Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Matthis Chiroux is 'judged' today

Matthis Chiroux
A decorated Army reservist from Alabama who refused deployment to Iraq last year will appear at a military hearing today to determine whether he will receive an honorable discharge.
Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, had served in the Army since 2002 and was a member of the Individual Ready Reserve when he was informed last year that he was being returned to active duty and sent to Iraq. He refused to participate in what he described as an "illegal and immoral occupation."
An administrative separation board at the Army Human Resources Command could grant Chiroux a general discharge or an other-than-honorable discharge, either of which could harm his ability to receive benefits available to honorably discharged veterans.

The above is from Phillip O'Connor's "Soldier who said no to Iraq gets hearing" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Matthis Chiroux was honorably discharged and placed in IRR and then, many months later, informed he was being pulled back into the military and sent to Iraq. He announced May 15, 2008 that he would not deploy to Iraq. Sunday, June 15, 2008 (Father's Day), he gave the following speech:

I am here on this Father's Day, the day I am supposed to report to Fort Jackson South Carolina for subsequent deployment to Iraq, the Iraq occupation. And first of all I'd like to thank my father for being here on Father's Day. Thank you for coming up from Alabama, Dad. I want to thank my fellow members of Iraq Veterans Against the War for standing in solidarity with me today in my decision not to deploy to Iraq. And I have a short statement I would like to read.
Good afternoon. We gather here this Father's Day on a very somber note. The American occupation of Iraq -- an illegal, immoral war which is ripping this nation apart as well causing an immeasurable harm to the Iraqi people and the people of the world alike. We gather in the remembrance of the sacrifice of many whose fathers weep on this joyous day for they know their own flesh and blood has been torn and siphoned from them for what we collectively hope will be this last blunder of American military might. We gather here and hope that our fathers will forgive us for the wrongs we have perpetrated on our bodies, hearts and minds alike in this cruel decade of disaster which stems from the very city in which we stand.
This father's day, we gather here to calm the vicious and vengeful alike. The first day I came to Washington, D.C. was less than one month before I shipped out to basic training. I was so moved by this country and its history that it reinvigorated my belief in the righteousness of what I was doing: Joining the army not only in search of personal progress but to participate in the efforts to bring justice to the individuals responsible for 9-11.
I remember standing at the base of the Washington Monument and watching the fireworks explode in the sky that Fourth of July and wondering how it was that we could have come under attack on American soil and believing firmly that I would be participatingin dealing justice for September 11th.
I remember standing before the Lincoln Memorial and feeling the presence of not just the former president and emancipator but of Martin Luther King and his dream for a brighter and more united future for the children of this nation.
That young me could not have known where he'd be standing almost six years later and what he would be saying this Father's Day. I am Sgt. Matthis Chiroux and tonight at midnight I may face further action from the army for refusing to reactive to participate in the Iraq occupation.
This fact hangs heavy on my heart as I look back at my five years of service in uniform. But I understand that what I am doing is in keeping with the values I shared with my friends-in-arms while we wondered if things could really get any worse?
Today I stand in resistance to the occupation of Iraq because I believe in our nation, its military and her people. I resist because I swore an oath to this nation that I would not allow it to fall into decay when I may be serving on the side of right. And my country is in decay and in these times of crisis Thomas Paine once said, "The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will flee from service to our country."
I stand here today as a Winter Soldier. To serve our nation, its military and its people in this dark time of confusion and corruption.
I stand here to make it known that my duty as a soldier is first to the higher ideals and guiding principles of this country which our leaders have failed to uphold.
I stand here today in defense of the US Constitution which has known no greater enemy, foreign or domestic, than those highest in this land who are sworn to be governed by its word.
I stand here today in defense of those who have been stripped of their voices in this occupation for the warriors of this nation have been silenced to the people who need to start listening.
We are here to honor the memory of our fathers who more than two centuries ago brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, as Abraham Lincoln once noted.
We are here to honor the struggle of our fathers and their fathers and their fathers before them to build this nation and bring it together -- through slavery and poverty, to sexism and racism, through materialism and imperialism. They built this nation and struggled to keep it alive as we've blundered and learned and blundered again. We owe it to our fathers to stand for this nation now when a dark cloud has descended upon it in the form of an administration who is stealing the lives of us all to wage an illegal war -- conceived in lies and birthed [born] of manipulation.
As a soldier I was told it was not my place to question the orders of those appointed above me. I had that lie trained into me from my first day of basic training to my last day of active duty. But I have learned the truth, the truth that the occupation of Iraq is inherently illegal and that it is my duty as a soldier to refuse illegal orders to reactivate and deploy in support of it.
I have learned that in these times of crisis one must look deep into their own values to know the path that they must walk. I have learned that feeling and thinking and speaking and acting and keeping with courage and honesty in preservation of a righteous cause is blessed and may give a person strength to utter truths that may calm the vicious and the vengeful alike.
I believe that this nation and this military may come to know the same truth: That the rule of law has been forsaken and we must return to it or be doomed to continue disaster. I believe in the goodness of the American people and I believe that justice is not dead because we as a people believe that it is our responsibility to resist the injustices done by our government in our names. We know this truth to be self-evident that our nation can unite to oppose an illegal occupation which is killing and scarring and shattering the lives of our youth and the Iraqi people.
On this Fathers Day, know, America, that your children need you. We need you to care for us and to care for our country which we will inherit when you are finished with her. We need you to end this occupation of Iraq which has destroyed a country and scattered its people to the wind like ashes in the tempest -- a tempest that has engulfed the nation of Iraq and scrubbed any sign of peace and prosperity from the surface of a civilization older than even history itself.
Fathers, we need you to care for your children and the children of Iraq for they know not why you fight and carry no fault in the conflict.
Fathers, your sons and daughters need you now to embrace peace for though we were attacked, we have dealt in retaliation that same suffering one-thousand times over to a people who never wronged us. The nation will know little healing until first we stem off the flow of blood and human life for justice and healing will never be done by a blade or a bullet or a bomb or a torture cell.
By continuing to participate in the unjust occupation of Iraq, we, as service members, are contributing to that flow of human life and we cannot now -- nor could we ever -- call the Iraqi people an enemy in the fight against the use of terror. But terror is all we now know. We are terrified of the prospect that we have been lied to. We are terrified by the idea that we have killed for nothing. We are terrified to break the silence. We are terrified to do what we know is right.
But never again will I allow terror to silence me. Nor will I allow it to govern my actions. I refuse terror as a tactic for uniting a people around an unjust cause. I refuse to allow terror to motivate me to do violence on my fellow man especially those who never wronged me in the first place. I refuse to be terrified to stand in defense of my Constitution. And I refuse to be terrified of doing so in great adversity.
As a resister to the Iraq Occupation, I refuse to be terrified by what may come for I know those who stand against me are in terror of the truth. But I will speak my truth, and I will stand by it firmly and forever will my soul know peace. Thank you.

Today Matthis stands in front of a military body and continues fighting for the US Constitution. If he's made a 'mistake,' it's been to value the oath he took -- an oath that few appear to take seriously as evidenced by the White House refusal to prosecute those who broke national and international laws in order to illegally torture. More information can be found in "Resistance to an Abhorrent Occupation: Press Release of Matthis Chiroux" (World Can't Wait):

(ST. LOUIS, MO) The U.S. Army will hear the case of Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, an Individual Ready Reservist who last summer publicly refused activation and deployment orders to Iraq, on April 21 at 1 Reserve Way in Overland, St. Louis, MO, at 9 a.m.
Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, refused to participate in what he described as "an illegal and immoral occupation" May 15th, 2008, in Washington D.C., after nine other veterans testified to Members of the U.S. Congress about atrocities they experienced during deployments to Iraq. Chiroux also vowed to remain public in the U.S. to defend himself from any charges brought against him by the military. (see
matthisresists.us for a record of that speech and others by Chiroux)
"My resistance as a noncommissioned officer to this abhorrent occupation is just as legitimate now as it was last year," said Chiroux, adding, "Soldiers have a duty to adhere to the international laws of war described as supreme in Art. 6 Para. 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which we swear to abide by before the orders of any superior, including our former or current president."
Following Chiroux's refusal to deploy, the military did not contact him until after he and 10 other IVAW members marched on the final presidential debate Oct. 15, 2008, in Hempstead, N.Y. demanding to question then Senators Obama and McCain regarding their war policies and plans to care for returning veterans. After the veterans were brutalized and arrested by police, (one suffered a fractured skull and is currently suing the police for damages) the Army charged Chiroux with "misconduct" for refusing to deploy, announcing their intentions to discharge him from the reserves as a result.
"I go now to St. Louis to honor my promises and convictions," said Chiroux. "Obama or No-Bama, the military must cease prosecuting Soldiers of conscience, and we will demonstrate to them why."
Following the hearing, Chiroux and other IVAW members will testify about their military experiences which led them all to resist in different capacities the U.S.'s Overseas Contingency Operation (formerly the Global War on Terror).
For more information, see
matthisresists.us and ivaw.org.

Moving to the topic of Iraqi refugees . . .

In Iraq, they were doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers. Now they consider themselves lucky if they're selling computers at Fry's.
For many Iraqi refugees, however, it's only the latest in a string of hardships spanning three decades. There was the takeover by Saddam Hussein, the blood-spilling war with Iran, the first Gulf War, the punishing economic boycott and the U.S.-led invasion -- triggering an orgy of car bombings, kidnappings, beheadings and the flight of 2 million refugees.

The above is from Ken McLaughlin's "Safe, but not secure: Iraqi refugees struggle to make it in Silicon Valley" (San Jose Mercury News -- link has text and video)on Iraq's external refugees. The US accepts far too few Iraqi refugees. One 'modification' in the program has allowed those Iraqis with US 'ties' to be fast-tracked on a special policy. Click here for the US State Dept's fact sheet on that. We'll return to that program in a moment but the US has another 'contribution' this year. Last month they announced:

U.S. Contributes More Than $150 Million to Help Displaced Iraqis
Bureau of Public Affairs
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 20, 2009

The United States is pleased to announce new FY 2009 contributions of more than $141 million to help Iraqis who remain displaced as a result of the war. These contributions come in addition to the $9 million that the United States committed earlier this fiscal year, to total $150 million thus far in FY 2009. These contributions show an ongoing U.S. focus on the needs of this vulnerable population, a focus that continues even as the security conditions inside Iraq improve, making returns of the displaced persons a more viable option in some areas. Between October 1, 2006 and September 30, 2008 (FY 2007 and FY 2008), the United States provided approximately $570 million to support humanitarian assistance for Iraqis.
This year’s funding has supported the 2009 United Nations Consolidated Appeal for Iraq and the region, and key international non-governmental organizations. The Appeal for $547 million will support relief efforts by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP) and others. The United States calls on other donors to respond to the United Nations Appeal with substantial contributions of their own.
Through these organizations, U.S. funding will support a range of services for displaced Iraqis and conflict victims, including:
  • continued provision of emergency relief supplies to the most vulnerable Iraqis;
  • rehabilitation of water systems for internally displaced persons and local communities in Iraq;
  • informal education activities for Iraqi students unable to attend public schools in Jordan and Syria;
  • school reconstruction to support the influx of Iraqi students into Syrian public schools;
  • mental health services for displaced Iraqis;
  • repairs to clinics in Iraq, including donation of medical equipment; and
  • mobile health units for Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria.
AgencyU.S. Contribution
(in millions)
WHO$ 3.1
WFP$ 8.0
Other International Organizations and Non-governmental Organizations$34

FY 2009 Contributions to Date $150.6 million

For those wrongly impressed with the above, they might try grasping how much money is spent each day continuing the illegal war as well as how much money Bully Boy Bush was providing. As Roberta Cohen notes (here for HTML intro, here for PFD format article in full) in "Iraq's Displaced: Where to Turn?" (at the center-right Brookings Institution), the US provided $95.4 million for these same tasks in 2008 and the actual amount needed is approximately $2.6 billion. Billion.

The new program created allows for Iraqi media workers, Iraqi translators and others who assisted the US to have their applications for asylum to the US fast-tracked. One of the people who have been admitted under this program is Sahar S. Gabriel who worked for the New York Times in Iraq. At the paper's blog last week, she updated on her latest experiences in the US.

Along with people such as Sahar S. Gabriel who are not controversial asylum requests, the program also allows the fast tracking of Iraqis who worked for the US military in various capacities (not just as translators).

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

iraq veterans against the war