Open Letter to US Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq
- - I was a soldier
for most of the time between 1970 and 1996. I signed out on my
retirement from 3rd Special Forces in Ft. Bragg. I had also served
in 7th Special Forces, on three Ranger assignments, with Delta for
almost four years, as a Cavalry Scout for a while, and in the 82nd
Airborne Division as an infantryman. I started my career in
Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
I thugged around in eight
different places in East Asia, Latin America, and Africa, where I
pointed guns at people. Like you, I was an instrument of American
foreign policies policies controlled, then as now, by the rich.
In the course of that career, I
heard everything you have heard and felt everything you have felt
Tricky thing, loyalty.
Nowadays, when I talk with some
of you, or when I hear conversations recorded with you, I hear
many who have very serious reservations about these wars of
occupation. I had more than reservations from the get-go about
Iraq and Afghanistan, and I opposed them as hard as I could, and
so did millions of other people around the world.
But that brain-dead piece of
shit in the White House who is legally your boss, and all his
handlers, starting with Vice President Dick
"Halliburton" Cheney they sent you to do this thing
They talked themselves into
believing this would be and these are their words a
cakewalk. They surrounded themselves exclusively with others
who echoed what was already in their minds; and they
punished and villified and isolated anyone who told them what
they didn't want to hear. Because they
made up their minds to conduct these invasions years ago, and
with the attacks of September 11 in which Iraq's role was
exactly nothing they figured now was their chance to conduct the
re-disposition of the old Cold War military into their new plan
to build permanent bases in Southwest Asia.
Since they'd made up their
minds, they didn't want to hear anything except rosy scenarios for
their plans, because these reptile-minded, preppy gangsters are
like spoiled children who can't abide anyone fucking up their
But when those fantasies did get
fucked up, by the realities they ran so hard to escape, they
continued to pursue their grim agenda in spite of the mounting
consequences, because they don't pay those consequences.
If I had my way, we would issue
the whole shriveled, manicured lot of them their assault rifles,
put them aboard an Air Force transport, tighten the leg straps on
their static line parachutes, and boot their sorry asses out from
800 feet right over the middle of Ramadi where they could drop
their harnesses in the street and explain democracy to the locals.
But that's just ranting, because
I do so despise them. I hate people who get away with shit just
because they have money and power. And I hate people who sacrifice
the lives of others to amplify or protect that power.
But I'm not telling you
anything. You all already know by now what generation after
generation has learned the hard way. When the rich start their
wars, it's not the rich that get sent to fight them. Yeah, a few
go get their time as part of putting together a political career,
but we know who does the heavy lifting.
And in these conversations that
many of you have with me and thousands of other people, we hear
you say more and more often now that you know this war is
wrong, but that you have to "do your job," because you
are loyal to your buddies; because you feel that you have to back
them up; and because if you don't go, someone else will have to.
And I respect that sentiment.
But I have to challenge this
loyalty thing, and I do it out of respect for you, and because I
care about you, and because my own son is back there for his
A young friend of mine, Patrick
Resta, who recently returned from Iraq, and who is now a
member of an organization called Iraq
Veterans Against the War, recently told me, "My platoon
sergeant tried to get us to violate the Geneva Convention, and
when we resisted, he threatened us with punishment. He told us
that'the Geneva Convention doesn't exist in Iraq, and that is in
writing at the Brigade level.'"
You all know that this is
bullshit, and if you didn't know, let me give you a news flash
about some not all, but some military lifers; and this is
coming from a military lifer. Some of them are dumber than dog
shit. Some of them say things when they don't have the foggiest
fucking idea what they are talking about. Some of them will say
any goddamn thing to get you to do what they want you to do.
But then again, there wasa
memorandum that came down that suggested the Geneva Conventions
were void in Iraq. It didn't come from the Brigade level, though; it
came from fucking George W. Bush's office. And it's a lie.
That's why they sat there in front of Congress before they made
the author of that memo into the Attorney General of the United
States get your head around that and denied that they meant
But it is a lie.
You do not have to follow illegal
orders EVER, under any circumstances, and you ARE bound by
International Law. You should also be bound by what you know is
right, by your sense of plain common decency.
One of the ways they will get
you to do things that you will not want to live with for the rest
of your lives is to impose that group-think on you. If one of us
is guilty, we are all guilty. And "what happens in Iraq stays
in Iraq." This is one of the many ways they take that
buddy-to-buddy loyalty and twist it into a way to control you,
even when they are trying to get you to violate the law and not
only the formal law, but to violate what you know is right, to
violate your own conscience and jeopardize your own peace of mind
for the rest of your life.
And I'm telling you that you do
not owe them or anyone else that kind of loyalty.
They know that many ofyouknow
that you were sent to do this thing for a pack of lies about
weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds over New York City
and phony al Qaeda connections (and then when that fell apart, you
were there to deliver democracy at gunpoint). So they know that
many of you can't stay committed to this violent occupation out of
loyalty to that gang of thugs in Washington DC, who are busy every
day at home undermining the same Constitution you swore to protect
(from all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC).
They know that you know that
plenty of the officers are out there trying to get new fruit salad
medals on their Class-A uniforms, and bucking for promotion, by
risking your asses on pointless glory patrols. So they know that
they can't rely on the loyalty of many of you to the chain of
command any more either.
Where do they have to go with
this, then, after all? What do they tell you?
"You get out there on that
Humvee, and face those IEDs together, as loyal buddies."
"You get out there and
ransack people's houses in the middle of the night, and make their
babies cry together, as buddies."
"You get out there and set
up a road block without Arabic signs or interpreters and get put
into that situation where you are tense and don't know, and you
shoot up that car and kill parents in front of their children, and
you have to live with that for the rest of your lives together,
because you are loyal buddies."
"You get out there and lose
life, limb, or eyesight face mental and physical ailments for the
rest of your lives together, as an act of loyalty to your
That's the pressure you have on
you today. Cover your buddies, and for some of you, go to Iraq so
someone else doesn't take your place.
But let's look at the bigger
picture here, and for that I'll take you back to Vietnam, before
many of you were born. We heard this same bullshit then. Almost
verbatim. And do you know what one of the main contributing
factors was for getting us out of that war?
We quit being good soldiers.
The United States military got
to the point where it was no longer an effective fighting force,
soldiers quit taking orders. It got to the point where an
officer who was using his men's bodies to chase medals might find
himself on the wrong end of a Claymore mine. Now I'm not
advocating that again, and I hope we can stop this before it goes
The other thing many soldiers
did was become part of the political resistance at home. They
looked at this question of looking out for their buddies and for
fellow soldiers in the short term, but staying ina barbaric and
immoral war. And they realized that the best thing they could do
for their buddies not as soldiers, but as human beings was to
enlist in the opposition to the war and bring it to an end.
In the process, many of them
discovered that it took a lot more endurance and a lot more
courage to oppose the war than it did to demonstrate that macho
bullshit they were expected to display as they continued to do
terrible things to those other human beings whose country they
Here's how you can exercise a
deeper loyalty to the troops there now, and to all those who will
continue to go as long as this obscenity continues:
Do everything you can to stop
Question every order, and base
those questions on the Geneva
Conventions and the Law
of Land Warfare. Let them see you keeping a detailed journal
of your experience. Send your stories home in letters. Open up
discussions about the legitimacy of the war when you are in your
billets, even if it does spark controversy. Spread around
information you get about the war from sources other than those loud-mouthed
news-mannequins on FOX. And email or mail your anonymous
membership in to Iraq Veterans Against the War. The link is at the
end of this letter.
The day this war stops and they
put the last of you on an airplane home, is when you will never
again have to smell that fresh-blood smell that stays in your head
for hours after you've loaded someone onto a stretcher or rolled
them into that big Ziploc bag. The day will come when you all pull
out, because this was a losing proposition from the outset, but Bush
and his crew were too fucking stupid to know it.
The best thing is that this war
of occupation ends sooner than later, and as an exercise of
loyalty to your own conscience, of loyalty to those who are there
and those who may go there, and loyalty to the principle of human
decency you can find ways to hasten that day. You can find ways
to bring closer the day when the Iraqis can get on about the
business of taking control of their own destiny, and you and your
buddies can sleep in security and comfort in your own homes, play
with your children, make love with your partners, and walk down
familiar streets unencumbered by the rattling luggage of war.
If bringing this day closer for
all of you is the goal, how much more loyal can you get?
Yours for walking unencumbered,
US Army (Retired)
Stan Goff is the author
Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti"
(Soft Skull Press, 2000), "Full
Spectrum Disorder" (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and
"Sex & War" which will be released approximately
December, 2005. He is retired from the United States Army. His
blog is at www.stangoff.com.
Goff can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I encourage troops to show this
to other troops. I encourage family members of troops to print it
out and send it to them in letters, or to paste it into emails. I
encourage troops and family members who are on military
reservations to make copies and place them everywhere you can
Web sites of interest to troops
and their families:
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