‘Not us. We’re not going.’
Soldiers refuse orders in Iraq
Published Jan 6, 2008 10:01 PM
“Our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching
collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering
their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where
not near-mutinous conditions [exist] among American forces in Vietnam that have
only been exceeded in this century by ... the collapse of the czarist armies in
1916 and 1917.”
—Armed Forces Journal, June 1971
One of the most underreported stories from the Vietnam War is the role played
by the disintegration of military discipline as the war dragged on. While the
situation in Iraq has not reached the same point yet, revolutionaries
understand that the fact that the bosses are forced to rely on workers in
uniform to wage their wars raises the possibility that the troops will say,
On July 18 last year, members of 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion,
26th Infantry Regiment, held a meeting and decided collectively that they would
refuse to obey an order to go out on patrol in the Adhamiya region of Iraq.
They determined, after an IED (improvised explosive device) attack had killed
five more members of Charlie Company, that they could “no longer function
A recent four-part series in the Army Times tells Charlie Company’s
story, which is the basis for this article’s report on the mutiny. The
series, without openly questioning the U.S. role as occupier of Iraq, idealizes
the strong friendships among the U.S. troops and their willingness to make
sacrifices for their buddies.
For revolutionaries reading the Army Times series, it should be obvious that
Washington has placed these U.S. troops in an impossible situation: they must
carry out an occupation of a hostile country whose population is highly
motivated, well-armed and capable of fighting back and winning, just as in
Charlie Company’s verbal response to losing their buddies was that they
wanted to massacre Iraqis. Their physical response, however, was to break
military discipline, refusing orders to go out on patrol.
Charlie Company hit hard
Charlie Company had been in Iraq for almost a year and during that time had
been one of the hardest hit U.S. units in Iraq, losing 14 troops out of
During the day, Charlie Company patrolled constantly. Each soldier went out
three or four times a day, with a one-and-a-half-hour break between patrols.
They patrolled in full body armor in the 110-degree heat, but could only shower
every two or three days. At night, they slept 25 to a room in a run-down and
Sgt. Shawn Ladue, 27, said of their quarters: “I thought it was a dump.
Every time it’d rain, we’d get that stagnant-ass water in the
Spc. Gerry DeNardi and Sgt. Ryan Wood wrote a song titled “Adhamiya
Blues.” One line from the song says: “War, it degrades the heart
and poisons the mind. And we’re tossed aside by governments’
DeNardi joined the Army believing, “I don’t think you can say
you’re an American or you’re a patriot without serving.”
But a year of bloodshed changed his mind. After living through daily explosions
for 11 months, he said: “I’ve seen enough. I’ve done
Two weeks before his platoon refused orders, the 20-year-old DeNardi lost five
friends, killed together as they rode in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that rolled
over an IED.
Meanwhile, their tour was extended from 12 months to 15 months. They had been
scheduled to go home June 20.
Just prior to the mutiny, First Sergeant McKinney, a well-loved NCO in Charlie
Company, was on patrol with his soldiers, when the stress became too much for
him. McKinney said, “I can’t take it anymore.” He took his
M4, put it under his chin, and he killed himself in front of his men.
The following week, soldiers from Alpha Company, also of the 1st Battalion,
were hit by an IED and lost four men.
Sgt. 1st Class Tim Ybay, 38, 2nd Platoon’s platoon sergeant, said:
“I knew after losing those five guys, my platoon had to get out of there.
These were the guys they slept with, joked with, worked out with. I don’t
think they’d be able to accomplish the mission.”
The battalion gave 2nd Platoon the day to recover. Then they were scheduled to
go back out on patrol in Adhamiya on July 18.
But when Capt. Cecil Strickland, Charlie Company’s commander, returned
from a mission on June 18, he learned 2nd Platoon had refused his orders.
“They’re not coming,” Strickland said he was told. “So
I called the platoon sergeant and talked to him. ‘Remind your guys: These
are some of the things that could happen if they refuse to go out.’ I was
irritated they were thumbing their noses. I was determined to get them down
Di Nardi said, “We said, ‘No. If you make us go there, we’re
going to light up everything. There’s a thousand platoons. Not us.
We’re not going.’”
He was not aware that 2nd Platoon had met and determined that they could no
longer function and that members of the platoon were afraid that their anger
and stress would result in a massacre. They decided as a platoon that they were
done; they would refuse the order to go on patrol, despite the knowledge that
mutiny can result in court-martial, imprisonment and even execution.
But no court-martial ever came. “Captain Strickland read us our
rights,” DeNardi said. “We had 15 yes-or-no questions, and no
matter how you answered them, it looked like you disobeyed an order. No one
asked what happened. And there’s no record—no article 15. Nothing
to show it happened.”
Instead, battalion leaders began breaking up the platoon. Their only punishment
was that members of the platoon were flagged, meaning that they could not
receive promotions or awards.
As the brutal occupation of Iraq continues, with politicians from both
corporate parties committed to Wall Street’s agenda of domination of the
oil-rich Middle East, mutinies, refusals, and other acts of resistance in the
ranks will continue.
It is the task of all revolutionaries and progressives, and the antiwar
movement as a whole, to be visibly supportive of resistance in the ranks, to
continue reaching out to the working class in uniform. In addition, it is to
provide the political explanation that shows how the U.S. ruling
class—and not the Iraqi resistance—is the real enemy of the
working-class U.S. troops.
Many organizations are committed to reaching the troops. In response to plans
to call up thousands of National Guard in New Jersey, Military Families Speak
Out is distributing literature at National Guard armories where soldiers have
orders to deploy to Iraq. The Military Project (www.militaryproject.org)
organizes regular outreach to military bases and publishes GI Special, a
newsletter focusing on GI resistance and the occupation.
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