seppos stuck in iraq forever

  1. 3,439 Posts.
    What did you expect with redneck George and henny penny Rumsfeld planning the whole (mis)adventure.


    Jonathan Steele in Fallujah
    Wednesday July 16, 2003
    The Guardian

    The doodles on the desk at the guardhouse tell it all. "Stuck here forever," an angry sergeant at the sand-blown US army base outside this desert town has scrawled with a felt-tip pen, alongside some scatological sketches.
    As convoys of Humvees with bored and sweaty soldiers manning roof-mounted machine guns trundle remorselessly past them - out for yet another circular patrol, in for another grim night of Fox TV and no alcohol - the sergeants who man the gates mutter over the glum news.

    Ten months after they left their home base in Hinesville, Georgia, for what they thought was going to be a six-month peacetime jaunt in Kuwait, they are in Iraq and staying.

    This is the headquarters of the 2nd brigade of the 3rd infantry division. Their combat teams have roughly 4,500 soldiers and all were plunged in gloom yesterday.

    On Monday their commander, Major General Buford C Blount, told them their tour of duty was not yet over. Their promised return by the end of July had been postponed again.

    The reason? The growing attacks on American forces in Iraq and the manifest unwillingness of other professional armies, such as the Germans and French, to share the burden.They would have to soldier on "due to the uncertainty of the situation in Iraq and the recent increase in attacks on the coalition forces", General Blount said in a radio message to the troops and an email message to their spouses back home.

    Deep inside the base Staff Sergeant Anthony Joseph, the brigade's press liaison officer, sits in a makeshift office in what was once a kitchen. Pale green tiles line the walls. The window is too high to look out, and two taps stick out behind him. "We occasionally hear rumblings. If the water ever comes back on, I'm going to be flooded out." he quips.

    Casualties

    But gloom resumes fast. "We are the only division which fought this entire war and is still in Iraq," he says. "We never knew there would be a war when we left home in September last year. We fought all the way up from Kuwait through southern Iraq. 'The quickest way home is through Baghdad', they told us. So we took the city, and here we are still."

    No unit took more casualties than the 3rd infantry during the war: 36 in all. Yet one of the division's early sources of bitterness was the fact that the Marines took credit for capturing the Iraqi capital.

    "The 3rd division's 1st brigade took Baghdad airport and our 2nd brigade was in Baghdad on April 5," says Sergeant Joseph. "We did a 'thunder run' with tanks that day and on April 7 we went into Baghdad with 2,000 troops and took it.

    "But it was only when the Marines came in on the east side of the river on April 9 and took up positions outside the Palestine hotel where all the media were that people thought Baghdad had fallen. We were already in there. The Marines even fired on us, thinking our tanks must be Iraqi. We had to radio them to stop it."

    The brigade's second blow came when it was told to move to Fallujah instead of going home. Thirty miles west of Baghdad, Fallujah was a hotbed of tension in April after US troops shot and killed 14 demonstrators.

    In the two months the brigade has been in the town, a fragile calm has returned. It has not been through superior fire-power but thanks to an injection of sensitivity. The brigade has helped to train a revamped local police force. It has flooded the town with contracts for repairing looted schools and other public buildings. It has started a dialogue with the mayor.

    Last week the mayor asked the brigade to end its patrols through the town and abandon its small base on the main street and leave security to the locals. The brigade commander agreed. Now troops only patrol the areas round the town.

    No troops have been killed in attacks. The brigade's first fatal postwar casualty came early this week - in Baghdad where a convoy was travelling.

    But tension is always high, routine is oppressive, and isolation from home growing longer by the day. Phone calls are limited to 10 minutes, and even then soldiers have to queue for three hours to make one. Letters takes a month. Internet access is restricted to 10 minutes.

    Officers claim the men's fighting morale is unaffected by the latest delay in going home. "When we heard General Blount telling us on the radio we had to stay, we shook our heads and said 'We knew,we knew it'," says Captain John Ives, who runs the brigade's civil-military assistance centre from an office in the town hall.

    His latest assignment is to take delivery of an army gift of 1,000 bottles of cooking gas to be given to local families. "I left home just after my son's first birthday. If we go home in September as they promise, he'll have had a year without me. But that date is like jello.You know, it wobbles back and forth, no stability.

    "After we got the news, we just sat in the officers' house, and quit for two hours. We drank coke and seethed. Then we got up. No more complaints. That was our strike."

    Vast vehicle parks are spread out across the sand, full of awesome rollingstock. Giant warehouses for ammunition have been built. The massive investment suggests the US is planning to stay.

    But the men of the 3rd infantry want none of it. They want out now. In the words of Sergeant Joseph: "Our motto is 'Send Me'. We are adding the word 'Home'. Hinesville is the armpit of the world. Right now, I'll take the armpit."

 
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