My personal testimony of the Iraq "war".Submitted by sethr11 on Mon, 12/30/2013 - 16:52
I was commenting on the thread The Guardian: "I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on", and another person suggested I write DP original about my experiences.
I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in September of 2000, at the age of 19. Two weeks shy of my 1 year anniversary, 9/11 happened. I spent the next two weeks keeping F-15 fighters fueled up in case they needed to respond quickly over the skies of Seattle. Then I was deployed to Spain for 3 months to fuel tankers that would go up and fuel the bombers that were flying from the U.S. nonstop to pummel Afghanistan. Another 6 months after being back at my home base, I asked for and received a 3 year tour to England, which required me to add 10 months onto my 4 year enlistment.
When the U.S. built up in preparation for an invasion of Iraq in early 2003, I was shipped off to an Air Base in Kuwait. It was an incredible feat of logistics watching the base build up from nothing to upwards of two hundred fighter planes and all the support that it required. I remember people writing things on bombs to be dropped, things about how this was payback to Iraq for 9/11. Once the attack on Iraq commenced, It was extremely busy for about 2 weeks, and then the "shock and awe" was over. It was on the ground troops (for the next 9 years) after that. I volunteered to drive a fuel truck up to a captured Air Base in Iraq, but I wasn't needed for that.
I remember at one point when I was out working, thinking about my principal in elementary school. After standing up to a bully once, he told me that violence was never the answer. I looked around at all the high tech machinery of death, and I started laughing hysterically to myself. Look around I thought. Sometimes violence is the answer. At the time, I had been very heavily indoctrinated with tribalism. Obviously those faceless unknown Iraqis were somehow of less value, and I believed in the lie that such a thing as a "surgical strike" existed.
I never contemplated the notion of human error, or that a child would only need to be in the vicinity of dropped ordinances to be traumatized for life. Thinking about such things in my immature mind would be unpleasant, logic was an inconvenience, no need for any of that.
I opted not to reenlist in the AF, for a few reasons. All of the guys that were of high moral character were not re-upping. All of the awards and early promotions were going to the most slimy of my peers. I had a brief marriage fail by being gone all the time. That, and I was a manchild like the military wants you to be. I wasn't in any hurry for a promotion, as the biggest factor to my getting out was that I would soon be a Sergeant, and I wouldn't just be hearing propaganda, I would be expected to sell propaganda. I had too much integrity to lie, and I was too cynical to believe in what I would be selling.
I wound up working as a contractor over in Iraq, the money was great and I still bought into the idea of a war on terror being legitimate, despite my awareness of how pathetic beauracracies are. In 2008 the base I was on was getting routinely attacked by insurgent rockets. I got to feel things from the other end, the shoe on the other foot, being terrorized from the sky at night by people trying to kill me. While sitting in a bunker one night, I was imagining what my own splattered corpse would look like should one of those Soviet rockets land on me. I was filled with hate, deep dark hate. I was imagining there was probably just a few guys out there somewhere with a pickup truck, jerry rigging rockets, and attacking us.
I was mad that the mighty Army could not get them, even though they attacked the same night every week, in the same window of time. I wanted them dead, how dare they threaten my life. I was so angry that I was fantasizing about how great it would be to line them up on their knees and personally walk down the line putting a bullet in the back of each of their heads. I don't say this to sound like a tough guy, this is mentally the place I was in. I would have been cool with it.
I had plenty of time to think over there, and on a level I respected the insurgents. They were risking their lives, and it was me on their land. I always find it stupid when someone calls a suicide bomber a coward, there couldn't be a harder thing to do really. It isn't any different than charging a machine gun nest in WW2. At least charging a machine gun nest, there is a chance you will make it through.
What really started to change my world view was when an Army vet my age, that I worked with as a contractor, first put forth the idea that 9/11 might have been an inside job. When he said it, I thought it was crazy. I thought no way, it would have undermined my belief in everything my life had evolved around for the past 6 years or so. He was a high moral character guy, and very smart, so I didn't dismiss it as him being an idiot. Once I started looking into alternative theories, and considering the corruption around me, as a contractor, and in the military, the bigger picture was making more sense.
I couldn't stand working in Iraq much after that, so I quit and went back home. I was having extreme anxiety problems, I couldn't be around more than a person or two at a time, I had nightmares, and I didn't fit with civilians. Nothing they talked about seemed important, and I was wired round the clock for fight or flight. I went to the VA hospital, hoping to get some counseling and work some stuff out. I found that other than an initial interview, the only thing they would do is put you on anti-depressants. The only thing beyond a minute of small talk was to ask you about the medication, and adjust the levels. No counseling was available. America does not support its troops with bandages, only bullets.
The drugs made me like a zombie, no lows, but also no highs. I couldn't do the zombie thing more than a few months, and without tapering, I got rid of the brain chemical altering pills. I experienced psychosis and extreme paranoia. I thought people were hunting me, that my food was poisoned. I wound up back to back days in police handcuffs being delivered to an emergency room.
I had been aware of the staggering suicide numbers, and the drugs, and lack of counseling to combat the self hatred for harming others offensively, as the reason for the numbers. I kept working up the nerve to off myself, just to make the pain stop. I was rehearsing with a gun barrel in my mouth even (Mauser 8mm rifle). At this point though I had a baby boy, and a fiance overseas. I had a father that wasn't around, and a crappy childhood, so how crappy would it be for me to check out on my kid. My pain had to stop though. I was raised without any faith growing up, no church, none of that. It however was time to exercise some faith, or die, so I dropped to my knees and begged Christ to forgive me. From that point I started to heal, I swear I felt a supernatural spirit moving through my body a few times after that. Holy spirit.
I have since united my family from overseas and become a different person. I look at my 4 year old son now and I see hope in the world that I didn't think existed. I don't mean for any of this to be a religious debate. I was an atheist too. I used to mock people that needed an invisible sky daddy. I do now believe in God, but that is because first I met the devil, and he was me.