Dissent Is Priceless

I view the 9/11 attacks on the United States as my generation's Pearl Harbor .

I reenlisted after 9/11 to fight the terrorists who actually attacked our country -- Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban.

Instead, I found myself invading Iraq , a country that did not want war with us and had nothing to do with 9/11, Al-Qaeda, or Osama Bin Laden. Most importantly Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction -- the primary reason that President Bush used as a justification for war.

Judging from the reasons that President Bush gave for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, our military has long since accomplished their mission.

There were no weapons of mass destruction to disarm, Saddam Hussein is dead, the Iraqi people have had 3 democratic elections, and we built, trained, armed, and financed a new Iraqi security and police force.

I realize that there are many veterans out there who disagree with my opinions -- and I completely respect that. However, my experiences in Iraq led me to become a war critic and I feel obligated to speak out. After serving for a year on the ground in Iraq, I am entitled to my beliefs as well.

The entire time I served on active duty I was never once told by my fellow soldiers that my anti-Iraq war beliefs were hurtful to their morale, or that my actions were counterproductive to winning the war.

Upon my completion of 8 honorable years of military service I became a full time anti-Iraq war activist.

Because of my strong opinions of dissent I have been called a coward, a traitor, a deserter, and a cut-and-run defeatocrat. I have been told to leave this country and move to France .

Nine out of 10 times these hateful comments leveled upon me come from people who have never worn the uniform, been in combat, or been to Iraq . And even though I fought the war they support and advocate for they hate me because of my difference of opinion.

In February of 2007, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, said this in regard to debate over the Iraq war -- "There is no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy, period." General Pace's remarks were echoed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who said -- "One thing that I would add to that is that I think that -- you know, I have no documentation for this, but I've made two trips to the field to Afghanistan and Iraq in my first six weeks in office. And I would tell you that I think that they -- that our troops do understand that everybody involved in this debate is looking to do the right thing for our country and for our troops, and that everybody is looking for the best way to avoid an outcome that leaves Iraq in chaos."

I could not agree more.

I am hoping to see solid exchanges between our presidential nominees, Democrat and Republican, that provide for an honest and practical way out of this war.

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