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[casi] "The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush

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Soldiers Stuck in Iraq
by Jeffrey Kofman,

FALLUJAH, Iraq (July 16) -- The sergeant at the 2nd Battle Combat Team
Headquarters pulled me aside in the corridor. "I've got my own 'Most Wanted' list,"
he told me.

He was referring to the deck of cards the U.S. government published,
featuring Saddam Hussein, his sons and other wanted members of the former Iraqi

"The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul
Wolfowitz," he said.

He was referring to the four men who are running U.S. policy here in Iraq --
the four men who are ultimately responsible for the fate of U.S. troops here.

Those four are not popular at 2nd BCT these days. It is home to 4,000 troops
from the 2nd Brigade of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

The soldiers were deployed to Kuwait last September. They were among the
first troops in Baghdad during the war. And now they've been in the region longer
than other troops: 10 months and counting.

They were told they'd be going home in May. Then in early July. Then late
July. Then last week they heard that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had
mentioned them on Capitol Hill.

"The 2nd Brigade is — the plan is that they would return in August, having
been there something like 10 months," said Rumsfeld.

He added: "The services and the Joint Staff have been working with Central
Command to develop a rotation plan so that we can, in fact, see that we treat
these terrific young men and young women in a way that's respectful of their
lives and their circumstances."

Solid words from a solid source. Soldiers called their families. Commanding
officers began preparations.

‘I Don’t Care Anymore’

Now comes word from the Pentagon: Not so fast.

The U.S. military command in Iraq said Tuesday it plans to complete the
withdrawal of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division by September, but officials said
they could make no hard promises because of the unsettled state of security in
Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

"If Donald Rumsfeld were sitting here in front of us, what would you say to
him?" I asked a group of soldiers who gathered around a table, eager to talk to
a visiting reporter.

"If he was here," said Pfc. Jason Punyahotra, "I would ask him why we're
still here, why we've been told so many times and it's changed."

In the back of the group, Spc. Clinton Deitz put up his hand. "If Donald
Rumsfeld was here," he said, "I'd ask him for his resignation."

Those are strong words from troops used to following orders. They say they
will continue to do their job, but they no longer seem to have their hearts in
the mission.

"I used to want to help these people," said Pfc. Eric Rattler, "but now I
don't really care about them anymore. I've seen so much, you know, little kids
throwing rocks at you. Once you pacify an area, it seems like the area you just
came from turns bad again. I'd like this country to be all right, but I don't
care anymore."

Wondering Why

What they care about is their families. Sgt. Terry Gilmore had to call his
wife, Stacey, this week to her that he wouldn't be home in a few weeks to see
her and their two little children.

"When I told her, she started crying," Gilmore said, his eyes moistening. "I
mean, I almost started crying. I felt like my heart was broken. We couldn't
figure out why they do it. Why they can keep us over here right after they told
us we were coming home."

Sgt. Felipe Vega, who oversees the platoon, sat alone in the platoon
quarters, writing a letter. A photo of his wife, Rhonda, was taped to the wall above

It is Vega's job to maintain morale. That's not easy, he told me, when the
Army keeps changing the orders.

"They turn around and slap you in the face," he said.

When asked if that's the way it feels, he said, "Yeah, kicked in the guts,
slapped in the face."

Losing Faith

The 2nd Brigade originally came to Kuwait for six months of exercises. Then
they stayed to fight the war. Like the others, Vega thought that would be the
end of it.

"What was told to us in Kuwait," he said, "was the fastest way to go home was
through Baghdad. And that's what we did."

But more than three months later they are still here.

"Well it pretty much makes me lose faith in the Army," said Pfc. Jayson
Punyhotra, one of the soldiers grouped around the table. "I mean, I don't really
believe anything they tell me. If they told me we were leaving next week, I
wouldn't believe them."

Fighting words from men who are eager to put down their weapons.  

 2003 ABC News. 

Roger Stroope
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff USA

During the war crimes trials at Nuremberg, psychologist Gustave Gilbert
visited Nazi Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering in his prison cell. "We got around to
the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not
think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war
and destruction," Gilbert wrote in his journal, Nuremberg Diary.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would
some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can
get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? ... That is
understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy
and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a
democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship
... That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and
denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to
danger. It works the same way in any country."

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