Saturday, February 28, 2009

Making the Best of It

The shit will probably hit the fan for the American unit seen partying in a Baghdad bar. I’m glad I am not the clearly identifiable soldier (the link is to the entire photo gallery; you have to scroll through the photos. I think he's number 5)chain dancing with Iraqi patrons. Or the officer in charge of the patrol. If they’re smart, the soldiers will play up the “normalcy” and openness of the New Baghdad and describe the dancing as a form of integrating with the Iraqi people. Explaining soldiers drinking beer on patrol will be more difficult, I believe.

What caught my eye, though, were the Iraqis, mostly men but a few women, all dressed Western-style. Not a headscarf in view anywhere. Several women were described in the photos as prostitute, hired dancer or performer. I wondered how many of the male patrons men would look with favor on seeing their sister or daughter portrayed as a prostitute in a major newspaper? (The prostitute may not have a living brother or father, a very real possibility in post-invasion Iraq. But that's another story.) A successful singer is okay for secular Iraqis, I guess, but some Iraqis still believe that singing and dancing are capital offenses. The brother of the prostitute may kill her because she brings dishonor to his family.

The consequences of this night out probably won’t be pleasant for the principals involved. American commanders will not be happy, especially with statements that suggest that US forces are routinely drinking on the job. But no Americans are likely to die for their actions. I can’t say that for the Iraqis.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This is Cool!


LAKEWOOD, WA As the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq nears most
people are saddened, many people are angry, and some groups are doing
something about it. Some of those groups - G.I. Voice, Iraq Veterans Against
the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Courage to Resist, and Industrial
Workers of the World - recently hosted an historic weekend of training and
dialogue at COFFEE STRONG, the G.I. coffeehouse located just outside of Ft.
Lewis, WA.

The training was provided for active duty members of the military who flew
in from all over the country. The training covered a wide range of topics
which included organizing in a hostile environment, building and maintaining
active duty organizations, social and industrial mapping, developing
affinity groups, the history of IVAW and VVAW, and GI rights.

Active duty soldier and member of IVAW Jabbar Gaffney was very enthusiastic
about the two-day event. "It was very effective training that provided tools
to be used while organizing in hostile situations." He also noted, "It's
getting easier to approach soldiers about IVAW's message."

Active duty members stationed overseas were expected to attend this weekend
training, but last minute changes to their leave inhibited their travel.

In an interview from Germany. active duty soldier and IVAW member Selena
Coppa said, "I went from having my Battalion Commander and Unit assuring me
that my leave was set, to having it pulled 8 days before the event.
Supposedly this was, 'in my best interest'.

"Other active duty organizers were sent TDY, put in the field, or were
placed on extra duty all within the same three day period.

"I think it is obvious that someone in the Army was trying to stop this."

With two wars being fought and a slumping economy it is important, now more
than ever, for GI coffeehouses like COFFEE STRONG to offer services and
resources to active duty soldiers, veterans, and their family members.
COFFEE STRONG was opened by the non-profit GI Voice Project in an effort to
provide tangible support for the troops.

Even though the Army's unofficial response has been less than welcoming, the
reaction from soldiers has been the opposite.

According to Executive Director Seth Manzel, "We have had an overwhelmingly
positive response from soldiers and the community. In fact, we have yet to
have one complaint about what we are doing.

"I think the soldiers recognize that we are here to help."

To find out how you can support this project please visit

Note: I can't hyperlink the address but you can find everything you need to know about these fine Americans at GI Voice.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Sobering Thought

Not long after I wrote that last post it dawned on me: the Capitol High School Minesweepers know things that combat veterans know. On the one hand, I find their awareness encouraging. that knowledge may keep them from simply accepting war and its attendant inhumanity. On the other hand, I'm sad that the world my generation leaves them requires that kind of knowledge.