Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Open Letter to America's Soldiers from the Ranks - The Looming Shadow of Nuremberg


Crimes Listed by the Nuremberg Standard of 1947: a war of aggression, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for its accomplishment; murder or ill-treatment of civilian populations in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war; plunder of public or private property; wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; crimes against humanity such as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war.

Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Fallujah, the rape of Lebanon, the concentration camps in the West Bank and Gaza, clandestine prisons, the Iraq embargo of the 1990s, Halliburton, and Black Water. There are more, but these will suffice to compare against the Nuremberg Standard. It will not be a difficult task. For example, start with Halliburton and the plunder of public (American taxpayers') property.

How many of you recognize the name of Army Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr.?

I do because he and I stood on and flew over the same ground nearly 40 years ago. Like him, I left a little blood and a lot of sweat in a Godforsaken place halfway around the world, earning four battle stars in 11 months. Plus some cheap tin and ribbon medals made even cheaper by the good friends who never came home with me. Thompson did, too.

Hugh was a helicopter pilot who aimed his guns at American soldiers--members of my brigade -- to keep them from slaughtering civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai 4. Spotting massacred civilians around My Lai, Thompson and his two-man crew landed beside wounded civilians to give medical help as the infantry company commander and others present kept shooting the wounded. Thompson ordered his crew to open fire if the slaughter continued. No more civilians were shot.

Thompson's story is critical because the march to a nuclear war against Iran has begun, and YOU will the ones carrying it out. There is no way to effectively "confront" Iran except with tactical nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children will die outright or suffer lingering deaths from horrible radiation sicknesses. It will be murder, pure and simple. Look at the suffering around you and multiply it by hundreds.

No doubt you know that back home, 80 per cent of the American people voted in the last election to end the Iraq debacle, but no one in Washington listened. Our two-faced media watchdogs are a gaggle of neocon propaganda peddlers, corporate whores and New World Order shills who helped orchestrate and cheerlead the slaughter, and they sneer at your patriotism behind your backs.

Everything you've been told about Iraq is a pack of lies, and the powers that be seem to think we're all stupid enough to be conned again. We can't trust our elected representatives to carry out the will of the people. They're been bought and sold, and have just proven it. For all practical purposes, a coup d'etat has taken place.

Meanwhile, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have problems of their own just staying alive. After four years, why doesn't everyone have the equipment and armored vehicles needed? The most cynical thing our government can do is to send its soldiers into combat with defective weapons or lacking critical equipment. To me, actions speak a lot louder than words. Just ask the folks who lost everything to Hurricane Katrina down along the Gulf Coast.

Keep in mind that defense contractors like Halliburton are raking in billions, and the 100-grand-per-year hired guns and their employers certainly aren't lacking anything they need. Take a close look at their equipment. Whether you realize it or not, these hired guns are making your job a lot harder by terrorizing and humiliating the Iraqi population, accountable to no one. I've seen it all before, only with more humidity and less sand.

Let me tell you a little secret about the plan to parcel you out in small groups and isolate you in Iraqi units. This was tried in Vietnam with disastrous results, with adjectives like suicidal. And that was before we had really gotten serious about killing people over there. How can you tell who the enemy is? Do you speak the Iraqi language and understand the culture? That friendly Iraqi kid or little girl in a burka may be taking reams of mental notes about your unit strength, equipment, and movement patterns to relay to their big brothers with the IEDs, RPGs and AKs. They may even be humping bags of ammo or ordnance and running commo for insurgents.

Count your fingers for the number of new insurgents every dead civilian creates. Rape a girl and murder her family to cover it up, and you'll need a computer. Don't forget to factor in the damage from 50,000 armed-to-the-teeth mercenaries, many of whom not only don't speak Iraqi, they don't even speak English. Always remember that none of these people invited you there to blow their country apart. Imagine how you'd feel if some friendly invaders and a bunch of their salaried thugs had wasted New York City and killed the entire population.

I can tell you from experience that it's impossible to win any kind of guerilla war without the support of the population and while soldiering from a defensive position. Have your missions turned from search and clear to search and avoid like ours did? Do you have a mentality of "the day is yours, the night is theirs"? If that's true, the situation has disintegrated into a war of attrition and you've lost.

Put aside from the moral conundrum of nuking a non-nuke country that has signed the non-proliferation treaty to keep that country from maybe getting nukes of its own, and all on behalf of another country that already has hundreds of nukes and refuses to sign any such treaties. An attack on Iran means you will be trapped between a rock and a hard place. Make no mistake: the real reason for the "surge" into Bagdad is to reinforce security around the laptop warriors and bureaucrats in the Green Zone. You'll find yourselves in the curious position of playing bodyguard for the hired guns. How ironic will that be?

Think about your families and loved ones. A large number of you are serving multiple tours, with many involuntarily extended. For the latter, your country has violated the contract it signed with you, but just try breaking your end of it. Meanwhile, military families suffer at home, a significant number of you will not have jobs to return to, and unbelievably, your government is doing its best to slash or delay veteran's benefits. For those of you who come home wounded, it will take years to get a VA disability claim processed if you succeed at all.

Are your families are living near the poverty level? Look at how many payday loan shark operations hover like vultures around stateside military posts. The bottom line is that you and your loved ones are suffering all the blood and material sacrifices while White House and Congressional cronies get unspeakably rich. And, you're being asked to do it over and over again by people who are willing to spill every drop of your blood while making sure their own children avoid wearing a uniform.

To say that combat veterans--or anyone -- who oppose these wars are against you is an outright lie. We would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you to defend our country and protect our Constitution. We want Osama bin Laden and his cohorts dead as much as you do. Our hearts break when another coffin comes home, or a young man or woman returns physically or psychologically crippled. We have personally seen and felt this pain for 30 years or more. We are outraged that it's happening all over again, and for what?

Our anger is directed at the people who have cynically exploited your patriotism and love of America, people who seem to owe their allegiance to another country, people who have been using our Constitution as toilet paper. Turn your bullshit detectors up to full volume like we have. Open your eyes and discover what true courage is. It's not just facing another man in combat, it's also standing up for what's right.

Be forewarned and forearmed: the dogs of war never confront a man's intellectual or moral compass, but only his body and his emotions. They count on your blind obedience to authority. These people are not armed with superior knowledge or competence. They have nothing but a monopoly on violence and coercion, and a talent for exploiting our ignorance and timidity. All of us were born free men and women, and it's time to once again begin living like we are. It's time to show the government where real strength of the American people lies.

The bottom line is, if you don't think an ordinary soldier like yourself can do anything about the situation, you're dead wrong. Remember the story of Hugh Thompson. When the same dogs of war start barking, you start biting like he did. You do it with two simple questions to each officer and NCO, and ask it repeatedly: "With all due respect, sir, why are we still here and when are we going home?"

You don't give up your Constitutional rights when you put on the uniform, because the defense of the Constitution is at the core of your solemn oath to serve. Anyone who orders you to give up your morality and humanity should be hung. My fervent prayer is that a brigade of Hugh Thompsons like you will rise up to put a halt to this coming atrocity.

Tony Swindell can be reached at: