- West Virginia's top Army Reserve spokesman says the Iraq
war was a mistake, and President Bush should be voted out of office.
- In a long interview with Gazette columnist Sandy Wells,
Col. Lew G. Tyree of Charleston publicly revealed his feelings about the
Iraq invasion. saying:
- "I feel we were not told the truth. I do not think
we should be there. America is in more danger now because we are using
up a tremendous amount of human resources, the soldiers.
- We tend to ignore that there are well over 1,000 dead
and well over 7,000 injured. We use many of the soldiers time and time
again. Where are the replacements going to come from?
- We're getting re-enlistments, but not recruits. Where
is the strength for defending this country in another arena?"
- Tyree commanded the state's largest Army Reserve unit,
based at Cross Lanes, and led his soldiers on harrowing duty in Iraq and
Kuwait, hauling ammunition to the front lines.
- After the unit returned, Tyree retired and was appointed
Army Reserve Ambassador for West Virginia. He makes military speeches around
the state, such as an appearance at South Charleston's Armed Forces Day
in May. Tyree - who is staff attorney for the West Virginia Housing Development
Fund, and also past chairman of the state Human Rights Commission - has
made Charleston church talks opposing the Iraq war.
- In his interview with Wells, he finally made his views
- The retired colonel said his troops in Iraq wondered
'what we were doing there,' and he was forced to change his answer repeatedly.
An invasion must have a clear mission and an exit strategy, but 'those
things didn't exist' in the Iraq attack, he said.
- At first, Tyree said, he trusted Secretary of State Colin
Powell's assertion that Iraq possessed illicit weapons of mass destruction.
- But that pretext soon faded, and the next reason for
the war was 'to liberate the Iraqis from tyranny.' Later, he heard that
'we were there to gain a foothold in the region,' but he couldn't tell
that reason to his troops, so he 'went back to the liberation mission.'
- The ex-reservist told Wells that throwing so much military
manpower into Iraq has left fewer forces to deal with terrorist threats,
"so America is at a greater risk than before."
- He said part-time reservists such as those in his group
aren't trained enough for the chaotic complications of warfare. He added
that America's full-time soldiers and officers in Iraq tend to look down
on reservists, and refuse to cooperate with them.
- As for the Bush administration, Tyree concluded:
- "Shaking the saber at someone is not the approach
to world diplomacy. It's extremely important that we bring other countries
back to the table to work on peaceful solutions. We can't bring them to
the plate under the current administration. We have to show them that we
are willing to change this administration and come back to the table as
part of the world community."
- While he was in the military, he said, "we couldn't
speak out about what we really think." But he approved of his college-student
daughter joining war protests.
- Tyree said he can't understand veterans who "continue
to support a leader who would lead us in this direction with these kinds
- "I believe in this country, and I'm concerned about
where this country is heading," he said. "I want to be part of
the change, vs. the part that will allow us to continue on the path of
destruction." He added that he's doing the same as John Kerry, who
fought in the Vietnam War then returned to oppose it.