A Soldier’s Walk for Peace

Stephen Wellington Mormon 20 Comments

Sgt. Marshall Thompson, a Mormon GI from Utah, who served in Iraq speaks about his Anti-Iraq War protest walk, his experience in Iraq, his hopes for an end to the occupation and his fears of protesting in the “reddest state in the country”.

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Comments 20

  1. We’ll end the “occupation” when the Iraqis want the “occupiers” to leave. Bah, I was against the invasion, and I think there were some alterior motives, but Iraq is getting to be an old story. It is not following the Vietnam template, and we’ll probably be out of there in a year. Who knows?

    I would like us to come home for one pure fact, we can’t afford it. Our biggest problems are economic right now, so we need to cut our losses and regroup. Especially if we enter a second great depression, we’ll just have to leave them and if it all goes to hell, let them come and get us. I’m willing to sacrifice my life and others lives as well to garner moral authority if we have to go back in.

  2. Yes Dan…the interview was in 2006 but Sgt. Marshall Thompson is touring Utah and the US at the very moment with his new film about his walk. It is in the “Notes from all over” on the left hand side and so I thought it was pertinent.

    Peter…I totally agree that the war is unaffordable. With the FED injecting about $1 trillion dollars into the econonmy and Joseph Stiglitz estimating the Iraq War has cost about $3 trillion dollars to the US taxpayers(and rising fast) with each family in the US paying ~$16,000 towards it…I think you are right.

    Perhaps you should reassess your first sentence Peter. A recent survey for the BBC and ABC published on the 15th of march 2008 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/14_03_08iraqpollmarch2008.pdf) has shown that:
    -73% of Iraqis oppose coalition forces in Iraq
    -38% wanting them to leave immediately
    -Another 35% wanting them to make plans for withdrawal.
    -61% saying that US Troops have made security worse
    -79% saying they have little to no confidence in the US occupation troops.
    -72% oppose US troops in Iraq

    These numbers have been somewhat similar for about the past 3 years. Does about 960 attacks on US troops a week in Dec 2006, according to the Pentagon, give us any hints? The war will not be stopped for the Iraqis nor will the Iraqi government’s first priority be the Iraqi people.

    Anyways…I was hoping this post would focus more on Sgt. Marshall Thompson and his experiences.

  3. Stephen, polls are crazy things. There is some cognative dissonance in that poll. The poll also stated that:

    “Fifty-five percent of Iraqis say things in their own lives are going well, well up from 39 percent as recently as August. More, 62 percent, rate local security positively, up 19 points. And the number who expect conditions nationally to improve in the year ahead has doubled, to 46 percent . . . Without directly crediting the surge in U.S. forces, fewer report security as the main problem in their own lives – 25 percent, nearly half its peak last spring. Forty-six percent say local security has improved in the past six months, nearly double last summer’s level. The number of Iraqis who feel entirely unsafe in their own area has dropped by two-thirds, to 10 percent. And with Sunni Arab buy-in, U.S.-funded Awakening Councils, created to provide local security, are more popular than the Iraqi government itself. Even more striking is the halt in worsening views. In August, Iraqis by 61-11 percent said security in the country had gotten worse, not better, in the previous six months. Today, by 36-26 percent, more say security has improved. The new positive margin is not large. But the 35-point drop in views that security is worsening is the single largest change in this poll.”

    So, there is some ambiguity here. The war has always been ambiguous.

  4. Thanks for posting the video, Stephen. The war had been relegated to the back of my mind for sometime, but now I’m getting all upset about it again, lol. I’m not even a democrat (currently don’t belong to any party, actually), but I was against it from the beginning. Now, however, things are worse than they were, our soldiers are getting killed (or coming home with severe PTSD or injuries), and our economy is going south. Ugh. I’m just glad no one here has yet cited the BoM as a defense for the Iraq war. I have heard that too many times, just like Ammon Rye has heard the parable of the bicycle too many times.

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    Cheers for the evaluation and your comments Peter. They are appreciated as it is nice to have different perspectives.

    AdamF…sorry to bring back some of those upsetting feelings. I appreciate you being vocal.

  6. I’m going to say this only once, and I’ll do it nicely.

    I don’t like war, but I don’t like the idea of wreckless peace. Like Peter (#6) said, polls are funny things. There is so much sensitivity to how questions are worded, what questions are asked and even the intent of the poll, that I simply do not trust polls where I don’t get to see the raw questions and data–otherwise there is too much ambiguity. Couple that with the fact that I do have the expertise to analyze and interpret the data on my own (and the tools are easily acquired, and I ALWAYS have them on hand), I won’t trust any poll that I don’t have the raw data for, regardless of who conducts it. Once I have the data, I might trust it, but that doesn’t mean I will reach the same conclusions as those who collected the data or who paid for the collection.

    Here are my quick thoughts: Is the world better off without Saddam Hussein? Probably. Actually a better question would be: Was Saddam Hussein an immoral and corrupt leader who committed atrocities upon his own people and allowed his sons to do the same? All the evidence indicates that he was. Was he violating treaties and flaunting the will of the UN? Again, evidence indicates that he was, even if he did not have WMDs. Reasonable intelligence at the time indicated that he probably had them, although nukes were not a likely scenario. In retrospect it becomes obvious that any WMDs he had had were disposed of or sold. He may have buried them in the desert somewhere, but we’ll never find them if he did–it’s a BIG desert. It is also obvious that regardless of that, he was not a credible threat to the USA. Without nukes, he was not and never would be. Because the only weapon we are seriously concerned about terrorists bringing to the USA and setting off is a nuke or dirty bomb. Others would cause damage, but that’s the one that scares people, and that’s what really sold the war.

    In retrospect, I’m not really happy about it. That said, whatever the reason, we are there. The question is now very simple: will leaving cause more damage or will staying cause more damage. If we leave is it better to simply pack up and leave as we have done at times in the past, or is it better to do a controlled exit? I think that’s where the major disagreements really are right now. Sure there are some far right nuts that are all about staying there until we’ve completely stabilized the situation, but I suspect that they are an increasing minority of the ignorant (that is, they are ignorant of the facts). Those who are more nuanced to the situation are aware that we weill never completely stabilize the situation (I think Bush even knows this). What I would argue for is a controlled exit with contingencies for returning if there are problems, but I think (personally) that strategically speaking you do not tell your enemy too much information about what you are planning.

    Are there BoM justifications for war in general? Yes (Sorry AdamF, I had to say it 🙂 ), but I’m not certain if they apply to Iraq. What I do know is that Iraq needs time, lots and lots of time, to heal. They also need support from the international community. Right now I’m not seeing much of that except from the USA. If the rest of the world really wants Bush to leave, they should step in and be more aggressive about doing what they can to help the government of Iraq stabilize and get the resources they need and give its people the things they need.

    Then once the people of Iraq learn that the government is going to be effective there, then maybe they will start to work together. The real problem, however, goes to one of artificial government. This is where I’m going to get philosophical, and frankly this is going to get lengthy, and I’m going to apologize in advance. Actually, no, I’ll save it. In one sentence: The real problem is that governments cannot be created artificially from the top down and be succesful by carving out a geographical territory and calling it a country while ignoring the realities of the ethnic and other differences that exist; government derives from the mandate of the people and there is simply no way around this, regardless of what you try to do.

    Until the supposed leaders of the world remember this, the middle east will continue to be an unholy mess. The Kurds want their own country and for some reason everyone seems determined to avoid giving them one, but I’ve never been able to figure out why. Give them their own damn country already,

  7. Benjamin O – Re: BoM justifications for war – I agree, there are “justifications” for war in the BoM. It certainly doesn’t make war good, but I think it can be justified in some cases. E.g. if Saddam had attacked us, we would have been justified. I’m all for defense, just not defense by offense. Plus, the “justifications” for this war have changed. It was Saddam’s connection with 9/11, then the WMDs (maybe that was connected), then it was “Iraqi freedom”, now it’s “if we leave now it will be a mess, and the world was better off without Saddam.” There are so many countries we could be in promoting “freedom” as we see it (i.e. western style democracy) that our economy cannot handle.

    I just think war is extremely immoral, only to be started when we’re attacked first.

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    Benjamin O…The links to the questions is shown above. You are right that statistical analyses will produce confounding factors especially when qaulitative studies on human opinion are produced. However…I still think the study is of value. Thanks for your response. I agree that a controlled exit is what is needed. However, I do not see it happening for a while yet. Even the promises of Clinton and Obama mean that American troops will remain in Iraq just as they have done in Korea.

    AdamF…I couldnt have said it better.

    Did you guys enjoy any of his experiences from the video?

  9. The military censorship reminded me of “Good Morning, Vietnam.” I can see the rationale behind it, even though censorship is always dubious. I was also amazed at the sharing of the graphic photos (the war, not the porn)–makes me appreciate the BoM–as graphic as it is, they often say that they won’t share the more graphic stuff for our sake.

  10. Just a few reactions:

    E.g. if Saddam had attacked us, we would have been justified. I’m all for defense, just not defense by offense.

    In fact, he had been shooting at US planes in violation of his many and several duties under the cease-fire agreement from the 1990-1991 war. In fact the first 4 paragraphs of the war resolution cite his violations of his terms of surrender. In a very real and legal sense, the current Iraq war is “resuming” the previous one.

    Plus, the “justifications” for this war have changed. It was Saddam’s connection with 9/11, then the WMDs (maybe that was connected), then it was “Iraqi freedom”, now it’s “if we leave now it will be a mess, and the world was better off without Saddam.”

    Not really:
    1. There is no “connection with 9/11” cited in the war resolution (which has to state the *reasons* for the war). The only mention of 9/11 in the resolution was “underscore the gravity” of international terrorism. Otherwise, saying that this was a “reason” is revisionist history.
    2. WMDs are cited in the resolution, in conjunction with his defiance of the term of surrender and as an example of his propensity to use them anyone he doesn’t like.

  11. Nate – thanks for your comment – it looks like you know more than I on this topic.

    Some more thoughts:
    “he had been shooting at US planes” – In the U.S.? Maybe he was attacking in a “legal” sense, but we were not invaded. So he violated his previous agreement – okay, that’s not good, but is going to war over it really a good idea, given the cost? And I don’t think we should have been there in gulf war 1, so resuming it wasn’t moral either.

    “no “connection with 9/11″ cited in the war resolution” Apparently not, but this is what the public was told by the Bush admin. In terms of general public support, that is more important to me than the official resolution. Of course, I’m speaking here of my experience talking with other Utahns, who at the time routinely cited the WMD/terrorist connection as justification for the war.

    To me, the cost of war in most cases is too great. Well, and I think we have no business having our military in other countries (unless they want us there – even then we must consider the price), like we police the world.

    I’m sure we can all agree now, however, that things are a mess over there, and the cost has been great.

  12. To bad most LDS prefer war monger, torture lover, and lair Romney to Ron Paul, who would begin immediate withdrawal upon taking office. The ignorance in LDS circles (I am one) is astounding. What a bunch of FOX News drones.

  13. [quote]I agree, there are “justifications” for war in the BoM.[/quote]

    There are very strong passages in the B0M and D&C against preemptive war, which is what Iraq is. See Alma 48:14

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    Nate…thankyou for detailing the war resolution. But I must say that you are incorrect.

    The US Congressional reasons for going to war never mention the fact that he attempted to shoot down a U2 spy plane in July of 2001 or any other planes.

    Infact, the Bush Blair memo’s of 2003 showed that Bush and his cabinet toyed with the idea of tempting Saddam by painting a U2 spy plane in UN colours, flying it over Iraq, and then getting him to shoot it down as a pretext to war. In July 26, 2001 Saddam had apparenty attempted to shoot down a US spy plane. Considering the Bush-Blair memo of 2003..the first attempted attack looks highly suspect and, in my opinion, demonstrates what we already knew…that the US were planning to attack Iraq and Afghanistan before 9/11 ever happened.

    The memo of 2003 also showed that the US was going to attack Iraq inspite of any weapons found.

    In the 9 months leading up to the war, starting in May 2002, US and UK planes flew 22,000 sorties hitting 391 targets. And they bombed Iraq back in August of 2001, one month before 9/11, for what I can see was no good or legally jsutifiable reason.An F/A-18C Hornet was shot down on Apr. 2 2002, but the circumstances surrounding its loss seems to be the result of an errant U.S. Patriot missile, not Iraqi fire.

    Would Saddam attempting to shoot down a plane or shooting down planes before 9/11 compare in US aggression?

    I will also quote from H.J.Res.114 on the 23rd of January 2002 by the US Congress. It says:

    “Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq

    Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations” (This means Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan…and perhaps other nations that harbor terrorists not related to 9/11…in that case it is a declaration of war against the world…except for the UK and other European countries….and must I say is a completely hypocritical statment considering the US sponsored acts of terrorism over the last 20 to 30 years.)

    Yes infact you are incorrect and Adam is right.

    As a side note: The lawyers I have spoken too (one a Cambridge graduate who knows the British Lawyer who concocted the idea of attacking Iraq in 2003 for not complying with the cease fire terms) says that it was illegal. Infact, my friend studying law at cambridge said that the chap who concocted the the legal reasons for attacking Iraq ( a professor at KCL) was paid off with lots of money by the British goverment for doing such…because most other barristers wouldnt touch it because they knew it was wrong. It was not very real and not very legal.

    AdamF…keep it up mate. I would say that 95% of the worlds population agree with you that the Iraq war was illegal.

  16. Just when should we leave Iraq? When things calm down war supporters say, “We must stay to keep things calm.” When things get hairy war supporters say, “We must stay because things are hairy.” The goalposts for the occupation of Iraq have been moved around so much that many have just given up trying to get a grasp as to why we’re there or when we’re leaving.

    The question should be, “Do the gains made in Iraq outweigh the costs of going in and staying?” The answer to that is clearly “NO!”

    Our enemy, you know, the one that attacked us on 9/11, is NOT in Iraq. Our enemy, the one that attacked us on 9/11 is sitting pretty in Pakistan. Rebuilding his strength while we waste away in Iraq. It makes absolutely NO SENSE at all to be continuing the policy set down by George W. Bush and to be further enabled by John McCain were he to become president. In terms of national security, you could not ask for a more reckless policy than to divert resources from a war against our REAL enemy to another target. Talk about endangering the nation!

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