This is the real world of Iraq. The young woman looks into the eyes of her captives and sees their fear and hatred. She begins to realize that these are the people she was told she came to help. When the Colorado National Guard recruiters came to her school, 8 years ago, they persuaded Kelly Dougherty (in photo) that she could serve her country in domestic disasters like floods and earthquakes. In a recent speech in Victoria, Kelly, now 26 years old, says these recruiters are very persuasive and persistent – particularly in schools in low income and poor areas of the USA. The National Guard offers a chance for paid higher education to these kids who otherwise might not afford to go to university. Kelly served in Bosnia in the military police; she was a medic when she was in the USA. In 2003 she was sent to Iraq – again to be in the military police for 10 months.
When it was a quiet day at her post in Nasariya, near Baghdad, the commander would say, “I guess it’s time to raid some houses”. So off the armed police would go and storm into some family’s home. Without Arabic translators, the police just gestured and yelled in English: Women and children onto the floor. Men were arrested and taken to detention. Kelly was told they would be spoken to in Arabic there, and would have a chance to explain themselves. She learned that did not happen; the detention prisons just keep filling up. She says that torture is not confined to one prison or one time; it is universal in USA military jails in Iraq.
The other job the military police did was guard transport vehicles that were stopped or broken down. These were all owned by the Halliburton Co. (VP Dick Cheney’s outfit) and they carried medical supplies, fuel, equipment, and food from Basra. They often killed people and animals. Kelly recalled seeing a flattened goat herd, a child, run over with his goats on the road, wondering again why was she there? The police had to protect the trucks from Iraqis who gathered around to see if they could get something. After a few hours, the police were often ordered to blow up and burn the loaded vehicles rather than let “the Iraqi looters” benefit.
Kelly came home sick of the war and left the military. She said she was opposed to the war before she went to Iraq, but thought that they would do some good for the people after the war. She believes now that this war of occupation is violent and perpetuates violence. She said the USA must withdraw its military. Leaving Iraq to the Iraqis would be less violent and is also the right thing to do. Kelly also knows the war is based on lies; it was always intended to serve corporate oil interests.
She says, “I believe that no true democracy or freedom can occur in Iraq as long as the US military is occupying the country.” She also states that the war is bleeding people and communities in the USA as public services are cut to support the war of that debt-ridden nation to the south. She is not alone in her beliefs; Kelly says most soldiers stationed in Iraq want to leave, knowing they have no right or purpose to be there.
USA does not treat its veterans well either, she says. Returned soldiers who are sick or suffering from radiation illness from the hundreds of tons of ‘depleted uranium’ used in Iraq are not helped and their sickness is often not recognized. After her discharge, Kelly helped found the Iraqi Veterans Against the War, all of whose members are veterans who have served in the US military since 9/11 and oppose the US war in Iraq.
Since her discharge Kelly has joined the growing number of veterans who speak out against the war. She also speaks in high schools to counter the recruitment tactics of the military, telling her personal real-life stories of the war in Iraq. She and many activists mourn the victims of Bush administration policies: Iraqi casualties, U.S. soldiers in Iraq, people targeted by the “war on terrorism,” as well as those whom the economy has left unemployed, uninsured, and worse-off than four years before.
During her service in Iraq, Kelly Dougherty saw the United States “treat Iraqis like trespassers in their own country.” She accuses the Bush administration of “perverting people’s sense of patriotism for their own greedy means.”
While she was in Victoria and Vancouver, Kelly called on Canadians whom she respects for staying out of the war (not that we stopped selling arms or uranium to the USA to use in Iraq) and asked us to support USA war resisters. Her call is joined by that of Tom Hayden, a political activist for decades and 18-year member of the California Assembly and Senate.
Hayden was recently in Canada, also, meeting with activists and politicians in Ottawa. He says, “Thousands of troops are refusing to fight Bush’s war in Iraq. These are young people who volunteered to defend their country thinking it was under attack, but now they realize this war is not about defending America — it is about fulfilling the unbridled ambition of the Bush administration”.
He was accompanied to Canada by Celeste Zappala. A year ago, Celeste’s son, Sherwood Baker, was killed in action in Baghdad. Sherwood is one of more than 1,500 soldiers who have died fighting in the Bush administration’s illegal invasion of Iraq and defending its illegal occupation.
Hayden called on Canadians, “Together, Celeste and I are going to ask for Canadians’ help in ending this madness in Iraq. During America’s darkest moments, Canada has provided a sanctuary for young men and women who refuse to fight Washington’s wars. It is becoming clear that Canada is once again needed to play that role. I think the Bush administration cares very little about these soldiers’ lives. Ill-prepared and under-equipped, soldiers in Iraq are left to scavenge through garbage for scraps of bullet-proof armour plating to protect their trucks from attacks. When they have finished their tour, the military can arbitrarily extend it for a second and even third tour of duty. This places untold hardship on soldiers, their spouses and their families. As a result, 6,000 soldiers have deserted the U.S. military.”
He told Canadians that, “The Bush administration is forcing public schools to hand over their lists of students’ names and phone numbers to military recruiters. In some cases, high school students have been offered $5,000 to quite literally sign their lives away to military recruiters. Perhaps because of the pressure, or a guilty conscience, 37 recruiters have deserted the military too.”
The desperate USA Empire is also scouring its vassal states for troops. Richard Hill writes in the May, 2005 issue of New Internationalist that the single largest ethnic group in the USA military are Mexicans and Mexican descendents. There are also Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Central Americans and Ecuadorians. Many join because they are promised green cards and a possibility of USA citizenship and other benefits. One-third of USA troops in Iraq are non-citizens.
A friend in Uganda wrote in a recent letter that many young graduates have just left for Iraq to fight along side the USA army for money and that someone (a Ugandan) with connections with some people in the UK and the US last month was convincing these jobless Ugandans that there are opportunities for them to earn a living by fighting in IRAQ. He was interviewed on BBC and he said that Iraq is not as bad as it sounds and that the death figures for civilians and those in the forces are not as big as reported in the press! She concluded by saying: It is really sad that we are resorting to kill others to earn a living!
Green Left Weekly, June 1, 2005 of Australia reports that: Throughout May, 10,000 Ugandans will be recruited to work as “security personnel” in Iraq, and US military bases worldwide. The recruitment effort is spearheaded by World Wide Special Operations, who work with multinationals and governments to provide mercenaries where needed. Sources told the Kampala Monitor that the recruitment exercise had been approved by the US State Department, which has close ties to the Ugandan government. The local law firm doing the recruiting for WWSO has emphasised that the youths will not be in “combat” roles but “guard” duties, and some secretarial work. Local MP Aggrey Awori described the exercise as “tragic”, asking: “How do you provide only guard services in a country like Iraq? These people will shoot back when shot at.” Iraq has an unemployment rate of 75%.
USA war resisters want us to appeal to Prime Minister Paul Martin, urging him to allow U.S. soldiers to enter Canada if they request permission to do so. A large group of USA public figures including activists, academics, media people, and religious leaders, have signed a letter appealing to the people and politicians of Canada to offer sanctuary to USA resisters facing threats and prosecution, as we did during the Vietnam War. Hayden says they hope for a similar solidarity once again. See: www.ceasefire.ca for details.
What many of us know in our minds was brought home to our hearts by the personal evidence of this remarkable young woman, Kelly Dougherty. Her story should be heard by every person, anywhere, who still thinks that war in Iraq is about democracy and anti-terrorism.
Canada benefits from the wars of the USA. A first step to ending this immorality would be to welcome war resisters to Canada and to support their work to end this terrible tyranny and destruction of a society, its people, its environment and its independence. The eyes of those women and children lying on the floor are also on us.