...three more months of using plastic sacks for toilets, burning their waste and hoping for packages from home.
I learned many things about our soldiers from the front page of my L.A. Times today, other than more about the increase in the number and duration of military tours and the number of suicides. Now there's an increase in disdain for happy talk from Bush and their own commanders.
I also learned that there are two different wars, according to Staff Sgt. Donald Richard Harris: That of the soldiers and that of the commanders in distant bases.
"...front-line soldiers grow to resent troops at the bases and come to believe their commanders are out of touch with the realities in the field." -- Counterinsurgency expert Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign RelationsWhy? Because the troops at the bases enjoy basic amenities such as running water, flush toilets, telephones and Internet access, as well as food courts and athletic facilities. Here's what the other guys get:
That should be on a recruiting poster, doncha think?
- Sun-scorched grounds of a former potato-processing plant.
- They use pit latrines and get showers only when there is enough water.
- They jog around a shadeless concrete lot that serves as a helipad and mortar-launching site.
- Their downtime consists of "silently clean[ing] dust from their rifles at a battle position south of the capital" while a "fiery wind blast[s] through the small base, an abandoned home surrounded by sandbags and razor wire."
Other troops in this area have far less comfortable surroundings. Army Maj. Rob Griggs believes rough conditions are good for the mission. Without comforting distractions, troops are more driven to complete their jobs, said Griggs..."Comforting distractions"?? Griggs has been out in the 140-degree heat too long.
...the disparities in living and working conditions among soldiers heighten resentments, chipping away at morale. So does the feeling that the mission is futile, a belief fueled by the Iraqi political stalemate and the unreliability of Iraqi forces.But didn't Commander Guy say morale was high? Ohhh, he meant he was high. My bad.
Most thought their job was finished after Saddam Hussein was ousted. Instead, they found themselves directing traffic in Baghdad's chaotic streets. Four years later, they still are policing and doing community work they did not anticipate.We anticipated problems, but most of us couldn't anticipate all of this.
"You couple that with getting blown up and shot at, and it definitely makes it harder to deliver service with a smile," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Littrell, whose plan to leave the Army in May was thwarted when his unit's tour was extended.What, you're not grinning and thanking the Sociopath in Chief as your leg gets blown off? That's okay. "Service with a smile" went out with full-service gas stations in the 1950s.
So how does Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces in southern Iraq, respond to a young man on his first assignment there?
Lynch told him: "You're making history here while those back home are watching it on TV."If that doesn't boost his morale, nothing will.