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                                       politics + culture

Monday, May 28, 2007

Staff Sgt. David Safstrom: voices from Iraq

From a must-read New York Times article by Michael Kamber:

Staff Sgt. David Safstrom does not regret his previous tours in Iraq, not even a difficult second stint when two comrades were killed while trying to capture insurgents.

“In Mosul, in 2003, it felt like we were making the city a better place,” he said. “There was no sectarian violence, Saddam was gone, we were tracking down the bad guys. It felt awesome.”

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought: ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.

The piece, titled, "As Allies turn Foe Disillusion Rises in Some GIs" is a document of the state of the war in Iraq four years on through the eyes of a cross-section of members of Delta Company, including Sargeant Safstrom. It's a must-read today, not simply because it gives direct voice to US troops on the ground, something rare-to-find despite our always-on media, but also because it documents the growing frustration of service members in Iraq with their perception that they are caught in the midst of a civil war in which Iraqi security forces cannot be counted on as allies, or worse.

As the Petraeus/Crocker plan ramps up for two more years of total US military and political involvement in the midst of Iraq's civil war and members of Congress give George Bush war funding once again with no timetables, benchmarks or limits to the open-ended US commitment in Iraq, one has to wonder if anyone in the United States government or media is doing what Michael Kamber has done: listen to the uncensored views of our troops on the ground.

Delta Company has a very clear message from the streets of Baghdad today.



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