Thomas Mahany hasn't eaten since Veteran's Day. On that day, now more than week ago, Mahaney, a Vietnam War veteran who served with the 101st Airborne Division, sent President Obama a letter explaining why he was beginning a fast that he says he will continue until Obama takes steps to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Concerned for the mental health of American soldiers returning from war zones, he urged the president to "deal with the cause, not just the effect" of war's trauma.
Mahany, now an artist and stonemason living in Michigan, says he fasted for twenty-nine days in 1970 in opposition to the Vietnam War.
Below is the letter he sent to President Obama:
Dear Mr. President,
In May of 1970 I spent 29 days in Lafayette Square fasting for Peace in Viet Nam. I now feel that [it] is time to act once again. Accordingly, as of 0600 Hours, Nov 11, Veterans Day 2009, I have taken my last material sustenance other than water until specific action is taken by your Administration and our Military to stem the tragic and ever-increasing rise in the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is rapidly approaching epidemic proportions among our Fighting Men and Women.
I served in Viet Nam and I also lost a brother-in law to suicide caused by PTSD. He had two young sons. I have seen firsthand what this can do to a family.
In taking my action, I hope to elicit for you, from the peace loving people of this nation, moral support sufficient to spiritually bolster you as you make your decision concerning our military presence in Afghanistan.
Mr. President, please end this needless, incessant warmaking. We have long ago surpassed humanely reasonable demand exacted upon the fruit of our middle class as well as wrought excessive death and destruction on unwitting civilians in foreign lands. Let us now tone
down the hatred and stop the violence that has engulfed our society.
I beg you in the words of Abraham Lincoln; please do not yield to the "peculiar and powerful interests.... With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,...let us strive on to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle ... to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.... The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart ... will yet swell the chorus ... when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
Sir, I pray you find the strength to make the honorable choice and the courage to implement it.
Withdraw our military men and women from the Middle East now. Take them away from the ordeal of continually dealing with the relentless and senseless mortality which surrounds them. Deal with the cause, not just the effect.
Again, I am resolved to partake of no food until some concrete positive action on your part has come to pass. During this time I shall, if allowed, keep myself available to the public in Lafayette Square across from the White House.
Thomas E. Mahany