‘Illegal War’

Editorial: ‘Illegal War’
18 May 2008, Arab News

Even if the US-led invasion had brought stability and reconstruction quickly to Iraq, the war would still have been illegal because Bush acted without the approval and backing of the international community and on the basis of deliberate lies. Now Washington is bogged down trying to clear up the bloody chaos that it itself created.

Bush would have the world believe that as a result of the surge, order is at last being restored with greater security for the luckless Iraqis. On Friday, US congressmen were hearing the truth about this bungled and misbegotten power play by one of their country’s most incompetent presidents. The reality, as explained to a congressional hearing by US veterans of the Iraqi occupation, is that the American military presence has brought about “lawless murders, looting and the abuse of countless Iraqis.” Nervous GIs who had been targeted with three or four shots responded with thousands of rounds of machine-gun fire and launched hundreds of grenades in response. Little understanding the complex and sophisticated society into which they had been thrown, as in Vietnam, they quickly came to see all the locals as the enemy and so were always ready to shoot first and ask questions afterward — maybe.

The strain of being part of an ugly and puzzling conflict has meant, according to an independent US report published last month, that some 300,000 of the 1.6 million American troops serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder or depression or both. To the normal, often considerable, challenges of battle has been added the suspicion that this is a war the US should never have been fighting in the first place.

For some soldiers, it is more than suspicion. It is certainty. One such is Matthis Chiroux who told Congress Friday, that he will not be reporting as ordered on June 16 to start his first tour of duty in Iraq, because he considers it “an illegal war”. Chiroux is no fearful green rookie recruit. He is a US Army sergeant with eight years’\ service and a moderately distinguished record. Nor by his actions does he seem to be a coward.

Thousands of reserve and regular soldiers have deserted in the face of imminent Iraq or Afghanistan postings. Many of them flee north across the border into Canada, which, as in the Vietnam War, provides a refuge from the US military draft boards. But Chiroux is not going to be one of them. He is staying to face the likely serious consequences of disobeying a direct order. The minute he fails to report for his Iraqi duty, he is looking at a term of imprisonment followed by a dishonorable discharge.

His defense will be that he can no longer violate his “core values to support an illegal and unconstitutional occupation.” He will seek to assert his right and duty as a US citizen to refuse an illegal command. He faces the formidable wrath of the Bush administration. A less brave man would simply have gone to Iraq.

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