It was a lonely place for me. Actively dissenting in a public forum against the wars I’d fought in and the institution to which I’d dedicated my adult life since age seventeen. It was, as I’ve often said, the atheist in the monastery syndrome. I was passionate, more than a little angry; but I was also adrift. Marriages had failed, my mental health suffered, and the basic fabric of my identity had taken quite a blow. Who was I, if not a professional soldier? My friends, mentors, entire social life, had been tied up in the U.S. Army for a decade and half. By then I knew it was all for naught, imprudent and immoral, but what to do? What next?
In 2014, an angry essay addressed to the hawk’s hawk, Senator Lindsay Graham, grew and grew. After four months essentially locked away in my bedroom – ignoring family and friends – I had 90,000 words, a veritable book. Somehow, more through sheer determination than natural writing skill, I found an agent, and then a mid-range publisher. The book, Ghostriders of Baghdad, was part memoir, part angry excoriation of that tragic, worthless war. It was 2015 and I still hadn’t penned or published a single article, though.
The next year, whilst toiling away behind mounds of paperwork in the decidedly non-stimulating intellectual environment of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I started pumping out long form articles characterized as much by frustration as substance. Nobody wanted to touch them. Too long and too wonky or esoteric for most mainstream publishers, all of my submissions were rejected. I rarely even heard back. This went on for months, until a legendary, old-school editor turned publisher, Tom Engelhardt, took a chance on the kid. He helped me sand down the rough edges of my prose, taught me lots, and published my inaugural piece at Tom Dispatch in February 2017. So it began.
Still, it wasn’t until Eric Garris of antiwar.com agreed to repost some of my early Tom Dispatch pieces that I found a weekly platform for my increasingly prolific – and shorter – articles. Tom, to whom I remain eternally grateful, published me on a near monthly basis, but antiwar.com gave me enormous creative latitude and my first ever weekly column. Since then, this extremely principled and established website has been a home, of sorts, for me. It remains so today, and I’m confident it will be so for years to come.
All of that is a long way of explaining the importance of antiwar.com both to my personal growth and career, but also to the movement it’s long been in the vanguard for. The site was ahead of its time, formed long before the forever wars on "terror," but long after the massive Vietnam-era peace movement had lost its steam and lost it way.
How prescient antiwar.com seemed after America sought hegemony and imperial expansion in the wake of 9/11, and especially after the illegal and unwinnable invasion of Iraq in 2003. Ever since, the site and its many contributors and editors have been a leading voice for restraint, prudence, and humility in foreign policy. An established enemy of militarism in all its forms – at home and abroad – antiwar.com has been fighting the good fight for decades now. I’m honored to be part of the team and part of the nascent movement.
Never before, though, has antiwar.com and the cause of peace and restraint been more vital. The United States military, and the republic itself, faces the existential threats of potential nuclear war and imperial overreach. Billions have been wasted, 7,000 American troops killed, and at least 244,000 foreign civilians are now dead. For all that, the homeland is no safer than it was on September 10, 2001, and the Greater Middle East is now a hopelessly fractured and ever more violent place. Though the inertia of war remains strong and pervasive, recent polls indicate that about two-thirds of veterans now believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were "not worth fighting." This is genuinely profound.
So here we are. The republic is in real danger of extinction. The empire seems stronger than ever. Nevertheless, there is rumination, rumblings, of a revitalized antiwar movement, both within and outside of the military. No doubt, antiwar.com will remain front and center and serve as the intellectual heart of the renewed movement.
But the website can’t do it alone, without substantial support from readers and activists. The antiwar movement has never, and can never, compete with the moneyed corporate interests bolstering the militarist cause. Few billionaires are invested in the cause of peace and restraint. What President – and former four-star general – Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, has resources and backers (mostly arms manufacturers) that antiwar activists can hardly count on.
Nevertheless, the power of the people, of the grassroots, should never be underestimated. Small donors, utilizing the medium of the internet, can make a real difference in fundraising. So here’s my plea: take a moment, consider the importance of antiwar publishing to the movement, and donate whatever you can afford. Anything helps. We can’t do it alone.
And remember, without exaggeration, the cause of restraint has never been more imperative. What remains of this ostensible republic is, seriously, at stake. Soon it will be too late…
Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.com. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, Truthdig, Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.
Copyright 2019 Danny Sjursen