Officer Responds To 'Gutless Coward' Charge

Over the past few months, Capt. Nate Rawlings has been taking people's questions about his experience as an Army officer stop-lossed in Iraq. Many of those who write him applaud his efforts, and others are more skeptical. You can send your questions and comments through this form.

Question For Capt. Nate Rawlings

Capt. Rawlings,

What gives America the right to invade some country on the pretext of unfounded allegations made up to justify their invasion? Do you really feel proud of yourself as a murderer of innocent people? Who are you to go a country and force democracy on the people? If the U.S.A. did not have bombs and just fought a land war with conventional weapons I can assure you they would not be talking so bravely because they would be whipped so bad into defeat that they will never recover from their defeat. You call yourself a soldier, but I call you and all the others who are in the U.S. Armed Forces gutless cowards and murderers with their embassies hiding behind the fortress called the "Green Zone." I challenge you to answer this one, you coward.

—Mohmed Hasan, Roeland Park, Kan.

Capt. Rawlings' Answer

Dear Mr. Hasan,

Your question is very important because it strikes at the fundamentals of why we are here, but before I get into that I need to clarify a few things. While we do have bombs, artillery and missiles, much of the conflict, including my own current operation, is being fought in densely urban areas where such large weapons would cause massive loss of life and destruction of infrastructure. As a result, most of the fighting is being done by foot soldiers, rifle to rifle and by walking the streets and searching for insurgents. Any use of the larger, more destructive weaponry is always weighed against potential damage to the area and, most important, potential civilians killed or wounded. We avoid such damage and death at all costs.

What impresses me about your question is that it addresses one of the most important issues in this war: Why are we here? You obviously care enough about the current situation to write in to NPR, but your thoughts don't provide any answers to the questions you pose. I am here because I am a soldier and swore an oath to defend my country and the Constitution, and when my commander in chief orders me to move I will go.

If you feel that we entered into this conflict unjustly and feel that we should not be here, then do all that you can to bring us home. First, study the conflict up and down so that you will have the knowledge to make your argument. Use the Freedom of Information Act to access documents that will, hopefully, explain the rationale for entering this conflict. Read the accounts by journalists and soldiers and talk to those who have been here because their experience is valid and their thoughts are important. Once you have the facts to back up the claims you want to make, write editorials, lead protests and, most important, vote for candidates in the upcoming election who share your views on the war. You believe political power without moral justification is perilous; I believe that passionate defiance without political engagement is worthless. Your vote is a powerful tool that should be used to make your voice heard. My father always said that people should and will vote with their feet. If you are truly passionate that we should not be fighting in Iraq then vote with your feet and work to change that.

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