This was posted to the Teaching Drum mailing list today, in response to someone mentioning that they were shipping off to Iraq.
I can empathize with your core desire to go fight in Iraq, since I’m a veteran myself (served my time as an intelligence specialist & paratrooper for the U.S. Army light infantry and special forces from 1988-1996, discharging as a Sergeant E-5). Since that time, I’ve traveled the world and studied. I’ve seen how things are in other countries (compared to here in the USA) and learned a great deal about international relations (especially U.S. foreign policy) and American history (especially the U.S. Indian wars). I know what it’s like to feel the call of the guardian/warrior deep in one’s heart — this basic desire to serve your people is a good one, and should be respected. I’ve been following that calling in one form or another all my life, and I can see you are attempting to honor that same calling. No matter what happens in Iraq, you have my personal respect, and I trust you will act as honorably as you can given the situation you are likely to find yourself in there. I’m not going to bullshit you with sugar-coated words however, because I know (from personal experience) that when a man is making the decision to go and participate in killing his fellow man, that is a time for speaking the truth. I want to be straight with you, because I think you deserve that much. I think all soldiers deserve that much. The situation in Iraq is not one where you will be given the opportunity to fight for my freedom (or anyone else’s). In Iraq, you will be required to kill people you do not know — people you have no real understanding of, or personal grievance against. People you cannot listen to or speak with, because you do not understand their language. You will be killing these people in their homes and on their home soil, not ours. Can you point to a single person you know of who has been killed here in America by an Iraqi? In Iraq you will be killing people who can list for you the names of their own family members who have died in their own homeland at the hands of Americans. Do you know what that will mean for you? And yet, you will be required to kill and/or participate in killing these people. You will be forced to do this (even if your heart cries out against what you are doing, and most likely at some point, it will) because you will be taking orders from other men (ultimately politicians) with their own (political) agendas. If eventually your heart grows sick of what you are doing and you refuse taking these orders, you will be punished, then jailed and sent home in disgrace. No matter how the war goes for you, when you return to the U.S.A, what you have experienced in Iraq will put you at risk for a wide range of physical health problems (gulf war syndrome stuff, likely caused by exposure to depleted uranium munitions used by the U.S. military), mental illnesses (caused by post-traumatic stress) and you will be more likely to become an alcoholic, drug addict and/or domestic abuser (i.e. one who abuses his wife & kids) or to become homeless. V.A. mental health and addictions counseling services are being overwhelmed as we speak by returning vets whose spirits are sick & suffering from that war. If you go, you go for your own reasons — and these reasons have nothing to do with my freedom. I will not take part in helping to justify what you are about to do. The freedom that I care about is my freedom to walk the Old Ways — to heed the call of my heart and walk the simple & gentile path of my ancestors close to Mother Earth. That freedom is found here, and the “fight” for it is here. If you want to be a part of that, the struggle begins with you — this is the real path of the guardian/warrior — and it is here, not over in Iraq. I know what the U.S. government is fighting for over there, and it’s pretty simple really. There are no lofty ideals or complex conspiracies — it’s about oil wealth. This war has nothing to do with freedom, and everything to do with the fact that oil (which makes some people rich & powerful beyond their most insane fantasies) is about to start running out on a worldwide scale. If you go, my prayers go with you. At the same time, I’m not going to feed you any crap about what you are getting yourself into. Also, when you get back, if you need some time to heal your spirit and explore who you truly are in close contact with the natural world, then my circle & I here at the Teaching Drum will be honored to serve you in that process. —Glenn P.S. If you get a chance, take a look at some of the following: “On Killing : The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman “War is a Racket : The Anti-War Classic by America’s Most Decorated General” by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler Iraq Veterans Against the War: http://www.ivaw.net/ Veterans Against the Iraq War: http://www.vaiw.org/vet/index.php