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Open Letter to U.S. Troops Serving in Iraq
By Bernard Weiner,
The Crisis Papers
May 3, 2005
This letter comes to you from someone -- like most of the elected
officials in Washington giving you military orders -- who has never served
in the armed forces. So you may be tempted to dismiss what I say as not
relevant to your very real and scary daily experiences in Iraq.
But I speak to you as someone who, like you, loves our country, and who is
very worried about both your continued survival and about the effects on
you from what you're being asked to do in Iraq.
And, just so you'll know where I'm coming from, I'm also writing as a
citizen who was deeply involved in supporting the troops in Vietnam in the
'60s and '70s -- most of whom, unlike you, were drafted to serve -- while
I disagreed vehemently with the policies of the U.S. government that sent
them there. More than 58,000 American soldiers died in 'Nam, for no good
reason, and more than two million Vietnamese were killed there, for no
We who are opposed to Bush Administration's Iraq policies do not want you
to die or be maimed in Iraq. And we want to save the lives of Iraqis as
well, most of them innocent civilians. As you know, it's estimated that
100,000 Iraqis have been killed to date as a result of this war, many of
them women and children -- to use the Pentagon's jargon, "collateral
You have been thrust into guerrilla-type warfare, where anybody can be,
and often is, the enemy. Some of the insurgent forces are foreign
fighters, anxious to kill Americans in the name of religious jihad. Some,
no doubt, are ex-Saddam soldiers, out for revenge. But the bulk of the
insurgency, our intelligence services tell us, are ordinary Iraqis who are
angered by the ongoing American occupation of their country. In short,
from these Iraqis' point of view, they are desperate patriots fighting for
As we now know, you were sent to that country without the requisite armor,
weaponry and supplies, in a military campaign that was based on lies,
misinformation, and deficient planning.
We all were told by our elected officials in Washington that Saddam
Hussein had huge stockpiles of "weapons of mass-destruction" (WMD) --
nuclear, chemical, biological -- and was ready, willing and able to use
them on his neighbors, on the U.S. mainland via drone planes, and on any
American troops that might invade. Thanks to innumerable statements by our
elected leaders, echoed by a compliant media, we all were told that Saddam
Hussein had a working relationship with al-Qaida and thus was somehow
partially responsible for 9/11.
It has now been proven that none of those statements and suggestions was
true. The official investigations have determined that there were no WMD
-- supposedly the reason that justified the invasion -- and no working
relationship bewteen Iraq and al-Qaida with regard to 9/11.
TRYING TO STOP THE BLOODBATH
Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq began in March of 2003, more than 10
million citizens around the world went out into their respective
countries' streets to peacefully oppose that looming war, and to assert
their strong belief that there were no WMD and no believable Iraq/al-Qaida
link. The United Nations' weapons inspectors were in Iraq, seeking the WMD
but not finding any, when the Bush Administration announced that time was
up and began its "shock&awe" assault.
It was this invasion, based on untruths and haste, that put you and your
fellow soldiers into harm's way in Iraq. And not much has changed since
that time: You remain in harm's way, and are forced to try to nation-build
at the same time you're being attacked by a shadowy insurgent force that
uses munitions lifted easily from unguarded arms dumps around the country.
Bad military planning.
Indeed, virtually every step of the way during the Iraq Occupation, your
bosses at the Pentagon have made gross and costly errors in tactics and
strategy and troop-levels required -- thus endangering you -- and have
wound up alienating more and more citizens of that country, to your
detriment. To date, nearly 1600 U.S. troops have died as a result of the
invasion, nearly 20,000 have left the battlefield with extreme injuries,
and, as others have documented, about 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war.
TERRORISM GROWS LIKE TOPSY
Are you, are we, any safer as a result of this war? It certainly wouldn't
appear so. The insurgency -- which like a magnet has attracted trained
terrorists to Iraq -- moves and acts at will as a strong, tactically-adept
guerrilla force. The number of acts of terror in Iraq is growing, rather
than receding. There have been about three times the number of terrorist
incidents around the globe than before the war began. Much of the Islamic
world has come to see the United States as its enemy. And most of the
world's leaders and peoples believe we are engaged in unconscionable
tactics in Iraq.
At home, a clear majority of the U.S. public now has come to believe that
they were lied into the war and that it's in America's long-term interests
to get out of there as quickly as possible.
So why are we still there, with indications that U.S forces will remain
there for many years? Why are you and your buddies in uniform still
getting killed and blown up by homemade bombs?
IT'S ABOUT OIL AND CONTROL
The invasion seems to have had nothing to do with WMD, 9/11, or even with
deposing Saddam -- though the latter reason was seized on by the Bush
Administration only when the previous justifications couldn't stand up to
scrutiny. The facts indicate that you and your buddies are fighting for
oil and in order for the Bush Administration to make major readjustments
in the geopolitical landscape of that region.
The underlying motive is a desire for the U.S. to effectively control the
huge oil/gas reserves in the Greater Middle East -- with the huge
permanent military bases in Iraq aiding in this effort. To affect these
ends, Iraq is being used as a negative role-model, a warning to the other
leaders in the region and around the globe: Either bend to our will, or
we'll effect your removal from power.
Now I realize that, like my neighbor's Marine son, there are those
in-country who sincerely and firmly believe they are in Iraq for all the
right reasons, that America as the lone superpower should use its might to
remove bad guys from office and set up democracies that will be more
U.S.-friendly. They are proud to serve their nation in carrying out the
aims of the neo-con theorists in the Bush Administration.
But even if it were a worthy goal to bring "democracy" and "free-market"
economies to the largely autocratic nation-states of the Islamic Middle
East by force or coercion, idealism often runs headlong into reality, with
disastrous, unintended consequences. Even people the U.S. is "liberating"
chafe at America's bullyboy way of organizing the "new world order."
Witness what is happening in Iraq right now. The U.S. has overthrown a bad
man and, through its military and political might, has engineered a
governmental system that supposedly will do America's will. But the U.S.
military's clumsy, inefficient occupation -- aided and abetted by its
policy of state-sponsored torture -- has managed to alienate huge segments
of that country, of that region, of the world.
PUTTING THE HOMELAND IN DANGER
The U.S. is regarded across the globe as an international pariah, an
arrogant imperial bully, feared but not respected. In addition, Bush
Administration policies have provided terrorists with just the propaganda
they need as they recruit more to their side every day. (I'm referring to
the policies of invading and occupying and torturing, and not forcing the
Israelis to end their occupation of the Palestinian West Bank.) Such
wrongheaded policies not only further endanger you and your buddies on the
ground in Iraq but the American homeland as well.
Whether you agree with me or not about whether the Bush Administration's
Iraq plan is correct, I think you'll agree that our forces there are
engaged in actions that guarantee more death and destruction not only
aimed at you, but at those you love back home. In the Vietnam War, the
local guerrillas attacked U.S. troops only, but in our current high-tech
era, the war easily can be brought to our shores here in America, with a
few suicide bombers, shoulder-fired missiles, a vial of biological agent,
In sum, the national interests of the United States (not even mentioning
your lives) have been put at great risk in the service of an unproven
theory of militarist "regime-changing" across the globe that not only is
in violation of national and international law but unlikely of success.
THE VIETNAM PARALLELS
In this, and in so many other ways, Iraq resembles Vietnam. It took a good
share of a decade until the citizenry at home and the troops on the ground
in 'Nam came to realize and admit that their government had taken them
into an immoral and unwinnable war. They began to organize to oppose that
war and negotiate a face-saving way out. In the end, the guerrillas won
and the U.S. exited hastily, a much embarrassed superpower.
There are signs that the opposition to this war is developing further,
faster, both inside the U.S. and in Iraq. Desertion rates are way up,
fewer troops are re-upping (especially among the overused and abused
Reserves and National Guard forces sent to Iraq ), military recruitment is
way down, support for the war is falling rapidly in the polls, even many
conservatives and military officers think we're engaged in the wrong war
at the wrong time in the wrong place.
Nobody wants to die for a mistake, but until the U.S. finds a quick way
out of Iraq, that's the position you and your buddies are placed in over
there. Granted, you signed up for the military and thus have even less
leverage than draftees in terms of opposing the war. But know that your
fellow citizens at home pay great attention to what the troops on the
ground say and do. (Just one soldier asking Rumsfeld why the grunts
weren't receiving proper body armor had a great impact; or another
example, those truckers who went public with their refusal to transport
goods without proper vehicle-armor and protection.)
So, in the service of your country -- and of your own necks -- I urge you
to start to speak up more, ask more questions, reveal information that
needs to be discussed. (Several soldier heroes did just that in exposing
the Abu Ghraib tortures.)
With ordinary citizens like me and others working from the outside, and
you and others working from the inside, we can help create a momentum that
might get you back home earlier, in one piece -- receiving plaudits and
huzzahs from American citizens, not spit and derision as happened when
'Nam vets returned home -- and that might restore America's rightful place
in the international community as a moral country worthy of respect and
wide support once again.
Copyright 2005, by Bernard Weiner