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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This article, by Victor Agosto, was posted to the Rag Blog, November 11, 2009
President Obama visited Fort Hood today [Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009]. He dropped by Michael Kern's barracks. Michael handed President Obama a letter, saying, "Sir, IVAW has some concerns we'd like for you to address." Obama then dropped his hand and went on to speak to the next soldier. The secret service then took possession of the letter:
In your recent comments on the Fort Hood tragedy, you stated "These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil." Sir, we have been losing these brave Americans on American soil for years, due to the mental health problems that come after deployment, which include post-traumatic stress disorder, and often, suicide.
You also said that "We will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government." Sir, we appreciate that -- but what we need is not more FBI or Homeland Security personnel swarming Fort Hood. What we need is full mental healthcare for all soldiers serving in the Army. What happened at Fort Hood has made it abundantly clear that the military mental health system, and our soldiers, are broken.
You said "We will make sure that we will get answers to every single question about this terrible incident." Sir, one of the answers is self evident: that a strained military cannot continue without better mental healthcare for all soldiers.
You stated that "As Commander-in-Chief, there's no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for." Sir, we urge you to carry out your promise and ensure that our servicemembers indeed have access to quality mental health care. The Army has only 408 psychiatrists -- military, civilian and contractors -- serving about 553,000 active-duty troops around the world. This is far too few, and the providers that exist are often not competent professionals, as this incident shows. Military wages cannot attract the quality psychiatrists we need to care for these returning soldiers.
We ask that:
Each soldier about to be deployed and returning from deployment be assigned a mental health provider who will reach out to them, rather than requiring them to initiate the search for help.
Ensure that the stigma of seeking care for mental health issues is removed for soldiers at all levels-from junior enlisted to senior enlisted and officers alike.
Ensure that if mental health care is not available from military facilities, soldiers can seek mental health care with civilian providers of their choice
Ensure that soldiers are prevented from deploying with mental health problems and issues.
Stop multiple redeployments of the same troops.
Ensure full background checks for all mental health providers and periodic check ups for them to decompress from the stresses they shoulder from the soldiers they counsel to the workload they endure.
Sir, we hope that you will make the decision not to deploy one single Fort Hood troop without ensuring that all have had access to fair and impartial mental health screening and treatment.
You have stated on a number of occasions, starting during your campaign, how important our military and veterans are to this nation. The best way to safeguard the soldiers of this nation is to provide ALL soldiers with immediate, personal and professional mental health resources.
This article, originally posted to VVAW.NET, was forwarded to the blog by David Zeiger, November 11, 2009
Please Don't Thank Me For My Service - Veterans Day Any Year
I can see That Wall in DC. I'm thinking of those two hundred names and faces I can't remember, eighteen and nineteen year old boys from my Basic Training company, "Killed In Action" before their 19th birthdays. I've seen their names on that wall while looking for my own.
Every time I hear, "Thank-you for serving!" I want to reply, "Fuck You!"
For which of the following are you thanking me:
a) learning how to do field abortions on "pregnant gook girls";
b) Being part of a military that is responsible for millions of deaths in Vietnam;
c) Refusing orders to Vietnam;
d) Participating in the GI Movement;
e) Thinking for myself;
f) Not thinking for myself;
g) Following or not following orders?
As a member of the United States Army from 1965 - 1970, I was NOT defending America, our allies, your families or friends. America was NOT being attacked by the Vietnamese, much in the same way that America is NOT being attacked by Iraqis
I for one, do NOT thank current soldiers for their service in Iraq or Afghanistan! I thank and honor those who repudiate this nation's militarism. I thank Iraq Veterans Against the War for their thought, action and lives. I thank those veterans who organized and testified at the IVAW Winter Soldier Hearings last year and who continue to give witness to atrocity and mayhem. ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony
On Veteran's Day, I salute, in addition to IVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, The National Liberation Front of Vietnam, WWII Allied Forces led by General Dwight Eisenhower; I salute Resistance Fighters against the nazi's throughout Europe; Resistance movements from South Africa to South Harlem, from Philadelphia to Nicaragua where my government spent millions attempting to overthrow a democratic government who's president had the nerve to be critical of the United States.
I do salute those who choose to defend America. Go get the bad guy, McCain will tell you right where he is, but why thank anyone for killing tens of thousands of civilians cause you can't find the right cave and invaded the wrong nation? Was their a right nation to invade? Should I thank today's soldiers for being lied to and believing in that lie? Perhaps their "good intentions" deserve a salute?
On this Veteran's Day, I again salute those veterans, from the armed forces of all nations who use their training, intelligence and compassion to seek ways in which our governments can find peace without increased militarization of the globe and our ways of life.
You may thank me, and I'd be honored, for my resistance to imperial war, for my support of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam, for my continued activism that nourishes my soul and gives me reason to live and create. You may thank me for encouraging young men and women to think for themselves and to resist deployment orders.
Just don't blindly thank me for anything you don't know about.
Perhaps that's why I can't seem to find my name on that Wall in a waking state.
This announcement was posted to the Veterans for Peace website, October 1, 2009
October 7 marks the 8th year of the war on Afghanistan. Join Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Military Families Speak Out as we continue to resist this ongoing war and occupation. Because of his increase of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, this is becoming President Obama's war and we must hold him accountable, however we must never forget that citizen money and citizen silence allows the war in Afghanistan to continue. Veterans For Peace encourages each chapter to hold local events to actively resist this war and occupation. VFP has been on the leading edge of those pressuring Obama to end this war - HELP US KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!
This press reslease, written by Zachary Miles Baddorf, was published on the Iraq Veterans Against the War website, October 1, 2009
Philadelphia – Iraq Veterans Against the War believes an escalation of the war in Afghanistan will only serve to exacerbate the plight of the Afghan people, destabilize the region, and further the breakdown of our military.
IVAW, which includes veterans who served in Afghanistan, opposes President Barack Obama’s planned expansion of the occupation and calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces in Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people.
“We’re entering our seventh year of war in Afghanistan,” said Jose Vasquez, IVAW’s executive director. “Casualties among the Afghan people are rising while U.S. and Coalition forces are facing their deadliest year since the invasion. This war dehumanizes the Afghan people and denies them their right to self-determination. We have members who serve in Iraq and in Afghanistan and we believe it’s time for them all to come home.”
While IVAW was formed to call for an end to the war in Iraq, the anti-war organization’s membership, which includes more than 1,600 active-duty military members and veterans in 48 states, passed a resolution to declare their opposition to the war in Afghanistan.
The resolution states “there is no battlefield solution to terrorism, and any escalation of the war in Afghanistan will only serve to exacerbate the plight of the Afghan people, destabilize the region, and further the breakdown of our military.”
IVAW member Donna Perdue said she believes the war in Afghanistan is threatening our national security.
“The war becomes larger and more destructive, the number of necessary American forces will further increase, and the cycle will continue to rage on,” said Perdue. “This cycle will continue to strain the struggling economy and the already over-taxed military. It’s imperative that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan end.”
IVAW is a national organization of veterans and active-duty service members who have served since September 11, 2001 – including those who took part in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. IVAW also is dedicated to fighting for adequate physical and mental healthcare, full benefits, and other support for returning veterans.
This announcement was posted top the IVAW website, September 2009
Iraqi Labor leaders hope to make their case about the lack of labor rights in Iraq to audience of U.S. union reps and war veterans in Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
In celebration of Labor Day, Five Iraqi labor federation leaders (bios below) representing the largest unions in Iraq will make their case for expanded labor rights in their country to U.S. Labor leaders, war veterans and peace groups. During the tour, they also will collect signatures on a petition to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, calling on her to speak out about Iraqi labor rights and press the Iraqi government to respect and protect the rights of workers and unions. The tour is being hosted by U.S. Labor Against the War and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
September 8, 7:00 - 9:00 PM at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street, SW, Washington, D.C.
September 17, 7:00 - 9:00 PM - 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, 310 West 43rd Street, New York, NY
September 18, 12:00 - 2:00 PM - 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, 310 West 43rd Street, New York, NY
September 21, 7:00-9:00 pm at Friends Meeting House, Address: 4th & Arch Streets, Philadelphia, PA
Interpreters will be available at all events.
BRIEF BIOS on IRAQI LABOR LEADERS
Hassan Juma’a Awad, President, Iraq Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU)
Hassan Juma’a has worked in the Southern Oil Company's technical unit in Basra for 36 years. He was elected President of the General Union of Oil Employees in 2003, and became President of Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions in 2006. He was among 20 activists who formed the first union committee in the Southern Oil Company in the first 11 days after the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Falah Alwan, President, Federation of Worker's Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI),
Falah Alwan was an underground labor activist throughout the 1990s, working in textile and factories and retail stores until the invasion in 2003. Alwan was among the founders of the Union of the Unemployed and subsequently of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, of which he now serves as President. He is currently employed as a store keeper at the General Company of Cotton Industries in Baghdad (part of the Ministry of Industry).
Rasim Al-Awady, President, General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW)
Rasim Al Awady has served as President of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) since 2005. Prior to this post, Al Awady was President of one of the three federations created by workers after the 2003 invasion of Iraq that later merged to form the GFIW. In the 1970s he served as Vice President for the International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions (ICATU) in Cairo, and later as International Affairs Officer for an Iraqi labor federation
Nabeel Mulhim, Foreign Affairs Officer, Kurdish General Workers Syndicates in Iraq (KGWSI)
Nabil Mulhim is a member of the Executive Committee of the Kurdish General Workers Syndicates in Iraq and also serves as the Foreign Affairs Officer at the federation. Born in Erbil, he speaks fluent Arabic along with Kurdish which is his mother tongue.
Sardar Mohammed, President, Iraqi Kurdish Workers Syndicates and Unions (IKWSU)
Sardar Mohammed, President of Iraqi Kurdish Workers Syndicates and Unions, lives in Suleimaniya. He has recently been elected to be a workers representative in the Kurdistan Parliament and is determined to play a role in promoting labor rights and raising awareness, especially for workers in the public sector.
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Saddam Hussein’s 1987 law barring labor unions and collective bargaining in all public sector and enterprise workplaces has remained in effect. Iraqi unions have organized without the protection of a basic labor law, even though the Iraqi constitution requires one and Iraq is signatory to the International Labor Organization Convention on the right to organize and bargain. Union leaders and activists have faced harassment, beatings, detention, torture and even assassination. Union offices have been raided and vandalized by US and Iraqi troops. Union bank accounts and assets have been frozen. Iraqi unions have managed to continue organizing despite these obstacles.
In March 2009, Iraq Veterans Against the War representative, Aaron Hughes, joined with a delegation organized by U.S. Labor Against the War to attend the First Iraqi Labor Conference in Erbil, Iraq. Over 200 labor leaders from labor unions representing various sectors of the Iraqi economy Iraq attended, including energy and agriculture. There, they heard first-hand about the conditions of workers in Iraq post-U.S. invasion, and the role of unions in re-building Iraqi infrastructure and promoting civil society and democracy while still under U.S. occupation.
This article, by James Dao, was published in the New York Times, August 28, 2009
A restive antiwar movement, largely dormant since the election of Barack Obama, is preparing a nationwide campaign this fall to challenge the administration’s policies on Afghanistan.
Anticipating a Pentagon request for more troops there, antiwar leaders have engaged in a flurry of meetings to discuss a month of demonstrations, lobbying, teach-ins and memorials in October to publicize the casualty count, raise concerns about the cost of the war and pressure Congress to demand an exit strategy.
But they face a starkly changed political climate from just a year ago, when President George W. Bush provided a lightning rod for protests. The health care battle is consuming the resources of labor unions and other core Democratic groups. American troops are leaving Iraq, defusing antiwar sentiments in some quarters. The recession has hurt fund-raising for peace groups and forced them to slash budgets. And, perhaps most significant, many liberals continue to support Mr. Obama, or at least are hesitant about openly criticizing him.
“People do not want to take on the administration,” said Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org. “Generating the kind of money that would be required to challenge the president’s policies just isn’t going to happen.”
Tom Andrews, national director for an antiwar coalition, Win Without War, said most liberals “want this guy to succeed.” But he said the antiwar movement would try to convince liberals that a prolonged war would undermine Mr. Obama’s domestic agenda. Afghanistan, he said, “could be a devastating albatross around the president’s neck.”
But there is also a sense among some antiwar advocates that Mr. Obama’s honeymoon with Democrats in general and liberals in particular is ending. As evidence, they point to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that 51 percent of Americans now feel the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, a 10-point increase since March. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
“We’re coming out of a low period,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the antiwar group Code Pink. “But as progressives feel more comfortable protesting against the Obama administration and challenging Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress, then we’ll be back on track.”
The Obama administration has opposed legislation requiring an exit strategy, saying it needs time to develop new approaches to the war. “Given his own impatience for progress, the president has demanded benchmarks to track our progress and ensure that we are moving in the right direction,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The October protest schedule is expected to include marches in Washington and elsewhere. But organizers acknowledge that it may be difficult to recruit large numbers of demonstrators. So groups like United for Peace and Justice are also planning smaller events in communities around the country, including teach-ins with veterans and families of deployed troops, lobbying sessions with members of Congress, film screenings and ad hoc memorials featuring the boots of deceased soldiers and Marines.
“There are some that feel betrayed” by Mr. Obama, said Nancy Lessin, a founder of the group Military Families Speak Out. “There are some who feel that powerful forces are pushing the president to stay on this course and that we have to build a more powerful movement to change that course.”
The October actions will be timed not only to the eighth anniversary of the first American airstrikes on Taliban forces and the seventh anniversary of Congressional authorization for invading Iraq, but also an anticipated debate in Congress over sending more troops to Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, is widely expected to request additional troops, beyond the 68,000 projected for the end of the year, after finalizing a policy review in the next few weeks.
The antiwar movement consists of dozens of organizations representing pacifists, veterans, military families, labor unions and religious groups, and they hardly speak with one voice. Some groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War have started shifting their focus toward Afghanistan, passing resolutions demanding an immediate withdrawal of troops from there. Others, like VoteVets.org, support the American military presence in Afghanistan, calling it crucial to fighting terrorism.
And some groups, including Moveon.org, have yet to take a clear position on Afghanistan beyond warning that war drains resources from domestic programs.
“There is not the passion around Afghanistan that we saw around Iraq,” said Ilyse Hogue, Moveon.org’s spokeswoman. “But there are questions.”
There are also signs that some groups that have been relatively quiet on Afghanistan are preparing to become louder. U.S. Labor Against the War, a network of nearly 190 union affiliates that has been focused on Iraq, is “moving more into full opposition to the continuing occupation” of Afghanistan, said Michael Eisenscher, the group’s national coordinator.
“President Obama risks his entire domestic agenda, just as Johnson did in Vietnam, in pursuing this course of action in Afghanistan,” Mr. Eisenscher said.
Handfuls of antiwar protestors can still be seen on Capitol Hill, outside state office buildings and around college campuses. Cindy Sheehan, for instance, has set up her vigil on Martha’s Vineyard while Mr. Obama vacations there. But many advocates say a lower-key approach may be more effective in winning support right now.
An example of that strategy is an Internet film titled “Rethink Afghanistan,” which is being produced and released in segments by the political documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. In six episodes so far, Mr. Greenwald has used interviews with academics, Afghans and former C.I.A. operatives to raise questions about civilian casualties, women’s rights, the cost of war and whether it has made the United States safer.
The episodes, some as short as two minutes, are circulated via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and blogs. Antiwar groups are also screening them with members of Congress. Mr. Greenwald, who has produced documentaries about Wal-Mart and war profiteers, said the film represented a “less incendiary” approach influenced by liberal concerns that he not attack Mr. Obama directly.
“We lost funding from liberals who didn’t want to criticize Obama,” he said. “It’s been lonely out there.”
Code Pink is trying to build opposition to the war among women’s groups, some of which argue that women will suffer if the Taliban returns. In September, a group of Code Pink organizers will visit Kabul to encourage Afghan women to speak out against the American military presence there.
And Iraq Veterans Against the War is using the Web to circulate episodes of a documentary, “This Is Where We Take Our Stand,” filmed in 2008 at its Winter Soldier conference, at which veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan testified about civilian casualties, combat stress and other tolls of the wars.
The group’s leaders say they do not expect many people to take to the barricades against the administration any time soon. But that will change, they argue, as the death toll continues to rise.
“In the next year, it will more and more become Obama’s war,” said Perry O’Brien, president of the New York chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “He’ll be held responsible for the bloodshed.”
This article, by Kevin Dougherty, was published in Stars and Stripes, August 23, 2009/p>
With the U.S. military presence in Iraq expected to end by 2011, an organization of current and former servicemembers opposed to the war there is widening its mandate to include Afghanistan.
At its annual convention in College Park, Md., earlier this month, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War vigorously debated what the group’s stance should be on Afghanistan, according to some participants. Opposition to the war quietly became official policy earlier this year following an online membership poll. The vote was said to be close, though no details were publicly released.
"A decision has been made in terms of our position, which is we are against it," said Jose Vasquez, executive director of IVAW and co-founder of the New York City chapter.
With that, leaders are "working out the way forward."
Since its founding in 2004, the IVAW has focused almost exclusively on Iraq, though members have been free to speak out for or against the war in Afghanistan. The organization, which has a national office in Philadelphia, estimates its membership to be at least 1,700, with roughly one-quarter of its members still in uniform. Most members, active duty or not, have not deployed to Afghanistan, said Devon Read, a former Marine who wrote and introduced the resolution at the convention.
As is the case with Iraq, the existing IVAW resolution advocates "the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces in Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people, and support (for) all troops and veterans working toward those ends."
Additionally, the IVAW supports full benefits and adequate health care for all servicemembers returning from Afghanistan or Iraq.
For now, the effort to develop a strategic approach to opposing the war in Afghanistan is being addressed at the local level. Among the most active on this front is the Los Angeles chapter, which Read heads. The L.A. chapter sponsors forums at which clips of a new documentary, "Rethink Afghanistan," are aired and discussed.
The meetings are intended to generate public and political support for IVAW’s position, which is that the continued presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is hurting, not helping matters.
"Chapters are trying to figure out where they want to go with this," Vasquez said. He added that IVAW members "don’t think Iraq was a good idea, and some of us think Afghanistan isn’t either."
One of the members who supports the war in Afghanistan is Army Sgt. Selena Coppa, an active-duty military intelligence specialist based at Wiesbaden, Germany.
"The organization is kind of split on that," Coppa said.
At times, she added, the issue of whether to oppose the war in Afghanistan "ran the risk of tearing us apart. IVAW is like a family. You don’t want members leaving."
Vasquez said many members, such as Coppa, "view Afghanistan as the good war," based largely on its role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. The notion of also opposing that war "met with a lot of debate," he said.
The strategy for the time being is to leave the issue to local chapters to sort out, and then possibly bring it up at next year’s convention. While there has been talk of amending the organization’s name to reflect its opposition to the Afghanistan campaign, that isn’t likely to happen soon.
Read, who initially backed the war in Afghanistan, characterized his endorsement as "blind support," a view that has changed over the past year.
"To me," Read said, "it feels like we are creating more enemies."
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.
You are now watching: Episode Four - Broken Soldier
Why are so many veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan psychologically damaged? Is it the natural trauma of war, or the product of military whose mission is to occupy and suppress the civilian population? Zollie Goodman recounts the racism against Iraqis imbued in his unit, while Kris Goldsmith reveals the hatred that finally made him a "broken soldier," caught in the endless web of the Veterans Administration. And the parents of Jeffrey Lucey mourn their son, one of thousands who could no longer live with what he had become.