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Letter to a Young Marine, Days before His Deployment to Iraq
This is an open letter I wrote to the son of one of my best friends after I heard he was being deployed to the Iraq War. As the author of Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, I felt obligated to make sure he knew his alternatives and to do all I could to dissuade him from boarding the outbound plane. I failed, but perhaps publishing the letter may influence others.
Letter to a young Marine days before his deployment to Iraq:
Good evening, my friend.
I wish you were still in Santa Cruz because I'm coming down tomorrow
to make a presentation at the Capitola Book Café about my book Mission Rejected (have you read it?).
I would love it were you in the audience heckling me.
I spoke with your father last night to make arrangements for him to
pack the bookstore and he told me that you expect deployment to Iraq.
When you and I last spoke, at your wedding, you suggested to me that you
oppossed the Iraq policy and that you were just counting the days left
in your duty, looking forward to your release from the military. Did
I misinterpret what you said? Have your thoughts on the mission and
your role with the Marines changed?
Please indulge me as I mention a few things that you undoubtedly know
and that you've probably heard from me before and that you probably
don't want to hear now.
Latest polls show over 75% of Americans oppose the U.S. Iraq policy.
Latest polls by the Army Times (http://www.armytimes.com) show that there is
deep questioning within the military regarding the policy. Rumsfeld,
the war architect, has been run out of town. The Democrats took
Congress based on the rejection of the Administration's lies and
deceits regarding the war, and its failed policies.
I think I understand Semper Fi, and serving for the Corps and ones
fellows, not the politicians. But as individuals, don't you agree we
have a responsibility to stand up and reject flawed and failed policy
and -- in addition to being appropriately concerned about ones self
preservation -- taking a stand as an American patriot to reject
participating in what is arguably criminal activity?
Stay with me a moment more, please.
Weren't the lessons of Nurenberg that following orders is not an
acceptable rationale for participating in immoral conduct? (Please
understand, my friend, I respect you too much to suggest that you,
personally, would ever participate on a one-to-one basis in immoral
activity. But if the Administration is doing so, and hence the DOD is
doing so, and hence the Corps is doing so, don't you have an
obligation to reject your orders, as did Lt. Watada, now, as I'm sure
you know, facing a court martial at Fort Lewis?)
Before you stop reading, please consider the following points I first
learned back in 1968 when I turned eighteen and was drafted to go to
Vietnam, points I've relearned over the years working as a journalist
as the U.S. engaged in failed military misadventures in Latin America and
Somalia, Lebanon and now Iraq.
1) The power is yours to reject illegal orders. In fact, it is your
duty, as you've learned in the military.
2) You are a free agent despite your rank and contract. You can quit
the Marines today. Yes, there will be repercussions: you will lose
your pension, your discharge will be OTH at best, you may even do brig time,
your compatriots will attempt to shame you. But you are an incredibly
strong man. Courageous and brave. If you make a decision, peer
pressure will not affect you for long (if at all).
3) There is an active, growing, and potent support system for those
in the military who choose to reject the war. You are not alone. You
can be counseled by experts through the process of disengagement.
4) Were you to apply for Conscientious Objector status, your case
would be strong because of your personal background. You could be
discharged with an honorable discharge. There would be no
brig time, your peers would likely respect your decision. Remember,
please, the vast majority of Americans now oppose this war. That
figure must be replicated in some proximate similarity within the
military population because the military is made up, of course, of
5) You have been lied to and cheated by the military (of course not
necessarily by your immediate colleagues, but by the institution).
You owe the institution nothing.
6) If you feel you owe your immediate colleagues your presence (and
perhaps the protection of your maturity and skills sets) because they
are deploying, consider that what you may really owe them is a
lobbying effort to get them to reject the assignment and the orders.
Perhaps you need to be a second Lt. Watada to reenforce his courage
and bravery and help create a cascade of rejection within the ranks
that will result in your immediate colleagues also saying no to the
7) Only we can stop the war. The perhaps trite-sounding Vietnam-era
slogan, "What if they gave a war and nobody came," is true. And you
are in the enviable position of being able to act on that mantra. If
you and that cascade of others refuse to be George Bush's "surge" then
you may be able to advance the time when the troops come home. You know that is what will happen. We will abandon this failed
mission. As John Kerry said during Vietnam, "How do you ask a man to
be the last man to die for a mistake?" How best to support the
troops? With a magnetic yellow ribbon on ones bumper or by bringing
them home ASAP?
There is a fast-growing
anti-war movement filled with the experts who know how to extracate
service personnel from the clutches of their contracts. If you do not
wish to go to Iraq, you need not. I will work day and night to help
you reject this deployment, all you have to do is flick my on switch
(and of course, if you choose to go, I will send you my love and
Finally, if you wish to say no to this assignment and not deal with
the potential OTH discharge or court marshal or CO application, but
just start life anew, I will fly to your base tomorrow and drive
you to Canada.
I love you and respect you. I hope you change your mind and
say no to this immoral, illegal, and failed war.
Your friend and fellow patriot,