• Susannah Ireland/eyevine, via Redux

    Bloody Secrets

    War and Men: A Love Story

    From an outpost in Afghanistan an Army officer tries to come to terms with the dual legacies of war—that something so awful could be the best time of a young man’s life.

    Early last year, when we were all transfixed with commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, before ISIS became the chief discussion concerning Iraq, I came across an article written by ex-British Army officer James Jeffrey about his shame for having enjoyed fighting there. He felt shame because despite the terrible consequences of the war; the innumerable deaths, the monetary cost, and the immeasurable loss of international clout, he still enjoyed the experience. It was the best thing he had ever done. He felt joy, because, in his words, how could you not?

    “I defy anyone in a Challenger 2 tank, looking back over the commanders cupola at 20 armored vehicles kicking up curtains of sand, speeding across the smooth desert while enveloped in warm winds as the gunner traverses the turret to test fire the coaxially mounted machine gun, and then claim not to have enjoyed themselves.

    Permalink
  • Bart Sadowski/Getty

    They Killed Our Brothers

    On September 11, 2001, Jimmy’s brother was killed in the north tower. Years later he writes a letter to his friend Tommy whose own brother was killed in Iraq.

    Dear Tommy,

    How the hell are you doing? It’s weird that I’m writing you a letter. I feel like I’m breaking up with you. Anyway, it was great seeing you a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad my friend Colin bumped into you and texted me that you were at McSorley’s. It was nice to catch up over a couple of lights and darks.

    Permalink
  • Reuters

    Bombs Away

    Thank Goodness for Perpetual War

    We’ve finally got a plan. We need plans and everyone like them, they put as at ease and it feels good to be at ease. Now let’s get on with the bombing and war.

    On September 11th Eve, or—excuse me—Patriot Day’s Eve, the President announced a new plan, a campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy the ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorist strategy.” To me it sounds much like the last plan to degrade and destroy the terrorists and the plan before that, but, then again, I’m not a plan maker. I do like plans though. I like them very much. Conservatives like them. Liberals like them. Jihadists like them. Buddhists like them. Most everybody does. No one wants to go through life in a state of moral and existential ambiguity. We vote a man (or woman) into office to make plans for us to follow. For all the faults of the last President, he at least had the intelligence enough to know Americans like plans and to give them to us at regular intervals.

    Orwell’s Big Brother had a plan too. The plan—which everyone who has been to high school in the United States understands and everyone who writes takes much pleasure in referencing—required perpetual war to be effective. Oceania had to be at war with someone otherwise they would begin to see what the world around them lacked. But what people who claim to be experts on 1984 don’t understand is that O’Brien only gives the people of Oceania what they want. O’Brien is the victim here, one of circumstance and fear. The people need war as much as war needs people. O’Brien tries to explain to Winston that this was what the people wanted, not him, and he simply provides them happiness, which is really just another word for fear. Does this make him a criminal? Giving people exactly what they most desire? He offers his people peace with his plan of war. He makes them fall in love with Big Brother, and in the end they do. The people cheer the bombs. And why wouldn’t they? The bombs hurt no one but those they don’t know. They lead to nothing but the elimination of their unease. They are imminently necessary given geo-political conditions. They do not use them; they simply stand back as the bombs do what they need to do.

    Permalink
  • Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty

    Fiction

    Beast Fiction: Your Worst Day in Iraq

    A short story from an army veteran about the last time U.S. soldiers were in Iraq and the impossible choices they faced there.

    Agincourt

    This will be the worst day of your life. In years to come you will recount the most intricate details to yourself with obsessive precision, as if tracing the wood grain of a childhood bunk bed from memory. It is not a healthy kind of remembrance. Everyone you love will have heard the story and they will be tired of being scared and sorry for you. You will think it bothers you more than it should, but then you will ask yourself whether or not you even have the right to not be bothered.

    Permalink
  • Getty

    Desert Winds

    Watching Iraq Burn From Afghanistan

    The recent Afghan elections should have been the big news, but even troops deployed to Afghanistan are distracted by the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

    Last week, as the world’s gaze shifted toward Iraq, we stayed focused on supporting the presidential runoff election here in Afghanistan.

    On Election Day we were prepared for trouble, but as the hours wore on things remained strangely quiet, at least in my small part of the war. The “120 Days of Wind” are now blowing here in Afghanistan. As the hot, dusty, and dry season invades, the Afghan runoff vote was an apparent success, though not without bloodshed.

    Permalink
  • An Iraqi woman passes U.S. troops and Iraqi police officers as they stand guard in the Bab al-Jadeed area of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 23, 2009. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

    Iraq

    Mosul's Civilization and Its Discontents

    An Army veteran looks at the fall of Mosul and recalls his own time there trying to civilize the land with guns and money.

    Mosul is in the news today.  

    Not many people in the United States know where Mosul is.

    Permalink
  • 1st Lt. Matthew Noreus (center) and his platoon prepare for a midday patrol in the city of Bayji, July 19, 2007. (Nathan S. Webster)

    War Comes Home

    How the War Comes Home

    As violence flares in Iraq, author Nathan Webster speaks to veterans who he embedded with overseas about their memories, experiences, and how they have managed the transition home.

    Specialist Aaron Navarro climbs up a dusty incline on a hot July day near  Bayji, Iraq, 2007; his two junior troops flare out, right and left, behind him, narrowing into single file as they reach the top. An infantry fire team doing their part of a quiet cordon-and-search mission in a rugged farming village.

    The deployment ended that October. By 2008 they were back in the states but before the soldiers who had patrolled Bayji were really home, they were heading overseas again.

    Permalink
  • Iraqi immigrant Ubaida Mufrej stands in the office of his car parts export business in Seattle. Mufrej came to the United States under a special visa program for Iraqis who worked with U.S.-led forces during the Iraq War. The federal government has issued less than a quarter of 25,000 visas available and the program is scheduled to end this year. (Manuel Valdes/AP)

    Before It’s Too Late

    Betraying Our Iraqi Allies

    One third of the visas reserved for our Iraqi allies have been issued. Peter Meijer urges action before it’s too late.

    If Congress doesn’t act, on October 1 the State Department will dismantle the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqi refugees. The program was introduced in 2008 as a way to provide special immigration status to some of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who served alongside U.S. forces at great danger to themselves and their families, during our eight-year occupation. Today, five years after the original legislation passed, less than a third of the 25,000 allotted visas have been distributed and the charter is set to expire. Will this be just another broken promise to the people of Iraq?

    Reauthorization for the Iraqi SIV program and its 17,000 remaining visas is in the National Defense Authorization Act but it will not pass before October 1 when the current mandate expires. And the continuing resolution, the legislation that keeps the government running until the budget passes, fails to reauthorize the program. As a result, the last hope for Iraqi refugees stands to disappear. If he hasn’t been killed by a car bomb or Shia thugs, somewhere in Baghdad my interpreter Omar* is laughing that he proved me wrong again.

    Permalink
  • U.S. Marines evacuate a colleague wounded in a mortar attack on a base south of Baghdad November 29, 2004. (Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters, © Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters)

    Not Again

    A Veteran’s Case Against Attacking

    No to Syria. Army veteran Brian Van Reet argues against intervention.

    On an absentee ballot mailed from Camp War Eagle, I voted John Kerry for president in 2004. I had been in Baghdad about eight months. Over that time I had come to believe that the army’s strategy—if you could call harassing Iraqi men, passing out soccer balls to their kids, building bigger and better chow halls on our FOBs, and driving the highway looking for bombs, a strategy—was headed for dismal failure.

    President Bush pleaded with the country to stay the course. Meanwhile, I cast a ballot for the other guy.

    Permalink
  • The "soldier" with the bazooka May 8, 1945. (Tony Vaccaro)

    The Good War

    A World War II veteran shares an unexpected photo, and story, with Iraq War veteran Phil Klay.

    A few years ago I attended a party for World War II veterans at a friend's home on the anniversary of D-Day. It was a relatively sedate affair: a few surprisingly short men from the Greatest Generation sitting around, trading stories about work and life—not much talk of war. Then one of the men, Tony, brought out a book of his photographs, black-and-white snaps he'd taken while he was with the 83rd Infantry.

    The photographs were, by turns, fascinating and beautiful and horrible, as war photos tend to be. And then I encountered one that looked less like an image of battle than of a crime scene. Almost casually, Tony pointed to the photo, leaned over toward me, and started talking about it. None of the other veterans paid much attention, as if they'd heard the story already, and Tony was nonchalant, as though his story wouldn’t be any particular revelation. It was a part of his war, the “Good War,” and he'd been living with it for 65 years.

    Permalink
  • U.S. soldiers patrol the outskirts of Spin Boldak, near the border with Pakistan, about 100 kilometers (63 miles) southeast of Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

    LINGERING FALLOUT

    The Gulf War’s Homegrown Plague?

    Jamie Reno reports on a new lawsuit seeking to connect an American firm with Gulf War syndrome.

    As a new study seems to establish for the first time that Gulf War syndrome—the mysterious, multisymptom condition often marked by pain and fatigue and reported by nearly one in three of the 700,000 U.S. veterans of that war—is in fact a physical condition, a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit focused on the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and the damage they may have caused American soldiers, is about to make its way to a Texas courtroom.

    For nearly 20 years, Houston attorney Gary Pitts has compiled information on companies worldwide that allegedly developed materials Saddam used for his chemical weapons program. His latest lawsuit targets one company from that list—an American one. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Pitts alleges that at the time of the attack on the Kurds, Alcolac, Inc., a now-defunct Maryland company whose assets are owned by Paris-based chemical concern Rhodia, was, through a middleman, supplying Iraq with thiodiglycol (TDG), the chemical used to make mustard gas, a highly toxic agent used in the attack.

    Permalink
  • An Iraqi Army soldier smokes a cigarette while on patrol with American forces in the violent neighborhood of Gazaliyah February 8, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq. Snipers are a daily problem for US and Iraqi Army soldiers who patrol the neighborhood, which is beset with Sunni-Shia sectarian violence. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

    Dark Anniversary

    What If the Iraq War Never Happened?

    A war correspondent reflects on the grim insurgency in Iraq.

    Not the invasion, that's something else. That was three weeks of aggressive warfare executed, by and large, with stunning effect, scattering a half-million-man army in its wake. The 10th anniversary retrospective haze makes the whole affair seem almost dreamlike, a flicker of blistering success before the years of horror set in.

    So no, I don't mean that. But what of the war that followed, made up as it was of so many smaller wars? Different battles waged against the Americans, against Iraq's new security forces, even among the Iraqis themselves in bitter civil war. But none more than that largest and most targeted of Coalition troops: the Sunni insurgency. What if that had never had to pass? What if we missed means to better, exponentially better, exploit our military supremacy? Not just once. Or twice. But incessantly, for something like four years.

    Permalink
  • American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project senior staff attorney Ariela Migdal, right, gestures while speaking beside ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill, left, during a media conference Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, in San Francisco. Plaintiffs also present for the conference, background L-R, U.S. Army reserve Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, U.S. Marine Corps reserve Capt. Zoe Bedell, and U.S. Marine Corps First Lt. Colleen Farrell. Several active women military personnel have filed a federal lawsuit to demand combat action, requesting all branches of the military to remove the so-called combat exclusionary rule that bars women from fighting on the front lines. This suit, to be filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, is believed to be the first involving active duty military personnel. (Ben Margot / AP Photo)

    Female Warriors

    Let Women Fight

    The veterans who filed an ACLU lawsuit to allow women in combat say exclusion is unfair and outdated. By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

    Women have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade, serving in a slew of military roles on a murky battlefield that knows no formal frontlines. Now, four veterans who have served tours in both countries—including those who have won Purple Hearts for their efforts—are suing for recognition of that reality, and the end to the rules that officially bar them from combat.

    “The combat exclusion policy is based on outdated stereotypes of women and ignores the realities of the modern military and battlefield conditions,” the four plaintiffs stated in a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. “Nearly a century after women first earned the right of suffrage, the combat exclusion policy still denies women a core component of full citizenship—serving on equal footing in the military defense of our nation.”

    Permalink