August 12th, 2007
Soldiers in Iraq are suffering exhaustion on a daily basis, the Guardian reports:
The Americans he commands, like the other men at Sullivan – a combat outpost in Zafraniya, south east Baghdad – hit their cots when they get in from operations. But even when they wake up there is something tired and groggy about them. They are on duty for five days at a time and off for two days. When they get back to the forward operating base, they do their laundry and sleep and count the days until they will get home. It is an exhaustion that accumulates over the patrols and the rotations, over the multiple deployments, until it all joins up, wiping out any memory of leave or time at home. Until life is nothing but Iraq.
Hanna and his men are not alone in being tired most of the time. A whole army is exhausted and worn out. You see the young soldiers washed up like driftwood at Baghdad’s international airport, waiting to go on leave or returning to their units, sleeping on their body armour on floors and in the dust.
Where once the war in Iraq was defined in conversations with these men by untenable ideas – bringing democracy or defeating al-Qaeda – these days the war in Iraq is defined by different ways of expressing the idea of being weary. It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. ‘The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,’ says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the ‘surge’ in Baghdad began.
They are not supposed to talk like this. We are driving and another of the public affairs team adds bitterly: ‘We should just be allowed to tell the media what is happening here. Let them know that people are worn out. So that their families know back home. But it’s like we’ve become no more than numbers now.’
This exhaustion has implications for the troops, and for the Iraqis. The troops will suffer the short- and long-term consequences: divorces, illness, mental illness, botyh in Iraq and long after they return. The Iraqis, however, will suffer the consequences of poor decision-making by the troops: quicker firing at roadblocks, less accurate aim, more rage during home searches, overwhelming firepower called in quicker, and a general increase in the daily brutality of occupation.
US decision-makers, of course, care about neither consequence. For them the US troops, primarily working class, matter no more than do the Iraqis they attempt to control. Their all just pawns in a game of control and of image. To these decision-makers, looking strong is more important than any number of lives.