Iraq: Just Another War Without an End

 

by WALTER BRASCH

 

 We know the names of every one of the 4,479 Americans who were killed and the 32,200 who were wounded, both civilian and military, between March 20, 2003 and Oct. 21, 2011, the day President Barack Obama, fulfilling a campaign promise, declared the last American soldier would leave Iraq before the end of the year.

We know Second Lieutenant Therrel Shane Childers was the first American soldier killed by hostile fire in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On March 21, 2003, less than a day after the U.S.-led invasion, Childers was shot in the stomach by hostile forces while leading a Marine platoon to secure an oil field in southern Iraq.  His father, Joseph, told NPR that it was his dream to lead Marines into combat.

Childers, from Gulfport, Miss., had enlisted in the Marines 12 years earlier, was a security guard at the Geneva consulate and the Nairobi embassy, fought in the Persian Gulf War, and then attended the Citadel on a special program that allows enlisted personnel to be commissioned upon graduation. He was a French major and on the Dean’s List. Childers, who had wanted to be a horse trainer when he retired from the Marines, was 30 years old when he died. The Marines promoted him to first lieutenant posthumously.

On the day Childers was killed, 12 men—seven from the United Kingdom, one from South Africa, and four from the U.S.—were killed in a helicopter crash near Umm Qasr, a port city in southern Iraq. At the time, the Marine Corps called the crash of the CH-46E Sea Knight accidental, but didn’t elaborate.

About the time the helicopter crashed, Lance Corporal José Antonio Gutierrez, a 22-year-old Marine, was killed by what is euphemistically known as “friendly fire.” He was an orphan from Guatemala who had illegally crossed into the United States from Mexico, lived on the streets of San Diego and Los Angeles, was granted a temporary visa, lived with a series of foster families, graduated from high school, and began attending college, hoping to become an architect. The U.S. granted him citizenship posthumously.

On the second day of the war, three more Americans and six from England were killed. On the third day, 30 more Americans and four British were killed. By the end of March, 92 were killed.

One month before the invasion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had declared the upcoming war, which he warned would be a “shock and awe” strategy, might last “six days, maybe six weeks; I doubt six months.”

On May 1, 2003, aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego, President George W. Bush, decorated in flight gear, declared “Mission Accomplished.” Official military records show that when President Bush made his announcement, 172 Coalition troops had been killed. More than 4,600 American and allied soldiers would die in Iraq after that declaration; more than 31,500 Americans would be wounded, many permanently disabled, after that bravado proclamation.

We know the oldest American soldier to die in combat was 60; the youngest was 18, of which there were 34. We know that 476 of those killed were from California; Pennsylvania and Florida each had 176 deaths by the time the President announced full withdrawal from Iraq.

 

There are names we don’t know. We don’t know the names and life stories of the 4.7 million refugees, nor the two million Iraqis who fled the violence caused by the Coalition invasion. We don’t know the names of the orphaned children, one-third of all of Iraq’s youth. We don’t know the names of the 100,000–150,000 civilians killed. We don’t have accurate records of more than a million who were wounded. It no longer matters who killed or wounded them, who destroyed their lives and property—American, allied, Shia, Sunni, insurgent, criminal, or al-Qaeda. It doesn’t matter if they died from IEDs, suicide bombers, gunshots, artillery, bombs, or missiles. In war, they’re simply known as “collateral damage.”

In Afghanistan, 2,769 Coalition troops have been killed, 1,815 of them American, by the day that President Obama announced the withdrawal from Iraq. There are already 14,343 wounded among the Coalition forces. Between 36,000 and 75,000 Afghani civilians have been killed by insurgents and Coalition troops during the past decade, according to the United Nations. President Obama told the world that the war in Afghanistan would continue at least two more years.

You can try to sanitize the wars by giving them patriotic names—Operation Iraqi Freedom; Operation Enduring Freedom. But that doesn’t change the reality that millions of every demographic have been affected. War doesn’t discriminate. The dead on all sides are physicians and religious leaders; trades people, farmers, clerks, merchants, teachers, and mothers.  And they are babies and students. We don’t know what they might have become had they been allowed to grow up and live a life of peace, one without war.

We also don’t yet know who will be the last American soldier to be killed in Iraq. As important, we don’t know how Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) will affect the one million soldiers who were called for as many as seven tours of duty, nor when the last Iraq War veteran will die from permanent injuries. And we will never know the extent of the terror that will plague the families, children, and grandchildren of those who served.

But there is one more thing we do know. A year before José Antonio Gutierrez was killed, he had written a “Letter to God” in Spanish. Translated, it read: “Thank you for permitting me to live another year, thank you for what I have, for the type of person I am, for my dreams that don’t die. . . . May the firearms be silent and the teachings of love flourish.”

[Walter Brasch first began writing about war in 1966. He wishes he didn’t have to. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a novel that focuses upon America between 1964 and 1991, the eve of the Persian Gulf War.]

 

 

 

A Soldier's Peace, A Documentary Premiere in Second Life

To date 4,311 men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces have perished in a 6-year war on foreign soil in Iraq.

For many of us, the ever-increasing count of American and Iraqi dead has been a central fact driving our political lives since it became clear that Bush was intent against all reason on pursuing a preemptive misadventure in Iraq.  It is what drove us to the blogs, to march and to protest, to speak out.

For those in Red States, where opportunities to voice opposition with any real effect have seemed too few and far between, few examples of principled dissent have been more inspiring than that of Sgt. Marshall Thompson, who--on his return to Utah from a year in Iraq as an Army journalist--undertook to walk the state's length to talk with everyday Utahns about war and peace.  The award-winning 2007 documentary A Soldier's Peace by Kristen and Marshall Thompson chronicles his remarkable 500-mile journey into activism.

Netroots Nation in Second Life and Virtually Speaking are very proud to announce the Second Life premiere of this simple yet powerful film.

More below the fold.

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Disproving Monsters Under the Bed: Why The Peace Movement Won't Stop The Occupation of Iraq

In this great post on the Movement Vision Lab blog, grassroots activist Dan Horowitz Garcia argues that if there is a peace movement (and he doubts it...) it needs to change its tactics.  According to Dan, marches don't end wars --- and never have.

Dan Horowitz Garcia says that history repeats itself, and so do movements.

Contrary to many beliefs, the peace movement didn't end the war in Vietnam. Three things ended the war in Vietnam. They were, in order of importance, the Vietnamese, the tanking economy, and the resistance of U.S. soldiers. If I extended this list by 100 more items, I still wouldn't include marches on the U.S. capitol or attempts to raise the Pentagon. It is beyond doubt that popular resistance in the U.S. had success in restricting the scope of the war, but it didn't end it. If public opinion alone could stop a war, then the Iraq occupation would have ended back in November 2004 when public support dropped under 50%. Majority opinion may hold sway in a democracy, but not in the U.S.

Dan also details how marches against WWII in the United States didn't really stop that war, either.  So what makes us think they'll stop this one?

Instead, Dan says the anti-war movement has to stop being merely anti-war --- and offer a clear alternative instead.  Here, Dan argues for a peace movement that is challenging hegemony and violence much more broadly:

I believe we also have to expand the conversation from Iraq to the so-called war on terror. This is the elites' latest framework for empire, and we have to challenge it. The "peace movement" (it still doesn't feel right to say that) can learn a lot from organizers fighting the criminal justice system. The parallels between the rhetoric justifying the war on terror and the war on crime are plain to see, if you look at them. In the war on crime, bad people are coming into your neighborhood or even your house to do you harm. (These people just happen to have dark skin.) To keep you safe, we need to be tough on these criminals. We need more cops with more equipment (i.e. guns), and we need places where we can put the bad people far away from the good people. In the war on terror, bad people are coming to your country to do you harm. (These people also happen to have dark skin. Coincidence?) To keep you safe, we need to be tough on these terrorists. We need more troops with more equipment (i.e. big guns), and we need to kill the bad people in places far away from the good people.

In a comment on the blog, another community organizer Gabe Gonzalez talks about how his daughter is convinced there are monsters under the bed.  So he has to spend his energy convincing her otherwise.  In other words, even if progressives were to take up the agenda  that the "war on terror" and its ever-present threats are false, why should we have to convince the public?  Shoudn't we be forcing the Right wing hawk fear mongerers to prove their point?  

Otherwise, we're in the position of proving that the invisible threat doesn't exist.  Which is sort of like disproving monsters under the bed.  

We should be fighting the "war on terror" by making THEM defend it!

What do you think?

Sally Kohn is the Director of the Movement Vision Lab.

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Activist Unite. Veterans For Peace 2006 National Convention


Photograph and Composition By Betsy L. Angert © Recently, the political blogosphere has been buzzing with talk of action, activism, and conventions. Some are seeking a connection to “real” American heroes. Bloggers wish to show their support for the people that truly serve this nation. Still, they want to promote peace. This announcement might offer the opportunity some crave. Veterans For Peace is hosting a National Convention. The conference will begin August 10 and close on the 13th. Speakers such as author John Perkins, peace loving Mom, Cindy Sheehan, and anti-war activist, Dahr Jamail will welcome attendees. I will share the schedule and specifics below.

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On Point Wisconsin. Voters Say Leave Iraq Now ©


[Photograph By Andy Manis of Associated Press]
I was not born there; however, I am proud to declare, I was raised there.  I moved away decades ago; yet, my heart remains in Wisconsin. I marched in my first protest rallies on the streets of Milwaukee.  My family followed in the path of a strong civil rights leader, Father Groppi. I would be eighteen before the November general election was held; therefore, I was able to vote as a seventeen year old during Wisconsin primaries.  

My father was fortunate enough to work with a true humanitarian and advocate for the people, Wisconsinite, Senator Bill Proxmire. "Liberal"Senator Russ Feingold now, represents this fine state.  Please let us all forget that Joseph McCarthy ever resided here.

The anti-Viet Nam War movement was strong in Wisconsin. Ah, I remember it well.  Though many may argue the point, and it does seem to be cyclical, in my mind, Wisconsin is a progressive state.

On this past Tuesday, the citizens of this state, once again proved that they are forward-thinking.  I applaud the people of Wisconsin for their most recent vote.  In thirty-two communities, "Bring The Troops Home Now" referendums were on the April 4, 2006 ballot.  

In twenty-four of these expansive neighborhoods, the vote was yes, bring our boys and girls home immediately.  The numbers reflect a great concern, "A resounding 40,043 to 25,641 voted against the continued US occupation of Iraq." Calculating these numbers leads us to conclude, 61 percent of Wisconsin voters want no war.  Only 39 percent believe we should remain.  In my own former hometown, the village of Shorewood, seventy percent said pullout now.

In eight communities, the initiative was defeated; however, "in only two" of these locales did "the vote for immediate withdrawal fall below 45 percent."

What is left to say?  [Right-] on Wisconsin!

Betsy L. Angert Be-Think

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