The Iraq War 10 Years Later - A wounded veteran writes his last letter...

Makalakumu

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March 19th is the 10th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the subsequent years, our country has committed 7.7 trillions dollars to the war, it has cost 1.4 million Iraqi lives, and has created over 4 million refugees. Over 4,000 members of the armed forces were killed and over 50,000 young men and women were wounded. This does not count the psychological wounds that these people will bring home and live with for the rest of their lives.

Of course the war in Iraq has been going on longer than ten years. We could go back to the first Gulf War and tack on twelve more years. During that time, Iraqi infrastructure was destroyed, depleted Uranium was widely used on the battlefield, and chemical munitions were blown up and scattered over the countryside. Countless civilians died as a result, birth defects and cancer rates skyrocketed, and a quarter million veterans came home with mysterious illnesses caused by the massive pollution foisted on the country.

In the intervening time between military actions, the US and allies blockaded Iraq, causing the deaths of over 500,000 children. The US Secretary of State said that, "Half a million children was the price of going after one man." And we can go back further. We can take this back to the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war where the US armed both sides and chemical weapons were deployed by our henchmen, chemical weapons that were old by none other than Don Rumsfeld, one of the architects of the last invasion of Iraq. Millions died on both sides of that conflict.

People want to imagine that humans have outgrown the brutality of people like Ghengis Khan. Ghengis' children savaged the area that would become Iraq and laid waste to the city of Baghdad. At the time, it was the center of learning throughout the region and many scholars have stated that this sacking set the entire Muslim world back for 1000 years. If we want to know why people are still living in medieval squalor, we need only look at the destruction of the knowledge that would have brought them up.

What kind of effect will the last 40 years of war have on the future of Iraq?

I read a letter this morning from a veteran of the war. Here is a man who is experiencing the personal effects of this war right now. The long term affect of the war doesn't matter, because he's dying.

http://www.truthdig.com/dig/item/the_last_letter_20130318/?ln

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 allthe human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I'm reminded of the Bob Dylan song, Masters of War

http://www.zappinternet.com/video/gimRxoGyoK/Bob-Dylans-MASTERS-of-WAR

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.

I've told this story many times on MT, but briefly, here it goes again. When I was 15 years old I told my grandfather, a WWII Vet who started chapters of the VFW and American Legion and brought his grandson to fellowship with his brethren as a member of the Sons of the American Legion, that I wanted to join the army and make him proud. He was quiet and then motioned me outside, where we then loaded into his old Dodge pickup and went down to the VA hospital where he worked. This veteran's words echo the sentiment that was shared with me so long ago. This was one event that peeled back the curtain of propaganda that had been pulled over my eyes. My grandfather passed in 2007 and I remember his words bolstered by the last words of this veteran, "They will use you up and forget you, don't serve them."

The cost of all this makes me sick to my stomach. We could spend 30 billions dollars solving world hunger. We could spend 500 billion dollars and upgrade every school in the nation to give every child a top-notch education. And people slap their yellow ribbons on the backs of their cars and put their hands over their hearts honoring a group of people who are akin to Ghengis Khan.

In 2002 I marched in solidarity with others who opposed all this. A lot of others couldn't be bothered to get up out of their chairs. Shame on you.

And just for some perspective, here is another letter from a Vietnam vet who was wounded over 40 years ago. He has lived with the pain and suffering, knowing that war was ******** and that his body was spent in vain.

http://www.truthdig.com/dig/item/forgotten_wounded_20060117/

They are alone in their rooms all over this country, right now. Just as I was alone in my room in Massapequa. I know theyre therejust as I was. This is the part you never see. The part that is never reported in the news. The part that the president and vice president never mention. This is the agonizing part, the lonely part, when you have to awake to the wound each morning and suddenly realize what youve lost, what is gone forever. Theyre out there and they have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives and children. And theyre not saying much right now. Just like me theyre just trying to get through each day. Trying to be brave and not cry. They still are extremely grateful to be alive, but slowly, agonizingly they are beginning to think about what has really happened to them.


What will it be like for them when one morning they suddenly find themselves naked sitting before that mirror in their room and must come face to face with their injury? I want to reach out to them. I want them to know that Ive been there too. I want to just sit with them in their room and tell them that they must not give up. They must try to be patient, try to just get through each day, each morning, each afternoon any way they can. That no matter how impossible and frustrating it may seem, how painful, regardless of the anxiety attacks and nightmares and thoughts of suicide, they must not quit. Somewhere out there there will be a turning point, somewhere through this all they will find a reason to keep on living.


In the months and years that are to follow, others will be less fortunate. Young men and women who survived the battlefield, the intensive-care ward, veterans hospitals and initial homecoming will be unable to make the difficult and often agonizing adjustment.


Is this what is awaiting all of them? Is this the nightmare no one ever told them about, the part no one now wants to talk about or has the time to deal with? The car accidents, and drinking and drug overdoses, the depression, anger and rage, spousal abuse, bedsores and breakdowns, prison, homelessness, sleeping under the piers and bridges. The ones who never leave the hospital, the ones who cant hold a job, cant keep a relationship together, cant love or feel any emotions anymore, the brutal insomnia that leaves you exhausted and practically unable to function, the frightening anxiety attacks that come upon you when you least expect them, and always the dread that each day may be your last.

To say that we need to break the cycle is an understatement. How much longer, America?
 
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