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Gitmo & Iraq Vet Dave Airharts Speaks Out

Stan Goff, Feral Scholar

November 9, 2005

[October 19, the Kent State Anti-War Committee (KSAWC), an affiliate of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) stood around the Army recruiters, who had brought a rock-climbing wall to entice students over to talk with them. A member of IVAW, KSAWC, and former and Iraq War veteran, David Airhart decided to show his opposition against the war by exercising his rights of free speech. After filling out liability forms Airhart climbed the rock wall. Once he reached the top he took out a banner, which he held under his jacket, and draped it over the wall. The banner read: Kent, Ohio for Peace. Airhart was forced to climb down the back of the wall because a recruiter was coming up the front, yelling at him. As he was climbing down another recruiter came up the back and proceeded to assault Airhart both verbally and physically by pulling his shirt, forcing him off the wall.

Airhart was fined $105 by city police for disorderly conduct and told that he will have to go to judicial affairs at the university where he will face probation or expulsion. When asked why he wanted to counter-recruit against the military Airhart responded, "I do not feel that the administration should allow the military to recruit their students for an unjust war that is taking the lives of innocent people. They should be protecting their students, not using them for cannon fodder."

The recruiter who assaulted Airhart was never charged with disorderly conduct; nor was the bigot who came by screaming profanities and spitting at KSAWC members fined for being disorderly. Somehow an Iraq War veteran hanging a banner, which called for peace, was disorderly and the others were not… continued]

In Airhart’s own words:

I spent 4 months in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and 6 months in Iraq and 7 months in Afghanistan, so I have a pretty well rounded perspective of everything that’s going on in this war on terror.

When I was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba my unit’s job was to transport the detainee’s coming from Afghanistan to Cuba. We’d transport them on a school bus where we removed all of the seats and all the prisoners would be shoved in there like sardines. We were encouraged to kick them in different sensitive areas like their ribs and parts of their legs if they made the slightest movement like maybe a movement of their finger or they took too deep of a breath. We were encouraged to use severe physical punishment to prevent them from moving. But after a while it became sort of a form of entertainment for a lot of marines to sporadically kick some of these detainees for entertainment purposes. And I started to realize I think then that there are things go on in the military aren’t quite as noble as our government tries to portray. We did that for 4 months. There wasn’t a day I was there there wasn’t some sort of prisoner beating festivity going on.

From there I went to Iraq. I guess I really wasn’t ready for what was in store for me and my unit in Iraq. My unit - I was in the First Battalion, Second Marine Regiment, Charley Company. We were the unit that went in during the whole Jessica Lynch thing in An Nasiriyah.

While we were there, we were supposedly fighting Iraqi rebels and Iraqi military personnel, but I can’t really remember ever seeing any actual Iraqi soldier that we were fighting during the supposed firefight. What I do remember, we were mostly being shot at by our own close air support and helicopters. 95% [of the soldiers who were killed in my unit were] killed by friendly fire and I’d say 98% of the casualties I saw weren’t fighters of any kind - they were civilian, women, children and people who had nothing to do with the fighting. They were just innocent bystanders.

When I realized how over the top it was, was after An Nasiriyah. We were supposed to set up a perimeter around the city. We were out of sand bags. We didn’t have enough sand bags to protect our holes from small arms fire and things like that. Conveniently, there was a flour truck driver riding a truck down the highway that was full of canvas flour bags. And sand bags are made out of canvas, so this was perfect for sand bags. We were ordered to open fire on this man - just say, a working family man, and to use his flour bags as sand bags. A lot of guys in my platoon opened fire and the man was killed. And the individuals who didn’t open fire on this man were ordered to remove his body from the truck and throw it off in a ditch on the side of the road and throw some dirt on top of it. And after that, I was an extreme, I guess, sort of anti-war marine (applause).

After An Nasiriyah, we spent most of our time doing vehicle check points where you just stop random civilian drivers and search their vehicles for weapons and things like that. Oftentimes if it was a very confusing situation and the drivers of the vehicles would not understand what we were saying when we told them to stop. And when they wouldn’t stop, we were ordered to open fire on these individuals. That happened on a daily basis. And never once out of all these occasions were there any weapons in these individual’s cars. Usually it was full of family, a husband and a wife and children and they would all be killed. This happened on a daily basis. This was pretty hard to deal with after a while. And people just started to shut down. Maybe part of them wanted to pretend that they killed some innocent little girl for some sort of good cause. But we all know that’s not true.

After Iraq I thought "well great, now I’m done and I can just be a jackass in the Marine Corps until I get out. But unfortunately for me I was sent to another unit that was deploying to Afghanistan. My last 7 months…

Full text of Dave’s talk

My statement of support:

There can be no better display of the true nature of imperial militarism than how it treats its soldiers, especially those soldiers who have the audacity to believe that their experience entitles them to speak out, and the audacity to believe that they can tell the truth to the public who signs the checks for war. Dave Airhart showed that audacity wtihout hurting a single soul. He was not rewarded for bringing home the truth. He was punished for telling the truth. The recuriters cannot tell the truth. The cops cannot tell the truth. And the establishment doesn’t want to tell the truth. They want Dave Airhart to shut the fuck up and carry his experience and his insight inside himself like a shameful secret. He was valued as long as he was willing to kill and maim or to be killed or maimed. He had value as a live killer or a dead mysitfied icon, but the same imperial militarism that valued him only in this extremely narrow way wants to punish him for exercising his integrity and commitment to the truth. They want to punish him for grasping his full humanity; and they want to punish him for setting the example that shows others they can break these taboos.

The actions of the recruiters, the cops, and the administration provide no better example of why Dave Airhart was right, and why no one should sign up to do the dirty business of imperial plunder for them. And Dave Airhart provides a fine example of what it will take to stop this malicious, racist, imperial oil war. He broke those taboos. I hope people will break a lot more of them. He disobeyed. I hope a lot more people will disobey.

This whole episode had elevated the status of Dave Airhart as a human being, and it heaps shame on every coward from the recruiting office to the university administration to the police station who acted so aggressively out of fear of that same truth.

The irony of where this happened should not be lost on anyone. This is Kent State where four students laid down their lives before the same fear of the truth on May 4th, 1970, to stop another imperial war, fought with bombs and lies, and that was likewise stopped in part through the efforts of those who participated in that war and came home to bear witness to its criminality.

Dave Airhart is part of a great history — still being made.

A friend once told me that soldiers make good political scientists because politics is a matter of life and death to us. We will not keep that science hermetically sealed up inside a classroom, because it is a science for the street.

It is the science of sit-ins in congressional offices, the science of strikes, the science of street blockades, the science of graffitti, the science of refusal, the science of ending silence, and the science of banners in prohibited spaces.

It is the science of breaking taboos and the science of disobedience, and we need to study this science well. We need to study it in order to break the back of the war today, and break the back of a system that spawns the wars of the future.

The exercise of solidarity with Dave Airhart is disobedience, because it is only our reticence and fear that grant the establishment its power. That’s why they hate his lack of fear, because they know when masses of people lose their fear and begin to disobey, their power evaporates like a puddle of piss. They hate his example, and that is exactly why the efforts for counter-recruitment have to escalate. If they arrest one of us, twenty more have to fill the space. If they arrest twenty, then 500 have to fill the space. At some point, people will see what you are doing and they will eventually see the hypocrisy of loving the solider who obeys and despising the soldier who tells the truth. People will see. They saw it with burning buses in Opelika, with fire hoses in Birmingham, with police truncheons in Chicago, and with four dead students right here on the university where you all stand.

You are all being watched, and I don’t just mean by a few cops and adminstrators. History is watching you right now, and it already smiles on this honest veteran.

Some believe that they can sneak up on this system and change it while the ruling class is asleep. But the ruling class never sleeps. We will have to make the revolution right in front of them.

Warm regards to all of you from Raliegh, birthplace of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, on the border of the Black Homeland.

End the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine!

Stan Goff
Master Sergeant, Retired
US Army

Other statments of support at above link from:

# Anthony Arnove
# Bonnie Weinstein
# Brian Willson
# Camilo Mejia
# Carl Doerner
# Charles Jenks
# Charles T. Peterson
# Cindy Sheehan
# Dave Zirin
# David Swanson
# Elizabeth Wrigley-Field
# Gilda Carbonaro
# Hadas Thier, Justino Rodriguez and Nick Bergreen of the City College 4
# Howard Zinn
# Jeffrey St. Clair
# John Haberstroh
# Kristin Anderson
# Lindsey German for Stop the War Coalition (UK)
# M. Junaid Alam
# Michael Letwin, New York City Labor Against the War
# Michael Smith of "Berkeley 3″
# Mitchel Cohen
# Nagesh Rao
# Nan Beckwith Thomasson
# Nicole Robinson
# Norman Solomon
# Pablo Paredes
# Phil Gasper
# Rania Masri
# Rebecca Sambol
# Sally Bookwalter
# Sally Shaw
# Sheri Leafgren
# Sherry Wolf
# Sunny Miller for Traprock Peace Center
# Tariq Khan
# Ward Reilly

:: Article nr. 17640 sent on 10-nov-2005 03:56 ECT


Link: stangoff.com/?p=211

:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

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