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Open Letter to U.S. Troops Serving in Iraq

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers


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 good reason.

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 damage."

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 their land.

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
beween 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 l
eft 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 longterm 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, whatever.

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. #

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught at numerous universities, worked as a
writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis
Papers (www.crisispapers.org). Send comments to [email protected].

First published at The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 5/3/05.

Copyright 2005 by Bernard Weiner.

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