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Old 06-28-2006, 10:02 PM   #1
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Why Are Indigenous (American Indian) Soldiers Serving in Iraq

Why Are Indigenous (American Indian) Soldiers Serving in Iraq?
by
Dr. Michael Yellow Bird, Ph.D.


Open Letter to all Indigenous Peoples:

As the United States prepares for its annual Independence Day celebrations, I strongly urge all of our nations to hold critical and independent discussions on why we are committing our young people to serve the U.S. military in its occupation of Iraq.

The recent reporting (including revelations of a cover-up) of the murders, executions, and massacres of innocent Iraqi citizens by United States troops prompts me to ask, "Why are Indigenous (American Indian) soldiers serving in Iraq?" I wonder why our tribal communities have not had critical debates on the immorality of this war, on the lies of the present Bush Administration that got us into this war, and on the spiritual, economic, social, and psychological costs that both our people and the Iraqi people will pay for this war. It is clear from the history of many of our tribes that our people understood the grave costs of war and so took this act very seriously. Before engaging in war, many of our tribes initiated peace councils and sent emissaries to negotiate goodwill and friendship with the "enemy" in order to avoid war. As sovereign Indigenous nations, we did not do this before or during the invasion of Iraq. We instead let the United States make the decision for us as to whether we should or should not enter into this war. I wonder when was the last time that the United States asked our people for our opinion about war and its costs.

Our history tells us that because war was so destructive on many different levels, many of our tribal nations—before committing to war against another tribe—consulted our elders, peacemakers, women, youth, philosophers, intellectuals, spiritual leaders, children, warriors, and veterans to weigh the costs of war. This is something that many of our nations have not done for some time. Many of us have “outsourced-our-thinking” to the United States with respect to when and why we should or should not go to war. We are sovereign nations with very intelligent and moral people who do not need to rely on this country to interpret for us the meaning and the costs that war will bring to our communities. Most of us already know the answer to this. And we know that we should decide for ourselves, after careful, deliberate, and intelligent discussions, whether we must commit our people and resources to the wars of the United States.

Along with the U.S. invasion of the lands of our respective nations, the last two major conflicts of the United States, Vietnam and now Iraq, were based on lies created by the U.S. government. Their track record makes it even more imperative that we rely upon our own thinking, experiences, and morality when we enter into discussions on why our tribal nations should compel our people to go to war. The Vietnam lie was very expensive and horrific; it was responsible for the deaths of 58,191,000 American soldiers and 153,303 wounded. One million Vietnamese combatants and four million civilians were killed for this American lie. The missing in this war includes approximately 2,300 American soldiers and 200,000 Vietnamese. In Iraq, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since 2003. After so many lies told to our people by the United States, do we trust this nation to be honest with us? Do we trust it to care about life as much as we do?

If we are to have discussions about this war, topics must include:

 Our belief that all people and beings are related to us so what does it mean to make war on our relatives;

 The fact that we value all life so, therefore, war truly must be a last resort;

 The fact that we value Mother Earth as a living being and the fact that the United States military is contaminating the lands, waters, trees, plants and people in Iraq through the use of biowarfare, landmines, and depleted uranium which will kill innocent people and will poison much of their territory for many years;

 The fact that we believe in the great circle of life (e.g., what goes around comes around and what we are doing to the Iraqi people is what the U.S. did to our ancestors);

 What are the effects that all of the killing, maiming, poisoning, and torturing will have upon our people, especially on the psychic and cosmological levels;

 How the U.S. has treated us in the past and the present, and how it has conscripted our minds and hearts so that we are participating in their same oppressive behavior of another group/race of humans;

 What other nations has the United States overthrown for its own interests? How many innocent non-U.S. peoples have been killed by this country’s covert operations, and who is it planning to attack in the future? Why?

 Who benefits most from war and who are the biggest losers?

 Finally, there are many other reasons that we can discuss and analyze.

It seems that we cannot rely on corporate media or the U.S. government to tell us the truth or to give us the facts about why we should go to war or who we should consider our enemy. John Stockwell, the highest-ranking CIA official to leave the agency and go public with information about CIA-sponsored activities, once said that the U.S. neither does “bloody, gory operations” in Europe nor does it spend its time attacking these countries. Rather it performs such operations in countries that are filled with people of color who do not have the military strength and resources to protect themselves from U.S. invasions. I am convinced that Stockwell is suggesting that the U.S. government has a clear racist war ideology and readily employs it against people or races that are not white. So, we must use all the available evidence to independently decide for ourselves if and when we should go to war and who is our enemy. An enemy should not be invented because of the color of its skin or religious beliefs.

I believe that it is time for us to demand that our tribal governments call for critical and independent discussions, and we need to tell the United States to immediately call for withdrawal of its military forces from Iraq. Most importantly—and independently of their decision or indecision—we must immediately pull our people out of this quagmire. Countries such as Japan, Honduras, Tonga, Nicaragua, Spain, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Thailand, New Zealand, Portugal, and Moldova already have pulled out their troops and many other nations are planning to reduce their troop commitment in the near future. So why are we still in Iraq fighting the U.S.’s illegal war? It also is time for our tribal leaders and communities to impose a moratorium upon any further enlistments of our young men and women into the U.S. military. The United States has abused our trust and has coerced us to fight its illegal, immoral wars long enough.

Many things about this war trouble me to the very core. One of the most disturbing questions is why does it seem that of all the countries that have been, or continue to be, in this war, it is only U.S. soldiers who are committing the murders of, and atrocities against, innocent Iraqi citizens (the unarmed, the disabled, the defenseless elders, the women, and the children)? Is it because the U.S. is serving in larger numbers? Is it because the U.S. is serving in more hazardous situations? Is it because the U.S. is more trigger happy? Is it because of poor oversight and supervision by the upper ranks of the military? Is it because U.S. troops are a more violent group and enjoy killing more than do other soldiers? Is it because the architects of this war, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, care more about profit than "just war" principles? Is it all of the above?

As I write this, two national guardsmen are being investigated for killing an innocent Iraqi man earlier this year; seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were charged with the shooting death of an Iraqi man, whom they had kidnapped from his home, forced into a hole, and shot to death—they then left a stolen AK-47 near his body to make it look like he was firing at them; three soldiers and one non-commissioned officer were charged with killing (in May 2006) three unarmed Iraqis who were in military custody. And many more Iraqi people have been abused and tortured to death in U.S. custody (especially in the military prisons). Many of these atrocities have been covered up or are “under investigation.”

The story currently receiving the most press is the November 2005 massacre of the twenty-four innocent civilians (including women and children) in Haditha by U.S. Marines. This mass killing is being compared to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam. A “Washington Post” article reported that "Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident […] said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. ‘I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: “I am a friend. I am good,”’ Fahmi said. ‘But they killed him, and his wife and daughters.’ The girls killed inside Khafif's house were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1” (Saturday, May 17, 2006).

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a former Marine who maintains close ties with senior Marine officers despite his opposition to the war stated, "Marines overreacted . . . and killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Murtha already has called for the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Iraq and has called the war "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion" (Larry Downing, Reuters, Nov 18, 2005).

There are many reasons why we must immediately get our people out of this war:


to be cont...
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