Socialist Worker

‘We are not prepared to risk our lives for this’

Suicidal missions in unarmoured oil tankers, detention at gunpoint—no wonder there’s discontent in the US army. We print extracts from GI Special, an anti-war paper produced for the troops

Issue No. 1924

According to accounts provided to family members, 17 enlisted members of the 343D Quartermaster Company have refused to perform a recklessly dangerous mission.

They were immediately imprisoned in a tent for nearly two days by armed guards who kept loaded rifles pointed at them.

Lieutenant Colonel Dave Rodgers of the US army reserves said to reporters, “No soldier has been confined, arrested or charged as a result of this incident.”

According to unit members who gave phone accounts to family members, their unit had been ordered to operate a fuel supply convoy through 200 miles of extremely hostile urban areas around Baghdad.

Their tanker trucks lacked bullet-resistant armour and had a top speed of just 40 miles per hour. The trucks were in poor condition and prone to breakdowns.

The unit was told they were to make this run without armed escort or air cover.

Finally, the jet fuel they were hauling was contaminated with diesel fuel and had already been rejected at another refuelling base.

Specialist Joseph Dobbs of Vandiver told his mother, Beverly, “We refused to go because our vehicles were in awful shape.

“The place they wanted to send us was dangerous. We had to go without guns. All of us refused to go—we’re not risking our lives like that.”

Tod Ensign, the legal director of the Citizen Soldier veterans rights group, says, “These reservists have a legal right to representation by civilian attorneys. This shouldn’t be denied because potential charges have arisen in a war zone. Some of the GIs accused of detainee torture at Abu Ghraib prison have been transferred back to US bases to provide them with better access to their civilian defence attorneys. These 17 reservists deserve no less.”

Jackie Butler, the wife of Staff Sgt Michael Butler, was woken at 5.30am or 6am on Thursday of last week by a call from an officer from Iraq.

He told her “that my husband was being detained for disobeying a direct order. He went on to tell me that it was a bogus charge that they got against him and some of those soldiers over there—because what they was doing was sending them into a suicide mission, and they refused to go.”

Teresa Hill received an answerphone message from her daughter, Specialist Amber McClenny, 21, saying, “Yesterday we refused to go on a convoy to Taji. We had broken down trucks, non-armoured vehicles.”

Ms Hill said her daughter felt that “if you go there it’s a 99 percent chance you will be ambushed or fired upon.

“They had not slept, the trucks had not been maintained, they were going without armed guards, it was just a bad deal. And that’s when the whole unit said no.”

To read the report in full, or to see more articles from GI Special, go to

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Article information

Sat 23 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1924
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