Home | About | Donate

It’s Personal: Apologizing to My Daughter for the Last 15 Years of War


It’s Personal: Apologizing to My Daughter for the Last 15 Years of War

Peter Van Buren

I recently sent my last kid off for her senior year of college. There are rituals to such moments, and because dad-confessions are not among them, I just carried boxes and kept quiet. But what I really wanted to say to her -- rather than see you later, call this weekend, do you need money? -- was: I’m sorry.

Like all parents in these situations, I was thinking about her future. And like all of America, in that future she won’t be able to escape what is now encompassed by the word “terrorism.”


Interesting. Especially the apology aspect.

I found myself spontaneously expressing the same thing to a group of heavily armed young soldiers guarding grand central station in New York.

There they were with the wall was at their back as I came down the stairs. “Uh Oh.” I said to the squad. “This looks bad. Should I be get’n out of here?”

“No.” One of the young soldiers said. “This is our regular duty.”

A huge sadness washed over me. “I am so sorry we let things come to this.” I said.

The young soldiers fidgeted. They could see my sincere sadness but not my nostalgia for a time before unending United States war on humanity and Earth had also destroyed peace and freedom at home.


I miss the Andy Griffith Show. Those were strangely much better times, even though they gave us Dr. Strangelove. America–read Establishment America just could not stand any semblance of peace, as there is no profit in it. A pox on warmongers everywhere, I say.


I read this comment by Isidore 3 times. I can’t figure out the point of the comment. Saying that the author Peter Van Buren was “uninterested in finding out the truth” that he was looking to his daughter to deal with his own ignorance, etc.

Peter was a high ranking official in the State Department who was given the job of finding out how we helped to rebuild Iraq. It was a failure. I have followed his work but went to wikipedia for a summary.

We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People[edit]
Charged with rebuilding Iraq, the U.S. State Department instead spent taxpayer money on a sports mural in Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhood, hoping to promote reconciliation through art. They also paid for an isolated milk factory that could not get its milk to market, as well as a pastry class training women to open cafés on bombed-out streets without water or electricity.

According to Van Buren, the U.S. bought all these projects and more in the most expensive hearts-and-minds campaign since the Marshall Plan. We Meant Well is an eyewitness account of the civilian side of the surge—that surreal and bollixed attempt to defeat terrorism and win over Iraqis by reconstructing the world we had just destroyed. Leading a State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team on its quixotic mission, Van Buren details his year-long encounter with pointless projects, bureaucratic fumbling, overwhelmed soldiers, and oblivious administrators secluded in the world’s largest embassy, who fail to realize that you can’t rebuild a country without first picking up the trash.

This didn’t make the State Department happy. So the government went after Peter for telling the truth about what we did. He is lucky that he didn’t end up in jail, or like others like Thomas Drake who had his life ruined and pension revoked, or like Bill Binney, the former head of research at NSA whose house was invaded in front of his family and he came out of the shower to face guns drawn at him, for Peter, the charges were dropped and he got his pension. Here is a summary from wikipedia on how he was treated for telling the truth.

Struggle with the Department of State[edit]

Prior to the publication of his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People in 2011, and after 23 years of service at the State Department, Van Buren experienced a series of escalating, adverse actions.[14]

These actions included suspension of his security clearance, confiscation of his Diplomatic Passport, being placed on administrative leave without cause cited, being physically banned from the State Department building, being placed on a security watch list, losing access to his State Department computer, and being reassigned to a makeshift telework position. The State Department also actively monitored Van Buren’s blogs, Tweets and Facebook updates posted during his private time on his personal home computer. Though the State Department at one point claimed Van Buren had not properly cleared his book for publication under Department rules,[15] this claim was later dropped when it was clear Van Buren did indeed follow the rules.[16]

After the Justice Department declined to pursue Van Buren for linking to a Wikileaks cable through his blog (perhaps a test case for the later prosecution of Barrett Brown for a web link), Van Buren’s termination letter came within days of a decision by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates government wrongdoing and complaints of retaliation by those who report it, to look into his case. At this point the Government Accountability Project and the ACLU stepped in to defend Van Buren on First Amendment grounds. Indeed, the Washington Post claimed “Van Buren has tested the First Amendment almost daily.”[17]

After several months of legal battles, the State Department withdrew its intent to fire Van Buren and he instead retired with the pension and benefits State sought to take away from him.[18]


Van Buren gives voice to the horror and despair I feel about the insanity of the US government and its minions. I had planned to purchase a new sofa this year - instead I gave the money to the Sanders campaign. When my son-in-law asked me why, I told him I felt I owed it to my grandchildren. It is all of a piece, is it not?


The handling by the corporate media of the latest “terror attack” in New York and New Jersey is giving off a very familiar stench


To eliminate the threat of terrorism in the USA, it might be wise for that government to eliminate its own terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere.


Those peace signs by the kids, priceless!


Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley sez: “Those people … still intend to destroy the United States of America.”

They’re a bit late. Should they arrive they’ll find an occupying force already camped amid the rubble. Its administrative centers are on Wall Street and K Street, but its satraps are everywhere.


When she comes home for Thanksgiving, maybe you can rear her a bedtime story of how 19 hijackers with box-cutters somehow circumvented the most sophisticated air defense in the history of our milky way and level attacks on the most protected landmarks in the country! That fairytale will certainly put her in a deep sleep!


The problem with the “we meant well mentality” is that it still exhibits the Hubris of the Colonial mentality wherein “well meaning Americans” somehow have the right or duty to impose their vision of the world on another people.

It just Imperialism by another name and these “well meaning Americans” are just another tool of the Empire.

Mr Van Burens apologies should be first and foremost to the lives of the peoples he helped to destroy in Iraq as a servant of that Empire. As ever he seems more concerned as to how the USA was affected.


Peter, wonderful article , However, let me dispute two premises. !. We never meant well 2. 911 was not perpetrated by 19 Saudis, half of whom were found alive and breathing after the ‘event’. 911 was planned years before to change America. Just as the draft was eliminated to stifle protest for ‘wars of invasion’ , so too was 911 carried out to propel America into ‘accepted’ invasions for oil. The petro dollar is the bulwark of American economy. Any threat to the loss of control of oil compels war by the evil agencies, CIA,FBI,NSA, with total complicity of the MSM. Rev Jeremiah Wright and MLK were correct about America and the values espoused.


Excellent riposte…and by the by, I loved the way you ran the ball. Solid gold for the Irish.


I haven’t been paying any attention to the media accounts because I expect you are absolute right and I just cannot stomach this war mongering propaganda any longer.


Tell your daughter that those who are paid for war and whose careers are made by war love it,war that is. The neo cons, Wall Street, Israel and our war machine desperately needed to find a new enemy after the Soviets withdrew from the arms race. They tried a lame North Korea, the Axis of Evil and struck gold with the Saudi religious nuts. This gave millions a religious reason for war and hate, the thin rationale that communists should be hated because they want to try a different economic system really could not stand up even to the most limited intellectual and rational analysis. But a religious war! This needs not concern itself with the logical or rationale. So we as a people have to say no t Clinton Trump Israel and the rest. No arms sales, if we get out of the killing business we can do some good in the world, but don’t pretend CEOs who will ripoff the sick by increasing drug prices by thousands of percent won’t start and support wars for money. Also the Israelis who believe permanent war helps them need to be removed from power. Iraq, Afganistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Palistine and Pakistan are now on our hit list. Time to leave the Middle East and admit Bushes and Clinton’s don’t know anything about peace, but they do know money.


You would have done better with the sofa.


Those of us on the extreme Left need to be careful at how we choose our words when commenting on the current Security State. Given what I know about this author’s background, life and struggles, I think it’s fair to say that “We Meant Well” is meant to be an attempt at sarcasm given the extent of the destruction imposed on those countries the US considered “responsible” for the 9/11 attacks.

Yes, we neither “meant well”, nor did we have any right to assume that we could.

Given the fact that Van Buren is still alive and free and that his memoir was “cleared” by the State Department prior to its publication (despite their initial claims to the contrary), one has to consider the amount of material in his book that never made it through to the final edit either by the State Department censors or by the author himself.

Perhaps if we one day see better times, more of this book will see the light of day.

As a father and husband myself, I can certainly empathize with the author. There are lots of things we see in our everyday lives and work that we keep to ourselves for fear of reprisal or ending up on some agency’s “watch list”. Does that make me a coward? Perhaps.


Sorry to hear kids flashing peace-signs has you upset. Where I come from kids a little older are flashing gang signs, and 9mm glocks( guns ), and they use them. I agree, education, education, education!


“Al-Qaeda set a trap on 9/11 and we leaped into it.”

I disagree. They didn’t, and I know I didn’t.

Either Peter van Buren knows the World Trade Center was blown up, or he doesn’t.

If he does know but is forbidden to say, this article loses what it could have been, and is just more BS.
If he doesn’t know, he should look into it, and find out.

The demolition, by explosives, of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 is so obvious and irrefutable that it is really amazing that the fiction of the official explanation has succeeded for fifteen years.
This shows the great efficacy of modern methods of controlling popular attitudes and beliefs by repetition in the mass media.

The destruction, by explosives, of the World Trade Center buildings is, by now, one of those things that Donald Rumsfeld might call a “known known”.

Details are not complete but there’s no mystery about the fact of the demolition. The evidence is convincing.
The problem is really one of a national state of denial afflicting the majority of Americans, from the far Right to what is left of the Left. This state of 9/11 denial has become the politically correct way to be, the scenario being remarkably like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

No serious political candidate dares to speak against the official story.
The peer pressure to “go along to get along” on this issue is enormous and all-pervasive.

Anyone who has anything to lose risks losing some or all of it if he gets serious about the truth of what happened on Sept. 11.


You have an ability to routinely express human wisdom in clear and concise terms. Your comments elevate all of us to a higher realm, and I marvel at this wisdom. In your comments on secular matters, as this, the divine touches the human, imho, and I acknowledge it.
Always your posts are a pleasure.
Your commitment to this forum is appreciated.