Today marks the 10th anniversary of the United States’ invasion of Iraq. As part of our “In My Experience” series spotlighting the personal stories of local residents, we’ll talk with four people whose lives have been profoundly affected by the Iraq War.

Haitham Jasim, Iraqi immigrant and former translator for the U.S. Marines; he left Iraq in 2008 and now lives in San Jose
Elizabeth Elias, military spouse whose husband served in Iraq in 2007-2008
Karen Meredith, mother of Lt. Ken Ballard, who was killed in Iraq in 2004
Mike Liguori, U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq between 2004-2006

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Having multiple family members who have done multiple tours of duty, in Iraq and Afghanistan, I guess it just concerns me that most, yes most, Americans have NO idea what these men/women have been thru….and seen.

    Much of which they do not talk about, unless its with family who also have know active duty, war tours in the past.

    Makes me so sad, and makes me even question what have the dead died for. The living left maimed in some way, when you see a country like Iraq reverting back to the old ways, once we leave.

  • Tiberius

    One cannot understand a topic without understanding the context of that topic. The Iraq war is a perfect example of this. The USA has a global empire of which most Americans are completely and often willfully ignorant. That empire is built on a system of debt slavery, wherein the elites of each country sell out their compatriots and enslave their nations with impossible debts, resulting in control of their economies being ceded to Wall Street banks. When elites refuse to cede control, either because they are madmen like Saddam or because they refuse to betray their countrymen out of patriotism, they are assassinated. Yes, the USA does this. If the assassination attempts fail, we send in our troops, and this is what happened with Iraq. The US army soldiers who died to topple Saddam and install a fake “democracy” died for nothing, except to serve those who would happily enslave Americans with debt as well.

  • thucy

    Powerful testimony from Mike.
    Breaks my heart to hear Ms. Meredith talk about what this particular week is like for her. Grateful they’re sharing their experience on this show. Can’t be easy for them to do this, but so important.

    • mark

      I wonder how parents and students pay for tuition. I now understand why solider is lured for free education. This is tough and courageous decision and yet wars do put a dent on US

      My middle class income, I feel no way I can have my two sons
      go to private schools. Even the public school is extremely difficult.

      I also found that the poorer I am, my kid might have a
      better chance to get the grant. Instead the middle class income will just have my kids go to public schools without saving for a 6-8 years. However, if I quit my job, my kid would be able to get better school with grant. I am already very fortunate and yet my wife has to work two part time jobs.

      I really wonder how people pay tuition. 100% tuition hike in
      5 year in University of Ca. $30000 public college tuition is like driving a brand new BMW off cliff each year, (a cliff dug by the wars and Wall-street bailout.)

      My wife pleaded me that if elder one get into top school in
      crying. Let him go, we should put the house on second mortgage to pay for that. Eventually my son (an exceptionally talented student in science) goes to UCB. The reality kicks in when my second son is going to college coming Sept. We can’t stop my kid apply for unaffordable private school. My wife is now praying he doesn’t get in any good private college. Enrollment is going to disclose by the end of this month. (God bless us. God bless US.)

  • Aaron

    Thank you for this topic. Thank you to all of your guests for sharing. I lost my child hood best friend in Iraq on November 9, 2004, Sgt. David Caruso – USMC Force Recon.

    The war was stupid but his service was courageous.

  • MattCA12

    For me, the saddest part of the Iraq War era is that in 2004 my country re-elected the president who began it, thus endorsing the war’s continuation. We knew it was a terrible idea, but we voted again for it anyway. We deserve the scorn history will heap upon us.

    • Alex

      Can not understand why people still believe in the government that does not prosecute top criminals. Just to enlist into army and think that you are serving your country is very shortsighted. One must be sure that he goes to a battle for a right cause. In case of Irak war, government lied about most of the fasts, killed a lot of people, created great sufferings on both sides. It would be impossible to establish trust between people and the government without brining responsible for these liers to justice.

      • MattCA12

        You and I can lament all we want, Alex, but the sad truth is that a sizable portion of Americans, if not a majority, still support our invasion of Iraq, not to mention our ongoing disastrous occupation of Afghanistan. Support our troops, but don’t dare question what they are doing. Exhortations from the cockpit on every domestic US flight to “thank the members of the armed services we have on board today” only make me shudder. I want to ask that 18 year old soldier sitting next to me what the hell he is thinking, but I realize I’m probably just wasting my breath.

        • thucy

          First, I think you’re vastly underestimating the sea change that’s occurred in the troops and their families in the last few years. Second, the problem is economic: if there are no jobs and no affordable education, young people will enlist to avoid becoming homeless.

          • MattCA12

            That has not been my experience, Thucy. I know a handful of Iraq vets, and to a man they are adamant that the war had to be fought in order to protect the American way of life. For the sake of neighbor relations, I don’t discuss it with them. Why bother? What’s done it done, and since America is incapable of learning from our past mistakes (Vietnam) anyway I don’t know what I should expect from them. As for the economic rationale for enlisting, I can’t agree. Nobody is forcing anybody to join up, and again, in my experience, these kids are only too “gung-ho” to go kill “Arabs” in defense of our “freedom”. We need to bring back the draft.

          • thucy

            Wow, I’m stunned. I have never met a single Marine or treated a single Iraq veteran who was “gung-ho to kill Arabs.” Further, no one in my family who was drafted into Vietnam was gung-ho to do anything but survive the ordeal. Half of them survived. One of our casualties was married to a Chinese-American woman, and left behind a son, so I can tell you he wasn’t gung-ho to kill Asians in Vietnam. THAT was the draft. Bring it back, but it won’t solve the problem.

        • thucy

          ” I want to ask that 18 year old soldier sitting next to me what the hell he is thinking, but I realize I’m probably just wasting my breath.”
          That’s your problem right there, Matt. You’re operating under the conviction that the soldier can’t or won’t be receptive to your thoughts. TRY, Matt, and try to talk to him or her in a manner that isn’t contemptuous and condescending.

      • thucy

        “It would be impossible to establish trust between people and the government without brining responsible for these liers to justice.”

        Amen. Unfortunately, we know that won’t happen, unless it’s the fake justice meted out to whistleblowers like Kiriakou.

  • Nathan Kline

    It looks to me like a lot of people join the military without understanding what they should expect.

    You should expect having to comply with orders you do not necessarily agree with ; you should expect to be exposed to all sorts of atrocities that will maim your mind, hurt you or people you deeply care about ; you should expect to bleed under fire ; you should expect to have to kill other human beings, sometimes totally in doubt as to whether they really deserve to die ; you should expect to find yourself traumatized, shocked, bruised and beaten ; etc.
    That should be obvious and plain to anyone who considers that line of work.

    Enrolling is not an easy way to get a job, a free education or medals.

    You also have to make sure you have a deep cause in your heart, that will make your service and sacrifice worthwhile. Enrolling on a whim will only lead you to wasted suffering.

    • thucy

      “Enrolling is not an easy way to get a job, a free education or medals.”
      Unfortunately, Mr. Kline, in this economy, it may not be “an easy way” but it may be the ONLY way to get a job or an education. Not all parts of the country feature the relatively “affordable” education and jobs that the Bay Area does.

      • Nathan Kline

        Absolutely nothing in the Bay Area is “affordable”. But I understand what you say.
        I would do the same thing if it were my only option, but I would do so knowing full well what I stated.
        What I find strange, however, is that people who wish to have an “affordable” education system often vote for a political party that would love to get rid of public education.

        • thucy

          i hear you. I have friends back East who paid for biochem degrees by joining the Marines. They were out and done, or so we thought until they ran into the “stop-loss”. Neat trick the military uses even after you’re done to force you back in. You should add “stop-loss” to your list. Seriously.

          • DJC 

            Mr. Kline, there is absolutely no way to prepare a recruit with little or no ‘life’ experiences for the horror of war–it’s OJT, On-the-Job-Training and if you were not in service of your country for any of our wars, I suggest you watch the first 45 mins of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and then ask your friendly psychologist or psychiatrist if that is preparation, or the onset of long-term trauma for those who witnessed and participated in the dismembering, disemboweling, frying by napalm flame-throwers. The reality, Mr. Kline, is that maybe 5 of 100 will return home without the trauma, etc. and are basically at the tipping point of becoming a sociopath, has demonstrated those tendencies throughout his early years and the experience put the person on the path to finish his journey barely conflicted and demonstrating no remorse for his actions as a civilian…

          • Nathan Kline

            It’s not hard for me to fully agree with you. There is no way to prepare for that. But going there thinking it’ll be a walk in the park is just as mind boggling.

          • thucy

            If I recall, the “walk in the park” idea was sold by Cheney & Wolfowitz, not the ordinary soldier. Suggesting that the. majority of hard-up enlistees thought it’d be a walk in the park is not just inaccurate – it’s a way of blaming one of the war’s many groups of victims.

          • Nathan Kline

            You were lied to, but what do you expect when your ultimate boss is a politician? That stuff is something young people should know BEFORE they show up at the recruiting office, where previously recruited personnel will dangle all sorts of fairy tales to put stars and visions of medals into their eyes.

            When used right, the sacrifice of those who offer to serve is the most noble thing there is.
            When used to advance some crooked world view, to reminisce the memories of a long gone cold war, to distract a population from other fundamental issues, it is shameful waste of good blood.

          • thucy

            “That stuff is something young people should know BEFORE they show up at the recruiting office…”
            Nathan, have you ever actually worked with eighteen-year-olds? Have you ever served an “economically disadvantaged population”?
            Will you ever be able to concede that your.multiple attempts to blame one of the war’s casualty groups is unfounded AND unrealistic? What on earth do you do for a living that makes you see 18-year-olds with no economic prospects as possessing an engineer’s capacity to measure risk/reward? Harvard MBA’s don’t even measure risk rationally on Wall Street.

          • Nathan Kline

            I have unreasonable expectations, because I expect people to think before they act. I know that is a fact.

          • thucy

            What is so Aspergerianly off-base about your contention is:
            1) the implicit belief that, in this economy, a better choice actually exists for many of the “volunteers”, and
            2) the amount of bits you’ve spent blaming teenagers who are merely the tools of the people who concocted this war, and
            3) your apparent ignorance of the reality that without more volunteer troops, the war will nevertheless continue by way of drones.

  • DJC 

    I know many Vietnam/Iraq/Afghan vets and the stories and suffering experienced from having to kill one’s fellow man for the most unsubstantiated reasons. This includes that they are having to wait months for Tx approval and more months B 4 Tx even begins–Rummy: ‘you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want’. Their were NO imminent threats that kept us from providing the right armor for the men as well as for the HVs–M-Wraps were not even in consideration ’cause w/all the brain-power and intel Rummy/Wolf/Bush/Cheney bragged about, they missed the fact that IEDs had been used B 4 we even arrived in theatre–those bastards, and yes, they all should B brought up on charges…

    A few words on the crap our WWII vets and family experienced: I am 69yo and my dad, who I didn’t see until I was four years old. He came home a drunk from the damn wood-alcohol, abused my mother to the extent that the Catholic church granted her an annulment! But there were NO benefits for her via Veteran Affairs–nor many others suffering similar circumstances. Why not? Many of us WWII babies suffer from depression, anxiety, uncertainty, no foundation of substance upon which to rely… The human condition is not meant to do war–the fight/flight response is for imminent threats, not years of whatever-the-hell one experiences in war… The warriors are commanded to kill the opposition because the governments have disagreements with one another, the people doing combat are forced against their will to learn to hate/dislike and then dismember or burn but this creates dysfunctionals returning to their home and a family that doesn’t recognize them… String those Rummy, et al. bastards up!!!!

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