US occupation not for “liberation of Iraqis

Peace activist and Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner was one of the 160 people arrested in the Anti-war march from the White House to the Capitol Building in September 2007.

July 26 2010

Michael Prysner, an Iraq war veteran and peace activist, was a corporal in the US army that invaded Iraq in 2003, today he is a leader of March Forward, an organization of American veterans from both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict.

Iraq was invaded by a multinational coalition led by the United States in 2003.

The invasion which took place under former US President George W. Bush, overthrew the Ba’ath Regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

On 1 May 2003, Bush declared the “end of major combat operations” in Iraq, while onboard the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln with a large “Mission Accomplished” banner displayed behind him.

In December of 2003 Saddam himself was captured. Then why are US forces still in Iraq?

The following is the transcript of Prysner’s interview hosted by David Becker, discussing Prysner’s experience in the Iraq war.

Becker: You went to Iraq in 2003, just tell us quickly where you went and what you did.

Prysner: I was a member of 10th Mountain Division and I was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 as a part of the initial invasion and landed in the north of the country and pushed on, took the Northern city of Kirkuk and operated in that area for 12 months.

Becker: What did you do at first? What was your job?

Prysner: My job initially was to operate this radar system that was made famous by the previous Gulf War, known as the high way of death, where thousands of people were killed who were fleeing the violence because they were just hit by air strikes and artillery strikes.

My job was to operate a radar system that called in those air strikes, so when we are learning to do this job we are shown pictures of the high way of death and how wonderful the system was and how effective it was.

It was kind of the model operation that we were taught to operate off, so my first several weeks in that country was basically looking at a computer scene and looking at these dots and just calling in bombs and artillery strikes on those dots, not knowing exactly what they were, just knowing that we were bombing them.

Becker: When you went to Iraq, you had certain views about the war, today of course people know you around the country, as an organizer of soldiers and marines who are opposing the war, were you a supporter of the war when you went, if so, what changed you?

Prysner: Absolutely, I joined the army because I wanted to serve my country, because I believed that the US military was a force for good in the world, that we helped those in need, that we freed the oppressed. So, I believed that really in my heart and when the Iraq war started, I volunteered to go on the deployment. I wanted to go and I believed whole-heartedly that we were going to help the Iraqi people, and that’s what I wanted to do and I was willing to give my life to that.

Becker: What happened while you were there that led to such a radical transformation?

Prysner: I saw that it was not for the liberation of the Iraqi people at all. I saw that it wasn’t to help the Iraqi people at all, and I saw that I was doing exactly the opposite, that I was just hurting the Iraqi people. Everyday was a catastrophe for them and it was seeing day by day the things that were committed against them, the lives that they had to live under occupation, I realized that it was a complete sham that we were there to help them.

Becker: When you were there, you were there for a year?

Prysner: Yes.

Becker: 12 months. After the initial invasion, in other words the city of Baghdad, the government of Iraq fell by April 9, 2003, what did you do for the next 11 months?

Prysner: I did a variety of things, everything from prisoner interrogation – I did that for many months – I interrogated hundreds and hundreds of detainees, the vast majority of which had done absolutely nothing wrong. I operated out of fire bases, I did home raids, I heard people’s complaints whose homes had been destroyed, whose family members had been killed, who had mutilated themselves by US bombs.

So, it was kind of this direct disposure, this direct relationship with the Iraqi people that I really got to see first hand, what their life was like living under the occupation.

Becker: Well, during that year, that eventful year, we know that George Bush went on the aircraft carrier, the Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 under that banner that said “mission accomplished” and then announced that major combat operations were over and yet the experience of the occupying forces was just the opposite. Real combat kept growing and growing, the resistance was growing.

Did you feel that? Could you see that where you were?

Prysner: Yes and I remember very clearly, when we saw these pictures, the “mission accomplished” banners just a few months after the invasion and we all said great, now we can all go home. And so we were all awaiting our orders to go back, but it was very obvious that we were there to stay. There was no plan to go home and month by month, the resistance just intensified so it did not start as severe resistance in the beginning, it was month by month and it got worse and worse, and more and more intense.

Becker: We are 7 years later and even though the Iraqi government fell again in early April 2003, there is more than 50,000 US troops in Iraq. From your point of view, has the US operation failed in Iraq? Has it succeeded? How do the soldiers feel about it? What do they think they are doing?

Prysner: Well, I would say that it has failed. The goal of the US government was to go in and quickly overthrow the government, and then set up a Kayin State, I mean this is their fantasy of just easily overthrowing the country and that hasn’t happened. I mean, the US soldiers have bogged down in that country, the only way that the violence and resistance were to be quelled was because over a hundred thousand fighters were put on the US payroll. I mean they were paying people not to shoot at the Americans anymore.

Becker: That was when [General David] Petraeus started the so called surge, they put people on the payroll?

Prysner: Absolutely. And quelling, the violence also came at the expense of the huge number of casualties that came during the troops surge where thousands of US soldiers had lost their lives in Iraq, and over a million Iraqis have died in that also, and they haven’t still accomplished their goals after all this, after all this death and destruction.

Iraq is still a very volatile state where the US government and the corporate interest, that really are behind all of this, can’t operate the way they want to in that country and that’s why there’s this quagmire that’s going on, where the US can’t withdraw, because they can’t have their economic interest satisfied at this point.

Becker: We see two wars – seemingly endless wars – now in Iraq and Afghanistan. And you made the point that [General] Petraeus, in doing the surge, which, in the American media it was presented as that country [Iraq] became less violent and somewhat passive, as a consequence of the addition of tens of thousands more US troops. But you’re saying that the real fact was the US started paying the insurgents, do you know how much they were paying them?

Prysner: One hundred dollars a month.

Becker: A few hundred dollars a month in order for them not to shoot at the US troops?

Prysner: Right, and not only that. The one key aspect of the surge – if you talk to any soldier who was a part of the surge and who was part of those operations in that period of time in the war – it was not only that there were fighters that were put on the payroll; but also the level of violence was completely scaled up. People who were part of the surge were basically “kill everyone…everybody go into the neighborhoods where there is resistance and just kill everybody.”

So, what the Iraqi people went through during that time, through those major invasions, through the surge, it was a catastrophe. It was a disaster and it was something that was going to have such a lasting effect in those communities, I mean if it was something that was going to take generations to recover from, the horrors that they were subjected to.

Becker: I want to talk to you also about the soldiers who are coming back. Of course, many did not come back, I do not know their exact number. It is upwards in the of 5,000 young men and women who lost their lives; [We are talking about] American soldiers, not counting the million plus Iraqis.

Tens of thousands have come back with horrible wounds, either physical or psychological. We see record levels of posttraumatic stress. As a matter of fact, it perhaps is the biggest controversy right now in the VA [Veteran Affairs].

Do you feel that Iraqi occupation has been somewhat different in terms of its impacts on the soldiers from what happened in say World War II?

Prysner: In World War II, there was this understood mission, right? You have to defeat the Nazis or you have to defeat Fascism. So, that was something very different. The Iraq war has no mission that soldiers can understand. It is just these kinds of ambiguous ideas of freedom and democracy and fighting terrorism. Things that really hold no weight, things that are just these kinds of fabrications.

So, soldiers fighting in Iraq, soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, they do not know what they are fighting for. They may think and try to rationalize it in some way but there is no clear mission and there is no understanding of what they are doing.

The mission in Afghanistan for every soldier is just to stay alive, or to come out of it whole. That is why it is a very different thing. That is why so many people are coming back with severe trauma, because they are not going to fight for some just cause, not going to fight for something honorable. You are just going to repress a population, to repress people, to shoot innocent people, to torture innocent people who have done nothing to you.

I would say that the vast majority of soldiers do not have an understanding of what these wars are about. And the ones that think they know, it is something that is completely backwards. It has just been slammed into their heads by the chain of command and by the US government.

Becker: Do you think that the Obama administration is aware of this kind of epidemic of discontent or distress amongst the returning soldiers?

Prysner: Yes, and it is something that they fear very much. The commanders and generals know that one thing that really has the power to thwart their plans for empires is a mass movement within the military. Like we saw during the Vietnam War. Where tens of thousands of soldiers refused to take part, refused to go on missions and sabotaged their equipment. Because they knew that it was a colonial war. They knew that it was a war with no mission, with no reason to fight and die endlessly. So people started resisting. So, that potential exists today.

The government goes to great lengths to make soldiers not feel those things and not understand what wars are about and prevent them from turning into the same thing that we saw during the Vietnam War.

Becker: So, the administration knows what is going on and they know how the soldiers are feeling. They know the soldiers feel that in spite the self-rationalization, that it is an ambiguous mission at last and perhaps a colonial-type mission that they cannot explain. They know this and yet they are sending their soldiers back. In fact, they are sending more soldiers to Afghanistan and keeping tens of thousands in Iraq. How is that viewed by the rank-and-file?

Prysner: There are people going to Iraq and Afghanistan now who are on their fourth, fifth and sixth combat tours. That means four, five or six years of people’s lives that are spent in combat and spent somewhere that is horrible. That has a severe impact on their lives.

Right now, all these soldiers who are being sent to Afghanistan are exhausted and do not want to go. I would say the vast majority of the people I talk to, that is their sentiment. They do not see any reason why they should go and die, why they should go take another life, why they should risk losing their legs, losing their arms for something that they do not understand.

Becker: How many are absent without leave, AWOL, or are deserting? Is that a large number?

Prysner: It is. There are thousands who have gone AWOL.

Becker: Right now, I have read reports about the higher suicide rate, that the number of casualties among the US soldiers from suicide is actually higher in some months, recently, than on the battlefield. Is that right?

Prysner: That is absolutely right and this is a very significant thing and this (the suicide rate) is just for active-duty military. This does not count the veterans who get out of the military and then take their own lives once they are out. It is a fact that there are months where there are more active-duty soldiers that take their own lives than those who are killed in combat. This is a very significant thing.

This is because of the criminally inadequate treatment that soldiers get when they come back. If you are still active duty, the military has one thing in mind. They want to deploy you again and they will do whatever they can to deploy you again. No matter how traumatized you are or how affected you are.

If you get out of the military, they do not want to have to pay compensation; they do not want to have to pay disability. So, they do whatever they can to actively deny those PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) numbers.

Becker: I want to talk to you about Afghanistan. Of course, Afghanistan has been largely out of the news. So, you have a war going on and an increasing number of casualties, but it is not really main stream media front page news at all. And so largely, the American people do not see it everyday.

But last week and the last few weeks they have because of the controversy around the Rolling Stone interview with General McChrystal, his firing and his replacement by David Petraeus. From your point of view, does that scandal with McChrystal impact the war? Does it impact the direction of the war? Does it impact the soldiers?

Prysner: It does. I mean it really shows that they are kind of in crisis right now. It is becoming very obvious to the commanders on the ground, to the generals in the Pentagon, to the politicians in the White House that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. They cannot defeat, not only the Taliban, but the more than a 140 different armed organizations that are resisting for an occupation in that country.

So, there is an understanding that they cannot win that war. So, now there is the finger pointing starting, there is the kind of, you know, people dancing around trying to avoid taking responsibility.

So, what happened with McChrystal was significant because it shows the very volatile situation and it shows that for a general to be speaking with such contempt to his people that outrank him in the chain of command, it shows the state of the conflict right now. That the war cannot be won, and that they are going to be scrambling to avoid taking responsibility and at the same time that the generals and the politicians are trying to avoid taking responsibility; people are dying every single day, last month, June, was the highest number of casualties for NATO troops in Afghanistan.

This is a trend that is going to continue, this year is already on track to be the deadliest year of war, last year doubled the year before, this year is already on track of doubling 2009.

Becker: Are you in touch with the soldiers and their families or the marines and their families who are in Afghanistan, what are they telling you about the actual conditions in Afghanistan – of the war? This is the unvarnished story, not from the headlines.

Prysner: I am in touch with people in Afghanistan, on the front lines, and they are saying that they do not understand why they are there, they do not want to be there anymore, morale is extremely low. There are people who are shooting themselves in the foot to get out of deployments, there are people having psychological breakdowns on the front lines. I mean, the military right now is really at a breaking point, because of repeated deployments and because they are being sent to fight a war that cannot be won, a war that is being lost with no understanding why. No clearly articulated reason why we must fight in Afghanistan. So, we have a situation where there are nearly 100,000 soldiers who are now fighting in Afghanistan with no clear mission and having to endure the daily horrors of being an occupying army.

Becker: So, the Obama administration must know what you know and what the soldiers know? That the war is unwinnable, and yet they are sending more soldiers. What is the goal? They are not trying to win, what are they trying to do?

Prysner: We are trying to avoid the perception of defeat, we are trying to protect the image of the empire, and we are going to kill as many people necessary to do that.

Becker: So, the calculation is that this is a kind of an out-of-the-news war for the most part and so they can keep going and going and going. What is the cost? What is the cost in addition to the soldiers and their lives, which is what you are documenting really well? What is the economic cost?

Prysner: Well, just the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan alone – and this isn’t including the exorbitant defense budget right now – it is over USD $500 million a day that is being spent on these occupations.

At the same time, we are seeing tens of thousands of jobs be lost every month. The increasing number of people going bankrupt is because of hospital bills. We are seeing universities all over the country raising tuition, cutting classes; for students it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a college education, all the while, while working people are having such a difficult time right now economically. We are watching over USD $500 million a day being poured into two quagmires, into two wars that are doing nothing but destroying the lives of thousands and thousands of people.

Becker: Afghanistan in the first year of the war, in 2001, the number of US casualties was 12 and now of course, every week there is that number or more. It is clear to me that the occupation itself in its ninth year has become a catalyst for armed resistance, and as you said, the purpose may just be to avoid defeat, or the perception of defeat by a global empire. But, Afghanistan has some significance from the point of view of its geostrategic location, it is right in South Central Asia, it is close to the former Soviet Republic the US is making military bases. Do you see that as a part of a regional strategy for the US in terms of its projection of its own power, either military or economic?

Prysner: Absolutely. I mean, the United States had long dreamed of having a foothold in Afghanistan, of having bases in Afghanistan. You know what, they really tried to negotiate with the Taliban, to kind of work out business deals where they could pursue economic interests in that country. But 9/11 provided a pretext for an all-out military invasion. And the US thought that the Taliban government would fall easily, and they could easily set up this client state there and that is why in the first year of the war, it was kind of mission accomplished with Afghanistan also.

Becker: CIA Director Leon Panetta went on ABC recently and said that there is no possibility of reconciliation with the Taliban because the Taliban is in essence winning the war, the armed resistance is winning the war. So, they are not in any mood to negotiate. Is it and is it understood that the US goal now is that they want to have a government of national unity that brings the Taliban back in, and do the soldiers know that?

Prysner: Well, the US government cares about one thing, it is whether or not economic interest will be met in Afghanistan. So, if that means the deal with the very same people, we are told we have to fight and kill and die endlessly against – then that is what they are going to do. I mean, the soldiers are realizing that more and more everyday. I am seeing that everyday more and more soldiers are standing up saying that they do not want to take part in this criminal war.

Becker: What can soldiers and their families do in relationship to your own organization?

Prysner: You can go to marchforward.org and read statements and find out what your options are, and I would say to every single soldier in the active-duty military and their families, that you have the absolute right to refuse to take part in these wars. These are wars for the rich and you have the right not to take part in them. Source

There are thousands of stories like this from US Veterans. People should be taking note of them. They were there, they know.

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No Weapons of Mass destruction in Iraq.

Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector, accused US and British intelligence yesterday of paying too much attention to Iraqi defectors who told them that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction, because that was what they wanted to hear.

The former head of the UN’s Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) has maintained for years that his team of inspectors should have been allowed more time to complete their work in Iraq, which was cut short by the invasion in March 2003. He claimed yesterday that the US administration at the time was “high on military” and thought that “they could get away with it and therefore it was desirable”.

Giving evidence at the Iraq Inquiry he argued that it was “absurd” for the US and British governments to claim that they invaded Iraq to uphold the authority of the UN Security Council when they knew they could not get a majority resolution through the council in favour of war. For entire story go HERE

This just out. Well gee I am just so shocked imagine the US misplacing $9 Billion.  The Americans are very good at losing money. They are also very good at stealing the Americans peoples hard earned money.  Just the day before 9/11 it was announced they lost something like $2.5 Billion, of course with 9/11 and all, no one really noticed  and it wasn’t reported all that much. So they lost another $9 billion that is what the US is good at. I wonder who’s pockets were lined this time? Considering the fact there were no weapons of mass destruction the US should be footing the bill for all reconstruction. Not the Iraqi’s.

The US defence department is unable to account for almost $9bn taken from Iraqi oil revenues for use in reconstruction, according to an official audit released yesterday.

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