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Sunday, August 07, 2005

War Stories 

Courtesy of our incendiary colleague Arthur Silber at The Light of Reason (and apropos of the Cindy Sheehan item below), a Dahr Jamail post from Iraq Dispatches in which a group of Iraq war vets assembles in Dallas to wonder "what have we done?":
When asked what he would say to Mr. Bush if he had the chance to speak to him, Abdul Henderson, a corporal in the Marines who served in Iraq from March until May, 2003, took a deep breath and said, “It would be two hits-me hitting him and him hitting the floor. I see this guy in the most prestigious office in the world, and this guy says ‘bring it on.’ A guy who ain’t never been shot at, never seen anyone suffering, saying ‘bring it on?’ He gets to act like a cowboy in a western movie…it’s sickening to me.”

The other vets with him nod in agreement as he speaks somberly . . . his anger seething.

Camilo Mejia, an army staff sergeant who was sentenced to a year in military prison in May, 2004 for refusing to return to Iraq after being home on leave, talks openly about what he did there:

“What it all comes down to is redemption for what was done there. I was turning ambulances away from going to hospitals, I killed civilians, I tortured guys…and I’m ashamed of that. Once you are there, it has nothing to do with politics…it has to do with you as an individual being there and killing people for no reason. There is no purpose, and now I’m sick at myself for doing these things. I kept telling myself I was there for my buddies. It was a weak reasoning…because I still shut my mouth and did my job.”

Mejia then spoke candidly about why he refused to return:

“It wasn’t until I came home that I felt it-how wrong it all was and that I was a coward for pushing my principles aside. I’m trying to buy my way back into heaven…and it’s not so much what I did, but what I didn’t do to stop it when I was there. So now it’s a way of trying to undo the evil that we did over there. This is why I’m speaking out, and not going back. This is a painful process and we’re going through it.”

Camilo Mejia was then quick to point towards the success of his organization and his colleagues. “When I went back to Iraq in October of 2003, the Pentagon said there were 22 AWOL’s. Five months later it was 500, and when I got out of jail that number was 5,000. These are the Pentagons’ numbers for the military. Two things are significant here-the number went from 500-5,000 in 11 months, and these are the numbers from the Pentagon.”

Harvey Tharp sitting with us served in Kirkuk. His position of being in charge of some reconstruction projects in northern Iraq allowed him to form many close friendships with Iraqis…something that prompts him to ask me to tell more people of the generous culture of the Iraqi people. His friendships apparently brought the war much closer to home for him.

“What I concluded last summer when I was waiting to transfer to NSA was that not only were our reasons for being there lies, but we just weren’t there to help the Iraqis. So in November of ‘04 I told my commander I couldn’t take part in this. I would have been sent into Fallujah, and he was going to order me in to do my job. I also chose not to go back because the dropping of bombs in urban areas like Fallujah are a violation of the laws of warfare because of the near certainty of collateral damage. For me, seeing the full humanity of Iraqis made me realize I couldn’t participate in these operations.”

Tharp goes on to say that he believes there are still Vietnam vets who think that that was a necessary war and adds, “I think it’s because that keeps the demons at bay for them to believe it is justified…this is their coping mechanism. We, as Americans, have to face the total obvious truth that this was all because of a lie. We are speaking out because we have to speak out. We want to help other vets tell other vets their story…to keep people from drinking themselves to death.”

When he is asked what he would say to Mr. Bush if he had a few moments with him, he too took some time to think about it, then says, “It is obvious that middle America is starting to turn against this war and to turn against you…for good reason. The only thing I could see that would arrest this inevitable fall that you deserve, is another 9/11 or another war with say, Iran. There are some very credible indications in the media that we are already in pre-war with Iran. What I’m trying to do is find a stand Americans can take against you, but I think people are willing to say ‘don’t you dare do this to us again.’ My message to the American people is this-do you want to go another round with these people? If not-now is the time to say so.”

Charlie Anderson, another Iraq veteran, had strong words for Bush. After discussing how the background radiation in Baghdad is now five times the normal rate-the equivalent of having 3 chest x-rays an hour, he said, “These are not accidents-the DU [Depleted Uraniaum]-it’s important for people to understand this-the use of DU and its effects are by design. These are very carefully engineered and orchestrated incidents.”

While the entire group nods in agreement and two other soldiers stand up to shake his hand, Anderson says firmly, “You subverted us, you destroyed our lives, you owe us. I want your resignation in my hand in the next five minutes. Get packin’ Georgie.”

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