NOTE:
You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.








Sailor who refused to go to Iraq:
"I don't support this war"

December 17, 2004 | Pages 1 and 2

JUSTIN AKERS and NICOLE COLSON report on the U.S. government's latest schemes in its occupation of Iraq--and the growing discontent of U.S. soldiers sent to die for oil and empire.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THIRD CLASS Petty Officer Pablo Paredes stood on the pier of the 32nd Streeet naval base in San Diego, Calif., as his ship the USS Bonhomme Richard left for the Persian Gulf without him. "Like a cabinet member, I resign," read his simple black T-shirt.

Paredes, who is publicly against the U.S. war in Iraq, sent shock waves up the military chain of command by refusing to board his ship.

"I don't want to be a part of a ship that's taking 3,000 Marines over there, knowing a hundred or more of them won't come back," he told the San Diego Union Tribune. "I can't sleep at night knowing that's what I do for a living. "I'd rather do military prison time than six months of dirty work for a war that I and many others do not support."

You wouldn't know it from the still gung-ho rhetoric of the Bush administration, but a growing number of soldiers are beginning to voice their frustration and anger at the military--not only for shipping them off to an unjust, illegal war, but for gambling with their lives.

That's what led National Guard troops to confront Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when he visited Kuwait last week. "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" asked Army Spc. Thomas Wilson.

Rumsfeld's response? "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank, and a tank can be blown up," he lectured. In other words, shut up and don't complain.

You couldn't ask for a better illustration of how little the concerns--and the lives--of soldiers like Wilson mean to the Bush administration. More than 1,270 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq. Another 9,000 have been wounded, many of them seriously maimed. But the Pentagon plans on sending more and more soldiers to kill and be killed in Iraq.

On the Iraqi side, the death toll grows at an even faster pace--with the British medical journal The Lancet estimating that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.

Washington's callous disregard for the lives it destroys--both Iraqi and American--explains why soldiers and sailors such as Pablo Paredes and Camilo Mejia have refused to fight, even if that means going to jail.

For many soldiers and reservists, the military was the only readily available job--or hope of being able to afford college. Paredes says he was just 17 years old when he joined up. "It was absolutely on a whim," he said. "I woke up one day and said I don't have many choices, and this military guy keeps calling me."

Now, however, Paredes has chosen to raise his voice as loudly as possible.

He will be speaking for more and more of the working-class men and women sent to Iraq. As the U.S. government's lies about "democracy" and "liberation" are further exposed, these soldiers are increasingly recognizing that they are being used as human shields for oil company profits and Washington's imperialist ambitions.

Like the members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, which recently refused orders to travel in an unarmed convoy to deliver fuel. Or the more than 5,500 service members who--according to the Pentagon's own figures--have deserted since the war began.

Organizing among soldiers and military families has taken off, with more than 150 people joining the newly formed Iraq Veterans Against the War. The organization Military Families Speak Out, founded just two years ago, has more than 2,000 members.

People like Pablo are the voice of the growing discontent among soldiers and sailors--who together have the power to help end this horrible war and occupation. "I know other people are feeling the same way I am," Pablo told reporters, "and I'm hoping more people will stand up. They can't throw us all in jail."

Turning Falluja into a prison camp

RETINAL SCANS, mandatory name tags, forced labor. It sounds like a modern-day concentration camp--and it is.

For the survivors among the 300,000 residents of Falluja--most of whom were forced to flee during the savage U.S. assault on their home--returning to their lives will be a torturous process. The U.S. has decided to turn Falluja into what military officials call a "model city." But the "model" that the U.S. is using is that of a police state.

Washington hopes to be able to funnel a portion of the population back into the city in time for scheduled January elections. To do that, U.S. forces will turn the city into a giant prison camp, complete with martial law, curfews and worse.

"Under the plans, troops would funnel Fallujans to so-called citizen processing centers on the outskirts of the city to compile a database of their identities through DNA testing and retina scans," the Boston Globe reported. "Residents would receive badges displaying their home addresses that they must wear at all times. Buses would ferry them into the city, where cars, the deadliest tool of suicide bombers, would be banned."

Under one plan, U.S. and Iraqi authorities would require all of the city's men to work in military-style battalions. As a final slap in the face, they would be assigned jobs in construction, waterworks or rubble-clearing platoons--in order to rebuild the city that the U.S. so recently demolished.

But none of that fazes U.S. officials, who insist that the only way to keep the resistance in check is to crack down on the entire population. "There's something to be said for a firm hand," Lt. Col. Leonard DiFrancisci told the Globe.

U.S. soldiers who fled to Canada

JEREMY HINZMAN doesn't want to be sent back to the U.S., even though that's his home. The former member of the 82nd Airborne who deserted the military in January and fled to Canada is hoping that Canadian courts will grant him and his family asylum.

"We were taught to dehumanize our enemies," he recently told a Canadian immigration court about his military training. "You have to find ways to dehumanize them to make it as easy as shooting a beer can."

Jeremy applied for conscientious objector status, but the military ignored his objections and sent him to Afghanistan in 2002. When he received word that his unit would be re-deployed to Iraq, he fled to Canada in the middle of the night with his wife and their infant son.

Today, Jeremy is one of three U.S. soldiers officially seeking asylum in Canada--though antiwar activists say that there are others in the country "anonymously."

Unfortunately, Canadian officials have ruled that evidence of the illegality of the U.S. war on Iraq is "irrelevant" and can't be presented in Jeremy's case. But they have already heard startling testimony about U.S. war crimes in Iraq.

Last week, former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy J. Massey, a 12-year veteran of the military, told the court how he and his men shot and killed four Iraqis staging a demonstration, as well as a man with his hands up trying to surrender. During one 48-hour period, Massey said, his platoon killed "30-plus" civilians at roadblocks.

Fearing suicide bombers, his men fired at any car that didn't stop as they approached the roadblocks. But none of the cars turned out to be carrying explosives or arms. In one case, Massey said, the driver of a car leaped out with his hands up. "But we kept firing. We killed him,"

Massey says that he complained to his superiors about the "killing of innocent civilians," but that nothing was done.

Now, the Bush administration would like nothing more than for Canadian officials to rule against Hinzman--and make it harder for other soldiers to take a stand against this barbaric war on the Iraqi people.

For more information on how to support Jeremy Hinzman, visit www.jeremyhinzman.net.

Home page | Current storylist | Back to the top