For Immediate Release
Mike Ferner, 419-729-7273
Dennis Lane, 314-306-0024
The Speech That Anti-War Veterans Would Have Given...
Veterans for Peace President, Mike Ferner, Responds to President Obama's Rebranded Occupation of Iraq
WASHINGTON - A
veteran's perspective makes it clear that two major points must be
made in response to President Obama's announcement regarding combat
troops leaving Iraq.
First, there is no such thing as "non combat troops." It is a
contradiction in terms. It is internally inconsistent. It is
illogical. It is simply not true.
Ask any of the millions of men and women who went through basic
training and they can tell you that every U.S. troop anywhere in the
world was indoctrinated and trained in the basics of combat. While in
Iraq, the transition from mechanics or communications back to
combat-ready soldier takes but an order. "Non-combat troops" is
simply the latest in a long line of military euphemisms meant to
obscure painful reality.
The second point can best be made by drafting a section of the
President's remarks for him. If Veterans For Peace were to do that it
would read something like this:
"And now, fellow Americans, let us begin a new era of candor and
honesty about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Specifically, I'm
referring to the true costs of war - something that must be considered
if we are to judge if continued war is worth it.
You have seen that the cost to taxpayers of these wars has exceeded
one trillion dollars, nearly all of which has been considered 'off
budget,' appropriated by extraordinary or 'supplemental' spending
bills. It may be hard to believe that, large though that figure may
be, it is but the smaller portion of what we will spend in total.
We are already investing unprecedented amounts in Veterans
Administration staff and facilities to try and cope with the millions
of men and women who have cycled through a war zone deployment - and
of course many have been through multiple deployments.
Our experience thus far tells us to expect literally hundreds of
thousands of cases of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries - injuries that
are often difficult to diagnose at first and difficult to treat.
These are, of course, in addition to the many thousands of visibly
wounded who, at great expense, must go through rehabilitation and a
lifetime of support in order to function to their fullest. Thousands
more will require years, perhaps decades, of long-term care because
their injuries have left them so broken they require round-the-clock
But since we are initiating an era of candor, we go farther - and by
that I mean the cost to families, communities and society as a whole.
Volumes have literally been written on this point, but let me leave
you with a brief example you can easily expand for yourself.
We have already heard of the abnormally high rate of suicides among
returning veterans. The real number is undoubtedly higher since some
will always remain a mystery. We've heard also of a growing tide of
domestic violence that leaves families broken and terrorized.
Beyond the draining medical, psychological and emotional costs to the
individuals directly involved, imagine the cost to the communities
where this occurs: whole battalions of police, fire, EMT, courts,
probation officers, social workers and sadly, prison guards will be
needed to deal with the true costs of war. It is uncomfortable to
admit, but this is indeed one area of the economy I can guarantee will
Then there is an exponentially greater cost borne by the people of
Iraq and Afghanistan - greater in every way: emotionally,
economically, in human suffering, in destroyed opportunities, in
shattered lives and minds, in hearts that will remain forever broken.
We can do precious little to repair much of that kind of damage. But I
can tell you this, my fellow Americans, we must at least pay the bill
to rebuild the roads, water and sewer plants, hospitals, schools and
residences we have destroyed.
It is not pleasant to describe such things and indeed, these costs
will continue to weigh heavily on our nation well into our
grandchildren's generation. But we cannot pretend otherwise."
This is the message that should come from the White House tonight if
truth were indeed the coin of the realm. We won't hear it, but that
will make it no less true.
Veterans For Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis, MO and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.