What does it mean when the most conservative and most liberal Veterans organizations agree on something? It means we need to sit up and take notice, that’s what!

All Things Considered aired this yesterday: “Recent US Veterans Are Coming to Consensus On Iran and Iraq–Across Party Lines”  The lead-in to the piece was:  “Veterans groups across the political spectrum have found a growing consensus in favor of winding down American military involvement in the Middle East.”

I don’t know about you but I’m still finding it hard to realize this program actually aired. Oh sure, I know. NPR is the “liberal media.”    Well no, not really.   Democracy Now with Amy Goodman is liberal. Thom Hartmann on Free Speech Television is liberal. But NPR, like The New York Times is beholden to its big dollar supporters and advertisers. NPR and the Times are actually more what used to be called ‘middle of the road.’ And NPR has to protect what little government funding they still have left.

So. Back to the amazing segment from yesterday. Here’s what Ari Shapiro, the host said:  “For veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of Iran’s top general in Iraq last week brings new urgency to a familiar debate. Is it time for America to end two decades of war?”

Quil Lawrence, the reporter who filed the story said this: “It’s a less and less partisan debate, at least among vets – so much that two diametrically opposed veterans lobby groups have formed a coalition on the issue of ending these wars and avoiding new ones. Jon Soltz is an Iraq vet from the liberal group VoteVets. He said:  “Neither or, you know, our conservative counterpart in this coalition, Concerned Veterans – we’re not anti-war organizations. But that doesn’t mean that we just fight wars all over the world forever, these endless entanglements that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, because they’re not making us safer.”  Did you get that: They’re not making us safer. My emphasis

Nate Anderson leads Concerned Veterans for America, way on the right end of the political continuum. Here’s Nate:  “If anything is worth putting aside differences and coming together on, it’s to save lives. It’s to avoid unnecessary conflict.” Unnecessary conflict. What?!

Another organization, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America does an annual survey. Executive director Jeremy Butler says he sees a clear trend. “The longer they go on – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – the views are that they’re becoming less and less thought of as worth it.”

Polls last year showed that over 60% of Iraq and Afghanistan vets now say the wars were not worth fighting. When it comes to Iran and the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, Butler says he hasn’t polled yet, but his membership wants more information about why the strike was done now and whether it’s part of a larger strategy in the Middle East.  Butler: “I mean, this isn’t a partisan statement. I think we’ve had a very hard time as a country explaining our strategy, understanding our strategy, discussing our strategy and, really, having a broad consensus as to why we’re there and what our intentions are.”

The liberal and conservative vets coalitions agree. Here’s Jon Soltz, the liberal Iraq vet. “We heard that we turned the corner in Iraq 15 years ago. Bin Laden’s been dead for almost 10 years. What exactly are we accomplishing? If you’ve been on the hamster wheel, you might perhaps feel differently about large-scale deployments.”

And here’s Nate Anderson, the conservative former Green Beret: “In Fort Bragg right now, as elements of the 82nd Airborne deploy, a lot of these men and women – you know, they’re going to miss good days at home. They’re going to miss tough days at home. And that’s the best-case scenario because if we continue down this path of escalation with Iran, that could mean some of them not coming home at all. (There’s still a range of opinion among vets. Some who were wounded or lost friends to Iranian bombs in Iraq see the killing of Soleimani as simple justice. Others see that even without a clear strategy, Iraq is a clear strategic interest.”)

The point is, support for what Trump did is waning. I’m thinking statements like these coming from veteran leaders sound suspicious if not preposterous to you. Well that’s not the case for me. Some of you know I did most of my clinical training for board certified chaplaincy at the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center. That was way back in 2000 and 2001. You never would have heard these kinds of things in public media then. But chaplains did. When a veteran is letting go of life, one of the things s/he wants someone to hear is their collective frustration, sorrow, and deep anger at what happened during their tour of military duty. For WWII vets it began to come out 50 years later. For Korean vets it was 40 years following their service. For Viet Nam vets, 30 years. It took 50 years for WWII vets and the Nam vets just 30 years to pour out their hearts. Why is that? Because the WWII vets came back as “heroes” who had won “the good war” and Nam vets were cursed at and spat upon. That’s why.  

Today it doesn’t take years. Sometimes it’s only months, even days for these soldiers who were told it was okay to go to Afghanistan and Iraq and kill people because they were “the enemy” and followed a “bogus religion.” That was supposed to mean they were less than human. Well let me tell you what a chaplain to veterans learns. We learn that humans don’t kill other humans–it matters not how they are characterized–without paying a terrible price. Think PTSD, suicide, massive brain bleeds, heart attacks. Ask me sometime to tell you what happens to the extremely strong, highly disciplined vet, one who’s capable of keeping on keeping on. It’s too disturbing to put in print.

One more thing. There’s a big difference between survivors of the wars that occurred prior to the so-called all volunteer Army and those since. They enlisted at age 18 … as soon as they could. These young men and women–boys and girls really–came back after their first deployment and found they couldn’t support their families on what they could earn back here. So they re-enlisted, sometimes 3 or 4 times. I have a friend who actually went back a 5th time. So that explains why we’re hearing these kinds of previously unheard of things from vets like Jon Soltz and Nate Anderson. It’s one thing to come back a hero after one tour of duty. It’s a whole other thing to come back a second third, or fourth time; from a war they now question. 

You can read elsewhere on this blog my opinions about the War Industry, the most profitable business on the planet today. But I’ll leave it at this … if and when we enter into a major conflict with Iran it won’t be because they threaten our freedoms. It will be because and only because a very few, insanely wealthy old white men will make even more billions of dollars from it. We need to do everything we can and anything we have to, to keep that from happening.


  1. Richard A Manhire says

    You said it all. The average soldier want to be shipped off to some far off place about as much as I want another hemroidectomy, and especially at Christmas time.
    You’re right, if it wasn’t so profitable to the ruling billionaires, war might not exist in first place.

  2. Richard Manhire says

    Unfortunately, I think you are right on, as most “clear headed” folks would be regarding perpetual war. I don’t think there is much debate over the fact that there’s big money for military involved corporations and the billionaires who have investments in these corporations.

    Really, do you honestly think the common American foot soldier (7500 of them) would have opted to head off to the Middle East, just prior to Christmas? I don’t !

    • John Hickox says

      That really summarizes it does it not? 95% of those 7500 are going there for one reason only. It’s the ONLY place they can make a so-called living wage.

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