TQ Upgrades

We are now living in the middle of a dump, or more accurately a construction site. Bulldozers are working daily to tear down the tent city that was pitched beside our wooden huts. Huge piles of sandbags, tent canvas, plywood, cheap steel bunk beds, and dirty mattresses surround us. They're a small price to pay for the new housing on its way.

All the demolition has of course stirred up the base's powdery dust. Since the showers and bathrooms are on the other side of this project, we have to wade ankle deep through the dirt/dust to return to our huts -- and then wash our feet a second time.

Removal of the tents has led to the insertion of what we call cans. They are tractor trailer/ship containers made to live in for short periods of time. Some in the unit are hoping we can move to the cans, while others of us are just happy in the huts (mostly too lazy to move again). No word has come down as to our future living quarters, but if we do move to the cans, they will be an upgrade and an appreciated one at that!

-- Written 5/11/2006

By Bert Stover |  May 29, 2006; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
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Comments

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I'm glad for your column to be about something that's as relatively mundane as your quarters. That means that you're doing OK, no real alarms or excursions - right at the moment, at least. Hang in there! We are praying for you and thinking of you.

Posted by: Marcia | May 30, 2006 10:19 AM

Laundry not sufficiently effective and dirty feet coming back from the shower. You should be happy you dont have to be a soldier. (real)

Posted by: Ed Vest | May 30, 2006 11:55 AM

Well, I think some say 'cleanliness is next to godliness', and others say 'cleanliness is next to impossible'. Hy-giene. Not just saying 'hello', anymore.
If you've ever been camping out in the sticks, and had to shake the burrs and the bugs out of your shoes and your bedding, you got an appetizer of what it's like for troops that live out in the field, complete with poop-shovel and no running water. At the same time I would say that troops should strive to be self-sufficient, in their hygiene efforts, and that we've watched over the years as more and more civilians fill roles once filled by soldiers. I don't think people should expect, nor should they expect, that being in the service means you're guaranteed anything, including a bed. When you've gotten to the point where you dial room service, maybe it's not the service anymore...once upon a time, the army had mules, traveled on foot or on horseback, or in a wagon, and spent weeks and months away from 'civilization'. Soldiering has changed since those years, no more mule stew, no more physical abuse of enlisted men, no more parades either, seems like...
I think some of the changes the service has undergone are good, others are not so good. I don't think the military was ever intended to become the 'other, other welfare office', but unfortunately, that is now one of its' roles. I don't think the military was ever intended to become the Peace Corps, but that is now also one of its' roles. Well, whatever... keep safe, rifle clean and oiled, eyes/ears open...

Posted by: | May 30, 2006 01:23 PM

Dear Mr. Stover,
I sincerely hope that you and your colleagues are aware that that seemingly harmless dust you are washing off is undoubtedly contaminated with enough depleted uranium to hugely increase your risk of many forms of cancer throughout your life.

In the aftermath of Gulf War I, childhood leukemia rates among Iraqi children rose 700%. Yes, this is statistically significant.

In Gulf War II, we used something over 20 TIMES as much DU as in GW I.

And of course, there is no protection afforded for being American, rather than Iraqi. This risk is real, inevitable, unescapable, and will produce hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Oh, and finally, I would not depend on the VA to supply your medical care, if I were you.

I can only say, in closing,
I'm very, very sorry - you deserved much better for your patriotism and sacrifice.

Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D.
Mahopac, NY

Posted by: Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D. | May 30, 2006 06:09 PM

Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D.?

As a doctor, you need to work on your bedside manner. Do you smile when giving patients dire news?

As a human being, you need to work on your social skills. The, seemingly, fake concern doesn't cut it.

Posted by: Cali-Girl | May 30, 2006 08:57 PM

THANK YOU! I do not even remember how I found this blog. I have been bouncing through every entry for the past hour. It is a relief to read about your experiences, and not be limited to "official" press release information. I have been spoiled(or blessed) with a great amount of contact since a particular guard unit left country. I am now one of too many who have not been able to hear the voice of the ones we worry about while fulfilling their duties for the National Guard, America, and Iraq. Thank you for your depictions of an area my imagination has gone wild with as we survive Electronic Blackout, etc. Make sure you flyboys thank the men building the way. Thank you for your strength, service, and perserverance.

Posted by: | May 30, 2006 11:51 PM

Mr. Vest,
What is it that you do? You are very loose with the sarcasm for a guy who's probably sitting in a comfy chair in front of your computer. Have you served your country? Do you realize how grateful those of us with family in Iraq are for these updates? My husband (and Chief Stover) are real soldiers putting their lives on the line every day. YOU SHOULD THANK THEM FOR THEIR SACRIFICE instead of belittling them.

Posted by: home alone | May 31, 2006 12:11 AM

I am a vet also people who are civilians do not understand what being in a war zone is. Keep up the great work.

Posted by: Buelo | May 31, 2006 08:52 AM

Dear Cali-Girl,

I was shocked to read the posting by Dr. Stanton who warned about the dire health affects of depleted uranium-laiden dust. To me too, it sounded opportunistic and inflated. I decided to read some information about it's use in Iraq on-line.

Tragically, it appears to me that Dr. Stanton just might know what he is talking about. There's an overwhelming amount of information about it. This is clearly a terrible misuse of technology that will, unfortunately, affect the health and lives of US military personel, in addition to those being "liberated". I think his warning, undoubtably a painful intrusion for families reading this blog, just might be relevant.

There's no proof that Mr. Stover and his comrades are in an area that is overly-infected with this material, and their familes should take some comfort. But equally, there's no doubt that there are many, many people in Iraq right now that are being exposed.

There's also no doubt that the American military and government has brought this harm upon it's own soldiers by using DU without concern, and are doing all they can to dodge responsibility (what else is new). Those of you that unfailingly support your troops should condemn the use of depleted uranium! Shame on the US military!! Shame on America!!

Posted by: Canuck | May 31, 2006 02:47 PM

Bert,

Don't walk through dust and mud to travel to your showers and restrooms! Build a chain of pallets to serve as a sidewalk. All military sites have an abundance of pallets. You and your fellow flyers could build your "sidewalk" in one evening.

Next, trust me on this--always take a "can" if you can get one. As a LTC, I was entitled to a "can" in Vietnam. When small arms and mortars/rockets start falling on your base, there's no safer place. They can be hot in the sun but that's a small price to pay for coming home in one piece as I did.

Good luck.

Posted by: Calvary LTC | May 31, 2006 05:25 PM

Dear Mr. Stover,

It's Dr. Stanton again. Please excuse my comments about depleted uranium on your base. What I said earlier makes no sense when one takes into account that depleted uranium is only dangerous to humans if fired into the enemy. It certainly would not make sense for American warbirds to fire depleted uranium on its own bases.

My apologies for the misleading information. I promise not to write again unless I know what I'm talking about.

Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D.
Mahopac, NY

Posted by: Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D. | May 31, 2006 05:39 PM

Bert,
All I can say is thank you so much! I like beiong able to pull up this site and read what is going on with all of you. When I can't hear from my boyfriend (who is there with you) it is a great comfort to know what is going on. We are so proud of all of you! Keep up the great work. We miss and love you all!

Posted by: Cubbie | May 31, 2006 05:44 PM

Canuck,

I wasn't debating what the Doctor was stating, although I now see that he has retracted his comment. I was upset at his matter-of-fact tone and even with a bit of mirth. It seemed to me like he was almost happy that he could tell them that something bad was going to happen to them for being there.

I'm sure our military is well aware of the health hazards and risks they have to deal with daily. I just felt this forum was an inappropriate place to state such things and the insincere way he way he put it prompted me to say something about it.

We at home have enough to worry about wtih them just being there in the middle of a war, and for him to add one more thing was hardly helpful.

Posted by: Cali-Girl | May 31, 2006 09:23 PM

Patrick Stanton,
Hundreds of thousands of deaths? Would you be part of the same group that predicted millions of refugees, all kinds of epidemics, and mass starvation as a result of the war?

Posted by: exhelodrvr | June 1, 2006 03:15 PM

Cali-Girl,

>I was upset at his matter-of-fact tone >and even with a bit of mirth. It seemed >to me like he was almost happy ...

Yeah, I was upset for the same reason too. It's one thing to be critical of the war (as I am), but it's another to be taking self-serving pleasure in the misfortunes of others in order to feel self-righteous. Gratefully, it appears that Dr. Stanton was well-meaning, and even took the time to honestly admit that he may in fact have been in error.

>We at home have enough to worry about

I've never had someone I know fight in a war (so I obviously don't understand what's its like for you), but even a liberal-lefty war-opponent from socialist Canada like me can sympathize with the families and friends of American soldiers in Iraq. Let's hope everyone gets to come home safe and soon, and that the efforts will produce some good for that region!!

Posted by: Canuck | June 1, 2006 04:21 PM

Having just come upon the Stover blog I am late to the fray it appears. I congratulate the Post for sponsoring it and Stover for giving it currency for those of us who can't really know what it's like to be there.
As for the bloviating c


commentators who feel they must expound their views in response to the real events in mr. stover's blog I ask them to "get a life".
Good luck and godspeed mr. stover.

Posted by: sealbeachsage | June 1, 2006 05:27 PM

Canuck writes: "Let's hope everyone gets to come home safe and soon, and that the efforts will produce some good for that region!!"

I think we are all in agreement on that! :)

Posted by: Cali-Girl | June 1, 2006 06:47 PM

Yep, you're a Army warrant pilot. Always sniveling and complaining about something. Just do your job, man. You volunteered to serve, remember? You want to pucker up over something then try flying on or off the deck of an aircrft carrier at night and in heavy seas with a full load of ordnance. Shoot, at least you got miles and miles of desert that you can park that thing on.

Posted by: CAPT Jerry | June 5, 2006 10:17 AM

Dr. Stanton should not have retracted his warning. Depleted uranium is a hazard to all in theater and the US Army doesn't care. In fact they deny it. Whoever said that vets should not count on being treated right by the US government when they get home is darn right. DOD's denial of the deleterious effects of depleted uranium is just one example. They don't care about us any more than they care about the Iraqis. Just more profits for the rich creeps who wanted this sickening war.

Posted by: Uncle Sam | June 5, 2006 03:11 PM

How much warm red blood, torture, death, guts, dismemberment, and useless suffering, how many massacres can one experience and still swallow the cruel, deceitful, unspeakably vile lies of the warmongers in Washington who go to bed on clean sheets every night?

Posted by: Born in the USA | June 5, 2006 03:22 PM

Blah Blah Blah

Posted by: | June 5, 2006 05:44 PM

Human bodies blown to bits day after day is not blah blah blah. A country destroyed and a planet destabilized by aggressive war is not blah blah blah. Blood flowing in the streets is not blah blah blah. Year after year of living in fear, of trembling in the night and the soiling of pants is not blah blah blah. Tens of thousands of new widows and orphans are not blah blah blah.

Posted by: Clemencia | June 5, 2006 06:01 PM

I was looking at videos of people in the street on 9/11 the other day, and they looked a lot like people in Baghdad now. I wonder if this "blah blah blah" person would say "blah blah blah" if the bloodshed were taking place in our country every day instead of far away to people unlike us. Humans are so cruel.

Posted by: Patriot | June 5, 2006 06:11 PM

"Ho hum," says "blah blah blah," another young American in a pool of blood.

Posted by: Sad | June 5, 2006 06:27 PM

I'm sorry about all the political spam on the board as it is irrelevant to the point of this blog, which is to provide a glimpse into the daily life and thoughts of a soldier at war and in the field... Thanks for painting the picture for us, and keep it coming....
Stay safe.

Posted by: TigerTribe | June 5, 2006 11:41 PM

As though " the daily life and thoughts of a soldier at war and in the field... " could possibly be separated from the unwinnability of this unjustified war of conquest. As though war were not politics by other means.

Put hundreds of thousands of young Americans in the field in an unwinnable effort to conquer a distant country where they are not wanted and the result is the sickening disaster we see.

Posted by: Colleague | June 6, 2006 08:58 AM

"Born in the USA" is probably a devout Dixie Chick fan. Bet you won't find them with any USO show on the front lines and entertaining the troops! No, they'll be joining "Born in the USA" for a march around our Capital, enjoying the freedom and liberties that our men and women in uniform have sacrificed, foughted, and died for.

Posted by: CAPT Jerry | June 6, 2006 10:54 AM

"Born in the USA" is probably a devout Dixie Chick fan. Bet you won't find them with any USO show on the front lines and entertaining the troops! No, they'll be joining "Born in the USA" for a march around our Capital, enjoying the freedom and liberties that our men and women in uniform have sacrificed, fought, and died for.

Posted by: CAPT Jerry | June 6, 2006 10:54 AM

CAPT Jack, you sound like a pudgy little Karl Rove.

You presonify the true American 'Patriot' who struggles to utter the words... "Blah Blah Blah"

Posted by: dave | June 6, 2006 12:45 PM

Captain Jerry is worried about the Dixie Chicks while our service members are being blown to smithereens and driven to the brink of their endurance thanks to GW Bush and his despicable co-conspirators. Not a great priority.

Posted by: USA Born and Bred | June 6, 2006 03:22 PM

No, not a great priority (for many humans), but a top priority to the White House (see gay marriage and flag burnin') who consistently (and successfully - See CAPT Jerry) toss out BS to distract gullable people from the important issues.

True, unvarnished cowardice from Rove and Cheney all the way down (underground) to CAPT Jerry and his ilk

Bring 'em on, Dead of Alive

Posted by: dave | June 6, 2006 03:48 PM

"Dr. Stanton should not have retracted his warning. Depleted uranium is a hazard to all in theater and the US Army doesn't care."

Awww, you are so full of it. There is no DU pollution in the living areas of US military bases in the Middle East. And the Army does care. More DU pollution is caused by A-10 warthogs firing their guns into enemy concentrations than any other single source. When's the last time you heard of an ill A-10 Warthog pilot? Never!!!

Posted by: Uncle Sam's IQ | June 7, 2006 09:28 PM

Capt. Jerry,
My husband is in Al Asad working his tail off to make forums like this one possible.
He is also a serious Dixie Chicks fan. Free speech and all that.....

Bert,
Thank you again, hang in there, keep your helmet on.

Posted by: Home alone | June 7, 2006 10:17 PM

June 8, 2006
Army Officer Refuses to Deploy to Iraq
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 8:20 a.m. ET

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- An Army lieutenant who refuses to deploy to Iraq with his Fort Lewis Stryker brigade said he's prepared to face the consequences, including a possible prison term.

1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who joined the Army in March 2003, said he researched the reasons behind the U.S. involvement in Iraq and concluded the war is illegal and immoral.

''We have violated American law,'' Watada said. ''We can't break laws in order to fight terrorism.''

Watada said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere, but he said he believes intelligence on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was manipulated ''to fit a policy that was already implemented prior to 9-11,'' and he cited ''mistreatment of the Iraqi people,'' saying it was ''a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare.''

Army officials said Watada's decision to publicly declare his intent to disobey orders ''is a serious matter and could subject him to adverse action.''

His unit -- the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division -- is scheduled to begin leaving later this month for a mission in Iraq.

Watada sent a letter to his command in January, saying he had reservations about the Iraq war and felt he could not participate, his lawyer Eric A. Seitz said. Months later, he resubmitted his request to resign, Seitz said.

The Hawaii native was told last month his request had been denied. The Army said it was because Watada's unit is in a stop-loss category, and he has not fulfilled his service obligation. His commission requires that he serve as an active-duty Army officer for three years ending Dec. 3, his lawyer said.

Watada said he would submit another request to resign but added, ''I feel it is inevitable ... I will be charged and I will be punished.'' He said he could face prison time for failing to deploy.

Peace activists, veterans and clergy have come out in support of Watada, whose commanders barred him from attending a news conference Wednesday because it occurred during his duty hours.

Watada did not apply for conscientious objector status, defined by Army regulations as a ''firm, fixed and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, because of religious training and belief.'' He said he objected only to the war in Iraq.

An Army fact sheet dated Sept. 21, 2005, the most recent available, said 87 conscientious objector applications had been approved and 101 denied since January 2003.

''I know that my case has brought a lot of attention and scrutiny on me by my superiors,'' Watada said. ''I'm probably very unpopular, if not the most unpopular person on Fort Lewis. But I know out there are people who believe in what I'm saying.''

Posted by: Just offf the presses | June 8, 2006 10:33 AM

Army Lieutenant Becomes First Commissioned Officer to Refuse Deployment to Iraq

For the first time since the start of the war, a commissioned officer is refusing deployment to fight in Iraq. On Wednesday U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Ehren Watada announced his intention to disobey what he says are illegal orders to deploy to Iraq. We speak with 1st Lieutenant Watada and his lawyer, Legrand Jones.

Hear the interview at:

http://www.democracynow.org/index.shtml

Posted by: Red White and Blue | June 8, 2006 12:06 PM

I do not believe that this president has ever acknowledged his own responsibility for the atrocities committed by Americans on his watch and under his command. He simply cannot process the fact that his own hand provided the signature that allowed torture to spread like a cancer through the military and CIA.

"He cannot acknowledge that his own war policy -- of just enough troops to lose -- has created a war of attrition in Iraq in which soldiers are often overwhelmed and demoralised and stretched to the limit, and so more than usually vulnerable to the psychic snaps that sometimes lead to atrocities.

"His obdurate refusal to change course, to provide sufficient troops, to fire his defence secretary, to embrace, rather than evade, the McCain amendment has robbed him of any excuse, any evasion of responsibility.

"And yet he still evades it. Last week he spoke of Abu Ghraib as something that had somehow happened to him and to his country, almost as if he were not the commander-in-chief or president of the country that had committed such abuse. When the evidence is presented to him, he displaces it. He puts it to one side. In his mind America is a force for good. And so it cannot commit evil. And if he says that often enough it will somehow become true. In this way his powers of denial kick in like a forcefield against reality."

Indeed, to the extent that the White House is responding to these atrocities at all, it is to order a refresher course on "core values" for all troops -- while at the same time, insisting that Geneva Convention protections be explicitly dropped from its new detainee policy.

Posted by: on George W Bush | June 8, 2006 02:11 PM

The draft: it's going to happen. The military services are all having a very difficult time making their recruiting goals. As the war continues, their retention numbers are also starting to fall. DoD has called up just about every reservist they can get their hands on. The National Guard units are being laden with more and more active duty responsibilities. Extensions of these individuals and groups are the order of the day. The Navy has gone to their "surge deployment" concept, which is really a smoke screen for, "I need to keep as many ships and people out there as I can possibly get on station and keep them there!", and forget about the traditional six-month deployment rotation plans. The Navy is also picking up more and more traditional Army responsibilities, particularly in the area of security, bomb deposal, community relations, etc., on the ground in Iraq and Afganistan. These are duties that really aren't a part of the Navy's core competencies but are being shoved in that direction. Why? Because of spreading our forces too thin, not making the "All Voluntary" recruiting goals, and fighting two wars simultaneously while continuing to deploy forces elsewhere around the world to show presence and strength and respond to other "hot spots." Standby for "Horn of Africa" issues. This combined with the real and present threat to security from terrorists inside the United States, the "nut" they have in North Korea who has nuclear capability, and the growing strength of the Chinese armed forces, and, yes, we could be in real trouble in the coming decade. Do we need a draft? You bet your boots we do and fast! And guess what, all that infrastructure that we had back in the 1960's and 1970's to draft people, well it's gone! If we had to start processing tens of thousands into the Armed Forces immediately and through basic training, we'd be in the hurt locker. Wake up America! You can't have it both ways. If you want to continue live and enjoy your nice, safe, cozy lifestyles, you darn well have a strong military!

Posted by: Captain Jerry | June 8, 2006 05:08 PM

so put your money where your mouth is, CAPT and (re)enlist...

or are you too busy at your computer slamming the Dixie Chicks and all those who are opposed to your war?

because the draft isnt going to happen as long as your draft-dodging oil execs still hold office there and send good people to do their dirty work.

Posted by: dave | June 8, 2006 06:41 PM

Ha ha. The draft? Bring it on...

...and watch even more resistance than last time around.

Catch 22: The warmongers need more bodies to fight their wars for them but if they demand involuntary servitude the youth rebel big time. So, use an all-volunteer force. Uh uh, not enough bodies, so use involuntary servitude. Uh uh, the youth rebel big time. Uh uh.

Posted by: Catch 22. | June 9, 2006 04:05 AM

Hey, I did my 37 years in uniform. While you were tucked into your safe little beds and sucking on your thumbs, I was on watch ... standing guard for this country and you! I'm not in anyway shape or form for war. Been there, done that. And I haven't always agreed with the policies and orders of the Commander in Chief. But when you don the cloth of your nation, you don't have the luxury of picking and choosing the orders you want to follow, particularly when the country is at war. Do I want to see my grand kids have to go off to war? Hell no I don't! But we all stick our heads in the sand and pretend there is no real threat to us or to this country. Whether you like it or not, we must have a strong military. Look atthe facts. Today the Navy is one third the size it was 20 years ago. Same for the rest of the Services (thank you very much Mr. Clinton!). Yet, the operational tempo has tripled from the Cold War days. It's simple math. You want to blame someone, don't blame the military. They have little choice in the matter. Go after your elected officials, but be prepared to pay the ultimate price for your self and for your grand kids. Nuff said.

Posted by: CAPT Jerry | June 9, 2006 09:09 AM

Thats right, CAPT, if your country is going to start wars all over the world, you better have a strong (and huge) military.

And you know what? Dixie Chicks (which you raised a few days back) and their ilk are among the few sane voices protesting this war in your country. Thats the nucleus of what's going to stop your counrty's illegal and immoral activities, making the world more dangerous for all people, not making your beloved military bigger (its already the size of most other militaries on the planet combined).

of course you blame clinton (suckers on the right do that consistently), but what about Rummy? he's stoked it so there's just enough of your military there (in iraq) for America to lose

so yeah, CAPT, "go after" your elected officials

i havent seen anyone blame the military for this conflict (except for a few nuts who've posted here), but i sure as heck blame your cowardly political and military leaders.

and as a military man, how do you feel being led by draft dodgers?

Posted by: dave | June 9, 2006 10:00 AM


Good job boys and girls, that bastard deserved to die!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Che | June 9, 2006 12:26 PM

Dave - Dixie Chicks still belong in the kitchen baking cookies and in the bedroom making babies, not out badmouthing our President and Commander in Chief to a bunch of bed wetters like you.

Posted by: CAPT Jerry | June 9, 2006 02:22 PM

See, CAPT?

you have nothing but empty rhetoric and belittling insults, just like your cowardly draft dodging leadership.

you're an insult to the heroic and brave people that defend your country while you pollute this blog

Bring it on!

Posted by: dave | June 9, 2006 02:32 PM

First,
For those of ou who have confused Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D. as being a medical doctor, stand corrected. He may have his Ph. D. in Fine Arts or Theatre or something. This is not to say he is not deserving of the title Dr. but rather to say that his title need not lead you to believe that he is an expert in any subject which he feels free to write about.

Second, I believe that his apology was rather tongue in cheek.

Third,
Che...you are quite the masterful cut-and-paste artist. maybe someday you shall learn to use the keyboard to type an original thought instead of using the mouse and clicker to copy the thoughts of those who you follow like a lost puppy.

Finally, while I think that the military is an uncessary evil (I am not condoning the current action in Iraq), I think that the nature of the beast is put our soldiers in harm's way. If tropp safety was #1 priority they would all be snug as a bug in a rug in the USA, not in Iraq. Therefore, it goes with the grain of reason to assume that incidental exposure to DU is an acceptable trade-ff in the minds of the military brass, just as normal casualties are a part of the trade-off in any military action.

All that being said, I do support the troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and where ever else they might be as well as our govt. I also wish the best for the Iraqis who are in favor of peace. For those who who employ IEDs, suicide bombers and other means to kill the innocent...your ill fate is well deserved.

Act with good intent and be safe.

Posted by: Bill | June 10, 2006 08:25 AM

Correction...

I meant to say in my above comments that the military is a necessary evil when wwhat I typed was un-necessary evil. Sorry for the confusion.

Posted by: Bill | June 10, 2006 08:29 AM

One more blind follower and true believer

American pride personified

Posted by: dave | June 10, 2006 11:39 AM

So much hostility! Calm down Mr. Dave. After all, we're all Americans here and on the same team. It's okay to disagree. If we all agreed on everything then there would be no progress, no innovation, and certainly no strength in our nation. We are truly blessed to be able to live in a country where we can speak out publicly against our elected officials, openly protest if we want, and yet not have to ear reprisals. Even mooks like you, Mr. Dave, are allowed to have an opinion.

Posted by: CAPT Jerry | June 10, 2006 06:15 PM

poor CAPT Jerry

everything you've assumed (that you've written here) is offensive and/or incorrect.

put your gun collection down, turn off your TV and get out for a bit... it'll do you some good

Posted by: dave | June 11, 2006 03:08 PM

I got fed up w/95% of the comments on this site, so I haven't been on for a while....was hoping to read something of interest from Bert Stover to see how he was doing....I hope you are well and you ignore MOST of what is on here....we continue to pray for you....my son is half-way in his time at Al Asad, he does live in a Can and is thankful! Hang in there Bert and we hope you can come home soon!! I know the heat is unreal...looking forward to your next post!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | June 12, 2006 02:02 PM

Lieutenant Watada's War Against the War

by JEREMY BRECHER & BRENDAN SMITH


In a remarkable protest from inside the ranks of the military, First Lieut. Ehren Watada has become the Army's first commissioned officer to publicly refuse orders to fight in Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal. The 28-year-old announced his decision not to obey orders to deploy to Iraq in a video press conference June 7, saying, "My participation would make me party to war crimes."

An artillery officer stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, Watada wore a business suit rather than his military uniform when making his statement. "It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law," he said. "Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order."

A native of Hawaii who enlisted in the Army after graduating from college in 2003, Watada differs from other military personnel who have sought conscientious-objector status to avoid deployment to Iraq.

Watada told Truthout's Sarah Olson that at first he gave the Bush Administration the benefit of the doubt as it built the case for war. But when he discovered he was being sent to Iraq, he began reading everything he could, such as James Bamford's Pretext for War. He concluded that the war was based on false pretenses, ranging from the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to the claim that Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 to the idea that the United States is in Iraq to promote democracy.

His investigation led him to question the very legality of the war. In an interview with Democracy Now!, he explained that as he read articles by experts on international and constitutional law, reports from governmental and nongovernmental agencies, revelations from independent journalists, writings by the Iraqi people and the words of soldiers coming home, "I came to the conclusion that the war and what we're doing over there is illegal."

First, he concluded that the war violates the Constitution and War Powers Act, which, he said, "limits the President in his role as commander in chief from using the armed forces in any way he sees fit." Watada also concluded that "my moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders."

Second, he claims the war is illegal under international law. He discovered that "the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg principles all bar wars of aggression." The Constitution makes such treaties part of American law as well.

These are not wild legal claims. Watada's conclusions are supported by mountains of evidence and experts, including the judgment of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who in 2004 declared that the US invasion was "not in conformity with the UN Charter, and from our point of view...was illegal."

Watada said he came to recognize that the military conduct of the occupation is also illegal: "If you look at the Army Field Manual, 27-10, which governs the laws of land warfare, it states certain responsibilities for the occupying power. As the occupying power, we have failed to follow a lot of those regulations." He told ABC News that the "wholesale slaughter and mistreatment of the Iraqi people" is "a contradiction to the Army's own law of land warfare."

While ongoing media coverage of the protest debates whether Watada's action is one of cowardice or conscience, so far the seriousness of his legal claims have been largely ignored. Watada's position is different from that of conscientious objectors, who oppose all wars. "I'm not just against bearing arms or fighting people. I am against an unjustified war," he said.

Can such a claim be heard in a military court? In 2004, Petty Officer Pablo Paredes refused to board his Iraq-bound ship in San Diego Harbor, claiming to be a conscientious objector. At his court-martial, Paredes testified that he was convinced that the Iraq War was illegal. National Lawyers Guild president-elect Marjorie Cohn presented evidence to support his claim. The military judge, Lieut. Cmdr. Robert Klant, accepted Paredes's war-crimes defense and refused to send him to jail. The government prosecutor's case was so weak that Cohn, in a report published on Truthout.org, noted that Klant declared ironically, "I believe the government has just successfully proved that any seaman recruit has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."

One of Germany's highest courts heard a case last year regarding a German soldier who refused to participate in military activities as part of the US-led coalition in Iraq. The Federal Administrative Court issued a long and detailed decision in his favor, saying, "There were and still are serious legal objections to the war against Iraq...relating to the UN Charter's prohibition of the use of violence and other provisions of international law."

Watada's case comes amid a growing questioning of the Iraq War in all levels of the military. A February Zogby poll found that 72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq think the United States should leave the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the United States should leave immediately. While the "generals' revolt" against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld didn't challenge the legality of the war per se, many retired military leaders have strongly condemned the use of torture and other violations of international and military law.

According to USA Today, at least 8,000 service members have deserted since the Iraq War began. The Guardian reports that there are an estimated 400 Iraq War deserters in Canada, of whom at least twenty have applied for asylum. An Army spokesman says that ten other servicemen besides Watada have refused to go to Iraq.

Resistance in the military played a critical role in ending the French war in Algeria, the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and the American war in Vietnam. Such resistance not only undermines the capacity of a government to conduct wars; it also challenges the moral claims that are used to justify them and inspires others to examine their own responsibilities.

Watada's action comes as the issue of US war crimes in Iraq is inexorably creeping into the public spotlight. Senator John Warner has promised to hold hearings on the alleged Haditha massacre. The UN Committee Against Torture has declared that the United States is engaging in illegal torture at Guantánamo and elsewhere. An investigation by the European Union has found overwhelming evidence of the rendition of prisoners to other countries for torture.

Watada's highly publicized stand will no doubt lead others to ask what they are doing to halt such crimes. Unless the Army assigns him somewhere besides Iraq or permits him to resign his commission, he will now face court-martial for refusing to serve as ordered and possibly years in prison.

According to an ominous statement released by the Army commanders at Fort Lewis in response to Watada's press conference: "For a commissioned officer to publicly declare an apparent intent to violate military law by refusing to obey orders is a serious matter and could subject him to adverse action."

Watada's decision to hold a press conference and post his statements online puts him at serious risk. In theory, if the Army construes his public statements as an attempt to encourage other soldiers to resist, he could be charged with mutiny under Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which considers those who act "with intent to usurp or override lawful military authority, refuses, in concert with any other person, to obey orders or otherwise do his duty or creates any violence or disturbance is guilty of mutiny." The conservative group Military Families Voice of Victory is already "demanding the Army prosecute Lt. Watada to the fullest extent under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

Watada told Truthout's Olson that when he started to question the war, he he felt, like so many in and out of the military, that "there was nothing to be done, and this administration was just continually violating the law to serve their purpose, and there was nothing to stop them." But he realized that there was something he personally could do: "It is my duty not to follow unlawful orders and not to participate in things I find morally reprehensible."

"The one God-given freedom and right that we really have is freedom of choice," Watada says, echoing the profound message of Mohandas Gandhi. "I just want to tell everybody, especially people who doubt the war, that you do have that one freedom. And that's something that they can never take away. Yes, they will imprison you. They'll throw the book at you. They'll try to make an example out of you, but you do have that choice."

Even facing prison time, Watada is firm. "When you are looking your children in the eye in the future, or when you are at the end of your life, you want to look back on your life and know that at a very important moment, when I had the opportunity to make the right decisions, I did so, even knowing there were negative consequences."

Watada's recognition of his duty provides a challenge not only to those in the military but to all Americans: "We all have a duty as American citizens for civil disobedience, and to do anything we can within the law to stop an illegal war."

Posted by: white blue and red | June 13, 2006 06:43 PM

Howl by Nicholas von Hoffman

Nightmare Scenario

Is the badly outnumbered American expeditionary force in Iraq in trouble? Is it in danger of being trapped? With all our firepower, are we looking at the possibility of some kind of a military defeat?

As the bad news continues to seep in, debates about exit strategies are going out of date. Another year like the last three and the deteriorating military situation will have us debating what tactics will be necessary to extract our people with a minimum of loss.

We could be moving toward an American Dunkirk. In 1940 the defeated British Army in Belgium was driven back by the Germans to the French seacoast city of Dunkirk, where it had to abandon its equipment and escape across the English Channel on a fleet of civilian vessels, fishing smacks, yachts, small boats, anything and everything that could float and carry the defeated and wounded army to safety.

Obviously, our forces in Iraq will not be defeated in open battle by an opposing army as happened in 1940, but there is more than one way to stumble into a military disaster. Fragmented reports out of Iraq suggest we may be on our way to finding one of them. Defeat can come from overused troops. It does not help that one by one, the remaining members of the Coalition of the Willing give every appearance of sneaking out of town.

We know that US Marines accused of the Haditha massacre should not have been in Iraq. According to the Chicago Tribune , "Many of the US troops in Iraq are now on their second or third tour of duty in a conflict that has stretched beyond original expectations.... The Marine unit in Haditha was on its third rotation in Iraq when the incident allegedly occurred Nov. 19. The same month a year earlier, on a previous tour of duty, the unit had been engaged in fierce house-to-house fighting in the battle to retake Fallujah from insurgents."

Filtering out from Iraq are indicators of a military organization in danger of creeping disintegration. For three years our troops have been in a foreign land fighting God knows who for God knows why for God knows how long and God knows how many times. This now well-quoted paragraph from the June 12 edition of Newsweek hints at the price paid in order and morale: "The wife of a staff sergeant in the 3/1 battalion--members of which are currently accused of murdering Iraqi citizens in Haditha--says that there was 'a total breakdown' in discipline and morale after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani took over as battalion commander when the unit returned from Fallujah at the start of 2005.... 'There were problems in Kilo Company with drugs, alcohol, hazing, you name it,' she tells Newsweek...'I think it's more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha.'"

As awful as the killing of the twenty-four civilian Iraqis is, at this hour Haditha's importance is as an indicator of what's happening inside the American military organization there.

The Internet is alive with pessimistic stories and opinions about what may be happening, one of which informs its readers, "Military commanders in the field in Iraq admit in private reports to the Pentagon the war 'is lost' and that the U.S. military is unable to stem the mounting violence killing 1,000 Iraqi civilians a month. Even worse, they report the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha is 'just the tip of the iceberg' with overstressed, out-of-control American soldiers pushed beyond the breaking point both physically and mentally."

The New York Times's John Burns, a good-to-go-to-war man from before the first American smart bomb fell on Baghdad, was on the air the other night warning that, in effect, the invading army had lost both the initiative and control. Readers of Juan Cole's authoritative Informed Comment blog get a daily summing-up of deaths, murders and atrocities not available to TV viewers and ordinary newspaper readers. The simple numbers tell the story of a large and growing bloodbath.

People here in the United States get only fragments of news that are difficult to make sense of, due to the sheer difficulty of reporting on the war. Journalists, even the credulous rah-rah by-jingo types, cannot be faulted, since they take their lives in their hands when they venture out from their bunkers to attempt to cover a story. The recent deaths and maimings of CBS and ABC journalists should have brought home to the public that getting the full story is not possible and getting half or a quarter of a story is problematic.

The Defense Department is not telling what it knows but no wartime government ever, ever tells the truth. Even Abraham Lincoln did not let on how badly things were going, even when they were very bad indeed.

In the south of Iraq, in the Basra region, the British who occupy that sector have all but given up aggressive patrol. They are holed up in their encampments on the defensive. Some reports have it that it is now too dangerous for them to fly helicopters by day. At the point when they must choose between being overrun or withdrawing, the small contingent of British troops facing unknown numbers of militia hidden in and among a hostile population should be able to evacuate the port of Basra even under fire.

The situation for American troops may be even more precarious. While our forces are still able to carry out aggressive patrolling, it nets little except to increase popular hostility, which, of course, makes it yet easier for the various insurgents and guerrilla groups to operate against us. It appears that in many places our people may have simply hunkered down to stay out of trouble. The vast construction projects of a few years ago are all but closed down, too, as the American forces appear to be doing less and less of anything but holding on and holding out.

The shortage of troops, which three years ago was a restraining factor, has become a potential disaster, with the ever-rising level of hostility to the American presence. To stay the course, to win, to realize our objectives, we need a half-million soldiers to pacify that country. If the force levels remain the same for another year and a half, this small, exhausted and overused American force may become so unglued that staying in Iraq will be come impossible. There may be no choice but retreat.

No, that's wrong. There is another choice. Americans can try to make up for their lack of numbers with firepower. Blow what's left of the country to smithereens. The political effects would be unspeakable and the ground troops might well still have to be extracted from their plight.

A half-million pair of boots on the ground can only be gotten by conscription. The chances of reactivating the draft for Iraq are nil. If our political leaders have to choose between a new conscription and risking a defeat, there is no question about what they will do.

Should discipline continue to break down at the platoon and company level, pulling the scattered American forces together and getting them out may be a harrowing experience. Retreat under fire, even if it's harassing guerrilla fire, is difficult even for an army without internal problems.

Air evacuation would mean abandoning billions of dollars of equipment. There is no seaport troops could get to, so the only way out of Iraq would be that same desert highway to Kuwait where fifteen years ago the American Air Force destroyed Saddam Hussein's army.

Dunkirk in the desert.

Posted by: blue red and white | June 13, 2006 06:52 PM

Our men and women are over there in that god forsaken place, seeing and doing things that we can never imagine. THEIR MAIN THOUGHT BEING I WANT TO MAKE IT BACK HOME and this is how we repay them for helping to defend our country and our freedoms. This is unreal....Bert I know you do not have to do this but I am truly thankful that you do. My daughter was 8 days old when 9-11 occured. I dislike the fact that we have to be over there but we are and I am proud of our men and women. I am proud of all the good things that they have accomplished. When you take up the uniform you know that you may be called upon to go to war. Thank you to all of our men and women who do this on a daily basis. You are rare and special people. Again thank you for all you do. Bert keep it coming!!!!!

Posted by: Cubbie | June 13, 2006 09:24 PM

so Cubbie, what did Iraq have to do with 9-11?

Posted by: dave | June 14, 2006 09:23 AM

Well Dave, maybe nothing and maybe everything. But what I do know are some of the people that are over there. They deserve better than the bickering that is becoming a constant. Will any of us ever know really and truly why we are there or why we continue to stay but what I do know is that our troops need our support. We would not have the freedoms, such as this, if it were not for our troops throughout history. So instead of picking a fight about what I do or do not know, why don't we concentrate on the important matter, trying to bring them all home safely.

Posted by: Cubbie | June 14, 2006 02:14 PM

Cubbie...

its citizens who organize and fight against corrupt and dangerous governments, as much (or more so) than militaries that earn you your freedoms.

Based on all available evidence, people do know that Iraq had nothing to do with Sept 11, but your leadership contiues to pedal the lie that so many of your countrymen/woman now beleive.

Its truly amazing how many Americans beleive the lies and are satisifed that "maybe nothing and maybe everything" is justification for starting wars, killing coutless thousands and planting the seeds of terrorism for generations to come

And what is this 'bickering' that you war supporters are so angry about? Again, there are virtually no posts on this blog attacking the troops, but plenty attacking your evil, corrupt regime. Some are articulate, some are crude, but one thing is for sure, the war supporters cant stand any questioning of their war

so Cubbie, what are you going to do to bring them home safely (besides cheering them on on this blog?)... you've got a young daugter, i've got a young daugher, but so do many of the troops over there. Perhaps instigate the draft? Now THAT will mobilize resistance to the war from so-called 'patriots'

Hoo-fricking-ya

Posted by: dave | June 14, 2006 02:44 PM

Cubbie... I apologise for the sarcasm... it doesnt help here, i realize.

Its just that I'm bewildered at the fact that people in our corner of the world believe the Iraq campaign will make our daughters safer. Its just that type of opinion that empires (and other global powers) throughout history have personified as they throw their weight around, bring 'freedom' to the populations being subjugated to the war.

While you feel empowered by your country's war, i know it will make the world a more dangerous place for our daughters.

But empires, and global powers, never realize that until their empire crumbles

Posted by: dave | June 14, 2006 03:05 PM

Lt. Watada at Fort Lewis should be given a fair court martial and then shot on the parade grounds in full view of all at Fort Lewis. His execution should be televised by national and Intl. networks. He knew what he was getting into when he accepted his commission. He's a traitor to the Army, to the country, and to the officer corps of the armed forces. He deserves to die.

Can you imagine what the powers would do during World War II to a whiny lieutenant who didn't want to fight because he had been brainwashed by the liberal propoganda?Roosevelt would have sent him to a barren Pacific island and had him skinned and roasted, and then fed to the sharks. And America would have rejoiced. Good riddance.

Posted by: Cavalry LTC | June 14, 2006 03:29 PM

Cavalry LTC!

you sound like an Iranian mullah

rejoice indeed

Posted by: dave | June 14, 2006 03:45 PM

Insofar as bringing back the draft, forget it!! The U.S. military wants nothing to do with most of the young people who would be drafted.

Even the famous Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, SC couldn't motivate our society's gangstas; hip-hop wannabe thugs; vacant-eyed, heavily tattooed, young men with chrome screws through their noses and jaws. They're immoral and hopeless. They have no self-respect and graduated--if they graduated at all--from high school with the equivalent of a fourth grade education. These punks can't be trusted and they're too stupid to learn to operate military hardware or tactics.

If our punks are drafted, they should be assigned menial tasks such as emptying bedpans in hospitals. For God's sake, we don't put them in our military. They'd put our country at risk.

Don't solely blame President Clinton for the size of our armed services. The Bush Administration has done a remarkable job in closing bases and downsizing our military. And yet, Bush, Rumsfield, and their clowns seem to think that a small force (such as the 130,000 in Iraq) can accomplish great things. No they can't. They need more troops, not less.

Posted by: Cavalry LTC | June 14, 2006 03:49 PM

LTC, you must be one of those brave servicemen we hear about

Posted by: dave | June 14, 2006 04:47 PM

Following googled from the internet.

Get out now before another American life is lost to a useless war and before we bankrupt this country for the sake of oil moguls," wrote Pat Miller of Mahopac.

Patric K. Stanton, Ph.D., of Mahopac, signed his name "in disgust:"

"This war on Iraq has been criminal from the start," Stanton wrote. "Iraq was never a threat to us. They had nothing to do with 9/11. They had no significant relationship with Al Qaeda. The reasons for the war were oil and a push for U.S. hegemony in the oil-rich Middle East.

Posted by: RetiredFirefighter | June 15, 2006 06:36 PM

No matter what Dave this world will be a dangerous place for our children. My concern is our men and women over there.

Posted by: Cubbie | June 16, 2006 02:15 PM

How pathetic, Cubbie

So you're not concerned for your daughter?, only for the damn military?

you make a fine Republican, my 'friend'

Posted by: dave | June 16, 2006 03:24 PM

Of course I am concerned for her you idiot. I held her in my arms at 8 freaking days old looking at the towers coming down and saying over and over what have I brought you into. I take care of her every day, I support her every day and the man that I love that is a world away from us right now because he is trying to do his job and protect us and others like you on here who complain. I talk to anyone over there that i can because it gets to them....do you not understand that DAVE? Do you think I don't worry about the worls my daughter has inherited? I amjust tired of coming on here and seeing our troops blasted. I am so tired of not knowing from one day to the next if my best friend, my man, my lover will come home to me. You donot know me so do not judge me.

Posted by: Cubbie | June 17, 2006 12:32 PM

who's 'blasting' the troops?

I'm 'blasting' idiots who think Iraq was responsible for 9-11, and that attacking Iraq will be good for the world, and that those of us who speak up and aginst the criminal US government should shut up.

I'm not judging you... I'm critisizing the widespread belief in America that the Iraq campaign will be good for the world. Its my world too, and US policy (in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq) is dangerous for all.

Posted by: dave | June 17, 2006 06:11 PM

And, Cubby, I didnt mean to attack your parenting or husband, but the military in Iraq is enormously problematic (and by that i dont mean your husband, or soldiers themselves, but the policy and people that put them there). They (your military) are getting screwed by its leadership, but my main worry is that the US has hamstrung itself (and much of the free world) in the global war on terror, with this absurd Iraq campaign.

Apologies again, for coming off too harsh with that earlier comment

Posted by: dave | June 18, 2006 05:41 PM

Just because I support my troops doesn't mean I agree with why we are there. It gets worse everyday, with seemingly no end in sight because if we withdraw the powers that be might look bad.

Posted by: Cubbie | June 20, 2006 10:14 AM

First off, I was a Marine officer in the 1980's and my oldest son was a Marine who fought in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and my middle son is right now at Marine OCS in Quantico. I say this because I support our military,at least the Marines, but feel that at some point in our future the draft will have to be reinstated if we keep up our current foreign policy. Why? Here's some information from a DOD study released in 2003 about US Population Representation in the Military Services, http://www.dod.mil/prhome/poprep2001/index.htm
Chapter 9 states this:
Military Experience of Parents

Just as the educational choices and experiences of parents can have an impact on their children, so too can their military experience. Using data from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS), Kilburn and Klerman found that, among high school graduates, having a parent who served in the military significantly raised enlistment probabilities.[Footnote 6] The Commission's report presents some rather dramatic numbers in this regard. In 1970, 40 percent of births were to couples with at least one parent who had served in the military. By the year 2000, this number declined to 8 percent. Among the 2000 cohort of 18 year-olds, 18 percent had a father or mother who had served in the military. This means that between 1982 and 2000 the fraction of 18 year-olds with veteran parents declined by more than 50 percent, and between 2000 and 2018 it is projected to decline another 50 percent.

It appears to me that there just won't be enough young men and women signing up for military service. Unless of course they make a big push to get illegal immigrants to serve in exchange for accelerated citizenship. I also feel that if the draft is reinstated then all Americans could be "personally" effected by the Bush wars and will vote these bums out! Just like during Vietnam. Right now America isn't at war, only about 130,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors are.

Posted by: BASooner | June 22, 2006 01:12 PM

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