I am a Vietnam veteran who served honorably for my country. I was an air operations supervisor in the US Air Force, and served on Temporary Duty status at Vietnam's Bien Hoa Air Base and Tan Son Nhut Air Base. I have great compassion and love for every single military person now serving in Iraq. I know the horrors they wake up to each day.
I was the victim of a lie. They are victims of a vast lie also. I was not in combat in Vietnam, but the experience changed me and affected me deeply. I had an epiphany one day when, looking out onto the tarmac from base operations, I saw a pallet of coffins beiong loaded onto a cargo plane. The ties did not hold and the coffins fell out onto the ground. At that moment I left my duty station with the permission of my supervisor as I felt a deep and personal trauma.
I saw the madness and the surreal nature of that war. I also saw the Base Exchange at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), a kind of Sam's Store selling everything from refrigerators to air conditioners and anything one could find back in the states. It was ironic to me that this supermarket was dropped right into the middle of a war zone -- a combat zone, and everyone seemed to accept this as normal and right.
I did not accept this. Upon returning to the states I joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Like Senator John Kerry, I experienced the horror -- saw the insanity -- and I decided to do everything I could to stop further deaths and murders in Vietnam. Like Senator John Kerry, I had no choice. It was the only honorable thing to do.
I worked tirelessly, and continue that fight to this day. The Swift Boat Liars have caused me to wake up again -- and to fight again. The war in Iraq is an illegal and immoral war. It violates international law. Under the guise of bringing "freedon" to Iraq, my government is killing innocent Iraqi women and children for oil.
My government has caused the needless deaths of more than 1,000 U.S. military members. My government has launched this insane war causing thousands of maimed and wounded U.S. military personnel, not to mention the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians injured and maimed.
All of this is based on a lie.
After the loss of 57,000 American lives, the United States did finally wake up with regard to the war in Vietnam. But it was the people who forced that war to end, not the politicians. Now, twenty-five years later, the people must again face their duty and demand an end to this lie, the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq is a vast and vicious lie.
There are those who tend to minimize this as failed policy or, like House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in her party's weekly radio address Sept. 25, “This war has been a grotesque mistake that has diminished our reputation in the world and has not made America safer.”
Pelosi is right. The quagmire in Iraq IS grotesque, but is is far more than a "mistake." It is a deliberate and calculated lie to trick the American people into a patriotic orgy of support for our current president. Of course we know the true villains in this. They are Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice and George Bush, as well as all of the advisors who sanctioned this mess, including the pentagon's (the president's) legal staff who condoned and justified the torture and murder of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib.
I cannot say how deeply ashamed I am of this war. I never supported George W. Bush. I voted against him because I saw his vacant and wild stare and heard his jumbled, chopped, and childish words. I knew he was inept and incompetent to serve, not only as president, but as commander-in-chief of our brave armed forces. I know he is a fraud. Our country has been deeply harmed by this war and this man who hears God tell him to "spread democracy" so violently.
His insanity fits so well with the agenda of the right-wing neocons and the Christian fanatics, each with its own mad road map and grand prophecy. Christians see Bible prophecy being fulfilled. The neocons, with their own Bible, the Project for a New American Century, see power being the entitlement of the imperial United States and hegemony as our right.
All of these actors are causing serious, even irreparable, damage to a country once admired and envied throughout the world. Admiration has been replaced with disgust. Envy has turned to hate. The evil of this war has engulfed our country like a deep and smothering fog.
We who know the horror of a war based on a lie must do everything in our power to stop this madness.
Thomas M. Braun
resides in Tampa, Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org