Twenty years ago this week, the George W. Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq. Arguing that U.S. soldiers were defending core national security interests — and promising that they would be greeted as liberators with flowers — Bush officials sold the war with lies manufactured to exploit the still-raw wounds of 9/11. The results were catastrophic for the Iraqi people and the U.S. servicemen and women killed and wounded during the initial invasion and the long guerrilla conflict that followed. 

Many of those who served in Iraq enlisted years earlier as a result of patriotic sentiment born in the ruins of the World Trade Center. Two of them, Pat Tillman and Thomas Young, were the subject and author of powerful pieces published by Truthdig. 

The first, which ran at the height of the insurgency in 2006, was Kevin Tillman’s prose poem for his brother, the NFL star Pat Tillman, whose death by friendly fire in Afghanistan became the subject of deception and manipulation by a Pentagon eager to capitalize on his celebrity. “Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground,” he wrote in “Happy Birthday, Pat Tillman.”

Seven years later, in 2013, we were proud to publish Iraq War vet Thomas Young’s searing (and viral) open letter to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, “The Last Letter”, written as he considered ending his life rather than continue to suffer from his combat injuries. “I hope that before your time on earth ends,” he wrote, “as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.” 

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