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Soldiers Speak Out On Syria: ‘We Are Stretched Thin, Tired, And Broke’

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PAUL SZOLDRA
Business Insider
Sept 2, 2013

After President Obama said the United States “should” strike Syria during a Saturday speech in the Rose Garden, Republican Justin Amash (R-Mich.) took to Twitter to dispute that claim with comments from those who would likely carry out that order.

“I’ve been hearing a lot from members of our Armed Forces,” Amash tweeted. “The message I consistently hear: Please vote no on military action against Syria.”

Amash has been retweeting those thoughts for more than a day. But as a possible attack on Syria looms, there is much more to share than just what can be said in 140 characters.

I’ve reached out to my own sources who are either veterans or currently on active duty in the military, and asked them to share their thoughts on whether we should, or should not, intervene in the two-year-old Syrian civil war. Most have responded with a resounding no.

The general theme of most emails bring up personal experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan, the lack of a clear objective or end state in striking Syria, and the very muddled line between anti-government rebels and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists.

While President Obama has repeatedly said there would be no “boots on the ground,” many remain fearful that limited strikes could have consequences that lead to further action.

Here are two emails I received, and I am reprinting them here in full, only lightly edited for clarity.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

From an active-duty soldier, rank of Sergeant First Class:

I have to say I am fairly conflicted about Syria. My logic is generally fighting itself and my personal feelings towards taking action.

Part of me says that we need to take a stand against chemical weapons. President Obama announced that using chemicals weapons was the line, and Assad crossed it. The fact that even the French President has called for “proportional and firm action” says something. I’m not sure how the UN can stand by while Syria kills 1300 citizens, including women and children. The line was drawn, and Assad crossed it.

But does the U.S. always have to be the one to deliver consequences? We are stretched thin, tired, and broke. My personal feeling is no.

I’m more inclined to be ok with our involvement if we’re talking about actions by the Air Force and the Navy. We are too tired to put boots on the ground. But as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal tech, I know what would go into disarmament of chemical weapons.

And that’s just not a job I want anything to do with. And I don’t want my Soldiers doing it.

Not only is the process long and exhausting, it’s dangerous in different ways than we have been dealing with.

My gut is telling me that we don’t need to be World Police. And if we don’t have the UN for back up, it’s just too much for us to take on. We still haven’t finished Afghanistan; I just don’t see how we can take on another war, or even military actions that don’t affect us.

I can’t stand to sit by and watch innocent lives be taken in such a horrible manner, but we can’t really do this alone.

But if we don’t do something, who will? How many more innocent people have to die before anyone else will take action?

From former Cpl. Jack Mandaville, a Marine Corps infantry veteran with 3 deployments to Iraq:

In mid-March of 2003, I was a 19-year-old Private First Class waiting to cross the border into Iraq. I was aware that there was a significant portion of veterans (mostly Vietnam-era) back home who were fundamentally opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Like the majority of my peers and superiors, I didn’t really care nor did I give it much thought. We just wanted our war.

A little over 10 years later, the majority of individuals in my generation have recognised the Iraq folly for what it was. I’m still proud of my service, as are my buds, but we understand that Iraq was completely unnecessary and cost way too much money and, more importantly, American lives.

We witnessed our politicians and countrymen send us to war on a surge of emotion and quickly forget about us for nearly a decade. We had the training and capabilities to deal with Iraq, but were set up for failure by timid members of Congress and the Executive branch who futilely attempted to conduct a PC war.

The worst part about this Syria debacle, among many things, is how closely it resembles Iraq. Those Vietnam veterans who warned us about disastrous results in Iraq were doing so based off their experience in a war that, contrary to popular belief, was vastly different from our war and was separated by at least two decades.

Many veterans of Iraq are still in their twenties and have a firsthand understanding of Arab political issues. The complicated things we faced with Syria’s next door neighbours is freshly ingrained in our memories. How quickly the American people and our political leaders forget.

Our involvement in Syria is so dangerous on so many levels, and the 21st century American vet is more keen to this than anybody. It boggles my mind that we are being ignored.

My anger over this issue has actually made me seriously comment on our foreign policy for the first time since 2006 when I was honorably discharged after three stints in Iraq and subsequently watched it continue for nearly another six years.

I’m sickened that we’re putting ourselves in a position for another prolonged war where the American people will quickly forget about the people fighting it.

Are you a military veteran? Send me an email with your thoughts on possible military action in Syria (anonymity protected if preferred) — pszoldra@businessinsider.com

This article was posted: Monday, September 2, 2013 at 5:30 am





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