Following is the next letter in a series of emails that Front Page will be publishing from an American soldier in Kosovo:
I keep telling myself, I'm a professional, and this is just a job.
We conducted checkpoints around this town and ended up pissing off everyone there, hurting our ties with the Serbians there as well as the others who live and work there. It got so bad a police officer drew his pistol and pointed it in the face of a sergeant in my unit. [The officer was an Albanian member of KPS, the Kosovo Police Service.] The issue was resolved, the officer detained, and things got a bit calmer. But by the end of this, we all asked ourselves, "What the hell are we doing?" I think after yesterday we did more damage to the people here, so those who want to start a fight with NATO (i.e. KLA, UCK, etc), they have a few more bullets now to add to their growing arsenal of hate towards us.
I believed in the idea of this [checkpoint operation], but not the execution. This would have been good days ago when the raid occurred at the hotel to get the terrorists. [backstory: “While our 3rd platoon was out at an FOB (forward operating base) in one of our towns, 5 terrorists were nabbed in this hotel across the street from the FOB. The UN CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) raided the hotel and nabbed them. Of course, no one bothered to let KFOR know or give us a heads up. So, my question is, what were those 5 guys planning? Were they hiding? Were they al-Qaeda? Who were they? Their intentions?”]...The UN does not do a good job of passing on information, plus for some reason we're still more concerned about Serbian paramilitary than we are KLA/UCK.
Those were my friends out there, good people, and for all we know they could've been the target of a terrorist attack and been killed without any warning. As for the UN: they'll try to take all the glory but the second a shot goes off, they come running to us like we're their big brother to protect them from some bully. Pansies. …We're setting ourselves up for failure here, and I think we did nothing more than make the situation worse. The terrorists were Albanian, and we have no idea what their goal is.
Two days ago we found out that there was a VBIED in sector [vehicle-born improvised explosive device], and it's still out there. Why? Because our command didn't want to detain the persons/occupants driving it, they wanted to stop the car for an hour until we could track him back to his base of operations or wherever he was going--probably his target. Does this seem like logical thought to you? A few months ago, a 155mm howitzer round was discovered in a vehicle and the person was let go WITH HIS DEADLY CARGO, just so we could track him… I still haven't heard anything else about [the VBIED]. The 155 round that I told you about, that happened months ago, and was on a tight lid. Again, God forbid we know what we're up against for the sake of security...of course, I can just go online and "Google" whatever it is they're not telling me and find out…
I think that the NATO forces here do not know what their priorities are nor what their targets should be. My suggestion, which reflects the judgment of several combat veterans here, and a few who have deployed here before, [is] this: we start wearing our body armor and take no chances. We ride "guns up" (meaning we have gunners in the turrets of our humvees). We don't hand ANYONE we detain as a terror suspect over to KPS, they're more crooked than a question mark, we take them back here and question them just like in Iraq. We send a message out by showing we're not playing games by how we've raised our protection level, and we start going house to house and look for the people we want. If they're in a black-listed building [
i.e. buildings that are off-limits to soldiers, whether because of drug or terrorist activity, or because they’re a terrorist target], we hit it, and we get them. We should ignore the UN and EU's politics and do our jobs. Of course, that won't happen. What I'm afraid will happen is a spark. Someone will start shooting, and it'll escalate, and we'll be caught with our pants down.
At this point, the majority of the soldiers don't trust the Albanians. The only ones who have a clue are the infantry soldiers who go outside the wire every day and deal with the locals 24/7. It's our lives at stake, not some office "pogue". When we conducted these checkpoints we should've been wearing body armor, but we weren't because we didn't want to scare anyone. Every day I feel more and more like a target and a pawn, and I don't like either. This is becoming the making of a very bad situation. My friend is in Iraq and she had 30 rockets hit her camp the other day, yet she worries more about me than herself. I think that's a sign that maybe things won't be too good here.
I really don't think anyone understands how bad this place can blow up in our faces and how bad it's going to be. We'll see though, I pray that nothing happens, I don't want to be caught in the middle of all this…We don’t need to be involved in this, and we’re going to be shooting ourselves in the foot with this one.
Hope all is well, for now I'm going to go to the gym and work out my frustration. I can't do my job with one arm tied behind my back.
An anonymous US soldier in Kosovo
p.s. Do you ever listen to the artist "Citizen Cope"? I love their music. I think they're from New York. There's a song that I love, maybe you've heard of it: "Bullet and a target". The chorus goes as follows:
"But what you've done here is put yourself between a bullet and a target, and it won't be long before you're puttin' yourself away"
That's what we've done. We've put ourselves between a bullet and a target. It's a no-win situation if you think about it. Even if we let the Serbs keep Kosovo, it'll infuriate Muslims around the world, and hurt our ties here. We're "That Guy", the one who butts into the conversation between two people and tells them what to think and do. We should've left this situation be.
And for everything I stand for? I don't want to back a place that will become a safe haven for terrorists, I've lost friends to these guys (insurgency in Iraq), and I don't want to one day have my friends or family hurt or killed because someone blew up a mall or plaza and the terrorists happened to come from here, or hid out here. Jeez...I don't even know why this mission falls under OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] or GWOT [Global War on Terror], if we're going to back a place that terrorists can hide out, how are we supporting the war on terror?
I don't think what we're doing is right, and I hate to say that because as a soldier I'm supposed to believe in my mission and know the reason why I'm putting my life on the line and sacrificing so much. Well I don't. A lot of us are wondering exactly what the hell we are doing here. As I said, we're just putting ourselves between a bullet and a target.
You really should download that song...