Do We Owe Gratitude to American Veterans For Having Fought in Iraq?

Column by Robert L. Johnson.

Exclusive to STR

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S. war against Iraq by saying, “Every one of the more than one million service members that deployed to Iraq, often for multiple tours of duty, deserves our highest praise and deepest debt of gratitude.” Is Hagel correct? Do the American people owe the veterans of the war against Iraq praise and gratitude?

Starting with “praise,” we can surely praise the courage of the troops under fire. They risked their lives and limbs to help their fellow grunts and to keep them safe. Many of them gave up their own lives for the lives of their comrades in arms. Courage is always commendable.

Regarding “gratitude,” I don't think the American people owe the troops any gratitude for fighting in Iraq. Gratitude is defined as “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” To be thankful to the troops for going to war against Iraq, Iraq would have first had to have been a threat to Americans and America. Despite the lies told by the politicians and perpetrated by the media, Iraq was never a threat to us.

One of the lies the politicians told us in order to get support for this horrific and unnecessary war was that Iraq was helping al Qaeda and that Iraqi officials had met with the 9/11 leader and al Qaeda member Mohamed Atta. This was a baldfaced lie; the reality was the opposite: Saddam had kept al Qaeda out of Iraq. In fact, Saddam was very secular, and kept the religious violence that now kills hundreds of Iraqis every month to a minimum.

Another lie the politicians told at the direction of the neoconservatives was that Iraq had nuclear weapons. They constantly talked about mushroom clouds over America if they did not get their war to remove Saddam. The truth was that Iraq did not have any nuclear weapons. The only country in the Middle East that really does have a growing stockpile of nuclear weapons is the Jewish state of Israel. I don't hear any US politicians saying we should invade Israel to remove their real nuclear weapons.

Since Iraq was never a threat to America or to the American people, there is absolutely no reason to owe gratitude to anyone for waging war against a non-threatening nation and people. Instead, veterans and everyone who knows the truth about why the unnecessary war against Iraq was fought should be working hard to educate as many people and other veterans as they can about the facts in order to prevent another unnecessary war.

An American veteran of the war against Iraq who is dying from his wounds wrote an open letter to Bush and Cheney attacking them for starting the war. He never mentions the neoconservative-promoted religious reasons for the war, nor does he mention the overly powerful Israel lobby, which controls the bulk of the politicians from both parties as a pimp controls his prostitutes. The veteran states that the Iraq War has made Iran the dominant power in the Middle East. This is incorrect. Iran is not now the dominant power in the Middle East, Israel is. Israel is the only nation in the region that really does have nuclear weapons. The main reason for the Iraq war was Israel's security. Saddam was paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who attacked Israel $25,000. This was not good for Israel, and the Israel lobby made sure their political whores from both parties in Congress and in the White House removed the threat by misusing the American military in a war against Iraq. Retired Israeli General Avraham Rotem further proves the war in Iraq was for Israel's benefit when he said less than a week prior to the war starting, “A (US) war with Iraq serves Israel's strategic interests because it wants Saddam gone. Someone says, 'You sit back, we'll take care of it'--what's better than that?” (St. Petersburg Times, March 15, 2003, p. 5A).

Now they're doing the exact same thing in regards to Iran. They're going through the motions of appearing that they're searching for diplomatic resolutions to Iran's nuclear program so they can have the appearance of being the good guys who were forced into a war with Iran. However, they are not saying that Iran's nuclear program has never been shown to be for nuclear weapons, and is instead to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes such as energy and for medical reasons. Time magazine ran an article that pointed out that there is no evidence Iran is building nuclear weapons. The article stated, “Iran’s current enrichment efforts remain under scrutiny by the IAEA, whose inspectors certify that no material has been diverted for any possible covert military program. And any move to break out and build a weapon would be obvious, first and foremost, by the need to enrich uranium to anything above the levels required for Iran’s peaceful purposes — less than 4% for reactor fuel; 20% for the Tehran reactor that produces medical isotopes. And on the latter, the stockpile would necessarily be limited — an issue that will be a focus in negotiations that look set to resume in the coming months. Weapons-grade uranium must be enriched to above 90%.”

The American revolutionary and Deist Thomas Paine wrote of the ancient Jews in The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition, "The Jews made no converts; they butchered all." Looking at modern Israel, it doesn't look like they've changed much except now they get US politicians to use American troops to do their butchering for them.

If we really do care about the troops and the veterans, we should help them see their real enemy is not Iran but the politicians in Washington. This is the only way this horrific deadly cycle will end.

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Robert L. Johnson's picture
Columns on STR: 94

Robert Johnson is a paralegal and a freelance writer in Florida. He was raised Roman Catholic, but after reading Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, he became a Deist. In 1993 he founded the World Union of Deists and in 1996 he launched the first web site devoted to Deism,  He is listed in Who's Who in Hell and is the author of Deism: A Revolution in Religion, A Revolution in You and An Answer to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  He wrote the introduction to The Age of Reason, The Complete Edition and also writes for


KenK's picture

Deluded cannon fodder. 

mjackso6's picture

Deluded? Most definitely; society is geared to hone and polish the delusion of 'America the Great and Beautiful' from pre-school on up. Even in today's 'progressive' society, patriotism is still hammered home as a virtue; the 'progressives' only claim to have different definitions of what patriotism is, not whether it's a wrong-headed idea altogether or not.
Cannon fodder? Obviously; Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are only out there acting as the 'drone weapons' of those in charge, who prefer to sit in the safety of the background and run their wars from the home front.
No question as to whether those two suppositions are correct. My question, however, pertains to your obvious disdain for the young people who are roped into this fiasco as surely as cult members are recruited and reprogrammed. I speak from first-hand knowledge here; I spent 20 years in the military, and if I hadn't had my 'eyes opened' a couple of years ago, I'd probably still be fauning the samr praise on the military as everyone else. The difference, however, is that it's the establishment that draws my ire, not the lowly ground-pounders. I suggest you aim your contempt towards the folks pulling the strings rather than the puppets themselves.

It's a rare puppet who can cut his own strings, and disdainful remarks, rather than constructive discussions, from the peanut gallery not only are completely unproductive, but are highly revealing of the character, or lack thereof, of the comentator him/herself.

Mike Jackson
US Army Retired (Thank God or Whoever!)

Glock27's picture

**FANTASTIC POINT MIKE. Molon Labe (Greek) I'll send a quick pm on this.

richyankee's picture


I think you read contempt for the young soldiers into the post that really isn't there.
If what they did, and I think we agree on this, is to unwittingly suport and execute
unjustified killing and destruction, wherther they were ignorant of t or not, it is still not something to be

I may pity them (not in a general sense but individually) but I will not thank them for it. I wqas one of them and I spit every time some fool thanks me for it (of course my participation in war happened a long time ago - well before Iraq). It is inappropriate to thank a stupid accomplice to murder and it encourages teh spread of mental illness.

We are not the 'peanut gallery'. (I take the liberty of presuming that the poster, you and I as well as everybody on this board merits more respect thatn that).

Thank them? Educate them. Teach them a useful skill. Rescue them. Don't ancourage them.


Glock27's picture


Your remark puzzels me. This is what is tough about posts because the whole truth rarely comes from a quote, or quick note. I am 68 and opposed the Viet Nam war, but I never disprespected nary a one of them. That was the time the lottery was running full tilt and my number was getting to be hot. I didn't want to die in that act of maggot infested ideology. I volunteered for what I felt would be the safest branch to go into--the Air Force. As you can see it was a good strategy on my part. I carried an M-16 during my tour in Germany and I felt safe and I was not going to die unless I did something stupid/
It is like many here are blaming the grunt for what he happened: calling him stupid, cannon fodder and I am sure there are other names is, I believe, more dispicable than what the terrified kid performed. Everyone that went was a kid; confused, scared to death and sure as hell did not want to die. In order to survive, if indeed you did survive, you had to play the game. Keep the focus on the youth and inexperiance of the young men who went, and how easy it was for those adults to feed them whatever was necessary to keep them shooting. Everyone who went was sure he or she was going to die. With that in your head what else are you going to think. Now some did fully reject Viet Nam Conflict and took other options to get out of it like Bushy. Some made it to Canada and other places. Some went to jail (don't know if that was a safe choice?)
Why is it necessary to spit everytime someone thanks you? Americans here are being propogandized into doing this, and you have to look at their value system. They think that what they are doing is good and they want to be good not evil as before. They believe they are doing something authentic rather than calling them baby killers, rapists, murders and thugs. I am thinking, if you are spookie enough, explain as briefly as you can what the problem is. Tell them you did not want to go and it would be better to encourage the new youth that this is Political Insanity.
The U.S. could be getting ready to head for Syria when we need to be letting them settle their own differences. Your closing remark is where the action should be placed and it sounds or seems as if you would agree with that?
I note the democrats want to bring back the draft. I guess this is because the volunteer rate must be dropping. What will be used to motivate the new kid on the block to volunteer?
Note that this is not an attempt to be critical of what you wrote, it is an observation and a feeling I drew from it when I read your post. If you get a chance, go to the post earlier today called "Your 'president' claims to have *...drawn a red line...' at..." There are two articles embeded in the post that are fantastic and I think speaks to what you are trying to say.


richyankee's picture


Thanks for your reply.

I don't think it is fair to characterize the commenters here as blaming those who were fooled into going. I think though, that at some point, those guys - the ones being wooed into submission - have to learn to say no. How old do you have to be to understand organized killing is still a crime? How many innocent people do you need to see mutilated or killed to understand the indecency of wearing that uniform?

Perhaps that is contrary to the emotional dressing that contributes to the war hysteria that is always used to enlist volunteers. By the time I went in 1969, it was pretty obvious that it was not popular or right and I did try to avoid it by getting assigned to Germany (a promise is a promise... from the recruiter). So, I was naive. I did end up going and I am not proud of it. I am offended by people praising thanking me for it because it was an act of stupidity - NOT honor.

To think that people spend a significant portion of their lives educating themselves and fail to understand how the people (whom they errantly regard as leaders) in power use them in this way and others, is alarming to me.

No, I don't respect the soldiers. I pity them. I would not trust them though. They have proven that they will kill without having a reason for doing so. I made a mistake by going. I don't think I am being unkind by saying I have no respect for it. I have friends who went and I don't throw them under the bus. I try get them to understand what is tearing them up - an internalized contradiction (killing 'those guys' is good but killing these guys is bad). Those guys, remember are just 'these guys' in a different place (being manipulated by other guys). (no, I don't think women are any better at it than men are :)

Thanks again. I appreciate your comment and empathize with you. Although personally, I prefer a long slide .45 to any Glock :)

Glock27's picture

Rich Yankee,

Sending a PM on this one. Would perfer to keep this separate from the remainder.
P.S. Glock makes a .45 in several styles.

Glock27's picture

**Marking the St. Petersburg times, the question comes down to why were all the media sources so quiet about this. From my point-of view, the media is just as much to blame for that holocaust, their taking sides rather than being truthful and going for the tough questions and keeping the pressure up to expose the falsity of the coming events. None of this may have happened, had they done their jobs as a true journalists rather than puppets, But oh no! They are supporters of a specific party agendas, as well. What payback they get I cannot even imagine. It is the media propagating from the political directives they fed to believe and like hogs at a trough they go for the slop. Cannot prove that but anecdotally it sits there on the surface.

As a former solder Ken, I take offense at your remark. "Deluded cannon fodder." I believe you just read the title and thought up a cute saying to sling down on the floor. Go back and read the article, read the letter of the dying solders letter to Bush and Cheney. There is the shame, not the solders. At 18, were you as illuminated as you are now. When I served I did so because I believed it to be the right thing to do. I can tell you hind sight is a lot better, but my service was performed strategically. I did not want to die, so I went where I stood the best chance of survival and did. I did not grow up on Arnold Schwartzenager war movies, and war video games like many of these kids going and have gone did. To bastardize someones belief is a shameful act. This I believe is a primary reason people wind up in uncomfortable, deadly circumstances. No respect.

Robert. A Great piece. Only wish you would have hit the media. I believe media and government are twins together, well, maybe not all media, but you know what I am saying. The media carries a heavy burden of guilt in this, as well.

As for Sadam he was simply stupid. He had a way out and could still be here if he were maybe what's going on now would not be happening.

I believe we owe each and every solder who went, regardless his reason, respect. My wonderment is why they keep going back and back and back again and again?

Thunderbolt's picture

I agree with you on all points. The soldiers cannot escape responsibility for their acts during times of peace or times of war. Certainly, children are programmed to admire warriors in our public indoctrination centers. Nonetheless, there is no escape from the requirement to always do the right thing.
Distinguished Military Graduate , Virginia Military Institute
Former Captain, U.S. Army

mjackso6's picture


I agree with you 100%. I never meant to imply that military members should be 'given a pass' when they commit acts that anyone can see are wrong; you know all about unlawful orders, the laws of land warfare, The Geneva Conventions, and so forth. Beyond that, 'common sense' should tell a person when they're being asked/told to do something wrong; the old litmus test of, "if you have any question in your mind whether something is wrong or not then it probably is" most definitely applies. And I'm sure you know full well what happens when a military member refuses to deploy or refuses to undertake a mission once 'in theater'. Force and coertion the likes of which few who've never been in the military can imagine are then leveled at that recalcitant service member, so that they have little chioce but to participate in whatever missions are handed down to them.

Of course, the decision to obey an order to commit an illegal act ~during~ a mission is entirely upon that individual service member, and any who do obey those orders or, worse, simply commit those actions of their own volition are more than worthy of contempt and deserving of the harshest punishment.

So the only winning move, as in the movie, 'Wargames', is not to play, not to enlist in the first place. And that's where they get us; pounding patriotism and nationalism into our heads as children, and glorifying the military and military service, not to mention padding up said service with a benefits package (if not an actual salary) that would otherwise be unobtainable to 99% of the 18-year-old kids just starting out out there. That's the worm on the end of the hook, and once you swallow it you ~are~ well and truely hooked, at least until your enlistment runs out (unless they pull stop-loss, which they ~always do~ whenever there's a major conflict going on, followed by a massive draw-down once things cool off).

No, there's no escape from the requirement to do the right thing, there's just a lot of coertion to do whatever the 'Powers That Be' ~claim~ is the right thing, and a lot of those kids are too brainwashed to understand that most everything that Uncle Sam tells you to do ~isn't~ the right thing.

Mike Jackson
Former Brainwashee

Glock27's picture

Reputable response Mike. Actully I figured you were going to be gutter sniped by kennie for y our disemboweling slice, but it was my puny remark. I guess punny stirs kennies beans. It puzzels me how many parents have given their children to this sociopathic melee. I know one young man graduating from college. I told him if he wants to live his life to the fullest stay away from the military. HE said he already figured that one out.

Glock27's picture

Is this in reference to the P-47 single piston, eight .50cal machine guns, four per wing, 8 tons and capable of carrying 2500 lb of bombs?

Please forgive my stupidity, but I am not seeing what you are saying Captain.

Were you, like Kenny suggested,Deluded cannon fodder"? If you were do you believe it is appropriate to go around calling men like you, Mike and me names in disrespect?
Have you lost friends and buddies in a conflict? If so is it right and responsible to degrade them and their families, wives, sons and daughters because they chose a given path?

When I served the lottery was in and my number close. I'm a defender, not fighter. I did not want to die. If I went into the Marines, Army, or Navy, I stood a good chance of dying, very good. I took the Air Force and lived. I accepted the choice others made but never degraded their belief.

I am neither a libertarian, anarchist, voluntarist. I subscribe to no -ism or -ology. I have as much disdain for the government as any other person on this site.

What exacctly do you mean "soldiers cannot escape responsibility for their acts during times of peace or times of waror times of war"?

I may be ratteling on about something I know nothing about, buy the articale refered to gratitude for their service. From my point-of-view this is the very thing that keeps tensions high, hard and fast--keeps Americans divided. Is this what is being sought after--division?

KenK's picture

Take all the offense you want. I'll make more.
When I was in the Army they once told us that: "If you kill for pleasure you're a psycho, and, if you kill for money you're a mercenary, but if you kill for both pleasure and money then you're Ranger material", followed by a chorus of hooting "Ooo rah!" noises from us grunts. Noble, huh?
I reason that if you are going to kill, then you should kill for your own reasons and purposes, because free, rational individuals don't need to hide behind a badge or a flag or a holy book. These guys on the other hand gambled and took the King's Shilling and put their life and limbs at the USG's service, come what may, for pay, benefits, glory, or whatever motivation, and they got what they got.  They signed the papers and took their chances.
Now the rest of us tax donors get to pay for their death benefits, burials, life-long VA medical care for the treatment of their physical and mental wounds, and who knows what all else. 

Glock27's picture

You are knee jerking. I still doubt you even read the article and I note you appear to have no respect either.Take your last shot and we will be done.

Jim Davies's picture

Some of these comments are among the most profound I've seen on STR. Gentlemen, my hat's off.

Darkcrusade's picture

Most non-psychos know that killing is wrong.Most buy into that fiction of nations,that divide and conquers,because it suits their thirst for adventure,plunder and booty.If any would be 'soldier' would like to fight for freedom, washington is much closer and more of a threat than any CIA 'constuct' hiding in a cave in anywhereastan.

I Do thank Vance for this.......
''I don’t thank you for your service in fighting foreign wars.
I don’t thank you for your service in fighting without a congressional declaration of war.
I don’t thank you for your service in bombing and destroying Iraq and Afghanistan.
I don’t thank you for your service in killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans.
I don’t thank you for your service in expanding the war on terror to Pakistan and Yemen.
I don’t thank you for your service in occupying over 150 countries around the world.
I don’t thank you for your service in garrisoning the planet with over 1,000 military bases.
I don’t thank you for your service in defending our freedoms when you do nothing of the kind.
I don’t thank you for your service as part of the president’s personal attack force to bomb, invade, occupy, and otherwise bring death and destruction to any country he deems necessary.
Thank you for your service? I don’t think so.'' >

Americans get VERY uncomfortable when the obvious similarities between foreign totalitarianism and theirs is pointed out... You see, GERMANS or JAPANESE blindly following orders in the 30's and 40's was evil...they and their politicians were BAD GUYS. But when its AMERICANS doing the same thing in ANY era, well that's TOTALLY DIFFERENT...because everyone knows we and our politicians are ALWAYS the GOOD GUYS.

Samarami's picture

Good is what I am -- bad is what you are.

Right is what I am -- wrong is what you are.

Etc etc etc etc


Paul's picture

This is a tough subject that requires a lot of care to keep the discussion out of the realm of mindless reaction and emotionalism.

Men in the service are both victims and victimizers. Everyone, even younger people are responsible for their actions if they are to be considered adults. It's wrong to kill except in self defense, that is clear. Servicemen should not be thanked for their actions in this or any war since the Revolution. But it is hard to condemn them. Their error lies in ignorance and in being duped by evil bastards.

I am forever thankful I was not sent to Viet Nam and put in a position of killing a man who was trying to throw out an invader, though I spent 4 years in the Marine Corps. I feel very sorry for those who were put in that position.

I believe there is a path for such men when in action. They should miss a lot. They should only shoot another man if it truly is an act of personal self defense at that moment. I think those doing so would not be troubled so much by suicidal thoughts after they become aware what they did.

However I don't know how practical this course of action is.

Samarami's picture


    "...They should miss a lot. They should only shoot another man if it truly is an act of personal self defense at that moment..."

Your suggestion (with which I agree) is the nemesis of war generals, whose studies are the subject of this article:

    "...Military institutions are tailor-made for psychopathic killers. The five percent or so of human males who feel no remorse about killing their fellow human beings make the best soldiers. And the 95 percent who are extremely reluctant to kill make terrible soldiers—unless they are brainwashed with highly sophisticated modern techniques that turn them (temporarily it is hoped) into functional psychopaths..."

    '...In his book, "On Killing" (1996), Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has re-written military history to highlight what other histories hide: The fact that military science is less about strategy and technology than about overcoming the instinctive human reluctance to kill members of our own species. The true "Revolution in Military Affairs" was not Donald Rumsfeld’s move to high-tech in 2001, but Brigadier Gen. S.L.A. Marshall’s discovery in the 1940s that only 15-20 percent of World War II soldiers along the line of fire would use their weapons: "Those (80-85 percent) who did not fire did not run or hide (in many cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages), but they simply would not fire their weapons at the enemy, even when faced with repeated waves of banzai charges" (Grossman, p. 4)...'

As long as there is an abstraction called "The State" there will be war. Here's where I'll throw in with Jim Davies: the state must be quashed. But with this caution:

    If it's going to be, it will be up to me.


Glock27's picture

Paul and Sam: Two of the most intelligent dissections to "Gratitude". This reflects some of the best of STR thinking. Thank you gentelmen. Laying blame on individuals whose education has provided the intellectual foundation needed by a maggot to groom. Fansy, dramatic advertisment does wonders and the multitude of liars that step off their podiums to drum up encouragement to die for some unknown political gain. I taught for 35 years and there is nothing more remarkably manipulated than a fresh, young mind that is illiterate. Stholkhome syndrom in effect. At what age does this stink begin to be recognized. I am 68 and it came to me about 18 months ago despite the fact that I had no love for the government when I was 18. I am gradually teaching my grandkids to say no to the maggot. It is not easy.
During the VietNam era the lottery was in effect. A unique form of coercion along with the threat of prison and a ruined life. Their lives were ruined either way they turned. The conditions today are no different and these kids today are "Volunteering". As I recall the lottery was placed into effect because the volunteer status was not meeting its mark to the slithery lizards of the time sgtepped up the anty to get more replacement bodies. Some made it to Canada, some to other places. Some were lucky, but were they to blame and worthy of the treatment they received, were they "Deluded cannon fodder"? Today is it that much different. The information, patriotically, continues to be the same issue today as it was in the 1960's--same propaganda just a different game.