are bigger and more prevalent.
We are going to see many more US soldiers die
because of the failure of the US to live up to
their basic promises. In the end it is the basic
line grunt that is the victim of the Bush regimes
drive for oil and profits. You won't see one of
the senator's kids over there. You will not see
one of the board members of Halliburton, Bechtel,
KBR, or the other big contractors losing a son
or daughter. All they are going to do is make
money and send more troops to guard their convoys
can't even go out in convoy with anyone from Halliburton
or Bechtel without drawing a crowd of angry Iraqis.
They hate the Halliburton and Bechtel guys worse
than they hate the soldiers. It's like painting
a target on your back just to travel with those
contractors and try to protect them.
Let me jump in here. I want to say that I am extremely
mad that Halliburton and Bechtel have better equipment
than our own troops do. The contractors have fully
armored Hummers and the best body armor. The have
us escort them in our lightly armored Humvees
and they ride in heavily armored vehicles. That
is bullsh.t and every American needs to know about
it. It's been in the paper recently about how
bad the casualties have been from the older Hummers.
Our vehicles don't provide adequate protection,
and that is a fu..ing outrage that needs to be
I was getting to that, and it is a big problem.
I think about 80 percent of my unit casualties
were coming from the Humvee crews. Do you know
that bullets go through an older hummer like it's
made of paper? Most of the hummers have canvas
tops and plastic windows. If an IED (improvised
explosive device) hits you from the side, you
are going to get hurt or killed if you are in
an older, lightly armored hummer. The recent increase
in the amount of roadside bombs has been decimating
my men. Almost all my recent KIAs (killed in action)
and WIAs (wounded in action) were riding in a
hummer. I was there when the CNN guys riding in
the hummer were injured. The attacker just chucked
the grenade right through the top of the vehicle.
Most of the hummers are not designed for heavy
I would say that at least half of my WIAs and
KIAs were in a hummer when it got hit. I think
that in the last few weeks before I left, the
average was more like 70-80 percent. It was something
I have begged my higher ups to take care of. I
have not seen a significant response to the problem
yet. Man, they sent us to war in what is basically
an aluminum can with a canvas topper. How messed
up is that? But of course Halliburton and the
other private contractors have the best and newest
vehicles and body armor.
I saw some Saudi police or militia, I don't know
which, that were brought in by Kellog Brown and
Root to provide security for the oil fields. Those
fu..ers had the body armor our own forces were
supposed to get. Bechtel got a whole bunch of
body armor given to them for the police force
they are training. Our own Reservists and National
Guard are using Gulf War era equipment and some
supplies are even older than that. They are getting
wiped out and needlessly wounded because they
don't have the proper body armor and vehicles.
contractors seem to be able to keep their security
forces supplied with the newest and best gear.
Some of the oil field security had brand new Humvees
and other equipment the reserve units would kill
for. There were a lot of the reservists lost because
they didn't get sent over with the right flak
jacket. Let America think about that one for a
American should demand a congressional injury
about why our troops were not equipped with the
proper equipment to save their lives. I know of
at least 50 men that were killed because they
did not have the newer body armor, and some didn't
have any body armor at all. How the hell can the
Pentagon justify sending a man into battle without
body armor? That is like driving down the freeway
at 100 without a windshield or doors.
So beyond a shadow of a doubt, there were some
of our troops that died because they just didn't
have the right body armor or a properly armored
Humvee? They actually sent units over with inadequate
equipment or no equipment at all?
Yes, absolutely without a doubt! In my mind there
can be no mistake about it. Some of our soldiers,
a large percentage even, died needlessly or were
permanently disabled because there was improper
or missing equipment.
Are you kidding me? You are actually asking me
if there is any doubt about it? I saw it with
my own eyes and lost men because of it. I didn't
have to know it was happening to another unit.
That fact that it was happening to my men told
me that. Some of the chemical protection suits
were completely useless, and our vehicles were
absolute pieces of shit. We were driving one hummer
as a command unit and it had three bullet holes
in one side. We reinforced the doors with whatever
heavy scrap metal we could find. We were scavenging
for sheet metal ourselves and competing with the
Iraqis to see who could find the heavy gauge steel
and aluminum first.
they knew some of our units didn't have any of
the proper equipment. How the hell could they
not know, we told them enough and some of us wrote
to Colonel David Hackworth about it. I know one
guy in my unit who wrote one of the letters Hack
put up back in October.
So I guess you got the answer you were looking
for right? At least make sure everyone finds out
about this. I would hate to say all this stuff
and then you don't do anything with it. I read
the articles you wrote back in October. I thought
they were bullsh.t at first, but I met a guy you
talked to. I didn't think I would ever give an
interview like this. A lot can change in a few
I am just about done with the Army's bullsh.t
and the Pentagon is about worthless as sh.t. It
is going against everything the Army has ever
told me. I am just sick of seeing good men and
women die. In the end is it going to really mean
anything that all these Americans shed their blood
in the sand? I don't think most of America really
knows how bad it is. We getting our asses kicked
and no one is winning this thing.
If you look at it really hard, the only ones that
come out ahead are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and
the rest of those corrupt old bastards. I mean
come on, if all the soldiers who are actually
fighting this war can see that, what the hell
is wrong with the American citizens? We knew it
was about oil from the beginning. Oil and building
huge bases that the US will have to staff for
years to come. There is no end in sight for the
people serving in this war. How about us, don't
we have a say in this?
Let me ask you how you feel about serving in Iraq
and being involved in the war.
I'm proud that I served my country, I am proud
to be an American soldier. That is why it is so
hard for me to say stuff like this about our leaders
and the government. I hate doing this, but what
the Pentagon and Bush are doing to our soldiers
makes me sick. I also get sick when I think about
how many Iraqi civilians I saw killed and terribly
maimed. I have seen hundreds of kids missing body
parts or dying from dysentery and diarrhea from
contaminated water. I saw orphans who had lost
every family member and were starving in the street.
are whole packs of orphans roaming around Baghdad
and some of the other cities. They scavenge for
scraps and beg for food. It got really bad after
the Red Cross and the UN pulled out. Seeing hundreds
and hundreds of maimed and starving children is
one sight you will never forget. I can't sleep
sometimes, and I hear the kids crying in my nightmares.
I saw little kids with injuries like I never dreamed
was near a hospital for a few weeks after the
ground war ended. I saw hundreds of dead kids,
and kids dying from gangrene and infection. If
you ever smell someone who has severe gangrene
and flesh rotting you would know what I was talking
about. That is one smell you will never forget.
To see a little child with their arm or leg rotting
off is one of the most gruesome sights I could
never was prepared for anything like I experienced
in Iraq. There is no way in hell that the Army
can train you to be able to handle something like
that. No amount of practice can even come close
to the reality I found in Iraq. There just wasn't
anything to prepare any of us who had never been
in that kind of combat environment. I thought
I had seen some really nasty sh.t in Bosnia and
then in Kosovo. Boy was I ever wrong about that
being as bad as it could get. I feel sorry for
the newer guys who hadn't ever seen any combat,
or ever shot at a real person.
under fire was another thing that fu..ed up some
of my guys who had never seen any action before.
Some of them just froze and got shot because they
just didn't have the proper training to react
the right way.
must have seen at least five hundred dead bodies,
and those were just the ones you could see in
plain sight. We could smell the ones that hadn't
been found in the rubble, and there were bodies
in some of the canals rotting for days or weeks.
Some of those canals were downright ugly looking,
and the smell was incredibly foul.
I will never be ashamed of being in the Army or
going to Iraq. I do hate some of the things that
we had to do to stay alive, and sometimes it wasn't
in any training manual or class you could take.
I thought I knew what it would be like, and had
some ideas about what I would do in certain circumstances.
I had so many situations that we just are not
trained to handle.
was not prepared to have to be a police officer
or a peacekeeper. I heard that over and over again
from my men. They simply didn't know how to be
in a police force capacity or know much about
doing the urban peacekeeping patrols and standing
checkpoint duty. I thought it was a joke when
they kept referring to us as a peacekeeping force.
is no way we were able to act effectively to keep
the peace. It was all we could do to keep the
patrol areas contained long enough to bring in
enough reinforcements to get us out of trouble.
We got shot at from rooftops, windows, and fields
as we went by. Basically they attacked us from
anyplace they could get off a shot or two.
know that seeing the kids dead and injured was
one of the worst things for me too. There just
wasn't a damn thing you could really do. We didn't
have a lot of food to spread around, and it was
extremely hard for us to get clean water.
madness and chaos that hit the whole country was
completely overwhelming. I know a lot of my guys
will come home with PTSD or worse. We had a lot
of guys flown out for going off the deep end.
You could just see it in their yes. They were
right at the breaking point or already over the
edge. I heard about million mile stares, and now
I really know what they are talking about.
am about done with this if you got what you need.
You won't get me to say much else. I just wanted
to get some of this stuff on record. I think that
enough people will believe it that it might make
some kind of difference. I just hope the people
stop letting us die so senselessly. Let us get
the job done and get the hell out.
don't want to have to write another letter to
parents or a wife ever again. I know that I will
have to do way too much over the next couple months,
or however long we are really over there. I just
don't want to have to tell another mother that
her son or daughter is dead or crippled for life.
so far we got rid of Saddam and the rest of his
henchmen, and the attacks on our troops still
keep happening. I don't see the insurgents or
resistance backing down anytime soon. They are
only going to fight harder the longer we stay.
I want to say as my final statement to America
is "Stop letting your proud men and women die
so senselessly. If we are going to die for our
country let it be for something we can really
be proud of. I just don't see us making the US
any safer from terrorists because of what we are
doing in Iraq. Bring us back home so we can defend
the US from real threats to our shores."
Yeah, I pretty much agree with that. I am proud
to serve my country and even die for it. I know
the risks of putting on the uniform and accepting
command. But damn it, if we are going to die,
make it for something that really is helping to
defend the US. I agree that we are dying senselessly
for an idea of democracy in Iraq that the US government
will never really let happen. I just want to be
able to look back on my service with total pride
and that is not really what I feel right now.
I hate the ones in power that have made me question
my sense of duty and honor. I get so confused
about it and there is no one you can really talk
to about that.
let me have to ship anyone else's body back home.
I don't want to get shipped back in a box either.
I have a family and I don' plan on being in the
Army forever. I want to have my mind intact, and
not wake up with nightmares about dead kids.
One final question if you will permit it. The
Pentagon has said that one in five soldiers will
come back with PTSD, or some form of battle trauma.
Is that about right or do you think there are
going to be many more than that who are permanently
affected by this war?
I think it is probably affecting at least half
the men over there. It's probably way more than
that out of the ones in combat situations everyday.
They have had to evacuate at least 5000 soldiers
for mental reasons already. Who knows how many
are having problems and are afraid to tell anyone.
I know that I will never be the same again. I
have nightmares and can't sleep very well. I know
I won't ever forget some of the things I saw,
there is no way you can ever wipe out the sight
of dead kids and women, or seeing your men get
Of course there are more soldiers with PTSD and
mental problems than the military will ever admit
too. Look how long it took for some of the Vietnam
vets to get counseling and help for their mental
problems. I do think it is affecting about half
the troops in Iraq. It has to be affecting at
least that many soldiers with as much combat as
we have seen. I don't think I got that many problems
with it, but I haven't had time to really stop
and try to see how bad it has affected me. It
had to affect me at least a little bit. I wouldn't
be human if it hadn't scarred me a little. I feel
sorry for the guys who don't feel anything at
all. I hope this war never makes me stop feeling
emotions like I did when I saw all those terrible
I don't think you could have said it any plainer.
Anything else you want to say?
No, I think I said way too much if I know what's
good for me. That is one thing that I am really
upset about. I go off to fight for democracy and
freedom in Iraq, and I am scared to have my name
on this interview when I get back home to this
supposed democracy. That just pisses me off that
I am afraid to speak out in my own country. How
the hell are we supposed to bring democracy to
Iraq when the government is going after all the
soldiers that have been speaking out?
You have to have been out of the country for a
few months to notice it. I almost felt like I
was coming home to a police state or something.
They were screening everyone at the airport and
pulled aside some elderly guy who was a prominent
anti-war activist. I didn't catch his name but
a few people at the airport said he was a Christian
peace missionary who had been over in Iraq during
the bombing campaign.
are we coming to when we harass old men who have
the courage to challenge our notions of war? That
was like a slap in the face to me when I saw how
rude and nasty they were to this kind looking
old man. He had the courage to stand up for what
he believed in and that is why I am in the military.
I took an oath to defend our liberties and to
see them trampled on was insulting.
I saw them screening several people when I came
through, and it just pissed me off. These were
very peaceful looking people and I heard one of
them asking the security screeners what crime
they had committed. He said all he had done was
question the war and the facts behind it. One
of the security goons said something like "You
should have thought about that before you had
the nerve to question the US. We don't like unpatriotic
people in this country."
are supposed to be fighting the war on terror
against the terrorists, not the people who should
have the right to stand against war if they want
to. I hope that the country can see how dangerous
it is getting to speak out against this current
administration. I don't really think the war protesters
are right on most of their issues, but I would
fight to the death for their right and freedom
to say it. I know a lot of guys who have had their
family protest the war. What's gonna happen when
they start arresting the soldiers families, or
stop them from flying on a plane?
I know that some of my family has spoken out against
the war. If they were to try and arrest my mom
or dad they would have a real fight on their hands.
I don't think the government realizes how volatile
something like that would be. How ironic it would
be if I go back to Iraq to help them get a freely
elected democracy, and they put my family in jail
for trying to protect our own democracy? We are
in real critical times right now. I don't think
many of the military or their families actually
support this war. I don't know of any other time
of war when so many people with military family
have spoken out in opposition of a war.
of the men in my unit have family members that
go to all the protests, and are very active with
anti war groups. Imagine if the FBI were to just
start arresting all those people. That is a very
real possibility if you look at the lengths the
FBI and Homeland Security has gone to keep track
of protestors and activists.
I want to say one more thing to all the American
people. I guess I just can't figure out when to
shut my mouth.
UP! This war has become bogus if it ever had any
legitimacy at all, and it is only when you speak
out that you will hold our leaders accountable.
Don't forget what this country was founded on.
God Bless America! I hope that everyone listens
to what I had to say. Don't just push my words
off and go on about your daily routine. Ask yourself
what could have been so bad that I would speak
out like this. Ask yourself how bad it must be
when I am willing to put my career on the line
to speak out.
Yeah, that about says it for me too. Just think
about what could have possibly made me go out
on a limb and do this interview. I am not ready
to go back to Iraq and die, but I don't have much
choice. I just want everyone who supports this
war to think about this, and realize that it must
be one hell of a mess to get us to say all this.
I never would have thought I would be doing this
type of interview. I would have laughed in your
face a year ago if you told me it would happen.
Thanks for your time and for having the courage
to speak out. This will make a difference to the
soldiers in Iraq and to all the families who are
supporting them. You really are true heroes. I
wish you and all the rest of our troops continued
safety and that you come home as soon as possible.
Posted: June 10, 2004