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The Last Letter


Claim:   Letter from a disabled veteran criticizes George Bush and Dick Cheney over the Iraq War.

CORRECTLY ATTRIBUTED

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2013]

Was this letter really written by a dying veteran?
 

DYING VET’S ‘F*CK YOU’ LETTER TO GEORGE BUSH & DICK CHENEY NEEDS TO BE READ BY EVERY AMERICAN

A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all — the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans — my fellow veterans — whose future you stole.

[Rest of article here.]
 

Origins:   Tomas Young is a disabled veteran who enlisted in the military after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. in 2001 and was severely wounded in Iraq in 2004; he subsequently became an outspoken critic of the Iraq War and was featured in the 2007 documentary film Body of War:
Mr. Young's travails began three days after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., was watching a speech on TV by President Bush who was atop the rubble at the World Trade Center. The president issued a rallying cry, saying, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon."

Motivated to help his country, Mr. Young enlisted in the Army and was sent to Iraq. After just five days, he was shot by a sniper while riding in an unarmored, open truck. A bullet tore through his spine and he was left permanently paralyzed from the chest down.

Body of War follows Mr. Young's life after he returns home. Facing struggles with basic bodily functions and neglectful VA medical care that provided him with bottles of pills and limited rehabilitation services, he joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, and became a nationally recognized anti-war activist.

With his fresh-faced good looks and upbeat humor, Mr. Young attracted a large following at protests and peace rallies, where Gold Star mothers who lost their sons in combat were comforted just to touch him.
After a February 2013 screening of that film, Young told the audience via Skype that he planned to end his life in the near future:
A screening of the documentary Body of War came to a startling conclusion when the film’s star told a stunned audience that he was going to end his life.

Appearing with his wife Claudia via Skype on a large projection screen, Mr. Young spoke slowly and at times with difficulty.

He said on April 20, the date of the couple’s first wedding anniversary, he intends to wean himself off food, stop taking life-extending
medications, "and one day go away." He said he will continue to take medication for pain only.

It was important, Mr. Young said, for him to be alert and aware when he died. "It’s time," he said.

His wife said she supported his decision because he "goes through the gauntlet" every day. "We have talked about where he is at and he’s exhausted," she said.

The audience was transfixed by Mr. Young’s announcement. Wilton actor Charles Grodin and others called Mr. Young "courageous" and "brave." Mr. Young was commended for taking control over the only part of his life he still had any control over.

Others condemned the VA medical system for taking such poor care of returning soldiers, and the politicians who appeared to "rubber stamp" the Iraq War.
In a March 2013 interview with Chris Hedges, Young provided more detail about his decision to end his life:
I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time because I had become helpless. I couldn't dress myself. People have to help me with the most rudimentary of things. I decided I did not want to go through life like that anymore. The pain, the frustration ...

I felt at the end of my rope. I made the decision to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away. This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes. I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note. After the anoxic brain injury in 2008 I lost a lot of dexterity and strength in my upper body. So I wouldn’t be able to shoot myself or even open the pill bottle to give myself an overdose. The only way I could think of doing it was to have Claudia open the pill bottle for me, but I didn't want her implicated.
On 18 March 2013, in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of beginning of the Iraq War, Tomas Young submitted a letter (referenced above) that was published on the truthdig web site. Titled "The Last Letter" and subtitled "A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a Dying Veteran," the letter criticized the former president and vice president for sending "hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage."

However, in December 2013, several months after penning "The Last Letter," Young told an NPR interviewer that he had changed his mind about his decision to end his life, saying: "I just came to the conclusion that I wanted some more time with my wife. And I decided that I really don't have the chutzpah to go ahead and do away with myself. If you're in life and you start to think things are a little too rough to handle, just think of me and what I go through, and you realize that hey, I don't have it so bad."

Last updated:   20 June 2014

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Sources:

    Gay, Patricia.   "Tomas Young, Disabled Veteran, Tells Audience He'll Commit Suicide."
    The Ridgefield Press.   8 February 2013.

    Hedges, Chris.   "The Crucifixion of Tomas Young."
    truthdig.   10 March 2013.

    Morris, Frank.   "Injured Veteran Keeps Up His Fight, Deciding to Live."
    NPR.   28 December 2013.

    Szoldra, Paul.
"Injured Veteran Who Wrote Scathing 'Last Letter' to President Bush Decides to Live On."
    Business Insider.   28 December 2013.