Monday, March 26, 2007

AlterNet: War on Iraq: A Soldier Speaks: Volunteer Soldiers Devastated by Iraq Weren't "Asking for It"

AlterNet: War on Iraq: A Soldier Speaks: Volunteer Soldiers Devastated by Iraq Weren't "Asking for It"

AlterNet: War on Iraq: A Soldier Speaks: Going AWOL vs. Going to Iraq

AlterNet: War on Iraq: A Soldier Speaks: Going AWOL vs. Going to Iraq: "As recently reported in the press, the Pentagon has 'revised' the number of military desertions in 2006 upward to 3,196 active-duty soldiers -- 853 more than the Pentagon previously announced. And in a article released today, the British Independent newspaper reports that the UK Ministry of Defense 'estimates there have been 10,000 AWOL incidents since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and 1,100 servicemen are currently 'on the run' from the Army.' The article excerpted below, from the German magazine Der Spiegel, illustrates the difficult alternatives that soldiers who don't want to be deployed are facing."

As a GI Rights counselor I think these numbers are low.
Mary Bahr

Sunday, March 25, 2007

GvlVetsForPeace : Message: How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits

GvlVetsForPeace : Message: How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits:
"Town is not alone. A six-month investigation has uncovered multiple cases in which soldiers wounded in Iraq are suspiciously diagnosed as having a personality disorder, then prevented from collecting benefits. The conditions of their discharge have infuriated many in the military community, including the injured soldiers and their families, veterans' rights groups, even military officials required to process these dismissals.

They say the military is purposely misdiagnosing soldiers like Town and that it's doing so for one reason: to cheat them out of a lifetime of disability and medical benefits, thereby saving billions in expenses."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

March on the Pentagon

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Gainesville VFP members report on March on the Pentagon

Steve and Sherrie Hunter go to Washington:

Not since returing from Vietnam have I felt so compelled to stand up for what I believe in. As a Marine, I love my country and always want what is right for it, the people. I took an oath upon entering the Marine Corps to uphold the Constitution and defend the country against enemies, foreign and domestic. Upon discharge, I did not take an 'un-oath.' I believe it will always be my duty to live by that promise. I joined in anti-Vietnam war demonstrations here at home, and today, with all I have read and seen via the various media outlets, I felt the need to go to DC and join in the march to the Pentagon calling for an end to this illegal war for oil. Like the Vietnam war, this war in Iraq is also based on lies.

This is written from our point of view, our personal experiences, trying to depict the true atmosphere that day. I know some of you will disagree with our commitment to this cause, but that's your choice. Please have an open mind and read it all and view the video clips.
Our story follows:

My wife, Sherrie and I took a trip like we have never had before. Only a few days before it was to happen, we decided that we wanted and needed to drive to Washington DC and be a part of the march against the war in Iraq on its fourth anniversary.

We awoke about 4 AM Thursday morning and left after having coffee and bagels. The drive was long, right at 800 miles one way. The weather was beautiful when we left and got more cloudy as we traveled north. By the time we reached Virginia, it was raining lightly - and continued to do so for the next day and a half.

In bumper-to-bumper (bummer-to-bummer?) traffic on I-95 we reached the "beltway" I-495. The signs read stay right for North. We did and lo and behold that North was West. My estimate of the total length of the beltway around DC is about 50 miles. We drove three quaters of that - the wrong way.
We should have been about 12 miles from our motel in MD, but ended up driving in the early evening, bummer-to-bummer, stop-and-go traffic for two hours in the rain. Two hours to go approximately 36 miles! How on earth can people commute in those conditions every day? I'll never know.
Interestingly, we saw practically no bumper stickers and only the very rare magnetic "support the troops" ribbons on cars. I think DC is a fence-sitting city... or they are afraid of retaliation for expressing their views.

Finally we reached the motel, both exhausted from the drive and headed for bed. The rain continued on Friday. We had planned to go into DC and play tourist for the day. Well, we did anyway. It was a miserable day. However, after getting the right bus to the Metro train station, we had an interesting time finding out how all that commuter stuff worked. Hey, we're used to country livin'.

In DC it was still raining and getting colder. The wind was blowing and we read later that the temperature was in the teens with the windchill factor.
The most striking thing was the immensity of the granite government buildings. Huge, ornate, almost surreal. We made our way to the Washington Monument and from the circle could see most of the other memorials in the distance. The wind and rain didn't help morale. I'll have to repeat, it was a pretty dismal day for tourists. We walked a while and saw the new WW-II memorial. It is a beautiful piece of art/architecture. And, a very nice tribute to our troops who fought in that war.

Apparently, there is no underground storm drainage for rain water in the city. It collects in the streets and to where it runs off is anybody's guess. We narrowly missed getting drenched by passing cars. By this time we were so cold that we decided to head back to the motel. An afterthought was that we could have gone to the Smithsonian Museum and spent the afternoon in a warm dry place, but didn't think of it in time. So it's back to the train station, negotiate the passes we had purchased that morning and through the turnstyles we went. We did ask for assistance from the "station master/mistress" a few times. Our paper passes which were read electronically were wet. Next time it will be easier - and not in the winter.

Friday night, back at the motel:
At 2 AM we were both awakened with a cat's yowling outside our door. A solid black cat. I got up to see what was going on and it tried to get in the room - on the third floor. My better judgement and compassion for animals kept me from showing it the quickest route to the ground floor - over the balcony. The rain had stopped and there was snow on the ground! We remembered some leftover catfish in a ziplock bag and I coaxed the cat down two flights of stairs with the aromatic delectables. OK, the cat is safely on ground floor and it's back to bed for me.

Saturday morning we awoke to more snow and ice, about an inch, and the car's trunk lock was almost frozen stuck. Sherrie nearly slipped down on the icy sidewalk. Fortunately, we did take plenty of warm clothing. We got out our "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home" sign from the trunk and bagged it for the bus/train ride to DC. We were forewarned to cover up signs so there would be no trouble with them in transit.

We arrived at the meeting place near the Lincoln Memorial after having coffee in the cafeteria of George Washington University in downtown DC. By ten o'clock there were already thousands of people present and a steady stream of folks pouring down Constitution Avenue in that direction. It was exciting for us, our first time to a major rally like this.

Our first objective was to orient ourselves with the surroundings and see what was there. We browsed tables set up by various groups and were offered their literature, and found our way to the head of our area, where the march will commence. There was a temporary stage with microphone and speakers.
March leaders were leading chants and songs. There was a "drum corps" with plastic, five-galloon buckets and drum sticks that kept cadence. Gold Star Family members whose loved ones had been killed were speaking for an end to this war.

Across the street there was a large contingency of pro-war activists. It hurt me to hear them shouting to these famly members who had lost children in the war, "Traitors - I'm glad you son is dead." These counter-protestors chanted "USA, USA" over and over, as if we were not for the USA. Ha!!
Both groups had permits from the US Park Service to demonstrate. Our respective areas were divided by wire-bound picket fences to avoid physical contact and a potential conflict. The counter- protestors got their permit under them name of "Gathering of Eagles." I saw a flier at the VA hospital announcing their gathering. We had looked at their website prior to leaving home. It was falsely rumored throughout the "biker" community that the peace demonstrators were going to deface the Vietnam Wall. There was a call for all to come and "defend" the wall.

Their reserved demonstration site was along our path for the march and all the way around the Vietnam Memorial Wall. We walked a block to that area and were confronted by them, taunted with disrespectful comments, middle fingers and glares. Their fence was lined with "guards" and one yelled to my wife, "Show us your tits for peace" and repeated it. We looked at each other and just shook our heads in disbelief and disgust.

As we approached the "entrance" to view the Wall, we were confronted by another group of them. We stopped to decide if we wanted to go in. Neither of us was comfortable with the hateful, bad vibes in the air. They had anointed themselves as silent guards, requiring visitors to allow them to search bags and packs. Sherrie had never seen the Wall and my only time there, many years ago, I had to leave after only a few minutes. My tears were flowing too freely and my composure was lost. I had wanted to go back again to find other friends' names who were killed in that war. On this day the aire was too heavy and the intimidation was just too much. Not wanting to end up in a conflict by having our bags opened and searched by these self-appointed bullies, we left in disappointment. As we told our story to others we heard of others who had their signs snatched from them and destroyed - and the foul language used toward them. Disgracefully sad.

By the time we returned to the peace group's area the crowds were building.
The organizers were getting people in their respective sections to march. .
The ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) was organizing the march. Veterans for Peace (VFP), of which we are both members, was a co-sponsor. While standing with hundreds of other VFP members near the front of the group, a couple of big biker-looking guys pushed me, shoved their way into my space with one's belly. (It takes a real man to pick on a smaller
one.) I looked up and said with a smile, "You guys are in the wrong line, aren't you?" The lead bully replied, "You are the one in the cage, we're not in a cage." I turned away, ignoring what he said and let them continue on their way. So, this is the kind of "guarding" and bullying they were up to, looking for a fight. I recall many years ago when the Rolling Stones had hired Hell's Angels for security at one of their concerts. That turned out to be a mistake. One person was killed. We surely didn't want this day to end like that.

One gentleman whose son was killed in Iraq (a guest speaker earlier in the
day) had a coffin with his son's boots. He was to be in the lead of the parade with VFP members accompanying him. We were there. The ANSWER group, in yellow/green vests, lead the way behind motorcycle police.

There was a mass of people on our side. Estimates range from 30,000 to 50,000. A reporter told a friend that he learned from the Metro police (who don't give official estimates anymore) that it looked like over 30,000 in our group. The counter protestors had maybe six thousand.

The march was on...
We rounded the curve and headed for the Arlington Bridge. The sun was shining now and it was very cold with the constant wind, especially on the bridge. All the flags were standing out straight from their poles. Signs and plackards were dificult to hlod upright. There were boats with surveilance cameras in the Patomac River. We filled the four-lane highway and the people kept coming. At the far end of the bridge there was a bedsheet banner held up by the opposition which read "Go to hell TRAITORS - you dishonor our dead on hallowed ground" and other comments.

When we reached the Pentagon parking lot we went up on a hill, a knoll, to look back toward the bridge. It was still filled with marchers and peace activists. One friend of ours said that she was in what she guessed to be the middle of the parade and when she reached the knoll the bridge was still filled with marchers.

Sadly, I have to admit that we didn't stay for the speaches. We were just too cold and needed to get back to our car and head south to Florida. It was overall a wonderful experience for us both. We will be back!

Here are some websites with pictures.

In the ANSWER website photo there is a Veterans for Peace flag (white with black helmet with a dove) in the front-middle of the march. We were right behind it.

Video of the march showing both sides.
Note the counter protestor's sign "Peace Sucks"

This one shows many signs from both sides, including the "traitors..." one.

With peace and love for all,

Stephen and Sherrie Hunte

YouTube - Gainesville Resolution to Impeach GW Bush?

YouTube - Gainesville Resolution to Impeach GW Bush?

YouTube - UF SDS Students Protest US Occupation of Iraq

YouTube - UF SDS Students Protest US Occupation of Iraq
Its is so great to see our students coing out against the war!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Charlie Anderson | The Wall That Now Divides Us

Charlie Anderson | The Wall That Now Divides Us
Anderson comments on the Vietnam memorial and the pro war protesters in washington this weekend who rained abuse on those of us who opposed the war even though thousands of us were vets or military family members. As Anderson points out, the pro war mission statement was as follows:

".we are adamantly opposed to the use of violence, vandalism, physical or verbal assaults on our veterans, and the destruction or desecration of our memorials ... we defend and honor those whose blood gave all of us the right to speak as freely as our minds think."

Apparently this only applied if those fellow vets agreed with their pro war rhetoric. Many people were prevented from visiting the wall by intimidation and physical attacks from people who claimed the above mission. Abuse was heaped on us as we marched by with threats, wishes for our extermination, and we were described as traitors. We noticed the gathering was almost exclusively white while the antiwar group was multicultural with many hispanic and black vets and family members amongst us. And though this march was small compared to marches in the past, it was still at least 100 times as large as the pro-war group.
The ideas the antiwar movement would vandalize the wall is ridiculous and without basis in fact. They apparently do not know that some of our past leaders helped fund raise and do the political and organizing work to build the wall in the first place. This is just another lie planted to widen the divide between citizens with many beliefs and interests in common. It is sad that some of us after 40 years still continue to believe these lies.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kucinich Demands Answers About US Troops In Iran

Kucinich Demands Answers About US Troops In Iran: "Dear President Bush:

Recently, it has been reported that U.S. troops are conducting military operations in Iran. If true, it appears that you have already made the decision to commit U.S. military forces to a unilateral conflict with Iran, even before direct or indirect negotiations with the government of Iran had been attempted, without UN support and without authorization from the U.S. Congress.

The presence of U.S. troops in Iran constitutes a hostile act against that country. At a time when diplomacy is urgently needed, it escalates an international crisis. It undermines any attempt to negotiate with the government of Iran. And it will undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts at the U.N."

Rolling Stone : Leaving Iraq: The Grim Truth

Rolling Stone : Leaving Iraq: The Grim Truth: "A panel of experts convened by Rolling Stone agree that the war in Iraq is lost. The only question now is: How bad will the coming explosion be?"

Monday, March 12, 2007

Michael Schwartz | Surge and Destroy

Michael Schwartz | Surge and Destroy: "The way an American patrol and a car bombing coincided was no accident. The New Baghdad neighborhood, like almost all Shia communities in the capital, has been policed by the Mahdi Army on an ongoing basis. Besides enforcing all manner of local law, the Mahdis are also vigilant about possible suicide bombers, quickly recognizing strange people or vehicles that enter their neighborhoods. At the same time, wary citizens are also on the look-out, alerting the local Mahdis whenever they see someone who looks suspicious.

When the Americans come through on patrol or - even worse - when they set up permanent checkpoints (either U.S. or Iraqi-manned), the Mahdis have to lie low, since the Americans (or their Iraqi sidekicks) will arrest or kill them. The community is then essentially left unprotected and open to intruders."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq | Salon News

The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq | Salon News: "As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records."

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

"Theater Iran Near Term" (TIRANNT)

"Theater Iran Near Term" (TIRANNT): "Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, 'Theater Iran Near Term' has identified several thousand targets inside Iran as part of a 'Shock and Awe' Blitzkrieg, which is now in its final planning stages.

According to the Kuwait-based Arab Times, an attack on Iran under TIRANNT could occur any time between late February and the end of April. This assessment, however, does not take into account the disarray of US ground forces in Iraq as well as the untimely withdrawal of several thousand British troops from the Iraq war theater, many of whom were stationed in Southern Iraq on the immediate border with Iran.

Joseph L. Galloway | A Suggestion for Probing Our Shameful Treatment of Fallen Troops

Joseph L. Galloway | A Suggestion for Probing Our Shameful Treatment of Fallen Troops: "In years when 50,000 troops have been wounded or injured, it's reduced the number of people judged 100 percent disabled to a third of the number who were granted that rating - and the pensions that go with it - in the year before we went to war.

One reader e-mailed me this week to suggest that if we really want to get to the bottom of this scandal, we should appoint an investigative commission made up of 10 mothers of wounded soldiers instead of the usual suspects who sit on blue-ribbon commissions and find no one responsible for problems.

The mothers, the reader wrote, would sort out who was to blame in short order and find the problems that need fixing even faster. I second her motion."

Thursday, March 1, 2007

US Commanders Admit: We Face a Vietnam-Style Collapse

US Commanders Admit: We Face a Vietnam-Style Collapse: "An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat."

I have been hearing those evacc choppers coming in (in my mind ) for a while now!