...It can be a bit painful at times, but that is a price you pay for having been a professional soldier, and I feel that the American people have a right to know about the war, and I don't feel like mainstream media cares about much else than the violence and death it causes.
My broad opinion is what makes war compelling to people is that it is a story about the will of a nation's people en masse through the eyes of thousands of individuals who believe countless contrasting things, but still enforce the will of the entire nation, of heroics and camraderie, and the mainstream media during this war has largely ignored the human story, which is the only story worth hearing, in my estimation. Who cares about the actual tanks Patton's 3rd Army drove to battle? It was the colorful Patton, and the grim specter of death and destruction on the faces of the men he led that made it a story worth listening to.
You asked about Iraq, but I don't think we can generalize this war to just this theatre, since Afghanistan is still brewing, and casualties will start mounting during this spring offensive we're about to undertake, so let's talk the Global War on Terror.
The Global War on Terror, aside from being the most laughable title for a war in history, has been a success for America, though I think most people would completely disagree with me on this. As I move along through this (and it's sure to be an epic, so I apologize for my long-windedness in advance) hopefully more people will see it as I do, or at least gain an appreciation of why I feel that way.
First, I have to explain why I believe America went to war. Everyone knows the story of 9-11 and our road to war in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and neutralize Osama Bin Laden, but most people are at a loss as to the real reasons we went to war in Iraq. Again, everyone knows the official story about WMD and Saddam Hussein the tyrant gassing his own populous, but now largely discount this as a government misleading, or just an outright lie.
So what were the real reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq?
The caveat is that this is completely my own opinion. There is little proof that it is fact, save for my own perspective, experience, and logic. I lay in a hospital bed for 9 months after Fallujah, trying to find the balance between my spirituality, and morality after all of the killing and death I was forced to deal to our enemies while also recovering from my near-mortal wounds. Naturally, I spent a great deal of time trying to justify this war to myself, and these following thoughts are the byproduct of those hospital-bed introspections. It's amazing how much time you spend thinking when you're blind, and don't have imagery to do your thinking for you.
I believe this war is a "Bleeding" war. Its purpose is not to defeat an enemy, which would be almost impossible, since our enemy isn't well-defined by his nature as a terrorist. Its purpose is simple but effective...We will bleed his ability to bring the fight to us by draining his munitions, manpower, wealth, resources and recruiting bases.
Iraq was a ruse that was necessary for the plan to move forward. We needed a Middle-Eastern country to occupy, and Iraq just happened to meet the requirements through their pattern of misbehavior. It was necessary to occupy a country there, and leave the borders open to encourage the enemy to fight us on their own soil, causing them collateral damage, and all the while bleeding their ability to wage war on us where we're most vulnerable, here in the U.S. While in Iraq I fought Chechnians, Lybians, Jordanians, Sudanese, Iranians, Lebanese and Iraqis. The plan worked to encourage these people to attack us there, and we have had no terrorist attacks in the U.S. since the war began, so it has been successful in its purpose. Every day, the enemy has less resources with which to harm Americans, while ours are nearly inexhaustable. It is a war of resources, and in this, I believe we are winning handily.
As for the misleading causes for war from the Bush Administration, I don't pretend to know their reasoning for it, but I do know that if what I believe was indeed the genuine case for war, you couldn't exactly lay that out to the American people on CNN, else the enemy wouldn't have shown up to play into your hand. The enemy watches CNN too. You wouldn't believe how many doors I kicked in in Iraq to find Wolf Blitzer's ugly mug yapping at me from the television.
The American people have the right to feel mislead in this war, but on the other hand, they need to interpret the name of the war literally when tying to determine the success of said war. It is a war on terror. And since 9-11 and this war's inception, it has been the terrorists who have been terrified, not the American people. So the question you posed was "What do I feel the chances for success in this war are?" My answer is that I think it's been successful from the beginning, not just in ways many people would judge it by.
There are things I disagree with about the war, certainly, but I do not believe we are losing. I disagree with our coddling of Iraqi forces, and would rather we let them fight more of their own battles. I disagree with forcing concepts like democracy and liberty on a people who have yet to even develop pride in ownership, which in my estimation is the basic cornerstone for those principals to even exist.
As for my personal recovery, I'm happy to report that I'm doing pretty well. I live on the East side of Indy in Greenfield, and after being pretty unstable for quite sometime as far as my head injuries went, so I lost a couple of jobs while in the midst of it, but finally I've recieved what should be the final surgery on my brain (they sealed off the breach in my skull with teflon, so it'd better be) and have since gone back to work for the Army as a civilian recruiter. Since my career was cut so short, and I love the Army so much, it's a perfect blend of involvement for me. I know what kinds of men and women are needed to help my friends win this war, and I do my best to get them there. My eyesight, knee, and brain have all returned to somewhat normal, and I can get around without too much of a limp these days. I still have some shrapnel that surfaces, but they are able to dig it out without major problems. I still undergo a lot of combat counseling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and have to take anti-depressants and sleeping pills to avoid the nightmares and the like, but I am just overwhelmingly glad to have the chance to be able to process it. Too many good men didn't live to get that chance.
I think the program you spoke about being involved with is a good program as long as the message is accepted by the chain of command. I know there was a huge problem in the Army with treating PTSD cases like they have the plague. So much so that I hid mine from them as long as I could stand it. The rapid transition back to civilian life is a tough one for anyone, though. I kept pausing at corners of buildings, afraid of going around them. I couldn't sit with my back to an open space. If a car backfired, I was on the ground. If a camera flashed and I didn't expect it, I was diving for cover. I avoided everything and everyone I could. I would sit alone at home, and try to stay occupied. It seemed like no one could understand where I'd been. People would come up and want to talk with you about the war, call you a hero, and ask goofy things like how it felt to kill someone. They were trying to honor you and what you did, but they didn't understand how hard it was for you at that point to deal with it.
You're searching for spiritual and moral answers, and no one seems to understand it. It took my priest, my family, my doctors, and my VA psychologists to get me through it. It leant new meaning to the phrase "it takes a village" for me. The education of the chain of command is key. Their disaproval of the mental disorders compounds the problem ten-fold.
As for Army medicine, I was treated at both Landsthul in Germany, and at Walter Reed in DC. I don't think anyone is complaining about the care at military facilities. I know I can't in the slightest. The Army flew in a civilian neurosurgeon from the US (Atlanta) who was a USC graduate (Ugh.)
to perform the inital surgery to remove the bone fragments from my lower brain because he was one of the foremost experts in that type of surgery, and the Army couldn't offer comparably skilled neurosurgeons. How much did something like that cost? I mean, that's world class care for a common NCO in the Army. My experience was that the care was spectacular.
I hate to think how much I drove up your taxes with just my care alone.
I think I covered everything you asked...If you have any other questions, let me know.