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Dec-06-2008 13:30printcommentsVideo

'Camp Homebound' Peace Activists Meet With Oregon Officials (VIDEO)

The group was told that if a million Oregonians got behind their effort, they might be able to stop the scheduled deployment to Iraq.

Peace activists Michele Darr and Peter Bergel embrace after an their first meeting with public officials
Peace activists Michele Darr and Peter Bergel embrace after an their first meeting with public officials over the state's plan to deploy thousands of Oregon Guard soldiers to Iraq in 2009. Salem-News.com photo by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - Members of a peace vigil called 'Camp Homebound', organized to prevent Oregon Guard forces from deploying to Iraq next year, spent time with Oregon state officials Friday in a highly anticipated meeting where the group was allowed to express its point of view.

ONG Private Richard Portelli

Michele Darr of 'Camp Homebound', says state officials who met with their group include Brig. General Mike Caldwell of the Oregon Guard, and Paul Evans of Governor Kulongoski's office. The meeting was also attended by former Salem Mayor Mike Swaim, who as an attorney has spoken on behalf of the peace vigil.

Members of the 24-hour fast and vigil say the meeting leaves them with hope. Darr said she was moderately surprised that state officials allowed the meeting to take place, but she also says she has been confident that they would. She says she will continue this effort until they can effect a change.

The military group scheduled to deploy to Iraq next year is the Oregon National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team. (see SNc article announcing deployment: Oregon Soldiers Will Deploy to Iraq in 2009)

This group most recently deployed to Afghanistan, where soldiers were used as Embedded Training Teams, or ETT's, with a mission of training the Afghan National Army and the miserably underfunded Afghan National Police. (see my articles and video reports from Afghanistan: Rough Road to Pesh Valley in Afghanistan and Afghanistan National Police: An Exercise in Survival).

Members of the 41st have told me that they believe they would be better suited for a return to Afghanistan, rather than Iraq. At this point, the 41st BCT is set to perform convoy escort duty in Iraq. I have not met any members of the Oregon Guard who say they will not take part in the deployment. That includes one soldier who has been part of the peace vigil; Oregon Guard Private Richard Portelli.

Less Safety in Iraq

The ever changing and evolving picture in Iraq is not getting better. Casualty reports indicate that members of the U.S. military are continuing to die in combat in Iraq. A few months ago, reports of casualties in Afghanistan were passing those in Iraq, but as of late the numbers in Iraq have risen once again. Darr says Oregon soldiers who have already served at war should not be sent to Iraq, all the while contending that the war in Iraq is not a lawful engagement.

Tim King stands with four members of the Sons of Iraq. Summer of
2008 photo in Abu Fadooz, Iraq by Ryan Ahern, U.S. Army 101st AB

One reason the safety and peace in Iraq is on the decline, is the elimination of the Sunni Awakening Council's Sons of Iraq checkpoints that were operated with great success, and raised safety levels for everyone in Iraq, civilian and military alike. The United States insisted that Iraq assume control of this program in recent months, and Iraq agreed to fund 55% of the checkpoints.

The problem is that the Iraqi government is mostly Shiite, and the Awakening Council checkpoints are Sunni. Members of the Sons of Iraq expressed doubt as to whether they would ever receive payments from the Shiite government for their services. I met with several members of the Sons of Iraq who expressed great doubt about their future. All of them told me that their most important objective in life was to earn a living that allowed them to feed their families. (see my article from Iraq: Could Removal of U.S. Support Shift Iraq's Peaceful Balance?)

What will they do if they can't earn a living working in the fight against terrorism? The sad answer, is that many will join the insurgency.

Michele Darr and Operation Homecoming, say Oregon's soldiers have paid their dues, and they should not be forced to fight the war in Iraq. She says a state official told her during the meeting that a million signatures might be enough to stop the Iraq deployment. Darr says that was presented to her as a non-achievable goal.

"It was said that if we were to get one million people, then we would have a chance of succeeding in stopping the deployment. And it was said in the vein that we couldn't get a million people and I have to say, I beg to differ."

Darr says people interested in learning more about Operation Homecoming, can visit: corvalliscodepink.org

Here is the interview with Darr and Peace Activist Peter Bergel:

Video

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Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Joe Anybody February 11, 2009 7:09 pm (Pacific time)

when its all laid out before you(the day the vehicle, etc) yet tell me why your even going over there in the first place, as Michel mentions from the meeting it (that) was the unclear part. Still looking for WMD's? Still preforming "Mission Accomplished"? still trying to displace millions more into refugees? still trying to kill millions and million more than we already have ...good god ...when its all laid out the sheeple will follow. When its following war mongers orders to go across the globe to pull the trigger when will you realize that this is wrong? I don't think my idea of what the "military is for" is the same as yours (just me) I wouldn't use the military (or the National Guard) for any offensive attack nor an invasion, based on lies and the neocon agenda. But hey you follow the sheeple, and just leave the protesting to those that want peace on earth and are brave enough to stand up to the USA killing machine. Now there is some heroics I am proud of!


ORNG Member December 8, 2008 5:04 pm (Pacific time)

Just to opposite actually, several of the units in the 41st are being pulled together to make larger units, and we are all going to the same place to do convoy security, and we will be relieving the current unit at that base. I agree that when something needs to be changed that people should speak up and voice their opinion, but this isn't a community trying to get a speed bump installed on their street because too many people speed, this is a federal mobilization. The only way to stop us from going is to stop the war all together, the government isn't going to allow one military to not deploy but expect all the others to, it doesn't work that way, its all or nothing. The national guard is also no longer just a state protection, the national guard can deploy overseas, that's not illegal. The war itself maybe illegal, but Oregon deploying is not.


youmaysayimadreamer December 8, 2008 2:56 pm (Pacific time)

The only time anything is inevitable, ORNG, is if the people are silent. Camp Homebound exists to ensure that doesn't happen. Thousands of Oregonians are calling, writing, demonstrating as we speak. Most ORNG who sign the dotted line do so to protect the homefront. Besides the deployment being illegal, the wars are also illegal, and everyone in the military's first oath(as well as the Governor's)is to protect the Constitution of the United States from ALL enemies foreign AND domestic, and therefore illegal orders MUST be resisted or everyone is culpable for war crimes.(See Nuremburg Trials, soldier)Also, Oregon troops are not slated to relieve ANYONE, justme. The 41st is scheduled to be broken up and scattered all over the place to ferry supplies and equipment; the most dangerous thing that can be done to a unit is to split them up. Please, if anyone on this thread or elsewhere does ANYTHING, please at least inform yourself, do your homework, and QUESTION AUTHORITY. It is your right AND your responsibility to this "free" republic that blood sweat and tears have gone into maintaining. Do it for your troops, do it for our country.


ORNG Member December 7, 2008 11:22 pm (Pacific time)

What she doesn't understand is that one, the purpose of the military is go to war if necessary. We all signed the dotted line voluntarily knowing that might go to war, if she wants soldiers to come home then bring home all soldiers, not just Oregon's soldiers, that's selfish of her, but that's how code pink works, they are selfish and don't think of the big picture. Number two, Oregon's deployment is set in stone, i already know the date we are leaving, i know where were going, i even know what vehicle im driving while we're there, every detail has already been worked out. there's no stopping the deployment, too late.


just me December 7, 2008 12:45 pm (Pacific time)

And what about the troops who get relieved by the Oregon troops? Don't you think they want to go home to their loved ones? I can't believe the Oregon people are so selfish. Think about the troops who are over there putting their lives on the line every day. Off course I want all of them to come home but the fact is that we're still over there and that the troops have to be rotated.


Guard Supporter December 7, 2008 10:41 am (Pacific time)

Glad to know Michele is carrying her message to the next level. She is concerned with keeping Oregon Guard troops alive and so are we.

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