Iraq War Veteran Trashes his Medals in Rebellion against the Principles of War

By Sanniah Hassan

Fighting is never the solution, violence should be eliminated, and war must be stopped but, all this and more is easier said than done. It is no hidden fact that America has been at war with Iraq and Afghanistan for the better part of the last two decades, at least, and although the American army and soldiers are not saints in their treatment of and towards the local(s), their behavior and actions cannot entirely be blamed on their race but also, on the human nature and our intrinsic sense of wanting and/or needing to dominate those we consider to be below our stations or in this case, nations.

For ages, America has engaged other countries in war be it the Vietnamese, Iraqi’s, Afghani’s, Japanese et cetera. However, what must be appreciated is the fact that although the media presents America’s actions and those of its soldiers to be ‘squeaky’ clean, fueled by their passion and patriotism for their country, regardless of the fact that over the years many veterans have spoken up against and about the evils of war and its lasting effects on the psyche of the people.

Jon Turner during military service

Jon Michael Turner is one such retired veteran of the Marine Corps., who in a video could be seen stripping his medals [for his service(s) in Iraq] and throwing them towards the audience in a conference.  In this five minute video of him that I came across, Turner addressed the issue of war crimes and how the attitude of the marines changed drastically if they had photographers or reporters with them, that in the presence of these reporters they [the soldiers and marines] would only strictly follow protocol because they knew it could be captured in the form of pictures and/or videos and be used against them. In the video, Turner talks about his first kill and how his commanding officer had informed them of the benefits they could receive in return. He further states that his commanding officer had offered a four day pass upon returning to the United States to marines who would stab rather than shoot people to death – and these people were innocent, as Turner himself accepts in the conference.

Moreover, he discusses how the Fatima Mosque minaret [in Iraq] was shot at multiple times by mortars. This is a serious issue as shooting at religious places “unless you are under fire” (Turner) is illegal. Towards the end of the video he can be seen apologizing for his actions claiming, “I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people and I am sorry for the hate and destruction that others have inflicted on innocent people. At one point, it was okay but reality has shown that it’s not and that this is happening and that until people hear about what is going on with this war it will continue to happen and people will continue to die.” Although he has been able to remove the mask of disillusionment from his eyes and spoken up about and against the toils of war, it does not rectify the errors that have already been and continue to be made, nor does it bring the innocents, the dead back to life which brings me to the issue that irrespective of the debate surrounding the moral stance behind the necessity or existence of war, who is right and who is wrong, we need to address the ever prevalent issue of the loss that is apparent.

Thus, the collateral damage needs to be highlighted and addressed. The silence of the people is long overdue. Yes, it is true that every country deserves and must have an army for the protection of their country and its people, and yes, the armed forces must do whatever it takes to ensure that the necessary security and protection is given, but it does not merit that they can use this power awarded to them by the government and the people against those of another country simply because they have the means to do so.

Playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht and George Bernard Shaw, have often times voiced their opinions about war which correlate with the 21st century debate on the subject. Brecht once said, “We attacked a foreign people and treated them like rebels… it’s the desire to be barbaric that makes governments call their enemies barbarians.” Another time he claimed, “writers can’t write as fast as governments make wars; because to write demands thinking.” These statements are pivotal to understanding the deep-rooted effects of war that lead to terrorism. At another time Brecht said, “When the leaders speak of peace, the common folk know war is coming.” Similarly, Shaw referred to war as a phenomenon that “does not decide who is right or who is left.” But as something that merely is.

Finally, although America and Israel are more often brought under scrutiny for their actions and war crimes, other countries are not. War is not restricted only to them; countries such as Saudi Arabia are also involved in many shady under-the-table dealings and should be called out for them as well.  Basically, anyone who does wrong should be pointed out irrespective of their caste, culture, religion et cetera because according to Shaw, “those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” This highlights that we are all universally responsible for war and must make active efforts to limiting it if not completely eradicating it from the world if we wish to live peacefully.