By Christopher C. Rushlau
“I was a cook in a national guard engineer battalion on FOB Marez in Mosul from March to December 2004. The cooking was handled by Halliburton when we were on the FOB and the cooks supervised casual labor around the battalion area (the FOB had 4000 US military personnel). I’d been a Peace Corps Volunteer 25 years earlier and had just completed law school. I’d even put in a few hundred hours getting started in Arabic. So I was the man for the job.
Both messages came from Iraqi interpreters when I was out at work-sites heating canned food for a platoon (once, for a week) or a company (on-going rotation, I was there for seven weeks).I kind of stood out in the crowd. So the first guy tells me that toppling a regime is like uprooting a tree. You don’t just plant a new tree and there it is, all ready to deliver. The second guy (the first guy had been at the week-long job, and that message bespeaks a week’s confidence-building) had been with US military personnel for ten years already, not just in the no-fly zone, but traveling around with US troops, and all kinds of US troops at that. Plus he and I were musicians, he’d brought his electronic keyboard and I’d brought my electric-acoustic guitar. So he says to me one day, after returning from visiting his (Kurdish) family in Baghdad without incident (which struck me as unusual, or contrary to what I’d been led to expect whether from official rumors or my own news-gathering via the internet), “The US goal in Iraq is a weakened state.” To show he didn’t approve of that, well, he told me about that same time that Israel was killing off Iraqi scientists so Iraq wouldn’t be able to recover. I have a bias or theme here, which makes these two comments, or three, significant. I think troops on the ground and the people back home always have the whole story, all the fact, simply by osmosis, grape-vine, putting pieces together.
So I’ll throw it back to the Vietnam crowd: didn’t the public know that that war was (as a Marine vet told me at the dinner table in Mosul without any coaxing whatsoever–I just said, “You look like a grizzled old Guard guy…”), “Another scam”?
PS I remember going on strike from high school in 1970 for a day when the local college, Bowdoin, was out, during the invasion of Cambodia. From demonstrations I participated in to reading stuff from Bowdoin professors set up on the town mall, nobody had a clue what the war was about, to oppose it, any more than the other side had a clue in order to support it. Our night of action on the mall included some Marines from the local navy
base coming down.
But did we all know what I later read in Neil Sheehan’s “A Bright Shining Lie”, that the CIA had told Ike in 1954 that if he held the referendum the communists would get 80% of the vote, so miraculously the referendum was not held? I mean, I never framed the question that way until I read that book about fifteen years ago. But that was the question in the air and we all knew the answer, didn’t we?”