Soldiers Have Split Views Over War
Iraq veterans carry views that exemplify the split in public opinion over Iraq
September 29, 2005 7:24 PM
Ranch Corporal Joseph Tellez, a marine who recently returned to San Diego, was hit with a bullet that went through his back and out his chest, missing his heart by one and a half inches.
“It’s a funny story. I didn’t realize I’d been shot, so I turned around and saw the sniper standing on the roof. I flipped the guy off and I began to ran towards him, and then I opened my vest and saw all this blood spilling out.”
He’ll get a tattoo on his arm of his friend’s name, the one who ran to him and brought him to a medic. This friend was killed a week later when a sniper bullet pierced through the scope of his rifle and through his jaw. He had four kids and a pregnant wife.
After three tours and a total of one year and nine months in Iraq, Tellez has seen 16 of his fellows killed. A good friend of his was torn apart by a bomb.
He believes they died for a righteous cause. And he believes that questioning the president about whether or not he lied about the reasons for going to war is irrelevant.
“We get orders and we execute. Our commanders tell us not to get involved with politics,” said Tellez.
But not all Iraq veterans from California and the Bay Area feel this is true. While some come home and join anti-war organizations, others say the anti-war movement is disgracing what they are fighting for. The split in soldiers’ views towards the war is an intensified mirror of the split in public opinion among American citizens.
“For every one terrorist we’ve caught, we release three people who weren’t terrorists before, but now will possibly become terrorists because of what we did to them.”
Corporal Ben Wetzel recognizes that terrorist recruitment is increasing, and that terrorists cells are likely operating in the US. He doesn't like how troops are being diverted from the homeland, but he believes the war is justified because it will create a pro-American democracy in the Middle East.
Wetzel, who recently returned to San Jose after 11 months in Iraq, fought in a 10-and-a-half-hour firefight to take Northern Baghdad. After the city fell, he saw thousands of Iraqi civilians celebrating in the streets. He believes that Iraqis appreciate the American forces.
“After the last shot was fired, they were lined up on both sides of the streets: dancing, crying, waving to us. Americans shouldn’t be ashamed of their military. We are attempting to install democracy.”
IVAW member Ramon Leal has served since the beginning of the war as an electronics specialist in hotspots like Abu Ghraib. He argues that the war is more about increasing the profits of the energy and war industries than about creating democracy. He argues that if America truly cared about the Iraqi people, it wouldn’t have imposed severe economic sanctions that killed Iraqi children.
“The means were political sanctions. The end was infanticide,” said Leal.
Leal refers to Columbia University research on the sanctions the United Nations, and principally America, imposed on Iraq. Richard Garfield, author of the study “Morbidity and Mortality Among Iraqi Children,” estimates that sanctions killed 350,000 children between 1990 and 2000. He explained that the sanctions intensified the severe problems caused by crippled sanitation and water-pumping systems after 90,000 tons of bombs were dropped during a 43-day Gulf War air strike.
Yet if the Iraqi government had fully cooperated with UN weapons inspectors years ago, the sanctions would have been lifted. Tellez says the American people are more willing to criticize their own government then have faith in the military.
“People need to support the troops, because we’re doing the best we can. People shouldn‘t criticize.”
But senior airman Tim Goodrich, west-coast coordinator of IVAW, says the people can’t possibly support a war that was built upon lies. He was in Saudi Arabia in 2002, and witnessed the Air Force making bombing raids on Iraq throughout the year. The bombing increased by 500 percent by the end of the year. When he saw President Bush on TV the next year, describing the threat from Iraq, he knew he was being lied to.
“Bush said that he was going to try diplomacy before we went to war. But we were already bombing them in 2002. I saw the lie. We hadn’t used diplomacy. We were using those air strikes to try to get them to retaliate, so we’d have a reason for war.”
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