That's a press conference for James Burmeister from last week and, swiping from C.I.'s transcription, this is what his mother Helen says for any not able to stream or with hearing issues:
Helen Burmeister: I'm Helen Burmeister and I'm here today to support my son Prviate 1st Class James Burmeister. My son is an Iraq War veteran and I'm very proud of him today. He fought bravely in Iraq. He followed orders. He was wounded in a roadside bomb and he's been diagnosed with PTSD and a possible brain injury. Our request today is that the army release James. We want James to be able to put this traumatic experience behind him so he can begin to heal -- both emotionally and physically. I believe my son has done his part. Now it's time for him to be given the recognition he deserves. Short of that, we are requesting that he be allowed to go home to Oregon. And thank you. Thank you to everyone for all your support today.
If I post a video, I've just watched it. I'm the worst about watching videos on the computer. I don't have the time. I can zip through an article or, a transcript, quicker than the video can play out and when I'm online, I'm trying to get whatever information I'm looking for as quickly as possible.
I knew James Burmeister was bi-racial but a friend at work, who reads The Common Ills religiously, asked me why I hadn't posted that video? I explained that it's a hassle to post videos and I usually need to have C.I. on the phone to talk me through. If it's non-stop problems, C.I. will sometimes log in, embed the video, save the draft and say, "Okay, now go in and write your post." Blogger/Blogspot is free and it can do many wonderful things but in terms of videos it can be a pain in the ass.
If you're a community member of long standing, you're probably aware that in spring of 2005, C.I. floated the idea of moving The Common Ills. The reaction from the community was "NO!" because Blogger/Blogspot was part of the do-it-yourself movement. So C.I. dropped the idea. I had no opinion at the time but I do now. If C.I. had gone to a for-pay site (for-pay for C.I.), I wouldn't be using Blogger/Blogspot now. There are so many things you can do at a for-pay site and so easy. I'm not over our work site that's still relatively new but I would be called to help with it from time to time early on and a lot more now that I do my own site.
And everything there is so simple. I can do what Blogger tells me to do here for a feature (but it never works in Blogger) and it works automatically.
So those are the two reasons on James Burmeister. I didn't watch the video until today and posting videos is a problem.
But a friend asked me about James today and I said he was bi-racial or mixed race. I knew his father was White but I wasn't sure on his mother. So I was told, "I think she's African-American." I think she is too, having watched the video. And as an African-American woman, if a sister needs help, I try to be there. (I try to be there for all women, but, yes, I will make an extra push for women of color because I know how the media renders them invisible.)
So I was watching the video and trying to figure her out. She has a wonderful speaking voice but I was trying to place the region she grew up in. I finally decided, this is just my guess, she was raised in a military family and has a "base" (military base) accent. I could be wrong.
But I mentioned that at work today and because of that and other curiosities people ended up streaming the video. And it was immediate.
Which really drove home to a point C.I.'s made. Actually several. C.I. has always stressed that every war resister has a multitude of stories and we are not hearing them. And -- for all stories -- that what reaches one person might not reach another. That was really proven today as my theorizing and hypothesizing about Helen Burmeister resulted in twelve co-workers streaming the video.
It really is, as C.I. says, important to put a face on it. Whatever the topic is.
I've spoken about James Burmeister at work and most of us know about him. A few of us saw him interviewed on NOW on PBS last year.
And I think about Anita Anderson (who is White) and Darrell Anderson (ditto) and how, for me, the thing that had me connect with Darrell as a person (I supported his stand even when I didn't connect with him) was Anita and her fight to see that her son was treated fairly and justly.
So you never know what the entry point will be -- for yourself or for anyone else.
I'm tired (and the a.c. does not appear to be cooling the place down, so I'm also hot) which means I'm not in the mood to chase down links. But you can Google "The Common Ills" and "James Burmeister" and find out a great deal about him.
What I know about him is that he was the first to talk about the kill-teams. When he was serving in Iraq, the kill-teams were being utilized. When he went public in Canada about being a war resister, he spoke out about the kill-teams. That was in June or July of 2007. In the fall of 2007, the Washington Post would do a strong article on kill-teams (without mentioning Burmeister) and there would be applause and praise. I'm not trying to take anything away from the front page article, but if you were paying attention, you knew about the kill-teams before that. A regional paper (in Oregon, I think) did a story on James in the spring of 2007 and covered the kill-teams. He also spoke about them to Canadian media.
And yet the Washington Post got the credit for 'breaking' the story. Imagine if Amy Goodman had been even slightly interested in war resisters? She could have had James on the show that summer. She could have gotten credit for breaking the story.
But she never had him on her show. In fact, she's never mentioned him.
She interviewed Matthis Chiroux last week and that was so disappointing and goes to what I'm talking about earlier. That interview was rote. I did watch Matthis' video of the speech on Father's Day. But only after C.I. did the transcription and I read that and thought, "I want to hear this speech." But Matthis laid it out so well in that speech. And two days later, he's on Democracy Now! and Amy appears interested in everything but war resistance. She never even asked him how he came to the decision to refuse to deploy to Iraq.
The question I would have asked, if I'd been the interviewer, would have been, "What is that like? You're honorably discharged. You're out of the army. You're going to college. And then you get told you're being called back up and you're being sent to Iraq. Were you shocked? Were you angry? Could you just talk about the emotions you had at that moment?"
Matthis isn't the only one that this has happened to and there are also the service members who are due to be discharged but find out they're being stopped-lossed. And I have never seen that talked about or written about. Even Camilio Mejia's book (Road to Ar Ramadi) which is a wonderful book, he gets stop-lossed. And I can imagine what I would be feeling like if I were in the situation (I'd be yelling my head off and throwing things) but that's me. I'd feel like the world was closing in on me.
And I feel like (my opinion only) that because these feelings are not talked about, it's accepted by everyone who hears about it. I mean, instead of everyone being as outraged as they should be that our government is allowing people to be discharged and pulled back in after or being on the verge of being discharged and getting told, "No, we extended you," that we're just accepting it and not realizing how traumatic and UNFAIR and wrong this is. I mean, in my head I can go through how I would react to it. But I'm not in the military.
So that's one of the questions I would have asked Matthis. I would have asked him to talk about that aspect because (a) I'm interested in it and (b) because I think we're (we being Americans) being sheltered (including by ourselves) from the reality because we're not connecting with it. I have heard people say, "Oh, well, they knew that. They signed up for it." Or other crap like that. And so I would have asked Matthis that because he's been through it and he could talk about it.
And I think he could have reached people talking about that.
Instead it was fungus talk in Afghanistan. That's what Amy Goodman was interested in. And no offense to Matthis, he handled that well, but he's not a scientist or a doctor (I believe he pointed that out) and that's really not pertinent to the decision he'd made to refuse to report to be sent off to Iraq.
I got 30 e-mails (more than I have ever gotten) on my comments regarding Hillary's attempts to save the Democratic Party. Everyone agreed. We applaud you Hillary, we think you're a class act; however, we're not voting for Barack. A reader named Lisa said it best (I think) when she wrote, "At this point it's about me and my daughter and my mother and whether I respect myself and them enough to say 'no' to everything that went down, all the attacks on Hillary, all the sexism, all the bulls**t."
That's what it comes down to for me too.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, June 27, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the deporation clock ticks down for Corey Glass, another Iraqi judge is assassinated, MTV accepts political advertisements . . . or at least some, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Iraq Veterans Against the War Matthis Chiroux remains in the news. Chiroux announced June 15th that he would not report to duty (as he'd stated he wouldn't on May 15th). South Carolina's WIS News 10 reported on some reactions yesterday (link has text and video):
David Stanton: Being called to deploy? It is a possibility that all of South Carolina's bravest face but the refusal of one soldier to go to Iraq has many military members talking. Sgt. Mathhis Chiroux was honorably discharged about a year ago. He served in Germany, Japan, Afghanistan and the Phillipines. Chiroux was then called back to duty for service in Iraq. But Chiroux says he will not report to Fort Jackson as ordered. As Trey Paul found out some have a hard time supporting the decision.
Mst. Sgt. Gary Villanueva: My father always taught me that a handshake was a man's honor. And signing on the dotted line is equivalent to a handshake. And s-s-so if they made that comitment I believe they should honor it and if they didn't, quite frankly, I question them as a man.
Trey Paul: We asked and Mst. Sgt. Gary Villanueva did not hold back.
Gary Villanueva: Maybe it's best if they don't come into the military because that type of person I would really question my . . . uh . . . back half of my life. And then protecting me or any other individuals I fight with.
Trey Paul: When it comes to a soldier who doesn't complete a military contract lets just say Villanueva doesn't agree
Gary Villanueva: I-I-I uh really think that uh there subject to the punishment that the military law stipulates because they signed a contract.
Trey Paul: Villanueva is one of several soldiers here at Fort Jackson taking part in the IRR -- that's the Individual Ready Reserve. It's the same type of program that Sgt. Matthis Chiroux was required to attend. Other reservists like Sgt. Nolze don't agree with Chiroux either but he thinks he understands where Chiroux's coming from.
Specialist Joshua Nolze: Up until a couple of years ago the military never really used IRR and they told you when you signed the contract, 'Don't really worry about it. You're not going to get called up.' Now days, it's a different story, different world. You're getting called up so it's something you've got to think about before you sign up.
Trey Paul: The IRR works like this: As a soldier you always sign at least an eight-year contract. Most spend at least two of those years serving active duty. The remainder of the contract is spent in some form of the reserves. Mostly the IRR. First Sgt. Reid is helping train these reservists.
1st Sgt. Michael Reid: I also have mixed feelings because some of these young fellows have already been two or three times and probably don't want to go back.
Trey Paul: Since 9-11 a spokesman for the national IRR says Chiroux is just one of seven-hundred who have been a no-show
Gary Villanueva: Whether I agree or disagree with this war is im-imaterial. But one thing I'm soli- I'm sure of, that there are servicemen overseas that need support and that's why I'm coming back to support them.
Trey Paul: At Fort Jackson, Trey Paul, WIS News 10.
How you can help:
Moving to Canada, "I'm refusing to kill innocent people and I'm the one waiting to go to prison and they're the ones setting us up to commit war crimes and they go free," US war resister Ryan Johnson explains to Bill Kaufmann in "Writing on wall for deserters" (The Calgary Sun). Ryan and his wife Jenna Johnson moved to Canada in June 2005. Johnson notes that if a war resister is deported in July, he would most likely be the next one. May 21st was when Corey Glass was told he would be deported. Corey Glass is an Iraq War veteran and a US war resister. He went to Canada seeking asylum -- the kind of welcoming Canada provided to war resisters ("draft dodgers" and "deserters") during Vietnam. After being told he was being deported, he's been 'extended' through July 10th. June 3rd Canada's House of Commons voted (non-binding motion) in favor of Canada being a safe harbor for war resisters. Douglas Glynn (The Barrie Examiner) quotes Corey stating, "The motion is not legally binding, though the majority of Parliament voted for it. I realized innocent people were being killed. I tried to quit the military while in Iraq," he said, "but my commander told me I was just stressed out and needed some R and R (rest and relaxation), because I was doing a job I was not trained to do. I went home on leave and said I was not coming back." Ryan also notes the motion and points to the apparent dismissal of it by Stephan Harper (prime minister of Canada) wondering, "He ran on a platform of democratic reform -- he should take some advice of his own."
Canada's War Resisters Support Campaign will hold a "Rally to Stop the Deportation of Parkdale Resident Corey Glass" July 3rd, begins at 7:00 p.m. (with doors opening at six p.m.) at the May Robinson Building, 20 West Lodge, Toronto: "In 2002, Corey joined the Indiana National Guard. He was told he would not have to fight on foreign shores. But in 2005 he was sent to Iraq. What he saw there caused him to become a conscientious objector and he came to Canada. On May 21, 2008, he got his final order to leave Canada by July 10, 2008. Then on June 3 Parliament passed a motion for all the war resisters to stay in Canada. However the Harper government says it will ignore this motion." They are also asking for a July 2nd call-in. Diane Finley is the Immigration and Citizenship Minister and her phone numbers are (613) 996-4974 and (519) 426-3400 -- they also provide her e-mail addresses firstname.lastname@example.org ("minister" at "cic.gc.ca") and email@example.com ("finled1" at "parl.gc.ca").
To pressure the Stephen Harper government to honor the House of Commons vote, Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail email@example.com -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca"). Courage to Resist collected more than 10,000 letters to send before the vote. Now they've started a new letter you can use online here. The War Resisters Support Campaign's petition can be found here.
There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Megan Bean, Chris Bean, Matthis Chiroux, Richard Droste, Michael Barnes, Matt Mishler, Josh Randall, Robby Keller, Justiniano Rodrigues, Chuck Wiley, James Stepp, Rodney Watson, Michael Espinal, Matthew Lowell, Derek Hess, Diedra Cobb, Brad McCall, Justin Cliburn, Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Peter Brown, Bethany "Skylar" James, Zamesha Dominique, Chrisopther Scott Magaoay, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Jose Vasquez, Eli Israel, Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Clara Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Blake LeMoine, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Logan Laituri, Jason Marek, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Wilfredo Torres, Michael Sudbury, Ghanim Khalil, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, at least fifty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
"Ultimately, the way I look at it is," McClatchy Newspaper's Leila Fadel offered to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) yesterday, "there were 23 death certificates, 24 people died. Among them were toddlers and women, and Sergeant Wuterich has said this is what his training told him to do--go into the houses, throw grenades, and apparently shoot children and women. And it did happen, no one disputes that these women and children were killed. And that is what is angering the people of Haditha, that somehow, even with all of these bodies, that no one is being held accountable. And from what I understand, the case against Sergeant Wuterich is particularly strong and he's given eight--I think seven Marines immunity in order to have testimony against the sergeant. And he says, 'I did the right thing.' But toddlers--three-year-olds--and women died." Fadel was on to discuss the realities she reported in "Hadith victims' kin outraged as Marines go free" (McClatchy Newspapers, and link has text and video):"Khadija Hassan still shrouds her body in black, nearly three years after the deaths of her four sons. They were killed on Nov. 19, 2005, along with 20 other people in the deadliest documented case of U.S. troops killing civilians since the Vietnam War. Eight Marines were charged in the case, but in the intervening years, criminal charges have been dismissed against six. A seventh Marine was acquitted. The residents of Haditha, after being told they could depend on U.S. justice, feel betrayed." With Gonzalez and Goodman, Fadel shared, "We took a drive back to Haditha last week, trying to get a reaction to the dismissals and the one acquittal regarding this case of 24 people being killed on November 19, 2005. And the ultimate feeling I came away with: people felt betrayed. They felt betrayed that journalists told them if they told their story, somebody would be held accountable. They felt betrayed investigators told them that U.S. justice--that they could depend on that, and nobody is being held accountable. Many of them said, 'How many bodies does there have to be for someone to be punished for this?'"
This as Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports a US military raid in Karbala today resulted in 1 civilian being killed. On the heels of three bank employees being shot to death by the US military while on their way to work and a family air bombed by the US military. Earlier this week at Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent remembered "Yasser Salihee, a physician and a father of one lovely girl" who had worked for McClatchy until being shot dead by a US soldier "Friday June 24, 2005". "Your friends and colleagues never forgot you and will not," writes the correspondent, "[. . .] I've been in so many places Yasser, I saw many die. I saw children, women and men were killed by terrorists or troops and we will keep trying to tell their stories. If we die my friend we will be dying telling the truth, telling the people what really happens here."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Diyala Province roadside bombing last night that claimed the life of 1 shepherd and left two more wounded. Reuters notes a Shirqat roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 2 "Awakening" Council members and left three more wounded.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports 1 "senior city appeals judge" was shot dead in Baghdad Thursday. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) identifies the judge of "Kamil al-Swaili, Head of Appeal Court" and quotes a High Judiciary Council spokesperson explaining over "40 judges have been assassinated since March 2003". Reuters explains, "Assailants using two vehicles blocked the judge's way, a police source said. They shot the judge, who was alone in his vehicle, before driving away, he said." Iran's Press TV states, "The assassination of al-Shewaili -- head of one of Baghdad's two appeals courts -- is the latest in a series of judges, academics and other professionals to be targeted by militants." Reuters notes a police officer was injured in a Jurf al-Sakhar shooting.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mahaweel.
Meanwhile at the same the US military calls back service members who have been discharged, they kick out those who want to serve. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network explains:
Decorated Army Sergeant Darren Manzella has been discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law banning lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service, effective June 10. The Iraq war veteran was one of the first openly gay active duty service members to speak with the media while serving inside a war zone. In December 2007, Manzella was profiled by the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes. He told correspondent Lesley Stahl that he served openly during much of his time in the Army, with the full support of his colleagues and command.
"The discharge of battle-tested, talented service members like Sergeant Manzella weakens our military in a time of war. National security requires that Congress lift the ban on gays in the military and allow commanders to judge troops on their qualifications, not their sexuality," said Adam Ebbin, Communications Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).
SLDN reports that a growing number of service members are also serving openly without incident. The organization is aware of more than 500 troops who are 'out' to their colleagues and, in some cases, their commands.
Sergeant Manzella said, "My sexual orientation certainly didn't make a difference when I treated injuries and saved lives in the streets of Baghdad. It shouldn't be a factor in allowing me to continue to serve."
Manzella, 30, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002 and was twice deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While under fire on the streets of Baghdad, he provided medical care to his fellow soldiers, Iraqi National Guardsmen and civilians. He was awarded the Combat Medical Badge, and also received several other awards recognizing his courage and service.
In December of last year, Leslie Stahl spoke with Manzella for CBS' 60 Minutes (link has video and text)
Turning to the US political race for president, Josie Swindler (Radar) reports MTV had decided to take political advertising. Wait? Madonna, naked with the flag around her wasn't political speech? (Well, it sure wasn't art.) But, Swindler reports, there's a catch. They will allow the GOP and the Democratic nominees -- whomever they might be -- to buy ads. And other candidates? MTV v.p. of communion (I'm being sarcastic) Jeannie Kedas states, "We would consider and accept third-party advertisements on a case by case basis." Which is a good time to note that Bill Coleman shares his thoughts on the presidential race in a letter to the Bennington Banner:
The candidates you are allowed to see . . . To MTV, according to today's news, or not to MTV.
Two upcoming events for the Nader campaign: (1) "Private Conversation and Fresh Summer Buffet on the River" fundraiser in Litchfield, Conn. Sunday at 2:00 pm and (2) a Honolulu Nader for President 2008 Rally Thursday (July 3) at 8:00 pm at the Univeristy of Hawiaii. For more information on the events, click here. Team Nader notes:
Ralph Nader will be a guest on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sunday June 29, 2008. (Check here for broadcast times in your area).
By the way, there are many definitions of "talking white."
Here's our definition, from the Nader/Gonzalez dictionary:
Talking white means telling the white corporate power structure what they want to hear, rather than calling them out and telling them what they need to hear.
And please note, whether George Steph plays it straight or goes into attack mode, don't turn off your television after -- you'll miss out on the unintentionally hilarious roundtable to follow featuring two Punches and two Judys. In other TV news, US Senator Barbara Boxer will be among the guests on this week's Bill Moyers Journal. Moyers broadcasts Friday nights on most PBS stations (and may repeat in some markets so check local listings). The Journal features online transcripts, online audio, online video and a blog to leave comments. In addition, Bill Moyers and Michael Winship often post commentaries there, either a Moyers commentary or a Winship commentary, or this week, a commentary by both. From the opening of "It Was Oil, All Along:"
Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire, and ashes. And now the bottom line turns out to be....the bottom line. It is about oil.
as does NOW on PBS which asks, "Is there a way to keep desperate homeowners in their houses? One enterprising entrepreneur has come up with a creative and self-sustaining way to prevent foreclosures and protect individuals from predatory subprime lenders, but not everyone agrees with his approach. Is this another cautionary tale in the making?" PBS' Washington Week will find Gwyn speaking with the New York Times' Linda Greenhouse and NBC's Pete Williams about the Court's latest rulings; Peter Baker (New York Times) and Shailagh Murray (Washington Post) will round out the roundtable. And independent journalist and artist David Bacon continues to cover the immigration experiences and his latest photos from Mixteca are amazing. Click here for his photos of documenting the experiences of immigrants. This fall (September) Bacon's Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants us released by Beacon Press.