American Soldiers in Iraq

American Soldiers in Iraq

By Alla Pierce, Axis of Logic

Now that Mosul is being wiped off the face of the earth by US troops, I came back to my notes made recently, as well as some older ones, from interviewing American soldiers and officers who attended Iraq war campaigns. Below I used some of the excerpts from those interviews, which in my opinion most typically reflect attitudes and understanding of their participation in the Middle East wars.

 – AP


A gray day on West Mosul’s Corniche. Matt Cetti-Roberts photo

Embarking upon the war campaign in Iraq, American soldiers and officers did not know much about this country, the culture, history or the way people live there, neither anything about Saddam, his policies, as well as about who the Sunnis and Shiites are, and about the difference and contradictions between them. They still don’t know that now, even those who have a Master Degree. “Surprisingly, we were finding portraits of Saddam in the pockets of the Iraqis we killed. Was he not a dictator? “They probably were Sunnis.” “Who are Sunnis?”What are they fighting for in a strange country while possessing such little knowledge about it?
For average Americans, the army is just one way to make money. The longer you stay in the Army, the more benefits you receive. – Did you really think that you were spreading democracy by fighting in Iraq? – F… the democracy. When you serve for a long time, you get a lot of benefits, that’s why we enlist in the army and stay in it.They go to war, guided by the desire to earn, but the flywheel of hatred is launched and it is spun by those who are sitting in their fashionable offices very far away from the places of bloody massacres while they plan another one in order to attain more profits. It’s also launched by commanders who create the military operations and by the soldiers themselves who came to this land without being welcomed and by other soldiers that came before them.
They launch the flywheel of hatred without any understanding or realization of what they are actually doing. Unmotivated soldiers become motivated when their comrades are killed. And it becomes unimportant that no one called them to this land, and that the people living here have the right to kill the occupants. This all becomes unimportant because the war becomes personal. They pay back for their dead friends by killing more Iraqis (or whomever) and the other side also kills more in revenge. Hatred is growing. The War machine is working. – It was a huge deal about revenge. If some of our soldiers were hit we went back with overwhelming force and not just killed one person but killed many more and destroyed a whole area. Yes, it was very punitive the way we acted, but it was a revenge and we also rebuilt a lot of damaged areas. – Like what? – We built schools, hospitals…Destroying than rebuilding is just the way for American companies to use taxpayers’ money by building in Iraq for nothing. – Did Iraqis collaborate? – No, they didn’t. They hated us.“It was my trophy” Some of them showed me their trophies. – Why did you take ID cards from the Iraqis you killed? – These are our trophies. – But you cannot do this. People cannot be identified without identity cards. – Everybody took them and so did I.I looked at the photos of the dead Iraqis and thought about their loved ones who have been waiting for them to return from the war. I remember how one Russian woman who received an official notice that her son was killed in Afghanistan, said: “Until I see him dead, I’ll believe that he is still alive.” I’m telling this to American soldiers who show me photos of slain Iraqis. Then I tell them how Russian women waited for their men from the Great Patriotic War. Sometimes they waited for the rest of their lives. – Do you know how much it hurts, year after year to wait and hope what if he is alive? Do you know how painful it is do not even have the opportunity to go to the grave of you love one? The bodies of that Iraqis might not been identified without IDs. – These are emotions, ‘I heard in reply’. I did not think about it. Everybody took, so and I did. I was in this war. This was my trophy.“The fight against terrorism” Noticing complete separations in their mind between themselves and “that brown skinned people”, I asked the question: – Tell me, was there a feeling of being from a super nation and not being allowed to get killed? American leaders loudly consider themselves a morally and culturally superior nation. – Not exactly, but yes, when they kill our soldiers, it unites us more and raises our patriotic feelings. Maybe our politicians do something wrong, you know, I do not like our government, like most of us, but I love my country and I’m proud of it. I think that America is the most powerful and fair country. – Despite the fact that you go to someone else’s country to kill its inhabitants? – No, that’s not why we go there. We are fighting terrorism.Come on, give it up! Who really believes that the US is fighting terrorism? Back in March 1999, the bombing of Yugoslavia began. These are the mournful days for all residents of Eastern Europe. The beautiful Yugoslavia was skillfully destabilized, set on fire, finished off by bombing and after being dismembered was ready for use according to US interests. What terrorists did the united NATO troops fight by dropping bombs on Belgrade? Contrary to all international conventions, NATO was using radioactive depleted uranium in their ammunition, so people are still dying from those bombings.
Officially the “war on terror” was launched against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. That was a group of ultra-radicals, which number was estimated at no more than a few hundred – at the most- in the beginning.
Now the number of adherents of Islamic extremism has grown to hundreds of thousands if not more. While the United States bombing the Middle East for 16 years, destroying one country after another and creating the world’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, and financing and supplying  weapons to the militants of ISIS, the properly formed ideological settings of Islamic radicals now spreads not only to every state, bombed by America, but also over European countries.
And one of the main reason of it is that people are looking for alternative to American’s standards and “democracy” which in these days has nothing to do with people interests. War crimes And now, talking with soldiers who fought in Iraq, I did not know what struck me more: their cynical actions or the calm with which they talk about it.
Often, if Iraqis came to American field hospitals they were not treated, even children were often turned away. They were left to die according to American soldiers I’ve talked to. They were treated only if they were shot by American soldiers. If the bullets came from other than American guns the Iraqis were left to die. “I had to tell many Iraqis to just watch your children die. It’s sad, but we were following orders”.Here is a story I was told: An American officer brought a wounded Iraqi girl to the hospital. She had an injury from a bullet in her leg and was heavily bleeding. This girl needed urgent help, otherwise she could lose her leg. The girl was frightened and suffered from pain. The medical staff quickly put her on the table, and got prepared to start providing medical assistance. – Hey, wait, says the officer, the one who brought this girl there, – I was a little mistaken. We should not help the Iraqis in our hospitals. – But she needs help urgently!  And she’s already here, give us an opportunity to help the girl. – No, says the officer, it’s not according to the rules. We cannot break an order. She was hit by an AK-47, 7.62 caliber bullet. That is not one of ours. – But she might die! – An order is an order.The officer pulled his gun out. No, he did not point it to the medical staff, he just held it in his hand. Then he took the girl away and left her somewhere to die.
I asked the officer who told me this story, was it an example of a war crime in his opinion? – That officer was just following orders. He is not responsible for orders issued in one way or another. – But being just a human, is it not a crime to refuse giving a help to the wounded child when you have a chance to do it? – He acted in accordance with the order.The crime is when we break the law. But we live and act mostly directed by unwritten human rules, by something that gives us the right to call ourselves “a human being”. One day this officer will get back home, maybe even receive an award from being a good soldier who correctly followed orders. Will he remember the girl he brought back to the shelled streets when he takes his children to the Aqua Park, Zoo, or Disneyland? I doubt it. None of soldiers and officers I talked to had any empathy towards Iraqi civilians.
What empathy am I talking about, if there was a serious issue about torture? Now there is well-known fact that Iraqis were tortured and placed in hospitals for healing, so they could be tortured again. Some were kept tortured until they died or their brain stopped working from non-stop pain. Very often, and probably most of the time, Iraqis didn’t have information or simply couldn’t understand them. So, too bad for them. They were tortured to death.     A Paramedic that fought in Iraq told me that helicopters with red cross symbols from MEDEVAC units that were supposed to evacuate injured casualties, had instead installed machine guns, on request of special forces who used them to carry out operations under the guise of Red Cross missions — an act which is prohibited. On many occasions they were ordered to shoot every few seconds, while they were flying, over hot zones regardless of what they shot at. Not only when they see someone, but just shoot, so those who see them would think they are under attack. – You said you counted your fired bullets and estimated it was around a million of them in one year. Do you realize that you could kill hundreds or thousands of people this way? – It was an order.    – But do you realize that shooting like this randomly you did kill innocent people? – Do you know how many our American soldiers were killed?I asked if this person sees it as a war crime when army medical personnel randomly shoot like this from helicopter with a red cross on it. The answer was, “No, it was an order and we did it to protect ourselves from being shot at”.
From time to time during those conversations I felt like I was talking to robots. No matter what you say the answer is the same: “I was given an order”, “They killed our people”.
Sometimes, after hearing all their stories I asked: – Just imagine that, for instance, China invaded in the USA and Chinese soldiers don’t understand what we are saying and we do not understand what in hell they are saying and they just torture us or fire at us all the time? Imagine our kids are playing outside and a helicopter with a red cross just starts shooting them. Do you understand what real terrorism is? Do you think, because it’s done by high technology and by people in nice uniforms it doesn’t mean they are not terrorists?When incoming ground fire was received, the soldiers targeted the hostile threat with precision munitions by providing the exact coordinates to controllers who ordered returning artillery, or air strikes. Those precision locating devices were designed to reduce the number of random victims and damage, especially in civilian areas, since it sends exact coordinates to within a meter of accuracy from where the shot came from. Often, instead of attacking that particular point of hostility, the artillery sent hundreds of shells. So, if it was one shot they didn’t reply with one shell but hundreds of them, destroying a whole block of the city. Nothing can be alive after that. Nothing. Just dust from buildings, churches or high streets.
I asked the soldier who sent back targeting coordinates to his controllers as to how he feels about the fact that possibly hundreds of people were killed because of it. – I didn’t kill anyone – he said. – But you said that the whole area was destroyed by American artillery after you sent the coordinates. – Yes, it was, but I acted in accordance with standard procedure.The basic impression from talking to those solders is that they all gave me a really cold blooded speech about the war. Just like it was nothing. No emotions were noticed on their faces. Even when they describe how they kill people. During these conversations, I did not see a drop of doubt about their actions, even when I have talked to female officers. Only when I said: “Imagine that it was your child,” something changed in their eyes.
You do not spread any democracy but death and destruction. Are all the financial and career benefits you are really fighting for worth children’s deaths, their tears and pain? If you are not brainwashed you would think, ‘Does anybody want damn democracy at this price?’ The infrastructure completely destroyed. No water, no electricity, no wages, no banks, no international transfers. Who can live in a place like this?
And yet, many Americans still think that military intervention in the Muslim world is needed to combat terrorism. Purposely poor education set by government in order to easily control and manipulate people, non-stop propaganda mixed with excessive patriotism that easily turns to arrogance, racism and hostility toward people from other countries are the main pillars of American policy. Obliviousness to cause and effect, namely that American foreign policy is the single biggest cause for such instability and radicalism in the Middle East.

Alla Pierce, independent journalist, Florida, USA, 2017

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