I was disappointed but not surprised to read the response from Paul Rieckhoff of IAVA. I was one of the veterans interviewed for the story and I want to say unequivocally that nothing about what I had to say was taken out of context or distorted. I was told exactly what the article was about and the questions were very direct. My interview was recorded as I imagine the others were, so Mr. Rieckhoff should be pointed with his criticisms and give specific examples rather than making vague accusations.
A "fog of war" does not exist. Politicians and generals that are not even remotely close to a battlefield deliberate the bad decisions that are being made, not rank and file troops. The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq violates the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Accords and the Geneva Convention. Subsequently, the politicians and military leaders that allowed and continue to allow the occupation of Iraq are guilty of war crimes. These crimes are further compounded by the assertions of those in the highest reaches of this Administration that medical care be withheld from Iraqi civilians, that the Geneva Conventions don't exist in Iraq, and for not meeting the responsibilities of an occupying power under international law.
As an Infantry Officer Mr. Rieckhoff should know these things. He should also know that you couldn't succeed in a "guerrilla war" without the support of the majority of the indigenous population. If we ever had that support we certainly don't now. Mr. Rieckhoff knows that every Iraqi killed, injured, or degraded makes an impossible mission even harder. He also knows the futility of keeping US troops in a situation where there can be no military solution. This article never alleged that US troops are intentionally gunning down Iraqis, and I don't know anyone with a drop of sanity that has advanced that idea. The Iraqis already know that these things have happened and are still happening and reporting them here in the US isn't going to change that. Americans need to know what is happening in Iraq because it's being done in their name.
I have never heard Mr. Rieckhoff challenge politicians about Iraq. In fact, he has done anything but that. While doing PR work for his book release Rieckhoff was interviewed on NPR. During the interview he was pressed again and again about what needed to change in Iraq. He repeatedly ducked the question and finally responded with, "It needs to be somewhere between the President's 'Stay the course' and Cindy Sheehan's 'bring them home now.' " What does that even mean?
While I commend Rieckhoff for the work that his organization does in pointing out a lack of care, training, and equipment for troops it seems a bit myopic. It's like telling someone that is on fire that they'll have great burn care if they can put themselves out and survive the complications. Our troops should never have been sent to Iraq and they need to leave now so that the Iraqis can have their country back and decide their own future. The only way that anyone will be held accountable for what has happened in Iraq is for the men and women that have served there to continue to come forward.
This country has enough apologists for our continued occupation of Iraq across the political spectrum. What it needs are people that can speak plainly and tell the truth even when it isn't popular or easy to hear. My fellow troops in this story should be commended for speaking out and the military needs more people like them. I'll never understand why some of the most ardent defenders of our actions in Iraq sit in offices typing letters in places like Manhattan when it would seem they should be in Iraq fighting what they believe is the good fight.