Samstag, 21. Juli 2007

The war inside

by Anne Hull and Dana Priest
The Guardian Weekly, 06.07.07, pp. 23-25



Calloway felt naked without his M-4 rifle, his constant companion during his tour south of Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division. The yearlong deployment claimed the lives of 50 soldiers in his brigade. Two suicides. Calloway (...) lasted nine months, until the afternoon he watched his sergeant step on a pressure-plate bomb in the road last year. The young soldier's knees buckled and he vomited into the reeds before he was ordered to help collect body parts. A few days later he was given anti-depressants and rest, but after a week he was still twitching and sleepless. In September the army decided his war was over.

Every month between 20 and 40 soldiers are evacuated from Iraq because of mental problems, according to the army.


US soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) outnumber all of the war's amputees by 43 to one in the army alone.


One night he put a DVD and watched the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan (...) retching in fear as they waded ashore and faced a rain of German bullets. Limbs were severed, necks punctured, foreheads blown open, but the grunts kept charging. "See why I picked infantry," he said. "There's no other place in the world where you can have a job like that. It's a brotherhood that's deeper than your own family."

His romanticised ideals clashed with reality.

Four months out of basic training he had been sent on one of the most dangerous sectors of Baghdad.


The roads (...) were littered with bombs. A first sergeant was lost right away, and the casualties never stopped. Living in abandoned houses, Calloway went days without sleep. He went on raids at night, kicking in doors and searching houses to the sound of gunfire and screams.

He had never felt such excitement or sense of belonging. His best friend was Specialist Denver Rearick, a 23-year-old on his second tour who warned him: "Your entire body is a puzzle before your go to war. You go to war and every little piece of that puzzle gets twisted and turned. And then you are supposed to come back home again."

But the pressure and dread and exhaustion began to smother Calloway. He survived several bomb blasts. Some soldiers were sucking on aerosol cans to get high; one died accidentally. Sleep deprivation mixed with random violence scrambled Calloway.


On the day Vosbein died (he treated Calloway like a kid brother), a convoy patrol in three Humvees pulled over to check a crater in the road. As Calloway was opening his door, Vosbein was already moving towards the crater. The explosion knocked two other soldiers to the ground. Vosbein - whistling, happy Vos - was eviscerated. Parts of him were everywhere. Calloway threw up. Then: rage. He wanted to shoot the first Iraqi he saw, but his legs weren't working. He was useless to help clean up the scene. That night they confiscated his weapon. His commanders watched him closely. Eventually it was decided to ship him home.


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