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Truthdig Radio: Dennis Kucinich Battles Libya Bombing
Posted on Mar 24, 2011
Howie Stier: This past weekend, protesters marched through the streets of Hollywood, demanding an end to the ongoing United States military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest such street action since the 2007 Writers Guild strike, the event drew a crowd of hundreds representing a broad array of student groups, union members, peace activists, as well as combat veterans and their families. The storied cross-street of Hollywood and Vine presented a loud and colorful display, with a dance group in peacock-plumed headdresses and Aztec regalia, vets in camouflage, bandanna-masked anarchists and, this being Los Angeles, a taco truck promoting a violent war video game rolled up, too. Medically discharged Army Sgt. Kevin Baker wears the camouflage jacket he wore through two tours of combat in Iraq, adorned with a blue combat infantryman’s badge and rows of so many decorations that he doesn’t even know what they were awarded for. His second deployment to Iraq was disillusioning, he says; he wasn’t engaging enemy forces; his soldiering was making conditions worse for the Iraqi citizenry; and when his unit responded in the aftermath of a helicopter attack against a civilian home, he became disaffected with the prosecution of the war.
Kevin Baker: All the people that I know, that I served with in the infantry, a good percentage of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder due to feeling guilty about what we did to the people of Iraq.
Howie Stier: What did you do to the people of Iraq?
Kevin Baker: Well, we would raid their houses, detain them. And it’s kind of hard to understand, I think. Like, how … you would kick in the door, throw a flash bang in their house. It would disorientate the family, children would be crying; you would pull their fathers and their brothers away from them, zip-cuff them, put a bag over their head, throw them inside of a vehicle at 2 in the morning and then drive away.
Howie Stier: Tell us about that Apache helicopter strike.
Kevin Baker: So it collapsed a house, and uh, we were responsible for medevac ... medically evacuating a small child, maybe 5 or 6 years old. And we brought the child into the Stryker, and he had several sucking chest wounds. And watching the child, like, the chest rise and fall, it put it into … because I have a child, also. It put it into context, like this child … the only thing the child was guilty of is being born in Iraq. And that’s not an isolated incident as far as the entire occupation’s concerned.
Howie Stier: Did you follow up, do you know if the child survived?
Kevin Baker: Oh, he died inside the Stryker with us. And his mother actually was there, I medically evacuated his mom; she died also. They actually dropped her off the structure in the middle of MSR [Main Supply Route] Tampa. And, like, these are people that didn’t have a say whether Saddam Hussein was in power or not. They didn’t have a say about the United States intervening. Like, these are just human beings that are suffering because of the occupation.
Howie Stier: These weren’t combatants.
Kevin Baker: No, not at all. And that’s not an isolated incident. Like, that happens every day, and something like 1.2 million Iraqis are dead. Those are lives that have been destroyed because of the …
Howie Stier: And that was the part where you realized that the war wasn’t going the way you thought it would.
Kevin Baker: Right. It was the point where I realized that, like, we’re not there to help the people of Iraq. That we didn’t do anything productive for them. Occasionally we would hand out bottles of water, but a bottle of water doesn’t replace a human life.
Howie Stier: Tim Kahlor flourishes a poster-sized photo of his son, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan, blown up multiple times in Iraq, ultimately and most seriously by an improvised explosive in the town of Hit, in Anbar province, in 2006. Kahlor rattles off a litany of injuries the Army NCO suffered returning again and again with his unit to be deployed into combat.
Tim Kahlor: Eight years later, we have a war in Afghanistan, we have a war in Iraq. And now we’re looking at Libya, probably. We’ve got to stop this current. Because we need to—not only do we need to take, bring the troops home right away. …
Howie Stier: Your son was injured in Iraq?
Tim Kahlor: Yeah, in 2006, he was, had multiple times he was blown up in a Bradley. He has a traumatic brain injury, severe post-traumatic stress disorder, nerve damage to both his arms, had three surgeries on his arms, he’s got a detached retina. …
Howie Stier: While in the field, Sgt. Kahlor faced repercussions from superiors as his father became involved in anti-war activities. Those included engaging students with the story of Ryan’s injuries when military recruiters appeared at UC San Diego, where Kahlor is on the school’s human resources staff.
Tim Kahlor: He would be pulled in by his superiors and disciplined for me speaking out against the war and his rights to get the care he needed. He told them, “As long as I … I went to war, supposedly, to fight for my rights, for our right to speak. … I went to war to make sure that people have the freedom to speak their mind and the right to speak out. And my dad has that right, and you will not take it away from my father.”
Howie Stier: Do you want to see the war come to an end?
Tim Kahlor: Yes, right away. I want them brought home right now, I want all this crap stopped, I want people home, I want them taken care of, and I want people to realize this is eight years in. And Afghanistan’s even been longer. And we can’t forget there’s people over there still serving, and there’s people coming home that need help.
Howie Stier: Do you regret your son going into combat?
Tim Kahlor: Oh, yeah. Totally. Totally. I mean, it’s been … because we … I have what they call secondary PTSD. Because I’ve lived through all the stuff with him. And I get anxious, I get angry, I chase people down; I was getting into fights with my neighbors and everything. And now I’m on two antidepressants. Because, to calm me down, for my … I’m so aggravated. I’m so upset with a system that says that these kids … you know, they make the big deal about we’re going to support our troops and everything, but when they come home, we don’t support them. It’s all in writing, it’s not in action.
Howie Stier: You have met Michelle Obama and discussed your son’s care.
Tim Kahlor: Right. I was in Denver during the Democratic convention, she came to our neighborhood park, and we found about it. We went and I met with her and I talked to her, and she said “Is he being taken care of?” Told her my whole story, and I said yeah, because I’m fighting for him to be taken care of. But there’s a ton of men and women out there that are not getting the care, because there’s people not fighting for them.
Howie Stier: Like many protesters who turned out, jazz pianist Doug Carter is struggling through the economic crisis and is angered at defense spending.
Doug Carter: I’m here to protest U.S. imperial involvement throughout the planet, basically.
Howie Stier: You’re holding a sign reading “Jobs, Not War.” How’s the economy affecting you right now?
Doug Carter: Well, I’m a musician, so there are less gigs; less people can afford taking piano lessons right now. I mean, that’s pretty specific to me. But, you know, there’s less work to go around. And the government is spending copious amounts of money to kill people overseas and further their hegemonic interests, and are unwilling to support the working people, the poor people and the middle class of this country. It’s just harder to make ends meet, harder to pay rent, harder to afford health care; I’ve been having some problems with my hands. For musicians, there’s nothing like workman’s comp; I’ve got to pay for all that myself, you know, dipping into the savings.
Howie Stier: As news broke of Tomahawk missiles slamming into targets across Libya, disabled Vietnam war veteran Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the Fourth of July,” told protesters their actions would bring an end to the current and future U.S. war missions.
Ron Kovic: Let Washington know that this movement is just beginning to grow in strength. [Cheering] That the sit-in here you see, the symbolic sit-in, the symbolic sit-in is just the beginning, and if this war continues, and if you continue to drag our sons and daughters into these senseless wars, we will fill the streets of this country, not with 2,000, not with 20,000, but 200,000, 500,000. [Cheering] A million people will be sitting in the streets of this country, and we will stop this war.
Peter Scheer: That’s it for this week’s episode of Truthdig Radio. Check us out in a week on air or anytime online at Truthdig.com Thanks to our guests, Representative Dennis Kucinich and Ryan Quinn. Special thanks to our board-op, our engineer Stan Mizrahi, Alan Minsky, and Jonathan Nesvadba.
Robert Scheer: And on a closing note, let’s remember Elizabeth Taylor, not only a great actress, beautiful woman, but had the courage to step up on the AIDS crisis, supported AmFAR when no one else would, when President Reagan wouldn’t even mention the word. In the early ‘80s, it was Elizabeth Taylor who said no, we need money to do research on this illness, we have to bring comfort to people, and we have to educate. And so she was a great lady with a social conscience as well as a terrific, sexy actress.
Peter Scheer: For Robert Scheer, Kasia Anderson, Howie Stier, Josh Scheer and myself, thanks for listening.
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