More on GIs Who Refused Order

We reprint below some excerpts, forwarded by Andy Pollack, from October 16 news reports giving more information about an incident in Iraq on Wednesday, October 13, when a platoon of U.S. supply troops refused a suicide mission. See “As Million Worker March Gathers, GI Opposition to Iraq War Grows” on the Labor Standard web site, the section with the subhead “Platoon Defies Order in Iraq.”

We precede the excerpts from the New York Daily News and New York Times of October 16 with the following edited comments from Bill Onasch’sOctober 17 Week in Review,” which may be found on his web site, under “Labor Advocate Online.”

The American Establishment finally decided it had to end the illegal, immoral war in Vietnam when entire units of the U.S. military began to refuse to fight. Sometimes insubordination was open, with men refusing to stir from their camps. Other times it was more subtle, with patrols making much noise, essentially announcing to their Vietnamese opponents that they were present, as if to say, “If you leave us alone, we won’t bother you.” In the face of such plummeting morale and discipline, the decision had to be made to finally bring the troops home.

That’s not the situation in Iraq–not yet. But alarm bells were set off this week. A 17-member Army Reserve platoon was arrested for refusing a “suicide mission” to deliver fuel. The platoon has troops from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, and South Carolina. The reaction back home in their communities was of overwhelming sympathy.

It appears the Army brass hats are going to back off from confrontation with these GIs. They hope this is an isolated incident that will be quickly forgotten. But their past optimism about operations in Iraq has not always been justified. If this war drags on-–as it almost certainly will, regardless of the outcome of the election-–we can expect further collective self-defense among men and women in the Army’s ranks.

These GIs are not cowards-–far from it. It takes a lot of guts to defy orders from the brass. The GIs risk imprisonment and dishonorable discharge. But they don’t like being victims.

We shouldn’t tolerate their victimization either. Those who really want to support the troops should be backing the efforts of US Labor Against the War, Veterans for Peace, and others who demand that our sisters and brothers in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan be brought home now!

In the following excerpts from a front-page article in the October 16 New York Daily News, we call special attention to the fact that the arrested GIs, who now  apparently have been released, were kept under close guard and “treated like captured Iraqi insurgents”! Nadine Stratford of Rock Hill, South Carolina, whose godson was one of those arrested, said: “They won’t let them go to sleep—and this is American soldiers that are holding them.”

Nadine Stratford, of Rock Hill, whose godson Colin Durham is in the 343rd, said the soldiers balked at being sent on a potentially deadly mission in unarmored fuel trucks—and were now being treated like captured Iraqi insurgents. “They had them in a trailer, and then they moved them to a tent,” she told the Daily News. “They won’t let them go to sleep—and this is American soldiers that are holding them.”

…Teresa Hill, of Jackson, Miss., played a desperate message from her daughter Amber McClenny in which McClenny asked her to contact her congressman and “raise pure hell.”

“They are holding us against our will,” McClenny, 21, said. “We are now prisoners…I’m not even supposed to be using the phone.” McClenny said they were being asked to risk their lives in “broken-down trucks” and without much of an armed military escort. She added that it was a pointless mission because the fuel was contaminated—and military brass knew it.

“They knew there was a 99% chance that they were going to get ambushed or fired at,” Hill said. “They would have had no way to fight back.”

“It was like a suicide mission and they said it was unsafe for them to go over there,” Stratford added. “I don’t know why they would do this, why they would send them kids over there and put them in that kind of situation.”

“When my husband refuses to follow an order, it has to be something major,” Butler told the Clarion-Ledger, a Jackson newspaper.

From the Oct. 16 New York Times:

The incident…was first reported in The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., where several of the soldiers live. [It] apparently began after the company tried to deliver a shipment of fuel to a base, but was turned away because the fuel was unusable, according to family members.

“We were carrying contaminated fuel.”

After the soldiers were released, Specialist McClenny called her mother again and explained that the jet fuel the convoy had to carry had been contaminated with diesel, and that because it had been rejected by one base, it would likely be rejected by the Taji base. Taji is in the volatile Sunni-dominated swath of Iraq, and Ms. Hill said her daughter felt “that if you go there, it’s a 99 percent chance you will be ambushed or fired upon. “They had not slept, the trucks had not been maintained, they were going without armed guards, it was just a bad deal,” Ms. Hill said. “And that’s when the whole unit said no.” She said their defense is “cease action on an unsafe order.”

Relatives said that prior to the incident, soldiers had complained to them that their equipment was shoddy and put them in greater danger. The relatives said they did not know if such complaints were made to the unit’s command.

[One military expert was quoted as follows:]

“The paradigm shift that’s happening is that a truck driver is just as likely to see combat as soldiers in infantry units…There’s better training now of support units now as they go out. They’ve gotten better about equipping support units, but those moves have still been incremental moves. There hasn’t been a wholesale push to change the Army to face the kind of threat it faces in Iraq today. There are no rear units in Iraq any more.”