Why U.S. Troop Deaths in Iraq Were Worth It

Army chief and top commando cite reasons for the ultimate sacrifice

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Win McNamee / Getty Images

General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, speaking Tuesday.

As the Iraqi city of Fallujah fell to al-Qaeda-linked insurgents last weekend, former Marine Paul Szoldra posed a pertinent question on behalf of the roughly 100 U.S. troops who died freeing the city from such militants a decade ago, and the 4,400 others who were killed elsewhere in the country.

“Tell me again,” he asked, “why did my friends die in Iraq?”

On Tuesday, General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff — who spent five years commanding troops in Iraq — was asked to answer that question during a talk at the National Press Club. Highlights of his answer:

The bottom line is, we raise our right hand in order to defend the Constitution of the United States. And when we do that, we are prepared to go forward and do what is necessary as we’re asked to do by our civilian leadership in order to provide security for this nation…

We raised our right hand, we did and our job…

It’s difficult to deal with lives lost in Iraq. It’s difficult to — with lives lost that are lost to a car accident of a military member or a suicide of a military member because we’re brother- and sister-in-arms, and there’s a relationship there that’s built that you’ll never forget. And so I can never explain properly to anybody when somebody gives their life…

But the bottom line, what I do know, in each and every one of those cases, they raised and volunteered to be in the military because they were proud to be part of the Army…

Many of them died doing the things that they wanted to do.

faris1

DoD photo

Sergeant Major Chris Faris

Chris Faris, the command sergeant major of U.S. Special Operations Command, was asked the same question Thursday on a trip to Washington from SOCOM headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Being an enlisted guy, his answer was shorter:

The reason why they died was so that the Iraqis on their own right now, with no help, can have this war. … To address the Marine, here is what I would tell the Marine: so that they could have this war. Marine, when you finished in Fallujah, were you really that naive to think that they weren’t going to have another civil war after us?

Couldn’t they have had that civil war without American help?

“That’s a policy decision,” the nation’s top enlisted commando said. “The military doesn’t decide to go to war—everybody that lives in this town decides when we go to war.”

53 comments
rwicks
rwicks

The US military doesn't defend the Constitution of the United States.


Our currently government is in violation of the 1st amendment with the hypocritically named free speech zones.

* The 2nd amendment has been messed with forever.

* The NSA internal spying program violates amendment 4.

* The 5th amendment died with Anwar al-Awlaki who wasn't charged with a crime or convicted of one, and was further cemented as dead when his 16 year old son was murdered with a drone 2 weeks later and 

* The NDAA has seriously undermines the 7th since it completely circumvents the right to a trial, something Obama's administration has appealed 3 times.

* The 8th amendment was violated when torture was renamed to "enhanced interrogation".  Water boarding is what the Japanese did in WWII - they went to the gallows for doing that.

* And the 9th has long been dead.

So it's a lie that any of this had to do with upholding the constitution, or that the military at all takes their oath seriously.


This is just propaganda and our media is a joke for repeating it.  It's propaganda too.


BrianEs
BrianEs

Hats off to Manslagt.


Produces factual information that those naysaying him where completely unable to counter.

MMadera
MMadera

"Many died doing the things they wanted to do", this is the most idiotic statement I have ever heard. Perhaps, we should revaluate our military leadership as we are doing with the politicians. I has been a waste of our country's youth, not counting the ones that are maimed. It is a disgrace that our government is not caring for them as they should. One of ours, is not worth the cost of a useless country like Iraq, who will continue killing each other for religious differences.

rlsavedbygod
rlsavedbygod

I have a real problem with a General that make a statement like this, furthermore the last and most likely the only war that was worth getting involved in was WW2. it was certainly the last war the American people was behind from beginning to end. and my guess is it was the last. I might add because the American people cant trust there government anymore! 

RogueHedonist
RogueHedonist

USA had no business to invade Iraq in the first place, Bush is the one who is answerable to this and a lot of other questions.

tkulaga
tkulaga

The question ought to be posed to Graham and McCain.

ParthaNeogy
ParthaNeogy

"Tell me again,” he asked, “why did my friends die in Iraq?”


That is not Gen. Odierno's question to answer.  It is for Odierno's civilian bosses, the ones that he pledged to serve with raised hand, to answer.  It would be impolitic for Odierno to say so.  Not so for journalists stenographing Odierno's press conference.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

What did U.S. military people die for in Iraq? Cheney's "New American Century" and a dream of an American empire in the Middle East.


Any other commentary is just sophistry.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Yeah, no doubt it was worth it to Odierno since it wasn't him or his child.  Mission accomplished.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

I find both responses to be mindless blather, Odiernor's extremely, shockingly so.  I find the question to be naive and stupid, as if battles are decisive until the end of time.   The Iraq invasion was the most shameful, destructive, unnecessary military act in our history.  There is no defending it.  


But...military service is a noble profession and theirs is not to reason why.  The only shame is that all citizens no longer participate as during the almost equally senseless Viet Nam.  We need our military and a loss of a soldier as valuable and honorable does not require justification for the loss,  it is honorable regardless of the dishonor of the cause or the war.    

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

That is all baloney. I am a Virginia Military Institute grad and a veteran USAF officer. Just because one takes a oath to preserve and protect the Constutution and the US just not justify senselesss and meaningless wars whether it was Vietnam or Iraq. Notice that both wars were created based upon lies and deception. Iraq was even worse because America helped support Saddam Hussein. Our military provided targeting information and other assistance in his war against Iran and which he used to gas his people and Iranians. Our soldiers might have served their country but, spin it all you want, their lives were wasted and the misery and suffering goes on long after wars officially end on both sides and with mostly civilian casualties.

Soldiers focus on a mission and doing their duty not on politics and it is truly saddening that they have been sent into one senseless conflict after another in which the national security of America is not at stake. Recall it was Al Qaeda that attacked America on 911, yet they have made up less than five percent of all US-Coalition enemy combatants in the 20+ years of combined wars in Afghaniostan and Iraq based upon lies, arrogance, incompetence, and oil and war-profiteering greed projected to cost over $6 trillion as the lifetimes of war bills and costly VA healthcare come in.

"War is good business, invest YOUR children."

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

Odierno is being disingenuous and evasive, as if generals only do what they're told and never think about sending young people to their needless death, nor offer opinions about it, and then he blames the latter for volunteering and "doing what they wanted to do" as a result of generals like Odierno not thinking and describing the futility of it all.

NZAircraftFan
NZAircraftFan

I went to Iraq in 2003 and I felt at the time that things would get better there but only if there was stable and useful goverment running the place. But of course we all know what happened next so no I do think the whole Iraq was a complete and utter failure and of course the whole thing was based on a lie WMD.

BrianEs
BrianEs

@MMadera Only idiotic to those who are already anti-war types and have absolutely zero military experience .


spiderpaz1
spiderpaz1

@rlsavedbygod The Korean War was worth it.  Look at South Korea, and tell me that wasn't worth it.  Without that war the whole country would belong to that psychopath  from the North.  South Korea is a valuable ally and economic partner, and they are a great nation due to the US decision to defend them.

rwicks
rwicks

@ParthaNeogy He pledged to serve the Constitution.


There's just an utter contempt for the truth and for the law today.  Get over it, we'll be in full blown fascism soon enough.

MarkThompson_DC
MarkThompson_DC moderator

@Hollywooddeed That's not fair. GEN Odierno's son, Tony, an Army lieutenant, lost his left arm to an RPG in Baghdad in 2004. It killed the driver sitting next to him.

vetramon
vetramon

@ThomasHall I humbly congratulate you for interpreting so many silent voices that have to obey corrupted politicians. There were no Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq until the Neo Cons took the presidency and for that matter the head of all the Arm forces of the USA. 

  Why don't you interrupt Bush while he plays golf in his ranch, or Cheney while he is busy writing his truthful memories, or all the other neocon liars, if it was worthy to have shed young American blood to preserve the lies of their corrupted ways?

   Al Qaeda is alive and well where there were no Al Qaeda before, but the broken dreams of all those young soldiers lie now  where their enemies now wave their flags of victory. Shame on you, bloody neocons.

manslagt
manslagt

@NZAircraftFanThe Clinton administration said in January 2001 that Saddam had WMD and, thus, was "a clear and present danger at all times." Given that, if you believe the Iraq War was based on WMD lies, do you believe Bush inherited those lies from Clinton?

rwicks
rwicks

@BrianEs @MMadera You don't need military experience to feel a bit miffed that our "leadership" lied us into a war, and walked away scott free after doing it.

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

BrainEs--Well, little fella. At least I served my country without profiting from it. Instead of killing for my country in a senseless war like Vietnam, I was able to help service personnel and their families which I do today. Attend college, serve in the military, serve your country in any way?

If we care about our soldiers, we will see they are not wasted in yet another needless war based upon lies and war-profiteering greed.

By the way, the officers that commanded the unit that captured Saddam Hussein and killed Bin Laden were from VMI. Not bad from a tiny military college where students not taxpayers pay tuition.

manslagt
manslagt

@vetramon @ThomasHall Not true. An al Qaeda affiliate was indeed operating in Iraq prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Check the record.


And note that al Qaeda is in Fallujah today because Obama the Incompetent and Joe the Dumber messed up the SOFA with Iraq.

LeonPeng
LeonPeng

@manslagt@ThomasHall  compare to most people, at least he's in a real military branch, not some random keyboard warrior group.    

vetramon
vetramon

@manslagt@NZAircraftFan Is a waste of time to try to have a conversation with an adult with a childish brain. Just to possess WMD is not a clear way for a superpower to ruin a country. If your premise were correct, then the USA could have started a war with Russia and China a long time ago, because they were and are a danger to the hegemony of the USA in the world. Then, why Iraq?  Was Iraq involved in the 9-11 bombing? Not at all. Then Why Iraq?  You say that you research what you write, then explain it to me.

DeanKlovens
DeanKlovens

@manslagt @NZAircraftFan even if the were lies perpetrated by Clinton's people, the whole idea that the greatest intelligence apparatus got it wrong is mind -boggling; regardless who said what, "W" blundered making a bad decision going into that part of the world.

gr8fun4me
gr8fun4me

@manslagt@NZAircraftFanAre you kidding me? What is wrong with you? You need to wake up and learn how research and read for yourself instead of believing everything you see on TV! How did Clinton suddenly make the decision for George Bush?

jmac
jmac

@manslagt @vetramon  I'm not going to print the reports done by different agencies after the war - you can believe them or not.   


But you're slam on my husband, a retired USAF officer who served two tours in Vietnam (volunteered for the second tour) tells me that those reports won't budge you anyway.   ("USAF? So you have no real military experience") 


manslagt
manslagt

@vetramon@manslagt"I imagine by your post that you are one of those tea party knowitall and racist at the same time."

If your goal with the comment was to display your gross ignorance, you succeeded. Congratulations.

manslagt
manslagt

@vetramon@manslagt

That Krekar placed Abu Wael in Baghdad was almost certainly unintentional. If the goal of Ansar was to overthrow the regime, and if Abu Wael was on its leadership council, it is highly unlikely that he would be in Baghdad at a time when the Iraqi regime was on highest alert. The more plausible explanation is that Mullah Krekar slipped by admitting Abu Wael was in Baghdad and that Abu Wael was in Baghdad precisely because his employer—the Iraqi regime—wanted him there.[3]

In a March 1, 2004 Weekly Standard article, Jonathan Schanzer characterized Abu Wael as Saddam’s ambassador to al Qaeda. In January of that year, Schanzer had interviewed Abdul Rahman al-Shamari, who served in Saddam’s secret police, the Mukhabarat, from 1997 to 2002. At the time, al-Shamari was sitting in a Kurdish prison. He said that a division of the Mukhabarat provided weapons to Ansar. In addition, al-Shamari said, the Mukhabarat helped finance Ansar. “On one occasion we gave them ten million Swiss dinars [$700,000],” al-Shamari said, referring to the pre-1990 Iraqi currency. On other occasions, the Mukhabarat provided more than that. The assistance, he added, was furnished “every month or two months.” Schanzer then showed al-Shamari a photo of Abu Wael:

“Do you know this man?” I asked al-Shamari. His eyes widened and he smiled. He told me that he knew the man in the picture, but that his graying beard was now completely white. He said that the man was Abu Wael, whose full name is Colonel Saadan Mahmoud Abdul Latif al-Aani. The prisoner told me that he had worked for Abu Wael, who was the leader of a special intelligence directorate in the Mukhabarat. That directorate provided assistance to Ansar al Islam at the behest of Saddam Hussein, whom Abu Wael had met “four or five times.” Al-Shamari added that “Abu Wael’s wife is Izzat al-Douri’s cousin,” making him a part of Saddam’s inner circle. Al-Douri, of course, was the deputy chairman of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council, a high-ranking official in Iraq’s armed forces, and Saddam’s righthand man.[4]

If all of this is true, then it is clear that Abu Wael was indeed Saddam’s ambassador to an al Qaeda affiliate within the borders of Iraq. But what of the claim that this affiliate was located in an area of Iraq outside of Saddam’s control? This claim is based on the fact that Ansar al-Islam operated in Iraqi Kurdistan and the assumption that the area was a “safe haven.”

But was Kurdistan actually a safe haven, or an area of Iraq that Saddam and his forces could never touch, let alone control? The Battle of Irbil suggests that it was not.

On August 31, 1996, Saddam Hussein sent about 30,000 men and over 100 tanks into Kurdistan—which was ostensibly protected by the UN—and seized its capital, Irbil. According to Donald Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, “Clinton took advantage of the incursion to launch forty-four cruise missiles against air defense targets in southern Iraq and to extend the southern no-fly zone. No action whatsoever was taken against the Iraqi forces engaged in reconquering Kurdistan, although the incursion into that region was the only justification publicly given for the U.S. attacks.” Further, “Nothing, of course, prevented Saddam from installing the Kurdish faction loyal to him in Irbil, destroying his enemies, and reasserting his control over the entire region—which he did.”[5]

If Saddam Hussein could seize the capital of Kurdistan and reassert control over the entire region in 1996, we can only conclude that he either tolerated the presence of Ansar al-Islam in that region or he, as claimed by al-Shamari, actively supported the al Qaeda affiliate.

manslagt
manslagt

@vetramon@manslagt

The al Qaeda affiliates

In Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke asked, “Was there an al Qaeda affiliate group, complete with terrorist training camp, in Iraq?’ He answered his own question with “Yes, in the area outside the control of Saddam Hussein.”[1] In a sympathetic biography on George W. Bush, Ronald Kessler made a similar point. “While the section of Iraq where [Abu Musab al-Zarqawi] operated was outside Hussein’s control,” Kessler wrote, “it was under the control of one of his agents, who had allowed al-Zarqawi to train terrorists in the use of poisons and explosives at this camp. This bin Laden associate allegedly masterminded the assassination of American diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman in October 2002.”[2]

The al Qaeda affiliate Clarke and Kessler referred to was Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish Sunni Islamist group. The Hussein agent Kessler referred to was Abu Wael, Ansar al-Islam’s third-ranking official. Kessler failed to explain how Abu Wael could control a section of Iraq, while his boss, Saddam Hussein, had no control whatsoever in that same section.

ABC News’ Brian Ross attempted to discredit the Ansar al-Islam-Saddam Hussein link prior to the invasion. In a World News Tonight segment, Ross presented an interview with Mullah Krekar, Ansar’s longtime leader and religious authority, who was living in Norway at the time. “[The Iraqi leaders] are our enemy,” Krekar said. “Really, they are also our enemy.” However, according to Stephen Hayes, the most interesting information from the ABC interview was never aired:

Krekar had explained to an ABC producer that the goal of Ansar al Islam was “to overthrow the Iraqi regime and replace it with an Islamic state.” Krekar was then asked about Abu Wael, the man Bush administration officials believe was a senior Iraqi Intelligence official. “I know Abu Wael for 25 years,” Krekar said. “And he is in Baghdad. And he is an Arabic member of our shura, our leadership council also.”


[1] p. 270.

[2] A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush, pp. 198-199 (paperback)

[3] http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/860ydczr.asp?pg=2

[4] http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/768rwsbj.asp?pg=2

[5] While America Sleeps, pp. 391-392.

manslagt
manslagt

@jmac@manslagt On at least two occasions after the invasion, Hillary Clinton said the intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD was consistent from the Clinton admin to the Bush 43 admin.

vetramon
vetramon

@manslagt I imagine by your post that you are one of those tea party knowitall and racist at the same time. It is easy to blame a president when this one continues with the disaster started by his predecessor. The surge suggested by the neocons, meaning filling Iraq with a powerful force of men armed with the latest killing machines could have solved the problem, this problem meaning the continuing  killing of armed resistance and more and more civilians on top of the more than the 100 thousands already killed. But the neocons and a lot of Americans don't learn from history. Mr Manslagt, the neocons of that time of the Vietnam War, also started with lies,  filled at one time Vietnam with 500 thousand soldiers, armed with the latest killing machines of  that time, from the air and ground, killing at the end of the war, more than 2 millions Vietnamese and leaving the Vietnam war ground with almost 50 thousand American soldiers dead.

   Next time you try to besmirch your president and his presidency, think that behind this democratic power, exists a more powerful machine, the power of the neocons and its greed for world power and its conquest of the wealth of the world. They don't give a rat's ass about you and the rest of the Americans and the people of the world. Absolute Power is absolute corruption.

vetramon
vetramon

@manslagt Truly, just to satisfy my poor knowledge, I would like you to show me the links, or the proof that there were Al Qaeda operators in Iraq during the dictatorship of Hussein. I would appreciate it very much if you post your information here. Thanks.

jmac
jmac

@manslagt  "Stovepiped"  questionable intelligence reports do not a link make.   Bush should have listened to Tenet.   He decided to go with Cheney.   



jmac
jmac

@manslagt @vetramon @NZAircraftFan The inspectors that were on the ground would differ with you on the WMD.    One of them was on C-Span after Colin Powell's speech saying that they were not where Powell was saying they were.  The inspector was there.  You'd think he might know.   One of them was right.  

manslagt
manslagt

@vetramon@manslagt@NZAircraftFanYou're quite ignorant on this topic. The UN resolutions after Operation Desert Storm stated that Saddam was required to demonstrate that he had destroyed his WMD. He failed to to do. Saddam's Iraq was also on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, and had been during the entire Clinton admin. Those conditions did not apply to Russia and China.

BrianEs
BrianEs

@jmac don't you think its past time you grew up?

manslagt
manslagt

@jmac@manslagt@DeanKlovens@NZAircraftFanOn two separate occasions after the invasion, Hillary Clinton said the intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD was "consistent" from the Clinton admin to the Bush 43 admin. In other words, the yellow cake intelligence (which a Senate committee stated was accurate) was not needed to justify the invasion.

jmac
jmac

@manslagt @DeanKlovens @NZAircraftFan Manslagt - being concerned that Saddam might be stocking chemical weapons or starting a nuclear program   ---   and invading based on a false report or yellow cake in Africa (that had been taken out of a previous Bush speech) are two entirely different things.   The neo-cons did everything they could to push Clinton to invade.   The neo-cons and Cheney had an easy target with Bush.   

manslagt
manslagt

@DeanKlovens @manslagt @NZAircraftFan And there is a great deal of evidence that suggests Saddam's WMD went to Syria during the months prior to the invasion. Saddam did something very similar to this prior to Operation Desert Storm, when he sent a large portion of his air force to Iran.

manslagt
manslagt

@gr8fun4me @manslagt @NZAircraftFan There's nothing wrong with me. I did the research. If you did the same, you would find that Madeleine Albright in January 2001 said that Saddam had WMD. Richard Holbrooke, Clinton's ambassador to the UN, said that same month that Saddam's WMD made him "a clear and present danger at all times." So, I ask again, if it was a lie to say that Saddam had WMD, did that lie originate with the Clinton admin.