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Iraq: US Soldiers Complain of Low Morale

by Sue PlemingReuters
July 16th, 2003

Fed up with being in Iraq and demoralized by their role as peacekeepers in a risky place, a group of U.S. soldiers aired their plight on U.S. television on Wednesday and said they had lost faith in the Army.

Told several times they would be going home only to have their hopes dashed this week, a small group of soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, spoke of poor morale and disillusionment with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"If Donald Rumsfeld were here, I'd ask him for his resignation," one disgruntled soldier told ABC's "Good Morning America" show.

Asked by a reporter what his message would be for Rumsfeld, another said: "I would ask him why we are still here. I don't have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq."

About 146,000 U.S. troops are serving amid mounting security threats in postwar Iraq. The U.S. death toll of 147 combat deaths has now equaled the number killed in the 1991 Gulf War .

Sgt. Filipe Vega, said they had expected to return home soon after the fall of Baghdad on April 9. "We were told the fastest way back home is through Baghdad and that's what we did. Now we are still here," he complained.

The 3rd Infantry Division was the first U.S. unit to enter Baghdad after driving through southern Iraq from Kuwait.

Sgt. Terry Gilmore described a phone call with his wife, Stacey, when he told her he would not be coming home soon.

"When I told her she started crying and I almost started crying. I just felt like my heart was broken. I could not figure out ... how they could keep us here after they told us we were coming home."

Appearing on the same show, Stacey Gilmore said U.S. troops were ill-prepared for the post-war phase. "They were told after the fighting ended they were coming home. All I know is that morale is low and they are just hanging in there, sticking through it."

At a Pentagon briefing later, U.S. Central Command head Gen. John Abizaid, said he hoped troops from the 3rd Division would be home by September.

"It's very, very important to all of us to make sure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines know when they're coming home," he said.

Asked to comment on some of the soldiers' comments, Abizaid said he was saddened by them, but said it was essential for troops to realize they had to fight the battle against terrorism abroad.





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