To my fellow Americans running for the office of the presidency:
I was an attendant of the recent Sojourners conference in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, before the forum could take place, I was called to Rome on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War, an organization made up exclusively of service members of every branch who aim to end the very conflict they have served or are currently serving in. It was my sincere desire to be a part of the Vote Out Poverty campaign that met with much success on Capitol Hill. I was unable to remain in D.C., however, because I was invited by the Italian peace movement to speak on behalf of the growing number of Americans (in particular, the 450 service members represented by IVAW) who disapprove of the current administration’s policies and practices. Please permit me to submit my own question for your reflection, as well as the reflection of innumerable Americans charged with deciding the fate our beloved country.
Over four years, 4 billion dollars, and 3,000 lives ago, our nation was drawn into a conflict that few of our number now believe was initiated with our collective interests or values in mind. As a proud and decorated veteran of this conflict, I have suffered for and served my country with distinction and honor. However, my dreams and quiet moments have been mercilessly violated by the voices of the victims of our national terrorism. In Iraq, their liberation has cost as many as 655,000 Iraqis their lives. Their cries, and those of their families, have been uttered amidst a flood of sweat, tears, and all too much of their own blood.
I recognize and am troubled by the deep significance of the crossroads that lay before us. We should not underestimate the ramifications should we continue our course in the Middle East. Our armed forces face a critical point, in which our humble servants within the military are tasked with repeated deployments, extended tours, and likely conscription even after discharge. In the last year alone, the national GI Rights Hotline and the Center for Conscience and War fielded a record-breaking number of inquiries. Desertions and AWOL/UA reports have reached an alarming number, and many of my honorably discharged comrades face attacks on their free speech by the very institutions they served in defense of such freedoms. America is at a critical juncture that we must not ignore.
We cannot face issues of poverty without acknowledging the greatest architect of economic injustice nationally and globally: our own war upon the poor of the world. At home, the poorest neighborhoods face the highest concentration of military recruitment efforts. Abroad, our U.S. foreign policy has historically empowered the greatest enemies of liberty we have known, such as Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. We steal from our own school systems, homeless shelters, and medical institutions as we feed the military industrial complex year after year, with 41 percent of each dollar going into war, preparations, and reparations for war. We currently are at a point of deep moral and ethical crisis, one which demands our attention.
Not long ago, within the living memory of many of our citizens, America had great leaders who were not afraid or ashamed to live by principles, and not merely politics. Public figures such as John and Robert Kennedy and Marin Luther King approached the massive injustices of war and poverty despite intense pressure and threats on their very lives. In this time of immense tumult within the American consciousness, we need a real leader. How will history remember you if elected to the presidency? For your acquiescence to the status quo, to “politics as usual,” or for your profound moral courage and commitment to true freedom at home and overseas? Our country eagerly awaits your considered response.
Logan M. Laituri is a U.S. Army veteran of the war in Iraq who declared himself a conscientious objector and is now a social justice activist.