While UF charges two for disrupting their pro-Schwarzkopf event...
Veterans for peace charge General Schwarzkopf with war crimes
A ceremony in March 1998 honoring retired General Norman Schwarzkopf for his record of public service was briefly interrupted when a half-dozen protestors in the balcony unfurled a banner and chanted "Schwarzkopf lies while Gulf vets die". Six protestors were immediately arrested without warning and escorted out of the building, handcuffed and taken to the county jail. Four of them took a plea bargain in exchange for community service and probation, but two of them, with the help of the ACLU, are preparing to go to trial, claiming free speech infringement and unlawful arrest.
The "Schwarzkopf 2," Howard Rosenfeld and Ernesto Longa, whose trial is scheduled for January 20th, organized a presentation by members of Gainesville Veterans for Peace, at the Civic Media Center January 6.
Veterans Jerry Williamson and Dr. Bill Warrick cited examples of U.S. military conduct under Schwarzkopf's command which was anything but "public service" or heroic. Dr. Warrick spoke of the thousands of surrendering Iraqis buried in trenches while pinned down under fire, in effect mass graves in which the living were entombed. Under the Geneva Convention, surrendering troops are to be allowed to surrender.
The more widely reported attack on retreating Iraqis on the road to Basra was also cited by Warrick, when U.S. aircraft attacked the front and rear of a long exodus of retreating tanks, cars and trucks on an isolated 2 lane road, then proceeded to destroy everything in between. According to the Geneva Convention, retreating troops are supposed to be given quarter, that is, they are supposed to be allowed to flee. Thus these miles of carnage clearly constitute a war crime, Warrick said. He said U.S. troops actions on the road to Basra have been mentioned by both military command and President Bush as such unacceptable conduct that the war was actually shortened because of the bad publicity resulting from it.
Williamson brought up first hand testimony from a local Gulf War vet on board the USS Ranger whose planes attacked oil facilities in the Persian Gulf. Williamson reported: "This particular person was in charge of the ship's missile defense system, so he was present at all the briefings of the pilots before and after each of their missions. This person told me that early on in the war they launched a raid from the USS Ranger to bomb the main oil storage terminal off of Kuwait City. After the mission was completed and the planes were coming back, the leader of the bombing raid communicated to the ship that the raid had been a complete success, that all the storage facilities had been completely destroyed, every structure was either burning or rubble, and that there was a huge oil slick moving out away from the island. Over the next several days the Ranger sent out planes to monitor this oil slick which eventually covered the whole northern end of the Persian Gulf and was shown clearly on the television news in this country."
Williamson stated that among the closed circuit television channels the ship had access to was CNN, the same CNN we saw in the US. "Crew members that were aware of the oil slick knew that it had been caused by the bombing raids from their ship. You can imagine their surprise when they saw news about the oil spill on CNN several days after they were aware of it, with the report being that it was caused by the Iraqis. This person who told me about the story said that he was greatly alarmed about the credibility of the newsreporting on television because it was obvious it had been influenced by the Defense Department. Most of the crew members that he was familiar with laughed about it, and said that 'if we could do this, and blame this on the Iraqis, then we can get away with anything.'" Williamson concluded, :"That's pretty much the rules of conduct of war, I suppose, going back to Machiavelli, that if you've got enough power, whatever you do is right."
"Schwarzkopf was the commander and chief of all military operations in that area," Williamson said, "So he was well aware of the circumstances around that oil spill and has never honestly admitted the truth of what happened there... When he appeared at UF we hoped to confront him with the truth of these issues and hear his response to that, but at no time while he was at UF did he engage in any sort of meetings that would allow discussion or question and answer periods."
Charles Willett, former president of the ACLU of Florida, who was present at the Schwarzkopf protest and witnessed the arrests, stated that he believed that it was the content of the speech which caused the arrests. He posed the question: If several audience members had unfurled a pro-Schwarzkopf banner and yelled, "Yea, General Schwarzkopf," would they have been arrested? His answer was that they would not have, based on his witnessing of the situation.
A video on the effect of the sanctions on Iraq was also shown at the Civic Media Center program, demonstrating the high cost of the bombing of civilian targets, food storage, water & sewage treatment plants, electric facilities, as well as the embargo itself, on the health care system and people of Iraq.
Williamson stated that a policy which causes the type of disease and suffering among the civilian population that U.S. sanctions against Iraq have caused constitutes a weapon of mass destruction. "Whether you go up in a plane and spray anthrax in an aerosol" or by a deliberate and sustained policy which causes hunger, disease, and death.
Veterans for Peace invited all those who oppose any further bombing of Iraq to join them in street corner protest within 24 hours of the next attack at the intersection of 13th Street and University Avenue, from 4:30 - 6 p.m. Over 40 people turned out following the last bombing attack in December. For more info on Veterans for Peace call 495-2135.
Unless the prosecutor thinks better of the charges, and drops them, the Schwarzkopf 2 are scheduled for trial on January 20th. For more information on their case call Ernesto at 378-8140.
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