A feature that ran Tuesday on The Associated Press, in which combat veterans share their impressions of the war in Iraq now that the U.S. mission there is over, does exactly what that wire service is best at: Collect interesting information and present it simply and directly, without editorial comment. If you've ever wanted to ask a bunch of combat vets exactly how they feel about the war in Iraq, the violence there now, and how that makes them feel about their mission, but you don't know a bunch of combat vets, this is the closest you'll come.
A few examples from the nine vets AP's Juliet Watson and her colleagues polled:
Former Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Rothlein fought building to building in Fallujah in 2004:
"If they [Iraqis] were starting to flourish in a democratic way, it would be like 'Mission accomplished. We went over there and it made a difference. We helped the people of Iraq. We made history.' But we didn't make history. We're going to be in the history books for the bloodiest battle in Iraq. But for what? There was no outcome. We may as well have all gotten killed. There's no finish line."
Army Maj. Christy Nyland, an intelligence officer, trained Iraqi military and security forces in 2009 and 2010:
Cabral said her fellow soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Calvary, witnessed the Adahmiyah district go from a "hopeless state where soldiers and hundreds of local nationals were dying every day, to a hopeful and desired environment. Watching this event unfold for those few days was so inspiring."
Army Staff Sgt. Jesus Lozacruz served two tours in Iraq:
"It's like there was no purpose," he says. "To me and some of my fellow soldiers, it feels like we gave all this for nothing ... We went there and gave all this just to withdraw out of nowhere? We did all this stuff, set up all kinds of things, and now it's gone, it's trashed."
The story, which is attributed to Watson and Russ Bynum, Gene Johnson, David Dishneau, Chris Carola, Susanne Schafer, and Melissa Nelson, worth a read in full at The Associated Press.