Active duty soldiers just completing a fifteen month tour have bravely spoken out against the occupation in Iraq in the NY Times

As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere.

Again and again we hear how the quagmire in Iraq cannot be solved militarily. During Vietnam nary a single battle was lost by US forces and yet the peace could not be won. Iraq is exactly the same with superior air power and ground forces our troops win each and every battle but cannot and will not ever be able to secure the peace because peace is not within the purview of the infantry. Iraq will only be solved politically and diplomatically.

Stubborn insistance on maintaining an occupying force diminishes the US influence diplomatically as well, with Maliki due to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

They are to discuss security and the political situation in Iraq.

Syria, which was reluctant at first to welcome the Iraqi leader, finally approved his visit, stressing that talks must deal with reconciliation, fair and balanced political representation of the Sunnis, amending the de-Ba’athification laws and articles in the Iraqi constitution that deal with federalism – a concept that the Syrians curtly refuse.

The US may welcome any help but the resultant solution will not be as envisioned by the Bush administration. The NY Times editorial goes on to state the obvious

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

There will be bloodshed whether we stay or whether we leave, just as in Vietnam. Let us not allow 60,000 young Americans to die unnecessarily. Read the Times piece in full here