Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This article, by Linda Milazzo, was originally published in the Atlantic Free Press, Mar. 20, 2008
Even when reporting the invasion of Iraq, corporate media mitigates or inflames the story to advance its selfish goals. Were presenting the truth and enlightening the populace the intent of corporate media, the March 13th through March 16th Winter Soldier Tribunal would have been televised. Instead, it was ignored. Were it not for independent media like Free Speech TV and Pacifica Radio (which broadcast the original Winter Soldier tribunal in 1971), and internet streaming via the Iraq Veterans Against the War website (ivaw.org), there would have been a total blackout of the live testimonials of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
If corporate media had employed the professionalism and integrity of New Media, it would have broadcast Winter Soldier, whereby a larger audience would have witnessed revelatory testimony by over 100 impassioned heroes. Prior to this weekend's Winter Soldier, local and national media were informed the tribunal was taking place. However, none supported the troops enough to be present to broadcast their stories. Had Winter Soldier been televised, viewers would have seen the anguish of young Americans who saw and committed acts that torment them every day. The public would have heard stories of returning veterans abandoned by their government and by their V.A. (Veterans' Administration). The public would have seen the agony of parents whose 23 year old son hung himself in their closet due to untreated PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) . If Winter Soldier had been televised, The People could no longer accept the deceptions of those who had altered the facts.
The People would have received the knowledge they need to motivate them to act to stop the atrocities to end the war NOW! Indeed, had Winter Soldier been televised, the public would have heard the stories corporate media probably buried. Stories their cozily embedded reporters have known but couldn't report. Stories of soldiers and marines torturing and murdering innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Stories of waving decapitated heads as trophies. Stories of invading and destroying the wrong homes. Stories of shooting dogs for fun. Story after story of the horrors of occupation that have long been denied by the Bush administration and the military, or treated as aberrations on the rare occasions they were revealed. For over five years even before the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq there has been a blight on truth in corporate media. Rather than being an honest purveyor of the occupation, conglomerate media manipulates reality to align with the White House, and to increase its profits from its military subsidiaries. Corporate media's collusion with the Bush administration to orchestrate this illegal and immoral invasion has been documented again and again through highly praised books, like Amy and David Goodman's "The Exception To The Rulers," and in the films "Weapons of Mass Deception" by Danny Schechter and "War Made Easy" by Norman Solomon, along with several others.
Americans who comprehend corporate media's complicity in cheerleading the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq lament media's refusal to atone for its ills. Just like the Bush administration won't admit lying the nation into Iraq, corporate media downplays its role in manufacturing consent for the invasion. With the exception of progressive internet sites and print outlets like Mother Jones and The Nation, broadcasters Link TV, Free Speech TV, PBS' Bill Moyers, Pacifica Radio, and MSNBC's pre-invasion hero, Phil Donahue, American media couldn't wait to broadcast George W. Bush's sadistically dubbed "Shock and Awe."
For months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, to this time five years later, Americans have been fed a lethal diet of lies. Lies from the highest levels of the military and the highest levels of government. Lies from conservative talk radio and from corporate television's anchors. At every outlet with corporate ties, be it NBC, ABC or CBS, CNN, MSNBC or Fox, there are corporate sold lies. If the public doesn't seek alternative outlets for truth, it subsists on fabrication. Thus the job of New Media as an oracle of truth is to rescue Americans from delusion. To perform that job, independent media, was the only source to broadcast Winter Soldier live. Americans NEED the truth. Americans CAN handle the truth. To re-coin an old, but appropriate adage, 'In truth there is knowledge. In knowledge there is power.' A democracy can't survive if its people have no knowledge! A democracy can't exist if its people have no power!
Americans NEED both!
The Winter Soldier tribunal in 1971 led to an invitation to the veterans to testify before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1973, then chaired by Senator J. William Fulbright. The testimony before the Fulbright Committee was so powerful that it helped to expedite the end of the Vietnam War. A similar invitation to testify before the current Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Joe Biden, should be extended to today's Winter Soldiers. Should that happen, as it should, C-SPAN would hopefully televise the event, which would increase the audience significantly.
Posted, by Logan Laituri, to God's Politics, March 17, 2008
During the last four days, more than 100 Iraq Veterans Against the War combat veterans, academics, and international guests shared their experiences with the world through Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations. They offered their accounts in the hopes that they would induce a bit of accountability in the halls of Congress, and detailed the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the occupations of the few who profit, whose profession it is to ensure the longevity of this and other violent conflicts.
My own involvement was in the form of bearing witness [click here to watch the video] to the intricacies and fallibilities of the Rules of Engagement I encountered in my 14 months in combat. Many other panelists offered corroborating evidence and shared similar stories of inadequate training in the use of deadly force, and some explained the troubling, but verifiable, cases in which such restrictions were utterly ignored or outright rejected. In other panels, testifiers shared their experience with the failure of the VA system, outlined the presence of gender discrimination and racism in the military, and described corporate pillaging and war profiteering. The entire event was streamed live to the Web via IVAW's Web site and blogged live via KPFA Radio. Many news articles were written as a result, and the Department of Defense even issued a statement.
I was in the minority as a professed Christian, and I cannot blame my fellow compatriots for their occasional discomfort with the oft-misrepresented ideologies (Religious Right) of the Christian tradition. To my surprise, it was difficult to even blurt out in my own testimony that it was my faith, and not a reaction to the political, economic, or social reality of these conflicts, that inspired me to lay my weapon down. Furthermore, there was no shortage of personal courage displayed throughout the entire event: testifiers ripping off or tearing up the burdensome medals they wore, tears shed in bitter remorse and agony, and (unfortunately) failure to control one's language in frustration and angst. Our critics (whom we invited beforehand, and whom politely agreed to a rigorous code of conduct—to which they submitted faithfully and respectfully) even had some constructive, informative observations to share.
The weekend was never cast as a protest; there were no picket signs or chanting, no march or formation, and it was closed to the public (making the "Gathering of Eagles" just off campus the only actual protesters in attendance). The members and guests who gave "testimony" (a term with which we in the church are well-versed) did so only in the sense that it was an "account" of their experience.
There was one interruption, during the first panel on Friday, where an older gentleman trespassed onto the campus and shouted that people "lied and good men died." He also speculated that those testifying were betraying good men. Interestingly enough, he was NOT talking about our current commander in chief, who is not only directly responsible (according to military tradition and the UCMJ) for the 4,468 American lives lost under his watch, but also for 935 "false statements" (isn't that the same as a "lie?") his administration made in the months leading up to the invasion of a nation we ourselves armed and financed. Besides, the gospels remind us to be wary of any king of men who would reap what he does not sow, or burden his subjects with a yoke he would not carry himself.
Finally, as carefully as I chose to tread with my own faith background, the immense healing properties of confession were hard to ignore. Tears flowed and men of the highest caliber embraced unashamed and readily admitted their reliance on one another. It was an awesome experience that I will forever be proud to have been part of. These honest and humble accounts are a much-needed and too often overlooked offering that has been laid before the American people, a heavy yoke broken by the power of confession and repentance by contrite hearts.
Will America answer the call to metanoia and turn from its destructive, exploitative ways? Will we lay the idols of oil and nationalism and greed upon the altar, and seek a more firm and lasting peace with our neighbors in the global community?
Will we no longer be a reproach to the nations around us, victims of our own arrogance and unconcern?
Insha'allah; God willing.
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.
Former 10th corporal speaks out against war
Winter Soldier: Event in Maryland attracts dozens who participated in U.S. mission in Iraq
Posted, by Marc Heller, to the Watertown Daily Times, March 15, 2008
WASHINGTON — Philip Aliff isn't afraid to admit he was in the Army for the money. But even that — his salary, a $7,000 signing bonus and money for college — wasn't worth what he learned in Iraq.
The war, he discovered, was not for him. Neither was the Army.
Mr. Aliff, who finished his tour as a corporal with the 10th Mountain Division last week, was among the current and former soldiers speaking out against the mission in Iraq at Winter Solider, a four-day conference in Silver Spring, Md., sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"My experiences in Iraq were what radicalized me," Mr. Aliff, 21, said in an interview Friday. "I really didn't understand the dynamic of what was happening in Iraq."
Mr. Aliff, who was with the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team from Fort Drum, said the situation was far more violent than the rebuilding effort commanders advertised or were prepared to handle.
The result, he said, were contradictory messages for Iraqi civilians as U.S. forces arrested scores of fighting-age men on flimsy suspicion of wrongdoing, only to let them go a few days later.
"We'd hand kids soccer balls," said Mr. Aliff, whose duties included daily combat patrols in Abu Ghraib City and, later, the more violent area near Fallujah in 2005. "They'd see us on the one hand giving them things, and on the other hand arresting their families."
The anti-war conference attracted dozens of soldiers and former soldiers, and possibly a comparable number of reporters and television crews.
In a twist, it also attracted pro-war protesters on the road outside the campus of the National Labor College, where the event was staged. Dozens of armed police officers and hired security guards, including a handful of Vietnam War veterans recruited by IVAW, kept pro-war demonstrators out.
The war supporters held banners proclaiming support for troops and accusing IVAW of undermining the U.S. mission to lay the groundwork for democracy and fight terrorists.
Journalists and other visitors admitted to the event were asked to sign a pledge not to disrupt the proceedings, and organizers warned that any outbursts could lead to expulsion, escorted by security.
On a table outside a conference room was a stack of yellow fliers advertising the New York State Marches for Peace walk May 8 to 17 that starts in Western New York and ends in Watertown.
Former and current soldiers spoke at a series of panel discussions about the killing of innocent civilians; waste, fraud and abuse by defense contractors; poor care for wounded veterans, and other issues. Many of the panelists were longtime soldiers who had re-enlisted more than once and said they did not regret their military service.
"I gained a huge experience," Mr. Aliff said, although he decided not to re-enlist. He said he was drawn to the Army by the signing bonus, college money and what seemed like a solid way to start out his adult life.
Other IVAW members spoke of longer commitments to the Army and said they would not dissuade potential recruits from joining as long as they "seek the truth" about the Army and its missions.
"My service in the military has been the greatest honor in my life," said Luis Montalvan, who left the Army as a captain with 17 years of experience and said he suffers post-traumatic stress syndrome. He wore his Army medals at a press conference Thursday, ahead of the event.
Mr. Aliff said his own unit's exposure to violence was probably a lingering result of the tough tactics used by the previous unit in the same area — the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
"From the moment we took over, it was like this," Mr. Aliff said. "People saw the same patches."
Although some IVAW members spoke of punishment for their anti-war views, Mr. Aliff said he received only a talking-to from his squad leader when he joined IVAW as an active-duty soldier.
When he spoke out, he said, "it was reinvigorating. I felt like I finally had a voice."
Mr. Aliff, who is single and from Atlanta, said he hopes to start art school next fall, but he is not sure where.
by Justin Cliburn IVAW.orgi, March 14, 2008 - 10:26am
Zollie Goodman was told when he was enlisting that the one thing the military would never take away from him was health care for he and his family. His pregnant wife, while he was at sea, started bleeding and called the doctor. She was told that, if she had $1500 for an ambulance, they would send one, but that they couldn't pay for it. She had to wait for a friend to drive her to a different hospital and eventually had a miscarriage. Shortly after, Goodman was discharged from the military. He found out that he was eligible for veterans healthcare and sought out help for PTSD. The medications he was given made him nervous, anxious, and having suicidal thoughts; he later learned that those were merely side effects of the medication the VA was giving him. He tried therapy and found Vietnam veterans who had been taking the same medication and going to the same therapy for years and hadn't changed. He saw homeless veterans on the street and realized what a terrible job the VA was doing.
On the morning after reaching the National Labor College and our friends and allies, it was only appropriate that he begin the testimony. If I have met a man more befitting of his name, I do not remember. Hart Viges, however, was not always the kind, deep-thinking man he is today, according to his testimony today. Iraq changed him, like it has so many of our youth, including me. Hart has felt many of the same emotions we all have and testified to the guilt he has felt after mass-mortaring Iraqi towns and not having to see the effects of his work. He is particularly ashamed of not taking a trophy picture with a dead Iraqi . . . not because of his moral opposition to it, but instead because it wasn't his kill.
Clifton Hicks began his testimony by making it clear how much he loves and respects the men he served with in Iraq. They kept him safe and they kept him sane and many of them truly believed in the mission they were undertaking, and that is okay; he will always love them and would never betray them.
Clifton Hicks and his comrade, Steve Casey, are giving testimony about their experience in a "free-fire zone" because there were "no friendlies." According to a numbers cruncher later on, their company had killed between 700 and 800 enemy combatants, however, Hicks and Casey never saw any enemy combatants. In November of 2003, according to Hicks, an AC-130 gunship opened fire on an apartment complex. There was prior-notice given to the company, according to Hicks, by a Lieutenant Colonel about "putting on a show" for the boys. Later, the apartment was annihilated as Casey and his comrades watched and cheered from the roof of a nearby building. Casey states that he never thought about it at the time, but now the loss of so much civilian life truly bothers him.
Hicks is testifying that this building demolition was the most destructive act he's seen in his entire life, and it was not a legitimate military target. A sniper team could have neutralized the enemy sporadically firing from that location, but leadership instead chose to destroy the entire building and the civilians inside.
Hicks is testifying now about a wedding party that was fired upon by an infantry patrol that that had confused their celebratory gunfire for the gunfire that they had received across the street. In the end, there were several members of the family wounded and one killed . . . a young girl, maybe six or seven years old. After realizing their folly, all the men could do was move on after their leadership told them to continue mission.
The testimony was just interrupted by an older man yelling "Carried live while good men die!" before being escorted away. Yes, sir, good men are dying. Good American men are dying and good Iraqi men are dying. Just like you, we want it to stop, and that is where we share commonality. We are not "betraying" anyone as you assert, sir; we are those who are giving a voice to those who cannot speak their mind in the conformist, oppressive culture of the US military.
Steve Casey is now continuing the testimony and speaking about a house raid where the squad destroyed the contents of an entire house while a woman shrieked, only to find out they were at the wrong house. He is now showing a video of that raid, and answering questions about the mistaken raid. The woman's voice is haunting, and I now wonder what it must have been like for her to clean up that house after the US had left. Casey reiterates that this is not an indictment on those he served with; they were products of the environment they were in.
Steven Mortillo served in the army from 2002 to 2005 as a scout. March 17th, 2004, Mortillo arrived in Iraq and spent most of his time conducting "presence patrols", walking down the street waiting for something to go wrong. On one of these patrols, his squad received RPG fire and could not return fire, due to the angle of the Bradley weapon system. They fired warning shots into a wall in order to prevent any more action. They showed remarkable restraint, but that would not be the case for the entirety of their tour. Once they started taking casualties and losing men, they started losing patience and growing resentful. It became more and more difficult to restrain their anger.
On a dismounted patrol that December, Mortillo's squad came under fire. He called up the contact reports on his manpack radio and suppressed the area with M203 grenades; the fighting was intense and fast-paced. After breaking contact, his unit EVACed their platoon leader, who had been wounded, into an awaiting Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The enraged Bradley crew asked where the attack had come from and directed all their firepower at the area, a highly populated residential neighborhood. The sincerity in his voice and periodic pauses in his speech are convincing; this man feels horrible for what he and his comrades did in that theater. According to Mortillo, it was difficult to even know if you are following the ROE when you are in the thick of it and especially when you believe you are getting revenge for the death of a friend.
Thus far, every participant has taken great pains to make it clear that they are not here selling out their buddies or betraying anyone.
Jesse Hamilton was a former drill sergeant and gung ho soldier who volunteered to go to Iraq to help mentor the Iraqi army, even though he disagreed with the war. In Fallujah from 2005 to 2006, Hamilton served mostly with a ten man team and many Iraqi personnel. In his opinion, there are no true ROE in Iraq because the Iraqi forces and the civilian resistance paid no attention to ROE. The Iraqi forces were poorly trained or poorly concerned about the matter of firing their weapons in a responsible manner. Anyone who has trained these men, as I have, knows what he means Hamilton says, "Spray and Pray." I understand what Hamilton means when he says that it seemed as if the Iraqis didn't treat their own civilians very well. The Iraqis could be very brutal, especially after Iraqi soldiers had been killed. After taking prisoners, the cruel nature of the men was exposed and Hamilton and the other American advisers did all they could to quell that. The main goals of Hamilton's squad were to keep the Iraqis from having negligent discharges of their weapons and keeping the Iraqis from torturing their prisoners. Such a mission made apathy inevitable and wore Hamilton's squad down emotionally and mentally. Yes, the Iraqi Army made improvements tactically while Hamilton was in the theater, but their cruelty to each other never did. As a soldier, it is impossible to change the culture of another country; Hamilton maintains, that if that is our mission, it is a lost cause. If the Iraqis want self-governance, give it to them. These are the words of a man who wanted so badly for things to be different. He cared for these men and sacrificed much to train and mentor them. It's just not worth it, he ends.
IVAW's most famous (or infamous, depending on your opinion of him) member, Adam Kokesh, did not agree with the war, but he did volunteer to serve in Iraq in order to "do the right thing" and "clean up our mess". Adam is reading the ROE card that every soldier or Marine is given.
Adam was in Fallujah shortly after the four Blackwater contractors were killed and hanged from a bridge. In that city, the ROE was always changing.
On the screen is a picture of a vehicle that was destroyed by a .50 caliber machine gun at a checkpoint because it seemed suspicious and the Marines felt threatened. As the car and the people inside burned, the Marines tried to justify their action by discussing what they asserted were rounds inside the vehicle cooking off . . . after bringing the car inside, however, they found that there were no rounds and the inhabitants of the car were unarmed.
During the waning days of the siege of Fallujah, fires broke out and Iraqi firefighters and police raced to the scene. US forces saw the silhouettes up against the area where they had taken fire and started firing on the men. Miscommunication was often the cause of scenes like this.
It was relayed to Kokesh's unit that al Zarqawi was fleeing the city in a Black Opal and to stop all black Opals . . . black Opals were everywhere in Iraq. Kokesh testifies that, whether they are guilty or innocent, all the detainees get treated the same, and it leads to more and more "innocent" ones becoming part of the insurgency.
Kokesh truly believed that he would be doing great things when he went to Iraq with the Civil Affairs team. "We care, so you don't have to" became the mantra as he spent more and more time in Iraq trying to catch rides with infantry squads in order to do his job. Kokesh was proud of what he could do on a local scale and he did the best job that he could.
Jason Hurd served in Baghdad from November 2004 to November 2005. Jason's father, a truly gung-ho WWII veteran and gun enthusiast, was vehemently opposed to Jason joining the army, and Jason is now convinced that he had severe PTSD. Jason joined anyway and found himself in Iraq serving as a combat medic. His first mission involved manning observation points along the International Zone . . . or Green Zone. After a stray bullet from an Iraqi Police-led firefight across the river hit the shield of an American humvee, the gunner fired over 200 .50 caliber machine gun rounds into a building that may or may not have had civilians inside; they never knew.
After following the rules of escalation and rules of engagement to a tee for months, the absurdity of war crept in and soldiers started taking liberties. They escalated force before they were allowed to do so.
Jason is now telling the story of an Iraqi woman who told them about her husband, who had been killed by US forces after merely getting too close to a convoy. Shortly after, her husband's death, her house was raided, and her son was detained and taken away and returned two weeks later. The intelligence was faulty, and the raid never should have been conducted in the first place.
The personal anguish in Jason's voice as he provides accounts of car bombs, dying Iraqi teenagers, "drawing down" on an eighty-year old Iraqi woman, and the effects of PTSD since his return. He points out that every survey shows the majority of Iraqis approve of attacks on Americans, who they believe are to blame for their situation. It is much like how we react if we were invaded by another country. An Iraqi man once told Hurd that they did not question the intentions of the US soldiers, but that their presence is what has caused so much pain and suffering.
Jose Vasquez is concluding this panel and summing up the point of this event.