As Million Worker March Gathers
GI Opposition to
by George Saunders
A featured speaker at the Million Worker March (MWM) on Sunday, October 17, will be Mike Hoffman, cofounder of Iraq Veterans Against the War. See the article from Mother Jones magazine, attached below for the information of our readers, for more about Hoffman and other GI protesters against the war.
before the March, news came that a platoon of GIs in
night (October 11) I attended a speech by Michael Moore at a giant auditorium
But the spirit of John Lennon was there. Imagine!
read an e-mail message sent to him by a GI in
Just the fact that Fahrenheit 911 is circulating so widely among GIs in Iraq shows that the oppositional mood is quite advanced among the ranks assigned to do the dirty work in this dirty war.
when Michael Moore declared that the main issue in this election is the illegal and immoral war in
Platoon defies orders in
Miss. soldier calls home, cites safety concerns
by Jeremy Hudson
This news report, reprinted for the information of our readers,
first appeared in the
Army Reserve platoon with troops from
refused an order on Wednesday to go to
Sgt. McCook, a deputy at the Hinds County, Miss., Detention Center, and the 16 other members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company from Rock Hill, S.C., were read their rights and moved from the military barracks into tents, Patricia McCook said her husband told her during a panicked phone call about 5 a.m. Thursday.
could be charged with the willful disobeying of orders, punishable by
dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and up to five years confinement,
said military law expert Mark Stevens, an associate professor of justice
On Friday, the Army confirmed that the unit’s actions were under scrutiny.
“The commanding general of the 13th Corps Support Command has appointed the Deputy Commander to lead an investigation into allegations that members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company refused to participate in their assigned convoy mission October 13,’ said Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, a spokesman for U.S. Army and multinational forces in Iraq.
“The investigating team is currently in Tallil taking statements and interviewing those involved. This is an isolated incident and it is far too early in the investigation to speculate as to what happened, why it happened or any action that might be taken,” Boylan said.
“It is important to note that the mission in question was carried out using other soldiers from the unit,” Boylan said.
Boylan also confirmed that the unit is stationed in Tallil, a logistical support air base south of Nasiriyah.
Thompson, D-Miss., said he plans to submit a congressional inquiry today on
behalf of the
“I would not
want any member of the military to be put in a dangerous situation ill-equipped,”
said Thompson, who was contacted by families. “I have had similar complaints
from military families about vehicles that weren’t armor-plated, or
bullet-proof vests that are outdated. It concerns me because we made over $150 billion
in funds available to equip our forces in
“President Bush takes the position that the troops are well-armed, but if this situation is true, it calls into question how honest he has been with the country,” Thompson said.
The 343rd is a supply unit whose general mission is to deliver fuel and water. The unit includes three women and 14 men and those with ranking up to sergeant first class.
“I got a call from an officer in another unit early (Thursday) morning who told me that my husband and his platoon had been arrested on a bogus charge because they refused to go on a suicide mission,” said Jackie Butler of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year reservist. “When my husband refuses to follow an order, it has to be something major.”
being held has troops from
McClenny, 21, pleaded for help in a message left on her mother’s answering machine early Thursday morning.
holding us against our will,” McClenny said. “We are
now prisoners.” McClenny told her mother her unit
tried to deliver fuel to another base in
The platoon is normally escorted by armed Humvees and helicopters, but did not have that support Wednesday, McClenny told her mother.
The convoy trucks the platoon was driving had experienced problems in the past and were not being properly maintained, Hill said her daughter told her.
The situation mirrors other tales of troops being sent on missions without proper equipment.
regiments have complained of being forced to fly dangerous missions over
Stories of troops’ families purchasing body armor because the military didn’t provide them with adequate equipment have been included in recent presidential debates.
Patricia McCook said her husband, a staff sergeant, understands well the severity of disobeying orders. But he did not feel comfortable taking his soldiers on another trip.
“He told me that three of the vehicles they were to use were ‘deadliners’…not safe to go in [to] a hotbed like that,” Patricia McCook said.
Hill said the trucks her daughter’s unit was driving could not top 40 mph.
“They knew there was a 99 percent chance they were going to get ambushed or fired at,” Hill said her daughter told her. “They would have had no way to fight back.”
Stevens said if the soldiers are being confined, law requires them to have a hearing before a magistrate within seven days.
Harris said conditions for the platoon have been difficult of late. Her son e-mailed her earlier this week to ask what the penalty would be if he became physical with a commanding officer, she said.
talked to him about a month ago, he was fine,”
(Army Times staff writer Gina Cavallaro contributed to this report.)
by David Goodman
The author is a Mother Jones contributing writer. Click here for more information.
More and more
would not be the guy his buddies would expect to see leading a protest
movement. The son of a steelworker and a high school janitor from
“The reasons for war were wrong,” he says. “They were lies. There were no WMDs. Al Qaeda was not there. And it was evident we couldn’t force democracy on people by force of arms.”
returned home and got his honorable discharge in August 2003, Hoffman says, he
knew what he had to do next. “After being in
He cofounded a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and soon found himself emerging as one of the most visible members of a small but growing movement of soldiers who openly oppose the war in Iraq.
In a 2003
Gallup Poll, nearly one-fifth of the soldiers surveyed said they felt the
Rieckhoff has founded a group called Operation Truth, which provides a freewheeling forum for soldiers’ views on the war. “When you can’t articulate that in one sentence, it starts to affect morale. You had an initial rationale for war that was a moving target. [But] it was a shell game from the beginning, and you can only bullshit people for so long.”
baggy pants, red goatee, and moussed hair, Mike Hoffman
looks more like a guy taking some time off after college than a 25-year-old
combat veteran. But the urgency in his voice belies his relaxed appearance; he speaks
rapidly, consumed with the desire to get his point across. As we talk at a
coffee shop in
More than a
year after his return from
When he first came home, Hoffman says, he tried to talk to friends and family about his experience. It was not a story most wanted to hear. “One of the hardest things when I came back was people who were slapping me on the back saying, ‘Great job,’” he recalls. “Everyone wants this to be a good war so they can sleep at night. But guys like me know it’s not a good war. There’s no such thing as a good war.”
finally found some kindred spirits last fall when he discovered Veterans For Peace, the 19-year-old antiwar group. Older veterans
encouraged him to speak at rallies, and steadily, he began to connect with
Several of Hoffman’s Marine Corps buddies have now joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the stream of phone calls and emails from other soldiers is constant.
Not long ago,
he says, a soldier home on leave from
IVAW led the protest march that greeted the Republican convention in
Joe Bangert, a founding member of Vietnam Veterans of America,
addressed the group. “One of the most painful things when we returned from
There was no
Brandon Hughey is one of six
Desperate, Hughey trolled the Internet. He emailed a peace activist
The next day, there was a knock on Hughey’s door: His deployment date had been moved up, and his unit was leaving within 24 hours. Hughey packed his belongings in a military duffel, jumped in his car, and drove north.
As he and
Rising-Moore approached the
unassuming, Hughey grows intense when the conversation
It’s nothing more than an act of aggression.” As for his duty to his fellow soldiers, he insists, “You can’t go along with a criminal activity just because others are doing it.”
So far, only
are turning against the war because of what they saw while serving in
really is,” she says. “A lot of people are naďve—and for a while, the military was portraying itself as being a peace mission.”
understand people can have a change of heart,” notes spokeswoman Martha Rudd. “But you can’t ask for a conscientious objector discharge based on moral or religious opposition to a particular war.”
Sergeant Jimmy Massey may be the most unlikely of the soldiers who have come
out against the war. A Marine since 1992, he has been a recruiter, infantry instructor,
and combat platoon leader. He went to
Massey arrived in
One day, he recalls, “there was this red Kia Spectra. We told it to stop, and it didn’t. There were four occupants. We fatally wounded three of them. We started pulling out the bodies, but they were dying pretty fast. The guy that was driving was just frickin’ bawling, sitting on the highway. He looked at me and asked, ‘Why did you kill my brother? He wasn’t a terrorist. He didn’t do anything to you.’”
Massey searched the car. “It was completely clean. Nothing there. Meanwhile the driver just ran around saying, ‘Why? Why?’ That’s when I started to question.”
The doubts led to nightmares, depression, and a talk with his commanding officer. “I feel what we are doing here is wrong. We are committing genocide,” Massey told him. He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and given a medical discharge.
Back in his
When asked what he would say to someone who thinks the way he did before the war, Massey falls uncharacteristically silent. “How do you wake them up?” he finally responds. “It’s a slow process. All you can do is tell people the horrible things you’ve seen, and let them make up their own minds. It’s kind of the pebble in the water: You throw in a pebble, and it makes ripples through the whole pond.”
Jeffry House is reliving his
past. An American draft dodger who fled to
“In some ways, this is coming full circle for me,” says the slightly disheveled, 57-year-old lawyer. “The themes that I thought about when I was 21 years old now are reborn, particularly your obligation to the state when the state has participated in a fraud, when they’ve deceived you.” A dormant network has been revived, with
Vietnam-era draft dodgers and deserters quietly contributing money to support the legal defense of the newest American fugitives.
strategy is bold: He is challenging the very legality of the
On an August
afternoon, I follow House as he darts through
dropped out of 11th grade in
age 20, left his Navy unit because he felt that
completed boot camp in March 2003, two days before the
2003, Sanders learned that his unit was headed to
As we talk, Sanders keeps tapping his feet and twisting his long fingers. “Sorry if I seem nervous,” he finally blurts. “I never really talked to the media before. I’m a shy person.” I ask if he surprised himself by defying his orders. He nods. “I never really thought I could stand up to a whole institution.”
Sanders has kept away from the spotlight, other deserters have attracted
headlines around the world—and drawn criticism from the war’s supporters. Fox’s
Bill O’Reilly called their actions “insulting to
says he doesn’t actually consider himself a deserter. “I don’t think I did
anything wrong by turning down an illegal order,” he says. “I don’t know what
it’s called—I think
Sanders is an only child; his father served in the Marines for 13 years. “My family is pro-war, pro-Bush, pro-everything that’s happening,” he says. “They would really not support what I’m doing.” He has emailed them to tell them that he’s alive, but they have not replied.
“I miss them,” he says, his eyes welling. “I love them. And I hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
Bruhns is sharply critical of soldiers who go AWOL. “I
feel that if you are against the war, you should be man enough to stay put and
fight for what you believe in,” he says. But he also doesn’t believe in making
a secret of his opinions about the war. “I’m very proud of my military service,”
he tells me from his post with the Army’s 1st Armored Division in
Bruhns returned in February
from a one-year deployment in
“I’m really a
patriotic soldier,” the 27-year-old infantryman tells me; he addresses me as “sir”
and stops periodically to answer the squawk of his walkie-talkie. He signed up
as a full-time soldier in early 2002, after serving five years in the Marine
Corps Reserve. “I was really upset about what happened on 9/11,” he recalls, “and
I really wanted to serve. I lost a buddy of mine in the
But what he
heard on the news—that we were
fighting leftover loyalists, Ba’ath Party holdovers—wasn’t
true. When I arrested people on raids, many of them were poor people. They
weren’t in with the Ba’ath Party. The people of
Among his fellow soldiers, Bruhns adds, a majority still support the war. But, he notes, “This is a new generation. We have the Internet, discussion forums, cable news. Soldiers don’t just march off into battle blindly anymore. They have a lot more information.”
Resistance in the military “is in its infancy right now,” says Hoffman, whose cousins, uncle, and grandfather all did their time in uniform. “It’s growing, but it’s going to take a little while.
“There was a
progression of thought that happened among soldiers in
“Now, you realize that the people to blame for this aren’t the ones you are fighting,” Hoffman continues.
“It’s the people who put you in this situation in the first place. You realize you wouldn’t be in this situation if you hadn’t been lied to. Soldiers are slowly coming to that conclusion. Once that becomes widespread, the resentment of the war is going to grow even more.”