Editor’s note: Matt Howard gave this statement at a recent protest at the Statehouse.
In 2003 I illegally invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq with 1st Tank battalion 1st Marine Division. My commander in chief unleashed the world’s fiercest fighting force upon the country and people of Iraq, and now those of us used and betrayed by him are demanding justice.
Four and a half years after our opening “shock and awe” Bush’s lies are known throughout the world, and yet he continues to act with impunity. Four and a half years later the Bush regime has unleashed a hell upon the country of Iraq that only those who have been there can truly understand.
As a two-tour combat veteran of this brutal war, I have a responsibility to speak honestly and openly about what has been done and what continues to be done in our name. We veterans know that this war is not the one being sanitized on the nightly news. It has nothing to do with the liberation of the people of Iraq; instead it has everything to do with the subjugation and domination of these people in the name of U.S. imperial economic and strategic interests.
We did not go to war with the country of Iraq, we went to war with the people of Iraq. During the initial invasion we killed women. We killed children. We senselessly killed farm animals. We were the United States Marine Corps, not the Peace Corps, and we left a swath of death and destruction in our wake all the way to Baghdad.
Let me say again so that there is no misunderstanding. I stand here today as a former U.S. Marine saying we are killing women and children in Iraq. This is the true nature of war. War lends itself to atrocities. Don’t think you can use an organization designed to kill other human beings for anything humanitarian. That has never been our mission. That was crystal clear from the moment I was forced to bury the crate of humanitarian food given to me in Kuwait.
Four and a half years later we as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are done. We are done being told under threat of court martial to run over children that get in the way of our speeding convoys.
We are done raiding and destroying the homes of innocent Iraqis on a nightly basis.
We are done abusing and torturing prisoners.
We are done being hired thugs for the 160,000 contractors and U.S. corporate interests in Iraq.
We are done being poisoned by depleted uranium, the unspoken Agent Orange of this war.
We are done coming home broken, from two, three, four tours of duty – only to find our commander in chief has actually tried to CUT funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs. To find our doctors being told to diagnose us with pre-existing personality disorders instead of post traumatic stress syndrome.
We are done killing for lies.
So Iraq Veterans Against the War is taking back our history – the history that has been robbed from us. We are dispelling the myth that the Vietnam war ended when the Democrats started voting against it. Instead we are spreading the truth about how the American War in Vietnam ended.
The Vietnam War ended when soldiers put down their weapons and refused to fight; when pilots dropped their bombs in the ocean.
We are re-educating the public to let them know that the power ultimately lies with the people. Just take a look at the thousands of pages of internal documents from the Department of Defense explicitly detailing how at the end of the Vietnam war the military had collapsed. It was literally in a state of mutiny. And that movement is slowly starting again. Because ultimately in every war waged throughout human history, those forced to fight quickly realize they have much more in common with those they are being told to kill than with those telling them to do the killing.
And we are re-educating the public about the true nature of sectarian violence. No, the middle east is NOT inherently violent. In fact, in the 1,400-year schism between Sunnis and Shias – there has NEVER been a civil war fought. They have always lived in the same neighborhoods and even intermarried. The United States has caused this civil war using the classic colonial techniques of divide and conquer.
George Bush is a war criminal who has violated international law, the Geneva convention and the Nuremberg standards and needs to tried accordingly for crimes against humanity.
I ask every red-blooded American today: What would you do if your homeland was savagely invaded and occupied by another country? The Iraqis will continue to resist and fight until the last American has left their homeland. Period. End the violence in Iraq? End the occupation.
We veterans are speaking out to stop the violence being perpetrated in our name. When we voted in the Democrats on an anti-war mandate, the Bush regime expanded the war. As we are marching against further occupation, the Bush regime is making threats against Iran.
And we will not continue to be silenced by the mainstream media. Top generals and bottom privates are all speaking in unison now. We know the truth about the slaughter of upwards of one million Iraqis. Why is no one listening? We will not stand by as this regime tricks the country into thinking that if you oppose the war you do not support the troops. We ARE the troops and we have never felt support from this administration. Stop mindlessly supporting the troops. Start demanding that we come home – and maybe think about apologizing to us when we get back.
Matt Howard attained the rank of corporal in the United States Marine Corps. He is head of the Vermont chapter for Iraq Veterans Against the War.