Monday, December 25, 2006
hear all the bombs fade away:
Marc Cooper has a piece in The Nation that I wish I wrote: a curtain-raiser on the Appeal For Redress, an active-duty military protest against the Iraq War. It's a fascinating story that traces the boundaries of dissent and responsibility.

Interviews with more than two dozen signers, both in Iraq and on domestic US military bases from Fort Stewart in the east to Hawaii's Hickam Air Force Base, reveal a movement that includes low-level grunts and high-ranking officers, as well as a rich diversity of racial, economic and educational backgrounds. The signers offered a variety of motivations--ideological, practical, strategic and moral--but all agreed the war was no longer worth fighting and that the troops should be brought home. As the debate on Iraq sharpens in the wake of the Baker-Hamilton report and as a new Democratic Congress is seated, the collective voice of active-duty opponents of the war is likely to add considerable clout to the antiwar movement.

This Martin Luther King holiday weekend, members of the Appeal will appear on Capitol Hill to formally present the petition to Congress to press their case. For an all-volunteer force, says Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, "it's simply unprecedented."


Frank says he can pinpoint the precise moment when he turned against the war: last June 23. He was on patrol with his Iraqi unit when they came upon an illegal checkpoint set up by Sadr's Mahdi militia. The militants were using ambulances taken from the Ministry of Health to block the roads, thereby preventing American troops from maneuvering. He was flabbergasted when the Iraqi Army troops refused not only to take down the checkpoint but also returned to the militia a number of automatic weapons that had been seized from them by the army.

This sort of depressing reality is what prompted Frank to sign the Appeal. "I proudly joined the Appeal for Redress out of the sense of hopelessness that I had inside for what we are actually doing here," he says. He's angry with both the Bush Administration and the top brass in Iraq. "They sit behind their desks in the Green Zone and filter reports to their bosses. No one wants to admit that we are failing." Frank says he's quite open about his views, and finds overwhelming support for them among his fellow soldiers. "Yes, yes, yes," he says, "My entire team feels the same way I do. And the other battalion [trainers] that I have come across feel that way, including my commanders.... In fact, I have not had one person in the last five months disagree with me. The typical response is, 'I know what you mean.'"

The Appeal will be presented to Congress around the MLK holiday. I'll be in Iraq then, reporting my own story for The Nation that will now seek to pick up a bit where Cooper's excellent piece leaves off. Too bad I won't be in Washington for this presentation, because the Appeal signatories want the Democratic Congress to go outside of its intended comfort zone of scrutinizing bad management of the war and using it to club Bush. They, of course, want Congress to end the war, which I have much sympathy for and much agita about.

--Spencer Ackerman