Letters to the Editor -- Circleville Herald

30 August 2006

Dear Editor,

As we approach the November 7 elections in this time of war, several fundamental questions of right and wrong arise. Is it right to launch a pre-emptive strike-first war? Is strike-first war in keeping with American values? Why did we strike Iraq? What is the right and morally correct course now? Is it right to "stay the course" in a wrongful war? Is it "cutting and
running" to face the truth, however awful that truth may be?

The  Vietnam War story of Hugh "Buck" Thompson, the heroic  helicopter pilot who landed his craft and trained his guns on American troops, thus stopping the My Lai massacres on 16 March 1968 is one of the few inspiring stories to come out of  that tragic war, his moral courage instructs us today. U.S. troops, stressed, frightened, made insensible by fighting an insurgent war followed orders to "kill everything" in My Lai village. A total of 504 Vietnamese civilians women, children were killed.  Raised Baptist in Stone Mountain , Georgia, Hugh Thompson  had a deeply ingrained sense of right and wrong that forced him to land, train his M-60 machine guns on U.S. troops and radio the alarm persistently. 

 Later this deep sense of justice, learned at the family dinner table, sustained him through decades of  repeated personal attacks, threats, accusations of being unpatriotic, unsupportive of U.S. troops, even threatened with court martial. 30 years later, "Buck" Thompson was awarded the Soldier's Medal for upholding " the highest standards of personal courage and ethical conduct, reflecting distinct credit on him and the United States Army." 

The truth often takes a while to come out 35 years later,  19 March 2003, stressed, frightened, insensible after 11 September 2001, we followed , then re-elected ,leaders who promised revengeful satisfaction and launched "Shock and Awe" on Iraq. As the truth eventually works its way out, even George Bush, the promoter-in-chief of this war of choice, is now forced to admit that Iraq had no connection to the 9/11 attacks. Rather than 504 Vietnamese, an estimated 100,000 Iraqis are dead. 2,634 of our own are dead, 20,000 wounded. Half of our wounded are so badly off they required discharge from military service. $400 billion has been wasted, the Mideast  further destabilized and the world view of the United States is at an all-time low.

There are many serious, devastatingly dark concerns about the White House use of pre-war intelligence. At best, the Bush team is guilty of the most dangerous and hurtful kind of incompetence; the kind that comes from closed-minded overconfidence, when the decision for war is already made, and all dissenting evidence and voices are disregarded. At worst, there is plenty of evidence of outright deception. Mr. Bush was warned prior to his January 2003 State of the Union address that the Niger-uranium-Iraq connection was false. Instead of being faithful to the truth , Mr. Bush made this false intelligence the centerpiece of his speech demanding strike-first war. Mr. Bush further ignored advice from the CIA, then Secretary of State Colin Powell( later arm-twisted into getting on the neo-con team) and Pentagon advisers that Iraq would likely descend into civil war once Saddam was toppled. It is apparent that the overconfident planning for this unnecessary  war went no farther than the "Mission Accomplished" photo-op of May 2003. Lt. General Gregory Newbold, former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs Staff  sorrowfully notes " The commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who never have had to execute these missions-or bury the results".

Recent polls show that  nearly 70% of the American public now recognizes that "staying the course" in a wrongful war is still wrong. Yet our White House leaders: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove are as yet unable to face this truth. We must thus disarm them. We may not be able to act heroically in a combat helicopter as "Buck" Thompson did in 1968, but we can go to the polls and remove from office every candidate who refuses to acknowledge that our country has gone grievously off course, that military adventurism is not the answer for the host of real challenges facing our country. Veterans for Peace, Southern Ohio Chapter urges you to remember our troops and our stricken and mourning nation on November 7th.

Yard signs reading "STOP THE WAR! VOTE PEACE NOVEMBER 7TH are available  at the Pickaway Dems, 902A South Court Street Tuesday-Friday 11:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. or by e-mailing sovfpeace@hotmail.com or  call, leave message with the Circleville Friends (Quakers) at 420-7626, a donation of $5 will be gladly accepted.

Brad Cotton
Member, Veterans for Peace, Southern Ohio Chapter