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More from U.S. soldiers below the fold:
From MoveOn.org's recent Counter Filibuster:
Peter G., New York:
Well I would have felt much better if I was deployed to Afghanistan. Realistically it was an Al Qaeda group in Afghanistan that attacked my home town and killed a lot of American citizens. They try to make people believe that Iraq was in some way connected to Afghanistan and a lot of us troops when we were first deployed there honestly believed it.
I wasn’t opposed to it at the time. I didn’t really know very much about the Middle East. I was a little bit naïve in that sense. When you got there you started to realize that the theologies of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were totally incompatible with each other, so there was really no link per see between the situation over there in Afghanistan with Al Qaeda and I started to see that and a lot of people who worked directly inside of Iraq with the people of Iraq started to realize that the two didn’t mix and they were not the same situation.
The American people, the Iraqi people, the troops – I mean we’ve all given so much and we’ve given this administration a number of opportunities to come up with a viable plan. They’ve pushed everything aside; they have their own short-sided ideology and that’s how they’re going to do it. And frankly they can no longer be trusted with the lives of our service members.
We have to do what we can to pressure our law makers to oppose their surge plan. While there are no great options to end this thing – we have to find a way to bring it to a responsible redeployment and if that includes diplomacy and other options then we have to do that. I mean this is the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. If there was ever a manual written on how not to fight a war, it would be this administration’s playbook.
Andrea J., North Carolina
On 19 March 2003, the day Operation Iraqi Freedom began, I was stationed on a destroyer in the Persian Gulf. My deployment should have ended 6 weeks before, but because of the war the entire battle group's deployment was extended.
I was part of the Tomahawk launch team, and over the first four weeks of the war we emptied our launchers. The hours were brutal. We could and did launch missiles at all hours of the day and night. It became so commonplace to see them fly that CNN even stopped covering it.
I finally came home on from the war on March 19th, the same day President Bush stood on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared major combat operations over in Iraq, in front of a banner that read "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." Since then, my personal year has revolved towards and away from the 19th of March. It is my own Ash Wednesday, a Yom Kippur that I mark with no one but myself.
In military circles, you don’t speak of regretting your part in a war, and it feels disloyal besides. I know, I'm brainwashed. It happens. I am not overwhelmingly depressed this year, thanks be to God for small mercies that I probably don't deserve. I am mournful, I am contemplative. I wish for forgiveness from myself, I wish I could feel right with God again, but these things may take a while and for the most part, I am at peace.
Less than a year from now I will finally take off my uniform for the last time, and be out of it all for good. Next year on the 19th of March, I can go to one of the protests marking the anniversary of the start of the war, and not feel like a damned hypocrite or a spy. Next year when I renew my membership in Iraq Veterans Against the War, I will check the box that says "I am willing to speak publicly" and if they ask me to speak, I will go, and I will tell the audience about how all members of the military carry wounds and scars and scabs on the soul, not just the ground forces. I will speak of the choices you make, the things you do to stay out of prison and earn that honorable discharge and the benefits that come with it. I will speak of the nights I have woken up in a cold sweat, clutching a worried dog like a lifeline, with nightmares of the people I have killed arriving, one by one, at my front door in a line that stretches longer than I like to admit.
I wonder, sometimes, why I ended up like this and other people on my Tomahawk team did not. Firing Tomahawks is a triumph of military engineering, designed to kill a maximum number of the enemy while causing the least amount of potential trauma to the firing team. It includes any number of factors that will make it easier for a person to kill, including the extremely long range of the weapon, the shared responsibility (an average Tomahawk team includes at least seven people), and lack of decision-making (targets are selected for you). All of these factors should have buffered all of us, kept us safe from accepting personal responsibility for our choices.
Why did my brainwashing, so firm in other matters, fail me when I most needed it? I mean, I compulsively check to make sure the buttons on my shirt, the buckle of my belt, and the overlap of the zipper on my pants are neatly lined up throughout the day. My military bearing is rather impeccable when I'm in uniform, if I do say so myself. Bark at me in an authoritative voice and I am liable to follow the order first and think about it later. All the basics are there, but somehow the higher functions didn't install. DOS works, but the Windows-level brainwashing just failed to take, and while on the one hand I'm proud of my ability to retain some level of independent thought, on the other hand entirely I wish like hell I could just buy into the party line and not ... not think, not wonder, not accept that I made the choice to kill rather than to go to prison, even though I thought in 2003 that our reasons for going to war were complete rampaging bullshit dressed up like truth and sent out to walk the halls of the UN.
It's different this year, at least, and for that I am grateful. This afternoon I played in the sunshine with my dogs, and came in and snuggled the kitties in a sunbeam in the library. I must pause, periodically, in my typing to massage the ears of a grey dog who keeps shoving her head in my lap. I have explained to her that I am a mass murderer in the service of the government. She doesn't much care and wants to know if more ear rubbing will be forthcoming. She doesn't understand why her doomed attempt to be a lap dog made me cry a little today. But maybe this is where being ok starts: with the one creature in this world who will forgive me any human failing at all. I'm not right with myself and I'm not right with God, yet, but I am right with Dog and that's a start, isn't it?
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