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!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
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 Martin Fletcher, was published iun the London Times, October 9, 2009
American soldiers serving in Afghanistan are depressed and deeply disillusioned, according to the chaplains of two US battalions that have spent nine months on the front line in the war against the Taliban.
Many feel that they are risking their lives -- and that colleagues have died -- for a futile mission and an Afghan population that does nothing to help them, the chaplains told The Times in their makeshift chapel on this fortress-like base in a dusty, brown valley southwest of Kabul.
"The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families," said Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division's 2-87 Infantry Battalion.
"They feel they are risking their lives for progress that's hard to discern," said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division's 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion. "They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through." The chaplains said that they were speaking out because the men could not.
The base is not, it has to be said, obviously downcast, and many troops do not share the chaplains' assessment. The soldiers are, by nature and training, upbeat, driven by a strong sense of duty, and they do their jobs as best they can. Re-enlistment rates are surprisingly good for the 2-87, though poor for the 4-25. Several men approached by The Times, however, readily admitted that their morale had slumped.
"We're lost -- that's how I feel. I'm not exactly sure why we're here," said Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, whose closest friend was shot dead by a renegade Afghan policeman last Friday. "I need a clear-cut purpose if I'm going to get hurt out here or if I'm going to die."
Sergeant Christopher Hughes, 37, from Detroit, has lost six colleagues and survived two roadside bombs. Asked if the mission was worthwhile, he replied: "If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so, but I don't."
The only soldiers who thought it was going well "work in an office, not on the ground." In his opinion "the whole country is going to s***."
The battalion's 1,500 soldiers are nine months in to a year-long deployment that has proved extraordinarily tough. Their goal was to secure the mountainous Wardak province and then to win the people's allegiance through development and good governance. They have, instead, found themselves locked in an increasingly vicious battle with the Taliban.
They have been targeted by at least 300 roadside bombs, about 180 of which have exploded. Nineteen men have been killed in action, with another committing suicide. About a hundred have been flown home with amputations, severe burns and other injuries likely to cause permanent disability, and many of those have not been replaced. More than two dozen mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been knocked out of action.
Living conditions are good -- abundant food, air-conditioned tents, hot water, free internet -- but most of the men are on their second, third or fourth tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, with barely a year between each. Staff Sergeant Erika Cheney, Airborne's mental health specialist, expressed concern about their mental state -- especially those in scattered outposts -- and believes that many have mild post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). "They're tired, frustrated, scared. A lot of them are afraid to go out but will still go," she said.
Lieutenant Peter Hjelmstad, 2-87's Medical Platoon Leader, said sleeplessness and anger attacks were common.
A dozen men have been confined to desk jobs because they can no longer handle missions outside the base. One long-serving officer who has lost three friends this tour said he sometimes returned to his room at night and cried, or played war games on his laptop. "It's a release. It's a method of coping." He has nightmares and sleeps little, and it does not help that the base is frequently shaken by outgoing artillery fire. He was briefly overcome as he recalled how, when a lorry backfired during his most recent home leave, he grabbed his young son and dived between two parked cars.
The chaplains said soldiers were seeking their help in unprecedented numbers. "Everyone you meet is just down, and you meet them everywhere -- in the weight room, dining facility, getting mail," said Captain Rico. Even "hard men" were coming to their tent chapel and breaking down.
The men are frustrated by the lack of obvious purpose or progress. "The soldiers' biggest question is: what can we do to make this war stop. Catch one person? Assault one objective? Soldiers want definite answers, other than to stop the Taliban, because that almost seems impossible. It's hard to catch someone you can't see," said Specialist Mercer.
"It's a very frustrating mission," said Lieutenant Hjelmstad. "The average soldier sees a friend blown up and his instinct is to retaliate or believe it's for something [worthwhile], but it's not like other wars where your buddy died but they took the hill. There's no tangible reward for the sacrifice. It's hard to say Wardak is better than when we got here."
Captain Masengale, a soldier for 12 years before he became a chaplain, said: "We want to believe in a cause but we don't know what that cause is."
The soldiers are angry that colleagues are losing their lives while trying to help a population that will not help them. "You give them all the humanitarian assistance that they want and they're still going to lie to you. They'll tell you there's no Taliban anywhere in the area and as soon as you roll away, ten feet from their house, you get shot at again," said Specialist Eric Petty, from Georgia.
Captain Rico told of the disgust of a medic who was asked to treat an insurgent shortly after pulling a colleague's charred corpse from a bombed vehicle.
The soldiers complain that rules of engagement designed to minimise civilian casualties mean that they fight with one arm tied behind their backs. "They're a joke," said one. "You get shot at but can do nothing about it. You have to see the person with the weapon. It's not enough to know which house the shooting's coming from."
The soldiers joke that their Isaf arm badges stand not for International Security Assistance Force but "I Suck At Fighting" or "I Support Afghan Farmers."
To compound matters, soldiers are mainly being killed not in combat but on routine journeys, by roadside bombs planted by an invisible enemy. "That's very demoralising," said Captain Masengale.
The constant deployments are, meanwhile, playing havoc with the soldiers' private lives. "They're killing families," he said. "Divorces are skyrocketing. PTSD is off the scale. There have been hundreds of injuries that send soldiers home and affect families for the rest of their lives."
The chaplains said that many soldiers had lost their desire to help Afghanistan. "All they want to do is make it home alive and go back to their wives and children and visit the families who have lost husbands and fathers over here. It comes down to just surviving," said Captain Masengale.
"If we make it back with ten toes and ten fingers the mission is successful," Sergeant Hughes said.
"You carry on for the guys to your left or right," added Specialist Mercer.
The chaplains have themselves struggled to cope with so much distress. "We have to encourage them, strengthen them and send them out again. No one comes in and says, 'I've had a great day on a mission'. It's all pain," said Captain Masengale. "The only way we've been able to make it is having each other."
Lieutenant-Colonel Kimo Gallahue, 2-87's commanding officer, denied that his men were demoralised, and insisted they had achieved a great deal over the past nine months. A triathlete and former rugby player, he admitted pushing his men hard, but argued that taking the fight to the enemy was the best form of defence.
He said the security situation had worsened because the insurgents had chosen to fight in Wardak province, not abandon it. He said, however, that the situation would have been catastrophic without his men. They had managed to keep open the key Kabul-to-Kandahar highway which dissects Wardak, and prevent the province becoming a launch pad for attacks on the capital, which is barely 20 miles from its border. Above all, Colonel Gallahue argued that counter-insurgency -- winning the allegiance of the indigenous population through security, development and good governance -- was a long and laborious process that could not be completed in a year. "These 12 months have been, for me, laying the groundwork for future success," he said.
At morning service on Sunday, the two chaplains sought to boost the spirits of their flock with uplifting hymns, accompanied by video footage of beautiful lakes, oceans and rivers.
Captain Rico offered a particularly apposite reading from Corinthians: "We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."
This announcement was distribute by Adam at Displaced Films, October 6, 2009
Now, more than ever, you need Sir! No Sir! and related DVDs and books!
All our prices have been slashed!
Being a rebel has never been more affordable!
Picture this: A corrupt, American-installed government is losing control of the people, despite tens of thousands of U.S. troops enforcing their rule. The insurgents are gaining ground in the countryside, and U.S. air strikes have destroyed several villages, killing hundreds of civilians. The American Generals are convinced that if they can just get rid of the unpopular government and send forty thousand more troops, victory is in sight.
Sound familiar? Welcome to AfghaniNam.
And while the drums of endless war beat on, what better time to once again--and at far less cost--learn the urgent lessons of the GI Movement to end the Vietnam War.
Sir! No Sir! -- The film that critics raved about and thousands saw in theaters; the film that was like a hand grenade thrown into the invasion of Iraq; the film that helped inspire an upsurge of opposition and resistance to that invasion inside the military and among veterans--is today as timely as ever. And so are the other DVDs and books available at http://www.sirnosir.com.
If you haven't seen Sir! No Sir!...You're kidding! If you have seen Sir! No Sir! but not the DVD extras, you haven't REALLY seen Sir! No Sir! ($15.00)
If you haven't read Soldiers in Revolt, The Spitting Image, and Mission Rejected, you don't know the whole story. (Soldiers in Revolt, $12.95; The Spitting Image, $16.95
Mission Rejected, $9.95; All three, $39.95)
If you haven't seen FTA or read Jane Fonda's War, you don't know Jane. (FTA, $15.00 Jane Fonda's War, $14.95 Both, $23.95)
If you haven't seen A Night of Ferocious Joy, you haven't been inspired. ($8.00)
And if you haven't bought Sir! No Sir! in bulk and sent it to a soldier, veteran, or high school or college student, you're not doing all you can to end this madness! (5 for $35.00, 10 for $60, 15 for $75, 20 for $100) Click here to buy these and other GI resistance materials
And if you haven't watched the new web series, This Is Where We Take Our Stand, telling the inside story of the Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan investigation, do it now! (Click here to visit the site, or use links to individual episodes on the right)
The following report, from Alan S & Elaine B, was published in Military Resistance, September 28, 2009
“There were Traveling Soldiers everywhere!” reported one of our Military Project outreach group of 9. [Traveling Soldier is a newsletter produced by Military Project, featuring information for and from troops opposed to the Imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: http://www.traveling-soldier.org/]
This was eyewitness news at its best since Elaine B had actually entered the armory, the first of any of us to have done so in more than 4 ½ years of outreaching to the site.
Our valiant correspondent had been invited minutes before (on two separate occasions) by friendly officers after inquiring about a drill schedule and in the process of obtaining the schedule (yes, we now know when to go for at least another year) saw the copies of Traveling Soldier inside the armory first hand:
“I decided to cross over the line, backed by my friend RM from the Military Project. We walked right through the line of camouflage and duffel bags, up the steps and into the building. Not a peep from anyone, in fact lots of smiles and hellos.”
“We asked where the ‘office’ was, and was pointed to the elevator, told to go upstairs and it was right there.
“So we went to the elevator, and off came 4 soldiers ready to go to the buses. They smiled, we smiled and got in the elevator.
“As we did this we noticed our handouts all over the place; on desks right outside the elevator on both floors, on the steps.
“Some of the plastic bags we wrapped them in were open, and ALL of the cookies and brownies were gone!
“We went to the office and said we were there to obtain a drill schedule. Amongst at least 6 soldiers there, one female NCO, who looked familiar to me, carrying a duffel bag on her back larger than she was, said ‘oh, here...’ she turned around, reached into a wire basket on top of the room divider, and whipped around holding out the latest drill schedule for the entire year!
“She smiled and said ‘here you go!’ We said thanks so much, we'll be back!”
All this took place after a very successful outreach on 9/18/09 that distributed 98 lit packets, hundreds of snacks, 20 “Sir! No Sir!” DVDs and, for the first time a handout of 34 “Querido Camilo” DVDs. [This is a DVD featuring Camilo E. Mejia, Iraq Veterans Against The War & Military Project, who was imprisoned by the Army for refusing to return to fight in Iraq after seeing the war was wrong.]
But no matter how joyful an outreach can be, these events always remind us of the serious nature of the work and responsibilities we have toward brave people undergoing enormous, unrelenting pressures: soldiers and their families.
No outreach is successful without personal contact and this one yielded its share.
We noticed a woman dropping off a soldier and in conversation learned her fears.
She was the soldier's mother, a hospital worker, and after telling us wars are all about money “and not knowing what we're doing over there,” cited continuing verbal abuse and harassment her son was undergoing from a superior officer who was denying him promotion, thereby keeping him a truck driver, an extremely dangerous MOS when deployed.
The fatigue of her ever present concern clearly lined her face, she sighed, “but what can I do?”
We gave her a package of the publications being handed out to the soldiers, pointing out that there was information about the GI Rights Hotline inside where legal assistance was available for soldiers with harassment complaints, and also let her know how to get in touch with us if further information or contact would be helpful.
Another soldier seemed needful of telling some of us he had been to Iraq twice and didn't want to go back, so he decided to switch to the Guard thinking he wouldn't get deployed. He was a bit naive when it came to that point!
But he said that he kept his head "low" when he was in Iraq for 2 tours, one of which was 15 months, and pretty much did what they call "search and avoid" missions.
He said he was very lucky, never got into a firefight, never saw anyone killed. But hated being there. He's attending school, and hopes to return to the Middle East as a civil engineer to help build.
How many stories are there at this armory and all the others visited and unvisited?
And endless amount one would think since soldiers are as much part of the human community as non-soldiers.
It's past time to find those stories and put them in print so troops will know their true friends and allies; those willing to march with them to mutual destiny.
Are we going back in October?
Since we have the dates, how couldn't we?
This article was posted to the We Move to Canada Blog,. September 11, 2009
A lesbian who deserted the U.S. army argued before the Federal Court in Ottawa on Tuesday that she should be allowed to remain in Canada as a refugee.
Pte. Bethany Smith, also known as Skyler James, is seeking a judicial review of a decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board to reject a refugee claim. Smith said she feared for her life due to the treatment she received in the army as a result of her sexual orientation.
"I had to endure not only verbal and physical harassment, but death threats and harassment letters on my door every day," Smith told reporters Tuesday outside the court. Following the hearing, she said she was staying positive and hoping for the best.
Smith, who now lives in Ottawa, said she was treated as "less than human" by other soldiers at the base in Fort Campbell, Ky., after they saw her holding hands with another woman at a local mall and found out she was a lesbian. One soldier who worked with her on the base's fleet of vehicles would pick her up, shake her and throw her to the ground on a daily basis, she told CBC News.
"There were sergeants standing around laughing with him," she added.
She also received anonymous hate mail at her door every night, she said, including one letter that warned: "We will suffocate you in your sleep."
Smith later learned that a gay soldier had been beaten to death in his bed with a baseball bat at the Fort Campbell base in 1999. Discharge denied Fearing for her life, she asked her first sergeant for a discharge, which is usually granted automatically to soldiers who admit to homosexuality.
"He told me straight up, 'We'll figure out the paperwork when we get back from deployment," she recalled. At the time, Smith was scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan.
Her lawyer, Jamie Liew, suggested the military went against its own policies because it needed more soldiers for its overseas deployments.
After being denied a discharge, Smith, who was 19 years old at the time, drove to the border at Cornwall, Ont., with another soldier. The War Resister Support Campaign, a group that has helped other U.S. deserters, helped her settle in Ottawa.
"I have a new home here and a new family … friends and a job," she said. "Everything I have here is set up as if I was born here, and being ripped out of this environment would change everything."
If Smith returns to the U.S., Liew believes that in addition to threats to her life, Smith would face military charges of desertion, absence without leave and indecency.
"Because it is a crime to be engaging in homosexual activity under the military criminal provision," Liew said.
She alleged that the U.S. military judicial system is "not up to par" with Canadian and international human rights standards.
"Why should we allow people to be sent back to be put through a process that is not fair?"
Smith said military cases are decided by tribunal members drawn from the accused's own unit — "The same people who are causing you problems."
Other U.S. deserters have failed in their appeals to Canadian courts, and some are serving prison terms after being deported. However, Liew said that shouldn't have any bearing on Smith's case.
"Bethany is coming with an extremely different story. She's coming because of the way her life was threatened because of her sexual orientation."
Most other deserters who have sought refugee status in Canada said they fled to avoid being deployed to the war in Iraq, as they opposed the war.
If the Federal Court rules in Smith's favour, she will be able to make her case again before a different IRB member, said Liew. She said the previous refugee board decision erred by not dealing with whether Smith would be persecuted if she returns to the U.S.
You are now watching: Episode Five - This is Not Human Nature
For the first time in history, women have combat and other front-line roles in the U.S. military, yet the military today is rife with sexual harassment, as Wendy Barranco reveals. Is this progress? Is it inevitable? Human nature? Or perhaps it's the sign of a deeper malignancy. For Wendy, her treatment was "the last thing I would have imagined from my own peers and comrades."
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 letter was written a few minutes before Afghan war resister Travis Bishop was shackeled and taken away after his court-martial at Fort Hood.
To everyone who still cares:
I can not say that a year in prison doesn’t scare me: I am terrified. I just cried in the bathroom so no one could see.
But still, though I am terrified, it would be scarier still to know that my fellow soldiers who feel as we feel would never find out what we are trying to accomplish had I not gone to prison.
Everyone who hears or reads this should know that I love you all, and my life is forever changed because of you.
Victor and myself are starting something big . . . and it is now up to all of you to continue on.
With all of my heart,
This article, by Travis Bishop, was posted go the Free Travis Bishop, Fort Hood War Resister Blog, August 20, 2009
First off, hello to all those who still support me! Your support, kind words, and well-wishings have truly kept me going through this difficult time.
I want to assure everyone, well-wishers and nay-sayers, that I am still 100% confident that my decision was a smart one. Though I suffer a harsh personal loss, the gain for this movement is incredible. Already I have heard of others who have been influenced by mine and Victor’s decisions and actions, and it warms my heart.
Ultimately, the goal is to end these wars. And keeping that in mind, remember that my decisions are mine and mine alone. My hope is that others learn from mine and Victor’s sacrifices. They are small when compared to the ultimate gain.
To my supporters, Thank You and write me right now while I’m in Bell County even!
To those who think I was coerced, influenced or made to do this, please write me to. I would love to personally explain how I feel.
You can write Travis at: Travis Bishop, Bell County Jail, 113 W. Central Ave., Belton, TX 76513