For Immediate Release
As Obama Visits the Wounded at U.S. Military Hospital in Germany, Some U.S. Soldiers Press for an End to the Wars
BERLIN - Tomorrow President Obama will be in Germany. First he will stop
in Dresden and at the concentration camp at Buchenwald, near Weimar.
Then he will visit wounded U.S. soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical
Center, the largest American hospital outside the U.S., located on a
site of built in 1938 as the campus of the Adolf Hitler School for
seeking asylum in Germany, knows what he hopes Obama will tell the
wounded soldiers. "If Obama is serious about being the peace
president," Shepherd says, "he will tell the soldiers that he will end
the 'overseas contingency operations,' including the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and do so immediately." More U.S. and coalition
soldiers have died in Afghanistan during the first five months of 2009
than during the first five months of any year since the war there began
in 2001, and so far no troops have been withdrawn from Iraq despite
Obama's statement on January 19th, 2009: "I will immediately begin to
remove our troops from Iraq."
gained international attention when he applied for asylum on November
26, 2008. His case raises significant issues in international and in
German law: the German constitution forbids the preparation of
aggressive war from German soil, a provision that some jurists believe
applies also to the U.S. military. A number of U.S. soldiers have
resisted and faced court martial and jail in Germany since 2005. In the
U.S. recent resisters currently facing court martial are Victor Agosto and Travis Bishop from Fort Hood in Texas, who both last
month refused to deploy to Afghanistan. But since the "war on terror"
began, Shepherd is the first U.S. resister to turn to the German
government for help; his case is presently before the German Federal
Office of Migration. He says that if his application is rejected, he
will appeal within the German court system. (See http://www.commondreams.
from Cleveland, Ohio, Shepherd joined the U.S. Army in 2004, was
trained as a helicopter mechanic and then stationed in Germany, where
there are ca. 68,000 U.S. soldiers. After a six-month tour of duty in
Iraq, he fled the U.S. base in Ansbach, Germany, rather than be
deployed a second time to Iraq. He says that, on grounds of
conscience, he could not again serve in combat. He now lives together
with other asylum-seekers, mainly Iraqis and Afghans, in a facility
provided by the German government. Shepherd does not expect to be able
to rejoin his family in the U.S. until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
have been ended.
wounded U.S. soldiers receive excellent medical care in Germany," says
Shepherd, "but it should not be forgotten that civilians in Iraq and
Afghanistan who are injured by U.S. troops receive no such help."
U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are flown to Landstuhl,
near Ramstein Air Base, within 24 hours of injury. The Landstuhl
hospital's mission states: "We enable the warfighter to continue the
mission of the U.S. Armed Forces." Due to rapid treatment, nearly
three times as many wounded U.S. soldiers survive their injuries as did
during the Vietnam War; however, ca. 90 percent who come to Landstuhl
are so severely wounded that they must be sent to the United States for
further treatment. According to Dr. Evan Kanter, President of
Physicians for Social Responsibility, "We now have service members with
dreadful injuries who would never have survived similar conditions in
an earlier battle." The U.S. military estimates that "36,000 plus"
have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and passed
through Landstuhl; some independent observers believe the Pentagon
underestimates by half the number of U.S. casualties.
hopes that Obama will not only speak to the wounded in Landstuhl, but
also listen to them. "All of the wounded soldiers President Obama will
visit in Landstuhl were injured after he took office," says Shepherd.
"For them and their families -- and particularly for the Iraqi and
Afghan civilians -- the 'change' he promised us is not happening nearly