Wednesday, July 27, 2005

REGAINING MY HUMANITY an Iraq War Veteran Speaks Out

July 27, 2005


Yesterday I posted a review about a book written by Norman Solomon on the
Harsh insight into how we make war Solomon, a longtime media critic, lays out the elaborate hustle in this new book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."


Today I came across a site with a posted letter from an Iraq War Veteran who followed his conscience and came HOME from a war he didn't believe in. He expresses himself, (below) very concisely and in his own plain words.

I can't imagine the strength of character it took for this individual to decide to take back his humanity, by opposing the establishment, knowing this judgement would put him in prison for too long a time.

The world would be a better place to live our short lives in, if we allowed time off from whatever treadmill we find ourselves on and think objectively about who we are hurting when we stay silent while trudging on, as though we live only to be used as a pawn in someone else's subjective game.

We here in America are told we are free but are we really? We are only as free as our fears allow us to be and for most of us, our freedoms are restricted to a very small area within our mind. It takes courage to be free and unfortunately, most of us are raised without the discipline it takes to say "I AM FREE TO SAY NO TO WHOEVER TELLS ME I MUST DO THEIR BIDDING EVEN IF IT IS WRONG!".

I only wished I had a small fraction of the courage, this young man, who penned this letter from his heart, has. But then again, he saw the HELL OF WAR and I only read about it.

Perhaps if I were to be taken to the threshold of the extreme agony and cruelty war exudes, I would find that extra bit of gallantry it takes to say NO to taking part in any inhuman act, even if they use words like legal and duty, to describe it .

Thank you Camilo Mejia for giving us all a role model to follow that perhaps can also give us the will to refuse what we deem is wrong and unjust under the false appearance of nationalistic patriotism. Thinking Blue

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By Camilo Mejia

I was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 and returned home for a two-week
leave in October. Going home gave me the opportunity to put my thoughts in
order and to listen to what my conscience had to say. People would ask me
about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the
horrors - the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi
dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent
man was decapitated by our machine gun fire. The time I saw a soldier
broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees,
crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had
taken the lifeless body of his son.

I thought of the suffering of a people whose country was in ruins and who
were further humiliated by the raids, patrols and curfews of an occupying
army.

I am confined to a prison but I feel, today more than ever, connected
to all humanity. Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to
a higher power, the voice of my conscience.

And I realized that none of the reasons we were told about why we were in
Iraq turned out to be true. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
There was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We weren't helping
the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people didn't want us there. We weren't
preventing terrorism or making Americans safer. I couldn't find a single
good reason for having been there, for having shot at people and been shot
at.

Coming home gave me the clarity to see the line between military duty and
moral obligation. I realized that I was part of a war that I believed was
immoral and criminal, a war of aggression, a war of imperial domination. I
realized that acting upon my principles became incompatible with my role
in the military, and I decided that I could not return to Iraq.

By putting my weapon down, I chose to reassert myself as a human being. I
have not deserted the military or been disloyal to the men and women of
the military. I have not been disloyal to a country. I have only been
loyal to my principles.

When I turned myself in, with all my fears and doubts, I did it not only
for myself. I did it for the people of Iraq, even for those who fired upon
me - they were just on the other side of a battleground where war itself
was the only enemy. I did it for the Iraqi children, who are victims of
mines and depleted uranium. I did it for the thousands of unknown
civilians killed in war. My time in prison is a small price compared to
the price Iraqis and Americans have paid with their lives. Mine is a small
price compared to the price Humanity has paid for war.

Many have called me a coward; others have called me a hero. I believe I
can be found somewhere in the middle. To those who have called me a hero,
I say that I don't believe in heroes, but I believe that ordinary people
can do extraordinary things.

To those who have called me a coward I say that they are wrong, and that
without knowing it, they are also right. They are wrong when they think
that I left the war for fear of being killed. I admit that fear was there,
but there was also the fear of killing innocent people, the fear of
putting myself in a position where to survive means to kill, there was the
fear of losing my soul in the process of saving my body, the fear of
losing myself to my daughter, to the people who love me, to the man I used
to be, the man I wanted to be. I was afraid of waking up one morning to
realize my humanity had abandoned me.

I say without any pride that I did my job as a soldier. I commanded an
infantry squad in combat and we never failed to accomplish our mission.
But those who called me a coward, without knowing it, are also right. I
was a coward not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in
the first place. Refusing and resisting this war was my moral duty, a
moral duty that called me to take a principled action. I failed to fulfill
my moral duty as a human being and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a
soldier. All because I was afraid. I was terrified, I did not want to
stand up to the government and the army, I was afraid of punishment and
humiliation. I went to war because at the moment I was a coward, and for
that I apologize to my soldiers for not being the type of leader I should have been.

I also apologize to the Iraqi people. To them I say I am sorry for the
curfews, for the raids, for the killings. May they find it in their hearts
to forgive me.

One of the reasons I did not refuse the war from the beginning was that I
was afraid of losing my freedom. Today, as I sit behind bars I realize
that there are many types of freedom, and that in spite of my confinement
I remain free in many important ways. What good is freedom if we are
afraid to follow our conscience? What good is freedom if we are not able
to live with our own actions? I am confined to a prison but I feel, today
more than ever, connected to all humanity. Behind these bars I sit a free
man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience.

While I was confined in total segregation, I came across a poem written by
a man who refused and resisted the government of Nazi Germany. For doing
so he was executed. His name is Albrecht Hanshofer, and he wrote this poem
as he awaited execution.

GUILT

The burden of my guilt before the law
weighs light upon my shoulders; to plot
and to conspire was my duty to the people;
I would have been a criminal had I not.
I am guilty, though not the way you think,
I should have done my duty sooner, I was wrong,
I should have called evil more clearly by its name
I hesitated to condemn it for far too long.
I now accuse myself within my heart:
I have betrayed my conscience far too long
I have deceived myself and fellow man.
I knew the course of evil from the start
My warning was not loud nor clear enough!
Today I know what I was guilty of...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Albrecht Haushofer (German, 1903-45)


Son of the famous geo-politician Karl Haushofer, who had aided Hitler by creating the "lebensraum" thesis, ALBRECHT MAUSHOFER turned against the Nazis and became associated with the group that attempted to assassinate Hitler. Found dead in the Moabit prison by Allied soldiers entering Berlin, having been shot by the Nazis a few hours before, he clutched in one hand the sonnet sequence from which the above poem was taken.


GUILT

The kind of guilt the court will brand me with-
The shame of my schemes-I carry lightly.
If I had not planned the morning of the people
From my own need, I would have been a criminal.
Still I am guilty, but not for their reasons.
A long time ago I should have known my duty,
I should have called the acid of their evil-evil,
But my reason sought evasion far too long
And in my heart a voice accuses me:
For years I have betrayed my conscience,
Deceived myself and many of my friends.
Early I sensed the cries of endless misery
And I warned but never hard enough and clear-
Today I know what kind of guilt accuses here.

translated by James Schevill.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To those who are still quiet, to those who continue to betray their
conscience, to those who are not calling evil more clearly by its name, to
those of us who are still not doing enough to refuse and resist, I say
"come forward." I say "free your minds."

Let us, collectively, free our minds, soften our hearts, comfort the
wounded, put down our weapons, and reassert ourselves as human beings by
putting an end to war.

Go to the original at

Code Pink

For more info on Camilo Mejia, go to
www.freecamilo.org


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Extracts from the "Poems of War Resistance" 1966 Peace Calendar -
War Resisters League, New York

Olivier de Magny French, 1529-1560

Lines composed by a young court poet to a feudal stronghold in the
south of France.

SONNET: TO THE CASTLE AT GORDES

Gordes, what shall we do? Shall we never have peace?
Shall we never have peace sometime on earth?
Will peace on earth never come to birth
And the people's burden of war never cease?

I see nothing but soldiers, but horses and gear,
I hear nothing but discourse of conquest and arms
I hear nothing but trumpets and battle-alarms,
Naught but blood and anger do I see, do I hear.

The princes play with our lives today;
When our lives like our goods they have stolen away
Neither power nor care will they have to restore.

Unhappy are we to live under these stars
Surrounded by evils, afflicted by war;
Theirs is the guilt; but the sorrow is ours.

Translated from the French by Scott Bates


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

William Cowper; English, 1731-1800

The writer of "The Diverting History of John Gilpin" was a great
humanitarian and the author of some of the most moving lines in English
against war and slavery. The theme of this fragment from "The Task" was
treated earlier in the century by Matthew Prior in an imaginary dialogue
between the grammarian Clenard and Charles V. "I tell You," says the
former, "that for the good of the Publick you should all have your swords
taken from You as if you were actual Lunaticks, and not be suffered to go
a Madding with this Rattle of a Globe to play with. . . ."

from THE TASK

Great princes have great playthings. Some have played
At hewing mountains into men, and some
At building human wonders mountain high.
Some have amassed the dull sad years of life
(Life spent in indolence, and therefore sad)
With schemes of monumental fame, and sought
By pyramids and mausoleum pomp,
Short-lived themselves, t'immortalize their bones.
Some seek diversion in the tented field
And make the sorrows of mankind their sport.
But war's a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings should not play at. Nations would do well
T'extort their truncheons from the puny hands
Of heroes, whose infirm and baby minds
Are gratified with mischief, and who spoil,
Because men suffer it, their toy the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ralph Chaplin; American

Advocate of a labor state, leader in the I.W.W. (International
Workers of the World), CHAPLIN was imprisoned for his anti-war stand in
World War 1. This poem was written in prison.

MOURN NOT THE DEAD

Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie-
Dust unto dust-
The calm, sweet earth that mothers all who die
As all men must;

Mourn not your captive comrades who must dwell-
Too strong to strive-
Each in his steel-bound coffin of a cell,
Buried alive;

But rather mourn the apathetic throng-
The cowed and the meek-
Who see the world's great anguish and its wrong
And dare not speak!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Thomas Hardy; English, 1840-1928

Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Isaac Rosenberg are often
considered the three major English poets of the First World War. The
gradual recognition of THOMAS HARDY as a leading poet has now placed him
among their number; although he was 74 when the war began, poems like
"Channel Firing" and "There Was a Great Calm" rank high among the most
moving and thoughtful poems to come out of the conflict. "The Man He
Killed" was written twelve years earlier, in 1902.

THE MAN LIE KILLED

"Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

"But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

"I shot him dead because-
Because he was my foe
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although

"He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like-just as I-
Was out of work-had sold his traps-
No other reason why.

"Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marcel Martinet; French

A pacifist and socialist poet, follower of the great humanitarian
and internationalist leader, Jean Jaures. When the latter was assassinated
on the eve of World War I and the socialists from the various countries
took up arms against each other, MARTINET excoriated them in his powerful


"You go to fight":

Those hands you held,
They hold the rifles well,
The lances and the swords,
They work the cannons,
The mortars, the machine guns
Against you;
And you, you, too, you have your machine guns;
You, too, you have your rifles
Against your brothers.

It is not widely known that several million children-more in Germany
than else- where-died of starvation during the war. This poem was written
in the last years of the struggle.

HEROD

No more milk at our house.
No more milk for the neighbor's girl.
No more milk for us.

And tomorrow no more bread.

Here are the days when the children will watch
Us with their big serious eyes
Eyes too big because they are hungry,
Here are the days
When the children will languish and die.

Nevertheless, nobody has said nevertheless
That this is a war for the children.
This is the war they wage on the war
The children won't have to go to twenty years from now.

Onward! good subjected peoples,
Onward! one more blow for the right.
They say the enemy children
Are already dying of hunger.

No more milk at our house
And tomorrow no more bread.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eve Merriam American, 1916-

THE COWARD

You, weeping wide at war, weep with me now.
Cheating a little at peace, come near
And let us cheat together here.

Look at my guilt, mirror of my shame.
Deserter, I will not turn you in;
I am your trembling twin!

Afraid, our double knees lock in knocking fear;
Running from the guns we stumble upon each other.
Hide in my lap of terror: I am your mother.

- Only we two, and yet our howling can
Encircle the world's end.
Frightened, you are my only friend.

And frightened, we are everyone.
Someone must make a stand.
Coward, take my coward's hand.

MORE RESISTANCE POEMS CLICK HERE

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



NOT IN OUR NAME

A HARSH INSIGHT ON WAR

CAROLYNCONNETION - I've got a mind and I'm going to use it!

Thinking Blue

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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