With live blues onstage, and a history that reaches back to the Vietnam War, Grossman's Tavern has always been a gathering spot for American soldiers trying to escape a foreign conflict -- and this week, three more recent young deserters sidled up to the bar on Spadina Avenue.
One of them was Justin Colby, 23, who has spent the past year hiding out in Canada after fleeing the U.S. Army on the eve of his second deployment to Iraq. "It's an illegal war," he said. "I want no part of it."
This week, Mr. Colby and his fellow deserters had something new to talk about -- the surrender of their friend Darrell Anderson, who left Toronto on Tuesday and gave himself up to U.S. military officials at Fort Knox in Kentucky. In the American deserter community, Mr. Anderson's return is big news, with implications that are both personal and political. His fellow deserters miss his friendship, and they are watching his case with keen interest -- to them, Mr. Anderson is testing the conditions for re-entry.
Ryan Johnson, 23, who came to Canada last June after walking away from his unit in Fort Irwin, Calif., said he was surprised at Mr. Anderson's decision to return. "It was a risky thing to do," Mr. Johnson said. "I hope it works out for him."
The above is from Peter Cheney's "Looking toward home, nervously" (Candada's Globe & Mail) and it also contains quotes from war resister Corey Glass. More information on those who've gone to Canada and publicy declared their status can be found at War Resisters Support Campaign. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Darrell Anderson has been released from military custody. Jim Warren who broke the story (and scooped the AP -- one of the few to cover it yesterday -- by three hours) offers more today in "Deserter will not be charged, lawyer says" (Lexington Herald-Leader):
Anita Anderson said by cell phone that she picked up her son at the military post shortly before noon yesterday, and that they were on their way to a Tennessee treatment facility where Darrell Anderson could stay for a few weeks or months. She said he had been "treated very very well" while in Army custody.
Darrell Anderson's attorney, Jim Fennerty, said the Army had decided not to court-martial his client and had elected to give him an "other-than-honorable" discharge instead -- even though Anderson deserted to Canada and publicly criticized U.S. policy in Iraq. Fennerty said Anderson expects to get his discharge papers by mail within a few days, but he had no other immediate details.
As a deserter, Anderson could have received a variety of punishments ranging from a dishonorable discharge to months or years in prison. At least one soldier who refused to go when his unit shipped out for Iraq last year was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Calls to various public affairs numbers at Fort Knox yesterday went unanswered. But Fennerty suggested that the Army might have decided not to put Anderson in front of a court-martial because the case would have generated too much news coverage.
"I think one reason is that he's been to Iraq, while some of the others who have spoken out have never been to Iraq," Fennerty said. "The Army would have looked pretty bad court- martialing a guy who has been to Iraq and been wounded."
They would look bad and they'd also be raising attention to an issue they don't want attention to go to. It's why a finding was made in Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing but there's been no announcement of any decision made with regards to how to proceed. There's too many going public and, with the American public against the war, they have to move carefully to avoid it being grasped how many serving are against the war as well. They've tried to avoid criticism of the illegal war from the start by hiding behind the troops and, for too long, many Americans were willing to stay silent as well. When it was obvious (to all but the still deluded) that no WMDs were to be found in Iraq, when even Bully Boy had to acknowledge there was no link to 9-11 and Iraq, there wasn't much left to go with in order to silence valid criticism of the illegal war so the idea that there may be others about to come forward (there are) and that too much attention to the case of a troops refusing to serve in the illegal war might peel away the little support the illegal war still has scares the hell out of them.
They can, and did, charge Suzanne Swift last week. They could do that because she's not a war resister. Her refusal to return to Iraq is based on the abuse and harrassment she received over there. They're fully aware that their whitewash investigation (which did find one claim valid and, if you read closely, didn't attempt to determine the other claims) and the he-said/she-said nature of her objection muddy up the issues in many people's minds. There are those who will never be Swift and weren't going to before she ever went public. There are those who just don't want to contemplate that what happened to her could happen in the military (they're the ones who've been in denial of exposures for years now). Swift's case is a sexual harrassment in the work place case. The fact that it happened while serving doesn't mean that those who hide behind the military will look closely at it now. Instead, they'll refuse to consider it and dismiss it.
Darrell Anderson, who objects to the illegal war, is a different story. From Camilo Mejia on down the list, his resistance is a growing story. And his return followed months of attention (too little attention, I'd argue) given to Watada, Mark Wilkerson and Ricky Clousing. As those like Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb and Aidan Delgado continued to speak out and raise awareness, Watada, Wilkerson and Clousing were isolated individuals but part of a movement.
Had Jeremy Hinzman returned instead of Anderson, the decision likely would have been different. For one thing, mainstream press in this country have attempted to paint Hinzman as angry (and run photos where news people acted like paparazzi shouting insults to get a glaring photo -- this most famoulsy took place when he was out riding his bicycle). For another, Anderson had a Purple Heart and, though the 2004 GOP convention demonstrated that the radical-right may throw a bumper sticker on their cars but they really don't care or operate by the slogan (I'm referring to the band-aids with purple hearts colored on), they know the Purple Heart status would be a divisive issue to many (including those serving) if they attempted to prosecute.
Now Anderson going to a clinic where they treat PTS and that's another issue that they'd prefer not be raised -- both the amount of people returning from Iraq suffering PTS and the failure of the military to address that (even after the murders profiled in Vanity Fair some time ago).
His return also benefitted him because, though it was unlikely the Canadian government would grant him asylum (they've thus far refused to grant any resister asylum), as someone who married a Canadian citizen (Gail Greer), Anderson would have received some protection and legal recogition had he chosen to stay in Canada.
Darrell Anderson's story matters beyond just Darrell Anderson. Those making the call on what to do after he turned himself in at Fort Knox grasped that, even if independent media didn't. With the exception of Aaron Glantz, you didn't see much committment to this story. You never read, hear or saw a story in the time leading up to his announced return or following it about how Anderson is part of a movement of resistance. And that makes it more difficult for the next person. What you did see was a lot of follow big media (and big media isn't interested in covering Anderson or any other war resister) but we saw that take place all summer long as well. When independent media refuses to seriously address the stories that big media won't cover by devoting air time or print space to them, independent media is just as much a part of the problem as big media.
We started with war resistance today because it does matter. And noting it does matter (and does a make a difference).
In today's New York Times, Carolyn Marshall's "Corpsman Who Failed To Halt Killing of Iraqi Receives Prison Sentence" (A9) covers Melson J. Bacos who pledged guilty to kidnapping and consipracy yesterday before going on to testify against the seven others making up the Pendleton Eight. Marshall, who could never write Abeer's name, can provide the victim in this case, Hashim Ibrahim Awad. The other seven accused are John J. Jodka III, Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Robert B. Pennington, Tyler A. Jackon, Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Trent D. Thomas and Marshall L. Magincalda and they still face charges of "premeditated murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and making false statements." From the article:
Court documents read into the record Friday recounted how the men stole a shovel and AK-47 to plant near the body, and later shot rounds in the air to create bullet casings that would suggest a gunfight.
Though not as bad as her Abeer reporting (or as laughable as Ben Stein's July piece on the case -- and he still gets endorsement contracts?), it's a superficial article that offers nothing the AP and others didn't cover yesterday. (If she was in the court-room, there appears to be group-think going on since the 'money quote' was in all of yesterday's stories as well.)
John O'Neil's piece on A5 can't be called reporting. It's entitled "U.S. General Says 4,000 Iraqi Policemen Have Died in 2 Years." Joseph Peterson holds a press conference and O'Neil jots it down. It's a fan club bulletin. How wonderful it must be for Peterson's ego to have his every word noted, but don't kid that it's reporting. Words like "emphasized," "cited," "said," "said," litter the write up. Peterson pointed to the mass kindapping (Sunday) from the food factory so that makes the story (not making the story, though reported by the mainstream, is the fact that an eye witness noted vehichles and uniforms used in Monday's mass kidnapping from the computer stores -- but apparently the general didn't talk about that).
There's no effort to note how many were shot dead last week (O'Neil could just focus on Mosul to tease out a tidbit that would make this more than a stenographer taking dictation). There's no attempt to note the corruption that's been reported in the police force, the fact that some police officers probably belong to the resistance (the Times prefers "insurgency"), there's nothing here but what the general said (plus one paragraph at the end noting some of the reported deaths yesterday in Iraq). Can you tease out a press conference to 15 paragraphs and pass them off as "news"? It happens today. And that fault goes beyond O'Neil, goes on up the chain. There doesn't have to be an effort to disprove the general claims. Again, focusing on Mosul, O'Neil could have easily demonstrated the claims noting just the police officers shot dead (and he could have just focused on this week if this was the rush job it reads like).
But what makes it into the paper today under his byline isn't news. It's a fan club bulletin that only needs, "For those who weren't able to catch Joe yesterday in person, I've made a point to jot down everything he said!" This isn't an issue of 'balance' (though there are members of the Iraqi parliament who refute some of the general's claims -- refute publicly), it's the issue that you can't write up what one person said at a press conference and pass it off as news. (It's a feature and they could run it in the Arts section or on Sunday in This Week.)
Something as simple as what follows would make O'Neil's story something more than a fan club bulletin:
On Thursday, a police officer was shot dead in Falluja, two were shot dead on Wednesday in Baquba, a drive-by in Mosul claimed the life of one police officer on Monday -- a day that also saw two police officers shot dead and three wounded in Kut al-Hay. These deaths and injuries are among the more than 4,000 Iraq police officers killed and 8,000 injured that Major General Joseph Peterson spoke of yesterday.
Taking down dictation and then typing it up doesn't make for news and it's not O'Neil's fault alone, someone should have caught that as the story moved up the chain.
Trina just called and said she was sorry she was so late in posting. Trina's latest is up at Trina's Kitchen. But this entry going up late because a section I was writing ended up with input from Ty, then Dona, then Jess. At that point, it seemed something better to note at The Third Estate Sunday Review. (Where it will be noted.) Trina hasn't delayed this entry from posting.
But in addition to Trina, the following have posted since yesterday morning:
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz
and Wally of The Daily Jot
In addition, while Kat is in Ireland, people are guest posting at her site Kat's Korner (of The Common Ils). Betty did Monday, Ruth did Wednesday and I did last night.
Closing with Iraq, Thursday in "NYT: The war is lost but Gordie's hot for 'doggie style'," Michael Gordon's "Military Hones A New Strategy On Insurgency" was noted and the entry concluded with this:
The war is lost. The 'plan' is a joke. Maybe after Gordo comes down from his sexual high, he'll grasp that and also grasp that Tal Afar doesn't make for a good example?
If Gordo still hasn't grasped the latter, possibly this will help him, "Bomber attacks 'model' Iraqi city" (BBC):
A suicide attacker using a bomb-laden lorry has killed 14 people at an Iraqi army checkpoint in the city of Tal Afar, a medical source told the BBC.
Four soldiers and 10 civilians died in the blast in the northern city which US President George W Bush held up as a model in a speech in March.
The renewed violence comes as it appears the US may be considering a major change in policy on Iraq.
Reports of a change came after a visit to Iraq by a senior Republican senator.
The report also notes that Kirkuk is under lockdown and that a waterless moat,"15km (eight miles) long and two metres deep [,] has been dug around part of the city in a bid to control access. " The report also notes this from "Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad" on a possible troop withdrawal (which he feels could "shock" the Iraqi puppet government into action) and quotes him stating, "There's no prospect that Iraq in the near term is going to become a reliable and democratic ally of the West."
Ruth is planning a report for this weekend. The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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