Democratic Underground

To The Troops

May 3, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

This 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 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 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 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 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 & 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 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 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 autocratic 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 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 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 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 place.

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 crisispapers@comcast.net.

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