By Bob Commike, Vietnam Veteran
With the increasing number of attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, it is becoming clear that Bush has led the U.S. into a quagmire and that the anger of soldiers and their families is growing.
At least 62 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat since Bush declared the war over, and 177 have died since the war began – even more than in the 1991 Gulf War. However, if all U.S. deaths are counted including “non-combat” deaths (suicides, illness, etc.), at least 270 have died.
But the untold story is that of the wounded. While the Pentagon puts the number at 827, Lieutenant Colonel Allen DeLane, who supervises airlifts of the wounded to a U.S. base, told the Guardian the real number is at least 4000, many missing an arm or a leg.
The U.S. military is already seriously over-stretched with the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. And with the deteriorating situation in Iraq, the U.S. is having difficulties putting together the multinational force that was supposed to partially replace U.S. troops.
The morale of troops is low to non-existent. The British Observer recently quoted Private Isaac Kinblade of the 671st Engineer Company as saying, “Somewhere down the line, we became an occupation force in [Iraqi] eyes. We don’t feel like heroes any more. The rules of engagement are crippling. We are outnumbered. We are exhausted. We are in over our heads. The President says, ‘Bring ’em on.’ The generals say we don’t need more troops. Well, they’re not over here.”
Some soldiers were promised that they would be going home by now, but due to the situation those promises have been broken several times. This has fuelled the anger of soldiers’ families. At Fort Stewart, Georgia, earlier this summer, a colonel had to be escorted out of a session with 800 spouses (mostly wives). Lucia Braxton, director of community services at Fort Stewart, described the spouses as “crying, cussing, yelling, and screaming for their men to come back.” Organized groups like Military Families Speak Out are also becoming increasingly active.
In addition to the problems facing soldiers now, others will develop later on, including the effects of using depleted uranium munitions, the lack of jobs and housing for returning soldiers, and cutbacks in veterans’ benefits.
Of course, the effects on countries that are occupied are even worse. Vietnam is still affected by Agent Orange, and Bosnia and Afghanistan are still affected by depleted uranium, as is Iraq from the first Gulf War.
It is indeed time for the troops to come home, but that is not enough. There must be massive aid given to the people of Iraq to rebuild their shattered country, and there must be jobs, housing, and proper health care for returning veterans.