As the hour for President Obama’s speech to the nation on Iraq approaches, Veterans Today has been getting input from across the political spectrum from the Peace Movement to moderate young Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I will post these cautionary messages to reflect contrasting views, but several things cannot be spun into an Obama Mission Accomplished, and I doubt very much his speech will come anywhere close to a Victory Dance.
Regardless the Iraq War is not over nor is combat. To quote one young Veteran leader from VoteVets, combat will be determined by what happens on the ground in Iraq not in Washington, D.C. Despite all our differences this fact cannot be spun.
The first message is a media release from Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), the second is from Jon Stoltz, the founder of VoteVets and member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) representing the moderate voice of young war Veterans. IAVA is not part of the Peace movement and neither is VoteVets. This is more a cautionary note from a Political Action Committee of young Iraq and Afghanistan War Vets who lean Democrat and were strong supporters of President Obama during the last Presidential election. They supported his call to escalate the war in Afghanistan.
Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, Veterans Today News Network
Military Families Speak Out Says: The War is Not Over
Tonight President Obama will address the nation regarding the withdrawal of so-called combat forces from Iraq. While members of Military Families Speak Out are heartened that more troops will be coming home, we know that this would not have happened without the concentrated efforts of our members and other organizations around the country over the last 7 years. The harsh truth that we know is that this war is not over.
The war in Iraq is not over for the families who’s loved ones never returned from Iraq, or who returned with significant physical and psychological wounds, or who took their own lives upon return. It is not over for the families whose loved ones in the Individual Ready Reserves were plucked from full-time schooling and recently sent back to serve in Iraq. It is not over for families with loved ones currently serving in Iraq whose relatives have changed overnight from “combat forces” to “advisors.” It is not over for families with loved ones who will now leave Iraq, only to be redeployed to Afghanistan.
The withdrawal of U.S. service members deemed combat troops provides little solace for the over 4,400 families grieving families whose loved ones died as a result of the war in Iraq. Their grief is compounded by the fact that their loss has not made America safer or improved the lives of Iraqis; and that other families continue to face the possibility of this same devastating loss.
“With great sadness my family and I mark this occasion. On April 26, 2004 my son died in an explosion while looking for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We are but one of the over 4,400 American families who mourn the loss of our loved ones in Iraq; physical and spiritual casualties affect tens of thousands more – and yet the wars that kill and maim our young and drain our treasure do not create peace. It is long past time to bring all of our troops home, and find real solutions for Peace,” said Gold Star Families Speak Out member Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was the first Pennsylvania guardsman killed in the war in Iraq.
“The cost of the war in Iraq cannot be measured only in terms of lives lost or billions wasted. For the Iraqis who have to deal with broken lives, broken infrastructure, a broken political system, the war is not over. It will go on and on for too many of our warriors and their families because of PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other devastating injuries to our soldiers,” said Cynthia Benjamin of Mt. Vision, NY, mother of an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) soldier, emergency room nurse and active member of Military Families Speak Out.
Nancy Nygard, a Military Family Speaks Out member from Teaneck, New Jersey, said, “My son served a 16 month deployment in Afghanistan, being stop-lossed and extended past his initial 12 month deployment. In December of 2009, within 24 hours of President Obama’s speech on the surge in Afghanistan, my son Joe received FedEx’d orders to report for duty assigned to combat infantry unit to serve in Iraq for 400 days. He had returned home, was honorably discharged and had begun rebuilding his life. He was in school full-time, and raising his two young children. Now what he is doing in Iraq? He was a combat troop when he deployed. Calling it something different does nothing to sooth his wife and young children. Claiming an end to the war when my family is devastated is a farce. This war is not over.”
Military Families Speak Out continues to call for a true end to the military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for all troops to be brought home quickly and safely from both countries and for returning troops to get the care they need when they return.
Celeste Zappala, Cynthia Benjamin, Nancy Nygard and other Gold star and military families are available for interview. More information about Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families Speak Out can be found at www.mfso.org. P.O. Box 300549 | Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 US
VoteVets says: The war in Iraq is not over.
The president must make that clear tonight. Though planned combat operations are done, every single one of the 50,000 remaining troops is a combat troop. There’s a reason that convoys are called “combat patrols.” There could still be casualties. Whether our troops engage in combat will be decided on the ground in Iraq, not in Washington, DC.
Additionally, the war within Iraq still rages on. There is no stable government. There is no long-term settlement among Iraq’s factions on issues such as oil-revenue sharing. We are all pleased that the president stuck to the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the past administration, and the removal of thousands and thousands of Americans is a good development. But, by no means is this war over.
One need look no further than Somalia and Beirut for what happened at what were supposed to just be peacekeeping operations to know that there are no guarantees. Heck, one need look no further than the last declaration of major combat operations being over and “mission accomplished.” The point is, the president cannot and should not use this as a “victory speech,” no matter what his pollsters tell him. Should he do so, it’s very likely to blow up in his face.
Additionally, the president should look to Iraq for lessons that can be applied to Afghanistan — a war he will surely note was put on the back-burner because of Iraq. While the Iraq surge was a tactical success because American troops are the best in the world, it still is not a strategic success. The surge was never complemented by a surge in diplomatic and political armies, and as such, we just were keeping the cork on the bottle. As attacks mount in Iraq among warring factions absent American forces, that lesson has become all too clear.
The president has made his decision to ramp up troop levels in Afghanistan far past what he promised during the campaign. Many veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq disagreed — favoring a more limited counter-terror operation. But, now that the decision has been made, the president must ensure that the Afghanistan surge is not a military one alone. Unless a non-corrupt and stable government with the confidence of the Afghan people is put into place, there can never be real success in Afghanistan.
The purpose of writing all of this isn’t to minimize the accomplishments of this administration when it comes to keeping their timeline for moving troops out of Iraq. Nor is it to be a ‘Debbie Downer.’ It’s my sincere hope — as it is all of ours — that Iraq stabilizes and we can fully remove our troops. And, of course, all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans stand with the rest of America in wanting to see success in Afghanistan.
But, where the previous administration continually blew smoke and painted rosy pictures regarding the wars, this president must deal honestly with the American people. Only by doing so — by being straight about the challenges we still face — can the American people be prepared for the tough road ahead.
Follow Jon Soltz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jonsoltz
Colonel Ann Wright, U.S. Army-Retired, U.S. State Department-Retired says
Don’t be Hoodwinked by Obama!
This evening, President Obama will address the nation about the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq. Before the nighttime address, he will travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, to thank troops for the sacrifices they have made. We invite you to show your concern for the troops by supporting a gathering place outside another Texas base, Fort Hood, called Under the Hood. It’s an oasis where soldiers can get together, relax, receive counseling and speak freely about the wars and the military.
By donating to Under the Hood, you will support the troops and their right to resist unjust wars. According the CODEPINK member Heidi Turpin, “Unlike the military budget that is draining our treasury, the café operates on a shoestring of $36,000 a year, so a $50 or $100 donation will make a huge difference.“
You can also support the troops by speaking out about the terrible legacy of this 7-year occupation of Iraq. This evening, CODEPINK groups will gather in public places to watch President Obama’s speech, inviting the press to hear our analysis of how this war has destroyed Iraq and why we need to hold responsible those who dragged us into this debacle. We invite you to check out our talking points and tweet with us as you watch the speech.
Don’t be hoodwinked by Obama’s claim that the Iraq war is ending. We still have 50,000 troops there, tens of thousands of contractors and the biggest Embassy in the world. While we watch President Obama try to put a positive spin on a disastrous war we should have never started, let us redouble our efforts to bring ALL our troops home–from Iraq and Afghanistan. Join us in Washington DC on October 2 as we gather with civil rights activists, union members, women’s groups, youth and the peace community to call for jobs and bringing our war dollars home.
Learn more about One Nation Working Together and sign up here to join me, Alice Walker, Medea Benjamin, and activists from around the country. If Glenn Beck could bring out hundreds of thousands of people with his message of glorifying war, surely we can bring out even more people with our message of glorifying the power of peace building in helping us restore our economy and our democratic ideals.
U.S. Army colonel (retired), official of the U.S. State Department (retired)