IRAQ: Letter from CPTer Lisa Martens to U.S. Army Captain Wheeler


January 2, 2004
IRAQ: Letter from CPTer Lisa Martens to U.S. Army Captain Wheeler

[Note: The following has been edited for length. See accompanying release,
"IRAQ: Letter from U.S. Army Captain Wheeler to CPT."]

Dec. 4, 2003

Dear Captain Wheeler,

Thank you for your letter, and I wish I'd responded earlier.

First of all, I wrote the article. I normally put my name to everything I
write. It was only an oversight that my name was not on it.

It's really important for me that you called me on this stuff. My words
showed that I wanted to FORCE people to do things. You challenged my
pacifism and my self-righteousness and I might not have thought certain
things through again if you hadn't.

. . .

And you're right, coming down on low-level officers is not the way to deal
with the messes of war.

When I do speaking engagements in churches and community centres, I make the
following points about unexploded ordnance and US personnel:

1. US personnel in Iraq are great people. Many do what they can to help

2. The personnel who clean up ordnance put themselves at great risk as they
do their job. I heard of a navy officer who was killed doing it, and
I'm sure there have been others. I have no doubt that they work very hard,
but there are very few of them in relation to the scope of the task.

3. The Iraqi regime has left lots of ordnance behind in the past years. In
'91, Canada and the US and other countries, with the blessing of the UN,
left ordnance behind, spending I-don't-know-how-much taxpayers' money on
weapons throughout that war. Now, the US and Britain have spent billions
upon billions of dollars to carry out this latest war, leaving
more ordnance behind.

4. And yet, policymakers do not put funding forward to clean up ordnance
quickly. . . .

As for whose responsibility it is to clean up the ordnance, I think it's the
responsibility of taxpayers to bring about life-giving changes in policy by
whatever nonviolent means possible, including by influencing Congress. And
it's the responsibility of policymakers to make sure ordnance gets cleaned
up, and the responsibility of weapons manufacturers who made money on
selling the ordnance, and the responsibility of Army personnel on all sides
and of all ranks who put the ordnance there. . . .

I would have preferred that US soldiers were home safe with their families
and I would still prefer that.

But now, this latest war has happened. Among other things, beautiful little
boys are blinded and brain damaged from unexploded ordnance, and beautiful,
normal US soldiers are being shot in the face and killed by unexploded
ordnance that some Iraqis picked up, and normal, beautiful adult Iraqis are
full of despair as they struggle to support their families and
have dignity while their country is occupied.

My organization continues to support peaceful Iraqis. You continue your
work in your way, and as you said, you have to make what I'm sure are
heart-wrenching and brain-stretching decisions about what are orders and
what is best and what is ethical. I do not envy your job. I'm sure it's
different from mine but just as difficult as mine.

Peace of Christ to you. I hope to continue this discussion.

Lisa Martens
Christian Peacemaker Teams