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September 15, 2005

Why This Soldier Can't Support This War


by Justin Gordon

I was a captain with the 2nd Battalion 4th Field Artillery during the invasion of Iraq. My active duty commitment to the military ended in May 2004. In January 2003, I requested a transfer to this battalion to fill an officer vacancy because it was the first battalion from Fort Sill to mobilize during the pre-invasion build up. I, like the rest of us, still felt the deep emotions that followed 9/11. I was told of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and links to al-Qaeda. I wanted to do my part to protect America.

From March 20 to May 12, 2003, the 4th Field Artillery moved from Kuwait, through the Karbala gap, into Baghdad before the city capitulated, to Tikrit, and finally back to Kuwait. Along the way, I saw firsthand what death and destruction look like. I learned what it feels like to realize that your life may end in a few minutes, but my personal experiences back then pale in comparison to the violence that is currently happening in Iraq every single day.

This is not why I oppose the war. I would do it again if my actions were protecting American citizens, but this is not what we are doing in Iraq.

The justification for Iraq frequently changes, and since the weapons of mass destruction theory has been debunked, I have not heard a worthwhile nor just reason for staying the course.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the administration told us that war was an absolute last resort, and then it did everything it could to fix intelligence and convince America and the rest of the world that our only course of action was to invade.

After it was proven that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, our just cause magically changed. In his inaugural address on Jan. 21, 2005, President Bush stated that "the best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." Expanding freedom at gunpoint has great costs and may not yield the results one would want. Spreading freedom has cost the lives of 1,900 Americans and thousands of Iraqi civilians. It has cost us our credibility as a leader of the free world. It has also cost us $250 billion so far. At the current rate of $6 billion a month, to stay the course for another five years would cost $11,000 per American household. Even if we ignore the costs of spreading freedom, the outcome is still problematic. Regarding the recent draft of the Iraqi constitution, there's a strong chance that we're going to spread sharia law and create an Islamic state that any ayatollah would be proud of, a state where women and non-Muslims have less freedom than they did under Saddam Hussein.

When spreading freedom didn't seem to be working out too well, President Bush on June 28, 2005, stated that "there is only one course of action against them [terrorists]: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home." The fighting them over there so that we don't have to fight them over here rationalization is illogical and immoral for several reasons. It makes an assumption that there are a finite number of terrorists and that at some point we will have killed them all. This is not so. Our presence in Iraq creates terrorists and jihadists faster that we could hope to kill them. Many terrorists and foreign fighters have arrived in Iraq to gain real-life experience using American soldiers as targets. Two months ago, when terrorists detonated bombs in their transit system, the people of London realized that fighting them over there doesn't stop them from attacking your home. Are we any safer than the people of London? Are we any safer than we were four years ago? Recently, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc comparable to a worst-case scenario for a terrorist attack. The only difference is that Katrina warned us days ahead of time, whereas a terrorist will not. The lack of leadership in evacuating, delivering aid, and stabilizing the region following this catastrophe underlines how we have made no progress in protecting American lives since 9/11.

Fighting them over there is immoral for two reasons. First, it means that we're fighting our war in someone else's home and they get to suffer for it. Second, it means that we're using our soldiers as bait.

This is not what I call supporting our troops. The military is not a sports team, and war is not a football game. It's very real. As a nation, we have to ask ourselves if what we're doing is right. Are we having a positive impact in Iraq? Is our presence there protecting American citizens? The answers are overwhelmingly no, and this is why I cannot support the war.

 

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Justin Gordon was commissioned as a field artillery officer from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1999. He was stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., in a Multiple Launch Rocket System Battalion and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq during the invasion. He was honorably released from active duty in May 2004. Justin currently resides in Atlanta, Ga.

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