The last few years have shown the hypocrisy of the U.S. and allied governments reasoning for their involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ tens of thousands of civilians and thousands of troops have died to set up puppet governments run by warlords and thugs no better than the tyrants they have replaced.

The only winners have been large multi-national companies who have made billions from the war and seek to gain more from Iraqi oil fields and a gas pipeline through Afghanistan. It is for the profits of a few that working class people risk death and injury fighting wars for U.S. Imperialism.

If you also support the struggle for Aboriginal rights see Fight for Aborignal Rights

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Iraq Veterans Against the War tour speech

Speech delivered by Hamish Chitts

St Mary's Church, South Brisbane

11th August 2007

Early in 2003 a few months before the invasion of Iraq I was working in the intelligence cell of my infantry battalion in Darwin. I had been an infantry soldier in the Reserve and Regular army for 11 years and had seen active service in East Timor in 1999 and 2000 as part of INTERFET and the subsequent UN mission. I was relatively new to the job of intelligence and was still in close email contact with the people I'd done my int course with. We were all in similar roles around the country and basically at the lowest level of Australia's intelligence community.

When the politicians started rattling their sabers we discussed and questioned the reasons and motives for this new war. When Colin Powell gave his now infamous power point presentation to the UN Security Council to justify an invasion of Iraq we knew it for the farce that it was. We started sending around joke emails to each other about their reasons, the best being a take off of Powell's presentation with photos of plastic soldiers, toy trucks and rubber finger puppet monsters in somebody's sandpit. Our superiors soon clamped down on any dissent but the point is there was no failure of intelligence. Everyone knew there were no WMDs, everyone knew that Al Qaeda had no significant presence in Iraq. Osama bin Laden had previously and publicly denounced Saddam as a 'lesser Satan'. Career 'yes men' on large salaries agreed with their political masters knowing the worst they could face is having to resign with a big pay out and a nice job lined up for them in private industry. I decided I did not want to be a part of or contribute in any way to this nor did I want to risk my life again, especially for the sake of big business so put in my discharge.

Through its relatively small contingents and through being placed in lesser risk areas Australia has suffered few physical casualties in Iraq. But everyday there are Australian casualties that no sees or hears about. Through my own experiences and through those of my mates I can tell you no one who sees active service comes back the same.

Recent figures from America have shown that troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering 3 times more Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than their counterparts did on return from Vietnam.

But it doesn’t just effect those who’ve been directly involved, it effects their children and even their grandchildren. A survey of 2500 children and grandchildren of Australian Vietnam veterans has found 70% of children and 30% of grandchildren suffer psychiatric or psychological problems.

John Howard likes to have his photo taken with Australian troops. He likes to use the memory of the fallen to push his political career and his vile 'rich get richer' policies. He likes to use troops but he doesn't like them or care one bit about them if he did he wouldn't send them to war in Iraq and Afghanistan knowing full well the only thing they are risking their lives for is the profits of multi-nationals.

I admire the courage of Iraq Veterans Against the War and the excellent work they are doing in the U.S. More Australian soldiers and veterans need to know what they are doing and to organise, to dissent and to show the general public , by marching themselves, that challenging the war is not an attack on veterans or current serving soldiers. That is why I am a member of the Stop The War Collective and that is why I will be protesting the APEC conference in Sydney in September. There is a war on. A war the extremely rich few have declared on anyone who stands in the way of them making even more money. Whether a worker in a factory, an Aboriginal person in a remote community or a person in Iraq if you do not go along with what the elite want then they will try to sweep you aside or destroy you.

As soldiers in a Western so called democracy you are told you fight for freedom and democracy which couldn't be any further from the truth. You fight for big business and global monopolies. The true freedom fighters and defenders of democracy are the protesters, the activists and anyone who will stand up to the powerful few and demand a fair deal fro all.

Iraq War Veteran tour kicks off in Brisbane

By Ian Rintoul

"And in my heart, the chains falling apart
The wildness in my soul
And for once in life, for once in life I know

I'm not alone, for the mountains make our bones
With the oceans in our blood
Our feet planted, planted firmly in the mud"

From 'A Drop Of Water', Dana Lyons, 1991

These words echoed throughout St Marys, West End [Brisbane] this afternoon [11/8/07], as a young woman sang to the large gathering who had amassed to hear Iraq war veteran Mr Matt Howard speak.

Mr Howard, who served as a Corporal in the US Marine Corps, and is now an activist with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), was involved in the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003. He made it clear at the outset that it is a mistake to say that if we had done it right, it would have been ok.

"That is not the case," he said.

"The tone was set at the outset."

Mr Howard drove a supply truck which carried food, water and equipment for tanks and palettes of humanitarian rations. When he crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq, he saw hungry children lining the streets. He opened the rations and handed them out. His Sergeant confronted him with his M-16 and said, "What the hell do you think you are doing?" He was ordered not to throw one more box of food out to one more starving child. He took the remaining rations all the way to Baghdad, and back again to Kuwait, without delivering one more ration to starving people. When he asked his Commanding Officer, in Kuwait, what he should do with the food, he was ordered to "F*cking bury it." He buried it.

Howard's Commander explained that he didn't want Iraqis to get the "wrong impression about why we were there".

"It was like that the whole way to Baghdad," said Mr Howard.

"We just destroyed the place for the hell of it."

A year after the invasion, Mr Howard said the situation in Iraq was "infinitely worse", with no electricity (the whole country running on generators for only a few hours a day), no sewerage, and hospitals becoming morgues.

"We were told Iraq was a third world country, but we turned it into a third world country."

Mr Howard said that the war in Iraq is not going to end through a political process and that the only way it will end is if the soldiers "put down their weapons and say no".

"The Democrats are not going to end the war. Since they've taken power, they continue to give Bush all the funding he asks for," he said.

Mr Howard pointed out the inconsistencies of contractors being paid $300,000 a year as opposed to US soldiers, who are receiving $20,000. (He later said that there are as many contractors in Iraq as US troops, and that contractors are "acting like cowboys", shooting people in broad daylight in the middle of the street).

And, when the only mission for US troops is to drive around in a Humvee all day waiting to be blown up by an IED.

"Without that, we don't have a mission to be there," he said. "We are told that our mission is 'Troop Protection' but that is no mission at all."

Mr Howard was joined by Mr Hamish Chitts, a former Australian infantry soldier who served in East Timor (1999-2000), and in the intelligence services.

Mr Chitts said that at the time of Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, "We knew it was a farce."

Mr Chitts said that he and his colleagues exchanged joke e-mails parodying the WMD presentation, until their superiors clamped down.

"It was obvious. Everyone knew there were no WMDs," he said.

Having decided he didn't want to participate or risk his life for big buisness, Mr Chitts put in his discharge.

He went on to say that in his experience, no-one who sees active service comes back the same, and that soldiers are suffering three times as much post traumatic stress disorder as those who served in the Vietnam war.

"We are told we fight for freedom and democracy, but this couldn't be further from the truth," he said.

During the question and answer session, a gentleman in the audience who said he worked in the oil and gas industry asked, "What is the true reason for the American nation making this huge investment in occupying Iraq?"

"To truly understand this war you have to understand energy," he said.

Mr Howard said, "Everyone is dreaming if they think the US will ever get out of Iraq."

He explained that 'Operation Crown Jewel' (to secure the Ramadi oil field) was very explicitly his battalion's first objective when they invaded Iraq in 2003, which they accomplished.

And as for the troubles between the Shias and the Sunnis?

"Sectarian violence is being fuelled by our presence," said Mr Howard. He was quite clear that CIA "Black-Ops" were at work, and pointed out that these two groups had happily co-existed, side by side, for 1,400 years before the invasion.

He expressed empathy for the Iraqis resisting the occupation.

"What the hell would you do if people invaded your country? There's no way Americans would stand for an occupying presence," he said.

Mr Howard said that he understands what the Iraqi resistance are fighting for, and explained that his own progression from warrior to peace activist had been difficult.

"Violence begets violence," he said.