IRAQ - THE PIGEONS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST
* Attack in Iraq kills two U.S. soldiers, wounds others (27th May, 2003).
* Iraqi rebels shoot down U.S. helicopter (13th June, 2003).
* U.S. troops caught in grenade attacks (2nd July, 2003).
* Iraqis celebrate rocket attack on troops (4th July, 2003).
* U.S. morale hits rock bottom (7th July, 2003).
* Pandemonium on highway is deadly routine for U.S. troops (17th July,
* War-weary wives call for U.S. troops to come home (18th July, 2003).
* U.S. soldier killed as Wolfowitz tours Iraq (19th July, 2003).
* Another day, another American death (20th July, 2003).
* Three American soldiers killed in Iraqi grenade attack (27th July, 2003).
* U.S. soldier shot dead by Iraqi gunman (23rd August, 2003).
* Iraqi attacks kill two more U.S. troops (28th August, 2003).
AN EXERCISE IN DUPLICITY AND SELF-DELUSION
On 24th July, 2003, The Daily Telegraph reported that the "guerrilla
war may be ending". This followed the deaths of Saddam Hussein's
two sons, Uday and Qusay, and the killing of two American soldiers in
separate ambushes. On 3rd August, 2003, David Aaronovitch wrote in The
Obser-ver: "Iraq - it's working". On 28th August, 2003, Naomi
Klein wrote in The Guardian of "A deadly franchise". Her theme
was that President George W. Bush's war on terror is being used by the
Ruling Elite to eliminate opposition to their global ambitions with
the consequent, assumed, legal remit to suppress opposition in the Middle
East, the Pacific, Latin America and elsewhere. On 3rd September, 2003,
The Daily Telegraph repeated an article by Paul Wolfowitz, United States
Deputy Secretary of Defence, that had originally featured in The Wall
Street Journal. The title was "War against terror is being fought
- and won - in Iraq". Aaronovitch is typical of the opinion forming
"talking heads" of the Mass Communications Media who hedge-hop
with an aura of authority from one topic to another with no obvious
evidence of expertise in any particular field. On terror, Naomi Klein
was incidentally showing how the term "terror" is being universally
employed to define illegal opposition to some legitimate, superior force.
In Modern Irregular Warfare(1), Professor Friedrich August Frhr. von
der Heydte points out that terror is a perfectly legitimate element
of warfare. Terrorist methods are those employed by small forces faced
with vastly superior, conventionally equipped armies. This is exactly
the same situation as guerrilla operations undertaken behind the German
and Italian lines, backed by the Allies, during the 1939-45 War.
Paul Wolfowitz, along with Richard Perle, William
Kristol and other members of the co-called "neoconservative"
group in the United States, is behind the Project for the New American
Century (P.N.A.C.). The objectives of this caucus are uncompromisingly
those of Global Power per se. Their cultural affinities and loyalties
underline the pivotal role of Israeli and Zionist interests in United
States foreign policies. These are the men behind the almost maniacal
Secretary of State for Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. It is now quite clear
that, in pursuit of this ruthless campaign to eliminate opposition,
the invasion of Iraq was rigged on blatantly fabricated evidence. There
was absolutely no quest to "liberate" the people of Iraq except
in the minds of the politically naive. There was, even on their own
subsequent admission, virtually no analysis or preparation for the post-combat
phase in Iraq. Equally, there was almost total ignorance of - as well
as indifference to - the highly complex political, tribal or cultural
infrastructure. Like sacrificial lambs, ill-prepared, ordinary American
ser-vicemen - and women - are paying a gruesome price.
What we recognise now, if not before, is that President George W. Bush
and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been, and continue to be,
bluntly, a couple of liars; cowardly armchair politicians and fronts
for the Global Power Brokers who have not only sent their own forces
to their deaths, but caused the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians
in a wholly duplicitous cause. The American forces in particular are
almost completely out of their depth in a ferociously hostile climate
- in all senses - of infinite complexity. Having forced the invasion
of Iraq through the United Nations Security Council in March, 2003,
riding roughshod over French and German opposition in particular, the
United States is in a hole as costs escalate and the attrition of American
troops begins to break through the Media blackout in the United States.
We are now seeing attempts through the United Nations to dragoon the
European and other nations into sharing the costs with an operational
commitment to provide their own forces as "cannon-fodder".
The destruction of the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad at the
end of August further underlined this nemesis. Headed by its feeble,
equivocating Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the United Nations can only
be seen as complicit in this situation, and yet another uninvited presence
on Iraqi territory. It is also too easily identified as the Anglo-American
front for a decade of illegal sanctions that have caused the deaths
of some 1,000,000 Iraqi people, and concur-rently maintained the vital
infrastructure in a state of decay.
TRUTH - AND THE FRUITS OF WAR
The Washington Post, like The Daily Telegraph
in the United Kingdom, backed the invasion of Iraq against opposition
from most political factions. This reflected the strong association
of their ownerships with Israeli-Zionist interests. Now that Iraq has
effectively been destabili-sed, it is interesting to note how such papers
appear to be turning on their respective Governments to exploit domestic
objectives. The following report was published in the Washington Post
of 11th August, 2003:
Number of Wounded in Action on Rise
by Vernon Loeb
United States battlefield casualties in Iraq
are increasing dramatic-ally in the face of continued attacks by remnants
of Saddam Hussein's military and other forces, with almost 10 American
troops a day now being officially declared "wounded in action",
the number of those wounded in action, which totals 124 since the war
began in March, has grown so large, and attacks have become so commonplace,
that United States Central Command usually issues news releases listing
injuries only when the attacks kill one or more troops. The result is
that many injuries go unreported. The rising number and quickening pace
of soldiers being wounded on the battlefield have been overshadowed
by the number of troops killed since President Bush declared an end
to major combat operations on May 1. But alongside those Americans killed
in action, an even greater toll of battlefield wounded continues unabated,
with an in-creasing number being injured through small arms fire, rocket
propelled grenades, remote controlled mines and what the Pentagon refers
to as "improvised explosive devices." Indeed, the number of
troops wounded in action in Iraq is now more than twice that of the
Persian Gulf War in 1991. The total increased more than 35 per cent
in August with an average of almost 10 troops a day injured last month.
Fifty five Americans were wounded in action last week alone, pushing
the number of troops wounded in action since May 1 beyond the number
wounded during peak fighting. From March 19 to April 30, 550 United
States troops were wounded in action in Iraq. Since May 1, the number
totals 574. The number of troops killed in Iraq since the beginning
of May already has surpassed the total killed during the height of the
Pentagon officials point to advances in military medicine as one of
the reasons behind the large number of wounded soldiers; many lives
are being saved on the battlefield that in past conflicts would have
been lost. But the rising number of casualties also reflects the resistance
that United States forces continue to meet nearly five months after
Hussein was ousted from power. Although Central Command keeps a running
total of the wounded, it releases the number only when asked making
the combat injuries of United States troops in Iraq one of the untold
stories of the war. With no fanfare and almost no public notice, giant
C 17 transport jets arrive virtually every night at Andrews Air Force
Base outside Washing-ton, on medical evacuation missions. Since the
war began, more than 6,000 service members have been flown back to the
United States. The number includes the 1,124 wounded in action, 301
who received non hostile injuries in vehicle accidents and other mishaps,
and thousands who became physically or mentally ill. "Our nation
doesn't know that," said Susan Brewer, president and founder of
America's Heroes of Freedom, a nonprofit organization that collects
clothing and other personal items for the returning troops."Sort
of out of sight and out of mind."
On Thursday night, a C 17 arrived at Andrews
with 44 patients from Iraq. Ambulances arrived to take the most seriously
wounded to the nation's two premier military hospitals, Walter Reed
Army Medical Center in Washington and the National Naval Medical Center
in Bethesda. Dozens of others stayed overnight at what the Air Force
calls a contingency aeromedical staging facility, which has taken over
an indoor tennis club and an adjacent community centre. On Friday morning,
smaller C 130 transports began arriving to take the walking wounded
and less seriously injured to their home bases, from Fort Bragg in North
Carolina to Fort Lewis in Washington State. Another C 17 was due in
Friday night from Germany, with 12 patients on stretchers, 24 listed
on the flight manifest as ambulatory and nine other passengers, either
family members or escorts. "That's going to fill us right back
up by the end of today," said Lieutenant Colonel Allen Delaney,
who commands the staging centre. Eighty six members of his reserve unit,
the 459th Aerornedical Staging Squadron, based at Andrews, were called
up for a year in April to run what is essentially a medical air terminal,
the nation's hub, for war wounded from Iraq.
At Walter Reed, a half hour drive from Andrews, Major General Kevin
C. Kiley, the hospital's commanding general, said there were only two
days in July and four in August that the hospital did not admit soldiers
injured in Iraq. "The orthopaedic surgeons are very busy, and the
nursing services are very busy, both in the intensive care units and
on the wards," he said, explaining that there have been five or
six instances in recent months when all of the hospital's 40 intensive
care beds have been filled mostly with battlefield wounded. Kiley said
rocket propelled grenades and mines can wound multiple troops at a time
and cause "the kind of amputating damage that you don't necessarily
see with a bullet wound to the arm or leg." The result has been
large numbers of troops coming back to Walter Reed and National Naval
Medical with serious blast wounds and arms and legs that have been amputated,
either in Iraq or at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where
virtually all battlefield casualties are treated and stabilized. "A
few of us started volunteering [at Walter Reed] as amputees in 1991,
and this is the most we've seen ever," said Jim Mayer, a double
amputee from the Vietnam War who works at the Veterans Administration.
"I've never seen anything like this. But I haven't seen anybody
not get good care." Kiley said that Walter Reed has 600 physicians
and 350 physicians in training, plus reservists and the ability to bring
in more nurses if necessary. The hospital "Could go on from an
operational perspective indefinitely we have a lot of capacity,"
he said. The hospital has treated 1,100 patients from the war, including
228 battlefield casualties.
National Naval Medical Center was most severely stressed during the
major combat phase of the war, said Captain Michael J. Krentz, its deputy
commander. During that period, 800 of the hospital's medical professionals
a third of its regular staff and half its military staff deployed overseas
to the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship. The hospital called up 600
reservists to replace them. Before the fall of Baghdad in April, the
hospital had 40 patients a night mostly Marines from Iraq. Now the number
is down to three, since the Marines have begun departing and will soon
hand peacekeeping duties in their area south of Baghdad to multinational
forces. "Taking care of returning casualties is our number one
job that's why we're here," Krentz said. "That's our sworn
duty, and it's our honour to do so." Kiley and Krentz said high
tech body armour and state of the art battlefield medical procedures
are keeping more seriously wounded soldiers alive than ever before.
Krentz said advanced radiological equipment aboard the USNS Comfort
enabled doctors to spot internal injuries and operate much sooner than
they might have otherwise been able to, preventing fatalities. In fact,
he said, patients had been stabilized so well overseas that there were
no deaths of returning service members at Bethesda. Kiley said he had
seen several cases in which soldiers had been operated on in the field
so quickly that doctors managed to save limbs that might otherwise have
been lost. "But it's a long haul even when they do preserve limbs,"
Moving Forward, One Step at a Time
"Moving forward, one step at a time", was the title of a feature
by Tamara Jones and Anne Hull. It was published in The Washington Post
of 21st July, 2003, with the sub-heading "After Iraq, Wounded Soldiers
Try Out New Limbs, New Lives":
A fat C 141 rumbles to a halt at Andrews Air
Force Base. A gangplank is lowered from the belly of the plane, and
the Army's latest casualties from Iraq hobble or are carried to a waiting
white bus, their gear still covered with fine desert dust. These medevac
flights are now so routine that no cameras, no V.I.Ps., await the wounded.
Their welcome home happens at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the nation's
biggest military hospital, where doctors and nurses in camouflage fatigues
wait at the curb to whisk the newest patients to the large examination
room on the second floor. Here the soldiers are triaged with swift precision:
"I need 10 of morphine!" a doctor calls
"Are you weak in your right hand?" another asks.
"Where does it hurt you now?"
A 20 year old private moans. In Baghdad, he camped
out in a bathroom of Saddam Hussein's palace, stacking his Chips Ahoy
on the shelves above the gold ingot faucets. Now he lies on a gurny
with shrapnel in his belly, beneath a balloon that says, "You're
Upstairs on the orthopaedics ward, the beds are already filled with
recovering casualties from the war in Iraq. There are different battles
be-ing fought on Ward 57, more private struggles. It's not about victory,
but coping. Not about war, but its aftermath. First Lieutenant John
Fernandez is a veteran of Iraq and by now a veteran of Ward 57, too.
He reports to an examination room early one morning for his twice daily
dressing change. The former West Point athlete is 25, a newlywed whose
wife, Kristi, hasn't left his side since he arrived six weeks earlier.
They had been married less than a month when John shipped out. His hospital
room would become their first home together; the nurses looked the other
way when Kristi, 22, moved a cot next to John's bed against hospital
regulations. Their usual wisecracking is on mute this morning, their
faces drawn. John hoists himself onto an examination table and the doctors
begin scrutinizing what is left of his legs.
"I felt sick yesterday," John announces.
"My glands are swollen."
"Any fever, chills?" Ken Taylor wants
to know. The chief orthopaedics resident swabs his patient's surgical
wounds with iodine. John is missing his foot and ankle on one side,
most of his lower leg on the other. He knows that any infection in his
body might find its way to his legs, putting him at risk for higher
amputations. He already has had a dozen operations. Surgeon Donald Gajewski
notices some redness and leakage around the sutures on the left stump
and Taylor searches for a sterile pad so he can clean it. "They're
in that cabinet," Kristi says, pointing. By now, she knows this
examination room like her own kitchen.
As the headlines shift from the war in Iraq to
the rebuilding of Iraq, a similar theme emerges at Walter Reed. Joe
Miller, the prosthetist who will craft John's artificial sockets, joins
the doctors in the examination room to decide whether John is ready
to be sized. "I think we can start the right side," Miller
offers. John can barely manage a wan smile at this consolation prize.
"My stupid foot hurts again," he mutters. The severed nerves
in his legs are sending frantic signals to body parts no longer there.
Phantom pain, it's called, but there is nothing imaginary about it.
John is in constant agony. His nonexistent feet throb. His lost toes
burn. "Like Fred Flintstone when he stubs his toe?" Kristi
wants to know, imagining a red hot pulse. "Exactly like that,"
John says. Painkillers are useless. Mil-ler heads for the door, reminding
John to come to the prosthetics lab first thing the next morning so
he can make a plaster mould of his right leg. The doctors interrupt.
They'll want to see him first. And don't eat any-thing the night before,
Taylor and Gajewski advise. If that oozing doesn't clear up on the left
side, they're going to have to operate again to check for infection.
So there's a chance he'll have a new leg tomorrow.
And a chance he'll lose more of the other.
An Impatient Soldier
Garth Stewart is no favourite among the nursing staff of Ward 57. They
bring Jell O, he wants apple sauce. But the mortar gunner who lost part
of his left leg to a land mine near Baghdad isn't trying to be the perfect
patient. He just wants to be the perfect soldier. That means getting
out of Walter Reed, his home for the past three weeks.
"I hate this place," Garth, 20, said. "I'm sick of being
Garth doesn't want to wait for the Army's bureaucracy to decide whether
he's fit for combat. He's ready to buy his own plane ticket back to
Iraq to rejoin the 3rd Infantry Division. Even the dullest moments of
war playing chess in his armoured vehicle on the convoy to the Euphrates
were exhilarating. He was part of something larger than himself. Now
he watches cartoons from his hospital bed. He's got to make himself
strong again. One morning he lowers himself into his wheelchair to go
to a physical therapy appointment on the third floor. For the wounded
soldiers on 57, physical therapy is a confrontation with pain and humiliation.
In their minds, the soldiers are still elite athletes capable of marching
15 miles with 40 pound rucksacks. P.T. is the hard truth, with three
pound dumbbells. Garth scans the room for Isatta Cooks, the physical
therapist who works with amputees. She smiles when she sees him. Cooks,
28, is the rare employee at Walter Reed who does not find Garth prickly.
Not that their relationship has always been smooth. Cooks once innocently
started, "When you were in the Army . . . " "I am in
the Army," Garth snapped. And yet he has earned her admiration.
One of the tools she uses is a full length mirror. It helps the soldiers
see how their bodies are leaning as they get used to having only one
leg or one arm. Some of the new amputees refuse to look.
When Cooks led Garth to the mirror, he stared,
as if trying to burn the image into his mind. Today, Cooks wants Garth
to practice walking. Sweat has gathered on his forehead from doing a
set of leg lifts and push ups. Cooks hands Garth a pair of crutches.
He blows a puff of air from his cheeks and stands. Cooks buckles a harness
around his waist so she can pull him upright if he loses his balance.
Taking a step, Garth extends his stump as if he still had a leg and
foot. "Good, Garth," Cooks says, walking alongside. Garth
travels 30 feet and then proceeds out the front door of the PT room.
A man sitting in the lobby averts his gaze into a magazine, not lifting
his eyes until Garth passes. Garth makes it back to the table and lies
down, winded. Cooks touches his bandaged stump. Garth gasps. "Ow,
ow, ow, what are you doing?" he asks, desperately. He exhales and
stares at the ceiling. He can feel someone watching him. A girl with
auburn hair has paused beside his table. She is struggling on her own
crutches. Garth reaches out, placing his large hand on her small one.
A Visit From Hulk
A blast injury is like no other wound, a war unto itself. The tremendous
force of a land mine shears soft tissue from bone, then reverberates
through the skeleton with an energy that has nowhere to go but up. The
brain bears the final insult, whiplashing inside the skull. Hitting
the ground hard can also cause a blast victim's brain to swell, bleed
or tear without any outward sign of a head wound. When a land mine or
grenade or mortar detonates, the sound waves alone can cause concussion.
Danny Roberts, 26, is wheeling himself to the Traumatic Brain Injury
Unit, one gleaming hall down from his room on Ward 57. "There's
nothing wrong with me," he fumes. The slight reservist from Green
Bay, Wisconsin, had just been getting his life on track, tending bar
part time and settling on a major education when his Army reserve unit,
the 890th Transportation Division out of Hobart, Indianapolis, was deployed.
He went to war with paperback classics in his duffel bag, never fired
his weapon, then was blown sky high by a land mine while just standing
around talking to his buddies one afternoon. His left foot is gone.
Now a neurologist will flip through a tablet of drawings. What's this,
and this, and this? he asks. A bench, a tripod, a seahorse. Danny is
usually so good natured that nurses on Ward 57 drop by his room even
on their breaks to chat. But today he's exasperated, his lips pressed
tightly together. He is sure his nagging headaches are a side effect
of his meds, that's all.
Deborah Warden and her associates patiently explain
to Danny that concussions can be mild; he may not even realize he has
any symptoms. They cover his eyes and ask him to identify smells: coffee,
oranges. They break a cotton swab in half and tap his palm with the
cotton, then the stick. Which is soft, Danny? Which is sharp? A technician
attaches electrodes to Danny's scalp. An electroencephalogram will chart
any abnormal brain waves. Verbal and written tests will chart concentration
and memory. Once that's done, doctors have promised discharge. Goodbye,
Walter Reed, after 24 days. When the examiners take a break, Danny goes
AWOL. He rolls back to his room. Hulk Hogan is coming to visit! "I'll
be there for that," he says. Minutes later, Hulk barrels into Danny's
room, all cartoon swagger. "We just wanna thank you guys for going
over and protecting us," the wrestler booms. "We love you,
brother." He glances at Danny's stump. "They'll fix that flat
tyre and get you runnin' again," he says. "Put me in a headlock,"
Danny begs. His mother has a camera ready. Hogan declines, but poses
with his arm around him instead.
Word comes that a medevac plane departing Andrews Air Force Base the
next morning can ferry Danny and his mom to Wisconsin. The brain team
will call him with their findings, and he can get an artificial foot
at the Veterans Administration hospital in Milwaukee. When Taylor comes
to say goodbye at dawn, the orthopaedist finds his cheeriest patient
in a tearful fury. The charge nurse is insisting that he cannot go because
he needs valid military ID to board the plane. Danny's was shredded
by the blast. "You have any other ID? Driver's licence?" Taylor
asks. Danny shakes his head. "They're saying it's my fault, that
I should've taken the initiative! I can't walk up there." He jerks
his head toward the nurses' station. "It's their job." "You're
absolutely right," Taylor soothes. He confronts the stubborn charge
nurse: This is ridiculous, he says. Danny didn't need ID to be flown
here and shouldn't need it to leave. Just send him to Andrews, they'll
let him on. "I doubt it," the nurse says. But she hands Danny
a lunch sack filled with narcotics and his blue plastic hospital card.
"Maybe that will work," she suggests. Nancy Roberts points
out that her son has his dog tags tattooed on his chest what more ID
could anyone want? Taylor and Danny exchange goodbyes, and Taylor studies
him for a moment. "You're the most down you've been since you came
here," he ventures. "I know. Just frustrated." "It's
the system. All right, my friend . . . " Downstairs, they load
Danny onto a litter and a couple of uniformed soldiers carry him through
the lobby to the white shuttle bus idling outside. At Andrews, no one
demands proof that Danny Roberts is a soldier.
World Without Sleep
Walter Reed, named after the Army major who proved that yellow fever
was transmitted by mosquitoes, launched into operational tempo the day
the war in Iraq started. The pace didn't slow when the war ended. Some
soldiers have been patients of 57 for so long that they are treating
the nurses' station like a concierge desk. They request Chinese take
out menus and the number for pizza delivery. "They think this is
a hotel," one nurse says. "I keep tellin' them it's a hospital."
Which no one really can forget. A team of Army psychiatrists visits
the soldiers daily. They ask: Are you sleeping? Are you eating? Are
you dreaming? Most of the soldiers swear the war left no psychological
imprints, such as the lieutenant who is such a charming cut up that
he invites his doctors home to Houston for margaritas. "Every day
above ground for that guy is a celebration," comments a hospital
staff member. Then why can't the soldier sleep at night? A psychiatrist
teaches him hypnosis. Imagine you are on a beach, the doctor says. Breathe.
Sleep is just as elusive for the nurses in the crush of overtime hours.
They talk about sleep constantly. "I close the Venetian blinds,
put on the siesta mask and earplugs; then the silence drives me crazy,"
one nurse tells another during dinner break. Taylors' pager goes off
so frequently that his 4 year old son knows what the sound means. "Are
the soldiers hurt"" the boy asks. "Do they need you?"
"Yeah, buddy, they do," Taylor answers before returning to
Walter Reed for another numbing stretch. He considers the soldiers his
brothers and sisters, "not just a payment on my boat." That
sense of brotherhood overrides all sense of exhaustion on Ward 57. Jim
Mayer, a Vietnam veteran and double amputee, is known as Milkshake Man
because he brings McDonald's milkshakes to the soldiers several times
a week. Garth Stewart has become a buddy. He loves hearing about Vietnam.
But one night, when Mayer walks into Garth's room, it's empty and smells
of cleaning solvents. Garth has been discharged. Mayer feels his eyes
welling up. Then he reminds himself. This is a good day.
Gajewski unwraps the bandage from John's worrisome left stump. Kristi
hovers protectively. The surgeon takes a cotton tipped swab and pokes
beneath the black sutures. A thin red line of blood wells to the surface.
Gajewski smiles. "That's what we wanna see. We want to see that
skin edge healing. Dead, unhealthy tissue doesn't bleed. We just had
a little skin edge necrosis that is all. I can't get the applicator
in deep there, and that's a good sign." "You already had us
in tears last night!" Kristi blurts out, relieved. "I was
in tears!" the doctor counters. The Fern-andezes head for the hospital
cafeteria. Standing in line for omelletes, Kristi rubs the burred back
of her husband's head, and he leans in to nuzzle her. She stoops to
wheelchair level, and they kiss. This isn't how they were supposed to
start their life together. They had a five year plan: She would finish
school, get into public health administration. He would finish his Army
tour in 2006, then put his degree in systems engineering to work in
the civilian sector. They'd start a family. War fast forwarded their
lives. John decided to apply for medical retirement; he'll look for
work as an engineer. Kristi will have to plunge into the job market.
Where they live will be a matter of accessibility; even the little choices,
like who drives, are dictated by injury. They have to compromise their
very closeness: John's relentless pain makes sharing a bed impossible
for now. Yet they insist that they're coping just fine. Kristi hasn't
fallen apart, not once. "I'm still waiting for it." No looking
back is their attitude. "If this had to happen to anyone,"
Kristi says, "I'm glad its us." Because they can handle it,
she is sure. "All I see when I look at him is John." For his
part, John speaks of what happened to him with an engineer's cool regard.
He is a mathematical problem man, minus legs with a mechanical solution.
Even though the explosion that killed three men beside him remains under
investigation as a possible friendly fire accident, John is unwavering
in his support of the war. "It could happen in any war," he
says. "It's war. It's not a pretty thing."
The hospital staff marvels at the resilience
of John and Kristi Fernandez, at the tight net beneath their trapeze
act. But among themselves, the doctors and nurses who have treated traumatic
injuries for decades question whether the young lovers can bear the
stress over the long term. "Is their relationship going to survive
this?" Taylor wonders aloud. On the most important day of his new
life so far, John nearly misses the appointment to get his first artificial
limb when a fellow amputee a sixty-ish stranger blocks his wheelchair
in the hall and begins spouting advice. John and Kristi listen with
polite impatience. The man is diabetic. Once he's out of earshot, they
hurry to Miller's lab. "Nothing he said applied," John observes.
"I know!" Kristi nearly shouts. "It wasn't vascular,
it was a bomb!" Joe Miller greets them with the foot he ordered
for John from a catalogue.
"What exact type of foot is this?"
John wants to know. "Is it flexible? How does it work? What about
lateral distribution weight?"
"This is a dynamic response foot,"
Miller says. "A special keel gives you ankle motion without having
a true joint."
John has brought a new sneaker for the new foot.
Kristi pulls it out of her ever expanding tote bag, which also contains
sterile gauze, John's pills and lip gloss. A thick silicone stocking
slips over John's stump. A brass pin on the bottom will screw into the
plastic socket Miller has crafted, which in turn fastens onto the artificial
foot. "Does it hurt?" Kristi wonders.
"No, I'm all right," John assures her.
"I forgot what you look like with legs!" she says happily.
Miller leads the way to a practice walkway flanked
by parallel railings. He warns John to take it easy, that he may feel
dizzy. For the first time since he was wounded, John Fernandez stands.
"I'm going to be a lot taller!" he
discovers, laughing. The prosthesis has added two inches to his 5 foot
"Oh, I like it when you stand up," Kristi says flirtatiously.
The parallel bars shake from the force of John's grip, and Miller asks
if he's okay, can he manage. And John answers the way he always does.
"Yeah, I'm all right."
Memories of War
When Garth Stewart was in Iraq, he would lie under camouflage netting
and listen to the plastic leaves rattling in the wind. He'd close his
eyes and imagine he was at home in the woods in Minnesota. But back
in Stillwater, all Garth can think about is Iraq. His mom works in the
bakery at a grocery store, so he has the apartment to himself most of
the day. Fitted with a new prosthesis, he practices walking with his
cane. He plays video games and reads Marcus Aurelius. His friends throw
a party in his honour. Garth holds everyone spellbound with his stories
from Iraq. He removes his prosthesis to let people see. A guy drinks
beer from the hollow socket. Garth keeps in touch with the Milkshake
Man. Jim Mayer encourages Garth to visit Ward 57 someday to speak to
new amputees. At first, Garth recoils. That hospital represents nothing
but pain. But the idea starts to grow on him. Stillwater is green and
hot, cut in two by the majestic St. Croix River where Garth swam as
a kid. One afternoon, a friend picks him up and she drives him to the
river. Garth limps as he makes his way toward the water. "It's
not much farther," his friend says, looking back to make sure Garth
is okay. The two of them lie on a rock in the sun, Garth's silver prosthetic
ankle glinting in the sun. Canoeists paddle by and birds fly overhead.
"I came back here and people think the Iraqis just surrendered,"
Garth says. "The television didn't show anything. I saw bodies.
Melted bodies. Skulls. Bodies with the skin falling off. We got to Karbala
and we started fighting the Republican Guard. Those guys don't want
to take no for an answer." His feelings about the war remain mixed.
But there is no doubt surrounding his desire to be a soldier again.
Finally he gets the news he's been waiting for. Garth is told to report
back to Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the 3rd Infantry Division.
A Future in Flux
Danny Roberts is home alone in his new ground floor rental outside Green
Bay when the three boxes arrive from Iraq, emissaries from a distant
dream scape. Danny tears into them, dirt and sand spilling everywhere.
My stuff! All his Army gear, plus his CD player, the last disc he listened
to still inside. In Wisconsin, Danny is unsettled, scattered. Waiting
for a new foot, still unable to put weight on his other leg with its
mangled heel, he can't reach the cupboards so his girlfriend has to
put dishes out for him each day before going to work. For now, he spends
hours watching television or reading or playing video games. Doctors
told him it would improve his concentration. Tests revealed mild brain
trauma, after all. Which burns Danny out, despite assurances it will
heal on its own within a few months. Sometimes he forgets where he put
things, or who called or visited him that day. He joins a chapter of
Purple Heart veterans, and they push his wheelchair in the Memorial
Day parade. The Veterans Administration is trying to determine what
kind of vocational training would suit him, but Danny is convinced they
screwed up the test results. "You have no reading comprehension,"
he remembers the V.A. lady telling him. He is still incredulous. "All
I know how to do is read! " Does this mean they won't pay for him
to get the English degree he wants? He sweet talks the V.A. lady into
retesting him, and plans to re enroll in college this fall. He's applying
for a discharge from the Army. Maybe he won't teach, after all. Maybe
he'll buy land in the Colorado Rockies. He knows a tiny town called
Alma where they're always desperate to fill the lone policeman's job.
He imagines himself the peacekeeper in that cool, quiet place. Jennifer
Love Hewitt keeps calling. The actress kissed Danny's forehead when
she visited Ward 57. Now she wants him to participate in an MTV documentary.
Sure, he tells her. Danny is still trying to sort out what he thinks
about this war. "I want the world to be a better place," he
muses. "We gotta focus on homelessness, on education. We spend
more money on guns and tobacco than we do on education." He records
a new message on his answering machine. Danny's voice sounds rushed,
like he's worried that time will run out. Well before the beep, he offers
a hurried sign off. "Peace" is what he says.
Reporting for Duty
Fort Benning is just like Garth remembered: scrubby little sand hills
and Georgia pines, with hot asphalt roads slashing the landscape of
flat buildings. One thing is different: No one is here. Garth passes
his barracks. The parking lot is empty. All 4,500 soldiers in the 3rd
Brigade are still deployed. He knows it's up to the Army to decide his
assignment, but Garth wants to convince the medical review board he
can be a ground pounder again. A cab drops him off and he walks into
battalion headquarters. Behind a desk, the weekend duty sergeant is
playing video games. Garth introduces himself. "I was wounded in
Iraq," he says. "I need a place to stay tonight." The
sergeant dials someone on the phone. "Hey, we got a W.I.A. here,"
he says. "Hey," Garth says, pleased at the heroic sound. "I
guess I am a Wounded In Action." Three hours later, another sergeant
arrives to welcome him back and announce that a room in the barracks
awaits him. Instead of the fourth floor where he used to live, he's
getting a spot on the first floor where the non-commissioned officers
are housed. Garth's jaw drops. "No stairs!" he says. He arrives
in his new barracks and sits down on the bed. After 16 hours of wearing
his prosthesis, his leg is throbbing. He lays his cane aside and looks
around. There are fresh sheets on his bunk and the room has been stocked
with toilet paper, bottled water and a few candy bars. "Outstanding,"
John Fernandez returns to West Point at the invitation of Vice President
Cheney. It is graduation day, and he is a guest of honour. Only 48 hours
earlier, he was at Walter Reed getting his second foot attached. For
the first time since the war, John is back in uniform, crisp in his
Army dress blues, spit shined shoes on plastic feet. He gazes from his
wheelchair at the perfect rows of proud cadets; only two years have
gone by since he was one, too. John begins steeling himself, a soldier
with a mission. As the opening bars of "The Star Spangled Banner"
fill the stadium, John rises from his wheelchair, up through the blinding
pain. With Kristi holding him tight, he stands tall for just a few shaky
minutes, and salutes his flag.
REALITY BEGINS TO DAWN - "BRING THEM HOME
The following two press releases, dated 7th and
23rd August, 2003, demonstrate the growing anger of the American public:
Military Families, Veterans Demand End to Occupation
Immediate Return of All U.S. Troops to Home Duty Stations
Galvanized to action by George W. Bush's inane and reckless "Bring
'em on" challenge to armed Iraqi's resisting occupation, Military
Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace and other organizations based
in the military community will launch Bring Them Home Now, a campaign
aimed at ending the United States occupation of Iraq and returning troops
to their home bases, at press conferences on August 13 in Washington,
D.C; and on August 14 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. United States
military casualties from the occupation of Iraq have been more than
twice the number most Americans have been led to believe because of
an extraordinarily high number of accidents, suicides and other non-combat
deaths in the ranks that have gone largely unreported in the media.
The other under reported cost of the war for United States soldiers
is the number of American wounded - 827, officially, since Operation
Iraqi Freedom began. (Unofficial figures are in the thousands.). About
half have been injured since Bush's triumphant claim on board the aircraft
carrier U.S.S. Lincoln at the beginning of May that major combat was
over. The mission of the Bring them Home Now campaign is to unite the
voices of military families, veterans, and G.Is. themselves to demanding:
an end to the occupation of Iraq and other misguided military adventures
and an immediate return of all US troops to their home duty stations.
In Washington, D.C., and Fayetteville, N.C., Veterans and Military Families
will raise concerns about current conditions in Iraq that their loved
ones and other troops are facing such as the lack of planning and support
troops are receiving, as well as questions about the justifications
used to send troops to Iraq in the first place.
Who: Military Families and Veterans (See list
of speakers below)
What: Press Conference to launch the Bring Them
Home Now Campaign
When: Wednesday August l3, 2003, l0.00am.;& Thursday, August l4,
Where 8113: National Press Club, West Room (529 14th Street NW Washington,
D.C.); 8/14: Quaker House 223 Hillside Ave. Fayetteville NC 28301
Moderators: Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson,
co founders, Military Families Speak Out, an organization of families
opposed to the United States invasion and now occupation of Iraq who
all have loved ones in the military. Their son Joe is a Marine who was
deployed in August 2002 and who returned from Iraq on Memorial Day 2003.
Susan Schuman, from Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts,
is the mother of Justin C. Schuman, a sergeant in the Massachusetts
National Guard. Justin was deployed to Iraq from Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
on March 29, 2003, and is stationed in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
Michael T. McPhearson a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina was a
field artillery officer of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during
Desert Shield-Desert Storm. His military career includes 6 years of
reserve service and 5 years active duty service. Now living in Bloomfield,
New Jersey and a member of Veterans For Peace, Michael works as an activist
and facilitator to help bring about social and economic justice. He
is the father of an eighteen-year old son who is planning to join the
Army in September.
Fernando Suarez del Solar, of Escondido, California,
is the father of Marine Lance Corporal Jesus Suarez, one of the first
United States servicemen killed in Iraq (March 27, 2003). Suarez is
seeking the truth behind why his son and others were sent to their deaths
Stan Goff, of Raleigh, North Carolina, began
a military career in the United States Army in 1970 and retired as a
Special Forces Master Sergeant in 1996. He served in Ranger, Airborne
and Special Forces counter terrorist units, in eight conflict areas.
He has become an astute commentator on military matters and an outspoken
critic of the United States occupation of Iraq. His son serves in the
United States Army and has just been deployed to Iraq.
Other military family members and veterans will
be present and available for questions.
Military Families Gather in Crawford on August
23 to Tell George
Bush "Bring Them Home Now!"
On August 23, 2003, military families, veterans and other concerned
citizens from the state will converge on the Crawford Football Field
from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm with one clear message, "Enough is enough,
bring the troops home now!" Backed by the group Military Families
Speak Out, protesters carrying signs bearing pictures of their loved
ones in the military want to show George Bush the faces of the men and
women he is putting in imminent danger day after day. "George Bush
said, 'Bring 'em on!' but we say bring them home!"said Nancy Lessin,
co founder of Military Families Speak Out, one of the organizations
launching "Bring Them Home Now". "If fighting is truly
over in Iraq, then our soldiers should be on their way home, not being
killed at the rate of one a day. Their presence in that region is purely
political and George Bush needs to be shown the families are not going
to sit back and accept our loved ones being killed anymore," said
Joe Gordon, father in law of a reservist currently serving in Iraq.
On May 1, 2003 George Bush announced that major fighting is over in
Iraq. Since that day we have lost 55 soldiers to combat related injuries.
On average, we are losing one American soldier a day. Over the weekend
George Bush seemed "upbeat" about the progress that is being
made in the region, while four more soldiers were being wounded in ambushes.
For military families this is unacceptable. For anyone who claims to
support our troops, this should be unacceptable.
"I never want to talk with my kids about
their dad in the past tense. 1 don't want to have to explain to my kids
that their father died in a war that should never have been fought.
If I don't fight to get him home, the chances of that happening increase
everyday. I can't allow that to happen to my or any family of an American
soldier," protest organizer Candance Robison stated. Until this
point, many family members have hesitated to speak out for fear of retribution
on their soldiers and themselves. "It is time to speak out because
our troops are still dying and our government is still lying,"
said Robison. "Morale is at an all time low and our heroes feel
like they've been forgotten," Robison continued. "We are gathering
in Crawford to let them know we do care and to let George Bush know
we will not stop speaking out until every American soldier is brought
home safely." On Wednesday August 13th, Bring Them Home Now! launched
our campaign with a nationally televised press conference. View the
video footage on C SPANorg, and read the press release below:
AND THE REST OF THE COALITION FORCES?
* Six U.K. troops killed in Iraq (25th June,
* Dane killed as sabotage stretches coalition in Iraq (18th August,
* Three more British military police die as gunmen ambush convoy in
Basra (24th August, 2003).
* Soldier killed by mob is 50th Briton to die (29th August, 2003).
Attrition Begins To Bite Closer To Home
The United States forces as the dominant element of the Coalition took
control of the Baghdad region in the centre of Iraq, and the Northern
Kirkuk region. The British contingent, with a few American units under
command, became responsible for the coastal area around Basra, to the
South. Without doubt, the culturally insular - retarded - American troops,
sated with their own state-of-the-art superiority in conventional military
power, were the least fitted for any form of internal security operation.
Raw, untrained troops drawn from the vast American hinterland and cities
were almost totally ignorant of the Middle Eastern culture, with its
own conventions, language and traditions. We only had to watch the public
demeanour of the retired American General despatched after formal hostilities
had ended to attempt to shore up the shattered infrastructure and restore
some semblance of vital public services. The uncouth, dark-spectacled,
gum-chewing General Jay Garner demonstrated only too clearly that the
problem was far more than just skin-deep and in the lower orders; but
that it ran from top to bottom of the United States socio-military structure.
On the ground, the American occupying forces have maintained the same
menacing accoutrements; the body armour, full combat uniform, helmets,
dark goggles. Early during the occupation they destroyed monu-ments
before staged audiences of "jubilant" Iraqi civilians, entered
Iraqi property and reacted to insurrection, real, threatened, imagined
or mistaken with their super-abundant firepower. Innocent civilians,
including those who happened to be in the vicinity, were killed and
injured with the same irresponsible untrained use of force.
However lacking the underlying political or military
benevolence, the British Army has a background of three and more centuries
of dealing with indigenous populations. On the ground the British "Tommy"
has usually managed to establish a degree of empathy with the civilian
com-munity. In Basra the accoutrements of the battlefield were quickly
discarded in favour of more conventional uniform. Engineering troops
began to make repairs to the infrastructure. Even here the cultural
affinity and understanding fell short of what nevertheless remains an
occupying Anglo-American Power. British troops carried out a house-to-house
search wearing boots and trampling over mats reserved for Moslem prayer.
They intruded on the privacy of Iraqi women. Not surprisingly, Iraqi
anger at the presence of forces that had occupied, gassed and bombed
the country in the 1920s, has now started to result in death and injury
amongst the British troops as well. We have followed the situation carefully.
We have maintained close contact with the journalist Felicity Arbuthnot,
who has a deep knowledge of Iraq, its people and its culture. She has
written and broadcast widely on Iraq and with Denis Halliday (former
United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for the administration of the
United Nations Food for Oil programme, who resigned in protest at the
conduct of the sanctions against Iraq), and was senior researcher for
John Pilger's Award winning documentary: "Paying the Price Killing
the Children of Iraq"(2). Even before the invasion by the Anglo-American
Coalition Forces, Felicity predicted with uncanny accuracy what the
consequences would be. We are now witnessing these being played out.
What follows is a letter addressed by Felicity to those Americans now
determined to bring the United States involvement to an end:
"Dear 'Bring Them Home Now!' Members"
I read of your actions and anguish with pain of my own. Your loved ones
in Iraq will never know the Iraq, the people, I love: Mesopotamia, the
cradle of civilisation. Your loved ones have been lied to and led to
destroy something beyond precious. The country that brought the world
all we call civilised: writing, algebra, mathematics, the wheel, the
first time piece, the first written laws.
Abraham, father of Christianity, Islam and Judaism was believed born
at Ur, where the great ziggurat, built in the mists of time, has been
sprayed with graffiti by United States soldiers. Abraham is believed
to have been suckled on two fingers one which gave forth milk and the
other honey thus, 'land of milk and honey'. The United States army is
building a vast base there. Sacrilege for which history will never forgive.
'Bring down their statues and destroy their high places' says the Book
of Numbers. A 'Crusade' indeed.
I write in anguish not in anger. You were, as
you have eloquently said, sold a lie. The tragedy is that if the United
States and United King-dom Administration had spoken to any of those
who know Iraq we could have written the script of all that has happened.
But they wanted the oil and would not, anyway, have listened. Iraqis
are possibly the most nationalistic nation on earth and so complex a
society they make the Balkans look simple. Every decision made at the
top, makes your relatives hated more and it is not their fault, it is
the insensitive, crass stupidity of those making the decisions others
are forced to carry out. Lack of knowledge of culture is turning even
gentle university professors into resistance fighters. Nobody has apparently
even told soldiers that to stand with your arm up and palm out in Iraq,
means 'welcome', so the "liberated" drive through road blocks
and get their heads and children's heads blown off.
The Pentagon regards Iraqis as non people. They
are people of the richest culture on the planet. Now they have had their
history, their past, present and future destroyed. They have no records,
no central birth, marri-age or death registry, no health registry records,
their passports are invalid, their examination records are destroyed
they are now non people. With the water mostly off they cannot wash.
This is not alone a health hazard, but washing is integral in Islam
before and after prayer, before and after food the body must be as clean
as is hoped the soul will become. One of your members sends her son
bottled water who sends the Iraqis bottled water? Even when it is available,
Iraq's water is a biological weapon.
What about the thousands of "disappeared"? Iraq has become
a vast Guantanamo Bay. What does this say abut the democracy we are
inflicting? Iraqi friends tell me in despair that there are more 'disappeared'
now than ever under Saddam. What are we becoming? What is being done
in our name? A distinguished former United Nations Assistant Secretary
General and United Nations Co ordinator in Iraq, Count Hans von Sponeck,
said to me in despair not long ago: "The well of hate (for the
United States and United Kingdom) is filling up . . ." And it is,
worldwide. Bush's ludicrous "war on terrorism" in actuality
a war to grab whatever he and his cabal wishes, for which your loved
ones are endangered and dying where were the Afghans and Iraqis on 9/11
'planes? Not a one Pacifists are becoming potential terrorists now,
the anger worldwide is so great. United States and British citizens
where ever they are too are endangered. We are all targets now, for
possibly generations to come. Generations unborn may continue to pay
the price for Bush's delusional folly as they will in the deformities
from depleted uranium's attack on the genes in the Balkans, Afghanistan
and Iraq and on those who serve there.
I end with a memory of reconciliation. Three
years ago, I was asked by a group of anti-sanctions activists, here
in the United Kingdom, if I would act as a guide for them in a planned
visit to Iraq. I jumped at the opportunity and Sheffield Against Sanction
on Iraq and I, joined former Greek First Lady, Margarita Papandreou's
sanctions busting flight from Athens to Baghdad's proudly rebuilt, reopened
airport. "There are tears in our eyes every time a 'plane lands"
said an Iraqi friend. Isolation had been as hard as the deprivation
of the sanctions years. I had travelled numerous times, the up to twenty
seven hour road journey into Baghdad, but never flown. As we landed,
tears ran down my face.
Due to the dangers of the flight, fears of being
shot down by the illegal patrols by the United States and United Kingdom,
all the Olympic Airways crew were volunteers. The Chief Steward sat
next to me for landing and touched my hand. I looked at him and his
eyes too were full of tears. "God I love this place, these people"
he said. He had lived there for some years until the 1991 war: "I
never thought I would see it again." The airport, a beam of new
hope for the Iraqi people, is now another Guantanamo Bay, shaming us
To reconciliation: on the visit with the Sheffield
group, I had written magical, mystical, Ur into the itinerary. We were
a group of twelve and hired a battered mini bus to tour. On the road
to Ur, I kept missing the turning and eventually suggested to the driver
that we return to an army checkpoint and ask directions. The dignified
Shia soldier in charge said he was about to go off duty and lived near
the turning, if we gave him a ride, he would point it out. (The Iraqi
army was so poverty stricken, most soldiers hitched to and from duty.
So much for W.M.Ds.)
The group had printed small fliers in Arabic with a beautifully thought
through mission statement, they wanted to see, talk, learn, build bridges
with the people of Iraq. It was on green paper Iraq's colour though
under the US, Iraqi policemen are now forced to wear blue and white
uniforms like the Israeli police. They have "IP" in English
on the sleeve. There is no "P" in the Arabic language.
The soldier sat in front with the driver and
one of the group whis-pered to me: "Should we give him one?"
"Absolutely" I said.
He read it very slowly and carefully, then re
read it. Along the way we had witnessed barely describable carnage of
the ongoing United States-United Kingdom bombings of his region. He
turned round and said: "Here in the south, it is incumbent upon
us to offer hospitality to travellers. My home is simple, but I have
five chickens, you will eat well." It was the eve of the great
Muslim feast of Eid and we knew for what those chickens were destined
yet he was prepared to sacrifice them to strangers from countries who
were still devastating his. I learned about shaming humility and reconciliation,
Take your campaign to Iraq, take your anger and
grief to Iraq and share it with the mothers and fathers of Iraq that
will Bring Them Home and bring real power and reconciliation to all
"we the people" of our precious planet.
SO WHO'S NEXT? 3,000 MORE BRITISH TROOPS FOR IRAQ
So the word has rolled downhill, just like sh*t
does, to minimize patrols, harden positions, and keep the Ameri-can
casualty figures to an absolute minimum. This is, in military parlance,
a heightened force protection posture. Isolated from Iraq and Iraqis
within hardened positions, the troops are now literally between Iraq
and a hard place . . .
Note: References in the text are listed numerically,
followed by general references relevant to the subject. Prices for back
numbers of On Target are given on the last page. A wide range of additional
reading may also be found in the Stock Price List (S.P.L.), which may
be obtained post free on request from the address given on the last
page. Out of print, or older works, may be obtained through the Book
Search Service, or the Second-Hand Book Service, both of which are operated
by Mr. T.G. Turner, for which details are available as for the S.P.L.
(1) Von der Heydte, Professor Friedrich August Frhr. Modern Irregular
Warfare In Defense Policy And As A Military Phenomenon. New Benjamin
Franklin House, New York, 1986.
(2) Statutory International Rape - United Nations Sanctions Against
Iraq. On Target, Vol. 29, Nos. 19 & 20, 11th & 25th March, 2000.
- Clark, Ramsey. The Fire This Time - U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf. Thunder's
Mouth Press, 1994.
- Pilger, John. The New Rulers Of The World. Verso, 2002.
- Iraq Under Siege - The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War. Edited
by Anthony Arnove. Updated edition. Pluto Press, 2003.
- Iraq In The Global Scenario; in three parts, Nos. 18 - 23, On Target
Vol. 31, 9th & 23rd March, 6th & 20th April and 4th & 18th
Power, Greed and Money - Target Iraq. The World, Courtesy The
International Community. On Target, Vol. 32, Nos. 1 & 2, 13th &
27th July, 2002.
The "Liberation" Of Iraq - How (Not) To Win Friends
And Influence People. Published in 2 Parts. On Target Vol. 32, Nos.
18 - 21, 8th & 22nd March & 5th & 19th April, 2003.
Iraq, Before And After - Those Who Consign Us To Our Deaths. On
Target, Vol. 32, Nos. 22 - 26, 3rd, 17th & 31st May & 14th &
28th June, 2003.
Iraq - And After. On Target, Vol. 33, Nos. 1 & 2, 12th &
26th July, 2003.