A DRAMATIC, emotional and highly politically-charged letter posted online has sparked renewed debate on the merits of the Iraq war in a week which marks the 10th anniversary of the conflict.
The letter, penned by severely wounded US serviceman Tomas Young, urges former president George Bush and his deputy Dick Cheney to “find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others”.
“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.”
Tomas Young was paralysed in an insurgent attack in Sadr city, a section of northern Baghdad, in 2004. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spine and another struck his knee.
The then 24 year old from Kansas City Missouri never walked again. In the nine years since the incident, he has suffered numerous medical setbacks and is now in hospice care, awaiting death.
Young was the subject of an award-winning 2007 documentary entitled Body of War. At a recent screening, he shocked the audience when he announced that he would stop taking all nourishment and life-extending medications.
“It’s time,” he told the audience over Skype. “When I go I want be alert and aware.” Young’s wife Claudia was beside him at the time.
In a more recent interview, Young said “This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes.
“I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note.”
On his return to America in 2004, Tomas Young soon became one of the earliest and highest-profile outspoken critics of the Iraq war, which he called “illegal under international law”.
He also called the war “the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history”, which “obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East” and “installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror”.
The letter has divided America. Many people have taken Young’s outrage as sour grapes. “You knew the risks when you signed up,” is a common refrain.
Those supportive of Young point to the third last paragraph of his letter, in which he details his specific disagreement with the gung-ho government policies behind the Iraq war.
As Young writes:
“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.”