Yes, My Fellow Soldiers Died in Vain

Danny Sjursen – The American Conservative May 27, 2019


Sergeant Alex Fuller hailed from the depressed coastal town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. His brothers and sister did stints in prison; he sold drugs himself as a teen, and barely earned a GED.

Then he found a home in the army. He excelled, he loved it, and even made sergeant in record time. Most of all he was my friend. His story didn’t end well, of course. On January 25, 2007 his body was shattered by a massive improvised explosive device (IED) in East Baghdad, Iraq. He was 21. His 19-year-old wife was pregnant. His family buried him on Cape Cod. Such is life.

We’re expected to honor such sacrifice each Memorial Day. At least that’s what tradition holds. But how best to do that? These days, most Americans, and especially their political leaders choose the vapid, simplistic path: “thanking” soldiers, flying flags, sticking yellow ribbons on car bumpers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with all this, of course, but let’s not pretend it helps anything. Stacy Fuller named Al’s daughter after him. My oldest son’s name is Alex. Many of us honor him with our memories, recollections, thoughts, and symbols such as memorial bracelets. But it’s not enough. It’s far from sufficient.

This Memorial Day, spare us the flyover jets, flag-wielding honor guards, and other patriotic mush of 21st-century popular culture. Instead, I’d submit that now—after 18 years of endless, ineffective war—it’s a time for nuance, for a collective national self-assessment. What was it all for, Alex’s death and those of more than 7,000 others in uniform? Very little, it seems.

Al died fighting Shia militiamen, who had nothing to do with 9/11, in a Baghdad ghetto. These largely impoverished and unemployed fighters only attacked my platoon because it was there, occupying their cities and inflaming nationalistic resentments. He died in a country that the United States only invaded as a result of lies, deceit, and intelligence mistakes. Al and the rest of us generally tried hard and mostly meant well, but in retrospect we brought not democracy and stability to Iraq, but chaos and civil war.

Hundreds of thousands died, millions were displaced, and a once secular society became a theater for macabre sectarian murder. He died in a country that his commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, didn’t even understand. Most importantly, he and we did not, ultimately leave the place better than we found it. The Shia chauvinists the United States empowered only alienated the Sunnis, heightened Kurdish desires for autonomy, and led to the rise (in our prisons) of the Islamic State. Through it all our military is still there.

Specialist James Smith was Texan to the core. He grew up just outside of Dallas, an all-American boy who played sports and raised hell throughout high school. Soon after, he enthusiastically joined the army, seeking the adventure of combat and the camaraderie of military life. Soon enough he became my Humvee driver.

A legitimate adrenaline junkie with an almost absurd level of personal courage, James constantly forced me to reign him in. “Get back in the fucking truck!” I’d yell in the midst of a firefight. “You’re job is to drive, Smith!” He’d dutifully comply, only to pull the same stunt the very next day. He, too, was my friend. His story didn’t end well either. In June 2007, while home on leave from the war, James took his own life. He was newly married. We’ll never know exactly why he did it, but odds are it had something to do with the friends who he’d witnessed die those last months.

I remember the captains and colonels who passive aggressively questioned why I, his lieutenant, hadn’t seen Smith’s suicide coming. God, I hated them for that! The whole obtuse display of shock at the suicide—there would be a few more within the squadron over the years—demonstrated just how disjointed senior leaders and politicians can be on the ramifications of sustained military trauma. At present, 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Nothing seems capable of improving this national disgrace, but I bet ending useless forever warfare might help.

Through it all, the sacrifice, the waste, America remains at war. In fact, President Donald Trump even threatens an ill-advised, irrational, and immoral war with Iran. In a frightening case of national deja vu, I’m certain I’ve seen this film before. It doesn’t end well. It never does.

Count me sick of the prevailing platitude: “He died for his brothers-in-arms!” In a sense, it’s true enough, but the trope is mainly obtuse and paltry. Inherent in the sentiment is the implication that soldiers never die in vain, no matter the war. I, for one, don’t think that’s true. Sure when the bombs blow and the bullets crack, king and country matter very little. Still it was politics, and nation, that landed the soldier in whatever distant locale he finds himself. And there better be a damn good reason to be there, for troopers like mine and so many others, to lose their lives. Forgive me, but I think we owe them that much!

Do me a favor this year: question the foundation and purpose of America’s wars for the Greater Middle East. Weigh the tangible costs in blood and treasure against any benefits to the nation or the world—if there are any! Ask how this country’s political system morphed in such a way that Congress no longer declares, and presidents turned emperors unilaterally wage endless wars in distant locales. Ask yourself how much of this combat and death is connected—if at all—to the 9/11 attacks; why the over-adulated U.S. military mainly fights groups that didn’t even exist in 2001.

For God’s sake, think! Be a citizen. Honor your soldiers. Don’t waste their lives any longer.

Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army Major and regular contributor to The American Conservative. His work has also appeared in Harper’s, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, Tom Dispatch, The Huffington Post, Truthdig, and The Hill. He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. He co-hosts the progressive veterans’ podcast “Fortress on a Hill.” Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.



4 responses to “Yes, My Fellow Soldiers Died in Vain”

  1. “Yes, My Fellow Soldiers Died in Vain”

    Your fellow “soldiers” died from an overdose of bullshit. Their parents and friends did not raise them properly: they are raised to believe liars and assholes on TV. They believe unbelievable stories like the official 9/11 story. They accept the unacceptable. They believed the likes of George Wonderful Butsch. Need I say more?

    They have failed the cosmic intelligence/integrity test!
    Another batch of morons will likely be sent over to bomb Iran soon. And the story will repeat itself again. I don’t refer to them as the United Shitheads of America for nothing!

    They kill and torture innocent people on the basis of orders from lying psychopaths. What kind of religion prescribes such behavior? American exceptionalism and conceit? These soldiers and their supporting families are the dumbest and most evil bastards that ever crawled the earth. They haven’t even identified the enemy!!!

  2. They didn’t “die in vain”… just not for the ’cause’ they thought they were fighting for… mostly because most of them/us don’t really think about the propaganda BS being fed to us since birth, generation after generation.

    This is how we learn here in ‘Purgatory’, a school in consciousness… set to end soon as Mother Nature swings in to ‘clean house’… no pain, no gain… these soldiers are no different than the rest of us sheeple here in this pen… they choose to go to war instead of having their ‘war’ here at home. The locale doesn’t matter, they could be doing as much or more damage here as a propaganda porn star in the MSM, or as some pathological WallStreeter or warmucker in DC or any of the Satanic or psychopathic centers in NY or LA et al around the world, as here in ‘Purgatory’, the ‘dark shepherds’ rule…. they setup the obstacle course we have to run thru every day… they present the challenges to ‘wake up’… all of which is part of their own obstacle course, at this level for ‘graduation’ or in the next level as they face the Truth more and more directly and the competition gets more fierce until they eventually face that ‘black hole’ of their Dark Sun reality.

    Our soldiers are pawns, our politicians are puppets, we all start off as ‘sheep’ here in the school/pen called Purgatory…. the ‘catalyst’ is said to be 100x more ‘vivid’, thus the reason for its effectiveness and the reason for its existence… to challenge us to wake up from our self imposed slumber… it is, afterall, only the Creator playing with Itself… to know thyself… the meaning of all ‘life’, which is all consciousness.. the bodies come and go like suits of clothes…. all expressions of energy, which is all expressions of consciousness. These soldiers are the same as the rest of us, none dying in vain, just in agony as we, every so slowly, learn our lessons in self awareness.

  3. QUOTE: “Hundreds of thousands died, millions were displaced, and a once secular society became a theater for macabre sectarian murder. He died in a country that his commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, didn’t even understand. Most importantly, he and we did not, ultimately leave the place better than we found it.”

    True enough statement, but understand why we left the country in a mess. Oded Yinon plan for Zionist Greater Israel hegemony. Many commentators try to frame the United States as making a foreign policy mistake by leaving nations in ruins. Not a chance, things unfolded exactly as they expected. Writers need to see it is for what it is. Total Jewish domination over the Middle East and eventually the entire world.

    There never was a plan to regime change or liberate Iraq, that is only an media illusion. Total war is being waged Old Testament style on the Muslims by God’s chosen lunatics through their Goyim proxies. It was the goal all along to smash every middle east nation that surrounds Israel because that is the Jewish plan, which is not in the United States interest.

    Israel controls Amerika like a pimp that controls a whore. Amerika has lost all moral credibility abroad and at home. Anyone foolish enough to enlist will just be ground up in the next war for Israel. That is a fact that no thinking person can now deny. We are being made bankrupt by these wars and we will continue down this path into total ruin.

    Amerika is a military and financial WHORE of Israel. It does what it is told, especially with slavish whore Trump in charge. Clinton and Obama resisted Bibi’s demands, but not with Trump, he wallows like squealing pig in Jewish war making filth. If Trump doesn’t deliver, Pence will or the next selected Zionist whore candidate like Hellery or Buttegg.

  4. Gullible fucking morons strutting off to spread their share of carnage in acts of aggression that are grossly illegal and highly immoral. My stomach turns each and every time I hear someone say “thank you for your service” to one of those murdering meatheads, i.e. a veteran. The people have been conditioned to honor lies and immorality. I come from a long line of soldiers and warriors, but the days of the noble fight, the noble war, are a long distant memory, if they ever were to begin with.

    The murdering meatheads, posing as soldiers, should be shamed in the streets, not thanked for their “service”, as they should know better at this point in history since there is no longer a monopoly on information. They should feel deep unabiding shame for the parts they played in the devastation and murder in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and other unfortunate places around the globe, typically for the pleasure of a psychopathic Israel.

    9/11 was an inside job, a major league, but glaringly obvious, false flag. Only those with the critical thinking skills of a mental retard could possibly believe the utterly outlandish “official” narrative and disregard the evidence and the legions of those in the know, including those who were at ground zero like me, who have stated the truth. Anyone who has marched off to kill and spread mayhem based on such an obvious lie as 9/11 is not only a fucking idiot, but a criminal as well.

    As for people like Sergeant Alex Fuller, as mentioned by Major Sjursen at the beginning of the article, well he’s a stupid fucking piece of shit. I mean, he not only marched off to murder for a blatant lie, he was also dumb enough to impregnate a 19 year old girl before his deployment and leave even more devastation in his wake. Fuck you, Alex.