GI SPECIAL 3A40:
THIS IS HOW BLAIR
BRINGS THE TROOPS HOME:
BRING THEM ALL HOME
British military personnel carry the
coffin of one of 10 Royal Air Force servicemen repatriated in
Wiltshire, south-western England. The 10 were killed while serving
in Iraq. Reuters
Defend Sgt. Kevin
e-mails from people who said that I was a coward for not going to
war, but I say to them that I have already been, so I do not have
anything to prove to anyone anymore. What is there to prove
anyway - that I can kill someone I do not even know and who has
never done anything to me? What is in that concept that anyone
could consider honorable?” Statement, Sgt. Kevin Benderman,
February 08, 2005 Associated Press,
A soldier seeking
conscientious-objector status has been charged with deserting his
fellow troops when they deployed for Iraq.
Sgt. Kevin Benderman, 40, a Bradley
Fighting Vehicle mechanic and training supervisor, will now
simultaneously have to support his application for the status, while
defending himself against the Army’s desertion charges.
Benderman began his application
process Dec. 28, but when his 3rd Infantry Division headed out for
Kuwait en route to Iraq on Jan. 7,
Benderman stayed home after receiving vague orders to think about
his application, his defense attorney said.
officer is now charged with desertion to avoid hazardous duty and
The presiding officer over the
hearing, Lt. Col. Linda Taylor, has 10 business days from Monday to
decide whether to pursue, modify or drop the charges. It will be
the Army’s decision whether to accept her recommendation.
Maj. S. Scott
Sikes, Benderman’s defense counsel, said Monday that Taylor should
remove herself from the proceedings because she faced Sikes during
her days as a prosecutor. The presiding officer must be
impartial, Sikes said, but Taylor decided she would keep her seat
on the bench.
Prosecutor Capt. Jonathan DeJesus said
Benderman’s application for conscientious-objector status was
“suspect,” and that it was a ploy to avoid deployment. Proceedings
for the application were scheduled to begin Tuesday and to run
concurrently with the desertion proceedings.
“His unit knew it was deploying to
Iraq months ago,” DeJesus said in his closing statement. “He knew
how dangerous it was in Iraq. He deserted his unit.”
however, that Benderman was uncertain whether he needed to deploy or
handle the application after speaking to Command Master Sgt. Samuel
Costen, who testified by phone that he released Benderman the night
of Jan. 7 to think things over, but told him to come back after
Costen and others said they tried to
reach Benderman by phone that weekend, and testimony showed he got a
call to report for duty at 9 a.m. the following Monday.
“He was there at
the precise hour,” Sikes said, adding that his client’s actions were
atypical of a deserter.
Benderman said last month he never
grasped the brutal reality of war until he saw it for himself. He
told of bombed-out homes and displaced Iraqis living in mud huts and
drinking from mud puddles, as well as mass graves in Khanaqin near
the Iranian border where dogs fed off human corpses.
He recalled his convoy passing a girl,
no older than 10, on the roadside clutching a badly burned arm.
Benderman said his executive officer refused to help because the
troops had limited medical supplies.
[In case you
don’t remember it, here again is Sgt. Benderman’s magnificent
letter to George W. Bush. Sgt. Benderman needs every bit of
support he can get. If you run into anybody who says they are
against the war, but who turn their back on Sgt. Benderman and
refuse to help him, publicly name them for what they are: cowards
in the face of the enemy.]
“A Domestic Enemy
Of The United States”
[When the history
of the movement that finally stopped the war in Iraq is written,
this letter will have a very special place. Coming from a serving
soldier, and a Sgt., who feels a special responsibility to the
troops that serve under him, it is a declaration of principle and
allegiance to the liberties of the people of the United States in
the spirit of Tom Paine and Patrick Henry.
[Read it with
loving care, consider carefully what it means, carry it with you,
and draw strength from it. And if you come across one or some of
our troops, have spare copies to pass along. T]
November 20, 2004
To: George W. Bush
From: SGT Kevin M. Benderman
When are you going
to tell the truth to the people of the United States?
Why don't you tell
them why you want to be in Iraq so bad?
I was there for six months and I did
not see the first weapon of mass destruction. I did receive orders
from the company commander to shoot children if they threw small
rocks at us and that was when I figured out that the entire thing
was way over the line.
Over 1200 soldiers
have died in Iraq so that you can have a couple billion more
dollars, that should make you feel very good about yourself.
The soldiers that
have died for this sham that you have put over on the American
people are so much more deserving than that. You are not worth
the dust off of their boots.
If you truly had
respect for the military and the people that serve then you would
not continue to kill them in your war.
I joined the Army
to protect my country and not to be a mercenary for a political
If you wish to put
me in prison because of my views then you should make room for about
75% of the military.
And while you are
at make some room for yourself and about half of your
administration. You are responsible for what
happened at Abu Gharaib and you are shirking your responsibility.
The commander in
chief is not above the UCMJ, as you would like to believe.
I want to fulfill
my contract that says I joined the Army to protect my country
against all enemies foreign and domestic, and as far as I am
concerned you are a domestic enemy of the United States.
You care nothing for this country; you
just care about the profits that are to be made from the oil in
Iraq. That much is evident to me from the way the contracts were
passed out to Halliburton and KBR. It must be nice to have the deck
stacked in your favor by the president of the USA.
Since your are
raising the debt ceiling of America so that we can pay the bills
that you have run up, why don't you forgive the debts of every one
in the armed forces since they are the ones that are making it
possible for you to make billions from the oil from Iraq.
SGT Kevin M. Benderman
February 7, 2005 By David Zucchino,
L.A. Times Staff Writer
Kevin Benderman looks and talks like a
soldier. Tall and solidly built, with close-cropped brown hair, he
speaks with a Southern drawl in the jargon-laden argot of a career
His father served
in World War II, his grandfather in World War I. Members of his
family served on both sides in the Civil War, and one ancestor,
William Benderman, fought in the American Revolution, Benderman
Raised in a
Southern Baptist family in Alabama and Tennessee, Benderman grew up
wanting to be a pro football player, not a soldier. At age 22,
Benderman decided he wanted to follow family tradition and join the
Army. He served four years, then worked laying hardwood and tile
flooring. In June 2000, feeling patriotic, he decided to reenlist.
several soldiers who served with him in Iraq shared his views. Two
members of his battalion attempted suicide after being ordered to
return to Iraq, he said, and several more have gone AWOL to avoid
deployment. A specialist from the division has been charged with
having a friend shoot him in the leg as part of a staged armed
robbery in an attempt to avoid returning to Iraq.
Antiwar groups that
offer counseling to soldiers say opposition to the Iraq war among
soldiers is higher than the Pentagon acknowledges. The GI Rights
Hotline, run by a consortium of antiwar groups, received 32,000
calls last year, many from soldiers who have gone AWOL or complained
of psychological or emotional problems after serving in combat.
About 15% of the calls were from soldiers considering conscientious
objector applications, said Steve Morse of the Central Committee for
Benderman said he
believed he would prevail at today's hearing, and insisted that he
had not deserted his unit.
"I didn't go
anywhere. I didn't run to Canada," he said. "I'm still right here."
If his application
is denied and he is ordered back to Iraq, he said, he would refuse
to go. He has turned a corner, he said, and he will not turn back.
refused once," he said. "I will not change my mind, no matter what."
Do you have a
friend or relative in the service? Forward this E-MAIL along, or
send us the address if you wish and we’ll send it regularly.
Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is extra
important for your service friend, too often cut off from access
to encouraging news of growing resistance to the war, at home and
inside the armed services.
Send requests to address up top.
“Two Days Before He
Died, Daniel Torres Found Out He Was Going To Be A Father”
“Wondered About The Reasons For The War” Sister Says
February 8, 2005 nbc5i.com
Sgt. Daniel Torres, 23, was an Army
scout and was killed last week while patroling a town in northern
Iraq. Military officials said that a remote-controlled bomb went
off at about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, killing Torres and another soldier
while injuring seven others.
Now, Daniel Torres' family is left
with only his memory and his sister Christina Torres is struggling
to come to terms with her brother's death.
"As a brother, he always knew what to
say," said Christina Torres. "I still don't believe it. I don't
know. It still hasn't clicked yet. I do think he's still going to
walk through that door or he's going to call soon."
Daniel Torres, who
attended Fort Worth's Southwest High School, had recently started
his second tour in Iraq after spending a few
months at home with his family.
Cristina Torres said her brother sometimes wondered about the
reasons for the war, but was committed to helping the
children of Iraq.
"What saddens me
most is he's not the last one. He was just 23 ... there's going to
be more. It doesn't matter if they were 40. They are somebody's
brother, somebody's dad," Christina Torres said.
Daniel Torres had hoped to become a
police officer after he left the Army, but also confided to his
family that he didn't believe he would make it home alive from Iraq.
Two days before he
died, Daniel Torres found out he was going to be a father and his
family said the news made him as happy as ever.
[If Vietnam rules
were being followed, he’d be alive. Nobody there ever had a
compulsory “second tour.” One year, and out forever. But the
bloodthirsty empire builders who launched this war for oil will keep
sending the troops back forever, unless the soldiers do what the
troops in Vietnam finally did to stop that war: rebel against the
officers, the government and the war. And that was that. Game
over, war over, everybody went home.]
WON’T GO TO IRAQ
2.8.05 New York Times, Julia Preston
José Meٌdez, who
resigned from the Army Reserve after serving his required eight
years and was then called up for duty in Iraq, dropped a federal
lawsuit against the Defense Department yesterday and confirmed that
the Army had granted him an honorable discharge.
Mr. Mendez, a physician’s assistant
who runs the Greenpoint Pediatric Center in Sunnyside, Queens, had
argued that the clinic would close if he were sent to Iraq last Oct.
10, as the Army ordered.
That was four months after his
resignation. He had not been called to duty during his eight-year
tenure. He also challenged the
Army’s contention that a state of emergency was in effect that
justified the mobilization of reservists whose terms had ended.
"Don't Get Back On That Plane"
Troops Offered Asylum In Ireland;
Movement Encourages Desertion
[Thanks to z who
sent this in. He writes: Ireland in spring must be very pretty! In
February 8, 2005 By
HARRY BROWNE, Counterpunch
The chain of violence and corruption
that connects the United States with Iraq includes an airport in the
west of Ireland. For more than two years, as reported previously in
Counterpunch, the Irish peace movement has been trying to break the
chain. Having failed, so far, to do that, campaigners now hope to
turn Shannon Airport into the weakest link.
A group of
activists, including several of the 'Pitstop Ploughshares' who face
trial next month for their 'disarmament' of a US Navy plane in 2003,
have called for American military war resisters to seek official
refuge while their planes refuel and they are let wander through the
lounges of this relatively small civilian airport.
Last year, 158,549 US troops passed
through the airport on 1,502 flights - mainly civilian charter
aircraft. Those troop numbers were 26 per cent higher than in 2003.
In addition, Irish officials granted permission for 753 military
aircraft to land, and 816 aircraft carrying munitions.
The invitation for
some of these troops effectively to desert comes from members of the
Irish parliament and even a former Irish army commandant, Ed Horgan
-- who made it clear he wouldn't make such a suggestion lightly. And
those making the call realise that it is not abstract rhetoric: it
is estimated that more than 5,500 soldiers have left their 'duties'
in the current wars, including highly publicised cases like the
imprisoned Camilio Mejia, the exiled Jeremy Hinzman (seeking refuge
in Canada) and Kevin Benderman, seeking conscientious-objector
status after 10 years in the army because of what he witnessed on
his first tour of duty in Iraq.
international law on refugees makes it clear that soldiers are not
excluded from making asylum applications, which can be made to any
Irish police officer (Garda) or immigration official. Soldiers who
face being forced to obey "unlawful orders" are explicitly mentioned
in the refugee statutes. The Geneva Conventions state that soldiers
need not perform duties that offend their political, religious or
are being required to commit acts so gratuitously offensive to
themselves and their families that they will never be able to speak
of them," said activist Michael Birmingham, who has spent much of
the last two years in Iraq, as well as meeting soldiers who have
returned home to the US.
The activists are working to ensure
that the 'invitation' to Ireland becomes widely known among US
soldiers -- and that Irish officials at Shannon Airport perform as
the law requires them to do in giving individuals the right to have
their asylum claims heard. Any
soldiers who do make a claim will find a supportive network of legal
and logistical support in Ireland.
Damien Moran, one
of the Pitstop Ploughshares, said: "The offer of sanctuary in
Ireland is deeply rooted in our traditions of neutrality and
“Hometown Hero” A
2/8/2005 Dan Viens, KUSA-TV
GRAND JUNCTION - The story about a
soldier from Colorado who was said to have died in Iraq in January
appears to have been a hoax.
The soldier's story was originally
reported to the group Homefront Heroes by a woman claiming to be
Jonathan Kenney's wife.
President of Homefront Heroes sent out a press release to Grand
Junction media outlets.
died after being shot in the heart while trying to save an Iraqi
People became suspicious about
Kenney's story when several facts did not add up.
The soldier's wife was said to be
Amber Kenney. However, there is no record of an Amber Kenney ever
In addition, the military said it has
no record of the death of a Jonathan Kenney. Also his reported unit,
the 144th Air Defense Artillery Battalion, is not currently serving
Grand Junction Free
Press reporter Josh Nichols spoke with the woman who reported the
soldier's death to Homefront Heroes. She admitted to Nichols that
the whole story was made up.
The woman who originally said she was
Amber Kenney turned out to be named Sara Kenney.
When asked by Nichols why she made up
the story, Kenney said she was doing it for a friend whose husband
may have died in Iraq.
When pressed as to how her actions
would help her friend Kenney had no answer.
An added wrinkle to
the story is that the group Homefront Heroes has been collecting
contributions in Kenney's name. It is not known how much money has
been collected on behalf of Kenney.
NEED SOME TRUTH? CHECK
OUT THE NEW TRAVELING SOLDIER
Telling the truth
- about the occupation or the criminals running the government in
Washington - is the first reason for Traveling Soldier. But we
want to do more than tell the truth; we want to report on the
resistance - whether it's in the streets of Baghdad, New York, or
inside the armed forces. Our goal is for Traveling Soldier to
become the thread that ties working-class people inside the armed
services together. We want this newsletter to be a weapon to help
you organize resistance within the armed forces. If you like what
you've read, we hope that you'll join with us in building a
network of active duty organizers.
And join with Iraq War
vets in the call to end the occupation and bring our troops home
Staff Sgt. Punished
By Command For Refusing To Falsify Records
[Washington Times, February 8, 2005,
Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Lott, with
his attorney, is making the case that he was not promoted to gunnery
sergeant because of good old-fashioned bureaucratic bungling, and
not because he lacked experience and requisite skills.
Lott refused an
order to falsify attendance records at an instruction facility, and
was written up three times by the officer who demanded the
falsifications. He is set to retire in three months. It would be a
travesty if he isn't promoted before leaving the service he has
served well for 20 years.
13,000 – 17,000 Active In Resistance;
Commanders Complete Idiots
February 8, 2005 From Barbara Starr,
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military
faces between 13,000 and 17,000 insurgents in Iraq a senior military
official said Tuesday. [If
they’re willing to admit that many, double it.]
The numbers are
considerably higher than the 5,000 fighters that Gen. John Abizaid,
head of the U.S. Central Command, estimated in November 2003.
[Yes. It’s growing. Duh.]
The official who provided Tuesday's
estimate said the U.S. military believes it killed between 10,000
and 15,000 guerillas in combat last year -- perhaps as many as 3,000
during the November push to retake the western Iraqi city of Falluja
from insurgents. [Meaning they
have no trouble making up their losses, and growing bigger while
they do it. And guess what. They don’t have stop-loss. And
anybody can quit the resistance any time they get tired of
fighting. So, just to make things even, apply the same rules to
U.S. troops in Iraq.]
But because others
join the insurgency to replace those killed, Pentagon analysts have
difficulty matching the current number against previous
assessments. [Hey, no problem. The polls showed a majority of
Iraqis support armed attacks on Bush’s occupation forces. So just
figure a few million ready to fight. See, that wasn’t so hard, was
In the wake of the
elections, in which Iraqis turned out to vote for a transitional
parliament, U.S. commanders expressed hope that Iraqis will rethink
their commitment to the insurgency.
[“In the wake of Valley Forge, British commanders hope
that Americans will rethink their commitment to the insurgency.”
Yeah, right. As long as the occupation is in their country, the
only thing getting “rethought” is how, where, and when to launch the
Bomb Hits Occupation Recruiting Center:
21 Dead, 27
Fighting Spreads In
Feb 8, 2005 Reuters & Focus 1 News &
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
A bomb attack at an Iraqi army recruitment center in west Baghdad
killed at least 13 people and wounded at least 11 on
Tuesday, hospital officials and the U.S. army said.
A police source
said the blast detonated next to a truck carrying recruits into the
base. The blast occurred near the old Muthana
airfield in the heart of the capital. A U.S. army spokesman said
the bomber had been on foot.
elsewhere in the Iraqi capital Tuesday, as militants battled Iraqi
security troops and explosions sounded over the city.
officers were killed in clashes that broke out in Baghdad's western
At least one explosion rattled central
Baghdad, and a U.S. military spokesman said that blast might have
been caused by a mortar round. There was no immediate word on
Driver Killed Near Tikrit
ZAGREB, Feb 8 (AFP)
A Croatian truck
driver working in Iraq has been killed in an attack on a convoy of
trucks working for US troops, the foreign ministry
said here Tuesday.
The driver, whose identity was not
disclosed, died late Monday when his truck was hit by a rocket near
the northern town of Tikrit, national Croatian television said,
quoting the ministry.
Collaborator Survives Assassination Attempt But Loses Sons
8 February 2005 (Reuters)
Guerillas ambushed the convoy of an Iraqi politician in western
Baghdad on Tuesday, killing two of his sons, police said.
They said Mithal
al-Alusi, secretary-general of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi
Nation, had survived the attack.
Alusi is a controversial figure in
Iraq -- he has been a vocal critic of Syria and Iran, and was widely
criticised in Iraq for visiting Israel last year.
After his visit he was expelled from
the Iraqi National Congress party led by Ahmad Chalabi.
IF YOU DON’T LIKE
Airport Under Mortar Attack
BAGHDAD, Feb 8 (KUNA)
resistance soldiers fired on Tuesday two mortar shells at Basra
Kuna that the first shell fell in the airports surrounding, the
second close to the rear gate. There were no
reports on casualties.
Basra airport was open
for airlifting pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, but came to standstill on
Sunday after turning it into a military airport.
February 08, 2005 By Jason Keyser,
On Monday, gunmen
killed an Iraqi chef employed by American forces at Baghdad
International Airport, hospital officials said
Tuesday. [This time the reporter
doesn’t claim it was the resistance. Was it the cooking?]
“We Were Throwing
Our Dirty Uniforms In Burning Barrels, Along With Our Burning
From: Mike Hastie
To: GI Special
Sent: February 08, 2005
Subject: No Mercy
To G.I. Special:
When I came home
from Vietnam, if I had seen yellow ribbon magnets on cars that read,
"Support Our Troops," I would have removed as many of them as I
could have put my hands on.
I recently saw a Hummer H2, with a
yellow ribbon magnet near the gas tank outlet. I'm sure someone
else put it there, without the owner being aware of it.
This war is about
OIL, not about democracy. The American soldiers returning from Iraq
will eventually see this horrible truth. And when this betrayal
awareness kicks the door down to their belief system, all hell will
As a Vietnam veteran, who spent time
in a VA psychiatric ward, and several visits to the emergency
department for panic attacks, I know this sudden death feeling well.
When I left Vietnam, soldiers in my
unit were shooting heroin, they were shooting each other, and they
were shooting themselves.
The hatred most of
us had toward Richard Nixon was vile. When I was processing out of
Vietnam, the graffiti was everywhere. We were throwing our dirty
uniforms in burning barrels, along with our burning disgust.
I could see the
anguish in so many young faces. The lies surrounding Iraq are worse
than Vietnam. Eventually, American soldiers returning from Iraq
will spare George Bush no mercy.
As Malcolm X once
wrote, "The only thing worse than death is betrayal." When it comes
to war, business has no conscience.
U.S. Army Medic
do you think? Comments from service men and women, and veterans,
are especially welcome. Send to email@example.com.
Name, I.D., withheld on request. Replies confidential.
The Iraqi Ballot,
January 31, 2005 by Hawra Karama,
I had the opportunity to participate
in the long-awaited Iraqi elections this weekend. Contrary to
popular belief, this was not the first time my opinion has mattered
to the Iraqi state. It was actually the third. Saddam Hussein had
asked us Iraqis in both 1995 and 2002 if we wanted him to be our
sounded rather silly, considering the amount of Iraqi, Iranian, and
Kuwaiti blood on his hands. Nevertheless, in both referenda,
Saddam's approval ratings exceeded 99 percent. That statistic could
not have been accurate, could it? Did the Iraqis really want even
more years of crushing tyranny, war with neighbors, and ethnic
In retrospect, I could come up with
dozens of theories on the shocking outcome of the two referenda.
Maybe only Ba'athists participated in the polls. Maybe people were
too afraid to say they didn't want Saddam. Maybe the chads of those
who did cast a "no" vote were hanging.
In any case, I
shouldn't waste so much time analyzing the past. The bottom line is
that there is no such thing as democracy under dictatorship. My
time today is better spent taking advantage of democracy under
I hesitated before voting for reasons
familiar to anyone who follows the news. But then I thought of the
disappointment on the faces of my American guests if I did not
accept the democracy they brought me. I didn't want their feelings
to be hurt. I didn't want them to think that the residents of the
Cradle of Civilization are not civilized. So I mustered the courage
to go to the voting site nearest my house in Baghdad.
Initially, I thought I was at the
American embassy because there were so many American soldiers
standing outside. I checked my registration slip. I did in fact
have the correct address. So I took a deep breath and walked in. I
was pleasantly surprised to discover that Iraqi authorities had
requested American troops' presence because they needed help making
Iraqi tea for the voters. Their desire was to make the democratic
process feel as close to home as possible.
A young soldier
from Texas served me a cup of Iraqi hospitality. Then I nervously
proceeded toward the voting booth. My heart was racing, and tears
flooded my eyes as I thought of the price that was paid to make this
moment happen. On a personal level, my niece had suffered severe
burns on her arms and legs when bombs shook Baghdad in March 2003.
My backyard was
converted into a parking spot for an American tank. More broadly,
over a hundred thousand of my countrymen had to be killed, and many
more had to be wounded and disabled. Many American families had to
mourn the loss of their loved ones in the military.
The environment was
sentenced to suffer for the next several centuries. Politicians in
the White House and Parliament had gone out of their way just to
ensure that my cup of tea had the right amount of sugar while I
expressed whom I thought should hold the magic wand to make all my
agony go away.
I wiped my tears, pulled myself
together, sipped the last drops in my cup, and went into the voting
booth. By taking one quick glance at the ballot placed in front of
me, I could immediately tell that this experience was going to be
different from its 1995 and 2002 predecessors.
On those two occasions, I was asked
only one question about one tyrant. "Do you want Saddam Hussein to
be your president? A) Yes. B) No."
This election, on
the other hand, gave me a variety of choices on numerous issues.
Behold the multitude of questions I was asked:
Do you prefer to be tortured by A) American soldiers or B) British
When occupying soldiers stop you in the street, would you rather
be strip-searched A) with blindfold or B) without blindfold?
When foreign soldiers enter your house in the middle of the night
to arrest your husband and terrorize your kids, would you prefer
that they A) knock or B) ring the doorbell? (This question seemed
odd because I thought they knew we don't have electricity and
therefore the doorbells don't work.)
Which of the following CIA-paid Iraqis should represent you? (The
list is too long to reprint here.)
Do you want the foreign forces occupying your country to leave? A)
No. (I imagine they had accidentally forgotten to print "Yes.")
To make sure our
voices were being fully heard, some of the questions were open
ended. Voters were actually allowed to write in their opinions on a
number of issues. Observe:
Which media outlet should hold the copyright to the pictures of
The occupation has violated the sanctity of the holy sites in
Najaf and Karbala and bombed many mosques in Baghdad and Falluja.
Are there any other holy sites you believe the occupation has
Which American company do you believe should be awarded a monopoly
on Iraq's oil?
After reading all
the questions, I did the same thing I'd done in 1995 and 2002. I
left the ballot blank and walked out.
On my way out of
the voting site, an American soldier handed me a sticker with the
words "I voted" printed on it. He looked perplexed as I stuck it on
his rifle and left.
They Made A Desert,
And Call It “The Safest City In The Country”
But Liars Can’t Get
Their Stores Straight
Feb. 6, (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
February 08, 2005 By ANJA
NIEDRINGHAUS, FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP)
Iraqis line up in straggling columns,
waiting to pass through barbed-wire checkpoints that ring this
former insurgent stronghold left battered by intense fighting three
months ago. Men stand in one, women and children in another. The
few cars form a third.
They are returning to a virtually
empty city where the 1st Marine Division's rumbling tanks and
patrolling riflemen are out in force making sure the guerrillas
don't come back.
say only about a tenth of the 250,000 residents have returned
since fleeing the weeklong battle in November that drove out
insurgents who had controlled the predominantly Sunni Muslim city.
Signs scrawled on some houses proclaim
``Family leaves here'' or ``Family in the home,'' their inexpert
English alerting the Marines that families have moved back in. White
banners daubed with similar messages dangle from other homes.
Most buildings also have been marked
by the Marines with map grid numbers and symbols denoting whether
they have been searched.
With the electric grid still out,
generators roar on every corner. Few shops are open. Some vendors
sell fruit and vegetables from street stands, and kiosks offer gum.
Marines handed out
military rations for weeks after the battle to help the few families
in the city get by, but that stopped after the Jan. 30 national
election. ``They have to get back on their own
feet,'' said 1st Lt. Sven Jensen, leading a patrol from the 3rd
Battalion, 5th Marines.
The heavily armed Marines do still
hand out soccer balls and candy to children.
Checkpoints across Fallujah and around
its edges control the flow of the city's people.
Many come back for just a day, to
check that their property is still in good order or to inspect any
Marines are using some damaged
buildings abandoned by families. The young Americans lift weights
in one. In another, they have laid out a huge map of the city, using
bricks to represent each house and building.
There is little activity on the
streets. People sit outside their homes talking and watching. Bored
Iraqis run outside to watch when tanks grumble past. Children cover
their ears against the noise.
Marines patrol the streets constantly
to reassure residents and to discourage insurgents.
[This is not a
parody or satire. This is actually what this reporter wrote.]
The Marines pay particular attention
to young men who seem not to want to be noticed, pulling them aside
to make quick mugshots in case of future troubles.
Jensen said the
U.S. presence is paying off. After the battle, patrols often
discovered big caches of weapons, he said.
The haul last week: one automatic
weapon found in the trunk of a car.
[Now check out
what another reporter says, the same day, probably on the same
little guided tour: “Marines are receiving more local tips about
suspects and ordnance; one led to
the discovery last Friday of a
hidden cache of mortar rounds, rockets, and 2,000 blasting caps -
essential to making roadside bombs.” Feb 8 Scott
Peterson, Christian Science Monitor]
"This is probably
the safest city in the country," says US Marine Lt. Col. Keil
Gentry, executive officer of Regiment Combat Team 1 (RCT1), that
Feb 8 Scott Peterson, Christian
Among the sullen is Abdulwahid,
a teacher who acknowledges that
Fallujah is safer - perhaps even one of the safest places in Iraq
though he detests the US presence. "We don't fear anything now,
but I'll feel safer when the
Americans end their occupation," he says in English. He
returned three weeks ago to a house with little damage,
but won't bring eight remaining family members until it is easier to
enter, and the curfews ease.
Was the invasion
the right choice? "I ask you the opposite question," says
Abdulwahid, who would not give his last name. "If you are in
America, and some foreign army comes in your country, are you
happy? Can any citizen in the world support an attack on their
Iraqi officials hand out staple foods…. [Oops.
Didn’t we just read this in the story above: “Marines
handed out military rations for weeks after the battle to help the
few families in the city get by, but that stopped after the Jan. 30
national election. ‘They have to
get back on their own feet,’' said 1st Lt.
Sven Jensen, leading a patrol from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.”
"My children can sleep easier," says
Malik Abbas Ali, a father of eight, whose wife stands half hidden at
the metal door of their house, a section of white sheet hanging as a
flag. "But there is no danger anymore. It is all finished. I
am concerned that we still have soldiers around."
Seeing a marine interpreter, another
Iraqi comes into the conversation.
"Americans are sleeping (in a base)
near our house - it's a problem," he says. "When will they leave?"
elected a new government," replies Capt. Tom Noel, commander of the
3/5 Weapons Company from Lenexa, Kan. "When they ask for US troops
to leave, we will leave." [This is not a parody or satire.]
"We're keeping the insurgents out,"
Captain Noel says later.
"(Residents) don't have to worry that someone will break into the
house in the middle of the night and shoot them in the back of the
head, or drag them off to one of their murder houses." [Repeat,
this is not a parody or satire.]
victories whose memory will never die and whose victorious
commanders will be remembered forever:
The Warsaw Ghetto
BRING ALL THE
TROOPS HOME NOW!
Incredible Shrinking Voter Turnout
New Statesman, 31 January, 2005
“They all celebrated the great
turnout, yet from 95 percent it became 72 percent, then 60 percent,
then it went down to 50 percent.
Now the word is that a 30 per cent overall turnout would be
THE LIFE AND DEATH
OF AN INTERPRETER
Coming of Age, From
Baghdad to Amman
October 3, 2004 By Jackie Spinner,
Washington Post Staff Writer
My American hips weren't cooperating.
Iyad, the hunky Jordanian taking pity on me, could see this. My
Iraqi translator could see this. In fact, I was certain that
everyone in the downtown Amman disco could see that I was a dancing
disaster, as Iyad tried to guide me in rhythm to the pumping beat of
Arabic pop filling the dark, smoky nightclub.
Everyone else was swaying in graceful
circles, shoulders and waists swinging melodically like wind chimes
in a gentle breeze. See, like this, my translator instructed, her
body moving in a sensual blur of tight blue jeans and sleeveless
black top. She placed my hands on her hips so I could feel the
motion. No go. I was still somewhere between Michael Jackson and
Luma, whose last name is being withheld for her safety,
had come with me to Jordan from Baghdad on the quintessential
coming-of-age road trip. We were both on a Middle Eastern journey
through Jordan for the first time. It was the kind of trip I had
taken many times in the United States as a young adult. A friend in
the passenger seat. A Big Gulp from 7-Eleven propped up against the
gearshift. A bag of peanuts and a six-pack of beer in the back seat.
I was 19 when I tasted freedom for the first time, riding off to
college without a parent on a southern Illinois highway in my
beat-up Honda Civic hatchback.
Luma had to wait until 28 to find her
freedom in a rented Nissan on Wadi Araba Road to the Dead Sea.
Until last year, Luma, a vivacious
hopeless romantic with an innocent smile, had known life only under
deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, who restricted travel outside the
country. She had never been on a trip without her mother or a male
relative. She had never worn a bathing suit at a beach with both men
and women. She had never been to a disco that served alcohol, never
swapped telephone numbers with a dance partner, never cranked up the
tunes in the car and wasted the cool air-conditioned air with the
sunroof open, just because. She had never had a hotel minibar beer.
Taste of Freedom
The first night we were in the
Jordanian capital of Amman, she opened the refrigerator of our
10th-floor room at the Four Seasons hotel and discovered a shelf
full of beer. We should have one, she declared. No, no, no, I
objected. Minibars are really expensive, and the accounting
department will see this, and really, we just worked out in the gym.
I looked at her eager face, a face that said, "But we're on vacation
without our mothers!" We each grabbed a cold one, turned off the
lights and sat on the floor to watch the moon rise over the
Jordan is about a
four-hour flight from Paris, an easy trip into the well-worn but
modern Queen Alia International Airport. In spite of post-9/11 fears
about traveling in the Middle East, Jordan is still a welcoming
place for Americans. Most young Jordanians speak excellent English,
and cab drivers know enough to get you where you want to go. If you
get lost in your rental car, however, and your Arabic-speaking
translator is pretending she is from Spain and will not let you pull
the car over to ask directions because there are religious-looking
men on the sidewalk and she is wearing a revealing top, you might
end up driving around for two hours in maddening, disorderly traffic
unwittingly teaching your translator your best road-rage swear
The only option for civilians to fly
out of Baghdad when we traveled last month was the expensive ($1,100
round trip), twice-daily Royal Jordanian flight to Amman, 90 minutes
away. (Iraqi Airways just began daily service to Amman for about
$750 round trip.) A week before we left, a plane was fired on by a
surface-to-air missile, and the airline temporarily suspended
flights. We were on the second flight out since the ban had been
lifted. A passenger moving through the security screening banged a
piece of luggage against a fiberglass panel. I immediately ducked,
as did about five beefy contract workers. Luma didn't miss a beat
in the story she was telling. "Don't worry; it wasn't a mortar," she
assured me before picking up where she left off.
This was Luma's first airplane ride,
her first exposure to the indignities of the war-on-terrorism
airport search. A week earlier she had bribed the woman at the
checkpoint to our Baghdad hotel with diet pills to stop touching her
"in a bad way." (She also asked her to "stop touching the little
one, my friend, the one they call Jackie.") At the airport, Luma set
off a walk-through detector. When a security worker asked her to
take off her shoes, Luma wouldn't budge. "I know how it is," she
told him. "First you ask for the shoes, then the pants! I will not."
They waved her through.
In Jordan, I found myself reliving my
youth through Luma. We hung out at the food court at the large Mecca
Mall in downtown Amman, drank beer in the afternoon, danced until
dawn. I indulged her need for Burger King and "American"
experiences. She indulged my need for historic sites and the quiet
countryside. The beauty of Jordan is that it offers all of the
By the Dead Sea
Our main destination in Jordan was the
Dead Sea, a place where we could relax and forget about life in
Baghdad: the violence, the kidnappings, the car bombs, the
translators who have been targeted because they work for Americans.
In Iraq, Luma is scared every time there is a knock at the door.
One night when we were hanging out in
the swimming pool at our Dead Sea resort, Luma turned to me beaming
and asked if I felt happy. "Happy? No, better than happy," I told
her. "I feel safe." She nodded, and we leaned our heads back
against the tiled pool wall and watched the sun drop behind the
mountains in Israel.
We bade goodbye each night to the
setting sun from the outdoor pool, which was constructed partially
above ground, with water spilling over a back bowl, creating the
illusion that you could swim right into the Dead Sea, the famously
salty body of water that, at 1,373 feet below sea level, marks the
lowest point on Earth not covered with water.
It's a 45-minute drive from Amman, a
quick trip by taxi that costs about $35 one way. We opted against
hiring a taxi or a driver because we wanted to make it a true road
trip, just two chicks and the open highway. Luma had arranged to
borrow a car from an uncle living in Jordan, but the uncle
ultimately decided against this because Luma did not have an
international driver's license. Not to worry, Luma told me. Her
Iraqi friend, Jamal, an engineer living in Jordan for three months,
would find us a vehicle. Jamal had a contact at the Avis rental car
agency, where we headed to get our wheels, no questions asked. (I
didn't have an international driver's license either.) I couldn't
understand exactly what was being negotiated at the Avis counter --
the conversation was in Arabic -- but whatever it was it took two
hours, and I ultimately signed the contract and handed over my D.C.
driver's license and credit card. I had no idea how much it would
Luma plunged the Nissan into the
chaotic traffic and we were off, weaving and dodging and honking
through the streets of Amman. I crouched in the passenger seat while
Luma piloted our great adventure in a vehicle I was responsible for,
in a vehicle only I was licensed to drive. As the road opened,
revealing the wide brown vista of the Jordan Valley on each side, I
opened my eyes and saw that we were now barreling down a hill,
straddling the center lane. "Luma," I asked meekly, "is it difficult
to get a driver's license in Iraq?"
"Oh yes," she said.
"The test is hard?"
"Test? There is no test. You pay a
bribe. Twenty-five thousand dinars!" (About $17.)
"Luma," I said quietly, pleading. "You
know I never ask anything of you. You know this. But please, I don't
care how long it takes us to get to the Dead Sea. Please, please
drive the speed limit. . . . Do you know you're driving on the
"What's a shoulder?"
She eventually slowed down, cranked up
the radio, and I sat upright again to watch our descent through the
valley toward the Dead Sea. The sea is a remarkable place because of
its geography and place in biblical history. We were within half a
day of the ruins of King Herod's fortress in Machaerus as well as
Mount Nebo, where, according to the biblical account, Moses climbed
to see the Promised Land before his death.
Luma and I also made the 15-minute
trip to Bethany, which claims to be where Jesus was baptized (Israel
says he was baptized on the west bank of the Jordan River, within
My Muslim translator seemed as excited
as her Catholic reporter to reach the river water, where we dunked
our feet in the murky green liquid and looked out at a short tree
line that marked the boundary with Israel. "Can't you just imagine
Him walking to this very spot," she said eagerly. We both filled
bottles of water to take to our mothers.
The Dead Sea resorts are all fairly
self-contained. This is not a place where you can walk out and mix
with villagers. The other visitors were an odd mix of European
travelers, a few stray Baghdad journalists like myself looking for a
respite, Iraqi families on vacation out of their country for the
first time and conservatively dressed Muslim women with their
Luma had her first hangover the next
We spent three days at the Dead Sea,
which turned out to be the right amount of time. We could have kept
going south toward Petra, the ancient Nabatean city that is Jordan's
most popular tourist attraction. Next time, we told ourselves.
Instead, we decided to take the long way north back to Amman, up the
winding, terrifyingly narrow highway to Mount Nebo and then on to
Madaba, famous for its Byzantine mosaics.
As we drove into the city Luma
immediately noticed that most of the women wore long dresses and
head scarves. She was still in a spaghetti-strap shirt, appropriate
at the Dead Sea and the disco in Amman but not Madaba, she
She reached into her bag to pull on a
long-sleeve shirt, and I took off my fishing cap and threw it in the
back of the car. "Get out of here as fast as you can," she
instructed me, and I floored the Nissan and headed back to the
I was sun-kissed and rested when we
touched down again in Baghdad five days later. I could never have
imagined such a journey, this trip with Luma. I had seen the most
beautiful sunsets, written in my travel diary by candlelight on a
balcony where I could see the flickering lights of Jerusalem across
the sea. I climbed Mount Nebo with my Muslim translator to one of
the holiest places in Christendom, a place where both sought peace.
I had watched Luma live.
"Welcome to Baghdad," the flight
attendant chirped. Luma scowled. "Don't welcome me home," she said.
An hour later we climbed into the
armored car that would take us back to our drab hotel. I sat in the
back and watched the grim postwar landscape pass us by -- the
wreckage, the dusty terrain, the garbage piled up against barbed
wire. In the passenger seat, Luma blinked back tears.
"I hate this country," she said. "Look
at the tanks. Look at the guard rails," which were mangled by
roadside bombs. "I just want to close my eyes and someone will wake
me up in the morning and say, 'Come on, here is your flight.' I
don't want to be here. I just want to live normal."
On our last night in Amman, I had
discovered Luma dancing in our hotel room, the curtains open, the
sounds of the city filtering through the cracked window, the sound
of a life she wanted. She looked so happy, so free, dancing in her
jeans and baby blue T-shirt.
This had been a vacation for me,
something altogether different for Luma. We had traveled the same
road but we had not had the same journey.
Sometimes you go away and you
disappear into a place until you feel so much a part of it that you
don't want to come home. Sometimes you have no choice. I thought of
this, as I listened to her cry. There was nothing I could say.
Epilogue: Two weeks after returning to
Iraq, Luma quit her job as a translator. And just like that, she
disappeared back into her mother's fold. She did not even call to
Sentenced In Interpreter's Death
January 23, 2005; Page A20 By Doug
Struck, Washington Post Foreign Service. Correspondent Jackie
Spinner contributed to this report.
BAGHDAD, Jan. 22 -- Two
U.S. soldiers were sentenced to prison terms Saturday for the
shooting death of an Iraqi interpreter in November at an army base
One of the soldiers said that he and
his colleague had been "joking and horseplaying" with the translator
when the trigger was pulled on a pistol pointed at her head. The
soldiers said they did not realize the gun was loaded.
Spec. Charley L. Hooser, 28, of
Midland, Tex., received a three-year term for involuntary
manslaughter and filing a false report. Spec. Rami M. Dajani, 24, a
Palestinian who attended school in the United States and served as
an interpreter, was sentenced to 18 months for being an accessory
after the fact and for filing a false report. Both men were ordered
demoted to the rank of private and dishonorably discharged.
The soldiers had
originally told investigators that the interpreter, identified in
court as Luma Hadi, 28, had accidentally shot herself,
according to testimony at a courts-martial Saturday at Camp Victory
near Baghdad. Both men pleaded guilty to the charges in an agreement
with Army prosecutors and offered tearful apologies for the incident
before they were sentenced.
Hadi, who formerly
worked as an interpreter for The Washington Post, was the mother of
a 6-year-old girl. According to Edell, U.S. authorities paid the
family $25,000 in compensation for her death.
Hadi's family did
not attend the court session because it was too dangerous to travel
there, her brother, Ali, said. The family's name is being withheld
to protect their safety. Families of Iraqis who work with countries
that are part of the occupation are often the target of attacks in
When Ali heard the news of Hooser's
sentence, he broke down in tears and said he was surprised the
soldier had been sentenced to time in prison. "I am happy, because
he was punished by the law," he said, "but I am sad because I
remember my sister."
Blasts Human Rights Panel Selection
[Thanks to PB who
sent this in. He writes: Hey assholes, what about Saudi Arabia?]
Feb 8 By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated
The State Department denounced on
Tuesday the selection of Cuba and Zimbabwe for a panel that will
decide on the agenda for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights
Commission next month.
"The United States
believes that countries that routinely and systematically violate
the rights of their citizens should not be selected to review the
human rights performance of other countries,"
State Department press office Tom Casey said.
Besides Cuba and Zimbabwe, the other
members of the so-called "Working Group on Situations" are Hungary,
and Saudi Arabia.
“You’re Out Of
February 02, 2005 Vietnam Veterans
Against the War, Forwarded from networker Ward Reilly to all on
VVAWNET: [no publishing date provided...list moderator]
By Paul Farhi (c) 2005, The Washington
But now the art of
press handling has evolved into actual manhandling.
The Bush administration has expanded the use of “minders,”
government employees or volunteers who escort journalists from
interview to interview within a venue or at a newsworthy event.
covering the balls were surprised to find themselves being monitored
Soviet-style by young “escorts” who followed them from hors
dıoeuvres table to dance floor and even to the bathroom.
As I was dictating
from my notes, something flashed across my face and neatly snatched
my cell phone from of my hand. I looked up to confront a middle-aged
woman, her faced afire with rage. “You ignored the rules, and Iım
throwing you out!” she barked, snapping my phone shut. “You told
that girl you didnıt need an escort. Thatıs a lie! Youıre out of
No, the minders
werenıt there to monitor me.
They were there to
let the guests, my sources on inaugural night, know that any
complaint, any unguarded statement, any off-the-reservation
political observation, would be noted.
Traveling Soldier Computer Repair:
“I Honor The
Warriors & Hate The War”
$100 from RP in Cyprus.
In another chapter
of my life, I loved and was loved by a soldier.
Now I’m happy in
another part of the world, but support your work wholeheartedly.
I honor the
warriors & hate the war.
Please accept this
donation to Traveling Soldier.
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