For Army Sgt. Sherwood Baker, lest we forget

“On the Wings of a Lie”
– for Army Sgt. Sherwood Baker

I am saddened today by the new Iraq crisis. Sad to witness the spectacle of thousands of Iraqi refugees on the move again. And mass murders taking place. It sickens my heart.

Sickening, too, are all the “neoconservatives” like Dick Cheney coming out of the woodwork with other neocons to beat the drum for more war. At least this time the public seems to be rejecting their advice.

In light of all that, I feel compelled to post today a speech I gave at the National Press Club on March 6, 2003, a week before the neoconservatives’ war started. I have refreshed some of the links (so that readers today can access them) to articles I had been reading back then from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Truthout and other sources. Jay Bookman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had nailed down the true reasons for the war well before it began, even while the New York Times was buying into “aluminum tubes” that could be fashioned into weapons of mass destruction (WMD). If you have not read Bookman’s article before, written in 2002, I highly recommend you link to it and read.

History is essential.

We knew before the war started that it was being launched for ideological reasons and with a big lie about weapons of mass destruction at its heart. We knew what Secretary Colin Powell says he did not know (or chose not to reveal, some say) that fateful day he made the case for war at the United Nations. We knew before that UN presentation that information he was using about WMD came from an Iraqi defector who wanted war and whose “information” was completely fabricated and discredited. People all over the world knew that, but still our Secretary of State said he did not know that at the time, and he said what he said to convince the American people that war was necessary.

Today I think of a friend I came to know in Military Families Speak Out. Her name is Celeste Zappala, whose 30-year old son Sherwood Baker was killed in Iraq on April 24, 2004 while searching for those nonexistent WMD as part of the Iraq Survey Group. Not too long afterwards President Bush was telling jokes at the Correspondents Dinner in D.C. about not being able to find WMDs in the Oval Office. (President Bush’s jokes about WMD begin at the 5:05 mark of this video – Imagine how Celeste felt that the whole issue of WMDs that had killed her son had become a laughing matter in such a short time, and that all those Washington dignitaries were laughing out loud as they finished their desserts.

So I dedicate the re-posting of this article in the memory of Sherwood Baker, and in deep grieving for 4,485 other American soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq.

On the Wings of a Lie
National Press Club
March 6, 2003

I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and very time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don’t take the country to war on the wings of a lie.  — Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 2/19/03

Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger. — Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

And everywhere the good prepare for perpetual war
And let their weapons shape the plan
The way the hammer shapes the hand
— from Casino Nation by Jackson Browne

I stand here today as a member of Military Families Speak Out. We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and other relatives of military men and women on active duty who will be in harm’s way if the United States launches an illegal and immoral first strike war against the people of Iraq.

I have two points to make today. The first has to do with feelings about my stepson. The second has to do with the true roots of this proposed war with Iraq.

My stepson is in the U.S. Army and will be a participant if this war is launched. I am of course concerned about his safety. While he will be assigned command and control duties in Kuwait in support of ground combat troops, away from front lines, he still may find himself under attack with biological or chemical weapons, and may be carrying one of those defective suits we have been talking about today.

But even more than that, deeper than that, I am concerned about the defective mission upon which President Bush is sending him. (i) His dedication to country is being abused by a President hell-bent on an unjustified, unnecessary and – it is fair to say – a triumphalistic religious war being waged by a fundamentalist Commander in Chief who seems to believe he is on God’s own mission to save the world from the evil doers and heathen.(ii)

So I am concerned that this patriotic young man willing to sacrifice for his country, along with many other honorable soldiers, will see his military career squandered and corrupted.

I am also concerned because I know — from the evidence of history, from the past Gulf War and the slaughter of 400-1,500 women and children at the Amariyah bomb shelter in Baghdad – that if we go to war in Iraq, the loss of innocent civilian lives will be high and horrific, and that our government will never tell us the whole truth about that. They are basing this war on a big lie that Iraq threatens us now, and they will surely lie as to its consequences for the innocent.

However, the soldiers in the area will know what they have done. They will see it with their own eyes, or they will see it in the eyes of their fellow soldiers.

So I pray every day. I pray for my son’s safety, for his family, his wife and three children. I pray for the safety of Iraqi children and their families. I pray that this war can be averted. I cry out to God to grant all these prayers, because I fear that my son, if this war goes forward, may carry in his heart for the rest of his natural life the burden of innocent lives he helped to destroy. And he has such a good heart.

That’s my first point. Secondly I want to say there is something I fear for more than the dangers our soldiers face from a government throwing them into a war with faulty equipment.

My deepest fear is for America, as we have known it, as it has been handed down to us and protected and defended by people like my father and many millions who fought a true threat of tyranny in World War II. I fear for America and its hard-won democracy, its precious freedoms, because our government has been seized by far right zealots who wish to impose upon the rest of the world what they call a “benevolent global hegemony.” They won’t call it “empire” because that’s not good PR. (iii)  They are zealots who are willing to run roughshod over American freedoms to get their way. They are willing to push aside the Constitution and the Bill of Rights if necessary to achieve their agenda. They are right now cooking up Patriot Act II – which as an executive order, not even a law, could strip any one of us of our citizenship and send us into a “disappeared” status as terrorist sympathizers if the Attorney General decides to call us such. (iv)

When they were out of power these people pushed their ideas though a think tank called the Project for the New American Century. The white papers of that think tank have formed the basis of our current national security policy that calls for a worldwide “constabulary” role for the American military. It was within the Project for the New American Century that the doctrine of pre-emptive war was first hatched.

Who are they? They are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Jeb Bush, among others – and of course George W. Bush, although he is not the leading intellectual light of this group by any means. To these we can add a bevy of Iran-Contra principals who participated in illegal acts and human rights abuses in Central America: Admiral Poindexter, who sits in the Pentagon still working to launch fully a Total Information Awareness Program to watch over us all (v); Elliott Abrams, also of the New American Century group, whose professional contempt for and assault upon human rights has earned him a position inside President Bush’s inner circle ; and even our ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte (vii). These are people willing to destroy the UN to get their way. They are willing to destroy historic alliances, bribe and coerce small nations, and do whatever else is needed to achieve a war in Iraq that will set the terms for their New American Century.

I’ll tell you this. It outrages and saddens me that my son and many others are being called to duty to carry out the agenda of these right wing zealots, and I will not stand by silently and let that happen. It outrages me that as they are thrown into harms way they are being told to duct tape the cracks in their suits. It saddens me that fear has gripped our land to the point we are asked to duct tape ourselves into our homes and cower there.

I share the view of an Italian peace activist who said on February 15 “You fight terrorism by creating more justice in the world.” For me that starts with fighting this unjust war, and the fight will not end until we have removed from power the people who are ruining my beloved America.

i.  See “13 Myths About the Case for War with Iraq  which provides multiple links to credible sources that question whether the case has been made that Iraq/Hussein and al-Qaeda are connected.
ii, See “Of God, and Man, in the Oval Office” by a bishop of President Bush’s Presbyterian denomination
iii. On these points see the excellent analysis by Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who has traced the roots of war in Iraq back to The Project for the New American Century: “The President’s Real Goal In Iraq” and “An Empire By Any Other Name” And “Of Gods and Mortals and Empire” by William Rivers Pitt at
iv. See “Ashcroft Out of Control” by Nat Hentoff;
or see “In the Time of Disappeared People Patriot II means Permanent National Emergency”; see also the brief on Patriot Act II at the EPIC website
v. See; while Congress has acted to curb TIA, there remains a means for President Bush to fund it, and to my knowledge Poindexter is still at work on TIA>
vi. See “The Return of Elliott Abrams” at
vii. See “Iran-Contra Men Return to Power” at


About jstephencleghorn

My name is Dr. J. Stephen Cleghorn. I am now a resident of Baltimore, MD. I continue to own a 50-acre certified organic farm in Jefferson County, PA that I operated with my late wife Lucinda between 2005 and 2011 when she passed away from cancer. The farm is now under lease to organic farmers and protected by "The Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez Conservation Easement” which protects it for organic agriculture and against the threats of industrial development that would violate the Rights of Nature. The blog’s name is taken from the writings of Saint Augustine who believed “Hope” to be the greatest of spiritual gifts. And, says Saint Augustine, Hope has two lovely daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger so that what must not be may not be; courage so that what should be can be. Anger and Courage. Now in late 2016, after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, these are the spiritual gifts that must come to the fore if we are to have “Hope” for a loving culture and a sustainable world for future generations. When I first created this blog it was focused on the extreme form of fossil fuel extraction known as “fracking” that was threatening much of the state of Pennsylvania and many other parts of the United States. At the root of that struggle was and is a struggle to halt and reverse climate change. Now the struggle has turned to resisting an incoming Trump Administration that is an existential threat to the climate with its plans to ramp up extraction and use of fossil fuels. This blog will be about having the courage to stand up to the massive global corporations that would ruin our planet and its climate, take their profits and leave the mess to future generations of to clean up. We need to rise up, my friends, and be not afraid.
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