A 17-member Army Reserve platoon… deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a “suicide mission” to deliver fuel, the troops’ relatives said .
The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq — north of Baghdad — because their vehicles were considered “deadlined” or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook.
Sgt. McCook, a deputy at the Hinds County, Miss., Detention Center, and the 16 other members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company from Rock Hill, S.C., were read their rights and moved from the military barracks into tents, Patricia McCook said her husband told her during a panicked phone call about .
Empire Notes summarizes the troops’ worries:
Fuel convoys in the “Sunni Triangle” nearly always come under fire; one soldier reportedly claimed that the chance of being attacked was “99 percent.” ¶ The platoon considered their trucks to be extremely unsafe; some were not able to go more than 40 mph, and would be sitting ducks. They ordinarily get an escort of armed Humvees and helicopters, but an escort was not available for [this] mission.
I’m sure these troops can expect to be dealt with very harshly for their insubordination, and that they knew this when they made their decision.
While fear of attack was certainly a motivating factor, 17 soldiers (or perhaps as many as 19) are not going to up and disobey their commands like this from simple fear or cowardice.
This is something more serious — a lack of faith that what they are fighting for is at all worth fighting for. An ad by the Iraq War veteran’s group Operation Truth puts it this way:
“I was called to serve in Iraq because the government said there were weapons of mass destruction — but they weren’t there,” Spc. Robert Acosta, 21, who was an ammunitions specialist with the 1st Armored Division in Iraq, says in the thought-provoking ad. “They said Iraq had something to do with 9/11 — but the connection wasn’t there… So when people ask me where my arm went, I try to find the words, but they’re not there.” The ad ends with a shot of Acosta removing his prosthesis, revealing a stub where his right hand should be.
This rebellious platoon may very well be the tip of the iceberg, an indication of a more widespread disillusionment that “more troops” or “allies” won’t cure. There’s only so long you can stay motivated if the enemy is fighting from patriotism or revenge or religious fervor, while you’re being told:
“You’re not going to make Iraq safe for democracy,” the sergeant said. “You are going for one reason alone: oil. But you’re still going to go, because you signed a contract. And you’re going to go to bring your friends home.”
As ill equipped as the convoy may have been, they had the might, wealth and organization of the U.S. armed forces behind them — those who threatened them were probably wearing sandals. This isn’t about their relative strengths — adding armor to the Humvees or Germans to the coalition won’t help — but about motivation.
An article in the Washington Post was remarkable for showing how widespread the cynicism expressed by Marines is in one platoon:
“I feel we’re going to be here for years and years and years,” said Lance Cpl. Edward Elston, 22, of Hackettstown, N.J. “I don’t think anything is going to get better; I think it’s going to get a lot worse. It’s going to be like a Palestinian-type deal. We’re going to stop being a policing presence and then start being an occupying presence.… We’re always going to be here. We’re never going to leave.”…
“Every day you read the articles in the States where it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s getting better and better,’” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder, 22, of Gettysburg, Pa. “But when you’re here, you know it’s worse every day.”…
“The reality right now is that the most dangerous opinion in the world is the opinion of a U.S. serviceman,” said Lance Cpl. Devin Kelly, 20, of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones, 20, of Ball Ground, Ga., agreed: “We’re basically proving out that the government is wrong,” he said. “We’re catching them in a lie.”…
An order was suddenly passed for the Marines to search all buses for insurgents or weapons. ¶ “This is what we call a dog-and-pony show,” said Kelly, the heavyset, sharp-tongued lance corporal from Fairbanks. He said the operation was essentially a performance for American reporters who were traveling with the Marines. “This is so you can write in your paper how great our response is,” he said.… ¶ “We just scared the living [expletive] out of a bunch of people,” he said. “That’s all we did.”…
Asked if he was concerned that the Marines would be punished for speaking out, [Cpl. Brandon] Autin responded: “We don’t give a crap. What are they going to do, send us to Iraq?”