Soldiers to Congress: Send Us Home

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Mon Jul 7 05:36:21 MDT 2003


Dear Organizers & Activists:

Let's organize a campaign (letters, petitions, sit-ins,
demonstrations, etc.) to bring soldiers home now -- before Washington
decides to escalate the size of the army of occupation dramatically.
Soldiers want to go home, their families and friends want them home,
and Iraqis want them out of their country -- and yet, surprisingly,
no major anti-war coalition is currently focused on a campaign to
bring them home now.  Why???  Get a campaign started wherever you
are, and call on all anti-war coalitions (International ANSWER,
<http://www.internationalanswer.org/>; National Network to End the
War against Iraq, <http://www.endthewar.org/>; Not In Our Name,
<http://www.notinourname.net/>;  Racial Justice 911,
<http://www.rj911.org/>; United for Peace and Justice,
<http://www.unitedforpeace.org/>; Win Without War,
<http://www.winwithoutwarus.org/>) to initiate a coordinated campaign
with a simple message: Bring Them Home Now.

*****   Christian Science Monitor
from the July 07, 2003 edition

Troop morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom'
Soldiers stress is a key concern as the Army ponders whether to send
more forces.

By Ann Scott Tyson | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - US troops facing extended deployments amid the danger,
heat, and uncertainty of an Iraq occupation are suffering from low
morale that has in some cases hit "rock bottom."

Even as President Bush speaks of a "massive and long-term"
undertaking in rebuilding Iraq, that effort, as well as the high
tempo of US military operations around the globe, is taking its toll
on individual troops.

Some frustrated troops stationed in Iraq are writing letters to
representatives in Congress to request their units be repatriated.
"Most soldiers would empty their bank accounts just for a plane
ticket home," said one recent Congressional letter written by an Army
soldier now based in Iraq. The soldier requested anonymity.

In some units, there has been an increase in letters from the Red
Cross stating soldiers are needed at home, as well as daily instances
of female troops being sent home due to pregnancy.

"Make no mistake, the level of morale for most soldiers that I've
seen has hit rock bottom," said another soldier, an officer from the
Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.

Such open grumbling among troops comes as US commanders reevaluate
the size and composition of the US-led coalition force needed to
occupy Iraq. US Central Command, which is leading the occupation, is
expected by mid-July to send a proposal to Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld on how many and what kind of troops are required, as well as
on the rotation of forces there.

For soldiers, a life on the road

The rethink about troop levels comes as senior military leaders voice
concern that multiple deployments around the world are already taxing
the endurance of US forces, the Army in particular. Some 370,000
soldiers are now deployed overseas from an Army active-duty, guard,
and reserve force of just over 1 million people, according to Army
figures.

Experts warn that long, frequent deployments could lead to a rash of
departures from the military. "Hordes of active-duty troops and
reservists may soon leave the service rather than subject themselves
to a life continually on the road," writes Michael O'Hanlon, a
military expert at the Brookings Institution here.

A major Army study is now under way to examine the impact of this
high pace of operations on the mental health of soldiers and
families. "The cumulative effect of these work hours and deployment
and training are big issues, and soldiers are concerned about it,"
says Col. Charles Hoge, who is leading the survey of 5,000 to 10,000
soldiers for the Walter Reed Institute of Army Research.

Concern over stressed troops is not new. In the late 1990s, a
shrinking of military manpower combined with a rise in overseas
missions prompted Congress to call for sharp pay increases for troops
deployed over a certain number of days.

"But then came September 11 and the operational tempo went off the
charts" and the Congressional plan was suspended, according to Ed
Bruner, an expert on ground forces at the Congressional Research
Service here.

Adding manpower to the region

Despite Pentagon statements before the war that the goal of US forces
was to "liberate, not occupy" Iraq, Secretary Rumsfeld warned last
week that the war against terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere "will not
be over any time soon."

Currently, there are some 230,000 US troops serving in and around
Iraq, including nearly 150,000 US troops inside Iraq and 12,000 from
Britain and other countries. According to the Pentagon, the number of
foreign troops is expected to rise to 20,000 by September. Fresh
foreign troops began flowing into Iraq this month, part of two
multinational forces led by Poland and Britain. A third multinational
force is also under consideration.

A crucial factor in determining troop levels are the daily attacks
that have killed more than 30 US and British servicemen in Iraq since
Mr. Bush declared on May 1 that major combat operations had ended.

The unexpected degree of resistance led the Pentagon to increase US
ground troops in Iraq to mount a series of ongoing raids aimed at
confiscating weapons and capturing opposition forces.

A tour of duty with no end in sight

As new US troops flowed into Iraq, others already in the region for
several months, such as the 20,000-strong 3rd Infantry Division were
retained in Iraq.

"Faced with continued resistance, Department of Defense now plans to
keep a larger force in Iraq than anticipated for a period of time,"
Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division,
explained in a statement to families a month ago. "I appreciate the
turmoil and stress that a continued deployment has caused," he added.

The open-ended deployments in Iraq are lowering morale among some
ground troops, who say constantly shifting time tables are reducing
confidence in their leadership. "The way we have been treated and the
continuous lies told to our families back home has devastated us
all," a soldier in Iraq wrote in a letter to Congress.

Security threats, heat, harsh living conditions, and, for some
soldiers, waiting and boredom have gradually eroded spirits. An
estimated 9,000 troops from the 3rd Infantry Division - most deployed
for at least six months and some for more than a year - have been
waiting for several weeks, without a mission, to return to the United
States, officers say.

In one Army unit, an officer described the mentality of troops. "They
vent to anyone who will listen. They write letters, they cry, they
yell. Many of them walk around looking visibly tired and
depressed.... We feel like pawns in a game that we have no voice
[in]."

<http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0707/p02s01-woiq.html>   *****

*****   New York Times   July 4, 2003
Anger Rises for Families of Troops in Iraq
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

FORT HOOD, Tex., July 3 - Luisa Leija was in bed the other morning,
she recalled, when her 9-year-old daughter bounded in the room,
saying, "Mommy, mommy, there's a man in uniform at the door."

Ms. Leija, the wife of a young artillery captain in Iraq, threw on a
robe and took a deep breath. She dashed to the door, thinking: "This
is not happening to me. This can't be happening to me."

A soldier in full camouflage was on the doorstep. It was a neighbor
locked out of his house.

Ms. Leija is still upset. The panic has passed, but not the
weariness. Or the anger. Anger that her husband, Capt. Frank Leija,
has not come home yet, even though President Bush declared two months
ago that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." Anger that the
end of that stage has not meant the beginning of peace, that the Army
has assigned new duties for her husband and his men that have nothing
to do with toppling Saddam Hussein.

And anger that the talk in Washington is not of taking troops out of
Iraq, but of sending more in.

"I want my husband home," Ms. Leija, a mother of three children,
said. "I am so on edge. When they first left, I thought yeah, this
will be bad, but war is what they trained for. But they are not
fighting a war. They are not doing what they trained for. They have
become police in a place they're not welcome."

Military families, so often the ones to put a cheery face on war, are
growing vocal. Since major combat for the 150,000 troops in Iraq was
declared over on May 1, more than 60 Americans, including 25 killed
in hostile encounters, have died in Iraq, about half the number of
deaths in the two months of the initial campaign.

Frustrations became so bad recently at Fort Stewart, Ga., that a
colonel, meeting with 800 seething spouses, most of them wives, had
to be escorted from the session.

"They were crying, cussing, yelling and screaming for their men to
come back," said Lucia Braxton, director of community services at
Fort Stewart.

The signs of discomfort seem to be growing beyond the military bases.
According to a Gallup poll published on Tuesday, the percentage of
the public who think the war is going badly has risen to 42 percent,
from 13 percent in May. Likewise, the number of respondents who think
the war is going well has dropped, from 86 percent in May to 70
percent a month ago to 56 percent.

The latest poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,003 adults.
It has a sampling error of three percentage points.

News this week has not helped. Today, eight American soldiers were
hurt in hit-and-run attacks, and an enraged crowd of Iraqis stomped a
burned Humvee....

Seven soldiers from Fort Hood have been killed. More and more people
are dreading that knock on the door. But there are other worries,
too. War can find the weakest seam of a military marriage and split
it open. After the Persian Gulf war, divorce rates at certain Army
bases shot up as much as 50 percent, an Army study showed.

"That's my biggest fear," Valerie Decal, the wife of an artillery
sergeant, said. "That my husband will come back different. Even if
you're G.I. Joe, if you have to kill someone, that's not something
you just forget about."

Ms. Decal is stumped about what to do when the doorbell rings and her
19-month-old son runs to answer, saying, "Dada, dada."

"What do I tell him?" she asked....

<http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/04/national/04FAMI.html>   *****

*****   Soldiers' Wives Want Hubbies Home
HINESVILLE, Ga., June 20, 2003

(AP) During the war in Iraq, the Army's 3rd Infantry took more
casualties than any other military division. Now, with the heavy
combat all but over, many wives angrily say their battle-weary
husbands need to come home.

Once the picture of pride and patriotism during the war, the wives
are arguing that the soldiers who did the killing should not have to
do the peacekeeping.

"They need to be out of there, because I don't believe it's safe,"
said Ellen Peterson, the wife of a 3rd Infantry sergeant who was
deployed in January from the division's base at Fort Stewart in
Georgia.

The Army's decision to assign new missions to more than 16,000 of the
division's troops has hit hard in this military town. After six to 10
months in the desert, wives say, the men are mentally and physically
exhausted.

"A lot of people felt like if you didn't support the war, you didn't
support the troops," said Peterson, a 42-year-old financial analyst,
who asked that her husband's name not be used. "I had to tell someone
- I've supported my husband for 16 years. I don't have to support the
policies."...

<http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/06/20/iraq/main559669.shtml>   *****

*****   New York Times   June 15, 2003
Anxious and Weary of War, G.I.'s Face a New Iraq Mission
By STEVEN LEE MYERS

...After fighting their way from the Kuwaiti border to Saddam
International Airport in three fierce weeks, they believed that the
war - or at least their part of it - was over.

Six months after arriving in Kuwait and almost three months after
entering Iraq, they were ready to go home.  Then they discovered
that, at least from a soldier's-eye view on the ground, there seemed
to be no American plan for a postwar Iraq.

The mayhem that followed the collapse of Mr. Hussein's government on
April 9 has thrust them into a new mission: keeping peace, even as
their weary minds and bodies are still at war.

"You call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to
go home," Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell, an infantryman in Sergeant
Betancourt's platoon, said as he stood guard on Tuesday.  "Tell him
to come spend a night in our building."...

<http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/15/international/worldspecial/15ARMY.html>
*****
--
Yoshie

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