Eagan Guest Op-Ed A Vietnam Vet Recognizes Iraq Frustrations

In response to the NYT op-ed by specialists and sergeants on Sunday, Jerry Eagan writes with his own experiences:

Dr. Cole. In July, 1967, while back home in Indiana on “convalescent leave” from an Army hospital, I wrote a similar, albeit, shorter letter to my hometown newspaper. As these men are, I was a “grunt,” an infantryman 11B — light weapons infantryman. I’d been seriously wounded on 3 November, 1966, and was still recuperating until roughly the end of August, 1967. When I returned from convalescent leave, therefore, in August, 1967, the doctor who “ran” the hospital informed me that since I “liked to write letters, about the war, and how we’re losing the war,” that I had “too much time on my hands.” I was being returned to duty. He said he wished he could return me to an infantry unit, but that wasn’t possible because my right arm, which had been severely damaged by an AK-47 round, was too weak to even slide the bolt back on an M-16 rifle.

Someone had apparently turned me in, either to Army Counter Intelligence, or the FBI, because I was seen as “anti-war” and who knows … a commie? At any rate, I arrived mainly independently, but with some discussions with some other soldiers who were convalescing … that the war was lost. That was 1967. Of course, coming around to that conclusion wouldn’t have **happened** had I not BEEN to Vietnam, and seen things which caused me serious “cognitive dissonance.”

This essay by these soldiers in their letter to the NYT is deeply insightful of what the more intelligent soldiers on the ground see: dramatic, glaring, sometimes nearly mad incongruities between what must be happening in Iraq, on the ground, and what comes out of the White House. In the last month or so, many reports, including yours, have highlighted that a tactical maneuver on the ground, ostensibly fashioned by General Petraeus, has begun, whereby we are Sunni tribal sheiks to fight “al-Qaeda” in Iraq. And, Petraeus, and his Yul Brenner buddy, General Odierno, have touted great successes in whipping al-Qaeda.

The unspoken leaden shoe that’s possibly going to drop soon is: by arming Sunni Arab tribal sheiks, we now have a “proxy army” which is effectively being used against al-Qaeda (Salafist) terrorists). The successes racked up to these new proxy units seems impressive. I read one article which indicated these tribal Sunni militia, were given 10 rounds to fire. I guess someone thought, they can’t get into too much trouble with ten rounds. But unspoken, of course, and generally unnoticed by most American journalists save Michael Ware, of CNN, is what these tribal units will do once al-Qaeda is effectively broken!

I’d contend, every Iraqi shiite knows exactly what these Sunni militia will be used for once al-Qaeda is broken: namely, they will join the Americans in fighting Shiite militia. As you know, I suggested to a Washington Post writer he zero in on what’s happening in southern Iraq — Basra, specifically — with the Brits. 34 at least killed this year alone. When the Brits leave Iraq (perhaps all of them by year’s end), what happens then? The Brits have always been in Basra; they have a distinctly different occupational role learned from years in Northern Ireland, that is more refined than the typical American steamroller approach. And yet, in 2007, they’ve suffered greater losses, are hunkered down in their equivalent of “the Green Zone,” and appear to be more than eager to get the hell out of Iraq.

When they leave, the U.S. will see a yawning vacuum open up in Basra. The fact is, if any section of Iraq appears to be headed towards “Shia-stan,” it’s Basra and surrounding area. Will the U.S. just meekly allow that to happen? To allow rampant internecine warfare between Shia militia consume Basra city and province? Or will we send in a large force, to quell such violence, and keep that vital sector of Iraq open for oil shipments, production, etc? If we go, what happens up north? In Baghdad and other localities, which are supposed to be nailed down and made more secure by a greater American military presence?

The fact that most Americans don’t yet get seems to be: the Shia of Iraq have been abused, discriminated against, persecuted, tortured and slaughtered by Sunnis. The Shia of Iraq are well aware of the 13 centuries of discrimination, vilification, and persecution they’ve suffered from a Sunni dominated Islamic power structure across the Hub of Islam. They know darned well they’re going to be squeezed by those same Sunni Islamic forces, when and if the Americans leave. I think the “if” is really no longer a question: the “when” is what’s being hammered out now by Congress and Bush.

I think the body language I saw, when al-Maliki and Ahmadinejad walked out of their meeting several weeks ago, two Shia Iranian/Iraqi men walking hand in hand, with al-Maliki so relaxed it looked like he’d dropped some Quaaludes, told me every- thing I need to know about what will happen if the Brits leave, and the Americans want to go into Basra. They’ll run into a wall. It’s possible al-Maliki will actually ask for Iranian assistance in quelling the internecine violence in the South. Will Bush allow that? What shock waves would that send coursing through our Administration, if Maliki DOES ask Iranian help in the south of Iraq? How could Bush allow that to happen?

Bush and Petraeus, at their different levels, appear to have already decided to side with the Sunnis. At the higher level, Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates talked directly to the Saudis. A massive $20 billion arms transfer deal was proposed to sweeten the pot for the Saudis, so they would step on the suicide bombers going from Saudi Arabia to Iraq … and also, to arm them for an eventual fight against Iran. Regardless of whether strategic or tactical in nature, these decisions have clearly been seen by Iraqi Shiites. They know the forces of Sunnism have once again been arrayed against them. They have seen it in Lebanon, and they have begun to see it with the arming of Sunni militia.

The question must be asked then: how do individuals such as yourself, get air time on CNN, and other networks (since most people don’t spend much more than 30 minutes a day watching the news), to explain to the American people that not only have we found ourselves in the middle of a civil conflict … we’ve now actually begun arming/aligning ourselves with one side. And, with the side which once again shows that American foreign policy is hypocritical. The national elections of Iraq elected individuals who are predominantly Shia or Shia aligned. The Sunnis have once again bailed out of the political process. Significant violence will occur when those British forces leave. If al-Qaeda IS effectively hammered into silence, the real fighting will begin. Sunni against Shia.

That fighting will be the proxy level war we’ve decided must be fought to “win” Iraq. I’d contend, we’ve already begun our war against Iran. Arming Sunni tribal sheiks and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Gulf nations, are the opening rounds of our war with Iran. Bush will do all he can to instigate an Iranian military response. I’d guess, in the near future, sometime this year, if Sunnis begin battling Shia in open militia combat, al-Maliki will ask Iran for Quds Brigade support in the south. Bush won’t allow that. He’ll intervene, hoping — hoping — he can finally precipitate an open military strike against Iran.

If you agree with this position, I’d say: unless individuals such as yourself get out there more, and speak this very real possibility, the American people will be slammed into a crisis of Bush’s making. He will not allow Iraq to “go into Iran’s sphere of influence,” and if that’s the case, he will use force to deny them that maneuver. By then, it will be too late. We’ll be in a new war. This President has to have a scape goat to lay this terrible Iraqi fiasco on. Iran will be it. I hope that if you agree, you’ll try and get out there more, to try and explain this dark future we may have in store for ourselves.

Once again, the Iraqi people will be the ones doing most of the dying. This criminal President knows no bounds when it comes to aggrandizing his plans. He does, after all, have a pipeline to Jesus.

Jerry Eagan
Silver City, NM

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