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Antiwar vet on why he decided to face the threat of prison
"I wanted to stand with these resisters"

February 23, 2007 | Page 7

DARRELL ANDERSON served in Iraq with the Army's First Armored Division from January to July 2004--where he was injured in combat and received a Purple Heart. Having turned against the war, he went AWOL before his unit deployed for a second tour.

Darrell fled to Canada and spent a year and eight months there before returning to the U.S., where he turned himself in and was kicked out of the Army with a less-than-honorable discharge. Since his return, he has been active with Iraq Veterans Against the War--in particular, organizing around the case of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first officer to refuse to go to Iraq.

Darrell talked to JASON FARBMAN and DARRIN HOOP about his own story, and the growing resistance within the ranks of the military.

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WHY DID you decide to oppose the war and not return for a second deployment to Iraq?

I GOT to Iraq in January 2004. It was in April of that year that we lost a whole lot of soldiers. That month, our orders went from if fired upon in a public place, call for procedures, to return fire--if you are shot at in a crowded place, kill everybody. I questioned this, and they said that because we lost so many soldiers, our military procedures changed.

What else to read

For more information on Lt. Watada's case, updates on future activities and what you can do to support him, see the Thank You Lt. Ehren Watada Web site.

Go to the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site for news and updates about war resisters and other initiatives. Active-duty soldiers can register their discontent by signing the Appeal for Redress. Troops who need advice about their rights should go to GI Rights Hotline Web site or call 800-394-9544 from the U.S. or 510-465-1472 from outside the U.S.

For an excellent history of the GI rebellion during the U.S. war on Vietnam, read David Cortright's Soldiers in Revolt, newly republished by Haymarket Books. David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! is an inspiring documentary about the Vietnam soldiers' revolt, and is available on DVD, along with many other supplemental materials.

 

Traffic stops were the same thing. I was ordered to fire on this vehicle that had two children in the back seat. I refused, and I was yelled at, "What are you doing? You're supposed to fire when they come through the traffic stop." I said it's a family. They said, "You did the wrong thing. You do it again and you'll be punished."

I'm not going to kill innocent people. I believe it's my human right to refuse to go to war, and I believe it was my military duty to refuse to participate in this illegal war.

I was too messed up from the war to go to jail at the time. It was January 2005 when I went AWOL. There wasn't as big an antiwar movement as there is now. So Canada was the only option I found that I could really take.

WHAT WAS the experience like of being a resister in Canada?

THE CANADIAN people are very supportive, and the Canadian government is not.

My refugee application was denied. They wouldn't even accept my application for a hearing. At the time, I was the first combat veteran to go to Canada, so they didn't even want to hear my case. They wouldn't let me get a work permit. I was on record to be deported the whole time I was there.

But I wasn't living underground. I did media every day. I was on CNN three times. I was fighting.

I have a cousin in Iraq right now--she's 20 years old. I have family members and buddies over there. I didn't just resist the war because I didn't want to go. I felt that we could stop the war.

My unit has gone back twice since I left. They say support the troops, but they just leave them there to die. It's all so hypocritical, this "support your troops" movement.

WHY DID you decide to come back to the U.S.?

I HEARD about Lt. Watada's case. I heard about Suzanne Swift, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustín Aguayo. Plus, my post-traumatic stress was catching up with me. I couldn't function.

I felt that I had to go to jail and stand with these other resisters. There's nothing more powerful than soldiers who have been to Iraq saying that it's wrong, and we're not going to do it again. That's where I believe the heart of the movement is--in these 20 or 30 or 40 of us who resisted now.

I turned myself in on October 3, 2006, and on October 6, they let me go. My unit in Germany never pressed charges against me. They never put out a warrant for my arrest. They released me from the rolls, which meant that when I turned myself in to Fort Knox in Kentucky, it was up to them to decide if they wanted to court-martial me or not.

When I turned myself in, they gave me a piece of paper that asked why I'd gone AWOL. I said because I'm a combat veteran, I have post-traumatic stress, and the war is wrong. Basically, I said that I dare you to put my uniform on me, put my Purple Heart on me and send me to prison so people can see that we're going to jail.

It was beneficial for the military not to court-martial me, because they'd have another case like Watada on their hands. So they let me go. I got a less-than-honorable discharge, and I was free in three days.

WHAT ROLE do you think racism plays in the military to justify the killings in Iraq?

WHEN I got to Iraq, my unit had already been there for about seven months. I got there and would ask about the weapons of mass destruction. They said that's a lie. I asked if we were helping these people. They said that's a lie. So I thought, wow, these guys are against the war.

But every single one would say I hate towel heads, and we need to kill them before they kill us. It was a way of dealing with it--that these people are less than human than us, and when you kill them by accident, it's okay, and no one is going to punish you. Just like how we treated the Vietnamese in Vietnam.

To tell you the truth, I had more friends who were Iraqis than I associated with American soldiers--because by the time I got there, they were so gone.

But three months later, I was saying sand niggers and towel heads. The more buddies you lose, the more you hate Iraqis. I was pointing my weapon at innocent civilians, and saying move the fuck out of my way before I kill.

That was in three months. I went from being a momma's boy and a peaceful guy who had never been in a fight in my life--to you're going to die. It's that easy. They train you to kill. You can't go to war and not commit war crimes. It's impossible, because the hatred grows, and you can't stop it.

When I came back, it took a while to snap back out of that. For Christmas, I came home from my second leave from the military after Iraq, and I finally told my mom what had happened. That's when I came to grips with it, and said, "What the hell am I doing? I can't do it any more."

YOU'VE BEEN in the Seattle area to organize support for Ehren Watada. Why do you think that's so important?

ALL OF us resisters are combat veterans, but none of us have had a rank higher than sergeant. Watada isn't a combat veteran, but he's a lieutenant. His rank adds to our experience.

In Iraq, when we would get called to go check something out, my lieutenants wouldn't go, and we would resist. My lieutenant would say this is wrong. So it isn't as if Watada is just one crazy lieutenant. There are lieutenants all through the military who are resisting in Iraq.

These court-martials are the front line of where we're fighting the war. This needs to be the focus for the antiwar movement--Watada and all the war resisters. We need more soldiers like Watada, and more soldiers who come back from Iraq and say, "I'm a veteran, I watched my buddies die in Iraq, and now I'm going to jail because I won't do it anymore."

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