To The Troops
May 3, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
letter comes to you from someone - like most of the elected officials
in Washington who are 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
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
you as someone 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 50,000 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 the 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 led to believe 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
were true. The official investigations have determined that there
were no WMD - supposedly the reason that justified the invasion
- and no working relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida with regard
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 probably 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 &
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 army 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 GROWING IN RESPONSE
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.
At home, a clear majority of the American public now has come
to believe that they were lied into the war and that it's in our
longterm American 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?
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
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 autocratic leaders in the region and around
the globe: Either bend to our will, or we'll effect your removal
Now I realize that, like my neighbor's Marine son, there are those
in-country who believe firmly that 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 we
are "liberating" chafe at our bullyboy way of organizing the "new
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 political system that supposedly will do America's will. But its
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 "regime-changing" across the globe that
not only is immoral and illegal 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 (especially among the overused and abused
Reserves and National Guard forces sent to Iraq) are re-upping,
military recruitment is way down, support for the war is falling
rapidly in the polls, even many conservatives and military personnel
think we're engaged in the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong
Nobody wants to die for a mistake (or for a bad policy decision),
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.)
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 - 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 politics and international
relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. Send comments to email@example.com.
Crisis Papers Archive