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(en) US, Philadelphia, defenestrator* #31 - IRAQ: VETERANS AGAINST THE WA by dave onion

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 25 Dec 2004 09:00:30 +0100 (CET)

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Several issues ago we ran an interview with Iraq invasion veteran Mike
Hoffman (see Defenestrator #25). Mike, a Marine at the time, had
been among the first to invade Iraq's streets and ultimately among
those who stormed Saddam's palace. His experiences in Iraq included
seeing his fellow soldiers killed by Iraqi snipers and racist cold-blood-
ed retribution against random bystanders and children by other
Marines. He had just read Chomsky's writing on foreign poli-
cy and the media before he had left for Iraq. Upon his return
he was determined to take a principled stand against the war.

About a year later, Hoffman hooked up with Tim Goodrich,
another Iraq war vet and formed Iraq Veterans Against the
War (IVAW) going public this past July during the
Veterans for Peace annual convention in Boston, MA.
IVAW's work so far has been mainly getting out the
word about who they are, networking with enlist-
ed marines and other vets, and speaking exten-
sively against the war. Hoffman himself just
returned from a whirlwind speaking tour, doing some
gigs with Michael Moore's, pro Kerry, Slacker Uprising
Tour, as well as punkvoter.com's Rock Against Bush Tour.
Despite his use of the electoral bandwagon, Hoffman is not enthusi-
astic about Kerry when it comes to his stance on Iraq. According to
Hoffman, Kerry's call for more occupation troops is the equivalent
of re-establishing the draft.

After the election circus wraps up in November, Hoffman plans to take
a week or two off and then pick up the pace again. Future plans for
IVAW include setting up Vietnam-era style anti-war coffee shops in
military towns, essentially free spaces where enlisted folks can go for
alternatives to military propaganda, have access to resources, and to
provide safe places to talk and organize with other disgruntled soldiers.
During the Vietnam War such coffee houses provided invaluable places
of mutual support for soldiers seeking ways out or in finding like-
minded comrades who opposed the war.

With 60 members, and growing in just a couple months since it was
founded, IVAW is exactly what the anti-war movement needs these
days. This war is not going to be voted (or even lobbied) to a swift
end of any sort, we as opponents of the war need to be actively look-
ing for new ways of intervention, well beyond the demonstrations and
educational activities of the last years. With the current records in low
troop morale (military suicide rates have increased 40% in the last
year alone) in a war which not even many cheerful imperial propo-
nents can justify, soldiers who are fighting this war as the on ground
material producers of Empire and occupation
should be encouraged and supported for their
refusal. The recent refusal of reservists to follow
suicidal orders in southern Iraq, for example no doubt
strikes a tremendous chord in the hearts of many
who have found themselves for whatever reason in
this bleak place as the producers of Empirial nihilism.
It only makes sense that as this war exploits and abuses its
own soldiers more and more apparently, that some of them will
turn against the insanity they were thrust into and look towards the
more life-affirming refusal. So let's encourage and support them!
For more info on IVAW, check out their website at ivaw.net or
email them at ivaw@ivaw.net. Soldiers interested in joining or
working with IVAW, just get in touch.

Veterans Voices Rise in Protest by Dahr Jamail, (Media) SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 25 (IPS)

With the news that members of a U.S. Ar my
reser ve platoon have been arrested in Iraq for
"refusing a suicide mission", dissent among vet-
erans of the U.S.-led campaign in that country
continues to grow.*

The recent incident mirrors other stories of
troops being sent on missions without proper
equipment, and again raises the spectre of
plummeting troop morale as the security situa-
tion in Iraq deteriorates and elections scheduled
for January approach.

Even as late as six months after the March 2003
U.S.-led attack, as many as 51,000 U.S. soldiers
and civilian administrators in Iraq had still not
been properly equipped with body armour and
other protective gear, according to the
`Washington Post'.

Alerted to the situation, family members bought
expensive flak jackets and other security gear
and used international couriers to send it to the
front lines.

Speaking of the low rates of readiness of his
ground forces due to inadequate combat and
protective equipment, the senior U.S. command-
er on the ground in Iraq from mid-2003 to mid-
2004 said, "I cannot continue to support sus-
tained combat operations with rates this low."
Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez added that
ar my units were, "str ug gling just to maintain a
relatively low readiness rates" for key combat
systems, reported the Washington Post.

The mother of Amber McClenny, who serves in
the platoon that in mid-October refused orders
to transport fuel through an area north of
Baghdad where ambushes are known to occur,
told the Associated Press her daughter called
and told her, "We had broken-down trucks,
non-ar moured vehicles and we were carrying
contaminated fuel. They are holding us against
our will. We are now prisoners." While a senior
U.S. military official has said the unit had been
ordered to carry out what is known as a mainte-
nance stand-down and its soldiers are not under
arrest, many Iraq veterans in the United States
feel the incident is indicative of poor troop
morale, which stems from the growing belief
among soldiers that the war in Iraq is unjustified.

Ar my National Guard member Sergeant Kelly
Dougherty served for 10 months in Iraq at Tallil
Air Base, near Nasiriya. "The people in Iraq
idn't have money or jobs and their cities were
destitute," said Dougherty, who worked escort-
ing convoys and patrols.

"I wondered how these people were functioning after they'd
been through so much. They hadn't even rebuilt from the first
Gulf War (in 1991)." During a phone interview Dougherty said
her unit did not even have translators for the first nine months
of the occupation and were thus unable to communicate with
Iraqis while conducting security patrols.

"I think it was definitely wrong to go into Iraq," she added. "I
thought that before we went in and the intelligence is proving
this now." Like other soldiers who are beginning to speak out
against the Bush administration, Dougherty has
strong words about how the war was waged.
"People say the president didn't lie -- but it's
hard for me to believe that they truly thought
the reasons they went in were true," she said.
"I think we were intentionally lied to in order to
get the U.S. into Iraq, and the Bush administra-
tion seized this opportunity." The president, she
added, was also being dishonest about the dan-
gers that soldiers would face when he did not
provide them with the necessary armour and

Another veteran of the war in Iraq is Corporal
Alex Ryabov, who participated in the invasion
of Iraq until May 9. "What I realise after hav-
ing been there is that it (the war) is such a huge
waste of life on both sides," he said in an interview.

Ryabov also commented on U.S. Secretary of
Defence Donald Rumsfeld's statement in
September that the 1,000 U.S. soldiers who have
died in Iraq are just some of the victims of the
"war on terrorism." "The reality is that Bush
and Rumsfeld don't have family in the military,
and they have never served. Each U.S. death in
Iraq -- each of those people has family and
friends, and you can't tell them that this is a
small number." Ryabov, who served as the
ammunition chief for his Marine Corps unit,
believes the administration should be held to
account for the horrendous situation in Iraq.
"They should be impeached. They should be
put on trial." He also believes the administration
is not doing enough to support Iraq war veterans.

"When troops come home we need to have
benefits and VA (U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs) support. There are a lot of people hav-
ing problems with this and no support. My
friends are coming back angry and screwed up
and not getting any help." According to the U.S.
military, more than 7,500 soldiers have been
injured in Iraq through Sep. 27. Of those,
more than one-half did not return to action
after 72 hours. But veterans' advocates say the
Pentagon is not counting nearly 16,000 more
soldiers evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan
for "non-combat causes," according to United
Press International (UPI).

Another veteran who has served in the Middle
East is Senior Airman Tim Goodrich. While
ser ving two deployments at Prince Sultan Air
Base for Operation Southern Watch, where he
patrolled no-fly zones in southern Iraq during
the build-up to the current war, "that is when it
first hit me that this was the wrong idea," said

"I was watching troop movements for Iraq
going through our base between August and
October of 2002 army troop movements
preparing to go to war with Iraq six months
before the war," he told IPS.

Goodrich too is angry. "I feel absolutely
betrayed by this administration. I was brought
up believing it was the most honourable thing
to do to serve in the military. Now I've learned
that it is not a glorious undertaking and that our
country isn't living up to the standards I
believed it was -- that our foreign policy has
been flawed for decades." Goodrich feels so
strongly about the horrendous situation in Iraq
that he has joined a group called Iraq Veterans
Against the War (IVAW). The organization,
which started two and a half years ago with
only nine members, has now grown to over 60,
including active duty service personnel in Iraq.
In order to accommodate the growing numbers
of Iraq veterans joining the group, IVAW is try-
ing to obtain office space and find a part-time
employee to assist in its mission of ending the
occupation and seeing service members return
to the United States.

The group will also be sending members on
speaking tours until the end of November,
according to its website.

Goodrich believes the situation in Iraq is the
reason why the military has failed to meet its
recr uiting goals recently. And he applauded the
platoon in Iraq for refusing to follow orders.
"I think it's about time that someone stood up
and did something. They are working with sub-
par equipment that is putting peoples' lives at
risk," he said. "There are not enough armoured
vehicles and not enough supplies for the sol-
diers. One hundred fifty billion dollars (has
been spent) to fund these guys and the money
isn't getting to where it needs to be." When
asked what he would do if he were called up to
ser ve in Iraq again, Goodrich replied, "No com-
* [Ed. note: The defenestrator is of an
Anarchist/antiauthoritarian perspective]

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