Statement issued by veterans of the US armed forces which represents a variety of different political perspectives and experiences.
We are veterans of the United States armed forces. We stand with the majority of humanity, includ- ing millions in our own country, in opposition to the United States’ all-out war on Iraq. We span many wars and eras, have many political views and we all agree that this war is wrong. Many of us believed serving in the military was our duty, and our job was to defend this country. Our experiences in the military caused us to question much of what we were taught. Now we see our REAL duty is to encourage you as members of the US armed forces to find out what you are being sent to fight and die for and what the consequences of your actions will be for humanity. We call upon you, the active duty and reservists, to follow your conscience and do the right thing.
In the last Gulf War, as troops, we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We destroyed much of Iraq from the air, killing hundreds of thousands, including civilians. We remember the road to Basra—the Highway of Death—where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We bulldozed trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium weapons left the battlefields radioactive. Massive use of pesticides, experimental drugs, burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires combined to create a toxic cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and Gulf War veterans today. One in four Gulf War veterans is disabled.
During the Vietnam War we were ordered to destroy Vietnam from the air and on the ground. At My Lai we massacred over 500 women, children and old men. This was not an aberration, it’s how we fought the war. We used Agent Orange on the enemy and then experienced first hand its effects. We know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder looks, feels and tastes like because the ghosts of over two million men, women and children still haunt our dreams. More of us took our own lives after returning home than died in battle.
If you choose to participate in the invasion of Iraq you will be part of an occupying army. Do you know what it is like to look into the eyes of a people that hate you to your core? You should think about what your "mission" really is. You are being sent to invade and occupy a people who, like you and me, are only trying to live their lives and raise their kids. They pose no threat to the United States even though they have a brutal dictator as their leader. Who is the US to tell the Iraqi people how to run their country when many in the US don’t even believe their own President was legally elected?
Saddam is being vilified for gassing his own people and trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. However, when Saddam committed his worst crimes the US was supporting him. This support included providing the means to produce chemical and biological weapons. Contrast this with the horrendous results of the US-led economic sanctions. More than a million Iraqis, mainly children and infants, have died because of these sanctions. After having destroyed the entire infrastructure of their country including hospitals, electricity generators, and water treatment plants, the US then, with the sanctions, stopped the import of goods, medicines, parts, and chemicals necessary to restore even the most basic necessities of life.
There is no honour in murder. This war is murder by another name. When, in an unjust war, an errant bomb dropped kills a mother and her child it is not "collateral damage," it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a child dies of dysentery because a bomb damaged a sewage treatment plant, it is not "destroying enemy infrastructure," it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a father dies of a heart attack because a bomb disrupted the phone lines so he could not call an ambulance, it is not "neutralising command and control facilities," it is murder. When, in an unjust war, a thousand poor farmer conscripts die in a trench defending a town they have lived in their whole lives, it is not victory, it is murder.
There will be veterans leading protests against this war on Iraq and your participation in it. During the Vietnam War, thousands in Vietnam and in the U.S. refused to follow orders. Many resisted and rebelled. Many became conscientious objectors and others went to prison rather than bear arms against the so-called enemy. During the last Gulf War many GIs resisted in various ways and for many different reasons. Many of us came out of these wars and joined with the anti-war movement. If the people of the world are ever to be free, there must come a time when being a citizen of the world takes precedence over being the soldier of a nation. Now is that time. When orders come to ship out, your response will profoundly impact the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and here at home. Your response will help set the course of our future. You will have choices all along the way. Your commanders want you to obey. We urge you to think. We urge you to make your choices based on your conscience. If you choose to resist, we will support you and stand with you because we have come to understand that our REAL duty is to the people of the world and to our common future.
SIGNERS, name, branch, years; Updated February 1, 2003.
Terry Scott Adams, Army, 1964-1966
Kelly A. Allison, Navy, 1975-1979
Arvid Antonson, Air Force, 1942 – 1945
Ed Armas, Army, 1962-1965
Beatrice Arva, Army, 1985-1986, 1991-1993
Stephanie R. Atkinson, Army, 1984-1990
Paul L. Atwood, Marine Corps, 1965-1966
Niall Aslen, Royal Air Force, 1962-1986
and 400 others.
Veterans For Peace has sent an open letter to fifteen generals and admirals in the top ranks of the US military advising them of their possible liabilities, under international law, to criminal prosecution for being part of a pre-emptive war against Iraq. Veterans For Peace, headquartered in St. Louis, MO, is an organisation of men and women who have served in peacetime and in most of the wars of the last century, with 92 chapters nationwide.
Open letter to America’s top military commanders:
General Richard B. Myers, Chairman, USAF;
General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman, USMC
Admiral Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations
General Michael W. Hagee, Commandant USMC
General John P. Jumper, Chief of Staff, USAF
General Erick Shineski, Chief of Staff, USA
United States Unified Combatant Commanders:
General James L. Jones, USMC, US European Command, Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, USN, US Pacific Command, Admiral E.P. Giambastiani, USN, US Joint Forces Command, General James T. Hill. USA, U Southern Command, General Tommy R. Franks, USA, US Central Command, General Ralph E. Eberhart, USAF, US Northern Command,
General Charles R. Holland, USAF, US Special Operations Command, General John W. Handy, USAF, US Transportation Command, Admiral James O. Ellis, Jr., USN, US Strategic Command,
February 13, 2003
Veterans For Peace is an organisation whose members have served with honour in the armed forces of the United States of America. Among our members we count decorated veterans of WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. Many served during two, and in several instances, three of these wars. Two of our members are recipients of the Medal of Honor, dozens received Silver and Bronze Stars for valour in combat, and hundreds were awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action. One of our members was a POW for over seven years in the Hanoi Hilton.
We learned the horrors of war through our military experience and we want the killing stopped. We believe it is not just enough to be against war, we must also work against war and that is the purpose of our organisation.
We, like you, know the world is a dangerous place and that our military forces are necessary for our defence. We realise that you too have seen and do not want war. War must only be the option of last resort.
We believe the war against Iraq that the US government is planning and preparing for is in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and customary international law. The judgement of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg noted, "Resort to war of aggression is not merely illegal, but is criminal."
The principle of renunciation of the use or threat of force is now one of the fundamental principles of international law and, as such, is stated with the utmost clarity in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which imposes definite obligations on states participating in international affairs. States are bound in their international relations to renounce "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN".
The US seeks to justify a pre-emptive strike on Iraq on the basis of self-defence. Article 51 of the UN Charter permits the use of force by a state to repel an armed attack or a substantial and immediate threat to the national security of the state until the Security Council exercises jurisdiction. A threat which permits the use of force must be an immediate, specific threat to US national security and not a general threat to the Gulf region or a possible future threat. The legality of pre-emptive self-defence has been rejected on the basis that use of force to deter future use of force constitutes punitive rather than defensive action. If the US fails to gain Security Council approval for war, the US is bound by Article 51 and may not lawfully, unilaterally take military action.
It is clear that the planned massive attack on Iraq is not based upon self-defence. Iraq has not attacked the US nor does Iraq constitute an immediate and specific threat to US national security. We are not apologists for Saddam Hussein but we believe there are ways to deal with his regime without the resort to a war of aggression. Other countries and many Americans have suggested reasonable and safe alternatives.
We members of VFP remember well our military service. We swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We were informed of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the conviction and punishment of soldiers for following illegal orders. We were taught that we must not follow an illegal order. US military leadership must not only know and teach the obligations of international law but must respect and follow them.
You are in high military positions and you have awesome responsibilities under our Constitution and international law. We believe you are honourable men. We respectfully urge that you do the right thing in this terribly difficult situation. Clearly your duty is to not engage in the political leaderships’ illegal war. Many veterans will support you if you refuse to participate in an illegal war and we believe that you can successfully use your high positions to warn the American people and you will be supported.
If you fail your sworn duty to the Constitution and international law by engaging in an illegal war against Iraq, we fear the US will become a rogue nation that will believe in and act on the principle that might is right to the great dishonour of all our professed values and to the great discredit of all who served in the armed services of the US so that their children and future generations could live in peace and freedom.
With great urgency,
Archived from Communalism Combat, March 2003 Year 9 No. 85, Cover Story 6