Silence is Betrayal

Raf Noboa served with the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division out of Ft. Carson. He served in Iraq from April 2003-March 2004. He currently assists state Rep. Mike Merrifield in the Colorado Statehouse, and is a long-time Democratic activist. Colorado Confidential invited Noboa to share the speech that he delivered at Saturday’s anti-Iraq War rally in Denver.

I want to thank Sen. Gordon for giving me this chance to speak with all of you, and I want to thank all of you for showing up this morning.

Forty years ago, we gathered together, by the dozens and by the thousands. Four decades later, we gather again, at this cathedral of democracy, united, as we were back then, to end a similar military misadventure.

I, along with my fellow service-members, was an agent of that adventure. I ask you this morning to join me in ending this tragic venture. For too long, I have been silent; for too long, I have watched my brothers & sisters in arms spill their blood and sacrifice their lives in vain pursuit of a futile goal.

There comes a time, when further silence is betrayal. It has been said that the brotherhood and sisterhood of war leaves neither their wounded nor their dead behind. For me to remain silent would allow those who have sacrificed life and limb to be forgotten, and would leave behind those additional 22,000 members of the fraternity of arms whom the President has called upon to salve his wounded pride. It would make me wholly complicit in a betrayal of the bonds of brotherhood-and that I cannot abide.

The time has come to break that silence.

There is no doubt in my words; but the mission that they compel upon me is difficult beyond words. Even though I am compelled by my conscience to speak, to oppose my President is not an easy task-especially in time of war.

Over the past year, I have tried to shatter the bonds that have held me from speaking. These bonds are agonizing, but I must speak. I speak with humility, a humility appropriate to my limited vantage as a sergeant in the United States Army.

At the same time that we mourn the loss of so many, we must rejoice-for certainly, this is the first time in our history that so many of our military leaders have chosen to move far beyond the easy stirrings of a soft patriotism, and embraced the heights of a firm dissent based upon the twin mandates of our conscience and our history.

I speak today to make a plea to all of you. I am neither addressing the Iraqis, nor even my own government. I speak, rather, to you, who, with me, bear the greatest and most powerful responsibility in ending a dreadful conflict that has taken such a fearful toll on our respective lands.

While I was serving in Iraq, I had occasion to read. One of the things that I read was Langston Hughes’ poem about America:

O, yes
I say it plain
America never was America to me,
And yet, I swear this oath-
America will be!

Now, you hear those who claim to love America express their outrage upon our gathering. I say that no one who has any love for this country can longer ignore our current war. If our national spirit is destroyed, the greater part of the eulogy must mention Iraq. Our nation, which we love, can never be redeemed so long as it shatters the hopes and dreams of people across the world.

Therefore, those of us who are committed that America will be are led down the pathways of protest and dissent, and toil for the health of our America.

I served, not for money or politics, but because deep within my soul, there burns a love for my country. It is that same love which compels me to speak.

On the issues of the day, I cared to trust my Commander-in-Chief, and his advisors. I recall finally reposing my trust upon the judgment of his Secretary of State, believing and trusting upon his judgment. I hoped that he was right, and considered that he had rightfully weighed the lives of my brothers and sisters in arms against the totality of America’s drive to war.

I owed-and freely gave-my devotion. But we were due-and never received-clarity of judgment, care for our welfare, and a pledge that Iraq’s threat to America was truly the equal of the price that so many have already paid, and now more are called to pay.

The President calls upon us to sacrifice. Sacrifice, when neither he nor his loved ones-nor, truly, anyone pledged to his service has done that-is a ludicrous call. He took to war rashly, and rashly does he continue to spend our lives and national treasure, recklessly disregarding cautions issued from warrior and civilian alike. We are now tragically held captive to his capricious whims, wanton disregard, and terrible chaos that this President’s administration has engendered across the world, and have lost sight of the common enemy we face.

The President calls upon us to sacrifice. We will sacrifice-so long as we have leadership worthy of that sacrifice. We must remember-as must the President-that at every critical juncture, he has been defeated by our common enemy. I believe that the President must give us an example of the sacrifice for which he appeals. Nothing can contribute more to our ultimate victory in this larger struggle than that he sacrifice his hold upon the office in which he resides, and his advisors surrender their disastrous guidance of the war.

It has been said-tomorrow begins today. The greater majority of my fellow warriors no longer support our present course of action, nor does, indeed, the greatest majority of our fellow Americans.

We must forge a new way forward-not one back from the common struggle for justice and freedom for those who least possess it, nor a hasty retreat which sacrifices lives needlessly-but a way forward that takes our fathers and daughters, our brothers and mothers off the streets of Baghdad, and in short order has them coming home to the heroes’ welcome they have so richly earned.

We are confronted with the terrible urgency of acting now. In the unfolding streams of history there is such a thing as being too late. Delay can be the thief of time and life. I believe that there is an invisible book of judgment that terribly records our vigilance or our neglect-“the moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on…”

We still have a choice today-dare we exercise it? We must move past delay and talk, forcefully, to action.

Let us begin, and my brothers and sisters in arms wait eagerly for your response.

Will we say the odds are fearful?
Will we tell them the struggle is far too hard?
Will the message we send be that the forces of American politics strive against their arrival as full members of society, not just agents of our national interest?
Or will there be, as many have said before, another message-of hope, of love, of unity with their hopes and yearnings, and commitment to their cause, no matter the cost?

The choice is ours, and though we may desire the cup to pass from our lips, we must choose in this vital moment of human history.

Let us begin.

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