WILL THEY EVER TRUST US AGAIN? -- LETTERS FROM THE WAR ZONE
by Michael Moore
[From Inside and Back Cover:]
American soldiers serve willingly. They risk their lives so the rest of us can be safe. The one small thing they ask, though, is that they not be sent into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. But after being lied to about weapons of mass destruction and about the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq; after being forced by stop-loss orders to extend their deployment; after being undertrained, underequipped, and overworked long after George Bush declared Iraq "Mission Accomplished," these soldiers have something to say.
From his famous 2003 Oscar acceptance speech to his record-breaking documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. But in this book, Moore gives the spotlight to the real heroes of protest: the men and women who have fought in Iraq and want the American public to know how they feel about their mission and their commander in chief. Moore also fields letters from veterans of other wars and mothers, wives, and siblings of our soldiers in the field. They also express their anger and frustration, their tears and pain, and their hopes and prayers.
Impassioned, accessible, and moving, these are letters that reveal the true hearts and minds of the men, women, and families on the front line.
MICHAEL MOORE has won an Oscar (Bowling for Columbine), an Emmy (TV Nation), a Palme d'Or at Cannes (Fahrenheit 9/11), and the British Book of the Year 2003 award (Stupid White Men). He was an Eagle Scout, a seminarian, and the first eighteen-year-old elected to public office. He has never bowled over 200.
My name is Anne Miller and my son Frederick was killed in Iraq from an improvised explosive device on September 20, 2003.
He was going to be the proud father of a baby boy. He has two girls but he wanted a son in the worst way, but he never got to meet his son. He believed in protecting his family and this country. He was in the army for 7 years and got out but after 9/11, he felt he had a job to do so he rejoined.
I miss him so much and President Bush is such a liar. When my son was killed the Army would not pay for us to go to his funeral. Several months later they offered us to fly free to meet with President Bush. No thanks.
Michael, you tell it like it is and I respect you. Thank you and God bless all the other soldiers who are still serving.
To my Uncle Lornie
"If this war mushrooms into a major conflict and a hundred thousand young Americans are killed, it won't be U.S. senators who die. It will be American soldiers who are too young to qualify for the Senate." -- Senator George McGovern
"Wars have never hurt anybody except the people who die." -- Salvador Dali
"And if my thought-dreams could be seen, they'd put my head inside a guillotine." -- Bob Dylan
March 14, 2003
Hey momma, well sorry I haven't been able to call. They took the phones seven days ago; and before the office at Hunter in Savannah would only dial local numbers; they wouldn't even dial 1-800 could you believe it? We are out here in the middle of the desert and they can't even dial the numbers we need. Anyway I got the letters and box. That is so cool your first grandson came the same day your oldest son did. How is everyone? I am doing fine we are just out here in the sand and wind storms waiting; what in the world is wrong with George "TRYING TO BE LIKE HIS DAD" Bush? He got us out here for nothing what so ever. I am so furious right now momma. I really hope they do not re-elect that fool honestly. I am in good spirit and I am doing ok; I really miss you guys. Thanks for the bible and books and candy. I really look forward to letters from you guys. I received 2 letters already from family in MINN .Tell them all thanks for the support. Tell all the family hello and that I am doing fine. We don't expect anything to happen anytime soon. I cannot wait to get home and get back to my life. Tell Spudnick congrads and I'll see my first nephew soon as I get back to the states. I am sorry I wasn't able to call you guys; I hope you understand. I'm sorry I had to send you that grim letter last time; I just didn't have time to discuss that type of stuff with you before I left. Next time it will be 1 of my first priorities. Hope you guys are doing ok and keep sending the mail, it makes getting through the day easier. Well I am on my way to bed so I will write you guys soon. I love and miss all you guys.
Will They Ever Trust Us Again?
A man came up to me on the street the other day and introduced himself as a navy officer just back from Iraq.
"I was on a ship off the coast of Iraq the night you gave your Oscar speech" (see page 8), he began. (This is a beginning I am not all that unfamiliar with; only the location of where each individual heard the speech is different.)
"When you said what you said about the president and the war, I was really angry at you. I booed along with all the others who were booing you.
"But now that I've been over there for the better part of the last year and seen what I've seen and know what I know" ... I just want to apologize to you for being so mad at you that night."
He held out his hand, and I shook it. I then said "You do not owe me any apology. What did you do wrong? You believed your commander in chief You're supposed to believe your commander in chief! You're in the navy! All of us should be able to believe whatever comes out of our president's mouth. If we can't have that -- at the very least THAT -- then what are we left with?"
I went on to tell him that just because I didn't believe Bush in that first week of the war and said so in a very public way doesn't make me right. I didn't know if I was right that night. I'm not a weapons inspector. I thought I was right, but, hey, I coulda been wrong. It just turns out that I was a good guesser and a bad Oscar speech giver.
"No," I said to the navy officer, 'You don't apologize to me -- it is I who needs to apologize to you. I and the American people owe you and all the other servicemen and women over there a HUGE apology for sending you into harm's way when it was not only not necessary, it was done to line the pockets of a few greedy men. To risk your life for that, I am sorry, and millions of Americans are sorry. Please forgive us. "
I think he was a bit shocked to hear this.
"Well, hey, Mr. Moore, you didn't send me over there!"
"But I didn't find the right words to convince enough people. I am, in part, responsible. And I helped to pay for it. I pay my taxes, so that means I continue to foot the bill. I am responsible."
We chatted a bit longer and then I wished him well. He asked for my email address. I told him to send me a letter, that I like getting letters from our troops.
Truth is, I get thousands of them. In the weeks and months since that night of the Oscars my email box has been flooded with letters from soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. At first I was surprised. I guess I made the wrong assumption that guys in the military were not going to be very supportive of what I had to say about the man in the Oval Office and my desire to prevent him from taking us to war.
But, as I found out, that was far from the truth. Letter after letter from these soldiers expressed a profound disillusionment with our mission in southwest Asia. What makes their comments unique and so intense is the fact that they are not the words of the Left or the rhetoric of the antiwar movement -- they are the war movement. Their observations are filled with such purpose because they are the witnesses to war, the men and women on the ground being asked to do the killing and slowly realizing that their job has little to do with defending the United States of America.
Since the beginning of the war the American media has worked overtime to portray our brave troops as some sort of monolithic machine of men who are of one mind to rid Iraq of the bad guys and bring the goodness of Uncle Sam to that country. It wasn't until Fahrenheit 9/11 that most people had any clue there were so many soldiers NOT in support of what Bush was doing. I was amazed at screenings of the film, watching people with their jaws open, as soldier after soldier spoke of his dissatisfaction with the war effort. 'Why had we not heard these voices before? Surely the media knew this was a growing feeling among the troops. Those networks are there in Iraq every damn day -- I've never set foot in the country! How could I find this out so easily -- and they couldn't?
Of course the answer is they've known all along that this is how many of the troops feel about the war. They knew and they covered it up. Just as they did with so many other things about this war and the "reasons" why we went to war. Covered it up or looked the other way. Censored themselves so that others higher up wouldn't have to. It has been nothing short of disgraceful and dishonest that our free press first refused to do its job -- ask the hard questions and demand the evidence before letting a president take us to war -- and then went on to paint a picture of troop morale in Iraq that simply has no bearing in truth.
Just the fact that this book needs to be published should be an embarrassment to our national mainstream media. If they had reported on what you are about to read in this book, these letters would never have had to be sent and I would not have to waste good paper in bringing them to you.
Now, talk like this will only get me in trouble with these so-called journalists. Their "conventional wisdom" (which is usually so full of b.s. and nearly always wrong that it pains me to denigrate the word wisdom when used in this way) is that people like Michael Moore and his ilk are despised by the troops because they don't support the troops and their antiwar work undermines the war effort and puts these young men and women in even more danger.
But then along comes an article like the one in the Washington Observer-Reporter from Pennsylvania about the veteran who had set up a "cyberspace bookmobile" on the Internet to get free books to our soldiers in Iraq. It's called BooksForSoldiers.com. You probably haven't heard of it as not one other paper picked it up -- perhaps because it contains a paragraph that flies in the face of everything the media hold sacred about the Michael Moore they've invented:
The most popular fiction request: anything by Stephen King, Wllliams said, with Tom Clancy a close second. It might surprise some people to learn that filmmaker and vocal Bush critic Michael Moore is the most popular non-fiction request, but Wllliams confirms that's the case.
When I read that, I have to admit, even I was surprised. But why should I be? Remember when the war started and how kind of scary it was to make any statement against the war? If you did, you had better follow it up immediately with this line: "BUT I SUPPORT THE TROOPS!!"
I am here to tell you that you didn't need to say that. Of course you support the troops! Who are "the troops"? The majority of them come from the poor and working classes, the very people most of you have always sided with. Many of you have spent your lives helping those who sooner or later become "our troops." At the very least, most of you have voted for representatives who have promised to be the advocates for those who grow up on the other side of the tracks. You do not need to be defensive and blurt out that you support the troops. As far as I'm concerned, that's all we have ever done.
And the troops know it. That's why they want my books and that's why when I asked them if I could share their letters with you, they were ecstatic. The chance that someone might listen to them, that their voices would be heard by millions, moved them deeply. Not one soldier whom I asked to contribute his or her letter to this book refused.
As I am writing this, I am at my father's home in Michigan. He turned eighty-three today. I am so proud of my dad. He served in the First Marine Division all through the worst battles of the South Pacific in World War II. His brother, Lornie, was killed in the Philippines. He told me tonight that I reminded him of his brother and how much he wishes we kids could have gotten to know him.
My dad never talked about the war much while we were growing up. He told us that if we heard anyone talking a lot about his war stories, he was probably never really in combat because if you were in combat you never wanted to relive it, only forget it. My dad has always been a peaceful and gentle man, and I have benefited much in having the good fortune of being his son.
He still loves the Marines, still has some Marine stuff around the house, but as he watched the news tonight, with Mr. Bush refusing to condemn the ads which smeared John Kerry and his service to our country, my dad was filled with disgust. And then on TV came fellow World War II vet Bob Dole claiming that "Kerry never bled," even though he had three purple hearts. My dad was nothing short of offended.
"Bush didn't even show up for his service -- and he thinks he has the right to do this to Kerry?" he asked incredulously. "Let's hope Bush doesn't win."
By the time you are reading this Bush may or may not have won. Regardless of the outcome of the 2004 election, the Iraq War does not seem as if it will be over any time soon. I hope that the letters in this book will provide some glimpse into what many soldiers are feeling about the "mission" on which they've been sent.
A few words about the ground rules in this book: In asking these soldiers for their permission to reprint their letters to me, I gave them the option of remaining anonymous. A lot of what they have written can and will get them into trouble. That is not something I want to see happen. So I encouraged their anonymity. Nonetheless, many of the soldiers wanted their names to be printed. All I can say to the Pentagon is that I ask you, in the spirit of everything this country stands for -- and especially that First Amendment, which guarantees everyone freedom of expression -- not to harm these good soldiers who have risked their lives for us and who have courageously chosen to let their fellow Americans in on what they have personally seen. There is no reason to punish them for speaking the truth. They have not disobeyed your orders. They have shown up and done their job (unlike a certain man who now sits in our White House). Leave them alone. If you don't, I will do everything I can to shine a very public light on any of your vengeful actions and I will provide whatever help I can to any of these soldiers whom you may try to punish.
Near the end of this book, I have included two other chapters of letters. One batch is letters from the family and friends of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. So many families have had to suffer at home through this ordeal. Whether it's been the attempts by the Bush administration to cut aid to soldiers' families or to cut back on their combat pay or to reduce services to veterans, it's clear that there is one group of people in this country who don't support our troops and it's called the Bush White House. Again, another story untold by the media.
The other is a group of letters from veterans of past wars. I wanted to give voice to these older Americans who learned the lessons of war long ago and have much to offer our young soldiers today.
We are now learning of the multitudes of soldiers who, after returning home, have found that they don't have jobs and that their lives are in ruins. Some are suicidal. They need our help. The ones who have returned home without limbs or eyes -- and they number in the thousands -- also need our assistance. In the back of the book I have listed resources for you to help them. There is also a list of ways to help the people of Iraq who have been ravaged by our war. And there are some ideas about what you can personally do to help end the war.
Earlier last winter, I went to the home of Lila Lipscomb in Flint, Michigan. She lost her son in Karbala, Iraq. She wanted to know if she could read me his last letter home. We rolled film. Sitting behind the camera, I tried to control my tears. I didn't want her to see me crying. But the pain caused by this man's last words rang loud inside my head (as it will to my dying day). I thought I was going to have to stop filming because I couldn't see through the tears any longer. Then she got to a line in his letter, a line that was, in effect, his last wish: "what in the world is wrong with George 'TRYING TO BE LIKE HIS DAD' Bush? He got us out here for nothing whatsoever. I am so furious right now momma. I really hope they do not re-elect that fool honestly."
I stopped crying. From the grave, SGT Michael Pedersen, the son of Lila Lipscomb, was asking a nation to do one last thing for him, a young man who gave up his life for us. Is this not the least we can do? In that moment I knew what I would do for the rest of 2004 -- honor Michael Pedersen's request from his last letter home.
My hope, as I write this, is that all of you who support the troops will join me in doing what SGT Pedersen has asked us to do.
Transcript of Michael Moore's Oscar Award acceptance speech:
"Thank you. Thank you very much. Ahh. On behalf of our producers, Kathleen Glynn, and Michael Donovan from Canada, I'd like to thank the Academy for this. I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to, they are here, they are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We, we live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you. And any time you got the pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up. Thank you very much."
(currently in Iraq, already served in Iraq,
or on their way)
I am a U.S. army sergeant stationed in Camp Warhorse Baqubah in Iraq. I saw your movie yesterday, and it gives me hope for our country. It only takes one good man to stand up for what is right to build confidence. I often asked myself the following questions: Where is our country heading? Is everyone blind? When will someone speak the truth? But finally your movie revives my spirit. All my battle buddies keep asking: What are we doing here? Why are we here?
Two days ago one of my best friends lost both of his legs after an improvised explosive device (IED) hit his convoy. He got married right before he was deployed and did not even have time for a honeymoon. We are all sad after seeing him, and we all started asking ourselves again: How many more have to die? How many more have to lose limbs before we get out of this place?
Now when we get angry, your movie will be our therapy. We thank you for what you did, and I encourage you to keep investigating 'cause there is a lot more that needs to be said. Who knows, maybe there will be a Fahrenheit 9/11 #2! I will keep my name confidential for safety.
They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is, remarkably, their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?
Dear Mr. Moore,
Thank you for these words. I am an old soldier, serving in combat in Iraq. Thank you and people like you for seeing that these wonderful kids who serve in the military aren't just war slaves to be sent mindlessly into needless wars at the whim of the foolish. Every one of us in the military swears an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. This war has nothing to do with upholding and defending that Constitution.
The military is for defending the republic; it is not for over-throwing dictators, building "democracy," or making the world a better place for everyone else. While these may, at times, be noble goals, it cannot be the business of a free and democratic society, or else it will cease to be a republic and become an empire.
I pray that we will hold this administration accountable and that we teach all our politicians that they are not our lords and masters but are in fact public servants and that NONE of them is above the law but rather are subject to it.
"CHICKEN HAWKS ON PATROL "
FROM: Ted Fattel
I wanted to tell you to keep up the fight against all the raging stupidity that seems to be going on back home. I just saw on your site where Rush Limbaugh thought this prisoner abuse was some sort of prank. OK, sure. Does he have any idea that the release of all this only makes the lives of the guys on the ground harder? That the guys out there who hate us probably hate us more now?
But then again, those pompous fools have never been in a place where being mortared is a daily occurrence. Where hearing (and feeling) explosions is something that you just get used to. I'm sure Sean Hannity and Limbaugh have never heard the BOOOM and prayed to God that one of their friends didn't just buy it. Let the chicken hawks come on over here and do a patrol or two, then watch their attitudes change.
I'll keep checking your website as long as I have Internet capability. I've read your books, and aside from endorsing Oprah for president (my wife would never let me hear the end of it), I am in FULL agreement with you.
FROM: Rick Bauer
Dear Mr. Moore,
I am stationed out here in the Gulf. Many of us came out here as volunteers in the wake of the threat from al Qaeda. We were proud to do our part for America, and for the safety of the world. None of us could ever believe, let alone imagine, that the War Powers order, which legally binds us to our original mission, would be subverted into a Hydra of monstrous proportions.
I was sent out here two years ago as part of the war effort in Afghanistan. But when the war drums started sounding for Iraq, I can't tell you the sinking feeling many of us felt here. We watched helplessly as the moral high ground and broad-based support we arrived with following 9/11 evaporated almost overnight.
Many of us hoped that it was simply brinkmanship by the Bush administration, to make Saddam comply with inspections. And we hoped that Congress would keep the situation in check, and prevent any authorization of an actual (yet alone expanded) Iraqi war effort. I can't adequately describe to you the huge wave of depression when the powers that be committed us to the madness we have now inherited.
While the Gulf states universally despised Saddam and his sons, the Iraq invasion was almost universally viewed as a grudge match between the Bushes and the Husseins. The fact that the Iraqi people would have to suffer untold casualties, in order to settle this long-standing blood feud, continues to fuel resentment among local Arabs. Bush has unleashed on Western society a maelstrom, which has quickly engulfed us, and which we (and our children) will have to struggle with for decades to come. All the best to you and your family.
"I'VE SEEN MANY FRIENDS DIE OR LOSE LIMBS"
Hi, I'm a soldier serving in the army in Iraq. I've been here over a year and have seen many friends and fellow soldiers die or lose limbs. I have some reservations about writing to you because of the regulations about talking negatively about the president, but then there is the issue that I don't see him as the real president. He doesn't represent the majority of the nation and certainly has never been in our shoes (soldiers at war, the working class, literate people, etc.).
I am writing to tell you and anyone else who may read this that it is people like you and others who are outspoken about the government who are the real patriots. I wish George W. Bush no harm, but I will continue to fulfill my obligations to the oath I took. To defend the country and the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.
I, and many other soldiers along with me, deeply appreciate the support from the citizens of the nation. I just wish I was able to defend the country and not be a pawn in this war for political agendas. We will give our lives to protect our fellow soldiers, but I have yet to defend the country from an enemy that was actually a threat to the nation.
I can't wait until the Iraqis over here make an illegal bootleg copy of Fahrenheit 9/11 so we can see it. I think it is important for all of the acts of this administration to get out before we have another election disaster.
"COME AND DIE FOR US!"
FROM: Kyle Waldman
I have been living in a world of contradictions between my commitment as a service member and being true to my morals and values. I should explain first why I chose to enlist in the army.
I was a naive 19-year-old looking for a different route in life. Like most enlisted soldiers, we signed our lives away before actually going through a self-scrutinizing process to help us learn what a demanding commitment it was. We certainly did not know what it meant to be a soldier, but we were going to find out soon enough.
When a prospective enlistee arrives at the recruiter's station, the thing that lured us in was not a poster saying, "Come and die for us, even if it means that that action may go against everything you believe in." It was, "Get your $35,000 for college!" As most people know, recruiters aren't the most honest people, but they sure do have a wonderful sales pitch! Now my naivete does not excuse my actions, but in this case it has many consequences. For me, the consequence is finishing the contract I signed up for. However, I had no idea my commander in chief was going to create all these blasphemies.
When war was first declared, America seemed to dehumanize the Iraqi people, making them all enemies. A perfect example of this was using AAFES (equivalent to a Wal-Mart) as a propaganda machine printing off T-shirts and coffee mugs poking fun of Iraq and its people. My time in Iraq has taught me a little about the Iraqi people and the state of this war-torn, poverty-stricken country.
The illiteracy rate in this country is phenomenal; most civilians have completed a fifth-grade education level. There are a couple of families I did some humanitarian relief for who lived under the roof of these two houses, and they are the ones who suffer the most in times of war, especially when the ends were totally unnecessary.
There were some farmers who didn't even know there was a Desert Storm or OIF. This was when I realized that this war was initiated by the few who would profit from it and not for its people. We, as the Coalition Forces, did not liberate these people; we drove them even deeper into poverty. I don't foresee any economic relief coming soon to these people by the way Bush has already diverted its oil revenues to make sure there will be enough oil for our SUVs.
As we can all obviously see, Iraq was not and is not an imminent threat to the United States or the rest of the world. Most of the terrorists are foreigners coming into Iraq to rebel against the Coalition Forces. However, I do believe Saddam Hussein should have been removed from power, but we certainly did not exhaust every possible means. I have also heard that Bush banned media coverage of the body bags arriving to the United States, and that was a brilliant logistical move made just in time to not jeopardize Bush's coming election.
No matter what the latest CNN or Pentagon polls say on troop morale, in all honesty, with the constant stop loss and extensions, the U.S. military will experience a shortage in the years to come because of the way our leaders have conducted themselves. A while back some military officials announced that they do not need any more troops to deploy in theater, and yet they turn around and extend units for another six months on top of the twelve months already served. Was the announcement saying they didn't need more soldiers a scheme to portray to the public that we have things under control when we, in actuality, do not?
We are here trying to keep peace when all we have been trained for is to destroy. How are two hundred thousand soldiers supposed to take control of this country? Why didn't we have an effective plan to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure? Why aren't the American people more aware of these atrocities? From the national deficit to destroying thirty years' work of environmentalists to this war, why is Bush still in power? My fiancee and I have seriously looked into moving to Canada as political refugees.
This was a bit more than I originally anticipated, but I hope I got the message across. I want to thank you for creating an interactive website where soldiers are able to express themselves freely. You definitely earned some "cool points" from me.
"OPERATION BAN CENSORSHIP?"
FROM: Michael W.
My name is Michael Wand. I am a 30-year-old National Guard infantryman serving in southeast Baghdad. I have been in Iraq since March of '04 and will continue to serve here until March of '05.
I was just home to Seattle for a fifteen-day R&R, and while I was home I just had to see Fahrenheit 9/11. My wife and I saw it together, and I have to tell you we were so disgusted we almost had to leave the theater.
Not because we didn't like the movie or disagreed with the film, but because of the hard truths of our administration's dealings in Iraq and the way the soldiers -- soldiers like me -- are being used to enforce W's personal agenda, and are killing and being killed for it. I am embarrassed to be a part of it!
While in Iraq I have had some heated debates over our involvement in the war. Some of my more right-wing "blind-follower" soldier buddies (and trust me, there are a lot of them) have said to me on more than one occasion, "You signed up, you have to deal with it," or "He [W.] is our commander, and you should just go along with the program."
My response is BULLSHIT! Yes, I signed a contract with the government to serve in our military, and proudly, but I never thought that our military would be used in such a self-serving, crooked, and disgraceful way. Nowhere does my contract say that I should put my life on the line for a handful of select socialite ELITES. My contract says that I must protect and defend the Constitution of the United States!
So in that respect, it would make much more sense to be activated in support of "Operation Ban Censorship" or "Operation End Discrimination." However, something tells me there is no money in doing the right thing for the greater good, so I can expect that those "operations" are not high on the list of potential "targets."
In the few short months my unit has been in Iraq, we have already lost one man and have had many injured (including me) in combat operations. And for what? At the very least, the government could have made sure that each of our vehicles had the proper armament to protect us soldiers.
In the early morning hours of May 10th, one month to the day from my 30th birthday, I and twelve other men were attacked in a well-executed roadside ambush in southeast Baghdad. We were attacked with small-arms fire, a rocket-propelled grenade, and two well-placed roadside bombs. These roadside bombs nearly destroyed one of our Hummers and riddled my friends with shrapnel, almost killing them.
They would not have had a scratch if they had the "Up Armour" kits on them. So where was W. on that one? Turns out we finally got some of the kits, and the funny thing is we have had zero engagements with the "enemy" since that night. Go figure, maybe too little too late?
It's just so ridiculous, which leads me to my next point. A Blackwater contractor makes $15,000 a month for doing the same job as my pals and me. I make about $4,000 a month over here. What's up with that?
Beyond that, the government is calling up more and more troops from the Reserves. For what? Man, there is a huge fucking scam going on here! There are civilian contractors crawling all over this country. Blackwater, Kellogg Brown and Root, Halliburton, on and on. These contractors are doing everything you can think of from security to catering lunch!
Christ, I'm sure my father would have loved some great, catered lunch at the all night chow hall during his time in Vietnam. We are spending money out the ass for this shit, and very few of the projects are going to the Iraqi people. Someone's back is getting scratched here, and it ain't the Iraqis'!
Whatever happened to the Marshall Plan? Surely some general could blow the dust off that file and get something good going for this country and its people! Right? The fact that we don't shows me that the administration has no interest in really making a difference here or they would have already gotten the Marshall Plan out and put it to work. It's a great plan that worked during World War n when our government demonstrated its desire to get Germany and Japan back on track after causing way more destruction and disruption than even dreamed of in Iraq. The administration is so obviously capable of being successful here. Christ, there is a template already made for them.
Along with this, you have no idea how much time we sit on our asses vs. being involved in any real "fighting." Yet W is making the case for a buildup to gain control of the country. What for? We control everything already, and some units here do nothing but sit on their asses! YES, there is fighting in Iraq; YES there is combat. But some folks ain't seeing it, so why call more damn troops? Why disrupt more lives when there are more than enough resources already here to take care of all of this nonsense? EASY FIX: Send the units sitting on their butts to the places that need more troops! Surely the generals know some folks are not doing a damn thing over here! They are in charge, right?
Or is it that W wants to portray some big conflict that is spinning out of control to warrant more troops, to warrant more contractors, ultimately warranting leaving him in place in the Upcoming election? These guys are making bank off this bullshit war, and us soldiers are paying in more ways than one! When the war is over, what is next for me? I have no clue. My life is left to chance at this point. I just hope I come home alive.
"PRESIDENT DOESN'T CARE"
FROM: Specialist Willy
I'd like to thank you for all of the support you're showing for the soldiers here in Iraq. I am in Baghdad right now, and it's such a relief to know that people still care about the lemmings who are forced to fight in this conflict.
I spoke to you when you visited the Borders on State Street in Chicago, and told you I had two weeks before I left for the war. It reminded me of that scene in Bowling when you were talking to Marilyn Manson and he said that instead of talking to the students from Columbine he would listen, because that's what no one ever did. Although thousands of people were waiting to see you, you listened with more concern than most of my friends did. It put me at peace.
It's hard listening to my platoon sergeant saying, "If you decide you want to kill a civilian that looks threatening, shoot him. I'd rather fill out paperwork than get one of my soldiers killed by some raghead."
We are taught that if someone even looks threatening we should do something before they do something to us. I wasn't brought up in fear like that, and it's going to take some getting used to. It's also very hard talking to people here about this war. They don't like to hear that the reason they are being torn away from their families is bullshit, or that their "president" doesn't care about them. I don't care what kind of facts you give them, they'd rather justify the war with ignorance. A few people here have become quite upset with me, and at one point I was going to be discharged for constantly inciting arguments and disrespect to my commander in chief (Dubya). It's very hard to be silenced about this when I see the same 150 people every day just going through the motions, not sure why they are doing it.
I remember talking to my dad about a possible discharge, and I remember him saying, "I know what's going to happen when you get home. You are going to turn into a bitter anti-American who hates the government, just like Michael Moore."
He knows how much I respect your work and knows you are the reason I chose to study documentary filmmaking at Columbia College in Chicago. The fact that this is the way some people see you blows my mind, and what my father said hurt me. Working as an editor for a newspaper, he is usually independent in political views. I told him to go to my apartment and take my copy of Bowling for Columbine. He could keep it.
As far as I am concerned, you're much more of an American than some of the people here who don't even know the reason they are fighting. I will write again, if anything interesting happens. Peace.
NOTE: Willy sent an update in early August: Since I first wrote, there have been about a hundred bootleg copies of Fahrenheit sold at my base. It is a big hit, and we are planning on playing it at our MWR [Morale, Welfare, and Recreation]. People's perceptions of this war have done a complete 180 since we got here. We had someone die in a mortar attack the first week, and ever since then, things have changed completely. Soldiers are calling their families urging them to support John Kerry. If this is happening elsewhere, it looks as if the overseas military vote that Bush is used to won't be there this time around.
"I HATE MY COMMANDER IN CHIEF"
I'm a 20-year-old female airman currently deployed in Baghdad. I have just recently seen your movie, and I must say it moved me. I have never been interested in politics. I believe this country was founded by thieves and run by crooks, but that's neither here nor there. I've never voted, but after seeing your movie I was immediately on the Net trying to find registration papers so that when the time comes, I'll be ready.
Your movie should be rated a horror film because I was (am) horrified. I find myself stuck now because if you had made this film a year and two months earlier (my time in the service), I would NOT be in the military!
Now, I have three years to serve under a man who has never served himself before, whose whole election was a lie, and who, unfortunately; doesn't give a shit whether I live or die. It's scary to think (to know) that the president is involved in so much scandal, and nothing seems to be getting done about it.
The reason for my letter (and the meaning behind my subject line) is that about two weeks before my deployment my brother passed away (nonmilitary). Being a young airman I wasn't sure what the procedure was to take emergency leave. I was given a week. A week to grieve with my family that I hadn't seen in almost a year, and a week to say good-bye to my brother forever. As soon as I came back, with a few days of out processing, I was on my way to Baghdad. Now I'm here, and I have added stress with trying to stay focused on the mission. It hurts to know that the mission, a war that isn't even a war but a "I gotta cover up all my shit scheme" for the president, is more important than me and my family at a time of remorse.
I didn't include my name, and this is why: I hate my commander in chief. I hate the very ground he walks on, and I pray (and I know I shouldn't) that he burns in hell for what he is doing to our country and the lives of soldiers and airmen and the lives of the innocent Iraqis. Now, for three years I can look forward to serving my country with a heavy heart. I will no longer be proud to salute the flag, and I couldn't care less when the "Star-Spangled Banner" plays. I will always have respect for those who have laid down their lives for us. But right now I hate everything the flag stands for because America put this asshole in office and now half of America still thinks he is the same man they thought he was. As an Mexican American, I ask, "'Why the hell couldn't y'all just leave us be? Now we're in this bullshit with you."
I thank you for this documentary. I thank you for opening my eyes and the eyes of a lot of soldiers. I thank you for uncovering the truth that everybody knew all along but were too chicken shit to speak on. You are the man and though I may never meet you and you may never print this letter, know that you have definitely changed the life of at least one Airman.
"GREED AND ABUSE"
I am a truck driver for KBR right now in Iraq. I will make this short because we have a time limit on using the Internet. Shortly after I got here, we were given memos from our supervisors disputing different claims in the media about KBR scandals. One memo was about an investigation by two congressmen and I had to laugh because what they are accusing is only the TIP OF A HUGE, GIGANTIC ICEBERG.
Let me give you this one small fact because I am right here at the heart of it: Since I started this job several months ago, 100% (that's right, not 99% ) of the workers I am aware of are inflating the hours they claim on their time sheets. There is so much more I could tell you. But the fact is that MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars are being raped from both the American taxpayers and the Iraqi people because of the unbelievable amount of greed and abuse over here. And yes, my conscience does bother me because I am participating in this rip-off.
"I PRAY MY FAMILY DOES NOT HAVE
FROM: Brad Hastings
Hello, my name is Brad and I am stationed in Baghdad. I must confess that I saw your movie on bootleg DVD. Sorry. I will go home and, when it is out on DVD, pay the $15 you are entitled to for such a powerful movie.
I grew up as a Republican, but I will not be voting for Bush, that is for sure. One of the last things my father told me a few months before he passed away was that we are going to witness one of the most corrupt and brutal presidents America has ever seen. That stuck with me even before I came to Iraq. I have never been so disappointed in someone.
The movie affected me so much that I have spent all of my off time looking at some facts online, and every day I see things Bush has done that I have to go outside and take long cigarette breaks. I call my wife and vent to her. It sucks because she suffers more than me because she has to hear me vent so much that we hardly ever get a chance to talk about anything else.
It was extremely powerful to see the family who lost their son (I do pray for them, and my heart really goes out to them and all the families), and it really hit home, and I pray that my family does not have to witness that. I mean, I am prepared to die, but I am not prepared to make my family suffer for me.
I agree with freeing the people of Iraq from Saddam. I mean, he has killed many Iraqis, and from the Iraqis I have talked to, they are glad America is here. I guess that is what helps me get through the day, knowing I am hopefully doing some good.
I will not be reenlisting. I only hope that I will not get called back to this hellhole (whenever it is I get home). Anyway, I just wanted to say thank-you for the movie and hopefully it will keep Bush out of office.
"FREEDOM TO A HAGGARD NATION"
Dear Mr. Moore,
My name is Jenny; I am 26 and a specialist in the United States Army. I thank you for what you are doing for the troops with your movie. I don't think people can even begin to comprehend what a letter or a care package can mean to someone over here.
My team and I have been deployed since March 8, and in Iraq since April 1st (Yes, I crossed the border on April Fools' Day). We have slept in 120-degree heat without AC, had our slumber interrupted by NBC alarms, woken up shrouded in sand day after day from the sandstorms, gone days without a shower, shit in fly-infested makeshift Porta-Johns, and burned the shit later in the day for sanitation purposes.
I have basically given up all creature comforts and freedoms that I knew, to give freedom to a haggard nation. None of what we had been through seemed to matter that first day mail arrived. A taste of home, a letter from a school, a board game to kill some time, some personal-hygiene items so that you can finally feel somewhat clean.
There comes a point out here where there is just nothing left to do, and you have nothing to look forward to. You don't know when you are going home; you lose track of the days. It's kind of like the outside world no longer matters. That is until you get mail. That is something to look forward to every couple of days. Thank you for what you do, and for informing the public about how to go about helping. If I'm not too late could you please send a copy of Dude, Where's My Country. I will make sure it stays in Iraq to help others after me kill time.
"A 'FOOT SOLDIER' IN THE 'WAR ON TERROR"'
FROM: Andrew Balthazor
I am an ex-Military Intelligence officer who served 10 months in Baghdad; I was the senior intelligence officer for the area of Baghdad that included the UN HQ and Sadr City,
Since Bush exposed my person and my friends, peers, and subordinates to unnecessary danger in a war apparently designed to generate income for a select few in the upper echelon of America I have become wholeheartedly anti-Bush, to the chagrin of much of my pro-Republican family. I very much appreciated your movie Fahrenheit 9/11, your publications, and your persistence in attempting to de-throne Bush from his place of power.
I fail to understand how Bush can be so strong regarding national security matters. As a "foot soldier" in the "war on terror" I can personally testify that Bush's administration has failed to effectively fight terrorists or the root causes of terror, A lot of people have already discussed the faulty reasoning for going to war, but even within the execution of the war, there are significant failures by the national leadership to execute the "war" on Iraq and to "reconstruct" Iraq.
1. Bush stated that our troops would have everything we would need to fight in Iraq, Why then was I given only 19 rounds of 9mm ammunition for my only weapon, a pistol, when I crossed the border into Iraq on Apri1 8th, 2003? Why did hundreds of soldiers in my unit not have armor inserts for their body armor? Why did we have to use "creative accounting" to come up with cash to pay Iraqi sources for information -- sometimes even using our personal funds? When we needed cell phones for Iraqi sources so they could contact us without putting themselves in danger, why were they unavailable? (Perhaps because every other person within the highly ineffective CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] had one?)
2. The White House and the DoD failed to plan for reconstruction of Iraq. Contracts weren't tendered until Feb-Mar of 2003, and the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (the original CPA) didn't even come into existence until January 2003. This failure to plan for the "peace" is a direct cause for the insecurity of Iraq today.
Immediately after the "war" portion of the fighting (which really ended around April 9th, 2003) we should have been prepared to send in a massive reconstruction effort. Right away we needed engineers to diagnose problems, we needed contractors repairing problems, we needed immediate food, water, shelter, and fuel for the Iraqi people, and we needed more security for all of this to work -- which we did not have because we did not have enough troops on the ground, and CPA decided to disband the Iraqi Army. The former Iraqi police were engaged far too late; a plan should have existed to bring them into the fold right away.
Unemployment is also a contributing factor to the lack of security, since idle hands are dangerous when those hands belong to people who are hungry, thirsty, and armed. The fact that Iraq was mostly a socialized industrial economy within its cities was known. Why then was the employment of urban Iraqis during reconstruction not a priority?
3. Contractors hired by the national decision makers (no bid contractors) contributed to problems in Iraq, instead of helping. They did this by driving out or discouraging some international and non- U.S. NGOs who were working the same areas that contractors like Bechtel were hired to fix. When areas were being double-tapped, CPA would instruct the NGOs to go away and let the contractors work. Additionally, the sub-contractors employed by U.S. contractors hired Iraqis -- but they found Iraqis in rural areas outside of urban areas (to reduce the amount they would have to pay them -- urban areas have a higher average daily pay), and then bring the rural Iraqis into urban areas to conduct work. This resulted in a lot of irritated, unemployed Iraqis in areas where they could see work being done, but no work (and no pay) for them. And the rub of all this is that the rural Iraqis didn't really need the work -- most rural Iraqis were subsistence farmers, with a loose barter economy in the undeveloped areas outside of cities.
4. CPA was as much our enemy over there as the people planting roadside bombs and shooting weapons at us. Several times they put U.S. profit or CPA control as more important than security for either Iraqis or the U.S. troops over there. CPA was mostly staffed by young Republicans who want to put CPA/Iraq on their resume so they won't be left out of the Party.
One example of this: In late May 2003, CPA had designated a Sunni to be governor of Najaf, which was militarily under the control of a battalion of the 7th RCT of the 1st Marine Division. Najaf is The City for Shi'ites, so they didn't like this Sunni mayor. The Shi'ites protested. The Marine Battalion Commander decided to hold free elections for an interim mayor to replace the Sunni. Many different factions in Najaf put forward candidates; posters were put up all over the city, and people tried to sway the vote using street-corner speeches. The week the election was to be held the Marines had managed to rebuild a local TV station using their unit funds, and they televised the election results to the immediate area (this was the first TV station in Iraq to be operational, by the way.) This was democracy in action: the people spoke and gave their power to an elected individual. This was in late June 2003 if I remember correctly.
Several days later CPA stated the election was invalid because the Marines didn't have the authority to hold elections or change the CPA's designated mayor. What had been a victory for the U.S. and the people for Najaf had been turned sour by CPA's "don't step on our turf" mentality. By doing this, the Marines were made to appear impotent, and the Shi'ites of their Holy City lost any hope for the U.S. occupation of their land.
Is it any wonder that Sadr found an audience for his anti-American rhetoric in Najaf?
I'm sure this has gone on long enough. If there is anything I can do to help get Bush out of office, please let me know. I've left the military and am currently setting up my own business, but have time and flexibility to spare.
"BLESSED WITH COMMON SENSE"
FROM: Anthony Pietsch
Dear Mr. Moore,
My name is Tony Pietsch, and I am a national guardsman who has been stationed in Kuwait and Iraq for the past 15 months. I am fairly liberal, but I prefer to just consider myself blessed with common sense, and my opinion contrasts with many of the opinions of this brainwashed, Bush- loving society. But even though this is true, I've found that many of the people in my unit, and army wide, who have commonly voted for the Republican Party, have been changing their views about the party, especially concerning the man in charge.
I have personally worked to change the opinions of others about our fearless "commander and chief," and I've been able to take a few votes out of the hands of the villain. But I have to thank and give applause to you primarily, You have changed the minds of so many people here with Dude, Where s My Country, that it almost brings tears to my eyes.
As I said, I'm in Kuwait, and, stationed without a mission or purpose, we were finally called up to go and do our duty. When we arrived, we found out they didn't really have anything for us even then, so we were swept into a large group of Military Police companies that had the jobs of doing "pre-clearance Customs." This is how disorganized the occupation had been. We set up shop in bases all around Kuwait and began doing Customs on the Marine Corps. And other army units got set to leave the area. Our own leave date was set for Dec. 12th, but it was extended. The "one year boots on ground" order came out, and May 8th, 2004, became the new date to look forward to. In this entire time, we had been doing customs, and I've listened to the heartbreaking stories and dismal views other soldiers had on the war and its outcome.
Many soldiers I spoke to believed in the military, yet not the war. Many thought everything happened for financial gain, and they had a hard time coping with the deaths of friends and companions over such petty causes. I sympathized and tended to agree with them, though I only could understand in theory.
Along with the 1st AD and so many other guard and reserve units, my National Guard unit, the 1775th MP Company was extended due to the lack of planning and refusal to look at the complex situation that was rapidly unfolding. Finally, we were put on convoy escorts. We were on gun trucks running from the bottom of Iraq to about two hours above Baghdad.
The Iraqi resistance was insanity. I spent many nights lying awake after mortar rounds had just struck areas nearby, some coming close enough to throw rocks against my tent. I've seen roadside bombs go off all over, Iraqis trying to ram the side of our vehicle. Small children giving us the finger and throwing rocks at the soldiers in the turrets. We were once lost in Baghdad and received nothing but dirty looks and angry gestures for hours. The basic feeling around Iraq seems to be hostile. It seems the only people who try to be friendly are the people begging on the side of the road, or the poor Iraqis selling trinkets and new Iraqi currency (which they have openly proclaimed they have no faith in) outside the bases.
We made many sacrifices; I have personally been afraid for my life more days than I can count. We lost our first man only a few weeks before our tour was over, but it seems that all is for nothing because all we see is hostility and anger over our being there. They are angry over the abuse scandal and the collateral damages that are always occurring.
Here's my story: I was wooed with a contract by the recruiter at the age of 16 and as soon as I was legally able, as soon as I turned 17, I signed up, mostly because I thought it would be a good way to make a little money during high school, and because I was assured that nothing would ever happen, our country wouldn't go to war. That was July 2001. I have had only three months since I graduated and went off to basic training to be a free man.
I have gone from 18 to 20 without seeing my home. I live in constant fear, because all these laws made to protect soldiers from being overused are on the verge of being thrown out. They are constantly putting us on a stop loss, extending our time of duty. I now have to live with the fact that I can be indefinitely extended, and I have no guarantee that I will not be in a war zone the majority of the time.
Bush is constantly talking about other countries besides Iraq and Afghanistan that are security problems, and I think to myself, is two not enough? Are you willing to just destroy my life and the lives of thousands of others on a whim? Some sort of ambitious Romanesque dream?
I don't know how the rest of my life will turn out, but I truly regret being a 16-year-old kid looking for some extra pocket money and a way to college.