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March 19, 2013

We Will Find and Kill All of You

The first U.S. soldier killed in combat in Iraq, Jose Gutierrez, actually was not a U.S. citizen; he was Guatemalan:

powell.jpgMarine Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez was shot in the chest as his unit took heavy fire in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. Everyone believed he was 22. But his true age is part of a story of epic persistence that took him from Guatemala to Los Angeles, from the life of an orphan to the life of a Marine. In 1997, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service picked up a baby-faced young man. Gutierrez claimed he was only 16 and eligible for asylum. The usually unbending INS believed him and let him stay. It had been a lie, but it was hardly the most extreme thing Gutierrez had done in his life. He had been born in Guatemala in 1974 but his parents died while he was very young during the country's brutal civil war. His sister Engracia, just four years his senior, was his only remaining family and he lived on the streets of the capital, Guatemala City. In 1982, at the age of eight, social workers took him to live at a home for orphaned boys, Casa Alianza, the Latin American arm of the New York-based Covenant House. He spent more than 10 years there, receiving good grades studying technical drawing. Says Casa Alianza executive director Bruce Harris: "The kids who have lived on the street and have survived are real go getters."

After a fight with a teacher at Casa Alianza when he was 16, he ran away, spending another 18 months on the streets where, says Harris, he would get high sniffing glue to try and forget how hungry and lonely he was….

In 1996, he set off on a 2,000 mile journey north, through Mexico on foot and by hitchhking rides and catching freight trains until he reached California.

After Gutierrez was granted asylum he was placed with a foster family and eventually joined the Marines in hopes of being granted U.S. citizenship.

I've tried and failed to locate people who knew Gutierrez in Guatemala and the U.S., so I haven't been able to find out any details about the deaths of Gutierrez's parents beyond what's appeared in the news. But given that they were poor and killed during the early eighties, it's almost certain they were murdered by the Guatemalan dictatorship, then enthusiastically backed by the Reagan administration. This is a news story from December 8, 1982, when Gutierrez was eight; Rios Montt is now being tried by Guatemalan courts for genocide:

In what seems like an invented detail from an unsubtle novel, Gutierrez wasn't killed by Iraqis, but by friendly fire from U.S. soliders.

If you're poor, there is nowhere for you and your family to hide from the United States of America.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at March 19, 2013 10:57 AM

he who lives under a machine gun with "democracy" painted on it shall die from a machine gun with "democracy" painted on it

Posted by: frankenduf at March 19, 2013 01:13 PM

Central America---Play ground of Presidents.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 19, 2013 01:42 PM

us presidents didn't just support these murderous dictators, their CIAs overthrew popularly elected govts, doing the bidding of our large multinational corporations so that the us could steal the resources and essentially further impoverish the workers/slaves, the people...

Posted by: trish at March 19, 2013 02:33 PM

US policy is "We are going to do this to you because we want to." That is the grand equation behind all of it, but it's kind of like the Tao. As soon as you say it, you know less about it, so you have to have distractions and code words and so on.

Posted by: Lewis at March 19, 2013 06:00 PM

Sounds like the tragic unreleased version of Star Wars where Luke's parents were indeed killed by the empire, old uncle Ben is just old uncle Ben and Luke finds no other recourse than to join the stormtroopers.

It does seem like a perfect plan - ruin a country, which leads to hardship. Hardship leads to despair. Despair leads to emigration, providing an ample supply of willing recruits the imperial army can dispatch around the world to bring about more ruin.

Posted by: Reign of Caligula at March 20, 2013 08:20 PM


Your spam levels are creeping up. Perhaps put better spam filters in place? Good article as usual.

Posted by: Faheem at March 22, 2013 03:57 PM


I wonder whether this kid really had no better option than to join the military, or was it just a mistake? I imagine that it is difficult getting work in the US without residency, at least. His comment in the CBS news article about why he wanted to fight in Iraq is a little bizarre, though. “I cannot stand having a regime...". If true, he sounds remarkably naive for a street child from Guatemala.

Posted by: Faheem at March 22, 2013 04:26 PM

Faheem: I was born here and ended up joining the Army because I needed a job and I hated Commies. Other than place of birth Lance Corporal Gutierrez seems to be typical cannon fodder. HE SERVED when almost no one could have know that this wasn't about WMDs or "Freedom in The USA" but a money grab. HE BELIEVED IN US enough to lay his life down.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 23, 2013 11:23 AM

Why APPARENTLY None in Congress had a clue these wars were a money grab(a STUPID&GREEDY mistake I might add), how could a Marine standing in line know?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 23, 2013 11:36 AM

The Big Lie. "Several weeks after 60 Minutes II first broadcast this story, the U.S. military revealed the cause of Gutierrez's death. It was not from Iraqi guns, but friendly fire, from his fellow Americans." all this happy horseshit about "honor, courage, code, commitment, semper fidelis, duty" and the Military engages in what amounts to obstruction of justice, lying by purposeful withholding of essential pieces of information which allowed The Military to use this immigrant's senseless death as an equally senseless propaganda piece. The totalizing effect is to render this man's life meaningless. He gave his life for nothing, certainly not this country. Christ, had INS done its job and deported him then he most likely would still be alive.

Posted by: Rich at March 23, 2013 11:48 PM

Rich: Yes, he was used, looking back everyone sees that now. Yet that does not change the fact that at some point Gutierrez SIGNED a contract and swore an oath to defend The U.S. Constitution. He paid HIS price while the rest of US stood back and cheered.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 24, 2013 12:55 AM

"How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

on this day, March 25, 1965, MLK reassures us that there is no going back--EVER, EVER...there is nothing, in fact, to 'return' to...the busy-ness of Empire's business 'ethic' is coming undone--business as usual is, in fact, moribund...:

My people, my people, listen. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands in Mississippi and Alabama and all over the United States. (Yes, sir) I know there is a cry today in Alabama, (Uh huh) we see it in numerous editorials: "When will Martin Luther King, SCLC, SNCC, and all of these civil rights agitators and all of the white clergymen and labor leaders and students and others get out of our community and let Alabama return to normalcy?"

But I have a message that I would like to leave with Alabama this evening. (Tell it) That is exactly what we don’t want, and we will not allow it to happen, (Yes, sir) for we know that it was normalcy in Marion (Yes, sir) that led to the brutal murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson. (Speak) It was normalcy in Birmingham (Yes) that led to the murder on Sunday morning of four beautiful, unoffending, innocent girls. It was normalcy on Highway 80 (Yes, sir) that led state troopers to use tear gas and horses and billy clubs against unarmed human beings who were simply marching for justice. (Speak, sir) It was normalcy by a cafe in Selma, Alabama, that led to the brutal beating of Reverend James Reeb.

It is normalcy all over our country (Yes, sir) which leaves the Negro perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of vast ocean of material prosperity. It is normalcy all over Alabama (Yeah) that prevents the Negro from becoming a registered voter. (Yes) No, we will not allow Alabama (Go ahead) to return to normalcy. [Applause]

The only normalcy that we will settle for (Yes, sir) is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children. The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that allows judgment to run down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Yes, sir) The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy of brotherhood, the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice.

And so as we go away this afternoon, let us go away more than ever before committed to this struggle and committed to nonviolence. I must admit to you that there are still some difficult days ahead. We are still in for a season of suffering in many of the black belt counties of Alabama, many areas of Mississippi, many areas of Louisiana. I must admit to you that there are still jail cells waiting for us, and dark and difficult moments. But if we will go on with the faith that nonviolence and its power can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, we will be able to change all of these conditions.

And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man. (Yes) (full text) (Wiki)

Posted by: Dean Taylor at March 25, 2013 04:40 AM

So, Mike, The Oath and The Contract supersede all else? Count me out of those who did and who do nothing. I am still paying the price, blacklisted in my own profession, associates of mine denied jobs etc., humiliated in my own family. And no, we all don't get that his duties, actions and outcome fulfilled any part of "defending the Constitution". A simple declaration doesn't make it so any more than your declarations. He was lied to when he signed that Oath and as a result he was denied his own agency as if loneliness and desperation didn't rob him of it from childhood. The cycle was complete when the marines became his substitute/surrogate father. And like his biological father The Marines abandoned him again when they concocted a false story to cover their guilty consciences for having killed him. his unheroic death denied its proper place in the world as individual tragedy.

Posted by: Rich at March 25, 2013 08:30 AM

Rich: ALL true, but my point STILL stands---at some point HE BELIEVED I US, enough to move here, enough to sign and swear to The Constitution, enough to fight and die FOR US. U&I, Americans, that's whom he believed in, and WE FAILED him and his brethren because, as a people, WE FAILED TO STOP Bush/Cheney.
I'm sure that YOUR efforts and sacrifices were heroic and without end toward stopping the war but in the end they fell short, way short. When Gutierrez died ALL he could have possibly have known is that he was saving U&I from that mushroom cloud.(Condi's smoking gun)
When he gave for US he gave it ALL, friendly fire or not, a bullet's a bullet.
APPARENT U&I didn't give much toward stopping the war, most certainly not enough, the bodies of soldiers&civilians rotting in the ground are PROOF of that fact.
To have STOPPED THE WAR those who protested in the street would have had to face "friendly fire" their very selves, let their blood spill, bodies fall, that's the point where nonviolent protest actually works, as those who DEMAND WAR, DEMAND BLOOD. Anything else is just some kinda street fair.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 25, 2013 12:22 PM

"Killing them there so we don't have to kill them here".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 25, 2013 05:17 PM