Sunday, March 30, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

The first U.S. soldier court-martialed for desertion during the Iraq war spoke in front of a packed auditorium Thursday at Green Mountain College.Camilo Mejia told his story about witnessing the torturing of detainees and killing of civilians that made him question the morality of the war.

Mejia was deployed to Iraq as a member of the Florida National Guard in April, 2003, serving six months before his infantry returned to the United States for a two-week furlough period. After the two weeks, Mejia made the decision not to return to action. Instead, he went into hiding for five months before he surrendered to the military and submitted a formal application for discharge as a conscientious objector.

His application was denied and in May 2004 he was convicted of desertion and sentenced to serve one year in jail.

Mejia, a former staff sergeant in the military, told the audience about a prisoner of war camp his infantry was in charge of where Iraqis were made prisoners with no evidence to support that they had done anything wrong. The prisoners got their hands tied together with concertina wire and had hoods cover their heads, and then it was the soldiers' duty to break the prisoners down so they would lose any emotion they had left, or go insane, he said.

While at the camp, Mejia said he began to question why soldiers were in Iraq. "I thought, 'this is the actual war, and this is torture,'" he said. "The 'Top Gun' image of war is false."

With the constant threat of being shot at any moment, Mejia said soldiers begin to weigh their values on a very corrupt scale.

The above, noted by Charlie, is from Dawson Raspuzzi's "Crowd gathers for war deserter" (Vermont's Rutland Herald) and a few things to note. First, Mejia is the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Second, for more of Mejia's story, you can read his book Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia. Third, Camilo Mejia served his contract. He served it in full and then some. His contract was expired and he was stop-lossed. Because he was not an American citizen, the military was not allowed to do that, as his command knew and tried to get him to apply for citizenship which would have, in fact, covered up their violation. Phil McDowell is among many who faced something similar (although, to be clear, there was no way it was legal to do that with Mejia due to his status and the military was well aware of that) and that's why they are both war resisters. Both finished their contracts (and McDowell, in fact, was let go from the military) only to be stop-lossed. (The legality of stop-loss period is in question.) So, my opinion, it's not really accurate to call them deserters. They are resisting an illegal war and, in addition, both served out their contracts. In both cases, when the US government decided that it didn't matter, that they had no obligation to hold up their end of the contract, both men made the decision to resist. From CTV's report on McDowell:

Hayes: McDowell wants to be clear: He's not afraid to go into combat, not afraid to pick up a gun. We know this because he's already been there. McDowell served a year in Iraq. He was a model soldier. He survived and was sent home. He was then discharged. No longer in the army, he was told to go off and get on with his life. But a few months later, Uncle Sam wanted him back, back to fight a war he no longer believed in.

Phil McDowell: This can't be right, I don't want to have anything to do with this. They said, well you don't have a choice. You're going back whether you like it or not. I signed up to defend my country. I didn't sign up to take part in wars of aggression.

Phil McDowell went to Canada and next month (which is almost here), the Canadian Parliament will debate a measure on granting asylum to US war resisters in Canada.

If you haven't already, you can make your voice heard and Three e-mails addresses to focus on are: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration. A few more can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use. The Courage to Resist form is easy to access and does not require that you make a donation to use it. If you have the money to spare and would like to make a donation, you can easily do so but there have been questions as to whether or not a donation is required to use the form and, no, a donation is not required.

Meanwhile, AP reports on Kristen Westerberg who enlisted "in October 2005" and "recruiters told her she would probably never see war duty." March 11, 2008 she was arrested (the article doesn't tell you how) and she is now at Fort Knox facing charges of desertion. Her family backs up her claims that she wouldn't have enlisted if she hadn't been told she wouldn't be shipped off to war and the military responds by declaring they don't "know why a recruiter would tell someone they wouldn't be sent to war." Why? To make their quota. Joshua Key, another war resister in Canada, was told the same thing. Joshua Key tells his story in The Deserter's Tale (written by Key and Lawrence Hill).

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 hit the 4,000 mark. And tonight? 4010. That includes two deaths announced by the US military today. They announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier was killed from wounds sustained after the vehicle he was riding in was struck by an improvised-explosive device north of Baghdad at approximately 5 p.m. March 30." And they announced: "A Multi-National Force -- West Marine was killed March 30 as the result of wounds received in action when his vehicle was attacked by an enemy force with an improvised explosive device in al Anbar Province March 29." The count also includes Keith Maupin who was captured April 9, 2004. In a briefs roundup, the Washington Post notes the following:

The father of a soldier listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004 says the military has informed him that his son's remains were found in Iraq.
Keith Maupin said that an Army general told him Sunday that DNA was used to identify the remains of his son, Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, who went by "Matt."
Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy was ambushed west of Baghdad. Arabic television network al-Jazeera aired a videotape a week later showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

Just Foreign Policy's counter lists 1,194,935 as the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war. The assaulst on Basra continues. AP notes Moqtada al-Sadr's statements today but do not include "surrender your arms" as one of his statements. They note that he has called for people to get off the street and for prisoners to be released (his followers) and for the puppet government in Baghdad to cease "illegal and haphazard raids". Did he call for his followers (if they are that still) to turn over their weapons. That claim made no sense (as noted this morning) and AP explicitly rejects that claim stating there was "no call" to disarm and they also note a Basra TV station was sotrmed on Sunday "forcing Iraqi troops guarding the building to flee and setting armored vehicles on fire." Meanwhile Aqeel Hussein and Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) report that members of the Iraqi military forces are leaving the military and going over to al-Sadr's side in Basra.

And we'll use that to turn to some of the reported violence from today and yesterday


Saturday Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported the Green Zone was hit by a mortar attack (ten shells), a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with three more wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack on a home left two people wounded, a US air attack in Basra claimed 8 lives (six of whom are said to be "gunmen" and two of whom were civilians) with seven more wounded, anoter US air attack in Basra claimed 3 lives (all are said to be "gunmen"), a mortar attack in Diyala Province claimed 3 lives, a US air attack in Al Atheem claimed the lives of four people (two parents and two of their children) and 2 Al Anbar car bombings claimed the lives of 2 children and 2 police officers. Today Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad mortar attacks on a bridge resulted in 6 deaths and twenty-one people wounded, an air assault (US or British) outside Basra claimed 3 lives, a US air bombing in Diyala province claimed 1 life with one more person wounded, a Diyala Province roadside bombing was the latest in an attack targeting heads of government -- in this case "the head of Diyala governorate council" who survived while 2 of his bodyguards lost their lives and a Kirkuk roadside bombing that left three people wounded.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on a police station in Baghdad left three police officers wounded, an armed clash in Baghdad left six people wounded, an armed clash in Diyala Province claimed 1 life, an armed attack in Diyala Province that claimed the lives of 6 police officers, and an armed clash in Mosul that claimed the life of 1 police officer as well as the head of the battallion Col. Qasim Ziad.


Saturday Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and five were discovered in Muqdadiyah. Today Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 corpses discovered in Baghdad.

Pru's highlight? She's got one. It's not going up. My apologies to Pru. All other screens are frozen. We'll note it later in the week (I don't feel like rebooting) and it probably won't be "tomorrow" which is in less than four hours (when I start those entries) because I'll be too tired. But it will most likely be noted on Tuesday. One question popping up in e-mails, we'll close with that instead, was about the book review Ava and I are 'working' on. Ava's with The Third Estate Sunday Review and no link due to the other screens I flip to being frozen, it's on the links to the left, and the review will run there. We're not "writing" it right now. What's happening is that the author (who will get noticed by the media, there are two authors of the 'book') is the focus of a lot of anger on campuses we've been speaking at, due to the ignoring of war resisters (which is really being noted), due to the fact that no time is devoted to Iraq and due to the fact that people have caught on that the political campaign coverage is slanted. When it comes up, Ava or I will usually toss off a one-liner and Kat's been writing those down. She had two paragraphs worth of our comments recorded and, on Friday, we looked at her notes and reduced our comments to two sentences, which will be the opening sentences. We're not actively 'writing' it currently. When one of the authors come up, we do make a point or two of our own and that's what consists of 'writing' it. We will most likely be writing it the Saturday night/Sunday morning when it posts. A number of e-mails were wondering why it didn't get posted right now if it was written and that's the reason. We haven't had time to write it and wouldn't even have our opening two sentences were it not for the fact that Kat [Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills) also on the links, sorry for no link here] was jotting down our quips. I generally hop around in writing this and do the tags as I pull from e-mails and phone calls and online. If something didn't get tagged before everything froze, it's obviously not getting tagged. My apologies. (And my apologies to Pru.) As for whether the book review will take the place of a TV piece, we haven't decided and won't until we write it. That will depend on how much time we have that Saturday night/Sunday morning. (Also with screens being frozen and me being tired, I'm not cross-posting at the backup site, I'll grab that tomorrow at some point.)

The e-mail address for this site is

mcclatchy newspapers