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"Search & Avoid" -- US Troops Only Pretending to Patrol Iraq

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo [Remember this when someone tells how great the surge is working to reduce attacks
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2007
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      [Remember this when someone tells how great the surge is working to
      reduce attacks on US troops. Perhaps troops who are hiding somewhere
      instead of patroling just aren't as likely to get attacked as they patrol.

      Another possible factor in the drop in attacks is the Iraq Freedom
      Congress (http://www.ifcongress.com/English/index.htm ), an
      anti-occupation group whose self-defense Safety Forces, which patrol
      neighborhoods in Baghdad (population around 5,000) and other cities,
      have reduced sectarian violence there to zero. U.S. troops do not patrol
      these neighborhoods.

      Note that the drop in US casualties has occurred after a great increase
      in attacks, and only dropped down to around its previous level
      (http://tinyurl.com/khjv4 ). A drop to 2006 levels doesn't seem that
      impressive as a measure of the surge's success, but war advocates never
      frame the drop in that way.

      Also remember that despite the drop in attacks, 2007 is likely to prove
      the most deadly year yet for US troops in Iraq (http://tinyurl.com/2h6lrx ).


      Low Morale Has U.S. Troops in Iraq Pretending to Patrol
      By Dahr Jamail
      IPS News
      Posted on October 26, 2007

      New York -- Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here in upstate
      New York say that morale among US soldiers in the country is so poor,
      many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a
      practice dubbed "search and avoid" missions.

      Phil Aliff is an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division
      stationed at Fort Drum. He served nearly one year in Iraq from August
      2005 to July 2006, in the areas of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, both west of

      "Morale was incredibly low," said Aliff, adding that he joined the
      military because he was raised in a poor family by a single mother and
      had few other prospects. "Most men in my platoon in Iraq were just in
      from combat tours in Afghanistan."

      According to Aliff, their mission was to help the Iraqi army "stand up"
      in the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad, but in fact his platoon was
      doing all the fighting without support from the Iraqis they were
      supposedly preparing to take control of the security situation.

      "I never heard of an Iraqi unit that was able to operate on their own,"
      said Aliff, who is now a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the
      War (IVAW). "The only reason we were replaced by an Iraqi army unit was
      for publicity."

      Aliff said he participated in roughly 300 patrols. "We were hit by so
      many roadside bombs we became incredibly demoralized, so we decided the
      only way we wouldn't be blown up was to avoid driving around all the time."

      "So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every
      hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and
      doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine," he said, adding,
      "All our enlisted people became very disenchanted with our chain of

      Aliff, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), refused
      to return to Iraq with his unit, which arrived in Kirkuk two weeks ago.
      "They've already lost a guy, and they are now fostering the sectarian
      violence by arming the Sunnis while supporting the Shi'ites politically
      . . . classic divide and conquer."

      Aliff said he is set to be discharged by the military next month because
      they claim his PTSD "is untreatable by their doctors".

      According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of Iraq
      and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for PTSD increased nearly
      70% in the 12 months ending on June 30.

      The nearly 50,000 VA-documented PTSD cases greatly exceed the 30,000
      military personnel that the Pentagon officially classifies as wounded in
      both occupations.

      VA records show that mental health has become the second-largest area of
      illness for which veterans of the ongoing occupations are seeking
      treatment at VA hospitals and clinics. The total number of mental health
      cases among war veterans increased by 58%; from 63,767 on June 30, 2006,
      to 100,580 on June 30, 2007, according to the VA.

      Other active duty Iraq veterans tell similar stories of disobeying
      orders so as not to be attacked so frequently.

      "We'd go to the end of our patrol route and set up on top of a bridge
      and use it as an over-watch position," Eli Wright, also an active duty
      soldier with the 10th Mountain Division, said. "We would just sit with
      our binoculars and observe rather than sweep. We'd call in radio checks
      every hour and say we were doing sweeps."

      Wright added, "It was a common tactic, a lot of people did that. We'd
      just hang out, listen to music, smoke cigarettes, and pretend." The
      26-year-old medic complained that his unit did not have any armored
      Humvees during his time in Iraq, where he was stationed in Ramadi,
      capital of the volatile al-Anbar province.

      "We put sandbags on the floors of our vehicles, which had canvas doors,"
      said Wright, who was in Iraq from September 2003 until September 2004.
      "By the end of our tour, we were bolting any metal we could find to our
      Humvees. Everyone was doing this, and we didn't get armored Humvees in
      country until after we left."

      Other veterans, like 25-year-old Nathan Lewis, who was in Iraq for the
      invasion of March 2003 until June of that year while serving in the
      214th field artillery brigade, complained of lack of training for what
      they were ordered to do, in addition to not having armored Humvees for
      their travels.

      "We never got training for a lot of the work we did," he explained. "We
      had a white phosphorous mortar round that cooked off in the back of one
      of our trucks, because we loaded that with some other ammo, and we
      weren't trained how to do it the right way."

      The "search and avoid" missions appear to have been commonplace around
      much of Iraq for years now.

      Geoff Millard served nine years in the New York Army National Guard, and
      was in Iraq from October 2004 until October 2005 working for a general
      at a Tactical Operation Center.

      Millard, also a member of IVAW, said that part of his duties included
      reporting "significant actions", or SIGACTS, which is how the US
      military describes an attack on their forces.

      "We had units that never called in SIGACTS," Millard, who monitored
      highly volatile areas like Baquba, Tikrit and Samarra, said. "When I was
      there two years ago, there were at least five companies that never had
      SIGACTS. I think 'search and avoids' have been going on there for a long

      Millard said "search and avoid" missions continue today across Iraq.
      "One of my buddies is in Baghdad right now and we email all the time,"
      he explained, "He just told me that nearly each day they pull into a
      parking lot, drink soda and shoot at the cans. They pay Iraqi kids to
      bring them things and spread the word that they are not doing anything
      and to please just leave them alone."

      Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who reports from Iraq.

      Dan Clore

      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord We├┐rdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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