Monday, November 26, 2007

The Truth About The Troops

The Truth About The Troops
By Jacob Monday, November 26, 2007


In Fallujah in November of 2004, Bellavia’s unit learned firsthand the perils of that policy. After taking intense fire from a mosque, Bellavia’s men moved in to surround it. Restricted from entering the mosque themselves, the troops were forced to wait while an Iraqi unit could be found to enter the mosque and root out the attackers. “Meanwhile, we’re exposing ourselves to hellfire,” Bellavia recalls. “Even when the Iraqis arrived, we had to ask for permission to enter the firefight.” Today, Bellavia is understandably bitter about the mosque policy. “We’re being asked to respect landmarks that we know for a fact are being used as stockpiles for weapons. On the level, the whole thing is ridiculous.”

It doesn‘t improve matters that the military is increasingly deemphasizing self-defense, Bellavia says. “When I went to Iraq in 2004, before entering Fallujah we were given a pep talk. We were told, ‘Kill the rattlesnake before it strikes.’ But when I went back in 2006 as a reporter, I heard [officers] telling those kids things like, ‘If you make a mistake, we’ll come after you.’ I thought to myself, ‘That’s the pep talk you’re giving them?’”

Paradoxically, the military’s well-intentioned efforts to tread carefully around Iraqi culture and minimize civilian casualties have sometimes led to more civilian deaths.

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