Back to Iraq? One Soldier’s View

“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

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Women In Combat: Debate Should Be Over

I submitted this piece to a local newspaper after reading several editorial opinion pieces on why women should not be allowed in combat.

The debate on women in combat rages on, but what most people don’t know is that the battle has been over for some time, which is why the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended changes that will now simply become formally approved. Since Operation Just Cause in Panama in December 1989, when several U.S. Army Military Police (MP) Officers, including Cpt. Linda Bray of the 519th MP Battalion, faced combat when securing Panamanian Defense Forces installations, women have performed brilliantly in battle. Their participation in just Cause was eventually not recognized as combat by the Defense Department because they were not legally allowed to be in combat.

Since that time many women have advanced through the MP ranks in combat support roles, including most notably Gen. Janis Karpinski (Operation Iraqi Freedom), our own (and former colleague of mine) Lt. Col. Jackie Gordon (Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom (2 tours), and Iraqi Freedom, and a Suffolk County public school counselor and Babylon Town Legislator), and Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, who was awarded the Silver Star medal for her exemplary performance during a battle to protect an ambushed convoy just south of Baghdad, Iraq in March, 2005. At that time I was stationed in Baghdad at the 18th MP Brigade headquarters. The brigade was responsible for all detainee and convoy security and I watched the security video of then Specialist Hester in the battle. Her calm, cool and deliberate actions, in the face of a well-armed and superior force of insurgents helped save the lives of the convoy personnel and her comrades.

More than just proving in battle that they are capable, these women and thousands of others endure the same Army training to get where they are. After three mobilizations since 9/11/01, and after three cycles of rigorous pre-deployment training that I went through, I can personally attest that men and women in the Army from all MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) backgrounds train together, in all conditions, including very physically demanding battle simulation lanes training and live fire convoy and defense training.

In the early 1990’s combat exclusions for women were lifted in the Air Force and Navy, allowing women in those services to serve in combat aircraft and on combat warships, respectively. Also, in 1994, rules were changed in the Army to allow women in combat support Military Police units that could serve on the front lines. That, in essence began the test that led to the Joint Chief’s recommendation.

Women in combat are nothing new. Over the past 24+ years they have proven time and again their value and capability to not only make the grade, but also excel on the battlefield, in the air, and on the seas. The only thing causing a stir now is that these accomplishments have not grasped the attention or imagination of the mainstream media or the public at large. But that’s OK. The military women who have faced and will face combat in the defense of their nation don’t really care about all that, their reward comes in knowing and being able to prove they can in battle.