Sunday, January 23, 2005

A FEW DAYS AGO, I wrote about Sgt. Kevin Benderman, who filed for conscientious objector status after having served in the military for 10 years, including Iraq. Today, an article in the New York Times reports on a related phenomenon: a growing number of Iraq veterans who are speaking out against the war after having served and returned home. Many of them, like Sean Huze, supported the Iraq invasion at the beginning, but now are questioning it. Their doubts are fueled by a combination of the carnage they have seen, especially the civilian casualties; and the fact that all of the major claims used by the Bush administration to justify the war beforehand -- weapons of mass destruction, support for Al Qaeda by Saddam Hussein, Iraqi connections to 9/11 -- were falsehoods. They feel guilt for having killed or caused the death of others, especially civilians; and they feel betrayed and angry because they have to live with what they did -- what they were asked to do by their government -- when the reasons they were given for doing these things were not legitimate.

For Corporal Huze, the transformation began when he returned home in fall 2003. Unable to forget the carnage he had seen in Iraq, he began to grapple with the justification for the war, he said.

"By sometime in December 2003, I came to the conclusion that W.M.D.'s weren't there and that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, and now I'm left with all that I'd experienced in Iraq and nothing to balance it," Corporal Huze said, emphasizing that he was speaking as a citizen, not as a marine. "When I came to that conclusion, I felt this sense of betrayal. I was full of rage and depression."

That rage has since fueled Corporal Huze, a native of Baton Rouge, La., who is awaiting a medical discharge for a head injury. With the consent of his commanding officers at Camp Lejeune, he speaks regularly to the media and others as a representative for Operation Truth.

Operation Truth, as its name implies, has tasked itself with increasing public awareness about the reality of soldiers' everyday lives in Iraq, and advocating for realistic ways to solve or at least ameliorate the problems soldiers deal with in the war.

Operation Truth is one of a number of organizations founded and staffed by veterans that are speaking out against the war, or against the perception of the war and the reasons for the war put out by the Bush administration. Here are some others:

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