On the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran, has written a powerful and moving open letter to President George W. Bush and ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Titled “The Last Letter,” and published on Truthdig.com, Young recounts how he enlisted in the army two days after 9/11 saying, “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.” Young did not, as he states in the letter, 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.”
Young, who was shot and paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004, in Sadr City, only 5 days into his first deployment, is dying. He is currently living under hospice care in his home. He wrote this, his last letter, not only on his own behalf, but on the behalf of every servicemember who lost their lives, and every man, woman and child the Iraq War has had an effect on.
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.
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.
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.
Read the full letter here.
Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr