Do I Look Shocked?

(only because it was in USA Today)

Homeland Security admits it did not follow privacy law

Updated 12/23/2006 9:50 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department admitted Friday it did not follow the Privacy Act two years ago in obtaining more commercial data about U.S. airline passengers than it had announced it would.

Seventeen months ago, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm, reached the same conclusion: The department's Transportation Security Administration "did not fully disclose to the public its use of personal information in its fall 2004 privacy notices as required by the Privacy Act."

Even so, in a report Friday on the testing of TSA's Secure Flight domestic air passenger screening program, the Homeland Security department's privacy office acknowledged TSA didn't comply with the law. But the privacy office still couldn't bring itself to use the word "violate."

Instead, the privacy office said, "TSA announced one testing program, but conducted an entirely different one." In a 40-word, separate sentence, the report noted that federal programs that collect personal data that can identify Americans "are required to be announced in Privacy Act system notices and privacy impact assessments."

TSA spokesman Christopher White noted the GAO's earlier conclusions and said, "TSA has already implemented or is in the process of implementing each of the DHS privacy office recommendations."

Congress has been unhappy with TSA's domestic airline screening program for years — since it was called CAPPS II before it was tweaked and renamed Secure Flight. Federal law now bars TSA from implementing a domestic screening system until the GAO is satisfied it can meet 10 standards of privacy protection, accuracy and security.

Secure Flight has never passed all those tests, and White said there is no target date for implementing it. "We are more concerned with getting it right," White said.

Friday's report reinforced concerns on Capitol Hill.

"This further documents the cavalier way the Bush administration treats Americans' privacy," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who is set to become Senate Judiciary Committee chairman in January. "With this database program, first they ignored the Privacy Act, and now, two years later, they still have a hard time admitting it."

Leahy promised the new Congress will try to learn more about how the administration uses such databases. "Data mining technology has great potential," Leahy said, "but history shows that without adequate checks and balances and oversight, misuse and abuse of the public's personal information will be inevitable."

Characterizing the Secure Flight problems as "largely unintentional," Homeland Security's privacy office attributed them to TSA's failure to revise the public announcement after the test changed.

The privacy office said TSA announced in fall 2004 it would acquire passenger name records of people who flew domestically in June 2004. Airline passenger name records include the flyer's name, address, itinerary, form of payment, history of one-way travel, contact phone number, seating location and even requests for special meals.

The public notices said TSA would try to match the passenger names with names on watch lists of terrorists and criminals.

But they also said the passenger records would be compared with unspecified commercial data about Americans in an effort to see if the passenger data was accurate. It assured the public that TSA would not receive commercial data used by contractors to conduct that part of the tests.

But the contractor, EagleForce, used data obtained from commercial data collection companies Acxiom, Insight America and Qsent to fill in missing information in the passenger records and then sent the enhanced records back to TSA on CDs for comparison with watch lists.

This was "contrary to the express statements in the fall privacy notices about the Secure Flight program," Homeland Security's privacy office concluded. "EagleForce's access to the commercial data amounted to access of the data by TSA."

Another procedure originally thought to enhance privacy backfired. EagleForce augmented the 42,000 passenger name records with similar variations of the spelling of each first and last name so it asked for commercial data on 240,000 names.

Many of these variations were the actual names of real people whose records were then put into the test without any public notice, the report said. Eventually, the three companies supplied EagleForce with 191 million records, though many were duplicates.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.


lesson from history

" Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. ... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. "

- General Herman Goering,
President of German
Reichstag & Nazi Party,
Commander of Luftwaffe

Racist Pig won't recant

U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode's Problem: Bridling His Tongue
By Miguel Contreras,
Posted on Thu Dec 21st, 2006 at 12:35:09 PM EST
“One who speaks rashly is like thrusts of a sword - Proverbs 12:18

On December 21, 2006, while revieweing our national mainstream news there was one that caught my attention: the Islamophobic irresponsible comments made by an obscure U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. regarding immigration issues and how the lack of an immigration bill would put our national security in peril by letting masses of Islamic aliens enter our country.

Goode's problem in bridling his tongue is used by this writer to describe Goode's problem in controlling his tongue. Bridle and Bridingly has been used extensively by Hebrew scholars when writing Biblical related studies.

Later calls to Goode's office confirmed that he is not retracting what he stated nor he will apologize to Islamic groups for a letter he wrote that decries Muslim immigration to America, his press aide said yesterday.

This is the kind of political rethoric that instead of helping our national security leaders in the fight against terrorism, only serves to entice and ellicit a deadly response by some terrorist group.

For clarification purposes, this writer does not imply that this terrorist group will be an Islamic one. A terrorist group can be from any ethnic or religious background.

My guess is that Goode will need some serious counseling by his 110th House of Representative bosses when he takes office next month.

racist pig stands by his slurs

U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode's Problem: Bridling His Tongue
By Miguel Contreras,
Posted on Thu Dec 21st, 2006 at 12:35:09 PM EST
“One who speaks rashly is like thrusts of a sword - Proverbs 12:18

On December 21, 2006, while revieweing our national mainstream news there was one that caught my attention: the Islamophobic irresponsible comments made by an obscure U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. regarding immigration issues and how the lack of an immigration bill would put our national security in peril by letting masses of Islamic aliens enter our country.

Goode's problem in bridling his tongue is used by this writer to describe Goode's problem in controlling his tongue. Bridle and Bridingly has been used extensively by Hebrew scholars when writing Biblical related studies.

Later calls to Goode's office confirmed that he is not retracting what he stated nor he will apologize to Islamic groups for a letter he wrote that decries Muslim immigration to America, his press aide said yesterday.

This is the kind of political rethoric that instead of helping our national security leaders in the fight against terrorism, only serves to entice and ellicit a deadly response by some terrorist group.

For clarification purposes, this writer does not imply that this terrorist group will be an Islamic one. A terrorist group can be from any ethnic or religious background.

My guess is that Goode will need some serious counseling by his 110th House of Representative bosses when he takes office next month.

Goode makes a reference to his Christian values and beliefs. A true Christian will never make such a statement.

The Letter

This letter was sent by Virgil H. Goode Jr. in response to an e-mail from a constituent:

December 7, 2006 Dear . . . Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped. The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office." Thank you again for your email and thoughts. Sincerely yours,

Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
70 East Court Street
Suite 215
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151


Goode stands by comments Islamic groups demand an apology over letter decrying immigration, use of Quran

Thursday, December 21, 2006

ROCKY MOUNT -- U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. will not apologize to Islamic groups for a letter he wrote that decries Muslim immigration to America, his press aide said yesterday.

"He stands by the letter," said Linwood Duncan, aide to the 5th District Republican. Duncan refused to say more.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations demanded an apology Tuesday night for the letter, which Goode, of Rocky Mount, sent to hundreds of constituents and which the council labeled Islamophobic.

"We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country," Goode wrote.

"I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigra- tion policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped."


Interview with David Zeiger

Sir, No Sir! An Interview with David Zeiger

The director's Vietnam documentary Sir! No Sir! chronicles a forgotten movement and presents a history lesson for the present.

Jonathan Stein

The Oleo Strut was a coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas, from 1968 to 1972. Like its namesake, a shock absorber in helicopter landing gear, the Oleo Strutís purpose was to help GIs land softly. Upon returning from Vietnam to Fort Hood, shell-shocked soldiers found solace amongst the Strutís regulars, mostly fellow soldiers and a few civilian sympathizers. But it didnít take long before shell shock turned into anger, and that anger into action. The GIs turned the Oleo Strut into one of Texasís anti-war headquarters, publishing an underground anti-war newspaper, organizing boycotts, setting up a legal office, and leading peace marches.

David Zeiger was one of the civilians who helped run the Oleo Strut. He went on to a career in political activism and today, at 55, he is a filmmaker and the director of Sir! No Sir!, a new documentary on the all-but-forgotten antiwar activities of GIs from Fort Hood to Saigon. The GI Movement, as it was then known, was composed of both vets recently returned from Vietnam and active-duty soldiers. They fought for peace in ways big and small, from organizing leading anti-war organizations to wearing peace signs instead of dog tags. By the early ë70s, opposition to the Vietnam War within the military and amongst veterans had grown so widespread that no one could credibly claim that opposing the war meant opposing the troops. Veterans wanted an end to the war; their brothers in Vietnam agreed.

Zeiger put off making this movie for years, convinced the public didnít want to hear another story about the ë60s. What finally spurred the project was the Iraq War and the role some Vietnam vets are playing in keeping Americaís young men and women from seeing the same horrors they saw. When GIs from the current war started coming home and wondering what theyíd been fighting for, Zeigerís days at the Oleo Strut took on a new relevance. His film is a remarkable interweaving of vetsí stories about their intensifying resistance to the war, starting with the lone objectors of the late ë60s and culminating with open disobedience throughout the ranks in the ë70s. One vet even recalls an episode from 1972 in which Military Police joined enlisted men in burning an effigy of their commanding officer. The images that accompany such stories are just as powerful. As a young doctor is escorted into a military court for refusing to train GIs, hundreds of enlisted men lean out of nearby windows extending peace signs in support. Itís an image that the Army didnít want the American people to see then, and probably wouldnít want the American people to see today.

Sir! No Sir! won the Documentary Audience Award at the L.A. Film Festival and is slated for broad release before the end of the year. David Zeiger spoke with from the Los Angeles office of his production company, Displaced Films. Talk a little about your history with the GI Movement.

David Zeiger: In the late ë60s I reached a point where I believed that there was really no alternative for me than to become part of the movement against the war. My opposition to the war had grown very deeply but I hadnít been really involved in anything. I starting looking around for what was going to be the most effective place and situation to help. I ran into this small group from the GI Movement, some vets and some civilians from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. It became obvious to me very quickly that this was the most solid, most direct way to go after the war. It was a situation where people were opposing the war that no one thought would oppose the war. Not just because they were GIs. These were mostly working class guys, guys who had gone into the military out of patriotic motives or because that was just what you did. And they were becoming one of the strongest forces against the war.

MJ: What brought you back to the project, some 35 years later?

DZ: I started making films in the early ë90s. I always knew that this story was one that needed to be told and had never been told. But the way I always characterized it was, ìThis is a film that needs to be made but Iím never going to make it.î At the time, it just wasnít a film that would have much resonance for people. It would be another story from the ë60s. What prompted me to make the film was September 11, and the War on Terrorís segue into the Iraq War. I saw that this had suddenly become a story that would have current resonance, something that would immediately connect with whatís going on today.

MJ: How did you find the veterans that appear in the film?

DZ: Several of these guys were people I knew because I had been at Fort Hood. Then there were veteransí organizations like Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans For PeaceóI put a call out for stories through their various means of communication. I also ended up [getting] in touch with people nobody had ever heard of before. Their missions were so top secret they were under threat of federal prosecution if they went public with any of their stories. They came to me and basically said, ìWe want to finally tell our story. We havenít been able to tell it for 35 years.î We still donít know what will happen to them. Weíll know when the film is in theaters.

Also, Several books played a big role in keeping memory of the movement alive and giving me the foundation for the film -- especially Soldiers in Revolt by David Cortright, and A Matter of Conscience: GI Resistance Furing the Vietnam War by William Short and Willa Seidenberg.

MJ: Did it take any effort to get the veterans to open upóthe public conception of the Vietnam vet is of a man too pained to talk openly about his experiences.

DZ: Yeah, thatís a very big myth. In this situation that was not at all a problem. These are people whose stories had been suppressed and ignored since the war. They knew that their story was a story of the Vietnam War that needed to be told. For most of these veterans, it was more a matter of finally being able to tell their story, stories the overall zeitgeist was against being told. It was not a matter of reluctance.

MJ: The film has already gotten a good deal of interest in Europe. Do you anticipate that domestic interest will be as strong?

DZ: Well, yeah, how to put this? I anticipate that kind of interest, but until the film was made I think U.S. television didnít quite get how relevant the film is in the current world. It was hard to explain that to people. Now that the film is made weíre getting much stronger interest. A big strength of the film, and what I think is going to bring it into the mainstream, is that this is historical metaphor. We donít have to say a word about Iraq in the film for it to be clearly identified with Iraq for people. But [because it doesn't mention Iraq], the film canít be shoved into the category of a propaganda film.

MJ: You mentioned that you were a civilian organizer at Fort Hood during the Vietnam War. At that time, was the civilian public widely aware of the GI Movement?

DZ: The evidence suggests that they were. As you see in the film, there were CBS Nightly News stories about the GI Movement. There is a segment in the film of Walter Cronkite talking about the GI underground press. In the state of Texas, where there was a very large anti-war movement in Austin and Houston, and the center of the Texas movement for a time was at Fort Hood. The armed forces demonstrations were major events for the whole state. I think people knew generally that there was opposition in the military, but they didnít know the details or how widespread it was. But it was certainly more prominent than people remember it. It has been thoroughly wiped out of any histories of the war.

MJ: How visible was the GI Movement amongst American soldiers in Southeast Asia? Were they aware that their fellow soldiers were protesting the war on bases abroad and in the States?

DZ: Yes. The GI anti-war press was everywhere. Just about every base in the world had an underground paper. Vietnam GI was the first GI paper. It was sent directly to Vietnam from the U.S. in press runs of 5,000 and they were getting spread all over the place because theyíd be handed from person to person. Awareness of the GI Movement was at different levels but it was still very widespread.

MJ: How did the GIs manage to write and print these papers, especially when their actions were, presumably, being watched?

DZ: That was where the coffeehouse came in. [The GIs] did the work, for the most part, off base. At the Oleo Strut we had an office that they worked in and we had a printer that would print it for us. Some of these papers would get mimeographed secretly on the military bases because the guys working on them would be clerks and they had access to the proper resources. So there was a range, from something someone had typed up and mimeographed and got out about 500 copies of, to these pretty sophisticated papers like the Fatigue Press at Fort Hood, where weíd have a press run of 10,000 copies. Weíd hand them out off base but theyíd also be distributed on base. Guys snuck on base and would go through barracks and put them on beds and foot lockers.

One story we didnít put in the film was about some guys at Fort Lewis near Seattle. They wanted to bring GIs to an anti-war demonstration, but they didnít have an underground paper yet. They took a bunch of leaflets on base late at night and drove around throwing the leaflets out the window. In the military, if thereís litter on the base the brass doesnít pick it up; they send out the GIs out to police the base and pick it up. So the next morning they sent several companies out to pick up all this litter and before they realized what this litter was, it was too late. Itís funny: repression breeds innovation.

MJ: The movie talks a lot about the GI coffeehouses and how some of them were attacked and shut down. Did GIs ever claim their First Amendment rights were being thwarted?

DZ: Yes, and there were cases that went all the way to the Supreme Court about that. The Supreme Court fairly consistently ruled that so-called ìmilitary necessityî trumped free speech. But there was a tremendous support network of lawyers during the period of the GI Movement who would help challenge these things. There were many cases of GIs challenging the militaryís right to not allow them to distribute the underground papers on base. No one won [laughs], but there were a lot of attempts to create change.

MJ: Another thing you discuss in the film is the FTA [ìFree the Armyî or ìFuck the Armyî] tour, a variety show packed with celebrities that wanted to counterbalance the pro-war Bob Hope. Where did the tour perform?

DZ: Well, it was banned from bases. What they typically did was come into military towns that had a support organization like the coffeehouses, and they would either perform at the coffeehouses, or if it was possible, in a larger venue. I know when the FTA show came to Killeen we spent months trying to get an auditorium or even an outdoor site rented to us and no one would do it. So the FTA Tour came to town and performed at the Oleo Strut, which had a capacity of maybe 200 people. Rather than doing two shows that day, they did four. When they did their tour of Asia, which is where we got the footage for the film, they got a lot of outdoor venues and larger venues, but they were never allowed on bases. Keep in mind, these were the top Hollywood stars of the day, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. They had just come off of Klute, won a ton of awards. But of course they werenít allowed on any bases.

MJ: And the GIs who saw the shows were free enough that 800 of them could go see the show in one day?

DZ: Yeah. By 1970 and 1971, the combination of the actual organized GI Movement and the general culture of resistance that had emerged inside the military was so strong that you could openly walk around bases wearing whatever anti-war stuff you wanted to wear. Actually, the guys in the U.S. couldnít do that as much; guys in Vietnam were doing it a lot more. But regardless, that sense of opposition, that sense of FTA, was so strong the army couldnít completely stomp down on it.

MJ: Your film never mentions John Kerry. Why?

DZ: Because so many people wanted us to put him in [laughs]. That was part of it. Frankly, we didnít have him in mainly because we didnít want that to become what the film was about. The film made about his military service during the campaign, Going Upriver, has a lot of footage about his involvement with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which is also in our film. Ironically, that film was made to help Kerryís campaign, but if anything, it hurt it. It didnít win over anyone that was against him to begin with, but people who supported Kerry because of his anti-war stance during Vietnam saw how startlingly far heís gone in his ultimate betrayal of the stand he took in the 1960s. We thought anything like that would be distraction for this film.

MJ: Why do you think the GI Movement has faded from the publicís memory of Vietnam?

DZ: Thereís been a number of factors. There was this whole element in the mid to late ë70s of people kind of wanting to forget. Hollywood, in depicting the war in the 1970s, never mentioned the GI Movement. Coming Home, which was a very good film in very many ways, started with a much more radical approach to what GIs had gotten into. But by the time the film was finished, it was a much more conciliatory film, and that became the theme that a lot of people latched onto about Vietnam in the ë70s: Letís forget it all. Then in the í80s, the political climate with the Reagan administration became one of rewriting the history of the war. Of course, if youíre going to rewrite the history of the Vietnam War from a right-wing perspective, the GI Movement would be written out completely. Both politically and in every film made at the time, the Movement was literally written out of history.

MJ: The rewriting of history you mention seems to posit the troops as honorable American boys that supported the war, distinct from hippie protestors. Your film makes it clear that thatís a false distinction, and those are false labels. What impact do you think your film will have on people from younger generations whose only experience with Vietnam is a history that has been revised?

DZ: I hope it will really shock people. I want you walk out of the theater thinking, ìHoly shit! Iíve been lied to so thoroughly I better take a really close look at this stuff.î And itís especially important when comparing it to now. I want people to seriously question this idea that opposing the war means opposing the troops. Hopefully they will come to the conclusion that itís not a given. Thatís a political perspective, and itís a right-wing political perspective, a very pro-war political perspective. And itís a political perspective that undercuts any serious movement against the war, both among civilians and among GIs. The way the Vietnam War gets summed up is that the Vietnam War was ìunpopular,î and thatís what screwed up the GIs. So people today say, ìIf thatís true, then if the Iraq war is unpopular itís going to screw up the Iraq GIs.î Well, the Vietnam War wasnít unpopular. The Vietnam War was criminal.

MJ: One of the most compelling images from the film is the entrance to the Fort Dix stockade in New Jersey, where a sign reads, ìObedience to the Law is Freedom.î Vietnam began a period in American life where that axiom could no longer be taken as faith. What do you think the long-term ramifications of Vietnam are?

DZ: That sign really summarized the Armyís view of military life. The ramifications are, if nothing else, that itís possible to go up against and defeat a very powerful empire. One of the guys in the film made a point we didnít end up using: The United States had the biggest army in the world, the best equipped, the best trained, the best fedóand we lost. We got beat by an indigenous force that totally undercut the ability of the United State to get a foothold in their country. And thatís a universal lesson, and thatís a lesson that is extremely dangerous for any country that, despite its protestations, is in fact bent on being a world empire. Itís inspiring for anyone who doesnít want to live in that sort of situation anymore.

Films mentioned by David Zeiger:

Sir! No Sir!

Going Upriver

Coming Home

Jonathan Stein is an editorial intern at Mother Jones.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This article has been made possible by the Foundation for National Progress, the Investigative Fund of Mother Jones, and gifts from generous readers like you.

© 2005 The Foundation for National Progress

Jerry Lembcke reflects on SIR! NO SIR!

Reflections on the Anti-War Documentary, Sir! No Sir!

by Jerry Lembcke; History News Network; November 06, 2006

The new documentary about the Vietnam-era GI anti-war movement, Sir! No Sir!, opened in theaters during the spring and summer of 2006. The film compiles the historical record of the rank-and-file rebellion that grew during the war years and reached the level of mutiny in Vietnam by the war's end. It recounts that history through the stories of people like Green Beret Master Sergeant Donald Duncan, Dr. Howard Levy, Navy Lt. Susan Schnall, and infantryman David Cline, all of whom turned against the war while still in the service and appear in the movie.

I have a part in the film as author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam, a book that debunks the widely believed notion that anti-war activists were hostile to Vietnam veterans, even spitting on them at West Coast airports. In research for the book, I found similar stories in other societies following lost wars, stories that function as face-saving devices that attribute the war's loss to home-front betrayal rather than the prowess of the enemy-victor. The myth of spat-upon Vietnam veterans also displaced from public memory the reality that thousands of GIs and veterans were integral to the anti-war movement, a fact that startles many Sir! No Sir! viewers when they see it so graphically revived on the screen.

My place in the film has created some opportunities for me to participate in post-showing discussion groups. Invariably, those discussions have drawn comparisons between then and now, the resistance of soldiers and veterans of the Vietnam years as portrayed in the film compared with the more compliant posture of troops today toward political and military authority. Not surprisingly, the audience drawn to the anti-war flavor of the film uses the past as a basis for criticism of the present, leading participants to ask why are so few uniformed Americans moved to resistance today when so many were in a state of insurgency just a generation ago?

Typical responses to the question take the form of: there is "no movement" today, by which speakers seem to mean there is no larger, more general movement for social reform that might succor the efforts of would-be in-service resisters. It's an answer, though, which itself bends back into more questions: why is there no movement? Why isn't there a movement now like there was then?

The "no movement" response may pack a bit of nostalgia for times that are better in memory than they were in reality. Leaving aside the purely wistful -- "we don't have a Peter, Paul, and Mary," said a patron at the Green Mountain Film Festival -- it is undeniably easier to remember the fewer large and successful turn-outs against the war than the many more frustratingly small ones that never made it to the Sunday papers. Romance for "the day," in any case, diminishes the enormity of the mobilizations against the looming invasion of Iraq during February and March of 2003, and ignores how unpopular the war in Iraq remains in American public opinion polls.

Similar questions need to be raised about the claim that the news media was more forthcoming with information about the war in Vietnam than today's press is about the current conflicts. The idea that Vietnam was a war on our television screens every evening has become common wisdom in recent years, a kind of unchallenged assumption used as a backdrop to highlight the complicity of today's media in government propaganda. But a quick comparison of newspaper coverage of the two wars suggests that the public gets far more information about the war in Iraq than it did about the war in Vietnam. The problem might be less the censorship of news than the inability of Americans to make effective use of the information at hand. To put it in other terms, the problem may be more Huxlian than Orwellian, more a problem with what is in American living rooms -- American Idol and ESPN -- than what is not.1

By seeing the GI movement as an appendage of other oppositional efforts of the time, moreover, one of Sir! No Sir!'s most important points is obscured, namely, that in-service opposition to the war in Vietnam had a degree of autonomy from developments in the civilian world. Donald Duncan quit the Army in 1966, at a time when, as he recalls in the film, he was unaware of the anti-war movement, and it was in-service resister Howard Levy's vision of an alternative to the Bob Hope variety show that inspired Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, and others to form FTA (variously: Fun Travel Adventure or Free/Fuck the Army) that toured military bases in the U.S. and the Asian Pacific during 1971.

It would be a mistake, though, to flip the analytical coin over and assign causative powers to in-service resistors, thus crediting the early dissidents like Duncan with spawning the Vietnam-era movement that followed their path-breaking actions, and then, by extension, blaming the absence of '60s-like demonstrations on the relative quiescence of today's GIs and Marines. Rather, the focus should be on the chemistry between military and civilian dissent and what is different about today that helps account for the seeming disinterest of many Americans, both in and out of uniform, in what the war is all about.

One difference is the absence now of an embraceable enemy-other, an avuncular leader like Ho Chi Minh and a hardscrabble underdog like the National Liberation Front. In 1965, within weeks of the first Marines landing at Da Nang -- when the U.S. government was still demonizing the Vietnamese as terrorists -- "Women's Strike for Peace" saw something else in the "enemy" and sent a delegation to Hanoi to talk to them; a year later but still early in the war, the Quakers were taking medical aid to the communists; and by the end of 1967 American civilians acting independently of their government had negotiated the first prisoner releases. Within the military there was a similar recalibration of reality taking place. In the film, David Cline recalls looking at the Viet Cong soldier he had shot and thinking that that guy was fighting for his country too, and that he (Cline) had an obligation to honor what he died for and help end the killing.

Battle-born epiphany's like Cline's may happen more often than we think but what was different about that war was the opportunities it created for raised consciousnesses to be put to meaningful action. Lt. Susan Schnall was dealt a court-martial for protesting the war while wearing her uniform, and soon thereafter began doing support work for the communist Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam; Joe Urgo (also in the film) returned from Vietnam not only to protest the war but to go to the enemy's capital, Hanoi, as a peace activist -- while U.S. bombs were still dropping. By contrast, in-service resistance today lacks a comparable political context: it's difficult to discern whose interest, besides their own, would be served by refusals of U.S. men and women to fight in Iraq? If veterans of the war in Iraq sought solidarity with their erstwhile enemies, which capital city would they trek to?

Another difference lies in the cachet carried by veterans from previous wars. Some of the most credible voices in the early movement against the war in Vietnam were World War II veterans who could see that the U.S. war of aggression in Southeast Asia was perverting, turning inside-out, the principles of the "Good Fight" they had waged in Europe and the Pacific. Following the bloody battle for the Ia Drang Valley in 1965, for example, 500 veterans of previous wars signed a full-page November 24 advertisement in the New York Times protesting the expanding U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. Formed into a group called Veterans for Peace, these older-generation veterans helped distribute Donald Duncan's "I Quit" resignation from the Army and provided support for the Fort Hood Three who refused deployment to Vietnam in 1966.

Vietnam veterans, by contrast cut a more complex figure in the eyes of today's military-eligible population. The image of activist Vietnam veterans was effectively pathologized during the 1980s through the canonization of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by mental health professionals and its use by the media to associate political dissent with psychiatric disorder. The thin line separating badness and sickness is recognized by criminologists and psychiatrists alike and it was the moving of that line for political and cultural reasons that brought the shadow of PTSD over the heads of thousands of Vietnam veterans. 2

Thanks to Hollywood for having imaged Vietnam veterans almost universally as dysfunctional, troops in today's military would understandably find it hard to assess the credibility of the anti-war perspective coming from that generation of veterans. With their image of having been empowered and politicized by their wartime experience all but obscured in popular culture by the figures of homeless and strung-out victim-veterans, it is easy for the mind to smoosh the two into one broad category of stigmata to stay clear of.3

It's an image that Sir! No Sir! corrects for. The turning point of the film comes early when veteran Bill Short tells that he was sent to the unit shrink in Vietnam for refusing his assignment to conduct body counts of enemy killed. Taped for the film thirty-five years later while sitting in his own office, Short demonstrates how the psychiatrist turned to take something off the shelf, something that will determine Bill's future -- and, we sense, frame the rest of the film's story. It's a pregnant moment that also locates the metaphorical fulcrum around which the construction of the veterans' image in post-war culture would turn.

Were the film to be paused at that moment, and the audience quizzed, many in the theater would say, ". . . and the doctor pulled a diagnostic manual from the shelf and sent Sergeant Short stateside for psychiatric rehabilitation." A few might add some riffs from Charlie Clements's autobiography Witness to War about his confinement to a mental-health ward for refusal to fly in Vietnam. Other viewers would remember that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by mental health professionals at the time did not have a category for war-related trauma, so they might guess that the rest of the film tells the story of how Bill Short and the doctor joined forces to lobby for the legitimation of the diagnostic category that became known as PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. These would all be reasonable assumptions, of course, because the story of Vietnam-era soldiers and veterans has been rendered so virtually one-dimensional by the dominance of the PTSD discourse that most Americans know no other way to think and talk about the subject. But it's not the DSM that comes off the self and that's not the story that filmmaker David Zeiger thinks we need to know.

After his own pause, Short says the doctor pulled down a copy of the November 9, 1969 New York Times; Bill doesn't need treatment, he needs a social movement and here it is: a full-page advertisement against the war signed by 1,365 active-duty soldiers -- [up-tempo music] the GI Movement is born.

* * * *

A funny thing happens after the screenings of Sir! No Sir! -- all the talk is about empowerment and the place of soldiers in the anti-war movement. Funny, because interest in veterans nowadays turns, more typically, to talk about the mental and physical health of returnees, talk framed by the medical imagery given the war and post-war experience of veterans from Vietnam that has been carried into the present by the press and political activists, pro- and anti-war. That now-dominant paradigm was itself a construct of conservative political and cultural forces seeking to "put the war behind us" during the 1980s by displacing from public memory the historically grounded, but discomforting reality, that the war in Vietnam energized thousands of veterans to change the country that put them in harms way. Sir! No Sir! is the antidote to that revisionism.4

Sir! No Sir! is about a social movement that bridged the boundaries normally separating civilian and military dissent: ministers chaining themselves to in-service resistors; civilians running off-base coffee houses for on-base personnel; and petition campaigns that united sailors and shopkeepers to stop the deployment of Navy ships. It's a story of the powerless finding their voice and a generation of people mobilized for war who found each other and made common cause to help end that war.

Reviewing the film for Now Toronto, Susan Cole quipped, "Somebody smuggle this thing to Iraq" -- and, I would add, into every stateside military base, union hall, classroom, and religious community. In the right hands, Sir! No Sir! has the power author its own sequel.

1 The Monday, March 8, 1965 New York Times reported the first U.S. ground troops landing in Vietnam. It was a front-page composition of three stories, center-page, with a 3-column head below a photo captioned: "Alabama State Troopers Break up March by Protesting Negroes in Selma." By contrast, the Thursday, March 20,2003 Times front page carried a 6-column, full-page-across, banner headline, "Bush Orders Start of War on Iraq" with the entire front page devoted to the start of the war. The next day, March 21, the entire front page was again covered with news of the war.

The contrast of coverage for the two wars after one week is even more striking. On March 28, 2003 the front page of the Times was still 100% war coverage, whereas, on March 25, 1965, a week after the Marines landed in Da Nang, they had been supplanted by a 4-column photo and story, "Freedom March Begins at Selma: Troops on Guard." Vietnam had been reduced to a 1-column story about an air strike on the North.

2 See Peter Conrad and Joseph Schneider's Deviance and Medicalization From Badness to Sickness (Temple: 1992) and Allen Young's The Harmony of Illusion: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Princeton University Press, 1995). I develop the political and cultural effects of PTSD in The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (NYU Press, 1998).

3 This seems to be the effect of Jarhead, the first major film portraying returnees from the Persian Gulf War. In its final scenes, a bus carrying the home-coming Marines is boarded by a disheveled and uninvited character with a political message for the troops. A Vietnam veteran? Of course, and he looks just like the guy at the stoplight who will work for food, not somebody to be taken seriously -- which is exactly how the filmmaker portrays the response of the Marines.

4 This is my observation from having participated in post-screening discussions during the spring and summer of 2006 in Montpelier, VT; Rhinebeck, NY; Northampton and Cambridge, MA; and Hartford, CT. By contrast, I moderated a Q&A following the showing of Winter Soldier at Clark University in the Spring of 2006 and on that occasion, the discussion went immediately to PTSD and never moved off the topic.

Jerry Lembcke is Associate Professor of Sociology at Holy Cross College. He is in Sir! No Sir! as author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. This article will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal, Humanity and Society.


I just watched the new documentary called "Sir, No Sir' about the anti war movement within the military in the "Indo-China conflict" [read: genocide of Viet Nam].

After the tears settled, I realized that the truth of their struggle has been so disguised, distorted, and blocked; Memory distortion has even rewritten the personal history of some of the men and women who were in the war.

In order to continue to militarize the people, they must all be brainwashed about any type of revolutionary movement. Especially within the ranks. Especially when officers were being fragged by their own troops.

I realized something very different is happening today. Sure, we don't see the coffins. We don't hear Walter Cronkite telling us the (falsified) numbers of the killed. We don't have journalists documenting the atrocities with film. But we have a very strong tool that cannot be erased.

We have our blogs. We have our websites. We have our truths. We have our resisters. We have people like Gerry Condon and Carl Rising-Moore, and even Senator Kerry (who testified at the Winter Soldiers' Investigation about the atrocities) who are still working to keep our kids safe from the war machine.

We have brave soldiers. All are brave, some are able to show their courage to resist. has created an incredible site called COURAGE TO RESIST and is at the side of any soldier who talks out against the war. Currently Kyle Snyder, who could be arrested and imprisoned, is now traveling around the country to speak out against the atrocities and bring the truth about the genocide perpetrated against the Iraqi people.

The truth is very hard to speak. The truth was hard to speak during the Gulf War. I was in college during that time, and many of my friends were 'international students". I began to wear a black armband for each day of the war. (Hint, buy dark tights, cut in strips, and you have a yourself enough armbands to wear for about a month.) I remember talking to my friends from Iraq, who were booked on flights home. I will not forget the fear in the eyes of these kind, gentle souls who were going home to potential hell.

I tried to organize a protest at that college. I put "how to resist" leaflets out as well as placing conscientious objector information on the public bulletin board. The flyers were taken down each day or had obscenities written on it. I had many of them, so I kept putting them up. (Hint: wallpaper paste and a metal pole make a long long long lasting flyer. These days one might laminate it before pasting it up to any pole in the area.)

When I organized an antiwar demonstration during the "Gulf War", the only other people who stood with me were either professors or free-thinking young people. We had a mass demonstration. We were 14 people against millions of flag decals.

Today, we have much more to share and more to say; We have more ways to speak, write, and photograph the truth.

Do it. Just do it.

We will not be brainwashed into submission and our movement must be heard LOUDLY. Maybe Sean Penn speaks out that the first thing on activists' agenda should be impeachment. Sure. Later. Right now, people are being murdered. Stop the murders. Love the troops. Get them out NOW.

History will impeach the worst president since Nixon. Even if it doesn't happen in office, it will happen in the history books.

We have already been killing for more days and weeks than in WW2. We are coming close to another hundred troops killed this week. We cannot nor shall not allow this war to turn into the Viet Nam hell that is carried by so many of our "historians" today.

Get the real history. Support the truth tellers. Watch, rent, BUY the DVD. It's called SIR, NO SIR. And its worth millions of dollars. Buy one today at a clearly reduced price.


And find peace in your own knowledge that you are telling your own truths.

war resister, CO counselor

Storefront for the documentary is located at
to arrange an activist screening

following this post: interview with the director
ZNet article about the film

When people no longer fear authority
a greater authority will appear
don't restrict where people dwell
don't repress how people live
if they aren't repressed
they won't protest
thus the sage knows herself
but doesn't reveal herself
she loves herself
but doesn't exalt herself
thus she picks this over that

Dao de Jing # 72
translated by Red Pine

for a daily Taoist meditation, just send an email and write "subscribe Tao"
in the subject line. Unsubscribe any time the same way!

The best way to end the war is to support war resisters.

"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector
enjoys the same reputation and prestige as the warrior does today."
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Woman Conscientious Objector sentenced

War Resisters' International, London, 18 December 2006

ISRAEL: Woman CO Hadas Amit sentenced to 14 days imprisonment

Hadis AmitIsraeli conscientious objector Hadis Amit (ISR14913), a 19 years' old woman CO, was today sentenced to 14 days in prison for refusing to serve. In a letter to the military authorities, announcing her refusal to perform military service, Hadas wrote:

"If I were to be recruited into the army, this would absolutely and in all respects contradict my convictions and my way in life, since violence, killing, nationalism and vandalism are not part of them. I am not willing to wear the uniform of an organisation responsible for killing and destruction, acting in a way detrimental to its environment. Every State, the State of Israel included, should act by peaceful means alone, and even if attached, not to respond with fire. In any situation, Israel's case included, it is wrong to sustain a military force trained for war and killing - this is altogether contrary to the pursuit of peace and coexistence with our neighbours in the Middle East."

Hadas appeared before the military Conscience Committee in November, but was rejected. Hadas reported that during her hearing she was constantly interrupted and had to suffer degrading and disrespectful comments. A member of the committee demonstratively left the room, and two other members were exchanging notes, with her sitting between them, while she was trying to answer questions directed to her.

In a statement made on the eve of imprisonment Hadas wrote:

"I refuse to enlist in the IDF [Israel Defence Forces], as the D of "IDF" symbolises nothing but killing to me. Who is it that decided that I am not seeking peace, and put me with my back to the wall? I could either lie or pay the price of my principles. It is for morality and justice and the love of humankind that I shall be sitting in prison."

Since early 2005, women COs in Israel are referred to the same internal military Conscience Committee as male COs (despite official legal recognition of women's right to CO), and there is no right of appeal on the Committee's decisions. Accumulating evidence strongly suggests that the military Conscience Committee is fundamentally biased against women. It seems difficult for the members of this committee (4 men and one woman; all but one of the men are military career officers) to perceive a woman as a person with principles, with a conscientious stance, and with commitment to this stance. As a result (although official figures are not released), the committee rejects a far higher percentage of applications by women than by men, and many of the women applicants describe their committee hearings as a degrading experience.

Hadas is due to be released from prison on Friday, 29 December 2006.

War Resisters' International calls for letters of support to Hadas Amit.

Hadas Amit
Military ID 6175691
Military Prison No. 400
Military Postal Code 02447, IDF
Fax: ++972-3-9579348

War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to the Israeli authorities, and Israeli embassies abroad. An email letter can be sent at

War Resisters' International calls for the immediate release of conscientious objector Hadas Amit and all other imprisoned conscientious objectors.

Andreas Speck
War Resisters' International


Mr Amir Peretz
Minister of Defence,
Ministry of Defence,
37 Kaplan st.,
Tel-Aviv 61909,
e-mail: or
Fax: +972-3-696-27-57 / +972-3-691-69-40 / +972-3-691-79-15

Commander of Military Prison No 4
Military Prison No 4
Military Postal Code 02507
IDF, Israel
Fax: +972-3-957-52-76

Commander of Military Prison No 6
Military Prison No 6
Military postal number 01860,
IDF, Israel.
Fax: +972-4-869-28-84

Commander of Military Prison No 400
Military Prison No 400
Military postal number 02447
IDF, Israel
Fax: +972-3-9579389

Addresses of Israeli embassies can be found at

Addresses of Israeli media:

2 Karlibach st.
Tel-Aviv 67132
Fax: +972-3-561-06-14

Yedioth Aharonoth:
2 Moses st.
Fax: +972-3-608-25-46

Ha'aretz (Hebrew):
21 Schocken st.
Tel-Aviv, 61001
Fax: +972-3-681-00-12

Ha'aretz (English edition):
21 Schocken st.
Tel-Aviv, 61001
Fax: +972-3-512-11-56

Jerusalem Post:
P.O. Box 81
Jerusalem 91000
Fax: +972-2-538-95-27
e-mail: or

Jerusalem Report:
Fax: +972-2-537-94-89

Radio (fax numbers):
Kol-Israel +972-2-531-33-15 and +972-3-694-47-09
Galei Tzahal +972-3-512-67-20

Television (fax numbers):
Channel 1 +972-2-530-15-36
Channel 2 +972-2-533-98-09

Archives of co-alert can be found at


MDs review deaths of detainees in custody

the following is an article meant for physicians from Medscape. Please do not contact the individual authors. thanks. ( '?

Deaths of Detainees in the Custody of US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan From 2002 to 2005

Scott A. Allen, MD; Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH; Robert C. Bux, MD; Bassina Farbenblum; Matthew Berns; Leonard Rubenstein Medscape General Medicine. 2006;8(4):46.
©2006 Medscape Posted 12/05/2006


In light of the large number of detainees who continue to be taken and held in US custody in settings with limited judicial or public oversight, deaths of detainees warrant scrutiny. We have undertaken the task of reviewing all known detainee deaths between 2002 and early 2005 based on reports available in the public domain. Using documents obtained from the Department of Defense through a Freedom of Information Act request, combined with a review of anecdotal published press accounts, 112 cases of death of detainees in United States custody (105 in Iraq, 7 in Afghanistan) during the period from 2002 to early 2005 were identified. Homicide accounted for the largest number of deaths (43) followed by enemy mortar attacks against the detention facility (36). Deaths attributed to natural causes numbered 20. Nine were listed as unknown cause of death, and 4 were reported as accidental or natural. A clustering of 8 deaths ascribed to natural causes in Iraq in August 2003 raises questions about the adequacy and availability of medical care, as well as other conditions of confinement that may have had an impact on the mortality rate.

Readers are encouraged to respond to George Lundberg, MD, Editor of MedGenMed, for the editor's eye only or for possible publication via email:


Under international law and US Army regulations, enemy prisoners of war are entitled to be treated humanely, provided with respect as people, and furnished with sufficient food, a hygienic environment, and necessary medical care as required by the state of their health.[1,2] The Geneva Conventions entitle them to be free of "any form of coercion" in attempts to secure information from them and protect them from torture and any form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.[3]

The issue of torture and abuse of detainees in the custody of US forces, particularly at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, has received a great deal of scrutiny in the press. However, to date, there has been no public accounting by the US government of deaths of detainees in US custody. Deaths involving torture and abuse are an important indicator of the adequacy of protections in place for detainees in that they represent the most severe cases of abuse. Deaths involving medical illness provide a window into the adequacy of medical care. Deaths due to enemy attack or use of force provide some evidence regarding the planning for and the securing of a safe and humane detention facility.


In October 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and others sought to obtain documents pertaining to investigations of abuse, torture, and morbidity and mortality of detainees in the custody of US forces under a Freedom of Information Act request. These requests ultimately led to the release of thousands of pages of redacted documents related to detainee detention, including multiple reports of detainee deaths that allowed the creation of this description.

Primary documents for this review came from 3 distinct sources: Department of Defense criminal investigative reports, some but not all of which included autopsy reports; press accounts; and the publicly released reports of investigative panels including the Fay Report[4] and the Schlesinger Report.[5] The majority of cases were identified in documents obtained from the Department of Defense through a Freedom of Information Act request.[6] These reports included documents and statements from individual investigations into deaths of detainees in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan conducted by the Department of Defense. Additional information on these cases was obtained from data made public by human rights groups[7] and journal articles.[8] Sixteen of the cases included in this review are also reported in a Human Rights First report on detainee deaths.[7] A minority of deaths were described in specific press accounts.[9-18] In all cases, we identified deaths by name (when available), date, place, and reported cause of death. Press reports of deaths were only included if the report was specific to include at least 3 of 4 identifiers such as name, date, place of death, and cause of death. As data were culled from multiple documents and reports, a database was constructed with a case number for each unique death event. In cases where documentation redaction removed the name of the deceased, information was linked to a unique case identifier by at least 3 of the other identifiers: age, date, place and reported cause of death. Finally, the reference to 27 detainees deaths at Abu Ghraib occurring on 2 specific dates in the Schlesinger Report were included as they were specific to date of death, place of death, and cause of death.


A total of 112 individual detainee death reports were found and reviewed. (see tables below) Of these investigation reports, 30 were found in press accounts, 14 were found in both Defense documents and press accounts, and 27 were found in the Schlesinger Report. Autopsy reports were available for 29 cases, of which 12 were homicides (defined for the purpose of this review as the deliberate killing of one person by another person), 14 were natural, and 3 were unknown or pending. For cases with autopsy reports, the pathologic reports appeared to support the reported causes of death. However, important contextual details, such as the conditions and events leading up to the death, were often scarce or absent.

Sixty-six cases were identified by name, and 46 were identified by unique identifiers including place, time, and cause of death. Of those 46 unnamed cases, specific individual records were available for 19, while 27 were identified in the Schlesinger Report as victims of insurgent shelling at Abu Ghraib (5 deaths on August 16, 2003 and 22 on April 20, 2004). A total of 63 detainees reportedly died at Abu Ghraib from all causes. Average census and number of detainees and releases at Abu Ghraib were not available, but the average population in the facility was believed to be 2000 in late 2003 and early 2004.[19]

Mortar Attack

The largest number of detainee deaths was reportedly due to injuries sustained during insurgent mortar attacks against the Abu Ghraib detention facility, which occurred on at least 3 separate occasions and resulted in at least 36 detainee deaths. US troops were also injured and killed in these attacks.


Forty-three detainees reportedly died as a result of homicide (37 in Iraq and 6 in Afghanistan). Homicide is defined by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division as "death resulting from the intentional (explicit or implied) or grossly reckless behavior of another person or persons."[20] Homicide for the purposes of death classification is a neutral term that neither indicates nor implies criminal intent. Of the Iraq homicides, 22 detainees reportedly died of gunshot injuries. Fifteen of those were shot during s or attempted escapes, and 2 expired in detention from gunshot injuries sustained during fire fights in the field prior to being taken into custody.

Among all homicides, at least 11 involved blunt trauma or asphyxiation. At least 3 homicide cases have resulted in murder charges and 3 resulted in voluntary manslaughter charges.

For the 12 homicide cases for which final autopsy reports are available, gunshot wounds accounted for 4 of the deaths. The remaining 8 homicides were due to: (1) pulmonary embolism due to blunt trauma; (2) blunt force injuries complicating coronary disease; (3) strangulation; (4) blunt force with rhabdomyolysis; (5) cortical brain contusion and subdural hematoma; (6) blunt force with compromised respiration; (7) asphyxia due to chest compression and smothering; and (8) asphyxia due to occlusion of the airway and blunt force injuries.

Natural Causes

Twenty reportedly died of natural causes, including 13 who reportedly died from cardiovascular causes. Among these deaths, there are 2 clusters. The first cluster occurred in August 2003 when 8 detainees died, reportedly of natural causes. In that cluster, 4 of the deaths occurred in a 12-day period at Abu Ghraib and all 4 were ruled cardiovascular after autopsy. The second cluster occurred in a 5-week period from May to June 2004 when 5 detainees died of natural causes at Abu Ghraib. All 5 had autopsies done. Three of those were reportedly due to cardiovascular causes, 1 reportedly died from peritonitis of undetermined etiology, and 1 case was ruled natural, although a specific cause of death was not identified.

For the 14 cases for which autopsy reports were available, arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease accounted for 9 of the deaths. The remaining 5 were due to (1) heat stroke; (2) hemoptysis secondary to pulmonary tuberculosis; (3) myocarditis; (4) peritonitis secondary to perforated gastric ulcer; and (5) peritonitis of unclear etiology.

Unknown Causes

The cause of death was listed as unknown in 10 of the cases. This includes 2 cases that had autopsy reports and 1 case that had an autopsy but cause of death was listed as pending.

Record of Manner of Death

In a well-publicized death of an Iraqi general that resulted from trauma and asphyxiation, the on-site surgeon ruled the death "natural."[11] On review at autopsy, this death was eventually classified as homicide by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.[8] According to the Church Investigation Report, in at least 3 deaths, "medical personnel may have attempted to misrepresent the circumstances of abuse, possibly in an effort to disguise detainee abuse."[21]

The chief limitation of this review is the incompleteness of released documents related to the cases. Documents obtained from the Department of Defense were heavily redacted. In many cases, names of the deceased had been obscured. At the same time, documents have been released in batches, and it is unlikely that this summary represents a full and complete accounting of all detainee deaths. It is also impossible to calculate per capita death rates, as the populations of the detention centers are not available. Finally, it is likely that the available documents fall short of a comprehensive list of all detainees who have died in US custody during the period reviewed. In addition to the methodological limitations in compiling the list, the existence of "ghost detainees" in US custody makes a full accounting by citizen reviewers outside the Department of Defense and the US government difficult.


While deaths of detainees in US custody have been the subject of some review in the literature, this is the largest and most complete description of US detainee deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan to date. Healthcare professionals face a daunting task in providing for the health of the large number of detainees taken into the custody of US forces during these wars. A variety of challenges including an ongoing insurgency with difficulty securing the detention facilities, insufficient preparation and staffing, and problems with policies and procedures may have contributed to a high number of deaths of detainees in US custody.

These are not the deaths of people free in the community; they are deaths of detainees who were under or who should have been under medical care. From a medical professional point of view, all causes of death of patients under the care of medical providers are important indicators of the quality of care, including both access to and provision of care and protection by responsible authorities of the most basic human rights.

The deaths due to mortar attack raise questions regarding the appropriateness of the use of the Abu Ghraib facility to hold detainees. The Geneva Convention requires that detainees not be confined in facilities that are vulnerable to artillery attack. Early on in the conflict, the wisdom of using Abu Ghraib, which was known to be in an insecure neighborhood, was questioned but ultimately the population remained in a vulnerable setting.[22] While security is a challenge throughout Iraq, no detention facility outside of Abu Ghraib appears to have suffered the loss of detainee life due to mortar fire.

The homicides fall roughly into 2 groups: those shot by US troops in s or escape attempts within the facilities, and those who died as a result of trauma related to interrogation, restraint, and abuse. The 16 detainees who were fatally wounded while within the confines of the secure facility raise serious questions about security and operation of the facilities, level of staffing, and appropriate use of force. The International Committee of the Red Cross has expressed concern about "the excessive and disproportionate use of force by some detaining authorities," and goes on to say that "The use of firearms against persons deprived of their liberty, in circumstances where methods without using firearms could have yielded the same result, could amount to a serious violation of International Humanitarian Law."[23]

The record also remains unclear regarding the timeliness in delivery of emergency resuscitation. At a time when battlefield fatality rate of US troops is at historic lows,[24] the number of detainees fatally shot during uprisings within the facilities appears to be high.

Deaths attributable to torture and abuse deserve special attention. According to a review conducted by Human Rights First,[7] at least 11 detainee deaths may have been due in part or in whole to physical abuse or harsh conditions of confinement. They further concluded that at least 8 detainees in US custody were tortured to death. Steven Miles, reporting in this journal, put the number of deaths due to torture at 17, with 11 cases occurring in Iraq and 6 occurring in Afghanistan.[8] Many of these deaths involved torture or abuse related to harsh interrogations of the detainees by US personnel.

The nontraumatic or natural deaths raise another set of concerns. What role, if any, did conditions of confinement such as aggressive interrogation, stress techniques, dietary manipulation, stress positions, use of fear, severe humiliation, isolation, and environmental factors such as extremes of heat and cold play in these deaths? What was the level of healthcare provided, and how accessible was it to the detainees? The clustering of reported natural deaths in August 2003 and May and June 2004 warrants further scrutiny as the available record does not adequately explain the phenomenon. Although many of these cases have had autopsies, it appears possible that some of the autopsies were performed without review of medical records and without good data about the immediate conditions of confinement leading up to the death.[8]

In assessing risk factors for abusive behaviors of US personnel against detainees at Abu Ghraib, the Schlesinger Panel cited "poor training, under nearly daily attack (sic), insufficient training of staff, inadequate oversight, confused lines of authority, evolving and unclear policy, and a generally poor quality of life."[25] It has already been reported that US Army investigators concluded that Abu Ghraib's medical system for detainees was inadequately staffed and equipped during the summer of 2003 when the first cluster occurred.[26] Although a report issued by the Army in 2005 recommended that the standard of care for detainees be the same as the standard of care for US patients in the theater of war, that recommendation has been rejected (pending further review) by the Surgeon General of the Army.[27]

Documents pertaining to the Defense Department's own internal review of individual detainee deaths have cited shortcomings in detainee medical care including the qualifications of some health providers, flawed intake screening procedures, lack of procedural standards, insufficient record-keeping, and unavailability of interpreters to assist medical staff, particularly in the early period of the war. Multiple investigators have recommended that doctors or physician assistants either replace or provide closer supervision of military police medics in providing for detainees' primary care.[6] The absence of professional translators is also of particular concern, as it has required medics to use detainees in their place, leading one investigator (a military surgeon) to call medics' efforts to learn a detainee's health status "a guessing game," noting that the language barrier may have contributed to a preventable death.[6]

The men and women who serve in the armed forces of the United States are, as a group, highly motivated, ethical, humane, and professional. The deaths of the 112 detainees reviewed in this report, then, beg the question: Were these medical professionals adequately supported in their task? Did they receive appropriate staffing and supplies, proper training in the screening and management of detainee patients, and proper training and support regarding the importance of medical autonomy as it relates to potential abuse of their patients?

Medical professionals in the military are under pressure from competing obligations to their patients and to the military mission, duties that often come into direct conflict.[28] The medical community at large owes medical professionals serving in time of war full support in their mission of caring for all of their patients, including detainees in their custody. Any infringement on their ability to secure health and safety for their patients due to inadequate material support, inadequate resources, or encroachment upon medical autonomy is an infringement on the profession as a whole.

The responsibility physicians and other health professionals working in detainee custody settings have to preserve and protect the patients under their care includes not just the provision of healthcare, but the protection of patients from torture and abuse, as has been asserted by both US and international bodies, including the American Medical Association (AMA), World Medical Association (WMA), and the United Nations (UN).[29] The AMA has asserted that physicians "should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change situations in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great."[30] In light of deaths related to abuse and torture in settings where health professionals had a presence,[26] and the association of interrogations for creating a great potential for abuse, the AMA, the American Psychiatric Association, the WMA, and other professional associations have issued new ethical guidelines forbidding physician participation in interrogation of detainees.[31-33] Complicity in abuse may be passive, and may include failure to protest harsh conditions of confinement, or failure to document or report injuries that may be the result of torture or abuse. Continued use of aggressive interrogation techniques by US interrogators as authorized by the Congress with the passage of the Military Commissions Act underscores the continuing need for physicians working in detention settings to strive to protect the health and human rights of their patients.


It is impossible to answer the many questions the deaths of these detainees raise with the limited information available for this review. At the same time, while the initial internal review conducted by the Department of Defense is a necessary first step, the inherent conflict of interest in an internal investigation argues for a comprehensive outside independent review of detainee deaths. Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries are ongoing. Lessons learned about causes of detainee mortality could be put to immediate use in minimizing further loss of life and protecting human rights.

Table 2. Detainee Death Database

(the full table is visible at
I had to scale it down to fit this blog

* for the purpose of blog fit,
A = Afghanistan
HRF Report? YES = #
# = YES

NameDate of
LocationCause of
Autopsy Done?#
67Sayari, Mohammed28-Aug-02*AHomicide -

68Mullah Habibullah4-Dec-02Bagram, *AHomicide -
Blunt force
69Dilawar10-Dec-02Bagram, *AHomicide -
Blunt force
A 02-95
71Naseer, Jamal00-Mar-03Gardez, *AUnknown

19Gashame, Hemdan Haby Heshfan29-Mar-03NasiriyahHomicide-

1Hassan, Hadi Abdul Hussain Al-ZubaidyApr-Sep 03Camp BuccaNatural cause
64Yasiree Ahmes Al-Haddii18-Apr-03Camp BuccaHomicide-

65Unidentified civilian12-May-03Camp BuccaHomicide-

72Wali, Abdul2-Jun-03Asadabad, *AHomicide

29Naem (Nagem) Sadoon Hatab6-Jun-03NasiriyahHomicide-
50Jabar, Akel Abedal Hussein12-Jun-03Camp CropperHomicide -

28Dilar Dababa13-Jun-03Abu Graib (?) per 10-05 FOIA
autopsy file

48Hassan, Alla Jasin13-Jun-03Abu GhraibHomicide-

83Unidentified (Abdul Wali in HRF)21-Jun-03Asadabad, *AHomicide

10Hussain, Mohammed Basim12-Jul-03Camp CropperPulmonary hemorrhage/
# - 071303
88unidentified13-Jul-03JaykhanaAccidental discharge


7Al-Obodi, Jassim Mohammed Saleh Hussain3-Aug-03Camp CropperCardiovascularNo #
2Byaty, Hamza Hassad Twfeek Najm7-Aug-03Camp CropperAtraumatic
ME 03-385 AFIP
# 2892215

6Mohamed, Najem Abed8-Aug-03Abu GhraibCardio
4Mihdy, Wathik Salah11-Aug-03Abu GhraibCardio
03-366 B

5Spah, Dham13-Aug-03Abu GhraibCardio
ME 03-368

89Unidentified16-Aug-03East Iraq Airfield

3Taleb, Emad Kazem (other spelling: Taled, Ehad Kazam20-Aug-03Abu GhraibCardio

12Zaid, Mohamed Tariq22-Aug-03Armor BnAccidental-
"heat related"
AFIP ME 03-367

20Radad, Obeed Hethere11-Sep-03Packhorse, TikritHomicide-

27Al-Jamadi, Manadel4-Nov-03Abu GhraibHomicide
blunt force/
ME 03-504 AFIP#
73Abdul Wahid6-Nov-03Gereshk, *AHomicide -
blunt force
A 03-144

53Salman, Jussayn Ali24-Nov-03Abu GhraibHomicide – gunshot -

54Shaalan, Raed24-Nov-03Abu GhraibHomicide- gunshot -

55Sayar, Madoor Hussein24-Nov-03Abu GhraibHomicide – gunshot -

56Thawin, Dawood Mazin24-Nov-03Abu GhraibHomicide – gunshot -

22Mowhoush, Gen. Abed Hamed26-Nov-03Al Qaim, IraqHomicide - asphyxia,
chest compressions
ME 03-571
# 2901039
17Abdul Kareem, Abdureda Lafta (Abu Malik Kenami in HRF)9-Dec-03MosulUndeterminedNo #
86Zaidoun Hassoun3-Jan-04SammaraHomicide - drowning

18Ibraheim, Nassef Jasem8-Jan-04Abu GhraibCardio
ME 04-012, AFIP

Bakir Yassen Rashed Al Hussen8-Jan-04IraqNatural cause
or accident

23Abdul Jameel9-Jan-04FOB Rifles BaseHomicide-blunt force, asphyxia #
ME 04-014 AFIP
# 2914569
8Al-Hussen, Baker Yassen Rashed Mahmed16-Jan-04Abu GhraibMyocarditis or Hypertensive Heart #
ME 04-038 AFIP
# 2914569

92Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly31-Jan-04Camp CropperUndetermined
16Ahmed, Hassan Ekab8-Feb-04DCCF
AFIP ME 04-100

9Abdullah, Saad Mohammed19-Feb-04Abu
from ulcer
AFIP ME04-101

63Muhamad Hussain Kadir28-Feb-04Taal
al Jal
Homicide- Gunshot

11Abbas, Mohamad Abu8-Mar-04Camp CropperCardio
# AFIP ME04-110
57Amir, Naif Sliman28-Mar-04Abu
Homicide- Gunshot-

21Fashad Mohamed5-Apr-04Mosul,
blunt trauma, positional asphyxia
# -ME 04-
309 AFIP#

37Abu Nasser, Hasan Hamad6-Apr-04Abu

38Gaer, Ahmed Selfeegi6-Apr-04Abu

39Shahab, Ismael Abdulhussein6-Apr-04Abu

40Jassem, Khudair Museif6-Apr-04Abu

41Jassim, Awad Salih6-Apr-04Abu

42Jassem, Khalaf Najif6-Apr-04Abu

43Mashadan, Karim Ibrahim Karim6-Apr-04Abu

44Shahab, Andan Abdulhussein6-Apr-04Abu

45Unidentified6-Apr-04Abu GhraibMortar

51Mahmood, Khalid10-Apr-04Abu GhraibHomicide-

52Farhan, Musa Abbas4/10/2003 or 04. Confliction reportsAbu GhraibHomicide-


30Mahmood, Fathel Ibrahim19-Apr-04Abu GhraibUndeter
74Gumaa, Fahin Ali28-Apr-04Baghdad area, IraqHomicide #
ME 04357

13Awad Al-Juwadi, Hussein Abdullah11-May-04Abu Ghraib
AFIP ME 04-358

62Khadim, Sajid17-May-04House, BaghdadHomicide- gunshot
14Fadil, Abbas Alwan5/19/2004 (also reported as 4/19/2004)Abu
Peritonitis #
AFIP ME 04-387

75Hassan, Karim21-May-04

15Altia, Abduhl Kaddim22-May-04Abu
AFIP ME 04-386

61Sudhail, Ibrahim Hamadan24-May-04Abu
Homicide -gunshot # ME04-388
32Abd Al Razak, Riadh Mohammed10-Jun-04Abu
AFIP ME 04-435

58Najem, Fawaz Badaa14-Jun-04Abu

25UnidentifiedJune ? 2004Classified-
Hard, fast blow to head

59Habib, Fras Moazahim18-Aug-04Abu
Homicide- gunshot-

# ME 04-
or 5

60Ghafar, Husham Nafit18-Aug-04Abu
Homicide- gunshot- # ME 04-
or 5

84Unidentified person18-Aug-04Sadr City, IraqHomicide

76Unidentified person00-Aug-04Sadr City, IraqHomicide

77Unidentified Person00-Aug-04Sadr City, IraqHomicide

78Unidentified Person00-Aug-04Sadr City, IraqHomicide

79Sher Mohammed Khan25-Sep-04Salerno Fire Base, near Khost, *Aawaiting final autopsy
80Nahar, Mohammed00-Oct-04Qaim, IraqNatural Cause or Accident

blunt force, compromised respiration


33Unidentified31-Jan-05Camp BuccaHomicide- Gunshot-

34Unidentified31-Jan-05Camp BuccaHomicide- Gunshot-

35Unidentified31-Jan-05Camp BuccaHomicide- Gunshot-

36Unidentified31-Jan-05Camp BuccaHomicide- Gunshot-

5 detainees killed16-Aug-03Abu GhraibMortar

22 detainees killed20-Apr-04Abu GhraibMortar


Scott A. Allen, MD, The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, The Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island; Brown Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island; Physicians for Human Rights, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Author's Email:

Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, The Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island; The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, The Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island; Brown Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island.
Author's Email:

Robert C. Bux, MD, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, Texas

Bassina Farbenblum, New York University, Global Public Service Law Fellow, New York, NY

Matthew Berns, Physicians for Human Rights, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Leonard Rubenstein, Physicians for Human Rights, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Disclosure: Scott A. Allen, MD has disclosed that he is supported by a grant from the Medicine as a Profession Program of the Open Society Institute, Columbia University.

Disclosure: Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH has disclosed that he is supported by a grant from the Medicine as a Profession Program of the Open Society Institute, Columbia University.

Disclosure: Robert C. Bux, MD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Disclosure: Bassina Farbenblum has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Disclosure: Matthew Berns has disclosed that he was an unpaid intern for Physicians for Human Rights.

Disclosure: Leonard Rubenstein has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Table 1. Causes of Death of Detainees of US Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan


Mortar attack36---36

Gunshot wound (GSW)22123
GSW during /escape15--15
GSW during capture2--2
Other GSW5• 16
Blunt trauma/asphyxiation7310
Other homicide8210

Natural cause20--20
Other natural7--7

Accidental or Natural4--4

Unknown cause819


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