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Navy Officer Charlie Anderson: “We Don’t Need Yellow Ribbons, We Need Help, We Need Jobs”

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Navy Officer Charlie Anderson participated in the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. He is at Camp Crawford to ask questons about how the Bush administration managed the invasion and to challenge the post-invasion policies. [includes rush transcript]

Navy Officer Charlie Anderson wants to question Bush about his handling of the invasion of Iraq. He told Democracy Now!, “I want to know why I was sent into an unnecessary war without body armor, in an unarmored humvee…and how Mr. Bush can claim that he supports the troops while he continues to cut the V.A. Budget and to scale back services.”

We speak with Charlie Anderson about the education and health care needs of veterans and the lack of support from the Bush administration.

  • Charlie Anderson, Petty Officer 2nd Class, U.S. Navy, assigned to the second marine division, second tank battalion 5th regimental combat team.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on location at Crawford, Texas, Camp Casey, with a big sign behind us. One says “Welcome to Camp Casey,” named for Cindy Sheehan’s son, who died in Iraq, April 4, 2004. We are joined right now by Charlie Anderson. He was one of the soldiers who invaded Iraq in March of 2003. What are you doing here at Camp Casey, Charlie?

CHARLIE ANDERSON: I’m here because, just like Cindy, I have questions. I want to know why I was sent into an unnecessary war without body armor in be a unarmored Humvee. I want to know why there wasn’t even enough ammunition for me to protect myself. I want to know why Mr. Bush thought that it was important at all, and I want to know how Mr. Bush can claim that he supports the troops while he continues to cut the V.A. budget and to scale back services.

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie, why did you join the military?

CHARLIE ANDERSON: I joined military for two purposes, the first being patriotism. I wanted to serve my country. I believe that this is a wonderful country. I believe that — I believe in freedom. I believe in democracy, and I believe that someone has to stand up and defend that. But I also joined because I didn’t think I could afford college. I didn’t have — I didn’t have a job. I didn’t really have much of a plan, and it gave me both the economic opportunity and the opportunity to do something that I thought would be meaningful at the same time right out of high school.

AMY GOODMAN: And where did you go in Iraq? Where did you enter that country?

CHARLIE ANDERSON: I entered Iraq south of Basra, and by the time it was all over, we had gone over 550 miles and were south of Baghdad.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re hearing a lot of stories about what happened at Abu Ghraib. We don’t know the number of Iraqi casualties. Some reports have it over 100,000. More than 1,800 U.S. service men and women have died. Can you talk about these statistics? Did you have any sense of the number of Iraqis who were dying while you were there?

CHARLIE ANDERSON: Thousands upon thousands were dying while we were there. We were fighting a war in an urban environment amidst a civilian population, and so many times from both sides, civilians got in the way, got in the crossfire and were killed. It was — and as a medic riding in behind the tanks, I would actually come through and see the carnage, and I wasn’t able to do anything. And that’s one of the things that really sticks with me.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re Navy?

CHARLIE ANDERSON: Yes, ma’am, but I was assigned with the Second Marine Division, Second Tank Battalion, Fifth Regimental Combat Team. Marines don’t have their own medical personnel, and we are chaplains, so they use them from the Navy.

AMY GOODMAN: How many of your fellow soldiers, Marines, supported — felt the same way that you did?

CHARLIE ANDERSON: How many felt the same way that I did? That’s hard — it’s really hard to say, because dissent is not something that the military really encourages. It’s not something that it looks highly upon. So very often you find yourself just keeping your thoughts to yourself. Basically you shut up and you do your job. There were three or four people that I could talk to openly, but I don’t know how many people actually felt the way I do, and I don’t know how many people still feel the way I do over in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: You have a button that you are wearing that says, “Leave no veteran behind.”

CHARLIE ANDERSON: We’re seeing a Veterans Administration that is being horribly under-funded. It’s been ignored for years. Right now, the Veterans Administration needs $1 billion just to provide services for the veterans that are going to be entering the system next year. We need $4 billion in the Veterans Administration to be able to provide care for all veterans for a reasonable amount of time, for the veterans that are going to enter from this conflict, as well as those that are seeking treatment from previous conflicts, previous service. And this president seems to be more interested in taking care of a system, the Social Security system, that will not be in crisis for 40 years. The V.A. is in crisis now. We don’t need yellow ribbons, we need help, we need jobs. We need health care, we need education. We need the promises that were made to us when we signed our enlistment contract fulfilled.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Charlie Anderson, for joining us.

CHARLIE ANDERSON: Thank you, Amy. It’s a pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Anderson invaded Iraq in March, 2003. He’s with the Navy, went in with the Marines, is here at Camp Casey. We’re outside of President Bush’s vacation ranch. He’s just beyond — we’re quite near a Secret Service checkpoint, and the camp is going to break down here and go on to some private property that is even closer to a checkpoint.

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