Saturday, March 15, 2008

Racism and War: The Dehumanization of the Enemy: Part One

Saturday March 15th, 11:00AM - 1:00Pm

Chair: Liam Madden a Vermont Marine

Liam introduced the Panel with this statement: "Making the the enemy into something less than human is fundamental to prosecuting a war."
He thanked the Panelists for "making us all human".

Scott Ewing: Deployed to Iraqin 2004 - 5 in an Army Calvary Unit in Talafar. His unit was held up as an example by President Bush of a model counterinsurgency.

Scott was a guard for a Bradley fighting vehicle. His unit was charged with protecting a hospital. A fire fight broke out as soon as they arrived. Iraqi troops were stationed in the hospital and on the roof. In 2005 as part of Operation Restoring Rights they performed a sweep of Tal Afar removing weapons and searched houses. About 8000 US and Iraqi troops were involved. The search was fairly respectful at that time. One section was known as a haven for insurgents. Residents were evacuated and the neighbor hood was bombs for several days. This was followed by a more aggressive search of that neighborhood. No weapons or insurgents were found except for rusty saws, rags and belts. The sweep was then expanded to an adjacent neighborhood where males were detained arbitrarily.
Ewing comments on the statements by General Barry McCaffrey about effective counterinsurgency techniques which were not followed in Tal Afar which he wrote to McCaffrey about.

Jeffery Smith: Stationed at Camp Anaconda on security detail at the front gate. processed civilian workers and searched trucks. Beating and abuse of the Iraqi workers was routine as they entered the base.

Smith describes a house raid in which they abused and zip tied an entire family including the children only to find they had the wrong address.
Jeffery's turning point was one evening when the "hard core" platoon form his unit was out on patrol and shot a farmer who was working in his field apparently trying to fix a pump. The man left 14 children and not restitution was paid for his death. On patrol his quad leader entertained himself by shooting people's animals such as dogs tied up in front yards.
Jeff ends by appologize to the Iraqi people for actions he helped to do and for actions of his unit while in Iraq.

11:40: Mike Totten
Deployed to Iraq and served in Karbala.
Mike addresses the arrogance and racist attitudes use in language such as the term "haji" which he describes as a device that allowed the unit to separate themselves from the Iraqi people so they could allow themselves to do harm to them. His unit accidentally struck and killed an iraqi child and after ascertaining h was dead the unit drove off leaving the dead child in the street.
Mike praises the leadership of his unit. His unit was assigned to run a jail in Karbala. The day after his unit lost a man six prisoners were brought in by Iraqi soldiers who showed signs of beating and Mike and his fellow soldiers (including Polish, Bulgarian and Iraqis) in the presence of his lieutenant of beatings. These prisoners
Mike closes with "General Petraeus you maynnot remember me but you onces led me. You are no longer a leader of men but have turned to fight for your own personal gain" And he tore up infornt of us an award given to him personally by Petraeus while in Iraq.

11:50 Camillo Mejia who was sentenced to prison for refusing to redeploy to Iraq.
Army Staff Sargent Mejia refused to beat and humiliate his own men and ran afoul of his commanders because of it. He states that the abuse that occurs in Iraq did not begin in Iraq. It begins here at home.

Camillo saw his fellow soldiers change from people he respected and was friends with to brutal occupiers. He describes the abuse of hooded zip tied prisoners by using guns, loud noises, sensory deprivation. Camillo states that is difficult to "act on your own humanity" when all the information your receive is about how they are going to kill you. He describes how he completely blanks out the memory of terrible things that happened to people such as the child who saw his father decapitated by a machine gun. He only knows this happened because others told him about it.
War is dehumanizing the people of this country and destroying the people and country of Iraq. He calls for a complete and unconditional withdrawl form Iraq.

12:10: Michael Leduc
As he patrolled in Iraq the rules of engagement allowed his unit to destroy property and kill anyone who appeared to pose a threat. Michel says he was very young and naive at the time he was in Iraq and describes himself as "breaking the rules by following them"

12:20: Bryan Casler, Rochester Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War
Served as a Marine in kuwait and Iraq in 2003 invasion and his unit was given the mission of guarding General Tommy Franks. He participated in the initial invasion. He watched other Marines give Iraqi children food they had urinated and defecated into. He watched the destruction of ancient ruins with Humvees being driven up and down the walls. Marine training was used against other Marines and against civilians at the instigation.
Marine corp distinguish themselves and "better that other people" including other military. Dehumanizing language such as a morning greeting such a "Urrgh kill babies"
His unit was ordered to destroy records from the mayors office in Falluja. These records turned out to be all the birth certificates for the city of Falluja.
Bryan describes how he began to be aware that American deaths affected him much more than did Iraqi deaths.
Bryan sums up undefined mission and negative peer pressure as the main influences combined with Marine training produces a situation where "all you have is hammers and everything you find is nails".

12:35: Matthew Childers - Marine -
His unit was tasked with guarding prisoners for about a week and Matthew describes how they were taunted with food and water, showed them pornography which was offensive to them as muslims and beaten. He did not observe the prisoners being allowed to eat or sleep during that week. During both his tours he heard the term hadji's up and down the chain of command. Matthew participated in early morning raids of houses. Residences and family members were abused and very few weapons or insurgents were ever found. At one time on guard duty they were forced by their command to turn away an man with a terribly burned baby in his arms. In summary Childers said during his tour in Iraq he was taught to be ruthless and merciless with the civilan population.

12:45: Sam Lynch - a conscientious objector who stayed in as a medic and served in Iraq in that capacity (here is his diary). Served medical conditions for detainees in Balad. He developed an SOP for a medical call but the doctors refused to treat them, leaving medics to do all the treatment of detainees. The doctors refused to treat the because they were not Americans.
Lynch observed that at least 60% of the detainees were released for lack of evidence. The medical neglect extended to workers on the base including construction workers and interpreters who were refused medical help.

Iraqi testimony
Mohammed Amer
Adimya, Baghdad
Describes a raid on his home when his mother was forced to choose between giving AMerican Soldiers all their money (about 13,000 dollars) or having theirr girls raped. They lost all their possessions including cloths and blankets and the family were abused for 13 hours.

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