Paul Rockwell

'The future is progressive': A look back at 7 centrist defeats

In 2016 Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton, not because she was a visionary, certainly not because her agenda generated enthusiasm among young voters, but because Democrats—influenced by media—simply assumed that centrists are automatically more electable than progressives.

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The War on Trial: A Look at the Legal Merit of Watada's Case

This piece originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian

It is a sad day in American jurisprudence when a soldier of conscience is court-martialed -- not for lying, but for telling the truth; not for breaking a covenant with the military, but for upholding the rule of law in wartime.

The court-martial of First Lt. Ehren Watada is set for today in Fort Lewis, Wash. The 28-year-old soldier from Hawaii is the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. He is charged with "missing movement" and "conduct unbecoming an officer" including the "use of contemptuous words for the President."

The story has received a fair amount of media attention, in part because the Pentagon is trying to force three journalists to testify against Watada.

But the soldier's story is significant on its own.

A year ago, when Watada was on leave and out of uniform, he delivered a moving address to a Veterans for Peace convention. Watada is not a conscientious objector. He even offered to serve in Afghanistan.

But he questioned the legality of the war in Iraq, and he denounced the known lies of the George W. Bush administration. He said nothing more than what the world already knows, and he did not encourage any other soldiers to follow his example.

All the major issues of the Iraq fiasco -- the fraudulent basis for the war, the absence of a formal declaration from Congress (which has no constitutional authority to transfer its war-declaring power to another branch), the war crimes, the flagrant violations of international treaties such as the United Nations Charter -- are coming to a head in this historic battle between a junior officer and an army whose Abu Ghraib torture scandals shocked the world.

Ordinarily, the truth of a claim is a strong defense against any charge of defamation. Not in the Army, however. Army prosecutors do not intend to allow Watada any opportunity to prove in court that everything he said about the president is true. Prosecutors told the presiding judge, Lt. Col. John Head, that the truthfulness of Watada's speech is irrelevant to the case.

The War of Choice

On the charge of refusing deployment, Watada's case may seem weak -- he is, after all, an officer in the military, and he has failed to obey a direct order to go to Iraq. But his defense actually has legal merit: his actions are based on hard evidence about military conduct in Iraq and a clear understanding of the law.

Watada is raising matters of principle that concern the right of all soldiers to full protection of the law. Under the Constitution and the standard enlistment contract, every soldier has a right, even a duty, to disobey illegal orders. The legality of Watada's orders pursuant to a "war of choice" is the central issue of the trial.

"The war in Iraq is in fact illegal," Watada told "It is my obligation and my duty to refuse any orders to participate in this war. An order to take part in an illegal war is unlawful in itself. So my obligation is not to follow the order to go to Iraq."

No American soldier has any obligation to participate in military aggression, "crimes against peace," or any operation that violates the Geneva Conventions. Under constitutional government, the authority of military command derives not from one person alone but from the rule of law itself.

There are only two conditions in which a war is legal under international law: when force is authorized by the United Nations Security Council or when the use of force is an act of national self-defense and survival. The UN Charter, based on the Nuremberg Principles, prohibits war "as an instrument of policy." And the war in Iraq is just that -- a war of choice.

There is a common tendency among lawyers and military commanders to sneer at international law. But the Constitution is unambiguous: Article VI states, "All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby."

In a celebrated case in 1900 (United States v. Paquete Habana), the Supreme Court ruled, "International law is part of the law of the United States and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for determination."

There is no exception for the military, no wall between domestic and international law.

In his speech to the veterans Watada noted that the U.S. Army Field Manual states, "Treaties relating to the law of war have a force equal to that of laws enacted by Congress. Their provisions must be observed by both military and civilian personnel with the same strict regard for both the letter and spirit of the law which is required with respect to the Constitution and statutes...."

In the end, though, none of that may matter.

The strength of Watada's legal case will make little difference if Army prosecutors succeed in preventing him from presenting evidence in his own defense in court, especially if judges adhere to the Machiavellian view that "in war, the laws are silent."

The American judiciary has a long, sorry record of ignoring the right of American soldiers to due process and the treaty clause and war-power clause in the Constitution. Too often, judges and prosecutors, both military and civilian, claim war is a political question, a foreign policy matter, something beyond judicial review. Hence, commanders can do as they please, and those who disagree can be imprisoned.

The political question doctrine, as it is known among lawyers, is the primary way by which judges circumvent international law. It is a way by which prowar judges and commanders foreclose any substantive discussion of the legalities of a war.

Few Americans remember the dark days of wartime jurisprudence four decades ago, when U.S. courts refused to hear GI challenges to the Vietnam War. The full implications of the Watada trial can be understood in that context.

In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, American soldiers and marines were imprisoned for refusing to commit war crimes. For example, Dr. Howard Levy, a Green Beret dermatologist, spent two years in prison after he refused to train special forces in dermatology. He argued that to do so would violate the Hippocratic Oath; the Green Berets, he insisted, used medicine as a political tactic in Vietnam, and for him to assist them would cause increased suffering.

In 1965, David Henry Mitchell II, who was eventually convicted of willful failure to report for induction, challenged the legality of Lyndon Johnson's war. He raised basic constitutional issues: the absence of a formal declaration, broken treaties, a pattern of war crimes on the battlefield. No soldier, Mitchell argued, should be forced to participate in criminal policies, to choose between near-sedition and the commission of war crimes.

Federal Judge William Timbers refused to hear the evidence. When Mitchell's attorneys argued that under the Nuremberg Principles soldiers have a duty to disassociate themselves from war crimes, the judge freaked out. It is, he said, "a sickening spectacle for a 22-year-old citizen to assert such tommyrot."

The judge argued that treaties and conventions are "utterly irrelevant as a defense on the charge of willful refusal to report for induction." The message was clear, and a deadly precedent was set: even if war is manifestly illegal, soldiers are still expected to participate. United States v. Mitchell was the first in a series of infamous cases through which courts placed presidential war beyond the arm of the law.

In a 1966 ruling against Army Private Robert Luftig, Federal Judge Alexander Holtzoff ruled that the war "is obviously a political question that is outside the judicial function." With "no discussion or citation to authority," the Federal Appeals Court concurred. In the most celebrated trial of the period, that of the Fort Hood Three -- soldiers who demanded the protection of the Constitution and international law -- District Judge Edward Curran refused to hear any evidence of systematic war crimes. He called the war a political issue beyond judicial cognizance.

Taken together, the Vietnam War rulings contradict the landmark precedent Marbury v. Madison. In 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall captured the essence of judicial abdication: "It cannot be presumed that any clause in the Constitution is intended to be without effect ... To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained? ... It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."

In this case the argument is particularly clear: Watada is not taking a political position as part of his defense. The United States may be overextended; the invasion may create blowback; unilateral actions may alienate allies; war debts may boomerang on the economy; anarchy in Iraq may be unavoidable. These are political questions, but they aren't what the first lieutenant is talking about. Watada is challenging the legality, not the political wisdom, of the war.

The president, he argues, is the final arbiter of foreign policy -- but only so long as policies are carried out in accordance with the rule of law.

Same Old Story

History has long since vindicated the soldiers of conscience who spoke out against the Vietnam War -- soldiers who tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to uphold the Constitution and international law; soldiers who warned their beloved nation long before the My Lai massacre of America's impending descent into barbarism. How many Vietnamese lives could have been saved? How many American soldiers might be home today with their grandchildren had American judges as well as presiding military commanders confronted the legal monstrosities of the war against Vietnam?

The cost of judicial abdication in the Vietnam War years, when American judges averted their eyes from the emerging holocaust in Indochina, is incalculable. Without judicial immunity, many of the horrendous deeds of the Johnson-Nixon years might never have occurred.

There were more than a dozen opportunities for American judges to confront the constitutional issues evoked by that undeclared war. When Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who publicly acknowledged the illegality of US invasions in Indochina, offered to hear a war-challenge appeal, his colleagues on the court overruled him.

So today we ask: How many more Iraqis and Americans will die before American judges fulfill their current obligation to uphold and enforce the rule of law? How long will it be before the infamous Vietnam War rulings are reversed, before the blood-drenched political question doctrine is buried for good?

Lt. Col. Head, presiding at Watada's court-martial, is already preparing to repeat the follies of the past. At a pretrial hearing Jan. 17, he denied all defense motions to present hard evidence of systematic war crimes in Iraq. He rejected the Nuremberg defense. He also upheld a pivotal government motion "to prevent the defense from presenting any evidence on the illegality of the war." Like past accomplices, he claimed that Watada's case is a "political issue" beyond the jurisdiction of the court.

Capt. Daniel Kuecker, the prosecutor in the pretrial hearings, could not be reached for comment, but Watada's civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, expressed outrage at Head's judicial abdication. These rulings, he told the press after the hearing, "are extraordinarily broad and subjective, which I find reprehensible. They are essentially saying there is no right to criticize, which we all know is not true." He added, "These rulings are about as horrible and inept as I could have imagined."

The question can no longer be avoided. Do American soldiers have any rights that their commanders and judges are bound to respect? As civilians, do we not have an obligation to provide our troops full protection of the laws for which they risk their lives?

A Father Speaks Out Against the Iraq War

His buddies in the Marines called him the "Aztec warrior." Jesus Suarez del Solar was one of the first Americans killed during in invasion of Iraq. On March 27, 2003 Jesus stepped on an undetonated U.S. cluster bomb and bled to death in a remote desert near Diwaniya. Jesus left behind his wife and 1-year-old son, his mother, three sisters, and a father who now speaks out against the occupation of Iraq. As a representative of Military Families Speak Out, a burgeoning organization of 1,500 families who call for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Fernando Juarez tells high school and college students: Stay in school; don't be deceived by false promises from recruiters for Bush.

Fernando Suarez del Solar is a Mexican-born American citizen. With his wife and children, he immigrated from Tijuana, Mexico, to Escondido, California, where he delivered newspapers and worked at a Seven-Eleven store.

Paul Rockwell: How did your son lose his life in Iraq?

Fernando Suarez: On March 26th the army dropped cluster bombs outside a city. The next day my son's unit received orders to advance into the area. That's when he stepped on a cluster bomb.

Rockwell: Cluster bomb are anti-personnel weapons, with a failure rate of 15 to 20 percent. When they lie unexploded on the ground, like mines, they look like beer cans and are easy to step on. Did his commanders inform Jesus about cluster bomb drops in the area?

Suarez: He never received any information about the drop.

Rockwell: Was that a mistake, an exception to overall policy? Does the military put out fliers or warnings about cluster bombs in the area?

Suarez: No. What happened was, after my son was killed, the military in the area began to pay more attention. They publicized the accident.

Rockwell: I guess the Iraqi civilians, like kids playing in the fields, didn't get any warnings about left-over clusters?

Suarez: That's right.

Rockwell: How did your son get involved in the military?

Suarez: My son was in Mexico. Along the border there are military recruiters. My son told the recruiter he hoped to join the police in Tijuana. The recruiter said: "Don't join the Mexican police. It's dangerous for you in the police department in Tijuana. It's safer for you to join the Marine Corps."

In 1997 we moved from Tijuana to San Diego, where Jesus wanted to finish high school. That's where he joined the military.

Rockwell: Did the recruiters deceive Jesus?

Suarez: The military promised Jesus to provide money for school. They said Jesus would get $1,000 a month for school, but the recruiter never explained where the money comes from. When Jesus finished boot camp, he became very upset. He told me: "The recruiter said I am going to receive $1,000 every month. I only get $620."

So I talked with the recruiter. He explained, "Yes, you receive $1,000 a month, minus money for the scholarship, minus $100 for the uniform -- minus, minus, minus."

Rockwell: I understand that the military is recruiting youth from the Philippines, from Mexico, people of color in the Third World. Was your son living in Mexico when he was contacted?

Suarez: Yes. When he came to San Diego he had a green card.

Rockwell: Where do recruiters contact young people?

Suarez: On the border there are lots of recruiting offices. Last year, around October, this one recruiter crossed the border into Mexico and recruited young boys from a school in Mexico.

Rockwell: He went into a Mexican school to get sign-ups for the U.S. military?

Suarez: Yes.

Rockwell: What kind of promises did he make?

Suarez: According to what I heard, the recruiters say, "You can go to the U.S.A. and enter high school and enter a military program in high school." They say to the kids, "I can help you with the papers."

Rockwell: What do you think about recruiting kids from Mexico for U.S. wars?

Suarez: If they can use Hispanic people, Anglo-Americans don't have to be used. They want to use Hispanic boys in the war.

Rockwell: You mean they are trying to substitute Hispanic kids so that Anglo-Americans do not have to risk their lives?

Suarez: Exactly. They offer education and a formal offer of citizenship. That's not all. Here in the U.S. they recruit kids in the barrios. They contact them when they are 14, 15 years old. And they say to our kids, "It's not a problem you do not have papers. You can enter the program and we will help you with the papers and immigration. You just need to do well in school and our program."

This in my opinion is very immoral. There are a lot of high schools in the Mexican barrio where recruiters are recruiting. The recruiter has an open door. It's a big problem.

Rockwell: Do you feel betrayed by the Bush Administration?

Suarez: The Bush Administration lied about the war. They lied to my son. They lied about weapons of mass destruction. They lied about Iraq and September 11th. And they lie about other things.

Bush said, "I put in a lot of time to support families who lost members in the war." This is another lie. Mr. Bush never contacted me, never supported me, never supported my family. This is a lie.

We have a lot of contact with parents, parents who have boys in Iraq. They are very upset with this war and Mr. Bush. My feeling is Mr. Bush uses the boys for personal reasons, to get family revenge on Saddam. Bush has no idea about what is happening in Iraq. He never went to Vietnam. He has no good plan for what is to happen. He never provides humanitarian help for the civilian people. Thousands and thousands of civilians died. The children now have no help in the hospital. The ordinary Iraqi people say stop. You don't give me freedom. And it's not terrorist groups who are attacking Americans. It's the regular, ordinary civilian people.

In December 2003, Fernando Suarez traveled to Iraq. He visited the site where his son died, and he brought back thousands of letters of peace from Iraqi children. "My heart goes out to the soldiers, many of whom come from poor communities and joined the military as a way to get an education," he says. "Then they find themselves sent off to a faraway land where they are exposed to death every day, with their families suffering back home -- all for the whims and lies of President Bush. I support the troops, but I don't support the Commander-in-Chief."

How GI Resistance Changed History

When actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland organized an anti-war review, touring U.S. military bases and towns around the world, the GI rebellion against the war in Vietnam was already in full force. In one theatrical episode, evoking laughter and applause from thousands of soldiers and Marines, Fonda played the part of an aide to President Richard Nixon.

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More Than a Dreamer

Every year, millions of Americans pay tribute to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. We often forget, however, that King was the object of derision when he was alive. At key moments in his quest for civil rights and world peace, the corporate media treated King with hostility. Dr. King's march for open housing in Chicago, when the civil rights movement entered the North, caused a negative, you've-gone-too-far reaction in the Northern press. And Dr. King's stand on peace and international law, especially his support for the self-determination of third world peoples, caused an outcry and backlash in the predominantly white press.

In his prophetic anti-war speech at Riverside Church in 1967 (recorded and filmed for posterity but rarely quoted in today's press), King emphasized four points: 1) that American militarism would destroy the war on poverty; 2) that American jingoism breeds violence, despair, and contempt for law within the United States; 3) the use of people of color to fight against people of color abroad is a "cruel manipulation of the poor"; 4) human rights should be measured by one yardstick everywhere.

The Washington Post denounced King's anti-war position, and said King was "irresponsible." In an editorial entitled "Dr. King's error," The New York Times chastised King for going beyond the allotted domain of black leaders – civil rights. TIME called King's anti-war stand "demogogic slander ... a script for Radio Hanoi." The media responses to Dr. King's calls for peace were so venomous that King's two recent biographers – Stephen Oates and David Garrow – devoted whole chapters to the media blitz against King's internationalism.

Dr. King may be an icon within the media today, but there is still something upsetting about the way his birthday is observed. Four words – "I have a dream" – are often parrotted out of context every January 15th.

King, however, was not a dreamer – at least not the teary-eyed, mystic projected in the media. True, he was a visionary, but he specialized in applied ethics. He even called himself "a drum major for justice," and his mission, as he described it, was, "to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed." In fact, the oft-quoted "I have a dream" speech was not about far-off visions. In his speech in Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963, Dr. King confronted the poverty, injustice, and "nightmare conditions" of American cities. In its totality, the "I have a dream" speech was about the right of oppressed and poor Americans to cash their promissary note in our time. It was a call to action.

In 1986, Jesse Jackson wrote an essay on how Americans can protect the legacy of Dr. King. Jackson's essay on the trivialization, distortion and emasculation of King's memory is one of the clearest, most relevant appreciations in print of Dr. King's work. Jackson wrote: "We must resist this the media's weak and anemic memory of a great man. To think of Dr. King only as a dreamer is to do injustice to his memory and to the dream itself. Why is it that so many politicians today want to emphasize that King was a dreamer? Is it because they want us to believe that his dreams have become reality, and that therefore, we should celebrate rather than continue to fight? There is a struggle today to preserve the substance and the integrity of Dr. King's legacy."

Today, the media often ignores the range and breadth of King's teachings. His speeches – on economlc justice, on our potential to end poverty, on the power of organized mass action, his criticism of the hostile media, his opposition to U.S. imperialism (a word he dared to use) – are rarely quoted, much less discussed with understanding. In fact, successors to Dr. King who raise the same concerns today are again treated with sneers, and their "ulterior motives" are questioned. A genuine appreciation of Dr. King requires respect for the totality of his work and an ongoing commitment to struggle for peace and justice today.

A Soldier of Conscience

Editor's Note: For nearly 12 years, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core, some say gung-ho, Marine. For three years, he trained fellow Marines in one of the most grueling indoctrination rituals in military life: Marine boot camp. The Iraq war changed Massey. The brutality of the U.S. invasion touched his conscience and transformed him forever. He was honorably discharged with full severance last Dec. 31 and is now back in his hometown, Waynsville, N.C. We are republishing the following interview from the May 16 Sacramento Bee because it is a rare first-hand account of the carnage taking place in Iraq, especially the killing of innocent civilians.

You spent 12 years in the Marines. When were you sent to Iraq?

I went to Kuwait around Jan. 17. I was in Iraq from the get-go. And I was involved in the initial invasion.

What does the public need to know about your experiences as a Marine?

The cause of the Iraqi revolt against the American occupation. What they need to know is we killed a lot of innocent people. I think at first the Iraqis had the understanding that casualties are a part of war. But over the course of time, the occupation hurt the Iraqis. And I didn't see any humanitarian support.

Killing Civilians

What experiences turned you against the war and made you leave the Marines?

I was in charge of a platoon that consists of machine gunners and missile men. Our job was to go into certain areas of the towns and secure the roadways. There was this one particular incident -- and there's many more -- the one that really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. From all the intelligence reports we were getting, the cars were loaded down with suicide bombs or material. That's the rhetoric we received from intelligence. They came upon our checkpoint. We fired some warning shots. They didn't slow down. So, we lit them up.

Lit up? You mean you fired machine guns?

Right. Every car that we lit up we were expecting ammunition to go off. But we never heard any. Well, this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: "Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong." That hit me like a ton of bricks.

Baghdad was being bombed. The civilians were trying to get out, right?

Yes. They received pamphlets, propaganda we dropped on them. It said, "Just throw up your hands, lay down weapons." That's what they were doing, but we were still lighting them up. They weren't in uniform. We never found any weapons.

You got to see the bodies and casualties?

Yeah, firsthand. I helped throw them in a ditch.

Over what period did all this take place?

During the invasion of Baghdad.

How many times were you involved in checkpoint "light-ups"?

Five times. There was [the city of] Rekha. The gentleman was driving a stolen work utility van. He didn't stop. With us being trigger happy, we didn't really give this guy much of a chance. We lit him up pretty good. Then we inspected the back of the van. We found nothing. No explosives.

The reports said the cars were loaded with explosives. In all the incidents did you find that to be the case?

Never. Not once. There were no secondary explosions. As a matter of fact, we lit up a rally after we heard a stray gunshot.

A demonstration? Where?

On the outskirts of Baghdad. Near a military compound. There were demonstrators at the end of the street. They were young and they had no weapons. And when we rolled onto the scene, there was already a tank that was parked on the side of the road. If the Iraqis wanted to do something, they could have blown up the tank. But they didn't. They were only holding a demonstration. Down at the end of the road, we saw some RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) lined up against the wall. That put us at ease because we thought: "Wow, if they were going to blow us up, they would have done it."

Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out?

Higher command. We were told to be on the lookout for the civilians because a lot of the Fedayeen and the Republican Guards had tossed away uniforms and put on civilian clothes and were mounting terrorist attacks on American soldiers. The intelligence reports that were given to us were basically known by every member of the chain of command. The rank structure that was implemented in Iraq by the chain of command was evident to every Marine in Iraq. The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials, including intelligence communities within the military and the U.S. government.

What kind of firepower was employed?

M-16s, 50-cal. machine guns.

You fired into six or ten kids? Were they all taken out?

Oh, yeah. Well, I had a "mercy" on one guy. When we rolled up, he was hiding behind a concrete pillar. I saw him and raised my weapon up, and he put up his hands. He ran off. I told everybody, "Don't shoot." Half of his foot was trailing behind him. So, he was running with half of his foot cut off.

After you lit up the demonstration, how long before the next incident?

Probably about one or two hours. This is another thing, too. I am so glad I am talking with you, because I suppressed all of this.

Well, I appreciate you giving me the information, as hard as it must be to recall the painful details.

That's all right. It's kind of therapy for me. Because it's something that I had repressed for a long time.

And the incident?

There was an incident with one of the cars. We shot an individual with his hands up. He got out of the car. He was badly shot. We lit him up. I don't know who started shooting first. One of the Marines came running over to where we were and said: "You all just shot a guy with his hands up." Man, I forgot about this.

Depleted Uranium

What can you tell me about cluster bombs, or depleted uranium?

Depleted uranium. I know what it does. It's basically like leaving plutonium rods around. I'm 32 years old. I have 80 percent of my lung capacity. I ache all the time. I don't feel like a healthy 32-year-old.

Were you in the vicinity of depleted uranium?

Oh, yeah. It's everywhere. DU is everywhere on the battlefield. If you hit a tank, there's dust.

Did you breath any dust?


And if DU is affecting you or our troops, it's impacting Iraqi civilians.

Oh, yeah. They got a big wasteland problem.

Do Marines have any precautions about dealing with DU?

Not that I know of. Well, if a tank gets hit, crews are detained for a little while to make sure there are no signs or symptoms. American tanks have depleted uranium on the sides, and the projectiles have DU in them. If an enemy vehicle gets hit, the area gets contaminated. Dead rounds are in the ground. The civilian populace is just now starting to learn about it. Hell, I didn't even know about DU until two years ago. You know how I found out about it? I read an article in Rolling Stone magazine. I just started inquiring about it, and I said "Holy s---!"

Cluster bombs are also controversial. U.N. commissions have called for a ban. Were you acquainted with cluster bombs?

I had one of my Marines in my battalion who lost his leg from an intermittent cluster bomb.

What's an ICBM?

A multi-purpose cluster bomb.

What happened?

He stepped on it. We didn't get to training about clusters until about a month before I left.

What kind of training?

They told us what they looked like, and not to step on them.

Were you in any areas where they were dropped?

Oh, yeah. They were everywhere.

Dropped from the air?

From the air as well as artillery.

Are they dropped far away from cities, or inside the cities?

They are used everywhere. Now if you talked to a Marine artillery officer, he would give you the runaround, the politically correct answer. But for an average grunt, they're everywhere.

Including inside the towns and cities?

Yes, if you were going into a city, you knew there were going to be intermittent cluster bombs.

Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons. They are not precise. They don't injure buildings, or hurt tanks. Only people and living things. There are a lot of undetonated duds and they go off after the battles are over, right?

Once the round leaves the tube, the cluster bomb has a mind of its own. There's always human error. I'm going to tell you: The armed forces are in a tight spot over there. It's starting to leak out about the civilian casualties that are taking place. The Iraqis know. I keep hearing reports from my Marine buddies inside that there were 200-something civilians killed in Fallujah. The military is scrambling right now to keep the wraps on that. My understanding is Fallujah is just littered with civilian bodies.

Losing Faith

I would like to go back to the first incident, when the survivor asked why did you kill his brother. Was that the incident that pushed you over the edge, as you put it?

Oh, yeah. Later on I found out that was a typical day. I talked with my commanding officer after the incident. He came up to me and says: "Are you OK?" I said: "No, today is not a good day. We killed a bunch of civilians." He goes: "No, today was a good day." And when he said that, I said "Oh, my goodness, what the hell am I into?"

Your feelings changed during the invasion. What was your state of mind before the invasion?

I was like every other troop. My president told me they got weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam threatened the free world, that he had all this might and could reach us anywhere. I just bought into the whole thing.

What changed you?

The civilian casualties taking place. That was what made the difference. That was when I changed.

Did the revelations that we didn't find any proof about Iraq's weapons affect the troops?

Yes. I killed innocent people for our government. For what? What did I do? Where is the good coming out of it? I feel like I've had a hand in some sort of evil lie at the hands of our government. I just feel embarrassed, ashamed about it.

I understand that all the incidents -- killing civilians at checkpoints, itchy fingers at the rally -- weigh on you. What happened with your commanding officers? How did you deal with them?

There was an incident. It was right after the fall of Baghdad, when we went back down south. On the outskirts of Karbala, we had a morning meeting on the battle plan. I was not in a good mindset. All these things were going through my head -- about what we were doing over there. About some of the things my troops were asking. I was holding it all inside. My lieutenant and I got into a conversation. The conversation was striking me wrong. And I lashed out. I looked at him and told him: "You know, I honestly feel that what we're doing is wrong over here. We're committing genocide."

He asked me something and I said that with the killing of civilians and the depleted uranium we're leaving over here, we're not going to have to worry about terrorists. He didn't like that. He got up and stormed off. And I knew right then and there that my career was over. I was talking to my commanding officer.

What happened then?

After I talked to the top commander, I was kind of scurried away. I was basically put on house arrest. I didn't talk to other troops. I didn't want to hurt them. I didn't want to jeopardize them.

I want to help people. I felt strongly about it. I had to say something. When I was sent back to stateside, I went in front of the sergeant major. He's in charge of 3,500-plus Marines. "Sir," I told him, "I don't want your money. I don't want your benefits. What you did was wrong."

It was just a personal conviction with me. I've had an impeccable career. I chose to get out. And you know who I blame? I blame the president of the U.S. It's not the grunt. I blame the president because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. It was a lie.

Paul Rockwell ( is a writer who lives in Oakland.

We are republishing this story with his permission and in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. This material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you want to republish this article, please contact the Sacramento Bee.

Economic Blowback

Along with anti-war marches, demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience, spontaneous boycotts against U.S. and British goods are taking place in cities throughout the world, from South Africa to Pakistan.

A coalition of anti-war groups in Pakistan, where fast foods are popular, launched a boycott against McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. In Australia, Not in Our Name activists called for an international shutdown of U.S. business. One spokesperson said: "As the Anglo-American blitzkrieg is now under way, all those people worldwide who are opposed to the invasion have been asked to boycott all trade with the aggressor countries. Select products and services from countries that are in favor of peace."

South African protesters in Cape Town called for a boycott of all American and British goods. Demonstrators also demanded that Denel, a South African contractor, cancel all contracts that supply military components to the U.K. and the U.S. Similar calls for economic action have been issued in Egypt, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Chile and the U.K.

Like Ghandi's historic boycott of British textiles, when the people of India manufactured their own clothing, today's boycotts are promoting creativity and self-reliance in the Mideast. Sales of Pepsi and Coca-Cola are plummeting as Islamic nations create alternative cola drinks called Zam Zam and Mecca Cola. Local manufacturers cannot keep pace with the demand from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Mecca Colas have already turned up in Britain. Recently peace groups distributed 36,000 bottles of Mecca Cola at Hyde Park in London. The Iranian government has banned ads for U.S.-manufactured goods.

Fermiamo La Guerre, a huge coalition of peace groups in Italy, has called for a boycott of "American interests," targeting corporations that stand to gain from the war. The boycott began against Esso (Exxon in the U.S.) and will be extended to other oil companies -- Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco. Greenpeace has already launched a boycott against Exxon-Esso and Mobil.

The economic boycott is based on the view that U.S. and Britain should be denied the spoils of war. Bechtel, a corporate Goliath that did business with Saddam Hussein when he was committing war crimes against Iranians and Iraqis, recently accepted a contract for the post-war reconstruction. As a result, Bechtel became the object of militant demonstrations at its headquarters in San Francisco.

A boycott is a common way to harness popular energy before it dissipates, a way to broaden mass participation in the peace movement. The American revolution began with a boycott -- the Boston Tea Party. The non-violent movement that brought down the British empire included Ghandi's boycott against British textiles. The Montgomery Bus Boycott launched the civil rights movement. Led by Cesar Chavez, the United Farm Workers were unionized through arduous national boycotts of lettuce and grapes.

Millions of people seek non-violent ways to express their abhorrence of war and empire. The boycott is the widest gateway to the peace movement. Even those who lack purchasing power willingly join pickets and lend support.

A boycott can become an early form of economic empowerment. CEOs who treat world opinion with contempt go berserk when their profits shrink. The current boycott is a grassroots movement, and the targets and strategies are diverse. Some groups refuse to purchase any U.S. and British goods. Others target the companies that profit from conquest and war. All over the world, symbols of U.S. culture are under attack: Coca Cola, Starbucks, McDonald's, the big oil companies.

Leaders of the peace movement already realize that, in absence of economic action, it may be impossible to reverse the march of empire. In the end, it is the U.S. that really depends on the people of the world -- on their land, their oil and water, their resources, their labor and ingenuity, and on their buying power -- not the people of the world who depend on the U.S.

In the midst of the hardship of the Montgomery Bus boycott against U.S. segregation, when the days of civil rights were still dark, Dr. King said: "The arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice."

Time is on the side of the people. Let the boycott begin.

Paul Rockwell is a writer based in Oakland, Calif.

Who Armed Iraq?

Before World War I, arms manufacturers were commonly called "merchants of death." As clouds of war gathered over Europe, the peace movement worked in vain to stop armament companies from producing explosives, torpedoes, mustard gas, machine guns, dreadnoughts, subs, destroyers, U-boats, howitzers, bombers and zeppelins.

Two world wars and countless regional conflicts have since ravaged the globe. The merchants of death are still in business. Iraq's Weapons Declaration underscores a tragic irony: The United States, the world's leading arms supplier, is taking the world to war to stop arms proliferation in the very country to which it shipped chemicals, biological seed stock and weapons for more than 10 years.

According to the December declaration, treated with much derision from the Bush administration, U.S. and Western companies played a key role in building Hussein's war machine. The 1,200-page document contains a list of Western corporations and countries -- as well as individuals -- that exported chemical and biological materials to Iraq in the past two decades.

Embarrassed, no doubt, by revelations of their own complicity in Mideast arms proliferation, the U.S.-led Security Council censored the entire dossier, deleting more than 100 names of companies and groups that profited from Iraq's crimes and aggression. The censorship came too late, however. The long list -- including names of large U.S. corporations -- Dupont, Hewlett-Packard, and Honeywell -- was leaked to a German daily, Die Tageszeitung. Despite the Security Council coverup, the truth came out.

A German company, for example, exported 1,000 ignition systems for Styx and Scud missiles capable of carrying biological and nuclear warheads.

Alcolac International, a Maryland company, transported thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor, to Iraq. A Tennessee manufacturer contributed large amounts of a chemical used to make sarin, a nerve gas implicated in Gulf War diseases.

Phyllis Bennis, author of "Before and After," notes that "the highest quality seed-stock for anthrax germs (along with those of botulism, E. coli, and a host of other deadly diseases) were shipped to Iraq by U.S. companies, legally, under an official U.S. Department of Commerce license throughout the 1980s." A Senate Banking subcommittee report in 1994 confirmed that shipments of biological germ stock continued well into 1989.

According to Judith Miller in "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War," Iraq purchased its seed stock -- its "starter germs" -- from "The American Type Culture Collection," a supply company in a Washington, D.C., suburb.

We tend to forget that the Reagan-Bush administration maintained cordial relations with Hussein in the '80s, promoting Iraq's eight-year war against Iran. Twenty-four U.S. firms exported arms and materials to Baghdad. France also sent Hussein 200 AMX medium tanks, Mirage bombers and Gazelle helicopter gunships. As Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage testified in 1987:

"We cannot stand to see Iraq defeated." The CIA, State Department, the central military command directing Middle East operations, were well aware of Iraq's biological-weapons efforts. Nevertheless, Iraq's applications were seldom denied.

The infamous massacre at Halabja -- the gassing of the Kurds -- took place in March 1988. Six months later, on Sept. 19, a Maryland company sent 11 strains of germs -- four types of anthrax -- to Iraq, including a microbe strain called 11966, developed for germ warfare at Fort Detrick in the 1950s.

The vast, lucrative arms trade in the Middle East created the groundwork for Hussein's aggression in Kuwait. Without high-tech weapons from the West, Iraq's wars against Iran and Kuwait would never have taken place.

The inspection process is spawning a host of questions about U.S. policy. Why aren't U.S. and European scientists, who invented and produced lethal materials for Saddam Hussein, subject to interrogations like their counterparts in Iraq? Are U.S. companies sending their deadly material to other dictators? Why are there no congressional hearings on the U.S. role in arms proliferation? And how many senators (like the voice of Connecticut's arms industry, Sen. Joe Lieberman) are taking contributions from the world's arms dealers?

The United States exports more weapons than all other countries combined, and Hussein is only one of many human rights abusers who purchased the means of terror from the West.

No despot, no monarchy, no medieval insurgency that can be exploited, no regime of terror seems to be off-limits to the sale of arms for profit.

From 1983-88, Siad Barre, the mad dictator of Somalia, received from the United States 155 howitzers, 20mm Vulcan air defense guns, light artillery pieces, mortars, anti-tank rocket launchers, a mass of firearms and ammunition.

By 1989, its precious desert water holes demolished, the impoverished country was in open revolt. When Siad Barre fled, he left the country in ruins,

and he left all his U.S. weapons behind -- the very weapons that enabled warrior clans to bring down U.S. Black Hawks and kill 70 U.S. and U.N. humanitarian troops.

On the edge of famine, Somalia today is still awash in U.S. weaponry, as 14- year-old children carry hand-me-down rifles through the streets of Mogadishu.

Notwithstanding pious talk about curbing arms proliferation, arms traffic is expanding under the administration of George W. Bush. The administration recently lifted the embargo on arms sales to contending nuclear powers -- India and Pakistan -- where riots, massacres, religious uprisings and border showdowns take place routinely.

The arms traffic may be very profitable for General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin, but the arms traffic is deadly for developing nations.

Arms militarize the Third World, deplete local resources and -- despite low interest rates -- generate large debts and inflation. Loans for genuine capital investment generate increased productivity, enabling a nation to progress and repay the loan. Military loans and purchases have no such value. They divert resources from civilian production, from the growth economy, and they increase poverty.

Even before Sept. 11, historian Chalmers Johnson warned in "Blowback: Costs and Consequences of American Empire": "Arms sales are a major cause of a developing blowback whose price we have yet to begin to pay."

"Blowback," a term first used by the CIA, refers to the unintended consequences of covert policies. "In a sense, blowback is simply another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows," Johnson wrote. "But so much of what the managers of the American empire have sown has been kept secret. Although most Americans may be largely ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in their names, all are likely to pay a steep price -- individually and collectively -- for their nation's continued efforts to dominate the global scene."

Is it moral to view social conflicts, hatred, fear, aggression, war and violence as a mere marketplace for high-tech business? And can we continue to treat the mechanisms of terror in terms of supply and demand?

George Orwell's brilliant essay on empire and nationalism applies directly to the mendacity of the Bush administration:

"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. There is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, imprisonment without trial, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral color when it is committed by 'our' side ... The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

It is time to measure human rights by one yardstick -- to hold the suppliers, not just the purchasers, of death accountable for their handiwork.

Paul Rockwell is a writer based in Oakland, Calif.