By James | December 15, 2007 - 6:19 pm - Posted in , , , ,

Dscharged US army private Damien Corsetti has described the “morally unacceptable” cases of physical and psychological torture he says he witnessed as an interrogator at the prisons of Bagram in Afghanistan and Abu-Ghurayb in Iraq. Speaking in an interview with a Spanish paper, he said the vast majority of the individuals he questioned in the course of his duties “had nothing to do with either the Taleban or Al-Qa’idah” and that while he never took part in acts of abuse, many were tortured “to make them suffer, not to get information out of them”. The following is the text of the report on the interview with Corsetti published by the Spanish popular liberal newspaper El Mundo website on 10 December; subheading as published:

Fairfax (Virginia): Damien Corsetti looks at me with his small eyes and says: “Look, they leave us alone in this room, they give me a roll of duct tape to tie you to the chair, I turn off the light and in five hours you sign a piece of paper for me saying that you’re Usamah Bin-Ladin”.

It is a Thursday night. Damien Corsetti - who, according to The New York Times was nicknamed “The King of Torture” and “The Monster” by his colleagues at Bagram prison, in Afghanistan - is sitting down having a glass of wine in a French restaurant in Fairfax, on the outskirts of Washington. Four days ago, this US private arrived on the outskirts of Washington from North Carolina, where he had been living since September 2006, when he was discharged from the army following a trial in which he was found not guilty of the charges of dereliction of duty, maltreatment, assault and performing indecent acts with prisoners at Bagram.

Now, Corsetti - who was also under investigation in the Abu-Ghurayb torture case - only wants to put his life “in order”. It is a difficult task. Because first he will have to forget the torture to which he says he was a witness in Afghanistan of prisoners such as Al-Qa’idah leader Omar al-Faruq. “The cries, the smells, the sounds are with me. They are things that stay with you forever”, he recalls.

Corsetti arrived in Afghanistan on 29 July 2002. He was a military intelligence soldier, not an interrogator. “But the army needed reliable interrogators, because most interrogators do not meet security requirements. They are not reliable. So we arrived there”. A five-hour course in Afghanistan and, at 22, Corsetti began trying to extract information from the prisoners in the jail - prisoners who, in his opinion, “in 98 per cent of cases had nothing to do with either the Taleban or Al-Qa’idah”.

That is how Corsetti found himself interrogating prisoners at the jail. Many of them were people who had nothing to do with (George W.) Bush’s war on terror, like his first prisoner, whose name he still remembers: Khan Zara. “He was a peasant and grew opium. But he was there three months until he told us. Do you know how I found out. Because of his hands. His hands were full of calluses. Those are not the hands of a terrorist”.

Other prisoners include a farmer who had put mines on his land to kill his neighbour, with who he had a long-standing family dispute, and an Afghan who had bombs in his house to fish in the river. They were people like Dilawar, a taxi driver detained in 2002 who had nothing to do with the Taleban and who died after four days of beatings from US soldiers.

Because Bagram is a very tough prison. “Each prisoner has in his cell a carpet measuring 1.2 m by 2.5 m. And they spend 23 hours a day sat on it, in silence. If they speak, they are chained to the ceiling for 20 minutes and black visors are put on them so they can’t see and protectors are put on their ears so they can’t hear. They are taken down to the basement once a week, in groups of five or six, to shower them. It’s done to drive them crazy. I almost went crazy”, recalls Corsetti. Apart from those normal cells, in the basement of the prison there are six isolation cells, plus two rooms for who the former soldier describes as “special guests”.

But Bagram has an underworld in which the CIA tortures the leaders of Al-Qa’idah. “One day I went to an interrogation session and as soon as I arrived I knew that it was not a normal case. There were civilians, among them a doctor and a psychiatrist. The prisoner was called Omar al-Faruq, an Al-Qa’idah leader in Asia who had been brought to the prison by one of those agencies”, recalls Corsetti. “I don’t want to go into details because it could be very negative for my country, but he was brutally beaten - daily. And tortured by other methods. He was a bad man, but he didn’t deserve that”. Al-Faruq escaped from Bagram in action which, according to some, was tolerated by the USA and was killed in April 2006 by the British in the Iraqi city of Basra.

Corsetti says that he never took part in the torture. “My sole job was to sit there and make sure the prisoner didn’t die. But there were several times when I thought they were about to die, when they were interrogated by those people who have no name and who work for no-one in particular. It’s incredible what a human being can take”. A resistance similar to that of the memory of those torture sessions. Because Corsetti, a veteran of two wars, says: “I have seen people die in combat. I shot at people. That is not as bad as seeing someone tortured. Al-Faruq looked at me while they tortured him and I have that look in my head. And the cries, the smells, the sounds, they are with me all the time. It is something I can’t take in. The cries of the prisoners calling for their relatives, their mother. I remember one who called for God, for Allah, all the time. I have those cries here, inside my head”.

“In Abu-Ghurayb and Bagram they were tortured to make them suffer, not to get information out of them”. And the fact is that at times the torture had no other goal that “to punish them for being terrorists. They tortured them and didn’t ask them anything”. That is the case of the practice known as “the submarine”: to simulate the drowning of the prisoner. “They have them hooded and they pour water on them. That makes it very difficult to breath. I think you can’t die with the submarine. I certainly never saw anyone die. However, they do cough like crazy because they are totally submerged in water and that gets on their lungs. Perhaps what it can give you is serious pneumonia”. The civilians who took part in the interrogations used the submarine whenever they wanted. They gave it to them for five or 10 minutes and didn’t ask anything”.

Other torture included using extreme cold and heat. “I remember one of my prisoners trembling with cold. His teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. I put a blanket on him and then another, and another, and his teeth never stopped chattering, never stopped. You could see that man was going to die of hypothermia. But the doctors are there so that they don’t die, so as to be able to torture them one more day”. At other times, “they put them under blinding lights that worked mechanically, giving out flashes”.

“They are going to kill your children”

An important subject was that of psychological torture, administered by psychiatrists. “They tell them they are going to kill their children, rape their wives. And you see on their faces, in their eyes, the terror that that causes them. Because, of course, we know all about those people. We know the names of their children, where they live - we show them satellite photos of their houses. It is worse than any torture. That is not morally acceptable under any circumstances. Not even with the worst terrorist in the world”, says Corsetti, before adding: “Sometimes, we put one of our women (female US military personnel) in burqas and we made them walk through the interrogation rooms and we told them: ‘That is your wife’. And the prisoner believed it. Why wouldn’t they! We had those people going without sleep for a whole week. After two or three days with no sleep, you believe anything. In fact, it was a problem. The interpreters couldn’t understand what they were saying. The prisoners were having hallucinations. Because, of course, this is not like if you or me go three days without sleep when we’re partying. I’ve gone five days without sleep when I’ve been partying. But this is different. You’re in a cell where they let you sleep only a quarter of an hour every now and then. With no contact with the outside world. Without seeing sunlight. Like that, a days seems like a week. Your mental capacity is destroyed”.

In the opinion of Corsetti, the only thing his experience as an interrogator taught him “is that torture doesn’t work. One thing is losing your temper and punching a prisoner, another is to commit these acts of brutality. In Bagram we managed to find out about an Al-Qa’idah plan to blow up dozens of oil tankers across the world. We smashed the plot so well that they only managed to attack one, the French oil tanker Limburgh, in Yemen in October 2002. And we managed to get a guy to tell us without laying a finger on him”.

(Description of Source: Madrid El Mundo (Internet Version-WWW) in Spanish — independent national daily)

By James | - 6:13 pm - Posted in ,

Horne announces run for Senate seat held by Mitch McConnell

Iraq war veteran Andrew Horne announced his candidacy Thursday for the Senate seat held by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, saying the four-term incumbent “symbolizes everything wrong with Washington.”

Horne took aim at McConnell’s steadfast support of Bush’s Iraq policy, saying they led the country into “an ill-conceived and mismanaged war in Iraq.”

“Simply put, while Mitch McConnell carries George Bush’s water on Iraq, I carried a rifle in Iraq,” Horne said in making his announcement in a U-Tube posting.

A campaign spokesman for McConnell did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Horne, a Louisville attorney, spent 27 years in the Marines and Marine Reserve, retiring from the reserve as a lieutenant colonel.

Horne lost to John Yarmuth in last year’s Democratic primary for a Louisville-area congressional seat. Yarmuth went on to oust Republican Rep. Anne Northup.

In his online announcement for next year’s race, Horne said that McConnell “symbolizes everything wrong with Washington. He bows to big business, practices the worst kind of politics.”

Horne is the latest Democrat to enter the race, joining two lesser-known candidates Louisville-area doctor Michael Cassaro and David L. Williams, a retired businessman and perennial candidate. Other Democrats considering the race are Attorney General Greg Stumbo and Louisville businessmen Charlie Owen and Greg Fischer.

The winner will contend with a savvy and well-funded opponent.

McConnell, the Senate’s top-ranking Republican, showed his campaign fundraising prowess by amassing more than $9 million through September and had nearly $7 million on hand at the time.

Congress seeks comprehensive data on veterans’ suicide

The parents of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide and members of Congress on Wednesday questioned why there’s not a comprehensive tracking system of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Mike Bowman, of Forreston, Ill., said his son, Spc. Timothy Bowman, 23, is a member of the “unknown fallen” not counted in statistics. His son, a member of the Illinois National Guard, took his own life in 2005 eight months after returning from war. Bowman said he considers his son a “KBA” killed because of action.

“If the veteran suicide rate is not classified as an epidemic that needs immediate and drastic attention, then the American fighting soldier needs someone in Washington who thinks it is,” Bowman said.

Bowman was one of several witnesses who testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on the issue.

Rep. Bob Filner, the committee chairman, questioned why the comprehensive tracking wasn’t already being done.

“They don’t want to know this, it looks to me,” said Filner, D-Calif. “This could be tracked.”

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s deputy chief patient care service officer for mental health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, defended the work being done by his agency to tackle the issue, including implementing a suicide prevention hotline.

“We have a major suicide prevention program, the most comprehensive in the nation,” Katz said. Katz questioned why Filner was focusing on the number of suicides instead of looking at treatment programs implemented to help prevent suicide.

Awareness of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was heightened earlier this year when the Army said its suicide rate in 2006 rose to 17.3 per 100,000 troops the highest level in 26 years of record-keeping.

The Department of Veterans Affairs tracks the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who commit suicide, but only if they have been discharged from the military.

The Pentagon tracks the number of suicides in Iraq and Afghanistan. For an earlier story, a Pentagon spokeswoman told The Associated Press the military does not keep track of whether active duty troops who took who took their own lives served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In an e-mail on Wednesday, the same spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, said, “We track all suicides, I just don’t have combat service information readily available.”

At least 152 troops have committed suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center, which tracks casualties for the Pentagon.

On Oct. 31, the AP reported that preliminary research from the Department of Veterans Affairs had found that from the start of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, and the end of 2005, 283 troops who served in the wars who had been discharged from the military had committed suicide. On Wednesday, Katz said the VA’s number had been changed to 144 because some of the veterans counted were actually in the active military and not discharged on the day they committed suicide.

Smith said that the military’s suicide rate is still lower than that of the general population.

After leaving the military, however, veterans appear to be at greater risk for suicide than those who didn’t serve. Earlier this year, researchers at Portland State University in Oregon found male veterans were twice as likely to commit suicide as their civilian counterparts.

In a report last May, the VA Inspector General said VA officials estimate 1,000 suicides per year among veterans receiving care within the agency and as many as 5,000 per year among all veterans.

“When decision makers do no have reliable data, we must rely on anecdotal evidence,” said Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind. “While these may help inform us, it does not help us to develop strategies to diminish the risk and prevent incidents of suicide.”

By James | December 13, 2007 - 4:02 pm - Posted in , , , ,

Deported from Pak, American activist arrested in Washington

Washington, Dec. 8 — One of the two US human rights activists deported from Pakistan has been arrested soon after arrival here.

Tighe Barry was detained for protesting at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US assistance to Pakistan. Barry has been asked to return for a court hearing on December 27.

On Friday, Barry and Medea Benjamin, who went to Pakistan to support the pro-democracy movement, protested outside the State Department, urging the Bush Administration to discontinue its support to the Musharraf regime.

The two flew directly from Pakistan to Washington to attend this hearing. They had asked for the opportunity to testify “about their firsthand experience with the heroism of Pakistan’s civil society and the brutality of the government, but were told that the witnesses had already been selected,” the Dawn quoted Benjamin, a saying.

Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs was first one to testify.

When Boucher described the emergency as a mere “bump in the road,” Barry stood up in protest, saying that Boucher’s testimony was ‘full of lies.’

“Musharraf has beaten lawyers and students, destroyed the judiciary, and censored the press,” he shouted.

“The US must freeze all funding to this military government until emergency rule is lifted, the independent judiciary is reinstated, the censorship of the media is lifted, and all judges, lawyers, students and human rights defenders are released,” he said.

Committee’s chairman Senator Robert Menendez asked security to remove Barry. He was pulled out of the room, handcuffed and put in a police van.

A dozen activists of CODEPINK also backed them in their protest.

Case of “Honk for Peace” activists goes before federal judge

A federal judge will decide whether honking car horns in response to anti-war protesters in Ferndale is a protected form of free speech.

The Detroit News reports U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood will hear the case of “Honk for Peace” activists on December 12th. They have sued Ferndale to challenge its honking ban for demonstrators.

Police started cracking down on the honking last year. They say it creates a distraction for motorists and could put pedestrians in harm’s way.

Protesters arrested at military recruiting office

Thirteen demonstrators were arrested for trespassing at a Vermont Army National Guard recruiting office while protesting military recruiting in schools.

Friday’s protest was organized by students at Mount Mansfield Union High School in Jericho who oppose military recruiters in their school and the requirement that high schools give contact information to recruiters. Other anti-war groups joined the demonstration.

Among those arrested were three juveniles who were cited and released, said Williston Police Chief James Dimmick said.

About 40 people entered the recruiting office building Friday, while a few dozen others stood outside holding signs.

When officials asked the protesters to leave the building, about 30 did, Dimmick said. The rest stayed inside until they were arrested shortly before 5 p.m.

Officials say an ordinance and state law prohibit honking unless it’s alerting others to danger.


BYLINE: By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

After six years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, American soldiers are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980. The number of US Army deserters this year shows an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.

The totals remain far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when conscription was in effect, but they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year.

“We’re asking a lot of soldiers these days,” said Roy Wallace, director of plans and resources for Army personnel. “They’re humans. They have all sorts of issues back home and other places like that. So, I’m sure it has to do with the stress of being a soldier.”

The Army defines a deserter as someone who has been absent without leave for longer than 30 days. The soldier is then discharged as a deserter.

According to the Army, about nine in every 1,000 soldiers deserted in fiscal year 2007, which ended Sept. 30, compared with nearly seven per 1,000 a year earlier. Overall, 4,698 soldiers deserted this year, compared with 3,301 last year.

The Army has had to bear the brunt of the war demands as many soldiers served repeated, lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military leaders including Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey have acknowledged that the Army has been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the combat. Efforts are under way to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to lessen the burden and give troops more time off between deployments.

“We have been concentrating on this,” said Wallace. “The Army can’t afford to throw away good people. We have got to work with those individuals and try to help them become good soldiers.”

Still, he noted that “the military is not for everybody; not everybody can be a soldier.” And those who want to leave the service will find a way to do it, he said.

While the Army does not have an up-to-date profile of deserters, more than 75 percent of them are soldiers in their first term of enlistment, and most are male.

Soldiers can sign on initially for two to six years. Wallace said he did not know whether deserters were more likely to be those who enlisted for a short or long tour.

At the same time, he said that even as desertions have increased, the Army has seen some overall success in keeping first-term soldiers in the service.

There are four main ways that soldiers can leave the Army before their first enlistment contract is up:

They are determined unable to meet physical requirements.

They are found to be unable to adapt to the military.

They say they are gay and are required to leave under the so-called “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

They go AWOL, or absent without leave.

According to Wallace, in the summer of 2005, more than 18 percent of the soldiers in their first six months of service left under one of those four provisions. In June 2007, that number had dropped to about 7 percent.

The decline, he said, is largely due to a drop in the number of soldiers who leave due to physical fitness or health reasons.

Army desertion rates have fluctuated since the Vietnam War, when they peaked at 5 percent. In the 1970s they hovered between 1 and 3 percent, which is up to three out of every 100 soldiers. Those rates plunged in the 1980s and early 1990s to between 2 and 3 out of every 1,000 soldiers.

Desertions began to creep up in the late 1990s into the turn of the century, when the United States conducted an air war in Kosovo and later sent peacekeeping troops there.

The numbers declined in 2003 and 2004, in the early years of the Iraq war, but then began to increase steadily.

In contrast, the Navy has seen a steady decline in deserters since 2001, going from 3,665 that year to 1,129 in 2007.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, has seen the number of deserters stay fairly stable over that period, with about 1,000 deserters a year. During 2003 and 2004, the first two years of the Iraq war, the number of deserters fell to 877 and 744, respectively.

The Air Force can claim the fewest deserters, with no more than 56 bolting in each of the past five years. The low was in the budget year 2007, with just 16 deserters.

Despite the continued increase in Army desertions, however, an Associated Press examination of Pentagon figures this year showed that the military does little to find those who bolt, and rarely prosecutes the ones they find. Some are allowed to simply return to their units, while most are given less-than-honorable discharges.

“My personal opinion is the only way to stop desertions is to change the climate, … how they are living and doing what they need to do,” said Wallace, adding that good officers and more attention from Army leaders could “go a long way to stemming desertions.”

Unlike those in the Vietnam era, deserters from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars may not find a haven in Canada. The United States’ northern neighbor was a favorite destination of many draft evaders and deserters seeking a way out of fighting in that unpopular war.

Just this week, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeals of two Army deserters who sought refugee status to avoid the war in Iraq. The ruling left them without a legal basis to stay in Canada and dealt a blow to other Americans in similar circumstances.

The court, as is usual, did not provide a reason for the decision.



LENGTH: 519 words

ALMOST 27,000 soldiers - the equivalent of one-quarter of the Army’s entire manpower - have deserted or gone absent without leave in the past 10 years, The Herald can reveal.

At least 1100 of them are still on the run, amounting to two full battalions of permanently missing men at a time when every frontline unit is under strength and overstretched by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 2000 have been reported missing from their units in the first 10 months of this year .

Although Ministry of Defence figures show that the Army’s Awol problem peaked between 2002 and 2005, when an average of just under 2900 troops a year went “under the wire”, the MoD denies that the prospect of combat was a major factor.

A spokesman said: “Numbers going Awol have remained fairly constant and actually fell back between 2004 and 2005 to the lowest level for four years.

“Soldiers - especially young soldiers - often abscond temporarily for family or personal relationship reasons and there is no evidence that operational commitments to Iraq or Afghanistan have contributed significantly to the figures.”

While 26,620 soldiers have absconded since 1997, only 1115 sailors and 280 RAF personnel followed their example.

But despite comparatively minor numbers, the Navy’s desertion rate more than trebled from 30 men in 1997 to 105 this year and the RAF’s tally rose 25per cent from 15 to 20 .

Absconders from the Army went from 1450 a decade ago to 2060 to November this year, peaking at 3030 at the height of the insurgency in the UK’s sector of Iraq in 2004.

A serving officer with a Scottish battalion said yesterday: “Most of those who go Awol come back to face the music after sorting out domestic disputes back home. It’s usually woman trouble or debt.

“They only come back in police custody if they are arrested trying to sort out the typical ‘Dear John’ domestic grief or demands for financial instalments their dependants can’t afford with their fists.

“If they are gone for a few days, they face fines or other minor punishment within their units when they troll back to barracks. Those who actually desert and have no intention of coming back are not generally pursued.

“We have neither the time, the manpower or the inclination, if truth be told. In a shrinking Army of under 100,000 trained soldiers, there’s no room for those who don’t want to be there.”

A Parachute Regiment NCO with more than 10 years’ experience added: “We’re seeing increasing numbers of guys either going for voluntary outflow - signing off before their enlistment is up - or a smaller number doing a runner because of family pressure.

“Almost back-to-back tours in units in constant demand impose tremendous strain on wives and kids. I had one mate who left because he suddenly realised his son was five and the guy hadn’t been at home to spend a single Christmas with the kid because of combat deployments.

“It’s nonsense to say overstretch isn’t a factor in the numbers going Awol. A six-month tour involves a nine-month absence from home. Soldiers are hauled off for three months’ pre-deployment training before they go to hot, sandy places.”

By James | - 2:51 pm - Posted in , , ,

By Robert Weller - The Associated PressIn c

Posted : Thursday Sep 13, 2007 11:53:00 EDT

DENVER — With the world being bombarded by all factions on their side on the war in Iraq, U.S. soldiers Internet blogs provided the kind of public relations Madison Avenue would drool over.

Soldiers told of helping Iraqi families, the loss of friends and their dangerous daily missions.

In the past year, as soldiers and Marines return for the second, third or even fourth deployments, and the death toll approaches 4,000, some soldiers began questioning the war.

At the very least they risk administrative punishments, called Article 15s, though if it has happened it has been kept quiet.

“The toothpaste is out of the tube. And, try as they might, the military’s information nannies are not going to be able to stuff it back in,” said Noah Schatman of Wired Magazine in an e-mail from Taji, Iraq. He said soldiers will pay $55 a month for a private connection.

The military is so petrified it will lose information control screensavers were installed on military computers warning blogs could jeopardize security, said Schatman, who runs Wired’s Danger Room blog and has tracked the unofficial use of the Internet by soldiers.

The campaign has led some soldiers to steer clear of the Internet. Others do it anyway as confusion reigns because of conflicting signals sent from Washington, he said.

“President Eisenhower warned of the growing military industrial complex in his farewell address. Since Dick Cheney can now afford solid gold oil derricks, it’s safe to say we failed Ike miserably. After losing two friends and over a dozen comrades, I have this to say: Do not wage war unless it is absolutely, positively the last ditch effort for survival,” wrote Spc. Alex Horton, 22, of the 3rd Stryker Brigade in Army of Dude. “In the future, I want my children to grow up with the belief that what I did here was wrong, in a society that doesn’t deem that idea unpatriotic,” he blogged.

Sgt. Thomas Strickland, 27, of Douglasville, Ga., calling himself the Rev Wayfarer, was one of the earliest to speak out publicly. Two days before he drowned in a vehicle accident at Mahmudijah on his second tour he condemned the leadership in “One Foot in the Grave.” He asked what the chain of command had been doing since his first tour. “We were winning somewhat when I left. And now we are being pinned down in our own (expletive deleted) homes. Insurgents are pushing locals out of their homes and taking over my area at will.”

Spc. Eleonai Israel of Bowling Green, Ky., court-martialed and given a less than honorable discharge last month after refusing to go on combat missions, said that like Horton he never heard a peep about what he said on his MySpace site during his year in Iraq.

“The truth will come out, and there is nothing they can do to hide it. The occupation is a disaster. I’m convinced that everyday it continues that it makes America, and the Iraqis less safe,” he said on his MySpace Blog. He now works for the presidential campaign of Democrat Mike Gravel of Alaska.

Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said a soldier would have to go pretty far before facing any retribution, and officers would be more vulnerable. “The government never wants to make someone a martyr,” he said.

“It’s the first digital war. It’s exciting to watch this because it is going to raise rich issues,” said Fidell, who also teaches at Yale, American University and practices law. Loren Thompson, CEO of the Lexington Insatiate, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, agreed.

“It’s the subversive nature of the Internet. Technology has caught up with the soldiers, who have always known what was really going on but didn’t have the tools to tell their story,” said Thompson.

The Army has said winning the information war is necessary to win the ground war. Insurgents agree. Tributes to Saddam Hussein are uploaded to YouTube, along with alleged film showing attacks on convoys. Some caught in the middle post their travails. The Army also uploads videos. In many cases it is impossible to verify or even identify who the source is, and it must be taken with a grain of digital salt.

In April, the Army announced new rules on blogging that required soldiers to clear them with a superior. Access to MySpace and some other popular Web sites was blocked. The Army said it was not trying to stop soldiers from speaking their mind, however. And so far, some of them have been.

By James | - 1:40 pm - Posted in , , , , , ,

The following article was originally filed by Dahr Jamail in October, but when taken together with the fragging reported below, suggests that many of the activities and forms of protest catalogued in Sir! No Sir! are surfacing in Iraq.

Ill-Equipped Soldiers Opt for “Search and Avoid”

Inter Press Service

By Dahr Jamail

WATERTOWN, New York, Oct 24 (IPS) - Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here say that morale among U.S. soldiers in the country is so poor, many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a practice dubbed “search and avoid” missions.

Phil Aliff is an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum in upstate New York. He served nearly one year in Iraq from August 2005 to July 2006, in the areas of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, both west of Baghdad.”

Morale was incredibly low,” said Aliff, adding that he joined the military because he was raised in a poor family by a single mother and had few other prospects. “Most men in my platoon in Iraq were just in from combat tours in Afghanistan.”

According to Aliff, their mission was to help the Iraqi Army “stand up” in the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad, but in fact his platoon was doing all the fighting without support from the Iraqis they were supposedly preparing to take control of the security situation.

“I never heard of an Iraqi unit that was able to operate on their own,” said Aliff, who is now a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). “The only reason we were replaced by an Iraqi Army unit was for publicity.”Aliff said he participated in roughly 300 patrols. “We were hit by so many roadside bombs we became incredibly demoralised, so we decided the only way we wouldn’t be blown up was to avoid driving around all the time.”

“So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine,” he said, adding, “All our enlisted people became very disenchanted with our chain of command.”

Aliff, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), refused to return to Iraq with his unit, which arrived in Kirkuk two weeks ago. “They’ve already lost a guy, and they are now fostering the sectarian violence by arming the Sunnis while supporting the Shia politically … classic divide and conquer.”

Aliff told IPS he is set to be discharged by the military next month because they claim his PTSD “is untreatable by their doctors”.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for PTSD increased nearly 70 percent in the 12 months ending on Jun. 30.

The nearly 50,000 VA-documented PTSD cases greatly exceed the 30,000 military personnel that the Pentagon officially classifies as wounded in both occupations.VA records show that mental health has become the second-largest area of illness for which veterans of the ongoing occupations are seeking treatment at VA hospitals and clinics. The total number of mental health cases among war veterans increased by 58 percent; from 63,767 on Jun. 30, 2006, to 100,580 on Jun. 30, 2007, according to the VA.

Other active duty Iraq veterans tell similar stories of disobeying orders so as not to be attacked so frequently.

“We’d go to the end of our patrol route and set up on top of a bridge and use it as an over-watch position,” Eli Wright, also an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division, told IPS. “We would just sit with our binoculars and observe rather than sweep. We’d call in radio checks every hour and say we were doing sweeps.”Wright added, “It was a common tactic, a lot of people did that. We’d just hang out, listen to music, smoke cigarettes, and pretend.”

The 26-year-old medic complained that his unit did not have any armoured Humvees during his time in Iraq, where he was stationed in Ramadi, capital of the volatile Al Anbar province.

“We put sandbags on the floors of our vehicles, which had canvas doors,” said Wright, who was in Iraq from September 2003 until September 2004.”By the end of our tour, we were bolting any metal we could find to our Humvees. Everyone was doing this, and we didn’t get armoured Humvees in country until after we left.”

Other veterans, like 25-year-old Nathan Lewis, who was in Iraq for the invasion of March 2003 until June of that year while serving in the 214th field artillery brigade, complained of lack of training for what they were ordered to do, in addition to not having armoured Humvees for their travels.

“We never got training for a lot of the work we did,” he explained. “We had a white phosphorous mortar round that cooked off in the back of one of our trucks, because we loaded that with some other ammo, and we weren’t trained how to do it the right way.” The “search and avoid” missions appear to have been commonplace around much of Iraq for years now.

Geoff Millard served nine years in the New York Army National Guard, and was in Iraq from October 2004 until October 2005 working for a general at a Tactical Operation Centre.Millard, also a member of IVAW, said that part of his duties included reporting “significant actions”, or SIGACTS, which is how the U.S. military describes an attack on their forces.

“We had units that never called in SIGACTS,” Millard, who monitored highly volatile areas like Baquba, Tikrit and Samarra, told IPS. “When I was there two years ago, there were at least five companies that never had SIGACTS. I think ’search and avoids’ have been going on there for a long time.”

Millard told IPS “search and avoid” missions continue today across Iraq.”

One of my buddies is in Baghdad right now and we email all the time,” he explained, “He just told me that nearly each day they pull into a parking lot, drink soda, and shoot at the cans. They pay Iraqi kids to bring them things and spread the word that they are not doing anything and to please just leave them alone.”

By anonymous | - 12:41 pm - Posted in , ,

(Originally published on the IVAW website)

Newsflash: If You Support The Troops, That Means Me, Too.

by Army Sergeant | Tue, 12/11/2007 - 5:28pm

While in the NCO corps, you rarely get termed by it unless you’re being talked to by an overenthusiastic first sergeant or platoon sergeant, the fact remains that when it comes down to it, every soldier currently serving in the military is a troop. That goes from the guy standing behind Bush at a photo op to the active duty soldier getting arrested in DC because he believed this war was wrong.

You can’t exactly pick and choose; “I Support The Troops Who Believe Wholeheartedly In The Iraq War” doesn’t really fit on a bumper sticker or an outraged counter-protest sign, and you’d probably actually be supporting a minority anyway.

From my experience, a majority of troops I’ve encountered oppose this war, and the leadership who is sending their brothers to die for political purposes, hamstringing them in order that their poll figures might go up. We see a lot more than most: from Dick Cheney ’staging’ reenlistments behind him while speaking so that he could make a point about people eager to go back to Iraq (the soldiers, of course, chosen at random from the audience and not reenlisting in fact at all) to a comment I heard from another NCO when Bush came to speak to us. “Someone should shoot /him/ with an RPG” she said. A hooah, gung-ho soldier and NCO, but one who, like me, felt betrayed by the way this war has been handled.

And there are, again, a lot of us.

Not everyone speaks up. It’s too deeply ingrained into military culture for most to raise their voice against leaders to those outside of the service. That’s why I hear it more than you do or ever will-because having enlisted and re-enlisted to serve my country, other soldiers know that I’m committed. They know I’m not going to take their words as being somehow anti-military. I know that they serve with honor; I simply know that that honor is being betrayed.

Those soldiers and veterans who do speak up are showing the ultimate bravery. They are taking the hard right over the easy wrong, they are doing the right thing even when they are condemned for it. But what I find truly amazing is looking at those people who tend to be the first to condemn them.

Most of them claim to support the troops. Most of them have not served themselves, but claim to enthusiastically support those that do. Yet when they see a soldier speaking out, legally and rightfully, against abuses they see or have seen, or speaking out their own personal political feelings on the war, somehow they become enraged. They call us traitors, and sometimes cowards. I have a buddy with more shrapnel in him than any airport metal detector will accept, yet somehow that man is a coward if he believes this war is wrong. How does this happen? How is this accepted?

Just like soldiers come in all races, both sexes, all sizes and ages, soldiers also come in all political brands. Many soldiers want to end this war. Some soldiers believe we were tricked into this war, but we may as well end it while we’re there. There are even a few who believe in it-but I don’t discount their service just because they hold an opinion different than mine.

A lot of these chickenhawks, who have not served but yet want to accuse those who have of not being patriotic enough, like to quote a familiar saying. “Freedom isn’t free.” That’s right, it’s not. Freedom is guaranteed by soldiers-but not this war, not this time. And it was not guaranteed by the soldiers who laid down their lives in wars previously so that their successors would be unable to enjoy it. They wished everyone to rejoice in the freedom that America offered-that America is a strong enough country to listen to all views by all people, and consider them reasonably.

So try, for once, really supporting the troops. Don’t bother readjusting your magnetic yellow ribbon one more time, or attending another Gathering of Eagles rally, or watching your TV and calling out to your spouse how those dirty, un-American freaks should just leave if they don’t like it here. Because we love it here. We love America. We loved America enough to sign our name on the dotted line and defend it. Try supporting us with understanding, or listening. Try supporting us by accepting that you may disagree with someone’s opinion, but that doesn’t call their service into question. Try supporting us by understanding that the people who have sacrificed for something have a unique perspective no one will ever know, and that they are giving you a precious gift when they share that perspective with you.

Or at least have the courage to admit that you don’t support the troops, take that yellow sticker off, and say it aloud. We’re not the ones who hate America and what it stands for. You are.

By anonymous | - 12:05 pm - Posted in ,

(Thanks to GI Special for this — James)

“My Daughter Has Been Showing Sir! No, Sir! In Class”

“She Says The Kids (High School Seniors) Really Like It”

From: D

To:GI Special

Sent: December 11, 2007

My daughter teaches US Foreign Policy at [XXXXXX] and has been showing Sir! No, Sir! in class.

She says the kids (high school seniors) really like it–it’s eye-opening for them and for her.

Best of all, she said, is that several of her students talked with their families over the weekend about the film, and their parents came up with their memories of that time. One boy’s aunt gave him a newspaper she had saved from August 26, 1969 reporting on one of the G.I rebellions described in the film.

Another brought in a newspaper from Nov. 16, 1969, reporting on the Mobilization to End the War in Washington, DC the day before.

Other kids told stories about their parents’ anti-war involvement.

[She] also has her students read The Things They Carried and shows them Born on the Fourth of July.

By James | December 12, 2007 - 12:28 am - Posted in , , , ,

Originally published by Courage to Resist December 11, 2007

On December 6, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of the House of Commons in Ottawa, Canada adopted a motion that was a critical victory for U.S. Iraq War resisters seeking sanctuary. Courage to Resist organizers Lori Hurlebaus and Jeff Paterson traveled to Ottawa for this hearing, along with supporters and resisters from across Canada, and have contributed to this report. In collaboration with the Toronto, Canada-based War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC), Courage to Resist is calling for U.S.-Canada consulate delegations, vigils, and actions on January 24-25 to build momentum in the wake of this important first victory.

After hearing the testimony of former U.S. Army sergeant Phillip McDowell, along with representatives of the Mennonites and Quakers, the Citizenship and Immigration Committee voted 7 to 4 to recommend that the Canadian government immediately implement a program to allow Iraq War resisters (and resisters of any war not sanctioned by the United Nations) and their families to stay in Canada. The motion also calls for an immediate halt to deportation proceedings in these cases. The win was possible because the two Liberal Party members on the committee voted in favor — something that was far from guaranteed going into the hearing.

Although no war resister has yet to be deported from Canada, last month the Supreme Court of Canada shut the door on any possible legal solution for sanctuary for resisters. This resolution comes at a time when deportation is becoming a real possibility for some of the resisters. It’s a hopful first step towards a political solution.

The resolution passed by the committee, which must now be taken up by the full House of Commons when it returns from winter break in early February, reads:

The Committee recommends that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

Following the committee hearing, supporters gathered in MP Olivia Chow’s office in the West Block of Parliament to celebrate. WRSC organizer Michelle Robidoux explained, “I want to make sure that nobody leaves thinking that this is won. It’s very important that we understand that now the work begins…. This does not mean that people can stay immediately. It means that there is a political opening here — it’s a significant political opening.”

Lee Zaslofsky, also of WRSC outlined the situation as such, “What we need is for the Liberal Party as a whole to take a stance on this. Together (the three parties) have a majority, and if they act together they can put something through the House of Commons.” Lee added, “The motion does not bind the Government. Processes like PRRA and refugee claims continue as before. But this vote is a major step in moving towards our goal of a provision that would allow the war resisters to settle in Canada.”