Vets Call for an End to a War That Can't be Won
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Nov. 29, 2004
Iraq Veterans Call for an End to a War They Say Can't be Won
- Interview With Former Marine Cpl. Michael Hoffman, Co-Founder Of Iraq Veterans Against The War, Conducted By Scott Harris
Listen in RealAudio:
Not long after the U.S. declared victory in Fallujah, asserting that America had broken the back of the insurgency, armed rebels launched attacks against American troops and their Iraqi allies in other cities across the Sunni Triangle. A U.S.-Iraqi police raid on Baghdad's Abu Hanifa Sunni mosque on Nov. 12, resulting in 3 deaths and 40 arrests, triggered battles between Marines and insurgents throughout the capital.
Adding to the skepticism that the U.S. and its appointed Iraqi government can organize national elections for January 30th, was the recent assassination of Sheik Mohammed Amin al-Faidhi, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, a group which has called for a boycott of the election. There are fears that escalating violence and growing anger toward the U.S. could derail the election, particularly in Sunni Arab areas of the country. The election is slated to select a 275-member National Assembly which will then draft a constitution. Amid concern about the January vote, senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq say it is likely that they will need 3,000 to 5,000 more combat troops to confront the resistance.
In July, a handful of U.S. Iraq veterans announced the formation of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The group is demanding an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and full funding for veterans' benefits at home. Former Marine Lance Corporal Michael Hoffman, who served in Iraq with a 1st Marine Corps Division Artillery Battery, is a co-founder of the group. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Hoffman about his experience in Iraq and why he believes the U.S. cannot achieve a military victory in this war.
MICHAEL HOFFMAN: Before I went over there, the idea of pre-emptive war didn't make sense to me, that we would attack a country because it might down the road pose a problem to us. Looking at what was being said, the idea that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction really didn't seem to hold any weight with me, things like that. But being there really brought it all home to me. Knowing what we did to that country, hearing my friends' stories of innocent civilians dying, of watching their friend die around them -- that really brought it home, really strengthened my opposition.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Now tells us a little about how you came home from Iraq, and became a co-founder of this new group, Iraq Veterans Against the War.
MICHAEL HOFFMAN: Well, I was brought back to the States in May of last year, and discharged in August. I didn't start speaking out immediately, because it was a little bit of a long road for me. The first time I spoke out was in November of last year, actually, on Veterans Day. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Veterans for Peace here in Philadelphia and they really just kept me together during those first early months. Through them, I started speaking out more and more often at different venues and was also introduced to more and more Iraq war vets who had the same beliefs as me. Finally as more of us met each other, we decided that now was the time to form ourselves into a group and we launched Iraq Veterans Against the War in July.
BETWEEN THE LINES: How many members do you have now? And maybe you can explain to us the goals of the organization as it stands.
MICHAEL HOFFMAN: Well, we started out with eight founding members including myself and right now, a few months later, we've just broken a hundred members. We've got three goals that are fairly simple. The first is an immediate withdrawal of all the occupying forces. The guys on the ground -- really more than anyone else -- we are not doing any good, we're actually doing more harm. The people of Iraq view us an occupation (force). As long as they have that belief, no work is going to be accomplished, there will not be a stable government there.
Our second goal is to aid the people of Iraq. Just because we said we shouldn't occupy them, does not mean we shouldn't help them. We owe it to them after what we've done to that country over the past decade, our support of Saddam Hussein, the first war against Iraq and the continued bombing, and now this second war. We have decimated that country and we owe it to them to help them.
And our last thing is that when we do withdraw the troops we have to make sure that they are cared for when they get home. Myself and anyone else who served in combat knows the heavy burden you have when you come back and we need to be here to aid them when they do return.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Now, Michael Hoffman, the U.S. military, the Pentagon, has trumpeted their victory in the battle of Fallujah; the U.S. media is, of course, echoing that. How would you characterize the battle of Fallujah? Is this going to break the back of the insurgency as the White House and the Pentagon keep telling us, or is there a longer, more vague and undetermined fight ahead in Iraq?
MICHAEL HOFFMAN: I think it's going to get worse, especially after what happened in Fallujah. They were saying there were no civilian casualties because there were no civilians left in that town. Well, that can't be true. Think of all the people who couldn't afford to leave that town. Think of the people who had nowhere else to go. Think of the people who just simply refused to leave because that was their home. It was not all terrorists in that town. Innocent civilians died in that battle and all of them have family and friends. Think about what happens when somebody is killed by the Americans. Think about what their family goes through. What we did simply added to the insurgency, it did not break it, it did not destroy it, and we've been doing that since Day One.
If we had given the Iraqis what they wanted, and actually treated them fairly, there would be no resistance, but instead we just keep bombing away and thinking we're going to break the resistance.
BETWEEN THE LINES: From what you know being on the ground in Iraq and having some familiarity with the Iraqi people, do you think a military victory is possible in Iraq?
MICHAEL HOFFMAN: See, one thing we have to remember is that the military victory is only one victory. There's also the political victory. If you remember in Vietnam, we won every single battle, but we lost the war. Just like here, we're winning every single battle, but we're losing the war. This is a war that we simply cannot win.
BETWEEN THE LINES: What do you foresee happening in Iraq with more troops possibly being added? Weíre hearing calls from the military that greater numbers of troops are going to be needed. What do you think is ahead?
MICHAEL HOFFMAN: I keep going back to this, I'm starting to sound like a Vietnam vet now. But look at what happened in Vietnam. Escalation, escalation after they knew the war could not be won. The White House knew the war would be lost. But they sent more troops because they simply wanted to save face. They knew they could not simply give up. They had to lose this war on our terms. I'm afraid it's going to be the same thing. And now, they're asking for more troops. The Reserves have been deployed to their absolute maximum. They're running out of active duty troops, and I'm afraid that's going to leave them with (only one) option, and that might be a draft.
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Dec. 3, 2004. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.
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