Fayetteville Ripples Spread Across America

U.S. Military

Fayetteville Ripples Spread Across America

By Special Report

The more than 3000 veterans, military family members and supporters from around the South and around the country who marched in Fayetteville, North Carolina, last weekend had one simple message: Bring Them Home Now! Now they are taking the message from this inspiring demonstration back home with them. Below are some of the voices who are carrying that message.

First, the truthout website has posted a live news report from the Fayetteville demonstration. Just click here and it should load and play on your computer.

Second, the invaluable Internet newsletter GI Special just printed the following interviews with returned veterans of the invasion and occupation of Iraq conducted by Martin Smith (USMC, ret'd)

Kellie Dougherty.

Can you tell me your name, rank, and service?
My name is Kellie Dougherty. I was an E5 Sergeant in the National Guard and then the Colorado Army National Guard for eight years and I was released last August, 2004.

Did you serve in Iraq?
Yes, my unit was in Iraq for approximately eight months and then Kuwait for another two. I was in a military police company.

Why are you here today?
I'm here today to show my support for the peace movement and to show to the public and to our government that we want an end to the occupation of Iraq.

What made you come to that conclusion?
I didn't believe the reasons that we were being given to go to war in the first place, and then when I got there and saw the horrible impact that the war and the occupation was having on the population of Iraq and on our own soldiers and all the reasons we were given were false to go to war, so it was people dying and people suffering for lies.

What did you see in Iraq?
I saw that the people were living in extreme poverty. Their situation wasn't getting better when we were there. They're just getting more desperate. Just things like an overt hostility on the U.S. soldiers' part towards the Iraqi people, and house raids. I know we raided people's houses even when we weren't sure if it was the right person. We searched people's vehicles. There were unintentional things like Iraqi children and families getting run over by our cars. And then just the continued poverty and the unemployment of the people.

What would you say to someone that's thinking of joining the military today?
You can probably count on going to Iraq and maybe talk to a veteran or someone who's been there, because if you just rely on your recruiter, they're just trying to sell you a sales pitch, and they're not telling you the whole truth.

Have you heard of the movement to kick military recruiters off of campuses?
Yes, and I think that's good, because schools are supposed to be places of learning, not places to become militarized, especially on high school campuses. I think that the recruiters shouldn't be on high school campuses, because basically what they doing is just preying on the lack of opportunities for young people, particularly low income and minority students.

Nicholas Przybyla

Can you tell me your name, rank, and where you served?
My name is Nicholas Przybyla. I was an E3 in the Navy. I served on the U.S.S. Peleliu with the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, 13th Marine Special Operations Capable. We did the first initial invasion of Afghanistan from 2001 to 2002.

Why are you here today?

I'm here to stop the war I guess trying to put an end to it and let people know what's going on is total bullshit. I had a top secret clearance and every day we would receive intelligence briefings twice a day, and it came down towards the end of our deployment that we had killed about twenty suspected terrorists, members of the Taliban.

We got about seven hostages onboard and the total deaths of civilian casualties was about three thousand-most of them were children—, and I just don't think that's a good way to fight a war just to blow the shit out of a country, kill a bunch of innocent people, and then charge into another country that has nothing to do with it.

Towards the end of our deployment the intelligence briefings that we got said that the 13th Marines had Osama bin Laden and all his buddies cornered in the Tora Bora Mountains, and it was only a matter of time before we uncovered them. After we were relieved, we were relieved by the (Bomb Homer Shard) Amphibious Ready Group. They went in and did the same thing that we did, have him even more cornered and after that they just let him go.

All the troops were pulled out and sent to Iraq over bullshit when the real person that was responsible for September 11th was set free. That's a fact.

That's the true intelligence, military intelligence that I received on a day to day basis and they say according to our intelligence the real threat was Iraq. Well I remember receiving those intelligence briefings and that's not the truth at all and I'm starting to think that's all a fact and my personal opinion is that I think the Bush administration wanted bin Laden to go free so that they could scare the rest of the country and just keep them scared and move into Iraq and not be questioned about it.

Did you know anything about Afghanistan before you went over there?

I joined during peacetime—the whole "Navy let the journey begin" thing—I came from a real shit hole in the Detroit area pretty much an abandoned industrial town because all the automotive companies pulled out so we didn't have any money.

I joined the military to try to give my parents a chance to retire.

We got to Darwin Australia on September 11, so we were the first troops deployed to Afghanistan and we didn't hear very much about it. The most vivid thing I can remember is just to show you how much the troops are brainwashed. When the planes hit the towers we heard that New York and Washington had been attacked and lots of Americans were dead. There wasn't any remorse on the ship, of course they were a couple of exceptions, but the majority of troops though on board were celebrating because they finally got a chance to go to war.

What would you say to someone that might be thinking of joining the military today?

I would say don't do it. It's not worth it. I joined the military and now like I said before sometimes I get people that come up to me and say thank you for your contribution thank you for protecting us and I think that's kind of stupid because we weren't protecting them at all.

Our National Guard is gone. America's weaker than it's ever been on a home front attack, and it's completely pointless to go to Iraq and die over something that serves no purpose. It's completely insane.

Why did you choose to join Iraq Veterans against the War?

I think the main reason why I joined is because what happens is after you're involved in something like that and you know that people are dead from a direct result of you and the rest of your fellow soldiers, and sailors, marines and airmen being there that it just tears you apart inside and I think it's my duty to try and counter-recruit and get people to stop joining up so that they don't have to deal with this the rest of their lives.

It's been about four years since it happened to me, and I still think about it every day. I don't want that for the rest of the year. Look at what Vietnam did. You walk down the street and look at the homeless and almost every single one of them is Vietnam-era age, and it's all happening again.

What do you know about the soldiers that fought in Vietnam?

My good friend's father was a Vietnam veteran and the last thing that he worked really hard after he got out of the military the last thing he wanted to do was have his son join the military, but his son went ahead and did it instead.

The day before his son left to go into the forces, the first time he told us about his tour in Vietnam and he said he just couldn't explain how horrible it was walking through the jungle constantly, just covered in sweat, for nothing coming across your buddy and he's got his mouth sewn shut and went you cut the stitches to open his mouth his testicles come out of it.

Can you describe your Military Occupational Specialty?

My Military Occupational Specialty was photography. All the people from the different branches in service go to the same photography school in Fort Mead, Maryland. One of the courses of training is combat photo investigative photography accident photography.

They trained us for a reason, but when we got to the Middle East and people were coming on board—prisoners of War, injured people, accidents, and stuff like that.

We were take pictures to be translated and to be sent back to the United States and Military Police would come up and erase them from our cameras. And they did that because they were being told to do that. Obviously, I don't think that our Commander in Chief and all his buddies in office want our people seeing those kinds of images.

I see you have film equipment today. What are your plans?

I'm putting together a documentary that will hopefully get distributed to show the rest of the people that are out there who are feeling alone that the Iraq veterans are here and to come and join up.

We can't be ignored, because a veteran of that war can not be ignored.

You can't say you don't know what you're talking about. I've been many places where there will be somebody talking about you know those guys they go over there and when they come back you don't see the guys that went over there coming back and complaining because know that they've been there they know that it's for a cause.

And I say, excuse me sir, what do you know about the military and he says my dad was in the military or something like that. It's completely ignorant. And I think the media that's being transmitted now days; they all have an agenda behind it. I just want to make this and show people exactly what's going on.

Have you heard about the military recruiters being kicked off some of the campuses around the country?

No, I haven't but I go to a community college in Los Angeles and I see recruiters there on a weekly basis and usually for the most part they're guys that have just joined. They don't know what they're talking about so you can't hold it against them, because they're going through the same brainwashing that we all went through when we were in there.

So what I like to do is put on my cammie jacket and go stand right next to them and while they're passing out pro-join the service documents I hold out documents of peace from Iraq Veterans against the War. I think that I've successfully counter-recruited at least five people.

Tim Talib

Can you tell me your name, rank, and what service you were in?
My name is Tim Talib and I was a hospital corpsman third class in the United States Navy, and I served in Iraq with the Marine Corps?

How long did you serve in Iraq?
I was in country for seven months.

Why are you here today?
I'm here today to protest the on going occupation in Iraq. I believe that it's immoral and illegal under international law and I believe that we went into Iraq that our motivation had more to do with oil and imperialism than to do with Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction which were never found or connections to 9/11 which were never made.

How did you come to that conclusion?
I believed much of that before I went over but my experiences in Iraq reinforced what I'd already believed, particularly with regard to weapons of mass destruction. We spent some of our time searching for WMDs, and nothing was ever found. Nothing was ever brought to light by the Bush administration. Their claims were completely false, and all the NBC (Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical) officers and other people that I talked with in country that were working on WMD searches never found any thing either.

Did you have any contact with the Iraqi people?
Yes, I had a good amount of contact with the Iraqi people in the Sunni triangle region so it was mostly Sunnis and a few Shiites. I didn't meet any Kurds at all.

Did you opinion of the Iraqi people differ from what the military said it would be like?

I never believed what the military told me about the Iraqi people to begin with.

I went over there with the belief that the majority of the Iraqi people were good people that they didn't necessarily support Saddam either but they equally did not want us occupying their country and those beliefs were confirmed.

I found that a lot of people in Iraq were intelligent, well educated people who already had some understanding of what they wanted for their country and the democratic processes that they wanted to implement and they didn't need us to come over and force those ideas on them.

What would you say to somebody that might be thinking of joining the military today?
Consider other options. It's not a good idea it's not a good time to be in and you don't want to be forced to participate in an occupation.

Hart Viges,
11 1/2 Months In Iraq, Army:

I'm here to make reparations.

When you realize that there is no boogeyman, people in Iraq are just like you and me with the same fears and loves and concerns, it just makes too much sense that war is not the answer. It's not supposed to be like this.

We need to make change.

We went out to look at a water construction project, and we had gunships as escorts. Two men with RPGs ran across the road, and I swung my rifle over and as he made it to a house, he froze in the doorway. And I froze with my weapon, and I saw his face, and it was not the monster I was expecting to see. He was a man like me, and I couldn't pull the trigger.

Andrew Plummer,
Electricians Mate Third Class, Navy, Served On The USS Eisenhower.

Just discharged. Asked about what he would to say to someone thinking of enlisting:

You think it's a good opportunity. You think you're going to make your life better. You're not.

You think you're going to serve your country. That's not what the military is there for.

You think you're going to make the world a better place. That's not what the military is doing today.

The military is protecting American business interests and killing people to expand our power and generate more wealth for wealthy people in America.

Especially on high school campuses, it's very important to get the military off campus. These kids are 16 and 17 years old. They couldn't even get a car loan without a co-signer, and we have people coming and trying to get them to sign a contract to go kill and be killed.

Joshua Despain;
In Iraq A Little Over Six Months:

That slogan (Support the troops) has been eating at me.

I've seen lots of people who have yellow ribbons on the back of their car, and I try to talk to them. The one thing that you can do to support me and the troops is to listen to our voice, and most people who have the mentality support our troops don't want to hear what we have to say about ending the war.

They think that supporting the troops is supporting the war, and it should be the opposite.

Support President Bush and our troops? That's a conflicting statement.

If you're supporting Bush, then you're not supporting our troops. And if you support our troops, you don't support Bush.

Duffle Bags

As I leave my metal box, that I have called home for the last year, I carry two duffle bags. The first is full of the gear and clothing that has offered me survival and protection. The other bag is harder to see with the uncompassionate eye. I have filled the second with guilt. The shame for the part I have played in this campaign in Iraq. It is more useless then the first. However, it is a burden I must carry.

The ritual a soldier goes through to fill a duffle with the maximum amount of gear is a wrestling match. It took every trick in the book to fit all my soul debt into the long green bag. First I rolled everything tight and squeezed it down pinching and tucking to wedge it in. As it filled I punched the sides. I held the edges and smashed my foot into the opening. I dropped it again and again like packing cigarettes. After fitting all my bad karma inside I had to sit on it while pulling and straining to clip the top closed. Out of breath I finally collapsed on top of the bulging bundle.

The duffle will be dragged around with me perhaps for the rest of my life. From home to home. Town to town. Until I am to old to lift it. Then I will lay down beside the large duffle and crawl inside to die.

So when you see a soldier returning home with a duffle bag at a bus stop, an airport baggage claim, or being stuffed into a taxi, think about what is inside the bag. It might be rolled clothing of browns and tans. Or, it could be dark secrets that he will never reveal to his family.

The soldier will not put his burden upon you. But if you feel any responsibility for the weight of it you may carry it for a while if it would make you feel more decent. And if you forced him to open it perhaps every one can take a little with them to relieve the strain of those who served. It might be a reminder that we are all at fault for America's role in the violence in the Middle-East. However, a soldier is trained to sacrifice. He will take the burden to the grave or make a grave out of it if he must.

The heretic

posted 11 march 2005

Important New Group Forms

Gold Star Families for Peace!

A new organization has been formed by men and women who have been active in Military Families Speak Out. This important group is not one that visitors to the Bring Them Home Now! website would ever want to join--it is an organization of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and other loved ones who have lost someone in the unjust and unjustifiable US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

We, each and every one of us who has come to oppose this war and who want the troops home right now, owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these brave men and women. In the face of devastating loss, they have taken a decision to do everything they can to save other families from suffering the same tragedy and experiencing the same grief.

The members of Gold Star Families for Peace gird themselves to talk with the timid, the skeptical, the hostile, the uncaring. Ordinary men and women, they dare to speak directly to the powerful politicians who have supported this war or opposed it only with weasel words, to the bland media which have for too long presented the government's official version of the war, and above all to this arrogant Administration and the Pentagon.

Their Mission Statement:

We as families of soldiers who have died as a result of war (primarily, but not limited to the invasion/occupation of Iraq), are organizing to be a positive force in our world to bring our country's sons and daughters home from Iraq, to minimize the "human cost" of this war, and to prevent other families from the pain we are feeling as the result of our losses. We are also hoping to be lifetime support for each other through our losses.

Please check out the
GSFP website, and please give your support to these fine, courageous people.

For Some, a Loss in Iraq Turns Into Antiwar Activism

Gold Star Families Band Together to 'Make People Care'

By Evelyn Nieves
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 22, 2005; Page A03

VACAVILLE, Calif. — Five minutes after President Bush began his State of the Union address, Cindy Sheehan clicked off her television set.

She would read the transcript, watch the salute to the parents of a Marine killed in Fallujah, chew over such words as "ultimate sacrifice" and "fight against tyranny" -- the next morning.

But that night, live, in her living room, so close to her son's photos and medals on the foyer wall -- no. It was too much to hear the cheering for the man who had sent her son to Iraq on the premise that Saddam Hussein stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Casey Sheehan, a former Eagle Scout and altar boy who had joined the Army hoping to serve as a chaplain's assistant, was killed at age 24 in a war he wasn't sure why he was fighting. And more soldiers like him were dying every day. Where was the outrage?

Cindy Sheehan found it where she always does: in other families who have lost a loved one in a war they neither believe in nor want to believe will continue, without end, with the nation's acquiescence.

They call themselves Gold Star Families for Peace. Organized less than two months ago, it is part support group and part activist organization, with members united by grief and the belief that their loved ones died in a war that did not have to happen. They represent a small percentage of the families that have lost someone in Iraq -- 50 families out of more than 1,450.

The fallen soldiers' obituaries indicate that many of their families continue to support the war. But the Gold Star Families say they support the soldiers because their mission is to speak out to help bring them home and minimize the human cost of the war.

They include Bill Mitchell of Atascadero, Calif., who lost his son, Mike, 25, in the same April 4 ambush that killed Casey Sheehan, and who also was unable to watch Bush's speech. And Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose eldest son, Sherwood Baker, 30, a National Guardsman, was killed while on the search for weapons of mass destruction. She watched Bush's speech with the sound turned down, "trying to discern some truth amidst the choreography of clapping and fawning." Other Gold Star Families shared the same knot in their stomachs, the same sense of stunned disbelief.

They worry that as the war verges on entering its third year, the public seems to be losing interest in it. When Sheehan tells people she lost a son in the war, she said, she is sometimes asked, "Which war?"

"It's like the American public can listen to the war news for five minutes, and then they can hear about Michael Jackson," she said. "We're trying really hard to bring it to the forefront, to make people care about what's going on there."

The families stumbled upon one another through the Internet and through Military Families Speak Out, an antiwar group for families with loved ones serving in Iraq. With no outreach and little publicity, Gold Star Families for Peace -- the name is a variation on American Gold Star Mothers, a group for mothers of slain soldiers that dates from the 1920s -- gets inquiries from two or three families nearly every day, Sheehan said.

They are regular people: teachers, civil servants, stay-at-home moms and hardware-salesman dads. Most are not used to political protests or speechmaking. Their loved ones -- sons, mostly -- had joined the military because they wanted to, usually out of a sense of duty.

Patrick McCaffrey, who managed an auto shop in Palo Alto, Calif., joined the National Guard after Sept. 11, 2001.

"He wanted to protect the homeland from terrorism," said Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy, Calif., Her only child, 34 years old and with a wife and two children, never dreamed he would be sent abroad to fight. "He would never have signed up if he thought that was a possibility," McCaffrey said. "His family was too important to him."

Gold Star Families do speaking engagements or grant interviews on a moment's notice, though they know the risks. Already, some people have written them off as grieving mothers -- most Gold Star members are mothers -- whose judgment has been clouded by emotion. They also know that many military families do not share their views. The couple whom Bush honored during his State of the Union address, Janet and Bill Norwood of Pflugerville, Tex., had written to Bush to express continuing support for the war after their son, a Marine sergeant, was killed last year.

The Gold Star Families say they feel the same empathy for families such as the Norwoods as they do for one another. But they say they, too, have written letters and made calls to Bush and to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, "yet there has been no response at all," Zappala said. On Inauguration Day, half a dozen Gold Star Families, letters in hand, tried to gain an audience with Bush and Rumsfeld. They were turned away at the White House by guards.

They plan more group events but are not sure what. Many of them will meet in person for the first time when they converge with peace organizations in Fayetteville, N.C., March 19 to mark the second anniversary of the start of the war.

Then, they say, they will go full steam ahead in speaking out against the war, together, in ones and twos, and with other peace groups. The most prominent member is Lila Lipscomb of Flint, Mich., who was featured in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." The film shows her encouraging her son, Michael Pederson, to join the Army for its career opportunities, only to end up grieving for him two weeks after the war in Iraq began.

"I consider being in that movie such a blessing," she said, "because it has given me the opportunity to have an audience."

Bill Mitchell said Gold Star Families in general have had no problem capturing a crowd's attention. "When we get together," he said, "it's pretty powerful."

For the families, discussions always begin with their loved ones' lives.

Mitchell talks about his son, Mike, a high school track star who found time for a run the day he died. He had volunteered for the Army with friends "out of a sense of brotherhood," said his father, a retired corporate manager. After 11 months in Iraq, Mike Mitchell was killed two weeks before he was scheduled to leave. Engaged to marry a German woman who had moved her graduate studies to Southern California in preparation for their life together, he was eager to return home. But he volunteered for one last mission.

It was the same mission that Casey Sheehan, in Iraq for two weeks, was on when they were ambushed. A devout Catholic, he had also entered the Army in solidarity with friends. He did not have a steady girlfriend, and had told his mother that he wanted to stay a virgin until he married. After his tour was over, he planned to become an elementary school teacher.

"The sons and daughters dying in that war are the most decent people," said Sheehan, who raised four children while her husband worked as a hardware salesman.

Vicki Castro's only son, Jonathan, could have gone to college but enlisted in the Army as a combat engineer, almost against his parent's wishes, she said. "We told him, 'Just apply to college and we'll pay for wherever you want to go,' " said Castro, a high school math teacher in Corona, Calif. "But he wanted to learn things most people don't, and experience things you don't when you go from high school to college."

He had designed and built scooters with motorcycle parts -- "chopperscooters," he called them. Upon returning from Iraq, he planned to use the Army's small-business loan program to open a shop on the beach and rent them out. He was more than ready to return, but the Army extended his stay one year. He died at age 21 in the Dec. 21 suicide bombing that killed 22 soldiers in a mess tent in Mosul.

Diane Santoriello, who teaches troubled elementary school students in Pittsburgh, knew her son would be sent abroad. First Lt. Neil Anthony Santoriello Jr. had joined the Army after high school.

"He wanted this as a career from the time he was in fifth grade, though he knew I wasn't crazy about it," she said. Neil had been an Eagle Scout, along with friends who joined the Army with him. "Nine scouts that were with my son are currently in uniform," Santoriello said. "His two best friends are over in Mosul right now."

Like other Gold Star families, she recalls that her son began to express disillusionment over Iraq. "Some of his men had to go to civilian Web sites to get boots," she said. "He did not have enough parts for his tanks." Neil, who had married his college sweetheart at 22, was killed on Aug. 13, one month shy of his 25th birthday.

"He was very interested in government and politics," his mother said. "We all knew that he was going to change our country in some way. Maybe I consider what I'm doing now a way of carrying on his work."

posted 22 february 2005

The New Year Seen From In Country
Resolutions Versus Reality

The sound of a single explosion in the distance plunges my heart into my guts. The group of Iraqi workers that I have been over-watching stops working for a moment. They lean on their makeshift shovels and watch the smoke curl up over the horizon. It is like a declaration of the insurgent's New Years resolution. An Iraqi laborer throws me an almost toothless smile "Ali Baba nooooo good." he says in a thick Arabic accent. I look at him without returning a smile and then back to the line of black smoke dividing the blue sky, all awhile hoping it isn't one of my friends hit by an improvised explosive device. We are too close to going home.

It has been such a long year and our battalion has had to endure almost every hardship that a modern war against a guerilla enemy can offer. Each day is an eternity of suffering. Although it seems like yesterday that we came into Kuwait to prep for our tour in Iraq. Like soldiers from all over the States are doing the now. My relief that I will be returning to Germany soon is washed by the sadness of seeing the young men of OIF 3 replacing me. The death toll has increased steadily since the beginning of the invasion and appears not to be declining soon.

So many of these Iraqi people have turned against us. Since the attack in Mosul the Iraqi workers on camp are watched by soldier escorts very closely. As I stare at my Iraqi laborers, they pass around a homemade lunch, barely enough to go around, I picture them with AK 47s. These men, aged from sixteen to mid-forties, are no different than the insurgents. Some of them even pick up arms against us when they leave our base. They are almost all farmers with some other odd skill. They make buildings out of brick and cement, they are electricians, painters or can lay asphalt. None of them can afford a plane ticket to the United States or arrange a means to get their on their own. They would spend the money, if they had it, on more practical things for their families. What threat would these peasants pose on me if I were back home playing catch with my little brother? Would they try to kill me while I sleep or bomb the building my father works at, blow up the train he rides home in? I don't see it. However, the longer we make enemies of these poor people the more likely it seems.

The last of the food is dealt out to the youngest and oldest of the group. They are all hungry; however, there is no argument as who shall get the remaining scraps. Would a pack of starving Americans be so civilized? They try to preserve their strength and life. My thoughts wander to the people killed accidentally by our bullets and bombs. I think about a mother's struggle to keep her children alive in such a harsh environment only to have them taken away one day without much thought to the lives affected. People's history, people's goals and dreams erased forever. Will I have to kill again before leaving Iraq?

It is New Year's Eve. If I could make a resolution it would be to never kill again. I don't think I can hold that one for long. It is like a resolution of a guilt-ridden mass murderer and here I am trying to struggle with the words. Did I volunteer to be a murderer? The way I am used by my country I suppose I have. When I joined, I imagined the honor-bound Army of the morally pure. I thought I was enlisting to better the world, like some virtuous super hero. I am as dry of honor as the Middle Eastern desert is of rain. My wicked assignment leaves nothing in my soul but shame. This is the mercenary war party I signed up for.

The insurgents fight with more spirit and dedication than our soldiers. They fight for something more than college money and a lie. A person who is out for money doesn't blow themselves up in a Army chow hall. They don't fight to the death in the streets of Fallujah. They can quit whenever they choose, they aren't punished by their comrades, they have no rank structure. Yet, they fight on. Why is our Army different? Because we are not an Army with the support of the American people.

We go to war and then the government informs the citizens the reason for it. Because we are not a democracy. My mother was never asked to vote on whether her son should go to war. She does not benefit from war. I don't fight for the will of my country, but for the elite one percent that gains profit from fat government contracts and manipulation of the oil market. At some point the US Military was hijacked by corporate America. It could have always been that way, however it shouldn't be. Maybe my resolution is to fight only for the people of the United States. However, that is also an impossible goal.

A Red Cross-marked Black Hawk chops through the air in the direction of the trailing smoke. What are the pilot's resolutions? What about the men hurt in the explosion? Are they practical? The common lose-some-weight, stop-drinking, quit-smoking promises don't seem to hold much importance while in the combat zone. Although any resolution I can come up with is beyond my control. Perhaps, only because I am thinking of change I can make alone. If I were united with more people of like ideals then there would be hope. Then there would be power for positive change. As I come to find my resolution I snap back to my duty at hand. I take a quick count of my appointed workers and relax when they are all accounted for.

So as any resolution. It comes down to will. It comes down to breaking apathy and motivating myself. My wishes are steep, however I don't resolve to complete my goals, only to try. That I can do. That anyone can do. As the helicopter passes again the ground vibrates with the concussion of another explosion. More dark vapors stream up from the city. More points to the board as each team runs up the score before father time blows the time buzzer. Perhaps a resolution answered. Perhaps a resolution failed. "Noooo good" says the toothless Iraqi with a smile. "No good," I reply.

Baquaba, Iraq

posted 02 january 2005

The New Year Seen From In Country (part 2)

Thanks for Trying to Get Us Back!

hello Lou. hope everything is alright there. it is x-mass eve. i am in baghdad right by the airport.

so far this experience has been nothing like i expected. everything has changed so much since i was here last time. the highways that we run our supplies on, the bases, and the structures for us troops. it is kreepy because the stuff that they are building all says that we are not going anywhere soon.

in ways it is sick because literally everything is about money. it is almost like a sell-out war. anything like coffee cups, t-shirts, coats, bags and on and on all have OIF logos and shit on them. i am drinking out of the lid of my thermos cause i refuse to buy a coffee mug or anything else for that matter that says OIF on it. i tell all the soldiers that are with me that this is not a fucking disneyland or six flags, it is a fucking warzone. people are losing life and limb every day and it is not a positive thing.

out in the open desert i feel half way safe convoying due to the fact that there are so many soft targets heading south. convoy after convoy of trucks full of oil with military escorts. i have no faith in the decision-making process of the major officers appointed above me. so far this camp i am at gets rocketed or mortared 3 or 4 times a week. my first night here we got mortared. about a week ago i woke up and 2 trailers behind me a rocket hit sometime during the night but did not explode. i took pictures of it just sticking out of the sandbags reinforcing our sleeping quarters.

the same thing happened right outside where i work--another rocket was found just sticking out of the ground. when i 1st got here it did not matter if it was incoming or out going i just hit the deck. now it is just like nothing at all.

at night we can't have any lights on outside because we will be a possible target. but on the other hand we are still expected to salute? mortars are hitting all around us but it is just business as usual. but now a defac [dining facility] gets hit 220 mile north of here and they decide to raise our threat level. and i put my life in the hands of the people who make these decisions?

i am sorry--i did not mean to sound all negative. i wanted to make sure that my snake is healthy. has he been eating? also i take it that my car is ok? well, anyway i hope that you are having a merry x-mass. another thing i never made a copy of fahrenheit 911.

if you could get me a copy of it i will appreciate it. anyway i know that you are supporting us troops out here the best way possible. trying to get us back! a lot of soldiers are like sheep and don't see it that way. but know this one is really grateful for people like you.

happy brave new year.

posted 02 january 2005

Annals of the New GI Resistance

by Michael Uhl
from the upcoming issue of the Veterans For Peace Newsletter

When a combat vet who witnessed war crimes in Iraq testified recently at the asylum hearing of a self-retired soldier ("deserter") who fled the U.S. army for Canada, the history of the Vietnam-era GI resistance seemed to come full circle.

In the late stages of the Vietnam War, following the public revelation of the My Lai massacre in the U.S. and world press, many returned veterans were radicalized and became active in the antiwar movement after giving public testimony about war crimes that they or their units had committed in Southeast Asia. Such revelations of Vietnam atrocities on a wide world stage had an impact on those still on active duty, no doubt contributing to the highest rates of desertion the modern U.S. military had ever experienced. The subsequent political cross- fertilization among active duty GIs, radicalized vets returned from Nam, and GIs in exile created a force of inestimable significance in bolstering the late mobilizations against that war. This potent movement, essentially working class in character, exercised an influence not yet fully understood to help escalate the erosion of public support for the Vietnam war throughout the communities of middle America.

And now, on December 7th past, we have our own Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey (ret.), a 12-year veteran of the Marine Corps, and co- founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) telling an asylum board in Toronto that his unit in Iraq "routinely shot wounded Iraqis and killed them." And that former Army private Jeremy Hinzman's decision to decamp Fort Bragg for Canada rather than go to Iraq is justified legally and morally by his refusal to participate in a war where such crimes, primarily against non-combatants, are both predictable and commonplace. Hinzmanís arguments of personal conscience can only be concretized by such testimony as that given by Jimmy Massey. And the hearing board cannot now fail to grasp what is at stake for many GIs who are misfortunate enough to find themselves in Iraq. If Hinzman is granted asylum, then the sense of deja vu between Vietnam and the current struggle will be transformed into one more visible sign that a the new GI Resistance is alive and growing.

posted 02 january 2005

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