INCIDENT IN NEW BAGHDAD:
(OPEN LETTER TO FORMER US SOLDIERS AND CRITICS OF ETHAN MCCORD)
On Oscar night I am steering clear of the glitz and glamour and won’t be attending any ceremony or parties, instead I am taking time to respond to the guys and girls that served in the US military and those who are now so critical of former US soldier (now peace activist) Ethan Mccord featured in our Oscar nominated documentary, Incident in New Baghdad http://www.incidentinnewbaghdad.com/
You criticise Ethan for speaking out against war but you must have been very naive yourselves. It appears that most of you bought the lie that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, a lie used to justify invasion or why would you go to Iraq? I wonder if you had disagreed with this information would you have ever considered declining to go. When in Iraq, ask yourselves, did you follow all orders given even if you considered them to be immoral? Was your training such that you would have done anything asked of you? What had the people of Iraq ever done to you?
Some of you I know went on to witness and perhaps even participate in acts of “collateral murder” as serving soldiers, shown in video footage released by WikiLeaks whistleblower site http://wikileaks.org/ Our documentary highlights the experience of Ethan Mccord featured in this video as he comes across a street scene of devastation. An Apache helicopter has attacked civilians killing those in the line of fire including two Reuters reporters and injured a young boy and girl. The film is directed by James Spione who is seen here discussing the content http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm1sNY5qcCw
Seeing such incidents alongside witnessing the deaths of your brothers and sisters in arms must have been harrowing and hard to live with day after day. Therefore it’s not really surprising that the suicide rate among soldiers is currently higher than casualties inflicted during combat, a very disturbing statistic and one which the US government would probably rush to reject http://maxkeiser.com/2011/12/23/war-woe-suicide-kills-more-us-soldiers-than-combat-and-the-military-keeps-the-death-benefit-on-the-insurance/…
Your time therefore was wasted and it is little wonder so many military personnel are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/565407 You were perhaps injured yourselves and witnessed friends maimed or killed and all for nothing. I genuinely feel sorry for you… that you have been deceived by your own country. Any anger towards those that sent you to Iraq would be justified http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4882.htm Civilians, (unlike yourselves) did not have the choice to decline participation in war. By their very location residents of Iraq became the victims of terror (unless they left everything behind and fled to neighbouring countries) terror brought about by states initiating conflict and often violating human rights.
It’s the same “do your duty” propaganda regarding operating drones over Afghanistan /Pakistan (AfPak region). Often these unmanned aerial weapons with their lethal discharge are hitting ordinary civilians annihilating men, women and children in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). One death is one death too many. The photos (which I view regularly) are very disturbing… and victims and their families have a right to litigate in response to “target” killings which are so often clearly well “off target”. Please read this article from a lawyer representing drone victims… http://www.stateofpakistan.org/pakistans-civilian-victims-of-drone-strikes-deserve-justice-guardian Those individuals that are the intended targets of the US and its allies are only “suspected” militants, not proven. For every drone strike that inflicts casualties, more locals become radicalised in fury at seeing their communities blown apart… and those living in the Tribal Areas protest in desperation http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hp7MbMUot6b1gA5tMeCaEiX5gTtA?docId=CNG.bc8dd049c4a554269cddf6805e56394b.3c1 This is not helped of course by the Pakistani government playing both sides, criticising the attacks but taking little action to prevent “death by drone”. The collaboration is all helped by the flow of aid money but with that comes a price, servitude to the United States and loss of dignity.
Do soldiers in the US military even know or care what many ordinary Pakistanis want? The people of AfPak region are participating in dharna after dharna (peaceful demonstrations) because they live in fear of being targeted by drone strikes just going about their daily business. Is it any wonder they want to block the NATO supply line and put an end to conflict. They do not want US aid. Hear the words of Pakistani politician Imran Khan who has led anti-drone demonstrations http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13554572 Let’s face it, foreign aid and drones go hand in hand. The US don’t give freely, they expect cooperation in return for money and that may include the Pakistani government turning a blind eye to drones operating over its territory. Often the aid given does not go to the people of the region anyway but allegedly to corrupt politicians to line their pockets… corruption is another issue that Mr Khan often highlights.
Far from preventing terrorism, drone strikes by the US and its allies are now increasing militancy and this is contributing to the armies of Afghanistan and Pakistan becoming infiltrated…a lot more than is being reported in the press. Look at the Mehran Navy Base attack… allegedly aided by insurgents based within the armed services… and a story for which my journalist colleague Saleem Shahzad was tortured to death last May… http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/09/19/110919fa_fact_filkins Saleem was due to write “part two” on this subject, investigating how Taliban and Al Qaeda sympathisers are recruited into the army when he was kidnapped, beaten and his body dumped in a canal. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
To return to conflict in Iraq, I openly support WikiLeaks that produced the “collateral murder” video with the help of their former spokesperson Birgitta Jonsdottir and featured in our documentary. I refer you to the words of Kristinn Hrafnsson (WikiLeaks) that he wrote to me recently:-
I am glad that you supported the film and I am happy that it has got the award in Tribeca and this nomination now. The matter is dear to my heart as I travelled to Baghdad prior to the release of the Collateral Murder video and met there with and interviewed many of those who lost their loved ones in that attack. Among them where the widow of Mathasher Tomal, the driver of the mini-van and her two children, Said and Doha, who still bear scars from that day – not to mention the trauma of losing their father whose only crime was to stoop his car to help the wounded Reuters employee, Saeed Smagh. Meeting the people there on the ground, going to the spot where it al happened, and especially feeling the grief of the children is an experience that will never leave m even though I am rather thick skinned journalist. The children are about the same age as my own.
I have talked to Ethan McCord a number of times and he has my utmost respect. Hearing him say that seeing the video was like an awakening made it all worthwhile. If it accomplished only that it would be enough.
I wish you all the best of luck and please give my best to James Spione. Congratulations on the nomination to you both. It is so good we have again the attention on that horrible incident. That will probably be the only justice the two children, and other grieving relatives, will ever get. The truth.
WikiLeaks have released many cables exposing human rights abuses because citizens have a right to know the truth so that as voters they can make “informed” choices about issues that affect their lives. I can’t comment regarding the allegations against Private Bradley Manning or whether or not he released documents to WikiLeaks. However a person that is driven by morality and conscience to expose crimes against humanity, including alleged war crimes should be honoured not charged with treason and to my mind deserves the recent nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize http://joyb.blogspot.com/2012/02/bradley-manning-nobel-peace-prize.html The past award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama who has increased the use of drone warfare since he came into office was an exercise in hypocrisy and still has me choking on my cornflakes each morning as I read of yet more incidents of remote controlled death resulting from the extremely grim “reapers”… (the name given to a type of drone).
You have to remember guys and girls of the US military that at times some of us may have access to a lot more information than you poor soldiers on the ground… as writers we talk to all sides… Your leaders often leave you in the dark, fighting street by street, alley by alley while they pose behind the safety of a desk.
Remember also that for all your governments are verbally and physically attacking “terrorists”… they almost always end up negotiating with them too. So you fight the insurgents for years then your politicians get round the table with these same people when it suits them. They talk when they know they have no option and must retreat, when families at home are sick of waiting for bodybags and staring at coffins. Think about these not so “secret” proposed talks with Taliban for example. More propaganda! Which peace talks, with whom and in what location, it’s all conflicting news. If you want to have some idea of what is really going on in conflict zones check out the independent press also (remember mainstream media in some parts of the world may be pressurised to take the party line) and please focus on that old saying… “the first casualty of war is truth”.
You can’t win, the best you can hope for is a swift withdrawal of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan to minimize casualties… I was reminded today by a friend of the words of poet and author Rudyard Kipling referring to Afghanistan, that “graveyard of empires”:-
But rebels may find ways to fight back
When you are wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
And go to your God like a soldier.
Finally to those of you that throw up death threats in relation to our film Incident in New Baghdad or other articles deemed controversial, well some us have lived with death threats in one form or another for many years now… Two of my own family were “collateral damage” killed by the state, the combined efforts of Britain and the US prioritising profit over safety http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/bloody-awful/Content?oid=863387 So you are wasting your time, its water off a duck’s back… We can die inside anyway if we don’t speak the truth.
Many former soldiers must know deep down inside that you are just as much at risk of dying yourselves. Sadly, you are psychologically disintegrating, in meltdown, “cracking up” and keep taking your own lives on return from Iraq and Afghanistan. Does your government care…the answer is NO! Your health needs are often left unmet, you find yourselves out of work, in debt, on the streets, marriages falling apart under the pressure of trying to return to civilian life. So tell me please…what was it all for?
Carol Anne Grayson, Executive Producer of Incident in New Baghdad