Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dread Takes a Toll on GIs in Iraq
By Louise Roug
Times Staff Writer
November 22, 2005
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq — A handful of Delta Company soldiers leaned against a barracks wall the other night, smoking. The subject of conversation: what limb they would rather part with, if they had a choice. On the door of a portable toilet a few feet away, someone was keeping the company death toll amid a scribble of obscenities: five KIA.
"When I first got here, I felt like I could actually do some good for the Iraqi people," Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Barker said. But the last six months had hardened him, he said. "We're not going to change the Iraqis. I don't care how many halal meals we give out," he added, referring to food prepared according to Islamic dietary laws.
Of the 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, some have been deployed to the country for the first time. Others are returning for their second or third tours of duty. Those returning find a country that has become even more dangerous. Since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, attacks on American troops using roadside bombs have steadily risen, as have military casualties.
In conversations with troops in the tense cities of Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit during the last four weeks, morale seemed a fragile thing, especially among those in the line of fire, shot through with a sense of dread.Many expressed pride in their mission, and the hope that the budding political process would eventually destroy the insurgency. But others described a seemingly never-ending fight against an invisible enemy, and the toll of seeing friends die.
"Morale is a roller coaster," said Lt. Rusten Currie, who has spent 10 months in Iraq. "We were all idealistic to begin with, wanting to find Osama bin Laden and [Abu Musab] Zarqawi, and bring them to justice — whatever that means. Now we just want to go home.
"The bracelet on his slim wrist read: "Let them hate, as long as they fear." http://tinyurl.com/cf9p8


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