Circleville Herald,  January 18, 2007

Out of fear comes the most grievous and hurtful mistakes. We should have listened to Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, October 2002 when he urged his fellows to adjourn their debate on funding the Iraq War to take a prayerful visit to the 58,000 names on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Those 58,000 names on solemn black marble speak to those who can quiet themselves to listen, lives ended by another unjust tragic war. The Senate did not hear them on that day. Neither did we Those in Congress, our intelligence and military communities, concerned about the lack of any real evidence of an Iraq 9/11 connection or of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), those knowledgeable of Iraq history who warned that invading Iraq would likely result in years of bloody  Shiite/Sunni civil war, their voices were drowned out by  the pulse-quickening, stirring emotions of post 9/11 fear and anger. "Shock and Awe" makes better television sound bites than the quieter virtues of thoughtful praying for guidance. Fear sells, war fever sells, they always have. The oldest political trick in the book., played just before mid-term elections.

We attacked, a shameful un-American, immoral strike-first war of choice. We became a mob. Now, over 3,000 of us are dead, 23,000 wounded, many horribly, horribly so. Iraqi dead totals are unknown, at least a 100,000, maybe 600,000. $450 billion wasted, our future mortgaged. Our national moral fiber damaged, we torture, we just don't call it that. We hold detainees in secret prisons, with no hope of a fair hearing. We scorn international opinion. Now our President asks us to escalate, compound this terrible national mistake?

Where is the remorse that generally befalls those have been part of a mob action? Did it speak in our recent elections? Did remorse speak through Colin Powell,  now proclaiming against the war,  who initially warned Mr. Bush that "you break it, you own it" but then, like a loyal soldier supported his Commander in Chief? Did remorse speak through the voluntary re-assignments of Generals Casey, Dempsey and Abizaid rather than continue to oversee this Iraq tragedy? this escalation? Dick Cheney spoke of his remorse over shooting his friend in a hunting accident, where is his remorse over the mountains of corpses his  neo-conservative aggressive policies have created? Mr. Bush says he is moved by the deaths of those who might be alive except for the war he wanted so badly. Is he really? Mr. Bush avoided combat in Vietnam, so did Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Rove. Would they be so quick to send others to kill and be killed if they had served? Doesn't genuine remorse imply a genuine desire to try to right the harm we have done? If Mr. Bush is remorseful, as he says he is, why is still so blatantly misleading us, claiming it is al-Qaida terrorists rather than civil war that grips Iraq?

Mr. Bush's address to the nation of 10 January is more of the same. More of the same deliberately misleading, posturing and dangerous rhetoric. Deliberately misleading because Mr. Bush never misses an opportunity to imply that we are fighting the 9/11 terrorists and al-Qaida in Iraq. Again, there was not one Iraqi among the 9/11 hijackers. There are very few al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq, there were none at all until we destabilized the region. The inconvenient fact, and facts are often inconvenient for Mr. Bush , is that it is simply, absolutely, verifiably not "the 9/11 terrorists" we are fighting in Iraq. It is a Shiite/Sunni civil war, precipitated, as were the ethnic cleansings in Sarajevo and Kosovo, by the break-up of central authority, the Soviet Union in the case of Yugoslavia, the removal of Saddam in Iraq. This Shiite/Sunni civil war was predicted by Mr. Baker, Mr. Hamilton, lately of the Iraq Study Group but earlier advisers to the elder Bush in 1991, they warned him that going on to Baghdad would likely result in such uncontrollable civil carnage. The elder Bush listened, "The Decider" did not. Mr. Bush still doesn't, perhaps cannot listen.

Mr. Bush's rhetoric is dangerous for U.S. troops, continuing to soak up lead in a futile attempt to keep the Shiites, Sunnis apart. The Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff, finally standing up to this reckless President, advised against escalation as the Iraq War is already destroying our military. We brought on this Iraqi civil war, our continuing presence, most Iraqis feel, only fans the flames. Iraq Prime Minister al-Maliki asked us not to send more troops, Polls show the Iraqi people want us out, many consider attacks on our troops justified Perhaps we should listen to them, it is their land, not ours. Is it not?

I spoke on the Ohio Statehouse lawn this past summer at "Eyes Wide Open" an exhibit sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers).  This very powerful exhibit includes an empty pair of combat boots for every U.S. military death in Iraq. There were 2,497 then, they filled the lawn. It took a host of volunteers a whole morning to place them. I helped make sure photos, letters, stuffed bears, flowers  personalized for many of the dead soldiers were attached to the correct boot. I looked into many of the faces of our dead, placed letters from their families where they were intended. I spoke of my time as an officer with the U.S. Army 256th Combat Support Hospital and 2291st U.S. Army Hospital. I remember being embarrassed at being saluted. We did medical physicals on many local reserve units, I remember their young faces, the hopes and dreams they told me of, joining the reserves as a means to better themselves, learn a trade, get money for college. Many of them from less than privileged backgrounds, they were trying to make the American dream come true for them, "working their way up" in the time honored way.

I am sick at heart that we are killing these young men and women so that our President can save face, avoid admitting he  made an awful and incompetent mistake, a mistake so awful that it is tough to look at square on. How many more lives will it take so that Mr. Bush can posture himself as not having lost in Iraq, a fight we should never have started in  the first place?
How many more lives, ours and theirs, so that Mr. Bush can claim that it is the Democrats' fault, not his, that we were not "victorious"? Victory defined as us arrogantly determining how a foreign land shall conduct its affairs. I understand  the Quaker Norman Morrison, who set himself afire at the Pentagon November1965, in sympathy with the Vietnamese Buddhists who had similarly protested the brutal and repressive South Vietnamese regime and the war. Remembering the blood Father Berrigan poured on draft files in 1968, I think of the blood that is figuratively dripping from every "Bush-Cheney O4" bumper sticker, that is dripping from every Republican who told us that they had a special arrangement with God himself, that to oppose them and their war policies was to be without faith or values.

We can bring meaning to the deaths of so many. We can ensure that our dead, and theirs, are the last victims of 11 September 2001. It is obvious that our current White House administration is out of control, delusional, mumbling to paintings in the halls as Nixon did in his last days, unable to stop the war. We must thus stop it for them, as our Constitution promises we can. I urge you to write, call you congressmen and Senators, ask them to cut off the funds for this unjustifiable war, ask for  troop withdrawal and a pledge of no permanent bases in Iraq. Ask that we talk to Iran, rather than rattling the saber at them, that we not launch a strike-first war in that land. Ask that we decry military adventurism and thus stop seeing the entire world as" either with us or against us" ,or as an "axis of evil" The nation that lives by the sword, shall be destroyed by the sword. Write letters to the editor. Live peace. Speak the truth to your children. Pray for our land.

Brad Cotton
Member, Veterans for Peace, Southern Ohio Chapter