Mother of Fallen Soldier Responds to Iraq Withdrawal Debate
Fri Mar 11th, 2005 at 09:37:30 AM EST :: Iraq ::
For the last several days, there has been a running debate on this page about how and when the United States should withdraw from Iraq. It began with a post of mine asking FYI forum members to come up with a plan to do this, as everyone appears to be in agreement that leaving Iraq is something that must happen.
The second thread came as a response to an Anti-War.com post that bluntly and appropriately questioned my candlepower on this issue. My reply was an attempt to lay out the wide, varied and multifaceted problems inherent in an immediate withdrawal that cannot be ignored. I sure don't have all the answers on this, and I probably never will, but I did my best to lay out the issues as I understand them.
Yesterday afternoon, I received a letter from Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families For Peace and mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, who was killed in Baghdad on April 4th, 2004. He was 24 years old.
Beyond being an unassailable voice of moral strength and brutally-won wisdom on this matter, Cindy Sheehan brings an absolutely necessary perspective to this conversation. It is the curse of policy and issues analysts everywhere: We dig into the facts and theories and possibilities and potential ramifications of this or that, and sometimes get away from the flesh-and-bone realities of what we are dealing with.
Casey Austin Sheehan was a man, alive and well, and now he is gone because of this war. I am ashamed that I needed to be slapped across the head to remember this, but I am glad for it as well. I needed it, and perhaps some FYI readers needed it, too.
Cindy Sheehan was kind enough to allow me to reprint her letter here, which I have. My response to her words is below the letter.
My son was KIA in Iraq on 04/04/04. I think you have already made up your mind that our troops need to remain in Iraq...which is very sad. This is in response to your blog question yesterday and your reply to anti-war.com today.
I admire your tireless efforts to get the truth out...but I seriously have to disagree with you. I think that our presence in that country is fueling the insurgency that killed my son; which has also killed many more of America's sons and daughters (many more than the official count); has maimed almost 30,000 of our kids; and has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and demolished their country.
Don't you think that the Iraqi people can rebuild their own country? Before the US invasion in March of 2003, they had a very capable work force filled with construction workers, contractors, engineers, etc. I think the 81 billion dollar appropriation's bill that this president wants Congress to pass would better be a reparation's bill.
Also, I know you know the despicable condition that the VA system and military hospital system are in right now. Are you suggesting that we create thousands of more mentally and physically wounded of our children who will be dependent on a system that is so flawed? Not to mention the even more serious implications of depleted uranium syndrome which will probably never be recognized by our government. I know some soldiers who have returned who are suffering terribly from PTSD and they have been waiting for over a year for VA approval to get treated. PTSD is rarely diagnosed, so they don't receive the help they need.
And, most importantly and devastatingly, this war is based on lies and betrayals. Not one American soldier, nor one Iraqi should have been killed. Common sense would dictate that not one more person should be killed for lies. One of the people, my son, was more than enough for me and my family. I will live in unbearable pain until I die. First of all, because my first born was killed violently, and second of all, because he was killed for a neo-con agenda that only benefits a very chosen few in this world. This agenda and their war machine will chew up and spit out as many of our children as they can unless we stop them now.
Also, your views have the effect of invalidating what I, my organization, Gold Star Families for Peace, and other peace groups are doing to bring our troops home immediately, if not sooner.
In 1967 it was recognized by our government officials that Viet Nam was unwinnable...I don't even know how many more of our troops and innocent Vietnamese were killed before we finally pulled out in 1975. Please use your forum to expose the lies and the devastation this invasion/occupation is causing. We should not stay. We should not let Israel/USA invade Syria or Iran. The consequences of this would be too shocking to even contemplate.
In addition, my family and my group are offended by hearing this administration say that our troops have to remain in Iraq and complete "the mission" to honor our loved one's sacrifices. First of all, no one can explain the mission to us and we don't want any more innocent blood spilled just because it is too late for our soldiers and our families.
Thank you for your time and your courage in speaking the truth.
Love and Peace!!!
Co-Founder of Gold Star Families For Peace
Mother of Hero: Spc Casey Austin Sheehan KIA 04/04/04
I am, to a degree, at an almost total loss for words after reading your letter. Let me begin first by offering my deepest and most heartfelt condolences and sympathies for the loss of your son. I cannot even begin to comprehend your sorrow, and I wish more than anything that I had it within me to express my sadness and rage in a way that could stop this thing and bring everyone home. I wish I could have done that before you lost your son.
I also wish to express to you the fact that I have not in any way made up my mind on this issue. This debate I have begun here was meant to work towards a solution to this situation; I have noticed a level of exhaustion and despair within the progressive community when it comes to Iraq, which frankly drives me up the wall, and I was hoping to inspire a level of necessary re-engagement within the community. Sometimes, I have to play the role of bastard in order to do that. In this case, my bastard role involved arguing as effectively as possible the idea that leaving Iraq now is not a workable plan
It breaks my heart to hear you claim that my words on this subject have invalidated the efforts that you, your group, and organizations like Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace have done to put a stop to this thing and bring everyone home. Such was not my intention, and I apologize if anything I have done has undermined your tireless work.
The issues surrounding an immediate withdrawal from Iraq are complex - deliberately so, thanks to George and the boys - and need to be discussed. But there is not a person within the progressive community that does not agree with you: This war needs to end, the soldiers need to be brought home, and the people who decided to roll this deadly rock down the hill need to be called to account both legally and morally. The need for this is absolute and beyond debate.
Thank you for your words and your work, and again, please accept my love and condolences for your loss. I will do everything I can to stop this thing, and will rally as many people as I can find to help me do so.
William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t