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Message to pro-war extremists: Our troops are not your dupes

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Many of us were shaken by the news last Monday that two of the seven soldiers who co-signed a NYT op-ed very critical of the war were killed in Baghdad -- 26-year-old Sgt. Yance T. Gray and 28-year-old Sgt. Omar Mora. A third soldier who put his name to the editorial, Sgt. Jeremy Murphy, is in a U.S. military hospital receiving treatment for a gunshot he received in the head while the article was being drafted.  

It was a terrible coincidence that fate singled out these three, given that more than 160,000 are now serving in Iraq. Omar Mora’s mother wants some answers. The immigrant from Ecuador is in for a long, dark haul.

After all, it took three years of lobbying and lawsuits on the part of Pat Tillman’s family and a change in committee chairs before the Pentagon was forced to admit that, along with Pat Tillman’s death from “friendly fire” in Afghanistan, evidence relating to his death was destroyed, and leaders at the highest levels had orchestrated a massive cover-up of the facts in the case. We know that Tillman, too, had been outspoken in his criticism of the war.  

Do you, too, wonder if these men would be alive today if the Congress that convened in January had insisted on a new course, a timeline, had resisted throwing more money after bad, had not agreed to sacrifice more lives for a war based on lies? Would Mora and Gray and the 776 others who have died since January of this year be alive today if it weren’t for a political game, the race to the White House in 2008?   What would have happened if Congress had heeded the call of general after general who said the invasion of Iraq would be a failure?

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In May of this year Major General Batiste spoke to Congress in televised ads: "Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.”  In a shameless act of cowardice and complicity, CBS news fired Batiste as its military consultant.  And Congress continued to ignore the truth.  


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 Yance T. Gray  Omar Mora 

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Gray and Mora co-authored “The War as We Saw It,” an opinion piece signed by five other soldiers that ran in the NYT August 19. They died in Iraq less then a month later.    

In the editorial, the soldiers eloquently and diplomatically called bullshit on the things that the pro-war extremists, pundits, politicians, president and Patreaus have been feeding us in recent weeks in anticipation of the next fight for Iraq war funding.   

Sen. John McCain’s photo-op flop, the contrived “walk in the market square,” where he was surrounded by 100 soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gun ships came to mind when I read their words:   

“Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.”  

With compassion they outlined the chaotic situation that American foreign policy has heaped on Iraqis: 

 Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”  

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These honest men didn’t die protecting Americans or Iraqis from each other, but they died defending our humanity.  

They died because of Democrat-Republican political games; barbaric thinking that has no place in a technologically advanced and inter-connected world, and gross incompetence on the part of a military that is collapsing in on itself. What’s almost unbearably sad is that the writers of the editorial could see the futility of the war, spoke out about it at great risk, and our leaders continue to ignore reality.   

Perhaps if Congress had fought for our soldiers from the very beginning, had shown them even the slightest advocacy – say a mandatory time off between deployments -- it would have emboldened them for the greater fight to come. 

***

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.-She publishes www.fleshandstone.net, a health and science news site.
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