Last weekend, the NYT published an op-ed
from seven infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division, who will soon be returning home frustrated and jaded. The piece, "The War as We Saw It," was a sweeping condemnation of everything we've heard of late from the Kristol-McCain-Lieberman-O'Hanlon-Pollack crowd. For reasons that I still don't understand, most news outlets treated the striking
op-ed with a collective yawn
Among those war supporters who deigned to respond to the piece, the most common refrain was that these seven troops are unusual in their discontent. Most of the men and women serving in Iraq, conservatives said, are committed to the still-vague mission and are filled with confidence.
There are ample reasons
to believe otherwise.
In the dining hall of a U.S. Army post south of Baghdad, President Bush was on the wide-screen TV, giving a speech about the war in Iraq. The soldiers didn't look up from their chicken and mashed potatoes.
As military and political leaders prepare to deliver a progress report on the conflict to Congress next month, many soldiers are increasingly disdainful of the happy talk that they say commanders on the ground and White House officials are using in their discussions about the war.
And they're becoming vocal about their frustration over longer deployments and a taxing mission that keeps many living in dangerous and uncomfortably austere conditions. Some say two wars are being fought here: the one the enlisted men see, and the one that senior officers and politicians want the world to see.
"I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed," said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, one of those in the dining hall in Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, as Bush's speech aired last month. "I don't want to be here anymore."
The problem becomes even more painful when one considers that the Army's suicide rate is now at its highest level in 23 years. What's more, in a series of mental health surveys, released in May, 45% of troops ranked morale in their unit as low or very low, as compared to seven percent who ranked it high or very high.