Michael Prysner is a veteran of the war in Iraq and an anti-war activist
On April 2, U.S. Army Staff Sergeants Quadi Hudgins and Christian Garcia were killed by indirect fire while on their “non-combat” outpost in Babil, Iraq.
This is what the “end” of the Iraq war looks like for troops on the ground.
Attacks from rockets and mortars on bases housing U.S. soldiers are not out of the ordinary—they are a regular occurrence. They have continued to kill and maim U.S. troops since the “end of combat” was announced.
Less than a week later, on April 8, Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Iraq. He said that those bases where U.S. troops are under constant attack will likely remain for years, if not forever.
The Washington Post reported that Gates indicated that the Pentagon was considering options “from staying an extra couple of years to remaining in Iraq as permanent partners.”
The war in Iraq has long been exposed as an illegal war of aggression, based on blatant and willful lies about non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” The myth of the Iraqi people wanting U.S. “liberation” was shattered when the masses of Iraqi people in every town and from all walks of life rose up against the occupation. The American people overwhelmingly turned against the war too, demanding that it end, forcing the incoming Democratic Party to promise a full withdrawal of all troops by the end of 2011.
But despite what the vast majority of people in both the United States and Iraq want, and what the politicians in Washington promised to do once elected, the Pentagon has another plan. They want us, our friends and our family, to continue to die in Iraq for a lie, for many more years, possibly forever.
So much for the Democrats’ promises. So much for our “great democracy.”
The Iraqi people will resist
Gates went so far as to make the ridiculous assertion that he would base his decision on “what the Iraqis want.”
The Iraqi people responded to Gates’ comments the very next day by taking to the streets in the tens of thousands, burning effigies of U.S. soldiers, chanting “Leave, leave, occupier,” and vowing to return back to full-scale armed struggle if the withdrawal deadline is not honored.
The “Iraqis” that Gates was referring to were not the Iraqi masses, but wealthy Iraqi politicians. They are the ones who have been carrying out extrajudicial killings, torture, restrictions on the press, corruption and smashing of rival political groups—the same things that Saddam Hussein was accused of doing.
The Iraqi people will never accept foreign occupation—especially one that taken the lives of over one million innocent people, made five million refugees, and reduced its cities to rubble. That is why they are still fighting today, although there has been a lull in violence. But that lull is not at all permanent, and if the U.S. remains past its promised withdrawal deadline, Iraq will once again become a bloodbath for U.S. troops.
The Mahdi Army militia, which nearly defeated the U.S. military and only stopped fighting because over 100,000 were put on the Pentagon’s payroll, vowed to return to battle if troops remain in Iraq one day past the withdrawal deadline. Other groups vowed to return or step-up attacks as well. A return to heavy combat in Iraq is right around the corner.
But that is of little concern to Gates and his team in the Pentagon. They care nothing about our lives. They have already sent 5,000 service members to their deaths while they kick to the curb those who come home. They only calculate what level of death and destruction they can get away with to achieve their imperial aims.
CEOs giving us orders
When Gates spoke to troops in Mosul about why they must keep fighting in Iraq, he was speaking to a room of soldiers who have absolutely nothing in common with him. He spoke to a room full of young people escaping rampant unemployment, increasingly unaffordable college tuition and the substantial cost of providing health care and a home for their families.
Gates, on the other hand, has lived a life of luxury in Ivy League schools and plush offices. The closest he has ever been to war is his long career in the corporate boardrooms of the same defense contractors and oil giants making a killing off of the occupations.
This millionaire Boeing executive is telling us “Keep risking life and limb, keep leaving your families behind, keep fighting this unpopular war for Shell and Halliburton.”
If he said it this bluntly, none of us would fight. Why would we endlessly risk our lives for the bonus check of some Wall Street fat cat? So, they change the language, and say it is for “democracy” and “helping the Iraqi people.”
If Gates and his billionaire friends want to keep a foothold in Iraq to gobble up its resources, then maybe they should put on uniforms and patrol its streets. Maybe they should lose their legs, be maimed, be psychologically traumatized, be carried home in coffins—instead of luring us with a job and college money to do it for them.
That’s why we have the right to refuse to fight. This is their war, not ours.
Only the people can end the war
They only promised to leave Iraq, they only began the drawdown because there was such popular opposition to the war; protests shook the country and soldiers began refusing their orders, speaking out about the criminality of the war, and joining the ranks of the anti-war movement.
If left to its own devices, Washington will continue to send us to die in Iraq for “years” or even “permanently.”
The politicians will only end the war when they are forced to do so. A vibrant anti-war movement, in the streets and in the military, has the power to do that.
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