Tuesday May 21, 2013
Soldiers Killing Soldiers in Iraq: an Established ProblemPolitical Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
Gunfights between U.S. soldiers have been taking place in Iraq for years.
(SALEM, Ore.) - The news about five American soldiers killed and three injured by one of their own at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq was like a kick in the gut. The news follows last week's soldier suicide in the Oregon Guard parking lot.
Sadly, it takes numbers to get people's attention. We constantly publish stories about casualties whose deaths were "not combat related" and the details are always left out by the Department of Defense.
I wonder how many of those are Americans killed by other Americans? I also wonder how many happen because of the repeated combat tours that no person should be asked to endure.
When I was in Iraq last summer I heard stories like these. Then, while I was at the Balad Air Base, a gunfight erupted at a forward operating base north of Baghdad, that left an American soldier dead.
Two soldiers that I spent part of an evening with on my way out of Iraq, in Kuwait, told me about a soldier who had a personal problem with another and that led to his kicking a barracks door in and spraying the room with bullets.
Another similar event they told me about involved two soldiers squaring up on the dirt road between the rows of tents, and shooting each other like the gunslingers at the OK Corral.
Maybe that's why none of these guys had any bullets in their rifles. I mean it is Kuwait, a fairly safe place, but weapons without rounds anywhere close to a war zone would be grossly inept. It is hard to know if it is a misplaced idea or a sad necessity.
As the war continues to disintegrate into outbursts of murderous madness, my knee jerk reaction is to look for the most obvious reasons.
One of the most blatant factors I see, is the fact that the Bush Administration, hard pressed to meet recruitment numbers, lowered the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or "ASVAB" standard to include it's Category-4.
This is exactly what happened during the peak of the Vietnam War, right before some of the really horrendous incidents like My Lai and Son Thang. (see: My Lai Massacre in Vietnam Happened 40 Years Ago this Weekend - Tim King Salem-News.com)
By lowering the entrance score, we stripped integrity from the military. The Vietnam War wasn't always a big marijuana fest, for those who don't know. In the earlier years and all the way through in some cases, our military was very professional.
But the influx of "Cat-4's" as they were known in late '68, was the official lowering of the bar to the ground. It brought in the scum and the criminals and the drug addicts and the sexual predators.
These same folks, or today's version of them to be specific, are in Iraq today. I personally know of a case where the Navy tried to recruit a young man who was convicted of meth charges and sitting in jail. If he had just a slightly less lengthy record, they would have taken him.
The average combat soldiers are young men typically in their late teens to early 20's. They haven't had time to find their way in life, and they follow orders well sometimes, other times they don't.
These are people who have seen and been through a lot. Most are really great people and many have educations and backgrounds that would really surprise you. Some are so anti-social and unable to communicate on a basic level that you can almost hear the time bomb ticking.
It is wrong to bring the criminal into the military and if Americans don't think there is a lot of drug use and abuse in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they have another thing coming. It's a natural accompaniment for PTSD.
Eliminating the Sons of Iraq
The soldiers and Marines who go 'outside the wire' of the various bases, know that the Sunni Awakening Council's Sons of Iraq programs and the checkpoints they operated, were the primary thing keeping Americans safe.
Those programs that worked so well keeping terrorists at bay and out of entire neighborhoods and zones, are all but history. The Surge was a program of temporary stimulation and mass abandonment.
President Bush began paying these former enemies money that they quickly became dependent on, with no plan for their future at all, and then threw them under the political train.
They have other local work opportunities, with the insurgency. I was told by these guys that the going rate for shooting a rocket or mortar at the Balad air base, where I was living at the time, was a payment of $200.
The Shiite government of Iraq said it would maintain about half of the SOI checkpoints, but reports indicate that far fewer than half exist today.
I don't know how politicians failed to look beyond the immediate 'Surge' plan and see where this would lead. What was the point in establishing such a temporary peace?
The Sons of Iraq checkpoints should have been maintained until the last American was out of the country, and then we should have funded them longer, after we were gone. More Americans would have come home in one piece.
This simple step would have reduced violence and bloodshed and kept Iraqi's employed. What would the price tag have been? Well, Sons of Iraq guard made exactly $305 dollars a month. They told me that was sufficient in meeting their needs. The sheiks were paid about twice that, a month.
There were about a hundred thousand of these men. You do the math, compared to everything that has led to this point, it seems like a small price. I guarantee that if the military cooks had made the food for the last several years in Iraq and Afghanistan, instead of the Halliburton offshoot KBR's thousands of food employees, then we would have a more self sufficient military and plenty of money to fund important programs like the Sons of Iraq.
The Sunni's under this program, were able to feed their kids and have a little respect in their communities. They sold out to the Coalition and now we have turned our backs on them.
I can tell you that there were many relationships that soldiers and Marines developed and nurtured as the Sons of Iraq developed.
The Sunni's were able to spot the bad guys because they used to be the bad guys. I'm afraid that many of them have returned to the only source of income; that is the insurgency.
So these are the conditions that we continue to send our brothers and sisters into. They aren't good, and new reports about entire convoys being stopped in the middle of Iraq to be inspected which makes them sitting ducks for attacks, were the focus of a report I wrote last week. (see: Pitfalls Await Deploying Oregon Guard Troops Bound for Iraq (VIDEO) - Tim King Salem-News.com)
What we do know is that the rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is off the charts. We know that veteran suicide is nearly epidemic, and we know that things are going to get worse.
We also now have the increased fear of wondering if people will lose their lives to the actions of one of their own.
Comparing the apathy of today's American with the red, white and blue days of the Iraq War's earlier years is a big disappointment to say the least. We have done no favors for Iraq, or the Iraqi people, or for our own.
Maybe those who root for a war against Iran, who seek to spread our combat forces thinner than they are now, need to remember this result of poorly planned military action.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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