Iraq war veteran and AWOL soldier Darrell Anderson spoke against the war in Iraq last Thursday in the Smith Memorial Student Union during a rally effort for resistance to troop increases. Anderson served in Iraq until 2004, when he was wounded in combat and returned to the United States.
Former AWOL soldier visits Portland State
Iraq war veteran and AWOL soldier Darrell Anderson spoke against the war in Iraq last Thursday in the Smith Memorial Student Union during a rally effort for resistance to troop increases.
Anderson served in Iraq until 2004, when he was wounded in combat and returned to the United States. Anderson received a Purple Heart for serving in Iraq, but fled to Canada to escape prosecution and the possibility of a return to Iraq.
Anderson said he saw numerous war crimes during his service in Iraq and that he was allowed to return to the United States under the condition that he would not testify about the crimes he said he witnessed. Anderson was declared a traitor in his home state of Kentucky and was sentenced to hanging after he went AWOL (left the country to avoid military service) before the government let him return.
At Saturday’s rally, Anderson spoke about his experiences in Iraq and what happened to him after he returned to the United States.
“I witnessed war crimes,” he said. “It is my duty to speak out.”
Anderson said that before he joined the Army, he was selling drugs to pay for his child support and wanted to find a way to change his life.
“All I could think of was to join the military,” he said.
Anderson was sent to a military base in Germany and then was almost immediately deployed to Iraq.
“I strapped my boots and went to Iraq,” he said.
Anderson said that when he showed excitement to find weapons of mass destruction and help the people of Iraq, the soldiers who had already been serving in Iraq for some time laughed. “Obviously there are no weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqis hate us,” Anderson said he remembers the soldiers saying.
Anderson, confused, asked the soldiers what their mission was. “To stay alive and get home,” he said they told him.
As Anderson did his best to stay alive and make it home, he said that he was often given orders that he thought were questionable.
“If somebody shoots at you in a public place, kill everybody,” Anderson said his superiors had told him.
During one battle, a rocket-propelled weapon injured the shoulder of a soldier Anderson had become friends with.
“I knew what kind of cookies his grandma made him,” Anderson said. “I knew who his prom date was, I knew what kind of perfume she wore.”
When Anderson turned to fire his weapon at the attackers, his friend lying in front of him, he saw that he was about to fire at a 14-year-old boy. Anderson did not fire at the boy because he said he felt that killing the boy would be wrong.
Anderson said that the orders he was given violated both his standards and the Geneva Conventions, four treaties that originally set up international law. Anderson said that he and other soldiers regularly used auto-grenade launchers in direct combat with ground troops.
“By Geneva Conventions, these are only supposed to be used against heavily armored vehicles-Iraqis didn’t have a single heavily armored vehicle,” Anderson said.
On one occasion, Anderson witnessed a protest, which he said was peaceful, outside of a military base in Baghdad. After entering the base, he and his fellow soldiers were not allowed to leave, while a troop of infantry went outside to confront the protestors, he said.
The troops killed the protestors, although there had been no signs of violence or any weapons when driving past the protestors 10 minutes before, according to Anderson.
“The next day in the paper the headline read ’70 insurgents killed in Baghdad,'” Anderson said.
In another situation, Anderson was ready to attack an approaching vehicle when he looked inside and saw that it held an Iraqi family. After Anderson refused to fire at the family, he said his sergeants yelled at him and warned him that he would be punished if he acted in this way again.
“These are war crimes,” Anderson said.
Anderson encouraged students to get involved in the resistance to the war at Saturday’s rally. “You have to shut down the recruiting station every single day,” Anderson said. “If you don’t get active at this university to stop this, the draft is coming.”
The rally was also in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, whose court martial began Monday at 9 a.m. In June 2006, Watada publicly refused to serve in the Iraq war, calling it illegal and saying he did not want to take part in war crimes. Watada’s court martial was held Monday at Fort Lewis, just outside of Olympia, Wash.
The rally began with a musical performance by Anderson, Iraq war veteran Dennis Kyne, and Coast Guard Veteran Ethan Crowell. Backed by Kyne on guitar and Crowell on conga drums, Anderson rapped about his experiences in Iraq and his feelings about the government. “It’s becoming very critical, that we don’t become overly political,” sang Kyne before Anderson took the stage.
The event was brought to a close by a spoken-word performance from local artist Felicity Artemis. Artemis exposed her breasts in statement against the war.
“Breasts feed babies, bombs incinerate them. Which is indecent?” Artemis said.