As a second war looms in Iraq, some veterans from the Persian Gulf and earlier wars are offering themselves up as “human shields” for Iraqis and urging GIs to “follow your conscience” in obeying the Pentagon call-up in hopes of averting the conflict altogether.
A coalition of anti-war veterans organizations called Vets Call to Conscience, or VCC, has mounted a campaign to reach out to active-duty troops and reservists to let them know they have a choice when they receive deployment orders for the Gulf and to think long and hard before making that choice.
“These guys being called up now are in a real difficult position, but they do have choices. They have to know that people will support them and give them courage to resist,” organizer Terri Allred told WorldNetDaily.
Because it’s against federal law to encourage a member of the Armed Services to disobey deployment orders,VCC is treading very lightly on the issue. In a carefully worded
href="http://www.calltoconscience.net/">statement posted on its website, the group avoids
actually telling GIs to declare themselves conscientious objectors.
“When orders come to ship out, your response will profoundly impact the lives of millions of people in the Middle East and here at home. Your response will help set the course of our future. You will have choices all along the way,” reads the statement. “We urge you to think. We urge you to make your choices based on your conscience. If you choose to resist, we will support you and stand with you because we have come to understand that our real duty is to the people of the world and to our common future. ”
Allred told WorldNetDaily the statement, written by two veterans of the Gulf War and one from the Vietnam War, has been translated into several languages and passed around all over the world. More than 550 veterans have added their signatures to the statement since it was posted early last month. Allred said 20 percent of the signatories are Gulf War veterans, 45 percent are Vietnam Veterans, 15 percent are World War II veterans and there are quite a number from the Korean era.
The website links to a list of the early
signers. It also provides links to a “GI rights” hotline and contact information for churches offering
themselves as sanctuaries to conscientious objectors.
“We are veterans of the United States armed forces,” begins the VCC statement. “We span many wars
and eras, have many political views and we all agree that this war is wrong. Many of us believed serving in the military was our duty, and our job was to defend this country. Our experiences in the military
caused us to question much of what we were taught. Now we see our real duty is to encourage you as members of the U.S. armed forces to find out what you are being sent to fight and die for and what the consequences of your actions will be for humanity. We call upon you, the active duty and reservists, to follow your conscience and do the right thing,” the statement continues.
“I’m fully supportive of it because this is a horrible massacre that the U.S. is getting into here,” Vietnam veteran Joe Urgo told WorldNetDaily. “This is an enormously difficult choice for kids who went in thinking they’d get a free education. We’re trying to use our experience to help them.”
Urgo, himself, signed up for the Air Force at the age of 18 to get an education and “make something”
for himself. He was drafted into Vietnam in 1968 at the age of 20, where he served one year as a security policeman. Urgo said he knew nothing about the war or the politics behind it when he was
drafted. After his base was attacked and several of his friends died during the Tet Offensive, he came to oppose the war.
Back in the U.S., Urgo discovered tens of thousands of likeminded veterans and became one of the organizers of the veterans movement in the 1970s. He is currently a member of the
href="http://www.oz.net/~vvawai/">Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist, which is
participating in a mass anti-war protest slated for Saturday in New York City. The group originally planned to march past the headquarters of the United Nations, but the city refused permitting.
The VCC statement describes the experience of veterans like Urgo:
“We were ordered to destroy Vietnam from the air and on the ground. At My Lai we massacred over 500 women, children and old men. This was not an aberration, it’s how we fought the
war. We used Agent Orange on the enemy and then experienced first hand its effects. We know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder looks, feels and tastes like because the ghosts of over 2 million men, women and children still haunt our dreams. More of us took our own lives after returning home than died
Urgo predicts a second war in Iraq would eclipse the “atrocities” of Vietnam.
“This is not a people’s war. … It’s going to be a massive slaughter from the air. There’s going to be 300 to 400 cruise missiles a day for two days and they’re going to completely obliterate the cities.”
The VCC statement offers a description of veterans’ Gulf War experiences:
“As troops, we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We destroyed much of Iraq from the air, killing hundreds of thousands, including civilians. We remember the road to Basra – the Highway of Death – where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We bulldozed trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium weapons left the battlefields radioactive. Massive use of pesticides, experimental drugs, burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires combined to create a toxic cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and Gulf War veterans today. One in four Gulf War veterans is disabled.”
WorldNetDaily has reported that nearly two of every five of the approximately 540,000 Gulf War vets are on disability as a result of illnesses they believe they sustained during that conflict. About 161,000 Gulf War veterans are receiving disability payments from the U.S. government. About 209,000 have filed VA claims.
But more than 5,000 veterans blame Iraq for their suffering, and have sued companies accused of helping Iraqi President Saddam Hussein build his chemical warfare arsenal. The suit seeks at least $1 billion in damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering.
One former Marine renounced his citizenship after his experience in the Gulf War.
“The U.S. conducted human experiments on me and 600,000 others in the Gulf War by its forced injection and ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide pills and anthrax and botulinum toxoid vaccines, which had not been approved for use on uninformed and non-consenting humans,” said Ken Nichols O’Keefe.
O’Keefe has gained media attention for his effort to lead a convoy of volunteers traveling in a double-decker bus across Europe to serve as “human shields” in Iraq. O’Keefe claims to have recruited some 500 anti-war activists who are prepared to risk being maimed or killed in their efforts to stop the
Convoy of “human shields” departs London Jan. 25.
The group, called TJP Human Shield Action, announced at a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday that about 50 members were granted entry visas for Iraq. O’Keefe, himself, was detained by
authorities after presenting them with “World Citizen” documents in lieu of a passport. The organization offers these documents on its website. A statement on
the site claims O’Keefe “has resolved any issues concerning his freedom to travel” and is now “waiting for repairs to be completed to the bus to complete the journey to Iraq.”
“The vast majority of people on this planet oppose this war,” O’Keefe asserted recently on the BBC’s
“HARDtalk” program. “The United States intends to carry out this war because they need to dominate the world by controlling its oil reserves.”
O’Keefe said he doesn’t trust the U.N., which he said has “dishonored itself” and calls President George W. Bush a “nasty tyrant.”
“The fact is, George W. Bush has said if you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists. Well I’ll tell you what, I am not with George W. Bush,” O’Keefe told Fox News. “I’m going down there to stand with people who are being threatened with bombing and if that makes me an enemy combatant, and that’s the way America wants to conduct itself, then shame on you.”
O’Keefe’s idea of “human shields” likely came from Saddam Hussein, who took American oil workers hostage in Kuwait in 1990 and used them as human shields.
“Jack and others went through a nightmare. And to think that Americans would do this is absolutely shocking to him,” Deanna Frazier, wife of former Iraq hostage Jack Frazier, told Fox News.
Frazier described how her husband was held for nearly four months with no food, water or the medication he needed to control his diabetes.
“He lost sight in one eye while he was there and he deteriorated since. Saddam didn’t kill him, but he gave him a death sentence while he was there and he’s been dying ever since he left the country,” she said.
God and country
But while the anti-war veterans’ message may be potent, their numbers pale in comparison to the largest voice for veterans, the American Legion, which
has declared its support for Commander in Chief Bush’s war on terrorism.
Founded by World War I veterans gathered in Paris in 1919, the group currently represents 2.8 million members.
Spokesman Steve Thomas told WND that although the organization had a few bones to pick with the administration, including the need to improve health care for veterans and increase funding for
veterans’ affairs, the legion supports the administration’s stance on Iraq.
In August, delegates to the national convention in Charlotte, N.C., passed a resolution supporting the president’s war on terrorism.
“All Americans must pull together to show the world that no person, no group, or no country can overcome the will and determination of the American people,” the resolution states, “Be it resolved that … the American Legion go on record commending the president for his steadfastness in pursuing the
terrorist enemies of the United States in the war on terrorism.”
“Our support for the administration in the war on terrorism presupposes that efforts to disarm Iraq without the use of force are undertaken before our nation sends in the troops,” Thomas told WND.
“Clearly, that is the case, as the administration shows the evidence of Iraq’s violations to the world community, demonstrates in this post-Sept. 11 era that disarming Iraq is in our national interest, and builds the support of Congress and the American people.”
When asked to respond to the activities of the anti-war veterans Thomas said, “The same Constitution that gives people the right to protest the war on terrorism, gives the American Legion and other groups the right to support the war on terrorism.”
Former Marine Corps infantry officer Richard Botkin wrote in a recent WND column that the “warriors” who will stand on the front lines when hostilities begin don’t want war any more than the “peace-at-any-price crowd.”
“America will win this war against evil. Complete victory this time is the only option,” Botkin predicts.
Meanwhile, the troop buildup in the Gulf region continues. More than 135,000 troops are in the vicinity of Iraq. That number is expected to reach the full-invasion level of 150,000 next week.
Commander in Chief Bush rallied sailors and their families in Jacksonville, Fla., this afternoon.
“You’re called to defend our freedom and to defend the security of America against a new kind of enemy. This enemy reaches across oceans. It targets the innocent. There are no rules of war for these cold-blooded killers,” said Bush. “This enemy will not be restrained by mercy or by conscience. This enemy will be stopped and it will be stopped by the might and the will of the United States and our friends and our allies.