A Soldier’s Story

First Lieutenant Jeff Hurd, left the Iraqi desert in August 2004 to return to his native Arizona after completing a 15-month tour of duty. In part two of this three-part series, the 26 year-old shares his views about WMDs, Fahrenheit 9-11 and the upcoming presidential election.

BH: There are a lot of places in the world that are under bad regimes and yet [the United States military] doesn’t intervene. Why do you think we chose to go into Iraq?

JH: I don’t know. That is what I am still trying to figure out. I mean, they were a legitimate threat and I am sure the administration had their reasons. They [the Iraqi ruling power] had 30-years worth of conventional weapons stockpiled but they weren’t weapons of mass destruction necessarily. As a matter of fact, one guy, we were driving by his house and he came to ask us to see a cruise missile sitting in his backyard. He was like, “Do you guys want this?” So they were a legitimate threat, maybe not to invade the United States, , but definitely to invade their neighbors such as Kuwait….

As far as “why Iraq?” I think maybe it could have been personal. I’m not sure. We could have gotten bad information. Personally, what I think it was… they had got bad intelligence and rather than saying they got “bad intelligence,” they said we didn’t have “sufficient intelligence” because “bad intelligence” makes them look incompetent. “Insufficient intelligence”, you know, “Ok we weren’t sure, we thought there was a legitimate threat, we tried to take care of it before something bad happens, and we go from there.” And now we’re in there and we’ve got to stick with it. But it’s really, really difficult to say.

BH: There’s been a lot of talk in the United States about the lack of weapons of mass destruction. What are your thoughts on that?

JH: I think they [Iraq’s ruling power] were a significant threat but I think the reasons that the administration used for the invasion were premature and, well, inaccurate. So I think if they were to have waited a little longer, done a little more research, they probably would have had a lot more support, not just from the US, but from throughout the world.

BH: Did your experience influence the way you will be voting in the upcoming presidential election?

JH: [Long pause] Indirectly, yeah. I used to be a hard-line Republican, regardless, and then when I was over there, not because I was over there but because I had a lot more time to think about it, I became more objective about how I vote. So instead of voting party lines, I actually started reading about the issues. I checked them out before, but this time I’m actually researching the issues, finding out which candidate has to say what, and what I agree with, what I disagree with. So yeah, I would say “indirectly” because I had time to think about it, that’s why. (pause) I still haven’t decided yet.

BH: What are your family’s feelings about the war and have their ideas changed?

JH: You know, I haven’t really talked to them about it. They
ask me what it was like and everything. But we haven’t really talked about it. They didn’t like me being over there and they’re glad to have me back. They didn’t know about stuff that happened while I was there because we didn’t tell anybody. You know, crazy stuff that happened. Like, “oh yeah, I almost got blown up today.” Nobody wants to know that. I don’t know. I think, as with most people they question it now, “Well, why did we go there?” But they’re supportive of it. We’re there. The soldiers are doing their jobs so they support the soldiers and their effort, but why did we go?

BH: Some experts fear that with our invasion of Iraq, we’ve created another generation of radicalized young folk. How do you feel about that?

JH: I think there are always going to be radical people…. There was a very, very small percentage that didn’t like us and those ones were the people that had something to lose. So I think with those particular families, let’s say that we captured somebody or killed somebody’s father, well, they don’t want to say, “Well, he was a radical.” It’s just, “That’s my dad.” So they’re going to always have hatred towards the West, or at least the United States. I don’t know if we are creating a whole new generation. It’s all the same minds. I don’t think it is going to increase or decrease any significant amount.

BH: Have you seen “Fahrenheit 9-11”?

JH: No. I’ve been meaning to. I haven’t seen it yet.

BH: It gives audiences the impression that many servicemen over there are feeling disillusioned and that morale is down. Is that true or is more nuanced?

JH: No. I saw a lot of different places. I didn’t get to interact with soldiers a lot because I had to take care of business but from my perspective, at least the brigade team that I was with, morale was pretty much always high. I mean, there were obviously exceptions. Something would happen, soldiers would get killed and morale would go down. But, you see, we were in a unique position because we were in Baghdad for a year and we were supposed to leave town but we were part of a group that got extended to go down south when everything erupted in Sadr City. And, as a matter of fact, that was the sector we were in, we lived right across the street from Sadr City. So, even after getting extended, everybody was like, well, that really stinks but kind of figured it was coming. So let’s do what we have to do and then go home. So I really don’t think soldiers were that disillusioned. , I think if they did find that, they found maybe a particular unit that got screwed or maybe a soldier was disgruntled. But overall I think morale was good to outstanding for the circumstances they were in.

Nicole Sotelo

Nicole Sotelo writes from the Boston area.