When Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to the VFW convention last month, pitching for an attack on Iraq, I wondered how many other veterans were annoyed by the implied message that veterans favor this renewed war.
Administration hawks rely on images of this kind to create an illusion of competence in war, since few of them have any personal experience of it. Some commentators, in examining what has uncharitably been called the "chickenhawk factor," have noted the near-absence of combat experience among administration advisors who have been promoting war with Iraq and scripting President Bush's warmongering.
Another veterans organization, the admittedly much smaller Veterans for Peace, also held its national convention last month. The Veterans for Peace convention crafted resolutions in strong opposition to war with Iraq, opposing militarism in various forms, urging progress on development of nonviolent institutions and peacemaking tools, forging friendships with former enemies, and healing the wounds of war. Its members, including veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War, have promoted practical alternatives to dealing with weapons of mass destruction through international cooperation, and have urged citizens to ask hard questions about this preventable war that the administration is pushing us into.
Aside from the obvious question of direct casualties from hostile action and "friendly fire," we wonder how much chemical waste and depleted uranium dust, remaining from the last Gulf War and added to it from this one, will our troops be exposed to. How many Iraqis, both innocent civilians and soldiers, will we require our troops to kill to "get Sadam?" How will the survivors live in the aftermath of the destruction and pollution? Will our troops again be asked to slaughter Iraqi troops in full retreat, as Gen. Barry McCaffrey did in Gulf War I? If all does not go well for our troops, how may they expect to be treated if captured? Successful or otherwise, what horrors will our troops experience and, for those who return, remember for the rest of their lives, while wondering why we did not work to prevent this war?
I urge vets who want to stop this march to war and connect with others in doing so to check VfP's Web site at www.veteransforpeace.org, and to call me for further information.