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.
DUBAI (AFP) - Iraq's defence minister said on Saturday that his country needs US troops to protect its borders and also for "strategic deterrence."
"We need US troops... for the defence of the borders... I don't have anything I can use for strategic deterrence. I do not have intercepting aircraft," Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed told AFP on the sidelines of a conference in the United Arab Emirates.
"My need for them (US troops) is pressing in this regard," Mohammed said.
But the Iraqi official, who was in Dubai to attend a conference on Iraqi defence and security, said that Iraqi troops always replace US forces when the security situation improves and the latter withdraw from a certain area.
"Whenever the security situation seriously improves we replace them. We have a plan for this year but I cannot disclose the timetable," he said.
"Anyway, the Americans themselves are not willing to abandon Iraq unless they are confident that we are capable. This is an agreement," Mohammed added.
In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
In 1971, a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Once again, we will create a space for veterans to make their voices heard.
Once again, we are fighting for the soul of our country. We will demonstrate our patriotism by speaking out with honor and integrity instead of blindly following failed policy. Winter Soldier is a difficult but essential service to our country.
Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.
The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.
When: Thursday March 13 to Sunday March 16
For those interested in watching or organizing around the proceedings at Winter Soldier, there will be a number of ways to watch and listen to the event.
Live television broadcast via satellite tv, accessible through Dish Network as well as public access stations that choose to carry our broadcast - Friday and Saturday only
Live video stream on the web - Thursday through Sunday
Live radio broadcast via KPFA in Berkley California and other Pacifica member stations--Friday through Sunday
One of the goals of the Sir! No Sir! blog is to provide articles and announcements that can be copied wholesale and used by resisters and activists on their blogs or in zines and newsletters. A second, and equally important theme for this blog, is to highlight acts of resistance that illustrate how the growing GI movement against the war in Iraq is not unique to that conflict. Instead, it is part of a wider network of resistance among active duty soldiers across the globe. In that light, I shall be including information from the Israeli Refuser Network. While this may strike some readers as stepping out of the boundaries of the American GI movement, I believe that resistors are empowered to act when they know: first, that they will not be hung out to dry and second, that they are not alone in their struggle. The following announcements were originally published in the January 2008 Refuser Solidarity Network Newsletter.
BREAKING THE SILENCE COMES TO THE U.S.!
This spring, Americans will have the opportunity to see and hear Breaking the Silence, an exhibit of over 100 photographs and video testimonies by current and former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers documenting their experiences in the Occupied Territories. In February, the exhibit will premiere in Philadelphia, and in March, it will travel to Cambridge, MA, where it will be shown at Harvard's Center for Government and International Studies. Several members of Breaking the Silence will be present in Philadelphia and Cambridge to engage the public on the content and meaning of the exhibit. BTS is looking for additional venues--synagogues, Jewish community centers, schools, house parties, etc--in the Boston or Philadelphia area (or anywhere in between) to host additional presentations by BTS members. In addition, members will provide guided tours for organizations interested in visiting the Boston or Philadelphia exhibit site. The Refuser Solidarity Network believes strongly in the BTS message and exhibition and urges you to support this effort. To donate online, please visit the RSN website, www.refusersolidarity.net, click on the "Donate Now" button below and specify "Breaking the Silence Exhibit" in the RSN Project field. To schedule a tour or a speaking engagement, contact Ben Murane, firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 646-419-2016.
The BTS tour is sponsored by Americans for Peace Now (www.peacenow.org); Brit Tzedek v'Shalom (www.btvshalom.org); Hashomer Hatzair (www.hashomerhatzair.org); Meretz USA (www.meretzusa.org), and the Union of Progressive Zionists (www.upzshalom.org).
The Combatants for Peace movement was started jointly by Palestinians and Israelis who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence-Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army (IDF) and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom. Since 2005, CFP has organized meetings between Israeli and Palestinian veterans in which both sides tell about the violent actions that they have taken part in and about the turning point that led them to understand the limits of violence. These combatants' meetings allow each side to understand the other's narrative through reconciliation rather than conflict.
Combatants for Peace continues its participation in Abir Aramin's Garden, a memorial to 10-year-old Abir, who was killed last January by Israeli soldiers near her school in Anata. Abir was the daughter of Bassam Aramin, one of the founders of Combatants for Peace. The project is designed to give the children of Anata the opportunity to play safely in an organized playground and is a cooperative effort by the Aramin family, Combatants for Peace, The Rebuilding Alliance (www.rebuildingalliance.org) and Women of a Certain Age. You can donate to Abir's Garden by visiting the Combatants for Peace Website, www.combatantsforpeace.org, clocking on "Projects," and following the links to Abir Aramin's Garden. You can also read an opinion piece by Bassam Aramin recently published in the Jewish Daily Forward, www.forward.com/articles/a-plea-for-peace-from-a-bereaved-palestinian-fathe, and a transcript of an interview broadcast on the BBC last October, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/7064104.stm.
Members of CFP have been spreading their message in the United States. In August, two members of CFP spoke in St. Louis, MO at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace, a 7000-member organization dedicated to abolishing war. Israeli Yonatan Gur and Palestinian Raed Al-Haddar were featured prominently in an article in the VFP newsletter, which you can find at www.veteransforpeace.org (click on "Newsroom," then on "newsletter," in the upper right corner, then on "October, 2007," and go to page 2).
In November, Zohar Shapira and Sulaiman Khatib accepted an award on behalf of CFP from Search for Common Ground, an organization that works with local partners for the peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world. Other awardees at the gala New York City ceremony included Ismael Beah, author of the best-selling book A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier and veteran TV newsman and Public Television host Charlie Rose. Charlayne Hunter-Gault of PBS and NPR presided, and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary had the crowd singing and cheering. At a separate ceremony, Bassam Aramin of Combatants for Peace was presented with the Eliav-Sartawi Media Award at Columbia University for his op-ed in the Jewish Daily Forward (see link, above).
Previous recipients of the Common Ground Award, which was established in 1998, include former President Jimmy Carter, former Senator George Mitchell, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim. You can watch a brief video highlighting past recipients and describing Search from Common Ground at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6433282651809828481. Learn more about the organization at www.sfcg.org.
Finally in CFP news, "On the Objection Front," a 2005 film by Shiri Tsur, will soon be broadcast in Israel for the first time. The film whose Hebrew title, "Ratziti Lihiyot Gibor," literally means "I Wanted to Be a Hero," features interviews with signers of the original Combatants Letter, the Israelis who first refused to serve in the Occupied Territories for reasons of conscience. The film has been shown at numerous film festivals in the U.S., Canada and Europe before finally airing on Israel's YES cable TV channel. The film's website is www.objectionfront.com; click on "English," at the bottom, to watch a trailer with English titles.
Yesh G'vul ("There is a limit!") is an Israeli peace group campaigning against the Occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties in the Occupied Territories. Yesh G'vul arose in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It offers counseling to soldiers who wrestle with the painful choice between serving policies they find abhorrent and defying military discipline. The organization provides moral and material backing for those who elect to refuse, ranging from financial support for families of jailed refuseniks to vigils at the military prisons where they are held. The oldest of the refuser groups, Yesh G'vul continues to oppose illegal military actions in the Occupied Territories.
During 2007 Yesh G'vul focused on the ongoing campaign to end judicial impunity for Israeli officials, army officers and soldiers and bring to trial those responsible for committing war crimes. The legal procedures that YG began more than five years ago, following the targeted killing of Hamas leader Salah Shechade in Gaza city, along with 14 civilians (nine of whom were children), culminated this June, when the Israeli High Court of Justice strongly recommended that the state appoint an independent commission to investigate this incident. In September the state agreed to this recommendation. For more information, go to http://yeshgvul.org/articles_e.asp?id=87a4ba17a1619273bd6356b7c2986841 This judicial process is not over yet, since the state has not named the members of this committee, nor defined its scope or jurisdiction. YG, together with leading Israeli human-rights lawyers Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, demand that the members of this committee not be linked to the Israeli military establishment and that its jurisdiction allow members to examine top-rank officers and politicians who were responsible for this operation.
Along with its legal activism, YG mounted a public campaign about the implications of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) for suspected Israeli war criminals, focusing on the Shechade case. YG organized a petition of well known authors, artists, academics and human rights activists calling for an independent investigation. At the end of October YG held a press conference featuring former Minister of Education Yossi Sarid, Israel Air Force Reserve Brigadier-General Yiftach Spector, the poet Natan Zach and Advocate Michael Sfard. To see a video recording of the press conference (in Hebrew), go to http://www.tv.social.org.il/medini/yes-gvul-mesiba-29-10-07.htm. Yesh G'vul is currently looking for Hebrew speakers to help with the translation into English; volunteers can contact YG at email@example.com.
YG activists have also continued to distribute the YG guidebook about war crimes and the IHL to soldiers on their way to service in the Occupied Territories. Thousands of copies of this guidebook were distributed this year and an updated version will be published at the beginning of 2008.
You can see the guidebook at: http://www.yeshgvul.org.il/docs/YGwarcrimes%20booklet.doc.
This year, YG plans to expand this project to include a public education campaign and a war crimes data base and to continue working with Israeli, Palestinian and international partners to create an effective lobby for ending immunity from prosecution.
Although the number of jailed refuseniks decreased dramatically in 2007, YG still operates its 24-hour hot-line, as it has for the past 25 years. YG activists counsel soldiers, both in conscript and reserve service, who are contemplating refusal.
YG also continues to distribute its fifth book about refusal, a collection of essays, photos and art titled "Occupation and Refusal," edited by YG spokesman Ishai Menuchin. The fourth book about refusal, "Refusenik," a collection of letters and statements by Israeli refuseniks from the last thirty years edited by YG activist Pertetz Kidron, was published this year in Turkey and Brazil, after having already been published in Israel, Japan, Greece, England, Italy and Belgium.
Last spring, as they have done for the past decade, YG celebrated Israeli Independence Day by honoring peace and social justice activists. More than 1500 supporters attended the event. The ceremony recognized Tally Fahima, who was jailed for two years after meeting senior Fatah militants in Jenin refugee camp; film director Jad Ne-eman; Second Lebanon War refusenik Amir Paster; human rights lawyer Gabi Laski; African refugee Johnny Bayou and others.
Finally, YG assisted Palestinian farmers who face constant harassment by Israeli settlers during the olive harvest, joined a coalition of peace groups who carried out actions in June marking the 40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, and continues to participate in the coalition against the Separation Wall.
New Profile is a group of feminist women and men who oppose the militarization of Israeli society. NP works for a truly democratic civic education, teaching the practice of peace and conflict resolution, rather than training children to enlist and accept warfare.
Last month, New Profile joined more than a dozen peace and justice organizations that issued a press release calling on the Israeli government to end the siege of Gaza. These organizations have joined with the international End the Siege campaign, which calls upon the Israeli government to end the siege and stop other repressive measures imposed on the civilian population of Gaza. The campaign seeks to make the Israeli public and the international community aware of the deteriorating living conditions resulting from the siege and to mobilize governments and communities to stop the boycott of Gaza. You can read the text of this press release at http://groups.google.com/group/newprofile/browse_thread/thread/af5f2b0e848a412b (click on "Show quoted text).
New Profile has also issued a position paper supporting Daniel Ben Simon, a paramedic in the Israeli Red Cross (Magen David Adom, or MDA), who has been suspended from his job for refusing to wear military-style epaulettes that are part of the MDA uniform. Ben Simon maintains that as a profoundly civilian organization, MDA should follow the example of the International Red Cross and define itself as humanitarian, not military. Ben-Simon has appealed to the labor relations court, and New Profile intends to finance legal aid to help him in his struggle against the quasi-military culture of MDA; the cost of such legal support will be around $6,000. You can help defend Daniel Ben-Simon through the RSN web site, www.refusersolidarity.net; click on "Donate Now: and specify "New Profile" in the box marked "Projects you would like to support." Read the position paper at www.newprofile.org/showdata.asp?pid=1202&language=en.
Finally, New Profile has endorsed a public petition condemning the appointment of General Dan Halutz as director general of Kamor, the official BMW dealer in Israel. Halutz was the commander of the assassination of Salah Shechade (see Yesh G'vul news, above) and was responsible for the killing of more than 1000 Lebanese civilians during the Israeli aggression in Lebanon in 2006. You can see and sign the petition at www.al-arabeya.net/halots (scroll down for the English version).
In addition to visiting the New Profile web site, you can learn more about NP, its members and its projects at its message board, http://groups.google.com/group/newprofile. There you can also sign up for the NP mailing list.
NEWS FROM ISRAEL/PALESTINE
In a piece published in Ha'aretz, Nufar Yishai-Karin describes the brutality she witnessed among Israeli soldiers during her time in the Israeli Army. You can read this provocative article at http://yeshgvul.org.il/articles_e.asp?id=e45366a615176116bd9996a5863fff34.
Two articles in Ha'aretz focus on Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, implicated in the Shechade assassination, and explore current efforts to bring those responsible to justice: www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/932411.html and www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/931680.
A longer piece, also in Ha'aretz, features an interview with Yiftach Spector, one of the Israeli army veterans who have called for an independent investigation of the Shechade case (see Yesh G'vul news, above). This in-depth interview with Spector provides a moving account of one man's journey from enthusiastic fighter pilot to peace activist. Read it at www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/932058.html. Another interview with Spector appears in The Electronic Intifada, at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article2093.shtml.
An article from the web site of Jews on First, an internet-based organization that mobilizes Jews to resist Christian fundamentalist attacks on the First Amendment, exposes the links between so-called Christian Zionists and the campaign for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, with particular attention to the views of would-be Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Read it at www.jewsonfirst.org/08a/huckabee_christian_zionist.html.
Be sure to check out a new film, "Occupation 101: Voices of the Silenced Majority," now available for purchase on DVD; you can watch parts of this award winning film online, find out more about the filmmakers, and purchase a copy at www.occupation101.com.
American officials secretly visiting the Middle East
[Kuwaiti] Newspaper Manar says that in the last three days there were secret intensive contacts between the American Administration and Arab capitals preparing for the serious vital developments in the region in the next few weeks, before the end of March.
The nature of this development is not revealed yet, but American officials are secretly visiting the Middle East in preparation and coordination between the Arab capitals and Israel. [read….Secret document: How to pressure Syria to save Lebanon]
Jordan threatens the U.S. and Israel
According to the Kuwaiti newspaper Aljarida, Jordan is very angry with the United States and Israel, threatens to cooperate with Syria and Iran.
The Jordanians sent high-level messages to the US and Israel saying they are strongly opposed to Washington -Tel Aviv’s focus of the “Jewish Israel” because this means the re-settlement of more than two million Palestinian refugees in its territory.
The newspaper contacted a Jordanian official who requested anonymity, said:
The Jordanian leadership contacts the US to persuade the Americans to abandon the idea of a “Jewish state” in Israel, because of the great dangers to Jordanian interests, in the midst of information on Jordanian – American summit this month.
The source said that if Jordan requests are ignored, it will consider the Syria - Iran option.
Original article, by Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon, was published in The New York Times. February 4, 2008
American military forces in Iraq were authorized to pursue former members of Saddam Hussein's government and terrorists across Iraq's borders into Iran and Syria, according to a classified 2005 document that has been made public by an independent Web site.
The document, which was disclosed by the organization Wikileaks and which American officials said appeared authentic, outlined the rules of engagement for the American division that was based in Baghdad and central Iraq that year.
It also provided instructions for how to deal with the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr: his status as a hostile foe was ''suspended,'' and he and his key associates were not to be attacked except in self-defense.
Wikileaks, a Web site that encourages posting of leaked materials, says its goal in disclosing secret documents is to reveal ''unethical behavior'' by governments and corporations. It has previously posted the United States military's manual for operating its prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; a military assessment of a 2004 attack in Falluja; and lists of American military equipment in Iraq.
The American military command in Baghdad on Sunday sharply criticized the group's decision to post the document.
''While we will not comment on whether this is, in fact, an official document, we do consider the deliberate release of what Wikileaks believes to be a classified document is irresponsible and, if valid, could put U.S. military personnel at risk,'' said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, a spokesman for the command.
Rules of engagement in Iraq, which cover the procedures for using force on a battlefield in which insurgents and terrorists mix with civilians, have long been considered highly classified. The American military's concern is that adversaries will be able to adjust their tactics if they know the rules that describe the specific circumstances in which force may and may not be used.
The 2005 document covers the procedures used by Multi-National Division Baghdad, the American unit that operated in the Iraqi capital and central Iraq. At a time when sectarian divisions had brought Iraq to a low-level civil war, the document suggests that capturing and killing former members of Mr. Hussein's government was still a concern.
In a section on crossing international borders, the document said the permission of the American defense secretary was required before American forces could cross into or fly over Iranian or Syrian territory. Such actions, the document suggested, would probably also require the approval of President Bush.
But the document said that there were cases in which such approval was not required: when American forces were in hot pursuit of former members of Mr. Hussein's government or terrorists.
Approval by the defense secretary ''is not required to conduct uninterrupted pursuit and engagement of positively identified former regime military aircraft, terrorist and senior [former] military leadership and senior nonmilitary elements of former Iraqi regime command and control across international borders,'' the document said.
It stated that the American commander engaged in the pursuit, however, should consult with top commanders in Baghdad, ''time permitting.''
It is not known if the authority to conduct hot pursuits across the Iranian and Syrian borders was ever used or what authority exists today. In October 2005, The New York Times reported that there had been a series of clashes between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq. According to the 2005 document, American forces were also authorized to respond to a ''hostile force'' that used Syrian or Iranian territory to attack American troops in Iraq or that posed an ''imminent threat'' to American operations there. They were instructed to consult with a senior American commander if there was time.
Apparently in a carryover from the intelligence failures of the Iraq invasion in early 2003, the document says the United States Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, gave American commanders in Iraq the authority to attack mobile ''W.M.D. labs''; such labs for making germ weapons were later determined not to exist.
The 2005 document also referred to a Central Command list of the ''hostile forces'' that may be ''engaged and destroyed.'' It focused heavily on Mr. Hussein's former security forces, like the Special Republican Guard and members of the Baath Party militia that were said to have shifted from ''overt conventional resistance to insurgent methods of resistance.''
Reflecting the clash the year before between American forces and Mr. Sadr's militia, the document said the militia and other armed supporters of the cleric had also been on the list of paramilitary forces deemed to be ''hostile.'' L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American occupation authority in Iraq until June 2004, had branded Mr. Sadr an outlaw, and an Iraqi judge had issued a secret warrant for his arrest.
But a truce was later worked out with Mr. Sadr, and Iraqi politicians sought to bring him into the political process. Apparently as a result of those developments, the rules of engagement were modified. Referring to Mr. Sadr and the Mahdi Army, the document says: ''Their status as a declared hostile force, however, is suspended and such individuals will not be engaged except in self-defense.