Posted: 04 April 2012
Background note: The letter below was approved by the Greater Seattle chapter of Veterans For Peace in April 2010 in response to a trip organized the Seattle-based group, Living Judaism, to bring wounded Israeli soldiers to Seattle in May of that year as part of the "Hope for Heroism" program. It was first published by Seattle journalist Larry Johnson on his personal blog and on the Seattle PostGlobe web site. It is reposted here following the announcement this year of a "Special Shabbat dinner on Friday May 18th honoring our injured Israeli Soldiers" on Mercer Island, a Seattle suburb.
Open Letter to Wounded Israeli Soldiers Visiting Seattle
I don't know much but I know this ... if the cause is not good, then all these guys with their arms and legs chopped off, all these wounded—the king is to blame for that shit. –Lt. Col. Al Gill, US Army, ret.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
As American Veterans For Peace we welcome you to Seattle this May. We understand you are visiting here as wounded combat veterans. We regret that you were wounded. Based on our experiences we believe it is right and natural for a soldier who has been injured in war to question whether the price paid was worth the reasons given in justification for risking life and limb. Additionally, there are the mental and psychic wounds one experiences by inflicting harm or even death upon another human being.
We have good reason to believe your hosts in Seattle wish to instill or reinforce in you the sense that the wounds you received were for a good cause—to protect Jews in Israel and here from an existential threat. From the safety of Seattle, far from the battlefield, they want to bolster your morale so that you won't go too far with your questions. They would like you to bury those questions deep down in the recesses of your mind but please consider a letter in the United Nations archives from rabbis of the "old yishuv" in Jerusalem. It is July 1949, less than two years after the proclamation of the State of Israel and less than nine months after the conclusion of armistice agreements. Jerusalem is still divided with the Old City, Gaza, and the West Bank under Arab control. Yet, who do these orthodox Jewish rabbis complain about and appeal for protection from? Not Arabs, not Christians or Muslims, but Zionists and the Zionist state—Israel.
We have learned that in every war wounded and traumatized soldiers return home and the people who start and perpetuate wars worry that those returning soldiers will arrive at the awful truth about war. They worry you will start telling the awful truth to others who are fodder for the meat grinder of modern warfare. They fear you will expose their game. In the simple words of one of America's most decorated Marines, Major General Smedley Butler: "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious."
Our message to you is simple: Your wars against the Palestinians and other people in the countries near Israel are wrong, just as wrong as the wars American troops fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. As you fight because of the poisonous ideology of Zionism, Americans go to war because of the poisonous ideology of Empire. Physical courage in battle is noble but it is no substitute for the ethical courage that is required of veterans and all of us to end the killing. The self-interested fawning praise of others far from the battlefield will never bring real healing to you for the things you have done and experienced in combat. We bring a message of real hope and healing—not a false "Hope for Heroism"—but hope and healing through reconciliation and understanding.
Michelle J. Kinnucan
On behalf of Veterans For Peace, Greater Seattle, Chapter 92