Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Laughlin Boys 


Have you heard many a story, told by old and young with joy, about the faithful deed of daring that was done by the Laughlin boy? That was done by the Laughlin boy. Listen to me children, well i wouldn’t tell a lie. Listen to me children well i wouldn't tell a lie. That Laughlin boy was a boy of honor and he loved Virginia well. But he would not fire a rifle so he sat in a cold jail cell. So he sat in a cold jail cell. He was pierced and he was beaten, forty stripes he gladly bore, but he would not serve the devil in that awful civil war. In that awful civil war.

Twelve grey soldiers stood before him and they aimed their rifles true. He prayed, lord oh please forgive them, for they know not what they do. For they know not what they do. Those young soldiers would not fire, they defied the General’s plan, so the army changed his sentence; who could murder such a man? Who could murder such a man?

They hauled him far away to Richmond. Far away from his kids and wife. There, pneumonia wracked his body, that good man soon lost his life. That good man soon lost his life. Now his wife is sadly weeping, seven children wonder why. Lord it seems that truth and honor sure can come at an awful price. Sure can come at an awful price.

4 Laughlin Boy - original lyrics by William Jolliff; adaptation of "The Johnson Boys" (traditional).

4 Song recorded by Tracy Grammer (mp3 link available). CD title: Flower of Avalon (2005).


An Army Minus One
by Aaron Glantz
SAN FRANCISCO, California - On Thursday, 22-year-old Army Specialist Mark Wilkerson turned himself in to Fort Hood in Texas, after being AWOL (Absent Without Leave) for more than 18 months.

Army Spc. Mark Wilkerson, waits outside a tent at Camp Casey III Thursday Aug. 31, 2006, near Crawford, Texas. Wilkerson plans to surrender to Fort Hood, Texas, authorities later today, a year and a half after going AWOL from the Army post before his unit's second deployment to Iraq. (AP Photo/Rod Aydelotte)

Wilkerson, who served in the 720th Military Police Battalion in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2004, made the decision to refuse redeployment on moral grounds, and went AWOL when his request for "conscientious objector" status was denied by the U.S. Army late in 2004.

The Sunday Times Magazine
The Sunday Times [UK] August 27, 2006
It is impossible to put a precise figure on the number of American troops who have left the army as a result of the US involvement in Iraq. The Pentagon says that a total of 40,000 troops have deserted their posts (not simply those serving in Iraq) since the year 2000. This includes many who went Awol for family reasons. The Pentagon’s spokesmen say that the overall number of deserters has actually gone down since operations began in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is no doubt that a steady trickle of deserters who object to the Iraq war have made it over the border and are now living in Canada. There they seek asylum, often with the help of Canadian anti-war groups. One Toronto lawyer, Jeffry House, has represented at least 20 deserters from Iraq in the Canadian courts; he is himself a conscientious objector, having refused to fight in the Vietnam war – along with 50,000 others, at the peak of the conflict. He estimates that 200 troops have already gone underground in Canada since the war in Iraq began.

These conscientious objectors are a brave group – their decisions will result in long-term life changes. To be labelled a deserter is no small burden. If convicted of desertion, they run the risk of a prison sentence – with hard labour. To choose exile can mean lifelong separation from family and friends, as even the most trivial encounter with the police in America – say, over a traffic offence – could lead to jail.


First Armored Division, 2-3 Field Artillery, at Giessen, Germany. Age: 24


Anderson says that even the small talk was difficult to tolerate. “I hate Iraqis,” he quotes his peers as saying. “I hate these damn Muslims.” At first he was puzzled by such talk. “After a while I started to understand. I started to feel the hatred myself. My friends were dying. What am I here for? We went to fight for our country; now we’re just fighting to stay alive.” In addition to taking shrapnel from a roadside bomb – the injury that earned him the Purple Heart – Anderson says he often found himself in firefights. But it was work at a checkpoint that made him seriously question his role. He was guarding the “backside” of a street checkpoint in Baghdad, he says. If a car passed a certain point without stopping, the guards were supposed to open fire.

“A car comes through and it stops in front of my position. Sparks are coming from the car from bad brakes. All the soldiers are yelling. It’s in my vicinity, so it’s my responsibility. I didn’t fire. A superior goes, ‘Why didn’t you fire? You were supposed to fire.’ I said, ‘It was a family!’ At this time it had stopped. You could see the children in the back seat. I said, ‘I did the right thing.’ He’s like, ‘No, you didn’t. It’s procedure to fire. If you don’t do it next time, you’re punished.’”

Anderson shakes his head at the memory. “I’m already not agreeing with this war. I’m not going to kill innocent people. I can’t kill kids. That’s not the way I was raised.” He says he started to look around at the ruined cityscape and the injured Iraqis, and slowly began to understand the Iraqi response. “If someone did this to my street, I would pick up a weapon and fight. I can’t kill these people. They’re not terrorists. They’re 14-year-old boys, they’re old men. We’re occupying the streets. We raid houses. We grab people. We send them off to Abu Ghraib, where they’re tortured. These are innocent people. We stop cars. We hinder everyday life. If I did this in the States, I’d be thrown in prison.”


43rd Company of Combat Engineers, at Fort Carson, Colorado. Age: 28

We was going along the Euphrates river,” says Joshua Key, detailing a recurring nightmare that features a scene he stumbled into shortly after the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. “It’s a road right in the city of Ramadi. We turned a sharp right and all I seen was decapitated bodies. The heads laying over here and the bodies over there and US troops in between them. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, what in the hell happened here? What’s caused this? Why in the hell did this happen?’ We get out and somebody was screaming, ‘We f***ing lost it here!’ I’m thinking, ‘Oh yes, somebody definitely lost it here.’” Key says he was ordered to look for evidence of a firefight, for something to explain what had happened to the beheaded Iraqis. “I look around just for a few seconds and I don’t see anything.”

Then he witnessed the sight that still triggers the nightmares. “I see two soldiers kicking the heads around like soccer balls. I just shut my mouth, walked back, got inside the tank, shut the door, and thought, ‘I can’t be no part of this. This is crazy. I came here to fight and be prepared for war, but this is outrageous.’”

He’s convinced that there was no firefight.


2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Age: 21


“I started thinking about what was wrong while I was over there, but it didn’t really get to me until the end of my stay in Iraq – and definitely once I was back home.”


In addition to the abuse of prisoners, the regularity with which civilians were killed at checkpoints confounded the young marine. “My friends have been ones who’ve done that, and after the event it’s always, ‘Oh, so and so is a little down today – he killed a guy in front of his kids.’ Or, ‘He killed a couple of kids.’ These marines that had to do that were my friends, who I talked to every day. It’s hard knowing that your best friend had to kill innocent people.”


What would be a cause worth dying for? “A good cause” is his answer. “But this war doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t benefit Americans, it doesn’t even benefit Iraq. This is not something that anyone should fight and die for. I was only 17 when I signed my contract, and my whole childhood, all I did was play video games and sports. I didn’t pay attention to the news. That stuff was boring to me. But I know first-hand now.”

White House Wages War against Reality
by David Rossie [Pulitzer finalist and two time winner of the H.L. Mencken Award]
Recently, the Marine Corps announced that it is going to begin recalling 2,500 inactive reservists for duty in Iraq. A colleague, who has already completed tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and is not thrilled about having to make yet another try at bringing democracy to the Middle East, said he went on the Corps Web site and discovered the call-up could be more extensive than it was described in the mainstream media. Web site information indicated that the 2,500 would be an initial call-up and there could be more.

That's great. Men and women who have already put their lives on the line two or more times are going to be asked to do it again, because crazy Don Rumsfeld ignored real military men such as Marine General Anthony Zinni and Army General Eric Shinseki when they warned him he was going into Iraq with too few soldiers and too little equipment.

Four years later and the troops continue to pay the price of that blunder, with no end in sight and little or nothing they can do about it. Unless they revive Nancy Reagan's solution to the drug problem: Just say no!

8 INTERVIEW: The Randi Rhodes Show, Sept. 05, 2006 (Air America Radio):
HOUR ONE GUEST: Lt. Ehren Watada on saying “No” to illegal orders and facing the wrath of Bush’s government.

More on Lt. Ehren Watada at Thank You Lt.org:
August 28, 2006 - The future of Lt. Watada’s court-martial is now in Fort Lewis General’s hands. Your phone calls and letters today could make a difference. Forward this urgent action alert to friends.

On August 17, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada succeeded in placing the war on trial during an Article 32 pre-trial hearing in a military courtroom at Fort Lewis, Washington. The investigating officer recommended that Lt. Watada be referred to a general court martial on all charges – including five charges for political speech.


On June 22, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the unlawful Iraq War and occupation. Lt. Watada was been formally charged with contempt towards President Bush, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and missing movement.

On August 24, the Article 32 pre-trial hearing investigator recommended a general court martial on all charges. For the first time since 1965, the military is prosecuting an objector for his opinions. He faces over seven years in prison - over five years for First Amendment speech alone!

Help Lt. Watada put the war on trial! Your support, including donations to Lt. Watada’s defense fund, are urgently needed today.

4 Via The Common Ills, And the war drags on . . . - [corrente ed. note: following excerpt from We Shall Not Be Moved, by Gary Younge (Guardian UK):
For Camilo Mejia there was no epiphany. In fact, his refusal to rejoin his regiment in Iraq barely represented a decision at all. It was more a weary submission to months of anxiety that had gnawed at his sense of duty until there was nothing left but his conscience. "I didn't wake up thinking I wouldn't go," he says. "I just went to bed and didn't get up in time to catch the plane. But I kept thinking maybe I would go back sometime."

Mejia, 30, never did go back. He went on the run for five months, staying with friends and relatives, using only cash, travelling by bus and not calling his mother or daughter, before he turned himself in as a conscientious objector. A military tribunal sentenced him to one year in prison.


When Anita Anderson went on talk radio to defend her son, one caller said he should be publicly executed. At the doctor's office in the small conservative town in Kentucky where she lives, her boss called a meeting at which her colleagues, who had previously congratulated her on Darrell's service, said she was not allowed to talk about her son's desertion. "My boss made me sign a paper saying I would resign if the patients started to complain." She got another job. "People say 'Support the troops' but whenever you talk about supporting one individual soldier, they are not interested."

Read more: visit The Common Ills (observations on music and dissent).

Many thanks and credits to Chuck at Bu$hMerika2 for bringing the Sunday Times UK report cited above to readers attention. Blog post pointing to that story can be found here: Article You Won't See In The US media. Likewise, the quotes (below), I also gleaned from Bu$hMerika2.

N One more Orwellian Bu$hCo (spooky eye) moment:

"I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace."
~ George W. Bush, June 18, 2002.

"War is Peace."
~ Big Brother, George Orwell's 1984.


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