Though it is over a year old, this last letter by a paralyzed Iraq war vet to former president George Bush and former vice-president Dick Cheney arrived here for the first time today. And as the United States gears up for yet another military involvement in that part of the world, I think it is as pointed and poignant a plea as I ever read. Here is Tomas Young's 2013 letter in toto:
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf
of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the
4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on
behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded
and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have
destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was
paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming
to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost
spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the
fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of
those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have
brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose
trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done
in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers
and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter
on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the
countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the
human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their
lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.
I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral
consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power.
I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it
clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along
with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions
more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you
have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of
egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the
murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal
wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power
cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and
die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you,
Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and
selfishness were established decades ago.
You were not willing to risk
yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young
men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought
than it takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army
because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those
who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army
to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks
and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United
States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down
mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you
cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not
join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be
paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United
States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out
pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law.
And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and
your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S.
history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It
installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one
cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror.
And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every
level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it
was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who
should pay the consequences.
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in
Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11.
Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my
physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the
comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own
decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my
bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with
the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including
children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than
the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in
Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the
inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our
mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no
interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have
been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian.
But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish
ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian
ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you
finally do to yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be
put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral
courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who
deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is
now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the
American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and
beg for forgiveness.
PS. And for those with the stomach and patience, this video retrospective of the rise and institutionalization of a fear-based lifestyle, both in the U.S. and abroad, was passed along in email as well. Be warned, it is carefully wrought and depicts the lies-become-truth insistence of both those with a wider vision of 'goodness' and a wider vision of 'evil.' It's a three-part video and I have to admit I only watched one: It's really very good ... and it's also like willfully contracting a case of Malaria.