Four months into their tour of duty at one of the most dangerous
American bases in Iraq, young marines say the slow pace of progress is
shaking their faith in their mission.
Playing cards one recent evening while on call to respond to any sudden
outburst of violence, Lance Corporal David Goward and the rest of his squad
voiced two growing concerns: that the U.S. military would linger here
indefinitely and that the troops' very presence was provoking the fighting
it was meant to stop.
They are ready for any battle, they said, but a pervasive sense that Iraqis
do not want their help has killed their enthusiasm for the larger goals of
introducing democracy and rebuilding the country.
"I don't think any of us even care what happens to this country," Goward
said, as a half-dozen marines, all stationed here in the capital of the
restive Anbar Province, nodded in agreement. "I'm here to make sure these
guys get home safely. And they're here to make sure I do."
Senior Marine Corps and Army commanders in this Sunni Muslim region west of
Baghdad, an area they say must be tamed for the new U.S.-$ backed Iraqi
government to succeed, repeatedly cautioned a reporter that junior-level
troops did not see the big picture.
Grunts don't hear Anbar's governor asking the United States not to leave,
the senior officers said. They don't see Iraqi officials shouldering new
responsibilities; they don't see Iraqi police doing a better job on the
outskirts of Ramadi, the provincial capital, than they do in the more