"The economy? We don't have one": Warum Matt und seine US-Marines noch im Irak sind

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Im November 2007 beschrieb unser Mitarbeiter James Hagengruber in einer Reportage das Leben der Zwillinge Robert und Matthew Shipp aus Idaho, USA. Er hatte sie auf ihrem Weg von der High School zu den Marines, einer Einheit der US-Armee begleitet. James’ Geschichte endete damit, dass sich Matt Shipp von seiner Frau verabschiedete und, wie sein Bruder Robert, in den Nahen Osten aufbrach. Kürzlich nun ließ sich James „embedden“ und besuchte die Zwillinge auf dem Schiff „U.S.S. Germantown“ und im Irak. Für jetzt.de schreibt er in einer Kolumne über seine Erfahrungen und darüber, wie es den Brüdern ergeht. Sie erscheint in der Originalversion, als etwaige Übersetzungshilfe hier ein Link zu LEO, einem Deutsch-Englischen-Wörterbuch. *** Teil 4: COMBAT OUTPOST NORSEMAN, Iraq - Cpl. Matthew Shipp and his fellow U.S. Marines have not had a day off since they arrived here in October. Although some of the men kept track of their time in Iraq, most, including Matthew, did not. They live in a blur of boredom, dust, exhaustion and violence. Remembering how many days were left in their duty only broke their trances and sent their minds back home - to memories of girlfriends, summer barbeques and cold beers. Aufgehört, die Tage zu zählen When I arrived at this outpost, shortly before the war's fifth anniversary, I mentioned to Matthew that he had only 42 days left. I thought this would be a spot of good news, a chance to break the ice after not seeing each other since fall. But the mention of days only brought a frown.

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Illustration: Julia Schubert

Matthew Shipp "I don't know how much time is left", he said, looking at me. "I stopped counting." Another Marine, Lance Cpl. Chris Priest, of California, told me, "I don't count until I'm in Germany drunk." Priest was referring to a two or three hour stopover made by many Marines when they fly home from their tours in Iraq. During this short airport layover, the Marines typically try to drink as many beers and glasses of schnapps as possible. Then, they hop a flight and wake up in America weary from war and hungover. Zwei Dosen Bier am Geburtstag der Marines The men of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Regiment, only care about two days on their tours: the first and the last. In between, they were offered only two short breaks. The first came in November, on the anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Marine Corps. All over the world on this day U.S. Marines hold parties and attend dances wearing their dress unforms. In Iraq, the Marines marked the anniversary by being given two cans of beer. Although several men admitted to having cans of beer shipped to them hidden inside potato chip cans (a Pringles container will hold two cans) or of whiskey being mailed inside shampoo bottles, the two birthday beers are the only alcohol allowed of the Marines while they are in Iraq. Christmas was also notable, if only because the men were given an extra hour, or so, to sleep. They were also fed beefsteak for dinner. „We had dinner, then we went back to work", Matthew recalled. My time at the outpost included Easter Sunday. None of the men, including Matthew, even knew the day was Sunday, much less Easter. Back home, children celebrate Easter by searching for colored eggs hidden outside in the garden. In Iraq, the Marines spend almost everyday searching for small, deadly objects hidden on the roads they patrolled. There would be no egg hunts here. Just another day of patrolling and hoping no roadside bombs would explode beside their vehicles. Ein "Spa" in der Wüste Matthew's unit is trained to operate 155 mm howitzer cannons. The unit's motto dates back to Napoleonic times and is "God sides with the best artillery." At this corners of this tiny outpost of sandbags and barbed wire are parked four of these howitzers. One is aimed directly at the nearby town of Rutbah. This cannon is always kept ready to fire. „We put it there right when we arrived", one of Matthew's commanders told me. „It shows the town we mean business." The Marines of 3/11 spent the first half of their tours near a quiet town in northern Anbar province. They jokingly refer to this period as their "desert spa" experience. The plastic packages of food rations were bland. And the only source of warmth against the toe-numbingly cold desert winter nights was barrels of burning shit - the men did not have proper bathrooms, so they had to mix kerosene into barrels of their waste each morning. "It's weird to think we relied on poop for warmth," said Pvt. Phillip Saldana-Bautista. Despite the hardship, the only combat witnessed by the men during these early days were arranged duels between mice and scorpions. The Marines were bored with Anbar, but their commanders were pretty pleased. After serving as a powerful engine of the insurgency early in the war, the Sunni-dominated province seemed to have been tamed.

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Illustration: Julia Schubert

Blick auf "Combat Outpost Norseman", im Hintergrund Matt In March, though, the 3/11 Marines were transferred to Rutbah in Anbar's desolate western reaches. Here, the Twentynine Palms, California-based unit learned that not all is tranquil in the province: young men still hide grenades in the streets, city leaders are targeted by assasins and the local police fortress bears fresh scars from rocket attacks. „We're in the wild, wild west", said First Lt. Hamilton Ashworth, shortly after his unit arrived at the outpost. Um was es geht? Den Irak sicher machen The Marines have since been in a tough fight to oust the remaining militants from this last stronghold in Anbar. The men felt an urgency to their work. Not only were their tours ending this mont, but the upcoming presidential elections is casting uncertainty over the future commitment of U.S. forces in Iraq. Presumed Republican candidate John McCain, who has a son serving with the Marines in Iraq, has vowed to keep up for fight for as long as it takes. Both Democrat contenders, though, are calling for troop reductions. Frontrunner Barack Obama has received widespread support for his anti-war credentials - unlike Hillary Clinton, Obama has consistently voted against the war. And new opinion polls show at least two-thirds of all Americans opposing the war. "Wie es der Wirtschaft hier geht? Hier gibt es keine 'Wirtschaft'" The Marines want to finish their work fast before politicians call them home. That's why they are scrambling to bring security to Anbar province, with Rutbah posing among the toughest of challenges. The mission's priority was underscored by a recent visit to the remote combat outpost by Major General John Kelly, the commander of all coalition forces in western Iraq. Deep inside a dimly lit, thick-walled fortress in the heart of Rutbah, I accompanied Kelly as he met with the town's mayor and police chief. He wanted to know why the insurgency has not yet fizzled in the town. Outside the meeting room, Marines, including Matthew Shipp, stood guard. The general arrived under tight secrecy and security - he would be a huge target for insurgents. After removing his helmet and body armor, the general asked the police chief: "How are the people doing? Are the schools open for children? How's the economy?" The mayor, who gave his name as Qasim, fumbled with the gold watch hanging from his wrist. He straightened his suit jacket and gave a pained smile. "The economy? We don't have one", he said. Auf der nächsten Seite: Was die Wirtschaft mit radfahrenden Kindern zu tun hat und die Hoffnung auf Pizza in der Heimat.


Ohne Sicherheit keine funktionierende Wirtschaft Rutbah has no oil, he said. It's purely a trading town. And it is now withering from both the al-Qaeda-backed insurgency and the coalition-led traffic checkpoints, Qasim said. The checkpoints are aimed at catching fighters and weapons flowing into Iraq from other countries. Rutbah is where highways from Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia converge before heading to Baghdad. These checkpoints are believed to be slowing the flow of fighters, but they are also slowing the trucks that carry food and petroleum and other goods needed by the citizens here. Qasim threw his hands into the air and said Rutbah is faced with an impossibly sticky situation. "There could not be an economy if there is no security", he said, his words translated by the general's interpretor. Mehr Polizisten als je zuvor Much of the rest of Anbar has calmed because of last year's surge in U.S. forces, combined with a massive hiring spree of Iraqi police officers, General Kelly said. A year ago, about 6,000 police patrolled the huge province. Many did not have weapons and were easy targets for both bullets and bribes. Today, about four times as many police patrol the cities of Anbar, but many still remain unpaid. In Rutbah, about 50 of the town's 337 officers have not been paid for months. "If you bring the salaries back, there will be a statue of you downtown," Qasim promised. After the visit, Kelly said leaders and sheikhs across Anbar are growing nervous of the inevitable reduction in U.S. troop numbers. They might not like the presence of American forces on Iraqi soil, but most are even more weary of the chaos and violence brought on by the last five years of war, he said. They see the U.S. as key in helping their country rebuild its own security forces. "We're pretty close from the point of view of security", said Kelly, now in his third tour in Iraq. He then made a reference to children learning how to ride bicycles. "They have their training wheels on. Most kids don't like their training wheels taken off, either." Matthew geht mit den Leuten auf Patrouille, die oft auch noch seine größten Feinde sind Hours after the meeting, the mayor's home was sprayed with bullets. Nobody was hurt, but members of the town's fledgling police force piled into their pickup trucks and raced into the desert in a vain search for the gunmen.

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Auf Patrouille. Matthew Shipp often goes on patrol with these Iraqi police officers. Like most Marines in his squad, he doesn't have much trust for these men and he shakes his head in frustration when he sees the Iraqi police driving new, heavily armored vehicles that were provided by the U.S. Some of the police officers brag about having fought the U.S. troops earlier in the war, Matthew said. "They talk about blowing up Marines. They'll be your friend during the day, go home and night and plant a bomb." Matthew doesn't know if the Iraqi police will ever be able to make their country safe, but he does still believe that his work has helped improve Iraq. He also believes that his presence as an infantry Marine in Iraq is protecting the United States and his family from terrorism. The U.S. must now stay to rebuild Iraq, he said. „It'd be pointless after five years to pull out and say we're done." Mostly, though, Matthew and his comrades don`t talk about politics. When they had moments of rest on their combat patrols, they would sometimes discuss plans for their return - without actually discussing how many days were left before they could enjoy these freeoms. Lance Cpl. Scott Clark, of Arizona, said he wants to buy a bottle of Irish whiskey and then, "go to a hotel and stay my full allotted time. Every minute of it. And I'm going to take the shampoo."

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Dämmerung nahe Rutbah, Irak. Lance Cpl. Cordero Edwards just wants to get out of the Marines. He grew up in poverty in St. Louis and joined the military in hopes of escaping gang life. When his name was published in his hometown newspaper in a story about the Marines, gang members vandalized his mother's house and stole the tires from his parked car. Edwards now wants to move West and study fine art. "I'm ready to get the hell out of here," he said. "Too many stupid people. You can't change them all." Most of the Marines were planning big parties. Not Matthew Shipp. He would be spending time with his wife and he also hopes to meet his twin brother's ship when it returns to San Diego next month. "No offense to these guys, but I've been with them for seven months," he said. "I'm going to go home, buy myself a pizza and drink a beer." *** Teil 1 der Kolumne: We're in the wild, wild West Teil 2 der Kolumne: Sleep 12 hours a day Teil 3 der Kolumne: "The Army fucked up my life"

Text: james-hagengruber - Fotos: Brian Plonka

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