GI SPECIAL 3A76:
Iraq veterans are on a collision course with reality when they come
home. After awhile, most Americans will forget this war, forcing
veterans to be stuck in time. ---- Mike Hastie, Vietnam Veteran
and caption from the I-R-A-Q ( I Remember Another Quagmire )
portfolio of Mike Hastie, US Army Medic, Vietnam 1970-71.
(Contact at: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
for more of this outstanding work. T)
It Is With My
Deepest Regrets, That I Thank You All For Your Service
From: Mike Hastie
Sent: March 15, 2005 8:24 PM
Subject: Emotional Silence No More
To G.I. Special
gentleman, may I please have your undivided attention.
I regret to inform
that everything in Iraq is falling apart, just like I saw in
You cannot win a
war when the insurgent population is embedded in the civilian
population. (They are one in the same.)
58,000 dead in
Vietnam, and 300,000 wounded is proof of that strategy.
Will the last
American leaving Baghdad, please close the helicopter doors.
There will be
parades across the United States in ten years to welcome you home
That will give the
Bush Administration time enough to jump ship.
It is with my
deepest regrets, that I thank you all for your service.
can fool some of the people some of the time, but it cannot fool all
of the people all of the time.
U.S. Army Medic
admissions X 3
and dreams blown
that don't limp.
"If you hide your
else has to do your
PS: Larger print
for the seeing impaired.
IRAQ WAR REPORTS
SOLDIER DIES OF
INJURIES SUSTAINED FROM IED EXPLOSION
March 16, 2005 HEADQUARTERS UNITED
STATES CENTRAL COMMAND NEWS RELEASE Number: 05-03-12C
BALAD, Iraq – A 1st Corps Support Command Soldier died March 16 of
injuries sustained from an IED explosion. The explosion occurred on
a road south of Baghdad.
The Soldier was evacuated to a combat
support hospital and later died of his wounds.
U.S. Loses First
March 16, 2005 Broadcast Interview
Pyoe Lwin has become the first Burmese-American soldier killed in
Iraq, just two weeks after he refused an offer of home leave to
attend the funeral of his well-known Burmese grandfather.
Army Spec. Wai Pyoe Lwin, a
naturalized American and member of the Army National Guard's 1st
Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, died with another soldier,
Pakistani-American Azhar Ali, on March 2 when an improvised bomb
tore apart their Humvee near Baghdad International Airport, the
“Bad Weather My
is from Rose Gentle in Scotland. Her son was killed in Iraq. She
leads a powerful campaign to bring all the Scots and other troops
home from Iraq, now. Her words are poetry. T]
March 15, 2005 5:48 AM
Re: GI Special 3A74: General
Says Marine Recruiting Failure Due To Bad Weather
BAD WEATHER MY ARS, THE
RECRUITING HAS WENT DOWN IN
TO WHICH HAS THE ARMY SED ITS
MY FOLT FOR THE CAMPAIGN I AM
ITS NOT ITS BLAIR, AND THE
SHITE, HE TELLS US
I NO JUST IN MY STRET 4 BOYS
AND THAY WILL NOT GO BACK AND
ITS OUR YOUTH THAT ARE DYING
FOR THE SAKE OF BUSH
AND BLAIRS CRAZY CRUSADE TO
CONTROL, IRAQ OIL, THE AMOUNT
OF TROOPS WHO ARE GOING AWOL
IN THIS WAR,
ITS OUR CHILDREN WHO WILL BE
CONSCRIPTED INTO THE ARMD
IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE,
NOT BUSH OR BLAIRS KIDS ARE IN
I WOULD LOVE TO SEE BLAIR EYE
TO EYE BUT HE IS
A COWERD HE WILL NOT SEE ME,
CAMPAIGN, JUSTICE FOR GORDON
GENTLE, [ IT WILL GO ON [ BLAIR BUSH
YOUS AT THE G A,
ROSE GENTLE, NO
MORE LIES . NO MORE LIVES.
NEED SOME TRUTH? CHECK
OUT 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
Iraq Amid Anti-War Gains
[Thanks to PB who
sent this in. He writes: Instead of army of one, the slogan will
be, coalition of one.]
Mar 15, 2005 By WILLIAM J. KOLE,
Associated Press Writer
ROME - Italy said Tuesday it will
start drawing down its 3,000-strong contingent in Iraq in
September, putting a fresh crack in President Bush's crumbling
Bulgaria also called for a partial
withdrawal, and Ukraine welcomed home its first wave of returning
The moves come on top of the
withdrawal of more than a dozen countries over the last year.
Two years after the
U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, the coalition is
unraveling amid mounting casualties and kidnappings that have stoked
anti-war sentiment and sapped leaders' resolve to keep troops in
countries have provided troops in Iraq at one point or another. But
14 nations have permanently withdrawn since the March 2003 invasion,
and today's coalition stands at 24. Excluding U.S. forces, there
are 22,750 foreign soldiers still in Iraq.
The scramble to get
out has taken the multinational force from a high of about 300,000
soldiers in the region early in 2003 to 172,750 and falling. About
150,000 U.S. troops shoulder the bulk of the responsibility and
suffer the most casualties.
Berlusconi To Pull
Out Troops From Iraq:
PM Forced To Pledge
After Outrage At Killing Of Italian Officer
March 16, 2005 John Hooper in Rome,
Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian
minister, Silvio Berlusconi, yesterday announced that he would begin
withdrawing his country's troops from Iraq in September under
pressure from public opinion.
"I've spoken to [Tony] Blair about
this," he told a TV interviewer.
"We've got to construct a precise exit strategy. Public opinion
expects it, and we shall be talking about it soon."
Mr Berlusconi, who is among President
Bush's closest allies, has been under huge domestic pressure over
Italy's staunch support for US policy in Iraq. Early next month, he
faces a test of electoral strength and in recent weeks he has felt
the full force of Italians' misgivings.
On March 4, a senior intelligence
officer, Nicola Calipari, was killed by US troops in Baghdad after
rescuing an Italian hostage. His death united right and left in
appalled condemnation, with thousands of Italians turning out to pay
their respects to the dead agent during a lying in state.
dropped his bombshell last night hours after Italy's lower house of
parliament, in which the prime minister's supporters have an
outright majority, approved funding for its contingent in Iraq until
the end of June.
Italian officials had already
indicated troops would be withdrawn as soon as it was clear that
Iraq could handle its own security.
But Mr Berlusconi went much further
than before in defining the outlines of a timetable. He said: "A
progressive reduction of the presence of our soldiers will start
From: Lou Plummer
To: GI Special
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 1:54
Subject: DREW PLUMMER DISCHARGED!!!!
Former US Navy
Petty Officer Andrew Plummer, charged in 2003 with "Disloyal
Statements" by the Navy for criticizing the war is being discharged
on March 17, 2005. He plans to board a Greyhound bus bound for his
hometown of Fayetteville, NC to take part in the "Bring Them Home
Now!" rally being held there on March 19.
Thanks to the
support of GI Special readers and hundreds of others from the
national antiwar movement, Plummer avoided a court martial following
his arrest for unauthorized absence in early February.
His father, Lou
Plummer, a member of Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for
Peace expressed gratitude upon learning of the imminent return of
his only son, "Yeah, I'm happy that Drew is on his way home. I know
that there are more than 1500 families out there who will not get to
welcome home their loved one. It makes this bittersweet. We've
still got a war to stop and lives to save"
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.
How Bad Is It?
Them From Basic Even If They Fail," The Drill Instructor Said.
March 15, 2005 BY JAMES GORDON MEEK,
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
[Thanks to PB, who
sent this in.]
FORT BENNING, Ga. - After two years of
war, the Army is finding it harder to fill the ranks and is cutting
corners on how it turns civilians into soldiers ready for war.
Although top brass
insist that high standards are maintained, the gritty drill
instructors and officers at this legendary post near the Alabama
border bluntly disagree with their superiors about the quality of
the raw recruits and their basic training.
"I won't lie to you
- the Army is not being as picky as we used to be," said one ranking
Instructors told the Daily News that
the Army is recruiting more ex-felons, drug abusers and high school
dropouts than in the past.
A burly sergeant in a felt Smokey Bear
drill instructor's hat, who stood glaring at privates struggling
with a Fort Benning obstacle course last month, said his recruits in
the past year have performed poorly compared with those in previous
Yet, attrition in basic training
hasn't fallen below the average 10% washout rate before the Iraq
them from basic even if they fail," the drill instructor said. "It
wasn't like that two years ago."
graduates of the nine-week course "deploy to a unit and become their
liability," he said.
Another drill instructor agreed,
adding, "Even if they graduate, they may not have Army values."
March 16, 2005 By Robert Burns,
Gen. Richard B.
Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff added that the Saudis
expressed an interest in organizing joint training exercises for
U.S. and Saudi ground combat forces on Saudi territory.
“That was one of the areas that was emphasized, is hopefully to have
more interaction between U.S. and Saudi ground forces.”
force exercises now, however, is “a little problematic for us”
because virtually the entire U.S. Army is tied up in Iraq,
Afghanistan and other commitments around the world, he said.
He Killed Iraqis
Not On The List To Be Executed;
Gets 45 Days In
Jail For Two Murders
March 16, 2005 By Angela K. Brown,
FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army platoon
leader apologized for his role in forcing three Iraqi civilians into
the Tigris River, saying his actions eroded Iraqis’ trust in the
Army 1st Lt. Jack
Saville, 25, was sentenced to 45 days in a military prison
Tuesday as well as ordered to forfeit $2,000 of his $2,970 monthly
pay for six months.
The charges carried
a maximum 9½-year sentence, though a plea deal capped the sentence
at 15 months. That part of the agreement was kept
secret so military judge Col. Theodore Dixon would not be
influenced, Army officials said.
In the Samarra incident, Saville
ordered his soldiers to throw cousins Zaidoun and Marwan Hassoun
into the river at gunpoint.
Capt. Matthew Cunningham, his company commander, gave him the
names of five Iraqis who “were not to come back alive” if they
were caught during a series of raids in Samarra on Jan. 3, 2004.
cousins were not on the list.
Selby said Martin
put his pistol “in Sgt. (Robert) Cureton’s face and told him to
fire his weapon.”
March 16, 2005 By Robert Weller,
FORT CARSON, Colo. —
An Army captain accused of
terrorizing an Iraqi town under his supervision testified that he
never threatened to shoot one of his men for refusing to fire at a
detainee and never threatened Iraqi civilians with his pistol.
court-martial opened Monday with witnesses saying he ruled like a
tyrant over Rutbah, a community of 25,000 in Iraq’s western desert,
kicking and screaming at civilian detainees and pointing a pistol at
them. The alleged attacks took place from May to
July 2003, when Martin was the senior officer in the city.
Sgt. David Selby testified Tuesday
that Martin forced another soldier to fire over the head of an Iraqi
detainee. Selby said Martin put
his pistol “in Sgt. (Robert) Cureton’s face and told him to fire his
Laith Herbert testified that when an Iraqi detainee insisted he did
not know anything about an attack on U.S. forces, Martin ordered a
sergeant to beat up the detainee.
Prosecutors also said Martin poked
Iraqis with an aluminum baseball bat and once fired his pistol at
the feet of a suspect during an interrogation.
Covered Up Soldiers’ Murders:
Claimed They Were
15 March 2005 By Kim Sengupta, The
Independent (UK) & Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian
[Thanks to Artisan,
who sent this in. He writes: "majority
of army recruits came from a broken home, or deprived background, or
left school with no qualifications"....there's probably some
similarity with the background of some of those whose circumstances
'force' them into prostitution (?)]
from Hastings, East Sussex, was found dead with five gunshot
wounds in June 1995 while on guard duty. The Army said he
committed suicide and this was upheld at an inquest.
also criticised the MoD for the "insensitive" way it returned the
belongings of dead soldiers to their families. Elaine Higgins,
whose son died in Germany, found a box containing her son's
possessions on her doorstep with personal items such as his
wrist-watch still missing.
The army is under pressure to
implement radical reforms after facing criticism over "serious
failings" in its treatment of young recruits.
In a scathing report by a
parliamentary committee, MPs declared that only sweeping reforms
would re-establish the Army's credibility over its care of young
soldiers. The practice of the
military conducting its own investigations over abuse allegations
had failed abjectly, and an independent complaints commission with
retrospective powers must be put in its place, they said.
The report, by the Commons Defence
Committee, also urged a review of the policy of recruiting 16- and
17-year-olds and asked the Ministry of Defence to consider whether
the age of joining should be raised to 18. The committee accused
the military of a "serious failing" by not drawing up guidelines for
those younger than 18, while acting "in loco parentis".
There are some 6,700 under-18s in the
armed forces, more than 3% of the total.
The committee called for instructors
in charge of teenage soldiers to be subjected to criminal record
checks, and said young recruits should be put in separate
accommodation. It also recommended that they should not be issued
with firearms while on guard duty.
The inquiry, among
the longest held by the committee, was set up in response to the
deaths of four recruits at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey. MPs said
that the bereaved families, who had long campaigned against army
verdicts of suicide, were treated "absolutely appallingly" and the
MoD was "absolutely guilty of maladministration" towards them.
But, the report
rejected the demand by the families for a public inquiry,
saying the matter should be investigated by the
independent complaints commission which would have the power to make
Kevan Jones, a
Labour member, said some of the bereaved families had been treated
"appallingly, in a way verging on cruelty". In the army, he said,
there was an "arrogant view that the chain of command was
sacrosanct". The army had a "huge credibility problem to get over".
The committee said its report went
beyond Deepcut, and had discovered "shocking and worrying"
experiences suffered by recruits elsewhere.
A young female
was intimidated when she reported being raped by a senior male
colleague, said MPs. A recruit had his jaw broken, but nothing
was done about it. In another case a young soldier was put through
strenuous exercise, against medical advice, and died.
The report warned that a "culture
change" was needed in the forces - especially the Army - if bullying
were to be tackled. As long as complaints were regarded as a "sign
of weakness", victims would be reluctant to come forward.
"In the past, insufficient weight had
been given to the issue of bullying, which led to a tolerance of, or
at least insufficient action being taken against bullying," said the
"In recent years, attempts had been
made to implement what had been called 'zero tolerance'. But much
bullying by both superiors and peers will continue to go unreported
unless the culture changes."
The committee also
criticised the MoD for the "insensitive" way it returned the
belongings of dead soldiers to their families. Elaine Higgins, whose
son died in Germany, found a box containing her son's possessions on
her doorstep with personal items such as his wrist-watch still
Diane Gray, whose son Geoff, also 17,
died, said: "The report is good. But it does not answer our
questions about what happened there."
Her husband, Geoff, added: "What we
will do with today's report is take it forward and use it as yet
more ammunition that there was something desperately wrong, not only
at Deepcut but beyond Deepcut as well."
Private Sean Benton
from Hastings, East Sussex, was found dead with five gunshot wounds
in June 1995 while on guard duty. The Army said he committed
suicide and this was upheld at an inquest.
Frank Swann, a
ballistics expert, insists it was impossible for Pte Benton to have
killed himself. He suggests the soldier was shot four times from a
distance and once from close-up.
Trevor Hunter, a
friend of Pte Benton, said the young soldier had been he victim of
abuse and ritual humiliation. "He was an easy target because he had
a croaky voice and insisted on speaking his mind." It was claimed
Pvt Benton was attacked as he slept one night by a gang wearing gas
masks. He was also thrown through a window after answering back to
Pte Benton's mother, Linda, is certain
he did not take his own life.
Private Geoff Gray
He was found dead with
two gunshot wounds to his
head while on guard duty in September 2001.
The Army said that Pte Gray, 17,
from Seaham, Co Durham, had committed suicide but a
coroner recorded an open verdict.
A ballistics expert investigating the
death initially for the police, and then the families, Frank Swann,
said it was "highly unlikely" that Pte Gray had killed himself.
There were reports that someone was
seen running from the scene, and suggestions that the body was
Geoff and Diane
Gray have called for a public inquiry. Mr Gray said: "The Army have
failed in their duty of care not only to the young soldiers who have
died, the young soldiers who were bullied, but they have also failed
in their duty of care to us as parents, who have lost children
within the armed forces." The Grays insist their son was murdered.
The 17-year-old, from Llangollen,
north Wales, was found dead with a bullet through her forehead in
woodland near the barracks in November 1995. An inquest returned a
open verdict after the Army insisted that she had committed suicide.
Frank Swann, the
ballistics expert, concluded that it was "highly unlikely" that she
had taken her own life. He maintained that she was probably trying
to push the gun barrel away from her face in panic when she was
bullet, removed during an army post-mortem examination, is missing.
Pte James' parents, Des and Doreen,
believe their daughter was subjected to sexual harassment and
intimidation at the barracks. A
friend said she had been tearful after being forced to have sex with
a soldier at the base. Mr and Mrs James have called for a public
The 17-year-old from Perth was found
dead with a single gunshot wound to his face while on guard duty.
The Army said he had committed suicide. An inquest has still to be
expert Frank Swann said it was "unlikely" the bullet wounds to the
underside of Pte Collinson's chin and head were self-inflicted, but
it was possible that they were the result of an accident.
His mother, Yvonne, said she would
press on with her demand for a public inquiry: "Obviously, today's
report is very welcome. However, we await several other reports
from other bodies. We hope that if they are as negative as this
one, the Government will have to bow to our demands for a public
The defence committee said the
Ministry of Defence must show more transparency over investigations
into deaths such Pte Collinson's.
Fund-Raiser Of The
Giving Snipers The
March 14, 2005 Army Times
A recent fund-raising effort by a
student club at Marquette University, a Catholic school in
Milwaukee, was canceled because its goal was to raise money for a
program run by a nonprofit support group for military snipers in
Iraq and Afghanistan. The program, “Adopt a Sniper,” solicits
donations to buy gear that sharpshooters need in their specialized
line of work.
Republicans set up a table on campus to sell bracelets and other
trinkets provided by Adopt a Sniper, including items featuring the
slogan: “One Shot, One Kill, No Remorse, I Decide.”
officials, who said the initiative did not fit in with the school’s
Jesuit sensibilities, were not amused and quickly shut down the
Officials with the
nonprofit group that promotes Adopt a Sniper (motto: “Assistance
From a Distance”) decided not to take sides in the fray.
“George Bush Killed
Katherine G who sent this in.]
If Brian had
lived, I think he would have continued to please both of his
parents. He wasn’t supposed to be frozen as one thing or the
other at the age of thirty. He was supposed to live long enough
to define himself rather than to be defined by his mother or his
father. Parents aren’t supposed to have to decide on a headstone
for their child.
2005-03-14 by CALVIN TRILLIN, The New
This happened on Interstate 78, in New
Jersey, in November of 2003: While listening to a story on NPR’s
“Morning Edition” about a National Guardsman who’d been killed in
Iraq, I found myself in tears. At the time, I was driving from
Manhattan to visit my younger daughter and her new baby, Tobias, who
was then about three months old.
Because my daughter’s husband had to
be away from early morning until late in the evening on Tuesdays,
I’d been going to New Jersey once a week to keep her company and do
a bit of babysitting; we called the arrangement Tuesdays with Toby.
The birth of a grandchild is an event that tends to push emotions
toward the surface, and that may have been particularly true in my
My wife had died in September of
2001. The delight I took in Toby’s arrival—and in the arrival of my
older daughter’s baby, Isabelle Alice, who’d been born in the spring
of 2002—was sometimes difficult to uncouple from the way I felt
about my wife’s not having lived to enjoy her grandchildren. So you
could say that my emotional defenses were not fully in place.
Still, I was astonished that my response to a story about a young
man I’d never heard of, a thirty-year-old helicopter pilot from
northern Illinois named Brian Slavenas, was to weep.
First Lieutenant Slavenas, I was
informed by the voice of Bob Edwards, had been in command of a
Chinook helicopter that was brought down by a missile as it ferried
soldiers on the first leg of their trip out of Iraq for leaves.
Sixteen people were killed and twenty injured—one of the first big
casualty reports in the period when Donald Rumsfeld was still saying
that the continuing violence in Iraq was being caused by a few
dead-enders. Brian Slavenas had been a member of an Illinois
National Guard unit that was deployed in April of 2003, just a
couple of months after he got his degree in industrial engineering
from the University of Illinois. “Morning Edition” ran a segment on
him by Susan Stephens, of Station WNIJ, which is affiliated with
Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb.
He had been “physically huge,”
Stephens reported—six feet five, two hundred and thirty pounds. But
from her first couple of interviews, with a high-school buddy and
with a teacher whom Brian had worked for during the summer as a
furniture mover, it was apparent that he wasn’t the sort of big man
who used his size to intimidate. The teacher, Lance Gackowski,
talked about how, in pickup basketball games, Brian would cheerfully
continue to concentrate on putting the ball in from under the basket
while a couple of opposing players hung off him. The high-school
buddy, John Rossi, said, “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Something else that Rossi said was not
the sort of thing you’d expect to hear about a young man who’d just
been described in terms of his size and strength: “We’d get into
conversations and, say, if we couldn’t get a conclusion to
something, the next day he’d go to the library or go on the Internet
and look up the information and call back and go, ‘O.K., I figured
out what we were trying to figure out.’ He just wanted to know.”
His step-mother, Christi Slavenas, said something similar.
Barely keeping her voice under
control, she said that Brian was “very self-disciplined and studious
and interested. He liked history. He liked reading, he liked talking
to people about ideas.” Susan Stephens’s segment had lasted only two
or three minutes, but it left a clear impression of Brian Slavenas:
a powerful but good-natured young man with intellectual curiosity.
He sounded like the sort of young man you’d want your son—or, yes,
your grandson—to emulate. I don’t know whether it was that thought
or the cracking of Christi Slavenas’s voice or John Rossi’s
statement “He was the best friend you could have” that triggered my
response, but for a moment or two I had to consider pulling off the
I have to get on the record something
else that happened while I was listening to that segment from
Illinois. I said—out loud, I think, even though I was the only
person in the car—“What a waste!” From the start, I’d believed that
the war in Iraq was unconnected to defending ourselves against
terrorism, and I’d been particularly disturbed by the unfairness of
who bore the burden of fighting it. Brian Slavenas sounded like
someone who had gradually made his way through college by availing
himself of the tuition help offered by the National Guard.
I was angered that he had been sent to
die by policymakers whose own sons were perfectly safe and who
themselves, almost to a man, had evaded serving in Vietnam. By the
time I reached my daughter’s house, I had more or less calmed down,
but in the months that followed I never quite got Brian Slavenas out
of my head.
I felt terrible about saying that his
death had been a waste. Even though nobody in his family had been
in the car to hear it, I felt that it had been disrespectful to
them. I couldn’t make the case to myself that Brian had literally
died defending his country—soon Rumsfeld himself began denying that
he’d ever called Iraq an immediate threat to the United States—but I
sometimes tried to see his death in ways that gave it some nobility.
I told myself that it’s not the
soldier’s place to choose the war or the battle. Defending the
country requires a ready supply of young people who are willing to
go where they’re sent and do their duty, even if, inevitably, there
will be times when they’re sent to fight an ill-conceived battle or
even an unnecessary war. Were the soldiers who stormed Gallipoli
any less heroic or patriotic than the soldiers who stormed Iwo Jima?
I found myself hoping that Brian’s
parents were true believers in the war in Iraq, so that, unlike me,
they didn’t need to stretch to believe that he died defending his
country. I thought I’d like to meet them someday. It’s possible
that I just wanted to offer my condolences and tell them that their
son sounded like a splendid young man. Or maybe I wanted to find
out if the impression I had of Brian from that brief radio report
was a true impression. I felt uneasy being so upset about the death
of someone I knew so little about. Finally, a year after the
Chinook went down, I decided to go to Illinois.
Before I left, I discovered that there
had been a brief stir in the press a week or so after Brian Slavenas
died. A few stories were written about whether the Chinook had been
shot down because it was inadequately equipped, but most of the
coverage was about his family. Brian’s father, Ronald Slavenas, a
school social worker who was born in Lithuania and came to America
as a teen-ager, had served in the 82nd Airborne Division between
high school and college and had later joined the National Guard; in
the days following his son’s death, he told one reporter, “This
country took us in very generously.
My philosophy is put your shoulder to
the wheel.” A son from Ron Slavenas’s first marriage—Brian’s half
brother, Eric, who is forty—had been in the invasion of Grenada as a
forward observer with the 82nd Airborne. Brian’s older brother,
Marcus, had been a marine in the Gulf War. Brian, like every other
male in the family, had done a hitch in the military right out of
high school—he was a paratrooper, based in Italy—and had later, for
a time, served in the same Guard unit that his father was in. When
reporters went to Ron Slavenas’s home, in Genoa, Illinois—where
Brian had lived until third grade, when his parents got
divorced—they found a large American flag and a wreath bearing the
words “America’s All American Hero—We Will Never Forget You.”
But Brian’s mother
told a different story. In the view of Rosemarie Dietz Slavenas,
who’d just retired as an associate professor of early-childhood
education at Northern Illinois, Brian never had any interest in
being a hero and was under no illusions about the war in Iraq making
the United States more secure.
In fact, she said,
he had tried to resign his commission rather than go to Iraq.
Brian’s family on
his mother’s side had, instead of a military tradition, a tradition
of opposing wars. Rosemarie Slavenas had demonstrated against both
of the wars her sons fought in; she is a longtime member of the
DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace and Justice, whose
demonstrations tend toward silent vigils. Her older sister marched
against the war in Vietnam. Their mother, now in her eighties,
shares their views.
Brian’s father had taken it for
granted that there would be a formal military funeral, but Brian’s
designated next of kin—and thus the person entitled to make such a
decision—was his mother. Rosemarie Slavenas said that it was her
responsibility to give her son the funeral that was appropriate for
The service she arranged, at the Faith
United Methodist Church, in Genoa, was a civilian service, with
flowers rather than an American flag on the casket, and no weapons
in sight. Afterward, addressing some reporters and cameramen
gathered outside the church grounds, Rosemarie Slavenas said,
“George Bush killed my son. I believe my son Brian died not for his
country but because of our country’s lack of a coherent and
civilized foreign policy.”
Eric Slavenas, a strong supporter of
the war, had said that not having “Taps” and a flag-draped casket at
Brian’s service amounted to “spikes in my dad’s and my heart.” Many
of those who had attended the funeral at Faith United Methodist
later walked over to the Genoa Veterans Home, a few blocks away, for
a ceremony that included some of the military elements that Ron and
Eric Slavenas had counted on—an honor guard and a memorial rifle
volley and helicopters flying overhead in a “missing man” formation
and a bagpipe playing “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” and a display
of Brian’s military decorations. Marcus attended both ceremonies,
but in interviews he’d argued that American soldiers shouldn’t have
been sent to Iraq in the first place. (“All of them should have been
back here dating girls and working jobs.”)
On the Internet, the split in the
Slavenas family generated considerable traffic, some of it ugly. One
pro-war chat room had dozens of postings gathered under the heading
“evil shrew loses hero son.”
So many people came to Brian’s funeral
that the overflow had to be accommodated in the church basement.
There were a number of military people attending in uniform, but
there was no ceremonial military presence. The eulogies were about
the civilian Brian Slavenas. From what was said at the funeral, it
was obvious that Brian had an even broader spectrum of interests
than I’d realized. He was a serious power-lifter, specializing in
the bench press, but he was also a serious pianist, specializing in
Chopin. He loved skiing, but he also loved chess. The friends who
spoke said that despite Brian’s range of competence he was modest
and self-effacing. He was, by all accounts, embarrassed by attention
and quiet with people he didn’t know well. Jennifer Lasiowski, who
had gone out with Brian for a year when they were at the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in her eulogy that Brian was
so shy it took him six dates to kiss her.
DeKalb County is a
perfect rectangle of a county an hour or so west of Chicago. Parts
of it—the patch north of Genoa, for instance—look like the sort of
flat Illinois farmland that couldn’t have changed much in decades;
the farmhouses resemble the picture that springs to my mind when I
hear someone who’s from the rural Midwest talk about “the home
Genoa (pronounced Juh-no-ah) is a town
of four thousand where the main street is called Main Street and the
newspaper is delivered by a boy on a bicycle. To the south, though,
an occasional subdivision sits on former cornfields; DeKalb, a city
of forty thousand people about fifteen miles from Genoa, has not
only subdivisions but a strip of box stores and franchises that
would make an urban planner of any sensitivity weak at the knees.
Rosemarie Slavenas began teaching at
Northern Illinois not long after her divorce, so, in the days before
most of the box stores and franchises arrived, Brian grew up in
DeKalb and made regular trips to Genoa to visit his father.
Wrestling is the big sport at DeKalb High School, but Brian, who
threw the discus for the track team and played the drums in the
marching band, wasn’t a wrestler.
For one thing, I was told by Lance
Gackowski, who coaches wrestling among his other duties, Brian
didn’t really fill out until he had almost finished high school.
Also, in Gackowski’s experience, effective wrestlers tend to work
off of some sort of anger. “Brian didn’t seem to have that,”
Gackowski told me. “He was a very gentle person.”
That’s what I heard from Jennifer
Lasiowski, a slim, direct young woman who works in a Head Start
program, and that’s what I heard from Ed Rubeck, a grade-school pal
of Brian’s who still moves furniture and looks like he doesn’t need
much help with the pianos: Brian was a very gentle person. Even Ron
Slavenas, in describing a son who had died in battle, spoke of Brian
as “a gentle giant.”
has said that the last thing her son told her before shipping out
was “Mom, I don’t want to hurt anybody.”
Among the people I talked to in
Illinois, in fact, there was a remarkable consistency in how Brian
was remembered. He was methodical, working slowly and patiently on
whatever skill he was trying to acquire; at the gym used by the
University of Illinois weight-lifting club, he didn’t miss workouts.
His passion for flying was so strong that, even after his
engineering degree was in hand, he didn’t completely rule out a
career in aviation; for him, the practical appeal of the Guard had
included not only tuition support but pilot training.
He was the sort of student who studied
hard preparing for an exam, was always pessimistic about how he had
done, and almost invariably turned out to have done very well. He
was thoughtful—someone who would always insist on taking the most
cramped spot in the moving van.
He had a modesty so profound that it
sometimes seemed to shade into a shortage of self-confidence. His
friends in the weight-lifting club didn’t learn until after his
death about the trophies he’d won in out-of-town tournaments. When
I asked Jennifer Lasiowski why she and Brian had eventually broken
up—I don’t really know what made me think I had a right to ask that
question—she said, “He thought I could do better.”
From the way she’d spoken of him, I
suspected that she didn’t necessarily agree. Neither did I.
Modesty may be particularly becoming
in the person of someone who could win benchpress tournaments and
play Chopin and fly a helicopter and co-write a thesis called “An
Economic Analysis of Combination Vaccines.”
I grew up one state away from where
Brian Slavenas grew up, and, as I spoke to his friends and family
about all he’d accomplished in his short life, I could almost hear
him mumbling what I’ve always treasured as the Code of the
Midwest—“No big deal.”
Brian’s brother Marcus struck me as an
engaging young man, but he is also someone who, at thirty-four,
might be described by a school social worker as still trying to find
himself; when I met him, at his father’s house, Marcus was about to
leave for Puerto Rico, where he hoped to acquire the credentials to
become a scuba instructor in Belize. In the divided Slavenas family,
from what I could gather, Brian, the last born, played the role
often associated with the first child—the dutiful child who tries to
please his parents and keep the peace, the child who doesn’t smoke
or drink, the child who never gets into trouble.
Rosemarie Slavenas sometimes refers to
him as “my wise child.” In Iraq, he wrote both parents
regularly—devoting most of his last letters to his mother to the
care that should be given an ancient family dog named Pepper and
mentioning in one letter to his father that he was considering
staying in the military as a chopper pilot. Lance Gackowski thinks
that the breadth of Brian’s interests, as well as his inclination to
stay out of the limelight, had something to do with having parents
who were divorced and held widely divergent views. “Some kids in
that situation just shut down,” Gackowski told me. “He tried to
fulfill both of their visions of what a noble man should be.”
Ron Slavenas, who retired last year,
has spent a good deal of time travelling to military and community
gatherings that honor his son. His house, whose front lawn is
dominated by a pole that flies not only the American flag but the
flag of the 82nd Airborne Division, has some elements of a military
museum. Slavenas has on display the triangular box that was
presented to him at the military ceremony, with a neatly folded
American flag and his son’s medals.
The walls hold, among other military
mementos, a huge gold-star flag with Brian’s name on it and, across
from a pencil drawing of a Chinook helicopter, framed copies of
resolutions about Brian from dignitaries and legislative bodies. The
centerpiece of that display is the letter sent to the survivors of
every fallen soldier by the President of the United States.
Rosemarie Slavenas has been to a
gold-star mothers’ event, but she’s more likely to commemorate Brian
among people who oppose the war. In her house—in Rockford, where she
moved in 2003 after she retired—the only indication that Brian was
in the military is that his high-school graduation portrait, on the
wall next to a similar portrait of Marcus, has his dog tags hanging
from the frame. A large picture of an Indian in a canoe, a picture
Brian painted when he was eight, hangs on the wall above an upright
The piano itself is a memento of
Brian. In the two years that he attended Northern Illinois, before
transferring to the Urbana-Champaign campus, she could tell when he
got in at night because music would start wafting through the
house—“Chopin that would break my heart.”
displays no framed resolutions or official letters of condolence.
She is still waiting for an answer from her own letter to the
President, a letter that said, in part, “My beloved son Brian died
for your red herring in the sand. . . . He did not give his life. It
was cruelly taken from him by your rush to war.”
Neither Ron nor Rosemarie Slavenas
likes to dwell publicly on their differences over their son’s
funeral, partly because they think it detracts from the memory of
Brian. Maybe for the same reason, or maybe because the Midwestern
instinct is to seek some common ground, I found myself looking for
ways in which they are not as far apart in their views as they may
at first appear.
Rosemarie Slavenas, for instance, is
not automatically hostile to the military. She told me that Brian
did value the organization and discipline of the Army and that the
Army taught him important skills. She liked the casualty liaison
officer sent by the Illinois National Guard; at the funeral, he
walked by her side, in his dress uniform and his beret, from the
Faith United Methodist Church to the graveyard nearby.
In the Slavenas family, the one person
who impressed me as a true believer in the war was not Ron Slavenas
but Brian’s half brother, Eric, who operates a landscape-contracting
service near Genoa. Eric, who says that he speed-reads a couple of
hundred pages on current affairs every day, assured me that weapons
of mass destruction and Saddam’s links to September 11th have been
found in Iraq but were suppressed by the liberal media.
Ron Slavenas, despite the military
displays, does not have Eric’s certainty. He’s a cordial man who
seems to try hard to see other people’s point of view. Although he
believes that the United States has to persevere in Iraq now that
our troops are there, he has said that we went to war “a little too
He told me that
Brian, while being intent on doing his duty, was not “gung ho, not a
muscle-flexing warrior.” Ron Slavenas wouldn’t say that his son
tried to resign rather than go to Iraq, but he—and even Eric—would
acknowledge that Brian went in to his commanding officer in order to
“look at his options,” eventually learning that resignation after
deployment is not permitted. To me, trying to resign and looking at
your options sound like they could be different ways of saying the
Among the people I
talked to—the Slavenas family, the friends who visited Brian at Fort
Campbell, Kentucky, just before his unit shipped out to the Middle
East—there is agreement that Brian would have been delighted if one
of his options had been to stay in Illinois.
After constantly shifting back and
forth between college and the military, he’d finally received the
degree he had sought for years; in Ron Slavenas’s words, “The world
was just opening up for him.” On the other hand, there is agreement
that, once it was clear that such an option didn’t exist, Brian
would have done what was expected of him, as he always had. The way
Brian went about things, John Rossi said to me, was “If you’re going
to do it, you might as well do it full bore.”
“The single most important thing for
me is to keep his spirit alive in my heart,” I was told by Rosemarie
Slavenas, who in her letter to George Bush had described her son as
“an honorable, restrained, talented, caring man.” I know that both
of Brian’s parents believe that he lived a noble life. They’re left
with differences in how he should be remembered.
On my last day in Genoa, Ron Slavenas
took me by Faith Methodist, where the funeral was held, and by the
church cemetery, where Brian’s grave is still without a stone. What
Ron Slavenas would like to see on the stone is something like “Brian
Slavenas, 1972-2003, First Lieutenant, Illinois National Guard,
Chinook Pilot, Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
He assumes that his former wife would
have different ideas, and so far he hasn’t broached the subject.
It’s indicative of how different Rosemarie Slavenas’s ideas would be
that when she heard of her son’s death she said, “All the kindness
has gone out of the world.”
If Brian had lived,
I think he would have continued to please both of his parents. He
wasn’t supposed to be frozen as one thing or the other at the age of
thirty. He was supposed to live long enough to define himself
rather than to be defined by his mother or his father. Parents
aren’t supposed to have to decide on a headstone for their child.
Down Northern Oil Exports:
“Two Dozen Blasts A
March 16, 2005 By JIM KRANE,
Associated Press Writer
In the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk,
where the air smells of crude and bright gas flares illuminate the
night sky, the vast potential of Iraq's oil industry and its
failures are on dramatic display.
Ever since drillers unleashed a
50-foot oil gusher near the city in 1927, Iraq has been too unstable
to take full advantage of its bounty.
This year, as
happened last year, almost none of Kirkuk's oil will reach the
of the northern oil pipeline by insurgents has all but sealed it off
from its export terminal in Turkey. Before the U.S.-led invasion,
the line handled around 750,000 barrels a day.
insurgents have battered oil installations with an average of two
dozen blasts a day.
Oil Vultures Away
14 March 2005 By Laurence Frost, The
Paris - As Iraq's political factions
move closer to forming a new government, the world's oil leaders are
dusting off their Baghdad Rolodexes with an eye toward lucrative
production agreements. Through 15 years of conflict and sanctions,
major oil companies never lost sight of Iraq's massive proven
reserves -- the world's second-largest after Saudi Arabia. Efforts
to form the nation's first elected government in over half a century
are making the prospect of major contracts more tantalizingly real,
even if that government could still be more than a year away.
numbers of Iraqi insurgent attacks are another problem.
officials to Iraq soon after the U.S.-led invasion, but has since
stopped, de Margerie said. ConocoPhillips and BP also have
acknowledged safety issues, and Royal Dutch/Shell, which currently
has no employees in Iraq, said the company "would have concerns"
about sending them there unless the security situation improves.
Car Bombing At
Iraqi Army Checkpoint In Baquba Kills Five Soldiers
Mar 16, 2005 By RAWYA RAGEH,
Associated Press Writer & Middle East Online
BAQUBA, Iraq - A
car bomb exploded Wednesday near an Iraqi army post in Baquba,
northeast of Baghdad, killing five Iraqi soldiers and wounding 12
people, police said.
soldiers were killed and 10 others were wounded, as well as two
civilians, in a suicide car bombing at an Iraqi army checkpoint five
kilometers (three miles) northwest of Baquba," a police spokesman
The bomber also died.
One of the wounded, Abdel Karim
Jassem, said from his hospital bed that he heard a loud explosion
just after 9:00 am (0600 GMT).
"I was in a car behind four vehicles
that were headed towards the checkpoint when the explosion
occurred," he said. Doctors said his life was not in danger.
happened in the northeastern Mafraq district, where attacks on the
police and army are common.
March 16 (KUNA)
assassinated a major in the Iraqi police force in the northern town
of Mosul, Iraqi police sources told reporters Wednesday.
Major Muhammed Hamdon was killed in
his house in the eastern side of the city, the sources said.
Few Hundred Yards Away”
Mar First Iraq
Mar 16, 2005 By RAWYA RAGEH,
Associated Press Writer, BAGHDAD &
Iraq's first freely elected
[this is not a satire]
parliament in half a century began its opening session Wednesday
after a series of explosions targeted the gathering. The opening
marked a major milestone on the road to forming a new government in
a country still beset by violence.
convening, at least a half dozen explosions detonated a few hundred
Windows rattled and lights flickered
in the building when mortars struck
“We Would Rather
Live In Tents And In Liberty Than In Luxury And Under Occupation.”
Feb 26, 2005 Interview: Rüdiger Gِbel,
Junge Welt, Week final supplement. Translation by John Catalinotto,
International Action Center, USA, who participated with Dr. Hadad
and Mr. Awad in a public meeting in Heidelberg on Feb. 25.
Q: What is the
mood today in Falluja? Are rage and hate against the occupier
dominating or rather resignation and regret that there was
population is full of rage. People hate the Americans - Americans
generally, not only U.S. soldiers. They are occupiers, killers and
terrorists. Almost every family in Falluja has to mourn a victim;
how you can expect any other reaction there.
I say to you: Most of the (U.S.)
soldiers feel fine about shooting Iraqis. They really believe all
Iraqis are terrorists, as their government tells them. I saw
soldiers who were laughing together in their unit, as if they were
drugged. In a mosque they organized a carnival. The place of
worship was transformed into a discotheque!
Even if it doesn't
look that way at first sight, in the long run the Americans lost in
Falluja. Which does it mean if an Empire uses all its power to
attack what is a small city, without any morals, without scruples.
That is the beginning of the end.
Q: The U.S. army
offered at the end of its Falluja offensive to pay 500 dollar
remuneration for each destroyed dwelling.
What is 500 dollars?
That is not even enough to get rid
of all the debris! The offer is a new sort of attempt to humble
us. They want to make us into beggars. I do not want the money. We
Arabs and Muslims believe in principles:
We would rather
live in tents and in liberty than in luxury and under occupation.
Awad: In my opinion the occupation
forces must pay an appropriate remuneration for the physical and
psychological damage, which the citizens of Falluja suffered - after
the Americans have left our city and our country.
Dr. Mahammad J. Haded belonged to the
medical staff of the Central Hospital of Falluja, which was occupied
in November 2004 by U.S. troops; in addition he works in a small
hospital in the center of the city. He was one of the few
physicians who remained during the attack on Falluja.
Mohammad F. Awad is a civil engineer
and since 2003 has been president of the City Council of Zaqlawiya,
a town nine kilometers north of Falluja. Since past year he is also
director of the refugee assistance center supported by the Red
Crescent in Zaqlawiya. He was one of the volunteers who gathered
corpses of killed inhabitants of Falluja and brought them for
identification to Zaqlawiya.
BRING ALL THE
TROOPS HOME NOW!
Assholes With Lapel
3.14.05 Nicholas von Hoffman, The New
The burden of this war, which we hear
spoken of so often, has been borne by my son and a few thousand
other men and women.
They have made all
the sacrifices that bombastic politicians so lightly speak of; they
have borne all the risks, paid all the costs, while others have
gotten rich off them, have gotten elected and re-elected off
them—and, if not that, had the pleasure of swaggering around with a
bully-boy American flag in their lapels and a ribbon stamped "I
Support the Troops" on the hoods of their $45,000 automobiles and
their pickup trucks.
Who Are The
March 15, 2005 Socialist Worker (UK)
Two years after
the invasion of Iraq, writer and activist Tariq Ali spoke to
Socialist Worker about US strategy in the Middle East and the growth
of the Iraqi resistance to the occupation.
resistance is demonised by Bush and Blair as terrorists, supporters
of Saddam Hussein, Islamic fundamentalists and so on. Tell us what
you think of the resistance.
movement against imperialism has been categorised as terrorist — the
Mau Mau in Kenya were demonised and brutally tortured by the
British; the Algerian FLN by the French; the Vietnamese by the
French and the Americans.
Ariel Sharon refers to Palestinians as terrorists, Russia’s Vladimir
Putin crushes the Chechens in the name of fighting terror and Tony
Blair is assaulting traditional civil liberties in this country in
the name of fighting terror. It’s hardly surprising that the Iraqi
resistance is characterised in the same fashion.
means used to drive out imperial occupiers are determined by the
nature of the occupation. The brutality of the US troops and
systematic torture they have used has been well documented. So
how can the resistance be beautiful?
During the Algerian
war a leader of the national liberation front, the FLN, was asked
about using terror against French civilians in cafe bombings in
Algiers. He replied, “If we had an air force I promise you we would
only target French barracks, but till then...”
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.
108 Died In U.S.
March 16, 2005 (AP)
At least 108 people have died in
American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of them violently,
according to government data provided to The Associated Press.
Roughly a quarter of those deaths have been investigated as possible
abuse by U.S. personnel.
The figure, far higher than any
previously disclosed, includes cases investigated by the Army, Navy,
CIA and Justice Department.
The Pentagon has
never provided comprehensive information on how many prisoners taken
during the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have died, and the 108
figure is based on information supplied by Army, Navy and other
REPORTER TURNS OUT TO BE CHENEY:
Falls Off Veep During Press Briefing
March 15, 2005 The Borowitz Report
The White House press corps was rocked
by another scandal today as a man thought to be a professional
journalist was revealed to be Vice President Dick Cheney wearing a
The shocking discovery took place
during a daily briefing at the White House in which spokesman Scott
McClellan took the following question from a reporter he referred to
only as "Herb": "Wouldn't you agree that President Bush's plan for
reforming Social Security totally rocks?"
Before Mr. McClellan could respond to
the question, the reporter's moustache suddenly fell off his face,
revealing him to be none other that Vice President Cheney.
Mr. Cheney, unaware that his disguise
had fallen off and seemingly oblivious to the audible gasps of the
journalists in the room, continued: "And wouldn't you agree that
anyone who opposes it hates our country?"
After adding, "And isn't everything in
Iraq going really well these days?" the vice president noticed that
his fake moustache was on the carpet at his feet.
He then quickly excused himself and
bolted out of the room.
Hours after the incident, the White
House took great pains to explain Mr. Cheney's dual role as vice
president of the United States and obsequious journalist.
"For the past three
years, we have consistently stated that Vice President Cheney has
been in a secure, undisclosed location," Mr. McClellan told
reporters. "That location was, in fact, the White House press room."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she would not run for
president in 2008 "unless the Democrats nominate somebody really
One U.S. Soldier
Killed, Four Wounded By Anti-Tank Mine;
Silly General Says
Security “Exceptionally Good”
Munita / AP Photo
March 16, 2005 By Stephen Graham,
On Wednesday, a
Humvee carrying U.S. military police near an American base in
Shindand, in the west of the country, hit an anti-tank mine, killing
one soldier and injuring four more. Two of the wounded were in
stable condition and two were treated and returned to duty. None of
the soldiers were identified.
carrying Afghan civilians, apparently curious to watch the American
rescue operation, struck another mine nearby, killing five people
and injuring another six.
An Afghan soldier
was killed and another wounded Tuesday when they triggered a mine
while recovering bodies from an airliner that
slammed into a mountain in the nation’s worst-ever air crash,
officials said Wednesday.
Gen. Richard Myers,
the visiting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday
that security in Afghanistan is now “exceptionally good”
and the United States is considering keeping long-term
bases in the country as it repositions its forces worldwide.
To: GI Special
Sent: March 16, 2005 6:53 PM
Subject: thank you
I'm not in the military but thank you
for your courage in publishing GI special
Newcastle NoWAR Collective
NL, M.Med.Sc., B.A., EN.
55 Fitzroy St
Mayfield NSW 2304
The courage is that of the troops opposed to the war,
and organizing against it within the services. That takes real
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