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‘War As We Saw It’ Authors Killed

Posted on Sep 13, 2007

Two of the seven co-authors of “The War As We Saw It,” perhaps the most compelling analysis of the Iraq war, died on Monday in a vehicle accident. Sgt. Omar Mora and Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, along with five other active duty soldiers, wrote in The New York Times that “In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are—an army of occupation—and force our withdrawal.”

Another one of the authors was shot in the head before the essay was published, though he survived. That nearly half of these soldiers who argued so convincingly against rosy assessments of the war have been either killed of seriously injured is a tragic footnote to their story, particularly as their commanding general parades his upbeat appraisal through the halls of Congress.

Read Truthdig editor Robert Scheer’s take on “The War As We Saw It.”

The War As We Saw It (from

Editor’s note: This Op-Ed piece by seven active-duty U.S. soldiers was published in The New York Times on Aug. 19. Two of its authors, Sgt. Omar Mora and Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, were killed Monday in a vehicle accident in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Jeremy Murphy, another of the seven authors, was shot in the head in Iraq on Aug. 12, before the article was even published. He is recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland and, through a woman who identified herself as his sister, declined a request from Salon for comment.

BAGHDAD—Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

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By Jeanine Molloff, September 14, 2007 at 10:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

These soldiers of conscience should receive a medal for their grace and courage to tell the truth no matter what the cost.  The letter to our collective conscience was well written and thought out.  It is indeed convenient for Cheney/Bush/ and the cowardly congress that these soldier/authors are mysteriously being murdered.  These soldiers knew that the minute the peice was published their lives were forfeit.  These soldier/authors have my immense respect.

Jeanine Molloff
Nazi Slayer

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By slykido, September 14, 2007 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pat Tillman comes to mind, again and again.

God bless the man and women who ACTUALLY defend America form ALL enemies, foreign and domestic.

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By sharerisk, September 14, 2007 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

It really gets you when soliers with intelligence and conscience are killed because they defend the Constitution and not Commander Bush.  My heart goes out to the families - - fathers, mothers,brothers, sisters…  The world sees these soldiers as martyrs and the pride of the part of America that is fundamentally decent.

But please do not forget the wounded.  In this war, the death rate is low and that is what neocons and chicken hawks croon about.  Let’s not fall into that trap, because the seriously wounded - - physically and mentally traumatised - - now number more than 100,000.  These young people with their families will bear the pain and suffering for a lifetime trying to sate the bloodlust the Wall Street Warlocks and Vampires.

Let us not forget the 1 million Iraqis slaughtered, 3 million wounded and 4-5 million refugees, half of whom are little children and babies and the elderly.

However, this is not going to end soon.  I believe that we are only half way through this nightmare.  Towards 2016 (after the Hellishry-Obamination presidency ends)and America is exhausted of treasure, armies and the hubris of its ignoramuses will a new and better world order emerge.

The Phoenix of enlightenment will rise from the ashes of a barbaric people just as it emerged in ancient Egypt to alight on the BenBen stone.

But now I see a war with Iran and another 20-30 million dead in the ME and elsewhere, about 100 million wounded and a world so traumatised by the hellish insanity of financiers and cheerleaders of this vast evil that America and its allies will be removed from the history of humankind.

Sorry if I have hurt the feelings of the good peopke here, but this needed to be said.

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By hippy pam, September 14, 2007 at 2:40 am Link to this comment


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By Enemy of State, September 13, 2007 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

It doesn’t look to this commentor as if it was some sort of setup -or even punishment via a dangerous assignment. But it sure underscores the cost of our muddling timekeeping. It will probably cost over another 1000 servicemen (and servicewomen) their lives to kick this thing down the road to the next administration.

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By scurvybro, September 13, 2007 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

The usual gang of Bushbots who monitor this site is late with its assorted accusations of treason, undermining the troops, hating America, etc.

It must be eating at you guys, wondering why these seven soldiers hate themselves and their comrades. Come on, guys, you’re slipping.

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By mary, September 13, 2007 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment

This article is really a heartbreak.  When will the insanity end…..

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By Dale Headley, September 13, 2007 at 11:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bush probably sees this as “two down five to go.”  Now if he could only get Frank Rich to go to Iraq and ride in a humvee.

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By lawlessone, September 13, 2007 at 10:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How come those who get the data and predictions dead right about the Iraq War always seem to end up dead, demoted, banished, fired, muzzled, or slimed while those who get it horribly wrong get medals?

Too bad we can’t sue Presidents for malpractice.  Frankly, the toenail clippings of those sergeants were worth than Bush.

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By Kevin C, September 13, 2007 at 7:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It does make you wonder….... 2 this week, one shot in the head…...

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By lodipete, September 13, 2007 at 6:36 am Link to this comment

I understand that a 3rd trooper who signed the article was shot in the head before it was printed but survived. Any Blackwater Security operatives in the vicinity of these “accidents”?

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By hippy pam, September 13, 2007 at 4:25 am Link to this comment


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