In late 2002, concerned veterans of the 1991 Gulf War (Operation Desert storm) recognized the drumbeat to a new U.S.-led war in Iraq. Together, they formed a loose group they chose to call “Veterans for Common Sense”.
These war veterans led a letter signed by hundreds of war veterans to the President, Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House on November 11, 2002, Veterans Day, expressing grave concerns regarding such a war.
As the drumbeat to war grew louder, their concerns grew stronger, along with those of roughly half the nation.
On March 10, 2003, Veterans for Common Sense led a tersely worded letter signed by over 1,000 war veterans to then-President George W. Bush, highlighting concerns about a new war in Iraq. The warnings it contained turned out to be chillingly close to what history would eventually show:
“Instead of a desert war to liberate Kuwait, combat would likely involve protracted siege warfare, chaotic street-to-street fighting in Baghdad, and Iraqi civil conflict. If that occurs, we fear our own nation and Iraq would both suffer casualties not witnessed since Vietnam. We fear the resulting carnage and humanitarian consequences would further devastate Iraqi society and inflame an already volatile Middle East, and increase terrorism against U.S. citizens.” – Letter to President George W. Bush by over 1,000 war veterans, March 10, 2002
Notwithstanding grave concerns expressed across the country, only 10 days after the Veterans for Common Sense letter to the President, the U.S. led the ill-fated invasion into Iraq on March 20, 2003. The result was years of protracted warfare followed by enduring Iraqi civil conflict.
The cost to the U.S. was not just in trillions of un-budgeted dollars — the impact of which rippled through the entire U.S. economy and federal government budgeting. The human cost was even more staggering, with thousands of U.S. casualties indeed in numbers not seen since Vietnam.
After the new war in Iraq began, Veterans for Common Sense again raised warning flags first noted in the 2002 Veterans’ Day letter. The federal government and the nation were ill-prepared to care for the massive numbers of returning war veterans. As a result of that unpreparedness, an entirely predictable backlog of veterans’ disability claims spiraled out of control. Similarly, inadequate resources led to an impossibly overburdened VA healthcare system.
As the war dragged on and the issues, grew, Veterans for Common Sense was incorporated in Washington, DC on September 17, 2003.
The twin crises – the claims backlog and access to VA healthcare – led to other predictable results: war veterans unable to get their needs met were committing suicide.
In 2007, Veterans for Common Sense sued the VA on their behalf and the case wove its way upward through the federal courts system. While the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the case, ongoing press coverage and the Appellate Court’s scathing written opinions combined to paint for the public a picture of what Veterans for Common Sense had continued to warn about. Likely as a result, the VA created the veterans suicide hotline, which to date has saved tens of thousands of lives.
Meanwhile, growing numbers of veterans of prior wars were all but forgotten. As many as one-third of the veterans of the 1991 Gulf War continued to suffer the debilitating, chronic health effects resulting from their wartime toxic exposures. By the early 2000’s, their condition had come to be known as Gulf War Illness.
The leaders of Veterans for Common Sense continued to advocate for these veterans, including to sustain a first-of-its-kind treatment research program focused entirely on the veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness. Today, that research program serves as a beacon and a model for other military toxic exposures — a major concern among U.S. veterans.
Since the inception of Veterans for Common Sense, the organized effort has sought to provide a voice of reason by U.S. war veterans regarding military and veterans’ affairs and foreign policy.
Since its formation, Veterans for Common Sense has been quoted and cited in the national press on hundreds of occasions.
Veterans for Common Sense leaders have testified before Congress as expert witnesses dozens of times ad provided expert information and testimony to numerous government, scientific, educational, and non-governmental organizations and entities on hundreds of occasions. Veterans for Common Sense leaders have continued to work closely with the media and national veterans service, health, and other advocacy organizations to educate, inform, and guide efforts in keeping with the organization’s core principles.