The latest three deaths announced by the US military (see previous entry) put the ICCC count of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war at 2932. AP has a higher number and we'll note that in a second, but ICCC's the trusted source for this community. Starting with another topic mentioned in the previous entry, this is from Nancy A. Youssef and Zaineb Obeid's "Shiite militias forcing Sunnis to abandon their Baghdad homes" (McClatchy Newspapers):
The displacement of Sunni Muslims from a Baghdad neighborhood this weekend could tip a large portion of Baghdad to control by Shiite militias, residents there and militiamen agreed Sunday.
Since Saturday Sunni residents have been displaced or voluntarily left the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah after police said three Sunni families were killed. Those who fled voluntarily said they did it because they did not trust the government forces to protect them. On Sunday, they continued fleeing, moving into schools or strangers' homes, the best immediate refuge they could find.
Shiite militiamen loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr openly admit to entering their homes and forcing them to leave. That speaks to the ongoing open battle for control of the capital and the apparent domination by the Mahdi Army, Sadr's militia.
It is clear that the government cannot protect neighborhoods, making it difficult for U.S. officials to hand control over to Iraqi forces. Other than outraged Sunni politicians, the mostly Shiite government was largely silent Sunday about the displacement.
The U.N. calls the displacement of Iraqi families the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world. They estimate that at least 1,000 Iraqis are displaced every day. Said Arakat, the local U.N. spokesman, said that if the displacement of families continues, "it will lead to calamity in Iraq."
Now AP's calling the number of US troops dead so far this month 42. This is from Sameer N. Yacoub's "3 Americans killed, 2 wounded in Iraq" (AP via San Jose Mercury News):
Three explosions struck Baghdad within a span of two hours on Monday, police said, after a roadside bomb in the capital killed three American soldiers and wounded two on a late-night combat patrol.
The soldiers were killed when the blast hit their military combat patrol in northern Baghdad, the U.S. command said. Insurgents often plant such explosives and hide nearby to set them off with hidden electrical cords or cell phone devices as coalition forces pass by in convoys.
The three deaths raised to 46 the number of American troops who have died this month. At least 2,934 members of the U.S. military have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
At 9 a.m. on Monday, a suicide car bomb hit an abandoned house being used by policemen as an outpost in Dora, southern Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding five, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
At 9:45 a.m., a roadside bomb exploded near Mustasiriyah University in east Baghdad, wounding seven civilians who were standing nearby, said police Lt. Ali Muhsin.
A parked car bomb detonated at 10:30 a.m. near al-Maamoun college in western Baghdad, killing one student and wounding two others and two policemen, a police officer said on condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety.
Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher) grabs ahold of John Kerry's famous quote during Vietnam and he applies it to today in "The Last Soldier To Die for A Mistake:"
To my surprise, with a little research, I discovered that there is a consensus on who that individual was. We'll get to his name in a moment, but what’s most relevant is that he died almost five years after that "mistake" was widely acknowledged. How many will die from now until the last American perishes in Iraq? Gallup and other polls show that a clear majority of American have already labeled the Iraq invasion a "mistake."
We are at a haunting juncture in the Iraq war. Forgive me for another "back in the day" reference, but I recall very well that the public only turned strongly against the Vietnam conflict with the mass realization that young American lives were not only being lost but truly wasted. Now, a woman named Beverly Fabri says in today's Washington Post, almost three years after her 19-year-old son, Army Pvt. Bryan Nicholas Spry, was killed, "I'm beginning to feel like he just died in vain, I really am." That's because she believes, "We are not going to win this war. And we should''t have gotten involved with it in the first place."
Another echo of Vietnam: press reports of military officers in Iraq saying, off the record, that they are cutting down, or eliminating, certain patrols because they no longer think the effort is worth the death of any of their men. What's next in this Vietnam flashback? Fragging of officers who do send their men foolishly into harm's way?
Now, who was that last American to die in Vietnam?
According to Arlington National Cemetery, and numerous other sources, he was Army Col. William B. Nolde, a 43-year-old father of five. He was killed Jan. 27, 1973, near An Loc -- just 11 hours before the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords -- when an artillery shell exploded nearby. This is how Time magazine reported it the following week: "The last hours of the Viet Nam War took a cruel human toll. Communist and South Vietnamese casualties ran into the thousands. Four U.S. airmen joined the missing-in-action list when their two aircraft were downed on the last day. Another four Americans were known to have been killed--including Lieut. Colonel William B. Nolde, 43, of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., who was cut down in an artillery barrage at An Loc only eleven hours before the ceasefire. He was the 45,941st American to have died by enemy action in Viet Nam since 1961."
Now this is an AP article we've noted before. It was run by several papers. It's now getting picked up by more. It's about Patrick and Jill Hart (Patrick Hart is a US war resister who self-checked out and went to Canada) and we'll emphasize a different section for this excerpt. From Carolyn Thompson's "War resister still considers himself a soldier as he builds new life in Canada" (AP via San Diego Union-Tribune):
This past June, Hart and a handful of other military deserters put on black T-shirts emblazoned with AWOL and gathered with "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan in a Fort Erie, Ontario, park. They were cheered by about 100 people, including Bruce Beyer, who moved to Canada after refusing induction into the Army during the Vietnam War.
Beyer said he felt forgotten after fleeing charges in the United States and is determined to show the current generation they have support.
"The limbo in which American war resisters are living in Canada is rather overwhelming, in that the Canadian government has not taken a position of welcome," said Beyer, whose own experience was far different. Beyer quickly received landed immigrant status when he arrived in Canada in 1972. He spent five years in Canada, returning only after President Jimmy Carter issued an amnesty for those who left.
The Canadian government, which has troops in Afghanistan but not Iraq, has so far denied refugee status to today's U.S. troops. The Immigration and Refugee Board in October ruled against Pfc. Joshua Key, saying he would likely be court-martialed if returned to the United States but not subjected to cruel or unusual punishment. Appeals of two earlier rejections, in the cases of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, are pending.
“What that means is that for the war resisters leaving the United States and going to Canada, they're allowed to live in Canada, they're allowed to work in Canada, they are even given access to medical and health insurance programs, but they are not given any legal status,” Beyer said. "So they're really living, I suppose, with the threat of any day being deported."
He cautions resisters, from experience, that their decision will follow them through life.
"Here I am 58 years old and for something I did 35 years ago, you're interviewing me," said Beyer, who returned to the United States in 1977. He now owns a woodworking business in Buffalo.
Staying on the topic of war resistance, from Cecilia M. Vega's "Troops opposed to Iraq war get show of support Rallies in S.F., nationwide hear those who went AWOL speak on refusal to return to combat" (San Francisco Chronicle):
Pfc. Kyle Snyder, a 23-year-old Army deserter who has been AWOL since April 2005, also planned to join Saturday's event in San Francisco. He stayed away after police in Alameda showed up looking for him at an anti-war event in that city the night before.
Alameda police Sgt. Michael Abreu said his department received a tip from someone in the Army in Kentucky that Snyder, who has a warrant out for his arrest, would appear at the event, part of a West Coast speaking tour.
Snyder was not present in Alameda. Not knowing whether authorities were actively searching for him, Snyder phoned the San Francisco gathering and his call was broadcast to supporters over a loudspeaker. Organizers said he later attended a rally after the speaking engagement.
"I just couldn't be a part of what I believed to be an illegal war," Snyder said by phone.
Finally, this is an article about Suzanne Swift. She's not a war resister at this site. I don't know why people apply that to her. If she's spoken out against the war, it must have been recently and we've missed it. More importantly, using the term "war resister" (a term I support) undercuts the issues of her case. To recap her case, Swift was the subject of severe sexual harrassment in the military including while she was serving in Iraq. The US military did one of their whitewash examinations where they only found proof to some of her claims. (I believe Swift 100%.) Only some? That's more than enough to demand that she be discharged. If the case was presented that way she would be. If the case were presented that way some feminists who don't want to weigh in on the war (well, they call themselves feminists at any rate) as well as 'traditionalists' (of all genders) would be calling for the discharge Swift deserves. Congress would be up in arms about what happened to her. Using the term "war resister" (and again, unless we've missed a recent statement, Swift's not publicly spoken out against the war that we're aware of) makes her case 'too hot' for some of the people who would naturally be demanding that Congress act on this issue and act immediately. This is from "Interview with Sara Rich, Mother of Suzanne Swift, Army War Resister" (Fight Back! News):
Sara Rich is an activist and a tireless advocate for her daughter, Army Specialist Suzanne Swift, who is awaiting a court-martial for refusing to return to Iraq under the command of a sergeant who raped her. Today Sara Rich travels around the U.S., speaking out against the war and military sexual violence. Fight Back! interviewed Sara Rich on Oct. 28.
Fight Back!: How is Suzanne? How is your daughter's case going?
Sara Rich: Not good. Suzanne is being court-martialed and her trial is set for Jan. 7. I think the military is trying to make an example of her. They have set up a system that does not work for victims of sexual violence in the military. The victim advocates that the military assigns are not adequately trained.
Women who speak out about their experiences are treated like trash and humiliated by their officers and fellow soldiers. One girl had to have bodyguards assigned to her because she was receiving death threats from other soldiers in her unit. I know of a girl in Germany who was abused and she tried to commit suicide. Eventually the Red Cross, who she had been in contact with, told her family to stop trying to advocate on her behalf; the organization was afraid of being charged for "destroying government property." That's what you are when you're enlisted -- government property.
Fight Back!: How did the government respond to your daughter's case?
Sara Rich: It took them about four months to decide what to do with Suzanne. The response we've received has been dismissive and nonexistent.
When Suzanne reported the abuse she had experienced at the hands of the sergeants she served under, the military conducted a three-day investigation. In this investigation neither of the major perpetrators were interviewed. Suzanne was interviewed for an hour. The investigators told her that they "weren't interested in any details." The officer responsible for the investigation was not even a member of CID [military Criminal Investigation Command] - he was just a random colonel assigned to her case. When the colonel submitted his findings his superior rejected them, saying that there wasn't enough information.
Three different sergeants had sexually harassed and abused Suzanne. The military investigation claimed that only the offenses committed by the third sergeant could be substantiated and said that Suzanne had failed to report the earlier abuses. This is untrue, and is even contradicted by the army’s own investigation, which documented reports which Suzanne made of her abuse while serving in Iraq.
The army gave Suzanne a psychological evaluation. They said that she had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but claimed she didn’t have enough to be diagnosed with the condition. So, they decided to charge her with going AWOL when she refused to return to Iraq under the control of her abusers.
Sergeant Lester, one of the sergeants who harassed Suzanne, told the investigators that Suzanne was lazy, and that "he occasionally had to 'micromanaged' her." The Equal Opportunity officer said that she was promiscuous and "had a reputation" among the soldiers. This is totally typical of the language sexual abusers use to talk about their victims. Never mind the major in her division -- who said Suzanne was a good soldier who performed admirably in combat -- or that her team leader commended her honesty to the investigators. The military took the words of her abusers over those of higher-ranking officers who had served with her.
Despite all of the flaws in the way this investigation was put together, the military is still moving forward to prosecute its case. Honestly, they're trying to break us down -- emotionally and financially. They're trying to beat us down, but it’s not going to happen.
Sara Rich is opposed to the war. She is publicly on record as opposed to the war and possibly that's where the confusion stems from. But Suzanne Swift, even in a lengthy interview with Amy Goodman, never stated the war was illegal, immoral and/or wrong or her opposition to it.
To be a war resister you have to do that.
I mistakenly referred to her here as a "war resister" in the early days of her coverage. Thankfully, a family member of a war resister pointed that out to me. It was my mistake. I assumed there was some public statment since everyone was calling her a war resister. There's none that I can find, there's none that members of this community can find.
We don't present her as a war resister here. More to the point, her legal strategy and her strategy in the court of public opinion needs to change real quick because she's facing a court-martial next month and the allies she needs aren't going to come to the support of a war resister. Congress is a joke on the issue of the war. (On others as well.) Tailor the argument that she was sexually harrassed and abused while serving and that she can't serve now. That is the case as Swift herself presents it and no one can argue with that logic.
Swift should be discharged immediately. She shouldn't have a reduction in rank or a dishonorable discharge. What was done to her shouldn't have happened and violated every civilian law/policy as well as every military one. She tried to work within the system and, no surprise, the military system covered up the sexual misconduct.
That's the argument that will have the weak kneed members of Congress find their voices. The clock is ticking on her case and if it's not presented in a different manner quickly, she will face a court-martial (hopefully, should that happen, military justice will recognize the issues at stake -- that's not very likely, however, due to the fact that it's already gotten this far).
We support war resisters in this community and we don't shy from the topic to appear 'centrists' or because we're cowardly adults who won't use our power but will abuse it instead by playing it safe and hiding behind generals and whatever else is consider 'respectable.' (We also have several members who are not yet adults; however, they show more maturity than most in the 'indendent' print media.)
Had Swift spoken out against the war, honestly, I would be saying the same thing. Her case does not depend upon war resistance. She should be discharged immediately (at her current rank, honorable discharge, full benefits) because what happened shouldn't have happened, the refusal of the system to address the abuse she suffered shouldn't have happened, and the climate within the military has been noted in one scandal after another involving women. Add in that she's in a combat situation (everyone in Iraq is in a combat situation) and there she was abused by men supposedly protecting and serving and even the 'traditionalists' should be on board with demanding that Swift be discharged without any punishment.
Remember that the verdict on Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, Patti Ackerman and Missy Comley Beattie comes out this morning. Or is supposed to. We'll try to note it in the snapshot. The snapshot may be late and may be brief, I have to attend a memorial today.
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cecilia m. vega