|Are These Christians Not Terrorists?|
- Friday, April 11 2008, 6:48:09 (CEST)|
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...and don't tell us they aren't "real" Christians...not when you say that all Muslims are like the ones forced to fight back against Christian aggression, who then get called "terrorists". These Christians are the REAL terrorists and they alway have been...yet they've managed always to paint their victims as the agressers while piously hiding behind another murder victim.
Vermont Vets Put Themselves on the Line for the Sake of the Truth ...by Dan DeWalt
"I can't go back in time and take back what I've done… At one point I was a monster, and I created hate and destruction amongst many people. I am sorry for doing so and I will never turn back into the monster I once was." These were the closing remarks of John Turner, former Marine returned from Iraq, testifying in early March with three other former members of the armed forces, to students at the University of Vermont. His Marine dress uniform jacket, with seven shiny medals lined up across his chest contrasted sharply with the bandanna tied around his head, the soft beard that has grown in since his discharge from the service, and the palpable sadness in his countenance as he spoke, an unbearably painful ordeal of confession and revelation.
Turner, former Marine Matt Howard, and Army veterans Drew Cameron and Adrienne Kinne all spoke about their personal experiences in the military during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, they are determined that their fellow Vermonters, be they students or neighbors, are fully aware of the criminal nature of the war policies of Bush/Cheney.
While the two hundred students who attended that evening may have been irrevocably changed by what they heard, those outside the room were destined to remain unaware, because no one from the press was there to cover the event. Indeed, the press release promised "testimonies from U.S. veterans who have served in the global war on terror. Find out what is really happening on the ground", and referencing the Winter Soldier testimony from the Vietnam era that "exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War…today vets from the current occupations assume the same responsibilities as their predecessors." but neither the U.V.M student paper, curiously named the Vermont Cynic, nor the Gannet owned Burlington Free Press sent a reporter to listen. Nor did the Vermont Cynic respond to several queries requesting comment; and Patrick Garrity, Metro editor for the Free Press explained that "tough decisions are made every day on what to cover or not." As to this particular event, he said, "What led to our particular reason why we didn't cover it – I couldn't say." After being apprised of what they may have missed, he responded "Just because we didn't pick up a story on one day doesn't mean that we won't go back to cover it."
As to this event's newsworthiness, the testimony speaks for itself, morphing from the bad to the truly horrific.
Drew Cameron, who served as an army artilleryman, told disturbing if not surprising stories about his duties in gathering and destroying captured munitions. When tank munitions fell off the back of his truck, he was ordered to leave them be, even though there would be children playing among them the next day. When a convoy truck crashed into an Iraqi civilian car, severely wounding several members of a family, he was again ordered to leave them to their fate without any medical help from the troops who caused them harm. And when the captured munitions reached the destination for destruction, they were exploded in open pits in close proximity to villages and agricultural lands, which were then covered with the fallout from the blasts.
Adrienne Kinne, a ten-year army veteran and Arab linguist who worked in military intelligence, testified to the different intelligence rules of conduct that she experienced pre and post 9/11. From 1994 to 1998, she worked under rules that made sure that no American would be the subject of any of the military intelligence intercepts. She cited one instance where an American diplomat was referenced in an intercepted phone call. The intelligence officials destroyed the tape even though he was referenced only in passing, honoring the principle that the government does not spy on Americans.
When called back to active duty from 2001-2001, she discovered that the pragmatic methods, if not the written rules governing them, had changed. She told of routinely monitoring phone transmissions of humanitarian organizations, NGOs and journalists. She listened in to journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad reassuring each other that they were safe from American missile or artillery strikes. Then when she learned that this hotel was considered fair game as a target, she saw a chance for some good to come out of the illegal spying and acted. "I told my superiors that the journalists there thought they were safe. [I asked] should we warn them? My concerns were ignored."
It was when she participated in translating a fax provided by the Iraqi National Congress, an unreliable faction headed by Ahmad Chalabi, which made claims of WMD in Iraq that she crossed her personal Rubicon. The fax, which made unsubstantiated claims dovetailing with the desires of the Bush/Cheney administration, was given top priority and was rushed directly to the White House after translation, a procedure that was completely at odds with normal protocol. When she considered the source of the information – Chalabi was a known liar and fugitive from justice for bank fraud in Jordan. She approached her superiors and asked whether they shouldn't have take this into consideration before giving it to the White House as conclusive evidence, but was told to mind her own business, and her patriotism was questioned. "I knew that this war was based on lies" Kinne concluded, "and that I had helped spread these lies. I wish that I had taken my concerns to someone outside of the military."
Matt Howard's testimony told about the use of internationally banned cluster bombs, illegal declarations of "weapons free" zones, Marines shooting civilians for sport and the reprehensible devastation of Nasariah by a division of Marines seeking revenge for fallen comrades. He could not remain silent about what he saw. "I raised concerns with my chain of command. I wrote an extensive letter outlining all that I had been told by those in the tank commands when I was delivering to them…. Because of my letter, they had to conduct a war crime investigation, but they found no cause for charges. I was taken aside by the officer in charge of the investigation and he told me off the record that as a father he shared my concerns. But as a marine, he would never implicate his fellow marines and jeopardize their careers." This officer also told Matt that if he mentioned any of these charges again, he would face a court martial.
None of this testimony could have prepared the audience for what they were to hear next. The first words spoken by John Turner, veteran of the third Battalion, Eighth Marines set the tone. "On April 18, 2006 I murdered an innocent man with no weapons. He was walking back to his house." For this act, Turner was commended by his chain of command including personal congratulations from his captain.
He showed a short video in which his Lieutenant is saying, "I just shot half the fucking population of fucking Ramada, fuck the red tape." He explained that rules of engagement were completely dropped. "Collateral damage was not an issue for us, most was covered up and stayed at the lowest post level. Our sergeant said shoot first and worry about it later." He added, "When we were bored, we would take out people."
He also explained that marines routinely took out their aggressions on civilians whose houses were routinely raided in the middle of the night. "During the 3A.M. raids, we would take the man into a separate room from his wife and children. If we decided that we didn't like him, we would choke him or beat his head against the wall. If we decided to detain him, we would destroy all the contents of the house. Or if he really pissed us off, we would burn it down with incendiary grenades."
He showed other video footage of machine gun and tank fire being directed at a minaret of a mosque – not because of any shooting coming from the mosque, but because his fellow soldiers were in a position of power and wanted to let off steam. He recounted how one day two fellow soldiers had killed a couple of civilians, and knowing that John had not yet had a kill for the day, told him that they had saved him one. They pointed out a man riding a bicycle and he calmly shot him dead.
To provide cover for these crimes, his unit kept a supply of "drop weapons", AK47s and other weapons that might be used by Iraqi insurgents. These were placed on or near the murder victim to provide an alibi of self-defense.
Turner detailed the use of white phosphorous gas by his unit, explaining, "It completely destroys everything. You can't put out the fire." While the Pentagon claims that white phosphorous is used only to illuminate a battlefield at night an unknown number of Iraqis have joined the ranks of collateral damage and perished by burning to death.
In conclusion Matt Howard emphasized to the students that these crimes that he and his fellow veterans were describing were not simply the work of a few bad apples. "This is policy," he flatly stated, adding, "1.2 million individuals have cycled through Iraq and Afghanistan. This is happening military-wide. [It's] part of something much bigger." He also told the audience that they should not think of Afghanistan as the "good" war compared with Iraq. He said that everything that they heard about atrocities in Iraq was true for Afghanistan as well. He explained that the most revered military minds agree that "Without strategy war is mindless. Mindless killing can only be criminal." He pointed out that the shifting rationales for invasion and occupation provided by the Bush/Cheney administration prove that they have had no strategy from the beginning. Recent Pentagon studies also confirm this fact.
These veterans decided to speak out as victims of an administration's gross negligence and deceit. Their testimony places some of them at grave risk being charged with war crimes or ignoring security restrictions. If they had chosen to remain silent, they could have been protected by a wall of denial and suppression provided by the military that they served. By deciding to clear their consciences and to try to do what they can do repair the damage they have helped the American military to cause, the have unalterably changed the trajectory of their futures. Whether they alone will bear the awful cost of what they witnessed, as well as the possible costs of speaking out - depends on what those who hear their stories decide to do. If their audiences decide that their own silence would make them complicit, and if the press decides that war crimes being committed today, in our names are front page news, then these veterans will at least have taken a first step beyond their own personal redemption.
The Bush/Cheney administration has established a new paradigm of criminal and immoral actions as public policy. Congress has countenanced these actions, and the courts have failed to check them. It remains to be seen whether the nation can match these veterans' courage to stand tall and say "not now and never again."
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