The Growing Iraq Resistance Movement in the U.S. Military
On Sept. 26, Peter Laufer, author of, "Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq" (Chelsea Green, 2006) spoke at Rep. Lynn Woolsey's (D-Calif.) Iraq forum, "The Mounting Costs of the U.S. Military Occupation of Iraq and Lost Opportunities," on the growing number of American soldiers turning against the U.S. military mission in Iraq on moral and ethical grounds. The following is the text of his testimony.
Congresswoman Woolsey, thank you for this opportunity to speak about a critical matter I've been studying. What I want to share with you are the thoughts and experiences of some of the brave men and women I've met over the past year. It has been an honor for me to meet these soldiers, Americans on the front lines of what may be their most important battle: a fight for our country's soul.
One of the things that's surprised me most as I returned from travels around the U.S., up to Canada, and over to Germany talking with soldiers opposed to the Iraq war is how few civilians know about the growing resistance within the military to Bush policy in Iraq.
Over and over, when people asked me what I was working on and I told them of the collected stories of opposition, I heard comments like "There are soldiers against the war? I didn't know that."
The tragedy of civilian deaths in Iraq is devastating. U.S. troops assigned to the kind of duty that leaves innocent civilians damaged and destroyed are also victims. The escalating number of troops returning from the war suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is proof.
One soldier after another told me about their being devastated by orders that put them in the position of disobeying, or of shooting what they feared were noncombatants.
These soldier's stories are critical to hear. Their credibility cannot be impugned. They volunteered for the military. They've seen it from the inside.
Consider Darrell Anderson. I met with him in Toronto. He deserted after fighting in Iraq rather than face another deployment there.
In addition to taking shrapnel from a roadside bomb -- an injury that earned him a Purple Heart -- Darrell told me he often found himself in firefights.
Darrel described a Baghdad street battle that scarred him -- and scared him about himself. He was in an armored vehicle. Other soldiers were riding on the outside, when it came under attack from an enemy armed with rocket-propelled grenades. One of the soldiers riding outside was hit and injured severely. Darrell told me the scene still returns to him in the nightmares he suffers every night. "I look at him and he is bleeding everywhere. He's spitting up blood." Someone had to take his place on the outside, Darrell realized. "Me, I'm gung-ho. I go up there. There're explosions. They tell us if you're under attack, you open fire on anybody in the streets. They say they're no longer innocent if they're there. I take my weapon and I find someone running. I point and I pull my trigger, but my weapon is still on safe."
By the time Darrell clicked it over to fire, he realized he was about to shoot a kid who was running away from the violence, a kid he was by then sure was not part of the battle. But what was most traumatic for him were his own emotions. "I'm angry. My buddy is dying. I just want to kill." He told me he realized then he had become a different man, changed by the pathology of war and the suffering of the innocents. "When I first got there, I was disgusted with my fellow soldiers. But now I'm just the same. I will kill innocent people, because I'm not the person I was when I got there." The attack ebbed, and Darrell survived it, as did the running boy.
A timely example of how the war is tearing at the conscience of the troops came in an email I received t
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