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GI resistance grows, active & AWOL

Published Nov 17, 2006 11:43 PM

If the reaction of some active-duty and veteran GIs is any indication, the movement inside the U.S. military of resistance to the occupation of Iraq is not sitting back and waiting for Congress to stop the war. They are continuing to organize and struggle.

Jonathan Hutto

Workers World spoke with Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto, based in Norfolk, Va., who is a key organizer of the “Appeal for Redress.” This is a petition meant for active-duty GIs that expresses their dissent over the continued occupation of Iraq.

For Hutto, born and raised in Atlanta and reared on stories of the civil rights movement, Nov. 13 was a big day. “They began work today on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial,” he said. “I am moved by this, by King taking a place where there are memorials to Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. Theirs were dedicated to presidents. King’s is dedicated to justice and peace.

“That’s the vein in which we want to present this appeal,” the 29-year-old Howard University graduate continued. “Not as military members breaking a law, but upholding our duty to participate in democracy. We will affirm that duty and that right.”

Legal right to appeal

Hutto asserted: “To those who say military members cannot speak, I say that only under a fascist dictatorship could people be stopped from raising their voices. As children growing up we studied the history of the Freedom Rides. The Supreme Court said segregation was illegal. The Freedom Riders said, ‘We’re going to ride these buses integrated.’ We in the armed forces also have the legal right to appeal to Congress without being punished.”

The appeal, which can be found and signed by GIs at www.appealforredress.org, reads: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

Hutto says that GIs in the United States but also those stationed in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Germany, Italy and Japan have signed the petition. The organizers are going through the names carefully and have confirmed 700 active-duty GIs. They hope to collect at least 2,000 before presenting them to Congress.

Asked about the impact of the recent elections, Hutto said: “In terms of the cause of the ‘thumping,’ Iraq was the number one issue on people’s minds. The vote was a result of people’s feelings about the occupation. They want change. They see that the war is draining tax dollars and people out of their communities. Many of their youths are killed, even more severely mangled and disfigured. The advance of technology and body armor saves lives, but the troops come back with injuries that will wreck their lives.

“I see myself as a human rights defender,” Hutto said. “We have to point out the overwhelming destruction of the Iraqi people. A Johns Hopkins report said 650,000 were killed. It’s no wonder life is dangerous there for U.S. troops. Sixty-one percent of Iraqi people said they support the killing of U.S. soldiers. That’s because the service member is an occupier. The Iraqis don’t see the occupation as something that brought health care or jobs to their community.”

Return from Canada

Some of the GIs who went AWOL and lived in Canada for a year or more have now decided to return to the United States, even if it means facing punishment. One of them, Iraq war veteran and war resister Darrell Anderson, turned himself in at Fort Knox, Ky., on Oct. 3, ready to struggle if the Army put him on trial. But Anderson was released three days later and expects an “other than honorable” discharge without facing court martial.

Vietnam-era veteran Gerry Condon, who helps organize support for those GIs who are taking refuge in Canada, told WW that Anderson, who is from Lexington, Ky., expects to play a role in the movement of Iraq war veterans who speak out against the occupation. Condon was in Chicago with AWOL GI Kyle Snyder attending anti-war events. Snyder had gone on leave directly from Iraq after he witnessed U.S. soldiers shoot an innocent man in Mosul, in Iraq’s north.

Snyder stayed in western Canada for over a year, then, like Anderson, decided to return to the United States. The Army at first told him they would quickly discharge him, as they did with Anderson, but they reneged after they found out Snyder’s unit was again scheduled to be sent to Iraq, for the third time. Now Snyder is speaking out against the occupation.

On the “Democracy Now!” radio program earlier this month, Snyder had this message for GIs in Iraq: “If you feel that you’re doing the wrong thing, please speak out. [T]he GI resistance is very important in changing the politics of this country right now. And I feel that as GIs start coming out, that’s what’s going to stop this war, and that’s the only thing that’s going to stop this war.”

Lt. Ehren Watada

There is news on another resister, Lt. Ehren Watada, who began speaking out against the war last spring and turned himself in at Fort Lewis, Wash., after refusing to go to Iraq. Political charges of “contempt towards the president” were dropped Nov. 11, but Watada is to be court-martialed for “missing movement” (article 87 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) and multiple counts of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” The trial is expected in early 2007.

Commenting on the elections, Watada said: “I think as the recent elections show more and more Americans are opening their eyes, but we aren’t there yet. I hope that actions such as mine will continue to help expose the truth behind the fundamental illegality and immorality of the war.” (couragetoresist.org)

E-mail: jcat@workers.org