The Lies are Coming Home

Questions and Outrage Among Military Families

Revolutionary Worker #1211, August 24, 2003, posted at

"Somewhere down the line, we became an occupation force in their eyes. We don't feel like heroes any more. We are outnumbered. We are exhausted. We are in over our heads."

Private Isaac Kindblade, 671st Engineer Company

"It doesn't seem like anybody higher up cares to realize what these soldiers have been through, or what they're going through on a daily basis. I can guarantee you they've never stood out in a checkpoint in the heat of the day, day after day, full battle rattle, always wondering if today's the day somebody's going to shoot me."

An unnamed officer, speaking to Knight- Ridder

"We were supposed to go home as soon as the war was over... The morale of the men is very low. I'm an NCO so I'm not supposed to share my feelings with them, but sometimes I see them walking around like zombies."

Sergeant Al Menendez

"That's my biggest fear, that my husband will come back different. Even if you're GI Joe, if you have to kill someone, that's not something you just forget about."

Valerie Decal, the wife of an artillery sergeant, Fort Hood

The war is not turning out the way the U.S. soldiers were told it would.

They were told that "the fastest way to go home is through Baghdad"--and months later, they are still manning roadblocks in the blinding summer heat, with no end in sight.

These soldiers were told they would be welcomed as "liberators." They find themselves acting as occupiers--under fire from a hostile population.

They were told the war would help make their families more secure. But no "terrorist links" or weapons of mass destruction have been found.

President Bush announced victory on May 1. A few days later, one soldier wrote his parents about pulling dead GIs from a downed helicopter: "I had blood all over me, and all I could think about was this guy's wife and kids who were in his wallet staring at me. The war is over? Yeah, tell that to these guys' families."

The lies of this war are coming home, and the soldiers are not.

A deep sense of betrayal is spilling over --from the soldiers themselves to their families back home.

Telling the Soldiers to Shut Up

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division was a spearhead in the invasion. The division's 2nd Brigade mowed into Baghdad's southern suburbs in early April -- leaving thousands of Iraqi civilians and soldiers dead in the streets. In May they were sent to occupy Fallujah, where U.S. killing of civilians quickly intensified resistance among the people.

After months in the war zone, the soldiers of the 3rd's First and Second Brigades expected to go home--and were given three different return dates in just a few weeks.

On July 14, they were told their return was postponed. The Pentagon needed soldiers for punishing "sweeps" through hundreds of villages and neighborhoods. The soldiers felt betrayed.

Sgt. Terry Gilmore described breaking the news to his wife: "I just felt like my heart was broken. I could not figure out how they could keep us here after they told us we were coming home."

In an interview with ABC, Spc. Clinton Deitz said: "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation."

"I've got my own `Most Wanted' list," one sergeant told ABC. "The aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush and Paul Wolfowitz."

The Pentagon responded to these interviews with threats. One officer said, "It went all the way up to President Bush and back down again on top of us. At least six of us here will lose our careers."

The 3rd Infantry Division announced reporters could no longer interview soldiers. No more journalists will be "embedded" with the unit.

General John Abizaid, the Central Command's top officer, said, "None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the Secretary of Defense or the President of the United States." He said "commanders on the scene" would decide what punishments to lay down.

The military newspapers reminded all soldiers that the Uniform Code of Military Justice states soldiers can be imprisoned for up to three years for making "disloyal statements." The Pentagon has not needed to press such charges since the Vietnam war.

For many soldiers, used to thinking of themselves as "citizens with freedom of speech"-- the open threat of prison came as a rude shock.

Spc. Brandon Gullen, of the 864th Engineer Battalion, said in an e-mail from Iraq: "I find it absurd that these same people we put our lives on the line for can punish us for having our own opinions-- which, in effect, is punishing our open-mindedness."

Meanwhile, Stephen Eagle Funk, a courageous GI resistor, is facing a military trial in early September where he faces a possible prison sentence for "unauthorized absence."

And the Pentagon has announced that soldiers sent to Iraq must now accept doing a full year tour there -- they called their announcement "rotation predictability."

The Families Speak Out

"Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing Pentagon officials, generals, politicians, and people at the Defense Department continue to say that the morale of the troops is still high, when every single person knows full well that it isn't."

Erica Herrera, wife of a helicopter pilot, in an e-mail sent from a U.S. base in Germany to the Army's Stars and Stripes newspaper

"The brass will have no control over us, however, and those same people (mostly courageous women) will be able to say what they want, when they want, and we'll protect their identities if that's what they need....We are going directly to those upon whom our would-be emperors depend to carry out their grandiose and deadly vision ---the military. "

Stan Goff, former Green Beret, father of a soldier and member of "Military Families Speak Out"

"The War in Iraq is Not Over!!! The President says "Bring 'em on!" but it is our loved ones that are facing the bullets and we say: Bring Them Home NOW!!! "

from the website of "Military Families Speak Out"

Many of the families of the GIs live in communities around army bases--where the bitter e- mails from Iraq spread painful questions about the war.

A lot of these families remain deeply patriotic and pro-military--and quite a few think the war was originally justified. But suddenly much of what they believed no longer makes sense--and many feel the government broke faith with them.

To add insult to injury, the White House is cutting funds for families of deployed soldiers, is planning to reduce the "imminent danger" pay, and opposes increasing the benefits for combat deaths--from $3,000 to $6,000.

Many were horrified by Bush's now famous taunt to the Iraqi resistance: "Bring 'em on!"

Marticia, mother of a soldier, wrote in an open letter: "May I just say, Mr. President, perhaps you truly do believe in the invincibility of our military. However, the next time you invite attacks on my son, and others, kindly stand in front of our soldiers, rather than hiding behind."

"Some wives are starting to question why we're there in the first place," says Claudia Barnett, an Army wife shopping outside Fort Stewart in Georgia.

When the Fort Stewart base command organized a mass meeting of 800 spouses in July to explain the continuing deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division, the frustrations boiled over into a near riot. One social worker on the base said: "They were crying, cussing, yelling, and screaming for their men to come back." A colonel had to be "escorted" out--to protect him from the soldiers' wives.

Afterwards Anita Blount, wife of 3rd Infantry Division's Commanding General, openly accused the protesting military families of encouraging the Iraqi resistance. She wrote in an open letter: "I know that many of you believe you should embark on a campaign to raise awareness of the need for [the 3rd Infantry] to return. We need to be aware of a possible outcome of our outcries that could backfire on us directly. When the Iraqis see media coverage of disgruntled Americans publicly campaigning for the return of our soldiers from Iraq, they are encouraged and believe their strategy is working."

Military commanders are threatening to "end the careers" of soldiers whose family members speak out around the war. But despite such pressure, military families have continued to find ways to state their demands. At Fort Stewart, soldiers' wives even held a public protest rally in the parking lot of a local K-Mart.

All of this is quite remarkable--and almost unheard of over the past decades. The speed with which some families have turned against this war is a sign of how quickly the official lies have come apart, and how bleak this occupation looks to the GIs occupying Iraq.

In an August 13 press conference, the group "Military Families Speak Out" announced they were calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and added they saw no justification for the deployment in the first place.

Susan Schuman, a member whose son is a Massachusetts National Guardsman in Iraq, said: "Our soldiers are demoralized. They are fighting an illegal and unjustified war."

Nancy Lessin, a co-founder of the group, said: "We believe very strongly that the reason that we're over there had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction and had nothing to do with links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, that it was in fact about oil markets and empire building. That's not what we should be doing."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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