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GI Special 4H12: " Why Am I Here?" - August 12, 2006

...SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I chose to leave after experiencing the brutalities of war in this war in Iraq, and it was a process that I considered long and hard upon my return to Fort Bragg. Those two-and-a-half months of my integration back into the military and back into society really questioned and really forced me to reevaluate my beliefs and my own personal feelings and convictions, politically and spiritually, about my involvement in the war in Iraq and also the organization of the military in general...


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GI Special 4H12: " Why Am I Here?" - August 12, 2006

Thomas F. Barton


GI Special:



Print it out: color best.  Pass it on.





[Thanks to Mark Shapiro][peacevigils.com]



People Are Wondering, "Why Am I Here?  I Mean, I Was Sent Here For A Reason"

And People Still, Soldiers In Particular, They Definitely Feel This Question Of "What Is Really Going On?"


[Thanks to D and Phil G, who sent this in.]


August 11th, 2006 Democracy Now! [Excerpts]


Today, we are joined by an Army sergeant, who chose to serve in Iraq as an army interrogator with the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg.  But he became a war resister after witnessing how the war was being fought.


His name is Sgt. Ricky Clousing. He is a 24-year-old from Sumner, Washington. He served in Iraq from December 2004 until April 2005.  Within months after returning home, he went AWOL.


He left behind a quote from Martin Luther King. It read, "Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?"


But conscience asks the question, "Is it right?"  And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right."


Today Sgt. Ricky Clousing plans to go to Fort Lewis to turn himself in to military officials.  But first he joins us live from Seattle.




AMY GOODMAN: Itís very good to have you with us.  Why did you go AWOL?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I chose to leave after experiencing the brutalities of war in this war in Iraq, and it was a process that I considered long and hard upon my return to Fort Bragg.  


Those two-and-a-half months of my integration back into the military and back into society really questioned and really forced me to reevaluate my beliefs and my own personal feelings and convictions, politically and spiritually, about my involvement in the war in Iraq and also the organization of the military in general.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you talk to us about some of your specific experiences while you were there?  My understanding is you actually witnessed some killings of innocent civilians that really affected you deeply?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: Yes, I was assigned to a tactical infantry unit, which meant basically that I was out on patrols with infantry units.  


The particular incident youíre referring to, I was in Mosul on a convoy en route, and we stopped to assist another convoy that had been struck by an IED. And during that time, I was ordered to pull rear security on the convoy, where I proceeded to go behind the rear Humvee and guard the road, basically to ensure that nobody turned down and posed a threat to U.S. forces assisting soldiers in their personal crisis, what was going on with the IED.


As I was doing that, I had seen a vehicle turn down our road going approximately 15 miles an hour.  I saw directly in the window.  It was a young boy, or a young man, I should say, and as soon as he saw U.S. troops, he was terrified, took his hands off the wheel.  It was evident that he was scared that U.S. troops were there, weapons drawn. He didn't know what was going on.  


He was making an effort to brake the vehicle and to turn around immediately, when a soldier in the turret of the Humvee behind me proceeded to open up fire and fired four to five rounds inside of the vehicle.


I went over to the vehicle with a medic and broke the window out and dragged the civilian into the road, which is common to provide first aid upon injured civilians, and even insurgents, but I look downed at him as the medic was performing first aid.


And the situation, obviously, was really -- I was in shock. I didn't know what was going on.  It was really fast.  But as I looked down in the eyes of the boy, I could tell that he was just scared.  He was frightened.  And I don't speak Arabic, and obviously there was no words exchanged, but I could look into his eyes and see that he was confused and hurt and didn't know what was going on.  You know, I could sense that from the soul he was crying out, you know, "Why is this happening to me?  Whatís going on?  What did I do?  I was turning my car around."


I spoke with the leaders afterwards and told them that basically they needed to instruct their soldiers to assess and analyze a situation properly, as the proper procedures were neglected.  


The escalation of force by waving of the arms and firing a warning shot and then proceeding to try to disengage the vehicle by shooting the tires, and then actually if the vehicle doesn't stop and it poses a threat still, you're authorized to engage into the vehicle and engage the civilian.  


All of those procedures were ignored, and it was directly -- basically the civilian was fired on immediately.


And I thought that this Iraqi died innocently, and I was really disturbed by it, really shook my foundation of why I thought we were there.  And I had skepticism before, but that particular incident, along with some other ones, really just made me second guess what we were doing there and what really is happening.


AMY GOODMAN: Did you raise it with your superiors?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I did raise it to the superiors that were in charge of the convoy. I did.


AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I brought it up to them. And it was hard for me to do that, because I was never deployed before, because I wasn't an infantry soldier. I was a military intelligence soldier attached to these infantry guys.


But when I did, I spoke what I felt I needed to say and bring up issues that needed to be questioned and concern.


And when I did, I was really shot down by the superiors, basically that I didn't know how convoy operations worked, and I had never been deployed before and I didnít understand that this happens and that thatís just something thatís a reality of war, and that I apparently didn't know what I was talking about.


JUAN GONZALEZ: And how prevalent, in your experience, were these kinds of incidents of innocent civilians being needlessly killed?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I, myself, only witnessed this particular incident where an innocent civilian was killed, although because I was an interrogator, my security clearance granted me access to the S-2 room, which is the intelligence briefing room. Itís where they have all the intelligence updates.


There is a board called the daily intelligence summary, and that holds information on how many times in our area of operation that soldiers have received small arms fire, how many IEDs have gone off and also the number of local nationals or noncombatant Iraqi civilians that are killed.


And as I said, I only saw this personally one time, but the number of innocent Iraqis killed on the bleeder board, or on the intelligence board, definitely climbed the whole time I was in Iraq.


The number never -- it gradually increased day by day that we were there in the sector.  Itís an intelligence summary board, basically of all the updates in the area of operation that we conduct in, all of the significant events.


AMY GOODMAN: Sgt. Ricky Clousing, can you go back to the beginning and tell us when and why you joined the military, the Army?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING:  I joined in 2002.  I was actually taking some time off school, and I was doing some mission work in Thailand in an orphanage.  And I ended up coming back from that trip and not knowing whether to pursue school or not.  So I moved to Europe to live with my father for a little while, and I was there for about four months, backpacking around. I was traveling, and I encountered soldiers coming back from Afghanistan, which was fairly after 9/11, fairly short after that.


And I really just started considering the possibility of serving in the military in this new era of these all new ideas that had been thrown out there.  So I started contemplating.  I went and spoke with a recruiter, and the job title that seemed appealing to me was an interrogator, partly because of the nature of the job and also because of the possibility to learn a foreign language and just the new experiences that I would have.


JUAN GONZALEZ: And when you decided to go AWOL, could you take us through some of your thoughts then, and why you decided you had to do this?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: Well, as I said, the particular incident that I saw definitely disturbed me.  Thereís a number of other incidents that happened that really added to my confusion and my conflict of conscience, you could say.


And it really -- although some might call these incidents isolated, and even in the media, you watch on the news the events that happened in Haditha, you read about the 14-year-old girl that was raped and killed by soldiers or even the abuses of Abu Ghraib. Every month or every couple months, there is always a headline issue, it seems to be, that thereís some sort of abuse of power thatís going on in Iraq.


But whatís not really covered by the media and what really isnít spoken about are the daily injustices that happened.  


And my experiences over there were daily injustices, which included that innocent civilian that was killed, but as I said, there was also a number of other incidents where I -- to sum it up, I really saw the physical, psychological and emotional harassment of civilians.   The abuse of power that goes on in Iraq each day really was just not -- I believe should not be tolerated.  And these events arenít covered by the media.


So those events that I witnessed and I was exposed to really forced me to second guess my ability to perform daily functions as a soldier, to train my soldiers that I was in charge of and to be trained.  I was basically kind of -- I felt stuck in my situation, where I really felt like -- as I got home, I really dug into information leading up to the war in Iraq and also through foreign policy in general, and I just really was -- I felt stuck, that Iím in an organization right now that Iím discovering, based on my experiences and the knowledge that Iím reading, that I really do not believe that I can honorably serve and be a part of at this time, so --


AMY GOODMAN:  Ricky Clousing, what did you do the night you left Fort Bragg, and did others there know that you were leaving, placing that quote of Dr. Martin Luther King, leaving it behind you and walking out of the base?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: Well, I didn't actually plan a day that I was going to depart from my unit.  Like I mentioned a little bit before, it was a process of when I integrated back home of my feelings really intensifying over time, and it intensified to the point in June, where I really felt like the only decision that I had in obeying my conscience and living honorably was to separate myself from the military in that way.


So nobody else in my unit knew that I was going to be leaving. It wasn't -- I didn't talk to anybody about it. I basically -- I knew this was a time I had to move and I had to separate myself.


So, as you mentioned, I left a note on my door explaining my feelings, which my unit was well aware of. My superiors already understood my conflict, and I left a quote by Martin Luther King, which you read earlier, which I feel kind of explained in a summary of how I felt in the whole matter.


JUAN GONZALEZ: What about your fellow soldiers?  Did any of them share your frustration and your disillusionment with what was going on there, or were you pretty much a loner on this issue?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: When I was in Iraq, I was primarily attached to infantry units, so I was around a different mentality of soldiers.  When I returned home and spoke to some of the people that I had trained with and stuff in my intelligence unit, there's definitely, even among the infantry soldiers, there was absolutely a feeling of confusion, a feeling of questioning whether or not we're actually in Iraq for the reasons we were told, because men and women are dying each day, you know.


Even these infantry guys are losing their friends each day in roadside bombs, losing their friends in gunfire attacks, and absolutely, the -- I mean, people are wondering, "Why am I here?  I mean, I was sent here for a reason."


And people still, soldiers in particular, they definitely feel this question of "What is really going on?"


Itís not so much spoken about on a big platform, because itís kind of like this inner question that I had before I went to Iraq, as well.  Itís just that the experiences that I had really kind of forced me to deal with these questions on the forefront, kind of like compelled me to answer them.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Sergeant, next Thursday U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada is going to face a pretrial hearing for refusing to deploy to Iraq. Two months ago, he became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment.


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: I think that there is definitely a wide amount of people that feel the same feelings I have, the same questions that Lieutenant Watada had, as many -- just like a lot of other war resisters that are standing up.


Going public is something that is basically an individual choice that has to be made that -- I know other soldiers who have left AWOL and other soldiers who even would like to leave AWOL.  


But I would definitely say that there is a progressive idea of involvement and of collective consciousness here about questioning politics and questioning whatís going on in Iraq, which really needs to involve our whole society. I think that that's the kind of the lack of civil responsibility, I maybe could say, that people in this nation have kind of stepped back from and not understood that not only are soldiers really responsible for, you know, certain situations they find themselves in in Iraq, I think as a whole our society really needs to step back and realize what's going on in Iraq and that we are directly and indirectly responsible for the injustices happening over there, whether you're military or not.


If you're a civilian and you don't speak out against whatís going on and don't make an attempt to understand it and then do something about it, I think we all share that same responsibility.  So, like I say, going public is one way I chose that I felt like I wanted to share my experiences in Iraq and shed light on a window of reality that I think has kind of been absent from the media, which is, like I said, the daily abuse of power that goes without accountability.


Iíve been very grateful that my family has been very supportive of me.  They've loved on me this whole time I've been gone.  They've been really supportive of me.  My friends, as well.  Iíve had friends in different parts of the country that are standing by me.  Even friends that don't necessarily agree with my politics of my decision, they still know that Iím a person of conviction and they still support my decision.


The last year has been obviously an interesting year, where I was really trying to piece together a lot of ideas, where as a 24 year-old man trying to recalculate my world view and my perception of not only the military, but of our government and my association in it and my involvement and my responsibilities -- these are all questions that I've pondered and thought about the last year -- I spent a lot of the year in reflection and a lot of it really trying to just be centered and, yeah, like I said, come to grips with a lot of these questions and answers.


AMY GOODMAN: Sgt. Clousing, today you're going to hold a news conference. And then, well, tell us how the day will proceed.  You're turning yourself in after a year.  And what will happen to you then?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: Itís basically dependent upon the military's reaction of what will happen. I can't -- I don't know what to expect, or I can't make speculations at this time. I have no idea.


AMY GOODMAN: Haditha, Mahmoudiya, did these surprise you?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING: They actually didn't.


I mean, my experience, especially working with infantry soldiers and seeing their reaction in circumstances that they're put in, it didn't surprise me, because I think that these events that you're talking about and the experiences that I saw are basically a larger picture of the daily devastation in Iraq and a symptom of the dehumanization of the Iraqi people and the dehumanization that happens as a soldier, naturally, of being able to take another person's life for whatever reason.


It's just these are just symptoms of the larger problem that really America has neglected to face in the last three years and that need to be talked about.


They need to be brought up in the media, these daily -- like you mentioned, the hundred people that are dying a day in Iraq, these issues need to be brought up. The mistreatment of prisoners, the mistreatment of civilians, whether or not they are detained or not, these are all --


AMY GOODMAN: Sgt. Clousing, we just have ten seconds, but you are now turning yourself in.  Are you willing to go to jail for going AWOL, absent without leave?


SGT. RICKY CLOUSING:  I knew when I made my decision that there would be consequences, and I felt like I needed to be true to my conscience, so whatever the result is, I feel at peace, and I feel calm and collected that this is destiny and that I am standing up for what I really believe in.




"Her Son Had Joined The Army, Excited And Proud To Fight For American Liberties"


11 August 2006 By David Swanson, AfterDowningStreet.org [Excerpts]


Clousing said he did not apply for conscientious objector status because he is not certain he would oppose every possible war, such as one fought in self-defense.


Clousing described US vehicles smashing into Iraqi cars, bashing windows, and opening fire on livestock for fun. He described these acts as not isolated incidents, but "the daily devastation of occupation ... daily incidents where innocent Iraqis are being killed, and it's not reported in the media."


 Clousing's mother, Sharon Pankalla, joined him at the podium in support of his decision to refuse to fight.   She said that her son had joined the Army, excited and proud to fight for American liberties, but that after he returned from Iraq he was depressed and confused.


When he sought help he was told, in that common military phrase, to "suck it up."


Do you have a friend or relative in the service?  Forward this E-MAIL along, or send us the address if you wish and weíll send it regularly.  Whether in Iraq or stuck on a base in the USA, this is extra important for your service friend, too often cut off from access to encouraging news of growing resistance to the war, at home and inside the armed services.  Send requests to address up top.






Baghdad IED Kills Two U.S. Troops


12 Aug 2006 AP


Two U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday when their foot patrol was hit by a roadside bomb south of Baghdad, the military said.


The deaths brought to 23 the number of Americans killed in Iraq this month.  At least 2,600 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.



Nevada Marine Killed In Anbar


August 11, 2006 U.S. Department of Defense News Release No. 768-06


Lance Cpl. Jeremy Z. Long, 18, of Sun Valley, Nev., died Aug. 10, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq.  He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.





U.S. troops at the site of multiple bomb explosions July 22, 2006, in east Baghdad.  (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)



Camden High School Grad Jagger Killed


08/12/06 Chad Dally, The Hillsdale Daily News


A graduate of Camden High School became the second soldier with a connection to Hillsdale County to die in Iraq.


First Sgt. Aaron Jagger, 43, died Tuesday west of Baghdad along with two other soldiers of the Armyís 1st Armored Division when a roadside bomb was detonated near their vehicle.


Jagger finished high school in Camden in 1980 and joined the Army soon after graduating.


He was serving his second tour of duty in this conflict after completing tours in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in 1992 and Bosnia earlier in his military career. He was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment.


He leaves behind a wife and five daughters.  Jagger will be buried in Michigan, though arrangements are still pending.



Baji IED Wounds U.S. Soldier


10 Aug 2006 Reuters


A U.S. soldier was wounded when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb near Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.



"As Iraqis Stand Up, Weíll Kill Them"

[Especially Ones In Ambulances Who Canít Fight Back]

Resistance Attack Wounds Occupation Cop;

U.S. Helicopter Attack On Ambulance Finishes Him Off


Aug 12, 2006 By DPA


An Iraqi policeman was killed after being wounded in one of three bomb attacks in and around Baghdad on Saturday.


Eyewitnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that an explosive device planted near an Iraqi police checkpoint on a Baghdad highway injured four policemen and two civilians.


Then, while an ambulance was carrying one of the wounded policemen, it was fired on by a US helicopter, resulting in the death of the injured policeman and the wounding of the ambulance's driver and doctor, said the eyewitnesses.


[Not to worry.  Probably a press error.  No doubt this confuses something that happened in Lebanon with Iraq.  Itís the Israeli armed forces that make a specialty of targeting ambulances and butchering medical personnel and the helpless wounded.]







Resistance Ambush Kills 3 U.S. Soldiers


8/12/2006 KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)


Three U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded in a firefight in northeastern Afghanistan after militants attacked an American patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, a military spokesman said Saturday.


U.S. troops used artillery to repel the attack in Nuristan province Friday, and helicopters rushed the wounded soldiers to medical care, said Col. Tom Collins.  A civilian was also injured.

:: Article nr. 25724 sent on 13-aug-2006 19:46 ECT


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