<\body> Stories in America: Iraq Vets Speak Out

Friday, January 20, 2006

Iraq Vets Speak Out

Four Iraq veterans will be attending the Sundance Film Festival in Utah over the weekend to promote the film, "The Ground Truth," a documentary directed by Patricia Foulkrod in which they appear.

Here are excerpts from AlterNet's Terrence McNally interview with three vets. Vets in combat rarely talk to the press and when they do, they have strong orders to repeat the Bush administration's talking points.

"I don't care what George Bush tells you, our military's been run into the ground. More than half of our folks are there for a second time, the divorce rates have doubled, we're now moving combat units out of Korea and out of training units in the United States to perform combat missions in Iraq, recruiting numbers are in the toilet, and retention numbers will soon fall. At the end of the day, he's really destroyed our military, and that will have long-term effects for our national security for decades."
-Paul Rieckhoff enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves on Sept. 15, 1998. In early 2003, he was assigned as platoon leader for the 3rd Platoon, B Company, 3/124th INF (Air Assault) FLNG, and spent approximately 10 months in Iraq. Third Platoon conducted over 1,000 combat patrols; all 38 men in Rieckhoff's platoon returned home alive. In June 2004, Rieckhoff founded Operation Truth -- now called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: Let me ask you about your actions since you returned. You saw combat -- from what I've read you were horrified by what you experienced?

"Yes, primarily the killing of innocent civilians. That's where I really began to question our overall motives. My questions to my command became, how do you tell a 25-year-old Iraqi male who just witnessed his brother being killed at a checkpoint, how do you tell this young man not to become an insurgent? So I was very critical of our mission and what we were performing and the lack of humanitarian support to the Iraqi people."
-Jimmy Massey, a co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, is a former staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He was a boot camp instructor at Parris Island, S.C., and a Marine recruiter before fighting in the Iraq war and was honorably discharged in December 2003 after 12 years of service. His autobiography, "Kill, Kill, Kill," was recently published in France.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: If you could say one thing to the American people, what would you say?

"Accountability and responsibility. I bring up these two words because the American public are largely responsible for where we are right now, therefore they are accountable for our nation's failure in Iraq and diminishing status abroad. We sat idly by and accepted the Supreme Court's anointment of George Bush. We allowed ourselves to be manipulated following 9/11 and adopted the "any Muslim will do" attitude that afforded the administration the opportunity to use 9/11 to justify Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks.
We then watched as Karl Rove twisted and turned an election away from the issues (out of necessity, since his candidate had failed on virtually every one of them) and let it become a smear campaign. Whether you voted for Bush or not, we collectively failed by extending his reign. If you voted for Kerry, like I did, then you have to ask if you did enough to spread that message of hope for our country. Again, based on the results, you have to accept the bitter fact that the answer is no, we did not."
-Sean Huze participated in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Huze was awarded a Certificate of Commendation citing his "courage and self-sacrifice throughout sustained combat operations" while in Iraq. After returning to the United States, he starred in his debut as a playwright, "The Sand Storm: Stories from the Front." His third play, "The Dragon Slayer," which focuses on PTSD, will premiere in Los Angeles in March.


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