Never Forget

Circleville Record Herald, December 8, 2008

by Brad Cotton

Polls show that the Iraq War was no longer of significant concern to voters this past month. When we forget just how easy it was for Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, how easy it has always been for all political leaders, in all nations, to inflame fear, insecurity and religious passion while mobilizing for unjust wars; when we forget this, we are on the way to the next war. The next war, like the Iraq War will be preached from the pulpits, wrapped in the flag while those who whisper the truth: “It is all for oil; we are killing masses of civilians; the Gulf of Tonkin incident was faked; The Viet Cong are right and we are wrong” will be vilified on the then extant FOX news and by the then extant Religious Right “pastor”.

The truth about the Iraq War comes from the mouths of those who have fought it in a volume “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations” published by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Much of this book is too graphic and shocking to reproduce fully in this column. Vincent Emanuele, Rifleman, United States Marine Corps, deployed to Iraq March 2003-May 2003 and August 2004- April 2005 writes of his units destruction of civilians and brutal treatment of innocent detainees:

“The larger point that I’d like to touch on is that these are the consequences for sending young men and women into battle. These are the things that happen. And what I’d like to ask anyone who’s viewing this testimony is to imagine your loved ones put in such positions. Your brothers, your sisters, your nieces, your nephews, your aunts, and your uncles, and more importantly, and maybe most importantly, to be able to put ourselves in the Iraqis’ shoes who encountered these events every day and for the last five years.”

If I were a poet, I could have written the following on Iraq vets I have seen in the emergency department, sleepless, at 0400:

A Young Soldier Back from Iraq

Lyn Back -- “Friends Journal” April 2008

He wore an Arab prayer shawl, cut off jeans,

The day he read his poems.

Back from Iraq. But not just back.

Two years had passed since his return.

A boy of eighteen when he left. A boy.


Dark eyes beneath those heavy brows.

Beak nose, black shock of hair.

He looked down, then up, and frowned,

Stared at nothing I could see.

He looked like he was seeing ghosts, He was.


His clothes shook on his slender frame.

Legs trembling, he stood there.

We watched him take deep gulps of air.

Look out, raise up his chin and smile.

A brief, bright smile of who he once had been.


His voice boomed, roared. It slammed into me hard.

I felt the heat, the stench, his madness.

Exploding bodies, a fire storm, a blood letting of raw nerves.

He’d been a medic, a boy, eighteen years old.

His orders were, “Clean up this mess.” He isn’t God.


His choking gasps filled up the silent room.

We didn’t know what to do, or where to look.

An older man, a vet, said something to him and they left.

Stood outside, locked in their tears. I thought,

“We do this. We do this. To our children.”

- - -

We have elected Obama. The war and torture is not over yet. We need a national repentance and a resolve to hold congressional hearings on the criminal actions of those who led us into Iraq and into torture. May we always question those who lead us into war. Or it will surely happen again. And again.


Brad Cotton

Former Lt. U.S. Army, Member, Veterans for Peace