“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” – Chris Hedges
That opening quote from “The Hurt Locker,” the Academy Award wining best picture of 2008, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and staring Jeremy Renner, is a truism that most soldiers who’ve been in combat can relate to.
Soldiering in general can be addictive, but even more so in a war zone. To be ultimately effective one must resign oneself to death. Accepting one’s death is an emotionally significant event that finds one mourning and going through the typical stages of accepting death and dying.
Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance.
For some each stage is distinct and vivid. For others, they blur. For soldiers, reaching the final stage, acceptance, can mean the difference between life and death, for oneself and/or for one’s comrades.
The addictive part is truly the essence of the culture of soldiering. Life is simple. You don’t have to worry about what you will be eating, where you will be going, or what you will be doing.
You have your uniform, your gear, and your weapon. Also known as your skin, your stuff and your best friend.
Every day is so similar that it’s difficult and even superfluous to count days or pay attention to the calendar until you get “short” and have very little time left. Time-wise, the battle rhythm in combat is the only thing that matters. Being on time and hitting start points and checkpoints is mission critical. And make no mistake; the MISSION isn’t just EVERYTHING it is the ONLY thing.
This is the root of the devastating pain of having left Iraq BEFORE THE MISSION WAS COMPLETE. We are still in Germany and Japan nearly 70 years after the end of WWII because the objective of the mission was LASTING PEACE. Those two countries, former deadly enemies, are now more prosperous and peaceful than nearly any other on earth.
The eradication of the enemy, unconditional surrender, and the taking away of the will and means for the enemy to resist, were military and political goals in the 1940’s. Today, the military and political goals of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) are polar opposites. Our president and his administration of rookies with respect to military and foreign policy matters are at war with our own military – ideologically speaking.
Barack Hussein Obama is completely ambivalent to the military mission in the GWOT, and even denies that it exists. He, cavalierly stated upon the exit of the last of the U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, “Anyone trying to derail the progress in Iraq will fail,” a completely impotent and foolish statement.
Today we are looking at an Iraq that has politically and militarily failed. Mozul and Tikrit have fallen to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), an Al Qaeda off-shoot of Sunni Muslims, or, more accurately, Islamists, who claim responsibility for the taking of these Iraqi cities and forcing over half a million resident Iraqi citizens to flee for their lives.
The Islamists are threatening the capital city of Baghdad, now vulnerable and exposed.
Who will save Iraq?
Will the U.S. go back to finish the job it started and then abandoned?
I would; were I not married with five children, 52 years old and retired six years from the military, my addiction would have its way with me. The burning desire to FINISH the mission in Iraq would take me over and draw me back to the smoldering heat, dust, and infectious smiles and gratefulness of the Iraqi people.
You wouldn’t know it from reports by the Mainstream Media, but the average Iraqi was quite grateful for our presence in Iraq. We had helped them rebuild and then improve the entire infrastructure we destroyed upon entry in 2003.
We had suppressed Al Qaeda.
And then Barack Hussein Obama was elected and the whole thing went down the toilet. The military mission that had started so brilliantly, turned into SNAFU (firing of the Iraqi Army), and then was fixed (surge); and then after we left rapidly deteriorated and then just went away, like the end of a dust storm, quiet, so quiet, and clear, and still.
But, it didn’t take long for the wolves to smell the carcass and then come running for a taste. Bombing began almost immediately upon the dust settling behind the last U.S. military vehicle crossing the border back into Kuwait. And then a crescendo of killing recently when bombings murdered scores of innocent Iraqi citizens, paying the price for their ambivalence toward the lack of a deal with the U.S. for security and a lasting peace.
Everything was “fine” back in 2011, just like the eerie calm before the tornado hits. And hit it did, and hard, and it looks like the “Big One” is yet to touch down in that desolate place, a place of blood and sand.
I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). FB Twitter @mjgranger1