October 19, 2006

After Pat's Birthday: A Soldier Speaks Out from Iraq

After Pat’s Birthday
Posted on Oct 19, 2006
By Kevin Tillman

Editor’s note: Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, has written a powerful, must-read document.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we got out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:
Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartner scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtue less, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grand kids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman

October 12, 2006

Pentagon Surveillance of Peace Activists

Documents Shed New Light on Pentagon Surveillance of Peace Activists (10/12/2006)

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

Defense Department Tracked Quakers, Student Groups

NEW YORK -- Documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups. The documents show that the Pentagon was keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database.

"There is simply no reason why the United States military should be monitoring the peaceful activities of American citizens who oppose U.S. war policies," said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner. "When information about non-violent protest activity is included in a military anti-terrorism database, all Americans should be concerned about the unchecked authority this administration has seized in the name of fighting terrorism."

The documents come in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU earlier this year after evidence surfaced that the Pentagon was secretly conducting surveillance of protest activities, anti-war organizations and groups opposed to military recruitment policies. The Pentagon shared the information with other government agencies through the Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database.

The TALON database was intended to track groups or individuals with links to terrorism, but the documents released today show that the Pentagon gathered information on anti-war protesters using sources from the Department of Homeland Security, local police departments and FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

Among the documents are reports on protest activities across the country organized or supported by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace group. The source for the information is identified as "a special agent of the federal protective service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security," who is apparently on the AFSC e-mail list.

One document, which is labeled "potential terrorist activity," lists events such as a "Stop the War NOW!" rally in Akron, Ohio on March 19, 2005. The source noted that the rally "will have a March and Reading of Names of War Dead" and that marchers would pass a military recruitment station and the local FBI office along the way.

Also included in the documents is information on a series of protests mistakenly identified as taking place in Springfield, Illinois (the protests actually occurred in Springfield, Massachusetts). According to the document, "Source received an e-mail from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), e-mail address: [REDACTED] that stated that on March 18-20, a series of protest actions were planned in the Springfield, IL area… to focus on actions at military recruitment offices with the goals to include: raising awareness, education, visibility in community, visibility to recruiters as part of a national day of action."

"Spying on citizens for merely executing their constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly is chilling and marks a troubling trend," said Joyce Miller, AFSC Assistant General Secretary for Justice and Human Rights. "Our country is built upon a system of checks and balances. The Pentagon’s actions violate the rule of law and strike a severe blow against our Constitution."

Another document provides further details of surveillance of a protest planned by the Broward Anti-War Coalition during the Fort Lauderdale Air & Sea Show, which was previously revealed in an NBC news report. The document released today reveals that the Miami-Dade Police Department provided the Defense Department with information on the protest, and that the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Miami were also briefed on the planned protest, which was intended to "counter military recruitment and the ‘pro-war’ message with ‘guerrilla theater and other forms of subversive propaganda.’"

The ACLU said it is concerned that the Defense Department cites acts of civil disobedience and vandalism as cause to label anti-war protests as "radical" and potential terrorist threats in some of the TALON reports. In a document listing upcoming Atlanta area protests by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, the Pentagon - citing the Department of Homeland Security as its source - states that the Students for Peace and Justice network poses a threat to DOD personnel.

To support that claim, the TALON report cites previous acts of civil disobedience in California and Texas, including sit-ins, disruptions at recruitment offices and street theater. Describing one protest in Austin, Texas, the document notes: "The protesters blocked the entrance to the recruitment office with two coffins, one draped with an American flag and the other covered with an Iraqi flag, taped posters on the window of the office and chanted, ‘No more war and occupation. You don’t have to die for an education.’"

"The Pentagon has gone too far in collecting information on Americans who pose no real threat to national security," said Wizner. "It is an abuse of power and an abuse of trust for the military to play any role in monitoring critics of administration policies."

The documents released today are online at:
www.aclu.org/safefree/spying/27047lgl20060828.html (Florida protests)
www.aclu.org/safefree/spying/27046lgl20060912.html (Georgia, California and Texas protests)
www.aclu.org/safefree/spying/27045lgl20060912.html (AFSC protests in Massachusetts and Ohio)

More information on government surveillance of Americans is online at: www.aclu.org/spyfiles.