Sympathy for the Occupiers

Democracy Now!: Ambivalent on Occupation?

I rode a tank
Held a generals rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

— Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, “Sympathy for the Devil”


Democracy Now!
carried an extremely sympathetic interview on the 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company in Adhamiya, Iraq.1 The platoon refused to go out on patrol fearing that they might commit a massacre. People of good conscience would applaud this “mutiny” of Charlie Company.

The interview is with Kelly Kennedy of the Army Times, a newspaper geared toward US Army and US National Guard personnel and their families.

It is predictable that Kelly, a veteran, would impart a sympathetic view toward the men of Charlie Platoon. But her propaganda went unchallenged on the “independent,”2 left-leaning DN. For instance, she talked about “catching insurgents,” a demonization of the Iraqi resistance.3 Iraqis have a legitimate right to resist occupation.

Kelly enumerated how 14 men out of probably 138 men in Charlie Company had been “lost” in 12 months and 31 people from a battalion of about a thousand people. Kelly found this to be “pretty extreme.” Extreme? Unmentioned in the interview is how extreme the 14 or 31 occupation troops killed is in comparison to the over one million Iraqi people killed during the US invasion-occupation?”4

Viewers are told about a first sergeant McKinney “well loved by his men,” who killed himself in front of his men. Viewers are not told about the Iraqis, well loved by their family, who are slaughtered in front of their family members.

Said Kelly, “Early on in this war, we did umm … have situations were, were troops did not behave properly … for these guys to, to stand up and say ‘Listen we’re not, we’re not sure we can handle it right now,’ could be considered very courageous, in my mind.”

Yes, if not courageous,5 then at least the moral thing to do. But the troops didn’t rise to the challenge. In other words, the troops were not courageous and behaved improperly — a naughty-child euphemism for murderous acts by adults. This obfuscation by Kelly went unchallenged by DN hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales who were drawn to Kelly’s “really fascinating picture.”

Kelly talked about the ordeals US occupation soldiers in Iraq cope with, helped by the strong bonding among soldiers. Therefore, after an IED attack killed some men, the incapacitated soldiers couldn’t sleep, reacted poorly, and needed medication. The platoon refused to go out on patrol … “mutiny.” The army brass responded by splitting up the closely knit group and denying promotions.

“They are good guys,” asserted Kelly. These guys were just “going out and patrolling and doing what they thought they were supposed to be doing — in their minds.”

What does “in their minds” mean? Does the fact that the soldiers considered improper behaviors — such as occupying a people thousands of kilometers from the US, shooting them at checkpoints, barging into their homes during the night and, as Kelly admitted, “waking people” — the right thing to do “in their minds” exculpate the soldiers?

Kelly continued on about the “good guys”:6

When they lost their five men, they (pause) think they gave up on the Iraqi people. If, if the Iraqi people weren’t willing to fight for them, (pause) then what was the point? They were so angry. They just wanted to go out and take out the whole city. They didn’t understand why they couldn’t finish up what they call the war, and the whole idea of counterinsurgency is that you’re supposed to be building relationships, but they’re trying to build relationships with people who obviously aren’t that concerned about them. So this idea of a massacre was just (pause) they were just so angry, they could barely contain it anymore.

DN host Gonzales wondered about “the soldiers finding that they’re on a mission to help a people, but they have so much hostility from the very people that they are there to help, the impact of that on their fighting ability or on the morale.” Does Gonzales really wish to leave the viewers with the impression that he believes the soldiers are in Iraq on a noble mission to help Iraqis!? Does he want to portray Iraqis as ungrateful because of their hostility to foreign occupation? Should Iraqis be culpable for impacting the “fighting ability” and “morale” of their occupiers?

It sure is tough having to invade, kill, and occupy on behalf of a superpower. Kelly agreed, adding that the soldiers “never felt safe.”

Maybe they did never feel safe.

Are Iraqi soldiers attaching electrodes to the penises of US soldiers in Attica? Are Iraqi troops raping American women? Are Iraqis occupying US soil and shooting Americans at checkpoints? Did Iraqis rewrite the US Constitution? Was the Criminal US president hanged under an Iraqi occupation? Did Iraqis wipe out the economic infrastructure of the US, causing great shortages of potable water and a lack of sewage treatment; destroy hospitals, expose Americans to disease epidemics and depleted uranium; destroy and defile American churches; allow the plunder of American antiquities; maneuver to grab control of US oil and natural resources for Iraqi companies; make refugees of 44 million Americans;7; etc.? If Iraqis were committing these improper behaviors on the soil of the United Sates of America, would these “good guys” be able to feel safe?

Why did the DN hosts seemingly defend the US occupation of Iraq through nauseating commentary and silence? Indeed, Charlie Company did the right thing by pulling back from committing a massacre. Nonetheless, while one should not demonize individual soldiers with a broad brush, certainly, creating sympathy for the minions of US military-industrial complex while totally neglecting the victims’ blood spilled by the troops is sending out a dark signal.

  1. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales, “U.S. Soldiers Stage Mutiny, Refuse Orders in Iraq Fearing They Would Commit Massacre in Revenge for IED Attack,” Democracy Now!, 21 December 2007. []
  2. DN calls itself “independent” while accepting large sums of money from foundations. []
  3. See Kim Petersen, “‘Insurgents’: Hermeneutics Are Not a Substitute for Clarity!Dissident Voice, 3 March 2006. []
  4. More than 1,000,000 Iraqis murdered,” ORB, September 2007. []
  5. Kim Petersen, “An Act of Cowardice that Must Surely be Unrivalled in History: Challenging the Assumption of Valor,” Dissident Voice, 29 July 2003. []
  6. Kelly thinks the soldiers are “good guys,” but what do Iraqi civilians who live under the muzzles of M15s think? While primary blame lies with decision-makers in government, soldiers do bear culpability for war and killing. See Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri, “American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5,” Dissident Voice, 15 August-19 September 2005. []
  7. Amnesty International reports 4 million Iraqi refugees displaced by the invasion and occupation of their country. See “Refugee crisis unfolds amid global apathy,” 21 September 2007. Based on population data from the CIA Factbook which reports the 2007 US population at 301.1 million and the 2007 Iraqi population at 27.4 million, by simple extrapolation 4 million Iraqi refugees would be the equivalent of 44 million US refugees. []
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.

22 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. greybeard said on December 24th, 2007 at 11:09am #

    The difficult task, for us who oppose the war in Iraq (and American Empire, and neo-con Zionism) is how to oppose, condemn the war, while recognizing the “patriotism” of those who have “bought into” the myth of patriotic war. These men (and women) are not intrinsically evil–they have been duped by the host of myths which they have been fed since youth. And most frustratingly, dis-enthrallment is extra-ordinarily difficult. These “patriots” need to be opposed–but not demonized. More pitied.

  2. sk said on December 24th, 2007 at 12:03pm #

    An interesting take on how being condescendingly “understanding” or cloyingly pitying doesn’t do these men a whole lotta good either.

  3. Deadbeat said on December 24th, 2007 at 2:35pm #

    “Patriots” need not be opposed and their ideas confronted. What must occur is radical dialog that confronts myths.

  4. Deadbeat said on December 24th, 2007 at 2:36pm #

    Excuse the previous post. It should read as …

    “Patriots” need TO be opposed and their ideas challenged. What must occur is radical dialog that confronts myths.

  5. Brian Mattox said on December 24th, 2007 at 3:03pm #

    Amy Goodman has been at the forefront of the anti-war movement. Clearly, she doesn’t support the imperialist war in the Middle East or the killing of Iraqis. I suspect that the problem is how to conduct an interview and collect information when the group you are interviewing has committed horrific, criminal acts but have themselves become rebellious. Clearly, these soldiers have been intentionally confused and don’t really understand the root cause of the war or the real purpose behind their own actions. Imperialist war is not just a crime against the victims of the invaded nations, it is also a crime against the invading nation’s soldiers. Few would ever voluteer to go forth raping, torturing and killing so that the very richest citizens of their homeland could become even richer.

    The goal of the interview was not to attack the soldiers for their crimes, but to provide to the world a glimpse of the rebellion that is occurring inside the military.

  6. Erroll said on December 24th, 2007 at 3:14pm #

    Greybeard believes that the “patriotism” of American soldiers, as he puts it, should be acknowledged. As a Vietnam veteran, that belief makes no sense at all to me. I am not one to needlessly engage in hyperbole but one of the most powerful films that I have ever seen and which had a profound effect upon me was about a year and a half ago and that was the documentary Sir! No Sir!. The true patriots in this country are such people as former Green Beret Donald Duncan, who wisely noted in the film that “I was doing it right [referring to what he had participated in while in Vietnam] but I wasn’t doing right.” Or David Cline, who was seriously wounded while in Vietnam and was a long time member of the VVAW [Vietnam Veterans Against the War] and former president of Veterans for Peace, who said in the film “Your silence [referring to the soldiers] is keeping that lie going”.

    The equivalent to the VVAW today would be the IVAW {Iraq Veterans Against the War] and such people as Camilo Mejia and Kevin Benderman, who refused to fight in Iraq and consequently were jailed by the military, just like many in the film Sir! No Sir! were, for their beliefs. Lt. Ehren Watada certainly deserves mention as being the only officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq because he recognizes that the occupation is illegal, immoral, and unjust. It is long past the point when those in the military today finally come to the realization that they are being used as cannon fodder by their government. Those who resist are the true heroes of this country but yet very few people are aware of them. The ideal thing would be for each member of the military to view Sir! No Sir! in order to understand that he or she, despite what the military wishes them to believe, has a brain and can and should say no to those illegal orders that they have been given and expected to obey by the military. The best way to bring an occupation to a halt is to have it happen from within.

  7. HR said on December 24th, 2007 at 4:41pm #

    I’m afraid Democracy Now! may be succumbing to something like regulatory agency syndrome (where the regulator changes into the promoter). Maybe success is going Amy’s head. On several occasions, I have emailed the program — with never even so much as a form response — comments regarding how they provided misinformation or seemingly bought into the right-wing rewrite of the history of the Vietnam years. I was particularly disappointed with how Amy let Wes Clark slide in her interview of him. I tried to rationalize that by concluding that she was simply letting him dig his own hole, with his own words, but that was never a very satisfying conclusion for me. And, Amy and Juan both let Lou Dobbs steamroller them in their recent debacle of an interview with him. They almost appeared awestruck, and fairly tongue-tied, in his “grand” presence. I still consider Democracy Now! better than the corporate propagandists, but that aint saying much.

  8. Shabnam said on December 24th, 2007 at 4:48pm #

    This is very much a Zionist/imperialist war which has promised goodies for the empire after they redraw the map of the Middle East through “regime change” and division of states in the region to create Israel poppet states for Israel to helps its “greater Israel” agenda, like the tribe of Kurdistan, to create friendly states for Zionist state and push the rest of the Palestinian out of their land to make the region
    “safe” for investment with the resources of the region. That’s why everyone must expose this racist plan, wrapped in “democracy” propaganda rhetoric. These soldiers say:
    “A Therefore, after an IED attack killed some men, the incapacitated soldiers couldn’t sleep, reacted poorly, and needed medication. The platoon refused to go out on patrol … “mutiny.” The army brass responded by splitting up the closely knit group and denying promotions.”

    These Soldiers are there to kill in order to continue occupation of Iraq and the region. They have killed thousands of innocent people, yet they are angry at patriotic Iraqis who have attacked the enemy to force the occupier out and protect their country and its wealth and their family. The soldiers are also angry not to receive their “promotions.” This kind of talking strengthen the ignorant American’s belief when they say: “We are trying to bring democracy to Iraqi people but look what they have done to us.” So arrogant and stupid. It can’t get worse than that.
    Amy Goodman is not alone in this respect who tries to obfuscate the reality in Iraq. The “left” pro Zionist agenda has done the same. They have lied and cooperated with the Zionists and have participated in the design of the invasion and killing of the population for political gains. One of these “leftist” is Kenan Makiya, an architect, who is made a professor of Middle East at Brandies University. According to Moshe Vachover, a socialist and supporter of “Hands off people of
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkZ2cNCYydc

    Iran, HOPI, like Noam Chomsky, Ron Jacobs, and many others who are coming from similar background who believes that both US imperialist and Iranian regime are dangerous. Hopi and its supporters have embraced the idea of “regime change” for Iran but they do not consider Zionist regime “dangerous” at all. In fact, HOPI, located in Britain, believes that the Islamic resistance movement is indeed very dangerous not only to the region, but also to the world. This is in fact against the world consciences which puts US and Israel as the most dangerous countries to world peace.
    Moshe Vachover, an Israeli, who is at the University of London, has said that the Present Iranian regime is an obstacle to US and its important junior partner, Israel. He believes that: It is wrong to think that my enemy of my enemy is my friend. But he gives leftist or former leftist such as Kenan Makiya as an example. “Some of the people who were staunch supporters of this imperialist invasion, he explains, who rightly exposed Saddam as an enemy of Iraqi people and the working class was Kennan Makiya.” Makiya former Trotskyite who wrote
    ‘republic of fear’ exposed the atrocity of regime of Saddam and worked with Chalabi.” Vachover thinks simple analysis such as danger of American imperialism should not make us to tune down the danger of Iranian regime and not to support “regime change” in Iran. When Noam Chosky was asked, by Christopher Lyndon, do you think American military Should leave Iraq? He did not say yes they should leave Iraq, rather he said ITS UP TO IRAQI PEOPLE. This position is very similar to George Bush’s position who has said repeatedly in the past that we leave Iraq when Iraqis want us to leave. But in the light of strong resistance and many demonstrations and even the desire of some of the Iraqi officials that American must leave Iraq Bush could not continue with this excuse and he had to abandon it since. Those who want occupiers stay in Iraq are the Kurds who are close to Israel, are supported by Noam Chomsky, and individuals like Kenan Makiya.
    Apparently HOPI is not the only “leftist” campaign where supports
    “regime change” in Iran and helps the Zionist agenda. “Campaign for peace and Democracy” is another one, in US, where is seeking “regime
    http://www.cpdweb.org/
    http://www.payvand.com/news/06/jun/1044.html

    change” in Iran with similar slogan as HOPI, “Neither US aggression, nor theocratic oppression. Noam Chomsky has signed peace and democracy’s petitions and open letters against the Iranian regime. Please check their website. Noam Chomsky does not support economic sanction or divestment against Israel and do not support any petition which suggests such an action.
    Chomsky in an answer to Lyndon’s question that what should we do in Iran said that Iranian should take actions that make the government harsh and the opposition should
    http://www.radioopensource.org/chomsky-my-dinner-with-hassan/
    work among the “minorities”. This is exactly Israeli’s plan who wants division of Iran like Iraq after regime change. Well, I will tell Israel and those individuals who want to hurt Iran that all of you will take this wish into your graves, one by one.

  9. Jimmy said on December 24th, 2007 at 10:34pm #

    Democracy Now? There’s a guy named Eli Israel. He was a soldier in Iraq. He refused to serve. Amy Goodman hasn’t interviewed him and hasn’t mentioned him. If you go to Iraq Veterans Against the War or Courage to Resist, you can find out about him. If you go to Democracy Now there’s not a word on him. And a lot of websites have already noted that the year is ending and find one war resister that Democracy Now featured this year. You can’t. Good article and we need a lot more like this.

  10. Lloyd Rowsey said on December 24th, 2007 at 10:51pm #

    Amy Goodman and Democracy Now are nationwide of course, but still basically east coast, New York, if I’m not mistaken. I appreciate and applaud this article by Kim Petersen. But I also support IVAW, and I know from personal experience that breaking into public consciousness with IVAW’s message is more difficult in Los Angeles than in the northeast and upper midwest United States. For a period of about three months, I’ve been trying to convince the Editor of the Obituary Page of the Los Angeles Times that his reporters should inquire of survivors of soldiers killed in Iraq if they had ever spoken (to their survivors) of their opposition to the war, or if they belonged to any organization that advocated ending the war. Note that this would not be inquiring about whether the deceased gave less than 100% in fighting the war. It would be inquiring if an active duty American soldier in Iraq had exercised his/her constitutional right to speak out against the insanity that Bush and his henchmen had set the soldier to the task of giving 100% to accomplish.

    My efforts are not ended, but they have met silence, evasion, and contempt.

    And I hear, over and over in my mind, an old friend — whose brother was a Marine guard in Nixon’s White House — saying: “it is impossible not to lower the fighting morale (prowess) of ground troops if they hear criticism of the basic mission.” Which I am sure is also at the heart of the LAT’s military obituary reporting policy of total pap. (Pap – you know. These disadvantaged folks joined, gave their all, and died gloriously – or sadly; or minor variants thereof.) Well, I say horse—t. Anyone who reads the personal stories at the IVAW website knows that those of it members who were on active duty tours in Iraq did not experience opposition from their fellow soldiers, or their commanders, for their speaking out against the war. And they very sincerely felt that their moral obligation (and their soldiers’ duty) to protect their fellow soldiers required them to speak out in this manner while in country in Iraq, and then to escalate their opposition to the war to active organizing and bodily protest once they got back in the United States.

    The nut we have to crack is this blind conviction in California that opposition to the Iraq War by soldiers is dangerous to their fellow soldiers. I say “we have to crack.” But from what I keep reading and hearing, there’s no “we” about it. There’s only a small number of courageous and informed active duty soldiers and veterans in groups – including IVAW – who are increasing their pressure and presence excruciatingly slowly. While almost all of us…write and say and give money to…what?

  11. Deadbeat said on December 25th, 2007 at 12:22am #

    Another interesting discussion of Zionism in the United Stated by Jeffrey Blankfort …

    <a href=”SF IMC Interview – Jeffrey Blankfort: Jewish-American anti-Zionist journalist

  12. Deadbeat said on December 25th, 2007 at 12:24am #

    Here’s the link to the Blankfort discussion…

    SF IMC Interview – Jeffrey Blankfort

  13. greybeard said on December 25th, 2007 at 12:54am #

    I’m glad the discussion has started! Of course this war has Zionism (and greed) written all over it. And, most or all of the orchestraters know it. But most of the poor “grunts” do not. Those who have joined IVAW do know. Disenthrallment with this kind of “patriotism” must be the goal. But, remember, most patriots AND Zionists are passionate “believers”–and demonizing them does not assist their transformation. The task is to disenthrall them of their error . I keep working on finding ways to do that.

  14. Mike McNiven said on December 25th, 2007 at 4:22am #

    Thank you Mr.Petersen for tackling an issue which most do not dare to touch!
    One way of answering the question of “to support or not to support” the Volunteer US soldiers is to look at the peoples’ reactions when the Enlisted soldiers of the Israeli military murder the Palestinians!
    What gives DN the permission to treat a US soldier “nicer”?

  15. Lloyd Rowsey said on December 25th, 2007 at 6:51am #

    If words could do it, greybeard, “disenthrall” is the most applicable one I’ve ever read. Simultaneously, however, “Zionism” must be decoupled from “Judaism.”

    Starting with what those words denote now, in 2007.

    I’ve never heard anyone argue it will be easy.

    Lloyd Rowsey

  16. Lloyd Rowsey said on December 25th, 2007 at 7:00am #

    And Mike McN. Considering what Jimmy posted above, that “a lot of websites have already noted that the year is ending and (you can’t) find one war resister that Democracy Now featured this year,” nothing gives DN that permission.

  17. Marcelle Cendrars said on December 25th, 2007 at 8:45am #

    Hard to believe that people are still talking about the deficiencies of DNow. This is the outlet, after all, that gave Wesley Clarke a podium…as if he had some legitimacy. DNow serves a very limited purpose. AND it sadly reinforces some very important/disgusting “habits” that keep “activists” from breaking out of traditional forms of protest. Way back when the first started having Mike Moore on the show…they held back greatly from questioning him on a number of counts ’cause they were –at that time– raising funds with his gear for sale. Fundraising…and redundancy…that’s what they’re so much about in the final analysis. — Marcelle

  18. Mike McNiven said on December 25th, 2007 at 6:52pm #

    a very relevant article:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/hornberger12132007.html

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain said on December 25th, 2007 at 8:59pm #

    The Bl4ck Pope’s spray is a real scream of consciousness. I agree Janson’s comments were exculpatory, to my mind, of Yankee criminal behaviour, and the tone cloying and not a little unctuous,but who’s to guess at his motives. Perhaps he’s deserving of criticism, but by hurling colourful invective, your point is lost is a fog of abuse, at least to my mind. Such a vehement tirade may be cathartic, and even useful if communicated privately. Janson’s reply might be in kind, or then again it might be of a different type altogether. When you publish such a diatribe publicly, however, I feel you weaken your argument, and elicit perhaps undeserved sympathy for the object of your tirade. But, if it makes you feel better, you will just have to answer to your own conscience.

  20. Robert B. Livingston said on December 26th, 2007 at 1:30pm #

    Where the hammer shapes the hand

    Democracy Now is a strange bird– it has often been enlightening, but on some things frustratingly obtuse. Is this a function of the cost of getting out the “truth” in America today?

    Success in America seems to inevitably involve bargains with the devil– or at least a careful dance with him. We know Amy’s program rocketed to success despite huge efforts to stifle her program.

    I hardly watch it anymore. The last time was her interview with Alan Greenspan.

    http://tinyurl.com/2rarqy

  21. dan elliott said on December 26th, 2007 at 5:06pm #

    Hehe, nothing I like better than another chance to disagree with distinguished Provost M. Cendrars:) I myself maintain we need more not less talk about “Democracy Now”‘, about it’s “quirks” & deficiencies.

    You can’t just dismiss the show out of hand. For instance the story they did a few days ago on the resistance to Ethnic Cleansing in New Orleans was a mindblower. But it is a fact that Goodman & associates have a certain agenda, or are so afflicted by Selective Inattention Disorder* that they cover only a certain slice of the news, leaving out a lot.

    For instance, while they devoted a brief segment to Dr Mearsheimer when the flap over his & Dr Walt’s book was at its height, you will NEVER see James Petras, Jeff Blankfort, Hatem Bazian, Joe Anderson or Kathy Christison on DN.

    BTW, Goodman is as much a KPFA/Berkeley as a WBAI product. The politics of Pacifica and KPFA is a story long as your arm. How Goodman got to go national while Dennis Bernstein got the shaft is one of the juicier episodes.

    Gung Hay Fat Choy, Marcelle!

    dan:)

    *AKA “Navasky Syndrome”.

  22. Deadbeat said on December 30th, 2007 at 11:55am #

    Dan,

    You are absolutely correct. In fact I don’t believe DN every interviewed M&W. They only had third party accounts. On James Petras however DN did have Petras on the show but that was restricted only to his views on Venezuela and not about his recent analysis of the “Zionist Power Configuration” in the U.S.

    The closest DN came to this issue was an interview with Joel Kovel but that interviews as abrupt and limited to the last 5 minutes or so of the program. DN has never devoted a major exploration to this problem.

    DN has given especially a lot of time to Naomi Klein dubious “Shock Doctrine” thesis and interviewed Alan Greenspan primarily because he proclaimed that the War on Iraq was about oil. Like Ron Jacobs here because Greenspan said what the apologist of Zionism wanted to hear they jumped on Greenspan’s statement without scrutiny.

    Therefore I agree, DN demands a lot of scrutiny especially since they’ve position themselves as being “the exception to the rulers”.