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Saturday, July 14, 2007

 

The Dehumanizing War

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"Dear America, When Will This Cruel War Be Over?", . "At times I feel like I am a thousand years old---that is what this cruel war has done to me."
--The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson,Gordonsville,Virginia,1864


He keeps trying, the warrior president. The president who gave us Niger yellow cake uranium and Saddam Hussein's non-existent WMD, is ramping up the threat from al-Qaeda. His position that if we don't fight them there (in Iraq) we'll have to face them here is not accepted by many experts about terrorism and the middle-east.

NY Times July 13, 2007

The 'Third Constituency'

In his press conference on July 12th, President Bush said: "A third constituency that matters to me a lot is military families. These are good folks who are making huge sacrifices, and they support their loved ones. And I don't think they want their commander in chief making decisions based upon popularity." - Washington Post - CQ Transcripts Wire, July 12, 2007

There can be no questions about "huge sacrifices" and "support their loved ones". But how do they really feel about the commander in chief? Some military families no doubt back the president. Then there are soldiers and their families who are no longer with him. The Nation has published an article by Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian based on interviews with 50 Iraq war veterans whose comments about the war are completely different than that of the president. The full report can be read in The Nation. It was reproduced in The Guardian (UK) in three parts.





The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness - The Nation

Over the past several months The Nation interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported--and almost always go unpunished.

Terrifying house raids; random checkpoint shootings; speeding convoys that wipe out anyone in their path. Interviews with 50 US war veterans back from Iraq reveal the terrible daily brutality they inflicted on innocent civilians. A unique investigation by Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian - The Guardian

Excerpts
"I'll tell you the point where I really turned," said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. "I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg.... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn't crying, wasn't anything, it just looked at me like--I know she couldn't speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?... I was just like, This is--this is it. This is ridiculous."
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In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía's unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.

"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them," Sergeant Mejía said.

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photo­graphs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.


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