Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friend, The Troops ARE The War

The Nation, 12 July 2007: Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported--and almost always go unpunished.

Court cases, such as the ones surrounding the massacre in Haditha and the rape and murder of a 14-year-old in Mah­mudiya, and news stories in the Washington Post, Time, the London Independent and elsewhere based on Iraqi accounts have begun to hint at the wide extent of the attacks on civilians. Human rights groups have issued reports, such as Human Rights Watch's Hearts and Minds: Post-war Civilian Deaths in Baghdad Caused by U.S. Forces, packed with detailed incidents that suggest that the killing of Iraqi civilians by occupation forces is more common than has been acknowledged by military authorities.

This Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions.

Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims--at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect. "I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004. "You know, so what?... The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we're trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us."

He said it was only "when they get home, in dealing with veteran issues and meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then."

The Iraq War is a vast and complicated enterprise. In this investigation of alleged military misconduct, The Nation focused on a few key elements of the occupation, asking veterans to explain in detail their experiences operating patrols and supply convoys, setting up checkpoints, conducting raids and arresting suspects. From these collected snapshots a common theme emerged. Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents.

Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the US government and American media. The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

"I'll tell you the point where I really turned," said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. "I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg.... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn't crying, wasn't anything, it just looked at me like--I know she couldn't speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?... I was just like, This is--this is it. This is ridiculous."

Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured "an innocent noncombatant."

These attitudes reflect the limited contact occupation troops said they had with Iraqis. They rarely saw their enemy. They lived bottled up in heavily fortified compounds that often came under mortar attack. They only ventured outside their compounds ready for combat. The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.

Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses.

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photo­graphs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

[The entire article can be read here.]

This is why you CANNOT be against the war, and at the same time *support the troops.*

My friend, the troops ARE the war.

Bush and Cheney and all the other war lunaticks could stamp their feet from now until Judgment Day, but if the troops laid down their arms, the war would be over (for Amerika, anyway). It really is that simple. Doing the right thing is always that simple. Amerikans have no business shooting up the Middle East. Would the troops have to pay a price for doing the right thing? A better question:

What price will have to be paid for doing the wrong thing?

Among those who crow they are against the war (as if that is anything), a vast majority add the cowardly caveat *but I support the troops.* They want it known they understand the obvious: the war in Iraq is a dirty crime.

But they also want to avoid the stigma of appearing unpatriotic. They don’t truly want to stand outside the Military Media Complex, which rules Amerika. They fear the creeping fascism of the country, the government terror lists, the government’s encouraging of citizens to report *suspicious behavior,* etc. And they also fear admitting their own guilt in the war.

They seek to limit blame to Bush & Cheney and that gang. Thus, the troops are just reluctant warriors, with no choice but to do what they are told. . .and by extension, the cowards of the anti-war crowd can excuse themselves, also. It’s all on Bush and Cheney. . .they excuse themselves from continuing to pay taxes which pay for the war, they excuse themselves from non-violent forms of war resistance, etc., etc. In short, all the blood of the war stains only Bush and Cheney. . .but this is only the coward’s lie.

For sixty years the German people have had to assume their share of guilt, they have never been able to dump it all on Hitler. Why, then, should the Amerikans be allowed to dump their guilt on Bush and Cheney?

So, the feeble anti-war *movement,* not even with the strength of a flea’s bowel movement, supports the troops? What are they supporting? War crimes.

Amerika did not send 200,000 choir boys to Iraq. . .there are not 200,000 choir boys standing on the street corners of Baghdad, Basra and all the rest singing What A Friend We Have In Jesus. . .

Friend, you want to support the troops? Fine. Go ahead. BUT QUIT YOUR GOD-DAMNED LYING! STOP PRETENDING YOU ARE AGAINST THE WAR!

You want to support the troops? Fine. Go ahead. Go to Hell with them.

For Christians wondering about the logic of the last declaration:

We CANNOT have faith in Christ and the military. It’s one or the other. Don’t lie like the anti-war *movement.* We can’t serve two masters. So let us confess who are master truly is.

If we have such a fear (even though we supposedly have not been give the spirit of fear) of the muslim bogeyman, then trust in Christ. . and if you have to die for that trust, then rejoice in the dying. . .

We CANNOT claim to follow Christ, then quake in the knees every time a muslim sets a car on fire or knocks down some office buildings, and then rush off to the military and ask them to start bombing every Middle Eastern thing that moves. . .

Listen, for Christ’s sake, let us read the New Testament and defend again the faith which was once delivered to the saints. . .let us not embarrass the name of Christ by saying we follow Him, when at the same time we also support the wickedness we read about in the article above.

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