Iraq Veterans against the War "March Home" to Rutgers

Article excerpt

WITH THE AIM of connecting the domestic anti-war movement with soldier resistance organizations, Rutgers Against the War sponsored an ambitious weekend conference, "Marching Home: the Iraq war and its consequences for veterans," on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, NJ, Oct. 5 to 7. More than a dozen workshops addressed various aspects of military recruitment, the effects of depleted uranium exposure, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), dealing with the Veterans Administration, and the economic impact and humanitarian costs of the war.

Jimmy Massey opened his keynote speech with, "Stop the war; bring the troops home now; and support them when they get here." Massey joined the Marines in 1992, he explained, just when the military was "switching from Russian to Middle East-style targets." He served for 12 years before retiring with an honorable discharge and 100 percent disability, then joined Iraq Veterans Against the War and has been speaking out ever since.

Massey's unit entered Iraq in 2003 after the initial heavy bombing, leaving humanitarian food and medical supplies in Kuwait because they were too loaded down with "trash," Marine jargon for equipment. They snaked their way across Iraq, occasionally shooting up abandoned ammunition depots, which he described as a great favorite with embedded journalists. In those depots he saw U.S. tanks and ammo in boxes spray-painted with American flags, all supplied to Iraq in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war. His unit came under direct fire only twice, he said, each attack lasting only a couple of seconds.

Massey described two incidents that made him question the real mission. When they came across a peaceful anti-American demonstration, he recalled, the Marines opened fire and killed four Iraqis. Afterward they found no weapons on the demonstrators. Later, at a checkpoint near Baghdad Stadium, the Marines fired into a car that didn't stop fast enough, killing three of the four occupants. The survivor asked Massey, "Why did you kill my brother? We are not terrorists." This made Massey question his own humanity. Saddam Hussain did terrible things, he acknowledged, but Massey feels the U.S. is now acting in the same capacity and is violating the Geneva Conventions. "I was a thug," he said, "a gangster for capitalism."

Massey cited six demands of Iraq Veterans Against the War: 1) withdraw all U.S. troops and contractor support groups from Iraq and Afghanistan; 2) give all responsibility for redevelopment to the international community; 3) pay compensation and reparations to Iraqis; 4) recognize the World Court; 5) corporations that have grown wealthy from the war should sacrifice their profits; and 6) ("with apologies to Hillary Clinton") vote out of office any congressman or senator who supported this war.

After she retired from the Army, Col. Ann Wright became a diplomat. She is one of three State Department officials who publicly resigned in protest of the invasion of Iraq. Because there was no Security Council approval and no direct threat to the U.S., Wright said, the U.S. attack on Iraq is a war of aggression and therefore a war crime.

In 2002, according to Wright, several senior military officials spoke out against an attack. The media ignored them all except for Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was fired for testifying that the war plans did not include enough soldiers. Wright gave as an example all four Judge Advocate Generals who warned of potential violations of the Geneva Conventions. Other top officials, she continued, have spoken out only after retiring, so as not to risk loss of benefits or a court martial. Gen. Tommy Franks, for example, admitted that he argued with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld every day about "too few humanoids," but in the end gave in. The Pentagon gets around the issue of instituting a draft, Wright explained, by having a huge contractor corps, which at 180,000 outnumbers the 160,000 military personnel serving in Iraq. …