Sunday, August 12, 2007

An Army Under Stress

US marines asleep at their base in Falluja, Iraq. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty images

Yesterday I wrote that the War Czar is whispering the "D" Word. Our immensely competent, superbly trained, hi-tech army is performing occupation duties for which it was never designed and is grossly understaffed. We are simply running out of soldiers.

Today reporter Peter Beaumont of the Guardian provides compelling evidence that we may have even less time than General Lute is willing to admit before America's army is completely broken. Writes Beaumont

Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis. . . .

Where once the war in Iraq was defined in conversations with (service) men by untenable ideas - bringing democracy or defeating al-Qaeda - these days the war in Iraq is defined by different ways of expressing the idea of being weary. It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. 'The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,' says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the 'surge' in Baghdad began.

They are not supposed to talk like this. We are driving and another of the public affairs team adds bitterly: 'We should just be allowed to tell the media what is happening here. Let them know that people are worn out. So that their families know back home. But it's like we've become no more than numbers now.'
Every American ought to read Beaumont's article. I doubt you are going to hear much about his report on the mainstream media smitten with the notion that the "surge" is working. As one Chaplain's assistant complained to Beaumont "Why don't you tell the truth? Why don't you journalists write that this army is exhausted?"