NOTE FROM BRAD: On August 28, 2005, I was the first in the national media to interview U.S. Army Specialist Tomas Young at "Camp Casey" in Crawford, TX. He and his then wife Brie had come down from Kansas City on their honeymoon to support Cindy Sheehan, the "Gold Star Mom" who was famously demanding a meeting with George W. Bush. Tomas' unarmored vehicle had been ambushed in Sadr City, Iraq on the same day that Sheehan's son Casey was killed in the same city. The attack left Tomas paralyzed from the chest down.
Since Bush had refused to meet with Sheehan --- claiming he had already met with her some months earlier, prior to proclaiming those who had died in Iraq had done so for a "noble cause" which he refused to define --- Tomas wanted to find out if he might be able to meet with Bush himself to ask what the "noble cause" was. We came up with the idea to paint a sign to help the media notice his plight. Some of the other veterans who were there as well helped to create the sign and it was, indeed, picked up by AP at the time.
Some years later, Tomas' story would be told on 60 Minutes, and then in a heart-wrenching 2007 documentary film, Body of War, by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. (My interview on the ground at "Camp Casey" with Tomas and Brie is seen briefly in both. The full audio of my interview with them is posted in full at the bottom of this article, after Tomas' letter.)
He and Brie have since divorced and Tomas remarried last year. Now, ten years this week after the launch of the War on Iraq, what was left of Tomas' body is failing and, as Chris Hedges recently reported, he has decided to let himself die. Now in hospice care, Tomas, who was 25 when we met and is now just 33-years old, plans to end his long fight. He says he will remove his own feeding tube sometime after his first anniversary with his new wife Claudia in April and before the second birthday of his niece in June.
The following open letter, which Tomas says is his "last", was originally published this week at TruthDig and republished in full here with their permission.
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.
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.
• Read Chris Hedges' 3/10/13 "The Crucifixion of Tomas Young" to learn about Tomas' life, and continuing physical deterioration since the Body of War documentary, and his decision to finally allow himself to die.
• Audio from my 8/25/05 interview with Tomas Young on The BRAD SHOW (my old syndicated weekend radio program), including the harrowing story of his injury, the experience he had afterward, what brought him to Camp Casey on his honeymoon, and our attempt to paint a sign in hopes of helping the corporate media do the job that America needed them to --- all with the live sounds of Camp Casey in the background --- follows...
PART 1: Young's story, with then wife Brie (MP3, 22 mins) ...
PART 2 - More w/ Young, hatching the plan to demand a meeting with George W. Bush (MP3, 14 mins) ...