The Last Letter
A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
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.
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 you stole.
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 you stole.
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.
What Would a Rand Paul Libertarian Foreign Policy Look Like?
Posted on Mar 18, 2013
When the Senate passed a resolution in September pledging never to accept an Iranian nuclear weapon, there was only one dissenting vote: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
“A vote for this resolution is a vote for the concept of pre-emptive war,” the libertarian-leaning Republican said.
On Saturday, Paul emerged as the winner of the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Although none of the straw poll winners has gone on to become president, Paul can’t be ruled out as a GOP standard-bearer in 2016.
But what would a libertarian foreign policy look like? Would it be, as Paul’s critics say, merely a retreat into isolationism?
Paul most recently made headlines with his nearly 13-hour filibuster of the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan, an architect of the Obama administration’s drone program. He wanted assurances that the administration forswore the use of drones against U.S. citizens on American soil. His longer-term strategy to rein in the drone program is to try to have the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution repealed. Paul complains that the resolution is far too expansive and has authorized U.S. involvement in “20 countries.”
Paul’s strand of libertarianism, insofar as it deeply distrusts big government, typically opposes policies that increase the size and power of government, chief among them ones pertaining to war. He insists that Congress must authorize going to war, and he opposed the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya on those grounds. Paul, however, rejects the label “isolationist,” and his vision of the challenges facing the United States has an Islamophobic tinge to it. He underscores that the problem is not with Islam as a religion or with the Muslim mainstream, but with radical, political Islam.
However, Paul does not see the latter as a tiny fringe. Rather he views what he calls Islamic radicalism as a large element in the Muslim world and among Muslims in the West, perhaps even a plurality. He lumps in conservative, pro-American Saudi Arabia with anti-American guerrilla groups such as the Taliban, and Iran’s theocratic Shiite state with the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt.
The front-burner issue that is now at the most risk of igniting hostilities is Iran and its civilian nuclear enrichment program, which Washington and Tel Aviv insist is aimed at producing a nuclear warhead. Iran’s supreme theocrat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has forbidden the construction, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons as incompatible with Islamic law, but his denials are discounted by Washington hawks and the Israel lobbies.
In February, Paul insisted that the option of avoiding war and simply containing a nuclear Iran, if the country did develop that capacity, should not be ruled out. He appealed to the model of how the U.S. handled the Soviet Union, a position that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel came under intense fire for from GOP senators during his confirmation hearings.
Paul sees containment as the key to fighting not just Iran but the general challenge of what he calls “radical Islam.” Although Paul positions himself as neither an isolationist nor a neoconservative, his reading of radical Islam takes a leaf from the neocon notion of it. On some occasions, he defines radicalism as support for traditional, if Draconian, laws such as the death penalty for apostasy (a law to which evangelicals with missionary ambitions in the Muslim world particularly object). At other times, he defines it as small guerrilla groups that take up arms against U.S. interests. Paul’s solution to what he sees as a challenge to the U.S. from radical Islam differs from that of the neoconservatives, lying in containment (diplomacy and strategic occasional applications of force) rather than war and occupation of the Muslim world.
Although Paul denies being an isolationist, the tenor of his positions is a profound American disengagement and withdrawal from the Middle East. He wants a quick and complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Paul is a deep critic of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and recently attempted to block the sale to that country of F-16s and Abrams tanks, on the grounds that President Mohamed Morsi hails from the Brotherhood and the nation is politically unstable. He characterizes Egypt as a place “that burns our flag and chants ‘death to America,’ ” which is not actually typical of that country. He has derided the elected Libyan government as helpless to organize the nation’s 100 major tribes (that largely urban Libyans are mostly “tribal” is a shocking piece of Orientalism).
Paul, of course, is entirely opposed to U.S. entanglement in the Syrian civil war, and it was one of his points of disagreement with the Romney campaign. He points to the anxieties of Syrian Christians (who make up about 10 to 14 percent of the population) about whether the fall of the secular Baath government in Damascus would place them at the mercy of Muslim radicals. He cautions, “There is ample evidence the rebels are being funded and armed by the most extreme Islamist elements and governments in the region. Is that where we want our funds and weapons to end up? We need to stop and think before we act.”
There is much in Paul’s proposed foreign policy that will appeal to progressives. The American left typically also opposes war as anything other than a very last resort, and would favor withdrawal from Afghanistan and avoidance of a Syrian quagmire. Containment of Iran as a policy is obviously preferable to bombing it. Questioning of President Obama’s rather lawless drone strikes and an aspiration to finally end the Authorization for Use of Military Force are all to the good. Still, the grounds of Paul’s foreign policy should raise alarums. His expansive notion of “radical Islam” sweeps up many movements and countries that are not playing an adversarial role against the United States and do not need to be contained. In some ways, Paul wants to replace the neoconservatives’ war on terror with a containment of terror, yet he shares many of their mistaken premises about the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. Sometimes his dismissiveness toward other countries, as with his reduction of Libya to 100 tribes, is almost racist.
Despite his disavowal of isolationism, Paul’s policy prescriptions would often have that exact effect. Would it be better to give aid to revolutionary Egypt in hopes of thereby remaining in a position to influence Morsi’s directives, or to cut it off because the country’s electorate dared to vote for a Muslim fundamentalist? There is also a danger that Paul’s instinct to disengage without delay could have the opposite effect of the one he is seeking. He acknowledges that after getting abruptly out of Afghanistan, the U.S. might have to go back in with aerial bombardment if the Taliban regroup. Wouldn’t it be ironic if a President Rand Paul one day had to initiate drone strikes on Kandahar and Khost? Moreover, some of the grounds of his reluctance to engage with the Middle East also have a whiff of prejudice and Islamophobia.
Ultimately, Paul’s favored tool for U.S. foreign policy is trade and the promotion of corporate interests. In this regard, he is a throwback to the principle of 1950s Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson that what is good for the United States is good for General Motors and vice versa. Paul holds that “all of us are corporations.
“They’re us,” he said. “They’re the middle class.”
Paul wants deep tax cuts for corporations, and a reduction of services—including those of the State Department and American diplomacy—for the rest of us. Like most libertarians, Paul is naive about the power and abuses of corporations and uninterested in the welfare of ordinary people. The U.S. should not trade its overly muscular Middle East policy for one that seeks to allow American corporations to ride roughshod over the workers and middle class of the region.