GI SPECIAL 2#C33
A Young Marine Vet
Now Fights Against Iraq War
November 23, 2004. Alexandra Zabjek,
Seven Oakes. Seven Oaks is a weekly, online magazine based in
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
rises slightly as he describes inadequate gear given Americans
fighting in Iraq. At the war's start, he had just one of two
ballistic plates - bullet-proof shields inserted in the front and
back of a flak jacket - and felt unduly exposed to enemy fire.
"That's why I get pissed off whenever they show stuff about $87
billion," he scowls. "It did not get to us."
Speaking Against The War
Veterans Against the War:
On his first night as part of
Operation Iraqi Freedom, Alex Ryabov watched orange lights streak
across a black desert sky.
The glowing tracers sped through the
night, illuminating the darkness. Sometimes they converged into one
bright line; other times they collided, sending the orange streaks
in new directions. It was mid-March 2003, and Ryabov's artillery
unit was stationed in Kuwait, launching shells over the Iraqi
Working furiously on the sandy ground,
surrounded by shell casings and debris, Ryabov thought about the
devastation the American firepower could yield. As he helped load
more shells into the cannons, he waited for return fire. It never
later, Ryabov is home in the United States, protesting his former
job in Iraq. The Brooklyn Marine is co-founder of Iraq Veterans
Against the War, which opposes America's actions in Iraq and the
president who initiated them. After a contentious election, the
veteran's group is appealing to a divided country that has long
revered its military.
With tightly cropped, curly brown
hair, and neat sideburns that frame his young face, Ryabov, now 21,
still looks like a kid. Sitting in a Manhattan restaurant, wearing
an immaculate, white Nautica sweatshirt, and equally pristine white
sneakers, he hardly looks like the unruly anarchist sometimes
portrayed as the face of the protest movement. In fact, Ryabov, a
novice but committed peace activist, is a bit surprised himself.
"Before I got
involved in protest movements, I had no idea there were so many
different types of people who had the same ideas," said Ryabov,
who'd recently returned from a Washington vigil for those killed in
Iraq. "I'll see punks with Mohawks and stuff, and at the same time,
have anti-Bush pins."
"I'm glad to see
that," he concluded. "It's good to see people voicing their
Speaking over a plate of sushi that he
dots with small green blobs of wasabi, Ryabov meticulously outlines
his arguments against the war. In a soft voice, almost drowned out
by restaurant chatter, he affirms the claims of an anti-war camp
that insists President Bush was wrong to start a war.
Iraq was not,
Ryabov argues, an imminent threat: " How could Iraq be a threat if
we took the capital in just three weeks?" And the oil industry's
powerful hand influenced this war, he thinks: "We're taking oil
that's been formed over millions of years. corporations are putting
that money into their pockets."
But unlike most
young, anti-war protesters who voice the same arguments, Ryabov
brings a four-year military record to the table.
His experience resonates both with a
public that might otherwise dismiss youthful discontent, and with
political leaders who ultimately call the shots.
"I might not know the exact names of
certain laws," he said, recalling an exchange with a senator's aide
about funding for US troops in Iraq. "But he hasn't seen the stuff
Alex Ryabov was born in Kharkov,
Ukraine, but his family left the country soon after the Soviet
Union's collapse. Settling in East Brooklyn, his parents - a
homemaker and a maintenance manager - raised Ryabov and his two
younger siblings. Today, the young vet still lives with his mom; at
one point in the interview she calls his cell phone and he quickly
switches to Ukrainian, his words peppered with the low "dzh" and "k"
sounds of Baltic tongues.
As a Midwood High School student
Ryabov did well until 10th grade when, "everything went downhill,"
and his grades dropped. He was bored with school, and when military
recruiters visited Midwood, he filled out an application. They
returned two years later promising money for school, health benefits
and a steady job. Not feeling ready for college, Ryabov signed a
contract in January 2000. He was 17.
His parents were divided about the
decision; his mom accepted his resolve, but his dad objected - after
all, they had come to the United States from a country where
military service was mandatory. Looking back on it, Ryabov says he
was "nave," but at the time he was looking forward to the work. It
was almost two years before 9/11 and he never thought his stint in
the Marines would land him in a war.
Early the next year, Ryabov's first
sergeant gathered his battalion at Camp Lejeune, South Carolina and
he delivered this shocking order:
"We're not going there for weapons of mass destruction or to topple
Saddam Hussein," Ryabov remembers. "We're going there for one reason
alone, and that's oil."
The blunt words disturbed some younger
troops but Ryabov had three years service under his belt, and
shrugged off the sergeant's assessment. He'd grown used to the
hypocrisies of the military. Besides, he had to think of his fellow
Marines. "I wasn't going to abandon my friends," he says,
unapologetically. The kinship that develops in the military is
strong, Ryabov explains. You're not going to let down the guys who
share your work and life.
rises slightly as he describes inadequate gear given Americans
fighting in Iraq. At the war's start, he had just one of two
ballistic plates - bullet-proof shields inserted in the front and
back of a flak jacket - and felt unduly exposed to enemy fire.
"That's why I get pissed off whenever they show stuff about $87
billion," he scowls. "It did not get to us."
Following the orange tracers they
launched their first night in the desert, Ryabov moved with his
battalion through Iraq, where he witnessed chaos and destruction
first-hand: twisted metal, shards of skin, dead corpses, leveled
homes. He talks openly about entering areas devastated by American
artillery fire, often grilled about the subject by reporters.
Ryabov also had a close call on his
own life in what he describes as "the artillery unit equivalent of a
fender bender." Traveling along a dusty road early one morning, his
truck - which luckily had its windshield blown out - rammed into a
cannon being pulled by the truck ahead of it. Half asleep in the
passenger seat, an M-16 cradled in his arms, Ryabov jerked awake to
find the cannon just six inches from his tired body.
"I'm not very religious," Ryabov says.
"But I kinda thought that God had spared me." He untucks a small,
silver Star of David from his white sweatshirt, an icon he put on
when he went to Iraq and has not removed since.
from the Middle East in May 2003, disturbed and exhausted. He was
sent back to Camp Lejeune and was frustrated to learn his battalion
could soon be thrown back into the fray. "They expect us to pick up
where we left off with training," he remembers, clearly annoyed.
"We fought; we deserve six months without regular training."
"Each person needs time to sort stuff
But worse than the
military's demands was watching television coverage of the war he'd
just left. Every day, more troops died, faceless numbers in
television reports. Every day, he thought the media sensationalized
the conflict, even endowing it a Hollywood moniker, "Showdown in
Iraq." Every day, Ryabov became more convinced the war was a
"We're going into countries under
these false pretenses of WMD's and saying the country's an imminent
threat," he says. "These reasons didn't hold much weight to begin
with, and now they're completely falling apart." He felt powerless,
however, to speak out until he'd finished active duty.
Through a friend from his unit, Ryabov
got in touch with Veterans for Peace. Not knowing what to expect,
he showed up at a meeting and was surprised to stumble on a group of
men more than twice his age.
Ryabov appreciates his predecessors'
contributions to the veteran's peace movement and he lists their
endeavors in learned detail: World War II vets who fought against
the spread of fascism; men sent to fight wars in Korea and Vietnam;
and now men and women who have returned from Iraq. "I had no idea
people had been doing this for 20 or 30 years," he says.
Soon after that
first Veterans for Peace meeting, Ryabov and four others launched
Iraq Veterans Against the War. The group made its
first public appearance in July at the national Veterans for Peace
convention, just weeks after Ryabov completed active duty. Since
that time, IVAW has swelled to almost 60 members. The group
organizes rallies and protests, brushing shoulders with high profile
progressives like Howard Zinn, Daniel Ellsberg and Jesse Jackson.
Ryabov is one of the group's youngest members.
"He's kind of known as the humble and
quiet guy," says Tim Goodrich. Goodrich, an IVAW member who was
honorably discharged from the Air Force in April, 2003, has known
Ryabov since the group's inception. "He's already spent four years
in the military. He had a near death experience in Iraq," he says,
endorsing his friend's credentials.
The veteran's group has allowed Ryabov
to express his emerging political views at a turbulent period in
American history. He remembers being too young to vote in the last
election, and caring little about its outcome. "But now people are
talking about politics at the dinner table," he says - even his
20-year-old brother. "It seems to me that now people are more
likely to question things."
It is November 11, and New York City
is hosting its Veterans Day parade under velvety gray clouds. By
11:30 am the biggest military groups and loudest marching bands have
already walked up 5th Avenue cheered on by a thin, but enthusiastic
crowd standing on the perimeter of police barricades.
Ryabov, however, remains stationary on
a feeder street, along with another Iraq war vet and about 40
members of Veterans for Peace, mostly older men who'd fought in
Vietnam. The group has been given one of the last spots in the
parade. They stand in front of a high school marching band from
Connecticut and not far from a float called "The Glory Girls,"
featuring flag-draped pre-teens, and a massive, spinning globe.
"The people who organize this parade
'welcome us' with quotation marks," says one vet.
As the sun appears unexpectedly
through the clouds, the vets merge onto 5th Avenue, looking slightly
haphazard - their clothes don't match, they carry handmade signs and
they don't march in unison.
Ryabov, dressed in a desert camouflage
shirt and hat stands up front, carrying one end of a banner for
IVAW. In solidly Democratic Manhattan - where John Kerry received
82 percent of the vote in the presidential election - the group
mainly receives cheers, peace signs and applause from the crowd.
But even in this cradle of anti-war sentiment, support is not
unanimous. "That's John Kerry's group," mutters one pedestrian to a
friend as they move between the towers of concrete on 5th Avenue.
Louder hecklers also call out to the group.
"Give it up - Kerry lost!" yells one.
"The Iraq war was started so we could
stand here and stand for peace!" shouts another.
At the end of the parade, Ryabov seems
unperturbed by the comments. He's surrounded by a small media scrum
that asks about his experiences in Iraq, his activist efforts and
the presidential election that's still fresh in everyone's mind. "I
feel really let down that Kerry gave up so easily," Ryabov says.
After four months with IVAW, he's
grown used to microphones and television cameras, and he takes time
to speak to all journalists who request an interview. Ryabov
insists IVAW is making progress.
At some protests,
vets who'd fought in Iraq approach the group, asking to join the
peace movement. "They had never been part of any protests before,"
Hoping to start college in January,
Ryabov now keeps busy with Veterans' Associations meetings, speaking
engagements and interviews for Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The schedule is busy and draining.
When he sees
parents carrying pictures of their deceased children, he feels
distraught. He can't help but think, "That could be me in the
picture they're holding."
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
Send requests to address up top.
M1 Taken Out, U.S.
Soldier Killed By IED In Duluiyah
Nov 27 SAMEER N. YACOUB, BAGHDAD (AP)
& cjtf7 Release #041127A
A U.S. soldier was killed when a
roadside bomb exploded near a patrol near Duluiyah, about 65
kilometres north of Baghdad
on November 27 at about 7:28 a.m. The explosion also
damaged a M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.
IED Damages U.S.
Armored Bus On Airport Road
Baghdad, Nov. 27 (AP)
A US military
vehicle was damaged by a roadside bomb on the highway near Baghdad
International Airport, eyewitnesses said.
US troops cordoned off
the scene, police Lt Saad al-Azzawi said. A US military spokesman
said he had no information about possible casualties.
The rear of
vehicle, an armoured military bus, was badly damaged,
500 In Resistance
Force That Took Mosul
27 nov04 AFP
Ahead of the November 10-11 revolt,
during which an estimated 500
insurgents overran more than a dozen police stations in Mosul
and then…burnt and in some cases demolished them,
repeated verbal threats were made against the police.
Football Player Dies On Thanksgiving
Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffery Holmes in
his dress uniform. (Family Photo)
11.27.04 By Jodie Tillman, Valley News
Hartford -- Two Marines
and a chaplain came to Scott and Patti Holmes' door yesterday
morning bearing devastating news: Their 20-year-old son, Jeffery,
had been killed in Fallujah on Thanksgiving Day.
“Part of you is
gone,” said Patti Holmes. “It can't be replaced.”
Tank Driver Hit
November 27, 2004 By NANCY POSTER For
the Daily Record/Sunday News
A West Manheim Township man wounded
earlier this month in Iraq is recuperating in the Walter Reed Army
Medical Center near Washington.
Spc. Justin Henke, 20, a tank driver
who has been serving in the war-torn nation since February, was shot
in the thigh by an Iraqi sniper, said his mother, Cheri Henke.
Wednesday, Justin's grandmother,
Carolyn Byers of Hanover, said he was brought from Germany to the
medical center near Washington on Saturday. "He's doing well," she
While Byers has not seen her grandson,
she said he had additional surgery on his leg Monday. Cheri Henke is
at his bedside, Byers said.
Last week, Cheri
Henke said the bullet fragmented and spread through a large portion
of his body. While no vital organs or vessels were damaged, doctors
placed pins in his femur because it was fragmented, she said.
It was his second
injury during his tour of duty. In an earlier
attack about a month ago, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in
front of Justin and another soldier during one of their missions.
Justin was struck in the upper thigh by shrapnel, his mother said.
Henke graduated from South Western
High School in 2002. He enlisted in the Army in June 2001.
Force Of 100
Resistance Partisans Attacks Khalis;
Forces Kill Their Own Collaborators
Nov 27 SAMEER N. YACOUB, BAGHDAD (AP)
& Aljazeera & (Reuters)
Clashes have erupted between American
forces and anti-US fighters in al-Khalis in the province of Diyala,
north of the capital.
American 1st Infantry Division said
the insurgents attacked before dawn with AK-47s and rocket-propelled
grenades. Local police said
three people were wounded among the Iraqi police and National Guard.
insurgents attacked a U.S.-Iraqi base, a police station and a
National Guard post said municipal official Saad
Ahmed Abbas. "They occupied the City Hall for awhile," Abbas said,
adding that U.S. soldiers and
Iraqi security forces regained control after a two-hour exchange of
An official for the Islamic Party in
al-Khalis city, Husayn al-Zubaidi, told Aljazeera: "We heard gun
shots and artillery in the early morning.
elements controlled, the area for some time, the
city but the US and the Iraqi civil defence got them out."
The official said clashes were
continuing and that US forces had surrounded and cordoned off the
Al-Zubaidi said two
US vehicles were seen on fire.
"The forces attacked the centre using
small arms and rocket-propelled grenades from the vicinity of a
nearby school," the U.S. military said in a statement.
The U.S. military said six roadside
bombs had also been found and defused around the town.
The deputy governor
of Diyala province said two of his bodyguards were killed and three
wounded when they went to Khalis to investigate what was happening
and were shot by U.S.-led forces. He said the men
may have been mistaken for insurgents.
Randleman Connection Loses Legs
11.27.04 By Kathi Keys, Staff Writer,
RANDLEMAN - A soldier with Randleman
ties was critically injured this week during a roadside bomb
explosion in Iraq.
"Grandmother, he's alive," Myrtle
Hollingsworth of Randleman was told on Wednesday about her
granddaughter's husband, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jay Fondren.
The family was not
sure when the explosion occurred, but they have learned Fondren lost
both his legs and a right thumb, due to the injuries he received
near Baghdad, Iraq. He may also lose his right hand.
His wife is Anne Hollingsworth Fondren
who lives in Killeen, Texas, but has been spending the Thanksgiving
holidays with her in-laws, David and Bobbie Fondren in Corsicana,
Texas. They all learned about the accident Wednesday afternoon.
Jay Fondren, based at Fort Hood,
Texas, was in an armored military vehicle which was hit by an
explosive device on the right side of the vehicle, where he was
Hollingsworth was told, as of Friday
afternoon, that Fondren has undergone at least three sets of
surgeries, the initial medical treatment occurring in Baghdad before
he was flown to Germany where he was listed in critical condition
Jay and Anne Fondren have several ties
to Randolph County. They spent the holidays in Randolph County last
year with Hollingsworth and other local relatives. "I had the whole
family here last Christmas," Myrtle Hollingsworth said.
Ken is a former Randleman resident and
a graduate of Randleman High School.
Anne Fondren is
also the sister of Nathan Hollings-worth, the Randolph County deputy
sheriff who was wounded in May 2003 when he and Deputy Toney Summey
went to serve warrants against a Franklinville resident. Summey was
shot to death when the suspect allegedly resisted arrest, wrestled
Summey's weapon away and opened fire on the two officers.
Fondren has been in the U.S. Army for
four years; he was deployed with the 10th Calvary to Iraq in March
Their son, Micah,
was born on July 11 this year; Fondren was able to see him when the
soldier returned from Iraq to Texas for two weeks in September.
The tragedy has shocked family and
"No one was killed, but Jay got the
worse of the blow," Myrtle Hollingsworth said Friday afternoon,
shortly after hearing the latest developments from Fondren's father
"It doesn't sound good."
No Help On The Way:
Tours Hammer One Third Of Troops
November 27, 2004 By Bryan Bender, The
Nearly a third of
the one million U.S. military personnel called to duty in
Afghanistan and Iraq have served two or more extended tours in
combat zones, according to figures compiled by the Defense
The data demonstrate the extent to
which the missions have placed
enormous strains on soldiers and their families and how
the frequent deployments are threatening the Pentagon's ability to
retain veteran soldiers in the future, according to military
officials and specialists.
"Our research indicates that
deployment is a big influence on people's commitments to military
service," said Harold Weiss, a psychology professor and co-director
of the Military Family Research Institute, a government-financed
center at Purdue University that is conducting a study on how
military deployments affect families.
"Both spouses and members are part of
the decision-making process when a family decides to stay in the
military," he said. "It's a
family decision because the military is not a job; it is a life.
Multiple deployments will make it harder to stay in the military."
longtime goal has been to deploy individual soldiers overseas only
once in a four- or five-year period so that the troops and their
families can fully prepare and adjust for extended duty away from
their home base.
But the war in
Afghanistan and the larger war in Iraq have stretched the military
so much that the Pentagon cannot predict when it will again be
able to stagger deployments over several years. Ground forces
have been particularly affected.
Some worry they may be forced to leave
military service if they are not confident that the Pentagon is
doing everything possible to look after them and their families.
indicates that as of Sept. 30, there were 955,609 members of the
armed forces, including active-duty and reserve
personnel, who had been deployed for operations in Afghanistan or
the Gulf region since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Of those, 303,987 had been sent
overseas more than once.
The U.S. Army and
U.S. Marine Corps have carried much of the load abroad. Of about
500,000 members in the active army, 279,393, or more than half, have
been sent overseas in the past three years. And of those, 34.6
percent have served multiple tours, some for a year or more and
others several months at a time.
For the Marine corps, the percentage
of the total force dispatched to Afghanistan or the Gulf is greater:
98,979 of about 120,000 marines.
Of those, 27.6 percent have done
multiple tours, according to the Pentagon's count. The
corps will be adding about 3,000 marines to reduce the burden.
For part-time soldiers who leave jobs
as well as families behind, the percentage serving multiple tours is
even higher. Of the 90,649 Army
National Guard soldiers deployed, 35.9 percent have been called up
more than once.
For the U.S. Army
Reserve, 34.6 percent of the 64,978 that have served since the Sept.
11 attacks have returned home, only to be redeployed within months.
Casualties Running At 9%
11.27.04 Critical Montages
The total number of casualties is
about 25,000, plus the more than 1,200 killed. Since about 300,000
men and women have served in Iraq, it makes for a casualty rate of
about 9%. (emphasis added, Editor & Publisher, "Press Routinely
Undercounts U.S. Casualties in Iraq," November 25, 2004)
In other words, US
soldiers deployed in Iraq have nearly a one-in-ten chance of getting
killed, physically wounded, or psychologically traumatized.
November 27 News-Chronicle, BEAVER
A Marine reservist
who had already lost two friends in the Iraq was killed on duty
there, the fourth member of a Madison-based unit killed this month.
Ryan Cantafio, 22, of Beaver Dam, died
at about noon CST Thanksgiving Day or about 9 p.m. Iraqi time when
his Humvee hit in a remote-controlled roadside bomb, family members
said. Others were also injured, the family said.
Cantafio was with the Madison-based
Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines.
His father Joe
Cantafio said his son, who would have turned 23 on Dec. 17, recently
e-mailed the family and said he was in a dangerous area last week.
"The last we heard he was up for a
Purple Heart because his troops had been ambushed and he had to
shoot four Iraqis but he saved his troops," said Ryan Cantafio's
stepmother, Bobbie Jo.
Ryan Cantafio had
already lost two close friends since the war in Iraq began. Lance
Cpl. Branden Ramey, 22, of Belvidere, Ill. was in the same unit and
died earlier this month and Marine Sgt. Kirk Straseskie, 23, of
Beaver Dam, died May of 2003.
Straseskie was the
one who encouraged Cantafio to join the Marines and went with him to
sign up after he graduated from Beaver Dam High School in 2000, Joe
Ryan Cantafio then helped at his
father's business, Joe's Auto Body, for three years. In February
2003, Ryan Cantafio married Amanda and bought a house in Beaver Dam
four months later, his father said. Amanda works at the Piggly
Wiggly in Beaver Dam, where the flag was at half staff Friday.
"She's not doing well at all right
now," Joe Cantafio said about his daughter-in-law.
He last spoke to his son was on Labor
The Cantafios were notified of his
death at about 10 p.m. Thursday when two Marines arrived at their
"I just had a bad
feeling this week," Joe Cantafio said.
Moments after Joe Cantafio told
WISC-TV of Madison that he would like to meet Straseskie's father,
John Straseskie arrived at the Cantafio house to comfort them.
Straseskie was visibly shaken after
his meeting with the family, WISC-TV reported.
Ryan Cantafio was due to return home
from Iraq in April 2005 and had planned to return to the auto body
shop, his father said.
Ryan Cantafio's grandmother Rose
Cantafio said her grandson had a dry sense of humor and that he had
many friends in the Marines.
"He was also very caring, especially
with older people," she said.
Others in the same
unit who died in Iraq this month were: Lance Cpl. Shane K.
O'Donnell, 24, of DeForest and Cpl. Robert P. Warns, 23, of
Cantafio was the
29th member of the military from Wisconsin to die in the war in
November 26, 2004 Hood County News
Jeremy Chad Snowden was in the best
physical condition of any in the Baghdad hospital, according to the
last update from his family before Thanksgiving.
Doctors told his
parents he was the luckiest and healthiest, but everything is not
Doctors told them
that where he got hit, would change his personality opposite to
what it was.
His mother said
that is good for he did get mad and was irritated easily.
He is now able to move both sides of
his body. He has not walked yet, but doctors predict that he will.
He could possibly
always need help and not be independent, but his mother does not
believe that. His mother is turning to her faith
for him to have a complete recovery and asking all to pray for the
same for her son.
The soldier was
wounded in the battle for Fallujah, Iraq. He was riding in a Humvee
when a sniper’s bullet hit him in the left temple and exited his
He survived a two-hour ride in the
Humvee from Fallujah to the Army hospital in Baghdad. He was in
surgery for five hours.
He has been in Iraq five months and
had served in Korea a year before being transferred to Iraq.
He is the son of Vicky Field of
Granbury and Mike Snowden of Waco.
Jose Pascual, a medical corpsman,
helped fill Lance Cpl. Philip Schermer's plate during a holiday meal
at the San Diego Naval Medical Center. Schermer's heel was shattered
in Iraq. RONI GALGANO / Union-Tribune
November 25, 2004 By Rick Rogers,
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Cisneros and Lance Cpls. Philip Schermer and T.J. Yonan are spending
Thanksgiving recovering from physical wounds that might never heal
completely. The Marines' will, however, remains unshaken.
A tank mine in Iraq
shattered Schermer's right heel so badly Oct. 12 that doctors had to
fuse his foot to his ankle. A month later, a bullet fractured
Cisneros' spine in three places and left his legs weak. On Nov. 15,
a bullet blew a hole in Yonan's left wrist large enough to
obliterate a tattoo of the Chinese character for trust.
The three are among 18 service
members, mostly Marines from Camp Pendleton, being cared for in two
wards at the San Diego Naval Medical Center. The hospital in Balboa
Park held a holiday meal for them yesterday,
with family members in attendance
for a few of the Marines.
[Why “a few”? Because the same
asshole politicians that sent them off to this war for Empire and
corporate greed won’t pay family transportation money. Who is the
enemy? Where is the war?]
At one point, a patient from another
part of the hospital came by to thank Schermer for his service in
But not all the Marines felt up to
enjoying fruit punch and candy canes.
Here, war-torn Marines can be found
filling beds with white blankets pulled up to their chins or walking
the halls connected to IV drips or in white casts, their fingers
stained brown by anti-bacterial scrub.
It's been like this for months. Some
weeks there are more Marines, some weeks there are fewer. These
days, with offensives being launched by U.S. troops across Iraq,
arrived Friday alone. Most had been wounded during recent
house-to-house combat in Fallujah.
Navy Capt. Amy G.
Wandel, who heads the center's plastic surgery department, said most
of the 50 or 60 patients she's seen since June had suffered blast
injuries to their arms and legs severe enough to retard movement or
With about 20,000 Marines from Camp
Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar serving in Iraq,
coupled with Marine-led offensives in that country, there is no
shortage of patients.
"When I read ... that there's been
more fighting, I know we are going to see more injured Marines seven
to 10 days later," Wandel said before heading into the operating
room. "There have really been a
lot more wounded in 2004, and the majority are from Pendleton."
So many, in fact,
that the medical center has curtailed elective surgery and
occasionally has opened a new ward for the injured from Iraq.
Hospital officials are also looking to add a plastic surgeon to the
Denies Vets Medical Care He Takes For Himself!
Letter To The Editor
Nov. 29, 2004
Isn’t it ironic,
Chief Justice William Rehnquist being given medical treatment in the
National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. — but military retirees
over 65 are not welcome there?
In June 2003, the
Supreme Court rejected a legal appeal from Col. Bud Day, a Medal
of Honor recipient and former prisoner of war, on behalf of
military retirees over 65 who are refused earned medical care at
military facilities. Yet Rehnquist, while not authorized care in
a military facility as a result of military service, is afforded
VIP medical care while military warriors who paid a huge price are
Lest anyone think
the chief justice is being singled out, all other government
elites, and some not so elite, in Washington get the same
red-carpet medical treatment while military retirees, spouses and
The wrong thinking becomes apparent
when our warriors must settle for medical crumbs.
Col. Harry Riley (ret.)
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OUT TRAVELING SOLDIER
Telling the truth
- about the occupation, the cuts to veterans’ benefits, or the
dangers of depleted uranium - is the first reason Traveling
Soldier is necessary. 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
Combat Injury Means
Wife Fears Bonus
Letter To The Editor
Nov. 29, 2004
My husband is about to deploy to Iraq
again, and I am troubled by the treatment of our disabled veterans.
I am so afraid of
him getting hurt and, adding insult to injury, being financially
devastated because of that. I have tried to find supplemental
disability insurance for him, but no company is “stupid” enough to
give an active-duty soldier during wartime this kind of protection.
We all know soldiers and their
families do not live on their base income alone. The combination of
base pay and allowances, is how we make ends meet.
Should our family
member be injured in this war, we will get a percentage of the
base pay from Social Security and that is all.
I am also very
fearful that if he is injured, my husband’s bonus could be
recalled because he was unable to fulfill his contract. As
outrageous as that sounds, it has happened. This would amount to
a $7,000 debt for my family; a debt we surely would not be able to
pay off with one of us injured.
New York City
IEDs From Home Hit
Nov 24 By Michael Georgy, NEAR
FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters)
U.S. Marines thousands of miles from
home in Iraq face ruthless insurgents, a debilitating desert climate
and tasteless food. But they dread nothing more than opening the
Dear John letter.
"It's so hard when your girlfriend
sends you that letter and says goodbye. It just shatters all your
childhood notions of romance," said Corporal Samuel Shoemaker, 22,
of Shelton, Washington.
"She wrote me a vague letter about our
future but I had no doubt about what she meant. It's the last thing
I needed out here. I first met her in grade school. I don't have the
stamina to chase her anymore."
"Man I can't believe it. I was engaged
to a woman who I raised our child with for three years," said an
infantry Marine who asked not to be named.
"She wrote me a letter to ask whether
we could put it on hold so she could have sex with another man.
Then she asked me if I could accept her having sex with another
woman if I reject the man."
Strict rules of conduct have not
stopped Marines from seeking love on base. But it is not always
easy and dating Iraqi women is prohibited.
"They hit on us all the time. It is
really annoying and we have enough to worry about out here," said
Corporal Ann Gorecka, 23, of New York City as she and a woman
comrade looked at compact discs at the base PX store.
Some Marines do everything they can to
avoid the Dear John letter, even if it means being lonely in a
country gripped by suicide bombings and kidnappings.
"I planned for it all along by making
sure I was single before I came to Iraq. That way it can't happen,"
said Captain Oscar Marin, 28, of New York City.
But Antonio Figueroa spread the risk.
"I have never been in love so I am
safe. But I have about three girlfriends so that if one sends bad
news that is fine with me," said the 19-year-old native of Long
Island, New York.
Lance Corporal Joc Sims was not so
lucky. His girlfriend ended it when he was still in boot camp.
"It just stinks when you get the
letter. She was my best friend," he said.
A married officer who asked to remain
anonymous said he would welcome a Dear John letter. "That would be
great. God I would be free."
Corporal Madison Saba, a 22-year-old
Marine of Iraqi origin, said she could not understand all the fuss
about goodbye letters.
"This is part of life. People should
just get on with their work," said Saba, who is single.
Mehdi Army In
November 27, 2004 4:54 PM, By
A particularly interesting event that
went unnoticed in the media, and by those not very familiar with
Baghdad, is the participation of Al-Shaab district of Baghdad in the
general unrest that accompanied the Falluja attack.
It is a well-known
forum for Mehdi army activity. This district can be considered an
extension of Sadr city, which is closer to the central areas and
borders Audhamia. Fighters on the streets of Al-Shaab must be
Sadr's people with reinforcements from Sadr city itself. This is
one way of joining in without endangering the peace deal in Sadr
Injures Cop Officer
Baghdad, Nov. 27 (AP)
A roadside bomb in
the neighbourhood of al-Saydiyah in South Baghdad killed a bystander
and injured a police captain, hospital sources said.
The explosion occurred as a US military convoy drove past,
witnesses said. No American casualties were reported in the attack.
IED Gets 3
28th November, 2004 Big News
A roadside bomb exploded in southern
Baghdad, killing three Iraqi police officers.
Bomb At Central
Bank Wounds Guards
Baghdad, Nov. 27 (AP)
On central al-Rasheed Street, two
people were killed and at least 10 injured when
an explosive device concealed in a
pushcart went off near the Central Bank
as two US Humvees drove through the
area, police Lt Col Jamal Abbas Abd, said.
The two who died were passers-by,
while most of the injured were
guards at the bank, he said.
Four stores adjacent to the bank were
damaged, Abd said, adding the bomb was hidden underneath old
electrical appliances in the cart.
Nov 27 SAMEER N. YACOUB, BAGHDAD (AP)
In the town of
Buhriz north of Baghdad, Jabbar,
an official in the Iraqi Communist
party was assassinated by unidentified assailants, a
party spokesman said Saturday.
Communist party - which was banned under Saddam Hussein's
dictatorship - co-operated
closely with the U.S. occupation authorities and is now part of
Allawi's interim government.
Jabbar was the head
of a committee responsible of coordinating with other political
parties in Diyala province.
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Hawks Push Deep
Cuts In Iraq Force
November 22, 2004 By Bryan Bender,
Boston Globe Staff, WASHINGTON
A growing number of
national security specialists who supported the toppling of Saddam
Hussein are moving to a position unthinkable even a few months ago:
that the large US military presence is impeding stability as much as
contributing to it and that the United States should begin major
reductions in troops beginning early next year.
Their assessments, expressed in
reports, think tank meetings, and interviews, run counter to the
Bush administration's insistence that the troops will remain
indefinitely to establish security. But some contend that the
growing support for an earlier pullout could alter the
Those arguing for
immediate troop reductions include key Pentagon advisers, prominent
neoconservatives, and some of the fiercest supporters of the Iraq
invasion among Washington's policy elite.
The core of their
arguments is that even as the US-led coalition goes on the offensive
against the insurgency, the United States, by its very presence, is
stimulating the resistance.
"Our large, direct
presence has fueled the Iraqi insurgency as much as it has
suppressed it," said Michael Vickers, a conservative-leaning
Pentagon consultant and longtime senior CIA official who supported
Retired Army Major General William
Nash, the former NATO commander in Bosnia, said: "I resigned from
the 'we don't have enough troops in Iraq' club four months ago. We
have too many now."
Nash, who supported Hussein's ouster,
said a substantial reduction after the Iraqi elections in January
"would be a wise and judicious move" to demonstrate that the
Americans are leaving. The remaining US forces should concentrate
their energies on border operations, he added. "The absence of
targets will go a long way in decreasing the violence."
The view that it
would be dangerous for the United States to pull out soon and that
it may even need more troops is becoming another casualty in this
war -- a war that has taken the lives of more than 1,200 Americans
and shows little sign of abating.
The best strategy is to substantially
reduce the number of American forces after the Iraqi elections,
according to the specialists, who say maintaining the large
occupation could be as dangerous to long-term American interests as
a precipitous pullout.
"I have seen a metamorphosis," said
Robert Pfaltzgraff, president of the Institute for Foreign Policy
Analysis in Cambridge and a vocal supporter of Bush's Iraq policy,
referring to debate both inside and outside the halls of
government. "We should not be there with a large force. We should
be there with a force that begins to quickly diminish."
A report completed
over the summer calling for a complete pullout next year has struck
"The end of the
foreign occupation will seriously undermine the terrorists' claims
that their acts of violence against Iraqis are somehow serving the
interests of Iraq," according to "Exiting Iraq," published by the
conservative-leaning Cato Institute. Moreover, "The occupation is
counterproductive in the fight against radical Islamic terrorists
and actually increases support for Osama bin Laden in Muslim
communities not previously disposed to support his radical
interpretation of Islam."
"Staying on the
current course, looking at the trends, is not going to work," said
the report's chief author, Christopher A. Preble, Cato's director of
foreign policy studies.
Some specialists say the increased
sentiment in think tanks for an expedited Iraqi pullout will spread
to the administration, despite its tough rhetoric.
"Bush will surprise his opponents by
disengaging from Iraq," predicted Edward Luttwak, a longtime
Pentagon consultant who has argued that the push to create a
democracy in Iraq will prove futile.
do you think? Comments from service men and women, and veterans,
are especially welcome. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name, I.D., withheld on request. Replies confidential.
The Great Iraq
Lt. Humiliates A “Sovereign” Major
November 29, 2004 By
Gordon Trowbridge, ARMY
TIMES STAFF WRITER FALLUJAH, Iraq
The crowd of chocolate-chip desert
camouflage uniforms clustered around the shattered door of the shop
as the Iraqi commander made his way back across the street to his
In one hand,
the major — a former
Iraqi air force jet pilot — carried a box of Metro candy bars, in
the other a can of orange drink.
“Metro,” he said to
1st Lt. Ed Han,
handing the Marine the candy bars and beverage, pleased with the
Han took the booty,
paused for a moment, and then, exasperated, tossed them into the
‘We don’t need
them!” Han yelled as a puddle of carbonated orange liquid sprayed
across the pavement. He gestured back to the
command post of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, where the
Marines and their Iraqi allies had enough MREs for days.
[Let’s see now, he’s saying that
MREs beat soda and candy bars? Marvelous appreciation of reality.
More to the point, he’s doing his little number on a Major in what
is supposed to be a “sovereign” country, and he’s the lowest form of
life, a 1st Lt. Well, so much for “sovereignty.”
Someday, down the road, when he’s looking at the Major from the
wrong end of a .50, maybe, in his last seconds, he’ll remember this
little street scene.]
“Clear the rest of those buildings!
Go!” Han ordered.
“It’s just going to take some time,”
said Marine Capt. Brian Mulvihill, an adviser from Multinational
Security Transition Command-Iraq, the military organization charged
with bringing the Iraqi military and police forces into line.
Mulvihill, of Rockaway Beach, N.Y.,
watched, resigned, as the Iraqis tried to imitate their Marine
counterparts in clearing a long row of shops near a suspected
insurgent safe house. Despite
the backing of Han and the Marines’ assortment of assault rockets
and machine guns, the Iraqis looked slow, confused, unfocused.
One banged with a
sledgehammer on the locked door of a shop as the others stood
watching, eyes on the building instead of watching outward for enemy
As they moved down
the street, the Iraqi soldiers seemed to peel off, one at a time, as
if they’d lost interest in the task. One sat down on a curb and
stared at his American advisers. [With love, no doubt. “Oh, thank
you for invading my country. Soon I hope to find a way to express
Another — the Marines called him
Roger, one of the handful of Iraqis they’d placed much trust in —
aimed his machine gun down the street, but he seemed alone.
Two of the Iraqi soldiers were ordered
to keep watch down the road, though they occasionally turned their
heads back toward the shops behind them.
The Iraqis lack
many of the basics — including communications gear,
intelligence-gathering and operational experience
— needed to plan and carry out operations such as Alpha Company’s
sweep through insurgent safe houses, Mulvihill said.
A unit of about
40 Iraqis arrived at Alpha Company four days before the Marines
entered Fallujah. By the time Alpha set foot in the city, the
number had shrunk to around 20. Of 650 soldiers in the Iraqi
force that left its training site at Taji to take part in the
Fallujah campaign, about 320 remained in uniform, Mulvihill said.
“That’s not a sign
of lack of willingness to kill their brother Iraqis,” Mulvihill
said. “That’s fear of getting killed.” Still, he
said, “I’d rather have 325 that are ready to fight than 650 you
can’t trust.” [Really? Now how
would he know that? Did he find the deserters and take a poll to
find out what their motivation was? Or is this just bullshit happy
talk to please command? Could it be?]
Offensives Create Flood Of Prisoners
November 27, 2004 By Bradley Graham,
Washington Post Staff Writer
ABU GHRAIB, Iraq, Nov. 26 --
More aggressive U.S. military
operations in Iraq over the past two months have generated a surge
in detainees, nearly doubling the number held by U.S. forces to
about 8,300, according to the U.S. general in charge of detention
Since early October, the number of
detainees in U.S. custody has grown by about 4,000 as a result of
assaults on insurgents in Samarra, Fallujah, Mosul, north Babil
province and elsewhere, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller said Friday. With
additional U.S. raids being planned as part of a stepped-up effort
to crush the insurgency ahead of national elections in January, the
number of detainees is expected to continue to grow in coming weeks.
The large influx of
prisoners is putting stress on U.S. detention operations,
providing the biggest test yet of new facilities and
procedures adopted in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal this
past spring, Miller and other officers said in interviews here. So
far, the flow has been manageable, they said, but
many detainees have not yet made it
through the system.
Of the 8,300 detainees, about 4,600
are at Camp Bucca, a U.S. detention facility in southern Iraq that
held 2,500 two months ago. The total here at Abu Ghraib is about
2,000, and about 1,700 remain in the custody of field commanders,
whose troops are conducting initial screening interviews.
Detainees of particular interest to
military intelligence are kept at Abu Ghraib. Many of the rest are
sent to Camp Bucca. At Abu Ghraib, the pace of interrogations has
picked up, from 180 a week to 210.
"The troops have been working
around-the-clock, but we've been able to manage the influx," said
Col. Ron Black, who heads the Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center
To prepare for more
detainees, new wooden facilities are being constructed at Camp Bucca
that will expand capacity to 6,000 by January, Miller said.
BRING ALL THE
TROOPS HOME NOW!
Harassed By Iraqi Resistance And U.S.
26 November 2004By Anthony Shadid The
Baghdad - Instilled with
an engineer's precision and an idealist's defiant optimism, Saad
Abdel-Wahhab looks out at the campaign trail that begins at the
headquarters of his political party, one of the few Sunni Muslim
groups that have chosen to defy a boycott and take part in Iraq's
nationwide elections in January. Along the way, he sees a gantlet.
In the northern city of Mosul, the
stronghold of his Iraqi Islamic Party, insurgents overran a
government warehouse and torched hundreds of boxes of voter
registration forms. The party's candidates in the city begged
Abdel-Wahhab and other election organizers not to print candidate
addresses on applications, fearful their houses would be bombed.
One of the party's
candidates for a local council was slain this week, and a militant
Sunni group, the Ansar al-Sunna Army, has warned it would attack
candidates as well as voters. That's from the insurgents.
he has to contend, too, with U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies, who
in a pre-dawn raid last week arrested one of the party's most
prominent leaders at his home in Baghdad.
count, U.S. and Iraqi forces have raided five of the Iraqi Islamic
Party's offices. He fears another raid on the white stucco,
two-story headquarters in Baghdad. His response: He and others
copied campaign documents and dispersed them for safekeeping in
"We're between the
hammer and the anvil, between Ansar al-Sunna and the Americans,"
said Abdel-Wahhab, a stocky man in a blue three-piece suit with a
trimmed beard and a cheerful mien, as he sat at the party
considers us agents of the Americans, and the Americans think
we're working for the resistance."
He shook his
head, then turned his palms upward. "We're stuck in the middle,"
by Aaron McGruder
Americans Flee to
BUSY SENDING BACK BUSH-DODGERS
Liz Burbank November 25, 2004
The flood of
American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has
intensified in the last week, sparking calls for increased patrols
to stop the illegal immigration.
The re-election of President Bush is
prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they will
soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O’Reilly.
farmers say it’s not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors,
animal rights activists, liberal Quakers and Unitarians crossing
their fields at night.
“I went out to milk
the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled
in my barn,” said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage
borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted, and
hungry. “He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range
chicken. When I said I didn’t have any, he left. Didn’t even get a
chance to show him my screenplay, eh?”
In an effort to stop the illegal
aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled
them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh
across the fields. “Not real effective” he said. “The liberals
still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much they stopped
particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the
Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them
across the border and leave them to fend for themselves. “A lot of
these people are not prepared for rugged conditions,” an Ontario
border patrolman said. “I found one carload without a drop of
drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet,
When liberals are caught, they’re sent
back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear
retribution from conservatives.
Rumors have been circulating about the Bush administration
establishing re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to
drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.
In the days since
the election, liberals have turned to sometimes ingenious ways of
crossing the border. Some have taken to posing as senior citizens
on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs.
After catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in
powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses
and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers. “If they can’t
identify the accordion player on the Lawrence Welk Show, we get
suspicious about their age,” an official said.
have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic
broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies.
“I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just
can’t support them,” an Ottawa resident said. “How many art history
majors does one country need?”
In an effort to ease tensions between
the United States and Canada,
Vice President Dick Cheney met with the Canadian ambassador and
pledged that the administration would take steps to reassure
liberals, a source close to Cheney said. “We’re going to have some
Peter, Paul and Mary concerts. And we might put some endangered
species on postage stamps. The president is determined to reach
out,” he said.
CLASS WAR NEWS
THE SAME THE WHOLE
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