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Iraq Aftermath

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Ten years ago the peace and anti-war movements warned the leaders of the global community that war was not the answer, and that war once unleashed would bring only destruction and death. United for Peace and Justice finds no pleasure in being right about this U.S. made catastrophe of human suffering. There is no joy or self-satisfaction that can be felt. This is not an “I told you so” moment. But we will use both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as examples of how violence begets violence and how war, if it ever was, is no longer a moral means to solve conflicts.

The people of Iraq have suffered for decades: first under Saddam Hussein; then the 1991 U.S.-led invasion, followed by U.S.-led sanctions; and finally another U.S.-led invasion and occupation. The Iraq War must not be swept aside to be forgotten like a national nightmare, and we must not let the nightmare of the war be repackaged in patriotic rhetoric to support future wars. Our nation has an obligation to the people of Iraq, and to the U.S. service members sent to fight, bleed and die there. There is still much work ahead to help the people of Iraq and the U.S. troops and communities to which they have returned to heal.

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Iraq

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

by United for Peace and Justice

Ten years ago this month the United Sates embarked on one of the worst foreign policy decisions in the nation’s history. Fooling itself into believing that U.S. soldiers would be welcomed as liberators, the Bush Administration ordered the invasion of Iraq. March 19th began a more intensified subjugation and destruction of Iraq that really began with Operation Desert Storm in January 1991 when I was part of that invading force.

Today due to the resistance of the Iraqi people and domestic pressure created by the peace movement here in the U.S., officially U.S. forces have left Iraq and the Iraqi people are picking up the pieces of a destroyed national infrastructure and fragmented society. The two decades of Iraq Wars from 1991 to when the last U.S. troops left in 2011 must not be swept aside like a bad dream to be forgotten. Our nation has an obligation to the people of Iraq and to U.S. service members sent to fight, bleed and die there. I congratulate the peace movement for its successful efforts to bring our troops home and end the violence caused by U.S. military operations and or the presence of our forces, but there is still much work to do to help the people of Iraq and U.S. troops and the communities to which they have returned heal.

As always the peace and anti-war community is busy with over flowing plates of work to do. There have been important developments in the Bradley Manning case. He needs our support as much as anyone. March is Women’s History month and as we celebrate the triumphs and continuing struggles of women here at home, the challenges women face around the world in the U.S. war machine and in the aftermath of U.S. wars must be part of the dialogue.

We are beginning preparations for the April 15th Global Day of Action on Military Spending to end the madness of international squandering of material resources and people’s lives and we must support our allies in the struggle for a clean and sustainable environment so that we can have safe food and clean air and water.

Thank you for your devotion to peace and justice. We will continue in the struggle because it honors those who brought us this far, it is the right thing to do, and we know that together we are making a difference for the better.

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Veterans Group Calls On Soldiers to Refuse Orders to Deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Veterans Group Calls On Soldiers to Refuse Orders to Deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Dahr Jamail
Truthout
Tue, 15 Dec 2009 18:55 EST

In response to President Barack Obama’s announcement on December 1 to deploy 30,000 additional troops to the occupation of Afghanistan, the organization March Forward!, comprising both veterans and active-duty members of the US military, has called on all soldiers to refuse their orders to deploy.

“March Forward! calls on all service members to refuse orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq,” reads a press release from the group from December 3. “We offer our unconditional support and solidarity. Join us in the fight to ensure that no more soldiers or civilians lose their lives in these criminal wars.”

Michael Prysner, a former corporal in the Army who served from 2001-2005 and a veteran of the occupation of Iraq, co-founded the group with another Iraq war veteran, James Circello.

Truthout asked Prysner how he responds to those who believe a soldier should always follow orders, no matter what.

“In my experience the majority of people joining the military today join out of necessity, like money, jobs, help for their family, etc., so most don’t join for ideological or patriotic reasons. Most are driven into the military by economic conditions. We see this playing out now, as people are joining in droves because of the economy.”

Prysner added, “Yes, people do sign a contract to follow orders, but those orders are wrong and unlawful. We want to educate people to the fact that these are immoral orders, and they [soldiers] are being used as muscle for corporations, to colonize the developing world, and it’s not legitimate. People who join and take this oath seriously who think they are in [the military] to defend the US, this is not what we are being used for in the military today.”

Prysner has written about his experience in Iraq, “… there was no computer screen separating me from the suffering civilian population. I spent 12 months in Iraq, doing everything from prisoner interrogations, to ground surveillance missions, to home raids. It was my firsthand experiences in Iraq that radicalized me. I believed I was going to Iraq to help liberate and better the lives of an oppressed people, but I soon realized that my purpose in Iraq was to be the oppressor, and to clear the way for US corporations with no regard for human life.”

After he separated from the Army in 2005, Prysner “understood that the occupation I was a part of was a crime against humanity. I understood that illegal conquering of Iraq was for profit, carried out by a system that serves a tiny class of super-rich whose endless drive for wealth is at the expense of working people in the United States and abroad.”

According to Prysner, the lessons he learned from being part of the US occupation of Iraq taught him that, “I still had the same drive to fight for freedom, justice and equality as I did when I joined, and I understood that fighting for those things meant fighting against the US government, not on behalf of it.”

To those who call him and his organization “anti-American” and/or “unpatriotic,” Prysner has this to say:

“I would say that I have more in common with my sisters and brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan than I do with these people in DC who’ve sent us to war. If that’s unpatriotic, then yes, I am. But patriotism and racism are the only things the military has to fall back on to convince people to do the things we are being asked to do today.”

March Forward! was founded in 2008, and the aim of the organization is “to unite all those who have served and who currently serve in the US military, and who want to stand up for our rights and for that which is right.”

“We are new and growing,” Prysner explained. “We have seen somewhat consistent growth, and we’re expecting this to accelerate now.”

The group’s statement from December 3 adds, “On December 1, we got a clear order from President Obama. For many more years, we will be sent to kill, to die, to be maimed and wounded, in a war where ‘victory’ is impossible, against a people who are not our enemies. For over eight years, we have come home in coffins, in wheelchairs, with our skin burned and with our days and nights haunted by the trauma of war. We return home to a VA whose services are so inadequate that active duty soldiers who succumb to suicide outnumber those killed in combat.”

James Circello is a former Army sergeant and veteran of the US occupation of Iraq. Circello, who joined the military in 2001, describes his experience in Iraq as follows:

“During the occupation of Iraq, the truth about what the United States government has done to the country of Iraq became more apparent. Open wastewater flowed through neighborhood streets where children played soccer. Families were thrown out of their homes with simple accusations from others. Vehicles were taken on sight by the military if individuals couldn’t provide proper documents claiming they own the vehicle. These events and others helped in strengthening my opposition to the so-called ‘War on Terror.’”

In April 2007, Circello left his base in Vicenza, Italy, and went absent without leave (AWOL) in protest of US policy in the Middle East. In November 2007, he turned himself in to the military at Fort Knox and was discharged within three days.

Circello has remained very active with his work against US Foreign Policy, having worked with Iraq Veterans Against the War and the group Courage to Resist before joining March Forward!.

Circello’s decision to go AWOL was his way of refusing to deploy to Afghanistan.

I had been fighting myself internally after my time in Iraq, about whether to deploy again,” he explained to Truthout, “I ended up back in my old unit that was preparing to deploy, so at that moment I took it into my hands, and decided I wasn’t going to go kill Afghans that had done nothing to me, or the American people. It was a defining moment for me.”

According to Pentagon figures, since October 2001, more than 50,000 soldiers from all branches of the military have gone AWOL.

John Raughter is the communications director for the American Legion, an organization that describes itself as “a patriotic, war-time veterans organization, devoted to mutual helpfulness,” according to its web site.

Raughter is clear about his stance on the rights of soldiers. “We have an all-volunteer force,” he explained to Truthout, “These are not draftees. They swore an oath to obey the orders of the Commander in Chief.”

According to Raughter, the American Legion does not, in any way, support AWOL soldiers or those who refuse to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan. “Within reason, the military should be able to enforce obedience. Obedience and order are critical for the military to do its mission. People can’t pick and choose which orders to obey and which not to [obey]. If it’s a lawful order, they are obliged to obey.”

Yet the oath enlisted soldiers must take before being deployed, reads:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, is the co-author of “Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent” with Kathleen Gilberd. In the book, they write, “Rules of Engagement limit forms of combat, levels of force, and legitimate enemy targets, defining what is legal in warfare and what is not. (They’re also) defined by an established body of international (and US) law that leaves no ambiguity.”

Cohn and Gilberd argue that every US war since WWII has been illegal. Article 51 of the UN Charter only permits the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member … until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”

In addition, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 (the war powers clause) of the US Constitution authorizes only both houses of Congress, not the president, to declare war. Nonetheless, that process has been followed only five times in our history and last used on December 8, 1941, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

Nevertheless, Raughter believes soldiers who are dissenting against the occupations should have never joined the ranks. “If they are ethically opposed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I would say that most of these people have enlisted or reenlisted since the beginning of the war. These wars were occurring when they made this oath of enlistment. It should have come to their minds.”

Circello’s response to those who refer to their tactic of encouraging soldiers to refuse deployment orders as being “unpatriotic or un-American?

“This is a tactic of demonization and we reject it,” he explained, “The corporations profiting in these wars don’t care about America or the American people. Is providing mercenaries to kill innocent people overseas, and bombs to kill innocent people, is that American and patriotic? The people who use these terms are demagogues. We can’t forget that America was a land of institutionalized slavery, slavery was American, and folks like Dr. Martin Luther King, when they stood up to racism were called un-American … so the same thing happens today. When you protest war, or call on soldiers to desert based on their own interest, you are called un-American.”

Prysner and Circello’s organization has stated, “March Forward! supports the right of all service members to refuse illegal and immoral orders. Orders to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq are just that: illegal and immoral. We have no reason to fight in these wars, and we have every right to refuse to be a part of them.”

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Another $130 billion for war and no exit strategy?

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Dear UFPJ Supporter,

In the next 24 hours, Congress is set to authorize
$550 billion in FY 2010 defense spending — and with it,
an additional $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This, on top of the $75 billion Congress approved for
continuing the wars and occupations last week. Not to
mention the fact that 6 million jobs have been lost and
our communities continue to face stiffening budget cuts.
To put it plainly, our nation’s priorities are out of whack.

The sole bright spot in this is the McGovern amendment.
House Representatives Jim McGovern (MA), Walter Jones (NC),
and Chellie Pingree (ME) have introduced an amendment to
the 2010 military authorization bill, requiring the Pentagon
to provide an ‘exit strategy’ to Congress by the end of this
year.

That’s why we need you to call your Representatives TODAY
and TOMORROW and urge them to vote for the McGovern
amendment. You can call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Supporting the McGovern amendment and forcing the
Defense Secretary to submit an ‘exit strategy’ will allow
us to insert our voices into the debate and push for a
complete and immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Before we can do that with success, though, we need
to ensure that the debate happens at all – and this
amendment is a step towards doing that.

So make sure to call your Member of Congress and urge
them to support the McGovern amendment. Call the
Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Tell them
we need to end the wars and occupations and redirect
spending to our urgent domestic needs!

Thanks,

United For Peace and Justice

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Ron Paul’s Strong Opposition to the War Funding Bill

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Ron Paul, before the US House of Representatives, June 15, 2009:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this conference report on the War Supplemental Appropriations. I wonder what happened to all of my colleagues who said they were opposed to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder what happened to my colleagues who voted with me as I opposed every war supplemental request under the previous administration. It seems, with very few exceptions, they have changed their position on the war now that the White House has changed hands. I find this troubling. As I have said while opposing previous war funding requests, a vote to fund the war is a vote in favor of the war. Congress exercises its constitutional prerogatives through the power of the purse.

This conference report, being a Washington-style compromise, reflects one thing Congress agrees on: spending money we do not have. So this “compromise” bill spends 15 percent more than the president requested, which is $9 billion more than in the original House bill and $14.6 billion more than the original Senate version. Included in this final version — in addition to the $106 billion to continue the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — is a $108 billion loan guarantee to the International Monetary Fund, allowing that destructive organization to continue spending taxpayer money to prop up corrupt elites and promote harmful economic policies overseas.

As Americans struggle through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, this emergency supplemental appropriations bill sends billions of dollars overseas as foreign aid. Included in this appropriation is $660 million for Gaza, $555 million for Israel, $310 million for Egypt, $300 million for Jordan, and $420 million for Mexico. Some $889 million will be sent to the United Nations for “peacekeeping” missions. Almost one billion dollars will be sent overseas to address the global financial crisis outside our borders and nearly $8 billion will be spent to address a “potential pandemic flu.”

Mr. Speaker, I continue to believe that the best way to support our troops is to bring them home from Iraq and Afghanistan. If one looks at the original authorization for the use of force in Afghanistan, it is clear that the ongoing and expanding nation-building mission there has nothing to do with our goal of capturing and bringing to justice those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan does not make us safer at home, but in fact it undermines our national security. I urge my colleagues to defeat this reckless conference report.

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