Choosing to go to war is both a government's decision and one made by individual enlistees. But changing your mind once you're in the army is a risky decision with serious consequences. On Friday, August 24 (checkyour local listings), we talk to two soldiers who went AWOL and eventually left the Army, but who took very different paths. NOW captures the moment when one man turns himself in, and when another applies for refugee status in Canada, becoming one of the 20,000 soldiers who have deserted the army since the War in Iraq began. Each describes what drove him to follow his conscience over his call to duty, and what penalties and criticism were endured as a result.
"I see things differently having lived through the experience," former army medic Agustin Aguayo tells NOW. "When I returned from Iraq, after much reflection I knew deep within me I could never go back."
The NOW website at www.pbs.org/now will offer more insight into the case made by conscientious objectors, as well as more stories of desertion in the ranks.
The above is for this week's NOW with David Brancaccio which airs on PBS and begins airing tomorrow night in most markets. I'll try to note it in entries tomorrow as well. In addition a preview of the show is posted at YouTube. War resistance is very important. It's important to ending the illegal war and it's important in terms of the people who make the decision to resist an illegal war (the people include Brandi Key, Jill Hart, Hegla Aguayo, Monica Benderman and many others whose lives are effected by the decisions as well because of their relationships with war resisters -- all listed are the spouses of a war resister -- Joshua Key, Patrick Hart, Agustin Aguayo and Kevin Benderman -- that is not a complete listing). And when they tell their truths it does have an impact. Truth telling, period, has a big impact on ending the illegal war. Sherry noted to Rebecca who passes on to me Robert Parry's "Bush's Bogus Vietnam History Kills" (Consortium News):
It is often said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But a much worse fate may await countries whose leaders distort and falsify history. Such countries are doomed to experience even bloodier miscalculations.
That was the case with Germany after World War I when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis built a political movement based in part on the myth that weak politicians in Berlin had stabbed brave German troops in the back when they were on the verge of victory.
And it appears to be the case again today as President George W. Bush presents the history of the Vietnam War as a Rambo movie with the heroic narrative that if only the U.S. military had stuck it out, the war would have been won.
Or, more likely, the black wall of the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial would stretch most of the way to the U.S. Capitol.
After hearing his selective historical rendition of the Vietnam experience in his Aug. 22 address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, one is tempted to ask Bush what he would have done as President in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Presumably, Bush would have prolonged or escalated the Vietnam War, although it’s doubtful he would have called up the Texas Air National Guard where he was safely ensconced, while skipping his flight physical and seeking an early discharge.
Calling Bully Boy out for his lies is important. And credit to news outlets who took (made) the time to cover the reaction in Vietnam to Bully Boy's lies:
The only way to restore order in Iraq is for the United States to leave, said Trinh Xuan Thang, a university student.
"Bush sent troops to invade Iraq and created all the problems there," Thang said.
If the U.S. withdrew, he said, the violence might escalate in the short term but the situation would eventually stabilize.
"Let the Iraqis determine their fate by themselves," Thang said. "They don't need American troops there."
That's a pretty obvious (and true) evaluation. But the administration is far too busy spinning to deal with truth. If you missed it, today White House flack Gordon Johndroe declared (in Crawford, TX) that "we know that there are significant challenges ahead, especially in the political area. I would say that the strategy laid out by the President on January 10th was a strategy that provided for security first, so that there would be space for political reconciliation. The surge did not get fully operational until mid-summer. It is not surprising -- it is frustrating, but it's not surprising that the political reconciliation is lagging behind the security improvements. I think that is the way the strategy was laid out." There are no security improvements. And what's really shocking about that is the so many in the press corps were happy to take the US government's word on it (after all the lies they've told about this illegal war).
One more time, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reporting earlier this month that the US military claims of 'progress' were based on numbers they would not release and that McClatchy Newspapers' figures do not track with the findings the US military has trumpeted: "U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim." They "declined to provide specific numbers" but didn'tf we didn't all get that false claim shoved down our throats as fact? What does that say about the press? That they haven't learned a damn thing? That they're still taking stenography as opposed to reporting? That the same administration that lied to start an illegal war can still get away with lying becuse the majority of the press will not challenge it, will not call it out, but will gladly repeat it. And in doing so, they prolong the illegal war.
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 Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3702. Tonight? 3724 with 66 for the month. Just Foreign Policy's current total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stands at 1,018,263.
Maybe thirty years from now President Jenna Bush or President Chelsea Clinton can distort the reality of this illegal war to justify another one?
Today James Glanz and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reported: "Armed groups increasingly control the antiquated switching stations that channel electricity around Iraq, the electricity minister said Wednesday." They tell you that was revealed in an official press conference but wasn't on the agenda (it came up due to questions asked of an Iraqi ministry official, Karim Wahid). If true (I'm not doubting the reporter's abilities but various ministries have a habit of finding excuses for services not provided), it goes to the fact (since this has reportedly been ongoing since 2003) that there is not now and has not been security in Baghdad. If it's true, the administration has certainly known about it for sometime (US administration) and it hasn't been an issue or a priority. That's partly due to the fact that the whole point was to 'schock' the Iraqis while destroying their economic system in place and imposing a neocon wetdream. If true, the US has allowed basic services to be denied. And Reuters reports that in Syria a water treaty is being asked for regarding the Tigris and Euphrates rivers:
"The problem is growing and we need an agreement. There is speculation that the next regional war will be about water, but more conflict does not achieve anything," Water Resources Minister Abdul Latif Rasheed told Reuters in the Syrian capital.
The next regional war? What is Abdul Latif Rasshed implying about the current one? And what has the US done (while the occupying power for over four years) to esnure not only potable water but access to any water? It would appear nothing because this 'crisis' did not just emerge overnight.
Along with the obligations an occupying power (the legal obligations), the US government especially should have paid attention to the issue of the water because of the history involved.
Lauren notes Thomas J. Nagy's "The Secret Behind the Sanctions: How the U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply" (The Progressive, September 2001 issue -- part of the archives the magazine is now putting up online):
Over the last two years, I've discovered documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency proving beyond a doubt that, contrary to the Geneva Convention, the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country's water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway.
The primary document, "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," is dated January 22, 1991. It spells out how sanctions will prevent Iraq from supplying clean water to its citizens.
"Iraq depends on importing specialized equipment and some chemicals to purify its water supply, most of which is heavily mineralized and frequently brackish to saline," the document states. "With no domestic sources of both water treatment replacement parts and some essential chemicals, Iraq will continue attempts to circumvent United Nations Sanctions to import these vital commodities. Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."
The document goes into great technical detail about the sources and quality of Iraq's water supply. The quality of untreated water "generally is poor," and drinking such water "could result in diarrhea," the document says. It notes that Iraq's rivers "contain biological materials, pollutants, and are laden with bacteria. Unless the water is purified with chlorine, epidemics of such diseases as cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid could occur."
The document notes that the importation of chlorine "has been embargoed" by sanctions. "Recent reports indicate the chlorine supply is critically low."
Food and medicine will also be affected, the document states. "Food processing, electronic, and, particularly, pharmaceutical plants require extremely pure water that is free from biological contaminants," it says.
In the face of that, the mass kidnapping, the continued chaos and violence, the White House wants to say that, with the escalation, the focus was on 'security.' No one's been made secure in Iraq. What region? The southern region where Iraqi governors are assassinated (the same region that the British will soon pull out of)? The northern section where over 500 people died as a result of multiple bombings last week (on Tuesday)? Even the Green Zone is under attack these days.
"Security" with regards to Iraq appears to be used the same manner in which the White House applies it to America. A lot of money tossed to cronies and the average citizens see their services cut. Iraq: The New United States.
As Naomi Klein has pointed out [Klein's "Baghdad Year Zero," Harper's magazine ], Iraq was supposed to be the free enterprise lab. Not because the US government was attempting to win a science fair but because the hope was to take the 'success' in Iraq and impose on other areas. It was a toy for the administration. They could trash it because the plan was never about 'helping' Iraqis.
Or about listening to them. Which is why when the inhabitants of the country the White House maintains they are 'liberating' want US troops out of Iraq, they can (and are) ignored. Which brings us back to the points the Vietnamese college student, Trinh Xuan Thang, was making, let the Iraqis determine their own fate. "They don't need US troops there." Four years after the illegal war started, malnutrition on the rise, the refugee crisis continuing, electricity and potable water remain (at best) iffy. It's time for the foreign forces to leave Iraq. More 'helping' means more deaths.
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and the war drags on