Backtalk, August 5, 2005

Pledge Week

OK, Justin, I’m doing the right thing and contributing money to now. I check the site every day and routinely “talk up” Justin’s columns so much among my friends that my wife refers to him as my “buddy Justin.” As in, “So, what does your buddy Justin have to say today?” I’m sure he doesn’t write those columns all by himself so thanks to everyone at

My current obsession began in October of 2002 when I put two and two together after reading an article in the New York Times Magazine about Paul Wolfowitz entitled “The Sunshine Warrior.” Up until then I was perplexed, routinely, as to why the White House kept dropping disjointed tidbits all spring and summer about Iraq. After that, everything fell in place and I repeatedly told friends invading Iraq was a “done deal.” It was clear we were being played like suckers.

The reason I write this is quite topical. My anger galvanized the day, many days prior to the invasion of Iraq, when the story leaked that the “Niger documents” were forged. I was determined at that moment to turn anger in to action. I set up a Web site and e-mailed friends and journalists that the forged documents were Bush’s Achilles heel (I likely included in the e-mails).

Slowly, progress is being made illuminating the crevices in the neocon agenda, but I can’t say the end is in sight yet. Maybe it will never be. But thanks to for being there in the meantime. You fill a VERY valuable niche.

~ David Mahnke, Alamo, CA

National Defense for a Republic

Lind may wish to look to Texas. In addition to the National Guard, there is the Texas State Guard, a true state militia. It provided security for Texas when the Texas National Guard was called out to the AEF in the Great War.

Most of their activities today are in crowd control, assisting at large gatherings. This puts them in contact with the people of their communities. Not quite community policing, but more so than the National Guard. More structured than what Lind proposes, but perhaps a starting point. …

Personally, I opposed the first Iraq war, horrified that American blood was being spilled for the stated purpose of restoring a king to his throne. However, I did go down to the Army recruiters to volunteer (Lee was right about duty), but I was a bit middle-aged for them. I was proud when my senator, Lloyd Bentsen, voted against the war.

I oppose this war. I also am very proud that my nephew answered the call to arms and enlisted AFTER the invasion and things turned out badly. He is doing his duty. It is time for my generation to do our duty and admit to being ignorant/arrogant/stupid and get out of this mess.

~ David Cole

The Conviction of Kevin Benderman

I read your recent article by Debbie Clark who was covering the Sgt. Benderman trial. Having myself supported a soldier who filed for conscientious objector separation, and succeeded, I know the process.

A couple of questions: You never addressed if the CO CDR testified about his alleged order to shoot the children throwing pebbles. What was his comment? You also lead us to believe the CSM is concealing something, but the fact of the matter is only the CO CDR has UCMJ authority in these matters. Did he tell the soldier to go home? Your comment that the CO CDR had little knowledge of the conscientious objector chapter process is correct. That is because this separation procedure is seldom used. However, what were the CO CDR’s actions? Did he call the military attorney, as he should have, to find out the appropriate course of action for these procedures? What guidance was he given by the attorney? Did he follow that guidance or not?

Please give us the complete story and not just those pieces that support your position. I cannot speak about why SGT. Benderman made the decision he made. You know him better than I do. I can only tell you that this WAR is so much more than fighting and killing. We work side by side with the Iraqi people to help them – any way we can. We provide food, water, and clothing. We hire the local people to rebuild their infrastructure that was decimated through 30-plus years of neglect from the prior regime. Yes, the bombs we dropped made it worse and not better. However, we are here now to fix what we can. We train Iraqi security forces and teach them human rights and how to treat people with respect. We provide medicine and treat their sick. We help them establish local governments, and do whatever we can to help them put their country back together. This is a labor of love for the soldiers – not hate.

Unfortunately, people die and that is all you hear about in the U.S. We work EXTREMELY hard to prevent unnecessary or needless deaths from happening. But innocent people have been killed in every conflict since the beginning of time. The U.S. Army soldier is the best hope for peace and security throughout the world. He is the most requested and trusted by everyone. These soldiers are wonderful, compassionate, and well trained. They are not perfect, and we make mistakes. However, we attempt to fix these mistakes as best we can. And for all our imperfections – the Iraqi people trust us more than their own government right now. They want us to leave, and we want to leave – but not before they can stand on their own two feet.

In closing – I just want to know from you and your fellow readers. Do we stand and do nothing and let genocide happen as it did in Bosnia, in Rwanda, in Afghanistan, in Iraq? Or do we attempt to protect the innocent. There are forces of evil on this earth that love will not prevail against. And I am all for loving my enemies. But when they choose the path of death and destruction – they must be stopped. I believe former President Clinton even apologized this past week for doing nothing in the Rwanda genocide. Now, we have genocide in Sudan. Question. Does the most powerful and richest country in the world sit back and do nothing and let innocent people get slaughtered because war is hell?

Come spend a month with me in my shoes and watch my soldiers perform their duties in Iraq. Then go home and write what you saw – good and bad. I bet you don’t come. I also bet you don’t display this letter on your Web site. Know why? Think about it.

~ Lt. Col. Bob Roth, US Army, Baghdad, Iraq

Debbie Clark replies:

Colonel Roth,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my article, and thank you for handling a conscientious objector application in your unit in a professional manner. (Would that all commanders were so sensible.)

One thing I would like to very quickly clear up is that the man who was Sgt. Benderman’s company commander at the time that he filed for CO status at Ft. Stewart (Cpt. Gary Rowley), and is the one who testified at Sgt. Benderman’s court martial, is NOT the same commander he had in Iraq who gave the directive to shoot the Iraqi children if they climbed back up on the wall to throw pebbles again. In fact, I believe he had more than one company commander during the time he served in Iraq. (Needless to say, although I have spent a lot of time around the Bendermans, I don’t know all the details as well as they do.)

I would also like to mention that my article was not intended to be a comprehensive report on the 28 July ’05 court-martial, but rather, something a little more personal and reflective. I did provide a more cut-and-dried factual-type of report on the Art. 32 hearing of 12 May 05, which is online here: “Sgt. Benderman goes to court.”

I could do the same in writing about the recent court-martial as well – I took detailed notes – however, it’s not anything I can do anytime very soon. I work two jobs that are unrelated to this type of work, which is volunteer, and I am especially pressed for time right now as I am flying to Dallas on Wednesday evening to attend the national Veterans For Peace convention. If you are really interested in a detailed report, I can start working on it during my free time with pen and paper, such as during my flights to Dallas and back, but I don’t expect to have access to a computer and Internet until I get back Sunday evening.

While I appreciate the humane views you’ve expressed in helping people and trying not to kill them whenever possible, on your points concerning the war in Iraq, I don’t believe that saving the people of Iraq was ever a stated justification or goal when President Bush ordered the invasion. Indeed, the justifications for this war have been shifting sands and fabricated intelligence at best.

I would agree with you that being a commander in Baghdad (I am assuming you must be a battalion commander, though you didn’t specify) provides you with a firsthand perspective that I don’t have, though I should also say, listening to the Iraq vets that I know, I doubt that this is an experience that I need to have in order to have an objective view on the war. Nevertheless, I would, in fact, be keenly interested in spending a month with you in Iraq – or several months – to observe the situation and write about it. However, things like that take financial resources that I don’t have, and I am barely keeping afloat working two jobs as it is.

There is a journalist from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Moni Basu, who recently left to spend three months in Iraq in follow-up to a story she did about a disabled Iraq vet we have here in Atlanta. I became involved in trying to help this very personable young man (my organization, Veterans For Peace, is mentioned in the article), however, I must say, nothing I tried to do helped him nearly as much as that front-page story did in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did. (The VA became very responsive to him after that article was published.) You can read the article here, if you’re interested: “VA lag tough on vets.” (If you have trouble with that link, try this one, where it was republished.) The article also included several photos, which, unfortunately, were not included in the online version. I will be very interested to read Moni Basu’s next article about Iraq veterans, based on her visit to Iraq.

Regarding the Benderman court-martial again, you might be interested to hear an interview of Sgt. Benderman’s wife, Monica, which was aired Saturday night on a radio station in Austin, Texas, on The Weekend Interview Show with Scott Horton. The interview can be listened to here. This will give you more details concerning the court-martial that I don’t have time to write about right now. Kevin and Monica are their own best spokesmen, of course, however, I will do what I can to get a full, objective report on the court-martial written as soon as I have the chance.

Thank you again for your interest and response, and thank you for serving your country.

A Costly Education for America

From the neocons’ perspective, the war in Iraq has indeed been won. The purpose of the war in Iraq never had anything to do with installing democracy in that country. The war has accomplished exactly what it was intended to accomplish, and that is to destroy the first country on the list as posing a military and economic threat to Israel. It is a generally conceded fact, the next country on that list happens to be Iran. The winding down of the war in Iraq should be viewed as nothing more than a military decision needed for the purpose of freeing up troops for the upcoming invasion of Iran.

~ Carroll Price, Waynesboro, Georgia

Chris Moore replies:

This is an interesting and important theory: that the neocons are basically using the U.S. military as a mercenary force on behalf of Israel, and those Middle Eastern countries that pose the greatest threat to Israel make the list for potential invasion / occupation. Of course, in the case of Iraq, it turns out that the threat was only perceived; in fact, that country posed no WMD danger to Israel whatsoever. The neocons knew this, of course, and hence had to manufacture much of the false evidence used to justify the invasion under the WMD pretext themselves – possibly with Israel’s help.

So under this theory, not only those countries that pose some theoretical threat to Israel are candidates for “the list,” but also those countries that can be framed to appear to pose a threat to Israel as well. This could lead virtually anywhere.

Of course, none of this would be possible if subordinating America’s interests (and now, perhaps, even her soldiers’ lives) to the interests of Israel weren’t a matter of Washington routine – for both Democrats and Republicans. But it is also the current religious climate across America, which glorifies Israel, that allows the two main parties to get away with it. The climate is thus because both Christian and Jewish Zionists regularly and aggressively work on behalf of putting Israel first, so much so that they are increasingly viewed as a “fifth column” by American patriots – patriots of Christian, Jewish, secular, or other affiliation.

So in addition to a rift between pro-war and antiwar forces, Americans should also brace for a rift between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist forces. And if Americans find out that the blood their sons and daughters is being prostituted on behalf of a foreign entity, there is little doubt in my mind about which side will ultimately prevail.

Reality Bites Back

The author hits a significant nail on the head with his analysis of the best tone for imperial critics to take now that the empire is in difficulty. My immediate personal inclination is to berate them like the violent brainless fools they are, confident that as they are, after all, quite deaf to reason at least one of us should get something out of the communication, to wit, my enjoyment. But perhaps a bit of psychology might produce results more important than the small simple petty joy of merciless derision. Maybe, anyway. On the other hand there are the merely gullible, on whom subtlety is misplaced, those not so fanatically far gone that they can’t eventually listen to reason if both discourse and reality hit them over the head hard and often enough. So I don’t know.

Anyway, one way or the other I’m definitely going to be doing some bashing as events unfold, but I’ll try to keep the author’s cautionary words in mind. I am at least covered. I wrote the local paper before the last election:

Subj: exculpatory letter
Date: 10/23/2004

I’m only writing this to quote later, but I want everyone who’s voting for Bush to know that if he wins I will be deriding you for it in perpetuity, and I don’t care how bad things get. Offer no excuses, expect no understanding, seek no forgiveness. You may have voted for Bush the first time because you’re a Republican, but you’re voting for him a second time because you’re an idiot. You’re voting for someone who has amassed the highest deficits in history, waged aggressive war, turned America into a pariah nation, and who is at times a just plain insufferable, jabbering embarrassment. Bush has thoroughly botched an unjustified, harebrained, evil war against by far the weakest sister of his self-proclaimed “axis of evil,” and you, stupid Bush voter, are apparently curious to see just how badly he can screw up with the other two. And I’m almost looking forward to your misty eyed lapping up of whatever his future spin is on the continuing utterly predictable meltdown of Operation Enduring Iraq. But the point is, Bush voter, that if your curious choice of cult hero wins then I’m telling you right now that I will be mercilessly deriding you for our mutual flaming wreckage even, and I want to make this perfectly clear, even when we have so spiraled that the awful stupidity of your choice penetrates even your reptilian brain. Indeed my small corner of the national conscience is counting on rubbing your snout in it.

~ Ted

Alan Bock replies:

I can hardly begrudge the reader a certain amount of gloating. It seems to me, if a national discussion of empire and interventionism as policy does get underway, however, that we will do better focusing on a calm recitation of facts because so many of the facts are on our side. The administration lied us into war, in part, because the American people, while capable of emotional responses and a desire for vengeance, might well have needed the lies to assent to the aggression. That’s coming back to bite the perpetrators. Every empire has developed hubris and crumbled. Sole superpower (for now) or not, this one eventually will also. The question is whether it comes as a result of a conscious decision to scale it back in response to evidence that its costs (of many kinds, with monetary perhaps the least important) far outweigh its benefits, or as a result of defeat following some ultimately unsustainable venture into somebody else’s business.

Armageddon Gets No Press

It’s amazing that you claim that you are some noble Web site with the people at heart, when, in fact, you are an extension of the radical left-wing propagandist whose only goal is to bring down this country. Your politics are transparent. If it were your guy up there in the White House, you would not say a peep. One more thing, your claim that the press gives the administration a pass is retarded. You and your cronies are the only ones who buy that garbage. Distinguished Democrats even agree that the media is on the left; your attempt at spin is laughable.

You lost the election, grow up!

Or keep whining and crying, and we will keep laughing at you and your poor attempts to sway voters!

~ Adam Baney

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

Adam has no idea who I am. I suppose he was too knee-jerk to read as far as the author ID. Maybe you should add back in that I was assistant secretary of the treasury in the Reagan administration. Having defended Reagan’s economic policy for two decades, I have many handwritten notes from him saying that I am his favorite columnist.

The War Is Over, and We…

Terrific piece, Paul – I love the clear sober truth. You’ve got guts to take on the neocons and Israel (excuse me for being redundant). I wouldn’t want to have your e-mail box and wade through the tons of Israeli-Firster abuse you must take on a daily basis

Keep up the great work.

~ Lance Dale

Police Response More Frightening Than the Killing

An excellent article, but we need to get at least one thing straight about the murder of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, slain by undercover police-persons while going about his “lawful occasions.”

Whatever excuse the authorities try to conjure up to justify this heinous quasi-official crime, this hapless innocent victim of BlairCo’s USraelisation of Britain was not running away from police officers. He was running away from policemen impersonating civilians, one at least of whom was waving a gun about.

In similar circumstances, we should also be well-advised to take similar evasive action and, if trying to avoid confrontation with gangs of armed apparent muggers is suspicious behavior that merits assassination, we had all better watch out!

The impersonation of police officers by civilians is a crime.

The impersonation of civilians by policemen ought also to be a crime.

~ Colin Parsons, Saudi Arabia


I am a soldier serving in Iraq, and wanted to reach out to you in the hope of inspiring some debate regarding the war. I am finishing my 14-year career at the end of this tour. I am proud of the men and women who have served, and died, here. I wear this uniform proudly. The last time I went home, on leave in New York, I had not one person in the airport come over and say “job well done.” I was shocked, as I had been greeted in other airports. Does support the troops? Do your readers support the troops? I would like to hear from them, and you, regarding their views on the war, the troops, and President Bush. I will answer all e-mails as quickly as I can. I look forward to hearing from you.

As the wrestlers like to say, “Bring it on.”

~ Mike Tanner,

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