WASHINGTON - Fed up with being in Iraq and demoralized by their role as peacekeepers in a risky place, a group of U.S. soldiers aired their plight on U.S. television on Wednesday 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 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
A U.S. Army soldier patrols next to a highway culvert where a Humvee vehicle was destroyed in an attack in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, July 16, 2003. Fed up with being in Iraq and demoralized by their role as peacekeepers in a risky place, a small group of soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division on ABC's 'Good Morning America' show spoke of poor morale and disillusionment with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)
"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, one 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 U.S. troops are serving amid mounting security threats in postwar Iraq. The death toll has now equaled the number killed in the 1991 Gulf War.
Sgt. 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 U.S. unit to enter Baghdad after driving through southern Iraq through Kuwait.
Sgt. 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."
In Washington, a Pentagon spokeswoman said she understood the frustration, but said morale was still high. "It's obviously a frustrating situation for some of them, but it does not represent the entire 3rd Division."
She added: "When you get down to the individual soldier level, you can clearly see the dedication."
The wives of two of the soldiers appeared on the same show. "Just send my husband home -- send all the soldiers home. They have done the job they were supposed to do," said Rhonda Vega from Hinesville, Georgia.
Stacey Gilmore said U.S. 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, sticking through it."
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