Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This article, by Dahr Jamail, was posted to Truthout, September 28, 2009.
Afghanistan war resister Travis Bishop has been held largely “incommunicado” in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Bishop, who is being held by the military as a “prisoner of conscience,” according to Amnesty International, was transported to Fort Lewis on September 9 to serve a 12-month sentence in the Regional Correctional Facility. He had refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan based on his religious beliefs, and had filed for Conscientious Objector (CO) status.
Bishop, who served a 13-month deployment to Iraq and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, was court marshaled by the Army for his refusal to deploy to Afghanistan. Given that he had already filed for CO status, many local observers called his sentencing a “politically driven prosecution.”
By holding Bishop incommunicado, the military violated Bishop’s legal right to counsel, a violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, according to his civil defense attorney James Branum.
The Sixth Amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions in federal courts, and reads, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”
Attorney LeGrande Jones, who practices in Olympia and was designated by Branum as the local counsel for Bishop, was also denied access to Bishop, on the grounds that Jones was on an unnamed and unobtainable “watch-list,” which constitutes deprivation of counsel.
Jones was denied entry to Fort Lewis and told he would never be allowed to enter the base. Fort Lewis authorities never gave him a reason for his being denied access to the base and his client. To this, Branum told Truthout, “Fort Lewis authorities have a duty to tell LeGrande the reasons why he is being barred from Fort Lewis, and therefore [barred] from communicating with his client in the Fort Lewis brig.”
Until September 18, Bishop’s condition was unclear due to his having been completely cut off from the public.
Branum, who is the legal adviser to the Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline and co-chair of the Military Law Task Force, also represents Leo Church, another war resister being held at Fort Lewis.
Church, who was also stationed at Fort Hood, went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) to prevent his wife and children from becoming homeless. The fact that he was unable to financially support his family off his military pay alone dictated that Church seek other means to support them. With his pleas to the military for assistance going unheeded, he opted to go AWOL in order to support his dependents.
According to Branum, “Church received eight months jail time because he put the safety and welfare of his children over his obligation to the Army. Leo tried to get help from his unit, but was denied.”
Branum told Truthout that Church had been able to contact him while at Fort Lewis, but the call was monitored by a guard, violating his attorney-client privilege.
Gerry Condon, with Project Safe Haven (an advocacy group for GI resisters in Canada), and a veteran himself as a member of the Greater Seattle Veterans for Peace, told Truthout he believes Bishop and Church are being held in a way that is both “intolerable and unconstitutional.”
Condon, who is working to try to support both Bishop and Church, told Truthout, “They are denied all visitors, except for immediate family, clergy and legal counsel [legal counsel is limited at this time]. No friends or fiancés. This is not the normal practice at other brigs.”
Branum told Truthout he feels that how Bishop and Church are being treated at Fort Lewis is “part of a broader pattern the military has of just throwing people in jail and not letting them talk to their attorneys, not let visitors come, and this is outrageous. In the civilian world even murderers get visits from their friends.”
Speaking further of the conditions in which the military is holding Bishop and Church, Condon added, “Fort Lewis authorities have made it virtually impossible for Bishop and Church to make phone calls. They must first get money on their calling account. This must be done by money order and according to several other similarly prohibitive procedures. And the money may not be credited to the account until a month after it is received. Plus, officials at the Fort Lewis brig must approve the names of people that can be called.”
Condon told Truthout, “Travis Bishop is a leader in what has become an international GI resistance movement that is attempting to bring troops home from both occupations by following their consciences and international law. They deserve all the support we can give them, especially while they are in prison - they are owed their constitutional liberties.”
Branum told Truthout that as far as he knows, he may well be the only person on Bishop’s call list.
Both Bishop and Church have been prevented from adding any names to their respective “authorized contacts” lists (even for family members), which effectively cuts them off from almost all contact with the outside world. According to Branum, mail and commissary funds sent by friends and supporters will likely be “returned to sender” due to what he feels is “a cruel and inhumane policy.”
In addition, there are no work programs at the Fort Lewis brig, nor any classes available for soldiers to take while they are incarcerated. Generally, work programs and/or classes are available for incarcerated soldiers.
“By participating in work programs and school classes, soldiers being held in brigs can get time cut off their sentences,” Branum explained to Truthout, “But these don’t exist at Fort Lewis, so that means Travis and Leo can’t get time taken off their sentences. Travis will do a minimum of 10 months, and could have theoretically worked an additional month off his sentence if Fort Lewis had these programs.”
Branum, who is the lead attorney for both Bishop and Church, told Truthout the actions of officials at Fort Lewis violate his clients’ constitutional rights.
“Bishop and Church’s defense team and supporters are in the process of negotiating with Fort Lewis officials to ensure transparency and that Bishop and Church’s legal rights are being met,” Branum stated in a press release on the matter that was published on September 17. “The unusual circumstances of isolation of these soldiers is unquestionably illegal. If Fort Lewis doesn’t change its ways, we will be forced to go to court and demand justice.”
On September 18, officials at Fort Lewis finally allowed Branum to speak with Bishop on the telephone, but not privately.
Bishop was accompanied by two guards, who monitored his conversation with Branum. In addition, Fort Lewis authorities claimed that the recently rebuilt/remodeled brig does not yet have proper facilities to facilitate a private telephone conversation.
Speaking further about the conversation he was finally allowed to have with Bishop, Branum added, “In the phone call we did get to do, they still refused to let Travis talk to me privately. He actually had two guards in the room with him the entire time, which obviously negates any compliance with attorney-client privilege. And presumably the phone call was taped (all of the other brigs have special rooms for attorney calls, that have phone lines to the outside that are not taped) which is completely unconstitutional. The brig of course will say, “well we won’t listen to that tape” but that is bullshit, and it is illegal.”
“The only reason they [Fort Lewis authorities] let me talk to Travis on Friday [September 18] was that he was finally “medically cleared,” Branum told Truthout, “This took 10 days in this case, and it looks like this is their standard operating procedure, which is completely wrong.”
When Truthout questioned the public affairs office at Fort Lewis about Bishop’s situation, we were told all matters were being handled “legally, and according to standard operating procedure,” and “any wrongdoing would be investigated.”
Branum added, “They are giving the excuse that “we don’t have the secure room for attorney phone calls set up yet,” but can’t tell me when they are going to have the room set up.”
Branum and Jones are planning to file a lawsuit against Fort Lewis in the near future, specifically targeting the denial of attorney-client privilege.
Both soldiers are being supported by two GI resistance cafes: Under the Hood cafe (in Killeen, Texas, near Fort Hood) and Coffee Strong (in Tacoma, Washington, near Fort Lewis).
This announcement was posted to the Coffee Strong Facebook Page
Seattle Evening with Dahr Jamail to Support Coffee Strong Brown Paper Tickets on Sale NOW at September 27, ’09, 6:30 pm University Temple United Methodist Church 1415 NE 43rd Street, Seattle For Parking instructions and purchasing tickets see www.coffeestrong.com Iraq and Beyond: The Real Story . Independent journalist Dahr Jamail, reporting from the Middle East for the last five years, will speak about the Iraq war, and resistance within the U.S. military as a result of both the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Jamail writes for the:
Inter Press Service & Le Monde Diplomatique,
reports for Democracy Now, the BBC, & NPR, as well as stations globally;
received the Martha Gelhorn Award for Journalism in 2008, and the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism
Seattle Evening with Dahr Jamail to Support Coffee StrongBrown Paper Tickets on Sale NOW at
Directions and Parking: located in Seattle's University District (UDistrict) directly across from the University of Washington Campus on the corner of 15th Avenue NE and NE 43rd Street near the University Bookstore. Free Parking during church services is allowed in the parking lot directly across NE 43rd Street from the Church. This lot also serves the University Bookstore.
From I-5 Northbound (coming from Tacoma, South Seattle):
Take exit number 169 toward NE 45th Street/NE 50th Street
Take the ramp toward NE 45th Street/University of Washington
Turn right onto NE 45th Street
Turn right onto 15th Avenue NE
The Church is located on the right corner of the 15th Avenue NE and 43rd Street
Church parking allowed in the parking lot directly across NE 43rd Street from the Church.
From I-5 Southbound (coming from Lynnwood, Everet):
Take exit number 169 toward NE 50th Street/NE 45th Street
Take the ramp toward NE 45 Street/University of Washington
Turn left onto NE 45th Street
Turn right onto 15th Avenue NE
The Church is located on the right corner of the 15th Avenue NE and 43rd Street
\Church parking allowed in the parking lot directly across NE 43rd Street from the Church.
To purchase a $15 ticket, please go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/71589
This announcement was just posted to the Coffee Strong Facebook Page
Coffee Strong will provide burgers, all the trimmings and a vegan alternative. BBQ is the theme, and drinks will also be provided. So bring your friends and bring $ to donate to a great cause!
"WINTER SOLDIER, a term first coined during the Vietnam War in which veterans speak out against the war industry from first hand experience. We hope to bring the US war resister movement to an international audience and we plan to organize a panel of US, Venezuelan, and possibly Colombian veterans who have all been involved in various forms of resistance against military corruption and war to present their stories side by side.
This delegation will also be an effort to explore free speech and community media as an integral element of social movements, networking with independent media groups in Venezuela and producing a documentary.
Even a quick look at some happenings of the last month and we can see
why, but it goes deep. With the ongoing tension between the US economic imperialist agenda and the growing wave of Latin American socialist/??populist movements particularly in Venezuela, the smear campaigns against Chavez as a dictator; the recent military coup in Honduras (country mostly to become a member of ALBA*), led by officials trained at the School of the Americas; the continued efforts of Plan Colombia "drug war" and 5 new US military bases in Colombia (country with notoriously corrupt US backed government, that borders
Venezuela to the west) we start to see how intrinsically connected we
are across the Americas.
* ALBA- Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas is the growing Venezuelan led alternative to the neoliberal model of regional and international trade agreements such as FTAA and NAFTA which focuses on social accountability, market integration through mutual aid.
Venezuela has been undergoing a Bolivarian Revolution led by the people; we want to connect with them, witness their organizing efforts, share with them our experiences of community organizing in Portland as an example of resistance within the US, and continue to foster a grassroots connection of the people beyond borders and beyond what the corporate media tells us is going on across the globe.
By learning from each others we can build solidarity of transnational activism and bring home inspirations and new ideas to strengthen work in our own community. Movements against global corporate imperialism require global grassroots communities. Delegates include Iraq War veterans, student organizers, community media activists and peace activists.
The peace and media delegation will be traveling to Venezuela on September 3rd for 10 days. During which time we will meet with local organizers, worker occupied factories, community media collectives, organize a Winter Soldier conference. Several of the delegates will stay in Venezuela longer collecting footage and working closely with local groups.
This article, by Jeremy Schwarz, was posted to the Austin American Statesman, August 15, 2009.
KILLEEN — Past the barber shops advertising $6 military cuts, weapons stores and used car lots, an anti-war coffeehouse occupies a small wooden house on a corner of Texas' biggest Army town. Six months after opening, the Under the Hood cafe has become home to a growing number of veterans and active-duty soldiers who are beginning to question America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Less than a mile from the gates of 53,000-troop Fort Hood, the cafe is a place where soldiers, many of them fresh off of multiple deployments, can swap stories and ideas without fear of retribution, its supporters say.
It has also become a refuge for soldiers who are refusing to deploy — or are thinking about it — including Spc. Victor Agosto, who last week was sentenced to 30 days in jail for refusing an order. Another Fort Hood soldier, Sgt. Travis Bishop, an Iraq veteran who has applied for conscientious objector status, was sentenced Friday to a year in federal prison for refusing to deploy with his unit to Afghanistan.
Not since the heyday of the Oleo Strut coffeehouse, the hub for the anti-war movement in Killeen during the Vietnam War, has such an enterprise thrived here. But unlike its predecessor, which closed in 1972, Under the Hood has for its driving force a newcomer to the peace movement, a 17-year Army wife with no history of activism.
The cafe is run by Cynthia Thomas, a former stay-at-home mom who didn't become politically active until 2007, when her husband, a Fort Hood soldier, was sent on his third deployment to Iraq. Thomas said she was furious about his deployment; she said her husband was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other maladies from a previous tour. When her stepson decided to join the Marines, she said she felt compelled to take a stand against the war.
At first she sought to connect to a group in Killeen. But finding no anti-war organizations in her adopted hometown, she stumbled on Code Pink, a group of anti-war activists from Austin. She became involved with the group and eventually crossed paths with former and current Fort Hood soldiers active in a local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
With help from an original staff member of the Oleo Strut, they hatched the idea of a coffeehouse near the Army post. But making it happen proved harder than Thomas imagined.
"We went through four Realtors and just got stonewalled," Thomas said. "At the end we just said we wanted to do an outreach center, which was true, because if you said a peace house they didn't want anything to do with it."
Despite the initial resistance, Thomas said the response has been positive at the cafe, a homey place lined with couches and a help-yourself coffee bar.
"We've had no negativity from the soldiers that come in," she said. "At first they come in and they're looking around and a little uncomfortable, but then they come back. They feel they can come and talk to the regulars and get that peer support."
Most of the soldiers at Under the Hood are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder; some are suicidal or self-medicating heavily with alcohol or drugs, Thomas said. The most extreme cases are referred to a counselor in Austin.
Others just need a place to curl up on the couch for a few hours or feel safe from the ridicule they say they would receive in their barracks for talking about their feelings and ideas.
"If you come home and you don't feel anything about (what you've gone through), then there's something wrong with you," said Malachi Muncy, who served two tours in Iraq with the Texas National Guard and is a regular visitor to Under the Hood. "It's helped me get over my issues, mainly by talking with people with the same issues. It's nice to be around other soldiers who aren't going be like, 'Suck it up.' "
Muncy drove a 42-wheel super heavy equipment transporter during his first tour of Iraq in 2004, as U.S. troops began seeing a surge in roadside bombings. "It was a really bad time to be driving a truck," he said.
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and says he struggled to adjust when he returned. He eventually decided to volunteer for a second deployment.
"I said, 'I don't have to adjust; I can just go back to Iraq,' " he said.
Bobby Whittenberg is another Iraq war veteran who often talks with active-duty soldiers at the coffee shop. A former Marine who now lives in Austin, Whittenberg was shot in Iraq in 2004 and said he faced harassment and ridicule when he sought help for his post-traumatic stress disorder from military officials.
"They were like, 'You're letting your brothers down; you're scared to go back,' " said Whittenberg, a Purple Heart recipient.
After leaving active duty in 2006, Whittenberg moved to San Antonio to be closer to the Veterans Affairs hospital there. He has become something of a mentor to younger soldiers.
"I personally try to challenge them to think for themselves," he said. "They're in a very authoritarian, hierarchical lifestyle where it becomes very difficult to challenge authority."
Several active-duty soldiers at Fort Hood who go to Under the Hood said that despite the Army's efforts to reduce the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder, soldiers who seek help are still labeled bad apples by some superiors. One soldier, who would not give his name because he feared retribution, said the Army needs to do more to support soldiers when they return from war.
"When you get back, you're released, and it's like, drink as much as you can and party," he said. "No one tells you that just makes you feel more depressed."
In recent years, military officials have sought to place more attention on the mental health of returning soldiers. At Fort Hood, officials have opened a Spiritual Fitness Center, which seeks to help soldiers and their families deal with the stresses of multiple deployments. That's part of a larger Resiliency Campus, which Army officials say will help combat alarming numbers of soldier suicides. And Fort Hood's commander, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, has also talked frequently of removing the stigma associated with soldiers seeking mental health help.
But some solders say places like Under the Hood play a vital role.
"I know soldiers who said, 'If I didn't have the coffeehouse, I would have killed myself,' " said James Branum, an attorney who has represented about 20 war resisters around the country.
Bishop, the sergeant who was court-martialed for refusing to deploy, said the coffee shop provided much-needed friendship.
"They support you whether your decision is to deploy or to resist," he said. "People think that it's an anti-military place. That's not true at all. It's incredibly pro-soldier. They are just against these wars."
Under the Hood is among a handful of what supporters hope is a growing number of GI coffeehouses around the country. Similar cafes have opened outside of Fort Lewis in Washington state and Fort Drum in New York.
It's still a far cry from the Vietnam era, when some 20 GI coffeehouses such as the Oleo Strut sprang up near military bases around the country and were credited with crystallizing the GI anti-war movement. The Killeen coffeehouse operated from 1968 to 1972, receiving visitors such as Jane Fonda and a young Stevie Ray Vaughan and producing an underground newspaper, according to Thomas Cleaver, a member of Oleo Strut's original staff who helped Under the Hood get on its feet.
Supporters at Under the Hood say the current conflicts are different: During Vietnam, many soldiers were draftees and more likely to be open in their opposition to the war.
"We know this is a different time and a different war," said Fran Hanlon, an Under the Hood board member from Austin. "We had trepidation (about opening the cafe), but we were also really excited about the potential."
The Coffee Strong GI Coffeehouse is asking GIs stationed at Ft. Lewis to submit nominations for the worst Lt. at Ft. Lewis. To nominate your Lt., or read existing nominations, Click Here. On July 10, the following was posted
I kid you not, My first Lt. would use a gps and a plugger and still couldn't get the platoon from point A to point B.
We would do night ops and end up driving around the desert until the sun came up because of his incompetence.
My driver told me he'd seen the Lt. use a compass inside the Humvee. I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.
Why is it that the military thinks a college degree qualifies someone to be an officer?
Saturday, May 9th at Noon, Meet at Coffee Strong, 15109 Union Ave SW in Lakewood
From Coffee Strong we will proceed to Freedom Bridge which leads to the gates of Fort Lewis where we will distribute information and educate soldiers about their rights. The event will conclude at COFFEE STRONG where soldiers and participants will be entertained by fire dancers and live music. COFFEE STRONG is located off of exit 122 on I-5, just across the interstate from Fort Lewis.
On May 9th the IVAW Ft. Lewis will begin its Stop Stop-Loss Campaign. Right now Fort Lewis, the largest military base on the West Coast, is preparing to deploy three infantry brigades to Iraq and Afghanistan over the next four months. This means that 10,000 soldiers will be leaving to serve in occupations foreign occupations.
IVAW will assemble with other groups in the community to rally against the systematic mistreatment of soldiers that is necessary to maintain the military's current op-tempo. These injustices include:
Stop-loss: When soldiers join the Army they sign a contract that indentures them for a selected number of years. Often soldiers who are ready to leave the Army are involuntarily extended so that they can deploy for an additional year or more. The practice of stop-loss is evidence that soldiers are not willing to fight in these wars. It is our responsibility to demonstrate to these soldiers that the community supports them, even if the army wishes to put them in harms way against their will.
Mental and Medical Health Care- Given the fast pace of training and deployment, commanders often discourage soldiers from seeking mental and medical health care. Many soldiers who have wounds and mental issues from previous deployments are denied access to the health care that they desperately need. Absent of mental and medical health care, many soldiers self-medicate to alleviate the mental and physical pain from which they suffer. This leads to drunken driving, arrests, and disciplinary action against soldiers.
Military Sexual Trauma- According to the Department of Defense, one in three women are sexually assaulted in the course of their military careers. The DOD acknowledges that sexual assault is underreported. The Army goes to great pains to keep instances of sexual assault quiet. On Fort Lewis, if a victim reports the incident to anyone outside of her chain of command, the victimizer will be notified. This practice ensures that victims rarely speak out, protecting commanders and sexual predators from scrutiny.
IVAW Fort Lewis will be joining with other groups from the community to hold a rally outside the gates of Fort Lewis to demonstrate our support of these soldiers who are being exploited by the military. The anti war-community needs to show service people and their families that they are not suffering alone.
Call Coffee Strong at 253-581-1565 with questions or for more information.
Coffee Strong is a G.I. coffeehouse and internet cafe owned and operated by G.I. Voice, an organization of recent vets and civillian supporters. In addition to coffee, computers and free wifi, we have concerts, events, and movie nights.
We also have resorces for service members, their families, and veterans facing service-related issues such as deployment, PTSD, sexual assault, and command grievances.
Coffee Strong serves as a safe space for service members, military families and military veterans to discuss issues like war, deployment, PTSD, and the hardships of life in the military.
Open Monday - Friday, 7am to 7pm Saturday and Sunday 9am to 7 pm (open later for special events)
Location: 15109 Union Ave SW #2, Lakewood WA 98498 (next door to Subway - see below for map)