Moral crisis of coalition forces in Iraq

Moral and psychological state of soldiers in Iraq is degrading.
There were no grounds for easy victory of US troops on the eve of the start of Iraqi campaign. Heavy climatic conditions, the soldiers’ horror to be exposed to chemical weapons, and their concerns about  the future fight caused no optimism.

Surprisingly enough, the military operation in 2003 was ended soon. However, there has been moral and psychological crisis within the coalition forces.

US troops

The US troops became the most vulnerable victims of the moral and psychological pressure they encounter on a regular basis. American soldiers are the majority of troops in Iraq. The big losses, constant stress, vagueness of the situation and absence of prospects for solution of Iraqi crisis deteriorated the moral and psychological state of the US troops. This resulted in the growth of the number of psychological disorders, suicides, wrongdoings, atrocity to POWs.

Military experts believe that the situation in regarding to losses in Iraq is much worse than in Chechnya. After the war broke out, 528 American soldiers were killed, 390 of them died after May 1, 2003. American soldiers are being killed in Iraq every day.  In addition, troops from other countries were killed: 81 British, 17 Italians, 11 Spanish, 5 Bulgarians, 2 Thais, 1 Danish, Polish and Ukrainian soldiers. On average, since May 2003, 43 American soldiers are killed in Iraq every month.

US military command is also concerned about so called “non-military losses”. In 2003, 21 American soldiers fighting in Iraq, committed suicide. Doctors explain the high suicide rate among the soldiers by depression and easy access to weapons, along with stress, boredom and lack of sleep.

According to US experts, 10-15 case of the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq look suspicious, investigation on them is in progress.

Also, 67 US soldiers committed suicide outside Iraq.

Military psychologist Jastin Cole says that most of the suicides registered in Iraq, are not intentional suicides. Often, when a soldier feels that there is no hope for him to return home in foreseeable future, he shoots his arm/leg/abdomen as if it is accident. Lack of soldiers’ knowledge of human anatomy results in lethal outcome.

Remote location of the troops causes the growth of sexual crimes. In  2003, about 100 females serving in Iraq and Kuwait, complained about being sexually assaulted. 43 cases were investigated, in 33 of them punishments were imposed on the assaulters. 

Hatred of US soldiers to Iraqis results in atrocities to prisoners. Four American soldiers (including two females) were fired for atrocities to prisoners. The charges of brutal treatment to the Iraqis in Baghdad prison were brought against 6 more soldiers. 

The most remarkable fact of degrading the moral of the US troops is their recognition that their mission in Iraq is failing.

After the start of the war in Iraq US soldiers pay was increased: $225 per month bonus for risk and $250 - for serving far from the family. In addition, the US Army offers additional benefits for soldiers willing to continue serving in Iraq, Kuwait or Afghanistan. The soldiers whose contracts are to be expired soon, can have up to $10,000 bonus if they extend their contracts for three more years.

British troops

British forces have the second biggest number of troops after Americans. 80 British soldiers were killed,21 of them died after May 1, 2003.

British Army personnel have always been highly professional and psychologically stable. British soldiers are in good physical shape, they can fight at any time of the day and under any climatic conditions, they are skillful in using their weapons and believe in moral superiority and “special mission” of British Army. 

However, the new generation of soldiers are children of computer and TV era. This means that the contemporary British soldier is subtler than his predecessors. He is more prone to the advantages of the modern civilization and needs to be soothed, entertained and praised.

There are several factors deteriorating the moral of the British troops in Iraq:

Absence of support among the people of Great Britain and the world,
Lack of coordination within the command;
Heavy climatic conditions;
Bad preparation of the equipment for the conditions of the desert;
Irregular supplies;
Limited communication with spouses and relatives.

In the beginning of 2004 the families of 6 British soldiers who died in Iraq, filed an action against British Defense Ministry on accusations of murder. They decided to start legal proceedings after British Defense Minister refused to investigate the deaths of 6 British soldiers in the police station in the village in Southern Iraq. The soldiers had no sufficient weapons and were killed by Iraqi mob. Earlier, the British paratroopers by mistake shot several Iraqis being in the funeral procession. After this paratroopers were evacuated from the area, but the authorities seemed to forget about the 6 badly armed soldiers guarding the police station, and left them facing the mob.

The moral of the British troops is being undermined by the lack of supplies. British soldiers have to spend their personal money on the parts for their portative radio stations. This fact caused new wave of criticism directed at British Defense Ministry. Recently Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon had to publicly apologize to the widow of the soldier killed because he borrowed his body armor to another soldier – they had only one body armor for the two of them...

NATO newcomers

The morality of the soldiers from East European countries is undermined by the anti-war outlook of the society, first cases of soldiers’ deaths, vague perspectives for solving Iraqi crisis and lack of experience on missions abroad.

About 2,500 Polish troops formed the basis of 9,000 multinational unit (soldier from 22 countries). The Poles faced difficulties from the very beginning because they had no experience of commanding so big and diverse military unit.

The Poles are commanders for the 500 Bulgarian soldiers.  In December 2003 more than 50 Bulgarian troops who previously volunteered for the mission in Iraq “to establish peace, stability and order in the area of town Kerbela” quit.  After December 27, 2003 when 4 Bulgarian were killed and 64 wounded in Iraq, 47 more Bulgarian volunteers refused to leave Bulgaria for Iraq. In addition, many Bulgarian soldiers claim that their salary is low, and requested bonuses for taking a risk.

Maxim Shigov,
Chief of Department of Foreign Military Information and Communication, Moscow Military District

Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie




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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova