Monday, June 26, 2006

Letter to Col. Glen Bulter, USMC

This weekend Colonel Glen Butler of the U.S. Marine Corp wrote an op-ed column in the Inquirer. I felt it needed a responce.

Dear Colonel Butler,

I wanted to write to let you know that I commend your service and sacrifice to our country and that I absolutely respect your heart-felt beliefs on what you see as our inevitable victory in Iraq. However, I must respectfully disagree with the premise of your article that keeping our military forces in Iraq, "until the people of Iraq can stand on their own" will significantly change the situation that we're presented with today in that troubled nation. All the evidence -- so painfully obvious to anyone with even a minimum of information about what's going on over there ---would tend to point towards a conclusion contrary to your optimistic appraisal. This is not just my personal opinion but is also borne out by the polling on the war, which shows a sizeable majority of Americans who feel that the invasion in the first place was a mistake and want our involvement in Iraq to end as soon as possible.

The "center of gravity," of which you are so concerned, is firmly centered on us getting out of this open-ended disaster before it bankrupts our great nation and degrades our military capability to a dangerous level. As an officer in the military, surely, you must be concerned about the effect our war in Iraq is having on recruitment and equipment. For instance, there are numerous reports in the press about the lack of experienced Army Reservists left in the pipeline to replace those who have mustered out.

Additionally, there have been reports that, because of a shortage of manpower, soldiers who are suffering from multiple rotations and the consequent PTSD are being medicated, contrary to procedure, and being sent back into battle. Regrettably, such desperate but necessary policies are almost surely destined to foster more incidents like Haditha, which is not the anomaly you paint it as, but is, based on the recent rash of investigations recently is just the tip of the ice berg. Unfortunately, I'm afraid; this disturbing trend has yet to run its course.

Regardless of what either of us may think about the reasons for getting into this war; a rational, highly educated officer such as you are must realize that our position in Iraq is untenable. To say that I question your motives might possibly going too far, but I must tell you that I have concerns about your contention that those in the service of our country are "duty-bound to educate" the people back home about the "efforts, accomplishments, challenges and goals in this conflict." My understanding is that your duty as an officer in the United States Marine Corps is to protect the American people from threats presented by our enemies both foreign and domestic; it certainly does not include serving as a shill for a particular political party in its efforts to get re-elected.

I'm pointing this out because; just recently a number of retired general officers were excoriated in the right-wing pundocracy and by Republicans in Congress for dipping their toes into the political debate to call for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense. It appears to me that there might be somewhat of a double standard being applied here, where an active-duty officer is allowed to write an Op-Ed in the press supporting the administration's policies (despite the disclaimer at the bottom of the article). I would like to remind you, sir, that patriotism is not the sole province of the Republican Party and Karl Rove.

It puzzling to me that you feel that it is so "disconcerting" to hear people say that they support those of you fighting over there but don't support the war. Everyday, I read the names, ages, and home towns of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our nation in Iraq in and I always tear up when I see the pictures of those young faces in happier times captured in amber as it were. It is just beyond me how anyone, especially somebody who has been in Iraq, can advocate sending more of our young men and women, with their whole lives ahead of them, to die, or to be horribly wounded, to prop up a government that is largely beholden to the Mullahs in Iran and is, at best, only marginally in control of Iraq after three years and 2,500 US GIs dead.

I would ask you sir, if you are so convinced that 'staying the course' is the right policy for this country to follow -- a policy that might well see us still there in 10-year's time -- will you then ask your 8 year-old little-leaguer to follow your example when he's old enough to enlist? And are you willing to go back again and again, like thousands of others have done and will do again, and possibly risk leaving your son fatherless for the rest of his life?

I would just ask you be honest to your son and to the 1,600 children of those who are never coming back about what your real motivations are behind your efforts to "educate" us. Regardless of how many times those who call for further sacrifice continue to invoke September 11th 2001 to justify this wrongheaded misadventure, the fact is this war has never had anything to with the dark day. There has been far too much blood spilled, too many bodies and minds broken, too many tears cried to keep repeating that particular untruth.

If there is any real reason to keep throwing good money after bad into this quagmire, to keep sending our best and bravest to die for this misguided boondoggle, please respect the American people enough to tell us the truth.


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