Soldiers raise their voices

Soldiers on their way to Iraq interrupted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s pep talk Dec. 7. “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal” to add their own protective armor to their vehicles, demanded Army Specialist Thomas Wilson.

A cheer erupted from the 2,300 National Guard soldiers at the base in Kuwait. Rumsfeld blandly replied, “You can have all the armor in the world … and still be blown up.”

Another soldier asked how much longer the Army will use “stop-loss” powers to retain soldiers after they have fulfilled their obligations. Rumsfeld said the policy “will continue to be used.”

But the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class action lawsuit Dec. 7 on behalf of eight reservists trapped in Iraq under “stop-loss.” They are asking the court to stop this “backdoor draft” as a violation of the soldiers’ contractual rights. In addition, hundreds of National Guard and Ready Reserve soldiers are refusing deployment to Iraq.

This movement has mushroomed since Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia refused to return to Iraq because he would no longer participate in the bloody occupation and the abuses exposed in the Abu Ghraib outrage.

Some of the signs of revolt have erupted in the combat zone. Twenty-three soldiers refused orders to drive inadequately armored tanker trucks filled with fuel up “Ambush Alley” a few months ago. They called it a “suicide mission.”

This movement is receiving the full support of the peace movement, but it deserves far wider support, including support from all those folks with “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers on their cars. The anger is going to continue building.

Within days of gaining a second term, George W. Bush announced that troop levels will be boosted to 150,000. Rumsfeld says the U.S. occupation of Iraq will continue for at least four more years. If you truly support the troops, then write your senators and representatives a simple message: “Bring them home! Bring in the UN!”

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Obstruction of justice

The Bush administration argues that torture of prison detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are “isolated” instances of abuse by a few low-ranking bad apples like Private Lyndie England.

But the ACLU released documents Dec. 7 proving that a “special operations task force” in Iraq and at Guantanamo resorted to threats and intimidation to silence Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel who had witnessed the torture. This means that officials high on the Pentagon chain of command knew of the torture and engaged in an organized cover-up. It’s called “obstruction of justice,” and it led in 1972 to articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.

The documents obtained by the ACLU are a damning indictment. A June 25 memo from DIA chief Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby titled “Alleged detainee abuse by TF 62-6” describes how DIA personnel who complained about abuses were threatened, had their car keys confiscated and e-mails monitored by the task force. They were ordered “not to talk to anyone in the U.S.” or leave the base “even to get a haircut.” The same memo reports that a prisoner was punched in the face so badly “he needed medical attention.” But the task force confiscated photos of the injured detainee.

The ACLU obtained notes describing 15 interviews of FBI personnel who were at Abu Ghraib, “some of whom observed nudity, sleep deprivation, and humiliation of detainees.” E-mails from an FBI behavioral analysis adviser revealed “aggressive” and “extreme interrogation practices” at Guantanamo, as well.

ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said, “While these documents confirm the systemic nature of detainee abuse, it appears that the government is still withholding many more documents that shed light on which high-ranking officials are responsible for the abuse.”

These latest revelations underscore the need for a criminal investigation that reaches right to the top of the Bush-Cheney administration. The detainees of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay should be released and these infamous prisons closed.