Back to Iraq, Back to Work

Many have called their travel for the R & R pass program exhausting, lasting hours due to cancellations for weather and maintenance. Some have traveled 50 hours to get to pass, and others have spent eight days getting back. My own flight to Qatar lasted an hour, and the return trip took about five hours. For anyone using this as a gauge for your pass to Qatar, I warning you that it may not be so simple.

We had to switch airplanes, due to a mechanical issue discovered just after takeoffbut evntually made our way to Al Asad. When the C-130 touched down I knew it was over. I was to return to the work-eat-sleep-work regimen.

Again, B Company hosted me at Al Asad for a night while I waited for a flight to the Dog Pound in TQ. (Thanks for the hospitality!) The next day I rode our aircraft back then unloaded my stuffonly to find out I would be flying again in less than 12 hours. Pass was over, but I look forward to the next one in six months. I am sure I will need it by then. For those that think they don't, I am telling you it's revitalizing. Pass has proved to be a great tool. I wonder what other soldiers' opinions are regarding the pass program, and if it helped them relax and recharge.

--Written 6/20/06

By Bert Stover |  July 11, 2006; 7:26 AM ET  | Category:  4 Day R&R Pass, Qatar
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Bert, concur. There is no such thing as "bad liberty!" Bravo Zulu! (That's Navy talk for well done!)

Posted by: CAPT Jerry (USN) | July 11, 2006 08:15 AM

I'm glad to hear you had a good time. I'm sure it wasn't long enough, but it will have to do. Unfortunately, its time to get back into the saddle. Unlike the rest of us civilians, who don't have to worry about being shot at, you need to be totally alert and ready for anything that comes your way. So get some rest, and keep your head down. You've got a lot of people, many whom you don't even know, waiting for your safe return. God's speed.

Posted by: James | July 11, 2006 08:57 AM


Glad you enjoyed your R&R, I'm sure you are rested and renewed....keeping you/your Unit in my prayers....stay alert!!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | July 11, 2006 09:34 AM

Too bad you guys missed out on the R&R's to Australia that we RVN vets use to go on. Now that was something to talk about.

CW4 Leon Skeen (Retired)

Posted by: Leon Skeen | July 11, 2006 01:59 PM

In Iraq there are already thousands who will only remember America as the land that sent soldiers who shot their brothers or sisters or cousins, or tortured them in prison, or destroyed their homes, or leveled their neighborhoods with high explosive from an airplane.
It's tragic to say it, but more and more Iraqis are doing so: Life was better for a large percentage of that countryis inhabitants under the dictator Saddam Hussein, horrible though he was. The war of 'liberation' launched by Bush in 2003 with the support of many liberals here has produced more deaths, more suffering, more blighted lives with zero prospects except emigration for those who can afford it.

Posted by: Reality | July 11, 2006 03:25 PM

Veterans of Vietnam say that in Iraq the situation is analogous to that prevailing in Vietnam in 1968 when frightful atrocities like My Lai were perpetrated. The troops are over-extended, badly trained, demoralized and know that they are risking their lives in a war with no optimistic outcome.

The circumstances which produce soldiers and units capable of war crimes include the following, according to experts in analyzing the causes of post-traumatic stress disorder:

The soldiers are involved in operations which inevitably involve attacks on, and slaughter of, civilians.

Many have seen comrades killed. In this war the platoon is the soldieris sole life support and emotional and physical sanctuary. All officers are mistrusted and often despised. A death in the platoon engenders the frenzied bloodlust and cold blooded slaughters of incidents like that in Haditha.

Indeed the low quality of the officers in the US armed forces as it has developed across the past twenty years has not been sufficiently addressed by the press, and certainly not by the spineless Congress. On the private testimony of many veterans, it has declined steadily, up through the highest ranks, where there are endless examples of the failure of capable leadership.

So America will see, over the years to come, thousands of traumatized soldiers trying to re-enter civil society and resume their peace time lives. Many will never shake off the traumas instilled by months of service in Iraq, and thousands of families, and communities, not to mention the soldiers themselves will be paying the price while the supreme commanders who launched this war will be making money from lectures and memoirs.

Posted by: Prospects | July 11, 2006 03:28 PM

I had a weekend pass from tents in Mogadishu, Somalia to a hotel in Mombassa, Kenya. The C130 door closed to a dustbowl of a city without an unshattered pane of glass, and opened again in Kenya with green grass, air conditioning, hot water and flush toilets. One night with such luxuries really helped keep you going for a few more months.

Posted by: 90s vet | July 12, 2006 09:18 AM

In no conflict, whether it is called a "World" war, a "Police" action, or a "War on Terriorism", during the course of that conflict is anything ever produced but blood, sweat, and tears. However, all of thes conflicts eventually end either by victory, defeat, or public opinion (as did Vietnam).

So to all you guys and gals in the tents, have faith that your outcome will either be victory, or we here at home will finally convince Washington that the price of oil isn't worth your being there, and that you should be brought home immediately.

In the meantime, stay safe.

Posted by: Max Robinson | July 12, 2006 11:36 AM

Dear Max Robinson,

The US was militarily defeated in Vietnam. The invaders/occupiers were expelled. The Vietnamese lost three million lives in their successful effort.

Posted by: Reality | July 12, 2006 12:45 PM

We've been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?

In the news they're estimating her age to be around 24, but Iraqis from the area say she was only 14. Fourteen. Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes... Raise your heads high supporters of the 'liberation' -- your troops have made you proud today.

I don't believe the troops should be tried in American courts. I believe they should be handed over to the people in the area and only then will justice be properly served. And our ass of a PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, is requesting an 'independent investigation', ensconced safely in his American guarded compound because it wasn't his daughter or sister who was raped, probably tortured and killed. His family is abroad safe from the hands of furious Iraqis and psychotic American troops.

It fills me with rage to hear about it and read about it. The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings.... I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?

Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes -- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them -- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed -- unless they want to join in with murder and rape.

Posted by: Riverbend | July 12, 2006 04:49 PM

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Posted by: Smedley Butler | July 13, 2006 01:04 PM


Some observers fear that a third, even more intractable, phase of the conflict has been reached, beyond insurgency and beyond even combat between organized armed groups: ``What we're now seeing has no shape whatever,'' a Western diplomat said.

``It's just everyone fighting everyone. Anarchy.''

Posted by: alvaro uribe | July 13, 2006 01:09 PM

George Bush: "Bring 'em on."

Michigan Army National Guard Sgt. Duane Dreasky, who suffered burns over 75 percent of his body during an attack in Iraq, died in a Texas military hospital after an eight-month fight for his life. He had been living a life-long dream of serving his country when the Humvee in which he was riding near al-Habbaniyah, Iraq, was hit by an improvised explosive device on Nov. 21, 2005.

Posted by: Orlando Patterson | July 13, 2006 01:13 PM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will ask the United Nations to end immunity from local law for U.S. troops, the government said on Monday, as the U.S. military named five soldiers charged in a rape-murder case that has outraged Iraqis.

In an interview a week after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki demanded a review of foreign troops' immunity, Human Rights Minister Wigdan Michael said work on it was now under way and a request could be ready by next month to go to the U.N. Security Council, under whose mandate U.S.-led forces operate in Iraq.

"We're very serious about this," she said, adding a lack of enforcement of U.S. military law in the past had encouraged soldiers to commit crimes against Iraqi civilians.

"We formed a committee last week to prepare reports and put it before the cabinet in three weeks. After that, Maliki will present it to the Security Council. We will ask them to lift the immunity," Michael said.

Posted by: Norm | July 13, 2006 01:23 PM

Bush has returned to mouthing platitudes about "victory." The killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, touted as a turning point, has proved to have had little impact. (Intelligence estimates put foreign fighters at between 4 and 10 percent of the insurgency.) Bush promises a military "defeat" of the enemy while ignoring his generals' admonition that a political solution is critical as Iraq descends into sectarian civil war.

What the president doesn't know and when he didn't know it remain pertinent. In January 2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Bush met with three prominent Iraqi dissidents, who, in discussing scenarios of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, "talked about Sunnis and Shiites. It became apparent to them that the president was unfamiliar with these terms." Peter Galbraith, the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia and involved in Iraqi diplomacy as a Senate aide for decades, carefully sources this anecdote in his new book, "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End," in order to illustrate the "culture of arrogance" that imagined Iraq "was a blank slate on which the United States could impose its vision of a pluralistic democratic society."

Posted by: Reality | July 13, 2006 03:17 PM

The report released by the Government Accountability Office criticizing the President's Iraq strategy is another red flag that we need to change course in Iraq. Suggesting that the Administration's strategy for Iraq isn't really a strategy at all, the GAO report says that the Administration has not been straightforward with Congress regarding the costs of the Iraq war and that it has failed to identify the resources for, or costs of, our indefinite military presence in Iraq. The report clearly calls for measurable benchmarks for success in Iraq and accountability for U.S. taxpayer dollars being used there. Unfortunately, the Administration continues to ignore mounting calls to change its Iraq policy, which has been both a distraction from the larger global fight against terrorist networks and a drain on our nation's resources."

Posted by: Hugh Romney | July 13, 2006 03:27 PM

We were not defeated militarily in Vietnam! We weren't given the opportunity to win or North Vietnam would have laid in ruins. LBJ and McNamara's ignorance hampered America's wariors to a degree that will have historians shaking their heads in disbelief a hundred years from now. And Nixon is the guy who withdrew troops and ordered American forces to cut and run. We were driven out of Vietnam by our own presidents.

Posted by: Vietnam Vet | July 13, 2006 04:39 PM

Keep dreaming Vietnam Vet, the Vietnamese pulled it off and nothing you say can change history. They proved that even a poor people if fully determined and fully organized (with the material help of two large countries and many smaller ones) could defeat the greatest imperial power in history. The other matters that you are referring to can be summed up like this: At that time there was a global counterweight to US imperialism, i.e. the communist powers. The US was constrained by the fear of going too far and risking world war over a prize that was in any case not very important. In addition, the chaos that the war was causing in the United States was out of control. Even though the Vietnamese suffered terribly and lost three million dead, the US antiwar movement probably saved many lives. Extremely importantly, though, the antiwar movement within the Armed Forces, i.e. massive and widespread GI resistance,both active and passive, had rendered the US Army unreliable and dangerous to its officers. It was a wonderful time.

Nonetheless, no matter what you or anyone else says, a united Vietnam beat the United States and drove out their own Quislings.Apparently that's hard for you to swallow and you feel compelled to invent an alternate history, but facts are stubborn things.

Posted by: Albert Hoffman | July 13, 2006 06:27 PM

The US military dropped more tonnage of ordinance on Vietnem that was dropped in all of WWII and the Vietnamese still won. They simply would not accept defeat. After all, they had fought China for 1,000 years and knew that the USA would eventually accept the inevitable defeat and go away.

The Vietnamese victory is one of the world's shining examples of successful resistance to foreign invasion and occupation. Naturally, the still arrogant losers see it differently.

Posted by: Sam Halloway | July 13, 2006 07:05 PM

Thank goodness the US "cut and run" from Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand brothers dead for NOTHING was enough, thank you. Vietnam won the war fair and square and seized their country back from the invaders.

Posted by: Blood Brother | July 13, 2006 07:11 PM

Our mountains will always be, our rivers will always be, our people will always be;

The American invaders defeated, we will rebuild our land ten times more beautiful.

--Ho Chi Minh


Posted by: Victor | July 13, 2006 07:30 PM

Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Halloway,

You need to read some objective history of the period. Despite some heroic defensive battles, the Republic of Vietnam (commonly refered to as South Vietnam) fell to a military invasion perpetrated by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (a.k.a. North Vietnam) after the United States cut off logistical support to the Republic of Vietnam. Incidentally, the attack from the north had more tanks than the Wehrmacht used in its conquest of France. The indigenous (sp?) insurrection in the Republic of Vietnam (a.k.a. the Viet Cong) was a militarily insignificant factor after it suffered catastrophic losses in the Tet offensive of 1968.

In other words, the United States suffered a political loss. The Republic of Vietnam suffered a catastrophic military defeat. The people of southern Vietnam suffered a severe post-war repression which resulted in a massive exodus by hundreds of thousands.

Posted by: wlc | July 13, 2006 07:33 PM

Vietnam was and is one country despite the failed attempt by French colonialists to divide it and the attempt by US invaders to make that failed division permanent. Give it up. You arrogant imperialists were whipped by the determined Vietnamese. Sometimes the good guys win.

Posted by: Jack | July 13, 2006 08:00 PM

Some people have trouble accepting defeat, and it's understandable, especially considering the racist ideology that makes it inconceivable for colored folk to defeat the big white invaders. We even have a couple of fantasists on the board who think the Vietnamese did not drive out the Americans.

Imagine how hard it is for the people of countries like Iraq and Vietnam or many others around the world and throughout history, to accept the calamity of occupation by foreign invaders and the physical destruction and moral chaos that accompanies it.

Posted by: Shadow | July 13, 2006 08:21 PM

In reality both Abu Ghraib and Haditha were merely more extreme versions of the day-to-day workings of the American occupation in Iraq, and what makes them unique is not so much how bad they were, or how embarrassing, but the fact that they made their way to the media and were publicized despite attempts to cover them up. Focusing on Abu Ghraib and Haditha distracts us from the daily, little Abu Ghraibs and small-scale Hadithas that have made up the occupation. The occupation has been one vast extended crime against the Iraqi people, and most of it has occurred unnoticed by the American people and the media."

Posted by: Reality | July 13, 2006 09:03 PM

Can you guys in Iraq please answer a question for me?

Who are you fighting in Iraq? Please understand I am not trying to degrade anyone's service and hold no grudge. I am not an American but I am concerned about the state of the world today. I have heard reports that 5% of the insurgency is Al Qeada and foreign. So in your battles in Iraq do you know who you are shooting at? Are you shooting at Al Qeada fighters or are you shooting at Iraqis? Seems to me if only 5% of the insurgency is foreign then you can't be fighting the war on terror but rather you are taking sides in a civil war. Hard to understand how you Americans can equate Iraq with terror? You guys are the troops on the ground so you must know who you are fighting, as a concerned citizen of Earth I would appreciate if you could tell me who you are shooting at in your battles, then maybe I can get a better understanding of what your country is doing and why.


Posted by: Baha Man | July 13, 2006 11:04 PM

They shoot at the guy that is shooting at them. Blah Blah Blah from the protesters. For the record, the politicians lost Vietnam, not the soldiers. Stupid little protesters. Why don't you wish Bert a safe return to duty? Do you even read his postings, or do you just start typing your cut and run nonsense? You don't care at all about the troops, only your rhetoric. And you call George Bush a liar, you are all just as bad, if not worse.

Posted by: Stupid Question | July 14, 2006 12:41 AM

We (the US) will be out of Iraq asap. The liberals will get their candidate in November, and they will have to whine about another subject. They will have to find a new blog to clog up. The terrorists and other scum from outside the US can find another venue to spoute their hate also. You preach peace, but hate us so much. Hypocritical, lying, hateful people. You are no different from the same people you lambast on this blog. Don't worry, most of us respect you so little anyway that it does not matter. Same people that spit on soldiers.

Posted by: Dontt Worry | July 14, 2006 12:50 AM

when it started i was behind it 100%...figured the prez knew way more than me. didn't understand why the hurry but supported the move.
now i can't see how we get out with any sense of dignity.
call it what you will, it's degenerated into a civil war and our troops are stuck in the middle.
once again the politicos screwed it up and our folks are dying.
sad. we should fold the tent and go home.

Posted by: buckshot | July 14, 2006 03:24 PM

fold tent, come home, apologize to Iraq, and pay reparations big time

Posted by: Charlie | July 14, 2006 04:39 PM

It is probably true that if the US military had been allowed by the American public and political overseers to wage war freely they might have managed to burn enough of Vietnam to pacify the communists. Yes, America can nuke their way to any victory, but thankfully America does not have the moral or political stomach to do this even when facing military defeat.

Americans lost Vietnam because they did not collectively believe in the cause. Simply supporting your troops is not enough to win a war - you have to believe they are fighting the just cause, and demand that they fight harder. It appears that there are very few Americans willing to do that in Iraq, and its no surprise to me.

Posted by: Canuck | July 14, 2006 06:28 PM

Some people claim that the US won the War in Vietnam, to which I can only say that I strongly disagree. Others argue that Vietnam differed from Iraq, saying that it was essentially a conventional war that was lost because the American civilian leadership failed to provide its Armed Forces with proper strategic direction. It is of course true that there are considerable differences between the two. Still, recalling Dayan's observations, I think there are three main reasons why the similarities are more important.

First, according to Dayan, the most important operational problem the US Forces were facing was intelligence, in other words the inability to distinguish the enemy from either the physical surroundings or the civilian population. Had intelligence been available then their enormous superiority in every kind of military hardware would have enabled them to win the War easily enough. In its absence, most of the blows they delivered - including no fewer than six million tons of bombs dropped - hit empty air. All they did was make the enemy disperse and merge into the civilian population, thus making it even harder to find him. Worst of all, lack of accurate intelligence meant that the Americans kept hitting noncombatants by mistake. They thus drove huge segments of the population straight into the arms of the Viet Cong; nothing is more conducive to hatred than the sight of relatives and friends being killed.

Second, as Dayan saw clearly enough, the campaign for hearts and minds did not work. Many of the figures being published about the progress it was making turned out to be bogus, designed to set the minds of the folks at home at rest. In other cases any progress laboriously made over a period of months was undone in a matter of minutes as the Viet Cong attacked, destroying property and killing "collaborators." Above all, the idea that the Vietnamese people wanted to become Americanized was an illusion. All the vast majority really wanted was to be left alone and get on with their lives.

The third and most important reason why I think Vietnam is relevant to the situation in Iraq is because the Americans found themselves in the unfortunate position where they were beating down on the weak. To quote Dayan: "any comparison between the two armies... was astonishing. On the one hand there was the American Army, complete with helicopters, an air force, armor, electronic communications, artillery, and mind-boggling riches; to say nothing of ammunition, fuel, spare parts, and equipment of all kinds. On the other there were the [North Vietnamese troops] who had been walking on foot for four months, carrying some artillery rounds on their backs and using a tin spoon to eat a little ground rice from a tin plate."

That, of course, was precisely the problem. In private life, an adult who keeps beating down on a five year old - even such a one as originally attacked him with a knife - will be perceived as committing a crime; therefore he will lose the support of bystanders and end up by being arrested, tried and convicted. In international life, an armed force that keeps beating down on a weaker opponent will be seen as committing a series of crimes; therefore it will end up by losing the support of its allies, its own people, and its own troops. Depending on the quality of the forces - whether they are draftees or professionals, the effectiveness of the propaganda machine, the nature of the political process, and so on - things may happen quickly or take a long time to mature. However, the outcome is always the same. He (or she) who does not understand this does not understand anything about war; or, indeed, human nature.

In other words, he who fights against the weak - and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed - and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force however rich, however powerful, however, advanced, and however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat; if U.S troops in Iraq have not yet started fragging their officers, the suicide rate among them is already exceptionally high. That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters' skids.

November 18, 2004

Martin Van Creveld is professor of history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written a number of books that have influenced modern military theory, including Fighting Power, Command in War, and most significantly, The Transformation of War. He is also the author of The Rise and Decline of the State.

Copyright © 2004 Martin Van Creveld

Posted by: Abbot Hoffman | July 16, 2006 08:29 PM

Hope all is going well now that you are back to work.....continuing to pray for you!! Stay strong!!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | July 17, 2006 09:56 PM

Bert glad to have postings coming again. There is a crew of 4 WWII pilots (one Marine-Pacific, two Navy(one Pacific and one all over),and one USAAF-France) and two Vietnam (one Army and one AirForce) following your blog. We talk about you and the men and women from your unit, we pray for the men and women from your unit, and we look forward to your return home.

Posted by: Alex J | July 18, 2006 12:31 AM

I am an average citizen from the U.S.A,disabled American Veteran,the problem is that I am powerless to change the course of america's action or history. It was proven that in the last two elections that my vote does not count and that, what bother's me does not bother the president, congress, senate, judicial system. I can only pray to my God and hope that things change. This country is supposed to be an equal oportunity land yet racism, corporate crime, gasoline and oil price gauging are just being ignored, the poor in this country are suffering more than ever. If we do not reverse this are time on top of the world will end catostrophically!

Posted by: black | July 19, 2006 01:47 PM

I just want all the news that I can get from this and other sites so that I in some way am able to hear at least some of what my soldier son is dealing with. The rest are just ignorant comments from people who really sound like they need to be given a one way ticket to another country.
You can support our children who are deployed without agreeing with the government who send them there. We raised them to work hard and love their country, and they are doing just that. The sacrifices they are making will affect them and us,,,their families for many years to come.
thanks for the insight Bert, keep your head down!

Posted by: 133rd Soldiers Mom | July 24, 2006 01:23 PM

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