I remember it like it was yesterday. It was another cold and brisk, but sunny February day in Muncie, Indiana in 2003. At the time I was attending college, an institution of enlightenment, I was in my second to last year. I was a telecommunications major with emphasis in television, radio, and film production, with a minor in military science. I remember leaving to go pick my future wife up from class right as Secretary of State Colin Powell stepped up to the microphone at the United Nations Assembly. I listened to the local NPR station as they carried the broadcast live. I yelled and screamed, to my wife, or anyone that would listen, “There it is, the proof, he’s laying it all out for you. How can we not go to war now? We must defend America from this grave and serious threat. How can the nations of old, most proximal to this threat, allow it to exist past today with this mountain of proof?” And it was not as if I had no skin in the game because I had been enlisted in the Army Reserve since 1999, and knew how much they relied on the Reserve in the support function in the last war in this same desert. Two life-changing events happened within the next month. On March 8th 2003 I married a woman who would also become an officer, and March 17th the US invaded Iraq.
The most important fact was that my wife and I were both going to be officers. Shortly thereafter I signed my Senior ROTC contract committing me to 8 more years, 3 of those on active duty, to an Army at war. At the time we were being told that the war would be over in no time. I remember seeing pictures of Chalabi, and stories on the Iraqi National Congress. I thought if there is someone willing to take over, let them. Take out the dangerous dictator; put Chalabi, who at the time I did not know was an international felon, in the charge of this country. I signed the line based on the promise of the civilian leadership of the military, and this country that we would be in and out quickly, and the Iraqis would quickly take the reigns of their own country. I was so naïve that I even remember lamenting, with my fellow cadets, that I would be in the Army from 1999 until 2012 and I would miss the chance to go to war. Yet, here it is 2006 and I have been deployed almost a whole year.
I can’t really recall what happened but I woke up. I can’t recall the exact incident or time, but I realized everything that I had been told was bullshit. I know it was later in the year of 2003 when I came to realize I had been duped. It could have been the information that I was gradually getting off the internet since none of the major news networks carried it. Maybe it was because we had been in country almost 9 months, by that time, and there was no sign of WMD’s that were supposedly parked in everyone’s garage, and under every floor mat. Maybe it was because NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING the administration had said had come to be true. Maybe it was because I saw my Commander-In-Chief stand on the deck of a ship and declare “Mission Accomplished,” but my brothers and sisters in arms were still fighting and dying in Iraq, and casualties were mounting in greater numbers than they did during the invasion.
I was not the type of person to question my government, or my commanders but by the end of 2003 a cynic was born, and I realized the grave mistake I had made. My wife and I had both signed the line to fight a war that we were told would be over long before we hit the force. It was a war that I had rooted for. I had gone so far as to counter-protest with my signs stating the facts given to me by Colin Powell. I wasn’t trying to avoid going to war, but if my leadership got so many things, perhaps everything, so wrong about this war how could I trust them for the rest of my tenure as an officer.
If the reasons they had stated to go to war in the first place were all false then why did we go to war in Iraq? If I can no longer trust the intentions of my leaders then how can I continue in this profession? Of course, I had already signed the line; I had and still have no choice but to continue until the end of my obligation. What I once thought was a noble profession, being a leader in the military, has been muddied inside of me by the same inalienable values and convictions that make this profession great, and those who do it great leaders. My conviction to moral principles and dedication to my subordinates and my country are at odds with my duty to obey orders of the Commander-In-Chief, and my superiors. With all the evidence against them, how can I trust what they say is true? How can I know that the orders I get are lawful and legal when the character of their producers is at the very least suspect, if not in violation of my own and the military’s moral code of principles and ethics? I’m sure if I thought about it, in my view, I would find violations of all of the Army’s 7 Core Values by the Commander-In-Chief; Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. What are they to them but words that keep me loyal, and to me convictions that keep me bound to service in a conflict where their anithesis is their creator.