Thursday, July 05, 2007


Turning to war resistance.  Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale continues to garner strong reviews.  The latest is Hannah Morong's "How one soldier got out of Iraq" (ISR) which concludes: "The book's strength is its simplicity.  It tells the story of an ordinary soldier, and by doing so, tells us more than we can ever learn from broad statistics.  Because Josha Key's experiences are so typical of soldiers, the book shows how ordinary soldiers view life in Iraq, and the potential for those soldiers to turn against the war."  To set the tone for later in the snapshot, we'll note this from Key's book, The Deserter's Tale (pp. 209-210):
A Canadian psychiatrist told me that you never truly emerge from post-traumatic stress disorder, that you simply learn to live with it.
There are certain things that I avoid these days, such as alcohol and crowds, because I fear they will trigger more of my own blackouts. I know that thousands of American soldiers have abused drugs or committed suicide after returning home from war. It would be easy to follow in the steps of many in my own family and drown my shame and my sorrows in alcohol. Alcohol, however, could lead to the very problem of suicidal depression that have plagued vets for generations.
Is it patriotic to support a war that our president launched on false premises and that has turned into a disaster?
Or is it patriotic to oppose that war?
I had to face this question while in uniform.
Back in 2003, when I fought in Iarq, my infantry unit was going out on combat missions without bulletproof vests and without basic radio equipment. For a while, we even had to suspend patrols because we didn't have enough water to hydrate ourselves. 
After 10 months of deployment and five months of combat without a purpose, I made the agonizing decision not to return to the war. A few months later, I publicly denounced the war and vowed that I would no longer fight in it. 
That got me a 12-month sentence in a U.S. Army jail, demotion to the lowest rank and a bad-conduct discharge from the service. 
I have no regrets. 
Today, our young men and women in the military still find themselves in the role of occupiers, in a war that to this very day remains unjustified, a war that seems to be helping only U.S. companies like Halliburton that have profited from it. 
Saying "no" to the illegal war is not something done or being done just by one or two people.  There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Jared Hood and James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Care, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
If the Key passage looks familiar it's because it was noted on Tuesday but other things prevented the follow up.  Helen Redmond (CounterPunch) addresses the issue of combat traumas (such as PTSD) from a historical perspective and notes, "After the war ended, Vietnam vets forced the Veterans Administration to address the mental health issues of returning soldiers.  In 1980, post-traumatic stress disorder finally became a 'real' diagnosis and was included in the American Psychiatric Association's official manual of mental disorders.  Without the organizing of soldiers, together with the anti-war movement, the psychological trauma of war (PTSD) would have been conveniently forgotten once again.  Those who run the war machine have always sought to ignore, downplay or deny the irrefutable fact that war profoundly damages the human psyche.  How could they continue to recruit fresh troops if it were widely known, discussed, and taken seriously that almost every soldier will experience PTSD to some degree?  That for some, they will be psychiatrically disabled for life, or become addicted to drugs to cope with the flashbacks and fear, perhaps unable to work and unable to enjoy the freedom they supposedly fought for."  At the middle of last month, Anne Hull and Dana Priest (Washington Post) offered the latest update to their ongoing series on the topic of veterans and care by examing Joshua Calloway who returned from Iraq to find himself  in a "locked-down psychriatic ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center" and his struggle both for treatment and to get his injuries certified so that he could receive the disability pay he deserved, his very long struggle.  As Pauline Jelinek (AP) reported this week, 1 (800) 948-8523 is the toll free number for the Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline (set up in response to the public outcry following the reporting of Hull, Priest, ABC's Bob Woodruff and others).
That issue and others have been raised (and continue to be raised by Iraq Veterans Against the War who are concluding their summer base tour. Showtime is filming the tour for a documentary. The tour (or this leg of it) is winding down. The next scheduled event is today, a fundraiser in NYC on July 5th at 7:00 pm; followed by the Naval Sub Marine Base in Groton, CT on July 6th at 7:00 pm; and concluding at Fort Drum in NY on July 8th at 4:00 pm.
Throughout the tour, the US military has harassed (or maybe they were just 'funnin') with trumped up arrests over the very pressing legal issue of to t-shirt or not to t-shirt and in the first or second degree.   Adam Kokesh, Liam Madden and Nate Lewis were arrested at Fort Benning most recently and Bob Audette (The Brattleboro Reformer) quotes Madden stating, "There's no reason we should have been arrested for trespassing.  I don't see how it's trespassing to approach a gate on an open port" and Madden vows that the arrest aren't going to stop IVAW.  Again, the bus tour is concluding (or this leg of it).  Showtime is filming it for a documentary.  If you're able to attend any of the last stops, please consider doing so.
[. . .]
And in WHAT A LOAD OF S**T news, Richard C. Paddock (Los Angeles Times) stumbles, fumbles and finally falls as he attempts to address why today is not the "60s" (for one thing, because it's 2007).  Building on Tom Hayden's contention that the issue is the lack of draft (an issue too often cited and too often overrated), Paddock informs:
In the 1960s, the possiblity of being drafted at the age of 18 - before they could even vote in those days - compelled students to decide where they stood on Vietnam.  Being summoned for a dehumanizing pre-induction physical brought home the reality of the war.
What?  Is that how it played out?  No, it's not how it played out for all.  It played out that way for SOME MALES.  Women are yet again left out the narrative.  Women were leaders in the peace movement during the "60s" and, for the record, not one of them was threatened with the draft.  This is the dumbest bit of crap that continues to get repeated about the student movement of the 60s and it is and was completely false.  The draft wasn't a threat to women in college or high school.  The draft really wasn't a threat to men in college because, as college students, they had a deferrment.  (Just ask Dick Cheney.) 
Mark Rudd (rightly) notes the issue of organizing skills (and how SDS is now addressing that).  That is very real issue.  But those of us who lived through the "60s" are very aware that fear "we will be drafted!" wasn't a worry to half of us and that the alleged fear wasn't a fear for a male college student.  Organizing skills is the issue, not the lack of a draft.  And this repeated nonsense totally strips away the very real activism that took place in middle schools (we called them "junior high" in those days) whose students were, at the least, five years from being eligable for a draft (a lifetime away, at that age).  The draft primarily effected the working class and the poor.  Though both categories were represented on college campuses across the country, they were always a smaller number of the student population.  Those with no hopes of affording college worried tremendously about the draft and some did participate in various actions; however, colleges students then were primarily from the middle class and the upper class.  (Hence the press backlash at the time about how 'spoiled' we allegedly were for protesting -- allegedly -- on our parents' -- they said father's -- dime back in the day.)
Economic class then was and now is an issue.  The affluence of the '60s' for most Americans lucky enough to go to college is not as common today.  Many more students today are required to work.  As someone present, in real time, and not exiled or kicked out (as some commentators 'flashingback' today were) of the movement, let me repeat WOMEN WERE A LARGE PART OF THE PEACE MOVEMENT.  Let me further repeat, WOMEN DID NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BEING DRAFTED.  It's a nice little comfort blanket for some men to drag around; however, it is not reality. 
And before some dope wants to say, "Well . . . uh, the draft effected women . . . uh, because the men they dated . . ."  Most college women dated men in college, their professors, or men much older and out of draft range.  And that's not the issue being discussed, the issue Paddock is discussing is the threat of being drafted and the threat of "a dehumanizing pre-induction physical".  I'm getting damn tired of seeing history rewritten so women are written out.  No one who was there and hasn't blown their brains out completely on drugs would ever claim women weren't at least half (at least!) of the peace movement.  Now maybe part of the problem today is that no slave labor pool exists because, certainly in the early days, the women were steered away from leadership roles, expected to fetch the coffee for the meetings, take notes, type, paint signs (and banners and posters) and run the mimeograph machines.  So one could argue that the free slave labor that so many men built (or tried to) their names on in the early days of the peace movement no longer exists and that's slowed today's progress.  But you should not be able to get away with claiming that it was fear of the draft or fear of a medical exam for the draft powering college activism. Is not and was not so.
Along with students being more likely today to hold down jobs while attending school, it's equally true that the economy is much worse than during the '60s' with real wages down and much more.  In fact, we addressed all of this back in January at The Third Estate Sunday Review in "Roundtable:"
Jess: The high schoolers were furious at some of the comments. My point was, what is Anderson grading by when he says low turnout. Low turnout compared to what? Every thing starts somewhere. If he's expecting the 60s all over again, and many are, it needs to be pointed out that for White people, many of them, the 60s were a time of profit. There's a world of difference today. Billie sent in a thing just last week, to The Common Ills, an action in her area. She noted that she wished she could participate but she couldn't. As she explained, she's already taken off from work this month for the 3,000 mark, to protest the anniversary of Guantanamo and for a third action I forget. She's got kids. She's barely making ends meet. These are differences between then and now and they shouldn't be forgotten.
Ava: And it's also true that there were more women, not in college, who could make the peace demonstations and marches in the sixties. They were homemakers. Homemakers still exist and a few of them exist that don't also hold down a job outside of the home. But that's another area effecting the turnouts. It's equally true that today's college set is not as prosperous as those in the 60s. Forget that college is higher now, significantly higher, we're not talking about inflation, we're talking about college rates sky rocketing, and a lot of students are struggling with work and school. When people ask why retired persons are so prominent in the peace movement today it is because they have the time. I won't say the money because fixed incomes and attacks on the safety net have ensured that's not the case. But they do have the time. People today work longer hours than they did in the 60s and, in terms of real wages, for less pay. If you're comparing what's going on today with what went on in the sixties, you're making a huge mistake. And someone could, in 1969, say, "I'm skipping work and if they fire me, I'll get a new job." Jobs are much scarcer.
Jess: And that's the reality. And it's equally true that we're not coming off the civil rights movement as we oppose this war. People are not used to mass mobilization. We've got to relearn that.
Dona: Relearn the wheel, as the feminist saying goes.
In addition, real important point: media coverage.  There is the fact that All Things Media Big and Small continue to do a really poor job of treating Iraq as a war (legal or illegal) that the US is involved in (because the US started, of course).  In addition to that, there is the HUGE difference in reporting today.  Iraq, briefly, started out with the bulk of the reporters able to move about semi-freely and then, by 2004, holed up in the Green Zone, only going out with Iraqi troops (there are exceptions, I'm speaking overall).  There was a word for that, remember?  Embeds.  Things have only gotten worse.  The reporters are still in the Green Zone, still not leaving without military escorts.  Things are so bad that the Green Zone is under attack these days (seriously since June of 2006).  This is not Vietnam.  Reporters are not traveling around the country.  They are dependent (and this isn't a justification) on reports from officials.  Word of mouth.  Let's repeat, reports are largely reporting what they are told.  Vietnam did allow for some to break from that.  That is not the case today.  And the issue of the media is the issue that, outside of Danny Schechter and a few others (Solomon's already noted addressing it in this snapshot) are willing to address.
RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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