My Turn: Seeking answers while supporting our troops

Posted: Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My son is returning to Iraq. I have never been a supporter of this war, but for his sake I have kept my views to myself at those times when the Empire wrote stories about his return from Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq a year later. To many it might seem that I am not supportive of my own son when I question and condemn American actions in a time of war, but I challenge those who do to look further than the flag, for it offers no answers to questions never asked.

The prime rationale for this war was that Iraq was compiling a cache of weapons of mass destruction that potentially threatened Americans at home. This was the case that Secretary of State Colin Powell made to the world through the United Nations. We didn't seek support to invade Iraq in search of terrorist camps that trained militants who would then threaten our security at home. We didn't seek support of that international body to overthrow Saddam Hussein so we could help bring a democracy to Iraq. Any stated basis for the invasion aside from the threat of weapons of mass destruction becomes an excuse that not only masks the truth but fails to teach the valuable lessons exposed when facing the error of our ways.

Yet underlying the lost opportunity to learn is the possibility that excuses are also used to avoid a deeper accountability for the true purpose behind the decisions we make. Americans should be demanding an explanation from the president and Congress as to why we are there. Only a rigorous investigation can validate the basis of war as an honest mistake grounded in trusting faulty intelligence. President Bush should have the courage to answer the most difficult questions raised after such an investigation rather than shift his rationale to fit the current facts.

I also have grave concerns about the depleted uranium in approximately 3,000 tons of bombs dropped in Iraq. In 1991, Brent Scowcroft reportedly told President Bush that the testing and use of depleted uranium as a military weapon "turned out, perhaps, to be wrong."

Why is it that I have to search through foreign and obscure news sources to read about this? What kind of American legacy will we leave in Iraq for the innocent lives ruined by the effects of long exposures to radiation? Do we honestly think we understand what we don't even discuss?

It is not remotely possible to support our troops when we as a nation are generally ignorant of not only the potential harm this can cause to our soldiers, but of the very fact such weapons have been used. Have we forgotten the wrongful government denials regarding the damage nuclear weapon development and testing inflicted on our own people?

Should we trust a government that waited until the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act of 1990 to formally issue an apology "on behalf of the nation to the individuals ... and their families for the hardship they have endured."

Those that made those horrendous decisions, and those that covered them up, never did apologize. If there is one thing in history that seems sadly repetitive it is the absolute failure of politicians to accept responsibility when they are wrong.

Who believes that the majority of our elected officials today are any different?

There are other aspects of this war that we don't fully understand. But in all cases supporting our troops must begin with following an ideal common to all belief systems, that the search for truth is essential. If we define truth in the accepted oath that it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, then we as a people should be demanding more of our leaders in Washington. There is no justification to "staying the course" that can begin without revealing the whole truth.

• Juneau resident Rich Moniak is a civil engineer and works for the U.S. Coast Guard.

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