"We Are Just Dying And Getting Injured”
From a longer NYT piece:
Soon after Specialist Michael Potocki was shot and killed in June, the soldiers in his platoon agreed on their goal for the months ahead: to survive and make it home alive.I await their denunciation as defeatists and appeasers (or as collaborators with the traitorous mainstream media) by the usual suspects punching out breezy missives from autumnal Manhattan, DC's sofa suburbs, and rustic porches in New Hampshire. In what way is staying this course (sorry, "Adapting To Win") for the next 5-10 years consistent with "supporting the troops"?
Survival may be the only thing the troops here agree on. The first death of a comrade in battle is always an emotional shock, and the views from the foxhole here are probably as varied as the 34 soldiers. Still, in this hostile stretch of western Iraq, some of the troops have begun to wonder if the presence of United States forces here is worth the cost in American lives.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Poetsch, who did a previous tour in Baghdad and serves in Specialist Potocki’s platoon, acknowledges that he does not always have the big picture. But he does have a view from the streets in Hit and questions the strategy.
“As a soldier, I am going to do whatever we got to do,” he said. “As a personal opinion, I don’t think we need to be in this city, period. How much money and how many soldiers is it going to take when these people don’t want our help? They just don’t. We don’t even know who we can trust.”
The military has distributed $100,000 for sewage, water distribution and other projects, and has plans to spend much more if security improves. Major Lilly, however, is under no illusion about the difficulty of winning over the city’s residents.
“Over all, they just tolerate us,” he said. “We’re here, and they have no other recourse but to tolerate us. The great majority want us to go home.”
While it is difficult to gauge their numbers with precision, there are pockets of dispirited troops who are no longer convinced that Washington has committed the resources for a winning strategy.
Sergeant Poetsch thought the United States was doing the right thing by toppling Saddam Hussein. But the Army, he says, does not have nearly enough troops to patrol the city effectively, and he says Hit’s residents, unlike the people he encountered during his previous tour in Baghdad, do not want to have much to do with the Americans.
“At the beginning, I was all for it,” he said. “Saddam Hussein was not a good guy, and I always felt good that he is gone. But somehow it seems it seems that we lost direction. It is just hard for guys here to understand what we are doing. What makes it so significant if we can’t have more manpower and better living conditions?”
“No one understands why we are here and what our mission is,” Sergeant Kahlor added. “This war is lost. We aren’t helping these people. We are just dying and getting injured.”