Tomas Young

Message to Bush and Cheney from a dying Iraq war veteran

Tomas Young
Tomas Young (Photo: Claudia Cuellar)

Ten years ago today, on March 19, 2003, the US began its invasion of Iraq. The following letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney is from a dying veteran of that war. 


To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

“You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.”

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.


Reprinted from and truthdig. With appreciation to Michelle at Motley News.

Recommended: The Crucifixion of Tomas Young


13 thoughts on “Message to Bush and Cheney from a dying Iraq war veteran

  1. While I agree that the Bush/Cheney administration let the country down terribly, this letter is altogether too perfect. I am suspicious that it is simply a vehicle for someone to drape truth with passion. If that’s so, it is a disservice to the truth, which needs no help like that. This letter is an indictment of the use of war as a political instrument, but every war since WW II has been like that and I submit that there will never be a purely defensive one again. Is a political war ever justified? I say yes, but only when our way of life and our values are truly threatened and when that ultimate recourse is vetted with the public.

    I too blame Bush and Cheney for misleading the country, but I don’t think they were as purely venal and aggrandizing as the letter implies. I think it is more subtle than that. I think they believe they led America out of 9/11 by providing Saddam’s Iraq as a target of opportunity and they believed that by so doing they might crack the code of achieving stability in the Middle East and thereby be historical heroes. In manipulating the truth about WMD’s and al Qaeda their sin was one of pride, of hubris, in not trusting the public with unvarnished facts. They even fooled Colin Powell, whose doctrine was validated in the process by default for how all wars need to be approached.

    I am looking forward to Rachel Maddow’s documentary on Iraq this Friday night. She tells it like it is. And was.

    1. Check the recommended reading I noted at the bottom, as well as the Huffington Post article. Young is for real and is well known. And he expressed my thoughts about Bush and Cheney better than I’ve ever been able to.

      1. I’m not familiar with “Truth Dig”, apparently an anti-war blog, but the interview does seem real and appears to be validated by a film on Young. My fault for not consulting your links. I thought it interesting that no mention was made of Young’s life and occupation before the Army – if he is indeed that literate he is not your average recruit, and if he isn’t, then he may have had some ghost-writer help.

        All that said, however, it still leaves his letter to be a critique of war itself, wrapped in the horror of the worst that can happen. It would be nice to banish war, to hammer all the swords into plowshares, but that is not practical and his sad story does not change my mind about what I said above. Jesus said to turn the other cheek and love one’s enemy. That’s bad advice and for evidence that it’s so I cite Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, Saddam Hussein, the Soviet gulag, the torture chambers of Argentina and North Korea. Just for starters. War is hell, but those examples signify there are worse things yet.

        1. We’ll have to disagree on Bush and Cheney’s motives for the Iraq war. I’ll always believe it was an unnecessary war, undertaken under false pretenses for all the wrong reasons, at incredible cost in blood, treasure, and reputation to both the US and Iraq.

          1. That doesn’t sound like much disagreement to me, PT. I agree that it was an unnecessary war, that it was ruinously expensive, and that Bush and Cheney were at fault for making it happen. It’s apparently the motive where we differ. You seem to think they did it to enrich themselves and their loyalists by pumping up the Military Industrial Complex, and that surely did happen, but I believe that was a by-product and not a principal reason. I think they rationalized themselves into it for psychological reasons.

            When 9/11 happened the nation was hungry for revenge, but OBL and his minions were in their hidey-holes. War simplifies leadership because patriotism consolidates power and squelches opposition. Then there were Saddam’s threats against W’s father because of the Gulf War. And finally there was Condoleezza Rice, the inexperienced academic with a vision of creating a stable, democratic and friendly Arab government that would stabilize the Middle East and make them all heroes in the history books. The Suni/Shiite problem was there just waiting to explode but wishful thinking swept it all under the rug. They rationalized it away. Unforgivable. Somewhere in the basement of the State Department there’s probably somebody still mumbling, “I tried to tell them . . . “

          2. I think they looked for excuses to attack Iraq, that W. wanted to take out Saddam because of his threats against his father and because he wanted to enhance his credibility as a no-nonsense president, that Cheney was thinking about the oil riches, and that they both jumped at the prospect of finding WMDs, even though inspectors had not yet concluded their search. Without hard evidence that WMDs existed, they had no reason to invade — and of course WMDs were never found. I’ve never thought Rice had much to do with it, or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention to her, but I’d put thumbscrews to Rumsfeld for his thinking about how war should be conducted and prisoners treated. They were all too full of the idea that American exceptionalism (I hate the hubris of that phrase) had both the duty and the power to bring democracy to the Middle East. What arrogance! All we did was destroy the country and cause the unnecessary deaths and mutilations of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans. It’s no wonder we are so widely hated in that part of the world.

  2. The king of liars George Bush finally coughed out the truth … Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11; and there were no weapons of mass destruction. The aim of the U.S. President and his honchos re: Iraq was to invade another country and change their political system

    I nominate George W. Bush and I am preapared to back up my selection for the worst Presidnet in recent American history.

    George W. Bush was viewed by tea baggers a “good old boy” in office. This is despite his outrageous death causing lies, exaggerations, manipulations, abuse of power, and the fact that he is, in essence, a war criminal. That’s not to mention his many other failures in office that have had a profoundly negative effect on his country, its economy, its citizens, and the country’s image around the world.

    8 years of Bush and how did he perform?

    The invasion and war against Iraq is not only illegal (the UN Security Council never approved it as “a just war”) but it’s also immoral. The claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was prepared to unleash them against the American public was utterly false and Bush knew that it was. In fact, the long-awaited report, authored by Charles Duelfer, who advises the director of central intelligence on Iraqi weapons, stated Iraq’s WMD program was essentially destroyed in 1991 and Saddam ended Iraq’s nuclear program after the 1991 Gulf War.

    (1) Economic mismanagement – Bush’s tax cuts for the rich reduced annual tax revenue available for public needs hundreds of billions each year. The Bush Administrations simultaneously created all time high record military budgets and all time record high poverty rates in America. McCain’s plan was more of the same.

    (2) Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq plan – Bush/Cheney’s occupation of Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq plan has cost American citizens trillions of dollars of debt and interest. This is not to mention the human loss of men and women being sent home in body bags who would have otherwise lived, worked and paid taxes. The tab is estimated to be well into the trillions when you add rehabilitation for injured vets, replacement of military hardware, and the value of things Americans could have produced but didn’t. Moreover, the vets returning home are not getting the medical help they need. McCain’s plan was more of the same.

    (3) Deregulation of banking and bailout – Bush and his buddies finished off the deregulation of banking that began in earnest during Clinton’s presidency. This ideological madness has caused the collapse of investment funds, banks, and the stock value of corporations that depend on them (which is to say most of Wall Street and much of the financial world), as well as a steep decline in the value of most homes in America and a sharp rise in the cost of living in them, foreclosures, and bankruptcies. The Bush administration began the bailing out of the big guys while McCain claimed in the media that the economy was fundamentally sound.

    (4) Offshore oil in protected areas – President Bush lied in his radio address when he said that the oil in the offshore protected areas is equal to 10 years of current production. It’s not true. The Energy Information Agency, which is the government agency responsible for making estimates of oil reserves, says there are approximately 8 billion of barrels of oil in the protected areas. Current production is approximately 3 billion barrels a year today and that means the oil in the offshore protected areas is equal to less than 3 years of annual production, not ten years.

    (5) Abortion, Contraception and Dirty Politics – Bush was attempting to redefine contraception as abortion just begore leaving office. Can you imagine living in a place where birth control is considered an “abortion” and health insurers won’t cover it? Where even rape victims are denied emergency contraception?

    It seems unbelievable, but the Bush Administration was quietly trying to redefine “abortion” to include birth control. The Houston Chronicle said this could wipe out dozens of state laws that protect reproductive freedom for women and also protect rape victims. Access to basic health care for millions of women would be jeopardized. And it was being pushed as a “rule change” meaning, it wouldn’t need congressional approval.

    (6) American casualties – Bush and his Administration sacrificed America’s finest young men and women on the altar of oil re: the invasion of an war on Iraq and in Afghanistan.

    (7) Civilian death toll – Bush and his administration are responsible for the slaying over 100,000 Iraqi’s (primarily women and children) in an attempt to build American oil hegemony in the middle east, and to secure a strategic position from which an attack on Iran could be launched.

    It’s my firmly held opinion that Christians in America who proclaimed “we must support the troops fighting for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan” must be in a delusional state of denial. How else can they possibly cling to the twisted belief that god is on their side. Quite aside from the fact there is no evidence to confirm that either god or the tooth fairy exist, the fact remains that the New Testament teaching attributed to Jesus of Nazareth provide no grounds for resorting to violence of any kind, even in self defense.

    To give everything for one’s country is to worship one’s country. In other words for those who take this position nationalism becomes religion and patriotism turns into idolatry, which is neither moral nor rational.

... and that's my two cents

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