Redeployment to Iraq Continues, but Not Without a Fight September 8, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: disabled veterans, fort hood, Iraq, iraq redeployment, Iraq war, madeleine dubus, ptsd, redeployment, roger hollander, stop-loss, unde the hood, veterans
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Wednesday 08 September 2010
(Photo: DVIDSHUB / Flickr)
Despite the president’s pledge to end the war in Iraq within the month, one regiment awaits its redeployment and inspires a call to action.
While addressing the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta on Aug. 2, President Barack Obama said, “Our commitment in Iraq is changing from a military effort,” and all combat operations will cease by the end of the month. But in Killeen, Texas, the run-down military town that sits just outside the gates of Fort Hood, the largest active-duty military base in the United States, the reality of the Iraq war stands in direct opposition with Obama’s proclamations.
Within a week, the over 5,000 soldiers of Fort Hood’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) will redeploy to Iraq for the fourth time since the war began. Deployment is set for sometime around August 25 (exact deployment dates aren’t allowed to be released to the public).
Members of the Fort Hood war resistance community see 3rd ACR as a paradigm for what plagues our military: repeated deployments leading to high rates of physically and mentally wounded soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
The psychological consequences of the wars among soldiers are rampant. PTSD has received the most official documentation, but it is important to be aware that TBI is the leading injury among Iraq veterans, usually caused by the leading cause of death in Iraq, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and one in three women in the military are raped.
In September 2009, the number of veterans who were diagnosed and treated for PTSD through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) was 508,000, up from 480,000 only a few months earlier in June 2009. To receive full benefits from the VA, a veteran has to have finished his military contract and received an honorable discharge. But soldiers who have returned from a tour, yet are still active-duty and suffering from PTSD, must rely on the mental health services on base. The issue here, however, is that many cases of PTSD in active-duty soldiers go undiagnosed in order to keep troops deployable. This, paired with the shortage of mental health professionals on bases, leads to an Army full of heavily medicated, psychologically unstable men and women.
“A lot of them are diagnosed [with psychological and/or physical conditions] but [the chain of command] is fighting to get them not diagnosed,” says Cindy Thomas, the director of Killeen’s Under the Hood Café. Thomas started Under the Hood in March 2009 as a place for active-duty soldiers, veterans, as well as their friends, family, and supporters to gather for community and advice when facing the challenges of military and post-war life. It’s a place for soldiers to seek help when resisting orders to deploy, including dealing with its legal and personal consequences. Those who frequent Under the Hood regularly plan demonstrations aimed at pushing for the end of the wars.
Most importantly, Under the Hood is a safe place for soldiers to hang out and talk. Thomas sees soldiers coming in almost daily describing their experiences with redeployment while suffering from physical and mental wounds. Often, soldiers seek medical and psychological help at Fort Hood only to be ignored: they are either not seen by doctors or they wait for hours to be seen for only a couple of minutes and told they’re fit to deploy. Thomas recalls a soldier she knew a few years ago with a broken knee, who went undiagnosed and untreated for over two years in Fort Hood. He later needed to get reconstructive surgery because the damage from his untreated injury was so severe.
The redeployment of the 3rd ACR has served as a call to action for the war resistance movement in Fort Hood. On July 30, Under the Hood organized a protest at the East gate of the base, demanding that 3rd ACR’s Col. Reginald Allen choose not to deploy wounded soldiers, but it received no coverage from the local news media.
Thomas later found out that commanders on base have pressured the local papers and TV stations to stop covering Under the Hood. In response, they launched a Livestream channel which airs three, 30-minute webcasts per week and organized a phone campaign called “Harass the Brass,” releasing the office telephone numbers of every officer in 3rd ACR’s chain of command via Facebook. The “Harass the Brass” campaign is designed to get concerned citizens and the military community to come together to call those in charge to ask why wounded soldiers are getting deployed. It could be a major step in reminding Americans of their power to create change.
“This does affect everyone,” Thomas says. “These soldiers that are not being taken care of are going to be in the civilian sector when they get out. And after each deployment it gets worse, [our soldiers] deploy two, three, four, [or] five times and are not given the time to recover – you never recover from PTSD. They’re going to be your neighbors.”
During Under the Hood’s Aug. 7 webcast, participants in the campaign were encouraged to call every day until the estimated date of deployment.
“The military operates with our money, in our name,” says Bobby Whittenberg, an activist and Purple Heart veteran of the Iraq war who organizes at Under the Hood, during the webcast. “We have every right to hold them accountable … not caring, not checking into things like this is how you allow things to continue – how you allow people to run rampant with these ridiculous policies of ignoring soldiers medical needs, ignoring families.”
“We’re not even asking people to be nice,” adds Matthis Chiroux, an activist, Iraq war resister, and veteran of Afghanistan, on the webcast. “This is a great way, simply, to be heard. These people are making awful decisions in all of our names that are violating law, if not just the dictates of conscience.”
According to Thomas, even if a soldier is diagnosed with a physical or mental condition that could be damaging to his or her long-term health and ability to deploy, ultimately, who stays and who goes is up to the commanders, since they can wield authority over any doctor’s recommendation.
When I spoke to a Sgt. Major in 3rd ACR to discuss this issue [name withheld since he was not authorized to speak to the press], he confirmed that Army Regulations prohibit deploying any soldier who has been diagnosed with a physical or mental condition which makes them unfit to fight, but the doctors first speak to the commanders and then the commanders decide if the soldier can go.
Under the Hood and the rest of Fort Hood’s war resistance community hope that by working to prevent this deployment, they will not only help 3rd ACR’s wounded soldiers and take a step toward ending the wars, but they will inspire a national trend that will save other active-duty soldiers who are suffering.
“Only civilians can do this,” Chiroux says in an interview after the webcast. “We can’t ask active-duty soldiers to call up their commanders and harass them. Civilians have to do this on behalf of soldiers.”
Over seven years into the Iraq war, the damaged lives of both Iraqi civilians and American soldiers are evident. But it is also clear that from this destruction, a new movement is growing, and with it an opportunity to abandon the former state of the Iraq war and the military’s treatment of soldiers to create something new and ardent. Fort Hood is just the beginning.
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Barack Obama, Iraq and the Big Lie March 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, About War, Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Barack Obama, Bechtel, big lie, Blackwater, cheney, corporate america, counter terrorism, democracy, dynacorp, erc alterman, first gulf war, George Bush, gulf war, gulf war 1991, haliburton, Iraq, iraq combat troops, iraq military occupation, iraq redeployment, iraq transition, Iraq war, Iraqi people, jeremy scahill, joel hirschhorn, judge judy, kuwait, McCain, Middle East, military industrial complex, Nancy Pelosi, oil, phyllis bennis, republican right, roger hollander, saddam hussein, SOFA, south korea, status of forces agreement, tyranny, us embassy baghdad, xe
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By Roger Hollander, March 1, 2009, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com
“Don’t piss on me and try to tell me it’s raining”
Does it matter whether it is a moral and intellectual imbecile like George W. Bush or a brilliant and charismatic intellectual like Barack Obama who employ the Big Lie as a tactic to explain and justify the unjustifiable?
In a posting that appeared in towardfreedom.com on February 18, Joel S. Hirschhorn writes, “Compared to rioting Europeans, Americans seem like docile, drugged out sheep … mesmerized by melodic rhetoric of political messiah Barack Obama.”
(http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1529/1/) (italics added)
In an ironic and tragic twist of fate, it now appears that Barack Obama’s mesmerizing and melodic rhetoric has turned out to be a two-edged sword. The same magic timbre that inspired and motivated millions of America to work day and night for his election in order to end America’s disastrous military adventures in the Middle East is now being put to use to give credibility to the Bush/Cheney worldview of the Iraq War and to thwart the desires, interests and welfare of those very same millions. The delivery hasn’t changed, but God help us, look at the content (which is what this article is all about).
In an article entitled “War Is Over (IF You Want It)” that appears in the current edition of The Nation magazine (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/alterman), Eric Alterman calls attention to the radical Republican right strategy of defining the fiasco in Iraq as a “victory.” He cites, for example, an editorial that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that quotes Bush speech writer Marc Thiessen, “As Mr. Bush leaves office, Iraq is a unified and free country, and our enemies there have suffered a devastating defeat. If his successor does not squander that victory, a free Iraq will one day be to the Middle East what a free South Korea has been to Asia.” (this parallels the same kind of Big Lie that the radical right has propagated about the Vietnam War, that it could have been won if only the politicians had given the military a free hand – to nuke Hanoi presumably).
Alterman goes on to cite other neocons in a similar vein and suggests that this is a conscious and concentrated strategy the purpose of which is to set up President Obama up for failure. If that is indeed the case, then Obama seems to be willingly and blithely walking into the trap.
In his speech given on Friday, February 27 at marine Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, Obama both affirms the neocon revisionist history of the Iraq invasion and occupation and lies blatantly to the American public about the proposed withdrawal.
First the latter. Obama: “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end …. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”
A bald faced lie.
Writing in the journal Foreign Policy in Focus on Friday, February 27, (http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5910), Phyllis Bennis exposes Obama’s dissimulation about the up to 50,000 allegedly non-combatant troops “left behind.” Leaving aside the question of why that huge number would be required to “train,equip and advise” (one is reminded of the “advisors” in Vietnam), which even Nancy Pelosi has questioned, Bennis refers to a December New York Times article “describing how military planners believe Obama’s goal of pulling out combat troops ‘could be accomplished at least in part by re-labeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be ‘re-missioned,’ their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis.’” She adds, “That would mean a retreat to the lies and deception that characterized this war during Bush years — something President Obama promised to leave behind. It would also mean military resistance in Iraq would continue, leading to more Iraqi and U.S. casualties.”
Along with AlterNet’s Jeremy Scahill (“All Troops Out By 2011? Not So Fast; Why Obama’s Iraq Speech Deserves a Second Look,” (http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/129362/all_troops_out_by_2011_not_so_fast%3B_why_obama%27s_iraq_speech_deserves_a_second_look/), Bettis shows how the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was adopted by the Iraqi government but never ratified by the United States, and which calls for all U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, is full of loopholes that the Pentagon and presumably the President are ready, willing and able, to employ when the time comes for the helicopters to be evacuating the remaining troops a la Vietnam (in other words, it ain’t gonna happen).
Obama himself (inadvertently, I presume) lets it slip into the speech where he states that he will “retain a transitional force … conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions.” Such missions can hardly be characterized as anything other than combat missions. He also telegraphs to both the American people via his warning to the Iraq resistance what his ace-in-the-loophole will be: “But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.” It’s that flexibility that we knee-jerk peace-mongers worry about.
Sins of omission can be as deceptive, disingenuous and morally corrupt as sins of commission. As Bettis points out, Obama neglected to mention the future use of air and naval force in Iraq, the disposition of the more than fifty military bases in Iraq, or the future status of the enormous numbers of mercenaries and contractors (e.g. Dyncorp, Bechtel, and Blackwater, now Xe). Nor did refer to the city within a city that is the United States Embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the history of humankind of which you can bet that it wasn’t built to become redundant in a period of a couple of years. Come December 31, 2111, all logic and experience tell us that United States military presence in Iraq will continue to be substantial. Obama does himself and the nation a disservice by suggesting otherwise.
As for the Bush, Cheney, neocon, and now apparently Obama fairytale version of the United States involvement in Iraq, it is probably true that it is the only one that would have been palatable for obvious reasons to the marines at Camp Lejeune, not to mention the neo-Fascist right that has ruled the country for the past eight years. But to speak before the country and the entire world and characterize the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, untold misery for millions and the virtual destruction of the Iraq infrastructure, as some kind of a noble venture is to contort reality into nothing less than a Big Lie which can only serve to justify past atrocity and foreshadow future ongoing bloodshed and destruction.
Obama: “We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.” Bush could not have said it any better (which is probably why McCain is salivating as we speak).
The Biggest Lie of all comes toward the end of Obama’s speech: “And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime …We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government …And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life …”
Alleging that “we sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime” contains the truth within a lie. In making the statement, Obama incredibly admits that the United States government violated the most fundamental precept of the United Nations Charter and international law, to wit, an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation. But does the President expect the American people and the world to forget about the intentionally false information about nuclear materials and weapons of mass destruction that was fed to the American people and world community as the justification for the invasion in the first place? In this instance Obama’s Big lie serves to reinforce the Original Big Lie of the Bush administration. The growing demand for prosecutorial accountability with respect to Bush and Company include, we should remember, not only torture, rendition, illegal wiretapping, etc. but also the crime of lying to the American public and Congress about the grounds for the invasion.
(To put matters into an even broader historical context, I refer readers to Nora Eisenberg’s excellent piece in AlterNet.com where she documents the Big Lie technique that was used to justify the first Gulf War in 1991 where according to a United Nations report the United States Air Force bombed Iraq “back into the Dark Ages.” “Obama to Announce Iraq Troop Withdrawal,”
As for establishing a sovereign government and leaving the Iraqi people the opportunity to have a better life, while the jury may still be out on those counts, the evidence we have to date flies in the face of such empty rhetorical wishful thinking.
Some time ago Bush and the neocons began, ominously, comparing Iraq with South Korea, where the U.S. has had a “successful” military presence for over 50 years. They neglect, of course, to note the difference, to wit, that South Korea was a military ally of the United States against the North Korean invasion, whereas the U.S. has been bombing the life out of Iraq since 1991 and through its unlawful invasion provoked a near civil war within the country that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Will this South Korea paradigm fiction be the next straw that Obama will need to grasp in order to justify occupation in perpetuity?
There are two other critical concepts, which are central to the forces that were behind the original invasion and which impulse the continued military occupation, that Obama neglected to mention. One of them is “war profiteering.” Wipe out the infrastructure, and then as a pretext for reconstructing it, give billions in untendered contracts to the likes of Dick Cheney’s Haliburton. And that is not to mention the corporate ghouls who manufacture our weapons of mass destruction.
The other concept, however, is one that virtually every American, not to mention the rest of the world, knows in her or his heart to have been, is, and will continue to be the single most – if not the only – motivating force behind the U.S. military adventure in Iraq. It can be found in the original but quickly discarded acronym for the mission: Operation Iraqi Liberation.
Further Deconstruction of President Obama’s February 27 “Withdrawal from Iraq” Speech
Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against tyranny …”
Deconstruction: Those soldiers who have fought tyranny are living in Canada.
Obama: (to the military) “You have fought against … disorder.”
Deconstruction: Disorder created not only by the current invasion and occupation but also by 19 years of U.S. bombing and economic blockade. Eisenberg: “We never learned that the government’s goals had changed from expelling Saddam’s forces from Kuwait to destroying Iraq’s infrastructure. Or what a country with a destroyed infrastructure looks like — with most of its electricity, telecommunications, sewage system, dams, railroads and bridges blown away.”
Obama: “Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.”
Deconstruction: Sectarian killing and violence that the U.S. invasion and occupation provoked and by which Saddam Hussein’s atrocities pale in comparison. U.S. inspired violence and killing 2003-2006 conveniently ignored.
Obama: “Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces …”
Deconstruction: And has been handed a recruiting opportunity that will dramatically inflate the ranks of revenge-motivated terrorists who will plague us for decades or more.
Obama: “… a transition to full Iraqi responsibility … an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant … The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources.”
Deconstruction: An Iraq that is occupied by the U.S. military in perpetuity, in order to ensure the protection of U.S. interests in the region’s natural resources and to ensure the “election” of government’s that maintain Iraq as a client state of the U.S.
Obama: “There are those … who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing.”
Deconstruction: We don’t insist on more killing we just do it. Bennis: “And what if the reduction in ground troops is answered with an escalation of U.S. air power? The U.S. appears to be planning to control the skies over Iraq for years to come. That means even more Iraqi civilians being killed by the U.S. military. We need the withdraw all air and naval forces too — something the SOFA agreement mentions, but we have yet to hear anything from the Obama administration. The U.S. has been conducting continuous overflights and regular bombing of Iraq since January 1991 – isn’t 18 years of air war enough?”
Obama: “And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary …”
Deconstruction: Necessary to what and to whose ends?
Obama: “What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals.”
Deconstruction: Forget such wishy-washy idealist notions such as actual peace and justice.
Obama: (with respect to) “millions of displaced Iraqis … America has … a moral responsibility – to act.”
Deconstruction: This is another Obama slip up: America has no “moral responsibility” to help those refugees. It was Saddam who made us create all those refugees. Right? We do it out of the goodness of our gas-guzzling hearts.
Obama: “… the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar.”
Deconstruction: Obama gives us jingoistic triumphalistic patriotism, when the American people hunger for a truthful acknowledgement of the past crimes.
One has to ask the question why the entire sub-text, not to mention the practical implications, of Obama’s speech was addressed directly to the radical Republican right, corporate America, and the military-industrial complex.