Jonathan Powers remembers well President Bush’s infamous speech four years ago today in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
At the time, Powers was a captain in the 1st Armored Division and was preparing for a deployment to Baghdad. “I was a believer,” he told me during a brief conversation Monday. “I thought we were going there to defend a nation. I thought we were going there to free an oppressed people. And we had that opportunity in the summer in 2003. We had Baghdad secured. We drove around the streets without doors on our Humvees. We ate dinners in Iraqi homes.
“But because of the failure in the administration to plan for the reconstruction, that is when things began to fall apart.”
It was that falling apart that disillusioned Powers and prompted him to join demonstrators in front of the White House on Monday to call for President Bush to sign, rather than veto, the Iraq war bill that was being sent to him by Congress today. That bill would more than meet President Bush’s funding request for the war effort, but would also mandate the orderly withdrawal of troops supported by a majority of the American public.
Powers spoke briefly but passionately in front of a small crowd of demonstrators about his disillusionment as a veteran who spent 15 months in Baghdad. He spoke of how when he arrived in the Iraqi capital, he saw that his fellow soldiers did not have adequate body armor, and than much of what had been promised to Iraqis as part of the reconstruction effort had either been not delivered or ended up being spoils for American contractors.
“I felt betrayed. I felt as a soldier I had faith in the leadership that had sent me there, and that by betraying us, by not taking care of the plan, it hurt our efforts,” he said.
Powers, who is now a leader of VoteVets.org, said that “on the fourth anniversary of the day that he betrayed so many American soldiers and so many Iraqi people by not planning for what was ahead,” Bush should do the right thing by signing the Iraq supplemental.
But Bush has made it clear that he will not, and so remains stubbornly on a course of continued betrayal of the Americans soldiers and reckless endangerment of America’s security.