Corporal Alex Markey is a U.S. Marine with the 6th Motor Transport Battalion stationed in New Haven, CT. He has served two tours in Iraq. The first one began in February of 2003, three months before the beginning of the invasion, and lasted for six months. The second one began in February of 2005 and lasted for nine months.
His job was to conduct combat logistical patrols to clear the roads of mines/IEDS/other enemy activity, while transporting supplies (ammo/food/water/troops) to forward operating bases. He was witness to countless IED and mine explosions, the deaths of 2 fellow Marines including his platoon commander and the serious injury of many others.
One of his good friends and fellow 6th Motor T Marines committed suicide upon returning from their first tour. It is believed that this Marine suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that went undiagnosed until after his death.
Corporal Markey provides a unique perspective on the Iraq war. He holds a Bachelorís degree in Political Science from Fordham University, and he has great knowledge and understanding of the circumstances surrounding the war. Unlike many enlisted soldiers who may be less educated and less informed, Markey shows an ability to look at his war experience from many angles and understand it with a depth that greener servicemen cannot.
At the same time he is a soldier, and though he may be able to separate himself intellectually from that role, in Iraq he performed his duty as a Marine first. Any academic analysis was reserved for later. On the streets and highways of such a dangerous country too much thinking is not conducive to survival.
During your service did you hear many rumors of indiscriminate civilian killing by U.S. soldiers or U.S.-trained Iraqis?
If you feel that what I have to say is ugly, you should talk to some of my colleagues.
At my level there was no basis for discrimination. We regarded all Iraqis as the enemy. Most of us would have eagerly killed any one of them who ventured too close to our convoy. The underlying consensus among Marines in our AO (Area of Operation) was that Iraqis were either actively plotting attacks against us, or abetting those who were. The sight of a dead Iraqi on the roadside would usually induce cheering.
Early last year, we were passing through a small, but densely populated town en route to Al Qaim. This particular town was assumed, by most of us, to be home to the same guys planting the multitude of IEDs we would encounter on this route. As we were driving through the village, I noticed a vehicle idling in an alleyway. As soon as the truck in front of me passed him, the driver sped out of the alley and crossed the street. Our rules of engagement state specifically that no vehicles may be allowed to cut though the convoy. Use of deadly force is authorized to uphold this. I began barking at my gunner to shoot the guy. He froze, and did nothing. The car parked. The driver got, out and walked into a nearby house.
Even though the driver turned out to be nothing more than an innocent man on his way home, my gunner was fiercely rebuked for his inaction. From that day forward, nobody wanted to ride with him. He was condemned as a coward. There was even talk of charging him with Dereliction of Duty. He defended his decision not to shoot, claiming he didnít want to risk hitting other civilians in the area. It didnít matter to us. He never regained our trust after that.
I have to be extremely careful what I say when addressing your question directly. This is the type of thing that could trigger a JAG investigation, and jeopardize the careers of some good Marines. I can safely tell you that there were a lot of rumors, some more credible than others. As I have already said, we regarded all Iraqis as potential enemies. The alleged killing of any Iraqi, civilian or combatant, was good news. A Marine who was rumored to have killed civilians was the type of Marine you would want to have watching your back once you exited that wire. A Marine with a conscience, like my gunner, was a liability.
What can you tell us about "false flag" attacks and manufactured terrorism in Iraq? (i.e. "covert actions")
I must preface this by saying that nothing I experienced in Iraq deviated from standard military operations, so anything I could tell you would be purely speculative.
I am aware that false flag operations have been a signature tactic of the CIA since its inception. Certainly an environment as unstable and chaotic as Anbar Province would be ideal for such activities. I do believe these tactics are a reality of contemporary warfare; counter-insurgencies in particular.
What remains elusive in the case of the Iraqi Freedom campaign is motive. What would coalition forces stand to gain by inciting sectarian violence in a country they have fought for three years to pacify? Theories digress. Some argue that the onset of civil violence would strengthen Iraqi support for a U.S. Military presence. Others cite economic interests concerned with keeping the country in a perpetual sate of tumult. If in fact false flag operations are being conducted in Iraq, the disclosure of their existence would prove irreparable for our efforts there. Given what is at stake, I wouldnít expect the operatives involved to leave any trails whatsoever.
However, I did read the article about soldiers from the British SRR posing as insurgents, in the city of Basra who were detained by Iraqi Police. Veritably ignored by the mainstream media, this incident would appear to have "false flag" written all over it.
Are you O.K.?
I am alive, in one piece and cognizant still, which is more than can be said for some of my friends. I believe that I do experience a level of anxiety that is higher than normal. Loud noises do freak me out. For a time I had difficulty sleeping. I would sometimes walk as far as 15 or 20 miles at night just to exhaust my body so that I could sleep. But that has passed. What troubles me most these days lies not the past, but in the future.
I am currently working at a shelter for homeless kids. The degradation of the American youth is every bit as troubling to me as the situation in Iraq, and I even find myself wondering if the two are somehow politically accordant. You might hold accountable the entertainment industries, under-funded public education or plain old parental neglect depending on which news network you favor.
Like most Americans who work and pay taxes, I feel helpless and apprehensive.
How aware are soldiers and troops in Iraq about the use and dangers of depleted uranium munitions?
This was a very real concern during my first tour. We were warned to keep away from destroyed tanks. The armor on some of the M1A1 Abrams [tanks] was constructed out of depleted uranium. Although we were somewhat ignorant about the specific dangers involved. Most of us (myself included) knew very little about Gulf War Syndrome; its causes and affects. We were actually a lot more worried about the Cipro antibiotics that were issued to us in addition to our vaccinations as an "anthrax precaution." One platoon leader used to force his Marines to swallow their Cipro pills front of him.
In hindsight itís probably best that we werenít informed on the subject of depleted uranium. We had much more immediate dangers to worry about at that time. I canít see how this information would have served us. Marines do as they are told, always. If we had been told to drive though an area contaminated by depleted uranium, itís not as if we would have had a choice.
How would you assess the contribution made to the war effort by corporations like Halliburton and other private contractors?
Halliburton was shown unprecedented favoritism in the form of no-bid contracts, for which they should not have been eligible since they were under investigation for fraud at the time. Refer to Rory Mayberryís testimony before the Democratic Partyís public committee in June of 2005.
The majority of contracted civilians with whom I served worked for KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root) which is a major subsidiary of Halliburton. I give those guys a lot of credit. A lot of them were former military. They traveled on all the same convoys we did. Their trucks had little to no armor. Quite a few of them had been in Iraq for over a year. They did their jobs very well.
We were on a convoy to re-supply a forward operating base close to the Syrian border. We had to travel a major Iraqi highway to in order to get there, which was tricky since we had to deal with a lot of civilian traffic. A civilian vehicle somehow slipped into the ranks of our convoy through an entrance ramp. My gunner and I were the first to notice him, so we took off after him. My Gunner (not the same guy I mentioned earlier) fired a warning flare at the vehicle, racked back his .50 cal and prepared to lay into the hapless occupants. I got on the radio and warned the gun truck in front of us. Before they or my gunner could react, one of the KBR drivers deliberately jackknifed his trailer, blocking the road completely and stopping the vehicle in its tracks. The gun truck in front of ours rushed the vehicle, ordered the occupants out and searched them. The car turned out to be clean. Whether they realize it or not, those Iraqis owe that KBR driver their lives. There is no doubt we would have killed them if they had not stopped when they did.
It was fascinating to see the evolution of their role in the theater of operations. At the beginning of my first tour the idea of civilians participating in our mission was unheard of. By the end of my second tour our mission relied so heavily on them, it seemed that we had become little more than security escorts for their convoys.
Whatever affinity I may have for the KBR drivers, I donít wish to convey a sense of approval for the privatization of military operations. I think that the extent to which multinational conglomerates like Halliburton are benefiting from this war borders on criminal.
Do you believe the Iraq war has weakened the U.S. Military or the capacity of the National Guard?
Donít you mean the International Guard? (One of our running jokes)
Iran sees clearly the difficulty of our position and is taking full advantage. The commitment of vast military expenditures to Iraq, as well as a dwindling popular support for the war have rendered the [Bush] Administration ill-equipped to confront this newly emboldened Iranian government. As far as military resources themselves are concerned, I think there are plenty to kick around. Troops stationed in Iraq and elsewhere could always be rapidly redeployed in the event of some global catastrophe.
What is really at stake here, and what stands to suffer the most is U.S. credibility. The term may ring paradoxical to some these days, but most in Washington can say it with a straight face because they understand the functional usage of the term.
At this stage of the game "U.S. credibility" has less to do with fulfilling our pledge to bring a democratic Iraq to fruition. It has nothing to do with the long abandoned search for weapons of mass destruction. What U.S. credibility hinges on now is our refusal to accept humiliation (political or military) at the hands of a third world insurgency. Often I hear the argument that "cutting and running" in Iraq will embolden these faceless enemies of ours to install a "terror vacuum" in the failed Iraq, from which they would soon launch terrorist attacks against the U.S. and her allies. This is not the outcome that our policy makers fear. This is propaganda that means to keep the American public believing that their own personal safety somehow depends on the outcome of this war.
Our perceived enemies must never be given cause to believe that the U.S. will ever relent in the fight to destroy them. This is the school of thought to which U.S. policymakers subscribe. That is what is meant by U.S. credibility. Everything else you hear is window dressing.
The Iraq war is rapidly becoming a referendum on U.S. credibility.
Do you believe the sacrifices U.S. soldiers have made have actually increased freedom in Iraq as well as defended the freedom of citizens back home in the U.S.?
I answer 'noí to both threads of this question.
The latter is a no-brainer. This war has had no affect whatever on the freedom of American citizens. I have heard the President declare on numerous occasions that "America is Freer". These words are astonishingly without substance. He has yet to explicate as to how we as a nation are "freer" for having gone to war. Did the Baathist regime in Iraq somehow impede on our civil liberties? The next time you hear some one claim that the war in Iraq has served to spread freedom here at home, ask them specifically how and see if they can provide you with a cogent case. I have yet to hear of one.
As for the former, it may happen one day that Iraqis will know freedom and prosperity. That day is not today, nor is it tomorrow. The waves of violence that plague Iraq today are just as bad if not worse than any day under Saddam. The only nascent good that can be discerned in all this chaos is the hope that one day things could start to progress. Certainly any progress in Iraq had to begin with the fall of Saddamís regime, a feat that has since proven to be only the first and easiest step down a long, hard road.
Do you distinguish any difference between supporting the troops and supporting the war?
I have to wonder since I hear that phrase a lot. What does it mean for one to "Support the Troops"? Do they have a list local kids who are serving in Iraq for whom they pray each Sunday Mass? Do they decorate their SUVs with magnetic yellow ribbons? It seems to be a phrase that opponents and advocates of this war alike feel obligated to mention as routinely as they breathe. In fact, for any one to say otherwise since September 11th, 2001 is a veritable anathema. Itís a useful quote, whether to reiterate your position or cover your ass. Beyond that, I donít pay it much mind.
I am aware that veterans returning from the Vietnam War were picketed, assaulted and stigmatized. I am grateful to have never experienced that, at least not on a scale with what they endured.
I would like to relate a story to you, which I think illuminates my point.
It was the spring of 2004. I had returned from my first tour several months before. I bought a 2-door Geo Metro hatchback with the money I had earned overseas. My girlfriend at the time was an outspoken critic of SUVs, so I figured she would approve. John Kerryís campaign was picking up steam. A good friend of mine who was working for his campaign in Iowa had sent me a "John Kerry for President" bumper sticker, which I proudly placed on the bumper of my car right above my "United States Marine Corps" sticker. I was driving through Westchester County (one of NY Stateís more affluent areas) and got caught up in a traffic jam. All of a sudden the car behind me, a huge black Escalade, pulled up beside me. The driver, a fat, red-faced man in his late thirties/early forties began to scream at me. "What the Fuck is the matter with you? Do you support the troops or donít you? Yeah, youíre a fucking flip flopper!" It took me a moment to realize he was referring to my "politically confused" bumper stickers. The idea that a person could simultaneously support his military and the democratic challenger was evidently too nuanced for him. And off he went, his magnetic yellow ribbon gleaming in the sun. The irony of a fat forty-something who had ostensibly never served in the military, who drives a gas guzzling road monster berating an Iraq War veteran in his Geo Metro for not supporting the troops would be forever lost on him.
I just canít describe what I am trying to say any better than that.
Saying you support the troops is like saying you love Jesus. To insinuate anything to the contrary, even supporting an investigation of troop misconduct, is to open oneself to all points of vituperation. I realize this doesnít really answer your question. I just hear the phrase thrown around so much, abused and misrepresented for political purposes that I can no longer take it at face value.