The Tide Is Turning, Mr. President

Note: On Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005, in a radio interview on WFLA in Tampa Bay, Fla., Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld made the following statement:

“[I]n my mind, I think of the number of people who are lost to traffic accidents in the United States in a given year. I think of any one of our major cities, where two or three hundred people are killed by homicides. And you ask how long will we tolerate it? Now, if there were a daily report about the number of traffic deaths, and if the television and the press were reporting these things and photographing them and the homicides, I don’t know if – Washington, D.C., had something like 230 homicides last year – and if that were reported daily every single day, one would think that the effect might be that it would reduce the number of homicides or reduce the number of traffic deaths. But what’s being reported is the fact – not the fact that the schools are open, not the fact that the hospitals and clinics are open, not the fact that Iraq’s got a stock exchange and that their oil and energy circumstances are proceeding apace, not the fact that tens of thousands of people are lined up to join the Iraqi security forces, not the fact that there’s hundreds and hundreds of people running for public office and that there were something like 8 million people who voted in the last election on Jan. 30th. Those kinds of things get relatively modest attention, and what gets the attention is the death of Iraqis and the death of coalition forces.”

An Open Letter to President George W. Bush From a Gold Star Mom

President George W. Bush
1700 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.
Re: Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith, U.S. Army Reserves, Deceased

Mr. President,

On Feb. 13, 2004, I lost my son, Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith, U.S. Army Reserves, while he was on active duty preparing for deployment to Iraq. Jeremy was killed on Highway 36, just outside of Gatesville, Texas, on the way back to Ft. Hood after renting a car so he and his buddies could have one last night out on the town before their departure to Iraq five days later. Jeremy was not killed in action, but he died a hero just the same, a hero formed from the standards of the United States Army that helped to shape him. On the way back to the base, Jeremy attempted to pass a car in order to get ahead of it. Too late, he saw a truck coming from the opposite direction. Jeremy could not get back into his lane without causing an accident. So he drove off the road and straight into a stand of trees going 80 mph. The location of my son’s death is about 27 miles from your ranch, where you are currently vacationing.

Jeremy chose not to harm another person because of a stupid mistake he made. He paid the price of that mistake with his life. It’s too bad Jeremy’s commander-in-chief doesn’t have even close the amount of honor my son had. Jeremy was promoted to sergeant posthumously, and at his funeral I was presented with an Army Commendation Award and Medal for heroism and bravery. You, on the other hand, have absolutely no idea what honor and bravery are.

I want to take a few minutes and tell you about Jeremy and how his loss has affected my family.

First of all, Jeremy was my firstborn child and only son. When he died, Jeremy was only 22 years old. He left behind two younger sisters, Danielle and Jaime, who loved their brother with all their hearts and who, to this day, are heartbroken with the knowledge they will never see their big brother again. This past week, Jaime gave birth to a beautiful little baby boy who she named after her big brother to honor him. My grandson Aiden will never know his Uncle Jeremy, who would have been thrilled to be an uncle. My son loved his family and was very protective of his sisters and me.

Jeremy had big, dark eyes and a strange sense of humor. He was quick to laugh, but hid his smile in a shy kind of way that was endearing to all who loved him. Before being called to active duty, Jeremy was a good student at ITT in Houston, Texas, where he was studying computer science. He left behind two computers he had built at home by himself that he used to run an Internet server. He had techie friends from all across the globe who still mourn his loss.

Jeremy will never marry and he will never have children of his own that I can bounce on my knee, a proud grandma. I will never again hear his laugh, caress his face, or hug him. Day after day, I imagine Jeremy walking through my back door, calling out "Mother, I’m home!" as I awaken from a terrible nightmare that never ends. I have spent the last 18 months pacing the floor, sleepless, night after night wondering why this war had to happen and why you were so driven to do it. I have been in the deepest, darkest pit of hell, where depression grips you to your soul.

Jeremy entered the Army several months before 9/11, fulfilling a dream he had had since he was in high school to serve his country. At the same time, Jeremy wanted to see the world and be able to go to college, all of which service in the Army would be able to provide. On 9/11, my family gathered together in fear, knowing that Jeremy would eventually be sent into a war zone. As a family, we were supportive of this and of Jeremy’s desire to protect our country.

Mr. President, my son loved his country and all that it stands for. He believed you and your administration when you said there were weapons of mass destruction, that the 9/11 terrorists were linked to Saddam Hussein and Iraq, and that America’s invasion of Iraq would only help the Iraqi people. For the record, I was supportive, in the beginning, of America’s invasion of Iraq and the liberation of the Iraqi people from an oppressive, inhumane dictator.

On Nov. 29, 2003, my husband and I drove Jeremy to report for active duty in Huntsville, Texas. It was two days after Jeremy’s 22nd birthday. How can I put into words that you could ever possibly understand what it’s like to spend two decades of my life protecting my precious son from all harm, only to be the one to take him to report to go to war? It was heartbreaking, to say the least. I knew I was sending my son into harm’s way, yet I was helpless to do anything about it. Is there any way that you can find it within your heart to understand this?

Even before Jeremy’s untimely death, I began to have nagging doubts about this invasion. At one time, I tried to get my son to leave the Army because I felt you and your administration were sending Jeremy into an unwinnable situation, a situation that would, at the very least, cost Jeremy his humanity and, at worst, his life. Jeremy reported back from training in Ft. Hood his concerns about the lack of equipment, especially protective equipment, for his unit. At first, I thought he was exaggerating because I couldn’t believe my country, my president, would send thousands upon thousands of soldiers into a war zone without the proper equipment to protect them.

Sir, we do not go to war with the military we have, we go to war with the military we have built up. If you are going to take a country to war, to pull America’s sons and daughters away from their homes, their families and their lives, you had better make darn sure you have properly equipped them and that it’s for a damn good reason. In your zeal to get into Iraq, you didn’t care about these things, and neither did the people who orchestrated this whole thing for you. You, as their leader, should have protected these men and women, but you didn’t. You didn’t care and couldn’t take the time out of your busy vacation schedule to make sure these needs were met. As a result, many thousands of soldiers have been wounded or are dead.

How does it feel to have their blood on your hands? Do you dream of this at night?

Your callousness and distasteful jokes about the war are offensive to me. One instance that instantly comes to mind is when you were jokingly looking under your desk and other places for WMDs when they weren’t found in Iraq. The day you stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared victory and that the war in Iraq was over was another offensive moment. It was only a few short weeks after the invasion began, and our soldiers were still being killed. How could you declare victory in an invasion that was still going on? You were a fool that day, and you are a fool today.

Still, you continue to run your mouth as you try to gain support for your illegal war and invasion of Iraq. You do not acknowledge the thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens who have died because of this war. You do not acknowledge the broken infrastructure of the country. Let’s see, the most recent report was that residents of Baghdad get at most four hours of electricity a day. How can you run schools with that? In the staggering heat? What about fresh, sanitary water? I’m seeing video of people getting water out of mud puddles!

What fools are the men who run our country.

You continue to insist that there is a link between 9/11 and Iraq when it is very common knowledge that this is not true. The only link between 9/11 and Iraq is you and your continued insistence on lying to the American people, and the world, that this is true. Sure, you are fooling a few people, but more and more people are waking up, doing their own homework, and feeling betrayed by you.

Furthermore, you can’t decide what the justification for continuing to be in Iraq is. That justification changes from week to week, I guess in response to how well the American people are accepting your excuses to stay there.

So, Mr. President, exactly what is the "noble cause" that my son and the other sons and daughters are dying for? It’s not the liberation of Iraq and it’s not for democracy, because most of the people of the Middle East don’t want democracy. It’s not to fight terrorism, because we are only fanning the flames of terrorists every day that American troops are in Iraq. It is not to make America safer, because you have done nothing to make America safer. Your "noble cause" couldn’t possibly have anything to do with giving the Iraqi people a better life, because their lives are worse now, not better. Our borders are wide open for terrorists to come across, but you insist on keeping them open to make your pal Vicente Fox happy. Your "noble cause" changes from week to week.

I believe your "noble cause" is oil and blood money for those good buddies of yours who are making money off this war. Your "noble cause" is to go down in history as a War President, something you are proud of and have worked very hard to accomplish. While you sit in your nice, comfortable home, work out for two hours a day, and get on with your life so you can maintain balance, you need to think long and hard about what a truly noble cause is. You have no idea.

Our soldiers are out there daily, putting their lives on the line for you, while you have been on vacation almost 365 days during your presidency. These guys don’t get vacations. Their families don’t ever get a chance to maintain balance in their lives, as they live in daily fear for their loved ones.

The tide is turning, Mr. President. The mothers and fathers of America are saying "not my child," just as they said during Vietnam, "Hell no, we won’t go." You had better start listening and talking with us, because we are the ones who are paying the price for your war, and we aren’t going to take it anymore.


Amy Branham
Houston, Texas
Proud mother of Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith
Nov. 1981 – Feb. 2004
Gold Star Families for Peace

Author: Erik Leaver and Daniel Atzmon

Erik Leaver is the Policy Outreach Director for Foreign Policy In Focus and is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Daniel Atzmon is a student at Wesleyan University and an intern at the Institute.