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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A great many of the posts featured here, were published over the last month. I have decided to reprint them because I have been tied up for much of the last month on another project and they deserve to be included in the blog.
“I can’t go back in time and take back what I’ve done… At one point I was a monster, and I created hate and destruction amongst many people. I am sorry for doing so and I will never turn back into the monster I once was.” These were the closing remarks of Jon Turner, former Marine returned from Iraq, testifying in early March with three other former members of the armed forces, to students at the University of Vermont. His Marine dress uniform jacket, with seven shiny medals lined up across his chest contrasted sharply with the bandanna tied around his head, the soft beard that has grown in since his discharge from the service, and the palpable sadness in his countenance as he spoke, an unbearably painful ordeal of confession and revelation.
Turner, former Marine Matt Howard, and Army veterans Drew Cameron and Adrienne Kinne all spoke about their personal experiences in the military during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, they are determined that their fellow Vermonters, be they students or neighbors, are fully aware of the criminal nature of the war policies of Bush/Cheney.
While the two hundred students who attended that evening may have been irrevocably changed by what they heard, those outside the room were destined to remain unaware, because no one from the press was there to cover the event. Indeed, the press release promised “testimonies from U.S. veterans who have served in the global war on terror. Find out what is really happening on the ground”, and referencing the Winter Soldier testimony from the Vietnam era that “exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War…today vets from the current occupations assume the same responsibilities as their predecessors.” but neither the U.V.M student paper, curiously named the Vermont Cynic, nor the Gannet owned Burlington Free Press sent a reporter to listen. Nor did the Vermont Cynic respond to several queries requesting comment; and Patrick Garrity, Metro editor for the Free Press explained that “tough decisions are made every day on what to cover or not.” As to this particular event, he said, “What led to our particular reason why we didn’t cover it – I couldn’t say.” After being apprised of what they may have missed, he responded “Just because we didn’t pick up a story on one day doesn’t mean that we won’t go back to cover it.”
As to this event's newsworthiness, the testimony speaks for itself, morphing from the bad to the truly horrific. Drew Cameron, who served as an army artilleryman, told disturbing if not surprising stories about his duties in gathering and destroying captured munitions. When tank munitions fell off the back of his truck, he was ordered to leave them be, even though there would be children playing among them the next day. When a convoy truck crashed into an Iraqi civilian car, severely wounding several members of a family, he was again ordered to leave them to their fate without any medical help from the troops who caused them harm. And when the captured munitions reached the destination for destruction, they were exploded in open pits in close proximity to villages and agricultural lands, which were then covered with the fallout from the blasts.
Adrienne Kinne, a ten-year army veteran and Arab linguist who worked in military intelligence, testified to the different intelligence rules of conduct that she experienced pre and post 9/11. From 1994 to 1998, she worked under rules that made sure that no American would be the subject of any of the military intelligence intercepts. She cited one instance where an American diplomat was referenced in an intercepted phone call. The intelligence officials destroyed the tape even though he was referenced only in passing, honoring the principle that the government does not spy on Americans.
When called back to active duty from 2001-2001, she discovered that the pragmatic methods, if not the written rules governing them, had changed. She told of routinely monitoring phone transmissions of humanitarian organizations, NGOs and journalists. She listened in to journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad reassuring each other that they were safe from American missile or artillery strikes. Then when she learned that this hotel was considered fair game as a target, she saw a chance for some good to come out of the illegal spying and acted. “I told my superiors that the journalists there thought they were safe. [I asked] should we warn them? My concerns were ignored.”
It was when she participated in translating a fax provided by the Iraqi National Congress, an unreliable faction headed by Ahmad Chalabi, which made claims of WMD in Iraq that she crossed her personal Rubicon. The fax, which made unsubstantiated claims dovetailing with the desires of the Bush/Cheney administration, was given top priority and was rushed directly to the White House after translation, a procedure that was completely at odds with normal protocol. When she considered the source of the information – Chalabi was a known liar and fugitive from justice for bank fraud in Jordan. She approached her superiors and asked whether they shouldn’t have take this into consideration before giving it to the White House as conclusive evidence, but was told to mind her own business, and her patriotism was questioned. “I knew that this war was based on lies" Kinne concluded, "and that I had helped spread these lies. I wish that I had taken my concerns to someone outside of the military.”
Matt Howard’s testimony told about the use of internationally banned cluster bombs, illegal declarations of “weapons free” zones, Marines shooting civilians for sport and the reprehensible devastation of Nasariah by a division of Marines seeking revenge for fallen comrades. He could not remain silent about what he saw. “I raised concerns with my chain of command. I wrote an extensive letter outlining all that I had been told by those in the tank commands when I was delivering to them…. Because of my letter, they had to conduct a war crime investigation, but they found no cause for charges. I was taken aside by the officer in charge of the investigation and he told me off the record that as a father he shared my concerns. But as a marine, he would never implicate his fellow marines and jeopardize their careers.” This officer also told Matt that if he mentioned any of these charges again, he would face a court martial.
None of this testimony could have prepared the audience for what they were to hear next. The first words spoken by Jon Turner, veteran of the third Battalion, Eighth Marines set the tone. “On April 18, 2006 I murdered an innocent man with no weapons. He was walking back to his house.” For this act, Turner was commended by his chain of command including personal congratulations from his captain.
He showed a short video in which his Lieutenant is saying, “I just shot half the fucking population of fucking Ramada, fuck the red tape.” He explained that rules of engagement were completely dropped. “Collateral damage was not an issue for us, most was covered up and stayed at the lowest post level. Our sergeant said shoot first and worry about it later.” He added, “When we were bored, we would take out people.”
He also explained that marines routinely took out their aggressions on civilians whose houses were routinely raided in the middle of the night. “During the 3A.M. raids, we would take the man into a separate room from his wife and children. If we decided that we didn’t like him, we would choke him or beat his head against the wall. If we decided to detain him, we would destroy all the contents of the house. Or if he really pissed us off, we would burn it down with incendiary grenades.”
He showed other video footage of machine gun and tank fire being directed at a minaret of a mosque – not because of any shooting coming from the mosque, but because his fellow soldiers were in a position of power and wanted to let off steam. He recounted how one day two fellow soldiers had killed a couple of civilians, and knowing that John had not yet had a kill for the day, told him that they had saved him one. They pointed out a man riding a bicycle and he calmly shot him dead.
To provide cover for these crimes, his unit kept a supply of “drop weapons”, AK47s and other weapons that might be used by Iraqi insurgents. These were placed on or near the murder victim to provide an alibi of self-defense.
Turner detailed the use of white phosphorous gas by his unit, explaining, “It completely destroys everything. You can’t put out the fire.” While the Pentagon claims that white phosphorous is used only to illuminate a battlefield at night an unknown number of Iraqis have joined the ranks of collateral damage and perished by burning to death.
In conclusion Matt Howard emphasized to the students that these crimes that he and his fellow veterans were describing were not simply the work of a few bad apples. “This is policy,” he flatly stated, adding, “1.2 million individuals have cycled through Iraq and part of something much bigger.” He also told the audience that they should not think of Afghanistan as the “good” war compared with Iraq. He said that
everything that they heard about atrocities in Iraq was true for Afghanistan as well. He explained that the most revered military minds agree that “Without strategy war is mindless. Mindless killing can only be criminal.” He pointed out that the shifting rationales for invasion and occupation provided by the that they have had no strategy from the beginning. Recent Pentagon studies also confirm this fact.
These veterans decided to speak out as victims of an administration’s gross negligence and deceit. Their testimony places some of them at grave risk being charged with war crimes or ignoring security restrictions. If they had chosen to remain silent, they could have been protected by a wall of denial and suppression provided by the military that they served. By deciding to clear their consciences and to try to do what they can do repair the damage they have helped the American military to cause, the have unalterably changed the trajectory of their futures. Whether they alone will bear the awful cost of what they witnessed, as well as the possible costs of speaking out - depends on what those who hear their stories decide to do. If their audiences decide that their own silence would make them complicit, and if the press decides that war crimes being committed today, in our names are front page news, then these veterans will at least have taken a first step beyond their own personal redemption.
The Bush/Cheney administration has established a new paradigm of criminal and immoral actions as public policy. Congress has countenanced these actions, and the courts have failed to check them. It remains to be can match these veterans' courage to stand tall and say "not now and never again."
This was posted, by Army Sergeant, to the Active Duty Patriot Blog, March 15, 2008
Cost of War. It's the second panel I've had the chance to sit down and watch from start to finish.
Margaret Stevens is the chair of the panel. "Who pays for the war? We see it with education cuts, healthcare cuts, every aspect of federal funding. These are the people who are paying for the war. You see it in the mortgage crisis." As important is how you justify the cuts.
We need to think and beware of greeks bearing gifts. Whoever wins, we need to think about who doesn't win. Pennsylvania and nj the guardsemen had a minirevolt because they had been stoplossed. They were only supposd to be fighting for three years. they were fighting for five. It was put down, but they won their beneifts.
Carlos Arredondo, son Alex was killed Najaf August 25 2004. Member of MFSO.
Fernando Suarez de Sola.
Nancy Lessen and Charley Richardson-cofounders of MFSO. Charley's son served with USMC in spring 2003. They formed it Nov 2002 with one other family. MFSO now includes 3800 military families from every state. Largest organization of military families speaking out against the war in the history of the country.
Catherine lutz."An empire of bases.
Adrienne: i served in USA 1994-1998 arabic linguist in MI. 1998 transferred to us ARMY RESERVES activated shortly after 9/11, stationed stateside as voice intercepter. Serving in MI both before and after, saw distinct changes in how our military intelligence conducted itself. Before 9/11 in initial active duty tour. One of the costs to the war is the cost to our freedom and our constitution. In MI there are specific guidelines. one of those is USSID 18. It says that in an effort to uphold US constitutional rights, US cannot collect on americans. In 1997, I intercepted a radio transmission of a middle eastern entity which referenced the name of an american diplomat visiting the middle east. Because an american's name was referenced, we decided to delete every record.
(break computer died)
Red cross/red crescent, rather than block their phone number, we continued to collect. Reasons we were given was that they were eyes on the ground, and as they were going through Iraq, they might happen upon WMD and give their location. We could collect in case they referenced WMDS. THe organization could potentially lose their phone, and it could be picked up by a terrorist and they could start using it, we had to maintain coverage on those phone numbers just in case. This kind of came to a head sometime 2002 when I was listening to a conversation between british aid worker and american aid worker. They weren't talkng about relevance, it was so irrelevant I can't remember it. I remember british said to american. you should be careful what you say because the americans are listening. The american thinking he was protected, said, no, they can't collect against mje because I'm an american citizen and I am protected by USSID 18. I thought that might be of some relevance. Either the person was prior military which is very likely or, we came to find out most aid workers know about ussid q18 because they know their rights are being iolated. I drew that cut to my officer, everyone was in a miniuproar because the american referenced ussid 18 to a nonamerican. They said the American had committed some form of treason by referencing ussid 18 to a british, an ally, person. After that there was all this hubbub about whether we should be doing this anymore. I don't know, I was a collector and wasn't allowed to ask questions. My job was to collect and pass the info on. Shortly after we were told we were given a waiver, that we could collect on americans in the middle east. This included people in the middle east calling their family members in the US. We could hear both sides of the conversation, but we were told that to protect the americans in the uS, we would just not add hteir half to the report. Why it matters as to where an american is as to whether their rights are protected, I do not know. Apparently I've been reviewing the changes that have been happening, all this is no longer a verbal waiver, it is now legal. Our government is using these occupations to destroy our constitutional rights as americans. It is personally I think impeachable. (applause) I could kind of go through different instances where information was collec`ted where we could have known it was misinformation we passed it on anyway, but more importantly I want to speak to that it is not only our (servicmemebers) fighting in iraq and afghanistan supporting these wars, it is every single member of the military, stateside or abroad, intercepting transmissions, by serving in the military we are all supporting hte occupations. I think it's incredibly important for us all to recognize. Put so much on the shoulders of our veterans who have witnessed in iraq and afghanistan and act like they are the only ones who have the burdens of ending these occupations. I having served many years before iraq afghanistan and iraq am so sorry that through my service i in any way shape or form supported these wars which put you all in such horrible horrible horrible positions. (chokes up) (standing o)AND i JUST wanted to say it's ironic, could be using it inapproprately, served for 10 years, and it's only since IVAW that I feel like I've done anything good.
Carlos Arredondo: look at the screens. This is my family, this is my dream (pictures of families) born in costa rica, trieed to do the best I can to take care of my family (pictures show child, children, clown face, bab) my sons are my american dreams, they are my greatest teachers. (graduation photo) this is alexander. Many o you go through this moment recruiters seduced him with 20 thousand cash to sign up so many thousands of dollars for him to go in the military at the age of 17 they only require one parent to sign for him to join up. They didn't have the respect to ask me if it is okay for him to do. Send sons with fake promises my son never had the opportunity for cash, for school, you go to a community college, they didn't tell him, my son , one more victim illegal immoral war, (photo of alex) (alex with other soldiers) testimony, alex wrote many poems. (letter excerpts) "tomight we were in a caer cash we picked up a guy with a grenande clipped on his waistband one of the police got shot in the heart. "a friend of mine was killed" (pictures) an najaf) carried in truck (heavy pack, open to street) "It looks like I'm to be stuck in Iraq forever" (letter) (photo of him in platoon) His letters start changing from proud, to honor, to miserable. "I'm sick of all the bullshit these civilians are pulling. It's going to get one of them shot. It's not just shomalie it's all of hillah and it's even wors up north this morning." (photo of alex aiming weapon) alexander was struck by bullet in left temple opened his head inch and half. alex was that day 20 years 20 days. He was hoping not (photo of alex with platoon) many come back with broken hearts and broken minds. Many come to VA system, if my son were alive, but now he is resting in peace (picture of marines carrying coffins) going to fifth anniversary 4000 casualties, only in iraq, no mention of people in other wars. (casket photo of son) this picture teaches me a lot, this is the cost of the war at home. My son lance corporal arredondo is lying in open casket, I am so lucky, many families do not have the opportunity for open casket. My heart goes to every single one. (photo of bburning van) this is what happened when they came to notify of death of son THat day was my birthday. I saw them coming, they delivered the news, the ptsd they also affect families, they never did anything they intent to leave, I ended up inside that van, 2 and 3 degrees, a week later I buried my son in boston, many families go through the notification moments, come to tell you, this is only one, this is what happened to my family. (photo of camp ale) week in hospital, 43,000, didn't have the money, they liened my house. This is how I grieve my son, this is my loss.
(photo of coffin) families are going through as we speak, may of us working very hard. (standing ovation) (something is shouted in spanish. I don't speak spanish)
video being played of man speaking, sounds like he's talking through water. Video needs to be restarted. Technical difficulties. "it's okay, continue video. When I visited Iraq" I need to see the place my son died. I need to show that the ordinary people do not support the war. Iraqi people lost a member of their family, american people lost a member of the war. Opportunity to meet with family.
IT made me crazy. Carlos entered the fire, I have the other reaction, the baby did not understand. Grandson to the park, play with him, he is mine. I don't have an opportunity to cry for my son. Government told me he died shot to the head. It is impossible for you to see the body because his face is destroyed. But my son did not die from a shot in the head. He stepped on an illegal American cluster bomb, waited two hours. I miss my son. I cry every single day for jesus. August 27 it is five years my son died in iraq. I come here with IVAW, I see Camilo, I see Juan, I see Jethro, I see Jesus. This is my new family. My sons my daughers, Iraq veterans against the war. I have some problems with his mother, when I began to speak out, I divorce. I am cashier, I am newspaper deliver, I have a job. But when he died, it is necessary to have more school. No more bombs. THe family (does not) understand me. It is destroying me. I have opportunity today I have a new wife, it is only one story, carlos is the other story. We have almost 4000 stories today. FIve years. How many more stories you need? how many more blood need the american people to stand up with IVAW with the families, how many more years- (half-standing-o) tired, five years, every single day, rallies, people continue die, children continue die because my government destroyed my grandson and rachel. My government destroyed your life. Please. Join together for peace and love. Thanks so much. (standing o)
Nancy Lessen, on behalf of MFSO wants to say to IVAW what an honor it is to be witness to profound and historic event, honor to work with you in bringing this horrific era to an end. We are your families, and you are our hearts. MFSO drumbeats for war deafening, all..(AGH SHE IS GIVING A SPEECH AND I CANNOT KEEP UP TYPING A SPEECH! ARGH!) loved ones volutneered, we told them about contracts, day jobs in lbor movements, (she is talking very fast) contracts have two sides, implied vow is that you will never be sent into harm's way for no good reason, side broken, brought a lawsuit against Bush and Rumsfeld, sought restraining order to prohibit invasion of Iraq went two rounds in first circuit court. failed march 18 bombs dropped march 19. racism plus dehumanization equals horror. Early on in the invasion got emails like this "son will be leaving for iraq within the month. said he'd be willing to kill any muslim woman and children, anyone whose skin is brown. ironically he is asian, his skin is very brown. ..don't understand who this person is becoming. troops putting laxatives. Heard cadences about kiling grandmothers and children, bitch in a box, iraqis are put in trunks and driven around in 120 degree heat. Asked one of our members to write something for our loved ones about not losing our humanity. Standoff had written an open letter to gIs hold onto your humanity. Never under any obligation to hate, never under any obligation to let them drive out hte last vestiges of you to see and tell the truth. you do not owe them your souls. come back safe and come back sane. we want you to come back and look them in the face, do not lose your souls in the dust, they are like a nother corpse, hold onto your humanity. No wisdom to offer. Not to let his guard down. Do what he needed to do and maintain his moral compass I asked my nineteen year old son..Next to last hug of eric, I left his tears on my right shoulder, he left his on my left shoulder.
I have to step out. Scratch what I said about covering an entire panel, I guess.
From the March 14, 2008 "Crisis in Veteran's Healthcare" panel. Joyce and Kevin Lucey are the parents of Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, who
killed himself on June 22nd, 2003 after returning from a tour in Iraq.
Joyce and Kevin Lucey are currently suing the Department of Veterans
affairs arguing the VA was negligent in caring for their son. A VA
Inspector General’s Report notes VA officials turned Jeffrey Lucey a
few days before he took his own life.
From the March 14, 2008 "Crisis in Veteran's Healthcare" panel. Joyce and Kevin Lucey are the parents of Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, who killed himself on June 22nd, 2003 after returning from a tour in Iraq. Joyce and Kevin Lucey are currently suing the Department of Veterans affairs arguing the VA was negligent in caring for their son. A VA Inspector General’s Report notes VA officials turned Jeffrey Lucey a few days before he took his own life.
From the March 14, 2008 "Crisis in Veteran's Healthcare" panel. Adrienne Kinne served in the US Army and Army Reserves from 1994 through 2004 as an Arabic linguist in military intelligence. She was activated in the Reserves for two years following the events of 9/11 and served stateside in direct support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a voice interceptor. She now works in the Department of Veterans Affairs as a health science specialist (psychology) and as the New England Regional Coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War. She lives in Vermont.
From the March 14, 2008 "Crisis in Veteran's Healthcare" panel. Eric Estenzo is a Marine Corps Reservist who served in the initial invasion of Iraq. He hurt his back in Iraq and when he returned home in the US he ended up in line for food at a shelter for homeless veterans. He's also an artist.