The voices of veterans who have served in Iraq
is among the most important in convincing the public and government officials
that the war in Iraq is wrong and the occupation must be ended. The interview
below is with Patrick Resta of Iraq Veterans Against
the War. Patrick, who served as a combat medic in Iraq, is 26 years old
and has been married for five years. He grew up in central New Jersey and now
lives in Philadelphia. He is a full-time nursing student at the Community College
of Philadelphia. His aunt and uncle were killed in the World Trade Center on
9/11, and about three weeks later he was called to active duty. He served for
one year at Ft. Jackson, S.C. Then, when he began to get his life back to normal,
less than one year after leaving Ft. Jackson he found out that he was being
deployed again, this time to Iraq.
Zeese: Why did you join the National Guard?
Resta: I joined the National Guard for assistance with school. My parents
made it clear that they weren't in a position to help me with school, so I began
considering my options when I was about 16 years old. In New Jersey, the National
Guard pays for tuition, books, and fees to any state school. If you add on to
that a few hundred dollars every month it sounded like a good deal
to a 17-year-old kid.
Zeese: Were you surprised when you were sent to Iraq?
Resta: I wasn't surprised at all that I was sent to Iraq. What did surprise
me, though, was how my unit and myself were sent into combat unequipped and
unprepared, and it didn't seem to bother anyone. I was hearing as early as October
2001 that Iraq would be invaded no matter what. Also interesting to me is the
fact that some people have been to Iraq two and three times, yet you still have
some people that haven't been there once.
Zeese: Where were you based in Iraq? What was your role there?
Resta: I served as a combat medic in a tank battalion. My job varied
from day to day, but basically it was doing on of these three things: going
on convoys to other camps to get supplies, going on patrols of towns or highways,
or working in our three-bed ER, where we saw everything from the cold/flu to
sprained ankles to gunshot wounds.
Zeese: What did you see in Iraq that convinced you that the U.S.
Resta: Pretty much everything I saw in Iraq convinced [me] that U.S.
forces needed to leave. The in-your-face hypocrisy of this occupation was the
most disturbing thing for me. Being told I was risking my life to help the Iraqi
people and then getting over there and being told the Pentagon had set policy
so no Iraqi could be treated unless they were about to die. The hypocrisy of
the occupation was evident when I was told we were going to help rebuild Iraq
and then watched as the only things being rebuilt were Saddam's military bases
to prepare for a permanent U.S. military presence. Every reason this administration
gave to justify our presence in Iraq was the exact opposite of what was going
on. While in the towns, I would talk to Iraqis hoping to hear something that
would make the sacrifices of my fellow soldiers worth it. What I found is that
we are neither wanted nor welcome. The Iraqi people don't trust us, and they
don't want us there. Poll after poll has made that clear.
Zeese: The major argument for staying in Iraq is if the U.S. leaves,
there will be greater chaos. How do you see this – is the U.S. minimizing
the chaos in Iraq?
Resta: I always ask people to describe the situation now. Is it not
chaos? To me, the definition of a civil war is when people from a country kill
other people from that country. That's what's happening now in Iraq. U.S. troops
are the problem, not the solution. We are reliving the Vietnam War now, and
it's sad. We're reliving it because the people in power didn't learn anything
from that event. They were too busy dreaming up ways to dodge the draft.
Tank battalions will never rebuild power and water-purification plants no matter
how long they stay in Iraq. Halliburton and Bechtel didn't build Iraq, so why
are they rebuilding it? If you really want Iraqis to have democracy, let them
run their own affairs. When you break something in a store, you don't sit there
with crazy glue trying to piece it back together. And you most certainly don't
run around with a bat breaking more things. What you do is apologize, write
them a check, and get out before you do anymore damage.
Zeese: Did you get any sense when you were in Iraq that the U.S. is
planning a long-term stay in the country, or are we planning a brief stay until
things calm down in the country?
Resta: If you go back and look, you can see members of this administration
talking about an invasion and long occupation of Iraq as long as a decade ago.
As I said earlier, I saw plenty of bases being built for a permanent U.S. military
presence. Things like barracks like you would see back here in the States. While
I was in Iraq, the Air Force opened up what was referred to as a "million-dollar
gym" at a base outside Baghdad. I never saw the receipts, but it sounds about
right to me. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools. It was incredible to watch it
happening and then hear the spin from the American press. You can even go to
www.GlobalSecurity.org and find
the specifics of the plan, including what units are going to Iraq for the
next few years.
Zeese: Describe the purpose of Iraq Veterans Against the War, how many
members you have, what some of your upcoming projects are.
Resta: Iraq Veterans Against the War has a pretty simple platform. It's
ending the occupation, making sure our government gives the veterans of this
conflict the care that they are owed, and real aid for the people of Iraq. We
have about 300 members ranging from privates to colonels. Some are still active
duty, others are current members of the National Guard and Reserve, and some
have just gotten out of the military. Those of us that are comfortable speaking
out do so often. We're working in a lot of other areas as well, like ending
stop-loss, counter-recruiting, and trying to create a fair and honest
conscientious-objector process within the military.