Infamous Anniversary of Attack



Global Greens 2008 – Bruce Gagnon (Maine, USA)

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

March 19, 2009, is a day that lives in infamy.  There were others in the past.  However, on this date six years ago, the United States launched what has come to be accepted as unwarranted attacks on Iraq.  Although, from the first, there were protests even in high places such as the Senate floor, unilaterally, Americans bombed an innocent people.  This time, for near two years prior, pretense was presented as truth.

The American people were told by their President how dangerous the Iraqi Al Qaida terrorists were.  George W. Bush assured anxious Americans, he would protect us.  Congress was warned of what would occur if the United States did not react to the Middle Eastern threat.  Commander Bush sent a letter on March 18, 2003.  Even as his eight-year term ended, he worked to establish in the minds of historians and the electorate who had experienced all that occurred, Mister Bush kept us safe.  

As recently as December 2008, the now former President proclaimed, a newly acquired nuance to the saga he has long recounted on the war in Iraq.  “It is true, as I have said many times, that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks.  But the decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be viewed in isolation from 9/11.”  Yet, he retained and repeated his ever-strident commitment to the combat.  “It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after 9/11, this was a risk we could not afford to take.”

Americans, many of whom are content the Bush era has passed, refer to the 9/11 Commission Report to invalidate the claims of a President who no longer resides in the White House.  Currently, countless citizens take comfort; Barack Obama presides over the Oval Office.  The just elected Commander-In-Chief has already begun to take steps to remove beleaguered troops from the embattled frontlines.  

Since Mister Obama took office, citizens are less concerned with the war in Iraq.  Many have faith the President will do what is best for military men and women.  Some are encouraged by reports that the Commander-In-Chief will send combat soldiers stationed in Iraq home safely, or perhaps, individuals are focused on more personal realities.  Anxiety over a potential, probable, or actual job loss consumes countless Americans, more so than combat abroad does.  A pension-plan gone bust, a lack of health care coverage, and a possible home foreclosure take precedence for millions more than war.  Few of the common folk feel as troubled by occurrences in the Middle East.  Most merely hope Mister Obama will do what is best.  

Occasional outspoken exception can be heard.  On March 12, 2009, former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleisher stated, “[A]fter September 11th, having been hit once, how could we take a chance that Saddam Hussein might not strike again?  We got a report saying al Qaeda is determined to attack the United States.”  Nonetheless, even Conservatives such as John McCain endorse President Obama’s plan for withdrawal.

Overall, opinions on Iraq, the war and the withdrawal are mixed, even among foreign policy experts.

Then there are the few who fear further folly in the Persian Gulf.  Progressives, be they political figures or peace activists amongst the public, think the Obama agenda to end the conflict in Iraq is too little and too late.  Official dissent is often stated diplomatically.  Personal pleas may be more moving.  

A week before the sixth anniversary of America’s Second Gulf War, regardless of the President’s intended withdrawal everyday people stood out in the streets, just as they had done throughout the war.  ‘Iraq is a symptom of a foreign policy and priorities” that the peaceful felt and feel they cannot sanction.

At local vigils nationwide attendees talked of their observation, verified in the news.  Americans support the President’s proposed Afghan buildup.   ”Enough!  Bring the Troops Home Now!” was the oft-heard cry from those who crave global harmony.  Most asked as they had during the fateful Bush years.  “What Do We Do Now?”

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons offers his perspective.  In an article published on June 14, 2007, the recipient of the Doctor Benjamin Spock’s Peacemaker Award presents his ten-point plan.


I often hear from people asking me, “What should we do about all this?  How can we stop Bush?”

I would first say that we must move beyond blaming Bush.  The fact of U.S. empire is bigger than Bush.  Hopefully by now, all of us are more clear how the Democrats have been, and are now, involved in enabling the whole U.S. military empire-building plan.  It is about corporate domination.  Bush is just the front man for the big money.

So to me that is step #1 .

Step #2  is to openly acknowledge that as a nation, and we as citizens, benefit from this U.S. military and economic empire.  By keeping our collective military boot on the necks of the people of the world we get control of a higher percentage of the world’s resources.  We, 5% of the global population in the U.S., use 25% of the global resource base.  This reality creates serious moral questions that cannot be ignored.

Step #3  is to recognize that we are addicted to war and to violence.  The very weaving together of our nation was predicated on violence when we began the extermination of the Native populations and introduced the institution of slavery.  A veteran of George Washington’s Army, in 1779, said, “I really felt guilty as I applied the torch to huts that were homes of content until we ravagers came spreading desolation everywhere..  Our mission here is ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire, that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seed of Empire.”  The soldier wrote this as Washington’s Army set out to remove the Iroquois civilization from New York state so that the U.S. government could expand its borders westward toward the Mississippi River.  The creation of the American empire was underway.

Our history since then has been endless war.  Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps, told the story in his book War is a Racket.  Butler recalls in his book, “I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service….And during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….Thus I helped make Mexico and especially

Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.  I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street….I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912.  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916.  I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903.  In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”

Step # 4  We have to begin to change how we think about our country.  We have to learn to understand what oligarchy means.  I’ll save you the trouble of having to look up the definition – A government in which power is in the hands of a few.  When you have lost your democracy then what do the citizens do?  They must fight (non-violently) to take it back.  This of course means direct action and sometimes civil disobedience.  Virtually everything good in our nation (abolition of slavery movement, women’s suffrage, civil rights movement, anti-war movements, etc) have come from people stepping up when they were needed.  Calling for impeachment by the Congress becomes imperative today.  Are you in or out?

Step #5  Forget the “every man for himself” mythology.  We are all brainwashed in this country to believe in the rugged individualism story.  But movement for change can only happen in community – working with others.  So forget the egocentric notion that “one great man” is going to come save us.  It’s going to take a village – in fact all the villages.  Just like an addict goes to a group to seek help for addiction, knowing they can’t do it themselves, so we must form community to work for the needed change if we are to protect our children’s future.

Step # 6  What about my job?  Another smothering myth in America is success.  Keep your nose clean and don’t rock the boat.  Don’t get involved in politics, especially calling for a revolution of values (like Martin Luther King Jr. did) or you will get labeled and then you can forget about owning that castle on the hill you’ve always dreamed of.  In a way we become controlled by our own subservience to the success mythology.  We keep ourselves in line because success and upward mobility become more important than protecting free speech, clean water, clean air, and ending an out of control government bent on world domination.  Free our minds, free our bodies and we free the nation.

Step #7  Learn to work well with others.  Sure we all want to be stars.  But in the end we have to learn to set aside our egos if we want to be able to work with others to bring about the needed changes.  Cindy Sheehan should not be hammered just for telling the truth about the Democrats playing footsie with Bush on the war.

Step # 8  It’s the money.  How can I do this peace work when I have to work full-time just to pay the mortgage?  I’d like to help but I’ve got bills to pay!  Maybe we can begin to look at the consumerist life we lead and see that our addiction to the rat race keeps us from being fully engaged in the most important issue of our time – which is protecting the future generations.  How can we begin to explore cooperative living arrangements, by building community, that free us up economically to be able to get more involved?

Step # 9  Learn to read again.  Many of us don’t read enough.  We spend our time in front of the TV, which is a primary tool that the power structure uses to brainwash us.  We’ve got to become independent thinkers again and teach our kids to think for themselves.  Reading and talking to others is a key.  Read more history.  All the answers and lessons can be found there.

Step #10 Learn to trust again and have fun.  Some of the nicest people in the world are doing political work.  Meet them and become friends with them and your life will change for the better.

Mister Gagnon professes wars will be forever perpetual if we the people continue to consider our brethren an enemy.  If dominion is our preference, diplomacy will never be more than a mere word.  The public cannot blame George W. Bush or Barack Obama for its addiction to might and material goods.  Nor can we, the people expect an oligarchy to have the best interests of common folks at heart.  If consumption and competition are the principles that guide our population, battles will endure.  If peace is to ever come, as citizens, as a country, on every continent, the people must act in accordance with the principles most claim they hold dear.  Consistency, in thought and deed, can eliminate combat.

“Love thy neighbor” cannot be said only on Sundays, on the Sabbath, or in houses of worship.  Indeed, Bruce Gagnon might avow, as other peaceful persons do, March 19, 2009 is not the sixth anniversary of a war.  It is another date that lives in infamy, as has been every day in centuries of battles fought.

References for the reality of war . . .  

Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story

A soldier’s story is our story.  On this April afternoon, I attended a memorial.  Americans in my local community, as well as those in every other region of the country, mourned the recession. People pondered the reality; this war affects our daily lives and our fiscal stability.  In my neighborhood, Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran offered his theory on the theme, Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story.  I share an introduction to his tale and an invitation.  Please peruse the musings of Michael Prysner.

Twas the day before any other day in the lives of average Americans.  It was April 24, 2008.  Countless people traveled about in late model luxury automobiles.  A few could not afford such finery.  Still, those of lesser means were able to retain a vehicle of sorts.  In the United States, a motorized metal chariot is considered a must.  In many nations, car ownership is thought lavish.  Certainly, those with money enough to drive from place to place have not a care in the world.  Yet, here most individuals in carriages are stressed.  

In every neighborhood, numerous persons are now out on the street.  Some only have a car to count on.  They do not have the money to purchase the petroleum needed to run the vehicle.  The price of fuel is high and steadily climbing.  Rates of unemployment have increased.  Job security decreased.  The value of homes has dropped.  However, few citizens can afford to remain in what was once their shelter.  Foreclosures are frequent.  Mortgage brokers and a lack of reasonable banking regulations have helped to create a meltdown within the marketplace.

In America, there is an economic crisis.  The government cannot assist the common folk.  All available funds are spent on wars in the Middle East.  Residents in the richest country in the world are worried.  Will they survive?

This was the question asked at vigils throughout the nation.  In conjunction with MoveOn.org people in this country spoke of how the Persian Gulf wars have affected the economy.  Recession and the Iraq War were the themes.  In Boca Raton, Florida Mike Prysner, an Iraq war veteran spoke of his experience in country and how those relate to the fiscal calamity Americans face.

May I introduce Michael Prysner and his Winter Soldier testimony.  With permission from the informed, informative, and inspirational author, it is my great honor to present  . . .



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1

A soldier’s story?

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally published on Friday, March 21, 2008

Michael Prysner’s Winter Soldier testimony

The following statement was delivered at the Winter Soldier event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and held in Washington, D.C. from March 13 through March 16. The event featured the testimony of numerous Iraq war veterans about their personal experiences. The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District.

When I first joined the army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called “Equal Opportunity.” We would sit through mandatory classes, ensuring us that racism had been eliminated from the ranks, and every unit had its own EO representative to ensure no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism.

And then Sept. 11 happened. I began to hear new words like “towel head,” “camel jockey” and-the most disturbing-“sand n*gg*r.” These words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers, but from my superiors-my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

I noticed that the most overt racism came from veterans of the first Gulf War. Those were the words they used when they were incinerating civilian convoys. Those were the words they used when this government deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure, bombing water supplies knowing that it would kill hundreds of thousands of children. Those were the words the American people used when they allowed this government to sanction Iraq-and this is something many people forget. We’ve just learned that we’ve killed over 1 million Iraqis since the invasion; we had already killed a million Iraqis before the invasion throughout the 90s through bombings and sanctions.

‘Haji’ was the enemy

When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word-“Haji.” Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, or a father, or a teacher, or a worker. But where does this word come from? Every Muslim strives to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, called a Haj. A Muslim who has completed that pilgrimage is a Haji. It is something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion-essentially, the best thing for a Muslim made into the worst thing.

But history did not start with us. Since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. The Native Americans were called savages. The Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery. A multitude of names were used during Vietnam to justify that imperialist war.

So Haji was the word we used on this mission. We’ve heard a lot about raids during Winter Soldier, kicking down people’s doors and ransacking their homes. But this mission was a different kind of raid. We never got any explanation for these orders, we were only told that this group of five or six houses were now property of the U.S. military. We had to go in and make those people leave those houses.

So we went to these houses and told the people that their homes were no longer their homes. We provided them no alternative, no place to go, no compensation. They were very confused and scared, and would not leave-so we had to remove them from their houses.

There was one family in particular that stands out: a woman with two young daughters, an elderly man who was bed-ridden and two middle-aged men. We dragged them from their houses and threw them onto the street. We arrested the men for not leaving and sent them to prison with the Iraqi police.

At that time I didn’t know what happened to Iraqis when we put a sandbag over their head and tied their hands behind their back; unfortunately, a couple months later, I had to find out. Our unit was short interrogators, so I was tasked to assist with interrogations.

A detainee’s ordeal

First, I’d like to point out that the vast majority of detainees I encountered had done nothing wrong. They were arrested for things as simple as being in the area when an IED went off, or living in a village where a suspected insurgent lived.

I witness and participated in many interrogations; one in particular I’d like to share. It was a moment for me that helped me realize the nature of our occupation.

This detainee who I was sent to interrogate was stripped down to his underwear, hands bound behind his back and a sandbag on his head-and I never actually saw his face. My job was to take a metal folding chair, and as he was standing face-first against the wall, I was to smash the chair next to his head every time he was asked a question. A fellow soldier would yell the same question over and over, and no matter what he answered, I would smash the chair next to his head.

We did this until we got tired, then I was told to make sure he stayed standing facing the wall. By this time he was in an extremely broken state-he was shaking uncontrollably, he was crying, and he was covered in his own urine.

I was guarding him, but something was wrong with his leg-he was injured and kept falling to the ground. My sergeant told me to make sure he stayed standing, so I would have to pick him up and slam him against the wall. He kept falling down so I’d have to keep picking him up and forcefully putting him against the wall.

My sergeant came by, and was upset that he was on the ground again, so he picked him up and slammed him against the wall several times-and when the man fell to the ground again I noticed blood pouring down from under the sandbag.

So I let him sit, and whenever my sergeant starting coming I would warn the man and tell him to stand. It was then that I realized that I was supposed to be guarding my unit from this detainee, but what I was doing was guarding this detainee from my unit.

I tried hard to be proud of my service. All I could feel was shame.

Face of occupation is laid bare

Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I have since been plagued by guilt-anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk, who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically, and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me. The real terrorism is this occupation.

Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon that a rifle, or a tank, or a bomber, or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile.

While all those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round; they don’t have to fight the war, they merely have to sell us the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way, and they need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed, without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb-but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow the orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight.

The ruling class-the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy-understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to die and kill is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have nothing to gain from this war. The vast majority of people living in the United States have nothing to gain from this war. In fact, not only do soldiers and workers gain nothing from this occupation, but we suffer more because of it. We lose the limbs, endure the trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag-draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without health care, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $400 million a day on this war.

The real enemy is here

Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war. I threw people onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and find families here thrown onto the street in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis that is already leaving hundreds of Iraq war veterans homeless.

We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land; they’re not people whose names we don’t know and whose cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know well and people we can identify-the enemy is the system that sends us to war when it’s profitable; the enemies are the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when its profitable; they’re the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; they’re the banks that take away our homes when it’s profitable.

Our enemies are not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, stop this government, and create a better world.



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt2