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2013-03-21

Exclusive: Dying Iraq War Veteran Tomas Young Reads "Last Letter" to President Bush and Dick Cheney

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Guests

Tomas Young, Iraq War veteran and the main subject of the documentary, Body of War. On April 4, 2004, his fifth day in Iraq, Young’s unit came under fire in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad. Young was left paralyzed, never to walk again. Released from medical care three months later, Young returned home to become an active member in Iraq Veterans Against the War. He recently announced that he will stop his nourishment, which comes in the form of liquid through a feeding tube — a decision which will hasten his death.

Phil Donahue, one of the best-known talk show hosts in U.S. television history, his show was on the air for more than 29 years. In 2002, he returned to the airwaves, but he was fired in 2003 on the eve of the war by MSNBC because he was allowing antiwar voices on the air. Along with Ellen Spiro, he directed the documentary, Body of War, which tells the story of Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran paralyzed from a bullet to the spine. Now, at the age of 33, Tomas has decided to end his life.

Claudia Cuellar, the wife and primary caregiver of Tomas Young.

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Iraq War veteran Tomas Young was left paralyzed in a 2004 attack in Iraq. Released from medical care three months later, Young returned home to become an active member in Iraq Veterans Against the War. He recently announced that he will stop his medicine and nourishment, which comes in the form of liquid through a feeding tube — a decision which will hasten his death. Joining us from his home in Kansas City, Young reads from his letter, "A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran." Young says to Bush and Cheney: "You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole." Click here to watch part 1 of the interview. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to another clip from Body of War of more voices from the floor of the Senate, the Senate roll call of yes votes authorizing the war in Iraq in 2002.

SEN. BILL NELSON: The threat posed by Iraq grows with each passing day.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Bayh, aye.

REP. JOSEPH PITTS: It’s a danger that grows every day.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Bennett, aye.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Each day that goes by, he becomes more dangerous.

SEN. MIKE DeWINE: More diabolical.

REP. JOSEPH PITTS: Every day, Saddam Hussein grows stronger.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: His capabilities become better.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Biden, aye.

REP. JOSEPH PITTS: Every day, Saddam Hussein builds more chemical and biological weapons.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The longer we wait, the more dangerous he becomes.

SENATE ROLL CALL: Mr. Bond, aye. Mr. Breaux, aye. Mr. Brownback, aye. Mr. Bunning, aye. Mr. Burns, aye. Mr. Campbell, aye. Ms. Cantwell, aye. Mrs. Carnahan, aye. Mr. Carper, aye. Aye, aye, aye, aye.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD: Wait! Slow down! Don’t rush this through.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the late senator, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, as you hear the roll call of yes votes, from the film Body of War.

We come 10 years later, 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq. Tomas Young, Iraq War veteran, wounded April 4th, 2004, his fifth day in Iraq, shot in Sadr City, is now writing a letter on this 10th anniversary called "The Last Letter: A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran." Tomas, can you read some of your letter to the former president and vice president?

TOMAS YOUNG: Absolutely.

“I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of [those who bear those wounds. I am one of those.] I [am] one of the gravely injured. I am paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

“I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost parents, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have [done, witnessed, endured] in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

“Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, [and your privilege and power] cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

"I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you are—who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder" — I’m sorry, the type is very small, and my eyes are going. "... Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

"I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the [9/11] attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the [U.S.] I did not join the Army to 'liberate' Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called 'democracy' in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues."

AMY GOODMAN: Tomas, we—

TOMAS YOUNG: "Instead, this war" —

AMY GOODMAN: Tomas, we’re going to ask you to finish the letter after the broadcast, and we’re going to post it at democracynow.org. But in these last few seconds of the show, is there anything that would convince you not to end your life in the next few months?

TOMAS YOUNG: Not at this moment. There may come a time in the future when I say, "Hey, things are getting better; maybe I should reconsider this." But at this moment, nothing in this world has made me change my mind as to what I’m going to do.

AMY GOODMAN: I want people to go to democracynow.org to see the second part of this conversation that we will continue with Tomas Young and his wife, Claudia Cuellar, from their home in Kansas City, and with legendary talk show host Phil Donahue. Last seconds, Phil?

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, it’s just a study in what the Americans have not seen. If you’re going to send young men and women to war—

AMY GOODMAN: Four seconds.

PHIL DONAHUE: —show the pain. Otherwise, it’s going to be easy for us to have another one.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks for joining us.

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