As Americans are flooded with news of Arab uprisings (not mention other Charlie Sheenish media blitzes) it is easy for our memories to become hazy. Even mine was. I was recently interviewed by the BBC (for the Nth time) about my experiences as a U.S. Marine and DoD contractor, and I'm always asked the same questions:
"How did it feel to fight your own people?"
At first I didn't really remember. Then I grabbed an old journal:
Wednesday, May 19th, 2004, Al-Anbar Province, Iraq:
Haven't written for many days. More out of frustration and depression to tell the truth. It's been the same old s___. Raids based on faulty intelligence, wasting hours of manpower. Living out in the field. Sleeping in the dirt in my filthy sleeping bag. Meetings with Iraqi high brass (an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalion commander). Interrogations back at the base with detainees.
The interrogations were especially unpleasant. It seems we raided the house of a known bomb maker who had ties with a local insurgent. Word came from higher that we needed to detain the family, which included an old woman and her three daughters. I had to translate for some of our Marine interrogators. We didn't do anything against the law, just your usual yelling and fear tactics, which worked on the young girls. One of them was being really stubborn, so we scared her with threats of being sent to the states and getting abused and made fun of by crazy American prisoners who spoke no Arabic. The interrogator said some nasty things, but it was caused mainly by the girls lying and being uncooperative. The girls who cooperated were treated kindly. Eventually, we got a name out of her of a High Value Target in the military community, a man we knew her father had been meeting with. We just needed to corroborate all the stories.
You should have seen some of the stuff we confiscated from these people's house. Bombmaking materials galore. They even had sophisticated mercury detonators. Crazy stuff. So, I don't feel really bad at all. These women new what was going on in their house. They knew their father was meeting with a known terrorist. Why should they be given any different treatment from men we detain? But it seems the locals felt very differently. Supposedly there were demonstrations going on in Husayba, the town the family was from. Women are not fair game in the eyes of the Iraqis. The thing is, the amount of discontent we caused by detaining those women (though they were only held for about 72 hours) was undoubtedly not worth the small amount of information they provided us.
This journal entry was made a month after the attack on DoD contractors in Fallujah. Eventually, Al Anbar province erupted into the worst fighting of the Iraq War in the same town in 2004. These are exactly the situations any pro-rebel invading force will face in Libya. Today, many voices in congress are raising concern we are getting pulled into another Iraq with our involvement in Libya. The president vowed we will not send in ground troops, but without ground troops it will be impossible to aid the revolution. Just today, excessive cloud cover was cited as completely thwarting U.S. military efforts to bomb pro-Qaddafi forces. We are being myopic with regards to this situation.
I lived Syria, my country of origin, all last year. Researching and gauging opinions of the U.S. on the Arab streets. I spoke with people from every walk of life, from cab-drivers to the CEO of Bank Audi, a major Syrian bank. I needed to reconcile the horrific mistakes the U.S. made in the region. Across the board, people rolled their eyes at our rhetoric of regime change.
We attempted to install democracy by force, forever changing politics in the region. The cost: gross human rights violations and hundreds of thousands of civilians dead. Furthermore, with our current alliances, the Arab world will never believe we have their interests at heart.
The political fallout from the Iraq War is still coming down. Like a cancer, it will eat away at our world stature for years to come.
I saw young men slaughtered in their prime for a war that nobody believes in.
We must withdraw from the NATO-led Western military alliance.
Let's get out of Libya. Now.
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