For the last six months I have participated in what I believe to be the great modern lie: Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, and throughout the battle in Afghanistan, the groundwork was being laid for the invasion of Iraq. "Shock and awe" was the term used to describe the display of power the world was to view upon the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was to be a dramatic show of strength and advanced technology from within the arsenals of the American and British militaries.
But as a soldier preparing to take part in the invasion of Iraq, the words "shock and awe" rang deep within my psyche. Even as we prepared to depart, it seemed that these two great superpowers were about to break the very rules they demanded that others obey. Without the consent of the United Nations, and ignoring the pleas of their own citizens, the U.S. and Britain invaded Iraq. "Shock and awe"? Yes, the words correctly described the emotional impact I felt as we embarked on an act not of justice but of hypocrisy.
How many more tears must be shed before Americans awake and demand the return of the men and women whose job it is to protect them rather than their leader's interest?
From the moment the first shot was fired in this so-called war of liberation and freedom, hypocrisy reigned. After the broadcasting of recorded images of captured and dead U.S. soldiers over Arab television, American and British leaders vowed revenge while verbally assaulting the networks for displaying such vivid images. Yet within hours of the deaths of Saddam Hussein's two sons, the U.S. released horrific photographs of the two dead brothers for the world to view. Again, a "do as we say and not as we do" scenario.
As soldiers serving in Iraq, we have been told that our purpose here is to help the people of Iraq by providing them the necessary assistance militarily as well as in humanitarian efforts. Then tell me where the humanity was in the recent Stars and Stripes account of two children taken to a U.S. military camp by their mother, in search of medical care. The children had been unknowingly playing with explosive ordnance they had found and as a result were severely burned. The account tells how they, after an hourlong wait, were denied care by two U.S. military doctors. A soldier described the incident as one of many "atrocities" he had witnessed on the part of the U.S. military.
Thankfully I have not been a personal witness to any atrocities, unless of course you consider, as I do, this war to be the ultimate atrocity.
So then, what is our purpose here?
Was this invasion because of weapons of mass destruction, as we so often have heard? If so, where are they? Did we invade to dispose of a leader and his regime because they were closely associated with Osama bin Laden? If so, where is the proof? Or is it that our incursion is a result of our own economic advantage? Iraq's oil can be refined at the lowest cost of any in the world. Coincidence?
This looks like a modern-day crusade not to free an oppressed people or to rid the world of a demonic dictator relentless in his pursuit of conquest and domination but a crusade to control another nation's natural resource. At least to me, oil seems to be the reason for our presence.
There is only one truth, and it is that Americans are dying. There are 10 to 14 attacks on our servicemen and -women daily in Iraq, and it would appear that there is no end in sight.
I once believed that I served for a cause: "to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States." Now I no longer believe that; I have lost my conviction, as well as my determination. I can no longer justify my service for what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies.
With age comes wisdom, and at 36 years old I am no longer so blindly led as to believe without question. From my arrival at Ft. Campbell, Ky., last November, talk of deployment was heard, and as that talk turned to actual preparation my heart sank and my doubts grew. My doubts have never faded; instead my resolve and commitment have.
My time is almost done, as well as that of many others with whom I serve. We have all faced death in Iraq without reason or justification. How many more must die? How many more tears must be shed before Americans awake and demand the return of the men and women whose job it is to protect them rather than their leader's interest?
Tim Predmore is on active duty with the 101st Airborne Division near Mosul, Iraq. A version of this essay appeared in the Peoria (Ill.) Star Journal.
Copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times