|27/09/03||GI Special #101: Big Trouble in the ranks|
Date: Sat, 27 Sep 2003 02:18:56 -0400“Thomas B” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: GI Special 101: Teamsters Want Troops Home Now
GI SPECIAL #101
THIS IS HOW BUSH BRINGS THE TROOPS HOME
Teamsters Demand Troops Come Home Now
Socialist Worker, 9.26.03
TEAMSTERS LOCAL 705 in Chicago passed a resolution last week condemning the Bush administration’s occupation of Iraq and calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The local has 20,000 members, most of them at United Parcel Service.
The resolution was proposed at a membership meeting, where speakers in favor talked about the terrible conditions for ordinary Iraqis that rank and file soldiers are facing all the risks in Iraq in an occupation for oil and empire.
Turnout to the meeting was fairly low, but the resolution passed by an overwhelming majority in a voice vote.
In the run-up to the war, dozens of union locals and councils took a stand against Bush’s war drive.
With the occupation unraveling, antiwar unionists should try to raise resolutions calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq NOW!
Whereas, the Bush administration’s military occupation of Iraq has proved to be a disaster for the working class people of Iraq and the United States;
Whereas, the people of Iraq have clearly demonstrated that they are opposed the presence of U.S. and other foreign troops in their country;
Whereas, Bush’s proposed $87 billion spending bill on the occupation of Iraq, for this year alone, could be spent at home on health care, prescription drugs, education and fighting unemployment;
Be it resolved, that Teamsters Local 705 calls for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq and for the spending of funds earmarked for the occupation on social services at home.
Do you have a friend or relative in the service? Forward this E-MAIL along, or send us the address if you wish and we’ll send it regularly. Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is extra important for your service friend, too often cut off from access to encouraging news of growing resistance to the war, at home and in Iraq, and information about other social protest movements here in the USA. Send requests to address up top. For copies on web site see:www.notinourname.net/gi-special/
IRAQ WAR REPORTS:
U.S. Soldier Killed in Kirkuk Ambush;
Another Dead In Abandoned Building
Robert H. Reid, The Associated Press, 26 September 2003
In Baghdad, the U.S. military said one soldier from the 173rd Airborne Brigade was killed and two others were wounded during an ambush in northern Iraq. The incident occurred about 11 p.m. Thursday when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at their vehicle. The names of the victims were withheld pending notification of kin.
The death raised to 86 the number of U.S. soldiers killed by hostile fire since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq. The military also announced that a soldier from the 4th Infantry Division died and another was injured in a fire Thursday night in an abandoned building in the Tikrit area. No further details were released.
A mortar blast tore through a market north of Baghdad, killing nine civilians and injuring more than a dozen others, Iraqi police said Friday. Townspeople suspected American soldiers stationed nearby may have been the target.
The mortar round exploded about 9 p.m. Thursday at a market in this Sunni Muslim city about 30 miles north of Baghdad. Several townspeople, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said they believed the target was a government building about 250 yards away, where U.S. soldiers stay.
IRAQ RESISTANCE ROUNDUP
Fallujah: The Heart Of The Resistance
(Comment: This remarkable article gives the clearest picture yet of the Iraqi resistance, and drives the Bush-Rumsfeld blathering bullshit about “terrorists” and “Saddam Hussein remnants” straight into the ground. Ordinary Iraqis are fighting the Bush Occupation for their national independence and freedom from foreign rule. They are right to do so.)
Sep 26, 2003, By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online Co.
FALLUJAH – This is the heart of the Iraqi resistance. Fallujah, with a population of almost 500,000 people, traditionally “the city of mosques”, is now called “the city of heroes” as it is at the core of the Sunni triangle (Baghdad-Ramadi-Tikrit) where most of the resistance to the US occupation is taking place.
President George W Bush told the United Nations on Tuesday that he is not willing to give back full sovereignty to Iraq any time soon. US Proconsul L Paul Bremer said last week that Iraqis are not yet capable of ruling themselves. The citizens of Fallujah have other ideas.
The highway from the capital to Fallujah – 43 miles west of Baghdad and the scene of one of the fiercest tank battles of the war in April – passes past Abu Ghraeb prison, one of the symbols of Saddam Hussein’s repression which is now the American occupation’s largest prison.
Practically every day in Fallujah there are attacks against the Americans. And the repression is also fierce – all around Fallujah. This Tuesday, for example, the 82nd Airborne intervened with full force in al-Sajr, a village 15 kilometers north of Fallujah, leaving two big craters in the courtyards of two houses.
At the Fallujah hospital, Abed Rashid, a 50-year-old retired civil servant, said that he was sleeping with his family on the roof of his house when he heard Kalashnikov fire. As he ran downstairs, American helicopters started firing what he believed were rockets. Rashid, wounded in the chest and left foot, says, “This is genocide. This is not about overthrowing a government or regime change.” Two boys, Hussein, 11, and his brother Tahseen, nine, were also severely wounded. Their father, Ali Khalaf Mohammed, 45, was killed.
The mayor of Fallujah, Taha Bdaiwi, officiates in the Qaem Maqameiah – a building that not without irony was the former general security headquarters of the Ba’ath Party. The ante-chamber of his office is a true court of miracles, where an endless stream of citizens wait patiently to express all sorts of grievances. Says a local sheikh, “When the Americans are attacked on the highway, they always come to the nearest villages. And they take many prisoners, without any evidence. There was an attack near a factory: they took all the families living around it, including the women. They are using families as human shields. Some of the arrested are older than 50.”
Many people in Fallujah repeat the same story: when American soldiers search houses for guns and find nothing, they take all the cash and gold. Fallujah’s erratic supply of “national electricity”, as the locals put it – two hours on, two hours off – is due to resistance attacks: ”Last week there was no electricity because of resistance attacks. Electricity depends on loyalty to Americans.” A pipeline was bombed twice in one week “because people believe this oil is not benefiting Iraq”. But a local branch of Rafidain Bank was never attacked – even if there are always two American soldiers inside: “People know they are protecting their money.”
Taha Bdaiwi’s office walls are conspicuously adorned by two military maps of Fallujah, from Fort Stewart, Georgia, one of them a satellite photo, as well as two diplomas offered by the American military for his collaboration. The new chief of police keeps coming in and out. The mayor cannot give any orders without first negotiating with an American military official sitting in the same building.
He is trying to bring energy from Baghdad and Ramadi. “I demanded two big generators, but they have not arrived yet.” The mayor admits indirectly that the real story about the pipelines is that the Americans want Iraqi police to protect them because they don’t want more American casualties.
Sheikh Khaled Saleh, a Sunni cleric in his early 50s, says that “although unorganized and without leadership, the Iraqi resistance is a ball of fire in America’s face that will bring its end in Iraq”. His sermons at Friday prayers draw thousands every week to Badawi, one of the main mosques in the “city of mosques”. The sheikh is also sure “we have made the Americans dizzy”.
Fallujah is littered with graffiti. Some is pro-Saddam. None is pro-bin Laden. All encourage local citizens to harass and kill American soldiers. Posters plastered across the city warn everyone to stay very far from US convoys to avoid being hit. In the kebab shops, people say, “The Americans are cowards. They are now afraid of any gunshot coming from anywhere.”
A group of prominent citizens of Fallujah got together and agreed to talk to Asia Times Online to explain “the real situation”, as they put it. Considering the fact that for the Governing Council in Baghdad and for Bremer, anybody telling the truth about the occupation can be accused of “incitement to violence”, their identities should be protected.
This week, the Governing Council’s spokesman, Intefadh Qanbar – a protégé of Pentagon protégé Ahmad Chalabi – told the media that the offices of television networks al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya in Iraq would be closed. Within two hours, this decision by the council turned into “no cooperation from the council” for two weeks – which for all practical purposes means nothing considering that the council sits in a bunker in Baghdad and is extremely uncooperative anyway.
Bremer’s legal advisers have in fact established press censorship in Iraq. And al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya are prime targets as they remain fierce critics of the occupation. Under the current press censorship laws, even to report about the killing of Iraqi civilians near Fallujah by missiles from American helicopters could fall into “incitement to violence”.
For Fallujah citizens, “The mayor is an honest man. He was one of the most wanted by Saddam’s regime. His family is one of the top five families in the city. Most of the population trust him and chose him.” They insist that “people here are as religious as the Shi’ites in Najaf. So the population did not agree with the way the Americans came to Iraq.” Unlike Baghdad, no shops in Fallujah sell alcohol or CDs. At least half of the population was satisfied with the fall of Saddam: “We didn’t want Saddam. But after the invasion, with the bad behavior of the Americans, people are saying it was better under Saddam.” The citizens are keen to stress that in the first two months after the fall of Baghdad, there was absolutely no resistance.
The resistance officially began on June 28. “A peaceful gathering went to the mayor’s building. There were troops inside. Then it went to a school: there was a military base inside. People were shouting: ‘We want democracy, electricity, water’. The Americans opened fire, at first in to the air. Then against people. An old woman in her house beside the base was hit, along with her three sons: one was dead, one lost his leg, another lost his kidney. Many people went to hospital to donate blood. There were 73 wounded. They had to wait for more than two hours to be sent to hospital. No car could carry more than one wounded – and one car only every 30 minutes. The next day people went to the cemetery. As is our custom, they opened fire in the air to celebrate the dead. Many American helicopters and convoys then came and opened fire. That’s how it started. There were 21 dead in two days.”
The citizens of Fallujah add, “The Americans have no right to invade houses, search our women and also steal gold and money. The Americans played a double game with the Iraqis. They said they would give us democracy. People only understood what they meant when they came. Outside Iraq, they treat dogs better than Iraqis.”
The United Nations “is controlled by America. It will never help Iraq. It’s not independent. If the UN comes, it will be attacked. Any foreign forces – Turkish or Pakistani, even Arabs. These forces will do what the Americans want, in an indirect way. No Arab countries will send soldiers, because they support the resistance.”
The citizens of Fallujah say that there are no American patrols in the city any more: only convoys coming from and going to Baghdad: ”If there are three convoys, at least two will be attacked. Every convoy crossing Fallujah is covered by air support. If there is a patrol, the American soldiers attract children living in the area and use them as human shields. Is that freedom?”
The 25-member, American-appointed Governing Council is considered by everybody in Fallujah “an imported government”. With two glaring exceptions: Dr Hashimi, a Shi’ite and a diplomat, who barely escaped an assassination attempt last Saturday (widely condemned in Fallujah); and Mohsen Abdul Hameed, from the Iraqi Islamic Party, actually the Muslim Brotherhood. During the Saddam era, Hameed lived underground building the clandestine Brotherhood base. Ahmad Chalabi, who is the rotating chairman of the council until the end of this month, is regarded as an “Ali Baba” – thief – and the butt of many jokes. It is widely assumed that at least 85 percent of the Iraqi population does not trust the Governing Council.
The citizens of Fallujah are adamant: the resistance is composed of members of families angry with or victims of violent American behavior, as well as former army soldiers and officers. They swear that they have not seen any Arab fedayeen (fighters) – and definitely no al-Qaeda. And there are no Ba’ath Party members in this indigenous resistance: “They are bad people. They have money. If you had money, would you risk your life resisting?” They insist that “the main reason for resisting is loyalty to your own country”.
Dr Kamal Aldien Alkisim, born in the ancient city of Heet on the Euphrates, tortured by Saddam’s regime and general secretary of a new political party – the Iraqi National Fraction, which “emphasizes Iraq’s unity and independence on all its land” – supports the struggle in Fallujah.
“The resistance here does not have any relation with any groups. It is led by families. The main reason is the bad behavior of the Americans. There is no relationship with Saddam or Islamic groups. These groups are using the name of Fallujah.” The locals are adamant that they have never seen anybody from self-described resistance organizations like Owda (Return), led by one Mohammed al-Samidai from Mosul, or Afaa (”Snake”), which sprang up from the Ba’ath Party in Kirkuk, or even an alliance of the Ba’ath with tribal elders coordinated by one Abu Hasan from Hajiwa.
The citizens of Fallujah don’t care about Saddam’s cassettes routinely broadcast by Arab satellite networks: “Saddam is a spy. He sold Iraq. When CDs of Saddam calling for a jihad were distributed, people in Fallujah stopped the resistance for a few days.” They insist on a big mistake made by the West is “to think that Saddam is the resistance just because he is a Sunni”.
After a lavish lunch, enter Sheikh Abu Bashir, one of the most prominent sheikhs in the region, a high officer in the Iraqi army, wounded in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
The Sheikh concurs that “the biggest problem for the Americans is when they dissolved the army. “They were trying to damage Iraqi society. So everybody immediately joined the resistance.”
The sheikh says, “The Americans now demand UN forces because they are in a circle of resistance and they cannot get out. When they started the war, they had no rights from the UN. So they have to leave this country, even by force. This is not just my opinion, our God ordered us to resist them as invasion forces.”
These citizens of Fallujah are not part of the armed struggle. They only admit that the stream of attacks against Americans are conducted by very small groups armed with roadside bombs, rocket launchers and Strella anti-aircraft guns. Most are former army officers, with the operations financed by local businessmen ready to donate thousands of dollars. The regimental force is always the tribal chief.
Convincing tools for the young and the restless are multiple: defense of tribal values, defense of the motherland, and most of all defense against the “bad behavior” of the Americans. The mujahideen can count on total popular complicity. When al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya – the nemesis of the Governing Council – show images of American casualties, not only in Fallujah but also in Baghdad, people stop talking and their faces lighten up. The running commentary is inevitable: “We thanked them for our freedom, but they should have left long ago.” At least in Fallujah, as far as the American occupation is concerned, the battle for hearts and minds is irretrievably lost.
OCCUPATION ISN’T LIBERATION
BRING ALL THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
Reserve Families’ Protests Gathering Support
23-Sep-2003, Agence France-Presse
Discontent about the extended deployments is spreading across Florida, Kansas, Minnesota and other states, family members said, with protest websites set up and lawmakers lobbied to get a change.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat and former Army officer, met with some 100 National Guard relatives Monday who oppose the extended tours.
Some family members who met Nelson also voiced criticism that their reservist husbands do not have bullet proof vests like those issued to regular troops in Iraq.
Moore wrote to Rumsfeld this month expressing concern at the “care, and morale of our deployed troops.”
The lawmakers have yet to receive a response.
Family protests continue to grow.
One Kansas group recently set up www.129bringthemhome.com which had gathered 10,038 signatures by Tuesday, a gain of 945 signatures compared with late Monday.
The site calls on the Pentagon not to deploy reservists in Iraq for over a year.
Newlywed Amanda Bellew — whose husband Specialist Jason Bellew is serving in Iraq with the 129th Transportation Company, a reserve unit, said the website was set up by families of reservists in Iraq and that they hope to gather 50,000 signatures.
Simultaneously, National Guard officers at Camp Ripley in Minnesota met with some 200 relatives at the military base where relatives also aired discontent with the longer deployments.
No Help For George Bush’s Empire;
Iraq Troops Left Twisting In The Wind
By Luc de Barochez, Le Figaro, 26 September 2003
No country asked has offered to send troops or contribute financially to the country’s reconstruction.
Neither money nor men: at the end of a decisive week at the UN, American president George W. Bush measures the failure of his attempted return to the international organization.
Two days later, not one of the 191 countries represented there had responded to his appeal for help with a concrete promise, whether in the form of a financial contribution or by placing troop contingents at his disposition.
Turkey balked, despite the grant of 8.5 billion dollars to Ankara. “We have clearly stated that we don’t want to take part in an occupation”, explained Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Gul.
Along the same lines, the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, yesterday demanded a political “road map” for the constitution of a representative Iraqi government. Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, posed a whole series of conditions for the dispatch of his country’s troops to Iraq, the first of which was the desire that they not be “occupation troops”.
Bush Gang Want To Hand Big Cash To Corporate Contractor Buddies;
Pretending It’s To “Support” Troops
By Jonathan Weisman and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, 26 September 2003
A new curriculum for training an Iraqi army for $164 million. Five hundred experts, at $200,000 each, to investigate Saddam Husseins’ crimes against humanity. A witness protection program for $200,000 per Iraqi participant. A computer study for the Iraqi postal service: $54 million.
Such numbers, buried in President Bush’s $20.3 billion request for Iraq’s reconstruction, have made some congressional Republicans nervous, even furious. Although the GOP leadership has tried to unite publicly around its president, cracks are beginning to show. ”A $54 million study for their post office?” asked Dan Mitchell of the Heritage Foundation.
$10 million to finance 100 prison-building experts for six months, at $100,000 an expert; 40 garbage trucks at $50,000 each; $900 million to import petroleum products such as kerosene and diesel to a country with the world’s second-largest oil reserves; and $20 million for a four-week business course, at $10,000 per student.
Already, the administration’s request for $400 million to build two 4,000-bed prisons at $50,000 a bed has raised enough questions in Congress to force Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremer to explain that cement must be imported to make concrete.
“We’re not talking sanity here,” a Congressman said. ”The world’s second-largest oil country is importing oil, and a country full of concrete is importing concrete.”
GOP pollster Robert Teeter hinted that congressional Republicans are right to be nervous but if elected Republicans can frame the full $87 billion package as the amount it takes to support the troops, they will be fine.
Israeli Air Force Pilot Rebellion Stops Assassination Raids
Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv, SUNDAY TIMES 9.21.03
THE Israeli air force has called a temporary halt to targeted killings of Palestinian militants amid signs of an incipient rebellion among pilots uneasy about civilian casualties caused by such operations.
Israeli pilots contacted by The Sunday Times have described how they defied orders from their superiors and aborted operations against Palestinian targets out of concern that they might kill innocent bystanders. They do not appear to have been punished.
A group of reserve pilots was also reported to be planning to announce that they will refuse to participate in future attempts to assassinate Palestinian leaders suspected of involvement in suicide bombings that have claimed the lives of hundreds of ordinary Israelis.
Palestinian boys throw stones at an Israeli tank during an army operation in the occupied Palestinian city of Jenin.(REUTERS/Saeed)
Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, said the group had been discussing the initiative for more than three months. It said they were collecting signatures and waiting for the right moment to make their announcement.
During the past three years of the intifada, or Palestinian uprising, Israel has conducted hundreds of sorties, using both helicopters and jets, against radical militants known as “ticking bombs” for their role in planning terrorist atrocities. Some 100 have been killed.
Unease has been growing among pilots in recent weeks, however. For some, the last straw appears to have been a botched attempt 11 days ago to kill Mahmoud al-Zahar, leader of the militant group Hamas, at his villa in Gaza.
Al-Zahar was in the back garden and was only slightly hurt when a one-ton bomb flattened his home. His elder son was killed, however, and his wife and several other members of his family badly injured. After the attack, several Israeli pilots met and demanded a change of tactics.
The attack on al-Zahar followed a failed attempt several days earlier to kill Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, with a bomb weighing a quarter of a ton. The Israelis said afterwards they could have used a bigger device that would have wiped out the Hamas leadership at a stroke but refrained from doing so because it could have killed dozens of bystanders.
Individual acts of defiance seem to have been growing. One pilot, who declined to be named, described flying over the West Bank city of Nablus recently when he was ordered to help Israeli ground forces pursuing members of Hamas.
“We flew over to see the fugitives, but the moment we aimed at them they mixed with the crowd,” the pilot said. The local commander became impatient. “Go get them,” the commander shouted. The pilot refused, saying they were too near the civilians.
“I don’t care about civilians – just do as you’re told,” the commander supposedly told him. The pilot refused and returned to base. He has not been reprimanded.
Another pilot described an incident over Gaza when he was providing air support to Israeli forces engaged in a heavy exchange of fire with Palestinians. As he flew in for a second time to attack, he caught sight of three Palestinian ambulances and radioed his commander that he was aborting the mission.
According to the pilot, the commander demanded: “What the hell is the problem?” When the pilot mentioned his concern about the ambulances, the commander ordered him to “finish them off”, adding: “I’m the commander of the operation and you will obey!” The pilot said he was already on his way back to base and ended the exchange.
Under Israeli air force regulations, pilots are entitled to make the final judgment
The campaign against targeted killings appears to be led by reserve pilots, who make up at least a third of those in the air force and, unlike regulars, are free to take part in public demonstrations.
Although it is difficult to gauge accurately the level of support the protesters enjoy, there is little doubt they remain a minority.
“Most of the pilots still have no problem with the assassination policy,” said one of the pilots. “But we share the feeling that we are being misused. We volunteered for a long military service and postponed our dreams and private careers to defend Israel, but we did not expect to be turned into a flying assassination squads.
“We were trained to kill, but not civilians or innocent people – this is totally against the moral code of our upbringing and the Israeli air force.”
From International Socialist Review Issue 31, September–October 2003 at www.isreview.org.
The Iraqis Have A Right To Self-Determination
Interview with David Cline
DAVID CLINE is a disabled Vietnam War veteran. He is national president of Veterans for Peace, a coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and helped initiate Bring Them Home Now!, a newly formed coordinating committee of military families, veterans, active duty personnel, reservists and others opposed to the ongoing war in Iraq. Cline talked to the ISR’s ERIC RUDER.
SINCE JULY, when soldiers in the Third Infantry Division spoke to the press about their anger at the U.S. military leadership, the Bush administration has orchestrated a counter-attack on the question of troop morale to put out the message that “things are much better than the media says.” At the same time, the number of soldiers killed since Saddam’s ouster has now surpassed those killed during “major operations.” What’s the truth about troop morale now?
WE’VE BEEN getting feedback from Iraq that a lot of the troops right now are just hunkered down in their base camps, and they’re getting attacked as they’re running supply convoys back and forth between the camps. And the camps are being mortared and sniped at.
There’s been an ongoing problem with supplies over there. I was on the radio this morning with a woman whose son is guarding a prison there, and she said that he told her that the delivery of the mail was privatized out to a corporation, but the company said that their employees wouldn’t deliver if they were in danger and they’re refusing to deliver the mail at this point. So, the GIs have had to run convoys to another camp in order to pick up their mail from home.
This takes a toll on morale, and there’s no sense of mission. At first, they had soldiers going out and busting up homes, and they stopped doing that because it was causing so much resentment. So now soldiers don’t have any purpose—unless they get a tip that Saddam is somewhere, but that’s a Special Operations mission. So most troops are doing convoys between bases that are subject to attack and they are hunkered down in these camps.
People in Washington keep putting out the idea that we need more troops, but for what? And now the U.S. generals in Iraq are admitting that they are facing asymmetrical warfare, that there’s a guerrilla resistance. They don’t have a way to combat that, because they’ve decided not to do sweeps through villages. So the troops don’t know what they’re doing over there. Sitting in 130-degree heat, bored, getting shot at and mortared—how many people can be excited about that? War sucks, but if you’ve got to fight, you want to have some cause you can believe in. Once your cause has collapsed, you’re left with nothing but pure survival. That’s what led many Vietnam War veterans to come back angry and protest the war, and I would think that veterans of the war on Iraq will come back and join the movement too.
The other thing that is important to talk about is the wounded. Usually when reporting on war, they talk about casualties, meaning the killed and wounded. Recently the Bush administration has been relatively slick in just focusing on those killed. What they’re totally ignoring is how many casualties there are. Right now, Walter Reed Hospital—the main entry point in the U.S. for troops returning with injuries—is full. In fact, in the September 2 Washington Post, there’s an article talking about 6,000 people taken out of the theater—1,124 wounded in action, 301 who received “non-hostile” injuries and thousands who became physically or mentally ill.
If I had served in the Second World War, I would have died from the first wound I received. In Vietnam I took a round that caused my lung to collapse and my chest cavity to fill with blood, but they were able to evacuate me to a hospital nearby, and they were able to save me because they got me medical treatment so quickly. Improvements in transportation and medical technology mean that the U.S. military has a much higher ratio of wounded to killed today compared to the Civil War, for instance, where if you were wounded, you would most likely die.
So, the numbers are really skewed, and a lot of the injured are amputees. The main weapons being used over there are landmines and rocket-propelled grenades. These both cause shrapnel-type wounds, which tend to tear limbs off, compared to bullets, which pierce your skin. These wounds cause people to become permanently and seriously disabled, lose limbs and so on.
There are roughly 150,000 troops over there, and anyone who gets sent into combat is changed. Among soldiers, you have to make some distinctions. Some people join the military driven by some patriotic or ideological fervor to go fight, defend the country and avenge 9-11—there’s a certain section like that. But the much larger section of people in the military joined because of what we call the poverty draft. They look at it like, “If I go into the military, I can get this college program, and I’m not going to be stuck working at McDonald’s or selling drugs.” That tells you something about our society—where the main way for poor, young people to improve their lives is to go into an armed force, as opposed to a job program or other alternative. But that’s part of the reality of America today.
And when people go into war, even the most gung-ho get changed. It’s one thing to talk about fighting. It’s another thing when you have to fight, when you have to kill people, when you have to see people get killed, see your friends get killed. That changes people, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. So a lot of these people are facing the grim realities of what war is. Seeing people that they thought they were liberating saying, “Go home.” I’m a Vietnam vet, and to me, it sounds like an old story.
The whole idea is that we’re going over thinking that we’re helping the people—and then we find out the people don’t want us there. That’ll lead some soldiers to say we shouldn’t be here and turn against the war. And it’ll lead other soldiers to begin to hate the Iraqis, and that becomes the basis for atrocities and massacres. It was the same way in Vietnam. I think that this whole situation is shaking the military to its foundations.
One of the main reasons that the U.S. was compelled to leave Vietnam was that there was a GI movement, and the military was beginning to refuse to function like the commanders wanted. I’m not saying that we’re doing that, because that would be illegal. But I am advocating that we reach out to those in uniform. Of our countrymen, they’re the ones who are suffering the most from this war.
I think they’re beginning to be faced with a real challenge to their ability to maintain their manpower requirements, which is why they’re so aggressively recruiting today—trying to play to the “kick ass” type of thing, which a certain percentage of people respond to, before they get into the real deal. Afterwards, a lot of those people become some of the most militant against it, because they had such false expectations.
DEFENSE SECRETARY Donald Rumsfeld dug himself a hole when he argued that increases in imminent danger pay and separation allowances shouldn’t be extended. Now they seem to be backtracking. How has this affected the troops?
AFTER THE front-page headlines reading, “Pentagon to cut troops’ pay,” the Pentagon dropped it the next day, because they were so embarrassed. Rumsfeld wanted to cut imminent danger pay by $75 and family separation allowances by $150. These stipends are supposed to make life a little more tolerable for military families with members fighting in Iraq. But basically it’s chump change. It’s insulting when you think about it. Here are these guys being shot at, and they’re talking about cutting their pay.
People like Rumsfeld are constantly in a fight to increase the military budget, but Rumsfeld wants to develop new weaponry that is four generations ahead of anyone else, so they’re constantly putting money into high-tech weapons systems. This is part of the problem in this country. We have this defense contracting, which is nothing more than fleecing the American public and giving these corporations lucrative contracts to make weaponry that is actually destabilizing. They want to do weapons in space, which could provoke an arms race in space, because if we do it, someone else will, too.
They have very little regard for the service people or for social programs, such as veterans’ health care. They figure they have people in the military, and they can do with them as they will and since they haven’t been in those shoes, they have very little compassion for them. They see social programs as obstacles to their spending. Their priorities are at odds with the priorities of bettering their lives, making our lives better, having schools.
THE BUSH administration chalks up all resistance to the U.S. as the work of Saddam Hussein loyalists. What are your thoughts on that?
I HAVEN’T seen anything that is a comprehensive report on the nature of the resistance, so I can’t say with certainty what the opposition is. But I think the idea that they are just Saddam Hussein loyalists is a stretch. For instance, I read an article today about Shiites marching at the funeral of the Ayatollah killed by that huge bomb blast, and they were chanting, “Saddam we will humiliate you, America we will humiliate you.” In other words, they were defining themselves as not being with Saddam or with America. I have to believe that there is a lot of that going on.
When the U.S. generals ordered house-to-house searches in the villages, they turned public opinion in Iraq against the occupation. I’m sure there were some people who thought life under U.S. occupation would be better, and we can’t fight the U.S. anyway. But then people began to feel that the U.S. was treating them in oppressive and humiliating ways, and this has caused people to adopt various forms of resistance. Some of them are using guns, and some are using different tactics. I read about a sit-in by unemployed workers in front of the U.S. Command Center in Baghdad. There are unemployed workers’ unions over there. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw an increase in resistance on a broad scale. The U.S. government went in with no plan and virtually no ability to manage that situation. Imperial dreams and imperial realities are two different things.
WHAT KIND of response have you had to the launch of the “Bring Them Home Now” campaign?
WE BEGAN the campaign in July, constructed a Web site, drew up a statement and began to make contacts with people. On August 12, we had a press conference in Washington, D.C., that was carried on C-SPAN, and the following day we did a similar one at Fort Bragg, N.C. In both cases, we got huge press. Since we put up the Web site, we’ve been getting about 29,000 visitors a week. We get a lot of e-mail from veterans, some from GIs and military families and some from just regular folks, workers, union members, different people.
Responses from military families have primarily been over the Internet, and it’s been about 25 percent negative and 75 percent positive. Some of the negative responses are, “Your son volunteered, so shut up,” or “You’re just whining.” But mostly, it’s been positive with people saying, “There’s no reason these guys are dying, bring them back,” that they’re dying for Bush’s lies and it’s an untenable situation.
When we started this thing, we did it at a level that people could relate to through their own concerns, rather than coming into it with our analysis and agenda and saying, “Fit into this.” With military families, we’ve encountered some people coming from a basic place—”I want my son home.” We don’t look at it as one person, but as bring the troops—all the troops—home. So, we have to work with people on that level.
YOUR CAMPAIGN with its demand to bring the troops home now has sparked a debate in the antiwar movement about whether it’s “irresponsible” to call for immediate withdrawal. The U.S. has a responsibility, goes the argument, to stabilize and improve things before it leaves. What do you say in response to this?
WHEN PEOPLE say that, they’re looking at it from the point of view of policy. Since the government is making policy, we’re going to propose an alternative policy that makes more sense. But the one thing that’s obvious about the Bush administration is that they’re not too interested in alternative policies, especially citizen-initiated alternatives. In the winter and spring, there was a mass movement of people around the world opposed to war. In this country, there were demonstrations in city after city. At one point, polls showed a majority in the U.S. saying don’t go to war. Bush ignored them. So, they’re not too interested in our alternative policies. The only thing that is going to compel this government to back down is when people will no longer tolerate it, no longer tolerate people dying without a good reason to die.
That’s what “Bring Them Home Now” is about. It’s not a blindfold, where you forget about the rest of the world, and all you care about is what you need. Some people say that we have a responsibility to rebuild Iraq, and they present Iraq as a failed nation-state. There are countries in the world that we would call failed nation-states where the central government doesn’t function, the country descends into militia violence and chaos. To a certain degree, that was the situation in Somalia. The U.S. had a role in bringing the Taliban to power and turning Afghanistan into a failed state. But Iraq was never a failed nation-state. It was a developing Third World country that had a relatively high standard of living, education and health care. It was under the rule of the Baath Party and Saddam, which was certainly a dictatorship that repressed political opponents. But it was not a basket-case country.
It was 12 years of UN/U.S. sanctions and all the bombing that have destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure. When people start talking about America’s responsibility to rebuild the country, I think a lot of people are coming from the place that we have to do what’s right. We have to clean up the damage. But it quickly turns into the idea that we have to do something for them—as if Iraq is incapable of self-government. Iraq is the birthplace of civilization. The Garden of Eden and Babylon are ancient historical sites that existed in Iraq. The history of government and of self-rule is long-standing—they’ve been doing this for 4,000 years.
The idea that Americans, with 200 years of history, have to straighten out these people—that sounds like colonial chauvinism from the beginning of the 20th century. And again, when there was a decolonization movement after the Second World War, there were also people presenting these Third World countries as being incapable of self-government. That was a justification for the old colonialism, for old imperialism, for the “white man’s burden.” The Western powers have to bring enlightenment to these “dark” places and peoples of the world.
I think we should not forget the past. The past had to be cast aside, because what the West really wanted was to dominate the underdeveloped world. Now we see the ideology and the practice of colonialism coming back into vogue. They have also developed this rap, which is based on America as the protector and guardian of freedom in the world. We stand for democracy, human rights and things like that. But recent American history is at odds with that image. I’m a Vietnam veteran. Was Vietnam about freedom and democracy? I don’t think so. Nicaragua and El Salvador, the wars they conducted against those countries in the 1980s—they weren’t based on freedom and human rights.
What the U.S. defeat in Vietnam showed was the limits of imposing our image, our projection of what a nation should be onto another nation. The idea of self-determination is that people do things in their own way and time. After its defeat in Vietnam, the U.S. was gun-shy. They used to call it the “Vietnam Syndrome,” where the American public didn’t want to be sending its troops around the world on some military adventure. Since Vietnam, those in power have been trying to reconfigure people’s thinking and convince them that Vietnam was a noble cause, that it’s alright to interfere in Nicaragua, and other places throughout the world.
Now they’ve come to the point where they think they can go full tilt again. So, we’re doing the same thing we did in Vietnam, we’re trying to force our image of a nation on another nation, this time Iraq. It just doesn’t work.
But the motivation is no abstract ideology. The U.S. government and the people in power have started this war for a dual purpose—regional dominance and control of natural resources. That’s their motivation. The rest of this stuff is all window dressing—human rights, democracy. The only freedom they care about is the free market, and they don’t want to make it free, they want to dominate it.
The strange thing is that the idea of people’s right to self-determination is what this country was founded on. Every Fourth of July, we set off firecrackers to celebrate how we declared independence. In one of Martin Luther King’s speeches, he talked about how the American Revolution and the French Revolution sent shock waves throughout the world, that people wanted independence. It’s been recognized in international affairs since the League of Nations after the First World War that nations have the right to self-determination. But in recent years, that’s become fuzzy because people start to say, “Well, what about what’s going on in this country, and what about there with Milosevic?” So, pretty soon the idea of self-determination and people running their own house gets lost on people who want to barge into someone else’s house. But for the people whose house is barged in on, it isn’t lost.
They made a movie one time called “Red Dawn” about the Cubans and Russians invading America, and how the Americans resisted with guerrilla warfare. For people who saw the movie, they thought that was great, but when we invade somewhere else, we can’t figure it out.
The understanding that people have to have self-rule, self-determination—that people are the masters of their own house—is something we should be more consciously embracing as part of our analysis. We are the country that is going in and doing the occupying, so it’s easy for people living in this country to forget that and start looking at it very pragmatically, like how are we going to rebuild this country. Pretty soon you end up with a position, “Bring the Troops Home Soon.” That’s all good if you’re not the guy getting shot at.
What do you think? Comments from service men and women, and veterans, are especially welcome. Send to the E-mail address up top. Name, I.D., withheld on request. Replies confidential.
AFGHANISTAN: THE FORGOTTEN WAR
Afghan Resistance Movement On The Offensive
By Victoria Burnett Financial Times, September 23, 2003
First there were warnings: two men on motorcycles who threatened a water supply team from the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees for working with the infidels, and gunmen at a roadblock who torched a Dacaar vehicle.
Then, on a desolate road in the south of Ghazni province on September 10, suspected Taliban gunmen delivered their message with brutal clarity.
“You were warned about working for NGOs,” they told five bound, kneeling Afghans who worked for Dacaar. They opened fire, killing four and seriously wounding one.
Mohammed Ghaos Aolya, head of the Red Crescent in Ghazni, says his organisation stopped delivering food and supplies in the province after two gunmen, wearing the black turbans that are the hallmark of the Taliban, ambushed a supply convoy in the south in August, killing three people.
“The Americans were unable to eradicate the Taliban, to cut out their roots,” says Mr. Aolya. “Now they are growing back.”
In Ghazni, insurgents have also targeted construction workers on the road that cuts through the province on the way from the capital, Kabul, about 100 miles to the north, to the southern city of Kandahar. The road has been billed as the centerpiece of international efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.
Ali Ahmad Jalali, interior minister, says the Taliban is using southern Afghanistan as its main base while al-Qaeda remnants are hiding in south Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal area close to the Afghan border.
The Taliban is also starting to work in larger numbers and more sophisticated formations, western security officials believe.
“What we’re seeing is an effective force behind which there’s a strong movement,” says Nick Downie, security coordinator for the Afghanistan NGO Security Office, a non-profit organisation that provides security advice to the aid community.
Taliban forces have been able to occupy remote villages in the isolated border areas for weeks at a time, say western officials.
“Their ultimate aim is to cause maximum havoc and reoccupy parts of Afghanistan,” says a senior western diplomat in Kabul.
They are also taking advantage of disaffection among southern ethnic-Pashtuns, a highly conservative people who traditionally held sway in Afghanistan and feel
sidelined by the Kabul administration.
“The Taliban are appealing to Pashtun pride. [Pashtuns] ruled this country for 250 years and now they are in the gutter,” says an experienced western aid representative.
“We’re talking about tens of thousands who are very angry and committed,” says the western diplomat. “It’s going to be a long fight.”
Resistance Takes Control In Ghazni Province
Sep. 23, 2003, PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press
GHAZNI, Afghanistan: Ghazni province, southwest of Kabul, has been on the front lines of the recent violence, and many residents say the local government and security officials have been unable or unwilling to end the insurgency.
Former Taliban walk the streets of this hardscrabble town, hiding only behind a change of clothes. They boldly tried to assassinate the police chief last week and have turned the back roads into a gauntlet of fear for aid workers.
“When the Taliban was first defeated, they were on the run, but they have had time in Pakistan to get a rest and reorganize themselves,” he said. “And now they are being incited and encouraged to come back.”
In Ghazni, Mohammed Chaos Aolya, the director of the Red Crescent Society here, said police were slow to react when he received an urgent phone call on Aug. 13 from a frantic worker injured in the Taliban attack.
“They are all afraid to do anything,” Aolya said. “The police didn’t want to come with us to the area, so I myself went and brought the dead bodies back and tended to the wounded.”
Aolya said anybody familiar with the province knows that “Taliban and al-Qaida walk around freely during the day.” He said Taliban supporters no longer wear the black turbans favored by the religious militia during its rule, but don’t otherwise do much to hide.
On Sept. 17, a remote-control bomb went off as the provincial police chief, Mohammed Ismail Aziz, was returning home from work. The bomb killed four people and shattered Aziz’s car, but he escaped with minor shrapnel injuries.
Over the weekend, the bearlike police chief was interviewed by AP as he convalesced in a long room, receiving good wishes from about 100 supporters seated on colorful pillows and Afghan blankets.
“We have arrested several Taliban and we knew that they have a big plan to assassinate high officials in the province,” Aziz said.
Cash-Rich Resistance Gets Satphones;
Taking Over More Of Afghanistan
From correspondents in Urgun, 23Sep03, news.com.au.
THE Taliban are better organised, more mobile, using more sophisticated equipment and applying their knowledge of guerrilla warfare to destabilise the Afghan government, according to security officials in the insurgency-hit southeast.
“The rise in power of the Taliban is, unfortunately, in no doubt,” Mohammad Gaus Naseri, chief of security in a district in southeast Paktika province bordering Pakistan, told AFP.
The militia took control of the Paktika border district of Barmal a month ago after driving troops and officials out, and they are claiming control of four other southeast districts.
“Where they used to move in small groups of a dozen, they now move around in groups as big as 150, infiltrating deep into our territory,” Mr Naseri said.
Attacks on frontier districts have also risen in intensity, which Mr Naseri considered ominously “a sign of better organisation and mobilisation”.
“The situation is getting worse,” Paktika’s vice-governor Sador Khan said in Paktika’s Urgun city, 30km from the Pakistan border.
“The Taliban move around by day, they are better structured, and they have received from their Pakistani sponsors more money, new weapons and satellite telephones.”
A member of the Afghan Militia Forces – militia fighters allied with American troops and attached to the US base at Urgun – said the Taliban were using more sophisticated equipment and elaborate spy networks.
“During operations, we got our hands on weapons equipped with silencers and even Russian-made night vision goggles,” the militiaman said, requesting anonymity.
“Their information network has even expanded, it’s more efficient, their spies are present in all big urban centres and information travels fast, thanks to their satellite telephones.”
Their strategy: to destabilise all of southeast Afghanistan, with top priorities Zabul province, next to Paktika, and construction sites along the Kabul to Kandahar road, said a humanitarian worker in Ghazni.
Ghazni, 120km southwest of Kabul, is an important stop on this crucial axis road being rebuilt by US and other international contractors.
The Taliban use guerrilla tactics learned during the struggle against Soviet invaders in the 1980s.
They avoid mounting huge offensives which draw immediate response from government troops and scorching aerial bombing by the US-led military coalition.
Peculiar to this new wave of violence is attack by motorbike.
Fast, discreet, hardy and inexpensive, the motorbike has proved to be an indispensable weapon in the hands of the Taliban: to stage ambushes, coordinate operations and collect information.
US Forces Attacked
The International News, Pakistan, September 23, 2003,
BAGRAM AIRBASE: US troops fought two groups of rebels at the weekend along south-east Afghanistan’s insurgency-hit border with Pakistan, a US military spokesman said on Monday.
The mountainous border region is at the frontline of resurgence by resistance fighters, who have claimed control of at least four districts in the area and vowed to organise further “resistance” against US-led forces, almost two years after US-led forces toppled their regime.
US soldiers exchanged fire with a group of up to five militants near their base at Shkin on the border in Paktika, one of the most troubled provinces, Major Richard Sater told reporters at the coalition’s Bagram airbase headquarters.
Shkin, 220 kilometres south of Kabul, is one of the most heavily targeted of the US military bases along the porous frontier. In neighbouring violence-wracked Zabul province, US-led troops were attacked on Sunday by a group of up to four men armed with light weapons near the provincial capital Qalat. No casualties were reported. They fled towards the Pakistan border, 100 kilometres south-east of Qalat.
Dear Editor, Traveling Soldier,
My young brother was sent to Iraq a few months ago. The conditions are not only dangerous due to being attacked, but his and all other soldiers’ health and psychological well-being are under serious threat!
We have been informed that he is no longer aloud to send or receive e-mail from anyone! He is allowed two ten-minute phone calls home per month and postal mail takes 3-4 weeks to send both ways. We as a family are completely cut off and are growing more and more helpless in the effort to send our support to help him through the most difficult time in his young life! His first child was born without his father on the 4th of July. He married only days before being shipped out. He is constantly being shifted around and in the dark about his orders until the moment declared.
I am actively trying to get information out about the issues us as families of soldiers and the issues of the soldiers fighting out to the public. They are being treated like cattle and forced into situations they didn’t sign on to deal with. The rotation for each unit is ever changing, like a carrot dangling. The “WAR” never ended in their or the families eyes’, as we watch fearfully to see who died without ever knowing where soldiers are beyond estimating from what little information on locations we’re given.
Please let me know if you can help or let me know what to do in order to actively put a stop to this unraveling thread. Our soldiers want to come home! We want people to recognize the facts and stop believing what the government is pacifying the public with. The truth is that nothing has changed. People are turning a blind eye because Bush is telling everyone that the war ended months ago.
Those of us who have to wait and worry about our families serving their time know the reality, but are not being acknowledged!
(For More Check Out: www.traveling-soldier.org/)
Thank you for this informative daily update. I read it everyday and I send it to many of my friends. The information and letters from the troops are the only way for we civilians to understand what is really going on. I am frequently on the phone to my representatives in Washington, and I tell the staff of my concerns for our troops and the war. Your email has made it possible to speak intelligently about these issues. Thank you again………….peace C
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