4 thoughts on “John McCain and the Iraq war, new cartoon

  1. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5710617.html

    April 18, 2008, 11:44AM

    War-torn vets speak out
    Haunted by their wartime experiences, some Iraq veterans are are protesting


    Watch testimonials from the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan conference at http://www.ivaw.org and YouTube.

    Hart Viges walks the streets of Austin in a tunic and carries a sign that reads, “Jesus Against War.” It’s one of many ways, he says, that he must atone for his actions as an American soldier in Iraq.

    Army Sgt. Ronn Cantu says lingering memories of killing a civilian in Iraq led him to start a chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War at his home — Fort Hood.

    And in Houston, Chris Hauff, an Iraq War vet who returned from combat two years ago, wrestles with the feeling that his best friend died in a misguided war.

    “The idea that American soldiers are there to spread democracy and liberate the people is all smoke and mirrors,” Hauff says.

    After five years and more than 4,000 American deaths, hundreds of anti-war Iraq veterans and even some active-duty soldiers are speaking out in protest. Though they make up a relatively small percentage of all the soldiers who have served, certainly they speak from experience. They’ve had their boots on the ground.

    Nationally, more than 1,000 have joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, which is calling for an immediate troop pullout. At a recent IVAW conference in suburban Washington, D.C., 60 vets addressed about 400 peers. Collectively, they described American soldiers unraveling under pressure — devolving from fighting for freedom and defending innocents to saving their own lives, protecting their friends and getting revenge.

    Viges, tall and reed-slim, spoke as if his entry to heaven were on the line.

    “I joined the Army right after September 11th,” he began. He ended with, “I don’t know how many innocents I’ve helped kill. …

    “I have blood on my hands.”

    His story, common among the speakers, began with good intentions and patriotic zeal. Then he realized he couldn’t tell friend from enemy, and as he dodged mortar fire and roadside bombs, he feared each new day was going to be his last.

    In that atmosphere, Viges and other soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division aimed countless mortar rounds at the town of As Samawah, southeast of Baghdad. They were trying to root out insurgents, but to this day, Viges doesn’t know whom or what they hit.

    “This wasn’t army to army,” Viges said. “People live in towns.”

    The panelists’ speeches were vetted ahead of time by two groups of veterans who scoured news accounts, researched documents, videos and photographs where available, and interviewed others who were present at the time.

    The testimonials were sobering. They included heart-stopping details. But the vets kept talking. Clearly, it was information they felt compelled to share.

    Jason Washburn’s testimony is preserved on the Internet. A Marine veteran from Philadelphia, he explained how the rules of engagement kept changing until it seemed there were no rules at all.

    “If the town or the city that we were approaching was a known threat, if the unit that went through the area before we did took a high number of casualties, we were allowed to shoot whatever we wanted.

    “I remember one woman was walking by, and she was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us. So we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher. And when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was only full of groceries. And, I mean, she had been trying to bring us food, and we blew her to pieces for it.”

    Jon Michael Turner, a Marine veteran from Vermont, described 3 a.m. house raids in which “problem” Iraqi men were subjected to his “choking hand.”

    It was tattooed in Arabic with an all-too-American epithet.

    Turner recalled the first time he shot an Iraqi civilian. He offered no context or explanation except, “We were all congratulated after we had our first kills.”

    Turner also recalled the blind rage that led him and fellow Marines to start fights, spray bullets indiscriminately and fire on mosques. Eighteen men in his unit were killed by the enemy, he said. After that much bloodshed, the surviving soldiers were damaged mentally, if not physically.

    “I just want to say that I’m sorry for the hate and destruction that I’ve inflicted on innocent people,” said Turner, who began his speech by ripping off his service medals. “Until people hear about what is happening in this war, it will continue.”

    Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, read from a one-paragraph response to the conference:

    “(We) always regret the loss of any innocent life in Iraq or anywhere else. The U.S. military takes enormous precautions to prevent civilian deaths and injuries. By contrast the enemy in Iraq takes no such precautions and deliberately targets innocent civilians. When isolated allegations of misconduct have been reported, commanders have conducted comprehensive investigations to determine the facts and held individuals accountable when appropriate.”

    The vast majority of American soldiers, Ballesteros added, serve honorably in combat.

    The veterans who came to Maryland last month called their conference Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a sequel to a tense 1971 gathering in a Howard Johnson motel in Detroit, where more than 100 Vietnam vets braved frigid winter conditions to speak out against their war.

    (Organizers of the original chose the title Winter Soldier Investigation to evoke Thomas Paine, who wrote in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”)

    Navy Lt. John Kerry, the future U.S. senator and presidential candidate, attended that meeting and, a few months later, lambasted the war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Proud American soldiers were reduced to acts of senseless destruction, Kerry told the senators, “not isolated incidents but crimes … .”

    Many Americans — still recovering from the news of the My Lai massacre — believed Kerry. But lingering resentment from his testimony may have cost him the 2004 presidential election.

    During his campaign against President Bush, Vietnam vets still furious with Kerry for somehow staining their service records and their honor struck back. They claimed he wasn’t a war hero, that he hadn’t earned his multiple medals, that in fact, he’d awarded his medals to himself.

    The topic is still red-hot, even today. Pennsylvania veteran Bill Perry, who campaigned for Kerry and attended both Winter Soldier meetings, offered his perspective: “Kerry came from a well-educated, wealthy family, and he could have ducked the whole thing. I respect the person who served.”

    The comment was aimed at President Bush, who did not fight in Vietnam or any war.

    The latest Winter Soldier event coincided with national polls showing two-thirds of Americans disagree with the handling of the war but consider the economy and their own financial logjams more pressing than combat halfway around the world.

    Viges, the veteran of the 82nd Airborne, struggled to understand that disconnect.

    One of his jobs in Iraq was to stand guard with a .50-caliber machine gun while his buddies searched houses supposedly inhabited by insurgents and enemy combatants. At the conference, searches of that kind were described vividly. Sometimes soldiers kicked in the front doors. Sometimes they upended refrigerators and ripped stoves out of walls. Sometimes they turned drawers upside down and broke furniture.

    One day Viges was instructed to search a suspicious house, a hut, really, but he couldn’t find pictures of Saddam Hussein, piles of money, AK-47s or roadside bombs.

    “The only thing I found was a little .22 pistol,” Viges said, ” … but we ended up taking the two young men, regardless.”

    An older woman, probably the mother of the young men, watched and wailed nearby.

    “She was crying in my face, trying to kiss my feet,” Viges said. “And, you know, I can’t speak Arabic, but I can speak human. She was saying, ‘Please, why are you taking my sons? They have done nothing wrong.’ ”

    The testimonials went on for 3 1/2 days. They were interrupted once, when a middle-age man leaped from his seat and ran toward the stage.

    “Liars! Liars!” he shouted. “Kerry lied while good men died, and you guys are betraying good men.”

    Others among the counter-protesters tried for a more even tone.

    Chris Eaton, a former Houstonian now living in Dallas, spoke for them when he described himself as an average guy doing his best to support American troops.

    “I’m not hateful,” he said. “I’m not a warmonger.”

    He’s married and the father of three. For his little girl’s seventh birthday, he welded a butterfly made of old car parts, plate steel and rebar.

    But Eaton didn’t travel halfway across the country to talk about butterflies. He wanted to lend his voice to the counter-protesters. He wanted to remind the anti-war vets that they needed to tell the absolute and precise truth or risk demoralizing their brothers and sisters still fighting overseas.

    Eaton also wanted to support his friend, retired Army Col. Harry Riley, who organized the counter-protest and the sponsoring group, Eagles Up.

    Riley is a decorated Vietnam vet. He’s got a calm, mellifluous voice — until he flashes back to 1971.

    “No one stood up for me or millions of others smeared by Kerry,” Riley said. “That first Winter Soldier meeting was total bunk, denigration and falsehood. We want to ensure this second one meets our criteria for accuracy.”

    It is true, Perry said, that a few of the testimonies from ’71 contained significant errors and should have been omitted. That’s unfortunate, he said, but hardly surprising given the impromptu nature of that meeting. The great majority of the vets, Perry said, spoke the truth.

    Did not, said Riley, referring to a government investigation of the most serious charges made in Detroit. Not one of the soldiers’ testimonies was substantiated.

    Perry noted that the investigation was conducted by Army personnel. In his opinion, the Army’s investigation of itself was a joke.

    With a wrench, Riley pushed the conversation back into the 21st century. If atrocities or war crimes are taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said, service men and women are duty-bound to report them under oath and through official channels. Failure to do so, he added, means they are potential criminals themselves and subject to prosecution.

    “Oh, great,” retorted Hauff, the Houstonian. Soldiers aren’t going to turn themselves in, and they’re not going to report their peers or their superiors, either, he said.

    “Nobody wants to be viewed as a snitch or a narc,” Hauff said. And who, he asked, volunteers for a dock in pay or a loss of rank or a court-martial or worse?

    “You’re supposed to do what you’re told in the military.”

    For vets who often feel isolated by their experiences and their memories, old war buddies are their best, most comfortable friends.

    Viges greeted old friends joyously between sessions at the Winter Soldier conference. Many of them were vets from the Vietnam era.

    “They are my fathers,” he said.

    After struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Viges said, he is somewhat better. He still jumps at the sound of fireworks, but he’s stopped patrolling the perimeter of his house.

    With shoulder-length, brown hair and a goatee, Viges looks very much like a model for velvet Jesus portraits. When he puts on his tunic and takes his anti-war campaign to the streets, he tells anyone who will listen, “Love thine enemy” and “Turn the other cheek.”

    A devout Christian, Viges finally left combat as a conscientious objector.

    Cantu, the Fort Hood soldier, was one of several celebrity Texans at the conference. He says his pro-war sentiments changed 180 degrees the day he killed a civilian in Iraq. His convoy had been hit by an improvised explosive device, and he wanted revenge.

    Next thing he knew, a car was coming toward them, and despite the warnings, it didn’t stop.

    Cantu opened fire. He didn’t know until too late the car was filled with multiple members of an Iraqi family.

    “I was literally on the verge of quitting (the military) right then and there,” said Cantu, a third-generation military man.

    Instead, he’s spoken out against the war, through the protest chapter he founded and a 60 Minutes interview in 2007.

    He occasionally comes to the attention of his superiors, too.

    “All I’ve done is use my First Amendment rights,” Cantu said. “I appreciate the Constitution. You can’t really love it until you’ve actually been protected by it.”

    Cantu is scheduled to return to Iraq for his third tour of duty in early 2009.

    “I’ve cheated death so many times,” he said, suddenly somber. “I hope I can do it again.”

    Hauff, the Houston vet, didn’t try to make it to Maryland. He had his hands full, with his job, his wife and his little girl. Besides, he didn’t want to talk about the ugly side of war.

    His best friend was on patrol, subbing for Hauff, when he was killed.

    Hauff paused, keeping the many things he thought about that tragedy to himself. He had his emotions under control, he said, and he’s moved on with his life.

    His mother-in-law, sipping coffee and listening to him, cocked her head as if she didn’t quite agree.

    That year in Iraq changed him, Sherry Glover said. He doesn’t like to be touched. He can be impatient with the people, even the child he loves the most. It’s almost like he’s barricaded himself inside an invisible fence that has a sign: “Keep out.”

    When Hauff finished talking, he frowned at his mother-in-law and walked away. They’re sharing the same house, at least until Hauff and his family can afford to move.

    Military families are paying for this war, Glover said darkly. She has a friend whose son tried to commit suicide between tours of duty. Army doctors gave him a bunch of prescriptions and deemed him ready to serve.

    Glover couldn’t go to the conference — she wanted to keep an eye on things at home — and made do by listening to the testimony on the local Pacifica radio station, KPFT-90.1 FM.

    She and many other peace activists wondered why only a couple of outlets in the mainstream media covered the event.

    The vets also wondered what all the other newspapers, magazines and TV stations were afraid of. The truth?

    That’s not it, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

    The gathering was tiny, Sabato said, in comparison to protests from the Vietnam era. Also, activists on both sides of the war have moved the debate to the presidential campaign.

    President Bush has been unequivocal in his support for the war, Sabato said, and those who share that commitment will vote Republican. Those who oppose the war will vote for the Democrat.

    It’s not that Americans don’t have an opinion, he said. They’re just waiting for Election Day.



  2. Defend the Rutgers 3!

    Stay updated:
    Email RutgersThree@gmail.com for press information and solidarity statements

    On March 27, hundreds of Rutgers students and supporters participated in the Rutgers Walkout against the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Students walked out of classes, rallied on campus, marched through downtown New Brunswick, and spontaneously walked on to Route 18, a state highway. During the action, the police did not complain to student organizers, issue warnings to the crowd, or attempt to stop any of the actions. The non-violent protest, organized by 12 student organizations, ended without incident.

    On April 10th of 2008, Suzan Sanal (Rutgers Against the War/Campus Antiwar Network), Erik Straub (Tent State/SDS), and Arwa Ibrahim received a summons from the state of New Jersey for activities during the Walk Out. These three were the only ones to receive a summons for the protest despite the fact that the Walk Out was organized by a coalition of multiple student groups and gathered several hundred participants. Arwa was not even a member of the Walk Out coalition and never attended an organizers’ meeting.

    Walk Out coalition members met and communicated with police, before and during the event, in an effort to be cooperative with police to ensure participants’ safety.

    According to the Targum, “(Sgt Richard) Rowe said members of the group advised them of their proposed route shortly before they began, so he said if the protesters went on Route 18 they would accommodate them.”

    Police Pleased By Rally’s Nature: http://media.www.dailytargum.com/media/storage/paper168/news/2008/03/28/PageOne/Police.Pleased.By.Rallys.Nature-3289175.shtml

    All three are being charged with Disorderly Conduct, a “violation” according to New Jersey state law (equivalent to a “misdemeanor”). If convicted, they could face up to 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a record of an “offense” that would take several years to expunge. The complaint states, “Did engage in conduct which caused a physically dangerous or hazardous condition, specifically by organizing and participating in a protest march onto Route 18 disrupting traffic in violation of N.J.S. 2c: 33-2A(2)”

    These selective charges are designed to intimidate students and student organizations from organizing such antiwar protests.

    We, the undersigned, call for Rutgers University administration to defend and support the three students faced with these unjust charges. We also call for all charges against the Rutgers 3 to be immediately dropped.

    Signed by:

    Rutgers Walkout Coalition

    [For full list of signers and to sign on: http://www.petitiononline.com/DefRU3/petition.html%5D


  3. John McCain and Bush’s torture powers

    Posted by: “lilgeorgiehas2go” lilgeorgiehas2go@yahoo.com

    Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:04 pm (PDT)

    An article by The New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti this morning discloses a letter (.pdf) from the Justice Department to Congress which asserts “that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law.” In other words, even after all of the dramatic anti-torture laws and other decrees, the Bush administration insists that American interrogators have the right to use methods that are widely considered violations of the Geneva Conventions if we decide that doing so might help “thwart terrorist attacks.”

    There are two reasons, and two reasons only, that the Bush administration is able to claim this power: John McCain and the Military Commissions Act. In September, 2006, McCain made a melodramatic display — with great media fanfare — of insisting that the MCA require compliance with the Geneva Conventions for all detainees. But while the MCA purports to require that, it also vested sole and unchallenged discretion in the President to determine what does and does not constitute a violation of the Conventions. After parading around as the righteous opponent of torture, McCain nonetheless endorsed and voted for the MCA, almost single-handedly ensuring its passage. That law pretends to compel compliance with the Conventions, while simultaneously vesting the President with the power to violate them — precisely the power that the President is invoking here to proclaim that we have the right to use these methods. As Columbia Law Professor Michael Dorf wrote at the time:

    Americans following the news coverage of the debate about how to treat captives in the ongoing military conflicts could be forgiven for believing that the bill recently passed by Congress, the Military Commissions Act (“MCA”), was a compromise between a White House seeking far-reaching powers, and Senators seeking to restrain the Executive. After all, prior to reaching an agreement with the President, four prominent Republican Senators — Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and John Warner — had drawn a line in the sand, refusing to go along with a measure that would have redefined the Geneva Conventions’ references to “outrages upon personal dignity” and “humiliating and degrading treatment.” No doubt many Americans believe that because these four courageous Senators stood on moral principle, the bill that emerged, and which President Bush will certainly sign, reflects a careful balance between liberty and security.

    Yet if that is what Americans believe, they are sorely mistaken. On nearly every issue, the MCA gives the White House everything it sought. It immunizes government officials for past war crimes; it cuts the United States off from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions; and it all but eliminates access to civilian courts for non-citizens — including permanent residents whose children are citizens — that the government, in its nearly unreviewable discretion, determines to be unlawful enemy combatants.

    Destroying the protections of the Geneva Conventions while pretending to preserve them was accomplished by Section 6(a)(3) of the MCA (.pdf), which provides:
    INTERPRETATION BY THE PRESIDENT – (A) As provided by the Constitution and this section, the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions . . . .
    Paragraph (C) provides that such decisions “shall be authoritative” under U.S. law. McCain supported the MCA knowing that the President retained virtually unfettered discretion to decree that the interrogation methods we were using that are widely considered in the civilized world to be torture could continue. That’s John McCain — and his Principled Maverickism and alleged torture opposition — in a nutshell. He continuously preens as some sort of independent moralizer only to use that status to endorse and enable that which he claims to oppose. In Great American Hypocrites, I wrote about his numerous deceitful maneuvers to legalize torture as follows: The mirage-like nature of McCain’s alleged convictions can be seen most clearly, and most depressingly, with his public posturing over the issue of torture. Time and again, McCain has made a dramatic showing of standing firm against the use of torture by the United States only to reveal that his so-called principles are confined to the realm of rhetoric and theater, but never action that follows through on that rhetoric.

    In 2005, McCain led the effort in the Senate to pass the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which made the use of torture illegal. While claiming that he had succeeded in passing a categorical ban on torture, however, McCain meekly accepted two White House maneuvers that diluted his legislation to the point of meaningless: (1) the torture ban expressly applied only to the U.S. military, but not to the intelligence community, which was exempt, thus ensuring that the C.I.A.—the principal torture agent for the United States—could continue to torture legally; and (2) after signing the DTA into law, which passed the Senate by a vote of 90–9, President Bush issued one of his first controversial “signing statements” in which he, in essence, declared that, as President, he had the power to disregard even the limited prohibitions on torture imposed by McCain’s law.

    McCain never once objected to Bush’s open, explicit defiance of his cherished anti-torture legislation, preferring to bask in the media’s glory while choosing to ignore the fact that his legislative accomplishment would amount to nothing. Put another way, McCain opted for the political rewards of grandstanding on the issue while knowing that he had accomplished little, if anything, in the way of actually promoting his “principles.”

    A virtual repeat of that sleight-of-hand occurred in 2006, when McCain first pretended to lead opposition to the Military Commissions Act (MCA), only thereafter to endorse this most radical, torture-enabling legislation, almost single-handedly ensuring its passage. After insisting that compelled adherence to the anti-torture ban of the Geneva Conventions was a nonnegotiable item for him, McCain ultimately blessed the MCA despite the fact that it left it to the President to determine, in his sole discretion, which interrogation methods did or did not comply with the Conventions’ provisions.

    Thus, once again, McCain created a self-image as a principled torture opponent with one hand, and with the other, ensured a legal framework that would not merely fail to ban, but would actively enable, the President’s ability to continue using interrogation methods widely considered to be torture. Indeed, by casting himself as the Supreme Arbiter of torture morality, McCain’s support for this torture-enabling law became Bush and Cheney’s most potent instrument for legalizing the very interrogation methods that McCain, for so long, flamboyantly claimed to oppose.

    And then this year, McCain voted to oppose a ban on waterboarding, claiming that it was unnecessary given that waterboarding is already considered illegal by the Bush administration — an assertion about which he later admitted he had no real knowledge and which is, in any event, simply untrue.

    As the NYT story illustrates this morning, we continue to be a rogue nation when it comes to international norms on the treatment of detainees. The DOJ explicitly claims the right to use methods otherwise prohibited under the Conventions as long as it claims doing so is necessary to stop the Terrorists. And despite his media-sustained reputation as a righteous, principled opponent of torture, much of these disgraces are the direct by-product of John McCain’s work.



  4. Pingback: McCain admits Iraq war is about oil | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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