Thursday, March 31, 2005

23 yr old Iraq veteran guilty of refusing orders

March 28, 2005 6:45 PM

Iraq veteran guilty of refusing orders

By Andy Buerger

DARMSTADT, Germany (Reuters) - A U.S. military court has convicted a 23-year-old Army mechanic of wilfully disobeying orders for refusing to perform duties after a year-long tour of Iraq, an army spokesman has said.

Specialist Blake Lemoine, who returned to Germany in May 2004, said he wanted to quit the army due to religious beliefs.

The special military court sentenced Lemoine to seven months confinement, reduction in rank to private and gave him a bad conduct discharge, said Bruce Anderson, deputy public affairs spokesman for the 3rd Corps support command.

Lemoine, who had condemned the invasion of Iraq, was charged for repeatedly refusing to obey orders from commanders between January 10 and February 15 at a base in Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt.

Lemoine, from Moraville, Louisiana, told a recent news conference in Germany sponsored by anti-war groups that even though he volunteered to join the army, he had changed his mind and wanted to leave.

"It was simply a slow realisation that serving in the U.S. military at this day and time contradicts my religion and to continue to do so would make me a hypocrite," he said last week.

Lemoine had also been quoted in German newspapers as saying: "The contract with the U.S. army is a slavery contract." He also spoke out against U.S. army violence against Iraqis, saying: "Iraqi civilians are often treated worse than animals."

International news from swissinfo, the Swiss news platform
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Signing Up or Opting Out Military recruiters and counter-recruiters wage war

This weekend past, we were invited guest speakers on an impressive panel for Cost of War conference, public invited, in Bend, Oregon. Among the people we met while there, was Bruce Miller, an editor of the weekly news publication, The Source. He did an interview with us, but that's not why I'm blogging this; more that I was impressed with an article he published in the previous week's Source on military recruiting in the schools.

I learned something I did not know, and thinking since I scan everything related to the troops, how did I miss this, I was pleased to learn and I quote from the Source article;

Early this month, U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat from California, introduced a bill that would have reversed the current law and prohibited recruiters from contacting high school students unless their parents specifically approved of it first. The measure was promptly shot down by the House Republican majority.

“It’s been summarily put on the shelf by the Republican leadership,” said Jay Staunton, Honda’s press secretary. “He [Honda] may be able to tack it onto a defense appropriations bill, although I would expect it to meet strong resistance from the majority party.”

Hey thanks Mike Honda for your efforts, and would that more Legislators would step up to the plate to publicly endorse life over death or maiming in combat for our young . Yet even so, there are the few; Rep. Woolsey, Congressman Jim McDermott, and now Rep Mike Honda.

"Student Privacy Protection Act, H.R. 551"
To Rep. Honda's office: Fax (202) 225-2699 or E-mail –
To the MCC Washington Office: Fax (202) 544-2820 or E-mail –

*H.R. 551 has the following cosponsors: Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McDermott (D-WA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ron Paul (R-TX), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA), Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH), Diane Watson (D-CA), and Robert Wexler (D-FL). Right now, there is no similar version in the U.S. Senate.

Am I overlooking other legislators who have taken action to show displeasure with the war in Iraq and work on behalf of their constituency; the silent voices of the warriors?

Read the article at the Source, and please urge your own local newspapers to report on the aggressive recruitment efforts going on in our high schools across the nation under the 'No Child Left Behind' act of President Bush. It provides some level of federal funding to the schools, in exchange the schools provide the contact information (names, addresses, phone numbers) of high school students 17 and older to the military recruiters who are then able to actively dog a student incessantly in misleading and aggressive pursuit of recruitment.

The school personnel ought to know of the opt out, in which a parent can request their child's contact information not be provided to military recruiters. School personnel have a responsibility to inform parents of the shift due to the No Child Left Behind; but lost federal funds and can fairly well guess how school personnel might be torn between the needed funds and putting a young person at the mercy of military recruiters who are very willing to mislead our young into signing a contract for military enlistment.

Quoting again from the Source;

“The main draw that the military has is the Montgomery GI Bill, the promise of money for college,” he said. “They make it sound like it’s almost going to pay for your whole college. They’re promising 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars for college. In reality I don’t see veterans getting those kinds of dollars when they get out. The estimates I’ve seen are that about 25 to 30 percent [of veterans] don’t get any [college] money at all.”

Recruiters also use the bait-and-switch routine, Grueschow said, falsely promising recruits that they’ll have their pick of training and assignments.

In their recruitment pitches and advertising, he said, the armed forces “oversell programs they think are going to be attractive to kids. Obviously not everybody is going to be a jet pilot. There are a lot of pretty mundane jobs in the military.”

Instead of taking a recruiter’s promises at face value, Grueschow said, kids thinking about enlisting should read the fine print: “It says right in the standard enlistment form you sign that your pay and benefits and job assignment and all that stuff can be changed at any time. The actual agreement you sign is very clear that there really are no guarantees, and yet [recruiters] use the word ‘guarantee’ pretty regularly.”

Local recruiters have quotas they’re expected to meet, Grueschow said, and if they fail to meet them they could lose their posts as recruiters.

“Being a recruiter is considered kind of a plush assignment,” he said. “If they don’t meet their quotas regularly, they’re going to get transferred out”--maybe to Iraq.


But other branches of the armed forces aren’t doing so well. Voice of America News reported last week that two years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the number of volunteers is declining.

“At a Senate hearing this week, the Army’s vice chief of staff, General Richard Cody, said falling numbers are a concern,” VOA reported. “The Army National Guard missed its goal of recruiting 56,000 new soldiers last year, and the Marine Corps failed to reach its enlistment goal for the first time in almost a decade. This year, the active-duty Army is 6 percent below its month-by-month recruitment goals, and the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and Navy Reserve also are falling to meet their recruitment targets for 2005.”

As their job gets tougher, recruiters are likely to face increasing pressure to round up enough bodies, which will mean offering more enticements to prospects. Already, according to Grueschow, military recruiters are wooing likely candidates almost as intently as college football coaches trying to sign an All-American high school quarterback.

After getting a young person to sign on the dotted line, he said, “A good recruiter will be calling that kid practically weekly, checking in with him. They have activities, weekend events and stuff. They make it sound like they’re required, but you don’t really have to go to those.”

Grueschow also made the important point that a recruit’s commitment isn’t final when he or she signs the first enlistment agreement.

“One thing most people don’t know is that if you sign up, until you’re ready to go to boot camp you can back out of it,” he said. “There are two swearing-ins, the first one when you sign up and the second one usually on the morning you leave for boot camp. Up until that second swearing-in you can walk away and no action will be taken. Of course, your individual recruiter isn’t going to tell you about that.”

For her part, Debby Rutkai thinks military recruiters shouldn’t even be allowed on high school campuses. Making a decision to join the armed forces and risk your life, she argues, is fundamentally different from deciding what college to attend or what civilian career to pursue.

“Oftentimes the military recruits young people for positions such as truck mechanic,” she said. “Someone else I know wanted to get education toward some kind of medical degree. Usually if you want to get a job here in town as a mechanic you don’t have a requirement to then go to war. To me that’s a whole different thing. They [high school students] understand that to a degree, but not fully what they’re getting into.”

Heed the information, and print it, and share it in your own community. Be a mentor to a 17 year old under pressure from family, friends, school to make career choices and ask yourself if you are truly willing to let a naive youngster become the cannon fodder for the Iraq war.

You can find the Opt Out form here, print it out, parent to sign if student under 18 yrs; student to sign if 18 yrs or older and give the signed form to school principal or administrator.

the Source - Bend Oregon Newspaper
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Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Seattle Times Thousands rally to protest Iraq war

March 19, 2005; 2nd anniversary of war in Iraq with upwards of 750 rallys and protests held across the world...or so that is what is reported. For our local area, Seattle, the article below reports on the rally held at Seattle Center. And yes, that is us being referred to in the interview. We were invited to be guest speakers representing Military Families Speak Out, Pacific Northwest.

We got a last minute call on Thursday evening and had one day to pull together our resources and prepare for our presentation. There was some confusion about the amount of time we were alloted to speak, it went from 10 minutes to 5 minutes to 8 minutes total for the both of us combined. We carved down our pepared speeches to meet the time alloted, yet even that was was shortened to about 6 minutes total as prior speakers ran over their allotted time... considerably.

We were scheduled to speak at 1:15pm and as other speeches ran long we didn't actually speak until 2:30pm. By then the feeder marchers from a variety of other meetings and rallys had arrived at the Seattle Center for the convergence of one large march and were justifiably impatient to get started. I didn't get to deliver my brief prepared speech with 3 items I wanted to call to attention, but I was able to make mention of 2 of the items and particularly to call attention to the Resolutions already presented to both Oregon Governor Kulongoski and Washington Governor Gregoire to call home the National Guard for their respective states.

As my last statement I got to mention that copies of the Resolution for Washington Governor Gregoire were available at our table (Military Families Speak Out) to take and freely distribute. I asked that people sign and put address on the Resolution and mail in to Governor Gregoire's office.

Despite the delay in the planned tight time schedule and the eagerness of folks to get the march started, the lines formed immediately to obtain copy of the Resolution. This intrigued me because it seemed to demonstrate that people Want to take action steps beyond rallying to protest when actions are made available to take and I will be most curious to see where the Resolution goes.

We are grateful to some significant people among the event organizers who made this opportunity possible for us to share our personal message on behalf of our deployed loved ones and on behalf of the troops. We are particularly grateful to Mike of the Major Visibility Project, Seattle, who shepherded the representation and visibility of our MFSO organization amongst the many groups represented at the rally. With the help of many Friends our last minute invitation which left us inadequately prepared gave us what amounted to an opportunity to not only share our voices, but more importantly to give yet another avenue for many to act to make their voices heard.

Here is the Seattle Times news article reporting on the Cost of War, Bring the Troops Home Now rally at Seattle Center, March 19, 2005.

Thousands rally to protest Iraq war

By Tan Vinh

Seattle Times staff reporter

As military families go, Lietta Ruger said, she is as red, white and blue as any proud mother.

But how could she reconcile her loyalty to the armed forces with her disdain for the Iraq war?

For months, she kept silent — until her son-in law faced mortar attacks every night at his Baghdad compound. That's when the Episcopal preacher in her came out.

Ruger, 53, of Bay Center, Pacific County, spoke out against the war on PBS' "The NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer last fall and to her congregation at St. John's Episcopal Church in South Bend, Pacific County.

And again yesterday: On the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, she gave an impassioned speech explaining why she believes the war in Iraq is unjust, before a crowd of anti-war protesters at Seattle Center. Organizers put the number of participants at 5,000.

The Seattle protest, put together by the Church Council of Greater Seattle, Washington State Jobs with Justice and Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, was part of a worldwide movement designed to place pressure on the military and get attention from Washington, D.C.

More than 700 marches, rallies, peace vigils and protests were held in communities from California to Illinois to New York, twice the number as last year, according to national organizers.

Thousands joined similar protests in European cities — 45,000 in London, according to The Associated Press. On both sides of the Atlantic, the protests were passionate but largely peaceful. Seattle police made no arrests.

In Seattle, Ruger, whose son-in-law and nephew are about to serve their second tour in Iraq, and who herself was raised in a military family, addressed the crowd knowing that "a lot of military [families] are not very happy with my message."

But, she said, "You should not let someone else define patriotism for you."

After the rally, the crowd marched in the rain from Seattle Center to Westlake Park and back. Several groups of students and political activists who had rallied elsewhere earlier in the day joined in the 90-minute march.

Among the marchers were church groups, labor unions and campus clubs, veterans and military spouses, organizers said.

There were protesters such as retired Lt. John Oliveira, 39, of Darrington, who told the Seattle Center crowd that he resigned from the Navy last year because he didn't want to continue pitching a war he didn't believe in.

Two years ago, Oliveira said, he looked into the cameras of several television networks and "sold this war as a war on terrorism, removing weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi nuclear threat.

"Well, we have found out that that was the biggest lie ever perpetrated on the American people," he said.

Ruger feels more at peace now that she is expressing her displeasure over the war and what it is doing to her family, she said. While her son-in-law served 15 months in Iraq, she had to console her daughter and help out by baby-sitting her three grandchildren.

Ruger declined to give her son-in-law's name but said "He will do his mission, but his preference is to be home." He is a 25-year old Army sergeant. "If I could do it, I would go in his place," she said.

The woman who once stayed silent now lobbies Olympia lawmakers to get the Washington National Guard out of Iraq and has joined a military-family group against the war.

Ruger, who grew up on a military base in Japan and 11 years ago married a Vietnam veteran, Arthur Ruger, 57, said, "I have absolute pride in the military."

Her husband also gave the crowd some advice: "You can be against the war, you can disagree with Bush and still be a patriot."

The Seattle Times: Local News: Thousands rally to protest Iraq war
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Another Reservist Suing Army Over Not Letting Him Out

Note as this article reports; The three conditions not met for keeping a Reservist beyond his contractual obligation; NOT MET;

-- He is not 'under investigation'

-- It is not a time of war (undeclared and illegal war in Iraq)

-- No National Emergency has been declared.

-- No other conditions identified which would necessitate this action.

By Rob Olmstead Daily Herald Staff Writer

Posted Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A decorated Army Reserve officer from Arlington Heights sued his commander Tuesday, arguing the commander's refusal to release him from service is a de facto "internal draft."

Maj. Richard Olejniczak, 35, says although there is no "stop- loss" order prohibiting his exit from the reserves, his commander, Col. John F. Hanley, twice denied his resignation.

Olejniczak, a West Point graduate who served twice in Kuwait, was honorably discharged from the Army in 1995 and then entered the Reserves, where he has served since. He is stationed with the 1st Brigade, 85th Division at Fort Sheridan.

"Petitioner has more than fulfilled his eight-year statutory military service obligation," wrote his lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell.

Fidell said Olejniczak serves voluntarily and has no agreement forcing him to stay in the military. The military has been having trouble meeting its recruiting goals since hostilities began in Iraq, and many reservists have been called for multiple tours of duty, Fidell said.

According to the suit, Army regulations say the only reason non-obligated officers cannot resign is if they're under investigation, in a time of war, a national emergency has been declared or "under other conditions which may necessitate such action."

Fidell said that none of those three conditions apply and Olejniczak should be discharged.

"He's not subject to any stop- loss order," Fidell said.

A spokeswoman for the Army's 85th Division said she would check into the suit and likely have a comment Wednesday.

Olejniczak could not be reached for comment. The suit said he has earned a Meritorious Service medal, three Army Commendation medals, seven Army Achievement medals, an Army Service medal, two Army Reserve Component Achievement medals and a Southwest Asia Service medal with a bronze service star.

"Mr. Olejniczak is extremely proud of his service," said Fidell.

Daily Herald
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Advocates to Emulate - DemocracyRising.US

Way to go Maine! Hmmm, wheels are turning here, something we can orchestrate in our own respective states?

Activists Let Their Representatives Know - Immediate Withdrawal Plan for Iraq Needed

Peace activists representing Peace Action Maine, Maine Veterans For Peace, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and other groups have been occupying the offices of their elected representatives in Maine.

They have already occupied the offices of their two Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Neither Senator called the police and they were there over five hours. During these events they read a prepared statement calling, among other things, for the immediate withdrawal from Iraq citing the Woosley amendment. In addition they read the names and ages of the over 1,500 service men and woman who have died in the illegal war and occupation. For every service person read they also read the name of an Iraqi individual or family who has died as a result of the U.S. war and occupation.

The coalition has announced that on March 18th at 11:30 AM it will conduct a similar action at Representative Tom Allen's Office in Portland, Maine. Below is the announcement of that effort along with the contact information of the people involved.

Notice of upcoming action at Representative Tom Allen's Office (Portland, ME)

On March 18th, at 11:30 AM, peace activists representing Peace Action Maine, Maine Veterans For Peace, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and other groups, will occupy Representative Tom Allen's office. We will deliver a prepared statement to Representative Allen, which will, among other points, ask the Congressman to support the Woosley amendment calling for an immediate plan for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces. We will then begin to read the names and ages of the over 1,500 U.S. service people who have died in the illegal and immoral war in Iraq.

For every U.S. service person's name that is read, we will also read the name, and age, of an Iraqi civilian or family who has died as a direct result of our war and subsequent occupation. Unfortunately, a complete reading of the Iraqi war dead would be impossible for we do not know how many have died, let alone who.

The purpose of this affinity group action is to make a statement to an elected official who is responsible for approving the funding for this costly war. Each person attending this action wishes to make a moral and ethical appeal to Representative Allen, and his staff, that our occupation of another sovereign nation has to end and to do that all U.S. service people should be withdrawn immediately.

We will be urging Congressman Allen, as we did Senators Collins and Snowe during a similar actions at their offices in December and February, to speak out against the war; to call for a cut in funding for the war and to bring all U.S. troops home immediately. We will also request a public meeting with Congressman Allen so people in the community can raise their concerns with him.

We hope you will find time to join us in this moving and uplifting action. We meet at the Peace & Justice Center of Southern Maine, 1 Pleasant St, Portland, at 10:30 for a short planning session and will walk over to Allen's office.

Contact information for this event:

Jack Bussell, Veterans for Peace 772-1442

Karen Wainberg, Peace Action Maine 772-0680

Bruce Gagnon, Global Network 729-0517

Visit for more information.

Advocates to Emulate - DemocracyRising.US
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Over 1,000 American kids have lost a parent in the Iraq war

Let the words of children tell their story, and listen with your heart


On the morning that 14-year-old Rohan Osbourne learned that his mother, Pamela, had been killed in a mortar attack on her Army base, his father dropped him off as usual at Robert M. Shoemaker High School, where three quarters of the students are the children of soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, Texas. "I might not get a lot of work done today, ma'am," Rohan politely explained to his teacher. "My mommy died yesterday in Iraq."

War notoriously robs parents of their sons, but it also steals husbands and fathers, and increasingly wives and mothers. The Pentagon doesn't keep these statistics, but using figures compiled by the Scripps-Howard News Service and other sources, NEWSWEEK has calculated that as of last week 1,043 American children had lost a parent in Iraq.


see rest of article at

MSNBC - Children of the Fallen
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The Invisible Wounded: Injured U.S. Soldiers Arrive Home Under Cover of Darkness

Adding a little visibility here where mainstream media seems to prefer not to address and how much 'support the troops' is this for our American public when even the number of wounded and the severity are shrouded?

from Democracy Now!

We are joined in our DC studio by Mark Benjamin. As the UPI investigations editor - Mark Benjamin closely covered the stories of wounded American soldiers.

... snipped

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Let's start on this issue of the nighttime flights into the U.S. of wounded soldiers. How does it work?

MARK BENJAMIN: Well, the way it works is soldiers are flown out of Iraq on giant gray jet planes called C-141 Starlifters. They land at the – a large air base in Germany, Ramstein Air Base. From there, they're taken by bus to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the military's biggest hospital outside of the United States. From there, they're stabilized for a few days and then they’re flown from Germany into the United States. Now, all of the wounded that are coming from the war land at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, just out of Washington. Some of the most severely wounded from there are taken by bus or ambulance from Andrews to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is in Washington, D.C., or Bethesda Naval Medical Center (that’s for the Marines) that’s just outside of Washington

What is interesting about this whole process is that all of the flights of wounded into the United States are scheduled to land at night. The wounded are arriving under the cover of darkness. Also, at least at the two hospitals, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Medical Center, photographers and the press are barred from seeing, watching, or taking photos of the wounded arriving. So, if you take those two facts, the fact that the wounded are only arriving at night at Andrews Air Force Base, and you take the fact that we in the press are not allowed to see them when they go to the two main hospitals here, we have a situation where we're several years into the war now, and we've seen essentially no reporting or no images of these wounded arriving; and to give you just a idea of the scope of this situation, if you take the wounded soldiers and then you add in the number of hurt soldiers that the Pentagon doesn't generally report (in other words, soldiers that are hurt in vehicle accidents and so on) we have 25,000 soldiers who have been flown out of the battlefields, mostly from Iraq, some from Afghanistan. Most of those come back to the United States — 25,000 — and images or reporting on them arriving in the United States is almost unheard of.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet you were able to see one of these shipments of wounded soldiers. Can you describe your experience and how you went about it?

MARK BENJAMIN: I saw several shipments of these soldiers, actually, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center coming in. This was without the army's consent. The army said I was not allowed to see the arrival of soldiers to protect their privacy. However, I didn't know who these soldiers were, and I even obtained some images of the soldiers arriving, and I just made sure that their identities were not clear in the photos that I obtained.

It's a pretty shocking process, to give you an idea of what it looks like. One night I was very close to the delivery of wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and two soldiers, just as an example -- the soldiers arrive, as you can imagine, on stretchers. They’re unloaded out of these buses. They’re white buses that stack the wounded in the back on stretchers. They also arrive in ambulances, sometimes even in unmarked black vans, which is a very strange twist. One night, for example, I saw two soldiers unloaded from these vans that were apparently intubated, meaning they could not breathe on their own. They were sort of swollen looking, very young. I mean, to me they looked like kids, of course, and they -- in other words, there's a large machine strapped over the top of their bed and a tube into their mouth. They looked like they were totally unconscious. One of them looked like there might have been --could have been blood in a urine bag on the side of the bed. I mean, these soldiers were in very, very bad shape. I didn't even know that they could transport people overseas that couldn't even breath on their own. So we’re talking about very, very seriously wounded people coming into the United States, and we just -- we don't see them.

... snipped

see entire transcript at
Democracy Now! | The Invisible Wounded: Injured U.S. Soldiers Arrive Home Under Cover of Darkness
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More Older Troops on Battlefield,


To doctors at Landstuhl, Wolfe represents a new reality for the U.S. military. As reservists and National Guardsmen are called to duty in unprecedented numbers, they are bringing new medical challenges with them.

Part-time soldiers now make up about 40 percent of the 150,000 troops in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said. Overall, more than 184,000 reservists in all services are deployed worldwide, according to the Army National Guard Web site.

And because these troops tend to be older, military doctors find themselves dealing more with illnesses and injuries common in older patients


see article at

European and Pacific Stars & Stripes
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

U.S. unaware of realities of Iraq war, vet says

Note; three significant issues here, well more, but these are the ones I noted.

1) remember the poll just before election which media used to attempt to portray the troops were okay with the direction in Iraq? That poll more portrayed Officer's responses than enlisted troops. Try the poll mentioned by Specialist E-4 Patrick Resta in this article that shows 60% of soldiers in Iraq do not approve of the war.

2) Media coverage fails to present realities of Iraq or the ground truth which continues to quell any public citizen concerns on behalf of our troops and reduces the support the troops rhetoric to magnetic yellow ribbons (my opinion).

3) Iraqis are Not pleased with the American presence despite news reporting to the contrary.

U.S. unaware of realities of Iraq war, vet says

Critical of the U.S. media and Bush administration, a veteran of the war in Iraq spoke Thursday night about the realities of the conflict, saying that U.S. soldiers there were ill-equipped, poorly trained and largely unsupportive of the war.

Specialist E-4 Patrick Resta, who served as an Army medic in Iraq for eight months before returning to the United States in November, spoke before an audience of about 80 Brown students and local community members in Salomon 001.

Resta criticized the poor coverage of the Iraqi war by the U.S. media and said the goal of his speech and accompanying slide show was to show what it was really like in Iraq.

"One of the most important things veterans can do, like myself, is come out here and present a true picture of Iraq, because the American media isn't letting people have that true picture," he said.

Resta pointed out how poorly equipped U.S. soldiers were in Iraq. He said that of the 1,000 vehicles his brigade brought into Iraq, only about 10 to 15 percent of them were armored. In addition, of the vehicles that were armored, many of them had only a half-inch sheet of plywood or sandbags as protection.

"If you look at this fuel truck," Resta said, referring to a vehicle in a photograph, "what you see are three sandbags. That's the armor on that vehicle."

Resta said many troops, including him, took out loans to buy their own personal armor, which they either wore or used as protection in their vehicles. He said he was never trained to use the rifle he was issued and his gas mask did not fit properly.

Resta said he also wanted to dispel the notion that Iraqis were content with the U.S. presence in their country.

"First, (Iraqis) would say, they were glad that Saddam (Hussein) was gone," he said. "But they would always follow that up with, 'At least under him, we had security.' "

Resta also dismissed the idea that most of the troops in Iraq were satisfied with their situation, citing a poll in a military magazine that found that about 60 percent of soldiers in Iraq did not approve of the war. He also said soldiers were open about their disapproval of the war, and many wanted to leave

.... see rest of the article at
U.S. unaware of realities of Iraq war, vet says - Brown Daily Herald - Campus News
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Monday, March 14, 2005

Living Wounded Iraq; Joey Bozik, a Triple Amputee,

Joey Bozik,
a triple amputee, tests a new prosthesis as part of his rehabilitation Posted by Hello
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Living Wounded Iraq; Matthew Braddock, Amputee

Matthew Braddock
examines his amputated leg for the first time after his cast is removed. He was wounded in a blast in Kirkuk Posted by Hello
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4,000 of our Military killed, 2,500 unreported killed in Iraq died in transit to hospitals

I have heard it more than a few times, that the reported number of killed in action in Iraq does NOT reflect the actual number of our soldiers killed in Iraq. I have heard that if a soldier dies on the battlefield, it is numbered as killed in action, however, if a soldier is mortally wounded on the battlefield and transported to hospital, dies en route, it is not considered a countable killed in action and therefore not counted in the total number. I wonder how the public would feel if a more reality based number was the known count of our soldiers killed as direct consequence of battlefield action in Iraq? And that does not begin to go to the number of wounded, and the continued trickling effect of the unseen wounds, brain trauma injuries, permanent brain damage, PTSD.

I will change the count over to the right side to more accurately reflect and honor our fallen soldiers killed in Iraq.

Sun March 6, 2005

Maj. General Harry Upman Why the U.S. Must Get Out of Iraq, Pronto

by Maj. General Harry Upman

Let me say in no uncertain terms, we must get out of Iraq.

There is nothing to gain and everything to lose in Iraq. We have lost over four thousand of our military, those who were killed in Iraq and those who died in intransit from Iraq to our hospitals in Germany and in Europe. We have had over 10,000 of our troops wounded. According to a report I heard last night on Frontline on PBS, 1 in 6 of our people coming home from Iraq need mental help.

What have we gained in Iraq? Absolutely nothing. What have we lost? Our leadership in the world militarily, morally and financially.

Frankly, Generals Franks and Abizaid have failed. Donald Rumsfeld has failed, as have his top aides. As a former military leader, I am appalled at the Pentagon leadership and the leadership in our military. These men should be drummed out of the military with their heads in shame for the needless loss of the lives of our young men and women.

But that’s not the worst of it. What business did they have calling up our Reserves and National Guard to attack another country. These troops are for emergencies and to protect our nation. I know the law, that these troops can be called up. On the other hand, they are to be used for short periods of time, not for long periods of time as they have been abused in Iraq. I note that the recruiters are having a hard time in the Reserves and the National Guard. I can’t blame the people for walking away. I would if I’d been lied to this much.

As a man of three wars, from Korea to Viet Nam to Gulf War I, I am embarrassed by such men as General Mattis. If he was under my command, I’d have him disciplined for ignorance and leading his men astray. No, it is not "fun" to kill people. Killing is a serious business, not something you brag about to businessmen or to the media about. We never told our men to kill for the fun of it. You killed to save yourself and to achieve an objective, never for the "fun of it."

I fear that we have hit the bottom in our military men and women. Lower level officers are now afraid to report atrocities for fear that they will lose their rank, men are afraid to admit they are shot, women are afraid to report rape, when they report rape they are told it was their fault! What has this man’s army come to? Have we totally lost our honor? To be a military man in this army means to be immoral, a liar, to accuse the innocent and to not grieve for killing women and children.

This is not the military or the country I served. The men running our government at this time are either mad or totally immoral and have not place in this world as leaders. That is why they must turn out such people as Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Mattis and Abizaid and bring in some new leadership who better represents what we are as a nation.

In the process, they may as well take such fools as Bill O’Reilly and let him put his body where his mouth is in terms of Iraq. Let him go to Iraq and see how it feels, let him smell death and let him dodge bullets the way our troops do in Iraq. I’d like to see how much of a smart-ass he would be then. The same is true of that falsely serious Richard Perle; I’d have him take his fat behind out in the boot camp and work him until he learned to sweat. I’d do the same with Paul Wolfowitz. Paul has never had the respect of intelligent men, only men who thought Paul was intelligent. How they were deceived. I’ve known Paul since he was a bootlicker in his youth in Washington, DC.

Until we regain our moral stature and moral bearings, we shall continue to be hated in this world for good reason. We no longer defend freedom and liberty, we are the new British colonialists, we are the new plunderers, we are the new imperialists. This makes me ashamed of our country.

What do I hope for? I hope some of our military men, men of honor, will stand up and call these immoral and ignorant men what they are. If our military is to defend its honor, it must stand up now. If not, then our military men are part of the problem, not part of the solution. I am not advocating revolution, but I am advocating the right to resist immoral duty and men who think that "killing is fun," and men who think that bombing a city into the earth, as was done in Fallougha, will make us more friends and fewer enemies.

We must get out of Iraq, pronto, before we lose more troops, make more enemies and show our military vulnerability to the watching world. We are not the formidable force the world thought we were, our troops are exhausted and yet have not won a victory, and our will to victory is fast disappearing. We should get out before we needlessly kill more Iraqis as well. Killing over a hundred thousand, 100,000, according to the Lancet in England is enough to make me more ashamed than when we learned of Mi Lai in Viet Nam. We killed more in Fallougha than in Mi Lai, and yet no one has apologized to the dead or the men and women who survived the devastation, the Dresden like bombing of Fallougha. Where has our moral leadership that we taught at West Point gone to? What are they doing in OCS these days? I dread finding out if the officers I’ve seen in Iraq are a fair sample.

How low we have sunk.

BELLACIAO - Why the U.S. Must Get Out of Iraq, Pronto - Collective Bellaciao
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Friday, March 11, 2005

Guard got more than many bargained for


Last updated: March 11th, 2005 02:40 AM

About half of the Washington National Guard’s citizen soldiers are already home after a year’s duty in Iraq, and the rest will be on their way over the next few weeks.

They deserve the heroes’ welcome they have been getting as they return. While they understood that signing up with the Guard meant they could face danger, few probably envisioned the major role they would be called on to play in the post-9/11 world. Nationwide, 203 Guard soldiers have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan or related duties.

For the most part they have shouldered the heavy responsibility of long deployments with valor and without complaint, although there have been grumblings that they didn’t get sufficient training and equipment, and that wounded Guard and Reserve soldiers received second-class treatment compared to the regular Army.

The soldiers’ absence has been keenly felt by their own families, of course, but also by their communities. In some smaller towns, police and firefighter ranks have been depleted by the Guard activation. In parts of the drought-stricken Northwest, that is a big concern as fire season approaches.

Many Guard soldiers and their families are worried that units could be sent back to what is still a war zone. Given the U.S. military’s heavy dependance on the Guard and Reserves – they represent about 40 percent of the troop strength in Iraq – that’s not an unreasonable fear. On Monday, a delegation of anti-war family members asked Gov. Christine Gregoire to seek the Guard’s release from serving in Iraq. The governor of Montana and citizens in Oregon and Vermont have made similar requests.

It’s highly unlikely the Bush administration will approve those requests, for a simple reason: It needs all the manpower it can get. The regular Army is stretched thin over Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, recruiting is below target for both the Army and Marines, even as the Air Force and Navy – not as heavily involved in the war – are having no problem meeting their recruiting goals.

The prospect of going to war is also hurting the Army National Guard’s recruiting, now 24 percent below target.

That’s especially troubling. Guard units provide invaluable service during civil unrest and in disasters ranging from forest fires to earthquakes. The states can ill afford to have their ranks of citizen soldiers depleted as a way to keep regular Army numbers down as the administration desires. The states cannot sustain that burden much longer. | Tacoma, WA | Opinion
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Vermont, Montana, Oregon and now Washington; Resolution to Governor Recall National Guard troops

Vermont, Montana, Oregon and now Washington; Resolution to Governor Recall National Guard troops

This might be a good time to lend support to what is going on in Recall the National Guard troops initiatives in now 4 states; Vermont, Montana, Oregon, Washington.

This week I accompanied a small delegation to our State Capital to present the Washington state Resolution to the Governor's office. The delegation represented Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace along with some other partnering groups.

For more detail on both the Washington Resolution and the Oregon Resolution, visit website Military Families Speak Out, Pacific Northwest

Two articles in our Washington local media have carried the story of our meeting with Executive Policy Advisor, Antonio Ginatta of the Governor's Executive Policy Office.

Fort Lewis soldier's family urges Gregoire to oppose deployment

Families want Guard excused from Iraq

Too much to say, but of particular relevance is that the two young ladies (20 something) who were part of our delegation were beyond impressive and were the vital heart of our delegation's presentation. It was inspiring to see ones so young carry themselves with such dignity and composure in this important meeting in the political venue. More so in that they have suffered the loss of their own beloved in Iraq.

Request: if you are from Oregon or Washington, there is download copy of the Resolution for both states at our website. We invite you to download a copy, sign it and add your address and mail it to the respective Governors (Oregon = Kulongoski; Washington = Gregoire).

see Resolution Oregon and Resolution Washington at

Military Families Speak Out, Pacific Northwest

Blue Tones

Courage doesn't always shout. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, "I will try again tomorrow."
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Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Fort Lewis soldier's family urges Gregoire to oppose deployment Legislature - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Fort Lewis soldier's family urges Gregoire to oppose deployment



Three military-family activists hoping to pull U.S. troops back from Iraq have met with an aide to Gov. Christine Gregoire, urging her to question President Bush's authority to keep Washington National Guard troops deployed in the occupied country.

Click Here

"This group was very serious ... very direct. The governor will hear about it, and we'll see where she goes with it," said Antonio Ginatta, Gregoire's policy adviser on general government issues, including the military.

Ginatta met with Susan Livingston, sister of Fort Lewis-based Stryker Brigade member Joe Blickenstaff, who died in Iraq, as well as widow Angela Blickenstaff and Lietta Ruger. Ruger said she has a nephew and son-in-law who served in Iraq.

"He said there will be continued dialogue," Livingston said of Ginatta after the meeting. Blickenstaff was among the first Fort Lewis-based Stryker soldiers to die in Iraq, and Livingston said "the governor has a duty to do everything in her power to bring our National Guard troops home as soon as possible, and to make certain they stay here, where we need them."

In a move the activists said was repeated in Oregon with Gov. Ted Kulongoski, they pointed out to Ginatta that the state's drought conditions make it more likely Washington will need Guard troops to deal with wildfire.

The three women are affiliated with military family groups such as the Washington Chapter of Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families Against the War.

They noted that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Friday asked the Pentagon to return some of that state's Guardsmen in order to fight wildfires. CNN quoted Schweitzer as saying: "Somebody's going to have a blowup. Is it Northern Idaho, is it Eastern Washington, or is it Montana?"

"I know our governor has expressed a particular concern for our veterans returning home from Iraq," Ginatta said. "So I know she will be interested in hearing about the meeting. ... This will get raised to her in the next couple of days."

Legislature - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington
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Sunday, March 6, 2005

Dead soldiers from blue states (maps)
Another in a series of ironies surrounding the red/blue divide. Mapping the homes of soldiers killed in Iraq yields a surprising pattern... Posted by Hello
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| 'I just want to survive and go home with all my body parts'

'I just want to survive and go home with all my body parts'

Fears of soldiers on patrol in Mosul as US military death toll in Iraq tops 1,500

Rory Carroll
Friday March 4, 2005
The Guardian

The city was quiet but the soldiers sitting and swaying inside the Stryker were animated by their favourite debate: was it better to be five metres or 20 metres from an explosion?

The front gunner belonged to the 20-metre school, figuring the greater distance reduced your chances of losing limbs to the blast. The two rear gunners scoffed and said that would increase the odds of being hit by shrapnel, which fanned upwards and outwards.

Five months of patrolling Mosul had furnished evidence for both views and the discussion was as well-worn as the Stryker's tyres.

Sergeant David Phillips, 23, sighed and patted his flak jacket. "I just want to stay alive and go home with all my body parts." He spoke for 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq.

Yesterday the number of US military deaths since the March 2003 invasion crept over 1,500.

There was no official acknowledgment of the milestone, just curt statements that three soldiers had died in two separate attacks on Wednesday. "Names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin." The figure includes accidents.

The daily drip of US casualties passes almost unnoticed now, a footnote to the wider slaughter of Iraqis: five policemen killed in two car bombs yesterday, 13 soldiers killed on Wednesday, a judge on Tuesday, at least 115 police and army recruits and civilians on Monday. Some 18,000 civilians are estimated to have died.

Yesterday's headlines were about the renewal of Iraq's state of emergency, fresh attacks on oil pipelines, and deadlock between Shias and Kurds over forming a new government.

The men of Bravo company, an infantry unit which rides in the armoured Stryker vehicles of 321 Battalion in Mosul, did not care that since George Bush's re-election the artificial limbs and flag-draped coffins of US troops have faded in political significance. For them, it was personal.

"I don't tell my mom or my wife that we drive up and down streets getting blown up every day. They'd just worry all the time. I tell them we sit in the base and do the odd mission," said Sgt Nathan Purdy, who is 23.

A week embedded with Bravo company, midway through a year-long stint in an insurgent stronghold, showed a group of men with good morale and determination to catch "bad guys" but divided over the war and frustrated by an elusive enemy.

There was consensus about the reaction when home on leave. "People wanting to buy you drinks, buy you food, wanting to shake your hand, they made you feel a hero," said Specialist Matt Sutton, 24, from Illinois. Those from liberal states such as Washington said anti-war activists did not criticise them personally or echo the Vietnam-era chant of baby killer. "The country is behind us. They didn't dare," said one lieutenant.

Bravo Company's quarters are a bombed-out palace in the grounds of Camp Freedom, a sprawl of cabins and concrete shelters. Mortars land regularly but tend not to hit anything.

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Gibler said his battalion's main objective was rebuilding the Iraqi security forces which "imploded" last November after insurgents overran Mosul's police stations.

The Iraqi army was improving thanks to joint operations and would soon take half of the responsibility of securing the city. Asked about the police force he rolled his eyes, but speculated that there was enough progress for US forces to leave within three years. His desk had tomes on Islam and a "Don't mess with Texas" sticker.

Enlisted men were less sure about progress, complaining they were always on the defensive and waiting to be attacked by insurgents. "They fight like bitches, pop a few shots, then hide," said Sgt Ramirez Flores.

Drive-by shootings have wounded several in the unit but the big fear is roadside bombs which according to the Pentagon accounted for 56% of all US battle deaths in the first two months of this year. They are hidden in rubbish bags, animal carcasses, holes, rubble, cars and carts, turning every object into a potential killer.

A suicide car bomber rammed and immolated one of the battalion's Strykers but all the occupants survived, prompting reverence for the eight-wheel, 23-tonne monsters.

A tip about weapons caches this week led to a midnight mission to dig up a lawn. It yielded nothing.

"Fucking gardeners - what are we doing here?" asked one private. "And tomorrow we're giving out candy to kids again," replied his friend. "We didn't train for this."

Guardian Unlimited|Special reports|
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Saturday, March 5, 2005

Montana Governor, anticipating wildfires,wants Guard troops back - Mar 4, 2005

HELENA, Montana (AP) -- Montana is at such high risk for a wildfire "blowup" this summer that Gov. Brian Schweitzer wants at least some of the 1,500 National Guard soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere to return home for the wildfire season.

The governor warned Friday the state is like a powder keg because of persistent drought, a shortage of mountain snow and forests full of dry timber.

"I know it's going to be a bad fire year," he said, adding he anticipates a repeat of the 1988 season when 4,122 fires charred 2.2 million acres in the Northern Rockies, including about 793,000 acres in Yellowstone National Park.

"Somebody's going to have a blowup," Schweitzer said in an interview. "Is it northern Idaho, is it eastern Washington or is it Montana?"

The governor has asked the Pentagon to return some of the Montana National Guard troops and aircraft called to active duty. He also plans to ask leaders in Idaho, Washington, Saskatchewan and Alberta to commit manpower and machines to fight the anticipated wildfires.

Montana Guard spokesman Maj. Scott Smith said about 2,000 soldiers, often called on to supplement fire crews each summer, remain in the state.

But 10 of the state's 12 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, each capable of carrying a 600-gallon water bucket or 11 firefighters, are not back from Iraq, he said.

The Guard has three larger CH-47 Chinook helicopters able to haul 2,000 gallons of water apiece, but lacks enough flight engineers to operate them all, Smith said.

Smith said he was not sure whether Guard members would be returned to the state at Schweitzer's request; a federal mission typically takes precedence over state authority, he noted. - Governor wants Guard troops back
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Military Families Speak Out - Pacific Northwest

Monday, March 7, 2005

Resolution being presented

to Washington State

Governor, Christine Gregoire

Washington State Citizens’ Call Upon Governor Christine Gregoire to Affirmatively Act to Seek Withdrawal of National Guard Troops from Iraq:

Invitation: Military families who wish to participate in the meeting to put forth the Resolution (below) are most welcome.

The family does not have to be a member of MFSO, rather have loved ones who are military and deployed military (preferrably National Guard families) and wish to express the concerns as stated in the Resolution or as simply a support brigade to the key volunteer military families who are making the presentation.

Action: Several of the military families, Washington, will travel to Olympia, WA, Capital on Monday, March 7, 2005 to meet with Representative Bob Hasegawa and Governor's Aid to present the Resolution.


Washington State Citizens’ Call Upon Governor Christine Gregoire to Affirmatively Act to Seek Withdrawal of National Guard Troops from Iraq:

Whereas, the conditions underlying the Authorization for use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution (PL 107-243), have been proven false or declared invalid;

Whereas, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), was unable to find any connection between the tragedy of 9-11 and the people or government of Iraq;

Whereas, the President has declared the weapons of mass destruction, one of the pretexts for preemptory action, do not exist;

Whereas, there never was a threat to the security of the United States posed by Saddam Hussein or the people of Iraq;

Whereas, the January elections in Iraq, the election of a National Assembly, and the effort to create a new constitution, all applauded by the President as indications of the birth of democracy in the region, also serve to indicate that Iraq no longer represents a threat, real or imagined, to the security of the United States;

Whereas, the United Nations sanctions, also tied to the weapons of mass destruction and to the regime of Saddam Hussein, and which serve as a secondary basis for the authorization of military action, are no longer valid, and whereas even the United States is calling for the end of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC); Whereas, the Governor and State Legislature have a particular responsibility to the members of the Washington National Guard, their families and to the community that they serve;

Whereas, the Washington National Guard was created, in part, for the protection of the citizens of Washington from natural disasters or threats of violence within the state boundaries, as well as to protect the sovereignty of US borders;

Whereas, Washington’s National Guard troops have been called up in unprecedented numbers, at nearly the highest per capita level of any state, to serve on active duty in Iraq;

Whereas, National Guard troops have been poorly equipped and have received only rudimentary training for service in this war, and are therefore suffering casualties at rates considerably higher than those of regular Army troops;

Whereas, Washington’s National Guard troops are being subjected to unfair and involuntary extensions of duty well beyond the terms of their enlistment contracts,and their families, employers and communities have had to bear the hardship of accommodating the prolonged absence of the Guard members;

Whereas, the National Guard at home in Washington has been decimated by the mobilization of our troops for these foreign wars, and whereas, a disproportionate number of National Guard members, in civilian life, serve as police officers, firefighters, EMT personnel, prison guards, etc., their absence has left our own communities vulnerable and ill-prepared for any natural disaster or terrorist attack within our own state borders;

Whereas, fewer and fewer Washingtonians are willing to enlist in the National Guard because of the inappropriate use and unfair treatment of Guard troops by the US Defense Department and Army, leaving the likelihood that Washington could be left unprotected for years to come;

Whereas, the prospect of further cuts to federal spending in human services and other local assistance programs, and the threat of additional cuts tothe already criminally impoverished Veterans Administration, will place additional demands on currently overstressed state and local social services;

Therefore Be It Resolved: The citizens of the State of Washington demand the Governor exercise her power as Commander-in-Chief of the Washington National Guard to publicly compel the President of the United States to justify the continued deployment of Washington National Guard personnel in, or in support of, the military incursion in Iraq, pursuant to PL 107-243, and further to pursue and exhaust every avenue in her power to immediately bring, or cause to be brought home, all Washington National Guard troops presently serving in Iraq, or in training for that war, and to prevent their re-deployment in support thereof.

Presented by: Military Families Speak Out. Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, and National Lawyers Guild

Military Families Speak Out - Pacific Northwest
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Resolution; Oregon Gov. Kulongoski, Bring home Natl Guard

Oregon State Capitol Steps, Salem,

Tuesday, March 1st

Invited Speakers and Open Mike, 11am-1pm

Prayer Flags will hang all day

Military Families Speak Out (,
Gold Star Families for Peace (,
Veterans for Peace Chpt. 72 (,
Oregon Peace Works,
Corvallis Alternatives to War,
Women's Action for New Directions,
Peace and Justice works,
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and others

For More Information contact Eric Blickenstaff, Brother of Army SPC Joseph Blickenstaff, Killed in Iraq 12-8-03 (, (503) 708-6190

Resolution Calling for the Withdrawal of Oregon’s National Guard Troops from Iraq and Afghanistan:

Whereas, all conditions underlying PL 107-243 (10/16/02) authorizing military action against Iraq either have been proven false and all U.S. troops who are serving or have served in Iraq were sent to war for reasons that have been proven false;

Whereas, the Governor and State Legislature of Oregon have a particular responsibility to the members of the Oregon National Guard, their families and to the community that they serve;

Whereas, the Oregon National Guard was created for the protection of the citizens of Oregon from natural disasters or threats of violence within the state boundaries, as well as to protect the sovereignty of US borders;

Whereas, Oregon’s National Guard troops have been called up in unprecedented numbers, at the highest per capita level of any state, to serve on active duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan;

Whereas, absent the deployment of U.S. forces to Iraq, there would be no need for the use of National Guard troops in Afghanistan;

Whereas, Oregon National Guard troops have been poorly equipped and have received only rudimentary training for service in these wars, and are therefore suffering casualties at rates considerably higher than those of regular Army troops;

Whereas, Oregon’s National Guard troops are being subjected to unfair and involuntary extensions of duty well beyond the terms of their enlistment contracts, and their families, employers and communities have had to bear the hardship of accommodating the prolonged absence of the Guard members;

Whereas, the National Guard at home in Oregon has been decimated by the mobilization of our troops for these foreign wars, and whereas, a disproportionate number of National Guard members, in civilian life, serve as police officers, firefighters, EMT personnel, prison guards, etc., their absence has left our own communities vulnerable and ill-prepared for any natural disaster or terrorist attack within our own state borders;

Whereas, fewer and fewer Oregonians are willing to enlist in the National Guard because of the inappropriate use and unfair treatment of Guard troops by the US Defense Department and Army, leaving the likelihood that Oregon could be left unprotected for years to come;

Therefore be it Resolved: That the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon calls upon the Governor to exercise his power as Commander of the Oregon National Guard to immediately bring, or cause to be brought home, all Oregon National Guard troops presently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in training for those wars.

Presented by: Michele Deford and Eric Blickenstaff on behalf of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace

see more information at

For March 1, Urgent! Action Underway in Oregon, Ask Governor to Bring Home National Guard

Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home.
guest column

By Louanne Moldovan of Portland, Oregon. This commentary is the background story for a rally scheduled for March 1st at the Oregon State Capitol. The rally is organized by Eric Blickenstaff in cooperation with Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace.

Freedom. Fear. Democracy. War.

These terms are tossed about by the reigning administration so easily nowadays - like so much detritus polluting the voracious media machine - they have essentially lost their meaning. Due to excessive repetition and at the exclusion of any discussion of them beyond their mere syllables, these words have been diluted to the level of banality. Where in the rabid shuffle toward global supremacy is there a whisper of eloquence, of ruminative thought, of soulful insight? For those troubled by the current cataclysmic political zeitgeist and famished for the promise of wisdom, dissatisfaction travels deep, provoking the ineffable desire to act.

Man is by nature a political animal. - Aristotle

JoeblickenstaffThe essence of a political act may be found when people find themselves in an experience in which they would not otherwise choose to engage - the emergence of Aristotle's political animal. Eric Blickenstaff discovered this nature in himself when his younger brother, Joe Blickenstaff, was killed in Iraq on December 8, 2003. Joseph Blickenstaff was 23 years old, and one of the first Oregonians to die in the war. On September 11, 2001, in addition to feeling the collective shock and anguish, Eric Blickenstaff began worrying. The country was seeped in an almost irrational fear. An invasion by the salivating Bush administration was imminent. Joe, hoping to calm his restlessness and find a new direction in a stint with the military, had enlisted as an Infantryman. It wasn't long before he was shipped off and dropped into the core of the fray. Forty-three minutes into his first battle, Joe was killed.

Eric wasn't new to fighting for a cause. His background includes serving as a Board Member for a multi-county mediation services group and a 7-year tenure as a social worker. But Joe's death harnessed his outrage and catapulted his resolve center stage. As his incipient activism simmered, he tried to ascertain the circumstances under which Joe was killed. He made inquiries to meet with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, which fell upon deaf ears. Meanwhile, he became involved with various political coalitions and organizations. He wrote letters and made phone calls. He drove around with a sign on his car that depicted two images of Joe - the beaming innocence of youth vis a vis the despairing countenance of a doomed soldier. Beneath the photos he wrote:

'Bush and friends made millions on defense spending and Iraq oil and the cost was my brother's life.'

The response in the small town of Albany where Eric lives ranged between muted disapproval and downright hostility. He was shouted at, flipped off, emailed virulent messages and admonished to honor the President and support the troops.

Eric and his family waited, but still had no explanation from the White House as to how Joe died. What they did have was a computer-printed form letter from the President and Secretary Rumsfeld - an emblem of the emptiness residing at the heart of this wrong-headed conflict. Eight months after Joe was killed, Eric finally succeeded in obtaining an autopsy by succumbing to the kind of bullying behavior he so despised in the bureaucracy of the military.

Wading further into the disquieting knowledge that this omnipotent Administration cares little about soldiers and less about anyone in Iraq, Eric mobilized his energies. Fueled by the flawed syllogism that if you lose someone and speak out against the war, you are dishonoring the soldiers and what they did, he was determined to demonstrate his honor by telling the truth. There is a draft - the infamous stop loss practice. The cost of this war is inestimable. And, the war itself is illegal and must be stopped. Eric realized that the most direct manifestation of this moral struggle for truth was the withdrawal from Iraq of the Oregon National Guard.

Together with Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace, Eric has organized a rally to take place Tuesday, March 1 rally at the capitol in Salem, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. As the legislature will be in session, people are encouraged to confront their State House and Senate representatives to support the withdrawal of these troops. During the day, the organizers will proudly exhibit a memorial of prayer flags Eric helped inspire - a collection of names of deceased soldiers and Iraqi civilians with accompanying messages of hope and sorrow

Furthermore, a resolution has been drafted to challenge two criteria for the invasion of Iraq - the weapons of mass destruction, the absence of which is a violation of the UN, and the threat to the U.S. of a terrorist nation, a fact no longer true as, according to the President, Iraq is now a democracy.

From the deep chasms of his grief, Eric Blickenstaff's progressive activism was born. He was compelled into the spotlight by of a series of events out of his control, and discovered in that steadfast sphere that one person can make a difference.

As he considers the memorial of prayer flags, Eric conjures his own dream. He wishes that his brother Joe's death would serve a purpose beyond the battlefield - a heightened awareness for all who will, in one way or another, encounter the madness of war.

Resolution; Oregon Gov. Kulongoski, Bring home Natl Guard
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Iraq War Lands in the Midst of Vermont's Town Hall Meetings

Iraq War Lands in the Midst of Vermont's Town Hall Meetings

By Elizabeth Mehren
The Los Angeles Times

Wednesday 02 March 2005

The fighting's burden falls particularly hard on the state, say backers of an antiwar resolution.

BETHEL, Vt. - In a high school gymnasium festooned with athletic banners, residents of this working-class town decided Tuesday to allot more money for ambulance services, increase funds for the visually impaired - and ask President Bush to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq.

The vote in Bethel was 80-58 in favor of the resolution. The central Vermont town was one of 52 communities in this famously liberal state to add a vote on a nonbinding antiwar resolution to the agenda of annual town meetings held Tuesday. Since Colonial days, the gatherings have been the primary form of local government in much of New England.

This year, a cluster of Vermont peace and civil liberties organizations joined to introduce the measure about the war in Iraq. The group's resolution asked Vermont's state legislators and congressional delegation to investigate the use of the Vermont National Guard in Iraq. It also called on the president and Congress to "take steps to withdraw American troops from Iraq."

But mostly, said Rosalind Andreas, who helped place the initiative on the agenda in Westford, north of Burlington, "we saw the resolution as a way to start a very important conversation at the local level about the social consequences of this war."

In towns around Vermont, Andreas said, the question of U.S. involvement in Iraq has become intensely personal. National Guard members from 200 of the state's 251 towns and cities have gone to Iraq, making tiny Vermont second to Hawaii in the per capita number of Guard and reserve units sent to the war. At least 11 people from Vermont have died serving in Iraq, giving the state the highest per capita number of deaths.

"It has touched us very deeply," said state Sen. Mark MacDonald, a Democrat who spoke at the town meeting in the central village of Strafford.

"When I campaigned last fall," he said, "there was not a day that I stopped at a house where a son or a daughter, or a brother or a sister, or a husband or a wife was not in Iraq."

Towns have lost police officers, firefighters, teachers and other vital employees, said Benson Scotch of Montpelier, who set up a website, , to promote the measure. Country stores - often the only places to buy supplies in some rural villages - have shut down when their owners shipped off with the Guard, Scotch said.

"That's what this resolution is saying: The war has local impact. It affects people," Scotch said.

"We are not in any way opposing the troops who are in Iraq now," he said.

"We have never had in this country a conversation at the grass-roots level as to what are and what should be our policies in the use of this kind of war," Scotch said. "We need to have that conversation. And the best place for that to begin is in the schools and town halls and libraries, not only in Vermont, but elsewhere."

With votes in more than half of the towns counted late Tuesday, at least 37 towns voted to accept the resolution, three declined to consider it, three voted it down, and in one town, the vote was tied. In addition, two took up the resolution and passed it even though it was not officially on the agendas.

In some towns, the Iraq resolution generated little debate and passed resoundingly. At Tracy Hall in Norwich, a comfortable village of 3,500 that straddles the Connecticut River, women at the meeting knitted or did needlepoint as only John Lamperti rose to speak about the Iraq initiative.

"It is right and admirable that town meetings in Vermont should speak out on this war," said Lamperti, 72, a retired professor from nearby Dartmouth College.

In Strafford, the town meeting was also an occasion for elementary school students planning class trips to hold a raffle to raise money. A long table in the Town House - a hilltop wooden building with an angel on its weather vane - was laden with pies and pasta salads for sale to benefit the PTA.

A wood-burning stove warmed the meeting hall in the affluent town of 1,000, where not one person spoke against the Iraq initiative, and the measure passed handily.

"People here are very serious about the use of National Guard troops in this war," said Edmund Coffin, 83, a retired international businessman. "It simply has not been discussed, whether the Guard can be used to fight wars of choice."

But here in Bethel - where many of the 1,979 residents work in granite quarries or at the town's one large industry, a plastics factory - the debate of a measure about international policy at a local meeting struck some as the height of folly.

"We've got bridges here that need to be repaired," said Henry Holmes, 65, an insurance salesman. "Iraq is not our problem. I think the measure is waste of time."

Ray Forrest, a toolmaker who wore a T-shirt with an eagle perched atop an American flag, voiced equal disdain. "I don't like it, because we are all part of the United States. We should not be a separate government," he said.

As to whether this state of 619,000 has been disproportionately affected by the call-up of National Guard troops, Forrest said: "That's bad luck, that's all. It's not something to go out and change the world for."

Although she did not particularly like the resolution, Janet Burnham, 68, said it belonged on Bethel's meeting agenda.

"I think you should be able to discuss whatever you want to discuss," said Burnham, who runs a small book-publishing company. "But I have to say that if I was president, I probably would have done the same thing, by using the Guard, because I think the rules of war have changed."

Laura Rubenis, 40, a history professor at several local colleges, said the initiative had already served its purpose - sparking a discussion that could move beyond Vermont.

truthout-Vermont's Town Hall Meetings
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Tuesday, March 1, 2005

AWOL in America: When Desertion is the Only Option

AWOL in America:
When Desertion is the Only Option

KATHY DOBIE / Harper's Magazine v.310, n.1858 1mar2005

An AWOL Navy man was arrested ... as he brought his pregnant wife to the hospital.... Roberto Carlos Navarro, 20, of Polk City [Florida] was charged as a deserter from the U.S. Navy.... Navarro became disenchanted with the constant painting and scraping of ships after two years in the Navy.

—The Ledger,
April 2, 2004

A 17-year-old was turned over to the Department of Defense last week after Bellingham police discovered the teenager, involved in a traffic accident, was allegedly a deserter from Army basic training.

—The Boston Globe,
August 12, 2004

I am seriously considering becoming a deserter. I am sorry if there are other military moms ... that look poorly on me for thinking this way but ... I WILL NOT LEAVE MY LITTLE BABY.

—Online post to,
November 21, 2004

The GI Rights Hotline
(800) 394-9544
(215) 563-4620
Fax (510) 465-2459
Mailing Address:
405 14th Street Suite 205
Oakland, CA 94612

AWOL, French Leave, the Grand Bounce, jumping ship, going over the hill—in every country, in every age, whenever and wherever there has been a military, there have been soldiers discharging themselves from the ranks. The Pentagon has estimated that since the start of the current conflict in Iraq, more than 5,500 U.S. military personnel have deserted, and yet we know the stories of only a unique handful, all whom have publicly stated their opposition to the war in Iraq, and some of whom have fled to Canada. The Vietnam war casts a long shadow, distorting our image of the deserter; four soldiers have gone over the Canadian border, looking for the safe haven of the Vietnam years, which no longer exists: there are no open arms for such refugees and almost no possibility of obtaining legal status. We imagine 5,500 conscientious objectors to a bloody quagmire, soldiers like Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, who strongly and eloquently protested the Iraq war, having actually served there and witnessed civilians killed and prisoners abused, and who was subsequently court-martialed, found guilty of desertion, and given a year in prison. But deserters rarely leave for purely political reasons. They usually just quietly return home and hope no one notices.

Last summer, I read a news account of a twenty-one-year-old man caught by the police climbing through the window of a house. It turned out to be his house, but the cops found out he was AWOL from the Army and arrested him. That story, in all its recognizable, bungling humanity, intrigued me. It brought the truth of governments waging war home to me in a way that stories of combat had not—in particular, how the ambitions and desires of powerful men and women are borne by ordinary people: restless scrapers and tomboys from West Virginia, teenage immigrants from Mexico, and juvenile delinquents from Indiana; randy boys and girls, and callous ones; the stoic, the idealist, the aimless, the boastful and the bewildered; the highly adventurous and the deeply conformist. They carry the weight.

After reading the story of the AWOL soldier sneaking into his own house, I contacted the G.I. Rights hot line, a national referral and counseling service for military personnel, and on August 23, 2004, I interviewed Robert Dove, a burly, bearded Quaker, in the Boston offices of the American Friends Service Committee, one of the groups involved with the hot line. Dove told me of getting frantic calls from the parents of recruits, and of recruits who are so appalled by basic training that they "can't eat, they literally vomit every time they put a spoon to their mouths, they're having nightmares and wetting their beds." Down in Chatham County, North Carolina, Steve and Lenore Woolford answer calls from the hot line in their home. Steve was most haunted by the soldiers who want out badly but who he can tell are not smart or self-assured enough to accomplish it; the ones who ask the same questions over and over again and want to know exactly what to say to their commanding officer. The G.I. Rights hot line introduced me to deserters willing to talk, and those soldiers put me in contact with others.

I met my first deserters in early September and over the next four months followed some of them through the process of turning themselves in and getting released from the military. They came from Indiana, Oregon, Washington, California, Georgia, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. I met with the mother and sister of a Marine who was UA (Unauthorized Absence, the Navy and Marine term for AWOL) in the mother's home in Alto, Georgia, and at the Quantico base in Virginia one Sunday afternoon I met with eight deserters returned to military custody, members of the Casualty Platoon, as the Marines refer to them, since they are "lost combatants." One of the AWOL soldiers, Jeremiah Adler, offered to show me the letters he had written home from boot camp; a Marine called with weekly reports from Quantico where he awaited his court-martial or administrative release. Through these soldiers, and the counselors at the G.I. Rights hot line, I discovered that the recruiting process and the training were keys to understanding why soldiers desert, as is an overextended Army's increasingly strong grip on them.

Since the mid-1990s, the Army has been quietly struggling with a manpower crisis, as the number of desertions steadily climbed from 1,509 in 1995 to 4,739 in 2001. During this time, deserters rarely faced court-martial or punishment. The vast majority—94 percent of the 12,000 soldiers who deserted between I997 and 2001—were simply released from the Army with other-than-honorable discharges. Then, in the fall of 2001, shortly after 9/11, the U.S. Army issued a new policy regarding deserters, hoping to staunch the flow. Under the new rules, which were given little media attention, deserters were to be returned to their original military units to be evaluated and, when possible, integrated back into the ranks. It was not a policy that made the hearts of Army officers sing. As one company commander told DefenseWatch, an online newsletter for the grass-roots organization Soldiers For The Truth, "I can't afford to baby-sit problem children every day."

According to DefenseWatch, in the first few months after the policy went into effect, 190 deserters were returned to military control, 89 of those were returned to the ranks, and 101 were discharged. Statistics at the end of the military fiscal year showed the desertion numbers dropping slightly, due, at least in part, to the new policy, which reintegrated almost half the runaways back into their units. It wasn't that fewer people were leaving the military, just that fewer people were able to stay gone.

Then we invaded Iraq, and as the war there rages on, the military has had to evacuate an estimated 50,000 troops: the dead and the wounded, combat- and non-combat-related casualties. Those soldiers must be replaced—and we're committed to sending in even more. The pressure to hold on to as many troops as possible has only increased, as is painfully evident in internal memos such as this one from Major General Claude A. Williams of the Army National Guard, dated May 2004: "Effective immediately, I am holding commanders at all levels accountable for controlling manageable losses." The memo goes on to say that commanders must retain at least 85 percent of soldiers who are scheduled to end their active duty, 90 percent of soldiers scheduled to ship for Initial Entry Training, and "execute the AWOL recovery procedures for every AWOL soldier." The military has issued stop-loss orders, dug deep into the ranks of reservists and guardsmen, extended tours of duty, and made it harder for recruits and active-duty personnel to get out through administrative means. According to the military's own research, this will result in more people going AWOL.

In the summer of 2002, the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences released a study titled "What We Know About AWOL and Desertion." "Although the problem of AWOL/desertion is fairly constant, it tends to increase in magnitude during wartime—when the Army tends to increase its demands for troops and to lower its enlistment standards to meet that need. It can also increase during times, such as now, when the Army is attempting to restrict the ways that soldiers can exit service through administrative channels." In other words, close the door, and they will leave by the window.

At the G.I. Rights hot line, the desperation is obvious; the number of people calling in for help has almost doubled from 17,000 in 200I to 33,000 in the last year. The majority of the calls are from people who want out of the military—soldiers with untreated injuries or urgent family problems, combat veterans who have developed a deep revulsion to war, National Guardsmen primed to deal with hurricanes, blizzards, and floods but not fighting overseas, and inactive reservists who have already served, started families and careers, and never expected to be called up again. And there are recruits—many, many recruits—who have decided, in a sentiment heard hundreds of times by the people manning the phones, "The Army's just not for me." Some of these callers were thinking about going AWOL; others had already left and wanted to know what could happen to them and what they should do next.

Soldiers who go AWOL have either panicked and see no other way out of their difficulties or are well-informed and know that deserting is sometimes the quickest, surest route out of the military. A soldier may not be eligible for a hardship or medical discharge, for instance, but he knows he wants out. He may not even be aware of the discharges available to him. Young, raw recruits, in particular, know only what their drill sergeants tell them. Counselors at the G.I. Rights hot line describe cases in which a recruit will ask about applying for a discharge and be told flatly by his drill sergeant, "Forget about it. Don't even think of applying. You're not getting out." Conscientious-objector applications have more than tripled since operations began in Iraq, but they take on average a year and a half to process, and then, quite often, are denied.

In the Army study, which examined data from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the years 1997-2001, it was found that deserters are more likely to be younger when they enlist, less educated, to come from "broken homes," and to have "engaged in delinquent behavior" prior to enlisting. In other words, they are both vulnerable and rebellious. During the Vietnam war, enlisted men were far more likely to desert than those who were drafted. Perhaps they had higher expectations of Army life, or perhaps a man who volunteers for service feels like he has some sense of control over his fate, a feeling a draftee could hardly share. Only 12 percent of the Vietnam-era deserters left specifically because of the war, according to the same study. Then, as now, most soldiers take off because of family problems, financial difficulties, and what the Army obliquely calls "failure to adapt" to military life and "issues with chain of command." Almost all of the deserters I spoke to described the kind of person they thought succeeded in the military as "an alpha male type who can take orders real well," as one Marine put it. "If you can't do both? Don't join." Physical aggression and mental docility might seem an unlikely pairing, but as the military historian Gwynne Dyer wrote in his book titled, simply, War, "Basic training has been essentially the same in every army in every age, because it works with the same raw material that's always there in teenage boys: a fair amount of aggression, a strong tendency to hang around in groups, and an absolute desperate desire to fit in."

It's hard for me to be myself here. There's no room for dissent among the guys. Everywhere you listen you hear an abundant amount of B.S., a few beds over an obnoxious redneck has a crowd around him as he details a 3 some that he recently had. The vocabulary is much different here. The bathroom is called the latrine, food is called chow, women are hitches, sex is ass. . . . These people want to go to war and kill. It is that simple."

—From a letter home,
Jeremiah Adler

Jeremiah Adler arrives at my door in Brooklyn in late September, four days after he escaped Fort Benning, Georgia, with another Army recruit. At ten at night, while a friend on guard duty looked the other way, the boys took off out of the barracks, making a thirty-yard dash into the surrounding forest. They had no clue as to where they were. After an hour they heard sirens blasting, and then the baying of dogs. They spent five hours in the woods, following a bright patch in the sky that they rightly assumed to be the city of Columbus. When they finally reached the road, they saw cop cars zipping past them, lights flashing in the dark. It was terribly exciting, though the morning he arrives at my house he seems spent. Jeremiah and I had spoken for the first time the day before. He was hiding out at a friend's house in Atlanta, ready to hop the next plane home to Portland, Oregon, but he agreed to meet with me in New York first.

Jeremiah is slight, and his blue-green eyes seem unusually large, though that could be the effect of his shorn head. He has full lips and a fine-boned face that could easily become gaunt. He's eighteen, a deeply earnest eighteen, with a dry sense of humor. He has an odd habit for someone so young of sighing often, and wearily. He's also very hungry. We order a cheese pizza because he does not eat meat.

When Jeremiah announced his intention to join the military he took everyone who knew him in Portland by surprise. "He was raised in a pacifist, macrobiotic house," his mother exclaims. "He went to Waldorf schools. Here is a kid who's never even had a bite of animal flesh in his life!" Jeremiah had protested the Iraq war, in fact. He spent most of his senior year in high school convincing his family and what he and his mother call his "community"—a tightly knit group of families connected by the Portland Waldorf School and Rudolf Steiner's nontraditional philosophy of education—that joining the military was the right thing for him to do.

In the spring of his senior year, Jeremiah went on a "vision quest," hiking into an area called Eagle Creek, which was still covered in snow. There he made a video explaining his reasons for joining the Army. He sits on the ground facing the camera but looking off into the woods as he talks. He starts by making a case for the military being a tool for change, a possible force for good. But, "if you have a bunch of bloodthirsty young men with an I.Q. of twenty-three in the military, that's what the military's gonna be—until other people, other intelligent people with morals and values and convictions and ideals [join up]. Most people hate the military. Is the answer to distance yourself as far as you can and just protest all the time? What am I doing? I don't know anyone in the military. Neither do any of you. It takes a lot more balls for me to join the military than it does for one of you guys to go to a forty-grand liberal-arts school. Is that a huge step? You're gonna be around more open-minded people like yourself. You're not gonna experience any diversity there."

In this taped explanation he leaves out one reason for joining the Army, a reason that perhaps was too amorphous to put into words, or too personal, not something he felt the folks at Waldorf would understand. "My mom was single until I was eight years old," he tells me. "My entire life I was raised sensitive and compassionate. I have a craving for a sense of machoness, honestly. A sense of toughness." He remembers the first time he thought the military was "cool"—watching Top Gun at ten years old. Then in his senior year of high school, the recruiting commercials became a siren call. "I mean, it's an ingenious marketing campaign. It goes straight to an eighteen-year-old male's testosterone. You see them and you're almost sexually aroused," he says. He wanted to kick past the cocoon of family and community, to know how other people thought and lived. He wanted a coming-of-age ritual—his vision quest, which had ended with the insight "solitude sucks," didn't quite fill the bill. He wanted to become a man. Jeremiah took a year convincing his friends, family, and community, and yet within seventy-two hours of arriving at Fort Benning he was writing a letter home that began, "Hello All, You have got to get me out of here."

The recruits arrived at Reception Battalion at Fort Benning on September 16 close to midnight, completely disoriented. During the next seven days they were introduced to military life: First, their heads were shaved, a ritual that signifies the loss of one's individual identity, and was historically used to control lice and identify deserters. Then the recruits were issued boots, gear, and military I.D. They were taught how to march and stand at attention, made to recite the Soldier's Creed again and again, yelled at, incited, insulted, and then shipped to basic training; that is, put on a bus and sent to a training barracks at another location in Fort Benning.

The first day of Reception, the recruits should have been so busy and harassed that they wouldn't have had time for second thoughts or regrets, but Hurricane Ivan was sweeping through Georgia, and they were confined to their barracks—104 young men, all keyed up, all on edge, about to embark on some mysterious journey, some awesome transformation that involved uniforms, mud, and guns. There was a constant jockeying for power, fights narrowly averted, a lot of enthusiasm for battle, for killing, or at least the pretense of enthusiasm. When Jeremiah suggested it might be better to wound someone than to kill him, he was quickly put in his place. "Fuck that. I'm putting two in the chest, one in the head just like I'm going to be trained to do."

The men in the barracks were whiter, poorer, and less educated than Jeremiah had expected. Guys who could barely read were astonished that Jeremiah had enlisted even though he'd been accepted at the University of Oregon. Skin-heads, exskinheads perhaps (since active participation by soldiers in extremist groups is prohibited), showed off their tattoos—one had been told by his recruiter to say that his swastika tattoo was a "force directional signal." There were guys who had done jail time, though Jeremiah quickly adds, "Not that they're bad people by any means, but it kind of shows you the type of person they're recruiting."

The next day, a sergeant addressed the recruits with a speech that Jeremiah says he'll never forget. "You know, when I joined the Army nine years ago people would always ask me why I joined. Did I do it for college money? Did I do it for women? People never understood. I wanted to join the Army because I wanted to go shoot motherfuckers." The room erupted in hoots and hollers. A drill sergeant said something about an Iraqi coming up to them screaming, "Ah-la-la-la-la!" in a high-pitched voice, and how he would have to be killed. After that, all Arabs were referred to by this battle cry—the ah-la-la-la-las. In the barracks, they played war. One recruit would come out of the shower wearing a towel on his head, screaming, "Ah-la-la-la-la!" and the other recruits would pretend to shoot him dead. Jeremiah thought, "Oh my God, what am I doing here?"

That evening he wrote his first letter home, beginning with the word "Wow."

"I'm horrified by some of the things that they talk about. If you were in the civilian world and openly talked about killing people you would be an outcast, but here people openly talk about it, like it's going to be fun." In his second letter, written while he was doing guard duty, he tells his parents how sad the barracks are at night. "You can hear people trying to make sure no one hears them cry under their covers."

On his third day, Jeremiah went to one of the drill sergeants and told him, "I'm sorry, the military's not for me. For whatever reason, I'm not willing to kill. I had the idealistic view that it was more than that, and I realize, since coming here, that it's not." The sergeant stared at him. "Do you know what would happen if you came in here and talked to me fifty, a hundred years ago?"

"Yeah, but we're not living back then," Jeremiah replied. The sergeant said that was a shame, because if he had a 9-millimeter pistol, he'd shoot Jeremiah right then and there. The sergeant dared Jeremiah to refuse to ship, saying he would be sent to jail, that he, personally, would make an example of him.

So Jeremiah cooked up a plan with another unhappy recruit to pretend they were gay. That plan went about as badly as it could have—five drill sergeants questioned them, called them disgusting perverts, but refused to discharge either Jeremiah or his friend. Jeremiah was now stuck in one of the most macho and homophobic environments as a gay man, or, more bewilderingly, as a fake gay man. He had tried to get help from the military chaplain, who cited Bible passages proving that God was against murder, not killing, and told Jeremiah that Iraqis were running up to American troops requesting Bibles.

In his last letter home, written on his sixth day, Jeremiah's handwriting disintegrates; "HELP ME" is scrawled across one page. He was due to ship to basic training in the morning. He had decided to refuse. "I've heard that they try to intimidate you, ganging up on you, threatening you. I heard that they will throw your bags on the bus, and almost force you on. See what I am up against? I have nothing on my side.... I am so fucked up right now. ... I feel that if I stay here much longer I am not going to be the same person anymore. I have to GO. Please help.... Every minute you sit at home I am stuck in a shithole, stripped of self-respect, pride, will, hope, love, faith, worth, everything. Everything I have ever held dear has been taken away. This fucks with your head. . . . This makes you believe you ARE worthless shit. Please help. By the time you get this, things will be worse."

After getting some information from his mother on a secretive call home, Jeremiah wrote a letter requesting Entry Level Separation from the Army, citing his aversion to killing. Entry Level Separation, which exists for the convenience of the Army, allows for the discharge of soldiers who are obviously not cut out for military service. The Army has to provide an exit route for inept, unhealthy, depressed, even suicidal soldiers, but at the same time it doesn't want to open what might turn out to be floodgates, so soldiers cannot themselves apply for ELS, and rarely even know about its existence. The Reception Battalion commander told Jeremiah that if he refused to ship, he would do everything in his power to court-martial him. Then the drill sergeants had their turn. One in particular was apoplectic. "He started screaming at me about how killing is the ultimate thrill in life and every single man wants to kill. Regardless of what you think you believe, it's every man's job to kill, it's the greatest high, it's our animal instinct, our animal desire."

When he refused to ship (he locked his duffel bag to his bed so it couldn't be thrown on the bus), Jeremiah was sent to Excess Barracks. About twenty other recruits were there, each of them trying to get out. It was at Excess Barracks that Jeremiah first got the idea to go AWOL, because there were people there who had done it already. On his ninth day at Fort Benning, he and another recruit, Ryan Gibson, decided to leave. They got all suited up—"a Rambo-like moment" is how Jeremiah describes it. "I'm not gonna lie, we were really excited," he says. "We were finally going to be able to go out into the woods and do something. Even if the only commando stuff we ever did in our entire Army career was escaping from the Army, we were still excited about it."

When Ryan arrived home in Indiana, his mother threatened to report him to the police unless he returned to Fort Benning. So Ryan did return, but he left again two days later, this time taking two other recruits with him. When Jeremiah arrived home in Portland, he told his mother, "Well, Mom, I guess I'm going to have to find a different way to become a man besides learning to kill."

Jeremiah is hardly the only recruit to arrive at basic training or boot camp and realize, for the first time, that he is there to learn how to kill. And that he can't or won't do it. Many civilians wonder how that can be: They're joining the Army, for God's sake, they've enlisted in the Marines, what did they expect? It is too simple an answer just to say that the recruiters don't mention killing, though they don't, and that they sell the military as a career or educational opportunity to high schoolers, which they do. You have to understand that after all the soft, inspiring talk of educational opportunities, financial bonuses, job skills, cool gear, and easy sex from uniform-loving girls and German prostitutes, recruits arrive at boot camp and are assaulted by a completely different reality. Basic training is a shock, and purposefully so. In a matter of weeks the military must take teenagers from what Gwynne Dyer calls "the most extravagantly individualistic civilian society" and turn them into soldiers; that is, selfless, obedient fighters with an intense loyalty to each other, for ultimately that is why they will risk death, not for their country or some high-flown ideal but for their comrades. "We" must replace "I." Most importantly, the military must turn them into killers, for that is how you win battles, and how you survive them.

Despite our entertainment industry telling us otherwise, it is not easy to kill. In his ground-breaking and highly influential study of World War II firing rates, S.L.A. Marshall, a World War I combatant and chief historian for the European Theater of Operations during World War II, interviewed soldiers fresh from battle and found that only 15 to 20 percent of the combat infantry were willing to fire their weapons, and that was true even when their life or the lives of their comrades were threatened. When Medical Corp psychiatrists studied combat fatigue cases in the European Theater, they found that "fear of killing, rather than fear of being killed, was the most common cause of battle failure in the individual," Marshall reported. Marshall's methodology is now in question, but his findings have been replicated in studies of Civil War and World War I battles, even in recreations of Napoleonic wars. And the effect of his findings on the military has been profound. As Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman notes in his book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, "A firing rate of 15 to 20 percent among soldiers is like having a literacy rate of 15 to 20 percent among proofreaders. Once those in authority realized the existence and magnitude of the problem, it was only a matter of time until they solved it."

By the Korean War, the firing rate had gone up to 55 percent; in the Vietnam war, it was around 90 to 95 percent. How did the military achieve this? As Grossman writes, "Since World War II, a new era has quietly dawned in modern warfare: an era of psychological warfare—psychological warfare conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one's own troops. ... The triad of methods used to achieve this remarkable increase in killing are desensitization, conditioning, and denial defense mechanisms."

Training techniques became more realistic and varied. Soldiers no longer stood and fired at a nonmoving target. They were fully suited up, down in foxholes, and shooting at moving targets, targets that resembled other humans. Simultaneously, the "enemy," whether North Korean, North Vietnamese, Russian, or Arab, was purposefully dehumanized. Killing people was described graphically, and with relish. As Dyer notes, most recruits realize the bloodthirsty talk of drill sergeants is hyperbole, but it still serves to desensitize them to the suffering of an "enemy."

So the answer to the question "How could they not know that they were there to learn how to kill?" is another question: "How could they even begin to comprehend what that meant?" Before they've even seen combat, these young men and women, most of them teenagers, will be pushed to break through a psychological, cultural, and moral resistance to killing, an experience that is hard to imagine. A twenty-three-year-old deserter from Washington State, whom I'll call Clay, since he's still AWOL, says, "'Stressful' is not the word. It's an understatement. It tears at your mind." Clay, who went AWOL in November, was excruciatingly aware of the effect of his training: "After they broke me down, I was having a lot of conflicts with what they were trying to build me back up into. I mean, good Lord, these people told me, if need be, I might have to kill children."

Clay joined the Army to get away from what he calls "a militant AA group" and a troubled relationship with a girlfriend. He was working off the books for a small fencing company, and the Army recruiter was "throwing all this money at me." In five weeks he wrapped up his messy life—gave notice on his apartment, quit his girlfriend and his AA group, lost sixty pounds, took and passed his GED—and swore in to the U.S. Army.

By the sixth week of training, Clay realized not only that he could kill but that he wanted to. "Spiritually and mentally, man, I was off. I wanted to kill something. Mainly the drill sergeants, hut it was had. I was very angry. I started to see the process within myself, that transition from civilian to mindless killer. It just didn't sit right with me. And it scared me." Clay decided to leave. A high-ranking but highly embittered NCO actually smuggled him off base.

That soldiers flee out of fear of combat is another myth; not that some don't, but they are, strangely enough, a minority. Of the deserters I talked to, only Clay mentioned his fear of death. After his drill sergeant showed his platoon photos of an American lieutenant blown to bits, splattered all over the side of a Humvee, "no piece of him bigger than a cigarette pack," Clay suddenly thought about being around to raise a family. "And I started thinking about the possibility that I might not come back." He's gone AWOL twice now. He left from basic training, returned home, and twenty-six days later turned himself in at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he met Jeremiah, who gave him my phone number. From there he was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. At Fort Sill he was told that he would be shipped back to Fort Benning, so he took off again. He had turned himself in too soon.

AWOL in America: When Desertion is the Only Option KATHY DOBIE / Harper's Magazine v.310, n.1858 1mar2005

After thirty days of being AWOL, a soldier is dropped from the rolls and classified as a deserter—administratively, not legally, for that takes a court-martial. At that point, a federal warrant is issued for his arrest. The Army doesn't have the manpower to chase and apprehend deserters, so unless they get picked up for some other offense—stopped by the local cops for running a red light, for instance—they can often live life unhindered (but not necessarily unhaunted) for weeks, months, even years. Recently in New York City, a forty-three-year-old Marine deserter got into an argument with a deli owner about the difference between smoked and honey-basted turkey. The deli owner called the Marine a "nigger." The Marine told him to step outside. They were slugging it out on the sidewalk when the cops pulled up. They ran the Marine's driver's license, found the federal warrant for his arrest, and called the Marines, who came and got him and drove him down to Quantico, where he now awaits processing. He'd been AWOL for twenty-four years.

Once a deserter is apprehended or turns himself in, he can be returned to his unit, or court-martialed and given jail time, or given nonjudicial punishment and an other-than-honorable discharge. As a rule of thumb, the less time and money the military has invested in someone, the less interested it is in keeping that person. If you're going to leave, then, leave sooner rather than later, and when you leave, stay gone long enough to be dropped from the rolls. If you turn yourself in before being dropped from the rolls, you'll be returned to your command. And it's always better to turn yourself in than to be caught—you want to show that your intention wasn't to stay gone forever. So you have to prove that you are dead serious about leaving the military while simultaneously proving that you weren't planning on leaving for good.

Matt Burke, a Navy veteran and Army deserter, whom I met in October, left the military because of an injury, a recruiter's lie, and because there was better pay—and working conditions—somewhere else. Matt is pro-military, pro-Bush, though, he says, "Your readers won't want to hear that, I'm sure." He describes his recent court-martial as the Army's chance to ream him and his subsequent jail time as "interesting." He has a bland, limited vocabulary for the good times in his life, and a much grittier one for the bad—getting shafted, screwed, kicked in the nuts. He tells his story as straight as he can, without much emotion and no self-pity. He doesn't want his real name used because only his immediate family knows about his going AWOL, and his parents thought he was "as dumb as shit" to desert the Army.

Blond, trim, seemingly buttoned-down but with a gleam in his eye, Matt is the youngest son of a large Irish-Catholic family. He says frankly that he had a "bad upbringing," and by that he means he was raised to care about job security above all else. He joined the Navy straight out of high school, at seventeen. He wasn't a good student; there was little chance of his getting into a decent college and no chance of a scholarship. He had family members in the military; it wasn't an unfamiliar option for him. He did his four years of active duty and loved it. When he returned to his New England hometown, he attended college, where he studied business. After two years as an accountant in the civilian world, he began to miss the military. So he decided to sign up for the Army's Officer's Candidate School.

Matt had one worry. He knew that after three months of basic training and then another three at OCS, the chances of getting injured were high. He asked the recruiter what would happen if he got hurt and couldn't make it through OCS. He was determined to serve in the Army only as an officer; he had already done his time, and he now had a college education, a good-paying job. The recruiter told him that because of his prior service, he wouldn't have to serve the remainder of his three-year contract; he would be discharged. Later, Matt would kick himself for not getting it in writing. "So that's the thing that got me screwed, trusting him," Matt says. He thought the recruiter wouldn't lie to him: he wasn't some green high school kid. "I thought me being in prior service, he'd recognize that, and he knows that I know he's a salesperson basically. But he still ended up giving me the shaft."

At the G.I. Rights hot line they've heard hundreds of stories involving recruiters' lies. Jeremiah was told he could attend college after he finished basic training, and that he wouldn't be deployed until he graduated. One of the most common lies told by recruiters is that it's easy to get out of the military if you change your mind. But once they arrive at training, the recruits are told there's no exit, period—and if you try to leave, you'll be court-martialed and serve ten years in the brig, you'll never be able to get a good job or a bank loan, and this will follow you around like a felony conviction. This misinformation may keep some scared and unhappy soldiers from leaving—some may even turn out to be suffering from no more than a severe bout of homesickness—but it pushes others to the point of desperation. They purposefully injure themselves or become clinically depressed; they try to kill themselves or set out to fail the drug test; or they lie, saying they're gay, suicidal, asthmatic, or murderous. And, of course, they go AWOL.

None of this behavior, the lies or the pressure tactics, is particularly surprising. Recruiters are under tremendous pressure to meet year-end recruiting goals, which are essentially set by Congress. (Congress mandates the actual number of soldiers required to be on active duty at the end of the recruiting year.) Failure to meet their "mission" can affect job promotion, pay, even the ability to stay in the Army until retirement. When the fiscal year ends in September, if Recruiting command hasn't met its quota, it shifts the ship dates of soldiers in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP)—soldiers due to ship to training in October and November often are rescheduled to ship in the last week of September. Recruiting command can then report favorably to Congress, but the recruiters have to scramble even harder to make up for those lost numbers in the coming year.

What is puzzling is the fact that so many people believe the recruiters, believe even the most outrageous lies. High schoolers and their parents. Diane Stanley, the mother of a UA Marine named Jarred whom I met with in her trailer home in Alto, Georgia, told me that the recruiter promised her and her son that he wouldn't be sent overseas. He would, in fact, be stationed close to home in Kentucky. We were at war in Iraq, and still they believed this. The recruiter was sitting at their kitchen table, drinking her coffee, a man she describes as being "super nice." He told the lie then and repeated it every time she asked for reassurance. She trusted him.

Most people simply have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that someone would look straight at them and tell a bald-faced lie, especially when that someone is in uniform, representing the United States government, and has visited their homes and been "a part of our family," as Jeremiah's mother puts it. The recruiter had often dined at the Adler house; he attended Jeremiah's high-school graduation. And there's no denying that many parents who want their children, particularly their sons, to grow up and find some sense of purpose and responsibility have magical thinking when it comes to the military.

When I spoke with Douglas Smith of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command's Public Affairs Office, he said he found the lies told to Jeremiah, Matt, and Jarred far too outrageous to believe that any recruiter would tell them. Smith told me that recruiters rely on a good relationship with the community, and recruiting itself relies on satisfied, enthusiastic graduates of basic training promoting the service back home. Recruiters may talk of "possibilities," Smith suggested, that a recruit may hear as promises, such as large student loans that are available only to qualified recruits. His advice was that recruits need to read their contracts carefully before signing them; if the recruiter's "possibilities" are not written into the contract, they don't exist.

In the last few weeks of basic training, Matt pulled a knee ligament, but he "sucked it up" and graduated. At OCS, his knee injury grew worse until he was no longer able to run. After a few visits to sick bay, he was booted out of OCS for missing too many training days. He was put in a holding company, and there he waited with other injured or rejected OCS candidates to receive orders to go to enlisted training. He was Army property. He had three years of a contract to fulfill. He would be trained in a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) that fit the needs of the Army—these days the military seems to be short MPs and truck drivers. He was angry.

When Matt went home on leave, he didn't go back. After discussing his case with people on the G.I. Rights hot line, he waited the thirty-plus days until he was dropped from the rolls and declared a deserter, then he traveled to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to turn himself in. The treatment at Fort Sill was "very routine, very professional," Matt says. Except for him and one other young recruit, all of the other deserters were quickly processed out. Matt's command wanted him back at Fort Benning so that they could court-martial him. "I was from an OCS battalion, and I think at that same time the war in Iraq was peaking, so I think they felt they couldn't just let me go. They had to bring me back and give me the shaft as best they could, to set an example."

He was flown to Fort Benning, waited for a month and a half for his court-martial, and after a ten-minute proceeding was given a one-month jail sentence and an other-than-honorable discharge. He served his time in a county jail, cheaper for the Army than shipping him to the nearest Army brig in Pensacola, Florida. There, Matt says, he was locked up with a bunch of "colorful characters"—drug dealers with meth labs in their basements, indicted murderers.

Jason Lane tramps out of the forest wearing a blue bandanna, a black sweater, and a bulky Marine-issue backpack. He's neither short nor tall, more thick than thin, dark-haired, dark-eyed, with an expressive face. "Hey! How yah doin'?" His voice booms, as if he's speaking through a megaphone, and in any given word there are more inflections than there are syllables. It's a strange moment. Meeting a Marine deserter in the Virginia woods fits my dramatic image of the situation, but the Marine himself, an affable nineteen-year-old from Connecticut with a high tolerance for chaos, seems entirely familiar.

It's a brilliant September day in Triangle, Virginia; cool, bright air, a piercing blue sky. At the picnic area of Prince William Forest Park, one couple in business suits eats their lunch and an old man reads a newspaper. Otherwise, the park seems spectacularly empty of humans, all I7,000 acres of it. One mile away is the big statue of Iwo Jima that marks the entrance to the Quantico Marine base. Jason, whose name has been changed because he is currently in military custody, deserted the Marines on August I, leaving Camp Geiger in North Carolina and heading home to Connecticut. When he decided to turn himself in, he chose Quantico because he heard deserters were treated more fairly there than at Camp Geiger. Jason took a bus down here, arriving yesterday afternoon, but instead of walking to the base, he walked into the forest. He needed some time, he says.

Jason's mother married a Navy man, but she adores the Marines, and she always told Jason he would make a great one. Right before he went UA, Jason tried to explain to her that you could be good at something and still not want to do it. They were so proud at his graduation from boot camp, he tells me. And now? "It's horrible," he says. "It's very horrible. I can't even face them. It kind of makes me wish I never even left." Still, he calls his decision to join the Marines last winter "stupid," and his decision to go UA "stupid but right." At the end of the day, I bought him some snacks and Gatorade and left him at the picnic area as the sun was going down. The temperature dropped hard that night, so he spent it crouched under a hand dryer in the rest room, reaching up to turn it on every time it shut off. On the third night, Jason left the forest and simply started to walk—through the town of Triangle and on to Dumfries, and beyond, and then back again, CD earphones clamped on his head, Iron Maiden blasting, making up fantastic stories and movie scenes that he would think about jotting down in the notebook he kept in his backpack. For the next seven nights, Jason would begin walking as the sun went down, and he would walk until dawn, keeping himself warm. Before the sun rose, he would lie down on the bleachers at a local ballpark. On my three visits to Virginia, I'd buy him dinner and cigarettes, and we'd talk about his family, the Marines, the adventures he was having living on the streets. I came to admire the lengths Jason would go to avoid that moment of surrender.

Jason is always cheerful when I see him, and like many cheerful people, he has a tendency toward depression, which he fights with caffeine, cigarettes, that booming voice, a hale-and-hearty manner. In high school Jason liked to perform in front of groups, clown around, stir people up. But he's also a dreamer, someone who can't think in a straight line. He'd love to make movies someday, something fantastic and allegorical. Jason has a passionate belief in Christ, and no fear of death because of that, he says. He seems a completely unlikely candidate for boot camp.

Jason had dropped out of high school when the Marine recruiter called. He had what he calls "a shitty relationship with his parents"; it made him unhappy. He had no diploma, no direction, only vague dreams of acting and directing films. The recruiter offered a definite course—both a compelling reason to get his high-school diploma and a plan for the near future. As his enlistment date approached, though, Jason felt less and less like going. "I was trying to ask people, `You think I should cop out of this now while I got a chance?"' But Jason's passivity, his inability to think clearly, to see the outlines of another future—how does a high-school dropout go about becoming a film director?—left him wide open to currents that were far too strong. Jason simply rode those currents straight to Parris Island. "I had the mentality—I made the commitment, I'm gonna give it a shot," he explains. "How much can it really hurt?"

Boot camp was great, he says, though at the time it was awful. He hated every minute of it, especially being so completely caught in a bleak and grueling present that there was nothing to look forward to but chow. He loved and admired his drill instructors, never doubting that they had his best interests at heart, and he was terribly proud on graduation day. Later he would tell me that it was the happiest day of his life.

It was when he started Infantry School at Camp Geiger in North Carolina that Jason's resolve, never strong to start with, folded. At boot camp, he got along with all the other recruits; they were harassed and beaten down and completely unified. But at Camp Geiger his fellow Marines were "just your typical man pig assholes," Jason says, and then goes to great effort to explain a certain character type to me. "You gotta understand, people who typically join the Marines have a certain mentality. They have to prove something. Because of that mentality, this is what you get when they get confidence, you get this cocky, arrogant, look-at-me-now type of thing. And I'm sitting there saying, I'm not going to the end of the road with these guys. I will gladly fight and die for my family, my friends, and for my country. I will not fight and die with people that I don't like."

In his fifth week of training his leg got infected. His combat instructors thought they knew what it was—cellulitis—but told him it wasn't all that serious yet and to wait three days for treatment until the base clinic opened. His leg swelled until he could no longer put on his boot. Still, he was given a twenty-four-hour walking post. On Sunday he was rushed to the hospital, where he stayed for a week. When he returned, he had to keep his leg elevated, and the drill instructors treated him as if he were a shirker. The final straw in this series of events that Jason would simply call "bullshit" was when they refused to give him weekend liberty because he hadn't passed a test that he couldn't have taken anyway, because he was in the hospital when it was given.

Two themes run through Jason's story, very common ones in the stories of AWOL soldiers. Jason was not a young man who found himself appalled by the training, by the notion of killing. He was someone who was ambivalent about joining in the first place and then objected not to the hard work or the discipline but to what he considered unfair treatment. "Even though it sucks right now, it still feels like I did the right thing," he says of his decision to desert. "For one, I did something I shouldn't have done by joining. For two, I believe you should always stand up for what you believe in, and I don't believe that I should've been treated like that for my leg."

People leave civilian jobs when they're treated unjustly, and no civilian boss holds your mortal life in his or her hands. When you enter the military, you're not arriving at some day job, a job that requires only a piece of you and your time, a job you can easily leave. The military is your new family; indeed, during training, it's your entire world. Your life is in their hands, you may get wounded, die, or kill—and it will be at their orders, in their company. So the sense of betrayal is felt at a profound level that's difficult for any civilian to understand.

On my third trip to Virginia, on October 7, Jason has decided he's ready to turn himself in. He thinks it would be easier if I went with him. So the next morning we meet for breakfast at Waffle House in Dumfries. After eggs, toast, and many cups of coffee, I try to pay the check, but Jason keeps ordering refills. He's trying to pump himself up. "I want to try to be excited about this, as best as I can, you know? I don't want to go in there all miserable and grim and be like this is the end of the world." Finally, I convince him to get the last cup to go, and we drink it outside in the parking lot, where we get involved in a long discussion about the existence of God. Jason's concerned about my atheism. He doesn't want me missing out on heaven. The sun is high overhead when we finally get into the car and head toward the Marine base. "Man, this is gonna suck ass," Jason says, breathing deeply.

The MP stops us at the entrance, and after I explain Jason's situation, the Marine's face turns hard. He looks past me at Jason. "You deserted?"

"Yes, sir," Jason replies, looking miserable. To get to the Security Battalion, which houses the MP station, we have to drive a couple of miles down a tree-arched road, past a green, hilly golf course, and on through the woods. Jason is silent the whole time. He warned me that he would become almost comatose at this moment.

Inside the tiny lobby of the MP station, steps lead up to a windowed office, so the Marine on duty towers over us. This one is pure muscle, with shoulders and arms like tree trunks, a cinched waist, a smirk on his face, and a tattoo of Iwo Jima on his left bicep. He regards Jason with a combination of contempt and amusement, and keeps turning to the other two MPs in the office, saying something inaudible and then laughing. For some reason, the MP, who already has my driver's license, asks me my weight, age, and Social Security number before calling Jason to the window. Jason looks small and chubby, partly in comparison to the giant at the window, and partly because he is slouched into his boots. It is all "yes, sir" and "no, sir" from there on in. A blond MP comes out into the reception area, takes Jason's backpack, and commands him to say goodbye. We shake hands, but Jason can barely meet my eyes. And then he is gone.

Later he would tell me that the Marine sergeant who interviewed him was calm and professional, nothing like the MP at the reception desk. "If you don't want to help your brother Marine," he told Jason, "we don't want you." He didn't say it unkindly, just matter-of-factly.

If Jason is lucky, he'll be given nonjudicial punishment and released sometime in January with an other-than-honorable discharge; that is, in about three months from the day he surrendered. The Marines take forever to process people out—up to six months to be dropped from the rolls, and once you've returned, another three or four months to be processed out. At the Quaker House in Boston, they joke that the reason it takes the Marines so long to let anyone go is that "they just can't believe there's anyone out there who doesn't want to be a Marine."

The Army moves much more quickly. They have two out-processing stations, one at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the other at Fort Knox in Kentucky. At Fort Sill, people are generally out-processed in three days because they mail your discharge papers to you. When Jeremiah arrived at Fort Sill, there were eight deserters. When he was sent home a week later, there were thirty. All of the National Guardsmen and reservists were returned to their units. Regular soldiers who left from their training units were getting released. Noncommissioned officers were facing court-martial.

At the Army's Fort Knox center, recruits aren't released until their discharge papers are personally handed to them, so the process can take two to three weeks. Of course, any of this can change at any time, which is why the people at the G.I. Rights hot line always counsel people to call right before they turn themselves in. In November things appeared to be backed up at Fort Knox. A soldier who was shipped from there to Fort Sill told Jeremiah that when he left, seventy AWOL soldiers and deserters were being held there.

AWOL and desertion are chronic problems; all any Army can hope for is to keep them at manageable levels, not to lose soldiers needlessly. The Army admits that youth, lack of a high-school diploma, coming from "broken homes," and having early scrapes with the law make a soldier only "relatively more likely" to go AWOL or to desert. In fact, the Army is careful to note, "the vast majority of soldiers who fit this profile are not going to desert." Yet the Army used that very same profile to try to identify potential deserters and give them extra attention—and the desertion rate, mysteriously, rose. It doesn't take a huge leap of the imagination to suppose that high-school dropouts and juvenile delinquents might have joined the military for a fresh start, a chance to succeed at something, and when they were instead tagged as potential failures and trouble-makers, they took off. None of the Army data comes close to capturing the hearts and minds of soldiers. What is any given person looking for when he or she joins the Army? Direction in life? A chance to belong to something? Father figures? An adventure with buddies or a test of manhood? Their parents' approval? And when they entered the military, what did they find? That they'd been given false promises by the recruiter? That the people they turned to for help threatened them or made idiotic speeches about Bible-carrying Iraqis? No help for depression? Or a lack of armor and ammunition on the battlefield? According to the Army's own study, before soldiers went AWOL, more than half of them sought help within the military—they spoke to their COs, to military chaplains, military shrinks. Apparently, to little avail.

The Army has examined the soldier, but not itself. It is tantamount to trying to understand the problem of teenage runaways without ever asking about their home life. Failure to adapt, issues with chain of command—there's no sense that the military culture and environment, the commanders, themselves, also play a part in driving soldiers out and away.

The Georgia Marine who thought he would be stationed in Kentucky made it all the way to his MOS training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, before he took off. There, Jarred tried to get a foot injury treated and was told to take Tylenol. His pay was less than the recruiter had promised him, and he even seemed to be missing money from what he was paid. When he complained to his CO, he was told to shut up and mind his own business. Then he learned that his company was going to be deployed to Fallujah. "I ain't goin' to war," he told his sister flatly.

His sister kept telling Jarred to go talk to somebody. "Ain't nobody to talk to," Jarred told her. "Ain't nobody here interested." When he went home to Georgia on leave last March, he didn't return to his base. He made his mother and sister take down from the walls all their Marine paraphernalia, stripped the bumper stickers from their trucks, and refused to watch any movies or TV shows that featured the military. "The military," he said, "is a bunch of lies."

AWOL in America:
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