Tomgram: Nick Turse, A Truth-teller for Our Times

November 23, 2008
Tomgram: Nick Turse, A Truth-teller for Our Times

[Note to Readers: In the spirit of Nick Turse’s article below on truth-telling and civilian deaths in war, TomDispatch would like to direct your attention to a recently published paperback, Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations, a powerful text with words, images, and documents from the Spring 2008 hearings in Washington, DC, at which American veterans of Bush’s two occupations spoke out about the dark side of the wars they fought.]

By October 2005, when American casualties in Iraq had not yet reached 2,000 dead or 15,000 wounded, and our casualties in Afghanistan were still modest indeed, informal “walls” had already begun springing up online to honor the fallen. At that time, I suggested that “the particular dishonor this administration has brought down on our country calls out for other ‘walls’ as well.” I imagined, then, walls of shame for Bush administration figures and their cronies — and even produced one (in words) that November. By now, of course, any such wall would be full to bursting with names that will live in infamy.

That October, we at TomDispatch also launched quite a different project, another kind of “wall,” this time in tribute to the striking number of “governmental casualties of Bush administration follies, those men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their government duties,” and so often found themselves smeared and with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, or simply be pushed off the cliff by cronies of the administration.

Nick Turse led off what we came to call our “fallen legion” project with a list of 42 such names, ranging from the well-known Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki (who retired after suggesting to Congress that it would take “several hundred thousand troops” to occupy Iraq) and Richard Clarke (who quit, appalled by how the administration was dealing with terror and terrorism) to the moderately well known Ann Wright, John Brown, and John Brady Kiesling (three diplomats who resigned to protest the coming invasion of Iraq) to the little known Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin (who resigned under pressure, possibly so that various Bush papers could be kept under wraps). By the time Turse had written his second fallen legion piece that November, and then the third and last in February 2006, that list of names had topped 200 with no end in sight.

Today, to its eternal shame, the Bush administration has left not just its own projects, but the nation it ruled, in ruins. No wall could fit its particular “accomplishments.” Turse, who recently wrote for the Nation magazine “A My Lai a Month,” a striking exposé of a U.S. counterinsurgency campaign in Vietnam that slaughtered thousands of civilians, returns in the last moments of this dishonored administration with a fitting capstone piece for the honorably fallen in Washington. Think of it as the last of the “fallen legion,” a memory piece — lest we forget. Tom

“We killed her… that will be with me the rest of my life”

Lawrence Wilkerson’s Lessons of War and Truth

By Nick Turse

Nations in flux are nations in need. A new president will soon take office, facing hard choices not only about two long-running wars and an ever-deepening economic crisis, but about a government that has long been morally adrift. Torture-as-policy, kidnappings, ghost prisons, domestic surveillance, creeping militarism, illegal war-making, and official lies have been the order of the day. Moments like this call for truth-tellers. For Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. For witnesses willing to come forward. For brave souls ready to expose hidden and forbidden realities to the light of day.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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