by John Hawkins | October 22, 2003 12:24 am
Through a friend of mine, I got an opportunity to do a mini-interview with a soldier from 2nd Brigade, First Armored Division who arrived in Baghdad in late April and left earlier this month. Because there is such a vast difference between what we’ve been hearing from the news media and from many other people who’ve actually been in Iraq, I thought it would be worth the time to hear what a soldier who served in Iraq had to say.
However, he was hesitant to do the interview because he isn’t a “public affairs officer” & he didn’t think it was his “place to talk to the press ‘internet or not’ without authorization” & so he asked to remain anonymous. While I’m not a big fan of basing stories on anonymous sources, since no one reading RWN would know who this soldier was anyway and since nothing he said struck me as particularly controversial, I agreed to his condition. I also edited the interview down to the most relevant portions. Read and enjoy …
John Hawkins: So you did police work in Baghdad basically right?
Soldier X: There was a significant amount of patrolling…many raids, in search of contraband and members of the most wanted list.
John Hawkins: What was the reaction of the Iraqis in the general population to the raids? It must be pretty scary to have a bunch of guys kicking in one of your neighbor’s doors…
Soldier X: Yes, they did not like being disturbed at 4 AM. Most raids would have a public affairs there to attempt to explain why we were doing the raid.
John Hawkins: Were people friendly to you when you were on patrol?
Soldier X: Well…yes. All the kids waved when we drove by.
John Hawkins: Did anyone throw rocks or did the crowds ever get hostile?
Soldier X: I was never involved with a “hostile” crowd. In talking with members of the 3rd Infantry Division…the guys who fought the war…that’s the way the crowds would be. Waving and cheering for you one minute, then shooting an RPG at you the next.
John Hawkins: So are most of the Iraqis in Baghdad friendly towards Americans?
Soldier X: Yes, the vast majority are and if they aren’t they keep it to themselves mostly.
John Hawkins: In your opinion, how do most Iraqis view the occupation? Do they see it as a necessary evil, do they want Americans to go ASAP?
Soldier X: Tough question…I’d say they all are happy to have the old regime gone, but many were disappointed by the degradation of basic services. water, electricity, etc and the time it took to repair them. So although I didn’t talk with many Iraqis that told me that wanted the U.S. out, I’m sure there is that feeling.
John Hawkins: In your opinion, how much support does the resistance there have?
Soldier X: Little. There are pockets of the population in Baghdad that turn a blind eye, (but that’s it).
John Hawkins: Now if you read the press coverage here in the states, it’s VERY negative. The situation always seems to be “worsening”, the Iraqis are sick of Americans, progress is sparse, yada, yada, yada. Does that fit with what you’ve seen in Iraq?
Soldier X: Of course not. The country may not be standing on it’s two feet yet (and) I believe it is absurd to think it will anytime soon. But life for the average Iraqi has probably returned to as good, if not better, than during Saddam’s regime.
Let’s put it this way; the average Iraqi lives in a state of poverty unseen in America. No one did anything that required initiative because it could have been interpreted as a threat to the regime. So they were happy to get there monthly food basket, do as they were told, and live without the scrutiny of the authorities. Iraq is not a poor country, Saddam just kept everything for himself and the Ba’ath party. If you lived outside the walls of the palace you were just an animal, inside, the sky was the limit.
John Hawkins: How’s the morale?
Soldier X: Not where it should be. We aren’t taking care of our soldiers.
John Hawkins: So if the military said to you, “What do we need to do to improve morale in Iraq,” what would you suggest?
Soldier X: Ok, first of all, a one year deployment is absolutely unacceptable for any soldier unless he/she volunteers for it. The biggest improvement to morale would be to get these guys out of there in a timely manner. Really I believe we need a larger army, we should activate at least 2 more divisions, maybe 3.
John Hawkins: I agree with you — I think we cut back too much in the Clinton years….So sum it up for RWN’s readers — how do you view the situation in Iraq? How is it going and how do you think it’s going to turn out?
Soldier X: It is not going to be an easy road to get Iraq on it’s feet, but it is what we HAVE to do.
John Hawkins: Do you believe it’s going to work?
Soldier X: Eventually Iraq will flourish. In 10-15 years you may be taking your kids there on vacation. 😀
John Hawkins: Heh — that’s a good line to end on =) Thanks for your time!
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