Sunday, January 25, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Vets watch as insurgents undo sacrifices in Iraq

Ben Colin, Tom Griswald

In this photo taken on Thursday, June 12, 2014, former Marine Sgt. Ben Colin, left, and Army veteran Tom Griswald talk about their experiences serving in Iraq at the Sheehy-Palmer VFW Post 6776 in Albany, N.Y. This week’s stunning advance left many U.S. veterans reflecting, with bitterness, frustration and sadness, on the sacrifices of a war that lasted for more than eight years and killed nearly 4,500 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. “Losing Fallujah ... I really just honestly wanted to throw chairs across the room because what I've done there has basically just been undone,” said Colin. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink

By
From page A10 | June 14, 2014 |

Marine Sgt. Colin Archipley’s unit suffered heavy casualties in the savage house-to-house fighting against insurgents holed up in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.

Nearly a decade later, he watched in frustration from his organic farm north of San Diego as an al-Qaida splinter group seized control of Fallujah, Mosul and other Iraqi cities that Lima Company and other units risked so much to protect.

Iraq’s opportunity “was squandered,” he said. “I’m not sure what else we could have done.”

At VFW halls, kitchen tables and rehabilitation clinics around the country, this week’s stunning advance into Mosul left many U.S. veterans reflecting with bitterness and sadness on the sacrifices of a war that lasted for more than eight years and killed nearly 4,500 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

“In many ways, it just feels like a waste — a waste of many lives, a waste of many years,” retired Army Col. Barry Johnson said from his home in Potlatch, Idaho.

On the broad stage of Middle East affairs, the unraveling highlights the resilience of extremists and the risks of weakened central authority. It also raises wider questions about the future of Afghanistan after international forces withdraw later this year and about the growing influence of militant Islamic factions among Syrian rebels.

Johnson stood on Iraq’s border with Kuwait as the last U.S. military convoy left in late 2011. Even then, he said, it was evident that Iraq’s military and security forces were not up to the challenges at hand.

Those tests included trying to confront strongholds of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has managed to drive back better-armed Iraqi forces. Iraq’s Shiite-led government — allied with both Washington and Tehran — is also increasingly estranged from Iraq’s Sunni minority, which claims the Shiite leadership runs roughshod over their rights and concerns.

“It was clear that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military were not going to be able to sustain themselves and keep the situation from deteriorating,” Johnson said.

Because the cities loom so large on the roll call of Iraq battlefields, their loss sharpens the sting.

Fallujah, a mostly Sunni city west of Baghdad, was the scene in 2004 of some of heaviest U.S. urban combat since Vietnam. It later became a centerpiece of Washington’s efforts to recruit Sunni militias as allies against insurgents.

“Losing Fallujah, when I heard that the first time a few months back, I really just honestly wanted to throw chairs across the room, because what I’ve done there has basically just been undone,” said former Marine Sgt. Ben Colin at VFW Post No. 6776 in Albany, New York. “We just basically went there and did nothing, in my opinion.”

In Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, U.S. forces battled block by block against insurgents in 2009 before the deadline for American troops to leave major urban centers.

Martin Schaefer, an Army reservist who did two tours in Iraq and now lives in Darien, Illinois, groped for the right word to define his emotions. Not mad or upset, he said.

“Sad,” he decided. “Sad to see that the work that had been accomplished by the U.S. and Iraqi forces is being undone by an insurgency.”

In the Boston suburb of Arlington, veteran Jeffrey Chunglo winced at reports of insurgents seizing U.S. military equipment, including armored vehicles and weapons that had been left with Iraqi forces to defend Mosul.

“I think we were in a hurry for an exit strategy,” said Chunglo, who served as a senior hospital corpsman with the Navy. “I think, obviously, a little more time could have been spent putting together a better plan for ongoing monitoring — especially over the last year — to limit the (insurgents’) impact.”

But many veterans acknowledge the pressures in Washington from a war-weary nation, particularly with Taliban violence on the rise in Afghanistan and demands for greater involvement in the Arab Spring uprisings.

New York veteran Matthew Pelak questions the staggering mandate given to U.S. commanders after the 2003 invasion to bridge the huge rifts between Iraq’s three major groups: Sunnis who once rode high under Saddam, majority Shiites who took the mantle after Saddam’s fall and the semi-autonomous Kurds in the north.

“We removed the government, the standing army, any way for that country to organize itself,” said Pelak, a former Army sergeant who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and later returned as a security contractor with the company then called Blackwater. “So it’s a bit tough to just say, ‘Hey, let’s all play nice in the sand box.'”

In Iraq, Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus Berleson of Weatherford, Texas, served as a squad leader. In Afghanistan, he lost both arms and vision in his left eye trying to disarm an improvised bomb in December 2011.

“When we pulled out of (Iraq), we left a big power void,” said Berleson, who now does outreach with wounded veterans. “We didn’t have the country stable on its feet yet. It didn’t have a true infrastructure. It didn’t have true security forces or a military that was actually willing to stand up and secure the country for itself.”

But few veterans appeared to support a return of U.S. ground forces to Iraq — a prospect that Pelak called “an incredibly bad idea.”

“I think there is no place for the U.S. military right now in there,” he said. “It would further just confuse the situation in an already chaotic environment.”

For a former top U.S. commander in northern Iraq, the images of Mosul falling to insurgents leave only a sense of helplessness and sorrow.

“I keep going back to the number of soldiers who have given the best part of their lives to help make this country (Iraq) better,” said retired Gen. Mark Hertling, who now lives in Orlando, Florida. “It’s saddening and it’s disheartening, and you know you can’t do anything about it to fix it.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Nursing students take next step in higher education

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Friend seeks justice for 1982 Vacaville homicide victim

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Solano GOP welcomes address from King niece

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Scientists think Earth doomed: I disagree

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
Biggest Little Car Show returns for 31st year

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Solano Safety Net Summit set in Fairfield downtown

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

Wine, chocolate pairing comes to downtown Benicia

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Local gas prices dip below $2 a gallon

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Be heart smart all year long

By Gerald Bourne, MD | From Page: C4

Kindergarten Readiness Roundup enlightens parents

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Weather for Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Crews respond to residential fire

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
CHP seeks witnesses to I-80 crash

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A5

Saudi monarchy transition a real economic concern

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7

 
City seeks input on downtown plan

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | From Page: B7

Suisun City police log: Jan. 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 22, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Privatized housing tenants to feel BAH pinch

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

 
Fairfield police log: Jan. 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Airman with Fairfield tie completes training

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
It’s a hoot hanging out with owls at this Tokyo cafe

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2 | Gallery

School: Sea otter conceived in wild is 1st born in captivity

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Man searching by plane finds body of missing son off Mexico

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Kia recalling nearly 87,000 Fortes because of fire risk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Elon Musk’s SpaceX drops lawsuit against Air Force

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California’s public-worker payroll increased post-recession

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Avian flu confirmed in commercial turkey flock in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Boy, 13, arrested in fatal stabbing near Los Angeles school

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Abortion opponents express renewed hope at SF rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Company seeks rights to names of iconic Grand Canyon lodges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Man shot his family, killing 3, then killed himself

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Tens of thousands protest after president resigns in Yemen

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Thousands march against socialist president in Venezuela

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Expert says King Tut mask can be restored after epoxy used

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Obama to cut short India trip to pay call on Saudi Arabia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
1st attempt to lift fuselage of crashed AirAsia plane fails

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

Plea for return of stolen statue

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Not all police are bad

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Editorial Cartoon: Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Here’s the case for improved downtown

By Gary Walker | From Page: A8

Sound off for Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
 
.

Living

Today in History: Jan. 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Jan. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

The gift of a new beginning

By Dalia Adams | From Page: C3

 
Mennonite group to build houses in tornado-damaged town

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

Yearbooks bring Jewish, Catholic groups together

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Horoscope Jan. 25, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

My dad can’t get over the bad first impression of my boyfriend

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Mariel Hemingway working on memoir and young adult novel

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jonathan Franzen to appear at BookExpo America

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

2 Williams sisters, 2 Madisons into 4th round at Aussie Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks mourned in sports world and beyond

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Thompson’s record 3rd quarter leads Warriors past Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Belichick on deflated balls: ‘We try to do everything right’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

25 years of trying to get it right

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sharapova, Bouchard into quarterfinals at Australian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Abdullah leads North to 34-13 win over South in Senior Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
As Brady, Gronk know, pre-Super Bowl injury talk always big

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

AP Interview: Selig says MLB could expand internationally

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Could Super Bowl be Lynch’s finale in Seattle?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Sherman, Seahawks take the trash-talk lead over Patriots

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s surgically repaired hip on mend

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Buckeyes celebrate their title at Ohio Stadium

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Carroll, Belichick excelled after failing the first time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Luck-led Team Carter vs. Romo-lead Team Irvin in Pro Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
AP Explains: The Pro Bowl, unlike any other All-Star game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Matt Kuchar stumbles in, gives away Humana Challenge lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
For streaking Atlanta Hawks, it’s all about the balance

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Upstart wins $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Mischief Clem wins California Cup Derby in photo finish

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

World Cup of Hockey tournament set for 2016

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Hometown report: Bowling

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

Ashley Wagner wins 3rd US title with record-setting scores

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Weber’s 108.5-mph blast gives him hardest shot at NHL skills

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Jimenez, Mediate share lead in Champions Tour opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Grace wins Qatar Masters by 1 stroke

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Sports on TV for Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B5

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Business

Anheuser-Busch to buy craft beer company

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Higher standard deduction, other breaks for older taxpayers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Booking a trip to the ER on your smartphone? It’s a breeze

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Recalls this week: cleaners, fitness machines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Tiny Cokes: Less guilt means more money for makers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
First Look: Apple’s HomeKit could help smarten up your home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

.

Obituaries

Thomas Clark

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Sheila Margery (Smith) Luxenberg

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Don Johnson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics