Thursday, May 28, 2009








Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation in the DC area in March of 2008. That 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.) That was their first Winter Soldier. They recently had another in Pasadena. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:

Winter Soldier Southwest was a great success. There were more than half a dozen camera crews shooting it for purposes ranging from independent media to anti-war documentaries. The panelists were quite moving and the audience was extremely supportive and full of positive energy. We want to thank everyone that helped put the event together, including all the panelists from VVAW, VFP, MFSO and Gold Star Families. Most profoundly moving was the testimony of the Gold Star Families panel. Quite a number of panelists testimonies have found their way onto the internet already, below is a short list of a few links to what's out there

Yesterday we noted Ryan Endicott, today we'll note Sgt Christopher Gallagher. In addition, IVAW notes the testimony of Devon Read, this compilation video and this compilation video. We'll note Devon Read's testimony tomorrow.

Christopher Gallagher: My unit was 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. I joined the Marine Corps right at 9-11out of patriotism and love for my country. I was part of the invasion force and two tours following that. While sitting around in Kuwait in early 2003, we were told to write a final letter to our families and put it on [. . .] sea bags that were to be left behind and then sent to your family if you died in Iraq. This is a picture of the letter I wrote. Many of the troops, including myself, were sent to Iraq with inadequate armor. I drove a Hummer into Iraq. It had only a plastic canvas for protection while I was driving directly behind armored troop carriers. I was not issued ballistic plates for my flak jacket. Whole battalions of officers were issued ballistic plates along with the line companies. But to the government, I was expendable and did not rate to have such life-saving, personal protection. I vividly remember one night after being up for nearly five days straight I was on a closed parameter roving post outside the commanding operation center when artillery rounds started landing. The next day I found out it was friendly fire. And these rounds were landing only a few hundred yards away -- which if you've ever been around 120 millimeter round, land near you, it's pretty insane. It made me realize how close I had come to death and it made me angry that I didn't have ballistic plates.
After my unit had taken Baghdad and helped pull the statue of Saddam Hussein down, there was a short-lived celebration. This brings me to my next issue -- of where an official Defense Department story meets with true reality on the ground. On April 14, 2003, Cpl Jason Mileo of India Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines was murdered by a Force Recon Sniper. Cpl Mileo had apparently taken off his helmet and was smoking a cigarette at night with his rifle next to him and was mistaken for an insurgent. I had been providing security at night along with several others of my platoon on that roof. For several nights prior to Force Recon relieving us and I had not noticed anything significant to report in that time. There was nothing out there. I hadn't seen anything. And as soon as Force Recon had taken over, I was hearing shots coming from the roof constantly and it made me wonder what the hell were they shooting at? Then the night of April 14, 2003, my company gunnery sergeant had called from the roof and was raising hell. That's when I found out one of the marines from India Company had been shot by one of the cowboys from Force Recon. On my third tour, I had been on the government issued computer and found the investigation case file for the incident on a military web server. The report went on to say that the platoon commander and the sergeant had been derelict in their duty. They failed to do proper, routine patrol overlay and negated to send in a position report to let the battalion know where they were at. To my knowledge, no one was reprimanded and some were later promoted. The Defense Department stated that he died from hostile friendly fire and that the incident was under investigation. It was a shocking reminder to everybody about the truth and what really goes on down there compared to what the government is telling you at home.
Forced Recon and their tabloid ways proved deadly for my unit once again. April 7, 2005, Lance Cpl Juan Venegas, who was one of the snipers in my unit, was on a mission in Falluja. He was in a hide when a patrol of Force Recon Marines drove up in their Hummers and then, mistaking him for an insurgent, running him over with their vehicles. The official story released by the Defense Department stated that he was involved in a hostile vehicle accident that was under investigation. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a hostile vehicle accident before. It's a shame that a young man -- through my research -- he wanted to become a boxer and too many lives have been lost that -- you can't take it away from these guys -- they're young men that want to serve their country and this story is just -- it got to me.
And I'm going to go back to my second tour in Iraq. I was stationed at a dam in Haditha. Things were completely different from my first tour. I had seen the presence of contractors doing military jobs such as cooks, truck drivers and security mercenaries like Blackwater. They were doing these jobs and getting paid five times more than I was. At the dam, marines were providing security for the dam below it as were Azerbaijani soldiers who were poorly trained and equipped. They were very trigger happy and shot at and sometimes killed fisherman who got to close to the damn. During that tour it was the first time I noticed the change in the demeanor that the Iraqis had towards us. During the invasion, the streets of Baghdad were filled with people cheering "Bush good, Saddam bad!" In 2004, the Iraqis called protests in the town of Haditha against the occupation. Typical response for this was to have fighter jets fly over the crowd and scare them away. So much for winning the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people we were supposed to be doing. In January 2005, I was stationed in Falluja about three hundred yards from the bridge where the Blackwater contractors bodies were hung in April 2004. We were relieving a marine infantry unit that had fought during the heavy fighting in the city carrying out Operation Phantom Fury. I was the radio operator for an 81 millimeter mortar platoon and our task was to run a checkpoint outside Falluja making sure that no insurgents return to Falluja. During the transition, I met a few young marines who were reservists from an artillery unit. It was there job to clean up all the dead bodies of the insurgents and the foreign fighters after the operation was finished. They had taken all the enemy to a place we called The Potato Factory where the bodies were stripped and checked for identification by CIA agents.
So after we got the checkpoint up and running, smoothly, the marines from my platoon were given jobs such as issuing identification to everyone re-entering the city by retinal scanning them and giving them a badge they had to show to get back into the city they were forced from. After they were retinal scanned with the biometric system known as BATS [Biometrics Automated Toolset System], they had to pass in front of a BATS scanner scan that was supposed to scan for heat variation to see if someone was carrying a weapon. This piece of equipment that probably cost more than most Americans homes, didn't work too well in the heat. If the government hasn't noticed, Iraq is in a desert and it's hot most of the year. Now if you look at this picture behind me, you can see it's winter time and there are no leaves on the tree of course it's going to work when it's cold out. The Iraqis were herded like cattle through the checkpoint as if they were animals. If any Iraqis voiced their opinion for the way they were being treated, the Iraqi police we had at our checkpoint would handle the situation by harassing and assaulting them.
Looking back on my third tour, it seems Orwellian to me with the CIA involvement and all that Big Brother-esque type of equipment and technology being used to enslave the Iraqis in their own country.
I still love my country and I feel that the most patriotic thing we can do is to let the world know that US imperialism is wrong. And I finish today by saying something that I've heard a million times and I've said myself: You can't bring democracy through the barrel of a gun.

Again, we'll note Devon Read tomorrow.

"Most of all I am sorry for the deceased, but aside from them, I am the most sorry for the boys whose family are gone. I know what we did left a hole in their lives, and scars on their minds, and that there is no making up for that. I only hope for them that they can somehow, and I don't know how, move forward, and have a good future despite the nightmare in their past that I helped create. They have my apologies and my prayers, as meaningless as they must seem," declared Steven D. Green in court today. May 7th, former US soldier Steven D. Green was found guilty on all counts for his role in the Iraq War Crimes from March 12, 2006, when Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi was gang-raped and murdered, her five-year-old sister was murdered and both of her parents were murdered. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. September 4th, Green is scheduled to stand before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. This morning AP reported that Abeer's family would provide testimony to Judge Russell on the damage and destruction to them as a result of the War Crimes and are doing that because they need to return to Iraq. Green's pre-written statement (which he claimed to be the author of) also included, "I am truly sorry for what I did in Iraq and I am sorry for the pain my actions, and the actions of my co-defendants, have caused you and your family. I imagine it is a pain that I cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. I helped to destroy a family and end the lives of four of my fellow human beings, and I wish that I could take it back, but I cannot. And, as inadequate as this apology is, it is all I can give you."

The apology or 'apology' did not go over well with Hajia al-Janabi (Abeer's aunt). Andrew Wolfson (Courier-Journal) reports she denounced Green "as a coward, a criminal and a 'stigma on the United States'," attempted to approach him and was "restrained by a half-dozen court security officers." Wolfson notes that Mahdi al-Janabi then went back to the witness stand to express, "We do not accept your apology at all." WKLY has text and video:

Ann Bowdan: An outburst in federal court after relatives of an Iraqi family killed by a Kentucky-based soldier addressed the suspect for the first time. Steven Green was faced with the death penalty but will receive a life sentence instead. Hailee Lampert was in court today during this morning's and she's live downtown to tell us what happened.

Hailee Lampert: Ann, this was the most emotional, intense court hearing I have ever been to. At one point, the victim's grandmother got so upset she had to be restrained by multiple law enforcement agents who actually began escorting her out of the court room until she literally collapsed on the floor beside the bench where I was sitting. She was literally within arm's reach of me. And she was beside herself. She was that striken with grief.

Hailee Lampert adds that both of Abeer's brothers testified briefly.

Hailee Lampert: And at a certain point, the prosecutor pointed out Steven Green and one of the boys took a moment to look at him. His face remained stoic and cold and he was asked if he had anything to say to the suspect and the boy said "no." Then the man's sister took the stand and said, "I am not honored to look at Steven Green and I don't want to see his face." She said she doesn't understand why Green would would cross all those continents and oceans to come to Iraq and kill her family. She spoke directly to Steven Green, referring to him on multiple occassions as a coward and a criminal without mercy. Then the 14-year-old's grandmother took the stand echoing similar sentiments. Remember for her it was the first time being in the same room as the man convicted of killing her son and his family. Again the prosecutor pointed out Steven Green in the court room and after giving her testimony the elderly woman got up and began approching Green saying she just wanted to get a look at her. But as she began moving closer, law enforcement stepped in and physically held her back until she fell down crying on the ground beside the bench where I was sitting. Now at that point, the judge did allow her to stay in the court once she had calmed down a little but the uncle took the stand as well.

In another report, Hailee Lampert (WLKY -- text and video) quotes the aunt stating, "The wounds are eating my heart. But he has no conscience.." The uncle is quoted stating, "The face of this innocent girl, that face will be chasing you in that dark cell you will be in until the last day of your life. Abir will follow you in your nightmares. On Judgment Day, you will see what your hand has done to us and to your nation."

Throughout the trial, editorial boards repeatedly ignored the case (here for an exception). Today a letter appears in the Salt Lake Tribune:

The decision by the jury for U.S. "soldier" Steven Green is absolutely outrageous ("Sentence for rapist-killer brings Iraqi outrage," Tribune , May 23). A life sentence is unimaginably unjust. The conduct of the U.S. military members involved in this case is as horrific as any act committed by any small group of terrorists. It cannot be condoned; it cannot be tolerated. In essence, we are terrorists. These military members should never have been in Iraq in the first place. I am embarrassed to be a U.S. citizen. I feel anguish for a family that was assaulted, raped and systematically assassinated by U.S. servicemen who scarcely deserve to be called human. Green and his cohorts should be executed. But apparently four murders is not enough. Let us not feel any sorrow for Green, but rather for the members of the Janabi family who were unmercifully slaughtered: a 6-year-old girl; her 14-year-old sister, Abeer Qassim Janabi, who was gang raped and shot in the face by Green with an AK-47; and their parents -- all burned in their home near Baghdad.If this is the price of freedom, who wants it? Tony FratesSalt Lake City

Meanwhile Cindy Sheehan reports she was censored by YouTube. She and Clifford Roddy created a short film entitled finaledit and she posted it to her YouTube page only to have YouTube pull the video down because the realities of war must never be seen, even on the allegedly free speech web. Cindy writes, "I am sorry (sarcasm) that our video 'violated' You Tube's terms of service, but the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan not only violate my terms of service, but international law." Cindy Sheehan's currently on a speaking tour and these are some of the upcoming dates:

Phoenix: June 5th
Dallas: June 7th and 8th
Waco: June 9th
Austin: June 10th and 11th
Nashville: June 14-16
St. Petersburg, FL: June 17-18
Philadelphia: June 20-23
NYC: June 24-26
Cape Cod: June 27-29
New Hampshire: June 30 - July 1
San Francisco: July 3 - 5 (Socialist Conference)
Cleveland: July 8-9 (National Assembly to end the Iraq War)
Pittsburgh: July 11-12
Norfolk, VA: July 15-18

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"ABC News reports on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community"
"Abeer's family testifies before judge"
"Leave the man alone!"
"burris, st. clair, frank, debra sweet"
"Barack may be post-racial; however, our society is not"
"Get some proof or stop the witch hunt."
"Senator Roland Burris"
"Steve Chapman weighs in on the witch hunt"
"World Can't Wait"
"What betrayal looks like"