On Aug. 19, seven active duty soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division wrote an op-ed in The New York Times called “The War As We Saw It.” The piece expressed skepticism about “recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable”:
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. [...]
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. [...]
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
On Monday, two of these soldiers — Sgt. Omar Mora and Sgt. Yance Gray — died in a vehicle accident in Western Baghdad. The news of their deaths came as Gen. David Petraeus wrapped up his testimony to Congress about the Bush administration’s progress in Iraq.
The soldiers’ courage to speak out has helped change the debate. In yesterday’s Senate hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) read from the soldiers’ op-ed. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) also referenced the op-ed, challenging Petraeus’s rosy assessments:
HAGEL: By the way, I assume you read the New York Times piece two weeks ago — seven NCOs in Iraq, today, finishing up 15 month commitments. Are we going to dismiss those seven NCOs? Are they ignorant? They laid out a pretty different scenario, General, Ambassador, from what you’re laying out today.
Mora’s stepfather said that Mora believed the “situation in Iraq was desperate” and was sad that children in Iraq were “having to live” with the war going on. His mother said that Mora, who was on his second tour of duty, was supposed to be coming home in November.
One of the other five authors, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Murphy, was shot in the head while the article was being written. He is expected to recover.
UPDATE: Houston’s KHOU aired this report on Mora. Watch it: