Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Among US Troops in Iraq, Mixed Reviews of Rumsfeld's Resignation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Among US Troops in Iraq, Mixed Reviews of Rumsfeld's Resignation

Article excerpt

The two US Army soldiers were shocked when the morning paper was delivered Thursday to their sand-enclosed checkpoint in Baghdad.

"Rumsfeld Resigns," blared the headline in "Stars and Stripes," the military's newspaper. There was surprise. Then uncertainty. Then a return to realities that include an Iraqi death toll of more than 2,500 each month despite the US presence.

"I always backed the president and Rumsfeld ... but ... they misunderstood what Iraq was going to be," says a bulky soldier, keeping his rifle trained down a busy road. He spoke on condition of anonymity. "The situation is such that if we left now, it would be even more [screwed] up."

"I don't think anything is going to change," says the private first class. "I was reading [in Stars and Stripes] ... about, if you go into someone's house and mess it up, you've got to do the cleanup."

"There's no sense getting excited about [politics]," he adds, "because there is nothing you can do."

Reactions to the Democrats' sweep of Congress and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation ran the gamut among some of the 144,000 US troops in Iraq who have seen popular support for the war slide in recent months.

Iraqis widely favor the change, pinning more blame for every US mistake - from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal to allowing insurgency and sectarian violence claim tens of thousands of Iraqi lives - on Mr. Rumsfeld than on President Bush.

"I think this country is beyond help," says 1st Lt. Jeremiah Parker, from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Taji, in an e- mail. He made clear he was speaking as a private individual, and not as a representative of the US Army. "From my experience as a platoon leader ... patrolling the neighborhoods, talking to locals, I think this country will not see peace unless it is under some sort of dictator," says Lt. Parker, who is in the final stages of a recently extended 16-month deployment.

"I think the divisions between the ethnic and religious groups are far too long-existing to bridge with a fledgling democracy. I think the country will devolve into chaos for awhile and then a dictator will emerge and bring some semblance of order," writes Parker. "The [US] soldiers over here are the best in the world and will do whatever you tell them to do, but I know that many, and I would say most, [believe] that these people need to fix their own situation."

"I am very pleased with [Rumsfeld's] resignation," Parker adds, writing that increasing reliance on high tech and not "on actual people" means less funding that "impacts ... the counterinsurgency fight."

Not all troops are critical of Rumsfeld, despite a recent chorus of complaints from former senior generals, and an editorial last week in four privately owned military trade newspapers, including Army Times, that called for Rumsfeld's removal. …

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