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imperialism & war

An Interview with Iraq War Veteran Darrell Anderson

Q: What led you to join the military?

A: Basically, I wanted money for education. I wanted a future. At the time I joined, it was a month before the war had started. So, I was ready to go to war, and I had actually joined because I wanted to see combat and wanted to go to war. I believed that If I died for my country, I'd be a hero, and I believed all the propaganda that they feed the youth of the country about war.

Q: How did you and your fellow soldiers react to President Bush's announcement of war with Iraq?

A: I was in basic training, so I was just fed a bunch of propaganda about going to war; all me and my friends could say is "I want to be the first kid on my block to kill an Iraqi" and stuff like that. I deployed to Iraq after the war had started, and I still believed that I was going there to protect my family back at home; that by me going to war my sister, my mom, everybody would be safer.
Q: How did they try to influence you to be optimistic about the war?

A: They didn't really talk much about that. They just were all "hoo rah" about it and like, "lets go to war because that's why we joined the military," and they just pumped us up about going to war. A lot of them told us we'd just be sitting in the desert eating good chow and having fun and getting paid. They never really talked about the hardship of war.

Q: So, they never really talked about the politics of the war?

A: Oh no, they don't talk politics in the military. All you're taught is "kill!"

Q: Can you talk about your first serious engagement in Iraq with the so-called enemy?

A: I got there in January '04, and my unit had been there six months already. January through March, I'd been shot at a few times, saw a few mortar rounds land, but no real serious combat until April, when Bush gave his famous 'bring it on' speech, and Al-Sadr's army had an uprising where they tried to take over Baghdad in April '04. The first firefight I got into was when we were protecting the Iraqi police station and came under attack for a few hours by heavy AK fire, and three or four RPGs were shot at us. A few soldiers got injured that night and one died.

I didn't get a chance to fire my weapon since the fire was coming from a different direction, and I couldn't shoot over my fellow soldiers. After the firefight was over, cars were coming down the road, and we started turning them away. One car came through on my side and I was ordered to open fire, but I believed it was innocent civilians because the first three cars were, and I refused orders. The windows rolled down and there were children in the back, and I thought, "I don't care I did the right thing," and my superiors were telling me that I did the wrong thing and next time I'd be punished.

Q: So, you were engaged with the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr?

A: Yeah, Sadr's army. All the civilians joined in .... his army was there already, and everybody in Baghdad was hating us, so they just joined the resistance ... . he's (Sadr) got a lot of troops, but you'll only recognize half the guys fighting as his soldiers. The other guys will just be civilians picking up their arms and coming out to fight, because there's an army to join and they can fight with them instead of just being blown all to hell by us.

Q: Can you explain if there's a US policy of differentiation between civilians and the enemy?

A: There's no differentiation. If we're fired upon by the enemy, we're ordered to kill everybody there. But those orders didn't come until April. January, February, March it was: If you're shot at, take cover and wait for orders to return fire. In April it became: if you're shot at, kill everybody there, because we're losing too many soldiers and we have to stay alive.

Q: If a solider wanted to differentiate in combat was it possible or safe to do so?

A: I did so. I never fired my weapon in combat. There was no one there to shoot. If we were shot at, they left and we opened fire on the people that were just left behind—innocent civilians. I never fired my weapon. I could choose to fire my weapon if I wanted to as an individual soldier, but for the rest of the group... it was a situation where we were getting shot at, and you never knew who was shooting at you, and it got to the point where you just started shooting people, because you didn't know who was who or what was what.

Q: What is the attitude of the rank and file solider about the war?

A: When I got to Iraq in January 2004, they were already against the war. They were saying, "We're just sitting here dying here for nothing." They were sent there in 2003 looking for 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' and obviously they didn't find any, and the second thing they went to war for was to protect the people, and that's why I went there, to protect the Iraqis. Obviously, every single Iraqi hated us except for the ones that were on the take profiting from the war.

Q: Is there the same attitude amongst the officers?

A: We used to get sent out on suicide missions and my Lieutenant and my platoon Sergeant would take us to a parking lot for a couple of hours, and we'd go back and say that everything was OK. So, my Lieutenant was disobeying orders in Iraq and going on false missions.

Q: So, that was a way to get you out of harms way?

A: Yeah, we weren't going to go out there and die for nothing, so we'd just do our own thing. It was to save ourselves. But the less you believe in what you're doing, the more you're going to resist and not do it. And there was no reason to go out there and die. There was no game in the war. There was nothing to be won by going out there and dying.

Q: Why and how did you leave the military?

A: I was home for Christmas and after talking with my family, decided to go to Canada the day before I was supposed to get on a plane to go back to Germany. It was seven months before my next deployment, but I knew the time was now to make my stance. We committed war crimes in Iraq, and all our procedures went against the Geneva Convention, and I vowed as a solider to uphold the Geneva Convention and thought it was my duty to refuse, and I didn't really have a political ideology. I didn't really think about it. I just thought, as a solider, it was my duty to report war crimes. So, I went to Canada to speak out against war crimes.

Q: How hostile were the various government agencies that you had to go through?

A: In Canada, they denied my refugee application. After two years, I felt it was safer to go back [to the U.S.] alone instead of being deported. I thought I'd do more time in prison if I were deported. So basically I decided to come back. I went to turn myself in at Fort Knox and I found the Generals at Fort Knox, and they had the choice to either Court Marshall me or not, and I told them that they're going to have to put my uniform on me and pin my medals to my chest, put me on Court Martial, and that my whole defense is going to be talking about all the war crimes we committed, all the friends I've seen beating prisoners to death, all the times we killed innocent civilians.

They told me I was going to go to jail for one to five years, and when I got to the base they started to break, saying, "Come in quietly and we'll let you go." I told them no. I was gonna keep talking, and I got to the base and three days later I was sent away with discharge papers, because the soldiers on the base were really reacting to me being there. They were like, "What the hell is going on? This guys against the war and he has a purple heart." So, they released me. I guess they felt the longer I was at the base, the more trouble I was going to cause, the more soldiers I would have gotten on my side, and they felt it was better for the military to get rid of me basically.

Q: Do you believe that they're leaving you alone to put on lid on opposition?

A: Oh yeah, they put Watada [Lt. Ehren Watada] on trial, but Watada never went to Iraq. He couldn't really say anything that the people didn't already know. With me, I would have testified about war crimes. They didn't want me to go to trial because it would be bad for them. So, it was their decision to release me without punishment, because it would be better for the military.

Q: What specifically are you doing for the anti-war movement?

A: I've been speaking at High Schools to talk to kids about enlisting, and helping to stop the recruiters. I've been speaking outside of bases. I talk to soldiers at the airport when I see them in uniform. They're out there. There's like ten or twenty thousand AWOL soldiers right now.

Q: So do the soldiers just go on leave and not come back?

A: Yeah at Ft. Knox. Thousands get out-processed every year.

Q: Do you think the Democrats will end the war anytime soon?

A: No, no. If anything the Democrats will go into Iran or have a draft or something. I have no belief in Hillary Clinton or any of them, because they're all politicians. They're not going to stop the war.

homepage: homepage: http://www.socialistappeal.org

discussion

if you get a chance... 03.Mar.2007 14:58

Steve

you should really hear this guy speak, its amazing.

The truth on the ground in Iraq is even worse than you ever imagined it was.

agree 03.Mar.2007 15:18

marco

I agree with Steve

AUDIO FILE: Darrel Anderson Speaking in Portland 03.Mar.2007 15:34

JimLockhart jglockhart@comcast.net

On Friday, January 5, 2007, I was honored to attend an event featuring former US servicemen who have the Courage To Resist the Occupation of Iraq. Dennis Kyne, a veteran of the first Gulf War, spoke for about 6 minutes, first a little about his own experiences and then setting the stage for Darrel Anderson, the feature speaker of the evening and a member of the organization Iraqi Veterans Against the War.

Coming from 4 generations of combatants, Dennis spent 15 years in the army. "My obligations since I have returned from the battlefield, even as a soldier, even though I stayed in after I got back, was to reach down one generation and talk to the young people."

" I was in Desert Storm in 1991; Darrel was in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, there's your 12 year generation gap. I'm 12 years older than him and our battles are 12 years apart. However, it's the same war..............the book, the Federal Administration Handbook of Federal Benefits, which I get because I'm a 20% disabled veterans, states specifically that the Gulf War started on 2 August 1990 and will end on a date to be determined by Congress. It ain't over yet; Darrel and I were in the same war."

Though Dennis was in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and the overall conflict in which Darrel served was called Operation Desert Fox, Operation Desert Watch etc., " what you can see here is that in the old days you'd have one war and a bunch of battles,...... battle of the bulge, battles, battles battles. They don't do that to us anymore, one war, a bunch of operations. Wordsmithing, Depleted Uranium used to be called Depleted Uranium Low Level Radioactive Material. After 1991 it was referred to as DU. The Department of Defense is professional at word smithing, that's how they dupe guys like Darrel and I into thinking that we're defending something when we're actually aggressors."

Darrel states that the armed services uses people up. He quotes from a book, "On Killing," that we are using Pavlovian and R.E Skinner techniques to train soldiers. Whereas during World War ll, only "the statistics were that 15% of the troops would engage downrange and kill somebody," today "96% of the soldiers will go downrange and kill. It's not brainwashing, it's just reprogramming."

After a few more comments Dennis then introduces Darrel Anderson.

Dennis Kyne, RealPlayer

Dennis Kyne, MP3

Darrel speaks for 30 minutes about how he came to join the service, his experiences in Iraq and what led him to refuse redeployment and oppose the Occupation. "In January '03 I decided to join the military because, I was broke. I was tired of dealing drugs on the streets and I was tired of living with my grandparents and I was tired of not going to school and I was tired of being an American without healthcare." According to his own words, he figured he could get "join the military. They'll give me 50 G's for college; they'll straighten me out."

Though his mom freaked out, telling him that he'll go to war, Darrel responded, "I want to go to war, I've been waiting my whole life to go to combat, to do something crazy like that. I don't have much to live for, what's me being dead going to matter? I'll be remembered as a great person, instead of that dude who worked at the grocery store. So I signed up, shipped off, took a year of training."

Eventually ending up in Iraq, Darrel found out that what was expected of him was much less than honorable, at least not honorable according to his own personal ethics. In the ranks around him he discovered a deep racism against the Iraqis.' When I first got there I realized the racism that the soldiers had. It was obvious to me when they called them towel heads and every other name they could think of, and it really took me back. And I thought, wow, my whole life I've been taught that this is wrong, we can't be treating people like this."

" But it was obvious that it came from higher up than that....they were brainwashed into believing that the Iraqi's were less than them., and they're all terrorists, and if you kill an Iraq it's okay, because another dead Iraq is a good Iraqi.. I didn't agree with this."

Soon after his arrival Darrel began witnessing the many war crimes by American soldiers inflicted upon innocent Iraqi civilians. And too, the pressure to join in these everyday, commonplace occurrences. With every US soldier lost in combat the temptation to kill anyone, anywhere in retaliation became stronger, especially since it was not only commonplace, but that it was expected of him by other soldiers and by his commanding officers.

"The more guys we lost the more drastic our procedures became. And we had some procedures that went like this: if we're in this crowd and one of you, just one of you, you could all be peaceful protestors in downtown Baghdad, and if one of you shoots at me, my superiors told me, if you get shot at, shoot everybody that is there. Now this wasn't our procedure in January, February and March, but once we were scraping our buddies off the concrete, we started to act out, just like they did in Viet Nam."

Darrel then took the audience through two days of combat in Baghdad, days when he had to choose whether or not to shoot an unarmed young teenager, days when he did take part in a mortar attack which left 100 Iraqis dead, most of them innocent civilians. He says that the army trains these young men to kill and sends them to where that is what they must do to survive. Who is to blame, the soldier, society. Weighty questions to struggle with here in the safely of the U.S., but much weightier questions, questions of immediate life and death to those in active combat.

Leaving Iraq Darrel struggles with his conscience and the question of redeployment to Iraq. He decides to go to Canada and remains there for a year and a half, returning to stand beside those who have spoken out against the war, like Lt Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. He mentions Watada by name, as well as many others who have stood up, risking ridicule, court martial and prison for their acts of conscience.

Concluding his talk, Darrell speaks a little about what the soldiers are doing to resist this Occupation and emphasizes how crucial it is to that the anti war movement work to support these actions. Both he and Dennis stress how important it is to go to Fort Lewis on February 5 to support the actions of Lt. Watada during his court martial, where he is facing up to six years in prison for his courageous stand.

During his talk he mentions another IVAW website, Iraq Veterans Against the War Deployed,

Darrel Anderson, RealPlayer

Darrel Anderson, MP3

After Darrel spoke he fielded questions from the audience. I've included about 20 minutes of the interchange between the speakers and the audience. Many of the questions are more statements than questions, but the audience has a good grasp of the issues involved, and the interchange between them is enlightening and educational.

Here are a few websites about soldiers in resistance to the Iraqi Occupation.

Military Families Speak Out

Gold Star Families for Peace

Bring Then Home Now

US Labor Against the War

Iraq Pledge of Resistance, founded in September of 2002, is a nationwide network of activists and organizations committed to ending the war in Iraq through nonviolent, Gandhian and Kingian resistance.