Sunday, May 18, 2008


Starting with war resistance as Iraq Veterans Against the War noted yesterday (text, video)
Good afternoon.  My name is Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, and I served in the Army as a Photojournalist until being honorable discharged last summer after over four years of service in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Phillipines.  As an Army journalist whose job it was to collect and filter servicemember's stories, I heard many stomach-churning testimonies of the horrors and crimes taking place in Iraq.  For fear of retaliation from the military, I failed to report these crimes, but never again will I allow fear to silence me.  Never again will I fail to stand.  In February, I received a letter from the Army ordering my return to active duty, for the purpose of mobilization for Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Thanks in great part to the truths of war being fearlessly spoken by my fellow IVAW members, I stand before you today with the strength, clarity and resolve to declare to the military and the world that this Soldier will not be deploying to Iraq.  This occupation is unconstitutional and illegal and I hereby lawfully refuse to participate as I will surely be a party to war crimes.  Furthermore, deployment in support of illegal war violates all of my core values as a human being, but in keeping with those values, I choose to remain in the United States to defend myself from charges brought by the Army if they so wish to pursue them.  I refuse to participate in the occupation of Iraq.
IVAW includes a link to an online donations form that people can select "legal fund" from and notes that is the address to express support to Matthis Chiroux.  (That's thankyoumathhis at ). 
As for those war resisters who are in Canada need support as well as they wait to see if the motion for safe harbor is going to come to the Parliament floor.  You can utilize the following e-mails to show your support: Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( -- that's pm at who is with the Conservative party and these two Liberals, Stephane Dion ( -- that's Dion.S at who is the leader of the Liberal Party and Maurizio Bevilacqua ( -- that's Bevilacqua.M at who is the Liberal Party's Critic for Citizenship and Immigration.  In addition Jack Layton, NDP leader, has a contact form and they would like to hear from people as well. A few more addresses can be found here at War Resisters Support Campaign. For those in the US, Courage to Resist has an online form that's very easy to use.         
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
As noted yesterday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, chaired by Lynn Woolsey, Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, and featured veterans offering testimony Thursday -- Iraq Veterans Against the War.  The hearing was broadcast on CSPAN and KPFA (click here for KPFA's archived broadcast) and at Aaron Glantz' website The War Comes Home.  Earlier (in March)  Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation and it was broadcast at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday with Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz anchoring Pacifica's live coverage.  (It was also broadcast at the IVAW site.)  Allison and Glantz also hosted a live report on KPFA about the lawsuit against the VA on April 22nd.  We'll focus on the second half of the first panel (which should get us through the second hour) and it was during this portion, after the veterans had offered their testimonies, that co-chair Maxine Waters first spoke and we'll pick up with this section. 
US House Rep Maxine Waters: I have often wondered as I have read accounts of killings in Iraq of civilians, where they are described to us in the newspaper as 'some attack' or 'some killings' that have been executed because 'suspected terrorists' or 'suspected this' or suspected 'that'.  And when I see women and children and civilians be killed, I often wonder who are those people?  No one will ever be able to know what the true story is and they have nobody to stand up for them to say that they are innocent, that they are guilty of on crime.  They just get killed and they die and that's it.  And I wonder often times about those families and those children that we see getting killed in ways that you described here this morning. Mr. Goldsmith I want you to know I am so moved by your testimony that you had the courage to come here today and share with us what you have shared and say "This is how I thought a long time ago but that's not who I am today."  That is very powerful, that is very moving.  And I had to be contained up here by my leader  . . . I just wanted to stand up and applaud  and she said "Just be cool because we want to honor everybody in a special way."
US House Rep Waters was directing her last statements to Kristofer Goldsmith who testified last on the panel.  Goldsmith presentation included visual slides.  Juxtaposed were photos of him in uniform after completing basic training and him as a young child dressed up in a military uniform.  He discussed specifically what his motivation was prior to deployment: to kill Iraqis, to kill Muslims.  He spoke of the transformation he'd gone through -- which was what Waters was noting.  He spoke of Sadr City (which will pick up at a later time) and, with time running out, noted US Senator and presumed GOP presidential nominee John McCain's opposition to the GI Bill US Senator Jim Webb is proposing.  He said it wouldn't apply to him because he was he dishonorably discharged for attempting suicide so he wouldn't receive the benefit (due to the classification of the discharge) but it was sorely needed.  Goldsmith would also note how telling his story was theraputic and how there are those who aren't able to tell their own stories: "It is very hard for us to find the courage to come up here and I would like to thank you again for hearing us."
US House Rep Maxin Waters: I don't like to make committments that I'm not sure I can follow or carry out but you're going to get your GI Bill, you're going to go to college.
Kristofer Goldsmith: Thank you.  
US House Rep Maxine Waters: I want to tell you here and today that I'm on it, I'm focused. I don't know what I have to do but I'm going to get it.  You're going to get it. I'm going to make that committment to you today. And whoever's standing in our collective way because, I know,  that my collegues here share in my feelings about this. They [those opposed such as McCain] better get out of the way because we're going to get it. You have to have it.  You must have it.  And I'm so glad that you did not take you life, that it did not work.  And I want you to know that no matter the disappointment, no matter the lies, no matter the experiences, there's some people here [in Congress] who believe in you, some people who are going to continue to fight to bring our soldiers home and some people here will stand up and fight for you no matter what the obstacles are.  And I just wish you all would just defy this leader [Lynn Woolsey] and give him and everybody a big round of applause.
Rep Waters was referring to Rep Woolsey's explanation that this was a hearing and they would need to hold their applause.  Also speaking was US House Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee who expressed her gratitude towards Kelly Dougherty for using her "anguish" to motivate greater change.  Dougherty, who introduced the witnesses of the first panel, is an Iraq War veteran and the executive director of IVAW, the organization she co-founded.  Jackson-Lee cited the testimonies and the need to end the illegal war.
US House Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee: And I feel a sense of urgency.  I will leave the mike for a moment to go to the [House] floor to take some of the points you've made to offer them in my opposition to the war and what will be my vote to against any more funding for the war in Iraq. We made a personal committment that we will never vote for another cent.  Sometimes we're blindsided.  Sometimes they sneak it in or sneak it around. We try to be Sherlock Holmes and to find it and make sure we do not cast our vote.  What I think I heard from Mr. Goldsmith was that there was this stop-loss policy of Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld and I think that what I've heard from my constituents that a general discharge -- in fact I think we heard that yesterday, about a general discharge  -- now blocks everyone from their education benefits.  So let me join with Congresswoman Waters to say this has to be fixed. Morphed.  Refined.  Distinguished.  So that individuals who have for causes, for reasons, for tragedies, found themselves under this particular discharge do not have to suffer anymore.  Let me also very quickly say that you are creating a movement.  It pains me to hear that you are representing those who are shouting in the darkness.  So maybe as we have had and I know that you have gathered but those hundreds of thousands need to hear our voice.  Let us welcome them to Washington.  Let's bring 100,000 of your members to Washington and let's call the roll on members of Congress to come and tell them why this war continues.  I think frankly that should be the challenge today.
Along with explaining what needs to happen to pressure Congress into action (those weren't pie-in-the-sky words, she was offering serious advice), Rep Jackson Lee noted that the Act of Congress by which the illegal war was 'justified' has expired and referenced her own bill.  The title of that bill is Military Success in Iraq and Diplomatic Surge for National and Political Reconciliation in Iraq Act of 2007.  It notes that the Military Force Against iraq Resolution has expired and calls for the "Withdrawal of Armed Forces and Contractor Security Forces From Iraq -- Not later than October 1, 2007 or 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, whichever shall occur first".  It was referred to two House committees (Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Foreign Affairs) in February of last year.  It remains in committee.  The bill itself and Rep Jackson Lee's remarks at the hearing Thursday argues that US service members have done all that was asked of them and that it is time to withdrawal ("You have done everything we asked you to, Saddam Hussein is not there . . .").  
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Every year many, many movies are released.  Most will never speak to anyone.  A few will have a quality (a performance, a director's gaze, etc.) that will make it worthy of at least one viewing.  Some should be firmly embraced because they are that important, that well done and that necessary. Molly Bingham and Steve Connors' amazing documentary Meeting Resistance, available on DVD Tuesday (May 20th) is one that deserves to be embraced and has been in limited theartical showings.  These are excerpts from the press release:
"Meeting Resistance," is about the people and make-up of the Iraqi resistance. Since it was released in theaters last fall, we have shown the film in more than 80 U.S. cities, as well as to several key military audiences. We've made more than 200 appearances with the film to talk about our understanding of the conflict in Iraq and take questions from the audience. When the lights come up, we are greeted with the kind of silence associated with people trying to reconcile what they thought they knew with what they now understand. We've come to realize that our film is delivering a paradigm shift about the Iraq conflict--one audience at a time.   

There are two wars in Iraq. "Meeting Resistance" explores the first war, the popularly supported resistance to occupation, which contains the majority of the organized violence that is happening in Iraq. Using primary source material, critical analysis and cross-referencing, we crafted a film that tells the story of that conflict. The second war is the civil war--an internal political struggle being waged over competing visions of Iraq's future, of which the country's sectarian violence is a symptom, not a cause.  

"Meeting Resistance" is a journalistic documentary, not an advocacy or polemic film. Although we did not set out to challenge the narrative of the Iraq conflict--the one that has been constructed in Washington--our reporting eventually led us to do so.        

U.S. military's briefings in the Green Zone during 2003 and 2004 told journalists that the violence against American troops came from "dead-enders" and "Ba'athi die-hards," from common criminals, religious extremists, foreign fighters, and al-Qaeda--characterized as "fringe elements". While some might fit some of these descriptions, the vast majority of those involved are citizens from the core of Iraqi society.          

In time, we came to see the U.S. military's misnaming of the "enemy" as an intentional act--as a key part of their objective to control the "information battle space." They aspire to control the perception of the enemy's identity, and through the news media persuade the American public that these "fringe elements" of Iraqi society are the only ones who oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq. A military push (or surge) to isolate and eliminate them would accomplish a perceived "victory."        

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq delivered to the White House in October 2003 was leaked in February 2006 by Robert Hutchings, the 2003-2005 chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Speaking in interviews, Hutchings revealed that the report said that it is composed of nationalists fighting for their country with deep roots in the society and that the U.S. military, if it remains in Iraq, will be fighting a counterinsurgency war for years to come, a conclusion that echoed what we had found in our on-the-ground reporting for "Meeting Resistance."          

If the predominant narrative about the Iraq conflict was truly based in reality, it would involve pointing out that the majority of Iraqis want a withdrawal of all foreign forces, and that the Department of Defense's quarterly reports to Congress, on average, show that from April 2004 to December 2007, 74 % of significant attacks initiated by Iraqis targeted U.S.-led coalition forces.           

Americans would also find out that half of registered marriages in Baghdad in 2002 were mixed marriages between Sunni and Shia, Kurd and Arab, Christian and Muslim, and many of the tribes and clans and families are, in fact, mixed between Sunni and Shia. Also, nearly all of the Arab Iraqis polled oppose dividing the country along ethnic and sectarian lines, and the vast majority demands that Iraq have a strong central government, not the decentralized powerlessness imposed by the American-influenced constitution.          

It is not that these points have never been reported, but the booming voice of "disinformation"--from which the Pentagon wants the American public to view the conflict--drowns much of this information out. Ultimately, our film has helped reveal the success of the Pentagon's strategy to obscure the real nature of the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, too many in the news media have been willing to allow that to happen.          

Throughout the world's history, there have been occupations--and resistance to those occupations. Why then do Americans have such a difficult time grasping that our troops are unwelcome by the vast majority of the Iraqi population? And why has reporting by our mainstream news media generally failed to recognize and draw our attention to this central, core aspect of the violence?           

Steve Connors and Molly Bingham are directors of "Meeting Resistance." Their film is distributed by First Run Features and available on DVD May 20th.