For those of you who do not know or know of Charlie Anderson, allow me to introduce you to him.
Charlie was transferred to his division’s 2nd Tank Battalion in June 2002. The 2nd Tank Battalion was deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 and was one of the first units to “cross the line” into Iraq at the start of the war. Charlie experienced the archaic supply system that resulted in many American troops lacking basic supplies such as body armor, rations, water, and even ammunition. Charlie was shocked that such conditions were possible in a military that receives more than half of the nation’s tax revenue. Moreover, Charlie was appalled by the destruction and sanction induced poverty that he witnessed among the Iraqi people. Charlie’s experiences in Iraq helped him realize that war is not merely politics by other means and that the actions of governments in foreign lands have far reaching consequences. The vast majority of Iraqis affected by the war were not Ba’ath Party officials or soldiers. Rather they were civilians who were powerless to affect the conditions around them. These innocent civilians were often treated as though they were the enemy by the American military who did not largely understand the culture. This reality formed Charlie’s belief that violence and arrogance are poor foreign policy and that military solutions often compound, not solve problems.
Like 30% of Iraq War veterans he returned to the United States with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After months of treatment with little improvement, he was medically retired in March 2005 after nearly nine years of active military service. Within days of his retirement, Charlie began advocating for an immediate end to the wholesale slaughter in Iraq. He has appeared on college campuses and at public forums all over the United States including: Virginia, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Maryland, Montana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Ohio, Indiana and Washington State. He was interviewed by CNN in March of this year (see the video of that interview here). He has twice testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Out of Iraq Caucus regarding responsible foreign policy toward Iraq and the need for comprehensive care for America’s Veterans. (See the video here and here)
He is featured in the documentaries Army of None, Soldiers speak out, and the major motion picture The Ground Truth. His writing has been featured on the independent media websites Common Dreams, Truth Out, and The Huffington Post.
Charlie has been an outspoken member of Iraq Veterans Against the War since October 2004. He is co-founder of the Bake Sales for Body Armor, a campaign to purchase needed equipment for our troops. He shares that effort with associate and dear friend, Tammara Rosenleaf (The Homefront War Diaries); an extraordinary woman and activist.
Charlie shares his latest article with us...
The Army That Cried Wolf
By Charles E. Anderson
On May 20, 2007 NBC Nightly News aired a report on the ongoing controversy over the body armor American troops are currently issued. The report was the result of months of investigation and alleged that perhaps, America’s armed forces are not issued the best equipment available.
In response, the Army made a bold move: it released documents showing the results of ballistics tests. Next, the army held a series of briefings and press conferences.
“The Bottom line is, we feel that it’s important to clarify, give some context and certainly present facts about the body armor issue, primarily because of the two NBC news pieces,” Brigadier General Tony Cucolo recently told a Blogger’s Round Table conference Call (transcript here). “We are most concerned that it might have shaken the confidence in the current body armor being worn by soldiers in combat, shaken the confidence of spouses and parents of those soldiers,” he said.
It seems logical that the army should make public statements to clarify the record and release crucial facts so that military families and service members can be confident that the gear issued to our military is the best available.
Yet while this is the first time the Army has attempted a full disclosure policy, it is not the first time that concerns over body armor have been voiced. On January 16, 2006, Major General Stephen Speakes, then the Army’s Director of Force Development, pronounced on CNN that when he was in Iraq in the spring of 2003 it was his job “ensure that every soldier who went north had the right body armor to go up into Iraq.” The general made this statement after being told by a member of the National Guard that his unit had not had appropriate body armor.
In March 2006, the Army issued a “Safety of Use Directive” banning privately purchased body armor.
“Because there were reports that soldiers and their families were starting to collect money to buy other armor solutions other than Interceptor body armor,” said Brigadier General Mark Brown.
Far from clarifying the facts surrounding the Safety of Use Directive, the Public Affairs office began making ridiculing statements about the organizers of the Bake Sales for Body Armor campaign. According to one report Pentagon officials accused the organizers, an Army-Wife and an Iraq War veteran, of waging a “mis and dis-information campaign” perceivably against the U.S. Army. Another official callously quipped “I’m sure that the U.S. Postal Service will enjoy the profit that they make.”
Now, thanks to NBC News, the body armor issue is once again in the spotlight. Perhaps, General Brown and General Cucolo are being candidly honest with Military Families, Soldiers, and the American People. But their new candor is a hard sell. In light of the Army’s past deceptions, why should anyone believe them now?
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