De amerikanske soldatene i Irak er desillusjonerte. De har sett at det ikke nytter: irakerne er ikke lojale mot sin egen hær, politi eller regjering. De føler lojalitet mot klanledere og militser. Derfor stikker de når det blir alvor. Hvis de ikke deltar i angrep på amerikanerne.
Michael Kamber har vært en uke hos Delta Force i Khadamiya sør for Bagdad. Dette er tøffe gutter, som setter sin ære i å gjøre en god jobb. De første årene trodde de på saken. Det gjør nesten ingen lenger.
Staff Sergeant David Safstrom does not regret his previous tours in Iraq, not even a difficult second stint when two comrades were killed while trying to capture insurgents.
«In Mosul, in 2003, it felt like we were making the city a better place,» he said. «There was no sectarian violence, Saddam was gone, we were tracking down the bad guys. It felt awesome.»
But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.
«I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ » said Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. «We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.»
His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.
Amerikanerne har hele tiden sagt at det er på tide for irakerne å «step up to the plate». Å ta ansvar. Det er det debatten mellom demokrater og Bush har handlet om. Men irakerne leverer aldri, sier soldatene. De er «disgusted». Deres innsats blir ikke verdsatt. Deres kamerater dør forgjeves. Det spiller ingen rolle hvor lenge amerikanerne blir, hvor mange som ofrer livet, irakerne kommer til å fly i strupen på hverandre så fort amerikanerne er borte – uansett.
I hverdagen er det likegyldigheten og feigheten som spiser opp tilliten.
They had seen shadowy militia commanders installed as Iraqi Army officers, they said, had come under increasing attack from roadside bombs – planted within sight of Iraqi Army checkpoints – and had fought against Iraqi soldiers whom they thought were their allies.
Det som skjedde 29. april ble et vannskille. Da amerikanerne ble angrepet løp irakerne og gjemte seg, og noen slåss mot amerikanerne. Det er vanskelig å tro på samarbeid og opplæring etter dette.
On April 29, a Delta Company patrol was responding to a tip at the Sadr mosque, a short distance from its base. The soldiers saw men in the distance erecting burning barricades, and the streets emptied out quickly. Then a militia, believed to be the Mahdi army, began firing at them from rooftops and windows.
Sergeant Kevin O’Flarity, a squad leader, jumped into his Humvee to join his fellow soldiers, racing through abandoned Iraqi Army and police checkpoints to the battle site.
He and his squad maneuvered their Humvees through alleyways and side streets, firing back at an estimated 60 insurgents during a gunfight that raged for two and a half hours. A rocket-propelled grenade glanced off O’Flarity’s Humvee, failing to penetrate.
When the battle was over, Delta Company learned that among the enemy dead were at least two Iraqi Army soldiers that American forces had helped train and arm.
Rogers admits that, «the 29th was a watershed moment in a negative sense, because the Iraqi Army would not fight with us,» he said, adding that «some actually picked up weapons and fought against us.» The battle changed the attitude among his soldiers toward the war, he said.
«Before that fight, there were a few true believers.» Rogers said. «After the 29th, I don’t think you’ll find a true believer in this unit. They’re paratroopers. There’s no question they’ll fulfill their mission. But they’re fighting now for pride in their unit, professionalism, loyalty to their fellow soldier and chain of command.»
To O’Flarity, the Iraqi security forces are militias beholden to local leaders, not the Iraqi government. «Half of the Iraqi security forces are insurgents,» he said.
As for his views on the war, O’Flarity said, «I don’t believe we should be here in the middle of a civil war.»
«We’ve all lost friends over here,» he said. «Most of us don’t know what we’re fighting for anymore. We’re serving our country and friends, but the only reason we go out every day is for each other.»
«I don’t want any more of my guys to get hurt or die. If it was something I felt righteous about, maybe. But for this country and this conflict, no, it’s not worth it.»
Hvis dette bildet stemmer, og det tror jeg det langt på vei gjør, så er Irak kjørt for amerikanerne. The Times meldte igår at Washington har planer om en «surge» nummer to, som vil øke antall soldater til 200.000 frem mot jul. Det er imidlertid for å ha overmakt til å forberede en kontrollert tilbaketrekning. USA vil beholde en styrke på 100.000 som skal holde seg for seg selv, være i reserve og jakte på Al Qaida.
Blandingen av desillusjonering med irakiske militære og politi og en pågående borgerkrig kan ta motet fra noen og enhver. Men US Army har ikke latt seg knekke. Moralen er fortsatt høy. Men de tror ikke lenger på the mission. The mission er nå å passe på hverandre.