Veterans from several US wars are protesting across the country today. But at the vigil outside Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, there is an unusual presence in their ranks.
Peter Molan spent years listening to Arab radio broadcasts, watching Al Jazeera and visiting Arabic Internet chat-rooms. As one of the many intelligence bureaucrats in the chambers of Washington's war-planning center, the Pentagon, he had his ear to what was happening on the "Arab street." In August, 2001, the 25 year veteran Middle East analyst retired to spend more time with his family, continue his scholarship and pursue his hobbies: photography, carving duck decoys and dry-fly fishing.
But then came September 11th.
Not long after the planes hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Molan received a call from the Pentagon saying his services were once again needed. Fluent in Arabic, he was pulled out of retirement to work on the bin Laden case for the Defense Department. After four months of work, Molan went back to retirement. Then he began hearing the Bush administration amplifying the rhetoric against Iraq, implying that Saddam Hussein was tied to the 9-11 attacks.
"The justifications for that war were completely counter to everything that I had learned in that 20-odd years of government service working on the Middle East," Molan told Democracy Now!. "I was simply outraged by the twisting and turning of intelligence information that I had helped develop to what was clearly, to my mind, a preordained policy decision that I felt to be profoundly wrong. Nothing about this suggests that Saddam Hussein was anything but a brutal dictator. He was. But that's not why we went to war."
Molan said that due to restrictions on revealing classified information, he cannot discuss details of his work on the bin Laden/9-11 investigation. "But what I can tell you," he said. "Is that my involvement, my direct, immediate involvement, day-to-day involvement with Veterans for Peace arises precisely out of the subsequent decision by the Bush administration to go to war with Iraq."
Molan said that had the White House worked with the United Nations in dealing with Iraq, he may have supported the administration. "But nothing but poison plants can grow from poison seeds," he said. "This administration's goals and intentions and policies, which are quite clearly articulated in the Security Strategy Document and in the work of the Project for the New American Century, are completely at odds, radically at odds, with America's now more than a century-old tradition of trying to build international institutions."
Molan began his military career in 1963, studying Arabic and Near Eastern Studies at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. After graduating with honors, he was deployed to Ethiopia during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, for which he received the US Army Commendation Medal.
After 12 years in academia, where he taught at a number of universities and colleges, Molan went to work at the Pentagon as a Middle East analyst. He was frequently sent on foreign assignments in addition to his job of teaching in federal government training programs. Today, he was one of dozens of veterans commemorating Veterans Day by protesting outside of Walter Reed Medical Center, the main facility treating wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We believe that the Bush Administration is dishonoring both the commitment that is required by today's holiday-to the veterans and to concurrently serving GIs, as well as to that notion of international peace and justice," he said. "All the talk about support for the troops that we hear from the White House is belied by the fact that facilities are being closed, charges are being placed on the veterans. This administration is not in support of these troops."