Troops Against the War: A Soldier Apologizes

(Once again Jeri Reed has forwarded me an important article, like the one she wrote here a few months ago. Once again she has pulled my coattail to something by Casey J. Porter, the Iraq Veteran Against the War member who has been vlogging from outside of Baghdad. This time it’s just words, but what powerful words!)

By Casey J. Porter

I feel pretty lousy as a human being today. I had to turn away this Iraqi man at our gate here at the outpost. At some point the army took over this factory in the industrial part of Baghdad and we’ve been here ever since. He was an older man, diabetic, with multiple folders of paper work to show. He didn’t speak any English and wished to talk to an interpreter. I was guarding the gate and was the one to call it in. So they send out the “Terp” as we call them. This older man was not looking for a handout. He was the former owner of a paint shop that is built right up the building we now occupy. He was asking for compensation for his workers because they are no longer able to work now that we are here.

Why can’t they work? Because they are terrified of us. Also, when we get rocket or mortar attacks, they don’t always land where the insurgents want them to. Sometimes they fall short or overshoot their target. So when we set up shop, the people that can afford to leave, do.

He wasn’t like the younger Iraqi Police Force guys. They get so much free stuff from you, the taxpayer, that it’s insane. Then they always ask us to give them stuff. They are like children with AK-47s. This man was not like that. He was looking out for his workers. The translator was telling me what he was saying when things got confusing. The Iraqi man was saying: “You are the United States, human rights for all, etc., etc.”

I’m not sure what else he said after that since it was clear that the Terp changed gears right after that. But that older gentleman wasn’t being hostile about what he was saying, and I was all ears. Within his paper work he had forms and documents that proved he was the owner and operator, among other aspects of his business I’m sure. With the exception of the language, it looked a lot like the paperwork my father had for his business.

I called it up to the commander and the reply was to tell him to fuck off. He couldn’t hear any of this because we keep the radio in the truck. I wasn’t going to do that to this man. We screwed him over, and he was just looking out for his people. I told the Terp to translate the following:

“I can not authorize any money to be given to you. I also can not promise that anyone will see you. All I can tell you is to keep coming back until someone takes care of your needs.”

He finally said that he would come back in about a week or so. Before he left I had the Terp translate one more thing before he left.

“I’m sorry for what we’ve done to your country.”

The man said “Thank You” in English to me. I hope that even though we had to talk through an interpreter that he understood that I felt for him, and was not blowing him off.

Either way I felt, and still feel, pretty rotten about the whole thing. I’m not supposed to be the bad guy.

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.


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    • dennis on June 25, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I shall, with you forbearance, refer you to the growing list of nifty event reports from last Friday’s Moratorium Day, the tenth, at the Iraq Moratorium website.

  1. “I’m sorry for what we’ve done to your country.”

    • geomoo on June 26, 2008 at 1:15 am

    I’m not sure exactly why, and there are a lot of possible reasons.

    Sadness over what “our” country has done to millions of decent people in Iraq and elsewhere.

    The power of simple human empathy emerging in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

    The knowledge that at least one soldier has not been so damaged by horrific circumstances that he can’t feel for a foreigner who doesn’t even speak his language.

    The painful knowledge that all this man can hope to receive from anyone with authority is the message to “fuck off.”

    The implied desperation of ordinary people suffering at the hands of psychopathic maniacs who have stolen the United States.

    The relief that American soldiers are now awake to the game being played by neocons.

    Probably all of the above along with the accumulated pain of years of feeling helpless in the face of monstrous forces.

  2. I would like to personally thank Lt. Col. Shelton Lankford for the best quote I have ever read which summarizes the events of 9/11:

    “September 11, 2001 seems destined to be the watershed event of our lives and the greatest test for our democracy in our lifetimes. The evidence of government complicity in the lead-up to the events, the failure to respond during the event, and the astounding lack of any meaningful investigation afterwards, as well as the ignoring of evidence turned up by others that renders the official explanation impossible, may signal the end of the American experiment. It has been used to justify all manners of measures to legalize repression at home and as a pretext for behaving as an aggressive empire abroad. Until we demand an independent, honest, and thorough investigation and accountability for those whose action and inaction led to those events and the cover-up, our republic and our Constitution remain in the gravest danger.”

    My fondest hope is that every person anywhere on earth who aspires to live in a free and democratic society should read this warning. Sadly, the warnings contained in George Orwell’s book “1984” are all coming true.

    If there is a way someone could show me how to communicate directly with Lt. Col. Lankford, I would appreciate someone connecting us.

  3. …I go have a good cry!

  4. from this kind of post.  I still find it almost impossible

    to believe that this country is guilty of so many crimes…

    can’t even begin to count them all.  And yet the proof is

    right here in this post.  I think that if enough troops

    begin to see the light and en mass stand up and say:

    No longer in our names and with our lives

    maybe they can put an end to the insanity…

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