Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Central Florida IVAW chapter is forming

IVAW chapter is forming
Originally uploaded by vfpgainesville
See more rally pictures at

Cliff and friends at the Orlando Rally on October 27th. Look for Cliff's accounts of his service in Iraq on this blog along with a contact for persons interested in joining Iraq Vets Against the War.

See more rally pictures at

Orlando Rally pictures

If anyone took pictures in the March/downpour part of Saturday please send me some to post. I did not risk my camera on that one!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Iraq Vets Against the War Chapter forming in Gainesville

Call for Interested Iraq Vets to join a chapter of IVAW (Iraq Vets Against the War)
Contact Cliff Hicks at for more information.

Here is Cliff's story of his experiences in Iraq:

My name is Clifton Hicks, I volunteered to fight in Iraq when I was seventeen years old, three of my best friends died there. The first burned to death when his tank was hit by a rocket, the second was shot by a sniper, the third was blown to pieces by an IED. Four years later I stand before you in the name of Peace and Liberty, and I stand with you against the illegal, immoral, and unnecessary occupation of Iraq. When I joined the Army, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, be they foreign or domestic. To this day I still live by that oath.
In October of 2003, I was ordered to join the 1st Squadron of the 1st United States Cavalry Regiment, which had been in combat for five months just south of Baghdad. When I got there, they gave me an M16 rifle and a bullet proof vest, and in exchange for this, they took from me my soul and my conscience, and for ten months, every single aspect of my humanity. They told me to forget everything I'd ever known or thought I knew, they taught me to shoot first and ask questions later, they told me that if I wanted to survive, I would turn myself into a machine. So I shut my mouth, and I shut my ears and my heart, and I didn't hear the screaming of the people that died, or the pleading of the women who’s husbands we took away in the night, or the motherless children who begged for food and water. It was easy for me to ignore these things, to pretend that they didn’t affect me, because I was so afraid. I was afraid of dying, more afraid of being crippled, and even more afraid of what might happen to me if I was ever captured. I was so afraid of this that I swore that I would never surrender to the enemy, and for this purpose, I kept a spare bullet with me at all times, so that I could take my own life if necessary.
By the time I was nineteen I had learned that the natural human reaction to fear is hatred, shortly followed violence. Because any Iraqi might potentially pose a threat, all were treated as the enemy, and eventually, as casualties mounted and families fell apart back home, abusing them was seen as a simple matter of revenge. Wether it be demolishing their homes with our tanks, handcuffing and publicly beating them in front of their families, destroying their livestock and burning down their places of business, kid-napping entire male populations of villages to be tortured in secret prisons, refusing basic medical care to mothers with dying children, cheering from roof-tops while entire apartment complexes were leveled by C-130 gun ships, or even covering up the wrongful deaths of local civilians. I speak not of rumors or of hear-say, I speak of what I have seen with my own eyes, and what I have done with my own hands. Because of our hatred for the Iraqis, and our fear of our own corrupt and abusive leadership, none of these occurrences were ever questioned, they were simply seen as the way things had to be.
Now I’m not here to tell you war stories, and I’m not here to shock you, none of these things should come as a surprise to any of you. We’ve seen it all before throughout history; the countless times we’ve murdered each other by the thousands, and by the millions, over nothing. Wether we’re talking about Iraq, or Vietnam, the 1st World War, or even our own Civil War, all of these tragedies, these fools’ errands, have had one thing in common besides fear, hatred, and death. All of them directly resulted from the same pointless and idiotic logic, the same greed for wealth and power, and the same disregard for the sanctity of human life.
Well I don't know about you people, but I for one am sick and tired of being thrown to the lions every time some high-born coward decides that we need another war. I came here today, to tell these lying, yellow-bellied, chicken-hawks in Washington, that the American people are against this stupid war, and that the American people will not stand for it any longer.
I had a conversation with my father the other day and he told something that really stuck in my mind. Now Dad was in the Army back in the 60's and his father was a Captain back during the 2nd World War. What he said was this, “History has proven that the United States cannot be defeated from without. It can only be defeated from within.” They ram it down our throats every single day, that it’s, “Better to fight them over there, than over here.” What they’ve never told us is that the enemy is already here, and that they never came from places like Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Iran. They were born and raised right here in the United States, and they all live about 700 miles North of here, right across the Potomac River, in a place called Washington, D.C.

More personal and more intense is this account by Cliff of one of his tank patrols while in Iraq:

Ten Seconds
Clifton Hicks

The wind is cold and damp against the flesh of my face; the only exposed skin on my body. My shoulders ache under the strain of a thirty pound armored vest, the back of my neck grows raw from the constant friction of my rifle's heavy canvas strap. My rotten leather pistol holster constricts my lungs and digs painfully into my ribs, the bruises on my hips grow darker with each jolt against the turret ring. Every few minutes I fall asleep for a moment, perhaps a fraction of a second, awakened only when my chin touches the kevlar neck guard that is fastened tightly over my throat; I’m the only one in my platoon who still wears it. The inside cloth is oily and slick and brown, coated with two months of sweat and filth, has it really only been two months? I am utterly exhausted, I think of nothing, my mind is completely vacant.
A shot rings out, I ignore it, I'm so tired I don't even care, and besides, someone is always shooting at something around here, I wish they'd just fucking quit, this is so stupid. Another shot, followed by a few more, a bullet glances off something in the road and screams over my head, the spark remains in my eyes. I am awake now, totally awake, the kind of 'awake' that cannot be described and most people never have to experience. It's four in the afternoon right now back home, my friends graduated from high school a few months ago, I was still in basic training. Their faces flash through my mind, I can barely recall them now. I know my mother is thinking of me, can she sense what is happening to her only son? More bullets, closer this time, and these do not glance off the road but fly straight past my face, coming dead on now. I can almost taste their heat, like sitting too close to the fireplace, and the sound of a thousand bull whips crackling all around me. So this is what it's like! Just what I expected, which in turn surprises me. No fear though, I always thought I'd be afraid, thought I’d be the one to lose it, but there's no time for fear now.
I drop down inside the hull of the humvee and glance around at the faces of my comrades, they stare at me apprehensively. Someone asks if I've been hit, "No. I'm fine, I'm fine." We're moving swiftly now, the road is uneven. I lose my balance for a moment but catch myself on the 'butt strap', a canvas strap which is fastened into the turret for me, the gunner, to sit upon, though I've rarely been allowed to do so. In fourth platoon we stand fully erect with eyes scanning back and forth, 180 degrees from shoulder to shoulder, completely exposed for all the world to see and kill. He's still shooting.
I notice that his weapon is on semi-automatic, they never use semi-automatic, but not this one, his aim is true, he means to kill me. I respect him now, it's easy to admire a man like him. After all, he is not like me; a soulless mercenary who kills on a three year contract, this is his life. He hates me, I cannot hate him, but I must try to kill him. He continues to shoot at me, I wish he'd just run on home like the rest of them.
Them... how I hate Them, we all do. They are so easy to hate, so vile and treacherous, subhuman even. It's because of them that I am here in the first place, God how I hate every inch of every one of them. We will all fight to the death, we are prepared even to take our own lives rather than to fall into their hands, to be tortured, raped, and humiliated. They thieve and lie and have killed boys who were once my friends. People with whom I used to carry on intelligent conversations, laugh with, live with, and when I saw them last I never knew it would be the last. They have transformed them from men into cumbersome heaps of cold flesh, no longer anything more than a sanitation problem to be solved with the aid of a plastic bag. The blood and entrails must be scrubbed away with Simple Green and scratch pads. My first true friend in the Army was cleaned up in this way. Thank God I wasn't there, had I seen it I wouldn't be able to remember him as I do now; always a smile, always a comment worthy of note, always something interesting in mind; a husband and a son. And when he died I didn't even bother to cry, I wanted to, I even tried a little bit, but that was stupid, and wrong. No need to lie to yourself my friend, you are no longer human and everyone knows it.
Pulling myself up, using the butt strap for leverage, I bring my eyes up just far enough to peer over the lip of the turret ring. Where is this motherfucker? I take a look around.... there he is! Not 'him' per say, but a tiny flash of light, followed by the report of a rifle and the sound of a bullet striking concrete or metal, I never learned to tell the difference. I look down at the orange handle which will unlock the turret and allow me to swing it around, pointing the machine gun in his direction. No, there is no time for all that, with the way this humvee's leaning and rocking I'd never be able to do it. The gun alone weighs nearly eighty pounds, it's the old kind, a 'fifty cal'. Besides, he’s standing on the roof of an apartment building, and I imagine a family huddled inside their cramped home. They are poor and the weather is cold so they sleep in the same room, probably without beds. I will not send a score of fifty caliber bullets into that building, to grind and shred the flesh of three generations with one flick of my pathetic thumb, my thumb that is only eighteen years old. I'm not that inhuman, not that cruel, not yet at least.
No, but I will use my rifle. Now I am ready, now I have a purpose. No longer will I cower inside this armored hull and take whatever he chooses to give me, now I will give him something, I will take control, I will kill him. I bring the rifle to my shoulder, the same kind my father and uncles carried when they were in the service. What a loathsome object, it's black steel and plastic lay cold and lifeless in my hands, much like the corpses it was designed to create, incapable of human warmth. I place the tip of my nose on the charging handle, shut my left eye, and peer into the sight hole.
Now I am in a different world entirely. A still, silent void that has but one entrance. You cannot reach it through meditation or by ingesting some strange plant, not even in death can one find it. This man-made world can be glimpsed only through the sights of a rifle, only when it is pointed at a living thing. Here there is no God, no Hell, no consequences and certainly no remorse, those will all come later. For the time being he and I are completely alone, oblivious to the outside world.
Now the moment of truth. Am I really going to go through with this? Can I? Oh yes, I can, and I will, I must. This man is attacking you and your comrades, it is your duty as the gunner of this vehicle to kill him as soon as possible. This is your time, you are responsible for the lives of these men inside this humvee. I hope... I know that they would do the same for me. Now I'm nervous, my knees tremble, I feel like a kid who's just been caught stealing. For an instant I can clearly see his bullet coming for me, flying straight towards my face, I vividly imagine the impact. Switch the safety off, take a moment to blink your eyes and breathe. Let me wait and see one more muzzle flash before I strike, let him reveal himself just once more. Oh what sweet satisfaction I am about to receive! Two months of misery and a lost childhood because of you, damn you, I finally get to kill one of you now. I will use you as the object of my vengeance, this is for everything you have done to my life and to my family, you alone will pay the price, tonight. I think of nothing else now but my own misery and suffering, selfish I know, to kill a man and not even think about him. Then my wish comes true, I see one last flash of light, he has sealed his fate. Instantly I readjust my hands, he's fairly close so I aim a little lower than usual, just like they taught us at Ft. Knox. And now I can feel the trigger. In this moment I think of my father, who always taught me to 'squeeze' a trigger, never to 'pull' it, so, ever so slightly, I begin to squeeze. The movement of my index finger is barely perceptable to the human eye, it curls inward only millimeters per second, when the rifle finally discharges it's almost unexpected. A shell casing jingles against the floor, I taste smoke, and the guilty finger now points at no one but me.
My enemy, my peer, a man who I have even come to admire in the last few seconds, stops firing immediately. I raise my cheek from the rifle and look at him. I see him for the first time, nothing more than a black silhouette against a midnight sky, but I see him. He goes down behind the edge of the roof. I never see him again, I never learn his name or his lineage, I never learn what became of him.
Later the next morning, when the patrol is over, after I've refueled the humvee and dismounted the weapons, I'm congratulated by my friends. I am quiet and expressionless, though I'm not upset, not at all. I sit down alone on my cot and disassemble my rifle, the one I used against my enemy, the brother I never had, the only man who has ever faced me as a natural equal. The smell of the spent bullet is strong, but the weapon is mostly clean, after all it was only one shot. I slide a piece of tissue paper through the barrel with a thin rod and push it back and forth, causing me to smile as I recall some past sexual encounter. Soon the paper is plucked from the breech, bearing it’s little sunburst of black residue. I wipe off each metal part, coating them with fresh oil, and reassemble them slowly, methodically. This rifle did not fail me in my hour of need, it may have even saved my life. I imagine the next soldier who will carry it after I have gone on, after I have shed this awful uniform forever, will he ever know of the sin it has committed this night? How many people did you kill before I took you from the rack? I push such thoughts aside and am asleep in a matter of seconds.

Informed Comment

Informed Comment
Claims on MSNBC of a droppping casualty count for US soldiers are responded to by Juan Cole with this:
It is only late October and already more US troops were killed in Iraq in 2007 than in all of 2006. Indeed, 2007 will almost certainly hold the record for the year of the most US military deaths since the war began.

According to the Iraq Casualties Site, these are the yearly numbers of death of US military personnel in Iraq:

Year US Deaths
2003 486
2004 849
2005 846
2006 822
2007 832 (by October )

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Not-So-Horrible Thing Happens In Iraq | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Not-So-Horrible Thing Happens In Iraq | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Sometimes only the Onion can really tell the truth, or tell it by not telling it!

"BAGHDAD—In a development Pentagon officials are calling not nearly as horrifying as usual, three car bombs ripped through a Baghdad marketplace Monday, killing fewer than 15 innocent civilians, severely injuring no more than 30, and merely maiming one U.S. soldier."

"Not bad—not bad at all," said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, who claimed the attack is conclusive proof that the tide in Iraq is somewhat turning in a vaguely less-ghastly direction. "This is hardly the parade of death and destruction we've grown accustomed to. In fact, I've recently received word that our injured soldier isn't even going to lose his other leg."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

AlterNet: Blogs: Video: What If The Military Advertised With Disclaimers? [VIDEO]

AlterNet: Blogs: Video: What If The Military Advertised With Disclaimers? [VIDEO]:

"A commercial that gives an honest account of what US military service would really mean?"

Does a take-off of pharmaceutical ads with disclaimers.

A Tale of Two Atrocities — Blackwater and Haditha -

A Tale of Two Atrocities — Blackwater and Haditha -

"During the course of this trial (Haditha), we learned that Marine rules of engagement allowed them to shoot in the back unarmed people running away from the scene of a car bomb explosion, even if there was no reason to connect them with the attack. We learned that in the second assault on Fallujah (in November 2004), approved procedure was to “clear” rooms by tossing in fragmentation grenades blind — even though initial estimates were that perhaps as many as 50,000 civilians remained in the town — and that many Marines used the same technique afterward in other areas. We learned about the routine practice of dead-checking — if a man is wounded, instead of offering him medical aid, shoot him again, on the principle that “If somebody is worth shooting once, they’re worth shooting twice.” One of the Marines testified in the hearings that they were taught this practice in boot camp."

Remember that these Marines are young Americans who, if they survive, bring home their training in these rules of engagement and their deprogramming on the rules of our own society. Don't believe for a second the lie that we are fighting the over there to avoid fighting over here - its coming home. America will deal with the results of these practices for decades to come in the form of broken families, homelessness, increasing violent crime, abuse of authority and overloaded prisons (sound familiar?). And as usual what is true for American families is true in spades for Iraqi families and Iraqi society. But if we have no compassion and empathy for our own children, especially if they are poor, how can we possibly have any for Families in a far away land?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Watada's Double Jeopardy

Watada's Double Jeopardy

The Nation, October 12, 2007

The Watada case has presented a serious challenge to the military. As Daniel Ellsberg put it, "Lt. Ehren Watada--who still faces trial for refusing to obey orders to deploy to Iraq, which he correctly perceives to be an unconstitutional and aggressive war--is the single officer in the United States armed services who is taking seriously...his oath."

While evidence of the war's illegality was barred in Watada's court-martial, his position is grounded in military law and doctrine. At a National Press Club luncheon February 17, 2006, just a year before Watada's court-martial, Gen. Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked, "Should people in the US military disobey orders they believe are illegal?"

Pace's response: "It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral."

The Army wants to sentence Ehren Watada to six years in the brig for the crime of trying to fulfill that absolute responsibility.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Death and Taxes 2008 Poster - $24.95 : ..., The Entire Federal Government... in 6 Square Feet

Death and Taxes 2008 Poster - $24.95 : ..., The Entire Federal Government... in 6 Square Feet

This is an interactive flash version of the Federal Budget. Check out our Government's priorities - where they are really putting the money!

Marines Press to Remove Their Forces From Iraq - New York Times

Marines Press to Remove Their Forces From Iraq - New York Times

Unfortunately they just want to move them to Afghanistan (the other war we are losing in the Middle East).

U.S. must face huge death toll of Iraqi civilians --

U.S. must face huge death toll of Iraqi civilians --

"News report tallies suggest that about 75,000 Iraqis have died since the U.S.-led invasion. But a study of 13 war-affected countries presented at a recent Harvard conference found that more than 80 percent of violent deaths in conflicts go unreported by the press and governments."

"... last month, the respected British polling firm ORB released the results of a poll estimating that 22 percent of households had lost a member to violence during the occupation of Iraq, equating to 1.2 million deaths. "

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Warrior Writers Project

The Warrior Writers Project

We tell stories and we listen to stories in order to live. To stay conscious. To connect one with another. To understand consequences. To keep history. To rebuild civilization.

Why I fight and why we all must. - AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth

Why I fight and why we all must. - AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth

Even General Patraeus can't say that we are safer because of the war in Iraq. During our troop surge the Iraqi government fell apart. We have granted amnesty to Sunni militias in Anbar with American blood on their hands, and we are now arming and financing them out of desperation to stop the violence. We are doing the same for Shiite militias loyal to Al Sadr who is a mass murderer of US troops. The Iraqi government, police force, and security forces are rampant with corruption. Is this the Iraq that our troops were sent off to die for? If Bush cared the slightest bit I would love to ask him that question.

Now it has been suggested by General Petraeus that the surge has been such a success that we can bring home 30,000 troops by this summer. Really? That would mean that if there were any gains made by the surge they will evaporate almost immediately into thin air. We will be right back were we started with fewer troops in an extremely hostile environment -- The Rumsfeld Doctrine. What then? Do we have another surge? Is that possible with a broken military? OF COURSE NOT.

Bush and his loyalists in Congress won't even allow our troops to rest after mulitple deployments that go above and beyond the call of duty.

During the last Democratic presidential debate the front runners for the nomination could not even guarantee that our troops would be home by the end of their first term in 2013. For me that is just tragic to hear.

The American people want an end to this war so badly. If the politicians will not listen it is our duty as Americans to make them listen. We owe it to our country and our troops to ensure that our members of Congress no longer allow themselves to be bullied by a coward like George W. Bush. If Bush vetoes legislation for our troops and an end to the war Congress must shove it right back in his face. We must act now while there is still a chance to make Congress do their job as a co-equal branch of government and start bringing this war to an end. They need to be equally as defiant as Bush has been for the last 7 years and fight fire with fire when it comes to this President. After all, that is what we elected them to do.

I will fight for an end to this war with my last breath. We all must.

John Bruhns
Iraq Veteran

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Truthdig - Reports - Iraq Will Have to Wait

Truthdig - Reports - Iraq Will Have to Wait

Here’s the danger: While the antiwar movement focuses its limited resources on trying to leverage real congressional opposition to the war in Iraq, which simply will not happen before the 2008 election, the Bush administration and its Democratic opponents will outflank the antiwar movement on the issue of Iran, pushing forward an aggressive agenda in the face of light or nonexistent opposition.

Of the two problems (the reality of Iraq, the potential of Iran), Iran is by far the more important. The war in Iraq isn’t going to expand tenfold overnight. By simply doing nothing, the Democrats can rest assured that Bush’s bad policy will simply keep failing. War with Iran, on the other hand, can still be prevented. We are talking about the potential for conflict at this time, not the reality of war. But time is not on the side of peace.

Southpinellas: Vets get a peaceful welcome

Southpinellas: Vets get a peaceful welcome
ST. PETERSBURG - The last time Veterans for Peace members set foot on a Pinellas County high school campus, uniformed police officers escorted them off the premises.

Members of the antiwar group Veterans for Peace Patricia Boynton, left, and Linda Hubner talk to students Michael Bianchi, 14, and Danniel Martinez, 15, right, in the Dixie Hollins lunchroom. Boynton and Hubner began visiting Pinellas County schools Friday.