As the United States considers its military options against the Syrian government, Yahoo invited service members and veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns to share whether they believe American action in Syria is appropriate. Here’s one perspective.
FIRST PERSON | At the beginning of the war in Iraq, I was a veteran. I served my eight-year obligation, three years on active duty and the last five with the National Guard. I had been deployed, not in times of conflict, but I had been away from my family for long periods of time and to the Middle East. When we invaded Iraq in 2003, I recognized an obligation that eventually led me back to the National Guard.
I was deployed twice within 18 months. In my first tour, I guarded detainees at Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facilities. I also served in convoy security operations in 2006 and in 2008 from COB Speicher as a sergeant in the California Army National Guard.
Being a national guardsman for both deployments was a different experience, as we came home and were sent right back to being a civilian without any time from combat to civilian; that was, needless to say, a difficult transition for many of us.
We went into Iraq because of the suspicion of weapons of mass destruction or chemical weapons that Saddam supposedly had. We were proven wrong.
The situation in Syria is different; we have proof they used chemical weapons against their own people, even though they may be uprising against the government.
Many have asked if I believe we should go into Syria, as we did with Iraq, and my initial reaction is that we should, with the intent of destroying the chemical weapons and restoring peace to the country, allowing for the people to form their government. Once that is complete, we leave. We are not an occupying force nor do we sell them military equipment or military know-how. One of the biggest mistakes I see the military committing is the use of civilian contractors performing jobs that we have military occupational specialties for, e.g., mechanics and cooks.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, we have civilian contractors performing those roles, making sometimes three times the amount a soldier makes performing the same job, or worse, in the comforts and security of the base. Why? The use of civilians in this way perpetuates the need to extend the conflict as long as possible for the bottom line for the companies that employs these personnel.
I can tell you from my 2008 tour, that more than 70 percent of the tractor trailers that we were providing security for were empty. Why? Because companies like KBR necessitated those movements, not military necessity, but civilian. Also, civilian contractors that provider security, such as Xi, formerly Blackwater, do more harm than good in our military goals, and typically are outside the boundaries that our soldiers, sailors, marines and airman have to abide by. Yet they are still seen as Americans, a distinction that the civilian population cannot differentiate between.
Another mistake is trying to make their military the same as ours. These individuals have no concept of national pride, or association with their country, unlike we do here in the U.S. Their association or link is with their family, clan, or immediate surrounding population, which is what we fought against in training the Iraqis and continue to fight against in training the Afghani military.
Going into Syria would not be much different from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan in that it is not a typical war in which you know who the enemy is. Many aren’t dressed in uniforms or fly a national flag. We have nearly 12 years experience in fighting this form of a war, and I think we can be successful, as long as our military leaders allow our field-grade commanders to fight the way we know how without the worry of political correctness, which became an issue in Iraq, and is still an issue in Afghanistan.
I believe we could be successful with action taken against Syria. I believe it is the morally correct thing to do, not just for the people of Syria, but for the stability of the region.