Bring 'Em On?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Jul 3 12:40:09 MDT 2003

Counterpunch, July 3, 2003

A Former Special Forces Soldier Responds to Bush's Invitation for Iraqis
to Attack US Troops
"Bring 'Em On?"


In 1970, when I arrived at my unit, Company A, 4th Battalion/503rd
Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, in what was then the Republic of
Vietnam, I was charged up for a fight. I believed that if we didn't stop
the communists in Vietnam, we'd eventually be fighting this global
conspiracy in the streets of Hot Springs, Arkansas. I'd been toughened
by Basic Training, Infantry Training and Parachute Training, taught how
to use my weapons and equipment, and I was confident in my ability to
vanquish the skinny unter-menschen. So I was dismayed when one of my new
colleagues--a veteran who'd been there ten months--told me, "We are
losing this war."

Not only that, he said, if I wanted to survive for my one year there, I
had to understand one very basic thing. All Vietnamese were the enemy,
and for us, the grunts on the ground, this was a race war. Within one
month, it was apparent that everything he told me was true, and that
every reason that was being given to the American public for the war was
not true.

We had a battalion commander whom I never saw. He would fly over in a
Loach helicopter and give cavalier instructions to do things like "take
your unit 13 kilometers to the north." In the Central Highlands, 13
kilometers is something we had to hack out with machetes, in 98-degree
heat, carrying sometimes 90 pounds over our body weights, over steep,
slippery terrain. The battalion commander never picked up a machete as
far as we knew, and after these directives he'd fly back to an
air-conditioned headquarters in LZ English near Bong-son. We often
fantasized together about shooting his helicopter down as a way of
relieving our deep resentment against this faceless, starched and
spit-shined despot.

Yesterday, when I read that US Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush, in a
moment of blustering arm-chair machismo, sent a message to the
'non-existent' Iraqi guerrillas to "bring 'em on," the first image in my
mind was a 20-year-old soldier in an ever-more-fragile marriage, who'd
been away from home for 8 months. He participated in the initial
invasion, and was told he'd be home for the 4th of July. He has a
newfound familiarity with corpses, and everything he thought he knew
last year is now under revision. He is sent out into the streets of
Fallujah (or some other city), where he has already been shot at once or
twice with automatic weapons or an RPG, and his nerves are raw. He is
wearing Kevlar and ceramic body armor, a Kevlar helmet, a load carrying
harness with ammunition, grenades, flex-cuffs, first-aid gear, water,
and assorted other paraphernalia. His weapon weighs seven pounds, ten
with a double magazine. His boots are bloused, and his long-sleeve shirt
is buttoned at the wrist. It is between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit at
midday. He's been eating MRE's three times a day, when he has an
appetite in this heat, and even his urine is beginning to smell like
preservatives. Mosquitoes and sand flies plague him in the evenings, and
he probably pulls a guard shift every night, never sleeping straight
through. He and his comrades are beginning to get on each others'
nerves. The rumors of 'going-home, not-going-home' are keeping him on an
emotional roller coaster. Directives from on high are contradictory,
confusing, and often stupid. The whole population seems hostile to him
and he is developing a deep animosity for Iraq and all its people--as
well as for official narratives.

This is the lad who will hear from someone that George W. Bush, dressed
in a suit with a belly full of rich food, just hurled a manly taunt from
a 72-degree studio at the 'non-existent' Iraqi resistance.

This de facto president is finally seeing his poll numbers fall. Even
chauvinist paranoia has a half-life, it seems. His legitimacy is being
eroded as even the mainstream press has discovered now that the pretext
for the war was a lie. It may have been control over the oil, after all.
Anti-war forces are regrouping as an anti-occupation movement. Now,
exercising his one true talent--blundering--George W. Bush has begun the
improbable process of alienating the very troops upon whom he depends to
carry out the neo-con ambition of restructuring the world by arms.

Somewhere in Balad, or Fallujah, or Baghdad, there is a soldier telling
a new replacement, "We are losing this war."

Stan Goff is the author of "Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US
Invasion of Haiti" (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and of the upcoming book
"Full Spectrum Disorder" (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He retired in 1996
from the US Army, from 3rd Special Forces. He lives in Raleigh.

He can be reached at: stan at

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