Sunday, June 10, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

I participated in Operation First Casualty 2 (NYC) two weekends ago, and it was an amazing experience. The response was overwhelmingly positive, especially in Brooklyn. A Muslim man in a park thanked me for speaking out, and several NYPD members thanked me for my service.
The best disapproving remark anyone could muster was, "Punks! Why did you enlist?!" As usual, this was coming from someone who obviously never served in the military and has only the marketing driven, overly romanticized view of what it was like.
I can't speak to why every member of IVAW joined the military. I can tell you that I joined for a few reasons, one of which was the often repeated "money for college." I could spend time expounding upon how the enlistment contract is a bait-and-switch and how the fine print reveals it isn't really a contract at all (the government reserves the right to change everything, and the enlistee has little recourse), but those things aren't even relavent. What the hecklers really need to understand isn't why we joined; they need to understand the oath we took.
The oath of enlistment affirms that the enlistee will support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and obey the orders of the President and officers appointed over them. That's the gist of it. But what is one to do when the President is a domestic enemy of the Constitution? Are you supposed to shut up and not say anything? That is what most IVAW members did while they were still in; now most (but not all) of us are out, and we are exercising our first ammendment rights while we still have them. For some history context, check out

The above is from David J. Kalbfleisch's "Why did you join?!" (Iraq Veterans Against the War) and Kendrick noted it writing, "To steal from Amy Goodman, questions can't be raised before the war or during, so the only time is after? It's amazing how the same crowd that told Americans who questioned the war that they were 'hurting the soldiers' now rush to scream 'SHUT UP!' at the troops." Well, they have to, don't they?

The illegal war was sold on lies and fears and as America wakes up, they have to work all the harder to stop people from telling the truth because there are a lot more people telling the truth these days. And they never cared about the service members. Some may have been so carried away by fear that it was their primary motivation -- in their beds, covers over their heads, "Somebody save me!" -- but some knew they were lies and didn't give a damn. Didn't give a damn about the Iraqis who would be killed or the US service members who would be killed. As more and more vets begin speaking out, the War Hawks demonstrate that they were never about the troops, they were just about the war. This was the reality during Vietnam as well and one thing we should all be fighting hard for (long term goal) is that this time history doesn't get rewritten, this time the lie doesn't take hold that the peace movement was on one side and the vets were on the other. There was more news coverage of this reality during Vietnam (largely because news had to cover news -- they couldn't go off on tangents about celebrity arrests or trials -- the standards were a bit higher than even if the quality wasn't any better). But, and this pointed out in Sir! No Sir!, even with so many people living through it, seeing it on their TV screens, reading about it Life magazine, etc., it all got wiped away with the pro-longed revision attempts of the right-wing. The left (in total) made a point to be 'big' about it and the center just wanted to put everything behind. As a country, the United States never addressed the realities of Vietnam and that's one reason that we're in engaged in another endless illegal war now.

If you see something in a magazine or paper today, clip it, put it in an envelope and keep it handy because the same revisionary history will be launched as this illegal war winds down. That's the reality because if history can't be tossed aside and myths put in place, another illegal war can't be sold. Which is why it is all the more appalling that, for instance, The Nation refuses to cover the peace movement in any form -- including war resisters. Forget the fact that they fail those of us today by refusing to cover it, they also abandon the historical record. In doing so, they make it all the easier for the next illegal war after the revisionary myths take hold.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3495. Tonight? 3508. Today, the US military announced: "One Multi-National Division - North Soldier died of wounds as a result of injuries sustained from small arms fire while conducting operations in Diyala Province, June 9." And they announced: "A Mutli-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed during combat operations in a southern section of Baghdad June 10."

In other violence news , Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the assassination of Jawad Kedhim Taba'taba'i in Baghdad (he had been "the chairman of the Shiite Dialogue bloc"), two Baghdad car bombings that claimed two lives (10 wounded), , two Baghdad car bombings with three dead (five wounded), 15 corpses discovered in Baghdad, a Tuz roadisde bombing that claimed the life of one Iraqi soldier (six more wounded), a Tirkrit truck bombing that claimed the lives of five police officers (30 more wounded) and a Saman Bek roadside bombing that claimed the life of one Iraqi soldier (three more wounded). Dean Yates and Paul Tait (Reuters) report that the Albu-Ajeel truck bombing has now claimed the lives of 14 police officers (42 now classified as wounded) and that it damaged a bridge. Reuters also notes an Iskandiriya car bombing apparently targeting a bridge, and 8 Iraqis dead from a US helicopter attack. CBS and AP note that "hundreds marched in the streets as a funeral was held for four people reportedly killed in overnight clashes in a predominantly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad:"

Associated Press Television video footage shot early Sunday showed a low-flying Apache helicopter firing flares as several hundred people, including teenagers and children, were gathered around a smoldering Humvee below.
Residents said a fire broke out in a residential house from a pile of straw used by local residents to feed animals, after U.S. helicopters dropped flares in the area. A local resident told AP Television that U.S. troops had come on Sunday to "haul their damaged humvee out of the area."
"The damaged humvee was opposite to our house, so their aircraft shelled the house. They towed their humvee and fled," the resident said. AP Television video footage shot on Sunday showed firemen tending to a fire at the scene.

And from "Visions" (McClatchy News' Iraq blog):

When I was far from Iraq in 2004, my boss said to me,"Now that we know how bad Saddam was; the mass graves ... etc. I must ask you - who were the people we used to see on TV - hundreds of thousands of them - clapping and shouting joyfully in his support? Who were they and where are they now??
Abu Aden was a dangerous man.
He was affiliated in some way to Saddam's Intelligence Agency, went the rumors.
His eyes shifty - his voice loud - his demeanor mean.
He granted himself discounts on his rent, and woe to the landlord who dared question this. He took up pavement space for his own convenience.
No-one dared challenge him whether right - or wrong. He was Saddam's man. Those who did, disappeared.

Who were those people clapping? A question rarely asked though they've been the propaganda that allows War Hawks and Idiots to claim that 'democracy' or 'liberation' arrived in Iraq at gun point. The reality is that elections were repeatedly postponed and then they were a joke. The reality is that public services were not improved (potable water, electricity, etc.) and that was never a goal. Early on, as Tom Hayden's noted, the US government made a decision of whom to support and whom not to and as people note the continued violence in the Middle East they might take a moment to realize that forty years from now the civil war(s) the US created in Iraq may still be on going.

Other long term damage includes the returning wounded that, despite's water carrying in 2004, the government has never shown interest in treating, not even in terms of funding the health care. We've seen that most publicly with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandals but it's equally true that the vetern health care is failing across the board. With one example, Doug notes Kimberly Hefling's "Troops struggle with finding therapists" (AP):

Soldiers returning from war are finding it more difficult to get mental health treatment because military insurance is cutting payments to therapists, on top of already low reimbursement rates and a tangle of red tape.
Wait lists now extend for months to see a military doctor and it can takes weeks to find a private therapist willing to take on members of the military. The challenge appears great in rural areas, where many National Guard and Reserve troops and their families live.
To avoid the hassles of Tricare, the military health insurance program, one frustrated therapist opted to provide an hour of therapy time a week to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for free. Barbara Romberg, a clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C., area, has started a group that encourages other therapists to do the same.

Doug also notes that Elaine has been doing this since the fall of 2003. (Doug has a family member who was one of Elaine's first Iraq vets.) He wanted to be sure she got credit and I agree with that, her praises need to be sang and a huge chunk of her patients each week are all pro bono because the government will not fund the help needed. In addition to individual sessions, the Thursday night group session is with Iraq vets. Elaine deserves a lot of credit (as do others who have stepped up) for her work.

Resistance within the military is already at a huge level (even though some play dumb) and it is growing. Carter notes Heather Wokusch's "Hidden Wars: US Troops in Germany (article & videocast)" (OpEdNews):

Take Agustín Aguayo, a Mexican-American conscientious objector (CO) formerly based in Bavaria. Aguayo unsuccessfully applied for CO status before deploying in 2004, and citing non-violence, even refused to carry a loaded weapon during his year as a combat medic in Iraq.
In late 2005, Aguayo appealed to a US Federal court on grounds that his CO status had been wrongfully denied, and after his bid was rejected, fled Germany rather than redeploy to Iraq in September 2006. Before surrendering to military authorities in California less than a month later, Aguayo held a press conference stating, "I have come to believe that it is wrong to destroy life, that it is wrong to use war, that it is immoral, and I can no longer go down that path."
Aguayo was promptly sent back to Germany and thrown in the brig. His case became something of a national cause célèbre, with prominent German newspapers reporting his eventual court martial and conviction for desertion.
Other US troops in Germany seeking early discharge have been luckier, and many can thank the Bammental-based Military Counseling Network (MCN). In fact, all seven of the conscientious objector applicants the MCN supported through the application process in 2006 ended up receiving Honorable discharges.
One was former US Army Specialist Kyle D. Huwer, who served for one and a half years before, as he puts it, "I finally came to my senses and realized that what I was doing was wrong."
Another was former US Army Private Clifton F. Hicks, who served from the summer of 2003 to late 2005. Hicks says, "I joined to defend the people of the United States, and when I found our Army was not doing that, and that I was in fact being used to further the goals of evil men, I began to question my involvement in such an organization."
For some troops in Germany, going AWOL (absent without leave) seems the only option, such as "John," who took a stateside leave earlier this year and never returned.

On the same topic, we'll note Nancy Montgomery's "Group advises against desertion, but says it works as a last chance" (Stars and Stripes):

"What happens to many of the deserters is that they get administratively discharged," said Maj. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman.
Edgecomb did not provide statistics on how deserters' cases were handled; a news report in April citing Army statistics said more deserters were facing courts-martial than in previous years. But Edgecomb said that of deserters outprocessed at Fort Knox, Ky., where many U.S. Army Europe soldiers who desert end up, 70 percent are administratively discharged.
The Military Counseling Network near Heidelberg, Germany, has noted that few soldiers based in Europe who desert face criminal penalties, as long as they fall under certain conditions.
These are: they must not be on a deployment list; they must not have pending actions against them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; they have to make it back to the U.S. before 30 days, when an arrest warrant is issued; and they should turn themselves in after 30 days when they've been dropped from their unit's rolls to one of two personnel control centers, Fort Knox or Fort Sill, Okla.
Michael Sharp, at the MCN, said his organization would never encourage anyone to break the law and desert, but when soldiers ask what happens if they go absent without leave, the MCN can tell them what it knows.
Chris Capps, 23, had asked MCN about what happens when a soldier goes AWOL before he decided to do it "after, he said, he had become disillusioned with the military and the effects the war had on Iraqis " and before he could be deployed to Afghanistan.
Capps went on leave, flew to the States and stayed in New York City until he knew he had been dropped from his unit's rolls. After that, Capps said, his commander had no authority over him.
Capps turned himself in at Fort Sill. In fewer than four days, he was out of the Army, with an other-than-honorable discharge.

And Nancy Montgomery has another article that is on C.O.'s but we'll stay with self-checkouts and just note from the opening of her article, "Dignified or dirty: leaving the fight as a conscientious objector" (Stars and Stripes):

HEIDELBERG, Germany - Want out?
Spc. Chris Capps of the 440th Signal Battalion did.
After one deployment in Iraq and what he assumed was soon to be another in Afghanistan, he went on leave one day and never came back.
"I was a deserter," he said.
But Capps wasn't prosecuted, just as most deserters aren't, according to the Army. Instead, after he turned himself in last month at Fort Sill, Okla., one of two Army personnel processing centers, he was out of the Army in 3 1/2 days with an "other-than-honorable" discharge.
Now he's living in Hanau with his German wife, looking for a job and protesting the wars he was once a part of. He's lost all military benefits and said he knows that some, perhaps most, of his former company members view him with distaste.
"My family looks at me as an oath-breaker. I've been pretty much ostracized," Capps said. "But I'm OK with that."
Capps had done his homework on how to leave the Army, ” breaking his contract but honoring his conscience, he says, ”without having charges brought against him. He is one of about 110 U.S. Army Europe soldiers who last year sought guidance from the Military Counseling Network.

And the self-check outs spreads on throughout the so-called coalition of the willing. James in Brighton notes Ben Quinn's "11,000 troops go Awol since Iraq war" (Telegraph of London):

Almost 1,000 soldiers are absent without leave (Awol), according to figures from the Ministry of Defence.
More than 11,000 cases of soldiers going on the run have been logged since the Iraq conflict began in 2003.

[. . .]
A soldier who fled his regiment in Iraq to begin a new life with his girlfriend killed himself in front of her and her two children last month.
Martin Packer, 20, went Awol from the Royal Fusiliers for more than four months after he fell in love with Joanne Hepple from North Shields, Tyneside. He stabbed himself during an argument.

On a totally unrelated note but one that may make you smile, check out Ken Silverstein's take on AlterPunk (Harper's). Iwana noted it. Also unrelated, Eric Ruder's "The Shape of Lebanon since Israel's assualt" (US Socialist Worker) is an interview with Dahr Jamail -- the non-Canadian Dahr Jamail as the New York Times finally admitted after nine days. Back on topic, Libby Copeland's "Protesting for Peace With a Vivid Hue and Cry" (Washington Post) covers CODEPINK's efforts in DC (and note that the DC house will be open all summer long as part of their DC based efforts to end the illegal war -- more info at CODEPINK):

Medea Benjamin, one of the founders of the women's peace group Code Pink, wears pink every single day, and sleeps in it, too.
Her shoulder bag, her wallet and her cellphone are all pink. When she visits Washington from San Francisco to lobby Congress against the war in Iraq, she stays in Code Pink's new group house on Capitol Hill, where nearly everyone wears pink, where her bedspread and her pillow and her bedroom curtains are pink, as are the drinking cups in the kitchen and the flowers that grow out back.

Code Pink's signature color is a bright, vibrant shade, the hue of Barbie dolls and Victoria's Secret panties. It's a color for those who believe that even in the midst of serious political activism there is room for pink feather boas and pink-ribboned dog biscuits. There is also room for Statue of Liberty pink crowns -- which several women are wearing now as they walk up Fifth Street NE toward the seat of government.
They're planning a little impromptu chat with the nation's senators.

Pru gets the last highlight, "Military families warn Brown on Iraq disaster" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Rose Gentle from Military Families Against the War confronted Gordon Brown when he attended the Labour leadership hustings in Glasgow last Saturday.
Tony Blair repeatedly refused to meet with Rose, whose son was killed in Iraq in June 2004. Rose told Socialist Worker how she collared Blair's successor.
"I was standing with other anti-war protesters outside the meeting when Brown walked past," she said.
"I shouted at him, asking if he is going to follow Blair's legacy in Iraq or whether he is going to bring the troops home.
"Brown turned to look at me but he wouldn’t come over or speak. I asked him when he's going to come and talk to the families who have lost relatives in Iraq, and whether he's going to break with George Bush.
"It's good that we got our message over to Brown before he becomes prime minister.
"We let him know we're not going away. Military families will be there in Manchester on 24 June when Brown is made leader.
"We'll be there outside Downing Street on 27 June on the day Brown takes over.
"The following day will be the third anniversary of the death of my son Gordon in Iraq. We won't let Brown forget what this war means."
Over 100 anti-war activists joined Rose on a lively lobby of Brown's meeting.
Keir McKechnie, secretary of Glasgow Stop the War Coalition, told Socialist Worker, "We only found out the venue of the hustings the night before, but anti-war activists were determined to be heard.
"Brown and his entourage had to pass a sea of chanting and singing to get into the meeting.
"We also talked to a lot of Labour Party members going in, and around 25 of those attending signed the Stop the War petition to Gordon Brown.
"Our movement has ensured that the issue of Iraq continues to be a central question in British politics -- not least here in Scotland.
"We are following up the lobby of Brown with a fringe meeting at the EIS Scottish teachers' union this week.
"A teacher from Edinburgh is moving a motion at the conference calling for military recruitment to be banned from schools."
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