Tomas Young’s ‘Last Letter’

Tomas Young quickly became one of the most prominent Iraq veterans to oppose the war after he was shot in the spine and paralyzed in 2004 outside Sadr City. With years of antiwar activism behind him, and a body that continues to deteriorate, Young has decided to forego food and nourishment and further medical treatment. He will soon be dead.

The impact Tomas Young has had has been immense, especially in such a vital organization like Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Today I met Geoff Millard, former Chair of IVAW’s Board of Directors. Millard told me meeting Young is one of the things that motivated him to join IVAW. I don’t think anybody knows how many more antiwar voices are out there because of Tomas Young.

Young has spent a long time making speeches, organizing, and inspiring, even as he suffered from his pain and coped with what he calls “the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration.”

Young has written a letter – “The Last Letter.” It is his final message to the world about what he has gone through and why. It is addressed to George Bush and Dick Cheney. Read it below in its entirety.

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.

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 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.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.

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.

Tomas made an appearance on today’s Democracy Now:

7 thoughts on “Tomas Young’s ‘Last Letter’”

  1. Mothers and fathers: however you raise them and whatever direction they take, raise your children never to join the military.

  2. If you want to keep of what is left of American "democracy" …, prosecute George W. Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, Richard Perl and………,

  3. my heart goes out to these vets.Check out Capt. Peter J.N.Linnerooth story who committed suicide.He walked into a doctors office and said: "I cant stand it.This is too much. How much more misery and torture are these kids going to go through".A friend said he did not want to die just wanted the pain to go away. Its a very touching story.

  4. I wonder of Tomas Young understands why we were even attacked on 9/11 ? I sure hope so. Because everything that has happened today is a consquence of what the U.S. has been doing in the Middle East before 9/11. Its al ittle more than just being attacked on 9/11 and going to fight a war. I guess we was all brainwashed by the propaganda at one point in time.

  5. Read this brief mil-blog thread that mentions Tomas Young:

    The contempt these idiots heap upon a fellow veteran (Young) who joined the Army for honorable reasons, yet openly expresses opposition to the dishonorable war in which he was paralyzed, makes me want to retch.

    Yeah, "support the troops … unless they don't support our wars."

    1. The chest-thumping war mongers never seem to get it. So long as you accept and obey the military edicts as being the words of God almighty then you're in like Flint but veer off of the official reservation and you're demonized. If the lie about fighting for freedom denies one of the right to say "no" without harassment then that's not freedom but slavery.

  6. Why die in privacy after writing this document. Clearly he wants to draw attention to what he has gone through. Stage a "death protest" right outside the White House if you're set on meeting your maker. Bring the horror to their doorstep. Extreme, I know, but choosing to die is.

  7. As a former veteran, Tomas Young's story breaks my heart. He was right. We were lied to. History is in a perpetual state of repetition. Bush, Cheney…old men in suits who set in motion ORIF/OREF, stepping aside to let their sons and daughters of this nation bleed for the sake of honor, nobility, and freedom. Pumping us full of the propaganda until we were swollen, drunk off the fumes of a good cause, keeping America safe. I wish Tomas would stay…write our story…of broken promises and shattered realities.

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