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Notes on Camp Casey II
August 29, 2005
Notes on Camp Casey II
As I set out with my trusty tape recorder in hand (Thanks Mike (in Tokyo)!) among the supporters of Cindy Sheehan's effort to call Bush out on his lies at the new Camp Casey, I was floored by the scene. Having only been to the first camp on a Monday and Tuesday two weeks ago, I was amazed to see at least 1,500 people of all descriptions set up under giant tents with wi-fi, live radio broadcasts (bradblog was in his 38th hour of coverage when I met him) and professional catering. The protest has come along way in a very short time. Though I didn't get a chance to speak with Sheehan this time, IVAW, the Iraq Veterans Against the War, was there in force.
David Lewis is an Army Reserve specialist from Binghamton New York. He was in Iraq for 11 months, and still has 3 years left in his contract. He wanted to come down to support Cindy Sheehan, but since he couldn't afford it, he decided to contact IVAW to see about setting up something to show support in his hometown. They instead flew him out to Texas to take part. David never trusted Bush, and never believed the war against Iraq was legitimate. While briefly home on leave before the war, he did his "homework" and had his suspicions confirmed. Lewis now faces the likely prospect of another tour in a war he has known from the start was based on lies. Though he opposes it, he says he can't file for conscientious objector status because they might make him pay back the money they've already given him for education. Money which he fears he could never pay off.
Perhaps this is why Murray Rothbard called it the "warfare/welfare state."
IVAW's Jimmy Massey is a former Marine corps staff sergeant from Waynesville, North Carolina. He was part of the original invasion force in 2003. Massey says he he planned to spend a career in the Marines, but after a short amount of time "in country," he he was honorably discharged as "80% percent disabled." The man looked in shape, and I had a guess where this was going when I asked him to elaborate. Massey has what they call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As I learned from the great George Carlin, post-traumatic stress disorder is the third generation euphemism for shell shock - the one they came up with after after "battle fatigue" and "operational exhaustion" had apparently been determined to still be too harsh. As Carlin said, "The pain is completely buried under jargon." According to Massey, his shell-shock symptoms include: major depression, hyperactivity, nightmares mixed with insomnia, feelings of desperate isolation and fear - all on a daily basis. The worst part he said was the flashbacks. He has nightmares all night, and daydreams all day; flashing pictures in his mind's eye of the "horrors and realities" and "lack of humanity displayed" by his fellow soldiers against the civilian population of Iraq.
The Department of Veterans Affairs as been helpful to Jimmy Massey, but he says that he is one of the fortunate ones. Fortunate because he had already started showing signs of his condition while in Iraq, and the psych-test questionnaire they had him fill out before leaving reflected that. Every soldier who leaves Iraq must fill out these forms, and, according to Massey, any soldiers who starts having flashbacks, nightmares etc. after coming home are written off by the military. "Oh, now you're sick? - Tough sh*t pal you're faking it." Support the Troops, huh? Obviously, this practice disguises the true numbers of traumatized soldiers, which the state admits is at least a third and now the sick bastards at the DoD want to "review" - that is, deny - the cases they've admitted to thus far! Massey said that having seen the things he had over there, it is hard for him to believe that anyone could have been to the Iraq war and not have some of these same problems. And, of course, he reminds me, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, not only from their experience in this war, but dating back to when America started bombing that country in 1991, suffer from the same sort of condition.
So what broke this career marine so thoroughly? It happened, he said, the first time he killed a group of civilians at a checkpoint. They didn't stop at the right spot, so Massey says, he and his comrades "discharged our weapons." At the moment he realized what they'd done, Massey says, he "got a conscience," and all the power the US military's patriotic rhetoric had over this man's mind was gone. That was the beginning of the end for Massey's stay in the Iraq and the marines. The killing of civilians in this fashion at checkpoints in Iraq is, according to this witness and a simple google search, a "common story." Johns Hopkins University and the British medical journal Lancet have estimated that as many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives due to this war. How many Iraqi humans, whether wounded themselves or having had members of their families wounded or killed deal with the same nightmares as Jimmy Massey? It's his question, and a good one. Massey now travels the world, speaking out against war, as a true believer in the Greatness of American power, turned steadfast opponent of war and its consequences.
So there I sit near Bush's photo-op church, hearing stories of men's lives being risked for no reason, I wonder how the hell Americans ever fall for their politicians lies. How many soldiers have come home from war, knowing the very non-Hollywood reality and uselessness of combat, only to send their sons off to die in the next one?
For all the idiots with your stupid emails, don't bother unless you have an answer to Cindy's question: What Noble Cause?