A Marine Who Fought In Iraq On The Fight Against ISIS
Here & Now concludes a series of conversations about Iraq and ISIS with someone who served in the Iraq War.
Retired Marine Matt Victoriano, who served as a scout and sniper team leader from 2000 to 2004, participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and returned to conduct combat operations in Al Anbar and Babylon provinces.
Victoriano now owns Intrepid Life, an organization in Durham, North Carolina, that helps veterans transition back to civilian life. He discusses ISIS and Iraq today with host Jeremy Hobson.
Interview Highlights: Matt Victoriano
On whether or not the U.S. should be fighting ISIS in Iraq
“Experience and history tells me that we need to not be involved, outside of maybe limited surgical strikes on key, high-value targets. But emotion tells me otherwise. I’m on the phone every day with my interpreter there, who volunteered to rejoin the army – the Iraqi army – when ISIS took Mosul, and I’ve been on the phone with him several times in life or death situations over there. And because of that, because he almost died and has almost died, and continues to be under threat, because his family members are constantly dying at the hands of ISIS, I feel a personal obligation to do something and to have our government do to something to protect him and the other Iraqis there that we’ve left in danger.”
How the U.S. should structure its efforts
“Our efforts to train their forces failed in the past and it’s going to fail now. You can try to train the Iraqi army and Shia militias, but without the will to fight and the motivation, it’s not going to work. Even then the only effective fighting force that they have in Iraq right now are the Shia militias. And if they end up taking over the rest of Iraq, you’ve got a big problem, along with the Iranian forces that are there. However, there are direction action-type missions, other ways of using our military forces in conjunction with certain Iraqi forces to remove ISIS from the area, without the consequences that would exist doing it in other ways.”
“You see the bloodshed and the suffering that goes on over there, and it’s something that you can’t know, unless you’ve been in that situation.”
Whether or not Iraq is a lost cause
“It is a lost cause going about it the way our government is going about it. Unfortunately our government hasn’t done things the right way, period. If they did things the right way, we could have some effect. The biggest factor being, when you have a central government who forces out all of the leadership within the Iraqi army – that is there because of merit – and they install their cronies because of their religious and family ties, nothing’s going work. You have to start there, and they haven’t done that. Corruption is so widespread and, hearing this from my interpreter as well, that without addressing that corruption, yeah, it is going to fail.”
What do veterans know about Iraq that we don’t?
“I would say it’s that personal connection to the people. If you hear it over the radio or you read about it in the news, you don’t know the humanity that exists over there. As veterans who have been over there, we’ve seen the good that exists in the Iraqi people. We see how intelligent they are, we see how compassionate they are, how much they have a will to just live in peace.”
“And you see the bloodshed and the suffering that goes on over there, and it’s something that you can’t know, unless you’ve been in that situation. And the sorrow that I hear from my interpreter when he tells me that one of his cousins was executed by ISIS in Tikrit, or another cousin was killed from an RPG in the outskirts of Fallujah, and another friend was killed fighting ISIS just north of Baghdad, and the toll that that has on him and his family members, it’s something that you can’t understand unless you’ve been in those situations.”
- Matt Victoriano, retired Marine, Iraq War veteran and owner of Intrepid Life. He tweets @MattVictoriano and @IntrepidLifeNC.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.