The war claims the lives of two critics

Two sergeants who wrote of a failed strategy die when their truck overturns in Baghdad.

Published September 12, 2007 1:47PM (EDT)

In heated questioning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel asked Gen. David Petraeus if the Senate should simply "dismiss" the views of seven disillusioned noncommissioned officers set forth last month in a devastating New York Times essay on their experiences in Iraq.

That just got harder to do.

Minutes after Hagel spoke Tuesday, we heard that two of the seven men had just been killed in Iraq. Now there's confirmation: The Associated Press is reporting that Staff Sgt. Yance Gray was killed Monday when the cargo truck in which he was riding overturned in Baghdad, and a TV station in Houston says that Sgt. Omar Mora was killed in the same crash.

In their Times essay, Gray, Mora and their comrades and coauthors said that U.S. military success in some parts of Iraq is "offset by failures elsewhere," that a majority of Iraqi military commanders are not yet "reliable partners" and that any claim that U.S. forces are "increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework."

"In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act," the men wrote. "Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence ... In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal."

The men vowed that they would "see the mission" through despite their own concerns. Two of them are now dead, and a third, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Murphy, was shot in the head just before their essay appeared.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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