Sunday, March 16, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

On Friday, Mar. 14, two panels titled Rules of Engagement (Parts 1 and 2) heard 16 veterans courageously discuss their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. The veterans on these panels talked mainly about how military commanders allowed and encouraged declining standards embodied in the Rules of Engagement (ROE), military orders that outline how troops must respond in situations in which they encounter enemies, potential enemies, and noncombatants while in a combat zone.
Jason Lemieux, a former US Marine sergeant who served in three deployments in Iraq from the invasion to 2006, described an increasingly weakened ROE in Iraq as a failure of military command and a "moral disgrace." Marines were authorized, he said, to use deadly force against anyone who held a shovel, used a cell phone, held binoculars, or appeared in public after curfew. Marines were not held accountable for determining whether an individual posed a real threat or was a noncombatant before killing that person, he testified. Lemieux recalled one commander telling his marines, "Better them than us."
Indeed, he said, commanders told marines openly that if they violated the ROE they would be protected, and throwaway weapons were regularly used to hide a killed Iraqi's noncombatant status.
Jon Turner, who also served with the Marines in Iraq, said Marines frequently hid this behavior from the US media. "When we had embedded reporters," he stated, "our actions changed drastically. We did everything by the book." After giving a lengthy account of various activities he now finds morally objectionable, Turner apologized. "I'm sorry for the hate and destruction I inflicted on innocent people," he said. "I'm sorry for the things I did. I am no longer the monster I once was."

The above is from Joel Wendland's "Winter Soldier: Military Command Failures at War, Deserting Vets at Home" (Political Affairs Magazine) and the excerpt above cuts off before much more including Logan Laituri so let's note this with Laituri, from Erin Thompson's "Free-Fire Fallout Vets Grapple With Atrocities: Interview with an Iraqi War Vet" (Indypendent):

Erin Thompson: Explain what the Rules of Engagement (ROE) are?
Logan Laituri: ROE is a system to define when you can and when you can't [engage in fire]. In Samarra, [Operation Baton Rouge, October 2004] we had a very permissive ROE that allowed us to do as much as we needed to, basically. For example, in Samarra I was on top of a school, and we were told before we went in, "We've told the entire city that we’re coming on this day, at this hour, and they have to stay inside." And so ROE were "open." It was almost a free-fire area. And so when one of the snipers on top the roof sees a guy crossing the street with a grocery bag in his hand, he's considered free game. Basically, he meets the criteria for ROE. What I remember being told was that everybody should know better than to leave their house in the next three to five days. If they have left their house, you should consider them a combatant. So, that’s why I say that the sniper was within ROE because the guy was outside his house, but the guy was also unarmed. I would question whether that is moral, or even necessary, to kill a man who doesn’t have a weapon, who's crossing a street when we told him not to.
ET: You watched him get shot?
LL: Yeah, and the sniper has a scope so he probably had a better idea of what was going on, but I didn't see anything, any kind of weapon fall from his hand or from his person.

ET: It seems like you became sensitized to what you were doing as a U.S. soldier in Iraq, as opposed to desensitized. Talk about this.
LL: I think it was a really long process. .... In basic training, we don't shoot at people. We shoot at things that vaguely resemble humanoid kind of figures. And so we begin being introduced to this reality of actually shooting at something that could be a human. And then you take baby steps to that, until you finally, you actually do it. By that time you’ve already been exposed so much to all these kinds of lesser degrees of that, it’s almost like it isn’t happening. When we were in Iraq, when we talked about going to the States, we would call it the "real world" and we didn't think much of it.

We'll have more on Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldier Investigation but let's note first that both US Senator John McCain and vice-president Dick Cheney are in Iraq right now, apparently to take glee as they survey the damage and destruction that they are responsible for. Possibly Cheney will offer McCain tips on how easy he finds it to sleep despite the vats of human blood on his hands?

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 3975. And tonight? 3988 is the number. Thirteen since last Sunday and twelve away from the 4,000 mark. Just Foreign Policy lists 1,189,173 up from last week's 1,182,393. Turning to some of the reported violence over the weekend . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left two people wounded, a Diyala Province bombing that claimed 1 life, a car bombing outside Kirkuk that wounded two people, a Ninevah bomber who killed themselves and 12 other people and a mortar attack "west of Mosul" that wounded seven people. On Saturday, McClatchy's Mohammed Al Dulaimy reported a Baghdad bombing that wounded nine people, Baladruz roadside bombing that wounded two police officers, a mortar attack outside Baquba that wounded three people, a Mosul car bombing that wounded three people, an Sweera motorcycle bombing that claimed 1 life and left ten people wounded, a Kut mortar attack that wounded three people ("two men and one woman") and, dropping back to Friday, a hand grenade that claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi athletes and wounded nine more outside of Kut.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an armed clash in Diayla Province in which 5 fighters and 3 police officers were killed with three more police officers wounded. Reuters notes a police officer was shot dead in Mosul. On Saturday, McClatchy's Mohammed Al Dulaimy noted Hussein Awda was shot dead in Kut and three police officers were wounded in shootings in Kut.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Tikrit kidnapping of 2 members of the Iraqi military

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes a child's corpse was discovered in Mosul (kidnapped days prior) and the corpses "of a police officer and his driver" while the corpse of an Iraqi contractor was discovered in Numaniya. On Saturday, McClatchy's Mohammed Al Dulaimy reported 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 3 corpses discovered in Diyala Province.

Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldiers Investigation concluded today. I'm going through the e-mails and seeing complaints about outlets that never made time to note it. Jill notes a Huffington Post post by Jeff Cohen that she dubs "embarrassing" and I'll agree with that. Cohen posted that late on Sunday. It was too late to allow anyone to follow the hearings live. So he didn't get it out there in time to make a difference on that. Did he get anything out there? He shared how he watched on TV, he shared how he listened on radio. As a Neilsen ratins bible it may be of interest to someone. He listened but did he hear anything? You really couldn't tell to read his post. It appeared to be a damage control post, honestly. He's slamming the MSM for not covering it and praising independent media for covering it. But, as Jill points out, independent media didn't cover it. But if they couldn't offer excuses for one another . . . someone might catch on. Like I said, it's a damage control post. At Common Dreams, they still haven't found a columnist to reprint who has covered Winter Soldier. Or one who sends their columns in by e-mail and gets posted that way. You know, when it's time to sport their Hillary Hatred, Common Dreams goes full out. Outside of The Nation's blogs, Common Dreams may hold the record for loudest echo chamber on the left and 'left'. But when it's time to cover something that actually maters, they're no where to be found.

The Iraq War is ongoing and, like Winter Soldiers, it gets ignored. Not just due to the horserace gas bagging over the primaries. But also because people want to write their 'think pieces.' It's not thinking, it's rote memorized citations recited. Notice that as some rush in to do an Iraq column due to the anniversary. Read them and note how many stop around 2004 as if nothing has happened since. We hear it when the gas bags go on radio and TV as well. The illegal war has not stopped, just their interests in it and their ability to follow it.

Jeff offers Happy Chat. He's bragging about the radio stations that carried Pacifica's live coverage but he doesn't name which ones and, as a ton of e-mails point out, WBAI didn't think it was important enough to air live on Saturday. WBAI thought it was more important to offer their usual disc jockeys spinning records and pretending that they were doing anything that mattered or anything that anyone cared about. They are far from alone in offering bad weekend programming (not all the programming is bad) but they get noted because they thought their bad programming was more important than Winter Soldier. Instead of hearing testimonies, it was more important to hear a bunch of songs (old songs at that) and a lot of patter. They should be ashamed of themselves and they have no right to call themselves part of a "peace and justice" network. They're a "bore the people with old records" station. There is no excuse for that. They didn't inform. They didn't educate. They just did the tired, moldy act they do every weekend and then Pacifica wants to wonder why they have to work so hard to attract new listeners? Anyone flipping the dial to WBAI Saturday had no reason to stay unless they'd just lost their Victrola in a house fire. It's like the PBS stations that feel the need to waste weekend slots with Lawrence Welk airings. There's a lot of talk about the New York Times not covering the hearings and that is shameful. But any Times editor or reporter that might have been home on Saturday and flipping the radio dial to see if anything was going on wasn't going to learn about Winter Soldier from WBAI. If they had flipped and stumbled across some powerful testimony, that might have resulted in a write up.

WBAI's not the excuse for the lack of coverage by the Times but, like the Times, it serves a huge, media concentrated (obsessed?) area. It likes to consider itself the center of the world (keep dreaming) but its world couldn't be 'invaded' with the truth about Iraq, instead it was time to dust off Glen Miller and the like and spin the tunes. It's called making yourself using and refusing to honor the power you've given. A number of groups opposed to the current management of WBAI should seize upon this HUGE FAILURE for their next round of mailings -- they'll find no better example to back up their claims that WBAI is out of touch with the community and not serving it.

Out of touch? An e-mail came into the public account and I'm noting it because it reads like it *wants* to be noted. Those who argue in private usually don't include links. (Or else they note it's private.) If it's a private e-mail, I made a mistake and I apologize for that. This is from John Feffer of Foreign Policy In Focus who writes:

[Note: Feffer lost his links. He e-mailed on Tuesday stating it was a private e-mail. Boo-hoo.]

John Feffer got his links and he doesn't know this site but we don't link to trash. He got his links, if he were trash he wouldn't have gotten them. First Feffer, it's not "your blog." We can get back to that but it's not a "blog." Second of all, the entry you refer to calls FPIF out for doing nothing and that is still true. The entry is Saturday's "For Those Who Care, IVAW's action continues." The point of that entry was that IVAW's hearings were going on and that they were not being promoted. Reprinting an article by Aaron Glantz (we highlighted it from IPS or somewhere else -- maybe War Comes Home when it went up originally) really isn't laying it on the line. More importantly that article was published on March 7th and Saturday was March 15th. IVAW's hearings were streaming and being broadcast. There was nothing preventing FPIF (which is on our permalinks -- and a lot of others have been pulled) from noting that. To hide behind the Glantz article is laughable because, on Saturday, visitors to the website could find it on the right side of the page . . . if they scrolled down past links to 13 other articles. There was nothing done to note the hearings were available online (or TV or radio), there was nothing done to steer any visitor to listen to them. The article itself was not even moved to the top, center of the page to draw attention to it.

Yeah, you ran an article on it. Guess what, so did a lot of other people and outlets. The point wasn't what some did ahead of time, it mattered what was done while the hearings were ongoing. FPIF contains many good people (including Phyllis Bennis) and many are old enough to have worked in the anti-nuke movement. So let me use this example, if April 17th we're all gathering in downtown NYC to protest nukes, do you really think it doesn't need to be noted on April 16th and April 17th? Do you really think an article from a week ago, buried on the home page of FPIF is getting the word out?

An it's coming, it's coming, reposting of Aaron Glantz's strong article is a good thing. But the point of the entry Feffer is disagreeing with was that the hearings were live, they were ongoing and they weren't getting promoted, so many people weren't aware of it.

For the record, Feffer, as noted here before, I know Phyllis and I like Phyllis. This isn't a "blog." If it were a blog, I wouldn't be calling Phyllis out ever. This is not "what I wanted to write about." Anything that goes up here that does not say "My opinion" or "I will note" is written in response to e-mails asking/demanding that it be addressed. It's usually many e-mails although in some cases it only takes one outraged e-mail from a community member. Point? You may be right in your assessment. However, it's not just that I will never agree with you on this point, it's also that 15 community members wrote in to complain specifically about FPIF.

I am offended and appalled by the lack of attention paid to the IVAW hearings. But everything that's appeared here on it has been based on community input. We're not a blog. I thought we would be. That's how it started (with me knowing nothing about blogging) but there were members who didn't want comments (such as Keesha who led that fight to close them because African-Americans had been trashed at other sites in comments and when it happened here, the comment option was eliminated). There were people who just wanted to share in e-mails. Were they wrong or right? Kayla's newborn child's photo was posted here and someone thought the way to slam me was to repost that photo with insulting (and shameful for the person who did it) remarks. That's part of how this website evolved, this is a website, it is not my blog. Go through the archives and you will find in 2004 and 2005 me stating that ___ (tomorrow, the weekend), I'm going to write about the issue of water-rights (a very important issue to me) and that never happened. All these years later, it still hasn't happened. I'm going through the e-mails (or, during weekdays, getting reports on the e-mails from members who are kind enough to work the private accounts and the public account) and figuring out what the big issue is to the bulk of community members as well as if some member has an issue that no one else is raising but is very important to him or her. That's what determines what goes up here. As well as friends asking me to link to them in the snapshots. And people contacting the public account about things we might be interested in.

On that, I'm not interested in sex scandals of politicians, I never have been. I've noted that since the start of this site. I don't think you'll find anything on a sex scandal here other than a remark when it is long over. I've stated my reasons clearly many times before why I'm not interested in it but apparently last week's non-news from NY was so 'juicy' that over 20 people e-mailed to have their writing (on that) highlighted. None of it got highlighted, I'm not interested.

I'm also not interested in the 35 people e-mailing their writing who are Communists. We will highlight from a Communist periodical. Gladly. Communists are part of the left which is a diverse gathering. But I'm not interested in the NYC brigade who are all in the closet -- some of whom are my age or (sadly) even older. By the time your our age (or older) if you can't admit who you are politically, you're just sad. I'm a Democrat, I don't try to hide that fact. I have no idea why some people who can talk your ear off and try to convert you to Communism, people at least in middle age, are unable to tell the public they are Communists. It's as pathetic as seeing a man over 50 on TV last week while "sins" were being discussed and wondering, "How long is he going to stay in the closet?" Really, you've over fifty. You're gay. Everyone knows you are gay. Why do you feel the need to hide it? You're not an actor. You're just one more gas bag on the gas bag set. I have no respect for you or your gas baggery, I just shake my head.

However, he didn't e-mail for a highlight. The Closeted Communists did and did so repeatedly. I've been a part of the left for a long time. If you're someone I've never met it takes two phone calls tops to find out about you. I'm not interested in highlighting you. I really wasn't interested before but since all the Closeted Communists are on the Barack Obama wagon, I'm especially not interested. It figures that a candidate who is not about ending the illegal war but poses as 'anti-war' would attract other closeted types. And I find it offensive that so many of the Closeted Communists singing his praises and endorsing him refuse to come out of the political closet and instead create some myth of a groundswell from Democrats for Barack Obama.

I think you're liars and I think you're old and foolish liars. I'm not interested in highlighting your writing because you cannot admit to what you believe in so there are so many screens throughout a single paragraph that anything you might have to say worth hearing is lost around the second sentence.

That deals with some of the e-mails. Winter Soldier concluded today. But you can catch archives of the testimony at Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday. Again, my apologies for including WBAI on Saturday. My understanding was that they would be broadcasting the hearings. Apparently it was more pressing to provide Golden Oldies spun by . . . golden oldies. We're not ceasing our coverage of Winter Soldier. We will note it in Monday's snapshot here and at other times throughout the week. Community wide it will be written about by other community sites this week and on Sunday at Third we'll be offering more coverage. Aimee Allison and Aaron Glatnz did a great job anchoring the live coverage. They deserve huge applause for their work. That was going to be noted at Third today but it's one of the many things we didn't have time for. In case we're too focused on other things next Sunday to note it (or forget), let me repeat that they did an amazing job. And I believe Sasha Lilly was over that project so credit to her as well to everyone who made it possible. If you missed it and would like to check it out, you can visit the links to archives above. If you are a community member and are unable to stream or having hearing disabilities, Sunday's transcript runs Tuesday in Hilda's Mix. Polly's Brew ran Friday's transcript and El Spirito ran Saturday's transcript. Gina and Krista are doing a special round-robin on Thursday that will just be the transcripts (the Friday gina & krista round-robin will still go out).

Phil Aliff serves on the IVAW board of directors and he testified at the Winter Soldier's Sunday panel on The Future of GI Resistance. At the start, he declared, 'Let me begin by saying to our sisters and brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan that you are not alone in your opposition to this illegal occupation and we must struggle together on every military base, in every combat zone and with every veteran to reach our goals of to end the occupation. And let me be clear, we have the power to bring the troops home when solidrs throw down their weapons and refuse to fight."

Allif noted that, "A stronger civilian movement means a stronger GI movement." Also speaking on the panel was IVAW's first active duty member, Garret Reppenhagen who was part of "one of the first anti-war . . . blogs, Fight to Survive." And we'll close out this entry by picking up at that point in his testimony (and "in Czech" may actually be "in check"):

And we were involved in a variety of GI resistance and a lot of that didn't involve going AWOL or breaking army regulations. In fact in our entire GI resistance campaign that we did we followed army regulations to a 't' and that led to us still getting our honorable discharge. And one of the things I want to let people know is that there are ways to resist this war wihthin army regulations. One of the most important things about our military is you are a citizen soldier, you still retain your rights as a citizen and your able to use those rights and you should since you're the ones sacrificing basically to protect those rights so it'll be a shame if the actual use of your first amendment right becomes unpatriotic.

So we're talking today about the future of GI resistance and you can't help but try to predict the future by looking at the past and I just think this Winter Soldier is so incredible. We're doing this far earlier than what the Vietnam vets did thanks to their mentorship, and their leadership and some of their guidance we were able to put this together five years after our invasion of and our occupation of Iraq. If you realize it, the Vietnam veterans, they conducted their Winter Soldier in 1971 and Vietnam War started in 1959. Thats more than ten years after the engagement started, that's also three years after the Tet Offensive which was in 1968. We had over 400,000 American troops deployed in Vietnam at the time, we lost over 14,000 soldiers killed in action in Vietnam and I feel that we're ahead of the game and one of the most powerful things, we might be less in numbers and we might have less of a voice in the political atmosphere and the social atmoshpere and America's very diffirent now but if we can start this resistance early, if we can get a jump on this movement, we can end this war before there is a Tet Offensive in Iraq.

So let's compare Iraq and Vietnam. You're looking at a country, Vietnam, who's far smaller in geographical size, less population, less diversity ethnically, less diversity religiously, politically. There's definitely less natural resources underneath the soil. So this has the potential of being a larger, regional dynamics involved that could explode and could be far worse than what we saw in Vietnam. So it's important to look at this and you know if we don't stop the occupation, this will escalate into a size greater than I think any of us are willing to sacrifice for.

So the military's very different now. So when we look at GI resistance, we also have to look at what our military's doing. There's not a draft today and that awareness out there in America, there's not college students that is fearing they're going to get called up and put into this war, there's not parents out there scared to death that their child is going to be called up to service involuntarily. 75% of this war's veterans are still in the military. So the population of the pool of veterans that you know are out there don't exist like they did in Vietnam. These men and women are still stuck in the military through stop-loss orders, through Individual Ready Reserve programs. There's a different type of soldier today. They're career soldiers, they're professional soldiers. The men and women that I served with, many of them, that was their career, that was their job and they took in honor in that and they didn't want to give that up. They might not have wanted to go to Iraq or Afghanistan over and over again, but they did take pride in the fact that they were soldiers and they didn't want to lose that. Many of them have wives and husbands and kids that they're trying to support and they thought that the military would be a good way to do that, a good career and a good job to do that. They didn't ask to be sent to Iraq and to an illegal occupation of another country and basically oppress a people who don't want us there. They just wanted to be used in a just way when all peaceful solutions have been exhuasted. That's when they thought they'd be sent in harm's way.

Rotations are different now. Soldiers don't go to Iraq one at a time, there's not entire divisions that stay in Iraq and then just the indvidual pieces come in and out. We're moving entire divisions in and entire divisions out. The men that I served with are the same men I served with when I was in Kosovo. They're the same men I trained with when I was in Germany and went to the field with in Czech. And they're the same men that I went to Iraq with. There's a higher loyalty in unit cohesion now that's very difficult to give up and many of these men and women feel that the military is their family and they don't even understand us here at home and what civilians are doing. So they're comfortable in their role in the military and they don't want to abandon their friends and family. But that doesn't mean that they want to serve in Iraq over and over again.

There's many benefits available to these men and women. They're offered GI bills for college. They're given health insurance. They're given a nice, safe base to live on where their wives can go shop at the PX or their husbands can shop at the commisary. Their kids are going to school in a safe environment, in a closed, healthy environment. And that's hard to give up as well.

So when you ask, "Why don't soldiers resist?" -- these are all these reasons why they don't. Many of them are scared to hell to go out to the outside world and try to get a job since all they've been is a machine gunner since they were 18-years-old. So three reasons why soldiers basically continue this is that the benefits, the options and the loyalty and pride to service. But there are solutions to all of these. We can develop programs that give soldiers benefits like maybe education for tuition. We can start funds to help soldiers who resist the war that lose those college benefits to get those and replace the benefits that the military would have given them. We could help hire veterans in the peace communities and in the movement. And we could give them jobs and we could give them job training and we could put them to work so they have some place to land once they decide they want to turn their back on this war. And they can join this movement and there's a lot of pride and loyalty in joining our army and our corps, and fight for a cause that they believe in, to fight for a cause that will change America for the better and stop these occupations.

So what we're asking, we're asking -- we're not going to come out and we're not going to recruit soldiers. We're not going to go recruit veterans. We're not going to try to trick you into joining our cause but we will ask you to because there is a fight coming and it's a fight to improve America and improve this military and we're asking you to join us. So if you're out there listening and you're dedicated to what we're talking about here at Winter Soldier and you want to improve your military and you want to improve our country and this world, there's a good way to do it. There's a lot of men and women who are joining us. Our website right now is getting more applications than we can handle.

Go to and there's membership applications on there. We'll give you information on how you can resist if you want to stay in the military and you don't want to break army regulations if you don't want to get in trouble, there's still ways you can use your amendment rights and you can take advantage of this. Please be patient, there will be time when the website will be free [not jammed with traffic; IVAW is a free website] and you can put your application in and join us to end this occupation. Thank you.

The e-mail address for this site is

aaron glantz