James Circello, St. Louis 8/19/07. Photo: Jeff Paterson

In Solidarity with the People of the Middle East

By James Circello, Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the War. October 27, 2007. Speech given at New Orleans’ Washington Square Park.

I am standing here today on behalf of the men, women and children of the Middle East, who have fallen victim to this Administration and it’s complete lack of compassion and total disregard for both U.S. and International laws of war.

I stand with them so that the entire world can take notice, and so that they will know that they are not forgotten. We in New Orleans, and all across the Gulf Coast region, are aware of just what this Administration is capable of doing. Or in some cases what they are capable of not going.

Just looking at the Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina is enough evidence to convince you that this Administration cases nothing about its own people.

Nearly 2,000 died because of Katrina and hundreds of thousands were displaced – and after having lost everything they were forced to start fresh in cities around America that did not welcome them kindly.

Today over 4,000 U.S. Soldiers have died because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters.

4,000 of them – are dead.
Dead because of lies.

Lies that were backed up with the World Trade Center images being shown thousands of times. Nearly 3,000 died in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania
– and this was used as the rallying cry for war.

Looking back at the number of U.S. dead is enough to break anyone’s heart, but these numbers are so small compared to what we are doing to the Arab population
of the Middle East, by use of force and the deception of spreading Democracy.

And I want to tell this Administration:
If what you have given Iraq is Democracy and have helped them throw off a brutal tyrant, then I hope that we in America are never forced to live under such a Democracy.

And when a Government doesn’t care about its own people, how can we ever expect them to begin caring about the people suffering on the other side of the globe in the Middle East.

So I am standing here today on behalf of the 2.5 million Iraqi refugees that have fled to neighboring countries; And the nearly 2 million that have been displaced within Iraq.

I am here today to give a voice to the over 1 million Iraqis that have died while under U.S. occupation – and to the widows, widowers and orphans that they have left behind to continue suffering under a brutal occupation – with no work and no ability to provide for their families they too will be added to the death toll if we do not do something soon.

I speak for them because no one else will. This Administration has run a brutal propaganda campaign to try and make you believe that every Arab and Muslim has the face of Saddam Hussein and that everyone of them had a hand in the attacks of
September 11th.
It simply isn’t true.

A little about myself:
I enlisted directly after the attacks of September 11th, I thought I was going to be a part of something noble and would be defending my country and family. Defending this, that and every other thing soldiers are told they defend.

All I ended up defending were corporate interests.

I served in Iraq during the initial invasion as an Airborne Infantryman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade from March 2003 to March 2004.
And while there, something incredible happened, something so revolutionary no one would ever believe me..
But while I was in Iraq I actually made friends with the people of that country.
Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Kurds, Turks – all of them.
It was unbelievable, all this time I was told that Arabs wanting to kill me for my freedom and because I was American.

I quickly became disillusioned about our mission there. We were being told that we were giving these people Democracy, unfortunately what I saw would best be described as martial law, or what we called “The Old West”. Soldiers joked that “anything goes”, which was true and still is, for the most part, today.

Time went by and I moved on to other places in my career, but I never forgot what I did while in Iraq and what I saw happening: Other kids turning into animals.

Some as young as 17, brutalizing, bullying and humiliating individuals sometimes old enough to be their grandparents, and sometimes young enough to be their children.

And it wasn’t just the men and women on the receiving end, suffering through illegal and tiresome searches of their homes and vehicles, simply for being brown skinned, but the same methods were applied to women and children as well.
No one was innocent.
No one was innocent. No one.

I was against the invasion before I was deployed but shortly after I came home from Iraq, I decided that I was completely against the Occupations and would refuse to participate in them any longer – though it would take me over 2 and a half years to finally do something about it.

But then I did.

I left the Army on Easter morning of this year, in protest of this Administrations War-Crimes and on that day I decided I would never again wear the Uniform of War.

I began to use my money that I had made off of the Occupation to try and stop it, by speaking out and giving my time and voice to the Movement and the people of the Middle East.

I have recently written “An Open Letter to the Government Officially Ending All Military Obligations” – I have yet to receive a response from them.

I am here a free man in terms of my conscience, but at the same time – a wanted man. And though I can be arrested, I don’t fear it. I don’t fear the authorities.
We are already in jail.
New Orleans is in jail.
Jena is in jail.
The Middle East is in jail.
So what more can they do to me? How much more freedom can possibly be taken away from me?

And we are NOT free, and can never be free as long as we live in a country that actively participates in genocide;
A country that is full of intolerance and hatred for indigenous peoples of color all across the world.

And until the day comes that any person, regardless of the color of their skin, is allowed to sit under any tree they want, then we are NOT free.

They say solders are in Iraq defending my freedom, I say bring them home where the real war against freedom is happening.

And today we find ourselves here again, nearly 7 years after invading Afghanistan, doing the same things. Coming to the same events. Hearing the same speakers convince us these wars must be stopped. Time for talking is over. These politicians
do not care about what we have to say. They have made this clear.

We have voted in an entirely new Congress specifically to stop these wars. A Congress that ran on an Anti-War platform and now tries to convince us that their hands are tied. This is a lie!

The people in an overwhelming majority have said “End These Occupations!”

We are your two-thirds majority vote that you need to override a Presidential veto.

I have a message for Congress:
You have failed us, you have failed the U.S. soldiers who are losing their lives, limbs
and families. You have failed the men, women and children of the Middle East that continue to die while you continue to fund these wars.

No one expects the President to change his position, but You were elected to change his position.

I postponed going AWOL because I believed you would be the Party that ended these wars. I was excited, but after six months I realized you weren’t going to do anything and I decided it was time for action.

You, in Congress, do not get to sleep comfortably any longer. When you bought this war, it stopped being President Bush’s war.

Now it is just as much yours – You have failed us and you should be ashamed.

You are a public servant to the People of the United States, not our leaders.
Quit the Propaganda: Supporting the Troops does not mean Funding the War.

And now to all of you here today, I ask for you to get into the streets and make your voices heard, but don’t make it a once a month act. Stay in the streets. Continue to voice your concerns – call your Representatives. Remind them that they are our employees and we can and will remove them from office and we will not rest until we have justice.

Marching is great, but 7 years have passed and we are still marching, while the Administration refuses to listen. Now it becomes time to step it up; Each of you must decide what that means to you. Civil Disobedience is the direction that the movement must take. As well as actively supporting the G.I. Resistance Movement.

Groups such as Iraq Veterans Against The War and Courage to Resist deserve your support and money.
We must learn from our victories and defeats within the movement.
When the soldiers finally lay their weapons down and refuse to fight, then the politicians will have no choice but to stop the wars.

Which is possible!
Just ask some of the Vietnam Veterans standing here today about their G.I. Resistance, which stopped the war and allowed [pointing to a group of 4 Pro-War “Gathering of Eagles” members in the crowd] those individuals right there to come home alive.

So, in closing, I believe greatly in what this Country stands for in its founding ideas, but you will never get me to agree with or get me to support genocide against any group of people. Regardless of who they are.

An American life is no more valuable than an Arab’s life!

And I have a message for the Military:
If you want me jailed, here I am – come and get me.
But I will not be silent.

Power to the People!