Professor Kirstein and Iraq Combatant, Air Force Technical Sergeant Johnson, Debate the War:

I have learned that the individual who claims to be an active duty member of the Air Force has widely circulated his e-mail and even a third party sent it to an employee of my university. Therefore, since there is an effort to disseminate HIS e-mail, I did not wait for his permission to disseminate mine. I cannot affirm the authenticity of the sender but the e-mail used a .mil domain and I have altered the e-mail address and removed what appears to be unit identification.*


A Technical Sergeant is an E-6 which is between Staff Sgt and Master Sgt.

From: Johnson, Dustin A TSgt USAF [Dustin.Johnson.af.mil] Sent: Fri 7/13/2007 2:32 PM
To: Kirstein, Peter N.
Subject: History Professor

Mr. Kirstein,

I love serving in the military and in my 12 years of defending this great country of ours my most loved assignment was when I was deployed to Iraq last year. I seen a lot of bad things such as dead soldiers, marines and airmen not to mention the countless and innocent Iraqi civilians and the worst of all this was the children. I seen mass graves created by Saddam and seen the palaces and the luxury life style he must have had while his people were murdered, raped and starved.

While I was in Iraq I had the pleasure of meeting many people from all walks of life and from all over the world and most of them were happy we were there and the ones who were their in support of the war were happy to be there. I personally seen schools built, water brought to people who never had running water before. I handed out shoes to children who had never owned a pair of shoes in their life. I seen US military men and women give 110% to the cause of getting the country of Iraq back on their feet to support and defend themselves.

I just don’t understand why you dislike military men and women so much. I have read your web site and seen the replies back and fourth from various members of the armed services but your first email to an Air Force Cadet was really the only one that matters because it was that email that was the real you. That was the email where you let your true feelings show.

I do like that you are allowed to send emails in this country without fear for your life or liberty. Even though people like you are part of the problem rather than solution I like that you are allowed to express yourself and not live in fear for doing it.

All I know is I live in the greatest country in the world and despite all the problems we do have here I have the honor and privilege of waking up every morning and saying “I am an American citizen and proud of it”. I wish people like you could just do the same.

We are all never going to like who is in the White House and we are never all going to agree on most major issues but I really do wish at the end of the day we all could agree that The United States of American is the greatest country and despite who is president or in congress we still live in the greatest country on the face of the planet. If that were not the case why else would we have so many men women and children from Mexico and South and Central America breaking the law to get in here. Why would anyone go through that much trouble to enter a country illegally if that country itself wasn’t the greatest in this world?

These are just some questions I pose to you. I know this email will most likely get deleted without even being read by yourself but I at least had the satisfaction of writing it.

I was proud to fight in Iraq to help defend our country from people who want nothing more than to kill Americans like your family and my family. I sleep better at night knowing I did my part and my friends and my fellow military men and women are still fighting the fight every day and every night 24 hours a day and 7 days a week so we can all sleep better even if they are not appreciated by the likes of you.

Just remember since 9/11 under the watch of our current president we have not had another terrorist attack on American soil and for that I am grateful to our government for doing its job in protecting us.

Mr. Kirstein I wish you all the best with your life and where ever you go I hope you are safe.

Thank you and have a fantastic day.

“V/R”

DUSTIN A. JOHNSON, TSGT, USAF

“The battle is now joined on many fronts. We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail.”
— George W. Bush
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From: Kirstein, Peter N. Sent: Fri 7/13/2007 4:11 PM
To: Johnson, Dustin A TSgt USAF
Subject: RE: History Professor

Dear Technical Sergeant Dustin A. Johnson:

Thank you for contacting me. I receive correspondence from quite a few military personnel and I usually agree with some but rarely all of their sentiments. I agree with you that Saddam was a leader who was not concerned about the disparities between the “haves” and “have nots” and that he was a brutal dictator. I do not think that war to remove him was honourable, just or worth the lives of over 3600 military personnel. Regime change has made Iraq even more unstable and difficult for its citizens to pursue normal life development.

I am glad you experienced infrastructure development with regard to schools, water purification and the like. My impression and what I have seen in terms of polling data is that life for most Iraqis has gravely deteriorated due to the preemptive war launched to destroy non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Electricity is rationed, gasoline is rationed, the quality of life at least in the central and southern part of Iraq is chaotic and unstable that would suggest that the positive experiences that you personally witnessed are more the exception than the rule. I also believe military personnel sent to Iraq are not being sufficiently protected and cared for by their government. American military personnel should be withdrawn and not forced to enage in such an open-ended war without an exit strategy.

I do not “dislike military men and women” as you claim and I imagine the vast majority are decent and honourable. However, it is true I believe that America is too violent, that we have inculcated a parallel between war and patriotism and that the military as an “institution” is contrary to American interests and has caused great damage and devastation throughout the world. Our last two wars, Vietnam and Iraq, are enough to convince me, along with many other historical events, that America is not, as you claim, the greatest country in the world but perhaps its most violent, aggressive and self-absorbed hyperpower. I do agree with you that the U.S. has many things it can be proud of and it certainly provides more freedom that some nations, but we will just have to accept our general disagreement over its quality as a nation-state.

I do not believe the Iraq War is necessary to defend our country. You do and I respect that but I believe the war has damaged America’s image in the world, has destabilised a region even more than it was before 2003 and unleashed a violence in Iraq that exceeded the killings under President Hussein. I think the war is immoral, indefensible and a disgrace to our country but I will not use those terms to describe your personal service in that war.

With regard to my e-mail to one of your Air Force colleagues, I agree it did represent my true thoughts and I have discussed this e-mail in depth. The way it was presented was too harsh in areas and not sufficiently circumspect. Yet the points I made with regard to racism, baby-killing tactics of collateral damage and my denunciation of using airpower as a weapon of war I will not recant. As you know the Air Force Academy and I reconciled early on but it was the university administration under former President Richard Yanikoski that felt the need to sanction me for what I construe as protected speech, academic freedom and my rights under A.A.U.P. guidelines. I was told by the administration repeatedly that my rights would be protected and sanctions would NOT be forthcoming. They did not keep that promise due to external pressure from both national and international sources. There is no doubt that experience changed my life and has made me more reluctant to simply accept the notion that our freedoms in this country are undiminished and universally applied.

I will post this exchange between us and wish to know if I can use your name. I could delete your e-mail address. I would prefer to use your name but will not if you believe it would negatively affect you. If I do not hear from you by Monday, I will post these on my blog.*

I wish you safety and security.

Sincerely,

Peter N. Kirstein
Professor of History

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