Free Showing TOMORROW!
The story of Ehren Watada’s court martial and mistrial in February 2007
Sunday, July 15th 2:30 P.M.
Pine United Methodist Church 426 33rd Ave. SF
You are invited to a showing of the DVD “He Stood Up: The Mistrial of Ehren Watada”. See Ehren talk about his stand in his own words. This is a powerful DVD that tells the story Ehren Watada’s court martial and mistrial in February 2007. It is the story of his courage of conscience. A discussion about the status of Ehren’s case and his recent pretrial on July 6th his trial will follow the showing. Sponsored by the Watada Support Committee. Light refreshments.
For more information:
510 526 9041
DATE CHANGE FOR ANTIWAR PLANNING MEETING:
ANTIWAR PLANNING MEETING CHANGED TO: TUESDAY, JULY 17, 7 P.M.
San Francisco Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. (btwn. Valencia & Guerrero)
Let's unite to build the broadest, most diverse and effective anti-war movement!
September 15 — Turn Up the Heat in Washington DC!
Calendar of upcoming anti-war events
North/Central California "End the War Now" March:
Saturday, October 27, 2007, 11am, San Francisco Civic Center Plaza
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
2489 Mission St. Rm. 24
San Francisco: 415-821-6545
(Call to check meeting schedules.)
New Orleans After the Flood -- A Photo Gallery
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ARTICLES IN FULL:
1) The Beating of Black Lawyers
[col. writ. 7/5/07] (c) '07 Mumia Abu-Jamal
2) Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Says He Was Assaulted By Police
July 12, 2007
3) Congress Shoots Down Hinchey Amendment
By David Borden, AlterNet
Posted on July 9, 2004, Printed on July 12, 2007
4) The Other War: Iraq Veterans Speak Out on Shocking Accounts of Attacks on Iraqi Civilians
Thursday, July 12th, 2007
5) The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness
by CHRIS HEDGES & LAILA AL-ARIAN
[from the July 30, 2007 issue of The Nation]
6) An Unjustified Privilege
By PAUL KRUGMAN
July 13, 2007
7) Indians Widen Old Outlet in Youth Lacrosse
By WINNIE HU
July 13, 2007
8) Some Chronically Ill Adults Wait for Medicare
By GINA KOLATA
July 12, 2007
9) Adolescence: Study Links Migraines and Lower Family Income
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
July 10, 2007
10) Under the Boardwalk
Keeping Peace on Coney Island’s Salty Planks
By MICHAEL WILSON
July 14, 2007
11) No Protection for Homeowners
July 14, 2007
12) In a Baghdad Killing, Questions That Haunt Iraq
By JOHN F. BURNS
JULY 14, 2007
1) The Beating of Black Lawyers
[col. writ. 7/5/07] (c) '07 Mumia Abu-Jamal
No matter who we are, or where we live, folks in Black America have grown up with the lesson of the importance of education as a tool of social mobility.
That's why lawyers are generally so highly regarded in many Black communities, as people who have undergone years of legal education.
But that respect doesn't go far beyond the community.
Cops in Brooklyn, New York recently showed what they thought of lawyers by beating them up!
Well-known human rights attorney Michael Tarif Warren, and his wife, Evelyn (also a lawyer), were driving down Brooklyn's Vanderbilt Avenue, when they spotted a Black youth being chased by cops across a McDonald's parking lot.
The youngster was tackled to the ground and handcuffed, when the Warrens saw a Sgt. Talvy begin kicking him in the head, the ribs, and stomping on his neck.
The 2 attorneys stopped their car, walked within 10 feet of the beating, identified themselves (as lawyers), and told the cops to stop beating the youth, and simply take him to the nearest precinct.
The Sergeant's response was to shout, "I don't give a f**k who you are, get the f**k back in your car!"
The Warrens returned to the car, where Michael began to write down notes of what he saw, and the license plate numbers of the cop cars present.
Before he could finish his notes Sgt, Talvy walks up to the car, and began to repeatedly punch him through the window, shouting "Get out of the car!"
Warren was then dragged out of his car, his clothes ripped in the process.
His wife, obviously upset at these events, demanded to know why he was attacked, and was promptly punched in the face by this same cop!
Both Warrens were arrested and driven to the 77th precinct and charged with obstruction, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
Within hours hundreds of Brooklynites converged on the precinct, demanding the release of the Warrens. People came from all walks of life, for Tarif has a long history, almost 30 years, of representing people who have been victims of police or prosecutorial misconduct in the city.
Groups like the December 12th Movement, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the International Action Center, and many others quickly mobilized support for the Warrens.
In an interview in the New York Daily Challenge, Evelyn Warren spoke for many people when she said, "We are professionals, if they do this to us in broad daylight on a crowded street, what do they do in the dark when no one is around? That's what I'm concerned about."
She and others called not only for the removal of Talvy, but of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as well.
When Black lawyers are beaten in the streets, what about average folks?
What about you?
(c) '07 maj
[Source: Ajamu, Amadi, "Civil Rights Attorney Assaulted", Daily Challenge (N.Y.), Mon., June 25, 2007, p.3.}
2) Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Says He Was Assaulted By Police
July 12, 2007
On the same day police held sensitivity training for new recruits, a prominent civil rights attorney says police physically abused him and his wife on the street in broad daylight. Brooklyn reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
The left corner of lawyer Michael Warren's lip is discolored. He says his ear is ringing and his head is dizzy. His wife Evelyn says the left side of her face is swollen and she's also in pain.
All this after they charge they were punched in the face by a police sergeant from the 77th precinct Thursday night.
They say it all started here at a McDonald's parking lot on Atlantic Avenue in Prospect Heights where they happened to see what they perceived to be brutality by the sergeant and other police arresting a young man.
"While they were brutally kicking this young man while he was on the ground with his hands tied behind him not doing anything. I mean he was surrounded and just being viscously kicked,” said Evelyn Warren. “And we were saying, ‘why are you doing this to him?’"
"Sergeant Talvy, who is a supervisor, who is supposed to be setting an example for the other officers, he was the first one who started kicking this kid in the head, kicking him in the ribs, stomping him on the neck,” said Michael Warren.
The Warrens say they were in their car, stuck in traffic, when they saw the arrest of this young kid here. Outraged with what they saw, they decided to get out of their car and say something.
"We were told to get back in the vehicle and after that, I was viciously assaulted by Sergeant Talvy and wife was assaulted and we were arrested,” said Michael Warren.
The Police Department did not respond to the allegations of excessive force but said Warren was charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. His wife was also charged with disorderly conduct. But Warren, a prominent civil rights attorney, says he's gathering evidence and witnesses to fight the charges.
"We are prepared and able – because this is what we do – to defend this to the very end. Believe me, we will,” said Michael Warren.
At a press conference Friday, Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron demanded the focus be turned away from the Warrens and to the Sergeant.
"We want the charges dropped,” said Barron. “We want D.A. Hynes to charge the police. We want Talvy to immediately be removed and put under investigation."
They say until that happens, they plan on staging demonstrations in front of the 77th precinct stationhouse.
– Jeanine Ramirez
3) Congress Shoots Down Hinchey Amendment
By David Borden, AlterNet
Posted on July 9, 2004, Printed on July 12, 2007
Two pieces of news this week serve to highlight the extraordinary stupidity inherent in aspects of US anti-drug policy:
* On Wednesday, the House of Representatives rejected, for a second time, an amendment originally offered last year by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that would have forbidden the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using its resources to undermine state medical marijuana laws.
* On Thursday, the Bush administration announced that Bin Laden is organizing to attack the United States again, this year.
I'm not in a position to evaluate the Bin Laden claim, but it is certainly plausible. So why would Congress vote down the Hinchey amendment? If they're serious about protecting the nation, they should be shifting as many of their agents to that task as they possibly can. As drug reform elder statesman Arnold Trebach pointed out in a recent interview, "It is absolutely obscene to think we are wasting one second of law enforcement time on drugs" while there are dangerous people in the world who are determined to kill Americans on our own soil and who have a track record of doing so.
Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison
Counterculture icon Tommy Chong walked out of federal prison Tuesday after serving a nine-month sentence as part of the Justice Department's crackdown on bongs, known as Operation Pipedream. Chong was released from the federal Bureau of Prisons Taft Correctional Facility in California.
Tommy Chong went to prison because his company, Chong Glass, made the mistake of selling bongs to head shops in Western Pennsylvania, home to one of two US Attorneys who build careers on bong busts. (The other is in Des Moines.) But he also went to prison in part because of his history as an actor, along with Cheech Marin, in a series of pro-marijuana films in the 1970s and early 1980s. At his sentencing, prosecutors urged that his prior conduct be taken into account.
Attorney General John Ashcroft crowed at the time of Chong's arrest. "Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge," he claimed. "This illegal, billion-dollar industry will no longer be ignored by law enforcement."
It largely had been before. But for Ashcroft the bong-makers of America apparently were a threat worthy of the Justice Department's limited resources, and Tommy Chong the perfect symbolic victim. So what if the federal prosecutors, in all too familiar fashion, had to threaten his wife and children to get him to accept a plea deal. That's the American prosecutors' way.
Welcome back to the land of the living, Tommy Chong.
Not that all conventional law enforcement can be scrapped, of course. But the drug fight was lost before it began. Seventy-three years ago this Tuesday, governments of the world convened the "Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs," purportedly attempting to stop the non-medical use and abuse of drugs through global prohibition. Yet three score and thirteen years later, estimates for the annual flow of money through the illicit global drug trade range from $150-$400 billion per year.
Those who allow themselves to think outside the box on this issue understand that these vast funds fuel the criminal underground because of prohibition, not in spite of it or for lack of enough of it. How much crime and violence, how much disorder, how much corruption flows from this warping of the global economy? Though the government's "drugs fund terrorism" ads are fundamentally flawed, they do point to a scary truth: The unregulated profits generated by drug prohibition provide an easy source of revenue for terrorist organizations, some experts think perhaps as much as a third of their money – another reason that the terrorism problem cries out for a move to some form of legalization of drugs as one part of a strategy to address it.
How much more extremely do these reasons apply to medical marijuana patients and their providers, in states that consider medical marijuana legal under their own laws, no less? And with at least one court just one step under the Supreme Court's level, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, considering federal prohibition of medical marijuana to be unconstitutional and therefore illegal?
Such concerns didn't stop DOJ from sending numerous personnel to raid one of California's well known medical marijuana coops less than two weeks after September 11. Nice timing! Congress did nothing to address that bizarre and offensive misallocation of resources. So it's not surprising, even in the face of overwhelming public support for medical marijuana that they would again opt to allow the feds to waste resources attacking sick people who need to use it and disrupting their supply systems.
Any member of Congress who voted against the Hinchey amendment must not be truly serious about security or public safety – or the Constitution.
David Borden is executive director of DRCnet.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/19195/
4) The Other War: Iraq Veterans Speak Out on Shocking Accounts of Attacks on Iraqi Civilians
Thursday, July 12th, 2007
The Nation magazine has published a startling new expose of fifty American combat veterans of the Iraq War who give vivid on-the-record accounts of the US military occupation in Iraq and describe a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts. The investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate assertions of indiscriminate killings and other atrocities by the US military in Iraq. We speak with the article’s co-author, journalist Laila Al-Arian, and four Iraq veterans who came forward with their stories of war. [includes rush transcript] As debate continues in Congress over the Iraq war, the Pentagon says it is probing new allegations of wrongdoing during the US military assault on Fallujah three years ago. U.S. Marines are said to have killed as many as eight unarmed Iraqi prisoners when U.S. forces attacked Fallujah in November of 2004. The Marine unit under investigation is the same involved in the killing of twenty-four civilians in Haditha in 2005, where after an IED exploded killing a marine, his unit rampaged through several neighboring houses and killed twenty-four civilians.
This comes as The Nation magazine publishes a startling new expose that paints a disturbing picture of the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. Over the course of several months, The Nation magazine interviewed fifty American combat veterans of the Iraq War. The soldiers gave vivid on-the-record accounts of the US military occupation in Iraq and described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.
The Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate assertions of indiscriminate killings and other atrocities by the US military in Iraq.
The cover story is titled “The Other War: Military Veterans Speak on the Record about Attacks on Iraqi Civilians.” In it, journalists Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian write: “The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war on Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.”
Today we spend the hour with Iraq war veterans around the country who tell their stories of war.
* Laila Al-Arian. Co-author of the Nation article, “The Other War: Military Veterans Speak on the Record about Attacks on Iraqi Civilians.” She is a writer with the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund.
* Sgt. John Bruhns. Served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in April 2003.
* Spc. Garett Reppenhagen. Cavalry scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, who was deployed to Baquba for a year in February 2004.
* Staff Sgt. Timothy John Westphal. Served on the outskirts of Tikrit for a yearlong tour with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, beginning in February 2004.
* Sgt. Dustin Flatt. Served with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, for one year beginning in February 2004.
JUAN GONZALEZ: As debate continues in Congress over the Iraq war, the Pentagon says it is probing new allegations of wrongdoing during the US military assault on Fallujah three years ago. US Marines are said to have killed as many as eight unarmed Iraqi prisoners when US forces attacked Fallujah in November of 2004. The Marine unit under investigation is the same involved in the killing of twenty-four civilians in Haditha in 2005, where after an IED exploded killing a marine, his unit rampaged through several neighboring houses and killed twenty-four civilians.
This comes as The Nation magazine publishes a startling new expose that paints a disturbing picture of the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. Over the course of several months, The Nation magazine interviewed fifty American combat veterans of the Iraq War. The soldiers gave vivid on-the-record accounts of the US military occupation and described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.
The Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate assertions of indiscriminate killings and other atrocities by the US military in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: The cover story is titled "The Other War: Military Veterans Speak on the Record about Attacks on Iraqi Civilians." In it, journalists Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian write, "The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war on Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.”
Today, we spend the hour with Iraq war vets around the country who will tell their stories of war. Sergeant John Bruhns served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib for one year, beginning in April 2003. Specialist Garett Reppenhagen was a cavalry scout and sniper with the First Infantry Division and was deployed to Baquba for a year in February 2004. They both join us from Washington, D.C. And here in our firehouse studio we’re joined by Laila Al-Arian, co-author of The Nation article, writer with the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund.
Before we go to the soldiers around the country, Laila, talk about the scope of this investigation. When did you begin it?
LAILA AL-ARIAN: We began this instigation in July of 2006, so about a year ago. And we conducted interviews over the course of seven months, and we spoke with fifty combat vets about their experiences. And we decided because the war is such a vast enterprise, as you mentioned, we decided to really focus on just a few snapshots of the war, the flashpoints of violence. So we looked at convoys, which run throughout the country, checkpoints, which are also all over Iraq. We also looked at home raids and detentions of Iraqis and also the overall perception of Iraqis, the demonization of them in the military.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And how were you able to recruit the soldiers who would talk to you and agree to be interviewed on the record?
LAILA AL-ARIAN: We initially approached veterans organizations. We approached Iraq Veterans Against the War and also Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And through them, we were put in touch with many veterans who were willing to speak about their experiences. And from then on, it really became word-of-mouth. People would refer us to their friends. And that's how we went about it. It wasn't an easy process.
AMY GOODMAN: And how many soldiers did you talk to? How did you document what they said?
LAILA AL-ARIAN: We spoke with forty soldiers, eight Marines and two sailors. We tape-recorded every conversation, every interview we had, and we transcribed them into thousands of pages of transcripts. And from then on, we began the process of writing the piece. But, for us, it was very important to have all of these interviews on the record.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In your article, you mention that there was a recent report by, I think it was, the Army Surgeon General talking about the attitudes of -- general attitudes that they have found of American soldiers toward Iraqi civilians. Could you talk about that?
LAILA AL-ARIAN: Yes. Interestingly, that report came after we began our own reporting. So, to us, it really confirmed what we saw through our reporting. The report stated that 47% of soldiers and 38% of Marines said that Iraqis should be treated with dignity, and only 55% of soldiers and 40% of Marines said that they would turn in a friend in the military who basically killed or injured an unarmed Iraqi combatant. And that really confirmed what we found in our piece.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go now to Washington, D.C. to speak with two of the soldiers: Sergeant John Bruhns, again, serving in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib with the Third Brigade, First Armored Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in April of 2003; and Specialist Garett Reppenhagen, with the Cavalry, scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, deployed to Baquba.
Specialist Garett Reppenhagen, let's begin with you. Tell your story, what you saw, what you experienced, what you participated in.
SPC. GARETT REPPENHAGEN: Well, you know, I was a sniper, and I operated in the Diyala province, which is a pretty active region right now. And the thing about the article is, all those stories are very much true. Those things happened. The situation is that most soldiers, most Marines are professional soldiers, they’re professional Marines, and they’re going to do their job to the best of their ability. And, unfortunately, Iraq is a very complex, untraditional battlefield, and it's very difficult to operate in that terrain and not have civilian casualties and not have these, you know, these incidents occur, because we’ve developed very brutal techniques to be able to operate safely and conduct our missions in that theater, and ultimately the soldiers are going to stick together. We feel very much like we’re out there and all we have to look for, you know, to protect ourselves is each other. And the bottom line is, you know, we want to come home alive, we want to come home safe, and we’re going to conduct ourselves as the best of our ability to do that, and sometimes that means that, you know, innocent civilians, Iraqi people, are going to get in the way, and they're going to get hurt.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Specialist Reppenhagen, in reading the article and the accounts, what most struck me was the massive number of searches that were being conducted of individual homes in the middle of the night and the enormous psychological impact this had on those people, who, when a group of soldiers burst into their home in the middle of the night, were not -- had nothing to do with the insurgency, obviously, and the impact on them. Could you talk about that and the impact on you being involved in those kinds of raids?
SPC. GARETT REPPENHAGEN: The house raids were a very difficult piece of my experience in Iraq. We conducted a lot of house searches. And, you know, we felt we had to. We didn’t have the initiative in Iraq. The US military, nine times out of ten, are on the defensive. We’re being attacked, and combat is usually initiated by the enemy. So a lot of times we’re just -- we’re searching homes. We’re going on whims, hoping that we can catch the Iraqis, the ones who are trying to do the US forces harm. And, you know, we search a lot of houses. We kick in the doors, and we separate the people.
And, you know, we had a checklist where we went through -- did they have contraband? Yes/no. If they did, we apprehended them, and we would put a bag over their head and marked it with an “A.” You know, did they have an identification card? If they didn’t, we’d mark them with a “B,” we take them. If they didn’t belong in that house, if they didn’t live in that house, we’d mark them with a “C,” and we’d take them. So we take a lot of these people out of their homes. And a lot of these people, we push out through the chain of command, and they get interrogated, and they get pushed up further. And a lot of these people never make it home the following day or ever again.
So it’s very difficult. It’s hard to see the people, to go into their homes, especially when you know that most of the time you have bad intelligence and you’re raiding a house that usually the people inside are innocent and have nothing to do with the insurgency or any harm to US soldiers.
JUAN GONZALEZ: About how many houses do you estimate, roughly, that you participated in raids of during your tour there?
SPC. GARETT REPPENHAGEN: Well, I can only guess. I’m thinking about thirty -- probably around thirty houses are ones that I raided personally. I was involved in cordons on the outer edges of a lot of these raids, where I didn’t actually go into any of the houses, I just pulled security on the outside. A lot of my sniper missions, I did overwatch and just stayed in a heightened position and gave intelligence to the people on the ground. So, you know, I saw a lot of them, but I was only actually entered probably about thirty houses myself.
AMY GOODMAN: And the response of the families whose homes you raided? Were they able to understand what you were saying? And your feelings when you would go into someone's home?
SPC. GARETT REPPENHAGEN: Most of the time we didn’t have interpreters with us, so, no, there was a huge miscommunication, really problems with the language barrier. A lot of times we found that once we started these raids, we would get to the second or third house, and the family would be awake, the lights would be on, the men and women would already be separated. The men would have their shoes on. They would be dressed and ready to go and be taken by the US military. So they got almost accustomed to it. And it was constantly -- you could see the frustration on their faces, the anger, the sadness, the worry, the fear. You know, it was very hard to see the faces of the Iraqi people when you took their family members away.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break, and we’re going to come back to this discussion and also speak with Sergeant John Bruhns, who was at Abu Ghraib and in Baghdad beginning in April of 2003.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest in studio in New York is Laila Al-Arian, who together with Chris Hedges wrote the cover story of The Nation magazine this week, interviewing scores of Army war veterans from Iraq talking about their experiences. We are joined in Washington, D.C. by Specialist Garett Reppenhagen, as well as John Bruhns, Sergeant John Bruhns, who served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib with the Third Brigade, First Armored Division, First Battalion, beginning in April of 2003.
Sergeant Bruhns, talk about your experience. You participated in how many raids?
SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: Well, Amy, thank you very much for having me on. I just want to make one small correction. I invaded Iraq on day one, March 19th of 2003, so I just want to, you know, make sure I put that in the record. So, having --
AMY GOODMAN: What was that first day like?
SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: It was very confusing. You know, we were -- in my unit, along with 150,000 other soldiers, were massed on the border of Kuwait and Iraq. And finally, our commander said, “OK, go,” and we went into Iraq. And we went into the southern Iraqi desert, and it took days to find civilization.
And at that point in time I had a lot of reservations, because I was looking around, and I saw 150,000 troops making their way to Baghdad in the open desert, and here’s President Bush, and he’s accusing Saddam Hussein of having a massive stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, possibly a nuclear weapon, saying that he’s a homicidal dictator addicted to these weapons and we have to stop him now. And I was thinking to myself, I said, you know, what would be a better time for Saddam Hussein to use these weapons? He has 150,000 troops in the southern Iraqi desert, and he could launch these weapons on us directly and kill nobody but us.
So it was very frightening, especially because our military commanders were telling us that he has these weapons, this is his last stand, we’re coming to kill him, to take over his government, and he will use these weapons. And we were anticipating at least 50,000 casualties that day. That’s what we were being told. So it was very frightening.
But once I started to make it into populated areas and the weapons were not used at a time that was ripe for Saddam Hussein to use them, I just -- I totally came to the -- I was completely convinced that President Bush either made a complete and total incompetent decision to go to war or he deliberately misled us into war.
AMY GOODMAN: The number of raids you were involved with?
SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: The number of raids I was involved with, I estimate probably about a thousand. What we would do -- how these raids would occur and why we would go on the raids is this: let's say there’s a roadside bomb, an IED goes off in our sector one day, and then the next day there’s an RPG attack, and then the day after there are some sporadic gunfire at US troops. Well, a battalion commander reasonably would call a mission, and he would say, “You know, let's go into the sector. We’ll quarantine it, and we won’t let anybody in or out. And we’ll send the infantry in, and we’ll do cordons and searches,” which are raids, “and we’ll go house to house, and we’ll look for weapons, we’ll look for bomb-making material, we’ll look for anti-US propaganda, any intelligence at all that would lead to the insurgency.”
So you go there in the middle of the night, and you want to catch them -- you want to catch the Iraqis off guard. So you enter the house fast and furious. You kick down the door, and you run upstairs, and you get the man of the house and you get him out of bed, and his wife is laying next to him. It’s Baghdad, it’s July, it’s August. His wife sometimes may be exposed, because of her night garments in the middle of the night, which is humiliating for that woman and for that man and for that family. And you separate the man from his wife, and if he has children, you put his family in a room, and, you know, you put two soldiers on the door, outside the door, to make sure that his family stays in that room. And then you get -- we had interpreters, so we would take interpreters with us throughout the house. And we would have the man of the house, and we would interrogate him over and over again. “Who are the insurgents? Do you know who they are? Are you with them?” And, you know, basically we would tear his house apart. We would, you know, take his bed, turn that upside-down, dump his closets, his drawers, if he had them. I mean, just anything.
And I would say eight out of ten times we never really found any intelligence at all within these homes that would lead us to believe that these people were members of the insurgency. What they were was just Iraqis in their own communities. And we came in there, and we came in uninvited. And I believe -- and I don’t blame this on the US military at all. I don’t. I blame this on George Bush. But when you’re involved in a military operation like that, you enter these homes as if you’re going after the enemy, as if you’re going after bin Laden himself, when, for the most part, they're just families living in their homes, trying to get a night's rest before they get up and go to work in the morning, if there is work for them. And it’s just -- I believe that this created a lot of resentment among the Iraqi people, causing them to join a resistance movement against US and coalition forces in Iraq.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the impact on you and your fellow soldiers of having to conduct these constant raids and realizing that many of the people that you were dealing with were perfectly innocent? Did you -- in your times when you were off duty, did you talk about it among yourselves? And what kind of conversations? And the impact that it had on you psychologically?
SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: Well, it had a tremendous psychological impact on me, because, you know, a lot of these raids and a lot of these cordon and searches did not -- you know, they were not very productive. Now, there were times when we did catch people that we would, you know, label so-called terrorists. But like I said, for the most part they were just Iraqis, Iraqi people, Iraqi families in their communities, you know, carrying on their daily activities, their lives. And we would go in there and disrupt their lives and make life difficult for them in our hunt for an unidentifiable enemy. That’s the problem.
When you’re in Iraq, you do not know who the enemy is. They know who you are. If you’re on a patrol in a market and somebody opens fire on you and the US military, I mean, if we respond -- if we return fire in that direction with overwhelming firepower and, let's say, a thirteen-year-old girl gets killed, you’re just going to have to assume right then and there that her father and her brother and her uncles -- they're not going to say, you know, Saddam was a bad guy and thank the United States for coming in here and liberating us. They’re going to say, “If the United States never came here, my daughter would still be alive.” And that’s going to cause them to join the resistance. And when they do join the resistance, President Bush says, “They’re al-Qaeda. They’re al-Qaeda.” But they’re not. They’re just regular Iraqi people who feel occupied, and they’re reacting to an occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: Sergeant Bruhns, talk about the day you were sent into a house that you believed there were Syrian terrorists or insurgents inside?
SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: Yes, ma’am. Well, we were -- my squad leader called a meeting and said that he had gotten word from the company commander that there was a Syrian resistance movement within a home in our sector and that there were Syrian terrorist fighters in the house and that what we were going to do was that our squad was going to, you know, basically kick in the front door and go in and apprehend these Syrians, who supposedly were in there with weapons waiting to shoot at us. And that just didn’t sound right to me.
And it was getting very close to the time that I was supposed to be leaving Iraq. So I said to my -- I was the -- see, when you have an infantry squad, you’ll have your squad leader, then you’ll have Alpha Team, and you’ll have Bravo Team. I was Alpha Team leader, and my job was to go in the front door, arrest the Syrians, while Bravo Team conducted the cordon outside. So I said to my squad leader, I said, “Hey, you know what?” I said, “If you’re so sure and if our commander is so sure that there is a Syrian resistance movement in this home, I’m going to go in there, and I’m -- I mean, if you’re just going to send me through the front door two or three weeks before I’m going to go home, I’m going to shoot everybody in there. I mean, if you’re going to put me in that situation, they’re not -- they’re probably not likely to -- they’re probably unlikely to be willing to turn themselves in.” And they’re like, “No, they're in there, and we have to get them.” So I sarcastically said, “Well, you know what? You might as well just pull a Bradley up to the front of the house and fire a TOW missile through the front window, if you’re that sure.” Like I said, I said that sarcastically.
And when the raid went down -- and I actually was selected to stay outside that night, because my squad leader could tell that I really wasn’t too happy about the intelligence report that we received -- they sent in a different team. And when they went inside, it was just a family. There was an old man inside, a few children and a woman. There were no Syrians.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Garett, a final comment from you. I’d like to ask you, this whole issue of an occupation force -- you have a situation where United States soldiers obviously, from a religious standpoint, racially, linguistically, have nothing in common with the Iraqis that they are there supposedly to protect. Could you talk about that sense of being totally a fish out of water in Iraq?
SPC. GARETT REPPENHAGEN: Well, I mean, it was obvious, you know, that the majority of US soldiers do not fit in. I mean, the military, US military, is made up of a lot of different people, and there are Iraqi Americans in the US military, there’s Lebanese Americans, there’s a lot of Middle Eastern Americans in the military, so some people do fit in. But the majority of us, yeah, you know, we don’t speak the language. You know, most of us are not Muslim. Most of us, you know, do not look Arabic.
So the contrast is very real, and the division, once you’re there and you’re being told to give these people democracy and they’re shooting at you and trying to kill you, it creates a lot of tension, and the American soldiers begin to hate the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people hate the American soldiers. And the bottom line is, we’re not seen as peacekeepers. US forces in Iraq are no longer seen as peacekeepers by the Iraqi people and most of the Muslim world. We’re seen as occupiers and invaders, and that undermines our ability to keep the peace there, it undermines our ability to do our jobs, and it undermines our national security here at home. So right now it’s a very complex situation, and the animosity is growing. And there’s no cure other than removing ourselves from Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Final question to Sergeant John Bruhns: you were at the news conference yesterday with Senator Harry Reid. What do you want to happen right now? What do you want the US government to do, the Bush administration, Congress?
SGT. JOHN BRUHNS: I would like Congress to draft binding bipartisan legislation that requires President Bush to bring our troops out of Iraq. This is a man that does not understand the meaning of the word “bipartisanship.” We have to fight fire with fire when it comes to President Bush. He’s stubborn. He refuses to acknowledge his mistakes. And he’s in his own little world when it comes to Iraq.
So now, Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, has to do -- they have to do their job. They have to carry out the will of the American people. Over 70% of the American people want an end to this war. So my message to Congress is: you can stand with Bush or you can stand with the American people. Bring our troops home.
AMY GOODMAN: On that note, I want to thank you both very much for being with us. We’re going to be heading to Denver next to speak with some soldiers. Sergeant John Bruhns served in Baghdad with the Third Brigade, First Armored Division, First Battalion; Specialist Garett Reppenhagen, Cavalry scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion in Iraq. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, “The War and Peace Report.”
One of the soldiers quoted in The Nation article is Sergeant Camilo Mejia, a National Guardsmen from Miami who served in Iraq for six months, beginning, yeah, April 2003. While on a two-week leave in the US, Mejia refused to redeploy to Iraq. He was the first US soldier court-martialed for desertion, was ultimately sentenced to a year in jail. We interviewed him in March of 2005. Here, he describes a typical US military raid on an Iraqi household.
CAMILO MEJIA: Well, you would get information on people setting up improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, and people mortaring Army bases. And based on this intelligence, you would set up -- you would come up with a plan and, depending on the size of the target, you know, it could be down to a squad level all the way up to a battalion level, and you would pretty much surround the whole place and go in there, you know, set up a security element, a casualty collection point, and then go in there with your squad, depending on whatever mission you had, and just raid the home. You go in there 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, put everybody from the household in one room and then take the owner of the house, who is usually a man, you know, all through the house into every room, open every closet and everything and look for weapons and look for, you know, literature against the coalition. And then get your detainees and move out.
AMY GOODMAN: Could you read the literature?
CAMILO MEJIA: No. Because it was in Arabic. So it's really hard. And the intel was really bad, too. Sometimes they would tell us, you’re looking for a man, you know, who’s 5'7", dark skin, has a beard, which is like about 90% of men in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Sergeant Mejia also described the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by the US military.
CAMILO MEJIA: […] areas made by concertina wire, which is worse than barbed wire, and they had military police units bringing in detainees. And then you had what we call “spooks” in the military, which are people that no one knows who they are or where they come from. They wear no unit patch or anything. And they pretty much made an initial assessment, and they decided who was or who wasn't an enemy combatant, and then we separated these people into groups. And those who were deemed enemy combatants were kept on sleep deprivation. And the way we did that was, when we arrived there, we relieved another unit, and then they told us the easiest way to do that is just by, you know, yelling at these people, telling them to get up and to get down -- they were hooded prisoners -- yell at them, tell them to get up and get down, let them sleep for five seconds so they’ll get up disoriented, bang a sledgehammer on a wall to make it sound like an explosion, scare them, and if all of that fails then, you know, cock a 9mm gun next to their ear, so as to make them believe that they’re going to be executed. And then they will do anything you want them to do. And in that manner, keep them up for periods of forty-eight to seventy-two hours, in order to soften them up for interrogation. And these were the kind of things that, you know, they were asking the infantrymen to do.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Another soldier quoted in The Nation article is Army Reserve Specialist Aidan Delgado. He served in Iraq from April 2003 to April 2004, where he was deployed in Nasiriyah and Abu Ghraib. Soon after his arrival in Iraq, he sought conscientious objector status and turned in his weapon. We interviewed him in December 2004. He described witnessing US soldiers abusing in killing Iraqi detainees.
AIDAN DELGADO: I found some things that were just really disturbing, like I discovered that the majority of prisoners at Abu Ghraib weren't even insurgents. They weren't even there for crimes against the coalition. They were there for petty crimes: theft, public drunkenness. And they were here in this horrible, extremely dangerous prison. That's when I began to feel, oh, my God, I can't believe, you know, I'm participating in this. And then there was sort of a series of demonstrations or prisoner protests against the conditions, against the cold, against the lack of food and the type of food. And the military's response to these demonstrations was, I felt, extremely heavy-handed. I'm not going to say it was illegal. I don't have the background to bring a legalistic challenge, but I will say that it was immoral, the amount of force they responded with. I mean, I think I shared some images of prisoners beaten to within an inch of their life, or dead, by the guards. And five prisoners that I know of were shot dead during a demonstration for what amounted to throwing stones.
AMY GOODMAN: Aidan Delgado did get conscientious objector status. Camilo Mejia served almost a year in jail. Before we go to break, Laila Al-Arian, co-author of this almost full magazine piece in The Nation, "The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness," your quick comment?
LAILA AL-ARIAN: Following up on what Sergeant Mejia said about the poor intelligence on which these raids were based, several of the veterans told us that, in fact, on a number of occasions raids were based on Iraqis trying to settle family feuds with each other. They would approach the US soldiers and tell them that family members or their neighbors were insurgents, and that would simply be enough to raid a home. And in one case, a son told the soldiers that his father was an insurgent, and they raided the middle-aged man’s home, and only to find out that the son actually just wanted the father’s money that was buried in the farm.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you also -- some of the soldiers indicated that the Army was paying for information -- right? -- so that there was also the monetary incentive for people to give tips that may or may not be accurate.
LAILA AL-ARIAN: Definitely. That was something that also troubled some of the soldiers.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to Denver after break to speak with two more soldiers. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, “The War and Peace Report.” Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to two other soldiers, two other vets of the Iraq war quoted in The Nation article. Staff Sergeant Timothy John Westphal served on the outskirts of Tikrit for a yearlong tour in Iraq. Sergeant Dustin Flatt served with the 18th Infantry Brigade in Iraq also for a year. They both served from February 2004 to February 2005, joining us from Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver, Colorado. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. I’d like to begin with Sergeant Dustin Flatt. We’ve been discussing a lot of the house raids that occurred by US soldiers, but also many violent incidents occurred around convoys with civilians. And in your interview, you talked about some very chilling situations that you were involved in: deaths of innocent civilians as a result of them coming into contact with US convoys. Could you talk about that?
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: Yes. The innocent deaths happened at different times, different places and different occasions. Convoys were commonplace. The only incident I have firsthand knowledge of was a convoy that was actually not our convoy. It was a convoy had just driven by us. And an Iraqi vehicle with a mother, three daughters and an older teenage son who was driving the car were following a convoy too close. It got too close, and they shot into the car. It was a warning shot, and it ended up killing the mother. And they actually pulled the car over, or the son pulled the car over right next to us, and we just happened to be near a hospital in Mosul at the time. And the mother was obviously dead, and the children were just crying and asking if they could actually get into the hospital.
AMY GOODMAN: So the mother was dead. The three little girls, what happened?
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: Right. The three little girls, we just -- we took them and just -- the last time I saw them they were on the side of the road just crying. They had no idea what had just happened. And it was funny -- it was with another unit -- it was a unit actually that we were attached to in Mosul, and on the back of their last Humvee in the convoy, they had a sign that read, "Stay back 100 meters." And after that, we took our interpreter, our Iraqi interpreter, up to the sign to see how far away he could read it, and he had to be within about thirty or forty feet before he could read it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: You also mentioned, I think, a checkpoint situation, where an elderly couple was killed at a checkpoint, and then their bodies were just left for several days, that you would drive back and forth and you’d still see them there?
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: Yes, depending on -- that happened in different cities, too. Again, up in Mosul, there was an instance where one of our platoons -- I think an elderly couple just stumbled upon one of our -- an area where some of our guys were, and they had gotten too close and were driving, you know, just a little too fast, and that’s it.
You know, our rules of engagement -- we’ve got, you know, set rules that you follow, you know, verbal commands, using signals, shooting warning shots, and all of that happens very quickly when somebody’s coming at you at fifty miles an hour, which I can see happening.
In any of these circumstances, I don’t necessarily fault the soldiers who did it. I don’t think it’s -- they’ve been put in a place where they have to make these split-second decisions on whether someone is a threat or not. And in a place where you don’t understand anything and can’t tell the difference between an enemy and just a regular civilian, I can see where soldiers are making these decisions.
AMY GOODMAN: In both cases, Sergeant Dustin Flatt, in the case of the mother being killed with her three little daughters in the car and the case of this elderly couple, what was your response and the conversations you were having with the other soldiers? How did this affect you?
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: I believe -- well, actually, we were part of a very -- TJ and I were part of a very disciplined unit, or at least we believe so. Our chain of command was fantastic. We very much admired them. We talked about different things all the time and about our rules of engagement and that sort of thing. And it got to a point -- at this instance, actually, up in Mosul when we were attached to a different unit that a different mentality, it was -- we didn’t come to blows, but there were many times when it came close, when we were actually screaming at each other, telling them to knock it off, that they were just shooting indiscriminately at people. You know, I think that --
AMY GOODMAN: Like when?
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: There were times when you were just driving down the road, and another car -- just like we would in America -- would come at an intersection, and they wouldn’t see you coming. You’d be in a convoy of four Humvees. And, of course, everywhere you went you went at, you know, at a pretty good clip. All of the sudden, a car would come up on an intersection, and they would fire on a car just because they approached the intersection. They would literally directly fire into the vehicle.
There were times when we had to -- there was one specific time when the Humvee in front of me from the other unit fired into this car, continued to drive past it. We stopped right in front of it, jumped out to see if the people inside were OK, because they were obviously of no threat. We jumped out, looked. Windows were shattered by bullets. I grabbed the guys inside and I grabbed our interpreter, and I’m screaming at him, going, “Ask them if they’re OK!” Somehow they lived through it. But the fact that they just shot the car and continued to drive on was pretty much a daily occurrence.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And when these accidents occur, and civilians are shot or killed, what were the rules or the orders that you had, as to what the responsibilities were of the soldiers who were involved with these people who were shot or killed?
SGT. DUSTIN FLATT: I think with our specific company, we’d do whatever it took to help the people in the first place. If there was any way that we could evac them to a point to get medical attention, we would. It depended on the circumstances at the time, too. If we had been in the middle of battles or firefights at the time, I think it was a completely different situation. You know, mission first, and then take care of the, you know, collateral damage, I guess you could say, at that point. We did our best to take care of the innocents. I don’t know about other units. I had a completely different feeling about the unit we were attached to in Mosul. Our other times in Tikrit or Samara or any other place was usually with our unit, and our unit was very disciplined when it came to that sort of thing.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Staff Sergeant Timothy John Westphal, TJ Westphal, who served on the outskirts of Tikrit for a yearlong tour with the 18th Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, beginning in February of 2004. Talk about that summer night in 2004, the farmhouse you raided.
STAFF SGT. TIMOTHY JOHN WESTPHAL: That summer night will stand out in my mind for the rest of my life. That was really the turning point for me, when I realized that our involvement in Iraq was something that I wasn’t proud to be a part of. You know, you understand that as an American soldier, we’re all volunteers. We love our jobs, we love our country. We grew up watching John Wayne storm the beaches of Iwo Jima and idolizing World War II heroes, and so forth. So there’s a tremendous amount of pride that we all felt and that we all had in our jobs. And for me, that eroded that summer night in Iraq.
I was the patrol group leader in charge of a raid, which we conducted on an Iraqi farm. And it was the middle of the summer, very hot outside, definitely over 100 degrees, had about forty or so guys. My particular squad, our job was to jump the wall -- every Iraqi home has a wall -- my job was to take our guys over the wall, infiltrate the compound. And there were several houses within the farm compound. And we were told that there were insurgents, bomb makers, living at this residence.
So my men and I jumped over the wall. There were fifteen or so other guys outside pulling a cordon, or perimeter security. We went inside and found a big -- basically a big cluster of people laying outside. And in Iraq during the summer, many Iraqis sleep outside, because it’s just too hot to sleep inside. We weren’t sure what to expect. We just saw a big clump of bodies. It’s dark. There’s no exterior lighting in the compound. So I told my guys to get their flashlights ready. All of our flashlights are mounted on our weapons, so anywhere your flashlight is pointed your weapon is pointed also. I had my guys surround the clump of people who were sleeping outside and told them basically, “On the count of three, we’re going to light them up and see what we have under here. Be prepared for anything. These guys could be armed. So just be on the lookout.”
So I counted to three. I basically just kicked the clump of people there to wake them up, turned on my flashlight, and all my guys did the same thing. And my light happened to shine right on the face of an old man in his mid-sixties. I found out later he was the patriarch of that family. And as we scanned the cluster of people laying there, we saw two younger military age men, probably in their early twenties. Everybody else -- I’d say there were about eight to ten other individuals -- were women and children. We come to find out this was just a family. They were sleeping outside.
The terror that I saw on the patriarch's face, like I said, that really was the turning point for me. I imagined in my mind what he must have been thinking, understanding that he had lived under Saddam's brutal regime for many years, worried about -- you know, hearing stories about Iraqis being carried away in the middle of the night by the Iraqi secret service and so forth, to see all those lights, all those soldiers with guns, all the uniform things that we wear, as far as the helmet, the night vision goggles, very intimidating, very terrifying for the man. He screamed a very guttural cry that I can still hear it every day. You know, it was just the most awful, horrible sound I’ve ever heard in my life. He was so terrified and so afraid for his family. And I thought of my family at that time, and I thought to myself, boy, if I was the patriarch of a family, if soldiers came from another country, came in and did this to my family, I would be an insurgent, too.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And you say that that was a turning point for you. In what way?
STAFF SGT. TIMOTHY JOHN WESTPHAL: It was a turning point for me in the sense that -- you know, prior to going into Iraq, both Dustin and myself, we talked about this many times in the days leading up to the war. We came into Iraq after the initial invasion, so we had a chance to see a little bit of the buildup to the war, as well as the actual invasion piece. And several of us, including Dustin and myself, were very much opposed to the Iraq war. However, we chose to go, number one, out of a sense of loyalty to each other and our unit; second, because we were hoping as leaders, as combat leaders, leaders of soldiers, we would be able to influence those young men to make good decisions and not do things like kill indiscriminately or let their emotions get into their decision-making abilities. So that’s why we chose to go. And again, because this is our profession, we were very proud of what we were doing, even though we opposed the mission itself, are proud to serve with our brothers and to be a part of something like that.
However, that night -- and that was about halfway through my yearlong tour -- that night I really admitted to myself -- and it was a very hard thing to do, but I admitted to myself that America is not the good guy in this thing. And, you know, if you factor in that you have these young men who most of them are high-school-educated -- some have a bit of college, some do have college degrees -- but the education level, for the most part, is high school graduates only.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Sergeant Westphal, we only have about thirty seconds left. I’d like to ask you: you went in in February 2004. Did you ever expect that we’d be in this situation now, more than three years later?
STAFF SGT. TIMOTHY JOHN WESTPHAL: I never imagined that America would ever get to this point. I never imagined that the American public would be so apathetic as they have been, in my estimation. A lot of them don’t listen to the stories we tell. There’s a reason that all these guys got together for this article, because they have a commitment to the truth, and we definitely want the truth to be out there, that America has brought terror to the country of Iraq, and that’s something that we have to deal with.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the US soldiers should be brought home now?
STAFF SGT. TIMOTHY JOHN WESTPHAL: Absolutely. You know, I support the United States military. I’m a soldier. I always will be. I’m tremendously proud of the men I served with. However, yes, I do believe that we need to bring our troops home right now, because all we’re doing is making more terrorists and more people who hate America.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Staff Sergeant Timothy John Westphal, TJ Westphal, and Sergeant Dustin Flatt, speaking to us from Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver Colorado. And that does it for our broadcast. Also special thanks to Laila Al-Arian, who’s the co-author with Chris Hedges of this magazine-long piece, “The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness” in The Nation magazine. Thank you for joining us.
5) The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness
by CHRIS HEDGES & LAILA AL-ARIAN
[from the July 30, 2007 issue of The Nation]
Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.
Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported--and almost always go unpunished.
Court cases, such as the ones surrounding the massacre in Haditha and the rape and murder of a 14-year-old in Mahmudiya, and news stories in the Washington Post, Time, the London Independent and elsewhere based on Iraqi accounts have begun to hint at the wide extent of the attacks on civilians. Human rights groups have issued reports, such as Human Rights Watch's Hearts and Minds: Post-war Civilian Deaths in Baghdad Caused by U.S. Forces, packed with detailed incidents that suggest that the killing of Iraqi civilians by occupation forces is more common than has been acknowledged by military authorities.
This Nation investigation marks the first time so many on-the-record, named eyewitnesses from within the US military have been assembled in one place to openly corroborate these assertions.
While some veterans said civilian shootings were routinely investigated by the military, many more said such inquiries were rare. "I mean, you physically could not do an investigation every time a civilian was wounded or killed because it just happens a lot and you'd spend all your time doing that," said Marine Reserve Lieut. Jonathan Morgenstein, 35, of Arlington, Virginia. He served from August 2004 to March 2005 in Ramadi with a Marine Corps civil affairs unit supporting a combat team with the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade. (All interviewees are identified by the rank they held during the period of service they recount here; some have since been promoted or demoted.)
Veterans said the culture of this counterinsurgency war, in which most Iraqi civilians were assumed to be hostile, made it difficult for soldiers to sympathize with their victims--at least until they returned home and had a chance to reflect.
"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi," said Spc. Jeff Englehart, 26, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Specialist Englehart served with the Third Brigade, First Infantry Division, in Baquba, about thirty-five miles northeast of Baghdad, for a year beginning in February 2004. "You know, so what?... The soldiers honestly thought we were trying to help the people and they were mad because it was almost like a betrayal. Like here we are trying to help you, here I am, you know, thousands of miles away from home and my family, and I have to be here for a year and work every day on these missions. Well, we're trying to help you and you just turn around and try to kill us."
He said it was only "when they get home, in dealing with veteran issues and meeting other veterans, it seems like the guilt really takes place, takes root, then."
The Iraq War is a vast and complicated enterprise. In this investigation of alleged military misconduct, The Nation focused on a few key elements of the occupation, asking veterans to explain in detail their experiences operating patrols and supply convoys, setting up checkpoints, conducting raids and arresting suspects. From these collected snapshots a common theme emerged. Fighting in densely populated urban areas has led to the indiscriminate use of force and the deaths at the hands of occupation troops of thousands of innocents.
Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the US government and American media. The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears a powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations, from the French occupation of Algeria to the American war in Vietnam and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
"I'll tell you the point where I really turned," said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. "I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg.... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn't crying, wasn't anything, it just looked at me like--I know she couldn't speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?... I was just like, This is--this is it. This is ridiculous."
Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the US Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured "an innocent noncombatant."
These attitudes reflect the limited contact occupation troops said they had with Iraqis. They rarely saw their enemy. They lived bottled up in heavily fortified compounds that often came under mortar attack. They only ventured outside their compounds ready for combat. The mounting frustration of fighting an elusive enemy and the devastating effect of roadside bombs, with their steady toll of American dead and wounded, led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis.
Veterans described reckless firing once they left their compounds. Some shot holes into cans of gasoline being sold along the roadside and then tossed grenades into the pools of gas to set them ablaze. Others opened fire on children. These shootings often enraged Iraqi witnesses.
In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía's unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.
"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them," Sergeant Mejía said.
We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.
"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.
"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.
The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.
In the sections that follow, snipers, medics, military police, artillerymen, officers and others recount their experiences serving in places as diverse as Mosul in the north, Samarra in the Sunni Triangle, Nasiriya in the south and Baghdad in the center, during 2003, 2004 and 2005. Their stories capture the impact of their units on Iraqi civilians.
A Note on Methodology
The Nation interviewed fifty combat veterans, including forty soldiers, eight marines and two sailors, over a period of seven months beginning in July 2006. To find veterans willing to speak on the record about their experiences in Iraq, we sent queries to organizations dedicated to US troops and their families, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the antiwar groups Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War and the prowar group Vets for Freedom. The leaders of IVAW and Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of IAVA, were especially helpful in putting us in touch with Iraq War veterans. Finally, we found veterans through word of mouth, as many of those we interviewed referred us to their military friends.
To verify their military service, when possible we obtained a copy of each interviewee's DD Form 214, or the Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty, and in all cases confirmed their service with the branch of the military in which they were enlisted. Nineteen interviews were conducted in person, while the rest were done over the phone; all were tape-recorded and transcribed; all but five interviewees (most of those currently on active duty) were independently contacted by fact checkers to confirm basic facts about their service in Iraq. Of those interviewed, fourteen served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, twenty from 2004 to 2005 and two from 2005 to 2006. Of the eleven veterans whose tours lasted less than one year, nine served in 2003, while the others served in 2004 and 2005.
The ranks of the veterans we interviewed ranged from private to captain, though only a handful were officers. The veterans served throughout Iraq, but mostly in the country's most volatile areas, such as Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, Falluja and Samarra.
During the course of the interview process, five veterans turned over photographs from Iraq, some of them graphic, to corroborate their claims.
"So we get started on this day, this one in particular," recalled Spc. Philip Chrystal, 23, of Reno, who said he raided between twenty and thirty Iraqi homes during an eleven-month tour in Kirkuk and Hawija that ended in October 2005, serving with the Third Battalion, 116th Cavalry Brigade. "It starts with the psy-ops vehicles out there, you know, with the big speakers playing a message in Arabic or Farsi or Kurdish or whatever they happen to be, saying, basically, saying, Put your weapons, if you have them, next to the front door in your house. Please come outside, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we had Apaches flying over for security, if they're needed, and it's also a good show of force. And we're running around, and they--we'd done a few houses by this point, and I was with my platoon leader, my squad leader and maybe a couple other people.
"And we were approaching this one house," he said. "In this farming area, they're, like, built up into little courtyards. So they have, like, the main house, common area. They have, like, a kitchen and then they have a storage shed-type deal. And we're approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, 'cause it's doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn't--motherfucker--he shot it and it went in the jaw and exited out. So I see this dog--I'm a huge animal lover; I love animals--and this dog has, like, these eyes on it and he's running around spraying blood all over the place. And like, you know, What the hell is going on? The family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad, horrified. And I'm at a loss for words. And so, I yell at him. I'm, like, What the fuck are you doing? And so the dog's yelping. It's crying out without a jaw. And I'm looking at the family, and they're just, you know, dead scared. And so I told them, I was like, Fucking shoot it, you know? At least kill it, because that can't be fixed....
"And--I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but--and I had tears then, too--and I'm looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and, you know, I get my wallet out and I gave them twenty bucks, because that's what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I'm so sorry that asshole did that.
"Was a report ever filed about it?" he asked. "Was anything ever done? Any punishment ever dished out? No, absolutely not."
Specialist Chrystal said such incidents were "very common."
According to interviews with twenty-four veterans who participated in such raids, they are a relentless reality for Iraqis under occupation. The American forces, stymied by poor intelligence, invade neighborhoods where insurgents operate, bursting into homes in the hope of surprising fighters or finding weapons. But such catches, they said, are rare. Far more common were stories in which soldiers assaulted a home, destroyed property in their futile search and left terrorized civilians struggling to repair the damage and begin the long torment of trying to find family members who were hauled away as suspects.
Raids normally took place between midnight and 5 am, according to Sgt. John Bruhns, 29, of Philadelphia, who estimates that he took part in raids of nearly 1,000 Iraqi homes. He served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, a city infamous for its prison, located twenty miles west of the capital, with the Third Brigade, First Armor Division, First Battalion, for one year beginning in April 2003. His descriptions of raid procedures closely echoed those of eight other veterans who served in locations as diverse as Kirkuk, Samarra, Baghdad, Mosul and Tikrit.
"You want to catch them off guard," Sergeant Bruhns explained. "You want to catch them in their sleep." About ten troops were involved in each raid, he said, with five stationed outside and the rest searching the home.
Once they were in front of the home, troops, some wearing Kevlar helmets and flak vests with grenade launchers mounted on their weapons, kicked the door in, according to Sergeant Bruhns, who dispassionately described the procedure:
"You run in. And if there's lights, you turn them on--if the lights are working. If not, you've got flashlights.... You leave one rifle team outside while one rifle team goes inside. Each rifle team leader has a headset on with an earpiece and a microphone where he can communicate with the other rifle team leader that's outside.
"You go up the stairs. You grab the man of the house. You rip him out of bed in front of his wife. You put him up against the wall. You have junior-level troops, PFCs [privates first class], specialists will run into the other rooms and grab the family, and you'll group them all together. Then you go into a room and you tear the room to shreds and you make sure there's no weapons or anything that they can use to attack us.
"You get the interpreter and you get the man of the home, and you have him at gunpoint, and you'll ask the interpreter to ask him: 'Do you have any weapons? Do you have any anti-US propaganda, anything at all--anything--anything in here that would lead us to believe that you are somehow involved in insurgent activity or anti-coalition forces activity?'
"Normally they'll say no, because that's normally the truth," Sergeant Bruhns said. "So what you'll do is you'll take his sofa cushions and you'll dump them. If he has a couch, you'll turn the couch upside down. You'll go into the fridge, if he has a fridge, and you'll throw everything on the floor, and you'll take his drawers and you'll dump them.... You'll open up his closet and you'll throw all the clothes on the floor and basically leave his house looking like a hurricane just hit it.
"And if you find something, then you'll detain him. If not, you'll say, 'Sorry to disturb you. Have a nice evening.' So you've just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you've destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes."
Each raid, or "cordon and search" operation, as they are sometimes called, involved five to twenty homes, he said. Following a spate of attacks on soldiers in a particular area, commanders would normally order infantrymen on raids to look for weapons caches, ammunition or materials for making IEDs. Each Iraqi family was allowed to keep one AK-47 at home, but according to Bruhns, those found with extra weapons were arrested and detained and the operation classified a "success," even if it was clear that no one in the home was an insurgent.
Before a raid, according to descriptions by several veterans, soldiers typically "quarantined" the area by barring anyone from coming in or leaving. In pre-raid briefings, Sergeant Bruhns said, military commanders often told their troops the neighborhood they were ordered to raid was "a hostile area with a high level of insurgency" and that it had been taken over by former Baathists or Al Qaeda terrorists.
"So you have all these troops, and they're all wound up," said Sergeant Bruhns. "And a lot of these troops think once they kick down the door there's going to be people on the inside waiting for them with weapons to start shooting at them."
Sgt. Dustin Flatt, 33, of Denver, estimates he raided "thousands" of homes in Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul. He served with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, for one year beginning in February 2004. "We scared the living Jesus out of them every time we went through every house," he said.
Spc. Ali Aoun, 23, a National Guardsman from New York City, said he conducted perimeter security in nearly 100 raids while serving in Sadr City with the Eighty-Ninth Military Police Brigade for eleven months starting in April 2004. When soldiers raided a home, he said, they first cordoned it off with Humvees. Soldiers guarded the entrance to make sure no one escaped. If an entire town was being raided, in large-scale operations, it too was cordoned off, said Spc. Garett Reppenhagen, 32, of Manitou Springs, Colorado, a cavalry scout and sniper with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, who was deployed to Baquba for a year in February 2004.
Staff Sgt. Timothy John Westphal, 31, of Denver, recalled one summer night in 2004, the temperature an oppressive 110 degrees, when he and forty-four other US soldiers raided a sprawling farm on the outskirts of Tikrit. Sergeant Westphal, who served there for a yearlong tour with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, beginning in February 2004, said he was told some men on the farm were insurgents. As a mechanized infantry squad leader, Sergeant Westphal led the mission to secure the main house, while fifteen men swept the property. Sergeant Westphal and his men hopped the wall surrounding the house, fully expecting to come face to face with armed insurgents.
"We had our flashlights and...I told my guys, 'On the count of three, just hit them with your lights and let's see what we've got here. Wake 'em up!'"
Sergeant Westphal's flashlight was mounted on his M-4 carbine rifle, a smaller version of the M-16, so in pointing his light at the clump of sleepers on the floor he was also pointing his weapon at them. Sergeant Westphal first turned his light on a man who appeared to be in his mid-60s.
"The man screamed this gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, just horrified scream," Sergeant Westphal recalled. "I've never heard anything like that. I mean, the guy was absolutely terrified. I can imagine what he was thinking, having lived under Saddam."
The farm's inhabitants were not insurgents but a family sleeping outside for relief from the stifling heat, and the man Sergeant Westphal had frightened awake was the patriarch.
"Sure enough, as we started to peel back the layers of all these people sleeping, I mean, it was him, maybe two guys...either his sons or nephews or whatever, and the rest were all women and children," Sergeant Westphal said. "We didn't find anything.
"I can tell you hundreds of stories about things like that and they would all pretty much be like the one I just told you. Just a different family, a different time, a different circumstance."
For Sergeant Westphal, that night was a turning point. "I just remember thinking to myself, I just brought terror to someone else under the American flag, and that's just not what I joined the Army to do," he said.
Fifteen soldiers we spoke with told us the information that spurred these raids was typically gathered through human intelligence--and that it was usually incorrect. Eight said it was common for Iraqis to use American troops to settle family disputes, tribal rivalries or personal vendettas. Sgt. Jesus Bocanegra, 25, of Weslaco, Texas, was a scout in Tikrit with the Fourth Infantry Division during a yearlong tour that ended in March 2004. In late 2003, Sergeant Bocanegra raided a middle-aged man's home in Tikrit because his son had told the Army his father was an insurgent. After thoroughly searching the man's house, soldiers found nothing and later discovered that the son simply wanted money his father had buried at the farm.
After persistently acting on such false leads, Sergeant Bocanegra, who raided Iraqi homes in more than fifty operations, said soldiers began to anticipate the innocence of those they raided. "People would make jokes about it, even before we'd go into a raid, like, Oh fucking we're gonna get the wrong house," he said. "'Cause it would always happen. We always got the wrong house." Specialist Chrystal said that he and his platoon leader shared a joke of their own: Every time he raided a house, he would radio in and say, "This is, you know, Thirty-One Lima. Yeah, I found the weapons of mass destruction in here."
Sergeant Bruhns said he questioned the authenticity of the intelligence he received because Iraqi informants were paid by the US military for tips. On one occasion, an Iraqi tipped off Sergeant Bruhns's unit that a small Syrian resistance organization, responsible for killing a number of US troops, was holed up in a house. "They're waiting for us to show up and there will be a lot of shooting," Sergeant Bruhns recalled being told.
As the Alpha Company team leader, Sergeant Bruhns was supposed to be the first person in the door. Skeptical, he refused. "So I said, 'If you're so confident that there are a bunch of Syrian terrorists, insurgents...in there, why in the world are you going to send me and three guys in the front door, because chances are I'm not going to be able to squeeze the trigger before I get shot.'" Sergeant Bruhns facetiously suggested they pull an M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle up to the house and shoot a missile through the front window to exterminate the enemy fighters his commanders claimed were inside. They instead diminished the aggressiveness of the raid. As Sergeant Bruhns ran security out front, his fellow soldiers smashed the windows and kicked down the doors to find "a few little kids, a woman and an old man."
In late summer 2005, in a village on the outskirts of Kirkuk, Specialist Chrystal searched a compound with two Iraqi police officers. A friendly man in his mid-30s escorted Specialist Chrystal and others in his unit around the property, where the man lived with his parents, wife and children, making jokes to lighten the mood. As they finished searching--they found nothing--a lieutenant from his company approached Specialist Chrystal: "What the hell were you doing?" he asked. "Well, we just searched the house and it's clear," Specialist Chrystal said. The lieutenant told Specialist Chrystal that his friendly guide was "one of the targets" of the raid. "Apparently he'd been dimed out by somebody as being an insurgent," Specialist Chrystal said. "For that mission, they'd only handed out the target sheets to officers, and officers aren't there with the rest of the troops." Specialist Chrystal said he felt "humiliated" because his assessment that the man posed no threat was deemed irrelevant and the man was arrested. Shortly afterward, he posted himself in a fighting vehicle for the rest of the mission.
Sgt. Larry Cannon, 27, of Salt Lake City, a Bradley gunner with the Eighteenth Infantry Brigade, First Infantry Division, served a yearlong tour in several cities in Iraq, including Tikrit, Samarra and Mosul, beginning in February 2004. He estimates that he searched more than a hundred homes in Tikrit and found the raids fruitless and maddening. "We would go on one raid of a house and that guy would say, 'No, it's not me, but I know where that guy is.' And...he'd take us to the next house where this target was supposedly at, and then that guy's like, 'No, it's not me. I know where he is, though.' And we'd drive around all night and go from raid to raid to raid."
"I can't really fault military intelligence," said Specialist Reppenhagen, who said he raided thirty homes in and around Baquba. "It was always a guessing game. We're in a country where we don't speak the language. We're light on interpreters. It's just impossible to really get anything. All you're going off is a pattern of what's happened before and hoping that the pattern doesn't change."
Sgt. Geoffrey Millard, 26, of Buffalo, New York, served in Tikrit with the Rear Operations Center, Forty-Second Infantry Division, for one year beginning in October 2004. He said combat troops had neither the training nor the resources to investigate tips before acting on them. "We're not police," he said. "We don't go around like detectives and ask questions. We kick down doors, we go in, we grab people."
First Lieut. Brady Van Engelen, 26, of Washington, DC, said the Army depended on less than reliable sources because options were limited. He served as a survey platoon leader with the First Armored Division in Baghdad's volatile Adhamiya district for eight months beginning in September 2003. "That's really about the only thing we had," he said. "A lot of it was just going off a whim, a hope that it worked out," he said. "Maybe one in ten worked out."
Sergeant Bruhns said he uncovered illegal material about 10 percent of the time, an estimate echoed by other veterans. "We did find small materials for IEDs, like maybe a small piece of the wire, the detonating cord," said Sergeant Cannon. "We never found real bombs in the houses." In the thousand or so raids he conducted during his time in Iraq, Sergeant Westphal said, he came into contact with only four "hard-core insurgents."
Even with such slim pretexts for arrest, some soldiers said, any Iraqis arrested during a raid were treated with extreme suspicion. Several reported seeing military-age men detained without evidence or abused during questioning. Eight veterans said the men would typically be bound with plastic handcuffs, their heads covered with sandbags. While the Army officially banned the practice of hooding prisoners after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, five soldiers indicated that it continued.
"You weren't allowed to, but it was still done," said Sergeant Cannon. "I remember in Mosul [in January 2005], we had guys in a raid and they threw them in the back of a Bradley," shackled and hooded. "These guys were really throwing up," he continued. "They were so sick and nervous. And sometimes, they were peeing on themselves. Can you imagine if people could just come into your house and take you in front of your family screaming? And if you actually were innocent but had no way to prove that? It would be a scary, scary thing." Specialist Reppenhagen said he had only a vague idea about what constituted contraband during a raid. "Sometimes we didn't even have a translator, so we find some poster with Muqtada al-Sadr, Sistani or something, we don't know what it says on it. We just apprehend them, document that thing as evidence and send it on down the road and let other people deal with it."
Sergeant Bruhns, Sergeant Bocanegra and others said physical abuse of Iraqis during raids was common. "It was just soldiers being soldiers," Sergeant Bocanegra said. "You give them a lot of, too much, power that they never had before, and before you know it they're the ones kicking these guys while they're handcuffed. And then by you not catching [insurgents], when you do have someone say, 'Oh, this is a guy planting a roadside bomb'--and you don't even know if it's him or not--you just go in there and kick the shit out of him and take him in the back of a five-ton--take him to jail."
Tens of thousands of Iraqis--military officials estimate more than 60,000--have been arrested and detained since the beginning of the occupation, leaving their families to navigate a complex, chaotic prison system in order to find them. Veterans we interviewed said the majority of detainees they encountered were either innocent or guilty of only minor infractions.
Sergeant Bocanegra said during the first two months of the war he was instructed to detain Iraqis based on their attire alone. "They were wearing Arab clothing and military-style boots, they were considered enemy combatants and you would cuff 'em and take 'em in," he said. "When you put something like that so broad, you're bound to have, out of a hundred, you're going to have ten at least that were, you know what I mean, innocent."
Sometime during the summer of 2003, Bocanegra said, the rules of engagement narrowed--somewhat. "I remember on some raids, anybody of military age would be taken," he said. "Say, for example, we went to some house looking for a 25-year-old male. We would look at an age group. Anybody from 15 to 30 might be a suspect." (Since returning from Iraq, Bocanegra has sought counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder and said his "mission" is to encourage others to do the same.)
Spc. Richard Murphy, 28, an Army Reservist from Pocono, Pennsylvania, who served part of his fifteen-month tour with the 800th Military Police Brigade in Abu Ghraib prison, said he was often struck by the lack of due process afforded the prisoners he guarded.
Specialist Murphy initially went to Iraq in May 2003 to train Iraqi police in the southern city of Al Hillah but was transferred to Abu Ghraib in October 2003 when his unit replaced one that was rotating home. (He spoke with The Nation in October 2006, while not on active duty.) Shortly after his arrival there, he realized that the number of prisoners was growing "exponentially" while the amount of personnel remained stagnant. By the end of his six-month stint, Specialist Murphy was in charge of 320 prisoners, the majority of whom he was convinced were unjustly detained.
"I knew that a large percentage of these prisoners were innocent," he said. "Just living with these people for months you get to see their character.... In just listening to the prisoners' stories, I mean, I get the sense that a lot of them were just getting rounded up in big groups."
Specialist Murphy said one prisoner, a mentally impaired, blind albino who could "maybe see a few feet in front of his face" clearly did not belong in Abu Ghraib. "I thought to myself, What could he have possibly done?"
Specialist Murphy counted the prisoners twice a day, and the inmates would often ask him when they would be released or implore him to advocate on their behalf, which he would try to do through the JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps office. The JAG officer Specialist Murphy dealt with would respond that it was out of his hands. "He would make his recommendations and he'd have to send it up to the next higher command," Specialist Murphy said. "It was just a snail's crawling process.... The system wasn't working."
Prisoners at the notorious facility rioted on November 24, 2003, to protest their living conditions, and Army Reserve Spc. Aidan Delgado, 25, of Sarasota, Florida, was there. He had deployed with the 320th Military Police Company to Talil Air Base, to serve in Nasiriya and Abu Ghraib for one year beginning in April 2003. Unlike the other troops in his unit, he did not respond to the riot. Four months earlier he had decided to stop carrying a loaded weapon.
Nine prisoners were killed and three wounded after soldiers opened fire during the riot, and Specialist Delgado's fellow soldiers returned with photographs of the events. The images, disturbingly similar to the incident described by Sergeant Mejía, shocked him. "It was very graphic," he said. "A head split open. One of them was of two soldiers in the back of the truck. They open the body bags of these prisoners that were shot in the head and [one soldier has] got an MRE spoon. He's reaching in to scoop out some of his brain, looking at the camera and he's smiling. And I said, 'These are some of our soldiers desecrating somebody's body. Something is seriously amiss.' I became convinced that this was excessive force, and this was brutality."
Spc. Patrick Resta, 29, a National Guardsman from Philadelphia, served in Jalula, where there was a small prison camp at his base. He was with the 252nd Armor, First Infantry Division, for nine months beginning in March 2004. He recalled his supervisor telling his platoon point-blank, "The Geneva Conventions don't exist at all in Iraq, and that's in writing if you want to see it."
The pivotal experience for Specialist Delgado came when, in the winter of 2003, he was assigned to battalion headquarters inside Abu Ghraib prison, where he worked with Maj. David DiNenna and Lieut. Col. Jerry Phillabaum, both implicated in the Taguba Report, the official Army investigation into the prison scandal. There, Delgado read reports on prisoners and updated a dry erase board with information on where in the large prison compound detainees were moved and held.
"That was when I totally walked away from the Army," Specialist Delgado said. "I read these rap sheets on all the prisoners in Abu Ghraib and what they were there for. I expected them to be terrorists, murderers, insurgents. I look down this roster and see petty theft, public drunkenness, forged coalition documents. These people are here for petty civilian crimes."
"These aren't terrorists," he recalled thinking. "These aren't our enemies. They're just ordinary people, and we're treating them this harshly." Specialist Delgado ultimately applied for conscientious objector status, which the Army approved in April 2004.
American troops in Iraq lacked the training and support to communicate with or even understand Iraqi civilians, according to nineteen interviewees. Few spoke or read Arabic. They were offered little or no cultural or historical education about the country they controlled. Translators were either in short supply or unqualified. Any stereotypes about Islam and Arabs that soldiers and marines arrived with tended to solidify rapidly in the close confines of the military and the risky streets of Iraqi cities into a crude racism.
As Spc. Josh Middleton, 23, of New York City, who served in Baghdad and Mosul with the Second Battalion, Eighty-Second Airborne Division, from December 2004 to March 2005, pointed out, 20-year-old soldiers went from the humiliation of training--"getting yelled at every day if you have a dirty weapon"--to the streets of Iraq, where "it's like life and death. And 40-year-old Iraqi men look at us with fear and we can--do you know what I mean?--we have this power that you can't have. That's really liberating. Life is just knocked down to this primal level."
In Iraq, Specialist Middleton said, "a lot of guys really supported that whole concept that, you know, if they don't speak English and they have darker skin, they're not as human as us, so we can do what we want."
In the scramble to get ready for Iraq, troops rarely learned more than how to say a handful of words in Arabic, depending mostly on a single manual, A Country Handbook, a Field-Ready Reference Publication, published by the Defense Department in September 2002. The book, as described by eight soldiers who received it, has pictures of Iraqi military vehicles, diagrams of how the Iraqi army is structured, images of Iraqi traffic signals and signs, and about four pages of basic Arabic phrases such as Do you speak English? I am an American. I am lost.
Iraqi culture, identity and customs were, according to at least a dozen soldiers and marines interviewed by The Nation, openly ridiculed in racist terms, with troops deriding "haji food," "haji music" and "haji homes." In the Muslim world, the word "haji" denotes someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is now used by American troops in the same way "gook" was used in Vietnam or "raghead" in Afghanistan.
"You can honestly see how the Iraqis in general or even Arabs in general are being, you know, kind of like dehumanized," said Specialist Englehart. "Like it was very common for United States soldiers to call them derogatory terms, like camel jockeys or Jihad Johnny or, you know, sand nigger."
According to Sergeant Millard and several others interviewed, "It becomes this racialized hatred towards Iraqis." And this racist language, as Specialist Harmon pointed out, likely played a role in the level of violence directed at Iraqi civilians. "By calling them names," he said, "they're not people anymore. They're just objects."
Several interviewees emphasized that the military did set up, for training purposes, mock Iraqi villages peopled with actors who played the parts of civilians and insurgents. But they said that the constant danger in Iraq, and the fear it engendered, swiftly overtook such training.
"They were the law," Specialist Harmon said of the soldiers in his unit in Al-Rashidiya, near Baghdad, which participated in raids and convoys. "They were very mean, very mean-spirited to them. A lot of cursing at them. And I'm like, Dude, these people don't understand what you're saying.... They used to say a lot, 'Oh, they'll understand when the gun is in their face.'"
Those few veterans who said they did try to reach out to Iraqis encountered fierce hostility from those in their units.
"I had the night shift one night at the aid station," said Specialist Resta, recounting one such incident. "We were told from the first second that we arrived there, and this was in writing on the wall in our aid station, that we were not to treat Iraqi civilians unless they were about to die.... So these guys in the guard tower radio in, and they say they've got an Iraqi out there that's asking for a doctor.
"So it's really late at night, and I walk out there to the gate and I don't even see the guy at first, and they point out to him and he's standing there. Well, I mean he's sitting, leaned up against this concrete barrier--like the median of the highway--we had as you approached the gate. And he's sitting there leaned up against it and, uh, he's out there, if you want to go and check on him, he's out there. So I'm sitting there waiting for an interpreter, and the interpreter comes and I just walk out there in the open. And this guy, he has the shit kicked out of him. He was missing two teeth. He has a huge laceration on his head, he looked like he had broken his eye orbit and had some kind of injury to his knee."
The Iraqi, Specialist Resta said, pleaded with him in broken English for help. He told Specialist Resta that there were men near the base who were waiting to kill him.
"I open a bag and I'm trying to get bandages out and the guys in the guard tower are yelling at me, 'Get that fucking haji out of here,'" Specialist Resta said. "And I just look back at them and ignored them, and then they were saying, you know, 'He doesn't look like he's about to die to me,' 'Tell him to go cry back to the fuckin' IP [Iraqi police],' and, you know, a whole bunch of stuff like that. So, you know, I'm kind of ignoring them and trying to get the story from this guy, and our doctor rolls up in an ambulance and from thirty to forty meters away looks out and says, shakes his head and says, 'You know, he looks fine, he's gonna be all right,' and walks back to the passenger side of the ambulance, you know, kind of like, Get your ass over here and drive me back up to the clinic. So I'm standing there, and the whole time both this doctor and the guards are yelling at me, you know, to get rid of this guy, and at one point they're yelling at me, when I'm saying, 'No, let's at least keep this guy here overnight, until it's light out,' because they wanted me to send him back out into the city, where he told me that people were waiting for him to kill him.
"When I asked if he'd be allowed to stay there, at least until it was light out, the response was, 'Are you hearing this shit? I think Doc is part fucking haji,'" Specialist Resta said.
Specialist Resta gave in to the pressure and denied the man aid. The interpreter, he recalled, was furious, telling him that he had effectively condemned the man to death.
"So I walk inside the gate and the interpreter helps him up and the guy turns around to walk away and the guys in the guard tower go, say, 'Tell him that if he comes back tonight he's going to get fucking shot,'" Specialist Resta said. "And the interpreter just stared at them and looked at me and then looked back at them, and they nod their head, like, Yeah, we mean it. So he yells it to the Iraqi and the guy just flinches and turns back over his shoulder, and the interpreter says it again and he starts walking away again, you know, crying like a little kid. And that was that."
Two dozen soldiers interviewed said that this callousness toward Iraqi civilians was particularly evident in the operation of supply convoys--operations in which they participated. These convoys are the arteries that sustain the occupation, ferrying items such as water, mail, maintenance parts, sewage, food and fuel across Iraq. And these strings of tractor-trailers, operated by KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root) and other private contractors, required daily protection by the US military. Typically, according to these interviewees, supply convoys consisted of twenty to thirty trucks stretching half a mile down the road, with a Humvee military escort in front and back and at least one more in the center. Soldiers and marines also sometimes accompanied the drivers in the cabs of the tractor-trailers.
These convoys, ubiquitous in Iraq, were also, to many Iraqis, sources of wanton destruction.
According to descriptions culled from interviews with thirty-eight veterans who rode in convoys--guarding such runs as Kuwait to Nasiriya, Nasiriya to Baghdad and Balad to Kirkuk--when these columns of vehicles left their heavily fortified compounds they usually roared down the main supply routes, which often cut through densely populated areas, reaching speeds over sixty miles an hour. Governed by the rule that stagnation increases the likelihood of attack, convoys leapt meridians in traffic jams, ignored traffic signals, swerved without warning onto sidewalks, scattering pedestrians, and slammed into civilian vehicles, shoving them off the road. Iraqi civilians, including children, were frequently run over and killed. Veterans said they sometimes shot drivers of civilian cars that moved into convoy formations or attempted to pass convoys as a warning to other drivers to get out of the way.
"A moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one," said Sgt. Ben Flanders, 28, a National Guardsman from Concord, New Hampshire, who served in Balad with the 172nd Mountain Infantry for eleven months beginning in March 2004. Flanders ran convoy routes out of Camp Anaconda, about thirty miles north of Baghdad. "So speed was your friend. And certainly in terms of IED detonation, absolutely, speed and spacing were the two things that could really determine whether or not you were going to get injured or killed or if they just completely missed, which happened."
Following an explosion or ambush, soldiers in the heavily armed escort vehicles often fired indiscriminately in a furious effort to suppress further attacks, according to three veterans. The rapid bursts from belt-fed .50-caliber machine guns and SAWs (Squad Automatic Weapons, which can fire as many as 1,000 rounds per minute) left many civilians wounded or dead.
"One example I can give you, you know, we'd be cruising down the road in a convoy and all of the sudden, an IED blows up," said Spc. Ben Schrader, 27, of Grand Junction, Colorado. He served in Baquba with the 263rd Armor Battalion, First Infantry Division, from February 2004 to February 2005. "And, you know, you've got these scared kids on these guns, and they just start opening fire. And there could be innocent people everywhere. And I've seen this, I mean, on numerous occasions where innocent people died because we're cruising down and a bomb goes off."
Several veterans said that IEDs, the preferred weapon of the Iraqi insurgency, were one of their greatest fears. Since the invasion in March 2003, IEDs have been responsible for killing more US troops--39.2 percent of the more than 3,500 killed--than any other method, according to the Brookings Institution, which monitors deaths in Iraq. This past May, IED attacks claimed ninety lives, the highest number of fatalities from roadside bombs since the beginning of the war.
"The second you left the gate of your base, you were always worried," said Sergeant Flatt. "You were constantly watchful for IEDs. And you could never see them. I mean, it's just by pure luck who's getting killed and who's not. If you've been in firefights earlier that day or that week, you're even more stressed and insecure to a point where you're almost trigger-happy."
Sergeant Flatt was among twenty-four veterans who said they had witnessed or heard stories from those in their unit of unarmed civilians being shot or run over by convoys. These incidents, they said, were so numerous that many were never reported.
Sergeant Flatt recalled an incident in January 2005 when a convoy drove past him on one of the main highways in Mosul. "A car following got too close to their convoy," he said. "Basically, they took shots at the car. Warning shots, I don't know. But they shot the car. Well, one of the bullets happened to just pierce the windshield and went straight into the face of this woman in the car. And she was--well, as far as I know--instantly killed. I didn't pull her out of the car or anything. Her son was driving the car, and she had her--she had three little girls in the back seat. And they came up to us, because we were actually sitting in a defensive position right next to the hospital, the main hospital in Mosul, the civilian hospital. And they drove up and she was obviously dead. And the girls were crying."
On July 30, 2004, Sergeant Flanders was riding in the tail vehicle of a convoy on a pitch-black night, traveling from Camp Anaconda south to Taji, just north of Baghdad, when his unit was attacked with small-arms fire and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). He was about to get on the radio to warn the vehicle in front of him about the ambush when he saw his gunner unlock the turret and swivel it around in the direction of the shooting. He fired his MK-19, a 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher capable of discharging up to 350 rounds per minute.
"He's just holding the trigger down and it wound up jamming, so he didn't get off as many shots maybe as he wanted," Sergeant Flanders recalled. "But I said, 'How many did you get off?' 'Cause I knew they would be asking that. He said, 'Twenty-three.' He launched twenty-three grenades....
"I remember looking out the window and I saw a little hut, a little Iraqi house with a light on.... We were going so fast and obviously your adrenaline's--you're like tunnel vision, so you can't really see what's going on, you know? And it's dark out and all that stuff. I couldn't really see where the grenades were exploding, but it had to be exploding around the house or maybe even hit the house. Who knows? Who knows? And we were the last vehicle. We can't stop."
Convoys did not slow down or attempt to brake when civilians inadvertently got in front of their vehicles, according to the veterans who described them. Sgt. Kelly Dougherty, 29, from Cañon City, Colorado, was based at the Talil Air Base in Nasiriya with the Colorado National Guard's 220th Military Police Company for a year beginning in February 2003. She recounted one incident she investigated in January 2004 on a six-lane highway south of Nasiriya that resembled numerous incidents described by other veterans.
"It's like very barren desert, so most of the people that live there, they're nomadic or they live in just little villages and have, like, camels and goats and stuff," she recalled. "There was then a little boy--I would say he was about 10 because we didn't see the accident; we responded to it with the investigative team--a little Iraqi boy and he was crossing the highway with his, with three donkeys. A military convoy, transportation convoy driving north, hit him and the donkeys and killed all of them. When we got there, there were the dead donkeys and there was a little boy on the side of the road.
"We saw him there and, you know, we were upset because the convoy didn't even stop," she said. "They really, judging by the skid marks, they hardly even slowed down. But, I mean, that's basically--basically, your order is that you never stop."
Among supply convoys, there were enormous disparities based on the nationality of the drivers, according to Sergeant Flanders, who estimated that he ran more than 100 convoys in Balad, Baghdad, Falluja and Baquba. When drivers were not American, the trucks were often old, slow and prone to breakdowns, he said. The convoys operated by Nepalese, Egyptian or Pakistani drivers did not receive the same level of security, although the danger was more severe because of the poor quality of their vehicles. American drivers were usually placed in convoys about half the length of those run by foreign nationals and were given superior vehicles, body armor and better security. Sergeant Flanders said troops disliked being assigned to convoys run by foreign nationals, especially since, when the aging vehicles broke down, they had to remain and protect them until they could be recovered.
"It just seemed insane to run civilians around the country," he added. "I mean, Iraq is such a security concern and it's so dangerous and yet we have KBR just riding around, unarmed.... Remember those terrible judgments that we made about what Iraq would look like postconflict? I think this is another incarnation of that misjudgment, which would be that, Oh, it'll be fine. We'll put a Humvee in front, we'll put a Humvee in back, we'll put a Humvee in the middle, and we'll just run with it.
"It was just shocking to me.... I was Army trained and I had a good gunner and I had radios and I could call on the radios and I could get an airstrike if I wanted to. I could get a Medevac.... And here these guys are just tooling around. And these guys are, like, they're promised the world. They're promised $120,000, tax free, and what kind of people take those jobs? Down-on-their-luck-type people, you know? Grandmothers. There were grandmothers there. I escorted a grandmother there and she did great. We went through an ambush and one of her guys got shot, and she was cool, calm and collected. Wonderful, great, good for her. What the hell is she doing there?
"We're using these vulnerable, vulnerable convoys, which probably piss off more Iraqis than it actually helps in our relationship with them," Flanders said, "just so that we can have comfort and air-conditioning and sodas--great--and PlayStations and camping chairs and greeting cards and stupid T-shirts that say, Who's Your Baghdaddy?"
Soldiers and marines who participated in neighborhood patrols said they often used the same tactics as convoys--speed, aggressive firing--to reduce the risk of being ambushed or falling victim to IEDs. Sgt. Patrick Campbell, 29, of Camarillo, California, who frequently took part in patrols, said his unit fired often and without much warning on Iraqi civilians in a desperate bid to ward off attacks.
"Every time we got on the highway," he said, "we were firing warning shots, causing accidents all the time. Cars screeching to a stop, going into the other intersection.... The problem is, if you slow down at an intersection more than once, that's where the next bomb is going to be because you know they watch. You know? And so if you slow down at the same choke point every time, guaranteed there's going to be a bomb there next couple of days. So getting onto a freeway or highway is a choke point 'cause you have to wait for traffic to stop. So you want to go as fast as you can, and that involves added risk to all the cars around you, all the civilian cars.
"The first Iraqi I saw killed was an Iraqi who got too close to our patrol," he said. "We were coming up an on-ramp. And he was coming down the highway. And they fired warning shots and he just didn't stop. He just merged right into the convoy and they opened up on him."
This took place sometime in the spring of 2005 in Khadamiya, in the northwest corner of Baghdad, Sergeant Campbell said. His unit fired into the man's car with a 240 Bravo, a heavy machine gun. "I heard three gunshots," he said. "We get about halfway down the road and...the guy in the car got out and he's covered in blood. And this is where...the impulse is just to keep going. There's no way that this guy knows who we are. We're just like every other patrol that goes up and down this road. I looked at my lieutenant and it wasn't even a discussion. We turned around and we went back.
"So I'm treating the guy. He has three gunshot wounds to the chest. Blood everywhere. And he keeps going in and out of consciousness. And when he finally stops breathing, I have to give him CPR. I take my right hand, I lift up his chin and I take my left hand and grab the back of his head to position his head, and as I take my left hand, my hand actually goes into his cranium. So I'm actually holding this man's brain in my hand. And what I realized was I had made a mistake. I had checked for exit wounds. But what I didn't know was the Humvee behind me, after the car failed to stop after the first three rounds, had fired twenty, thirty rounds into the car. I never heard it.
"I heard three rounds, I saw three holes, no exit wounds," he said. "I thought I knew what the situation was. So I didn't even treat this guy's injury to the head. Every medic I ever told is always like, Of course, I mean, the guy got shot in the head. There's nothing you could have done. And I'm pretty sure--I mean, you can't stop bleeding in the head like that. But this guy, I'm watching this guy, who I know we shot because he got too close. His car was clean. There was no--didn't hear it, didn't see us, whatever it was. Dies, you know, dying in my arms."
While many veterans said the killing of civilians deeply disturbed them, they also said there was no other way to safely operate a patrol.
"You don't want to shoot kids, I mean, no one does," said Sergeant Campbell, as he began to describe an incident in the summer of 2005 recounted to him by several men in his unit. "But you have this: I remember my unit was coming along this elevated overpass. And this kid is in the trash pile below, pulls out an AK-47 and just decides he's going to start shooting. And you gotta understand...when you have spent nine months in a war zone, where no one--every time you've been shot at, you've never seen the person shooting at you, and you could never shoot back. Here's some guy, some 14-year-old kid with an AK-47, decides he's going to start shooting at this convoy. It was the most obscene thing you've ever seen. Every person got out and opened fire on this kid. Using the biggest weapons we could find, we ripped him to shreds." Sergeant Campbell was not present at the incident, which took place in Khadamiya, but he saw photographs and heard descriptions from several eyewitnesses in his unit.
"Everyone was so happy, like this release that they finally killed an insurgent," he said. "Then when they got there, they realized it was just a little kid. And I know that really fucked up a lot of people in the head.... They'd show all the pictures and some people were really happy, like, Oh, look what we did. And other people were like, I don't want to see that ever again."
The killing of unarmed Iraqis was so common many of the troops said it became an accepted part of the daily landscape. "The ground forces were put in that position," said First Lieut. Wade Zirkle of Shenandoah County, Virginia, who fought in Nasiriya and Falluja with the Second Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion from March to May 2003. "You got a guy trying to kill me but he's firing from houses...with civilians around him, women and children. You know, what do you do? You don't want to risk shooting at him and shooting children at the same time. But at the same time, you don't want to die either."
Sergeant Dougherty recounted an incident north of Nasiriya in December 2003, when her squad leader shot an Iraqi civilian in the back. The shooting was described to her by a woman in her unit who treated the injury. "It was just, like, the mentality of my squad leader was like, Oh, we have to kill them over here so I don't have to kill them back in Colorado," she said. "He just, like, seemed to view every Iraqi as like a potential terrorist."
Several interviewees said that, on occasion, these killings were justified by framing innocents as terrorists, typically following incidents when American troops fired on crowds of unarmed Iraqis. The troops would detain those who survived, accusing them of being insurgents, and plant AK-47s next to the bodies of those they had killed to make it seem as if the civilian dead were combatants. "It would always be an AK because they have so many of these weapons lying around," said Specialist Aoun. Cavalry scout Joe Hatcher, 26, of San Diego, said 9-millimeter handguns and even shovels--to make it look like the noncombatant was digging a hole to plant an IED--were used as well.
"Every good cop carries a throwaway," said Hatcher, who served with the Fourth Cavalry Regiment, First Squadron, in Ad Dawar, halfway between Tikrit and Samarra, from February 2004 to March 2005. "If you kill someone and they're unarmed, you just drop one on 'em." Those who survived such shootings then found themselves imprisoned as accused insurgents.
In the winter of 2004, Sergeant Campbell was driving near a particularly dangerous road in Abu Gharth, a town west of Baghdad, when he heard gunshots. Sergeant Campbell, who served as a medic in Abu Gharth with the 256th Infantry Brigade from November 2004 to October 2005, was told that Army snipers had fired fifty to sixty rounds at two insurgents who'd gotten out of their car to plant IEDs. One alleged insurgent was shot in the knees three or four times, treated and evacuated on a military helicopter, while the other man, who was treated for glass shards, was arrested and detained.
"I come to find out later that, while I was treating him, the snipers had planted--after they had searched and found nothing--they had planted bomb-making materials on the guy because they didn't want to be investigated for the shoot," Sergeant Campbell said. (He showed The Nation a photograph of one sniper with a radio in his pocket that he later planted as evidence.) "And to this day, I mean, I remember taking that guy to Abu Ghraib prison--the guy who didn't get shot--and just saying 'I'm sorry' because there was not a damn thing I could do about it.... I mean, I guess I have a moral obligation to say something, but I would have been kicked out of the unit in a heartbeat. I would've been a traitor."
The US military checkpoints dotted across Iraq, according to twenty-six soldiers and marines who were stationed at them or supplied them--in locales as diverse as Tikrit, Baghdad, Karbala, Samarra, Mosul and Kirkuk--were often deadly for civilians. Unarmed Iraqis were mistaken for insurgents, and the rules of engagement were blurred. Troops, fearing suicide bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, often fired on civilian cars. Nine of those soldiers said they had seen civilians being shot at checkpoints. These incidents were so common that the military could not investigate each one, some veterans said.
"Most of the time, it's a family," said Sergeant Cannon, who served at half a dozen checkpoints in Tikrit. "Every now and then, there is a bomb, you know, that's the scary part."
There were some permanent checkpoints stationed across the country, but for unsuspecting civilians, "flash checkpoints" were far more dangerous, according to eight veterans who were involved in setting them up. These impromptu security perimeters, thrown up at a moment's notice and quickly dismantled, were generally designed to catch insurgents in the act of trafficking weapons or explosives, people violating military-imposed curfews or suspects in bombings or drive-by shootings.
Iraqis had no way of knowing where these so-called "tactical control points" would crop up, interviewees said, so many would turn a corner at a high speed and became the unwitting targets of jumpy soldiers and marines.
"For me, it was really random," said Lieutenant Van Engelen. "I just picked a spot on a map that I thought was a high-volume area that might catch some people. We just set something up for half an hour to an hour and then we'd move on." There were no briefings before setting up checkpoints, he said.
Temporary checkpoints were safer for troops, according to the veterans, because they were less likely to serve as static targets for insurgents. "You do it real quick because you don't always want to announce your presence," said First Sgt. Perry Jefferies, 46, of Waco, Texas, who served with the Fourth Infantry Division from April to October 2003.
The temporary checkpoints themselves varied greatly. Lieutenant Van Engelen set up checkpoints using orange cones and fifty yards of concertina wire. He would assign a soldier to control the flow of traffic and direct drivers through the wire, while others searched vehicles, questioned drivers and asked for identification. He said signs in English and Arabic warned Iraqis to stop; at night, troops used lasers, glow sticks or tracer bullets to signal cars through. When those weren't available, troops improvised by using flashlights sent them by family and friends back home.
"Baghdad is not well lit," said Sergeant Flanders. "There's not street lights everywhere. You can't really tell what's going on."
Other troops, however, said they constructed tactical control points that were hardly visible to drivers. "We didn't have cones, we didn't have nothing," recalled Sergeant Bocanegra, who said he served at more than ten checkpoints in Tikrit. "You literally put rocks on the side of the road and tell them to stop. And of course some cars are not going to see the rocks. I wouldn't even see the rocks myself."
According to Sergeant Flanders, the primary concern when assembling checkpoints was protecting the troops serving there. Humvees were positioned so that they could quickly drive away if necessary, and the heavy weapons mounted on them were placed "in the best possible position" to fire on vehicles that attempted to pass through the checkpoint without stopping. And the rules of engagement were often improvised, soldiers said.
"We were given a long list of that kind of stuff and, to be honest, a lot of the time we would look at it and throw it away," said Staff Sgt. James Zuelow, 39, a National Guardsman from Juneau, Alaska, who served in Baghdad in the Third Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, for a year beginning in January 2005. "A lot of it was written at such a high level it didn't apply."
At checkpoints, troops had to make split-second decisions on when to use lethal force, and veterans said fear often clouded their judgment.
Sgt. Matt Mardan, 31, of Minneapolis, served as a Marine scout sniper outside Falluja in 2004 and 2005 with the Third Battalion, First Marines. "People think that's dangerous, and it is," he said. "But I would do that any day of the week rather than be a marine sitting on a fucking checkpoint looking at cars."
No car that passes through a checkpoint is beyond suspicion, said Sergeant Dougherty. "You start looking at everyone as a criminal.... Is this the car that's going to try to run into me? Is this the car that has explosives in it? Or is this just someone who's confused?" The perpetual uncertainty, she said, is mentally exhausting and physically debilitating.
"In the moment, what's passing through your head is, Is this person a threat? Do I shoot to stop or do I shoot to kill?" said Lieutenant Morgenstein, who served in Al Anbar.
Sergeant Mejía recounted an incident in Ramadi in July 2003 when an unarmed man drove with his young son too close to a checkpoint. The father was decapitated in front of the small, terrified boy by a member of Sergeant Mejía's unit firing a heavy .50-caliber machine gun. By then, said Sergeant Mejía, who responded to the scene after the fact, "this sort of killing of civilians had long ceased to arouse much interest or even comment." The next month, Sergeant Mejía returned stateside for a two-week rest and refused to go back, launching a public protest over the treatment of Iraqis. (He was charged with desertion, sentenced to one year in prison and given a bad-conduct discharge.)
During the summer of 2005, Sergeant Millard, who served as an assistant to a general in Tikrit, attended a briefing on a checkpoint shooting, at which his role was to flip PowerPoint slides.
"This unit sets up this traffic control point, and this 18-year-old kid is on top of an armored Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun," he said. "This car speeds at him pretty quick and he makes a split-second decision that that's a suicide bomber, and he presses the butterfly trigger and puts 200 rounds in less than a minute into this vehicle. It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged 4 and the daughter was aged 3. And they briefed this to the general. And they briefed it gruesome. I mean, they had pictures. They briefed it to him. And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'If these fucking hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn't happen.'"
Whether or not commanding officers shared this attitude, interviewees said, troops were rarely held accountable for shooting civilians at checkpoints. Eight veterans described the prevailing attitude among them as "Better to be tried by twelve men than carried by six." Since the number of troops tried for killing civilians is so scant, interviewees said, they would risk court-martial over the possibility of injury or death.
Rules of Engagement
Indeed, several troops said the rules of engagement were fluid and designed to insure their safety above all else. Some said they were simply told they were authorized to shoot if they felt threatened, and what constituted a risk to their safety was open to wide interpretation. "Basically it always came down to self-defense and better them than you," said Sgt. Bobby Yen, 28, of Atherton, California, who covered a variety of Army activities in Baghdad and Mosul as part of the 222nd Broadcast Operations Detachment for one year beginning in November 2003.
"Cover your own butt was the first rule of engagement," Lieutenant Van Engelen confirmed. "Someone could look at me the wrong way and I could claim my safety was in threat."
Lack of a uniform policy from service to service, base to base and year to year forced troops to rely on their own judgment, Sergeant Jefferies explained. "We didn't get straight-up rules," he said. "You got things like, 'Don't be aggressive' or 'Try not to shoot if you don't have to.' Well, what does that mean?"
Prior to deployment, Sergeant Flanders said, troops were trained on the five S's of escalation of force: Shout a warning, Shove (physically restrain), Show a weapon, Shoot non-lethal ammunition in a vehicle's engine block or tires, and Shoot to kill. Some troops said they carried the rules in their pockets or helmets on a small laminated card. "The escalation-of-force methodology was meant to be a guide to determine course of actions you should attempt before you shoot," he said. "'Shove' might be a step that gets skipped in a given situation. In vehicles, at night, how does 'Shout' work? Each soldier is not only drilled on the five S's but their inherent right for self-defense."
Some interviewees said their commanders discouraged this system of escalation. "There's no such thing as warning shots," Specialist Resta said he was told during his predeployment training at Fort Bragg. "I even specifically remember being told that it was better to kill them than to have somebody wounded and still alive."
Lieutenant Morgenstein said that when he arrived in Iraq in August 2004, the rules of engagement barred the use of warning shots. "We were trained that if someone is not armed, and they are not a threat, you never fire a warning shot because there is no need to shoot at all," he said. "You signal to them with some other means than bullets. If they are armed and they are a threat, you never fire a warning shot because...that just gives them a chance to kill you. I don't recall at this point if this was an ROE [rule of engagement] explicitly or simply part of our consistent training." But later on, he said, "we were told the ROE was changed" and that warning shots were now explicitly allowed in certain circumstances.
Sergeant Westphal said that by the time he arrived in Iraq earlier in 2004, the rules of engagement for checkpoints were more refined--at least where he served with the Army in Tikrit. "If they didn't stop, you were to fire a warning shot," said Sergeant Westphal. "If they still continued to come, you were instructed to escalate and point your weapon at their car. And if they still didn't stop, then, if you felt you were in danger and they were about to run your checkpoint or blow you up, you could engage."
In his initial training, Lieutenant Morgenstein said, marines were cautioned against the use of warning shots because "others around you could be hurt by the stray bullet," and in fact such incidents were not unusual. One evening in Baghdad, Sergeant Zuelow recalled, a van roared up to a checkpoint where another platoon in his company was stationed and a soldier fired a warning shot that bounced off the ground and killed the van's passenger. "That was a big wake-up call," he said, "and after that we discouraged warning shots of any kind."
Many checkpoint incidents went unreported, a number of veterans indicated, and the civilians killed were not included in the overall casualty count. Yet judging by the number of checkpoint shootings described to The Nation by veterans we interviewed, such shootings appear to be quite common.
Sergeant Flatt recounted one incident in Mosul in January 2005 when an elderly couple zipped past a checkpoint. "The car was approaching what was in my opinion a very poorly marked checkpoint, or not even a checkpoint at all, and probably didn't even see the soldiers," he said. "The guys got spooked and decided it was a possible threat, so they shot up the car. And they literally sat in the car for the next three days while we drove by them day after day."
In another incident, a man was driving his wife and three children in a pickup truck on a major highway north of the Euphrates, near Ramadi, on a rainy day in February or March 2005. When the man failed to stop at a checkpoint, a marine in a light-armored vehicle fired on the car, killing the wife and critically wounding the son. According to Lieutenant Morgenstein, a civil affairs officer, a JAG official gave the family condolences and about $3,000 in compensation. "I mean, it's a terrible thing because there's no way to pay money to replace a family member," said Lieutenant Morgenstein, who was sometimes charged with apologizing to families for accidental deaths and offering them such compensation, called "condolence payments" or "solatia." "But it's an attempt to compensate for some of the costs of the funeral and all the expenses. It's an attempt to make a good-faith offering in a sign of regret and to say, you know, We didn't want this to happen. This is by accident." According to a May report from the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department issued nearly $31 million in solatia and condolence payments between 2003 and 2006 to civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan who were "killed, injured or incur[red] property damage as a result of U.S. or coalition forces' actions during combat." The study characterizes the payments as "expressions of sympathy or remorse...but not an admission of legal liability or fault." In Iraq, according to the report, civilians are paid up to $2,500 for death, as much as $1,500 for serious injuries and $200 or more for minor injuries.
On one occasion, in Ramadi in late 2004, a man happened to drive down a road with his family minutes after a suicide bomber had hit a barrier during a cordon-and-search operation, Lieutenant Morgenstein said. The car's brakes failed and marines fired. The wife and her two children managed to escape from the car, but the man was fatally hit. The family was mistakenly told that he had survived, so Lieutenant Morgenstein had to set the record straight. "I've never done this before," he said. "I had to go tell this woman that her husband was actually dead. We gave her money, we gave her, like, ten crates of water, we gave the kids, I remember, maybe it was soccer balls and toys. We just didn't really know what else to do."
One such incident, which took place in Falluja in March 2003 and was reported on at the time by the BBC, even involved a group of plainclothes Iraqi policemen. Sergeant Mejía was told about the event by several soldiers who witnessed it.
The police officers were riding in a white pickup truck, chasing a BMW that had raced through a checkpoint. "The guy that the cops were chasing got through and I guess the soldiers got scared or nervous, so when the pickup truck came they opened fire on it," Sergeant Mejía said. "The Iraqi police tried to cease fire, but when the soldiers would not stop they defended themselves and there was a firefight between the soldiers and the cops. Not a single soldier was killed, but eight cops were."
A few veterans said checkpoint shootings resulted from basic miscommunication, incorrectly interpreted signals or cultural ignorance.
"As an American, you just put your hand up with your palm towards somebody and your fingers pointing to the sky," said Sergeant Jefferies, who was responsible for supplying fixed checkpoints in Diyala twice a day. "That means stop to most Americans, and that's a military hand signal that soldiers are taught that means stop. Closed fist, please freeze, but an open hand means stop. That's a sign you make at a checkpoint. To an Iraqi person, that means, Hello, come here. So you can see the problem that develops real quick. So you get on a checkpoint, and the soldiers think they're saying stop, stop, and the Iraqis think they're saying come here, come here. And the soldiers start hollering, so they try to come there faster. So soldiers holler more, and pretty soon you're shooting pregnant women."
"You can't tell the difference between these people at all," said Sergeant Mardan. "They all look Arab. They all have beards, facial hair. Honestly, it'll be like walking into China and trying to tell who's in the Communist Party and who's not. It's impossible."
But other veterans said that the frequent checkpoint shootings resulted from a lack of accountability. Critical decisions, they said, were often left to the individual soldier's or marine's discretion, and the military regularly endorsed these decisions without inquiry.
"Some units were so tight on their command and control that every time they fired one bullet, they had to write an investigative report," said Sergeant Campbell. But "we fired thousands of rounds without ever filing reports," he said. "And so it has to do with how much interaction and, you know, the relationship of the commanders to their units."
Cpt. Megan O'Connor said that in her unit every shooting incident was reported. O'Connor, 30, of Venice, California, served in Tikrit with the Fiftieth Main Support Battalion in the National Guard for a year beginning in December 2004, after which she joined the 2-28 Brigade Combat Team in Ramadi. But Captain O'Connor said that after viewing the reports and consulting with JAG officers, the colonel in her command would usually absolve the soldiers. "The bottom line is he always said, you know, We weren't there," she said. "We'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but make sure that they know that this is not OK and we're watching them."
Probes into roadblock killings were mere formalities, a few veterans said. "Even after a thorough investigation, there's not much that could be done," said Specialist Reppenhagen. "It's just the nature of the situation you're in. That's what's wrong. It's not individual atrocity. It's the fact that the entire war is an atrocity."
The March 2005 shooting death of Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari at a checkpoint in Baghdad, however, caused the military to finally crack down on such accidents, said Sergeant Campbell, who served there. Yet this did not necessarily lead to greater accountability. "Needless to say, our unit was under a lot of scrutiny not to shoot any more people than we already had to because we were kind of a run-and-gun place," said Sergeant Campbell. "One of the things they did was they started saying, Every time you shoot someone or shoot a car, you have to fill out a 15- or whatever the investigation is. Well, that investigation is really onerous for the soldiers. It's like a 'You're guilty' investigation almost--it feels as though. So commanders just stopped reporting shootings. There was no incentive for them to say, Yeah, we shot so-and-so's car."
(Sergeant Campbell said he believes the number of checkpoint shootings did decrease after the high-profile incident, but that was mostly because soldiers were now required to use pinpoint lasers at night. "I think they reduced, from when we started to when we left, the number of Iraqi civilians dying at checkpoints from one a day to one a week," he said. "Inherent in that number, like all statistics, is those are reported shootings.")
Fearing a backlash against these shootings of civilians, Lieutenant Morgenstein gave a class in late 2004 at his battalion headquarters in Ramadi to all the battalion's officers and most of its senior noncommissioned officers during which he asked them to put themselves in the Iraqis' place.
"I told them the obvious, which is, everyone we wound or kill that isn't an insurgent, hurts us," he said. "Because I guarantee you, down the road, that means a wounded or killed marine or soldier.... One, it's the right thing to do to not wound or shoot someone who isn't an insurgent. But two, out of self-preservation and self-interest, we don't want that to happen because they're going to come back with a vengeance."
The Nation contacted the Pentagon with a detailed list of questions and a request for comment on descriptions of specific patterns of abuse. These questions included requests to explain the rules of engagement, the operation of convoys, patrols and checkpoints, the investigation of civilian shootings, the detention of innocent Iraqis based on false intelligence and the alleged practice of "throwaway guns." The Pentagon referred us to the Multi-National Force Iraq Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, where a spokesperson sent us a response by e-mail.
"As a matter of operational security, we don't discuss specific tactics, techniques, or procedures (TTPs) used to identify and engage hostile forces," the spokesperson wrote, in part. "Our service members are trained to protect themselves at all times. We are facing a thinking enemy who learns and adjusts to our operations. Consequently, we adapt our TTPs to ensure maximum combat effectiveness and safety of our troops. Hostile forces hide among the civilian populace and attack civilians and coalition forces. Coalition forces take great care to protect and minimize risks to civilians in this complex combat environment, and we investigate cases where our actions may have resulted in the injury of innocents.... We hold our Soldiers and Marines to a high standard and we investigate reported improper use of force in Iraq."
This response is consistent with the military's refusal to comment on rules of engagement, arguing that revealing these rules threatens operations and puts troops at risk. But on February 9, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, then coalition spokesman, writing on the coalition force website, insisted that the rules of engagement for troops in Iraq were clear. "The law of armed conflict requires that, to use force, 'combatants' must distinguish individuals presenting a threat from innocent civilians," he wrote. "This basic principle is accepted by all disciplined militaries. In the counterinsurgency we are now fighting, disciplined application of force is even more critical because our enemies camouflage themselves in the civilian population. Our success in Iraq depends on our ability to treat the civilian population with humanity and dignity, even as we remain ready to immediately defend ourselves or Iraqi civilians when a threat is detected."
When asked about veterans' testimony that civilian deaths at the hands of coalition forces often went unreported and typically went unpunished, the Press Information Center spokesperson replied only, "Any allegations of misconduct are treated seriously.... Soldiers have an obligation to immediately report any misconduct to their chain of command immediately."
Last September, Senator Patrick Leahy, then ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, called a Pentagon report on its procedures for recording civilian casualties in Iraq "an embarrassment." "It totals just two pages," Leahy said, "and it makes clear that the Pentagon does very little to determine the cause of civilian casualties or to keep a record of civilian victims."
In the four long years of the war, the mounting civilian casualties have already taken a heavy toll--both on the Iraqi people and on the US servicemembers who have witnessed, or caused, their suffering. Iraqi physicians, overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, published a study late last year in the British medical journal The Lancet that estimated that 601,000 civilians have died since the March 2003 invasion as the result of violence. The researchers found that coalition forces were responsible for 31 percent of these violent deaths, an estimate they said could be "conservative," since "deaths were not classified as being due to coalition forces if households had any uncertainty about the responsible party."
"Just the carnage, all the blown-up civilians, blown-up bodies that I saw," Specialist Englehart said. "I just--I started thinking, like, Why? What was this for?"
"It just gets frustrating," Specialist Reppenhagen said. "Instead of blaming your own command for putting you there in that situation, you start blaming the Iraqi people.... So it's a constant psychological battle to try to, you know, keep--to stay humane."
"I felt like there was this enormous reduction in my compassion for people," said Sergeant Flanders. "The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with. And everybody else be damned."
6) An Unjustified Privilege
By PAUL KRUGMAN
July 13, 2007
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Ralph Nader mocked politicians of both parties as “Republicrats,” equally subservient to corporations and the wealthy. It was nonsense, of course: the modern G.O.P. is so devoted to the cause of making the rich richer that it makes even the most business-friendly Democrats look like F.D.R.
But right now, as I watch Senate Democrats waffle over what should be a clear issue of justice and sound tax policy — namely, whether managers of private equity funds and hedge funds should be subject to the same taxes as ordinary working Americans — I’m starting to feel that Mr. Nader wasn’t all wrong.
What’s at stake here is a proposal by House Democrats to tax “carried interest” as regular income. This would close a tax loophole that is complicated in detail, but basically lets fund managers take a large part of the fees they earn for handling other peoples’ money and redefine those fees, for tax purposes, as capital gains.
The effect of this redefinition is that income that should be considered by normal standards to be ordinary income taxed at a 35 percent rate is treated as capital gains, taxed at only 15 percent instead. So fund managers get to pay a low tax rate that is supposed to provide incentives to risk-taking investors, even though they aren’t investors and they aren’t taking risks.
For example, the typical hedge-fund manager has a 2-and-20 contract — that is, he gets a fee equal to 2 percent of the funds under management, plus 20 percent of whatever his fund earns. It’s not exactly straight salary, but none of this income comes from putting his own wealth at risk. Except for the fact that he might make a billion dollars a year, he resembles a waitress whose income depends on a mix of wages and tips, or a salesman who lives on a mix of salary and commissions, more than he resembles an entrepreneur who sinks his life savings into a new business.
So why does he get the same tax breaks as that entrepreneur? Not to put too fine a point on it, why does Henry Kravis pay a lower tax rate on his management fees than I pay on my book royalties?
There’s a larger question one could ask: should we even be giving preferential tax treatment to true capital gains? I’d say no, because there’s very little evidence that taxing capital gains as ordinary income would actually hurt the economy. Meanwhile, the low tax rate on capital gains is one main reason the truly rich often pay lower tax rates than the middle class.
A couple of weeks ago, Warren Buffett pointed out that he pays an average federal income tax rate of 17.7 percent, while his receptionist pays about 30 percent.
But even those who disagree with me on the larger point, who think the special treatment of capital gains is justified, should be able to agree that treating the income of fund managers differently from the way we treat the income of everyone else who works for a living makes no sense. And that’s why it’s very disheartening to read that prominent Democratic senators are taking seriously the claims of fund managers that making them pay taxes like regular people would discourage risk-taking.
The immediate response should be: what risk-taking? To repeat: the fund managers aren’t entrepreneurs; they aren’t putting their own assets on the line.
Look, this isn’t about envy, about punishing success. No doubt many fund managers earn their pay. Some of them also give generously to worthy causes.
But closing the carried interest loophole should be a simple question of fairness: other Americans also earn their pay, but they don’t get special tax breaks. Plus, we’re talking about a lot of lost revenue due to that loophole — revenue that could, for example, be paying for the health care of tens if not hundreds of thousands of children.
And since we’re living in the real world of politics, there’s also the Republicrat issue: the hesitation of the Senate Democrats is terrible for the party’s image. It conveys the impression that they’re as beholden to hedge funds, one of the few types of businesses whose campaign contributions strongly favor Democrats, as Republicans are to the oil and drug industries.
So here’s a plea to Democratic senators on the fence: do the right thing and close this unjustified tax loophole.
7) Indians Widen Old Outlet in Youth Lacrosse
By WINNIE HU
July 13, 2007
ONEIDA TERRITORY, N.Y., July 9 — Tim Glass’s mother tells him that he was born with a lacrosse stick in his hand, because his ancestors invented the game. Tim, 14, and his two younger brothers sometimes practice their chosen sport in T-shirts that say, “It’s in our blood.”
Here on Oneida land, roughly 25 miles east of Syracuse, they are part of a new generation of American Indians reasserting their heritage through a game that was invented by their ancestors but in recent decades has been perceived mainly as the province of prep schools and elite colleges.
Over the past four years, the North American Minor Lacrosse Association has grown into a league of six American Indian teams, each with different age divisions, in upstate New York, with 1,000 players ages 3 to 20. Some upstate Indian tribes, newly prosperous from gambling profits and keen to preserve their past, have hired coaches and referees, bought equipment and refurbished playing fields.
Last month, the Seneca tribe spent $97,000 on artificial turf to upgrade a lacrosse stadium on the Allegany Reservation, about 50 miles south of Buffalo. In Lewiston, just northeast of Niagara Falls, the Tuscaroras are building a lacrosse park with six playing areas. The popular contests often draw hundreds of spectators for daylong picnics and festivities, helping unite disparate tribes in a culture often splintered by ancient and modern rivalries.
“It’s not an elite sport to us, it’s a way of life,” said Randi Rourke, editor of Indian Country Today, a leading native newspaper, who pointed to a tradition in which fathers and grandfathers present lacrosse sticks to baby boys. “You play it the moment you can walk. We call it a ‘medicine game’ because it makes people happy to watch, so it’s a kind of medicine.”
Brian Patterson, president of the United South and Eastern Tribes, which represents 24 tribes primarily east of the Mississippi River, said the renewed interest in lacrosse was part of a broader movement to revive Indian languages and traditions in a younger generation. He said he had encouraged young people like his 11-year-old son, Schuyler, who plays for the Oneida Silverhawks, to draw strength and courage from lacrosse, as their ancestors did, to ward off modern-day pressures and problems like drugs and alcohol.
“It’s more than a game; it’s truly an identity for us,” Mr. Patterson said. “With new resources available to the tribal nations, we’re able to provide a future for our people by securing our past.”
Beyond the reservations, lacrosse is among the country’s fastest-growing sports. The number of players on organized teams jumped to 426,000 last year from 254,000 in 2001, according to U.S. Lacrosse, a nonprofit group that promotes the sport.
American Indians have played lacrosse for centuries. Missionaries documented their contests as long ago as the 1630s. Such early matches could involve hundreds of men, and last for days in fields spanning miles. Players often used sticks carved from trees and balls fashioned from wood, stone or rawhide. The games were considered a rite of passage for young men, attesting to their strength and power.
Pickup games never disappeared from reservations, where lacrosse was often considered a gift from the Creator and games were played to heal the sick, settle conflicts and even prepare for war. But the organized league has increased participation and led more Indians to play in high school.
John Jiloty, the editor in chief of Inside Lacrosse magazine, predicted that “there’s a pretty big wave of Native Americans who are going to be entering the four-year college ranks in the next few years, and they’re going to make a big impact.”
The league’s six teams — their Web site is namlax.com — play what is known as box lacrosse, a summer version believed to have begun in Canada in the 1930s to keep hockey rinks busy in the off-season. It takes place in an arena rather than on a larger open field, has six athletes per side instead of 10, and generally features faster, more intense action.
While the teams do not wear native clothing or have tribal sideline chants, the players say they adhere to the spirit of the game played hundreds of years ago.
For instance, the Onondaga Red Hawks and the Tonawanda Braves do not allow girls to play, and male players on some other teams forbid women to touch their sticks for fear such contact could cost them the protection of the Creator during games. If a stick has been touched by a woman or girl, some native lore says it must be put away for seven days, and some Tonawanda players have been known to discard or give away such sticks.
Brennan Taylor, 18, an Allegany player, says that while the game has changed over time, he still finds comfort and meaning in its traditions. “Hundreds of years ago, they used to play it for its healing power,” he said. “It will always be healing to me because you’re staying active, and running and improving yourself.”
Before the Allegany team began in 2000, Jon Printup used to shuttle his oldest son, Othayonih, to another reservation 45 minutes from home, twice a week, for practices and to Canada on weekends for games. Now, the Allegany Arrows have 121 players in seven age groups.
“Everyone just got into it on the reservation,” said Othayonih, 15, whose name means wolf in the Seneca language. “I’m just proud that I’m native and I play.”
Here in the Oneida Territory, the tribe built a lacrosse stadium in 1990, down the road from a ceremonial meeting place known as the cookhouse. For years, the stadium was largely unused because there were too few players, and rainstorms soaked the grass-and-dirt floor, leaving players to scoop out water with buckets. Adult teams sporadically formed and disbanded.
But two years after the Oneida youth team started in 2003, the stadium floor was resurfaced in blacktop, and now it is used almost daily in summer for recreation and competition. In the off-season, the Silverhawks scrimmage every Monday night on an indoor basketball court. Ronald Patterson, an Oneida coach, teaches the young players the painstaking, yearlong process of making by hand the traditional wood sticks their ancestors used.
The three Glass brothers — Tim, Aaron and Austin — switched to lacrosse from Little League baseball three years ago. A short time later, their two stepbrothers, who are of Italian descent, joined the team, which is not limited to American Indians. One stepbrother, Damien Ceraulo, now brags: “I’m good at lacrosse, too, so I must be native.”
During a game against Allegany on Sunday, the Oneida Silverhawks and their parents cheered, banged on chairs and shouted at the referees over penalty calls. Afterward, Tim Glass showed off a bruise on each arm, left by the opposing team’s sticks, to his mother, Mandy Ceraulo, a box office supervisor at the Oneidas’ Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona.
“War marks,” said Mrs. Ceraulo, 34, pausing to admire the bluish circles. “They change when they have a stick in their hands. They stand up straighter, and they get more aggressive, and then they put the stick down, and they change back.”
8) Some Chronically Ill Adults Wait for Medicare
By GINA KOLATA
July 12, 2007
When uninsured adults with common chronic illnesses became eligible for Medicare, they saw doctors and were hospitalized more often and reported greater medical expenses than people who had had insurance. And their increased use of medical services continued at least until at least age 72, researchers are reporting today.
Their study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, is one of the first to follow a large group of people through that crucial time of transition from being ineligible for Medicare to receiving Medicare benefits.
Its researchers, led by Dr. John Z. Ayanian, an associate professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard Medical School, used data from the Health and Retirement Study, a federally financed study that included 9,760 adults who were 51 to 61 in 1992. Dr. Ayanian and his colleagues focused on 5,158 of them who survived to age 65 by 2004 and who either had private insurance or no insurance at all before receiving Medicare.
The participants were interviewed and surveyed about their health and medical care every two years until 2004. That allowed the Harvard researchers to ask what happened when people who had not had insurance suddenly could have their health care paid for by the federal government.
The effect that emerged — a surge in the use of health care by those who were previously uninsured — was concentrated in people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Those are conditions, the investigators noted, in which treatment can prevent serious consequences that can require extra doctor visits, hospitalizations and expense. In the study, 2,951 of the 5,158 participants had one of those conditions.
When such previously uninsured people became eligible for Medicare, they had 13 percent more doctor visits, 20 percent more hospitalizations, and reported 51 percent greater medical expenditures than those with the same diseases who had had insurance all along.
Although the findings made sense, said Jonathan Skinner, an economist at Dartmouth College, they were not a foregone conclusion.
“You might expect that if you fall into habits of not using much health care, you might continue not to use it,” Dr. Skinner said. Instead, the study found a sort of pent-up demand among the uninsured.
“It shows how unfair our system is,” said Louise Russell, a research professor at the Institute for Health at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “These people were not getting care, and they were at least as in need of it as the people who were insured.”
The study also shows that it may be less expensive than expected to provide universal health insurance, Dr. Ayanian and his colleagues concluded. Medicare is bearing the brunt when uninsured people put off seeing doctors or seeking medical care until they turn 65.
“A lot of the prior research focused on the health benefits of extending insurance coverage,” Dr. Ayanian said. “Our study suggested that it may be cost effective.”
But, economists note, it has to cost more to insure everyone than it does to leave some people out.
“The quick interpretation is, ‘Well this saves money,’ but it’s a partial savings,” said Mark Pauly, a health economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “You get some money back, but it’s still going to cost money.”
Dr. Mark McClellan, the former head of Medicare who is now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the study had limitations.
The uninsured, he said, were very different from the insured people in the study. They had much less education, their incomes were lower, they were more likely to smoke and to be depressed.
The researchers accounted for differences with statistical adjustment. But, Dr. McClellan said, statistics can never completely solve the problem of large differences between groups.
For example, he said, the characteristics of the uninsured are also correlated with caring more about the present than the future. A trait like that, he added, “may lead to the need for more medical services down the road.”
That does not mean that the uninsured do not need health insurance, he said, but it does raise the question of what is the most effective way to provide it. For example, instead of just paying for doctor visits and leaving it to patients to find doctors and seek care, it may be better to also provide case managers who will contact patients and prompt them to take medications like drugs for high blood pressure or to report on their blood sugar levels if they have diabetes.
“Health insurance is supposed to not just prevent the complications of chronic diseases but also to keep you healthier,” Dr. McClellan said. “And Medicare historically has not done a very good job of that.”
Even now, he said, with expanded screening services, only about half of Medicare beneficiaries avail themselves of them.
Dr. Alan Garber, a health economist at Stanford, also raised the question of how best to expand medical services. Reducing costs, he added, should not be the driving factor.
“There are many good reasons to advocate coverage of the uninsured,” Dr. Garber said. “At the top of the list, though, is a belief that coverage expansions can improve health. If they also reduce costs, that is icing on the cake.”
9) Adolescence: Study Links Migraines and Lower Family Income
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
July 10, 2007
A survey of more than 32,000 adolescents nationwide has found that migraine headaches are more common in low-income families, when there is no family history of such headaches.
The study also found that migraines were more prevalent in girls than in boys and in white teenagers than in black teenagers. According to background information in the article, the prevalence of migraines in adults is also significantly higher in lower educational and income level groups.
The survey, published in the July 3 issue of Neurology, used a questionnaire to survey a random sample of 120,000 households, analyzing data from the responses of 18,714 children ages 12 to 19. The sample was representative of the population in sex, age and geographic region.
When one parent was afflicted, there was no correlation of migraine prevalence with income. But when neither parent had migraines, prevalence among teenagers declined as family income went up. An average of 2.9 percent of adolescents in families earning $90,000 or more suffered migraines, compared with 5.5 percent in families with incomes under $22,500.
The authors acknowledge that the correlation may not be due to low income but to depression, substance use or some other factor; the questionnaire did not assess such issues.
“Regardless of income, migraine is a biological disease,” said Dr. Marcelo E. Bigal, the lead author and an assistant professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “But stress is a risk factor, and stress management techniques should help.”
10) Under the Boardwalk
Keeping Peace on Coney Island’s Salty Planks
By MICHAEL WILSON
July 14, 2007
The word itself seems simple enough, just a hunk of wood and a verb slapped together. Boardwalk. But anyone who has spent time at Coney Island’s Boardwalk will say there has always been an awful lot more than walking going on there.
And a police officer on his beat can say more than that. Monitoring the goings-on at, near, atop and under the Coney Island Boardwalk is a year-round ritual. It’s tending to a salty, thorny perennial that blooms in the summer, when the masses climb out of the subway cars, wait for the Surf Avenue light to change and hurry over the asphalt to sit beside the city’s biggest air-conditioner, the Atlantic Ocean.
There were once two boardwalks: one on top and one underneath. The park workers and police officers call them “on the boards,” and “under the boards,” but the two worlds constantly crossed, the boards themselves not so much a barrier as a long sieve.
“My biggest complaint was people looking up ladies’ skirts,” said Officer John Nevandro, on the job now 22 years, with 21 summers at Coney Island. He pointed to a spot under the boards. “They would stand up on top of a garbage pail to get close to the boardwalk.”
Officer Nevandro grew up nearby, in the Marlboro Houses, and he didn’t like roller coasters and stayed away from the Cyclone. But he was a denizen above and below the boards — it loses the R in his Brooklyn accent, more like “bawds.”
“You could just look down for miles,” he said, pausing at Brighton First Road, one of the access points to the ocean then. “You’d see people walking under the boards. Smooching, kissing here and there. I did it. Come here with your girlfriend, kiss her under the boardwalk.”
John was 10 when the Drifters recorded “Under the Boardwalk” in 1964. The boardwalk was more than two miles and wide open underneath, a breezy, shady portico of 1.3 million nailed-down slats.
Officer Nevandro arrived in uniform at the 60th Precinct in 1986 to work the temporary summer patrol. He did that for four straight summers before transferring to the precinct full time in 1989. His section began at Brighton Sixth Street.
Under the boards, “I could see all the way to Brighton Fourth, clear as day,” he said, standing there last week. He made arrests for disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, larceny and the peeping Toms on their trash cans.
In the end, the world under the boards was largely cleaned up by the beach itself. The sand took it back.
In 1994, as part of a $26.8 million restoration project, the Army Corps of Engineers pumped tons of sand from under the water to the beach, making it higher and wider, right up to the waterfront side of the boardwalk. Beachgoers, for the first time, could step off the boardwalk onto sand. But there were unforeseen consequences.
With more privacy there, more homeless people moved under the boards, some 20 or 30 at all times between 1994 and ’96, said Martin Maher, 43, chief of staff of Brooklyn parks.
“This one group had stolen a Port-a-San,” he said. “They tapped into a phone line. It was a pretty elaborate setup. We moved furniture and that kind of stuff.”
Charles Reichenthal, district manager of Brooklyn Community Board 13, remembers poking his head under the boardwalk several years ago and being amazed at what he saw. “There was not only sleeping, but there was a working fax machine,” he said.
In 1996, Mr. Maher said, the city put a fence under the boardwalk along the street side to keep people from entering. But the fence, and the windblown litter that it caught, served another purpose, allowing the sand to pile up under the boards.
In summary, Mr. Maher said, “sand moves.”
In ways, the cure has proved worse than the ailment.
“You have sand right up to the boards, and it’s holding that moisture to the boards,” Mr. Maher said. “It certainly helps to speed up the deterioration of the boards because moisture’s not good for wood.”
Nails pop up and wood splinters and bows. Repair begets repair. Replacing a board on the boardwalk is more complicated than it sounds, when the new wood is too hard to nail through, and the wood supporting the board is too rotten to support a new screw.
Officer Nevandro shook his head. “The boards are really in bad, bad shape,” he said. “Somebody’s going to get hurt there.”
Officer Nevandro, now 53, no longer walks his beat. Instead, he rides a golf cart, rattling from Coney Island to Brighton Beach and back. Other officers have taken to the department’s new two-wheeled Segways, but not him.
“I’m a little bit too old to be riding on Segways,” he said.
Last week, a trip on the golf cart was loud, and the wood pounded underneath, as if in complaint. He rolled over to the section near Brighton First Road, finding a gate that was not locked, at the very spot where he used to cross under the boards to the beach in his youth. He pulled out his cellphone and called someone to come with a lock.
The golf cart then stopped outside Ruby’s Bar and Grill, and the bartender told him that she would quit and move to Florida in September to live with her son. The officer gave her a hug. He stopped at Tatiana’s Restaurant and Nightclub, a Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach, but the owner for whom it is named was in Florida for a wedding.
He stopped at the Cyclone. About 10 years ago, when they heard he had never ridden the roller coaster, other officers forced him aboard. “Four cops dragged me,” he said. “I said, ‘Never again.’ ”
He worked on July 4, a day as busy and bizarre as anything one could make up about Coney Island.
Joey Chestnut, 23, established a world record by eating 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes in the annual Nathan’s contest. Officer Nevandro posed for pictures with the new champion.
Then, at 4:11 p.m., a 46-year-old man on the beach approached a lifeguard, shouted, “Call 911!” and pulled out a .38-caliber pistol and shot himself in the face. Officer Nevandro had been talking with workers at Astroland, the amusement park, and when the call came across, he rode his golf cart to the scene. The lifeguard and the police tried to revive the man, who was from Pennsylvania, but he was pronounced dead a short time later.
“I’m there 21 years, and I never had a suicide on the holiday,” Officer Nevandro said.
There was something else. That day, unknown to Officer Nevandro, another sad Coney Island milestone was reached far away, slipping past as quietly as blown sand.
Bill Pinkney was found dead of a heart attack in a hotel room in Daytona Beach, Fla. He was the last surviving original member of a band that had created the theme song for summers everywhere, about a place down by the sea, on a blanket, out of the sun, having fun.
And though Mr. Pinkney, who was 81, left the band before it was first recorded, he had since sung it countless times with his band, the Original Drifters, at oldies shows, the only place it now exists.
[Under the boardwalk was also a place where the elderly could sit in the cool of the shade and watch the children play...bw]
11) No Protection for Homeowners
July 14, 2007
Rising mortgage delinquencies are likely to be followed by rising consumer bankruptcies and, with them, the first big test of the federal bankruptcy reform law of 2005. Early indications are that low- to middle-income borrowers will be unduly punished.
The new law’s expensive and cumbersome requirements have already discouraged some hard-pressed homeowners from seeking bankruptcy-court protection, even in the face of dire circumstances such as spiking monthly payments coupled with job loss or medical expenses. Of the debtors who do enter bankruptcy proceedings, many are required to restructure their debts — negotiating with lenders to lower loan balances and stretch out repayments — rather than being allowed to liquidate them.
But here’s the trap: The restructuring process, known as Chapter 13, prohibits the bankruptcy court from modifying the repayment terms of most mortgages on a primary home. So even under a restructuring plan, bankrupt homeowners must still repay their mortgages in full or lose their homes.
That lender protection is a holdover from 30 years ago, when mortgage bankers required ample downpayments and most home loans had fixed interest rates. Because lenders were conservative and stuck to uncomplicated loans, they were shielded from having to take a hit when homeowners filed for bankruptcy.
But the modern-day mortgage market is neither conservative nor uncomplicated. Many of the mortgages issued during the housing boom required little or no downpayment. They also have adjustable rates primed to go up sharply and rely for their repayment on continued hefty increases in housing prices — which have not materialized — rather than on the borrowers’ income.
The 2005 bankruptcy reform should have recognized the riskiness of today’s mortgages by eliminating the outdated lender protection. But during the reform effort, fairness took a back seat to a baser aim — simply, to make it more difficult for consumers to gain a fresh start through bankruptcy. The result is that lenders who abandoned caution during the housing boom are protected while the law gives no aid to borrowers who were enticed, and at times deceived, into risky mortgages.
The law’s perverse nature is even more evident if you read the fine print: The prohibition on modifying mortgage debt applies only to primary homes. Borrowers wealthy enough to own more than one home can restructure the debt on second or even third homes.
Before foreclosures climb any higher, Congress must reform the bankruptcy law. Legislators should reject the special protection for mortgage lenders by putting mortgages on the same footing as other secured debt. Doing so would help restore consumer bankruptcy to its purpose — to provide a safety net for borrowers who can’t repay their debts for reasons beyond their control.
12) In a Baghdad Killing, Questions That Haunt Iraq
By JOHN F. BURNS
JULY 14, 2007
BAGHDAD, July 13 — At 8:45 a.m. on Friday, Khalid W. Hassan was navigating his car out of one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods on his way to work as a reporter and interpreter at The New York Times bureau here. “My area is blocked,” he wrote in a cellphone text message to the paper’s newsroom manager. “I am trying to find a way out.”
Within 45 minutes, about two miles from his home, Mr. Hassan, whose Palestinian family migrated to Iraq in 1948, was forced to the side of the road by gunmen in a black Mercedes. The gunmen opened fire with automatic rifles, pitting Mr. Hassan’s rundown Kia car with bullets. At least one struck him in the upper body, but failed to kill him.
Mr. Hassan, a heavyset, pranksterish 23-year-old, loved the new world of cellphones, online computers and downloadable videos ushered in by the American occupation of Iraq, so much so that he spent a quarter of his monthly salary recently on another new phone. Slumped in his seat, he called his mother, then his father, at work as a school caretaker, telling them he had been shot. “I’m O.K., Mom,” he said.
An off-duty policeman in a gasoline station line told Mr. Hassan’s father what came next. A second car with gunmen, an Opel Vectra, seeing Mr. Hassan on his cellphone, pulled forward and fired two fatal shots into Mr. Hassan’s head and neck.
The murderous turmoil in Baghdad has reached a point where many families never know the killers of their loved ones, or their motives. Sunni insurgents? Shiite militias? Killers who mimic one or the other, while pursuing more private motives of greed, spite or revenge? Or, in Mr. Hassan’s case, the nature of his employment, which placed him doubly at risk: as an Iraqi journalist, and as an Iraqi working for Americans?
With a police force that barely functions because of the bludgeoning it has taken from Sunni insurgents — and that has spawned Shiite death squads — families can rarely hope to see killers tracked down. Now, that may be the fate of Mr. Hassan’s family, for whom he was the principal breadwinner. After his parents separated during his teenage years, Mr. Hassan supported his mother and four sisters, all under 18, by selling cosmetics door to door and, for the last four years, using a polished colloquial English learned through movies, for The New York Times.
Among colleagues who reminisced about him on Friday, Mr. Hassan was remembered for a willingness to venture into some of Iraq’s riskiest war zones, his occasionally imprudent enthusiasm, and a quirky humor. He suggested his colleagues call him “Solid Khalid,” making light of his size.
Mr. Hassan was the second member of The Times’s Iraqi news staff — a group that includes more than 30 journalists in Baghdad and across the country — to be shot and killed. A journalist the newspaper relied on in Basra, Fakher Haider, was taken from his home and killed in the fall of 2005, a murder for which some local officials blamed Shiite militiamen angered by aspects of his work. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, 110 journalists have been killed in Iraq since the American-led invasion in March 2003. The toll includes 88 Iraqis, including Mr. Hassan.
By sunset on Friday, Mr. Hassan was buried alongside hundreds of other victims of Iraq’s recent violence in a makeshift cemetery in the Adhamiya district, miles from his home, that was a children’s soccer field until last year. Adhamiya is a stronghold of Iraq’s Sunni minority, which was ousted from power with Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, and people emerging from evening prayers at a nearby mosque joined the mourning for Mr. Hassan, a Sunni, by shouting slogans against what they called the Shiite “infidels” who have taken power now, and the American “occupiers” who made that possible.
Some friends and relatives of Mr. Hassan believe he probably was a victim of the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia founded by the populist cleric Moktada al-Sadr. For weeks the Mahdi Army has been locked in a lethal struggle with Sunni extremists for control of Saidiya, Mr. Hassan’s neighborhood in southern Baghdad. The struggle is part of a wider, neighborhood-by-neighborhood contest between Shiite militiamen and Sunni extremists, some linked to the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
Together, the two groups have turned Saidiya into one of the city’s most violent war zones. Residents of the neighborhood said Friday that Sunni extremists, many of them teenagers, had moved into vacant apartments in the area, vowing to protect the dwindling Sunni population there. Shiite militiamen, the residents said, have taken up sniper positions, and are entering the neighborhood in police uniforms, then changing into civilian clothes to carry out killings.
It was in the hope of quelling sectarian warfare of this kind, especially in Baghdad, that President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 more troops deployed in Iraq earlier this year. But for the people of Saidiya, the result, five months later, has often been the opposite. With the main American push in neighborhoods farther west, extremists have shifted their focus, preferring to battle it out in areas American reinforcements have not yet reached.
For Mr. Hassan and his family, life became a lottery. Earlier this year, they changed apartments in Saidiya when their previous home was wrecked by a truck bombing that the police said was the work of Sunni extremists. Last month, one of Mr. Hassan’s uncles was killed in a drive-by shooting in the nearby neighborhood of Topchi; the family blamed Shiite extremists. Earlier this week, a colleague of Mr. Hassan’s in The Times’s Baghdad newsroom fled Saidiya after 10 of the 12 families in his building, including Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians, moved to neighborhoods elsewhere. The only people left in the building now are a disabled man and his daughter.
Mr. Hassan told colleagues he feared for the lives of himself and his family, but rejected suggestions that he should move. “Where should we go?” he said. “Is there anywhere we would be safe?”
He left no doubt his greatest fear was the Mahdi Army, and his cellphone text message shortly before he was killed indicated he was seeking a way out of Saidiya that would skirt a police checkpoint controlled by Shiite militiamen. That led his family to conclude that Mahdi Army spotters, recognizing his car and knowing him to be a Sunni, might have alerted Shiite gunmen lurking along his route.
But on Friday night, 12 hours after Mr. Hassan died, another cellphone message caused friends and relatives to question their conclusion that he had been the victim of Sunni extremists. A relative reported he had received a text message warning him to quit his job and “return to God” or suffer a fate similar to Mr. Hassan’s. The message was signed by a group calling itself the Brigade of the Mujahedeen, a hitherto unknown group. Mujahedeen, or holy warriors, is a term usually used by Sunni extremists.
Mr. Hassan had insisted in recent conversations that he, like other Iraqis working for Western news organizations, had taken care not to let neighbors know where he worked. The newsroom colleague who left Saidiya this week said Mr. Hassan had been so careful not to disclose anything — that he was a Sunni, a Palestinian and a journalist working with Americans — that he had made no friends in Saidiya, and, recently, had given up visiting the grocery 50 yards from his apartment.
But whatever the motive of his killers, there seemed little doubt that they knew a good deal about him after the shooting. The policeman who saw the killing from his place in the gas station line said that the gunmen, after firing the fatal shots, leaned into Mr. Hassan’s car and took his cellphone, on which he had entered dozens of numbers used in his work, along with his Bluetooth earpiece. The killers also reached into his pockets and took his documents, the policeman said. Among those would have been the American military accreditation issued to all journalists who enter American-controlled areas, as Mr. Hassan often did.
Ali Adeeb, Ahmad Fadam, Stephen Farrell, Wisam A. Habeeb and Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting.
LINKS AND VERY SHORT STORIES
Bush Denies Congress Access to Aides
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
July 9, 2007
California: No Jail for Marijuana Advocate
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A marijuana advocate will not spend time in prison despite a conviction for growing and distributing hundreds of marijuana plants, a federal judge ruled. The man, Ed Rosenthal, 63, was convicted in May on three cultivation and conspiracy charges. But the judge, Charles Breyer of Federal District Court, said a one-day prison sentence was punishment enough for Mr. Rosenthal, who said he planned to appeal his conviction. “I should not remain a felon,” he said. Mr. Rosenthal was convicted on the same charges four years ago. Judge Breyer sentenced him to one day in prison because Mr. Rosenthal reasonably believed he was immune from prosecution because he was acting on behalf of Oakland city officials. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned that 2003 conviction and ordered a retrial because of juror misconduct.
July 7, 2007
Patterns: In Studies, Surprise Findings on Obesity and Heart Attacks
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
Two new studies shed light on the role obesity may play in causing heart attacks and, surprisingly, keeping them from being fatal.
In one study, published by the European Heart Journal, researchers followed more than 1,600 patients who were given angioplasty and, usually, stents after a type of heart attack known as unstable angina/non-ST-segment elevation. They found that the obese and very obese patients were only half as likely as those of normal weight to die in the three years after the attack.
Part of the explanation may be that obese people are more likely to have their heart problems detected by doctors and treated with medications that later help them recover from heart attacks.
Heart attack patients who are obese also tend to be younger. And other changes in the body that often occur with obesity may also help, the study said. (Of course, as the researchers noted, obesity is not desirable when it comes to heart disease; it causes medical problems that can lead to heart attacks in the first place.)
In the second study, presented at a recent meeting of the American Society of Echocardiography, researchers reported that excess weight was associated with a thickening of muscle in the left ventricle, the part of the heart that acts as a pump. The study was led by researchers from the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center.
July 3, 2007
New Scheme Preys on Desperate Homeowners
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON and VIKAS BAJAJ
July 3, 2007
Keeping Patients’ Details Private, Even From Kin
By JANE GROSS
July 3, 2007
Lessons from Katrina
How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps
By BILL QUIGLEY
June 28, 2007
After Sanctions, Doctors Get Drug Company Pay
By GARDINER HARRIS and JANET ROBERTS
June 3, 2007
Somalia: The Other (Hidden) War for Oil
by Carl Bloice; Black Commentator
May 07, 2007
GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENTS AND INFORMATION
LAPD vs. Immigrants (Video)
Dr. Julia Hare at the SOBA 2007
"We are far from that stage today in our era of the absolute
lie; the complete and totalitarian lie, spread by the
monopolies of press and radio to imprison social
consciousness." December 1936, "In 'Socialist' Norway,"
by Leon Trotsky: “Leon Trotsky in Norway” was transcribed
for the Internet by Per I. Matheson [References from
original translation removed]
Wealth Inequality Charts
MALCOLM X: Oxford University Debate
ADDICTED TO WAR
Animated Video Preview
Narrated by Peter Coyote
Is now on YouTube and Google Video
We are planning on making the ADDICTED To WAR movie.
Can you let me know what you think about this animated preview?
Do you think it would work as a full length film?
Please send your response to:
Fdorrel@sbcglobal. net or Fdorrel@Addictedtow ar.com
Addicted To War
P.O. Box 3261
Culver City, CA 90231-3261
For copies of the book:
OR SEND CHECK OR MONEY ORDER TO:
P.O. BOX 3261
CULVER CITY, CALIF. 90231-3261
$10.00 per copy (Spanish or English); special bulk rates
can be found at: http://www.addictedtowar.com/bookbulk.html
"There comes a times when silence is betrayal."
--Martin Luther King
DEMAND THE RELEASE OF SAMI AL-ARIAN
The National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) demands the immediate
release of political prisoner, Dr. Sami Al-Arian. Although
Dr. Al-Arian is no longer on a hunger strike we must still demand
he be released by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). After an earlier
plea agreement that absolved Dr. Al-Arian from any further questioning,
he was sentenced up to 18 months in jail for refusing to testify before
a grand jury in Virginia. He has long sense served his time yet
Dr. Al-Arian is still being held. Release him now!
We ask all people of conscience to demand the immediate
release and end to Dr. Al- Arian's suffering.
Call, Email and Write:
1- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Department of Justice
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Fax Number: (202) 307-6777
2- The Honorable John Conyers, Jr
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-0072 Fax
3- Senator Patrick Leahy
433 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
4- Honorable Judge Gerald Lee
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, VA 22314
March 22, 2007
[No email given...bw]
National Council of Arab Americans (NCA)
Criminalizing Solidarity: Sami Al-Arian and the War of
By Charlotte Kates, The Electronic Intifada, 4 April 2007
Robert Fisk: The true story of free speech in America
This systematic censorship of Middle East reality
continues even in schools
Published: 07 April 2007
http://news. independent. co.uk/world/ fisk/article2430 125.ece
[For some levity...Hans Groiner plays Monk
Excerpt of interview between Barbara Walters and Hugo Chavez
Which country should we invade next?
My Favorite Mutiny, The Coup
Michael Moore- The Awful Truth
Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court arguments
Free Speech 4 Students Rally - Media Montage
'My son lived a worthwhile life'
In April 2003, 21-year old Tom Hurndall was shot in the head
in Gaza by an Israeli soldier as he tried to save the lives of three
small children. Nine months later, he died, having never
recovered consciousness. Emine Saner talks to his mother
Jocelyn about her grief, her fight to make the Israeli army
accountable for his death and the book she has written
in his memory.
Monday March 26, 2007
Introducing...................the Apple iRack
"A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."
[A T-shirt worn by some teachers at Roosevelt High School
in L.A. as part of their campaign to rid the school of military
recruiters and JROTC--see Article in Full item number 4, below...bw]
THIS IS AN EXCELLENT VIDEO DESTRIBUTED BY U.S. LABOR AGAINST
THE WAR (USLAW) FEATURING SPEAKERS AT THE JANUARY 27TH
MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOCUSING ON THE DEMAND - BRING
THE TROOPS HOME NOW.
Defend the Los Angeles Eight!
George Takai responds to Tim Hardaway's homophobic remarks
Another view of the war. A link from Amer Jubran
Petition: Halt the Blue Angels
A Girl Like Me
Kiri Davis, Director, Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, Producer
Winner of the Diversity Award
Sponsored by Third Millennium Foundation
Film/Song about Angola
"200 million children in the world sleep in the streets today.
Not one of them is Cuban."
(A sign in Havana)
View sign at bottom of page at:
[Thanks to Norma Harrison for sending this...bw]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
"Cheyenne and Arapaho oral histories hammer history's account of the
Sand Creek Massacre"
CENTENNIAL, CO -- A new documentary film based on an award-winning
documentary short film, "The Sand Creek Massacre", and driven by
Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho people who tell their version about
what happened during the Sand Creek Massacre via their oral
histories, has been released by Olympus Films+, LLC, a Centennial,
Colorado film company.
"You have done an extraordinary job" said Margie Small, Tobient
Entertainment, " on the Colorado PBS episode, the library videos for
public schools and libraries, the trailer, etc...and getting the
story told and giving honor to those ancestors who had to witness
this tragic and brutal attack...film is one of the best ways."
"The images shown in the film were selected for native awareness
value" said Donald L. Vasicek, award-winning writer/filmmaker, "we
also focused on preserving American history on film because tribal
elders are dying and taking their oral histories with them. The film
shows a non-violent solution to problem-solving and 19th century
Colorado history, so it's multi-dimensional in that sense. "
Chief Eugene Blackbear, Sr., Cheyenne, who starred as Chief Black
Kettle in "The Last of the Dogmen" also starring Tom Berenger and
Barbara Hershey and "Dr. Colorado", Tom Noel, University of Colorado
history professor, are featured.
The trailer can be viewed and the film can be ordered for $24.95 plus
$4.95 for shipping and handling at http://www.fullduck.com/node/53.
Vasicek's web site, http://www.donvasicek.com, provides detailed
information about the Sand Creek Massacre including various still
images particularly on the Sand Creek Massacre home page and on the
Olympus Films+, LLC is dedicated to writing and producing quality
products that serve to educate others about the human condition.
Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
7078 South Fairfax Street
Centennial, CO 80122
A NEW LOOK AT U.S. RADIOACTIVE WEAPONS
Join us in a campaign to expose and stop the use
of these illegal weapons
You may enjoy watching these.
FIGHTBACK! A Collection of Socialist Essays
By Sylvia Weinstein
"After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad,
and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with
which he made a scab."
"A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul,
a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.
Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten
principles." "When a scab comes down the street,
men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and
the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out."
"No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there
is a pool of water to drown his carcass in,
or a rope long enough to hang his body with.
Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab.
For betraying his master, he had character enough
to hang himself." A scab has not.
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.
Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.
Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of
a commision in the british army."
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife,
his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled
promise from his employer.
Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor
to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country;
a scab is a traitor to his God, his country,
his family and his class."
Author --- Jack London (1876-1916)...Roland Sheppard
END ALL U.S. AID TO ISRAEL!
Stop funding Israel's war against Palestine
Complete the form at the website listed below with your information.
Sand Creek Massacre
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FEATURED AT NATIVE AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL:
(scroll down when you get there])
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING
WRITER/FILMMAKER DONALD L. VASICEK REPORT:
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FINALIST IN DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL COMPETITION (VIEW HERE):
VIEW "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FILM MOVIE OF THE WEEK FOR FREE HERE:
On November 29, 1864, 700 Colorado troops savagely slaughtered
over 450 Cheyenne children, disabled, elders, and women in the
southeastern Colorado Territory under its protection. This act
became known as the Sand Creek Massacre. This film project
("The Sand Creek Massacre" documentary film project) is an
examination of an open wound in the souls of the Cheyenne
people as told from their perspective. This project chronicles
that horrific 19th century event and its affect on the 21st century
struggle for respectful coexistence between white and native
plains cultures in the United States of America.
Listed below are links on which you can click to get the latest news,
products, and view, free, "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" award-
winning documentary short. In order to create more native
awareness, particularly to save the roots of America's history,
please read the following:
Some people in America are trying to save the world. Bless
them. In the meantime, the roots of America are dying.
What happens to a plant when the roots die? The plant dies
according to my biology teacher in high school. American's
roots are its native people. Many of America's native people
are dying from drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, hunger,
and disease, which was introduced to them by the Caucasian
male. Tribal elders are dying. When they die, their oral
histories go with them. Our native's oral histories are the
essence of the roots of America, what took place before
our ancestors came over to America, what is taking place,
and what will be taking place. It is time we replenish
America's roots with native awareness, else America
continues its decaying, and ultimately, its death.
You can help. The 22-MINUTE SAND CREEK MASSACRE
DOCUMENTARY PRESENTATION/EDUCATIONAL DVD IS
READY FOR PURCHASE! (pass the word about this powerful
educational tool to friends, family, schools, parents, teachers,
and other related people and organizations to contact
me (firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-903-2103) for information
about how they can purchase the DVD and have me come
to their children's school to show the film and to interact
in a questions and answers discussion about the Sand
Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FEATURED AT NATIVE AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL:
(scroll down when you get there])
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING
WRITER/FILMMAKER DONALD L. VASICEK REPORT:
"THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FINALIST IN DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL COMPETITION (VIEW HERE):
VIEW "THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE" AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY
SHORT FILM MOVIE OF THE WEEK FOR FREE HERE: