Tomas was crippled for a war that should never have been fought. He was crippled for the lies of politicians. He was crippled for war profiteers. He was crippled for the careers of generals.
Excerpts from the author’s new book, The Greatest Evil is War.
By Chris Hedges
I flew to Kansas City [in 2013] to see Tomas Young. Tomas was paralyzed in Iraq in 2004. He was receiving hospice care at his home. I knew him by reputation and the movie documentary Body of War. He was one of the first veterans to publicly oppose the war in Iraq. He fought as long and as hard as he could against the war that crippled him, until his physical deterioration caught up with him.
“I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time because I had become helpless,” he told me in his small house on the Kansas City outskirts where he intended to die. “I couldn’t dress myself. People have to help me with the most rudimentary of things. I decided I did not want to go through life like that anymore. The pain, the frustration.…”
He stopped abruptly and called his wife. “Claudia, can I get some water?” She opened a bottle of water, took a swig so it would not spill when he sipped, and handed it to him.
“I felt at the end of my rope,” the 33-year-old Army veteran went on. “I made the decision to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away. This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes. I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note. After the anoxic brain injury in 2008 I lost a lot of dexterity and strength in my upper body. So, I wouldn’t be able to shoot myself or even open the pill bottle to give myself an overdose. The only way I could think of doing it was to have Claudia open the pill bottle for me, but I didn’t want her implicated.”
“After you made that decision, how did you feel?” I asked.
“I felt relieved,” he answered. “I finally saw an end to this four-and-a-half-year fight. If I were in the same condition I was in during the filming of Body of War, in a manual chair, able to feed and dress myself and transfer from my bed to the wheelchair, you and I would not be having this discussion. I can’t even watch the movie anymore because it makes me sad to see how I was, compared to how I am.…Viewing the deterioration, I decided it was best to go out now rather than regress more.”
Tomas was crippled for a war that should never have been fought. He was crippled for the lies of politicians. He was crippled for war profiteers. He was crippled for the careers of generals. He bore all this upon his body. And there are hundreds of thousands of other broken bodies like his in Baghdad, Kandahar, Peshawar, the Walter Reed medical center, and hospitals in Russia and Ukraine. Mangled bodies and corpses, broken dreams, unending grief, betrayal, corporate profit, these are the true products of war. Tomas Young was the face of war they do not want you to see.
On April 4, 2004, Tomas was crammed into the back of a two-and-a-half-ton Army truck with 20 other soldiers in Sadr City, Iraq. Insurgents opened fire on the truck from above. “It was like shooting ducks in a barrel,” he said. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spinal column. A second bullet shattered his knee. At first, he did not know he had been shot. He felt woozy. He tried to pick up his M16. He couldn’t lift his rifle from the truck bed. That was when he knew something was terribly wrong.
“I tried to say, ‘I’m going to be paralyzed, someone shoot me right now,’ but there was only a hoarse whisper that came out because my lungs had collapsed,” he said. “I knew the damage. I wanted to be taken out of my misery.”
His squad leader, Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger, bent over and told him he would be all right. A few years later Young would see a clip of Miltenberger weeping as he recounted the story of how he had lied to Young.
“I tried to contact him,” said Tomas, whose long red hair and flowing beard make him look like a biblical prophet. “I can’t find him. I want to tell him it is OK.”
Tomas had been in Iraq five days. It was his first deployment. After being wounded, he was sent to an Army hospital in Kuwait, and although his legs, now useless, lay straight in front of him he felt as if he was still sitting cross-legged on the floor of the truck. That sensation lasted for about three weeks. It was an odd and painful initiation into his life as a paraplegic. His body, from then on, would play tricks on him. He was transferred from Kuwait to the U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, and then to Walter Reed in Washington, D.C.
He asked if he could meet Ralph Nader. Nader visited him in the hospital with Phil Donahue. Donahue, who had been fired by MSNBC a year earlier for speaking out against the war, would go on, with Ellen Spiro, to make the 2007 film Body of War, an account of Tomas’s daily struggle with his physical and emotional scars.
In the documentary, he suffers dizzy spells that force him to lower his head into his hands. He wears frozen gel inserts in a cooling jacket because he cannot control his body temperature. He struggles to find a solution to his erectile dysfunction. He downs fistfuls of medications — carbamazepine, for nerve pain; coumadin, a blood thinner; tizanidine, an anti-spasm medication; gabapentin, another nerve pain medication; bupropion, an antidepressant; omeprazole, for morning nausea; and morphine. His mother must insert a catheter into his penis. He joins Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, to protest with Iraq Veterans Against the War. His first wife leaves him.
“You know, you see a guy who’s paralyzed, and in a wheelchair, and you think he’s just in a wheelchair,” he says in Body of War. “You don’t think about the, you know, the stuff inside that’s paralyzed. I can’t cough because my stomach muscles are paralyzed, so I can’t work up the full coughing energy. I’m more susceptible to urinary tract infections, and there’s a great big erection sidebar to this whole story.”
In early March 2008 a blood clot in his right arm — the arm that bears a color tattoo of a character from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are — caused his arm to swell. He was taken to the Kansas City Veterans Affairs hospital, where he was given the blood thinner coumadin before being released. One month later, the VA took him off coumadin, and soon afterward the clot migrated to one of his lungs. He suffered a massive pulmonary embolism and fell into a coma. When he awoke from the coma in the hospital he could barely speak. He had lost most of his upper-body mobility and short-term memory, and his speech was slurred.
It was then that he began to experience debilitating pain in his abdomen. The hospital would not give him narcotics because the drugs would slow digestion, making it harder for the bowels to function. Tomas could digest only soup and Jell-O. In November, in a desperate bid to halt the pain, he had his colon removed. He was fitted with a colostomy bag. The pain disappeared for a few days and then came roaring back. He could not hold down food, even pureed food, because his stomach opening had shrunk. The doctors dilated his stomach. He could eat only soup and oatmeal. Three weeks earlier his stomach stretched. That was enough.
“I will go off the feeding tube,” he said, “after me and my wife’s anniversary,” April 20, the date on which he married Claudia in 2012. “I was married once before. It didn’t end well. It was a non-amicable divorce. At first, I thought I would wait for my brother and his wife, my niece, and my grandparents to visit me, but the one thing I will miss most in my life is my wife. I want to spend a little more time with her. I want to spend a full year with someone without the problems that plagued my previous marriage. I don’t know how long it will take when I stop eating. If it takes too long, I may take steps to quicken my departure. I have saved a bottle of liquid morphine. I can down that at one time with all my sleeping medication.”
Tomas’s room was painted a midnight blue and had a large cutout of Batman on one wall. He loved the superhero as a child, because “he was a regular person who had a horrible thing happen to him and wanted to save society.”
Tomas joined the Army immediately after 9/11 to go to Afghanistan and hunt down the people behind the attacks. He did not oppose the Afghanistan war. “In fact, if I had been injured in Afghanistan, there would be no Body of War movie to begin with,” he said. But he never understood the call to invade Iraq. “When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, we didn’t invade China just because they looked the same,” he said.
He became increasingly depressed about his impending deployment to Iraq when he was in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He asked the battalion doctor for antidepressants. The doctor said he had to meet first with the unit’s chaplain, who told him, “I think you will be happier when you get over to Iraq and start killing Iraqis.”
“I was dumbstruck by his response,” Tomas said.
He had not decided what would be done with his ashes. He flirted with the idea of having them plowed into ground where marijuana would be planted but then wondered if anyone would want to smoke the crop. He knows there will be no clergy at the memorial service held after his death. “It will just be people reminiscing over my life,” he said.
“I spend a lot of time sitting here in my bedroom, watching TV or sleeping,” he said. “I have found — I don’t know if it is the result of my decision or not — it is equally hard to be alone or to be around people. This includes my wife. I am rarely happy. Maybe it is because when I am alone all I have with me are my thoughts, and my mind is a very hazardous place to go. When I am around people I feel as if I have to put on a façade of being the happy little soldier.”
He listened, when he was well enough, to audiobooks with Claudia. Among them have been Al Franken’s satirical book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and Michael Moore’s The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader. He was a voracious reader but can no longer turn the pages of a book. He found some solace in the French film The Untouchables, about a paraplegic and his caregiver, and The Sessions, a film based on an essay by the paralyzed poet Mark O’Brien.
Tomas, when he was in a wheelchair, found that many people behaved as if he was mentally disabled, or not even there. When he was being fitted for a tuxedo for a friend’s wedding the salesman turned to his mother and asked her in front of him whether he could wear the company’s shoes.
“I look at the TV through the lens of his eyes and can see he is invisible,” said Claudia, standing in the living room as her husband rested in the bedroom. An array of books on death, the afterlife, and dying is spread out around her. “No one is sick on television. No one is disabled. No one faces death. Dying in America is a very lonely business.”
“If I had known then what I know now,” Tomas said, “I would not have gone into the military. But I was twenty-two, working various menial jobs, waiting tables, working in the copy department of an OfficeMax. My life was going nowhere. September 11 happened. I saw us being attacked. I wanted to respond. I signed up two days later. I wanted to be a combat journalist. I thought the military would help me out of my financial rut. I thought I could use the GI Bill to go to school.”
Tomas was not the first young man to be lured into war and then callously discarded. His story has been told many times. It is the story of Hector in The Iliad. It is the story of Joe Bonham, the protagonist in Dalton Trumbo’s 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, whose arms, legs, and face are blown away by an artillery shell, leaving him trapped in the inert remains of his body.
Bonham ruminates in the novel:
“He was the future he was a perfect picture of the future and they were afraid to let anyone see what the future was like. Already they were looking ahead they were figuring the future and somewhere in the future they saw war. To fight that war they would need men and if men saw the future they wouldn’t fight. So they were masking the future they were keeping the future a soft quiet deadly secret. They knew that if all the little people all the little guys saw the future they would begin to ask questions. They would ask questions and they would find answers and they would say to the guys who wanted them to fight they would say you lying thieving sons-of-bitches we won’t fight we won’t be dead we will live we are the world we are the future and we will not let you butcher us no matter what you say no matter what speeches you make no matter what slogans you write.”
For Tomas, the war, the wound, the paralysis, the wheelchair, the anti-war demonstrations, the wife who left him and the one who didn’t, the embolism, the loss of motor control, the slurred speech, the colostomy, the IV line for narcotics implanted in his chest, the open bedsores that expose his bones, the despair — the crushing despair — the decision to die, came down to a girl. Aleksus, his only niece. She would not remember her uncle. But he lay in his dimly lit room, painkillers flowing into his broken body, and thought of her. He did not know exactly when he would die. But it had to be before her second birthday, in June. He did not want to mar that day with his death.
He asked me to help him write a last letter to George W. Bush and the politicians and generals who sent him to war. It was March 2013, on the 10th anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He could not hold a pen. I took dictation. He planned to kill himself by cutting off his feeding tube. After issuing the letter, which was widely circulated and translated into several languages, Tomas changed his mind about committing suicide. He decided he wanted more time with his wife, Claudia. But he and Claudia knew he did not have long. The couple moved from Kansas City to Portland, Oregon, and then to Seattle, where Tomas died on November 10, 2014, at the age of thirty-four.
Over the last eight months of Tomas’s life, Veterans Affairs reduced his pain medication, charging he had become an addict. It was a decision that thrust him into a wilderness of agony. Tomas’s existence became a constant battle with the VA. He suffered excruciating “breakthrough pain.” The VA was indifferent. It cut his thirty-day supply of pain medication to seven days. Tomas, when the pills did not arrive on time, might as well have been nailed to a cross. Claudia, in an exchange of several emails with me since Thomas’s death, remembered hearing her husband on the phone one day pleading with a VA doctor and finally saying: “So you mean to tell me it is better for me to live in pain than die on pain medicine in this disabled state?” At night, she said, he would moan and cry out.
“It was a battle of wills,” Claudia told me in an email. “We were losing. Our whole time in Portland was spent dealing with trying to get what we needed to be at home and comfortable and pain free. THAT’S ALL WE WANTED, TO BE HOME AND PAIN FREE, to enjoy whatever time we had left.”
They left Portland for Seattle to be closer to a good spinal cord injury unit. Also, Washington was one of the states that had legalized marijuana, which Tomas used extensively.
“Last week I called because his breakthrough pain started happening throughout the day,” Claudia wrote in an email. “I was using more and more of the morphine and Lorazepam. I was running out of pills. He had a high tolerance for pain, but it was getting bad. I called to report to the doctor that it was getting bad fast. I would not have enough pills to bridge him to the appointment on the 24th. The doctor was unsympathetic. He gave me a condescending lecture about strict narcotics regulations. I said, ‘but my husband is in pain what do I do?’”
Tomas tried to take enough sleeping pills to sleep away the pain. But he was able to rest for a prolonged period only every few days. The pain and exhaustion began to tear apart his frail body. He was dispirited. He was visibly weaker. He felt humiliated.
“Maybe he got so exhausted by the enduring of it all that he took a last sleep and never came back,” Claudia wrote.
“My conclusion is that he died in pain from the exhaustion of having to endure it. Early morning Monday, when I thought he was sleeping, I heard a silence I had never heard before. I couldn’t hear him breathing. I was scared, but I knew. The first thing I did was liberate him from all the tubes and bags on his body. I cut off the feeding tube. I took off the Ostomy Bags. I removed the Foley Catheter. I cleaned his body. I played music. We smoked a last joint together. I smoked for him. I started making calls.”
“The funeral home instructed me to call the police,” she wrote. “They arrived and concluded that there were no issues, but because of his young age they had to refer this to the Medical Examiner. The Medical Examiner came. He made the determination that due to his age that they would have to perform an autopsy. I said, ‘Hey look at his body don’t you think he has been mutilated enough? Are you going to desecrate his body even further?’ So, he was cut open some more.”
The VA called her to ask for the autopsy report.
Tomas’s final days, Claudia said, were often “hopeless and humiliating.”
This is his “Last Letter” to Bush and Cheney:
“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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.”
You can order The Greatest Evil is War here.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of show “The Chris Hedges Report.”
Author’s Note to Readers: There is now no way left for me to continue to write a weekly column for ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show without your help. The walls are closing in, with startling rapidity, on independent journalism, with the elites, including the Democratic Party elites, clamoring for more and more censorship. Bob Scheer, who runs ScheerPost on a shoestring budget, and I will not waiver in our commitment to independent and honest journalism, and we will never put ScheerPost behind a paywall, charge a subscription for it, sell your data or accept advertising. Please, if you can, sign up at chrishedges.substack.com so I can continue to post my Monday column on ScheerPost and produce my weekly television show, “The Chris Hedges Report.”
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Mr. Tomas Young’s heart-shattering life story points directly at the utter futility, absolute stupidity and sheer insanity of war – literal brothers in the human family murdering their fellow brothers in the human family, and his searing, brutally honest letter to the war criminals responsible joins him forever with the great poet Bob Dylan:
Come, you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you sit back and watch
While the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
While the young peoples’ blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatenin’ my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins
How much do I know
To talk out of turn?
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
And I hope that you die
And your death will come soon
I’ll follow your casket
On a pale afternoon
I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.
“War is a Racket”, Major General (US Marine Corp), twice recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Smedley Butler.
I have long held that a portrait of this patriot should be hung in the oval office of the White House.
[begins at 13:45]
Maybe the universe would be better off without life ever having evolved. Life is essential to pain and suffering which seem integral to life, not just in humans but throughout the biosphere. Believe me, I have known the most excruciating pain before medical intervention on several occasions but never in the complete or unremitting totality experienced by this poor man who found no wisdom or succor from even the doctors or the chaplains. Why did they make him live in purgatory (a temporary hell) for over a decade until the last fiber of his being was finally degraded by his all consuming pain into what we hope is a blissful non-existence. The reflexive aphorism upon learning of a person’s death is “May he rest in peace.” The honorable Mr. Tomas Young is surely far better off now whether he knows it or not. I am truly sorry, though I never knew of his existence till minutes ago, that he could not have made and enjoyed so much more of a life that was sabotaged and utterly wasted by America’s purported leadership composed mainly of sadistic sociopaths that must have their wars. Except for the previous one and Jimmy Carter, who started no new conflicts, they’ve all been “war presidents” and proud of it, including the current demented specimen slowly slipping into non-existence but hanging on just long enough to cause thousands (or possibly billions) more their own lives. Where is the sense of it all?
Anger burns good energy, energy better spent holding the soulless bastards who are responsible for all this.
Time to do it!
I opposed the Vietnam war as a war of aggression and was ready to go to prison rather than be a hired killer for the US empire. At 21 I joined a pacifist Christian commune serving homeless people. All wars of aggression are evil , but how can I judge those who defend themselves against these wars of aggression? Should the Chinese communists have done nothing to stop the invading Japanese? Should the Russians or British have surrendered to Hitler? Should there be no one to defend The people of the Donbass who refuse To surrender to the Azov battalion and NATO?
Wars and control by police and various forms of racism /xenophobia are essential to empire. The wars of the colonialist empire of Anglo alliances continue from the anti communism of post ww2 to the gulf wars to the current occupations of Syria, Iraq, the wars in Africa, the war in Ukraine, the threats on China. It has become a war on life, turning the living waters , forests, grasslands and mountains to lifeless rubble, suburban comfort zones where the empty insatiable self reigns supreme, poisoned waters, toxic air, plastic shit and endless roads and machines. The wars for money have as many victims as the military war that killed and tortured Thomas Young
We can see the same ecologically unsound practices in the emergent multipolar mixed economies that challenge Anglo hegemony. But is there a historic experience and a human pragmatism and long term vision in these countries and cultures that abhors violent domination and offers a greater collective wisdom and balance from many voices? Where is a culture of peace most likely to emerge? Are we speeding toward Armageddon through some kind of spiritual inevitability? Can the aggressions of the Anglo empire led by the US be stopped without war as it surrounds every potential threat with nuclear armed military bases.?
There is no global Gandhian revolution of human consciousness rising up to challenge wars of aggression or eco suicide . Many of us dreamed of it for many generations; Jesus taught it, Laotse, MLK, the Navajos, sitting Bull, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, George Fox, The Hutterite’s, Dorothy Day. When Palestinians marched to their own borders unarmed, they were met with violence and who came to their support? When Trump ended the Iran nuclear agreement and restarted sanctions, which European supporters of the agreement boldly refused the sanctions?
I am, at 71, no longer sure that there is any meaning to the abstractions of good and evil. If someone attacks me or another in my sight I will do what I can to stop it. It is easy to see who the most violent and unscrupulous power on earth is, and I fully support Russia’s war to stop their aggression and protect themselves and the Donbass using a remarkably restrained military operation. The Anglo empire will fall and the sooner the better. Show me a peace movement large enough to end Anglo hegemony and I will get back on the peace train. I hope that happens, but for now I am reluctantly abandoning this particular vision as a delusional quest for absolute purity. I still believe in ordinary love, in sharing food and music and hope, in mercy, in growing vegetables and friendship, in teaching young people to think about others, to acquire life skills, and learn friendly ways, in promoting health and emotional stability. I still literally weep for the victims of war. But when our license to kill is gone and our money is worthless and Anglos are just humans with other humans on a devastated planet, for this loss there will be no tears, because I hope to live to see that day and offer a toast to those who bring it to pass.
Powerful, tragic account that nearly makes the reader physically ill when considering how this poor individual suffered CONTINUALLY the last years of his life and led a horrible existence, all because he believed (albeit naively) that his new-con leaders were trying to ‘protect the US from WMDs’ and ‘fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here’ and all the other phony jingoistic one-liners they concocted. And contrasting his experience with the experiences of the instigators/promoters of that Iraq War(crime) can just enrage any even semi-compassionate person. And of-course you can be 99% sure that Bush & Cheney never read the moving letter he sent to them, since they have staffers to protect them from ‘bothersome’ individuals like him and they were too busy setting up the next war/military action to be distracted (much less have an epiphany) by such things.
Sadly, in my 60+ years of following politics and history to varying degrees, it appears that there are too many politicians that like to pander to mankind’s innate social/group/pack instincts. Obviously in the caveman / early man days there was a distinct advantage in belonging to a tribe/pack of people because of the protection that offered against predators and in the hunting advantage it gave. Even in modern history it’s uncontroversial that large groups wield more power than small groups or lone individuals. So this pack-protection ethos is the default setting for human social interaction (ie; very few of us enjoy being shunned by our peers), and assholes like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al (the most and egregious examples because even the MSM eventually had to grudgingly admit the whole rationale for the Iraq invasion was falsified) exploit young men’s political and historical ignorance and their testosterone to enthuse them into joining the military to fight in shameful, unnecessary wars.
I’d like to see Bush, Cheney, Obama, Clinton and Biden in front of a firing squad of journalists worth their F…ing salt. Support and save Assange. Roughly quoting Assange: “Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.”
When you think of WWI and the gas, and WWII, and how those wars with their inventions started the use of chemicals on our soils and food systems and how that same use is continually killing our soils and us since humans are connected so very close to the soils they live and farm on. It is easy to see that war is the greatest evil, among other reasons. Extrapolating from what I just outlined about the ill health of our soils with all these made for war and killing chemicals, MIC and USA agriculture is waging war against natural systems of the earth since most chemicals are made to kill one thing or the other. There’s been no support for science looking into LBGTQIA gender transcending populations or the why or wherefore. There was a female scientist who was studying this in 1970s and found among Michigan bird pollutions, a new tendency for female birds to nest with female birds. Wish I remembered her name cause nothing comes up for her studies so far. She was after Silent Spring. Such studies on the effects of our population is not funded because of course, no one wants to know, and especially BIG AG.
Too late for the Iraq or Afghanistan veterans, but still not too late for any future veterans of a war with Russia to ask the only question that matters to a sovereign nation.
What is the “vital American strategic interest” that demands risking war in the first place? Whether it is the potential loss of only 10 men or maybe 10 million Americans, what critical piece of land, ocean, natural resource, or choke point are we Americans willing to risk everything by waging war?
what critical piece of land, ocean, natural resource, or choke point are we Americans willing to risk everything by waging war?
Your question belies the answer. If you are a hegemonic nation and want to control the world, you might be following Halford John Mackinder. His paper “The Geographical Pivot of History” predicted a battle over the “World-Island,” the Eurasian continent. However how far fetched or conspirital it may seem to you, when you look at the history of USA wars against MacKinder’s map, it’s hard to disassociate his theory from USA foreign policy. I love to be wrong. I guess because I see demons and would rather see angels.
I could name a dozen “vital American strategic interests” worth the United States waging a nuclear WW III over. * I cannot, for the life of me, see a single one in all of Eastern Europe…to include Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, and Finland. Sorry, but am just not seeing it.
[*e.g. North America to include all of Canada, Panama Canal, Mexico, North Atlantic sea lanes, the two southern capes of Horn & Good Hope, The Caribbean Sea, Straights of Malacca, etc.]
War may be evil, but it is an unavoidable “extension of politcs,” and the necessity itself of politics in human affairs points to the incapacity of human beings to agree on how to organize society and distribute capital.
The evil of war is just the extension of the natural confusion of man. Hedges may be correct, but he is like a surveyor standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and remarking on the scale of it all, and regretting that it isnt smaller.
Oh no, no. You’ve all missed the memo: Bush is now a revered figure, haven’t you heard? MSNBC, NPR and others of the intelligentsia only speak of him with respect, he’s a painter artist and a humanitarian now. How dare you criticize him.
Even Dick Cheney has been rehabilitated!
Easy to bamboozle the public who is all too willing to get bamboozled. Bring in Trump and your war criminals get rehabilitated.
Right, exactly. Isn’t it sickening?
Good article about the horrors of war.
Above link leads to HIROSHIMA—great book about nuclear war.
Brilliantly written, emotionally raw, and let’s hope those that make the wars will read your book.
The rest of us – the masses of everyman/woman, people of goodwill for our fellow humans and instinctual repulsion of war, all agree.
I served in Operation Desert Shield/Storm and at the end of that operation I told a former British soldier I worked with that we would be back in Iraq in 10 to 15 years because of the threat of WMD’s. My reason for going back in was wrong (Iraq didn’t have WMD’s), which makes the Iraq invasion in early 2000 even more grotesque and tragic.
It was all about regime change and expanding American influence in the Middle East which is the real betrayal of men who suffered for it like Tomas.
Persons like yourself have all my heart. We are such a deceived nation, we hardly know how to love anymore. Do you know about all the other operations like Operation Paperclip and so many more?
Blessed are the peacemakers. Yes, we no longer practice good diplomacy. I managed to read a copy of “The Ugly American” while serving in Operation Desert Shield/Storm. It was quite a book for its time.
No, I have no knowledge of those other operations.
It would be a little justice to see Bush, Cheney, Obama, Clinton and Biden in front of a Nuremberg trial. Include all the loser generals that led the wars and came through without a scratch. Well, they are making a “lot of scratch” promoting the war in Ukraine.
I believe the Founding Fathers would agree.
I’d rather see them in front of a firing squad.
Terribly depressing article.
Nuclear war is even more depressing.
If you haven’t read HIROSHIMA, you can read it here for free.
Chris’s story shows the cost of war.
HIROSHIMA shows the cost of nuclear war.