Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Book Review: Mission Rejected by Peter Laufer

Currently, there are many reasons for taking time to read this fairly up-to-date book on American solidiers who are opposing the War in Iraq. The work is calledMISSION REJECTED and is by Peter Laufer. This is because the media in the USA is more-than-ever becoming loaded with tales of soldiers taking important stands to reduce casualties in the Iraqian Catastrophe of 2003-2006.

For example, as part of the run-up to 2006 election in the USA coming up this next month, I observe that back in the reddest state in the American Union, i.e. Utah, Army reservist Sergeant Marshall Thompson--one of the U.S. military reporters with the greatest experience in Iraq over the last three years-- is now leading a Bring-the-Boys Home March, which he calls A SOLDIER'S PEACE. (Read more at Thompson's web site: ASoldiersPeace.com .)

Also, this October it has just been announced that war resister Darrell Anderson, one of the soldiers interviewed in Canada by author Lauffer in his book, has returned from Canada. Darrell Anderson had spent two years in Canada. Democracy Now reports that "Anderson was the first Iraq war veteran to flee to Canada in order to avoid returning to Iraq where he had won a Purple Heart." Anderson is turning himself in at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

A month earlier, after giving a speech for soldiers in the state of Washington, Hawaiian born and raised Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who was the first U.S. officer to publicly refuse to serve in Iraq, was charged a second time by the U.S. military. This time the charge was by the military for "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen."

Such a charge is ludicrous!This is because that charge of "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen" is generally applicable only for soldiers' who are beating their wives or not paying child support--i.e. not for making speeches (protected by the first amendment) against the U.S. administration's boondoggles and crimes in Iraq, which have already left nearly 3000 American soldiers dead [and hundreds of thousands of people either dead, dismembered, or severely injured] in the last three and a half years due to conflicts in Iraq!

SOME OF THE SOLDIER RESISTERS

Peter Lauffer, the author of MISSION REJECTED, was a war-resister in the Vietnam era. In preparation for this booke, Lauffer traveled both in Canada and the U.S. talking with America soldiers about their experiences, their relationship to their homeland, and their comrades who have served or are serving in Iraq.

Army specialist, Jeremy Hinzman, has still not had his claim to asylum approved by Canadian, but he is interviewed by Lauffer in Canada. Incredibly, Canadian officials have claimed that Hinzman did not successfully make his case that this war in Iraq is an illegal war.

Hinzman, who served in Afghanistan before being sent to Iraq, implied in Lauffer's book that if he didn't currently have a young son and wife to support, he might have stayed in the USA and gone to jail for his convictions. Regarding the war in Iraq, Lauffer quotes Hinzman saying, "it is an act of aggression with no defensive basis."

Hinzman added, "It has been supported by pretenses that cannot withstand even elementary scrutiny. First, before the U.S. dropped the first bomb, it was quite evident that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Second, the Bush administration had the gall to exploit the American public's fear of terrorists by making the absurd assertion that a secular Baathist was working with fundamentalist terrorist groups. There never was any intelligience to substantiate this. Third, the notion that the U.S. wants to export democracy to Iraq is laughable. Democracy is by the people, not an appointed puppet theater." [pp. 57-58]

Darrel Anderson shared how he came to be involved in the Iraqi debacle. It is a story that rings true and similar for hundreds of thousands of young American men and women who have become involved in Bush's adventurism over the past six years. "I needed health care, money to go to college, and I needed to take care of my daughter. The military was the only way I could do it . . . . When I joined I wanted to fight. I wanted to see combat. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to save people. I wanted to protect my country." [p. 72]

Anderson received a Purple Heart and returned home from Iraq some time ago. He came back very very distressed, but there was nowhere to turn in the American military world he found in America then. Eventually, he left for Canada.

Anderson described his personal transformation in Iraq. Initially stationed in Baghdad, Anderson said, "Me, I'm gung-ho. I go up there. There're explosions. They tell us if you're under attack, you open fire on anybody in the streets. They [his military superiors and fellow soldiers]tell us if you're under attack, you open fire on anybody in the streets. They say they're no longer innocent if they're there. I take my weapon and I find someone running. I point and I pull my trigger, but my weapon is still on safe."
[p.74]

Although Anderson says that he initially killed no one in Baghdad, but by the time his fellow troops and he had left the country, the story was different. They were sent to Najaf, "We went down to Najaf with howitsers [mobile field artillery]. We shot rounds in Najaf and we killed hundreds of people. I did kill hundreds of people, but not directly hand-to-hand."[p. 75]

Lauffer also recounts Andersons other experiences in conducting assigned house raids in Iraq, "We drug men out. Women were crying. Just off a tip from some drunken Iraqi that stumbeled into our base and said, 'They're over there,' we raid a house. We were just taking innocent people and sending them off to prison because we had a tip they might attack us."[p. 74]

The Kentuckian, Anderson reflected that back in North America, "If someone did this to my street, I would pick up a weapon and fight. I can't kill these people. They're old men. We are occupying the streets. We raid houses. We grab people. We send them off to Abu Ghraib, where they're tortured. These are innocent people."

Democracy Now Radio held an interview with Army Specialist Darryl Anderson on October 2, 2006. In the interview, Anderson explains that without receiving a work permit or health insurance in Canada, he could not foresee taking care of his family properly anymore. Fruthermore, it is too difficult to go on illegally working in Canada without appropriate treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome. (He couldn't even afford money for the long ride to a psychiatrist for treatment.)

A second reason, Anderson has returned to Ft. Knox is to have the chance to put on a uniform and oppose the war at home. He had not felt strong enough to do so prior to now. He is encouraged also by the changing American attitutde toward the war.

Anderson is also hoping that the military will help treat him better this time around for the after affects of post-traumatic stress.

GROWING SOLDIER VOICES

In no section of the book does the author (nor any of the dozens of soldiers interviewed or reported on in MISSION REJECTED) inidcate support for terrorism by Arabs and Muslims in Iraq. This should not be a surprising insight because both the author and the soldiers discussed have a apparently all sought to make the world better and to defend their homeland.

More importantly, basic Sunday school standards are what the growing voices of soldiers and and their families are demonstrating these days across America. They are calling on the nation, its leaders, and their fellow soldiers to do what is right--and to do what is right much more often.

In the case of Justin Watts speaking out in Iraq in 2006 we have a good example of courage and real support for one's comrades. Last Spring in Iraq, Pfc. Justin Watt was forced to call his father for advice. His father had also been a soldier, so the son asked what he should do if he knew that his "brothers"--i.e. fellow soldiers--were committing heinious crimes sanctioned by and/or left unpunished by higher-ups. The father, Rick Watt, told Justin that even if they are brothers, Hustin had to do what is right.

Justin Watt has now done the right thing and his fellow soldiers--who had lost their sense of what was right and what was wrong (after serving 9 months in Iraq)--are now appropriately facing charges of murder and rape which they had undertaken in March at Mahmoudiya, Iraq. (Sadly, in the wacky world of the Rumsfeld military and Bush's Loser School of Government, Justin Watt's life has been threatened and he has been assigned to a different unit for his personal safety in the meantime. In response, Rick Watt asks why his son as not seen as a hero for speaking up!)

In summary, I ask that more Americans must immediately join the growing voices of soldiers mentioned in Lauffers' book and in this blog. Remember that 2 more American soldiers dying each day is bad enough in an Iraq that often sees 1500 other fighting and terror related deaths each month! America must turn from the dark years of this debacle in Iraq and call the for the MISSION to be REJECTED.

(Besides, polls in Iraq have consistently shown that the U.S. occupation is not wanted by the people there.)

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