GI News Briefing #2: "All we are doing here is treading water"

Compiled by Derek Seidman, with some comments.

The election's over. Now there's not going to be anything to regularly overshadow the reality of the catastrophe in Iraq.

Two Saturdays ago, eight marines were killed and nine others wounded from the explosion of a car bomb outside of Fallujah (there was also a ninth combat death that doesn't seem to be related to this). It was the deadliest single day for US troops in six months. As of November 1, at least 1,122 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war.

The group that claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling themselves the 1920 Brigade, said that its members are "Americanized spies speaking in Arabic tongue." This assertion comes right before a November 1st AP article entitled "U.S. Marines Can't Easily ID Enemy in Iraq." It reports of a situation for soldiers where "people smile by day - and launch deadly projectiles by night." It goes on to say that:

"In a fight without front lines against civilian-clothed enemies, Marines in central Iraq can't easily identify enemies called "The Muj" - short for mujahedeen, or Muslim holy warriors - who booby trap roads and fire into U.S. bases from nearby hamlets.

"They're watching us right now. They're everywhere, but you can't tell who they are," says Sgt. Alexander Munoz as he leads a 1st Marine Division patrol through one town. "They wave and salute - then they bomb you."

This type of protracted urban guerilla warfare is not what most soldiers signed up for, I'm assuming. Judging by things like the myriads of demoralized letters written home that are circulating the internet and the slowly-increasing number of soldiers who are speaking out here at home, the mission must seem like a total, pointless mess to many of them. During the heyday of GI resistance to the Vietnam War, an anonymous soldier wrote in one of the many underground GI newspapers:

"When I die bury me face down So the Army can kiss my ass"

The underground paper he wrote this for was called "FTA with Pride", and "FTA" didn't stand for "Happy Birthday."

Spc Frederick Allen Jr. got to see the carnage first hand in Fallujah. He's 24, like me, and from Pittsfield, Maine. His profile is on the antiwar soldier website "A machine-gunner with the 82nd Airborne, [Allen] was wounded when an RPG ripped through his left leg and shattered his right leg during a firefight in Fallujah on October 31, 2003. He has had 15 surgeries and 7 blood transfusions." He tells us:

"It was really quiet and then we heard two booms and an AK and I saw two yellow balls coming at us. It was all slow motion for me because I was hit so it kind of burned an image in my head. It felt like someone had stuck me with a hot poker in the legs. The hit just split it open like if you were to take a hammer to a melon and just smash it open. That's kind of the effect it had on my legs.

"The pain is pretty bad at times, just chronic pain all the time.. I can't drive. I'm on heavy medication. I used to drive all the time. Now my wife drives. It's hard getting used to the changes. I was always used to doing everything on my own. "Yeah, I feel angry. I've talked to counselors. It helps to talk to people. I wish I could point the finger at one person and just take them on for all the pain and suffering I've been through but there isn't much I can do. I was angry at the people over in Iraq. I don't trust them. I don't like them. I was mad about being over there. I really didn't want to go."

The great website posted a letter written home by George Sprague from Balad, Iraq. Sprague is a member of the National Guard unit serving at a logistical support area 45 miles north of Baghdad. He writes home to the local newspaper:

"When I was home in New Hampshire on leave last month, a lot of people approached me to tell what a good job we're doing here in Iraq.

"I appreciate the support, but I don't need the media or those people to tell me what I see every day. We are not getting the job done.

"People ask me, "How's it going over there?" Cities have been overrun and are in a state of lawlessness. My job brings me into the streets. I see these things as they happen. They aren't just headlines for me. All we are doing here is treading water, and at this rate we can't keep afloat much longer. I'm just a simple man, but I can see that everything this administration has done with Iraq has been dead wrong.

"We appreciate your support, but we can't see those yellow ribbons from here. I ask that you let your vote show your support. I don't know what you go to bed thinking, but I go to bed wondering not how many more years of this administration I can handle but how many more days I might survive."

Now we know that he's getting four more years of this administration, as we all are. Even if this wasn't the case, the situation in Iraq would not be much better. Think about the hundreds of billions of dollars were funneled into the Kerry campaign and the amount of effort that progressive-minded people put into trying to get him elected. If a fraction of those resources were used towards a massive campaign to get the truth out about Iraq through making heard the voices of the soldiers who have experienced it (who actually have some clout in the eyes of most of the American people) maybe we could make some progress in addressing the real problem.

I'm trying to organize a teach-in at my school next semester that will have a panel of antiwar soldiers who have come back from Iraq who are brave enough to speak out about their thoughts and experiences. The more this happens, the better. The more soldiers that speak out, and the more the rest of us give them the support and space to do so, the more comfortable others like them will feel in making that big leap. I hope that the soldier and veteran antiwar movement spreads like wildfire, because it needs to if we want to end this mess sooner rather than later.

Derek Seidman, 24, lives in Providence and is a co-editor of Left Hook. He can be reached at

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