July 31, 2009

Free Victor Agosto ! His summary court-martial is August 5th.

General, your tank is a mighty vehicle.
It shatters the forest and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs drivers.

General, a man is quite expendable.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.–Bertolt Brecht

Victor's court-martial will be on Wednesday, August 5 at 9 AM. The hearing will be conducted in the 41st Fires Brigade Command Conference Room, located on the second floor of building 10053, 41st Fires Brigade Headquarters Building. This building is located between 31st and 27th streets on Battalion Avenue. The hearing is not open to the public because it is a summary court-martial.

July 30, 2009

VIGIL FOR U.S. WAR RESISTER DEAN WALCOTT AT FEDERAL COURT

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
8:00am
Federal Court Building
180 Queen St. West
(west of University Ave, Osgoode subway)
Toronto

Canadians have spoken out overwhelmingly in support of Iraq war resisters being allowed to stay in Canada. These young men and women made a difficult decision to not participate in the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. They have shown tremendous courage, leaving behind their homes, their family, friends and careers.

Yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney, who both wanted Canada to participate in the Iraq War, continue to deport Iraq war resisters. War resisters Robin Long and Cliff Cornell were sentenced to long prison terms in U.S. military prisons because the Harper government refused to respect two House of Commons motions (passed June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009) to stop deporting war resisters and to let them stay. Jeremy Hinzman, Kimberly Rivera, Rodney Watson and Dean Walcott are currently threatened with deportation from Canada.

On August 19th, the Federal Court will hear an appeal by Iraq war resister Dean Walcott. Dean, a former U.S. Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, is appealing the negative decisions on his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and his request to be allowed to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.

Join a vigil to support Dean Walcott and to demand that the Harper government respect Canadian democracy and the will of the Canadian people. It is time to let the war resisters stay!

-thanks to Michelle Robidoux &
WAR RESISTERS SUPPORT CAMPAIGN

July 29, 2009

ASVAB, the military, your children and OPTION 8

I'm fighting what fells like a flu, so nothing seems to work right. When I get my fever down and end the squishy feeling, I'll write something more together about the counter recruitment conference in Chicago and I'll try to fix these somewhat dysfunctional posts.


I was unable to download the Power Point presentation. However, if you follow the "click here's" you will be able to download the ASVAB presentation. I think it's worth watching. The military is devious in it's effort to pull our kids into the armed forces. See what is happening to our children in the militarization of our schools. Pay attention to OPTION 8.




The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)

ASVAB Presentation

Confronting Military Testing in the High Schools

With 11,900 high schools administering the ASVAB last year, most in direct violation of federal and state laws, and more than 1,000 schools forcing students to take the test without parental knowledge or consent, it's not difficult enlisting the support of rational school officials to re-examine their policies toward military testing.

Nationally, 92% of the 621,000 children who took the 4-hour military test had their results and personal information forwarded to military recruiters. The pentagon is circumventing federal and state laws while administering this test in order to gain sensitive private information without parental knowledge. Unscrupulous recruiters are then able to make calls to unsuspecting youth, using a rich treasure-trove of data gained from the administration of the ASVAB.

Confronting militarism and military testing in particular is a complicated undertaking. Complex social, political, cultural, demographic, economic, military, and religious currents converge in this endeavor, creating a need to master the three-hour course below,
Confronting Military Testing in the High Schools - 101. The only prerequisite for enrollment is steadfast determination.


Ready to begin?

View the power point presentation found above. Is it shocking that military testing in the schools is so pervasive? Most Americans are pretty complacent and very few are political activists. Fewer still are committed to fighting rampant militarism or protecting privacy rights. Most don't have a clue what the ASVAB is or how it is used as one of the military's most effective recruiting tools but that's changing.

Read this article by Dan Hardy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mr Hardy filed a FOIA against the DoD and was able to land a ton of statistics regarding the 11,900 schools that offered the test.

Dan Hardy missed an important part of the equation, however, and that has to do with mandatory testing. 60,000 students in more than 1,000 high schools across the country were forced to take the ASVAB and had their information shipped to recruiters, many against their will and without parental knowledge.

What should you do?

You need to determine if the pentagon is forcing children to take the ASVAB in your town. It's an easy practice to stop. A letter to your local superintendent with a copy to your local paper has been known to do the trick.

Examine the database acquired by the Philadelphia Inquirer from the Pentagon:
Pentagon ASVAB Database


To make sure you understand the column marked “restrictions” in the database furnished by the pentagon, check out USMEPCOM Regulation 601.4 Personnel Procurement Student Testing Program 25 July, 2005, pages 12 & 13 for an explanation of the various options available to public school systems regarding ASVAB release options:USMEPCOM 601-4

Unrestricted Recruiter Contact corresponds to Option 1

No contact prior to 60 days corresponds to Option 2

No contact prior to 90 days corresponds to Option 3

No contact prior to end of school year corresponds to option 5.

No Recruiter Access corresponds to Option 8
Your job is to master this material and convince school officials to select ASVAB Option 8. You're simply arguing that the school should be abiding by federal laws that protect student privacy. If the school superintendent argues that there's a value in offering the ASVAB because it may be used to help students determine career paths; that's fine, as long as the school (or school system) selects
Option 8 to insure that the test is not used as a recruiting tool.

It's all about getting schools to select Option 8.


This is not about politics or imperialism or war. It's about privacy and a constitutional clash between an overzealous federal agency and the rights of states and individuals.


If you're truly committed to reversing the militarization of American youth, this is a great way to go. It's effective and it is quantifiable and we're winning battles across the country. See the ASVAB Letter Template <<HERE>>, then scroll down.


For more information:
admin@nnomy.org

Thanks to Pat Elder and NNOMY for compiling and presenting the ASVAB information.


Military testing

The following is a national database of schools that gave the ASVAB in 2006-07 with information on how many students took the test, whether the test is mandatory and whether the results are given to the military. (this was posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2008)

Click <<HERE>> to access the Philadelphia Inquirer database.
This is for the 2006-2007 school year. Just because it wasn't included on this list doesn't mean they haven't started using the test since then.
When you get to the site, set it for your state and search for your school.

John Judge: truth power

John Judge at the National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth conference (NNOMY)

video

July 28, 2009

DN: Military Spied on Peace Groups

John J Towery II aka John Jacobs aka Agent Orange
Photo from Snitchwire
There is a large story on Democracy Now! today (a national exposé no less) about a Ft. Lewis intelligence officer — known as John Jacobs to actvists, as Agent Orange to the Army, and as John J. Towery to his family — who infiltrated numerous anti-war groups, student activist groups, and other activist or anarchist groups in Tacoma and Olympia since 2007. This is only the tip of an iceberg.

Democracy Now! Broadcast Exclusive: Declassified Docs Reveal Military Operative Spied on WA Peace Groups, Activist Friends Stunned
Newly declassified documents reveal that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance in Washington state was actually an informant for the US military. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. The military’s role in the spying raises questions about possibly illegal activity. The Posse Comitatus law bars the use of the armed forces for law enforcement inside the United States. The Fort Lewis military base denied our request for an interview. But in a statement to Democracy Now, the base’s Public Affairs office publicly acknowledged for the first time that Towery is a military operative. “This could be one of the key revelations of this era,” said Eileen Clancy, who has closely tracked government spying on activist organizations.
<<
watch Video>>

-thanks to Democracy Now

July 27, 2009

Josh Stieber stops at local events as he walks across the country

I met Josh Stieber last week in Buffalo. He is a Consciencious Objector and an Iraq War veteran - walking his talk - across the country. He is stopping in communities and sharing his experiences along the way.

He is a peaceful man who listens to what others have to say, cares about them and their ideas and shares his thoughts about peace, non-confrontation and love. He has a website, Contagious Love Experiment,

On this video he is doing a local Peace Walk to the Annual Peace Forum at the Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance.
This video was made by Cris McConkey and is published on the Tompkins County Against War & Occupation website. Among many other things, Cris is also a member of New York State Direct Action for Peace (NYSDAP).

In mid-July of 2009, Peace Now Ithaca, a local group in the Fingerlakes region of upstate New York that had organized a successful campaign to designate Ithaca a Sanctuary City for war resisters, received word that 21-year old Iraq veteran and conscientious objector, Josh Sieber, was on a trek across the nation and wanted to come to Ithaca. With the help and cooperation of the Ithaca and Perry City Friends Meetings, the Social Justice Council of the Ithaca Unitarian Church, the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance and annual Peace Forum, we organized a potluck dinner to meet Josh, a local Peace Walk with him, and arranged for his participation at the festival.

Joining Josh on the walk were Plowshares and Catholic Worker activist Ellen Grady, her daughter Saoirse, Peace Now Ithaca activistBob Nape, and videographer Cris McConkey. At the festival, Josh met up with former medic and conscientious objector Michael Blake.

The peace forum is an annual event at the Fingerlakes Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance. It was started by Jolene Uticone, a widely known and loved youth worker. This video starts with the peace walk and ends with Josh’s address in the Dance Tent, where he was invited to speak by the traditional Irish band the Grumblin Rustics.

To sum up Josh’s message in one sentence: We need to live out of trust and out of love… …and not out of fear.

-Thanks to Cris McConkey and Tompkins County Against War & Occupation




July 23, 2009

War Resister, Dustin Che Stevens: My time in Echo

By Army Spc. Dustin Stevens, Ft. Bragg. July 22, 2009
The bus ride to Fort Bragg, North Carolina seemed like an eternity. It had been seven years since I thought about the Army. Seven years of hard work, paid taxes and struggle to stay afloat, all shot to hell because I thought I was discharged after five months of service in the U.S. Army. Apparently, I was wrong. Now I am under the control of the 82d Replacement Detachment, Echo Platoon. I am awaiting some form of legal action that possibly includes a court martial for desertion.

I thought that to be a deserter you had to leave in a time of war with the intent to never return. But I, and others like me, have found out that this is not the case.

I refused duty in 2002 after just five months of service after having panic and anxiety attacks. I found that the more I thought of killing another human being, the worse the attacks got.

I had joined the Army thinking that I had no other option. Later, however, a friend sent me literature on conscientious objection, and introduced me to a man named Dr. Paul Adams. Dr. Adams taught me that my feelings were not wrong as the Army had told me. That choosing not to fight an unjust war was not only honorable, but following your own heart and mind would make me a better man. I felt brainwashed by the Army, so I went about unlearning what they had taught me.

I had no love for anything when I joined the military. I was miserable. It wasn’t until I realized that hatred is baggage that leads to a life of unhappiness that I found myself. For the first time in my 19-year-old life I had found happiness—and it didn’t include killing, or training to kill, other human beings.

Now in the Army’s eyes, I signed a contract—a federal contract that holds you to an obligatory term of service. It doesn’t matter that someone might change their mind. That’s against the rules.

Going thousands of miles to a country that may or may not have weapons of mass destruction just because a group of men says so is sane in the eyes of the Army. Having an abstract thought of your own—namely not wanting to kill innocent women and children on a quest for power and oil—is insane.

Ask yourself, why is it that this “war on terror” holds the record for AWOL, desertion and suicide against every other U.S. war since Vietnam? Maybe because an undeclared, un-winnable war against terrorism (something that will always exist) doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.

I expressed these feelings to my command over and over. I was met only with dead ends. “Suck it up.” “You’ll feel different when you get to a unit.” “It’s just nerves, get over it.” So I did what I had to, I refused to continue in the U.S. Army.

So here I sit, facing possibly three years in military prison for desertion.

I have no other criminal record and had been pulled over numerous times before January, 2009. I had just started a job at FedEx that required a federal background check. I received no letter or phone call from the Army, and neither had any of my family members. So am I to be made an example of for following my heart, and my conscience, for quitting a job?

I have been here in Echo Platoon for over six months now. I have been told that I would be out in two months with a chapter. Clearly that didn’t happen. Now I am facing court martial, but have not yet received any formal charges.

I have been told by my First Sgt that I have no rights, and neither does anyone else in Echo Platoon. I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if it affects the rest of some ones life. But I disagree with him.

It may seem that we have no rights because we are treated like dog shit, to put it bluntly. Or the fact that a Purple Heart veteran like Spc. Corey Keyes (a man I am proud to call my friend) received 15 months in prison with a dishonorable discharge because he left due to PTSD that was diagnosed, but later rejected, after the Army instructed their doctors to stop diagnosing the condition. I’m sure the Officers panel that convicted him sleeps comfortably every night. The young men of Echo had to look his mother and wife in the eye and tell them that it would all be okay. Or Jeffrey Reynolds, who got 10 months in a military prison in California, making it nearly impossible for his wife and family to visit him because they live in Georgia.

How much are the American tax payers spending to keep us here? I have been here for six months, but there are guys that have been here for close to a year. None of your time here counts toward whatever court martial sentence you may receive later. If you do what you’re told, it seems like you get the worst punishment.

Since I have been here I have seen multiple offenders of AWOL and drugs chaptered out of the Army with little or no jail time. But everyone who was living their lives in an honorable way back home—in keeping with 82nd Airborne standards—is prosecuted. Even our Echo cadre is in agreement that the prosecutors are trying to screw us.

We aren’t given a defense attorney until we are read your charges, yet we are told to work on our cases before then. How do we work on a case when we have no idea what the charges against will be? The prosecution has our cases for months before they bring charges against us—sometimes soldiers have mere weeks to prepare for their courts martial.

We are human beings. Some of us have made mistakes. Some of us chose the path we are taking. All of us have had to sit here in this hell hole for far too long. We are over crowded, and treated less than human on a daily basis. We have no privacy. We have no lives. We are confined to a 50 mile radius, yet our time doesn’t count towards confinement. We have lost our jobs. Some have lost their families. Some have lost their minds.

What type of citizens are the 82d Airborne creating for the outside world? When we can’t get a good job because of the discharge we received, what will we do? We pay millions of dollars to keep justice and peace overseas, yet there is no justice in what is being done here.

I am angered at the way I see our young American men and women treated. I have not mentioned any names because I don’t want to put any of the people that eat, sleep and breathe next to me in any more trouble.

My name is Dustin Che Stevens, thank you.
“In the face of Evil and Tyranny the people will have the last word. That of victory.”
-thanks to Courage To Resist

Robin Long: Help other resisters today


Although there are several groups working to help our War Resisters, two organizations that stand out for the incredible and dedicated work they do to help the individual resisters and their families survive during their ordeals and provide them with legal help for their courts-martial, hearings, etc. One is Courage To Resist in Oakland, CA and the other is War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto, Ontario.

Help these organizations do their work for our War Resisters. Donate what you can - when you can. Our Resisters are standing up to the most powerful military in the world. Stand with them. -Russell

Here is a letter of support from War Resister, Robin Long:
Robin Long, Iraq War resister. July 22, 2009
As someone who has benefited from the wonderful work that Courage to Resist is doing, I ask that you please consider helping them to help other resisters today.

For the last four years I’ve been resisting the Iraq War. First in Canada, and for the last year in a military brig. The time that I served would have been harder if I hadn’t received so many letters of support while in the brig. It made my time go by faster. I would have felt so disconnected if people hadn’t stood in solidarity with me, and raised money for me to phone my family.

Courage to Resist has been there at every step of my journey. They were there when I got deported from Canada by finding me a lawyer and raising the money to pay for my defense. The sentence I received at my August 2008 court martial would have been much longer if it wasn’t for my attorney James Branum. And they were there while I was in the brig organizing letter writing parties for me and other resisters.

When I was finally released from the brig last week, Courage to Resist was there to welcome me “home” and help me get back on my feet.

If organizations like Courage to Resist weren’t there, I would have felt very isolated, and without a civilian lawyer, completely at the mercy of the Army. Also, time in the brig would have gone by a lot slower, and I might have come out of this with a broken spirit.

Courage to Resist needs your help to do all of these things today, because there are many more resisters who still need help. They need people to volunteer and they need to raise funds to pay for the defense of others going through court martials. As someone who has benefited from the wonderful work that Courage to Resist is doing, I ask that you please consider helping them to help other resisters today.

Peace, Love, Light,
Robin Long
US Army Spc Robin Long traveled to Canada in 2005 to resist deployment to Iraq. In July 2008 Canadian authorities deported him—the first such deportation since the Vietnam War. Following a brief trial at Fort Carson, Colorado, he has been imprisoned for the last year. Robin was released last week from Naval Consolidated Brig at Miramar, just north of San Diego. His freedom has been celebrated at a number of events over the last few days.

Robin will be attending a massage therapy school beginning in the fall.

July 21, 2009

The torture debate in America got real three weeks ago.

This screen grab from a video shows Private Bowe R. Bergdahl, who is being held captive by Taliban militants. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Tuesday 21 July 2009
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist

The coward wretch whose hand and heart
Can bear to torture aught below,
Is ever first to quail and start
From the slightest pain or equal foe.
- Bertrand Russell

The torture debate in America got real three weeks ago.

Oh, the debate has been around for years now, of course, ever since the photos of what happened in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to light. Men covered in feces, bent double and lashed to bedframes, their faith humiliated by the menstrual blood smeared on their faces, their bodies savaged by dogs, and worse, reports of the rape of women and children.

Yes, the torture debate has been around for a while now, recently revisited by President Obama, who condemned and discontinued the practice, and by enablers of torture like Dick Cheney and John Yoo, who have labored mightily to defend it. It's been quite the hot topic among the chattering classes of American political discourse, a dialogue in three parts: one group condemning the practice, another group championing it, and a third group - the media professionals - taking no position and trying not to offend anyone, so they can get the big names back on the set for the Sunday shows.

Three weeks ago, however, the whole nature of the torture debate changed irrevocably when an American soldier from Idaho named Bowe Bergdahl somehow fell into the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. They have him now, and God help him, because it was the United States government under the administration of George W. Bush that set the terms for how anyone captured can and should be treated.

If the Taliban decide Bergdahl has information they want, they can waterboard him until he talks. They can compress his body and cover him with insects, they can rob him of sleep and deny him food, they can beat him and slather his body with his own waste, they can shove sticks into his rectum, they can rape him, and they can murder him. They can hand him over to representatives of another government and have him whisked away to some far-flung dungeon where "enhanced interrogation" has an even darker and more savage definition. For sure, they can deny him due process of any kind and never, ever, ever, ever let him go home again.

They could do this whether or not the United States had engaged in similar practices, but because we did these things, they can do these things and still claim the moral high ground. Why not? It was the United States government under the administration of George W. Bush who plowed that high ground into the gutter. Everyone stands the same height when they're face-down in the sewer.

One thing the Taliban apparently cannot do, however, is videotape their prisoner. Several days ago, a tape of Bergdahl, with his head shaved, pleading to be sent home to his parents, was released by his captors. "I am scared," said Bergdahl in the video. "I'm scared I won't be able to go home. It is very unnerving to be a prisoner. I have my girlfriend who is hoping to marry. I have my grandma and grandpas. I have a very, very good family that I love back home in America. And I miss them every day that I'm gone. I miss them and I'm afraid that I might never see them again and that I'll never be able to tell them that I love them again. I'll never be able to hug them."

The US government reacted swiftly to the video of Bergdahl. "We condemn the use of this video and the public humiliation of prisoners," said US military spokesman Col. Greg Julian. "It is against international law. We are doing everything we can to return this soldier to safety."

How hard it must have been for the US military to release a statement like that without feeling sick at heart and scared to death. The terrible irony and hypocrisy of the statement they released about the Bergdahl video must have been searing; we have set the table in such a way that torture is a positive action that saves lives, but videotapes are right out? No, that doesn't scan, and we know it, and the Taliban know it, and dollars to donuts Bergdahl knows it, too. Is he waiting in terror for the torture to begin? Has it already started?

The torture debate in America got real three weeks ago, and every American so-called Christian who has defended the practice can appreciate the lesson: we reap what we sow.

Pray Bowe Bergdahl doesn't reap it for us.

-thanks to Truthout

July 20, 2009

War Resister, Travis Bishop wants to know who the chaplain serves, "God...or the Army?"

Part 1 was posted by Travis back 0n May 20th on the Fort Hood Soldier Voices blog. Part 2 was posted yesterday, July 20th, same place.


THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2009

Travis' Story...

Part 1: Backstory

Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why am I resisting? Refusing? It wasn’t so long ago that I deployed to Iraq in support of the war on terror. I didn’t refuse then. Like a good Soldier, I did what I was told, and I spent 14 months stationed in Baghdad. It was a quiet enough deployment, I suppose. Mortars and rockets flew over the walls with unnerving frequency, but otherwise, it felt more like a move to a different duty station than a deployment to a warzone.

I didn’t see real combat. I didn’t come back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I didn’t lose friends. Mine was, in my opinion, an average deployment. Go overseas, play X-Box and read for a year, come back with money that’s gone before you remember how you spent it. We talked and laughed about it once we came back, and talked about what we would do with the money we made from our next deployment, whenever that may be.


Back home, I received a hero’s welcome. That was the first time I felt unsettled over what I had done overseas. My hand was shook, my back was patted, and every night my belly was burning, full of free alcohol. I was a veteran of a foreign war, hailed as a hero, and yet I felt…unnerved; anxious. I felt as if I had a big secret inside me that threatened to burst out of me at any moment, exposing what I really was to the rest of the world…but I couldn’t figure out what the secret was. Not for a long, long time.


I was never plagued with nightmares from the war. I was plagued with guilt. I literally felt guilty for receiving the accolades that come from redeploying as a ‘hero,’ knowing that I had not paid the price for the Army’s true definition of a hero. Here it goes:

Army Hero; noun. Soldier who has deployed overseas to a combat zone. Has participated in active combat. Has redeployed with PTSD, a bullet in their leg, and a time bomb in their head. Unable to rejoin the civilian world in a normal psychological state.


In my heart of hearts, I know I don’t fit this definition, or anything resembling it.


For a long time, my unit was set to redeploy to Iraq in August 2009. However, in February 2009, we were told there was a change of plans. Instead of Iraq, it would be Afghanistan. Instead of August, it would be the end of March, less than sixty days away. Rumor had it that, although we were told the rush was because of a Brigade Commander’s wishes, it was our Battalion Commander who requested our unit be put on the Afghanistan Troop Surge.


Once again, in good Soldier mode, I prepared to deploy. This time I was a Sergeant, and I had Soldiers to take care of, one of which my best friend. These things drove me to be well prepared. We had things to do, and not much time to do them in. I rarely gave myself time to think about what it was we were actually deploying for. When I did, I started to question everything.


Why are we going? What purpose does it serve? Nothing sat right. I began to read the Bible again. More and more I saw things like ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love thy enemy.’ These were things that went directly against the war we were in, and they were spoken by Jesus himself. Could I really deploy again, and compromise my beliefs, just because I was told to? Would I be able to live with that? What if I had to take a life, and knew that if I hadn’t deployed, I would never have been put in that situation?


I became afraid to voice my opinion, knowing that if I spoke to the wrong person, I would face persecution and ridicule. I told my best friend, who voiced the same opinions to me, but it seemed he was content to deploy, do his time, make some money, and then get out of the Army upon his return. I respected his opinion, didn’t try to talk him out of it, and let it be.


The rest of the pre-deployment phase went uneventfully. We loaded our gear, got our trucks ready, and inspected our equipment. We went to the field several times, and although my team and other teams never fully accomplished the missions we were given, Command congratulated us on a successful field mission, and said we were more than ready to deploy. I started to worry again after that.


I worried when they said I was leaving early with the cargo. I worried again when our cargo flights were suddenly ‘cancelled,’ and the main body of our unit deployed to Afghanistan before us, the ‘advanced’ party. Once again, I got the feeling that we were rushing into something before we were even close to being ready. Weeks went by, and groups of us went out on separate days, sometimes only two Soldiers at a time.


A few days before I was set to deploy, I was approached by members of an organization who told me that I had a choice. They told me that they were here to support me, and that if I really was against the war our country was currently in, I could choose not to go. All those old feelings and worries came back with a vengeance, and I began to question the war again. After a full day of thinking, the only reason I had come up with for me to go was the fact that my best friend was going too. And, in the end, I decided that, although he might hate me for it, he was better off with me not going in the long run. I had to put my needs before his, though it killed me inside, because a three year friendship is hard to come by in the Army. I hope that he can forgive me one day.


So the afternoon I was set to deploy, while everyone else was loading their gear in the van headed toward the airfield, I loaded my gear in my car, and left. It was the hardest decision I have ever made.


I plan on coming back; soon. I am not a deserter, and I wouldn’t go AWOL for months and risk ruining my chances at getting a good job later in life. I am a Patriot. I love my country, but I believe that this particular war is unjust, unconstitutional and a total abuse of our nation’s power and influence. And so, in the next few days, I will be speaking with my lawyer, and taking actions that will more than likely result in my discharge from the military, and possible jail time…and I am prepared to live with that.


My father said, ‘Do only what you can live with, because every morning you have to look at your face in the mirror when you shave. Ten years from now, you’ll still be shaving the same face.’

If I had deployed to Afghanistan, I don’t think I would have been able to look into another mirror again.

Pray for me.

-Travis

POSTED BY FT. HOOD SOLDIER VOICES






MONDAY, JULY 20, 2009

Travis Story, Part 2...

So…it’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my situation, and the reason is this: for several weeks there’s been no situation. I returned to my unit, turned in an application for discharge as a conscientious objector, and proceeded to wait for the C.O. application to work it’s way through the miles of red tape that is Army Bureaucracy. I consulted my lawyer every now and then if need be but otherwise, I thought it was a wait-and-see game.

I was dead wrong.

There is a process for conscientious objectors to go through to get discharged from the military as such. First, a Soldier’s Company Commander has to give his recommendation based on his opinion of the Soldier. Then, you need to be interviewed by an Army Chaplain, (The Military’s spiritual advisors / liaisons), and also by a Mental Health specialist. Then, after you’ve been interviewed to your wit’s end, there has to be a hearing concerning the validity of your claim, and then they will make a decision whether or not to allow you to be discharged as an objector.

I was aware of all this going in. And when the time came for my Chaplain’s interview, I was excited and ready. Finally, a true man of God to talk to about my situation. A kindred spirit, who hopefully could give me insight into all that I’ve been going through. This was not the case at all.

I was TOLD at 1pm that I had a 1pm meeting with the Chaplain. That should have been a sign of things to come right there. After racing frantically to his office, I was supposed to have an hour long interview, delving deep into my situation and reflecting on everything that was going on. The purpose of the interview is for the Chaplain to see whether or not I’m the real deal.

What I got instead was a 20 minute cursory conversation, throughout which Chaplain (LTC) Ronald Leininger kept checking his watch and looking at his phone. I did NOT get a full, in-depth interview. Afterward, I received his letter to my Commander. He said that in his opinion, he did not think that I was sincere. In fact, he thought that I was being coached on what to say. He also said that he thought my timing was ‘convenient.’ This coming from someone who barely listened to me, and only used my words OUT OF CONTEXT to negatively affect my claim. This will severely affect the outcome of my case.

This is supposed to be a man of God. I tell him that I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I have to take a human life, and he says that I’m not sincere? Who does he serve? God…or the Army?

Pray for me. -Travis


POSTED BY FT. HOOD SOLDIER VOICES

US releases a prisoner of war, Robin Long, War Resisters and Supporters celebrate

War Resister Robin Long

San Francisco supporters celebrate Robin Long's release from jail. Robin served the last year in a military jail for refusing to fight an illegal war in Iraq.

Vietnam and Iraq era war resisters with Robin Long in San Francisco.
-photos from Courage to Resist

War Resister, Camilo Mejia on the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution


Camilo E. Mejia, proud son of former sandinista insurgents, salutes his country of birth, Nicaragua, on the 30th anniversary of the sandinista revolution. AND. May the honduran people, and people all over the world, rise against their oppressors; may they achieve peace and justice by any means necessary. Down with imperialism! Long live movements of national liberation! Si se puede!
-from Camilo Mejia's facebook page.

July 16, 2009

Afghanistan vet, Chris Vassey, goes to Canada


By WRSC (Canada) and Courage to Resist. July 16, 2009

Christopher Vassey served 5 years in the United States Army with a decorated combat tour in Afghanistan. After returning stateside, the Stockton, California native decided the war contradicted his moral values and personal political beliefs. With another combat tour around the corner, and carrying the haunting memories of war, Sgt Vassey made a decision that would change his life forever.

Chris packed his bags and headed north to Canada where he joined hundreds of other US troops who are seeking refuge from our unjust, endless occupation wars. He has made Toronto, Ontario his home for the last year. He has made friends, family, and dreams of a peaceful future in Canada. If permitted, he wants to become a permanent resident of Canada and work towards his citizenship.

July 15, 2009

Breaking the Silence: Israeli Soldiers in Gaza Describe a 'Moral Twilight Zone'

Lisa Blank writes:

War sucks. War crimes are committed every where there is war. I am not shocked to hear this report of 25 (so far) Israeli soldiers coming forward. The important thing about this BBC report however, is that it spoils the Israel/AIPAC defense that civilian casualities were the result of Hamas hiding in schools, hospitals and using children as human shields.


by Dion Nissenbaum
JERUSALEM - Israeli combat soldiers have acknowledged that they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus shells to burn down buildings as part of Israel's three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.

Israeli mobile artillery fires shells towards the Gaza Strip on January 9. Israeli soldiers involved in the war on Gaza were told to shoot first and worry about the consequences later, and used Palestinian civilians as human shields, an activist group's report has said. (AFP/File/Jack Guez)In filmed testimony and written statements released Wednesday, more than two dozen soldiers told an Israeli army veterans' group that military commanders led the fighters into what one described as a "moral Twilight Zone" where almost every Palestinian was seen as a threat.

Soldiers described incidents in which Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white cloth, an elderly woman carrying a sack, a Gazan riding a motorcycle, and an elderly man with a flashlight, said Breaking the Silence, a group formed by army reservists in 2004.

Any Palestinian spotted near Israeli troops was considered suspect. A man talking on a cell phone on the roof of his building was viewed as a legitimate target because he could've been telling militants where to find Israeli forces, the group quoted soldiers as saying.

"In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy," said one soldier. "No innocents."

The 110-pages of testimony - along with 16 video clips - of interviews with 26 unnamed Israeli soldiers offers the most comprehensive look inside a military campaign that's become the subject of an unfolding United Nations war crimes investigation.

The Israel Defense Forces dismissed the report.

IDF spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said Tuesday that the IDF now is conducting dozens of investigations into troop conduct during the Gaza operation and that more than a dozen cases led to police investigations.

In April, the IDF announced it had concluded five high-level investigations, including one into the use of phosphorus to burn down buildings, and cleared itself.

Yehuda Shaul, a co-founder of Breaking the Silence, said the report didn't identify the soldiers by name because at least half the men quoted were young conscripts who could be jailed for speaking to the media. He agreed, however, to name the units and where they were operating in several instances.

Two soldiers from the Givati brigade who served in Zeitoun told the story of shooting an unarmed civilian without warning him.

The elderly man was walking with a flashlight toward a building where Israeli forces were taking cover.

The Israeli officer in the house repeatedly ignored requests from other soldiers to fire warning shots as the man approached, the soldiers said. Instead, when he got within 20 yards of the soldiers, the commander ordered snipers to kill the man.

The soldiers later confirmed that the man was unarmed.

When they complained to their commander about the incident, the soldiers were rebuffed and told that anyone walking at night was immediately suspect.

Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights attorney who reviewed the testimony, said the stories reflected a "dramatic change in the ethos" of the Israeli military that portrays itself as the most moral army in the world.

"What we are seeing now is a deterioration of our moral values and red lines," Sfard said. "This is a dramatic change in heart and values."

Israel launched the 22-day military offensive on Dec. 27 in a bid to destabilize the Hamas-led government and deter Palestinian militants who've fired thousands of crude rockets and mortars at southern Israel that have killed 12 people in the past four years.

Nine Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza during the fighting, four of them by friendly fire.

By contrast, Palestinian human rights groups and Gaza medical officials said that 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, were killed by Israeli forces. The Israeli military has questioned that figure, but hasn't made its own analysis available for review.

Breaking the Silence identified other specific instances in which Israeli forces carried out highly questionable practices.

According to the soldiers, the Israeli military fired white phosphorus mortars and artillery shells to set suspicious buildings ablaze and destroyed scores of Palestinian homes for questionable reasons. The white phosphorus supplied by the U.S. is supposed to be used to illuminate targets or provide smoke cover for advancing troops.

"Phosphorus was used as an igniter, simply make it all go up in flames," one soldier said.

A second soldier - said by the reservists' group to have been in a tank brigade stationed in the Atatra neighborhood - told Breaking the Silence that at least one officer fired unauthorized white phosphorus mortars because it was "cool."

The use of white phosphorus to destroy buildings was part of a larger campaign to demolish parts of Gaza to make it more difficult for Palestinian militants to fire rockets at Israel, the soldiers said.

One soldier, who served in an infantry reserve unit of the Negev Brigade near Netzarim, said they were repeatedly told by officers to raze buildings as part of a campaign to prepare for "the day after."

"In practical terms, this meant taking a house that is not implicated in any way, that its single sin is the fact that it is situated on top of a hill in the Gaza Strip," said one soldier.

"In a personal talk with my battalion commander he mentioned this and said in a sort of sad half-smile, I think, that this is something that will eventually be added to 'my war crimes," he added.

In the Ezbt Abd Rabbo neighborhood, Israeli combatants said they forced Palestinians to search homes for militants and enter buildings ahead of soldiers in direct violation of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that bars fighters from using civilians as human shields.

"Sometimes a force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield," said one Israeli soldier with the Golani Brigade. "Commanders said these were the instructions, and we had to do it."

Each Palestinian forced to work with the Israeli military was given the same nickname: Johnnie.

The story was confirmed by four other Israeli soldiers who seized control of the Gaza neighborhood, but declined to speak on the record, Shaul said.

The testimony matches with that of nine Palestinian men who told McClatchy last winter that Israeli soldiers forced them into battle zones during the offensive in their northern Gaza Strip neighborhood.

One Palestinian, Castro Abed Rabbo, said Israeli soldiers ordered him to enter buildings to search for militants and booby traps before they sent in a specially trained dog with high-tech detection gear.

Two other Palestinian men told McClatchy that Israeli soldiers used them as human shields by forcing them to kneel in a field during a firefight as they exchanged fire with Gaza fighters.

"I was down on my knees and they fanned out in a 'V' behind me," Sami Rashid Mohammed, a Fatah-leaning former Palestinian Authority police officer, said in an unpublished interview in February. "It wasn't more than 10 or 15 minutes of shooting, but it was so scary."

One of the Israeli soldiers interviewed described the offensive was necessary.

"We did what we had to do," he said. "The actual doing was a bit thoughtless. We were allowed to do anything we wanted. Who's to tell us not to?"

One Israeli reservist said a brigade commander gave them stark orders as they were preparing for combat.

"He said something along the line of 'Don't let morality become an issue; that will come later,'" the soldier said. "He had this strange language: 'Leave the nightmares and horrors that will come up for later - now just shoot."

"You felt like a child playing around with a magnifying glass, burning up ants," another Israeli soldier said. "A 20-year-old kid should not be doing such things to people. . . . the guys were running a 'Wild West' scene: draw, cock, kill."


(McClatchy special correspondent Cliff Churgin contributed to this article from Jerusalem.)

-thanks to McClatchy Newspapers and Commondreams