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 Aaron Glantz, was distributed by IPS - Inter Press Service, May 16, 2008
A U.S. Army soldier who served as a military journalist in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Philippines announced Thursday his intent to disobey orders to deploy to Iraq.
"As an Army journalist whose job it was to collect and filter service members' stories, I heard many stomach-churning testimonies of the horrors of the crimes taking place in Iraq," said Sergeant Matthis Chiroux, 24, in an announcement under the rotunda of the House of Representative's Cannon Office Building.
"For fear of retaliation from the military, I failed to report these crimes, but never again will I allow fear to silence me. Never again will I fail to stand," he said.
Chirioux said he's aware he will likely face prosecution for refusing the deployment, but said: "I choose to remain in the United States to defend myself from charges brought by the Army if they are willing to pursue them. I refuse to participate in the occupation of Iraq."
Chirioux is a victim of stop-loss, a controversial wartime power that the George W. Bush administration has used to keep soldiers from leaving the military when their term of service expires. Critics call the policy a "back-door draft." More than 50,000 troops have been stop-lossed since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In an interview shortly before his announcement, Chiroux said the stop-loss order sent him into a downward spiral of depression.
"I became borderline suicidal," he said. "I just went into my room and shut the door and barely emerged for close to a month. I just sat in my room reading news about Iraq and feeling completely hopeless, like I would be forced to go and no one would ever know how I felt. I was getting looped into participating in a crime against humanity and all with the realization that I never wanted to be there in the first place."
The turning point, Chiroux said, came when one of his professors at Brooklyn College in New York suggested he listen to the Winter Soldier hearings. The hearings, which were organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, took place in March in Washington, D.C.
Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicized incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples," but rather part of a pattern of "an increasingly bloody occupation."
For four days, dozens of Iraq war veterans testified about the horrors they'd seen and the actions they carried out while deployed. As Chirioux listened to their testimony, he realized he was not alone.
"Here's an organization of soldiers and veterans who feel like me," he said. "All this alienation and depression that I feel started to ease. I found them and I've been speaking out with them ever since."
Chirioux timed his announcement to coincide with a congressional forum meant to highlight testimony offered at Winter Soldier within the halls of Congress.
Nine veterans spoke at the hearing, which was organized by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. They talked about extremely lax rules of engagement handed down by commanding officers, which they said virtually guaranteed atrocities would be committed -- which in turn would create a violent backlash among Iraqi people and a continued cycle of violence.
"On several occasions our convoys came upon bodies that been lying on the road, sometimes for weeks," said Marine Corps veteran Vincent Emmanuele, who served in al-Qaim near the Syrian border in 2004 and 2005.
"When encountering these bodies standard procedure was to run over the corpses, sometimes even stopping and taking pictures, which was also standard practice when encountering the dead in Iraq," he told the Progressive Caucus.
"On one specific occasion, after I had shot a man trying to flee while planting a roadside bomb, we dragged his body out of the ditch he was laying in and we subsequently left this man to rot in a field where we saw this man up to a week later," Emmanuele said.
Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War hope Thursday's Progressive Caucus hearing will spark an investigation by a full congressional committee and speed the end of the wars. But with the House of Representatives moving toward approving another $186 billion in war funding, these former soldiers and marines will have to satisfy themselves with the sentiments of liberal Congress members like Maxine Waters, who praised the veterans for speaking out.
"I want to thank you for having more courage than many members of Congress have for coming here in defiance of what you have been instructed and taught to do," she said. "They attempted to tell you that you should be satisfied by everything that you saw and everything that you did and everything you witnessed, but you're not. I praise and honor you for that."
Sponsored by Congresswoman Jackson Lee
May 14th, 2008
Good morning. My name is Adam Kokesh and I served as a Sergeant on a Marine Corps Civil Affairs team in the Fallujah area. I now serve as a member of the Board of Directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Since our founding in the fall of 2004, IVAW has called for three things: the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq, full benefits for returning veterans, and reparations for the Iraqi people. We have over a thousand members, in 43 chapters, in 48 states, in Germany, in Canada, and in Iraq. We have members on active duty, in the Reserves, in the Guard, and in every branch of service. We are the only organization of veterans of the Global War On Terror that requires proof of service for membership. We take it as our duty to speak out, and to cut through the lies, spin, and propaganda that are being used to manipulate society into supporting a war that is not in our best interest as a nation. If America could see what the boots on the ground really thought of this occupation, it would not continue for another day. We are an organization of whistleblowers.
And like the other whistleblowers you will hear from today, we face many of the same challenges, but also a set of challenges that are unique to the military, because the military has a distinct power over service members. I joined the Marines for the challenges, so harassment was part of the bargain for me, but I never expected it to come for political reasons. When service members are in a combat environment, risking our lives on a regular basis becomes part of the bargain as well. The possibility of harassment becoming a matter of life or death, has always been very effective in silencing dissent.
Some military whistleblowers are trying to get accountability for a specific incident or to correct a particular injustice. Some of us are simply trying to tell our stories and portray things that to us are all too commonplace. The only people that do not support whistleblowers are the ones who are up to something. That we have faced the challenges we have, is a testament to the fact that someone is up to something in Iraq. Not only is the occupation immoral, illegal, and bad for America, it is fundamentally corrupt, and those that are benefiting from it do not want Americans to understand that reality.
While some service members who come to this conclusion, face legal consequences for resisting their direct participation in the occupation, some of us have faced unjust consequences for exercising the rights that are supposed to be guaranteed to us not just in the First Amendment of the Constitution, but under military law as well. Today you will hear from four members of Iraq Veterans Against the War who have experienced retaliatory harassment for exercising their rights in keeping with their consciences, and while honoring their oaths to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Geoff Millard served with the New York Army National Guard for nine years including a year in Tikrit. After coming home from Iraq and attending an anti-war event, he was made to fear for his life from his command. Mark Wilkerson served in Tikrit and Samarra with the 401st Military Police Company. When he came home, he decided to apply for Conscientious Objector status, but was threatened and harassed in such a way that he had no choice but to go AWOL when his application was denied. Thomas J. Buonomo graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with a degree in Political Science and Middle East Studies and a minor in Arabic, then volunteered to cross-commission into the Army in order to support our ground forces. Shortly after qualifying as a Military Intelligence Officer, his security clearance was suspended, and he was involuntarily discharged for expressing views contrary to the administration. We will also be joined by attorney Mike Lebowitz, who served in Iraq as a paratrooper with the elite Pathfinder Company of the 101st Airborne Division, and is currently a JAG captain with the Virginia Army National Guard where he serves as a defense counsel for the 29th Infantry Division, providing legal assistance to troops subject to adverse action. In his civilian practice, he specializes in military free speech issues. Together, our testimony will make it clear that it is essential the No Fear Act II includes language that truly holds military retaliators accountable and serves as a deterrent for harassment. In addition to our oral statements, we will be submitting substantiating legal documents for the tribunal's records.
In my case, I was a member of the inactive reserves when I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War and participated in a guerrilla street theater action called Operation First Casualty. It was called that because it has long been said that the first casualty of war is the truth, and we wanted to bring some of the truth of what was going on in Iraq home to the American people in the form of a mock combat patrol through the streets of Washington, DC. Knowing that the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to members of the inactive reserves, I knew that I was within my rights to wear certain uniform items in the execution of this street theater, because I was not representing myself as a member of the military. In addition to removing rank insignia and name tapes, our squad was surrounded by volunteers distributing fliers that described exactly who we were, and what we were doing.
My picture and name appeared in the Washington Post's coverage of the event, and I soon received an email of warning from Major John R Whyte of the Marine Corps Mobilization Command, who identified himself as my Investigating Officer and said, “As a member of the Reserve Component, until 18 JUN 2007, the law restricts your wearing of the uniform at certain events. Please call me or reply to this e-mail acknowledging your understanding of your obligations and responsibilities.” I replied by saying that he was wrong to investigate the political activities of an inactive reservist when as an active duty Major, he could be doing something to bring our fellow Marines home alive from Iraq, and used an expletive to express my displeasure with his waste of military resources. The next communication that I received from the Marines was a letter explaining their intent to charge me under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and separate me with an Other Than Honorable discharge, which theoretically would have disqualified me from any benefits that I had earned through my service. After a significant legal battle and extreme pressure brought to bear on the Marines as a result of the negative media attention, I was separated with a General Discharge, which theoretically would disqualify me from any education benefits, and theoretically make me liable for the money that I had previously received through the GI bill. Around the same time, Marines serving at the Marine Corps Mobilization Command called Cloy Richards, a two combat tour veteran in the inactive reserves who has an 80% disability rating, is using the GI bill to help get through college, and is dependent on the VA for treatment. They threatened to take all of that away if he did not stop protesting. They also tried to prosecute Liam Madden, another former Marine and member of the inactive reserves for making “disloyal statements.”
The way that the Marine Corps Mobilization Command came after me was illegal, the decision of the separation board was legally faulty, and it was a clear-cut case of political harassment. Although we were able to achieve what seemed like wrestling things to a tie, the Marine Corps was able to send two very strong messages: We don't want you speaking out against the occupation or even portraying the reality of the every day in Iraq, and even if you're in the inactive reserves, we can still control your fate. I spoke out within my rights, and was punished. To my knowledge, none of the officers responsible for this unnecessary waste of military resources, or for any other cases of retaliatory harassment against IVAW members, have ever been held accountable.
This Article, by Kristofer Goldsmith, was originally published on the IVAW website, June 8, 2008
As many of you know by now, Matthis Chiroux has made his refusal to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that this is an Illegal Occupation, a very public affair. Matthis and I have been attempting to gain Congressional Members to come out in support of War Resisters... And things are going better than I could have imagined.
Two weeks ago Matthis and I came down to the DC IVAW Chapter house with a mission, an idea, and a plan. We were going to attempt to talk to Congresspeople from the Out of Iraq Caucus, and see if we could get them to come out in support of Matthis' decision not to go to Iraq.
Our first time in a Congressional building was for Winter Soldier on the Hill and the Whistle Blowers Testimonies. Neither of us had been working with the DC guys to set up these events . . . So basically, we hit the Hill completely clueless.
But with coaching and advice from Geoff Millard, we figured out that getting your foot in the Congressional door, figuratively and literally, was a lot easier than most people would assume. First of all, to all IVAW members who haven't at least met with their local congress people . . . What are you waiting for!? It is your RIGHT to speak with the representative who votes in YOUR NAME in the House of Reps. If your Congressperson doesn't know you exist, he or she may not know that there are Veterans who are against the Occupation of Iraq.
When I met with my Congresswoman, Carolyn McCarthy, last month on Long Island, it was the first time she ever heard of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Long Island has the most dense population of Veterans of all wars . . . But I was only the fourth Iraq Veteran who had ever contacted her office! As a Democrat who opposes the continuation of needless death overseas, she has been searching for a way to justify voting against funding. Now that she knows about me, she has an answer to the mindless masses of the Gathering of Eagles, who have a huge, very active group here on Long Island.
So moral of the story is -- Step One: Set up a meeting with your local Congressperson as a CONSTITUENT and representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Step Two: Build a working relationship with the Congressional Office's Veterans Contact. Pro-War or Anti-War, they need to hear our side -- in a respectful, professional manner. They know about the protests and rallies for peace set up by Code Pink and other activist groups, but we are the experts on Iraq and our organization has set a precedent with Congress and is building a respected reputation. Work with that in mind. Step Three: Make sure your Congressperson knows about Winter Soldier, both the March and May events. Testimony from Winter Soldier on the Hill is in the Congressional Record, so they have access to it. Directing the staffers to specific testimony on YouTube or IVAW.org is effective, I did it with McCarthy's office!
...Anyway, back to whats happening in DC-
Last week we met with various staffers, and eventually members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Out of Iraq Caucus. Most offices wanted us to meet with their Veterans contact or Scheduler to throw our pitch. Each meeting with staffers gave us experience and sometimes even direct advice towards sharpening our skills to present an argument, or "list of asks," to the Congressperson that they worked for.
Nicole, our own Dr. Scribe, took notes to help us keep track of everything we accomplished, and more importantly, everything we were learning. One night after a particularly hard-ball staffer meeting, we figured out that we needed to get everything on paper. So we set up a few dozen folders with all the essentials: Matthis' Statement/Refusal to deploy (and media coverage of that to add credibility and recognition), our own research of why it would help the Congresspeople to End the Occupation by supporting those who refuse orders on the grounds that the occupation inherently is illegal in nature, information about IVAW and Winter Soldier, and clear instructions on how Congress can help us.
By the end of our second week in DC we had spent time with Congresswomen Clarke, and Woolsey, and Congressmen Kucinich and Conyers. We got our foot in the door with a bunch of others too because we met with tons of staffers and they had interest in what we were trying to get across.
The most satisfying moment of all the time we spent in meetings came when we met with Chairman Conyers, and the moment Matthis said "I am refusing orders to deploy to Iraq on the grounds that this Occupation is illegal by international law, federal law, and Constitutional law..." and Congressman Conyers, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee interrupted Matthis and said "You're right! I agree! It is illegal."
We're on our way to getting Congressional support for war resisters, and as I said before, it's going better than I ever could have imagined. We, IVAW, are not only the Warriors Against the War, but are the very ammunition of the Congresspeople who want to end the war but just don't know how. By encouraging members or the House to come out and say they support those who refuse to deploy, we are breaking the chains of indentured servitude that the Military has wrapped around it's own "all volunteer force."
While we don't expect legislation to come out in support of war resisters, what we're asking for is a commitment -- that members of Congress will truly SUPPORT THE TROOPS, ALL OF THE TROOPS, and not abandon those who refuse to take part in an illegal war which was based on Lies.
So, to other members of IVAW, and all our supporters, I have two requests:
First- help us fight, and raise the confidence of Members of Congress who want to end the war but don't know how. Make sure your Representative knows who you are, and what IVAW is, and what we stand for.
Second- see if you can come down to DC next weekend for Matthis' next press conference. Sunday, June 15th, is the report date for Matthis' forced deployment orders. On that day he will not be reporting for duty, but instead be in our nation's capital letting the world know that not every Soldier who is overseas is fighting by their own will. We, the members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, stand in solidarity and support of those who choose not to be used by a government who has betrayed its Veterans and Service Members.