Why I Fight

The following post is a reprint of an article that appeard in the dioceson newspaper of the Episcopal Diocese for Missouri headquartered in St. Louis . The article appeared in the spring of 2003 before the invasion of Iraq. The article was edited by the newspaper because of the mixed audience that reads it. It is shown here in its original form.

Article follows:

Why I Fight

All I have been hearing of late is how many of my fellow Episcopalians in the diocese are against any action against Iraq. I wanted to write this letter so people back home know what kind of work I have been doing during my mobilization to illustrate the point that we in the military are not warmongering pro-consuls of Pax America. I also want to let people back home hear my opinions on why Saddam Hussein must be directly confronted.

Right now I am in Kosovo serving with USKFOR (US Kosovo Force) as part of Operation Joint Guardian. We are here to provide a safe and secure environment for all the people who live here. We are keeping the peace here after NATO pummeled Belgrade, the Yugoslav Army, and Slobodan Milosevic for seventy-eight days from the air. NATO did this because the international community did not want a repeat of the disaster that occurred in Bosnia where thousands of Bosnjacs were killed not far from UN troops.

The United States could have told Europe that you are all on your own. There weren’t any Serbians, Bosnjacs, Croats, or Albanians hijacking American planes. There wasn’t a clear national self-defense interest. The United States took charge because we as a nation could not allow the bloodshed to continue in the Balkans. Women were violated wholesale, children were butchered, and men and boys were rounded up and annihilated. All because one man, Slobodan Milosevic, made a power grab and actively encouraged the brutality.

The United States took the lead in the Balkans through NATO because the Europeans themselves proved unwilling or unable due to historical baggage. The United States brokered the Dayton Accords that stopped the killing in Bosnia. The United States, through NATO, prosecuted a war without UN approval against Slobodan Milosevic to stop him from wreaking havoc in Kosovo. NATO took the lead because this conflict was also threatening to spill beyond the borders of Kosovo and draw Greece, Turkey, and Russia into conflict, which could have been disastrous for the European continent.

We went in to Afghanistan because the Taliban government was aiding and abetting Al-Queda. We sought a resolution from the United Nations and got one. The United States did not go into Afghanistan as conquerors intent on creating a protectorate; we went in to destroy Al-Queda and its supporters. Once the Taliban government fell, we actively worked with the international community to set up an Afghan government. You may have honest criticism about how we are conducting operations there now. To be frank, there are things I think we should be doing differently in Afghanistan now that the Afghan government is struggling to get on its feet. However, you can’t accuse my fellow soldiers that are over there now that they are conquerors. They see themselves as liberators and peacekeepers.

Right now we are poised on the brink of war against the country of Iraq. It is more accurate to say that we are going to war against Saddam Hussein. Milosevic and Hussein share some common traits. They are both megalomaniacs. Both are responsible for the rape of countless women (Hussein personally raped many women himself). Both have wiped out entire families. Both have countenanced systematic brutality. Serbian partisans have shot babies in the head because the families weren’t moving out of their villages fast enough. Hussein’s minions have raped and tortured daughters and wives in front of their fathers and husbands to coerce them.

Based on the standards we applied to the Balkans, we as a nation can rightly go in and take care of Saddam Hussein. If we decided as a nation to take down Slobodan Milosevic without so much as a by your leave from the United Nations, why not take down Saddam Hussein and free his people of his tyranny? Out of all the dictators and tin pot rulers on this planet, why bother with him?

There is an obvious element that the Balkans does not share with Iraq. Saddam Hussein has shown a propensity for gathering weapons of mass destruction. He actively works with terrorist organizations that want to wipe the United States off of the planet. He has failed to keep up his end of the cease-fire that was brokered after the first Gulf War, a war he started by invading and sacking Kuwait. The United Nations told him that he could live as long as he disarms. So far he has not done so. The revenue from the oil that he has been allowed to sell was used for weapons instead of medicine for the people of Iraq. Saddam Hussein is a scourge that the planet could do well without.

I am sure that many of you have heard these arguments before. They bear repeating, especially when placed in contrast with what we have done in the Balkans. I am confused as to why the work I am doing in Kosovo is considered peacekeeping yet the work my fellow soldiers are doing in Afghanistan and may be called to do in Iraq is called warmongering. This is the third time I have served overseas. The first time I went to Panama and built culverts and roads. The second time I went to Panama again and I was building an addition to a schoolhouse. The third time I am keeping the peace in Kosovo. All I have basically done for the Army overseas is humanitarian assistance work and peacekeeping. I would argue that my fellow soldiers posted in South Korea and Afghanistan are also peacekeepers. As were all the soldiers that were posted to Europe during the height of the Cold War. The soldiers who defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were liberators as well as peacekeepers.

I have been trained to fight and win the wars of the United States. These wars are not for imperial conquest. If the US Army were to be used as an agent of conquest, I will resign my commission in a heart beat. I serve because I firmly believe that the United States Army as an institution is a guardian of the free peoples of the world. When we go abroad, we bring our values with us.

When you ask a child here in Kosovo what he or she wants to be when they grow up, they want to grow up and be a USKFOR soldier. Not a soldier from the other countries that are assigned to our sector, they want to be an American Soldier! They see us in such a favorable light because we mean what we say, we deliver what we say we deliver, we treat everyone fairly, and they see people of diverse ethnic backgrounds working together.

Soldering is a tough business. The reward is seeing that a war fought to protect the homeland can have the effect of liberating an oppressed people from tyranny. Our country is unique in that we are a free people that when we make a stand, we stand shoulder to shoulder and go forth as liberators, not conquerors.

Like most Episcopalians, I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve. Yet I believe that being an American Soldier is something that I have been called to do. I take my duties as a husband and father very seriously and I really should be home with my expectant wife and young son. However, part of those duties is to protect hearth, home, and country. As a soldier, if I can bring peace, stability, and freedom to oppressed peoples of the world, my family and my friends will be much safer. When my boys grow up and they ask about what I did as a soldier, I can look them straight in the eye and say I was doing the work of the Lord. I was protecting our family from harm, I was liberating people from oppression, I was keeping the peace.

Article ends.

I reprinted this to show that I am pretty much doing what I have done in the past and feel the same way. I am a liberator and a peacekeeper. If killing a few haji's keeps the peace, then I am all for it.

Another reason is to show the original arguments that I made. In the article printed last spring, my graphic arguments were watered down which were not as compelling as a result.

Again, soldering is tough business. I am good at it and proud of it.

CPT NightHawk


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