Tuesday, April 24, 2007
'Our generation's Vietnam' - A soldier's view
From an observation post in an abandoned shopping mall, Staff Sergeant Matthew St. Pierre gazes across the Sunni heartland of West Baghdad. The sprawl beneath him shelters insurgents, including Al-Qaeda, as well as ordinary Iraqi families, traumatized, terrified and angry after more than four years of war.
It has been a tough day.
The debate in Washington over the war, mirrors one among troops on the ground.
“We’ve talked at length, my soldiers and myself,” says St. Pierre, “and the term that comes up often is that this is our generation’s Vietnam.”
It is noon. Already that day, St Pierre’s patrol of Humvee vehicles had been narrowly missed by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) attack. Just an hour earlier they had driven into an ambush.
A massive explosion flowered metres in front of St Pierre’s lead vehicle. A second one followed moments later to the rear. They were bombs buried in the road, so-called IEDs, the main weapon of choice for insurgents and the primary killer of US troops.
Through small arms fire, St Pierre, 24, had led his patrol back to this observation post.
Now he is in a reflective mood.
“I don’t think this can be won,” he says. “We’re caught in the middle of a civil war.”
He says morale among U.S. combat troops is still good. Some Iraqis, fearful of their neighbors’ reaction, have whispered to him that they want the Americans to stay. But, he says, that’s not most of them.
“I think the majority is going to want us to leave and when we do pull out you’re going to hear cheering in the streets.”
He feels most for the Iraqis who have supported the United States.
“They’re the ones that are going to feel the wrath. They’re going to suffer, “ he says. “The people who are against us – and I think that’s the majority – they’re going to ultimately win.”
Staff Sergeant St. Pierre, a six-year army veteran, has spent two of the last three years in Iraq. He is due to leave in early 2008. He says his great regret is that for all the lives lost the United States will leave Iraq in a worse state than it found it.
That “doesn’t make me feel good as an American.”
-- From Hugh Riminton, CNN International Anchor/Correspondent
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