Whilst US politicians and the American public have been discussing the Iraq War, US soldiers have had to fight it. The only poll I know of that sampled the opinions of the troops was conducted by Zogby. An overall majority thought it was time to leave Iraq over the next 12 months and that was back in February 2006.
Beneath the broad sentiment amongst the troops that they should be brought home lay some interesting and disturbing issues. According to the now seven-month-old poll (taken after roughly three-years of occupation):
93% said that “removing” weapons of mass destruction is not a reason for U.S. troops being there.
90% thought the war was retaliation for Saddam’s role in 9/11
68% of the troops said that the real mission was to remove Saddam Hussein.
These figures are rather interesting: Bush, Cheney, Rice and Powell made it very clear that Saddam Hussein in their view had to be removed by force to prevent him transferring WMD to terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Bush, Cheney, Rice and a horde of mouthpieces constantly implied a connection between Hussein and Al Qaeda and thus 9-11 (and Cheney never hesitates to repeat this fallacy even today).
Well, Hussein was removed, there were no WMD and there was no Al Qaeda presence in Iraq (though now apparently, there is). Except for the absence of WMD and Al Qaeda it would appear then that the US forces accomplished their mission.
So why are they still there, three years later?
Because they were given a new mission; to establish a democratic government and provide security for private contractors to re-build the infrastructure and the economy.
And yet…only 24% said that “establishing a democracy that can be a model for the Arab World" was the main or a major reason for the war—meaning that the vast majority thought establishing a democracy wasn’t their job—contrary to Bush’s post “mission accomplished” statements.
Small wonder then that after three years of occupation though 58% said the ‘mission’ was “clear”, 42% thought it was “hazy”. In politics that would be called a winning majority but for an army it’s a terrible statistic.
The purpose of a soldier is to be prepared to kill or be killed to accomplish some worthwhile mission. If you aren’t sure of the mission how do you justify killing someone else or getting killed in the process? Uncertainty is a rare privilege in the military and it’s not usually afforded to the ordinary soldier—certainly not when the bullets and bombs are flying.
Bush has said several times that leaving "before the job is done" would "dishonor the sacrifice" of those who have already died. It's an argument that tortures every soldier--and the cruelty of if it is breathaking.
There would have been no sacrifice if Bush and his cabal hadn't invented the reasons for war. Fewer would have been sacrificed if all the soldiers had been provided with body armor, if Rumsfeld hadn't treated the troops as guinea pigs to test his theories of warfare, if Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle hadn't treated it as a business venture, if Bremer hadn't acted like Nero, if Generals Myers and Pace hadn't ordered mass roundups of civilians and used collective punishment.
When these soldiers come home they will lie awake at night and wonder what it was all for. And the terrible is--nothing. Nothing that mattered to them anyway.
The noble quest to bring down a dictator did not make the US or the world safer. Instead of creating a democracy they created anarchy. Instead of establishing human rights they abused them. Instead of making firends they made more enemies. Instead of helping people they hurt them and killed them.
They were told they'd be fighting for a good and noble cause and that they would be bringing peace and prosperity to Iraq--and they were lied-to.
But all these facts won't rush into their conciousness once they come home--many already know it. The best way to honor the sacrifice of those who have died already is to stop any further dying for no good reason and bring the troops home.
And as they lie awake at night and wonder what their sacrifice was for, I hope they'll realize that though it might appear to have been all for nothing, they can still make their sacrifice for something--that they can use their bloody and tragic expereinces and speak with unimpeachable authority to the public and the politicians and reclaim their true mission and uphold their honor and fight for and defend America from the true enemies of freedom and democracy--the politicians and demagogues who have betrayed them and this nation.