Friday, 10 January 2014

American Sniper - The Battle For Fallujah - A Poem By Darryl Mason

Full Version

American Sniper


1.

"Kill one man, terrorise a thousand"
the instructor had pointed to the sign
on the wall at the school where I learned to kill
Camp Pendleton, California
it didn't have a fancy name, this school
like 'tactical depopulation training'
we called it what it was
Sniper School
three months training
then they sent me here

"Kill one man, terrorise a thousand"
he smiled when he read the sign to me
my scores were good
he told me he was proud of me
never heard a man say that to me before
I see him now still tapping that sign
to a roomful of kids who are now
mostly dead
or wounded

"Kill one man, terrorize a thousand"
That's what the sign said
So I learned it
and I loved it and now
I'm living it


2.

a rooftop in Fallujah
came in by helicopter
Black Hawk at full crank
flying low enough to collect television aerials
others in my squad are on other buildings
on other rooftops
close by
we're alone here
not enough of us to go in pairs
not today, they said
you'll be okay
I know I'll be okay
I'm a fucking killing machine

we're alone
but we should be able to get each other out
if we have to
that's what they kept telling us on the way in
"we don't leave our boys behind"
if we need them
they'll come
they'll come and take us home

I look at my watch and work out the time
difference
it's Saturday morning in America
mom will be making pancakes
I can remember the smell
I can imagine myself still in bed
at home
in bed, that warm breakfast smell
coming up the stairs and into my room
if I think about that smell long enough
I can taste those pancakes


3.

I waited five hours before I did anything
to stir them from their homes
waited for my orders
got them
did it
one man
a thousand terrified
they don't know where I am
the radio has gone silent
I wait here for them to tell me
what to do next

My rifle is a M40A3 bolt action
I already knew this rifle
long before I held it in my hands
for the first time
I've used it on sniper mission in Iraq before
even though this is my first tour
I played the video game the recruiter gave me
for free
I was just walking through the mall
"here, this is for you"
I took the game home
I played the game, a few thousand times
American Army
and I didn't stop playing it
until I learned all the weapons,
all the ambush scenarios,
all the escape scenarios,
all the sniper missions
I played the game
of being a sniper in Iraq
same gun, same place
but now it's for real

when I was playing the game I never felt
the hot electricity feeling
that I feel right now
that makes me feel so alive
but so tired
and when I played the game
I didn't feel the sand
that's inside my underwear
wearing away my skin
when I played the game
I didn't feel the sticky heat
or the cold sweat
that lives on us all now
like a second skin
it was only a game

4.

they told me the enemy wears disguises
the terrorists
my commander told me they dress as women,
as children, as old men
"every fucking donkey cart
can transport weapons", he said
"every ambulance can transport insurgents
this is free fire"
but my orders for now are simple
if I don't like the look
of someone down there on the street
I can take them out
"Do they know they have to stay inside?"
I asked on the helo coming here,
to my rooftop in Fallujah
but nobody answered
"Just pick them off when you see them"
My CO said that
a direct order
I saw him before I fast roped down to my rooftop
he looked me straight in the eyes like
he knew he would never see me again
"God loves you," he said
and that was all
then I was out and heading
down

4.

I remember last week
the blur of days
never enough sleep
boredom like a fog
we cleared the outer ring of
Falljuah streets
on foot
block by block
kick in every door
turn over every bed
empty every drawer
the women here have the best
underwear and lingerie
I've ever seen

last week :
our sound truck is parked a few blocks away
from where we foot patrol down another
ghost town alley
the sound truck is jacked
the super fat
opening riff
of AC/DC's 'Hell's Bells' blasts
through Fallujah back streets
and alleys full of dusty echoes
the first time I heard that riff
maybe an hour ago
I cheered and punched the sky
just like I did at the AC/DC gig
I saw when I was 14
dad took me for my birthday
but now Hell's Bells' is on again
solid wall of noise from the sound truck
14th time today I've heard it
and it doesn't sound right
the sound is supposed to scare the haji
but ain't they heard AC/DC before?
maybe they ain't heard it like this
this loud this fat this solid
I've never heard it like this before either
uh
it's starting to make me feel
sick
we did something to the sound
it was remixed by psy-ops
to really fuck with them
get inside their heads
scramble their brains
but we didn't have enough ear plugs
so I missed out
don't matter anyway, that noise
gets into your bones
and your bowels
it lives inside you
like a virus

A few dozen Saturday mornings ago
back home
I sat in my room and played that AC/DC riff
on my guitar
until my mum yelled at me to quit
I just turned it up louder

this sound makes you sick
it vibrates inside you
even when the sound cones aren't pointed
at you, it still gets you
it goes through the walls
some guy back at the base calls the sound truck
"The Shitinator"
if they really crank that fucker up
you just might crap yourself to death

it's not funny now
Angus' guitar gongs inside my skull
and the words of 'Hell's Bells'
mean something different
here
there's a line, a lyric
I just heard it again
"you're only young but
you're gonna die"
we play it to scare the haji
but it scares us, too
motherfucker change the fucking tune

5.

my family had a farm for 150 years
we fought in wars
then we farmed the land
then we fought in wars
my father took me back to our farm once,
after we sold it to pay his health care bills
we went back to see the land
that used to be ours
he took me into the north field
and we cut our thumbs
like his dad had done with him
and his grandad had done
with his grandad
thumbs bleeding, we let the scarlet
flow
dripping into the dirt
mauve mud
we let our thumbs drip
so our blood would stay in the soil
even if we weren't there to farm it anymore
"you leave your memory here now"
my dad said
"blood and earth,
always reunite"

6.

I fell asleep
I can't do that
went dreaming of ten years back
five months back
one week back
I fell asleep
I can't do that
gotta stay sharp on
my rooftop in Fallujah
but the go-go pills aren't working
not like they used to
the meth is better, sharper
but our supply went up
when the ammo dump got hit
last month

radio crackles, a sweep and clear
coming through
I look over the edge of the rooftop
and watch the front end of another unit
enter the block
the doors get kicked in
the angry men get hooded
the women only get slapped
when they won't shut the fuck up
or when they start grabbing
who knows what the fuck they're all
saying

we hit them with the sound truck
we hit them with our light shows
the holograms that look like
ghosts
running through their streets
but they never want to leave
"get the fuck out of here!"
you can scream in their faces
but they stay
like their souls are glued to the floors
of their homes
sometimes the special units let loose
the dogs that were mixed with pigs
in some labs
so the stories go
fucking nightmares in the living daylight
slobbering up your stairs
they'll eat your liver
if you let them bite through your flesh
"Get the fuck out of here!"
but the hajis don't want to go
so we have to go in
we always have to go in

7.

on my rooftop in Fallujah
sometimes they call to me
in weird English, bad accents
stuff they've learned off satellite TV
they call to me to come down
to give up
they don't want to kill me
they say
you're all alone and no-one's coming
to get you out
they say
we'll slit your throat until we see your
spine
they say
none of it bothers me
I did three days in a shipping container
with a soundtrack of babies screaming
and dogs getting tortured
and calfs in a slaughterhouse
screaming while they watched
their cow mothers get gutted
alive
sounds of misery and terror
I can block out human voices
their threats mean nothing to me

but then I hear her voice
a woman's voice
A New Yorkish accent
like a babe from Sex And The City
she calls to me
fuckit, she sounds hot
"I lived in New York City for twelve years"
she says
"I'm an American, just like you"
oh fuck
"I came back here to be with my family
when I knew the war was going to begin"
I don't want to hear her voice
but I need to
it's the only familiar thing here
this alien world
this video game world
the game the recruiter gave me taught
me how to target
how to track
how to choose a body part to blow
away
the game had Iraqis chanting, singing
but I never heard no hot-sounding
New York chicks
in that game
calling to me

"I know you're scared, I'm scared
too"
she says
but she sounds strong
defiant
"I know you don't want to kill me
and my family and my friends
we are your friends
we understand they made you come here
we both have the same enemy
don't we?"
shutupshutupshutthefuckup
"if you come down and you come to my door"
she says
"then we must let you enter our home and
you must eat with us
even if you are our enemy"
the food they cook
always smells good
better than what we get
"you can come and eat with us"
she says
"you will be our guest
and we will look after you
"this is the way it has been
for as long as my people have lived"
and I can smell the food
and it smells good, it smells
warm
"please come down and eat with us"
I want to but I can't
"we have soup, you can eat then
sleep, no-one else has to know"
sleep, I've forgotten what that is
real sleep
when you don't wake up every
twenty minutes with a jolt
when another five mortars
fall into the Green Zone
"come down and eat with us, please?
we forgive you"
she says
"can you hear me?
yes, I can
"we forgive you"


8.

they told us
in the first training week
over and over
the old man with the dead eyes
he said it again and again
"Saddam did 9/11
he bombed America with our own planes"
Saddam, Osama
Osama, Saddam
Saddama, Oddam
they got together
they made 9/11 happen
that's what they told us
they showed us some movie that
explained it all
Saddam did 9/11
that's why we came here
to get Saddam, get rid of that fuck
for what he did to us
"we fight them in Iraq
so we don't have to fight them at home"
Saddam did 9/11
so we do Saddam
and every fucker like him
justice out of a double-barrel

But when I got here
nobody else believed that shit
about 9/11
that Saddam and Osama were
parking their cars in the same garage
someone said, they laughed and they said
"They got your head all filled up with their
lies
you sorry fuck"


9.

up here on my rooftop
in Fallujah
watching the dawn
so beautiful
never seen anything so beautiful
like soft fire in slow motion
I wait and I sit and I think
not about things I want to think about
things just come into my head
my dad singing bits of old
Bruce Springsteen songs
then just one line
over and over
"is a dream a lie if it don't come true
or is it something worse?"
he used to hum-mumble that line a lot
before he killed himself
like a mantra
maybe like a prayer

my dad drove an armoured bulldozer
in the First Gulf War
he was there for work as an engineer
but he drove that dozer better
than the guys trained to do it
he used that bulldozer to push huge walls
of sand
into trenches filled with men and boys
Iraqi Republican Guard
they volunteered so their daughters
wouldn't get raped
my dad pushed the sand over them
he said they hugged each other down there
in those trenches
he said most of them looked like
little boys
"they didn't know what the fuck
was happening to them"
he told me
but I only thought about the way he described
the sound of the bullets dinging off the dozer blade
he buried hundreds of men and boys
in those trenches
his friends buried thousands more
they were alive when the sand was pushed
over them
but not for long
and then dad and his crew, they
smoothed the sands of that desert
they didn't leave a trace
there were no bodies left to see
when they were done
they were the enemy
"I buried them alive"
he said one night
he was drunk
he woke me long after midnight
to tell me what he did, back then
I was 12
"I looked back as we drove away,"
he said, his voice shivering
but that night was warm
he shivered and said
"where there had been thousands of men
in trenches, ready to defend their country
when I looked back I saw nothing but sands
they were gone, the desert swallowed them
they became a part of it forever"
Then dad said
"Maybe they were never there
maybe they never existed"
then he died


10.

I sit on my rooftop
my rifle ready
watching the stars
eating my MRE
smelling the warm food smells
from down below
amongst the smell of the dead
eating this shit and
waiting for my orders
when I was training, back home
they made me wait two days and
two nights on the parade ground
before they told me
what to do next

I sit and I wait
and I think
I think about what my President said to me
to us
to the world
the stuff he gave us to arm our souls
the words that will carry us through this War
and back home again
his words, I can memorised them
soul armor

he said
"Liberty and Freedom are God's gift
to every man and woman
who lives in this world"
I saw a Marine back at base
on Monday before I came here
to this rooftop in Fallujah
I saw a Marine loading his M-16 full of
armor piercing bullets and grenades
he called the bullets "Liberty"
he called the grenades "Freedom"
we distribute these gifts from God
we are holy Santas armed
to the fucking teeth

My President said
"Killers kill"
he said
"they kill because they hate freedom"
I'm a killer
I'm a good killer
but I kill to give Freedom
I think
I kill to spread Liberty
I think
"we are doing God's work"
my President said
does my President want me to kill these people?
Yes
Does God want me to kill these people?
I don't know
"We do not know God's plan"
then what am I doing here?
"but we know His ways are right and just"
if I'm doing God's work
even if we don't know His plan
then all those I kill must be part of the plan
His plan
for a Better World
so my ways are right and just
who doesn't want to live in a
betterworld?

my radio crackles
I get my new order
"Zip any haj you want,
make some chaos"
the rules of engagement say no
but the orders say yes
I look through the sights of my rifle
choose an enemy non-combatant
in the street down below
don't this fucker know about the curfew?
a smooth squeeze and
this old guy's head peels open
blood arcs in a thin shower
scarlet rain
he staggers in a circle
arms reaching for where
the rest of his head used to be
I cancel him at the knees
'Hell's Bells' echoes in from blocks away
the soundtrack of this man's death
"we're coming for you"
we're already here

11.

the orders keep coming
I keep following the orders
that's what we do
that's why they train us
the way they do
we follow the orders we're given
and that's all

the ones who come to look at what you've done
eyes like saucer, lips quivering
are easier to take out if you make a big mess
they just stand there
shocked and awed
a single shot
the crack and phfump of flesh impact
another and another
the blooms of blood in slow motion
and then the onlookers are
part of the show as well
it gets surreal
it's okay
they've all got guns
on them or at home
the more you kill
the more come out
to see who you've killed
"don't leave any wounded"
they all die,
quick and fast
the rules of engagement changed
on the wounded
months ago
or maybe years ago
that's what they told me
I do what I'm told

the screaming, raging haji fucksstill don't know where I am

12.

the hours evaporate like
the spit in my mouth
it's quiet down there now
and I'm
bored
I follow a child through my sights
just for a bit of tracking practice
I haven't had orders, heard a word
for hours
I can hear the fighting echo
through the ancient streets
and alleys
blocks away
the fighting drew away all the armed men
who were looking for me
this ancient city
older than America
that blows my mind
I wish I knew more history
I wish I knew more about these people
I came here to kill

I track the child
a little boy
blocks away, another world away
he doesn't know or care what I did here
a few hours back
the little boy runs, he laughs
with his friend
he spins then falls
is he playing a game?
but then I hear the cracking echo
of my own rifle
the little boy's friend screams
and people pour from their homes
I don't feel any different about
kids or women or old people
or some insurgent fuck with an RPG
my president told me,
I'm doing God's work
anyone who dies
was supposed to die
even this little kid
we fight them here
so we don't have to fight them
at home

there's a lot of people running around
down there
they pick up the bits of the boy
that were blown off
there's frenzy and madness
two women scream like sirens
and hit themselves
fuckohfuck
I should call this one in
a little too much chaos
in the late afternoon
there's a unit with tanks
and a sound truck
only a few blocks away
this crowd looks like they could eat them
all alive
the metal and the flesh
their rage is like human
earthquakes

I didn't mean to kill the kid
But God must have wanted him
or else he wouldn't be dead now
the men are coming back
they see me peaking down
from my rooftop
and the yelling brings more men
pouring out of the houses I thought
were mostly empty
should have been empty
cleared
men running, a swarm
they disappear below the edge of my building
I can't see them
but I can hear them
coming up the stairs

13.

the training kicks in
I'm a machine that will survive this
then the real me can take over
the controls again
I remember what I have to do
the lesson comes clear and loud
"to effect escape, give them dead,
but give them brutally wounded,
that'll keep them busy
buy some time, boy
you've got the cash"
I move across the roof
low and fast
I reach the stairs that lead down inside
they're coming up
a thick wad of angry men
one mass of flesh and hair and fury
I can feel the heat of their fury
hotter than the day
I drop two grenades down the stair well
and get the fuck out of the way
the building rocks beneath me
the stairs collapse
so much screaming
down below the street fills
with dust and crying
I dig my Uzi out of my kit
my back up, my toy
I empty the clip
into the crowd
more people fall
chaos and carnage
who ordered this disorder?

I'm sure I had another clip
more ammo, but I'm out
I've got a knife
more like a machete
my friend in the machine shop
back at base engraved
"Throat cutter" down the blade
how long have I got?
get on the radio, get the helo in

"get me out"
"we're coming in...soon"
"get me the fuck out of here!"

I call in my signal
tell them I'm under attack
confirm my location
they say, calmer than me,
"keep your head down, boy
there's a hell storm on her way"
I don't know that that means
but I understand
when I see it coming
streaking
it makes no sound
the sound hasn't caught up
yet
the missile disappears
into the building next door
it seems to swell
the blasts and shock waves
crumple the facades of other buildings
pouring fat chunks of rubble into the streets
down onto the people
running into each other
over each other
panic like a poison gas
something happens to my ears
as the blast wave smashes me
throws me back, tumbling
I don't hear the cracks
just the dull twitch of nerves
cut off from communicating with each other
in my head
something snaps
and I can hear
like I'm hearing for the first time
but everything is muffled
I can't stand up
why can't I stand up?
I drag myself to the edge of my rooftop
and look for the others
like me
on their own rooftops

through the sweet, black smoke
and the dust, concrete and blood rain
I see another American sniper
he was in my helo coming here
they dropped him two blocks away
a crowd pours onto his rooftop
from the stairs he didn't destroy
he fires but the crowd only surges faster
they swallow him up, consume him
they throw things down off his rooftop
to the people below
just shapes at first
then I can see what they are
a helmet, body armour, boots
then other pieces
pieces of him
they tore him apart

the radio, the radio
I can't reach anybody
I don't even get static
what's the fucking good of all those
fucking satellites up there
if I can't even call for rescue?
when are they coming to get me?
why am I still here?

14.

hours later, or maybe less than one
the radio, the radio
still doesn't work, like it will
never work again
like my legs, maybe
dull and limp
I push the button on my belt that tells them
something really fucked has happened to me
and they have to come and get me
out
pick me up, take me home
I push the button again

they told us
they can find us
down to two metre square proximity
I want to go home now
I need to go home now
be back in my bedroom
on the other side of the world
maybe if I play the video game again
it can be like this never happened
like a dream of a life
never lived
beyond the game
my bed, my old soft bed
my comics and my movie posters
my baseball gear
and childhood toys
I never threw away
I can see my mother standing
in the doorway of my room
looking down at my empty bed
as she wonders
what is happening to me
I know my bed has never been so warm
so comfortable
I will pull the blankets up over my head
like I did when I was a child
and when I pull the blankets down
again
this will all be over
the fading memory of a dream
that seemed more real
than real life
I will curl up in a ball in my bed
and dream of here
this place
this rooftop in Fallujah
and I will laugh and thank God
that I survived this
and then I will go downstairs
for pancakes
why doesn't the radio work?

15.

it's still night
gunfire and flames pop and crackle
the sound truck blasting AC/DC is gone
echos of screaming
desperate crying
chanting mourning
reach my ears, but the dull wall
inside my head
still blocks most of the sound
turns it down, makes it thick
I bled from my ears as I slept
and dreamed of home
dreamed I was home again
but I woke up here
it's still night
but almost dawn now
I need water
my throat is on fire
I need bullets
I need food
I need to see that helo
coming in through the dust storm
that fills the distant sky
I hold my knife, ready
I can hear them coming up
to get me
now they've cleared the bodies
and wounded from where the stairs
used to be
I can hear them coming
I can't stop them but
I can secure my zone of defence
they come onto the rooftop
my rooftop in Fallujah
there's so many of them


I can't stand so I can't fight
I can't crawl away
but I will fight
they crowd around me
all men, young and old
their faces sad, tired
one comes forward
the others respect him with space
he kneels down in front of me
I slash at him with the throat cutter
but he knocks my hand away
lets me keep hold of the knife
I look into the eyes
of my enemy
where's the demon?
he doesn't scare me
he doesn't look evil
or screaming with crazy rage
not like the movies they showed us
back in basic training
he's not ranting and yelling
about Israel and Allah
he's just a man
and his eyes hold terrible truth
like his heart has been broken
more times than I've lived years
I can see the history of horror
that has been his life
in his eyes
I can't speak his language
they didn't even tell me
how to say hello

In the Green Zone last month
mortars and homemade missiles
came pouring in
killing contract security guards
cooks and interpreters
every time something exploded
inside the Green Zone
I could hear the insurgents
chanting their joy
they chanted louder
when another ammo dump
went up
explosions so high they burnt through
the clouds
I remember now what the insurgents chanted
into that long night
howling like coyotes
in the Arizona scrub lands
where I went camping as a kid
when dad still took us on long drives
to see the America we never saw
on TV
I remember the words of those
who bombed us in the Green Zone
I find enough spit in my mouth to speak
the man waits for me
he quiets the crowd behind him
with a raised hand
they want to kill me
but he stops them without a word
"Aloha Ackbar" I say
He smiles, a faint grin
"Allah Ackbar?"
I nod quickly
"Allah Ackbar," he repeats and I know
he's correcting me, gently
I say it again
and the crowd whispers it
in rhythms
The man gently takes the knife
from my hand
it's like letting go of life
his men move into position
all around me
"Allah Ackbar," the man repeats
and I echo him
not scared not scared
but ready
I don't want to die
but I want it to be quick
"God is great," the man whispers
to me, with an American accent
he's one of them
but he's one of us
another one who went home to fight
for his land and his people
"Allah Ackbar, God is great"
he says, and I nod
I know
I know he is
"We both love the same God," he says
"God is great"
I know
"God loves you," the man whispers
as he slides my knife
smoothly
deeply
into my throat

16.

it's a falling dream
all the way to the ground
I tumble forever
I see the world turning
spinning
the alley and the people
the sky so blue I could swim it
then red
forgot for a moment that
my throat has been cut
my blood sprays out
as I fall
a crimson arc
it holds solid for a moment
like a red fan
then breaks into a million drops
I fall through it
my blood

I hit the ground as a child
falls down
not like a sack of wet wheat
the way adults fall
I flop and then bounce
onto my back
dull snaps and a whoosh as the last
of my air
shoots from my lungs
don't need it anymore


17.

there's a wall in my hometown
with the names of all the brave soldiers
from my forgotten farming town
all the brave soldiers
who died in one hundred years of
American wars
so far away from their farms
my name will go up there, too
now
on that old wall
my father's name is up there
the names of six of my uncles
both of my grandfathers
both of my great grandfathers
my family bred to fill the uniforms
all the brave soldiers of my family
I don't feel brave
I feel scared
I feel alone
the war stories I heard as a kid
when grand dad whispered his heroics
with a shudder
of his time in the Pacific
never had this part in them
the part with the dying
I feel like I'm ten years old
again
playing soldiers in the woods
pretending to be dead
but I won't get up and dust off my jeans
and go home now for chocolate milk
I never imagined this could be so real
I want to turn off the game and
step out of this world
back into my world
my real world
of my hometown and my mother
and my friends down the street
walk out of here
back into my world
back into my bedroom
into my bed
where dreams seem so real
until you wake up
back into my world again
back into the American I knew
before I knew so much
about the world outside

I see the sand as the darkness falls
I see their feet, their sandals, their shoes
some are taking them off
I know what happens next
I'm the statue of Saddam today
I think of how I was trained
to put my boot on their faces
in their faces
to "break them"
it was always about humiliation
strip them naked
parade them before women
their pride and dignity was a weapon
we could use against them all
interrogation through humiliation
"it'll drive them nuts"
they told me
and it did
I put my dirty boot in the faces
of the very first people I met
when I came to this land
their land
we were trained to do that
they told us to do that
the boot on the face
before we even asked
the first question

I can feel them now
the warmth of their hands on me
I can't feel any pain
as I fade
the warmth of their hands
when everything else is so cold
the warmth comforts me
grandma rubbed my elbows
and my knees
when I fell over
playing soldier
it feels like that, her hands, her warmth
all over
their hands on me
now inside me
my blood touches the sand and I feel

something of me pass into this land
this ancient land
a trace of me left behind here
now
I only wanted them to be free
like us
my blood is now a part of two lands
my home and here
Iraq
this ancient land
grains of sand
stars in the sky
how does that go?
I hope God really is great
I hope he's waiting for me
with my father and grandfather
all the soldiers of my family
waiting for me

Please be great
Please be there



THE END


Note from 2007: The Iraq War is the first war in history where videos games have been used as a recruiting tool. The American Army game was created by the US Department of Defence specifically to reach teenage American males, and to initiate them into a reality of fighting an urban war in Muslim/Arab countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

American Army is claimed to have millions of young Americans playing online in any given week, and at least five million free copies of the game were distributed by recruiters in malls across the United States. Special rooms inside the malls were sometimes set up to allow ten or twenty teenagers at a time to try their hand at the urban combat war game, with recruiters on hand to encourage them to sign up for the Army.

I wrote a rough draft of this poem in late 2004, after the massive US assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah. There were a number of horrific media stories detailing how some young American snipers were dropped on the roof tops of buildings in Fallujah and left there for days at a time, with radios that didn't work and no back-up, running out ammo, food, water and hope.

I found this poem again last week and finished it. The War in Iraq seems no closer to ending than it did in late 2004. 1900 more Americans have died there, and probably 100,000 more Iraqis are dead, nobody seems to know the true figure, or wants to admit it.

More than 300,000 young Americans have died in more than 100 years of America's international wars and interventions.

Compared to that total, 3500 dead Americans in Iraq seems almost insignificant, except to all those families left behind, most of whom no doubt believed, once, that the War in Iraq was the right war.

Many American military families still believe the Iraq War is worthwhile, but the rot has set in, the dissent is spreading. Most Americans want this war to be over. But they are always told, not yet. Not yet.

But this time, for this war, the public doesn't blame the soldiers for the war. They blame the government for beginning what they now cannot end.