From a long-time friend of mine, a report of his latest domestic airline flight:
Flew from XXX to XXX seated next to a career Army sgt headed to Iraq after R&R on 3rd tour. Fascinating conversation - and I realized that being seated next to Iraq-bound or -returning soldiers is commonplace on domestic air travel these days...
Gratifying to me was his saying that the troops really do feel appreciated and supported by the public, and can distinguish criticism of the war from criticism of the men and women in uniform (unlike in Vietnam days). None of the rest was gratifying at all:
• Surge has "worked" because Iraqis who just want to start killing one another again are biding their time. Après nous, le deluge.
• No one could comprehend the waste of money in US expenditures in Iraq.
• IEDs have become infinitely more sophisticated, very high tech now, and can penetrate all but one type of US vehicle. Suicide bombers can penetrate anything they want.
• When an IED blows up a vehicle in a convoy, and you are two vehicles away in the same convoy, the force of the explosion is so violent you are thrown against the interior of your vehicle, you are temporarily deafened, etc.
• Troop morale is high because they sense they are going home, most of them. But there is no way US can be out in five years or even ten without leaving too much equipment behind.
• Although troop morale is high, they universally hate George W. Bush now.
• Afghanistan is much more difficult than Iraq just on the basis of terrain alone. What we have in the way of tools and weapons is far better suited to Iraq than to Afghanistan.
It was poignant his describing the "huge" increases in pay resulting from Stop-Loss, plus Congress's efforts to help: $500 a month. To him, this is a really big sum, "on top of the extra $1000 per month we already get for being in combat."
Somehow additionally poignant on income tax day.