The first kick in the gut came in January of 2014 — when the “JV team” took Fallujah. Since then, they’ve been falling like dominoes — one Iraqi city after another. Remember that almost 4,500 U.S. troops paid the ultimate sacrifice during the eight-year war.
Now that ISIS has planted its black and white flag in the center of Ramadi, veterans of the bloody battles that were fought to stabilize the city are expressing anger and frustration at the way the current administration has allowed the country to unravel.
The Stars and Stripes interviewed some of those disillusioned vets.
“It’s pretty disturbing,” said Thomas Daly, 32, who served in Ramadi as a Marine first lieutenant from 2006 to 2007.
Daly, the author of the Iraq memoir “Rage Company,” still holds out hope that the Iraqi military and tribesmen can take back Ramadi with American help. But he fears that if things in don’t turn around, those who fought in Iraq will feel like their Vietnam veteran brethren, many of whom say their friends died for nothing.
“It degrades the sacrifice of those who were killed and wounded,” Daly said.
In an echo of the last war in Iraq, the White House and Pentagon have put out relentlessly upbeat battlefield assessments of their efforts to roll back the Islamic State, even as militants take territory and Iraqi Army units crumble. On Friday, a Marine general insisted the Islamic State is “losing,” and on Saturday, it was confirmed that Ramadi, just 70 miles from Baghdad, had fallen. The news got worse this week with reports that Iraqi soldiers fled the city rather than defend it.
Ramadi, along with Fallujah — another city infamous for violence — lie in Anbar province, where more than 1,300 U.S. troops lost their lives during the Iraq War.
Some veterans expressed horror at the possible fate of the Iraqis who joined the so-called Awakening, when Sunni tribesman, some who once worked with insurgents, joined the Americans in a reversal that turned the tide in the war.
“In reality, there’s good people there who are dying because we abandoned them,” said Joshua Revak, a former Army specialist who was wounded by a mortar in Ramadi in 2006 that killed his friend and roommate, Sgt. Terry Lisk.
Daly, who worked with Awakening members and has kept in touch with some since leaving Iraq, said they painted a grim picture of events as the Islamic State moved in. One leader he worked with was kidnapped and burned alive, and the last tribesman he was in touch with went silent two weeks ago — he still doesn’t know his fate.
“It’s just depressing, man — I mean, how can you let that happen?” Daly said.
Many troops took to social media, and some penned opinion columns to lament the loss.
“Thinking and hearing about it. … I have tears in my eyes, our brothers and sisters we lost, for what,” one person posted on the Facebook page of Veterans of Ramadi, Iraq. “Yes we did our best and we did one hell of a job but it feels like only those who were there care and no one else does, not our government, our neighbors, media and in part the world.”
Another posted, “It sickens and saddens me to know that all of the brave men and women who lost their lives in the defense of the city did it all in vain. Just so ISIS can take it away.”
The troops’ anger and resentment were further stoked by National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who spoke Tuesday night at a German Embassy photography exhibit of soldiers wounded in combat.
Via Foreign Policy:
“Now that we have ended two wars responsibly, and brought home hundreds of American troops, we salute this new generation of veterans,” Rice told the audience of about 150 people who were seated between the hauntingly beautiful mural-sized portraits of severely disabled veterans.
Such a description of the U.S. military departure from Iraq in 2011 — when American forces left after failing to negotiate a security agreement to stay — raised eyebrows across the crowd that included active duty and former troops and officers, among them at least two generals and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. “Responsibly, right?” one retired Army officer said sarcastically to FP’s Lara Jakes afterward.
Susan Rice, of course, is known for “raising eyebrows” with dubious statements. She famously appeared on five Sunday talk shows on September 16, 2012, to proclaim that the Benghazi debacle was the result of a “spontaneous demonstration” — not a premeditated terrorist attack. We now know that by September 16, the Obama administration knew that the attack was planned in advance. Last year, on another Sunday talk show, Rice claimed that Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.”
Now she’s peddling the fiction that the abandoning countries to terrorists is a responsible way to “end” a war.
It really is “pretty disturbing.”