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Interviews

The Lose-Lose War

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi joins Robert Scheer and James Harris to discuss the past, present and future of the Iraq war. Wasfi, who has twice visited Iraq during the occupation, says it is only a matter of time and casualties before the U.S. leaves: “It’s really simple: You bring the troops home, they stop dying there.”Click here

to listen to the entire interview.

Transcript:

James Harris:

This is Truthdig. James Harris sitting down with Mr. Robert Scheer and in-studio guest Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, who has just spoken here in San Francisco at the UCSF Medical School, giving them a lecture, and they’re calling it the Iraq War Teach-In. The primary topic of discussion is the health effects of the Iraq war. I want to get right to the brass tacks because the thing that’s been on my mind as I’ve considered history and perhaps the future when we look back on this war — will we consider the fact that we overexerted our authority? That we were there in a country where we weren’t wanted? And I heard you speak on YouTube recently, and you were quite clear in saying we need to get the hell out of there. Tell me about that.

Dahlia Wasfi: Absolutely. Our invasion of Iraq was an illegal invasion. We did not have the sanctions of the international community. The “coalition of the willing” had a handful of states that are dropping by the day, and the reality is that we were lied to. The American people were lied to. We were told that it was about weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq was responsible for what happened on September 11th and he [Saddam Hussein] had nuclear weapons and could strike us in 45 minutes. And we know that there were many people questioning at the time the validity of those allegations and we now know they were false. Because the real reason for sending American kids in the military to kill and be killed was to control the oil, the resources of Western Asia and in support of Israeli national security. And from these angles, those are not selling points for the American people, but Homeland Security and the fear that was invoked in this nation following September 11th: that brought us to war.

Robert Scheer: Most people now know it was a mistake and we were lied to, but the compelling argument for the surge for supporting the president on the part [of] the people who do, and even the ones who don’t, support the president … are reluctant to say, “Let’s get out,” because we broke it; we have to fix it. We can’t just abandon the Iraqi people.

You witnessed some of the reconstruction/occupation efforts. You were there I believe, in what?, ’54 and ’56? So why don’t you just take us through it and why you think — I gather you do feel the U.S. could get out. On the basis of what you observed, why do you think the Iraqis could get along and why do you think we should get out?

Wasfi: Absolutely. In the 1,400 years since the Sunni/Shia split happened in Islam, in the region that is modern-day Iraq, there has never been a war fought on that basis. There have been imperial wars. There have been colonial wars. But not Sunni versus Shia. This is the age-old tactic of divide and conquer. This is why, when the British carved the country out of the sand in 1921, they put three distinct groups together. But the reality is, in this day and age, everybody is “mixed.” My grandmother was Sunni. My grandfather was Shia. My grandmother also came from the north, so she had some Kurdish blood. So the reality is, if you ask my cousins, they will tell you. … If you ask them, “Are you Sunni or Shia?” they will tell you, “I am Iraqi.” That’s it.

Harris: So are you telling me it’s a gross fabrication that exists in American media? Because I bet [one out of two Americans would say] they’re Sunni and they’re Shia … and they’re fighting.

Wasfi: Right.

Harris: You’re saying that’s not the case.

Wasfi: The reality is that those distinct sects occur, but the actual sectarian strife is being driven by the occupation. So there was never a war between Sunni and Shia before 2003. Was there something else that happened in 2003 that may have triggered a conflict? And typically, if you look at [U.S.] history, especially in Latin America … El Salvador ended up in a civil war in the same way that Iraq is now in civil war. Society became characterized by torture and assassination, and today that is what Iraqi society is characterized by. And the very important factor to understand is that we have invoked what is called the “Salvador option” in Iraq, which are American Special Forces training Iraqis to be death squads. Many military-aged men are targeted, and so that taps into the pool of who might join the resistance. This destroys Iraqi families. It destroys the fabric of Iraqi society. And as long as that continues, Iraq remains weak, and we can pursue our agenda in the region to steal the oil, which is counter to the interests of the Iraqi people.

Harris: This is a mouthful. I’m sure Dick Cheney would have a lot to say if he were sitting in front of you.

Wasfi: Can he call in?

Harris: [Laughs.] Call up, if you’re listening, Mr. Cheney.

I’m almost shocked because I was led to believe something entirely different.

Wasfi: Right. And it’s important to keep in mind that we have reason to doubt what’s being said now, because the same people who are telling us that it’s a civil war and sectarian strife are the same people who told us, “Saddam has WMDs and has ties to al-Qaida.” Three and half years after the invasion, the Senate Intelligence Committee determined that there were no ties to al-Qaida. And this is what many people were saying. It didn’t make sense because Iraq was a secular government, Saddam Hussein was a secular leader, and al-Qaida, led by Bin Laden — at least his coverage of it — was an extremist, a religious extremist. We actually used Saddam Hussein during the 1980s to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism from Iran. So the history did not even make sense, but the American people were terrified after September 11th, and their government, whom they wanted to trust, told them, “This is who is responsible.” But we had as much right to invade Mongolia as we did to invade Iraq.

Scheer: Your relatives, I guess your family is basically centered in Basra, right?

Wasfi: Correct.

Scheer: And these are supposed to be the people who have most benefited from the invasion. These are the people who were oppressed by Saddam Hussein. These are the people that it is argued, “We can’t just abandon them.” You’ve traveled. You went back to that area, right?

Wasfi: Uh-huh.

Scheer: Without claiming to speak for every individual there, what is your sense of the people there? How has the occupation affected them? What did you observe? And why do you think they might want us to leave, if that’s what you think?

Wasfi: I believe that probably — and this is something my dad will say — probably at the time the regime fell, maybe 99 percent of the Iraqis were happy to see it go. It was a brutal regime. With the [U.N.] sanctions, people were starving to death. Between 1.2 and 1.8 million Iraqis died during the sanctions period. They were happy to see Saddam go. But they wanted their freedoms. They thought any change would be for the better. And if you ask Iraqis now, “Is your life better now than under Saddam Hussein?” they will tell you, “No way.” Because first and foremost there is no security now. People used to stay out to the late hours, having a social life, meeting at the tea cafes, coffee cafes. From the day of the invasion, “Everybody inside by 6 o’clock!” Because it was our responsibility, American forces’ responsibility, to establish law and order, and we failed miserably. In addition, the infrastructure continues to deteriorate. The services, as has been documented by the U.S. Government Accounting Office, even in 2004, the services had already deteriorated to be worse than under Saddam Hussein. So you have a population whose government, the puppet government in the Green Zone, is not providing security, is not providing electricity, is not providing potable water. What are they doing? They’re working on oil laws that will privatize Iraq’s oil and give up ownership to foreign companies. Unless you have a government in place that will serve the people, it will not last. If you need a military force to maintain a government in power, what does that tell you? I ask myself that when I visit Washington, D.C., and I see the snipers on the roof. The reality is that Iraqis wanted a better life. But a very telling statement comes from a Baghdadi in a report by Dar Jamel, and he said, “The student is gone. The master has arrived.” Meaning, Saddam Hussein, the CIA operative, has left, and now the Americans are here. Between Abu Ghraib and the desecration of the Quran, the disrespect for the humanity of the Iraqi people and the deaths of, now, over 700,000 Iraqis — could be close to 1 million if not over 1 million — this is the freedom we brought them, the so-called liberation. Every increase in the death toll of Americans and British is the Iraqi people telling you, “Get out.” Harris: Excuse me for being perhaps myopic, but I have to ask, because I was taught to clean up a mess when I was a kid: You spill the milk, you clean it up.

Wasfi: Uh-huh.

Harris: Would you prefer that we clean up the mess, that the American government work with Iraqis, work with the people, as they are doing perhaps now, to clean up the mess, or would you just like them to just drop their hats and leave?

Wasfi: Well, there’s a concept of Americans working with people. The reality is: if we had the capacity to do so. But we have no credibility in the region. Iraqis are very well educated. They know we supplied both sides, both Iraq and Iran, during that eight-year war. They know that it was primarily the United States and Great Britain that perpetrated the Gulf War, which destroyed their infrastructure. They know that the sanctions imposed by the U.N. were driven by the United States and Great Britain. They know that the United States and Great Britain are responsible for the [inaudible] invasion, the subsequent occupation, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the destruction of their country. So we have no credibility there, any more than the Gestapo had a role in rebuilding Poland. The reality is, it’s not the you-broke-it-you-fix-it analogy, but it’s like a bull in the china shop. Is the bull going to stay until all the china is fixed? Or should we let the owners of the shop take it into their own hands? Iraq’s future is in the hands of the Iraqi people, and nobody else, and we have got to get out.

Harris: We’re talking, again, to Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, who’s certainly outspoken on this issue.

Wasfi: Let me tell you how I really feel.

Harris: Which she’s going to do. But I don’t know that we can sell that one to the American public, that we just leave and let them sort it out. It’s either that we don’t believe in Iraqis enough that they can do this, or we believe, as you suggested, that there’s other goods to be gotten in Iraq.

Wasfi: There is an element of white man’s burden in that. “How will these people wander through the desert and survive without us?” The reality is that Iraq is the cradle of civilization. The ancestors of the people who live in modern-day Iraq developed the first system of writing, the basis of mathematics, law, science and medicine. This is 7,000 years of civilization accomplished without the help of Americans. This country [the United States] has less than 300 years of history. Iraq has over 7,000. Who needs whose help? The reality is that they are more than capable. Don’t forget that, like, five years ago, we were terrified of what they were capable of doing to us, and now they can’t move forward without our guidance. That’s a misconception. If you can tell me how American teenagers with M-16s and hand grenades can improve Iraqi society, I’m willing to listen. But they’ve had over four years now, and the death and destruction and chaos and misery is increasing every day. It’s enough. Seventy-two percent of the American troops serving in Iraq in 2006 said, “Bring us home by the end of the year.” Eighty-two percent of the Iraqi people want us out, and the majority of the American people are unhappy with how things are going. Bring the troops home.

Scheer: I think James brings us to, absolutely, the key problem. We start with Vietnam. After all, it took us a long time to get out of Vietnam. One could argue it took a decade to get out of Vietnam after everyone knew we should get out. And there is what Graham Greene, the great novelist, describes as the “quiet American problem,” the assumption that somehow we are always the good guys, we’re always part of the solution. So we make mistakes, we stumble, but they are mistakes, and our intentions are always good. And yet we see that occupation brings about a different personality. Occupation brings about brutality and terror. Torture. It pits you against the population. You aren’t any longer the good guys. And I wonder if you saw that happening in Basra, for instance, which, after all, was a place that was very anti-Saddam Hussein. What happened to our reconstruction efforts? This is really the model. You could say, “Well, we should stay.” But the fact is, we’ve been there for a long time. We’ve spent at least $400 billion. That’s a lot of money. What did you see in terms of rebuilding hospitals, getting the water going … ? What will change in the next four months that didn’t change in the previous four years?

Wasfi: Exactly. Nothing has changed.

Scheer: But what did you see? Because you had a vantage point that most of us don’t have. You went to visit your relatives. You saw the country. You are a medically trained person who visited hospitals and so forth. Why don’t you take us there? The average person in this country, as well-intentioned as they may be, they have a hard time, even today, finding Iraq on the map. They don’t know anything about the history. They certainly don’t know anything about the language. You have some feeling for this country. Maybe you could tell us something about it.

Wasfi: In comparison, I had two visits. One for three weeks in 2004 and then one for three months in 2006. In 2004 I was able to visit Baghdad. By the time 2006 had come around — again, the April siege of Fallujah, killing 600 to 800 civilians, the Abu Ghraib scandal had come to light, the November siege of Fallujah that killed between 6,000 and 8,000 civilians. This was the anti-American sentiment skyrocketing, and it continues to be like that to this day. So I could not even get to that part of the country. It was too dangerous.

But in the south, again, the atmosphere. … There’s a lack of order. And what you know is, you might leave the house in the morning and you might get killed during the day, but you don’t know who will be the shooter. Will it be a militia? Will it be a member of the “coalition of the willing”? Will it be a random criminal act? This is the status of Iraq today, which is why 92 percent — they just did a poll: 92 percent of Iraqis have the mentality that they will die in the violence.

I noticed when I was in Basra in 2004, we had electricity for almost all the day except for maybe one or two hours. I went back two years later, and we had maybe two to four hours of electricity, but the rest is a blackout. I went in the winter. It is now summer in Iraq. The temperature will get to be between 120 and 130 degrees. There are soldiers dying of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. And in Basra you have … they are on the water, the Shatt al-Arab [river], so the humidity comes in off of there, and my family does not have the electricity to run a ceiling fan, let alone an air conditioner. These daily aspects of life in the middle of the desert are unbelievable in a [U.S.] society where I take 24 hours of electricity and potable water from the tap — I take that for granted. But daily life [in Iraq] is a struggle. It is unbearable. And when your focus is, “Can I get the water while the electricity is on? Can we go shower? Can I take care of the wash while the electricity is on?” this takes your attention away from more academic pursuits. We saw an intellectual embargo during the sanctions when we would not allow any journals into the country. We see this. The destruction of Iraqi society now. Eight hundred thousand children, it’s estimated, are not in school because of the violence or because of the poverty, that the kids are selling Kleenex or small items on the street to make money for the family. It is an unmitigated tragedy. And the real tragedy is that Iraq is sitting on the biggest, perhaps the biggest resources of black gold that there are in the world. That’s the cash cow right there.

Scheer: I want to ask you about stereotyping people. Because, in less flattering circumstances, the Iraqis are referred to by American troops and others — not all of them, but by some — as “sand niggers,” “towel heads,” what have you, the whole characterization.

Wasfi: I can get that in Colorado. Scheer: I understand quite well. And in American movies — I remember Schwarzenegger was in a movie, I think it was “True Lies,” or something, where they said it wasn’t a violent movie because only Arabs died by the thousands. … I was going to ask you. You bring a unique perspective to this because you are a child of two groups that have been viciously stereotyped on your maternal side. You’re Jewish?

Wasfi: Uh-huh.

Scheer: Born in the United States . . .

Wasfi: Uh-huh.

Scheer: … And yet on the other side you’re Arab. And you’ve lived with these two stereotypes. I wonder if you could describe how it plays out in terms of the media in the world, and so forth.

Wasfi: It’s interesting because I actually — because of my coloring you cannot see my Ashkenazi roots. I look more like my dad, and so I’ve tended to feel the struggle of the anti-Arab stereotypes. In addition, while anti-Semitism can refer to either a stereotype against Jews or a stereotype against Arabs, the anti-immigrant sentiment is very high in this country. Since 400 years of slavery the anti-black sentiment in this country is very high. So any minority group is targeted for discrimination. But the reality is, if we look in the media, is there a balance of positive images and negative images? In my lifetime, growing up, the images of Arabs are wealthy oil sheiks, camel jockeys, or terrorists. This is what I’ve grown up with when the reality is that the Arab world has been subjected to imperialism by the Western world since the beginning of the last century. And by repeated denials of respect for their humanity by the Western world in, for example, the British carving up Palestine. Who are you to come in and divide land that does not belong to you? My dad says, “If you see two fish fighting in the sea, look around for the British guy because somewhere he was involved in dividing and conquering and building an empire.” The reality is that until we respect everyone else’s humanity — and with every generation there’s new hope that we won’t pass on the errant teachings of the one before. For thousands of years in that part of the world, people lived side by side together. Jew, Christian, Muslim, what have you. It was when ethnic cleansing became the means to control the land that there was injustice done and there was a battle. Anywhere in the world today. There’s no justice, there is no peace. And there has to be one implementation, one standard for international law around the world. Not one for Americans and one for everyone else. Until we effect that, until we stop our bloodthirsty, imperial crusade, we will not see homeland security. As long as we’re denying it for other peoples in other countries and even within our country in New Orleans, until we provide for people based on their humanity rather than the color of their skin or their religion, then we will continue to see unrest.

Harris: It’s always sad to see the byproduct of media and perhaps media in this case is just the war. When I did a straw poll and you say, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see someone wearing a head wrap?” or “What the first thought that comes to your mind?” And it’s always negative. When people are honest with me, they never have a positive image of Islam, of Muslims in general. Given that sentiment — and it seems to be at least the American sentiment — do you get a sense, being there, being who you are … do you sense a loss of hope among Iraqis, among Arabs in general?

Wasfi: It’s been a difficult century. No doubt about it.

[Chuckling.]

Wasfi: But the reality is that there is continued injustice, and in my talks I argue that the occupation of Iraq is an extension of the occupation of Palestine. … The Arabs have been promised things by the West, imperial Western powers, and then they never came to pass. I pray that my family keeps hope because without that there’s really nothing left. But I know it’s waning for them. They want to have their lives back. My one cousin who has an economics degree can’t get a job in his field. He does oil changes for cars. It’s honest work, but it’s a waste of his intellect and the young, well-trained minds of Iraq who can move their country forward. He’s struggling. His life cannot move forward until he gets a good job so then he’ll have a good reputation, he can get married and move on with his life. Every day could be your last. The entire society is traumatized. But one thing that Americans, British, anybody, will never take away from them is their dignity. And they look at how the Americans treat them and they don’t fall for it. It’s very racist over there the way it’s racist over here.

Harris: How so, racist?

Wasfi: In the same way that the treatment of American blacks historically, and to quote Chris Rock, it’s like black people had no rights from when they were brought over here chained to the bottom of slave ships in the 1500s and 1600s all the way to about 1964, or depending on when your part of the country decided to do things right. This is our recent history. Women got the right to vote in 1920 but we consider ourselves progressive. In Iraq, it’s the skin color. We are trained in this country, in the United States. My experience growing up — I speak from my experience — the darker your skin color, the more you are subjugated with stereotypes of a lack of intelligence, ineptitude, even to the level of being barbaric, like these people are not as human as someone else. This is the mentality. I know this is the mentality that the troops go in with because that’s how they’re trained. Basic training is really basic dehumanization. First the recruits are themselves dehumanized. They take their clothes away from them. They put them in a uniform. They take their hair away from them, give them all the same haircut. Then they start insulting their parents. And they break them down until they acknowledge that they are part of a unit. They are no longer the individual. Once their humanity is taken away from them, it is easier to deny the humanity of the so-called enemy. And that’s the only way you can kill someone, is if you don’t see them as equal to yourself. And that’s why, in Vietnam, they were not the Vietnamese people; they were gooks. And that’s why, as Bob said, today in Iraq they are not the Iraqi people; they are rag heads and [inaudible].

Harris: Or insurgents.

Wasfi: Or insurgents. And this is another mischaracterization. I think, technically, the legal term insurgency means a rising up against a legitimate government. There is no legitimate government in Iraq. The old state is the only established state. But what’s happening in Iraq is an uprising of the people. Sixty percent of Iraqis support attacks against American and British forces, which means that the resistance, the legitimate resistance to an illegal occupation, has the popular support. Only the group with the popular support, either the resistance or the government, is going to survive, and the resistance is surviving and growing every day. And we can keep sending more troops. And they will keep sending them back home in body bags. It’s just a question of when the congresspeople stop feeding into their corporate interests and maybe send their own kids over to Fallujah and let them sit in Fallujah until Congress decides it’s time to bring them home. This is a rich man’s war reaping unbelievable profits for the corporations while poor people are dying in Iraq, poor people are dying here at home, whether it’s because they don’t have access to healthcare or because the levies burst and New Orleans was under water. Another point to make is that Iraqis know about Hurricane Katrina and they know that New Orleans is still a disaster. Iraqis know about September 11th. And they know that the spot where the World Trade Center stood is, six years later, still a hole in the ground. Do you really think Iraqis want us to be in charge of their reconstruction? That’s the reality. We are not taking care of Americans, and if we’re not taking care of Americans, how are we going to take care of Iraqis? Scheer: Let me wrap this with a question, going back to your particular expertise in medicine and this teach-in, which I attended also. I thought it was quite remarkable because you — the universities … we don’t have a draft and most people sort of accepted this video-game view of the war. …

Wasfi: Uh-huh.

Scheer: We don’t have much of an active antiwar movement. People can focus on their career and a lot of other things unless they happen to need it to go into the military as a career move or some misguided notion of patriotism. … But this teach-in was impressive to me because here was a major university medical center that decided to have a teach-in on the medical effects of the war. Maybe we should talk a little about that because I think people have missed it. It was by coincidence we were attending a dinner in connection with this program and I got a phone call — my cell phone wasn’t turned off. It was from Ron Kovic, a guy who was wounded in the Vietnam War, and he had just got out of the hospital where he’s been for 45 days and he was calling me to talk about something. And I thought, “How amazing.” Everybody thinks, well, the war, maybe it’ll be over when it’s over. They forget that the wounded in these wars, whether they are Iraqi or Americans — these wounds don’t go away. … You’re tormented by them. Kovic just came out of the veterans’ hospital after 45 days. His life was hanging in the balance. He was still dealing with the wounds. He’s three-quarters paralyzed, dealing with the wounds left over: where the tubes enter his body and everything, infections and so forth. And at this conference I was very moved by the emphasis of the costs of the war. The new kinds of injuries that are occurring and the way the military and the government is covering up. So maybe you should talk a little about that.

Wasfi: Sure. With all the supplemental bills and Pentagon’s baseline budget of $500 billion and everything that’s been appropriated for continuing our occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite all that money floating out there, in 2005 the Veterans Administration healthcare budget came up $1 billion short. The only people who are not supporting the troops are the ones who’ve been delegated the responsibility to do so, and that’s our government. That is unacceptable that the troops who come home can’t get access to healthcare for six months. It is unacceptable that one-third of the homeless on the streets today are veterans. And there’re already Iraq war veterans showing up homeless on the street. It is unacceptable that after we put them in a war zone, when they come home we don’t take care of their psychological trauma. For that pool of a million or a million and half soldiers, the American military medical wing is very proud — as well they should be — that they have only a 9 percent fatality rate, which is significantly better than the last illegal war we participated in. But what they didn’t account for was that that would mean that there are a lot more wounded coming home requiring care. And just as the administration never planned for a resistance in Iraq, which was dumb, they did not plan for the results of that resistance, which would be the wounded. So you have 1 to 2 million Americans who are suffering the consequences and will for the rest of their lives. In Iraq you have a population of 26 or 27 million who all have post-traumatic stress disorder after living through — depending on their age — three wars and brutal and violent occupation. An entire population that has been exposed to bombardment. I don’t actually know the numbers for the injured in Iraq because one of the reasons I think the death toll is so high is that because of the destruction of the public health infrastructure during the first Gulf War because we incapacitated the electrical grids and the sewage treatment plants, because of the years of sanctions, the hospitals are in desperate shape. They’ve been completely decimated, and many of the doctors have fled. So people are dying from wounds that should not be fatal. I have a picture of a man covered in blood and he exsanguinated: He bled out and died from an injury to his scalp. The scalp is very vascularized, and so if you’ve ever cut yourself on the head you know it bleeds a lot. But if a hospital is not able to triage fast enough, if there aren’t the resources, if there aren’t stitches to close the wound, people are going to die. And this is why the death toll for Iraqis is so high. In this country we are very focused on winning, we’re all about being No. 1. The reality here is that America’s not winning. Iraqis aren’t winning, either. There’s no winner here. Everybody’s lost. If it’s the families on both sides of the ocean who’ve lost their loved ones, if it’s the Iraqi families who’ve lost their country, their security, their livelihoods, their loved ones. … There is no winner here. But can we please cut our losses and advocate for immediate, unconditional withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan? It’s really simple: You bring the troops home; they stop dying there.

Scheer: You’ve had some contact with American troops who are beginning a resistance.

Wasfi: Uh-huh.

Scheer: Maybe this is an oddly positive note because it shows the best side of America: people questioning, saying no, speaking truth to power.

Wasfi: Absolutely. I’ll quote Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who’s the first officer to refuse deployment on the basis of the Nuremberg principles that it’s an illegal war and he’s not supposed to carry out illegal orders. To loosely quote him, he says, “To stop an illegal war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it. Every one of us only has the control over our own actions, though it pains me to this day that I can’t control anyone else.” But we can each only control what we do, and there are thousands of soldiers who’ve gone AWOL either because of their psychological trauma or their physical traumas, or they recognize that Iraq is incredibly impoverished and that they were lied to and that they were used and lied to and told that they were going to defend national security and defend their country, which is what they signed up for, especially the National Guard, who signed up for helping within their state, and they are being sent to kill and be killed for corporate profit. And they’re saying, “Enough is enough. You cannot have my life for that.” None of the people who got us into this mess, be it Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice or any of the neoconservatives who were the architects for the plan of this war — Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, David Wurmser — they never served in the military. They don’t know what combat is about, and their kids aren’t sacrificing in Iraq. So put your money where your mouth is. And there are thousands who have said, “I’m not going to go die,” as Muhammad Ali did, taking an incredibly courageous stand back in the ’60s, saying, “I don’t have a problem with any Viet Cong and I’m not going to go ten thousand miles to go kill for the slave masters here. There’s a time when this must end, and the time is now.” And that’s what these very brave young men and women are saying today. I have a lot of friends in IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War, which is at www.IVAW.org. And those who are standing up and making a public stand, who are refusing deployment and facing jail as prisoners of conscience. And more information on them can be found at www.couragetoresist.org. And then you can find out more about me at www.liberatethis.com.

Harris: Everybody has a choice. I know we are thousands of miles away, but we have a choice …

Wasfi: Absolutely.

Harris: … as to whether or not we are going to continue to allow this to happen because that is what we’re doing. Every day you go to Starbucks and you forget about those men and women that are dying. You forget. So you have a choice. Dr. Dahlia Wasfi. Thank you.

Wasfi: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I had a great time.

Harris: For Robert Scheer, who’s drinking Starbucks, and for Dr. Dahlia Wasfi — I’m not going to let him say a word. …

Wasfi: Dahlia’s not drinking Starbucks.

Harris: [Chuckles.] This is James Harris and this is Truthdig.

Scheer: [Off mike.] You lie! You lie! [Laughter.]

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