Washington, July 16 (Reuters): Fed up with being in Iraq and demoralised by their role as peacekeepers in a risky place, a group of American soldiers aired their plight on US television today and said they had lost faith in the army.
Told several times they would be going home only to have their hopes dashed this week, a small group of soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, spoke of poor morale and disillusionment with defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“If Donald Rumsfeld were here, I’d ask him for his resignation,” one disgruntled soldier told ABC’s Good Morning America show.
Asked by a reporter what his message would be for Rumsfeld, another said: “I would ask him why we are still here. I don’t have any clue as to why we are still in Iraq.” About 146,000 US troops are serving amid mounting security threats in post-war Iraq.
Sergeant Filipe Vega said they had expected to return home soon after the fall of Baghdad on April 9. “We were told the fastest way back home is through Baghdad and that’s what we did. Now we are still here,” he complained.
The 3rd Infantry Division was the first US unit to enter Baghdad after driving through southern Iraq from Kuwait.
Sergeant Terry Gilmore described a phone call with his wife, Stacey, when he told her he would not be coming home soon. “When I told her she started crying and I almost started crying. I just felt like my heart was broken. I could not figure out ... how they could keep us here after they told us we were coming home.”
Commenting on troop frustration, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the President was grateful for the sacrifices being made by soldiers in Iraq. “We will continue to make sure they have all the support and resources they need as they do their job,” he said.
Appearing on the same show, Stacey Gilmore said US troops were ill-prepared for the post-war phase. “They were told after the fighting ended they were coming home. All I know is that morale is low and they are just hanging in there.”