May 3, 2007 — -- War veteran Army Sgt. John Bruhns does not mince words about his time spent in Iraq.
"I feel used and exploited by the administration. I feel that my patriotism has been used and exploited, my willingness to fight for this country has been used and exploited."
In 2003, Bruhns spent a year in Iraq as part of the U.S. invasion. Last month, Bruhns was selected by online voters, as part of MoveOn.org's VideoVets project, to represent the nonprofit's anti-war platform in an ad directed by Oliver Stone. Today, he will become a face for that movement as the ad debuts across the country.
"I'm very proud of my military service," Bruhns says in video posted on the MoveOn.org site. "But I'm very disappointed in the civilian leadership and the administration for sending us needlessly into combat."
Nita Chaudhary, a campaigner for MoveOn.org who worked on the VideoVets project, says the ad's release is timely, given President Bush's Tuesday veto of the Iraq supplemental that called for a firm withdrawal date in Iraq.
"The ad takes [Bruhns'] words and experience and puts it out there," Chaudhary said.
Bruhns' experiences as a soldier on the ground in Iraq "are an aspect of this debate that a lot of people haven't had access to as a lot of this is going on."
It was part of the reason MoveOn started the VideoVets project: to document the battle cry of like-minded veterans and military families, and give them a outlet to project it.
"We realized that there's not really a platform for them to tell their stories to the public," Chaudhary said. "We were a unique platform to do that."
A grass-roots effort, MoveOn dispatched about 700 members of its organization into the field last year to capture the experiences of those American families most closely effected by the war. In an effort to "elevate these voices as high as possible," MoveOn decided to post the videos on its site, allowing MoveOn members to choose the video that would eventually be turned into an ad.
Around the same time, three-time Academy Award-winning director and Vietnam War veteran Oliver Stone signed on to direct.
The ad, which will debut today on CNN as well as on YouTube and the MoveOn Web site, doesn't endorse any candidate but rather speaks a larger message about the war and bringing the troops home. (Watch the ad HERE.)
"In Vietnam, the voice of the veteran was crucial and when the veterans came home they started more and more to speak up," Stone says in an interview on the site. "John Kerry was a very eloquent one of those speakers and that helped enormously when people started to hear from the soldiers."
"John Bruhns has a lot of power for me because he is America. He has no pretension at all, and those blue eyes, when he looks at you, when he talks," Stone says. "You can't question that boy."
"He says what he sees," Stone says of Bruhns. "His credibility is 100 percent."
And what Bruhns saw he relays in plain language.
"One day there was a riot," Bruhns shares. "We had 2,000 people from the community -- Iraqi people -- come out to protest our presence in their country. There were men. There were women. There were children. It was a very diverse crowd, in terms of age and gender. These were the people of the community. These were not terrorists."
"It never seemed to me as if we were fighting al Qaeda, [Osama] bin laden or the people who were responsible for attacking us on 9/11," he says. "The mission was so confusing and it seemed as if everybody in the community disliked us. To keep American soldiers in Iraq for an indefinite period of time being attacked by an unidentifiable enemy is wrong, immoral and irresponsible."