We’ve all seen the
From the New York Times –
Army Extending Service for G.I.'s Due in War Zones
Eric Schmitt, June 3, 2004
The Army announced Wednesday that it would require all soldiers bound for Iraq and Afghanistan
to extend their active duty at least until their units have returned home from duty there, a move that could keep thousands
of troops in the service for months longer than they expected over the next several years.
From the Associated Press
Army Plan Aims to Keep Soldiers on Duty
John J. Lumpkin, June 3, 2004, 12:05 AM CDT
The announcement Wednesday, an expansion of a program called "stop-loss," affects units that are
90 days or less from deploying.... The Army is struggling to find fresh units
to continue the occupation of Iraq. Almost every combat unit has faced or will
face duty there or in Afghanistan, and increased violence has forced the deployment of an additional 20,000 troops to the
Iraq region, straining units even further.
A quick analysis from Matthew
Yglesias in The American Prospect here -
This is probably the correct response to the manpower situation the military's currently facing,
but it's obviously not viable -- or, really, acceptable -- as a long-term solution.
What's worse, the more the military burdens the volunteers it's got, the harder it's going to be to recruit people
in the future. Members of the National Guard have come to learn that they've
committed themselves to something much more arduous than they might have initially believed, and now the active-duty military
is learning that the stated lengths of their enlistments can be deceptive. The
country needs a real answer to this manpower problem -- a higher end-strength and a restructuring to produce more of the kind
of troops we need, and fewer who are better-suited for outdated tasks.
From the Los Angeles Times, more detail –
Troops Told They Can't Leave Army
'Stop-loss orders' keep soldiers in service if their units are set to be deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. Officials call move 'finger in the dike.' Esther Schrader, Times Staff Writer,
Thursday, June 03, 2004
The Army has undertaken a series of recent measures to satisfy the personnel demands being imposed
by the extended overseas conflicts.
Last week, a unit that for decades
has had the job of preparing other deploying units at one of the Army's two elite training centers, the 1st Battalion of the
509th Parachute Infantry at Ft. Polk, La., was told that more than half of its
soldiers would be sent to combat. It is the first combat deployment for the unit
since World War II.
Army planners also are considering mobilizing its
sister training unit, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California…
Last month, the 10th Mountain Division, which has already served once in Afghanistan and once in Iraq, got orders to deploy
to Iraq again. In addition, a brigade of 3,600 troops based for decades in South
Korea will be moved to Iraq.
In a further effort to bolster its numbers,
the Army over the past year has called up about 5,000 members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of veterans recently
released from active duty, cadets at service academies and college students on military scholarships. The Ready Reserve, which is not required to continue training, is supposed to be called up only in a national
emergency. Members of the reserve were last called up in small numbers in 1990,
in preparation for the Persian Gulf War.
The Times also reports
this is a bit controversial in the military.
"I've led troops for the past two years on the small unit level, and these are not guys who are
unpatriotic in any way. They volunteered and in many cases have served multiple
tours," said Andrew Exum, 25, a former Army captain who served in a special operations unit in Iraq and Afghanistan and has
written a book based on his experiences.
"We're the ones who serve our
country proudly and we're happy to do so. But we'd like to be able to plan on
doing something else," Exum said. "There are a lot of guys who would just like
to go to college, to start a family, and now their future plans are thrown into turmoil.
These are the guys who are not going to say no to old Uncle Sam."
Well, yes. That is true.
Let’s seem - we’re short
on troops so we’re are sending all the training units from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin out in Barstow
into combat in Iraq. Training the outgoing units is too much of a luxury - it’s
all on the job training from now on. In theater. And we’re pulling in troops
from the Korean peninsula.
So what do you say to these guys?
Stan Goff, a retired
Special Forces master sergeant, and the father of an active duty soldier, has some advice.
See Hold On to Your Humanity
An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq
Counterpunch Issue of November 14 / 23, 2003
Here’s some of
I am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you--some more extreme than others--are
changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up
in the language to which you are accustomed.
In 1970, I was assigned
to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what
it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even
though they'd never been there, or to war at all.
The essence of all
this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad
Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland.
We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians
were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part
in finally bringing that crime to a halt.
When I started hearing about
weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade
of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe
that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then
I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including
When that bullshit story about weapons came apart like a two-dollar
shirt, the politicians who cooked up this war told everyone, including you, that you would be greeted like great liberators. They told us that we were in Vietnam to make sure everyone there could vote.
What they didn't tell me was that before I got there in 1970, the American
armed forces had been burning villages, killing livestock, poisoning farmlands and forests, killing civilians for sport, bombing
whole villages, and committing rapes and massacres, and the people who were grieving and raging over that weren't in a position
to figure out the difference between me--just in country--and the people who had done those things to them.
What they didn't tell you is that over a million and a half Iraqis died between 1991 and 2003 from
malnutrition, medical neglect, and bad sanitation. Over half a million of those
who died were the weakest: the children, especially very young children.
son who is over there now has a baby. We visit with our grandson every chance
we get. He is eleven months old now. Lots
of you have children, so you know how easy it is to really love them, and love them so hard you just know your entire world
would collapse if anything happened to them. Iraqis feel that way about their
babies, too. And they are not going to forget that the United States government
was largely responsible for the deaths of half a million kids.
lie that you would be welcomed as liberators was just that. A lie. A lie for people in the United States to get them to open their purse for this obscenity, and a lie for
you to pump you up for a fight.
And when you put this into perspective,
you know that if you were an Iraqi, you probably wouldn't be crazy about American soldiers taking over your towns and cities
either. This is the tough reality I faced in Vietnam. I knew while I was there that if I were Vietnamese, I would have been one of the Vietcong.
Well, you get the idea. Click on the link for the whole thing.
Goff’s take on the challenge -
… In our process of fighting to stay alive, and in their process of trying to expel an invader
that violated their dignity, destroyed their property, and killed their innocents, we were faced off against each other by
people who made these decisions in $5,000 suits, who laughed and slapped each other on the back in Washington DC with their
fat fucking asses stuffed full of cordon blue and caviar.
us. Anyone can be chumped.
you now. Just fewer trees and less water.
… I changed over there in Vietnam and they were not nice changes either.
I started getting pulled into something - something that craved other people’s pain. Just to make sure I wasn't regarded as a "fucking missionary" or a possible rat, I learned how to fit myself
into that group that was untouchable, people too crazy to fuck with, people who desired the rush of omnipotence that comes
with setting someone's house on fire just for the pure hell of it, or who could kill anyone, man, woman, or child, with hardly
a second thought. People who had the power of life and death--because they could.
The anger helps. It's easy to
hate everyone you can't trust because of your circumstances, and to rage about what you've seen, what has happened to you,
and what you have done and can't take back.
It was all an act for me,
a cover-up for deeper fears I couldn't name, and the reason I know that is that we had to dehumanize our victims before we
did the things we did. We knew deep down that what we were doing was wrong. So they became dinks or gooks, just like Iraqis are now being transformed into ragheads
or hajjis. People had to be reduced to "niggers" here before they could be lynched. No difference. We convinced ourselves
we had to kill them to survive, even when that wasn't true, but something inside us told us that so long as they were human
beings, with the same intrinsic value we had as human beings, we were not allowed to burn their homes and barns, kill their
animals, and sometimes even kill them. So we used these words, these new names,
to reduce them, to strip them of their essential humanity, and then we could do things like adjust artillery fire onto the
cries of a baby.
Until that baby was silenced, though, and here's the
important thing to understand, that baby never surrendered her humanity. I did. We did. That's the thing you might not
get until it's too late. When you take away the humanity of another, you kill
your own humanity. You attack your own soul because it is standing in the way.
So we finish our tour, and go back to our families, who can see that even
though we function, we are empty and incapable of truly connecting to people any more, and maybe we can go for months or even
years before we fill that void where we surrendered our humanity, with chemical anesthetics--drugs, alcohol, until we realize
that the void can never be filled and we shoot ourselves, or head off into the street where we can disappear with the flotsam
of society, or we hurt others, especially those who try to love us, and end up as another incarceration statistic or a mental
You can ever escape that you became a racist because you made
the excuse that you needed that to survive, that you took things away from people that you can never give back, or that you
killed a piece of yourself that you may never get back.
… So here
is my message to you. You will do what you have to do to survive, however you
define survival, while we do what we have to do to stop this thing. But don't
surrender your humanity. Not to fit in.
Not to prove yourself. Not for an adrenaline rush. Not to lash out when you are angry and frustrated.
I can tell you, without fear of legal consequence, that you are never under any obligation to hate Iraqis, you are never under
any obligation to give yourself over to racism and nihilism and the thirst to kill for the sake of killing, and you are never
under any obligation to let them drive out the last vestiges of your capacity to see and tell the truth to yourself and to
the world. You do not owe them your souls.
Come home safe, and come home sane. The people who love you and
who have loved you all your lives are waiting here, and we want you to come back and be able to look us in the face. Don't leave your souls in the dust there like another corpse.
This is pretty straightforward
advice, if somewhat subversive.
My friend John, a Vietnam veteran himself,
When I returned from Vietnam, I went to Chicago to visit my brother. We went to visit his 5-year-old daughter who was in a local hospital.
She was doing well, but there was a very thin child in the same pediatrics ward sitting in a wheel chair looking very
sad, not participating in play with the other children, looking as though he had no inspirations. My brother tried to cheer him up with kind conversation. He
got ice cream for this child, and spent several hours attending, very passionately, to him.
I heard him ask the nurse if the child had family or other visitors.
reason I remember that day so well is because he showed so much kindness, patience, care and concern for this child's well
being and I watched quietly for hours but I really didn't give a damn about that child's condition. That is what happens to one when all humanity is lost. Fortunately,
with the help of family and friends, most of it has been recovered.
Goff is right on the money.
John recovered. I know him. He worked for me for several years. He's a good
man. I don’t know how hard it was for him to return.
Raines commented –
I found that read stirring too, and was hit most of all by the impending loss of humanity from
being in combat. When survival is a matter of fact and keen priority, something's
gotta go. Things that are most near get shut down. I'm glad to hear that an antidote to the damage exists, and wouldn't you know it would come form the people
who care about you? That is not the guys in $5000 suits that Goff refers to,
spouting off bravery from safe and cushy Washington. I believe as the writer
said, they don't give a shit about you soldier, not in any depth.
of quick points. I spoke with Chip Carter, who reads foreign affairs journals
as part of work with the Carter Center. I learned that human right abuses from
other countries that had previously tempered their practices, would now be resumed, and Geneva conventions taken more lightly,
because of the Iraqi prison photos. They see that as long as you refer to an
enemy as a terrorist, or maybe even an insurgent, then you can get away with, well...
Well, there is a UN human rights report due out soon.
See US frantic to soften harsh language in UN rights report on Iraq
AFP, Wednesday June 2, 20048:43 PM ET
This is ironic:
The United States is scrambling to soften allegedly harsh and inflammatory criticism of the US-led
coalition in Iraq that is expected to be contained in a UN human rights report to be released this week, US officials said.
...The officials said US diplomats are lobbying for language in a report from
the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be toned down in a bid to prevent a new firestorm of controversy over the mistreatment
of Iraqi detainees by US troops at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.
... The final version of the report is to be released Friday at
UN human rights headquarters in Geneva and Washington fears that, without changes, its publication could complicate efforts
to secure passage of a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Got it? See the first footnote at the end for what the UN report actually said.
It wasn’t good. The US may be accused war crimes.
How did we get into this mess? Bad soldiers? Hardly.
See Wise Counsel
Appoint a special counsel to investigate Geneva violations.
Katyal - Posted Friday, May 28, 2004, at 1:50 PM PT – SLATE.COM
Now Neal Katyal teaches law at Georgetown University. He is chief counsel to the military defense lawyers in the Guantánamo case pending
at the Supreme Court.
What’s he argue?
In the past week, details have emerged of not only more prisoner abuse in Iraq, but also a concerted
effort by the president's chief lawyer to try to insulate such abuse from domestic criminal investigation. A 2002 memorandum from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales tells the president to refuse to apply the
protection of the Geneva Conventions to detainees because Americans could be charged in domestic courts with war crimes. Now that photos and Army reports suggest that just such crimes have been committed,
a criminal investigation is necessary. And because the administration's own memoranda
reveal that it tried to adopt policies to frustrate precisely such prosecutions, the attorney general must now appoint an
outside prosecutor to investigate whether war crimes actually occurred.
is the paradigmatic case for a special counsel.
Really. The whole thing is long and detailed, a legal argument.
there is a smoking gun.
And it is not in the hands of a soldier.
First Footnote - The UN’s view:
Rights Chief Says Prison Abuse May Be War Crime
Hoge, New York Times, Published: June 5, 2004
UNITED NATIONS, June 4 - The top human rights official for the United Nations said Friday that the mistreatment of
Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers could constitute a war crime, and he called for the immediate naming of an international
figure to oversee the situation.
The official, Bertrand Ramcharan, the acting high commissioner for human rights, acknowledged that the removal of
Saddam Hussein represented "a major contribution to human rights in Iraq" and noted that the United States had condemned abusive
conduct by its troops and pledged to bring violators to justice.
"Everyone accepts the good intentions of the coalition governments as regards the behavior of their forces in Iraq,"
he said in a 45-page report issued at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
But Mr. Ramcharan said that after the occupation of Iraq, "there have sadly been some violations of human rights committed
by some coalition soldiers." Apparently in a reference to the incidents of abuse
at Abu Ghraib prison and to cases where Iraqi prisoners have died in detention, he said "willful killing, torture and inhuman
treatment" represented a "grave breach" of international law and "might be designated as war crimes by a competent tribunal."
– he said it was a "stark reality" that there was no international oversight or accountability for the thousands of
detainees, the conditions in which they were held and the manner in which they were treated.
To correct this situation, he said, the occupation authorities should immediately appoint "an international ombudsman
or commissioner." That person would be charged with monitoring human rights in
Iraq and producing periodic reports on "compliance by coalition forces with international norms of human rights and humanitarian
article goes on to say a spokesman for our State Department, Adam Ereli, points out we HAD cooperated with the high commissioner
and “shared his concern” with protecting human rights. So of
course any war crimes charge “was unlikely to arise” as we’re already taking care of everything. Don’t worry. Trust us.
folks at Human Rights Watch are upset that the report wasn’t stronger. They
wanted a criticism of "the systematic nature of the policy."
seems the report mentions that Mr. Vieira de Mello, the UN head fellow who was killed in the bombing of United Nations Baghdad
headquarters last August, had raised concern about the Americans' treatment of detainees in a meeting with the head of the
Coalition Provisional Authority with Bremer on July 15, 2003.
as mentioned elsewhere, the White House's top lawyer two years ago wrote a memo on how American officials
could face prosecution for war crimes because of our tactic with prisoners, and particularly at Guantánamo. That’s the Alberto Gonzales memo dated Jan. 25, 2002, that was reveal last month by Newsweek. Gonzales, the White House counsel, argued we really did have to declare lot of captives
exempt from the Geneva Conventions. Otherwise, according to the memo, Americans
might be subject to "unwarranted charges" of committing or fostering war crimes. How
else can you get away with torture, or torture-lite, or whatever it is we tend to be doing?
some senior military type guys are more than a bit fed up.
is the list of retired senior military flag officers advising the man running against George Bush.
Adm. William Crowe (USN, Ret.) Former
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Gen. John Shalikashvili (USA, Ret.) Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Tony McPeak (USAF, Ret.) Former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff
Adm. Stansfield Turner, (USN, Ret.) Former Director,
Central Intelligence Agency
Gen. Joseph Hoar (USMC, Ret.) Former Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command
Wesley Clark (USA, Ret.) Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Gen. Johnnie Wilson (USA, Ret.) Former Commander, U.S. Army Material Command
Lt. Gen. Daniel Christman (USA, Ret.) Former Superintendent,
U.S. Military Academy
Lt. Gen. Kennedy (USA, Ret.) Former Deputy Army Chief of Staff for Intelligence
Lee Gunn (USN, Ret.) Former Inspector General, U.S. Navy
Maj. Gen. Harry Jenkins (USMC, Ret.) Former Chief Legislative
Liaison, U.S. Marine Corps
out by Zoe Kentucky here.
Soldiers know better.