Iraq 5 Years Later: I Am Ashamed (I Beg You. Read, Watch and Act)


cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics

I am sad. I am angry. I am weary, and I am ashamed.

I hardly know where to begin writing about this five year travesty called the Iraq War, but I do know that it must end.

I was one of those people that didn't need to read a top secret National Intelligence Estimate to know that this war was a terrible idea, but knowing that I was right doesn't make me feel any better. It makes me feel worse for I've done not nearly enough to bring an end to the tragedy. None of us has.

I'm sure you're busy. We all are. But we owe it to our servicemen and women and to the Iraqi people to pay attention to what's happening. Please, stop what you're doing, and read this.

No one in my family, nor any of my close friends are in the military. When I do get a chance to listen to soldiers, I do so with great attention. Three years ago, I ran into a returning U.S. Marine at the Philly airport. Here's a segment of what I wrote:
“Ok, then the opposite question: what’s the most scared you were?”

This required no time for Joe to give me a response.

“Mortar fire. It’s as loud as an airplane.”

I thought that was it, but then he told another story. When he finished, I realized at some point, that I had stopped breathing.

“Also, when someone yells ‘gas!’ that means we suspect a chemical weapons attack, and we have to get suited up.”

All the troops get suited up in their chemical gear — huge, heavy rubber suits with full face masks. This is in 120 degree desert heat. Then they wait. To me, of the F-U-Philly-Airport crowd, “mortar fire” qualified as most frightening. When he upped it with “gas!” I could see that yes, thinking you might melt from the inside, was more frightening than loud explosions. But, Joe wasn’t finished.

“When it’s over, the commanding officer has the youngest, most junior marine take his mask off… to make sure the air is ok. I was the commanding officer, and I had to look into these kids’ eyes and tell them to risk their lives by taking off a mask. The medics were standing by with [instant treatment of some sort] but I’m 22 looking into an 18 year old’s eyes, and he’s scared. It’s hard thing to do.”

Damn.

Damn.

I did not expect that. I’m not sure what I expected, maybe fears of a roadside bomb or some sort of ambush, but not some deep, emotionally scarring event. That’s war. Right there.

A year after meeting Joe, I went to a panel at the progressive Yearly Kos blogger convention (summer 2006). It was a panel of those who had served in Iraq, and more than one story moved me to tears. The panel was sponsored by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Again, here's an excerpt of what I wrote at the time under the title, YearlyKos Day 2: “Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves”:
IAVA hosted a panel with veterans from Iraq talking about their experience over there, but most horribly, their experience here in the US, once they returned.

The quote in the title was from a female vet who joined the military at age 17. She was describing the heart-breaking, back-stabbing and outright cruel lack of resources available to veterans once they get back, especially psychological help. She told of how she was sexually assaulted by a major when she was 19 (a subject I’ve blogged about before), traumatized by her experience in Iraq, and forced into nearly 9-month delays once she returned. She was officially noted by the military health staff as having suicidal tendencies. If it weren’t for IAVA, she said, she’d be another statistic.

“I know people who came back from the war and blew their brains out because they couldn’t take it. Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves”

And one year later (June 2007), I wrote about the tragedies waiting to happen as trained killers return home in Let's Talk About The Monster's We're Creating

It's 2008, and we are still over there, still murdering and maiming and displacing countless Iraqi people. We're still murdering, maiming and psychologically scarring American servicemen and women. Yet, our leaders, for the most part, tell us to be patient. Victory is attainable. They are wrong. We have already lost.

Two weeks ago, I watched No End In Sight, an infuriating documentary which chronicles the extreme arrogance and carelessness with which we planned, launched and prosecuted this war. The people behind this misadventure are criminals, in both their conscious behavior and their negligence.

But this is not all I've been thinking about this week.

I have spent the past several days listening to the testimony of servicemen and women who have returned from Iraq. They've been speaking openly about their experiences in the Winter Soldier testimonies, modeled on events of the same name post-Vietnam.

Every American citizen must take the time to listen to at least some of these stories. You owe it to the people we have sent over there to know what is being done with your money and in your name. It's practically the least you can do.

I have pulled together four stories in the video player below

  • Mike Prysner talks about the deep-seated racism he witnessed and was a part of

  • Camilo Mejia speaks eloquently and painfully of the loss of humanity that is necessary in dehumanizing the enemy

  • Kevin and Joyce Lucey had to tell their son's story because he is no longer alive to do so. He returned from Iraq but was overcome by the emotional wounds and killed himself as the VA hospital refused to admit him, despite pleas from his family

  • In the most disturbing testimony, Tanya Austin talks about the widespread rape and sexual assault that occurs in the military and how victims are further victimized by the system. Check out Stop Military Rape.


You can move through the clips using the big arrows on the side of the video player.



The clear message I have gotten from listening to returning soldiers is that what hurts them is to come home and see a society that has forgotten them, a society preoccupied with the most trite of interests, a society that by its willful ignorance, devalues their experiences.

Don't be that person. I guarantee that whatever you think you must do in the next few hours can wait. We owe it to the people serving in your name. We owe it to the people of Iraq.

As for action, please check out the newly-released Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. End U.S. military action, use diplomatic tools, address humanitarian concerns, restore our constitution, restore our military, restore independence to the media, create a new, U.S.-centered energy policy,


A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq - Click here to add your support