Occupying Iraq, it’s all the Raj…

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Best commentary on Bush’s UN speech (written before he made it):A man was driving down the freeway when his cellphone rang. His wife was calling. ‘I just heard on the news that some nut’s driving the wrong way on the interstate,’ she told him. ‘You better be careful!’

“‘I know, I know!’ her husband said, his voice filled with stress. ‘But honey, I gotta tell ya, it’s not just one car, it’s hundreds of them!'”

“President Bush goes to the United Nations on Tuesday, where he hopes to convince the rest of the world that he’s the one headed in the right direction. It’s going to be a hard sale.” (The beginning of Jay Bookman’s column, “Deadlines in Iraq can’t be ignored,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Reports this morning indicate that the President has left the UN with neither pledges of troops, nor money (the Pakistanis and Turks seem, in fact, to have raised significant further barriers to using their soldiers in the occupation of Iraq); a UN resolution may be months away; and the military has informed the administration that, without serious troop pledges from elsewhere in the next month or so, more Reserves and National Guard will have to be called up, which will be political poison.

“[Marine General] Pace said the United States has enough forces on its own to maintain security in Iraq, if necessary. But, he added, ‘that is not our desire for lots and lots of reasons.’ The general said that it is ‘not a given’ that more Reserve and Guard forces will be needed and that ‘we have every hope’ more foreign troops will come. ‘But hope is not a plan,’ he said.” (Dana Milbank and Colum Lynch, Bush Fails to Gain Pledges on Troops or Funds for Iraq, the Washington Post)

Occupying Iraq, it’s all the Raj.

“The Rashid Hotel, the favored hotel for U.S. contractors, consultants and reporters, is looking like a classic ‘colonial outpost,’ with ‘GIs lunching on corn dogs and Southern fried chicken [and] defense contractors putting golf balls on the lawn,’ according to a Reuters wire report

“‘I know, I know!’ her husband said, his voice filled with stress. ‘But honey, I gotta tell ya, it’s not just one car, it’s hundreds of them!'”

“President Bush goes to the United Nations on Tuesday, where he hopes to convince the rest of the world that he’s the one headed in the right direction. It’s going to be a hard sale.” (The beginning of Jay Bookman’s column, “Deadlines in Iraq can’t be ignored,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Reports this morning indicate that the President has left the UN with neither pledges of troops, nor money (the Pakistanis and Turks seem, in fact, to have raised significant further barriers to using their soldiers in the occupation of Iraq); a UN resolution may be months away; and the military has informed the administration that, without serious troop pledges from elsewhere in the next month or so, more Reserves and National Guard will have to be called up, which will be political poison.

“[Marine General] Pace said the United States has enough forces on its own to maintain security in Iraq, if necessary. But, he added, ‘that is not our desire for lots and lots of reasons.’ The general said that it is ‘not a given’ that more Reserve and Guard forces will be needed and that ‘we have every hope’ more foreign troops will come. ‘But hope is not a plan,’ he said.” (Dana Milbank and Colum Lynch, Bush Fails to Gain Pledges on Troops or Funds for Iraq, the Washington Post)

Occupying Iraq, it’s all the Raj.

“The Rashid Hotel, the favored hotel for U.S. contractors, consultants and reporters, is looking like a classic ‘colonial outpost,’ with ‘GIs lunching on corn dogs and Southern fried chicken [and] defense contractors putting golf balls on the lawn,’ according to a Reuters wire report

“‘Iraqi security personnel are suspect,’ the wire said, so the U.S. company that runs the hotel, ‘a subsidiary of [Vice President] Cheney’s old company Halliburton, prefers Ghurkas from Nepal.’ Ghurkas? The legendary fighters who carry kukris, those short, curved knives that are especially useful in decapitating enemies? Yes indeed, the very same They have been spotted guarding other places, including the presidential palace that’s home to viceroy L. Paul Bremer.

“The Ghurkas guard each of the hotel’s 12 floors ’round the clock ‘at an estimated cost to the U.S taxpayer of more than $120,000 a month,’ Reuters reported.

“Well, they did excellent work for the British Empire for many years.”

(From political columnist Al Kamen, A Passage to Baghdad, the Washington Post)

This is symbolic of what the Bush administration can’t bear to give up at the UN or anywhere else – its imperial dreams.

The changing face of American politics (1):

The scholar of imperial decline Immanuel Wallerstein wrote the following on September 15, over a week before the most recent polls showed Bush’s popularity tumbling. It helps explain the near-paralytic UN speech we all saw:

“The first American voices for a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq have started to be heard. Their numbers will be growing and they may be shouting quite loudly in the next three months, as the casualties continue to mount, the situation in Israel/Palestine deteriorates still further, and unemployment continues to mount in the U.S. The neo-cons are aware of this. They have begun to say that the comparison is not with Vietnam, but with Somalia, where the U.S. withdrew in disgrace and defeat. They are warning that, if the U.S. does not stand firm, it will lose everything. In a sense they are right.

“This is George Bush’s unsolvable dilemma. If he stands firm, but resolves nothing in Iraq, his likelihood of reelection will diminish radically and rapidly. If, however, he doesn’t stand firm, he will be ridiculed as someone who talked big and couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen. His principal danger is not losing the center, but losing his own firm supporters on the right. Many of them are already unhappy that this administration has been one of the most spending administrations in the history of the U.S. despite its rhetoric. The U.S. deficit is approaching rapidly the half trillion dollar mark. Probably George Bush’s only way out would be to say to the American people: The U.S. needs to stay in Iraq for five years at least. And for that, we need American sacrifices. I am going to reinstitute the draft, and I am going to ask for sharp tax increases to pay for this imperial policy.

“This is in fact what someone like Sen. McCain would do. It might even work, at least in terms of American backing for such a policy. But George Bush doesn’t have the guts to do it, and the people around him have many other agendas.

“So, bye-bye George W. Bush. In ten years, we will look back and agree that no president in the history of the United States did more to weaken the world power and prestige of the United States. George W. Bush will have the record.” (Immanuel Wallerstein, “Bush in Big Trouble at Home,” Commentary No. 121, September 15, 2003, Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University. To read this commentary in full click here)

The changing face of American politics (2):

I suspect few of our Congressional representatives read Wallerstein’s commentaries, but oh what a simple poll or two can do (not to speak of an increasing flood of angry, upset communications from constituents at home, including military families), when it comes to exposing political vulnerability. Only a week ago, it was the mass wisdom of the American media that, while Democrats might snipe away, the President’s $87 billion boondoggle would go through unscathed. (We now know, for instance, that $100 million of that, to give but an example, has been set aside for an Iraqi “witness protection program.” Iraqi informers are perhaps to be moved to the Riviera and set up in new lives as casino gamblers.)

Yesterday, however, in a piece in the Boston Globe by Susan Milligan and Stephen Glain, Questions growing over request for $87 billion, I found the following passage:

“‘I think there’s going to be a huge fight,’ said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. ‘I think it will go through, but it will be a long, arduous, and very combative’ process.

“Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, predicted that the entire $87 billion package could be killed if opponents mounted a filibuster, and other GOP senators said they weren’t happy about being asked by their party’s president to approve such a big appropriation.”

Questions for our time: Where was George? What happened to those surefire al Qaeda-Saddam ties? And where are those weapons of mass destruction anyway?

One at a time: Eric Alterman at his “Stop the Presses” weblog at the Nation magazine website asked a questions we should all have been asking over and over, Where was George? What did he actually do on September 11th? You have to read the piece to grasp just how many bizarre, crossed-wire stories the President and his aides have told about what happened after that first plane crashed into the World Trade Center tower while he was reading to a group of schoolchildren.

Alterman writes in part:

“White House staff members claimed that Bush remained with the children so as not to ‘upset’ or ‘alarm’ them. This is a truly bewildering excuse. If the country was under attack, Bush might be forgiven for upsetting a few schoolkids. If the President’s life was in danger, then so was the life of every little child in that room. At the time, fighter jets had been dispatched to defend New York City. But according to one of the fighter pilots, it would have done no good to catch up to one of the hijacked planes before it landed in a murderous explosion at the next population center. The only person with the authority to order the plane to be shot down, noted the pilot, was the President, who was still reading to schoolchildren.”

My own guess is that the Presidential hesitation, fear, confusion, possibly panic, and subsequent flight on Air Force 1 for points west, not north – that is, humiliation – underlay much of the macho posturing that would follow.

As for that al Qaeda-Saddam plot to Derrick Z. Jackson, columnist for the Boston Globe, who’s been on the trail of administration lies, obfuscations and manipulations these many months, just did a summary piece, filled with the sorts of al Qaeda/Saddam quotes the President managed to throw out the window the other day and then haul back in, at least implicitly, in his UN speech (Owning up to deceptions on the Iraq war):

“September 2002: Rumsfeld said he had five or six sentences of ‘bulletproof’ evidence that ‘demonstrate that there are in fact Al Qaeda in Iraq.’

“When a reporter asked if there are linkages between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Rumsfeld answered, ‘Yes.’ Asked ‘Is there any intelligence that Saddam Hussein has any ties to Sept. 11?’ Rumsfeld left the question wide open, saying, ‘you have to recognize that the evidence piles up.’

“Asked to name senior Al Qaeda members who were in Baghdad, Rumsfeld said, ‘I could, but I won’t.’

“Now Bush comes clean. There is no link between Saddam and 9/11. There is no evidence that Iraq ‘planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.’ Coming clean only uncovers the dirt. The links were a lie. The invasion was based on no principles whatsoever.”

And as for those weapons of mass destruction, here’s a BBC rumor hot off the presses (confirmed by the New York Times this morning). David Kay and his 1,400 intrepid inspectors have searched Iraq high and low for months now and you guessed it (No WMD in Iraq, source claims):

“No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq by the group looking for them, according to a Bush administration source who has spoken to the BBC. This will be the conclusion of the Iraq Survey Group’s interim report, the source told the presenter of BBC television’s Daily Politics show, Andrew Neil.

“Mr Neil said that according to the source, the report will say its inspectors have not even unearthed ‘minute amounts of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material’. They have also not uncovered any laboratories involved in deploying weapons of mass destruction and no delivery systems for the weapons.”

Covering a Manichaean world, then and now:

Our President, as most recently at the UN, constantly creates and recreates for Americans a vision of a Manichaean world – Us versus Them (who are ya with, anyway?), the Forces of Order versus the Forces of Terrorism, and so on. In his most recent Boston Globe column (included below), James Carroll reminds us that this is not the first time we’ve been plunged into such an ideological – or as he puts it, theological — world. He then proceeds to take us back to the early years of the Cold War, to the “Truman Doctrine,” to remind us of what exactly we lost by raising Soviet Communism to the level of the globally apocalyptic.

“A sure sign that a theology of ‘terrorism’ has come into its own is that wildly dispersed mischief makers are elevated to mystical status. But the Cold War teaches that such transcendent aggrandizing of antagonists is the thing that makes them really dangerous.”

Carroll vividly remembers that world — “half slave, half free” — plunged quite literally, given the weapons at hand, into an apocalyptic struggle. And he’s just brought it to us in another way as well; in a splendid Cold War thriller, Secret Father, set in Berlin in 1961, moments before the Berlin Wall went up. It’s a thriller, yes, but also a smart reconsideration of one of those “theological” moments we barely made it through. If you have a free weekend left in your life, I recommend it.

But in thinking back to that Cold War era, I’m struck by one great difference – and it lies in the media. Throughout the most theological moments of the Cold War, our press was filled with a form of geopolitical journalism which was almost unbearable. Everything that happened from Albania to Cuba, the Congo to Vietnam was tied to the central global struggle between those two worlds. Planet-wide maps of alliances and blocs abounded. Geopolitical analysis (of a deeply black-and-white sort) also abounded. Everything was then linked. Nothing happened on its own, unrelated to the Communist Bloc or the Free World. Strangely, as Carroll indicates, we’re at another great moment of imperial, even apocalyptic dreaming and fear, and yet in the media, nothing in the world seems connected to anything else. It’s as if we had indeed stepped through the looking glass into some other extreme but mirror-image version of our last Manichaean age.

Here’s the irony, we, in essence, are no longer allowed to imagine the world as a whole or as linked up in any way at all. There may be an “arc of instability” out there stretching from the former Yugoslavia to the borders of China, but if you could only count to five, you’d still be able to count the number of pieces in our press that have tried to make any larger sense of the linkages in that arc; you could count only to five and still be comfortable counting the number of stories that tried to link the oil lands of our world with American policy. You could remain one-handed and still count the number of pieces that tried to make sense of the military heart of our global strategy – – the creation of military bases planet-wide.

Here’s the irony: when it comes to oil planning, military basing, nailing down that arc of instability, creating new alliance structures and the like, the planners of this administration are allowed to think (and plan) freely on the largest and most dangerous scale. But we’re not supposed to do the same. In our press, the world is broken down into its constituent national or ethnic parts and seldom are they put together at all. And the imperial skeletal structures that underlie American planning — whether of fuel resources or military (and intelligence) bases (and military agreements of all sorts) – are considered beyond bounds. We have more than 725 military bases scattered across the globe and yet to try to connect the dots is verboten; and if you try to think about the great fuel depots of our earth, one of which we happen to be occupying right now (even if we can’t get the oil out of the ground), your thinking is immediately dismissed as ludicrously reductionist and so utterly dismissible.

Take the issue of bases. There has been much talk recently about the rush to replace American troops with Iraqis, but a recent piece in the New York Times (Alex Berenson, Iraqis’ New Army Gets Slow Start) finally takes up the “desultory efforts to train a force to replace Saddam Hussein’s army of 400,000” – right now 735 Iraqis at a base in Iraq being trained by one of the proliferating rent-a-troop operations, Vinnell Corporation.

“The new units will be lightly trained, to carry out tasks like guard duty and border patrols, rather than raids and weapons sweeps. At first, they will carry only assault rifles and some light machine guns in a country where rocket-propelled grenade launchers are sometimes displayed at funerals,” comments Berenson. This future force, as Anthony Cordesmann of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has pointed out, is seen by most Iraqis as “a paramilitary force that looks more like a tool of the occupation than a national defense force.”

But — and here’s the crucial little passage buried deep in the piece — “Bush administration officials deny that allegation [that they are creating an eternally weak Iraqi military]. They say the future Iraqi government will decide how many troops Iraq needs and whether to allow the United States to establish permanent bases here, should the Pentagon seek them.”

This should, of course, be a major story. It’s long been obvious that we are intent on recreating an Iraqi military so weak (and without an air force) that it will be eternally dependent on us — hence the “need” for those “permanent bases,” which we may ask for in the future but are, in fact, building now. That hidden mention, however, is the only reference to permanent basing in Iraq I’ve seen in the press in quite literally months — even though we all know that it’s been a couple of decades since the United States fought a war and didn’t leave a structure of bases behind, this being our own original version of the attempted occupation of the planet.

Life during wartime:

This is the title of a series of well, I’m not sure quite what to call them. Single-panel political cartoons? Perhaps, but not quite. Suggestive, sometimes acid-tipped, often sardonic illustrations – a new one seems to go up every four or five days — of, as Readers Digest used to say, life in “these United States” in a time of “war.” The artist is Joshua Brown, also historian, internet designer of historical websites, and novelist. A jack of all trades. Check his stuff out for yourself by clicking here.

Heroes of the post-9/11 era (part 2):

I used this subhead a dispatch ago, for a 36 year old American soldier in Iraq who wrote a scathing piece denouncing the war and occupation in his local paper and a group of Israeli pilots who were considering refusing to carry out assassination runs in the occupied territories. Last night, those pilots – 27 of them – announced their decision. According to the first Reuters report:

“Twenty-seven Israeli pilots sent a letter to the Israeli air force commander refusing to carry out duties, which include track-and-kill operations, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, an Israeli air force officer said Wednesday.

“‘We, veteran pilots and active pilots alike … are opposed to carrying out illegal and immoral attacks of the type carried out by Israel in the territories,’ one of the pilots told Israel’s Channel 2. ‘We, who have been educated to love the state of Israel … refuse to take part in air force attacks in civilian population centers. We … refuse to continue harming innocent civilians.'”

Now, James Skelly, a former US Navy lieutenant and a founder of the Concerned Officers Movement, who sued Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird rather than comply with orders during the Vietnam War, and Guy Grossman, a second lieutenant in the Israeli reserves and a founder of “Courage to Refuse” (a group of 500 people in the Israeli military who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories), have issued an eloquent joint statement to our troops in Iraq – refusniks to prospective refusniks. I include it in full below.

Grossman, by the way, recently wrote his own philosophic description of how he came to “refuse” at the openDemocracy website. It reads in part (Deciding to refuse):

“With my own eyes, I have seen the humanitarian disaster [in the occupied territories], the filth, the poverty and the humiliation caused by infinite curfews, closures and roadblocks. I have seen the violation of civil and human rights, mainly the non-existence of freedoms such as movement, speech and expression of opinion. I have witnessed the deaths and injuries of many innocent lives, both Israeli and Palestinian. I have shot people and felt responsible for their loss of life

“Only a close observer can be aware of the depth to which the occupation is slowly tearing Israeli society apart. Step by step, the occupation dismantles civil solidarity, turning many Israelis against their own national sentiment, which I believe lies at the heart of community life and collaboration. In the words of Henry David Thoreau: ‘What I have to do is to see, at any rate that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.'”

And in concluding, he adds this paragraph which couldn’t be more apt for Americans to consider at the moment: “Refusing to serve in the West Bank and Gaza is also a reminder of a simple yet elusive fact – that no army can eliminate national terrorism in ways and means acceptable in democratic states. It is not possible, simply because the occupation is the infrastructure of terror.” Tom

Antiterrorism creed
By James Carroll
The Boston Globe
September 23, 2003

Everyone knows what threatens the United States — “terrorism.” But what exactly is terrorism? The suffix “ism” is a clue. The dictionary defines it as “a distinctive doctrine, system, or theory.” Thus, what we fear are not merely uncoordinated and unrelated acts of nihilist violence — mailed anthrax, airliners-turned-into-missiles, malicious computer hackers — but a coherent “system of principles” that sponsors such acts. Terrorism so conceived can threaten even a powerful nation like the United States because it is understood to possess global reach, apocalyptic ambition, an entangled network of hostile alliances abroad, and capacity to exploit vulnerabilities of our democracy at home. Thus the American response is the “war on terrorism,” as if the enemy were one thing.

But is this way of evaluating the danger a mistake?…

To read more Carroll click here

An Open Letter to Soldiers Who Are Involved in the Occupation of Iraq
By Guy Grossman and James Skelly
September 19, 2003

We write this letter because we have both been military officers during conflicts that descended into a moral abyss and from which we struggled to emerge with our humanity intact. We know the moral dilemmas that some of you have begun to confront. Those of you now in Iraq may have begun to wonder about the purpose of the war, the occupation that has followed, and why so many of the Iraqi people want you to leave as soon as possible.

It is clear that many of you have been propelled into situations that may haunt you for the rest of your lives. You undoubtedly did not expect to be killing Iraqi civilians as now happens on a regular basis because of the difficulties you face in an occupation that was so poorly planned by those in authority above you. We understand the difficulty in distinguishing between friend and foe in tense situations like the one that led to the killing and wounding of a number of policemen near Fullaja earlier this month.

You have undoubtedly begun to feel rage at the seemingly senseless deaths of your comrades, and your inability to distinguish who is the enemy among the civilians you have come to ‘liberate.’ From time to time we’re sure that some of you may want to take revenge for the deaths of your fellow soldiers.

We urge you to step back from such sentiments because the lives of innocent people will be placed at further risk, and your very humanity itself will be threatened. Political leaders who think a certain number of your deaths are ‘acceptable,’ as are a larger number of Iraqi civilian deaths, have placed you in these hellish conditions. Remember, they are ultimately responsible for putting you in the situations you face on a daily basis. As you know, despite what the Pentagon told everyone prior to deployment, armed conflict in Iraq is likely to continue for much longer despite the ‘victory’ George Bush seemed to declare when he landed on the USS Lincoln.

Some of your fellow soldiers may not experience any moral dilemmas as a result of what they are doing. As with the US soldier who was pictured on the front page of a British newspaper soon after the initial invasion with “KILL ‘EM ALL,” in red paint to look like blood on his helmet, there are some who may be enthusiastic about killing. If you have doubts about the actions you are ordered to undertake, you will probably be tempted to keep them to yourself in such an environment. Should you voice your doubts, you are likely to be met with verbal or physical harassment, and even formal disciplinary procedures.

In these circumstances, there are a number of things that you should know. Most people in the world understood that Saddam Hussein was a tyrannical dictator who had killed and debased significant numbers of people who lived under his rule. However, most people throughout the world also understood that the method the US government chose to remove Saddam was without international sanction, was informed by other less lofty motivations, and has resulted in the killing of significant numbers of innocent people. There were more pacific alternatives.

We were opposed to the war, and the armed occupation that has followed, not only because so many innocents continue to be killed, but because it is creating greater insecurity throughout the world. The war has further undermined an international order based on the rule of law and has fostered a global regime of disorder in which the indiscriminate use of force is often the arbitrator. Just as the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the Israeli army has contributed to greater insecurity throughout Israel, so too is the occupation of Iraq creating greater threats to security through out the world, including the United States.

You should also be aware that people all over the world, and a significant number in the United States as well, will understand your actions as truly heroic should you say “No!” to further participation in both the murderous occupation that you and your comrades now face and the murky moral swamp that the war has wrought. It is now clear that the justifications for war that political leaders in the US and Britain used had little basis in reality and they had been advised that intelligence indicated that war was likely to create more terrorism in the world, not less.

In addition, you should know that a substantial body of legal opinion argues that the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law, and at least theoretically, the leaders of the United States and Britain could face war crimes charges in the future. Although this is probably unlikely to occur because of the power of their positions, should the killing of civilians become so widespread that it presents a political problem for them, you can be assured that you or some of your comrades will be brought up on charges for what will be defined as ‘crimes.’ It may or may not happen with regard to the killing of the policemen in Falluja, but our guess is that it will happen soon following another unfortunate incident.

Philip Caputo, who wrote “Rumor of War” about his experience in Vietnam as a platoon leader, was brought up on murder charges for the killing of two civilians by the unit under his command during his tour in Vietnam. The Army wanted to try him as a common criminal – a murderer – because the civilian deaths could not be revealed as the inevitable product of that war for to do so would have revealed much more. Caputo came to understand that the truth could not be spoken of because it would have raised many moral questions including “the question of the morality of the American intervention in Vietnam.” As with that war, you should have little doubt that any actions that you engage in during your tour in Iraq that are politically problematic for the US government will be blamed on you, because the morality of what the government is engaged in through its invasion and occupation of Iraq cannot be allowed to be challenged. In other words, you should “watch your back!”

Should your moral doubts become so strong that you know, as each of us did with regard to Vietnam on the one hand, and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories on the other, that your very humanity is at risk, we urge you to consider refusing orders that you can no longer in conscience carry out. One of us refused to serve in the territories occupied by Israel because he knew he could no longer carry out military orders that had little to do with the safety of his country. He could no longer justify the use of indiscriminate military force in the name of unjust political policies, well disguised. He could not tolerate his country’s use of himself as a means serving an unjust cause. He could no longer live with the outcome of his actions.

You probably know that as an American soldier, the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that you obey only “lawful orders” of your military superiors. Consequently, it is within your legal rights to refuse “unlawful orders” – these provisions were put in the Uniform Code so that soldiers could not, as German soldiers did following World War II, try to absolve themselves of guilt for war crimes by saying that they were “just following orders.” You can also apply for discharge by conscientiously objecting to war. Rather than serve in Vietnam, one of us refused orders by filing for discharge as a conscientious objector, and when the Pentagon refused the application, sued the Secretary of Defense in federal court for being illegally held by the US military.

Should particular military actions, or the over all conduct of the occupation, strike you as being of questionable legality, you also have other options. Following the analysis by Telford Taylor, chief US counsel at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals following World War II, that according to the standards developed at Nuremberg, members of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff might be guilty of war crimes in Vietnam, one of us, along with other US junior officers, requested that the Secretary of Defense convene a Military Court of Inquiry to determine if the Joint Chiefs qualified as war criminals. We asked for this under Article 135 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 135 provides a legal mechanism that allows those subject to military law who believe that other military personnel have violated the Uniform Code to be formally investigated and ultimately brought to justice. Your superiors won’t like it, to say the least, but it’s perfectly legal and will encourage them to insure that their behavior does not descend further into the moral quagmire that has emerged in Iraq.

Finally, we would urge you to recognize that you are not alone with regard to the moral dilemmas that you are facing. Each of us initially faced our moral questions as individuals. But we soon realized that many of our comrades had similar qualms about what we were being ordered to do. We both were instrumental in helping to form organizations of military personnel who were opposed to the policies of our respective governments. Although opposition among US military personnel was a significant factor in ending the Vietnam War, and it still remains to be seen whether Courage to Refuse will help to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, such efforts do help to bring the moral and political issues involved into the clear light of day.

On a personal level, speaking to the truth of what we have seen as humans has helped to preserve our humanity in circumstances that conspired to deny it. Whatever you do, try to maintain a degree of civility with your buddies and superior officers. They are in this too. There are procedures to follow when you express moral concerns, which if they are professional soldiers, they will follow as well. If they act unprofessionally and verbally or physically harass you, recognize that it is probably a result of their own anxieties about the moral dilemmas that political leaders have forced them to confront as well.

It is our hope that you will be able to confront these dilemmas clearly and with the support of as many of your comrades as have courage similar to yours. Although we would disagree with it, you may decide that the morally correct course is to continue participating in the occupation. Regardless of what you decide, it is our fervent desire that your actions are chosen in the bright light of moral illumination and political understanding. We also hope that you ultimately return to your home with your humanity enriched, rather than diminished.

Biographical Notes:
Guy Grossman is a graduate Philosophy student at Tel-Aviv University. He serves as a second Lieutenant in the Israeli reserve forces, was one of the founders of “Courage to Refuse”, a group of now over 500 soldiers who refuse to serve in the Palestinians Occupied Territories for conscientious reasons.

James Skelly is a Senior Fellow at the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Juniata College, and Academic Coordinator for Peace & Justice Programs at Brethren Colleges Abroad. As a Lieutenant, United States Navy, he sued former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird in the US federal courts rather than comply with orders to Vietnam, and was a founder on the US west coast of The Concerned Officers Movement, and The Concerned Military.

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