Statement to the Troops

signed by Ron Kovic, Jeff Patterson, among many others (originally published in May 2003)

We are veterans of the United States armed forces. We stand with the majority of humanity, including millions in our own country, in opposition to the United States’ all out war on Iraq. We span many wars and eras, have many political views and we all agree that this war is wrong. Many of us believed serving in the military was our duty, and our job was to defend this country. Our experiences in the military caused us to question much of what we were taught. Now we see our REAL duty is to encourage you as members of the U.S. armed forces to find out what you are being sent to fight and die for and what the consequences of your actions will be for humanity. We call upon you, the active duty and reservists, to follow your conscience and do the right thing. In the last Gulf War, as troops, we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We destroyed much of Iraq from the air, killing hundreds of thousands, including civilians. We remember the road to Basra — the Highway of Death — where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We bulldozed trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium weapons left the battlefields radioactive. Massive use of pesticides, experimental drugs, burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires combined to create a toxic cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and Gulf War veterans today. One in four Gulf War veterans is disabled.

During the Vietnam War we were ordered to destroy Vietnam from the air and on the ground. At My Lai we massacred over 500 women, children and old men. This was not an aberration, it’s how we fought the war. We used Agent Orange on the enemy and then experienced first hand its effects. We know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder looks, feels and tastes like because the ghosts of over two million men, women and children still haunt our dreams. More of us took our own lives after returning home than died in battle.

If you choose to participate in the invasion of Iraq you will be part of an occupying army. Do you know what it is like to look into the eyes of a people that hate you to your core? You should think about what your “mission” really is. You are being sent to invade and occupy a people who, like you and me, are only trying to live their lives and raise their kids. They pose no threat to the United States even though they have a brutal dictator as their leader. Who is the U.S. to tell the Iraqi people how to run their country when many in the U.S. don’t even believe their own President was legally elected?

Saddam is being vilified for gassing his own people and trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. However, when Saddam committed his worst crimes the U.S. was supporting him. This support included providing the means to produce chemical and biological weapons. Contrast this with the horrendous results of the U.S. led economic sanctions. More than a million Iraqis, mainly children and infants, have died because of these sanctions. After having destroyed the entire infrastructure of their country including hospitals, electricity generators, and water treatment plants, the U.S. then, with the sanctions, stopped the import of goods, medicines, parts, and chemicals necessary to restore even the most basic necessities of life.

There is no honor in murder. This war is murder by another name. When, in an unjust war, an errant bomb dropped kills a mother and her child it is not “collateral damage,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a child dies of dysentery because a bomb damaged a sewage treatment plant, it is not “destroying enemy infrastructure,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a father dies of a heart attack because a bomb disrupted the phone lines so he could not call an ambulance, it is not “neutralizing command and control facilities,” it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a thousand poor farmer conscripts die in a trench defending a town they have lived in their whole lives, it is not victory, it is murder.

There will be veterans leading protests against this war on Iraq and your participation in it. During the Vietnam War thousands in Vietnam and in the U.S. refused to follow orders. Many resisted and rebelled. Many became conscientious objectors and others went to prison rather than bear arms against the so-called enemy. During the last Gulf War many GIs resisted in various ways and for many different reasons. Many of us came out of these wars and joined with the anti-war movement.

If the people of the world are ever to be free, there must come a time when being a citizen of the world takes precedence over being the soldier of a nation. Now is that time. When orders come to ship out, your response will profoundly impact the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and here at home. Your response will help set the course of our future. You will have choices all along the way. Your commanders want you to obey. We urge you to think. We urge you to make your choices based on your conscience. If you choose to resist, we will support you and stand with you because we have come to understand that our REAL duty is to the people of the world and to our common future.

An Open Letter to the U.S. Military

by Charlie Liteky in Baghdad, Congressional Medal of Honor Winner (originally published on Wednesday 07 May 2003)

By way of introduction, my name is Charlie Liteky, a U.S. citizen, a Vietnam Veteran, and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. However, I renounced the Medal of Honor on July 29,1986 in opposition to U.S foreign policy in Central America. What the U.S. was supporting in El Salvador and Nicaragua, namely the savagery and domination of the poor, reminded me of what I was a part of in Vietnam 15 years earlier.

I placed the medal at the apex of the Vietnam Memorial Wall into which are etched the names of 58 thousand young American men. In depth study of the Vietnam War revealed political and military liars insensitive to the value of human life, inclusive of their own countrymen. The biggest liar was the Commander in Chief of U.S. armed forces, President Lyndon Johnson, who lied to Congress about the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It was this lie that motivated Congress to vote the money for the war. As a veteran of an ill-fated war, in the waning years of my life, I’d like to share some reflections on my country’s attack on Iraq.

Once again, I find myself in protest of a U.S. military action that no court in the world will declare legal. The U.S. attack on the sovereign country of Iraq fails to meet any of the necessary provisions of a just war. Iraq on the other hand, met the most fundamental condition for a country to use military force against an adversary, namely the defense of its homeland against an unjust aggressor. But, because of the incredible superiority of the U.S. military, there was no possibility of a successful defense.

In its attack on Iraq, the U.S. violated the UN Charter, international law and universal standards of morality. This is borne out by the worldwide condemnation of the U.S. attack by mainstream religious denominations and spiritual leaders.

Claiming liberation of the Iraqi people as a just cause for a war that kills thousands of innocents is hypocrisy at its worst. If liberation of an oppressed people were the real motive behind the invasion of Iraq – why did the U.S. wait 25 years to act? Why did the U.S. refrain from condemning Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in its war with Iran in the 80s? Why did the U.S. fail to prevent chemicals critical to the production of biological weapons from reaching Iraq? How is it that what we condemn today we approved yesterday?

Many Iraqi people rejoiced at the sight of their American/British liberators, but many more did not, because they had no legs to walk to the sites of celebration, no arms to wave in jubilation or they had no life left to celebrate. The sanitary military term for such people is “collateral damage.”

I first came to Iraq in November of 2002 in response to the bellicose words of war coming from the President of the U.S. and his staff. When I think of children, the most vulnerable of the innocents. In my imagination I could hear them crying, I could see the terror in their eyes and faces as they heard the planes overhead, followed by bombs exploding. I wanted to be with them to offer what small comfort I could.

This cartoon [of a sly, American eagle with its talons deeply planted in Iraqi earth] published in the Jordan Times on April 23, 2003 depicts what many Arab people believe is the U.S. motivation behind its attack on Iraq, namely, a deep-rooted, long-lasting presence. Recently, newspapers have reported that plans are underway to establish four military bases in Iraq.

What the cartoon does not include is the U.S. interest in and access to Iraq’s immense oil reserves. A two-time Medal of Honor recipient, General Smedley Butler, said that “War is a Racket” and that he spent his 33 year military career being a bodyguard for U.S. business interests. I submit that protecting U.S. business interests, sometimes referred to as “national interests” is still the primary mission of the U.S. military. Wartime profits go to a select few at the cost of many. Again to quote Gen. Smedley:

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

This letter containing some of my reflections is not meant to cast blame for an attack on Iraq on U.S. military personnel. I’m sure you believe that what you are a part of is right and just. I once believed the same of my participation in the Vietnam War. I share my thoughts and conclusions as gifts of truth revealed to me through years of studying U.S. foreign policy.


Charlie Liteky, Vietnam Veteran

PS: God be with you in your search for truth, your quest for justice, and your efforts to help a beautiful people.

What Is Happening in America?

By Eliot Weinberger

This article, one of the best short analyses of the Bush administration’s policies, was first published by “Vorwarts,” Germany on June 8, 2003.

In the Western democracies in the last fifty years, we have grown accustomed to governments whose policies on specific issues may be good or bad, but which essentially institute incremental changes to the status quo. The major exceptions have been Thatcher and Reagan, but even their programs of dismantling systems of social welfare seem, in retrospect, mild compared to what is happening in the United States under George Bush– or more exactly, the ruling junta that tells Bush what to do and say.

It is unquestionably the most radical government in modern American history, one whose ideology and actions have become so pervasive, and are so unquestionably mirrored by the mass media here, that the population seems to have forgotten what “normal” is.

George Bush is the first unelected President of the United States, installed by a right-wing Supreme Court in a kind of judicial coup d’etat. He is the first to actively subvert one of the pillars of American democracy: the separation of church and state. There are now daily prayer meetings and Bible study groups in every branch of the government, and religious organizations are being given funds to take over educational and welfare programs that have always been the domain of the state.

Bush is the first president to invoke the specific “Jesus Christ” rather than an ecumenical “God,” and he has surrounded himself with evangelical Christians, including his Attorney General, who attends a church where he talks in tongues.

It is the first administration to openly declare a policy of unilateral aggression, a “Pax Americana” where the presence of allies (whether England or Bulgaria) is agreeable but unimportant; where international treaties no longer apply to the United States; and where– for the first time in history– this country reserves the right to non-defensive, “pre-emptive” strikes against any nation on earth, for whatever reason it declares.

It is the first– since the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II– to enact special laws for a specific ethnic group. Non-citizen young Muslim men are now required to register and subject themselves to interrogation. Many hundreds have been arrested and held without trial or access to legal assistance– a violation of another pillar of American democracy: habeas corpus. Many have been taken from their families and deported on minor technical immigration violations; the whereabouts of many others are still unknown. And, in Guantánamo Bay, where it is said that they are now preparing execution chambers, hundreds of foreign nationals — including a 13-year-old and a man who claims to be 100– have been kept for almost two years in a limbo that clearly contravenes the Geneva Convention.

Similar to the Reagan era, it is an administration openly devoted to helping the rich and ignoring the poor, one that has turned the surplus of the Clinton years into a massive deficit through its combination of enormous tax cuts for the wealthy (particularly those who earn more than a million dollars a year) and increases in defense spending. (And, although Republicans always campaign on “less government,” it has created the largest new government bureaucracy in history: the Department of Homeland Security.) The Financial Times of England, hardly a hotbed of leftists, has categorized this economic policy as “the lunatics taking over the asylum.”

But more than Reagan– whose policies tended to benefit the rich in general– most of Bush’s legislation specifically enriches those in his lifelong inner circle from the oil, mining, logging, construction, and pharmaceutical industries. At the middle level of the bureaucracy, where laws may be issued without Congressional approval, hundreds of regulations have been changed to lower standards of pollution or safety in the workplace, to open up wilderness areas for exploitation, or to eliminate the testing of drugs.

Billions in government contracts have been awarded, without competition, to corporations formerly run by administration officials. In a country where the most significant social changes are enacted by court rulings, rather than by legislation, the Bush administration has been filling every level of the complex judicial system with ultra-right ideologues, especially those who have protected corporations from lawsuits by individuals or environmental groups, and those who are opposed to women’s reproductive rights. It remains to be seen how far they can push their antipathy to contraception and abortion. They have already banned a rare form of late-term abortion that is only given when the health of the mother is endangered or the fetus is terribly deformed, and a large portion of Bush’s heralded billions to Africa to fight AIDS will be devoted to so-called “abstinence” education.

Most of all, America doesn’t feel like America any more. The climate of militarism and fear, similar to any totalitarian state, permeates everything. Bush is the first American president in memory to swagger around in a military uniform, though he himself– like all of his most militant advisers– evaded the Vietnam War. (Even Eisenhower, a general and a war hero, never wore his uniform while he was president).

In the airports of provincial cities, there are frequent announcements in that assuring, disembodied voice of science-fiction films: “The Department of Homeland Security advises that the Terror Alert is now . . . Code Orange.” Every few weeks there is an announcement that another terrorist attack is imminent, and citizens are urged to take ludicrous measures, like sealing their windows, against biological and chemical attacks, and to report the suspicious activities of their neighbors.

The Pentagon institutes the “Total Information Awareness” program to collect data on the ordinary activities of ordinary citizens (credit card charges, library book withdrawals, university course enrollments) and when this is perceived as going too far, they change the name to “Terrorist Information Awareness” and continue to do the same things. Millions are listed in airport security computers as potential terrorists, including antiwar demonstrators and pacifists. Critics are warned to “watch what they say” and lists of “traitors” are posted on the internet.

The war in Iraq has been the most extreme manifestation of this new America, and almost a casebook study in totalitarian techniques.

First, an Enemy is created by blatant lies that are endlessly repeated until the population believes it: in this case, that Iraq was linked to the attack on the World Trade Center, and that it possesses vast “weapons of mass destruction” that threaten the world.

Then, a War of Liberation, entirely portrayed by the mass media in terms of our Heroic Troops, with little or no imagery of casualties and devastation, and with morale-inspiring, scripted “news” scenes– such as the toppling of the Saddam statue and the heroic “rescue” of Private Lynch– worthy of Soviet cinema.

Finally, as has happened with Afghanistan, very little news of the chaos that has followed the Great Victory. Instead, the propaganda machine moves on to a new Enemy– this time, Iran.

It is very difficult to speak of what is happening in America without resorting to the hyperbolic cliches of anti-Americanism that have lost their meaning after so many decades, but that have now finally come true.

Perhaps one can only recite the facts, and I have mentioned only some of them here. This is, quite simply, the most frightening American administration in modern times, one that is appalling both to the left and to traditional conservatives. This junta is unabashed in its imperialist ambitions; it is enacting an Orwellian state of Perpetual War; it is dismantling, or attempting to dismantle, some of the most fundamental tenets of American democracy; it is acting without opposition within the government, and is operating so quickly on so many fronts that it has overwhelmed and exhausted any popular opposition.

Perhaps it cannot be stopped, but the first step toward slowing it down is the recognition that this is an American government unlike any other in this country’s history, and one for whom democracy is an obstacle.

Letter to Rep. Susan Davis urging for an accelerated US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and negotiations

Dear Representative:

As a voter and an associate member of the Veterans for Peace (VFP), I am urging you to pressure the Administration for an accelerated withdrawal of the US Armed Forces from Afghanistan and open negotiations with the militant insurgency and regional political and military powers in order to bring an end to the Afghanistan War. My call for withdrawal is supported not only by the active and growing community of VFP members but by the majority of the American people as indicated by a Washington Post- ABC News poll [1], which says that 64% of US citizens consider that the war is not worth fighting and 73% think that we should have withdrawn combat forces from Afghanistan this summer.

October of 2011 will mark the tenth anniversary of the “war on terrorism” campaign in Afghanistan which took nearly 1700 lives (13000 wounded) of US soldiers [2]. This toll is continuing to mount despite the study “How Terrorist Groups End” conducted by the RAND corporation in 2008, which concluded that military actions against terrorists groups, such as al-Qaeda, is ineffective in most cases in comparison to the operations of the police and intelligence agencies [3]. Yet an army of nearly 100,000 US troops and a comparable number of private DOD contractors [4] continue to occupy a sovereign foreign nation to fight what is known to US government officials to be less than 100 al-Qaeda members (~400 in both Afghanistan and Pakistan) [5] and the Taliban who never intended to commit the acts of terror in the US regardless of their hosting the al-Qaeda training camps prior to 2001.

The war in Afghanistan, started without U.N. authorization, could have been avoided had the US government provided the Taliban government in 2001 with evidence of bin Laden’s guilt in the 9/11 attack [6]. The current US administration has taken the route of building upon the previous administration’s mistakes by escalating the war and ignoring the Taliban’s offer in 2009 to give legal guarantees that it would not allow Afghanistan to be used for attacks on other countries in exchange for a timetable for NATO’s troop withdrawal [7]. At the same time, Major General Michael T. Flynn, the top U.S. intelligence officer in Afghanistan, stated that the Afghan insurgency can sustain itself indefinitely [8]. This strongly indicates that the Afghanistan catastrophe does not have a militarily solution, especially when confronted by the reports that Pakistan orchestrates and funds the Afghan insurgency [9].  As a result, two years later Washington is attempting to save face by conducting clandestine negotiations with a strengthened Taliban [10, 11] in addition to continuing the deception of the American public regarding the progress in the war effort.  Instead the administration could be spearheading open, full range negotiations between the region’s major political and military forces which will ultimately define Afghanistan’s future.

The blunt military action is devastating to Afghanistan: violent civilian deaths exceed 2000 per year while 10% of the population is internally displaced. Spurred by the escalation in the number of NATO forces, 2010-2011 marked the bloodiest period in the history of the war in both the number of attacks and civilian fatalities [12] – all of which is leading to the increasing support of the oppressive Taliban among the general Afghan population [13].

The occupational wars are bankrupting our country. Since 2001 the war on terrorism cost more than $1.23 trillion [14]. Amidst the budget crisis US citizens are becoming increasingly aware, via a growing network of non-profit internet-based public media that the DOD/War appropriations account for the vast majority of the discretionary budget spending and significantly contributing to the national debt [15]. These policies cannot continue, and anyone in Washington, D.C. who is inclined to think otherwise is simply out of the touch with reality and their constituency.



[2] Afghanistan Index: Tracking Progress and Security in Post-9/11 Afghanistan. (Figures 1.23, 1.27)

[3] “How Terrorist Groups End, Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida”, RAND Corporation Monograph Report, ISBN/EAN: 9780833044655;

[4] Afghanistan Index: Tracking Progress and Security in Post-9/11 Afghanistan. (Figures 1.1, 1.15)

[5] Interview with the former CIA director (currently DOD secretary) Leon Panetta  Estimated number of al Qaeda in Pakistan is ~300. David E. Sander and Mark Mazzetti, “New Estimate of Strength of Al Qaeda is Offered”, New York Times, July 1, 2010.

[6] U.S. rejects Taliban offer to try bin Laden. 

[7] US silent on Taliban’s al-Qaeda offer.

[8] State of the Insurgency: Trends, Intentions and Objectives, by Major General Michael T. Flynn.


[10] AP EXCLUSIVE: US-Taliban talks were making headway;

[11] Major-General Richard Barrons puts Taleban fighter numbers at 36,000

[12] Afghanistan Index: Tracking Progress and Security in Post-9/11 Afghanistan. (Figures  1.19,  1.23, 1.30)

[13] Afghanistan Index: Tracking Progress and Security in Post-9/11 Afghanistan. (Figures  4.4)

[14] The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11. March 29, 2011

[15] Dicretionary budget – FY 2011. National Priorities Project.