(Note: This originally appeared at Truthdig.com.)
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans — whose future you stole.
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in US history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.
Kansas City, Mo.
My only wish is that gifted history and civics teachers in our nation’s high schools will read David Sirota’s column [“The Blind Theology of Militarism], and use his clear and perceptive writing to enlighten young people.
They could teach their students how easy it is for unscrupulous politicians to launch our nation into senseless wars, if its citizens aren’t paying attention.
English teachers, too, could use that article to explain how the gullible can so easily be manipulated by merely corrupting the language.
As an example: Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) refers to drones as a “humane weapon,” and justifies killing people with those machines because, “drones are a lot more civilized than what we used to do.”
So, here we have a politician telling us that killing people with complicated devices is “civilized,” as opposed to killing them with bayonets! Of course, Sen. King doesn’t reveal that our drones have already killed hundreds of civilians, including children.
How original also that David Sirota chose to describe militarism as a theology. And he is so right! Patriotism and militarism have indeed evolved into religions with their own dogma — just like Catholicism and Calvinism!
Inasmuch as modern weapons and greedy opportunists have made war even more diabolical, I praise TPP for regularly offering reports from thoughtful writers who strip away the mask of righteousness, to reveal the leprosy of war which continues to disfigure the face of our humanity.
I remember; when after 9/11, Americans were flying American flags everywhere especially from their vehicles. That was quite a spectacle. To paraphrase the late Kurt Vonnegut: “If you feel threatened, wave a flag because nothing scares a terrorist as much as flag waving.” After the most recent gun tragedy at Newtown, Conn., a similar phenomenon is taking place. Gun stores in my residential area are almost sold out. The fastest selling guns are assault-style rifles like the one used at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It seems there should be a rush to get those assault-style weapons out of our society, not load it up even more with them.
I would be interested in a survey about why Americans are stockpiling assault-style rifles. If they didn’t need them before Newtown, what do they need them for now? We don’t have much wild land left to hunt on, and I know that no hunter wants to riddle an animal with bullets that he intends to eat. That is what the Bushmaster assault-style rifle and similar models do, they riddle. Most Americans live in residential areas not on great expanses of land. Land is getting as scarce as the wild animals that use to live on it. There has not been a spike in home burglaries, so I really wonder what is going on.
Undeterred by the Security and Exchange Commission’s wrist slaps, Congressional vandals continue to sever lifelines while caroling love songs to the rich. Corporate predators ferret out new ways to make an unchaste buck. Know-nothings mangle science.
If the pygmies succeed in eviscerating the regulatory agencies, their long-term goal — to deep-six democracy in Grover Norquist’s bathtub – will become possible of realization.
It would be nice if the now-dormant Occupy movement were to abandon its purist refusal to publicly champion specific political goals and come up with a program with a reasonably good chance of gaining the widespread public support hitherto denied.
Pacific Grove, Calif.
Corporate private capital through its command of almost all wealth has risen to challenge the ability of government to preside for the benefit of all the people.
The legitimacy of government will not be restored until our common narrative is that capitalism is our economic engine, not our government.
Capitalism increasingly has become an evil eminence to government. By financing politicians and dominating political speech economic power shapes government to its purposes with and without direct corruption of it.
When all the arguments are done, if capitalism and its mentors remain the regulators instead of the regulated and government remains merely an instrument of capitalist power, democracy is dead.
The possibility exists that representative democracy may already be the shadow and corporate power the substance.
Paul R. Cooper
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Editor’s Note: Corporate lobbyists would be pleased to accept the people’s surrender.
Yes, the President was confrontational in his State-of-the-Union speech [“Obama 2013: In your face,” by Bob Burnett, 3/15/13 TPP]. But what is this “spending”? It seems that from POTUS on down, the Democrats speak the language of Republicans. The only instance I’ve ever seen of a politico making the distinction between “spending” and “investment,” was then-Sen. John Kerry. The connotation of “spending” is something like “... a drunken sailor.” The connotation of “investing” conjures up something like, oh, an avuncular Warren Bufffet. Certainly not all spending is investment and all investment is good investment, but —
And “entitlements”: to many that means something like a “welfare queen,” or, at best, getting something you haven’t earned. No, “entitlements” are earned benefits. Then there are the “racial entitlements” of Justice Scalia’s imagination.
The President made a critical mistake when he conflated Social Security with the national debt and budget — that is an error that Republicans use as an irrefutable truth. Well, what can one expect from a President whom I described (on these pages) as the best Republican President since Clinton.
San Francisco, Calif.
A Dispatch in the 3/15/13 TPP (“Dems face tough Senate races in ’14”) listed Michigan as a state with a Senate seat up for re-election in Republican territory, when the relevant state is Mississippi, where Thad Cochran (R) is up for re-election. The term of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is expiring, and he has announced he will not seek re-election, but Michigan is not considered Republican territory.
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From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2013
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