Winter Soldier (2008)

June 25, 2008

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Chris Hedges, Lee Zaslofsky, Mon. June 16, 2008

Click here to hear a discussion of the status of American deserters in Canada, the refusal of the Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper to halt deportations of American servicemen back to the United States and the behavior of US troops in Iraq.

Winter Soldiers Report For Duty - Show gives a stage, lends ears to veteran narratives; Stories told in Winter Soldiers prove truth can be crueller than fiction

This article, by Richard Ouzounian, was originally published in the Toronto Star, April 13, 2008


If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?
By the same token, if hundreds of veterans of the Iraq war gathered to share their experiences and no major media covered it, did they act in vain?
That's the question that has motivated Ravi Jain to present a project called Winter Soldiers tomorrow at 8: 30 p.m. night at the Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St. W.
"I couldn't bear the thought that all these men with so much valid information to share," said Jain, "were ignored by the right wing corporate media."
The failure of this set of revelations to attract much attention is particularly disheartening in the light of the ultimate impact that the original "Winter Soldiers" demonstration had in 1971.
It was composed of several hundred Vietnam vets who wanted the world to know what had been going on behind the battle lines.
Like the recent event it too was initially ignored except for Pacifica Radio, but the tenacity of several journalists brought it to the world's attention. A documentary film was made and a complete transcript entered into the Congressional Record, which eventually led to the Fulbright Hearings on the war.
"I'm not trying to have an effect as grand as that," insists Jain, "but I do want to engage people, to make them think and empathize with what both sides have been going through in this war."
To that end, the talented young director (who earned critical plaudits earlier this season for his experimental production, The Prince Hamlet) has put a together a one-night-only evening made up of sound and fury that he hopes will signify far more than nothing.
He's also added an all-important visual element as well, courtesy of renowned photojournalist Rita Leistner, who has donated a lot of her work and is presenting a slide show as well.
"There's one photo," says Jain, "that truly says it all. She shot it in an Iraqi prisoner camp and there's five huge American soldiers carrying away one small, elderly Iraqi man."
But then come the stories that prove truth is not only stranger than fiction but far more cruel.
Geoff Millard, Washington chapter president of the Iraq veteran's organization, says "we grew into a mindset where everyone who wasn't American was a hajji (Muslim) or a towel-head."
He tells of how he was standing guard at a checkpoint and a car was approaching too fast, so he killed the family inside it.
There was an investigation, but he wasn't reprimanded.
"If those f -king hajjis would learn how to drive that this s t wouldn't happen," his commander told him.
Then there's the testimony from two U.S. soldiers who admitted they used to "beat the hell out of prisoners for no reason, or maybe because we were given no order to do otherwise."
Jain asks "As a human race, aren't we supposed to be better than this?"
The answer - for better or worse - will be on view tomorrow.

Winter Soldier in the Press (Atlantic Free Press)

This article, by Linda Milazzo, was originally published in the Atlantic Free Press, Mar. 20, 2008


Even when reporting the invasion of Iraq, corporate media mitigates or inflames the story to advance its selfish goals. Were presenting the truth and enlightening the populace the intent of corporate media, the March 13th through March 16th Winter Soldier Tribunal would have been televised. Instead, it was ignored. Were it not for independent media like Free Speech TV and Pacifica Radio (which broadcast the original Winter Soldier tribunal in 1971), and internet streaming via the Iraq Veterans Against the War website (ivaw.org), there would have been a total blackout of the live testimonials of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
If corporate media had employed the professionalism and integrity of New Media, it would have broadcast Winter Soldier, whereby a larger audience would have witnessed revelatory testimony by over 100 impassioned heroes. Prior to this weekend's Winter Soldier, local and national media were informed the tribunal was taking place. However, none supported the troops enough to be present to broadcast their stories. Had Winter Soldier been televised, viewers would have seen the anguish of young Americans who saw and committed acts that torment them every day. The public would have heard stories of returning veterans abandoned by their government and by their V.A. (Veterans' Administration). The public would have seen the agony of parents whose 23 year old son hung himself in their closet due to untreated PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) . If Winter Soldier had been televised, The People could no longer accept the deceptions of those who had altered the facts.
The People would have received the knowledge they need to motivate them to act to stop the atrocities to end the war NOW! Indeed, had Winter Soldier been televised, the public would have heard the stories corporate media probably buried. Stories their cozily embedded reporters have known but couldn't report. Stories of soldiers and marines torturing and murdering innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Stories of waving decapitated heads as trophies. Stories of invading and destroying the wrong homes. Stories of shooting dogs for fun. Story after story of the horrors of occupation that have long been denied by the Bush administration and the military, or treated as aberrations on the rare occasions they were revealed. For over five years even before the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq there has been a blight on truth in corporate media. Rather than being an honest purveyor of the occupation, conglomerate media manipulates reality to align with the White House, and to increase its profits from its military subsidiaries. Corporate media's collusion with the Bush administration to orchestrate this illegal and immoral invasion has been documented again and again through highly praised books, like Amy and David Goodman's "The Exception To The Rulers," and in the films "Weapons of Mass Deception" by Danny Schechter and "War Made Easy" by Norman Solomon, along with several others.
Americans who comprehend corporate media's complicity in cheerleading the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq lament media's refusal to atone for its ills. Just like the Bush administration won't admit lying the nation into Iraq, corporate media downplays its role in manufacturing consent for the invasion. With the exception of progressive internet sites and print outlets like Mother Jones and The Nation, broadcasters Link TV, Free Speech TV, PBS' Bill Moyers, Pacifica Radio, and MSNBC's pre-invasion hero, Phil Donahue, American media couldn't wait to broadcast George W. Bush's sadistically dubbed "Shock and Awe."
For months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, to this time five years later, Americans have been fed a lethal diet of lies. Lies from the highest levels of the military and the highest levels of government. Lies from conservative talk radio and from corporate television's anchors. At every outlet with corporate ties, be it NBC, ABC or CBS, CNN, MSNBC or Fox, there are corporate sold lies. If the public doesn't seek alternative outlets for truth, it subsists on fabrication. Thus the job of New Media as an oracle of truth is to rescue Americans from delusion. To perform that job, independent media, was the only source to broadcast Winter Soldier live. Americans NEED the truth. Americans CAN handle the truth. To re-coin an old, but appropriate adage, 'In truth there is knowledge. In knowledge there is power.' A democracy can't survive if its people have no knowledge! A democracy can't exist if its people have no power!
Americans NEED both!
The Winter Soldier tribunal in 1971 led to an invitation to the veterans to testify before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1973, then chaired by Senator J. William Fulbright. The testimony before the Fulbright Committee was so powerful that it helped to expedite the end of the Vietnam War. A similar invitation to testify before the current Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, chaired by Joe Biden, should be extended to today's Winter Soldiers. Should that happen, as it should, C-SPAN would hopefully televise the event, which would increase the audience significantly.

May 05, 2008

Shutting Down The Machine - Winter Soldier Rules of Engagement

This article, by Erin Thompson, was originally published by NYC Indymedia, March 26, 2008 and republished by zMagazine, masy 1, 2008


On March 14 President George W. Bush spoke from the White House to U.S. soldiers during a video conference about their deployment in Afghanistan. "I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you...in some ways, romantic...you know, confronting danger."
Romantic was not the picture painted just a few miles away in Silver Spring, Maryland, during the second day of testimony by U.S. veterans during "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan," organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). "For those of you who don't know, those are brains," said Jon Turner, a former Marine, while showing a slide of the inside of a man's head who had been killed by one his friends in his platoon.
Turner and other soldiers on the "Rules of Engagement" panel depicted their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as horrifying events in which soldiers indiscriminately killed civilians, wantonly destroyed property, conducted house raids, planted weapons on civilians (in order to be able to classify their deaths as insurgents), and mutilated the dead.
"I want to apologize to all the people in Iraq," said Sergio Kochergin, abruptly breaking off the end of a story about a friend who had shot himself in the shower four days after arriving in Iraq. "I'm sorry and I hope this war is going to be over as soon as possible."
Kochergin's testimony helped establish how the rules of engagement used by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to many of the atrocities described by the soldiers. The rules define when and how soldiers can fire their weapons or engage in combat. Kochergin described how initially his platoon, which patrolled an Iraqi town on the Syrian border, had to radio to the command post and "If they're doing some sort of illegal activity, we were allowed to take them out."
After a while, though, these rules were abandoned by commanders, who, at one point, told soldiers to fire at any Iraqis carrying bags and shovels, assuming that they were planting explosive devices. Finally, the soldiers were given no rules of engagement at all. "It was up to us to make the decision," said Korchergin, who called that policy "inappropriate."
For many soldiers, the rules of engagement in Iraq were "broadly defined and loosely enforced. Anyone who tells you different is a liar and a fool," said Jason Lemieux, who served three tours in the Marines. While he was initially given rules of engagement that corresponded to the Geneva Conventions, "By the time we got to Baghdad, I could shoot at anyone who came close enough to make me uncomfortable," said Lemieux, who described being so traumatized by the shooting of an unarmed Iraqi man, by a commanding officer shooting "two old ladies carrying groceries," and by fellow soldiers taking potshots at unarmed civilians, that he blocked it all out.
Garrett Reppenhagen, who served in Baquba, Iraq, described a firefight in which U.S. soldiers began spraying bullets into several vehicles of what they thought were armed insurgents. After killing seven Iraqis, the soldiers discovered, to their dismay, that the men were actually bodyguards to the deputy governor. "All these men were not only innocent, they were our allies," said Reppenhagen. "This is the kind of confusion that goes on every day in Iraq."
Jason Washburn described members of his unit shooting an Iraqi woman carrying a large shopping bag, only to find out that, "She had been trying to bring us food," said Washburn. "And we blew her to pieces for it."
Other soldiers emphasized that they were not reprimanded for shooting civilians. "One thing we were asked to do was carry draw-up weapons. In case we did shoot a civilian, we could toss it on a body and make it look like an insurgent," said Washburn. "If they were carrying a shovel, heavy bag, digging anywhere near a road, we could shoot them" within the rules of engagement."
Soldiers also spoke about the callous attitude many soldiers had toward shooting Iraqis. After shooting a man who was being pursued for planting an IED, according to one testifier, the Marines "left his body to rot in the field it was still there two weeks later," said Indiana resident Vincent Emanuele, who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. "His picture was on the backdrop of a laptop for a screen saver for one of our more motivated Marines."
Jon Turner, a machine gunner who served two deployments in Iraq, described intentionally killing civilians and mutilating the dead. He then ripped off the dog tags around his neck, declaring, "I don't work for you anymore."
"On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed kill," said Turner. "I shot him in front of his friend and his father." After the kill, "My company commander personally congratulated me," Turner said. "This is the same individual that stated that whoever gets his first kill by stabbing him to death would get a four day pass."
Turner presented a slideshow, which included close-up shots of Iraqis killed by his platoon, the inside of a young Iraqi's skull, and part of a blown off face, which soldiers had placed on the top of a Kevlar helmet. "It just goes to show you that...we had no respect for their bodies afterwards."
He also presented photos of Iraqis bound in their living rooms during a house raid and described beating and choking men "if they were giving us a problem." In a grisly admission, Turner revealed that he had tattooed the words symbolizing "fuck you" on his "choking" wrist and, "anytime I felt the need to take aggression, I would use it." Although he began his testimony in defiance, Turner ended with a plea. "I am sorry for the things that I did; I am no longer the monster that I once was," he said to a tearful audience.
James Gilligan, who did tours with the Marines in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, told of participating in an operation to detain three Afghani herdsmen who were suspected of spotting rocket attacks for "insurgents" in Pakistan. Gilligan witnessed a Marine helicopter gunner open fire on the men while they were fleeing down a hillside.
He also described the looting of gold coins by soldiers at the Iraqi Atomic Energy Agency. The coins, which had the face of Saddam Hussein and the head of the Iraqi nuclear facility on them, were "liberated" by senior NCOs and officers, according to Gilligan, who was told about the incident by fellow Marines. "After we were leaving the country, a lot of these guys were talking about how they were bringing them home." Gilligan explained that the looting of the gold coins was just a small part of the looting he saw.
Gilligan also mentioned his experience as a security guard in Guantanamo Bay. While he wasn't actually involved in any interrogations, he interacted with MPs on the base and heard of stories about how sexual humiliation and waterboarding were used on detainees. In order to visit a "stress doctor" to treat his nightmares related to his PTSD from the Iraq invasion, Gilligan had to visit Camp X-ray, which housed detainees in metal cages "lying out in the open, 23 hours a day" in the extreme heat.
Many of the former soldiers, who were clearly still traumatized by their experiences, challenged the audience of several hundred members of the media, friends, and family, as well as allies in the antiwar movement, to use their message as to end the war.
"They went to Iraq hoping to do good, hoping to do right. We found that we were killing Iraqi people in horrible ways," said Reppehagen. "And most soldiers are going through this whether they've seen an atrocity or not, the truth of the matter is that the war is the atrocity."

May 04, 2008

Upcoming Events - Adam Kokesh: Winter Soldier West

ADAM KOKESH, Iraq vet, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and an organizer of WINTER SOLDIER comes to the Bay Area Tuesday May 6 and Wednesday May 7. Tuesday: Kokesh speaks at the Oakland Federal Building, College of Marin; Visits East Bay High Schools. Wednesday: He appears at SFSU, Delivers Stop-Loss Orders to Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein, and appears at Veterans Memorial Bldg.

Winter Soldier Comes to Oakland and Marin: Adam Kokesh Speaks Out
Tuesday, May 6, At 12:00 at the Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay St. At 7:00 PM at the College of Marin, Student Center in Kentfield. TBA, Counter-Recruitment Visits to East Bay High Schools
Winter Soldier Comes to SF: Kokesh Delivers Stop-Loss Congress Orders to Senators Feinstein, Boxer, Speaker Pelosi: Congress Cannot Go Home Until All the Troops Come Home! Iraq War Veteran, Bay Area Residents, Demand Congress Do Their Duty: End the War
Wednesday, May 7, 12:00 noon: San Francisco State University
3:00 PM: Stop Loss Orders Delivered at the Offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 450 Golden Gate Ave then, Senator Barbara Boxer, 1700 Montgomery St.
5:00 PM: Action at Senator Diane Feinstein’s office, 1 Post St., with Code Pink
7:00 PM: Veterans Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Blvd.

May 03, 2008

Shutting Down The Machine - East Coast CAN conference

This article, by Adriano Contrera, was originally posted to SocialistWorker.org, May 1, 2008


NEW YORK--Over 20 chapters of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) gathered at Hunter College in New York City for an East Coast conference on April 4-6.
Organized by students for students, "Their War, Our World: Building the Student Resistance" consisted of various educational and organizational workshops. Forums covered topics including U.S. goals in the Middle East, building the student movement, and a history of student protest during the Vietnam War.
The opening plenary was "Student Protest During the Vietnam War" with Michael Letwin of New York Labor Against the War, which focused on the role of resistance by students and civilians. Letwin expressed the need for the student/civilian movement in supporting the GI and Iraqi resistance because like in Vietnam these movements forced an end to the war.
There were a number of educational workshops on Afghanistan, Palestine and racism in a time of war. "The Case for Immediate Withdrawal," given by the UMass-Amherst CAN chapter, covered a number of questions that people bring up, such as "What do we mean by Troops Out Now?", "Will there be civil war?", and "Who should rebuild Iraq?" Speakers debunked the lies the U.S. government used to justify for war--the use of a racist portrayal of Arabs and Muslims, the presence of Al-Qaeda and bringing democracy and regional stability.
Art and Protest, Divestment, Civil Disobedience, Working with Vets, Counter-Recruitment and Chapter Building were the organizational workshops offered at the conference. In the Divestment workshop, each school shared their experience trying to get their university to stop investments in the military-industrial-complex. It was a popular workshop with about a third of the conference attendees in that classroom. The panelists were able to provide steps to starting a divestment campaign and a number of sources and helpful organizations that can aid the campaigning process.
Michael Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency in Iraq, addressed the intentions of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and the roles of many previous administrations in seeking out oil in the Middle East.
Schwartz also talked about the crisis within Iraq and the fight of the resistance in Basra. By the time Schwartz was done, our understanding of the aims of the global war on terror was sharper than ever.
On the last day of the conference, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke about the health care crisis, racism, sexism and war crimes committed while in Iraq. Reminiscent of the Winter Soldier hearings in March, personal testimony gave vivid imagery to the tragedies rarely mentioned by the corporate media. Veterans stressed the importance of the student movement, seeing it as the powerful element of the civilian antiwar movement.

April 22, 2008

Winter Soldier in the Alternative Presss (AlterNet)

This article, by Cynthia and Michael Orange, was published in AlterNet, April 18, 2008


Soldiers of the 'War on Terror' Speak Out

If all of America were to hear these voices, the occupation of Iraq would already be over.
--
We're not bad people; not monsters. We're normal people caught in a horrible situation."
-Statement from Clifton Hicks, a tank gunner with the Army's 1st Cavalry Regiment and testifier at "Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan"

Over four days, we witnessed thirty hours of vetted statements from seventy two veterans, active duty soldiers, experts, and Iraqis who had the great courage to go public with their first-hand experiences as part of "Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations." A common thread emerged of soldiers who struggled with a questionable mission as occupiers of a country in the midst of a civil war, and Iraqi families being torn apart and terrified, terrified by-not grateful for-the presence of American soldiers and private mercenaries. The soldiers and veterans transfixed us with their words and graphic images that exposed the dark underbelly of the Iraq Occupation that the mainstream media have chosen to ignore, just as they ignored these groundbreaking hearings.
The national veterans organization, Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW), held these hearings near Washington D.C. from March 13 to 16. They patterned them after the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings held in Detroit by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which are now thought to be one of the turning points of that conflict. The title for the hearings comes from Thomas Paine who wrote in 1776, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of [their] country; but he that stands [by] it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Unlike the "summer soldiers" who often deserted their duties in Paine's time, "winter soldiers" carry on courageously through the darkness.
We tried to comprehend the enormous scale of the so-called "collateral damage" in Iraq as speakers cited surveys that estimated about a million Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invasion, and that over four million Iraqis were forced from their homes. The speakers told of Iraqis, being without power and water, begging for food and fuel, and only wanting foreign troops and the 180,000 private contractors and mercenaries to leave so they can begin to rebuild their devastated country.
The presenters at Winter Soldier went deeper than telling stories that once again confirm what we all should know: war is hell. They addressed the anguished question that naturally arises: How do you explain actions that would be criminal even in a war zone?
The soldiers and veterans explained how trickle-down abuse starts at the top ranks of the military hierarchy with institutionalized racism, sexual harassment, and assault on the lower ranks. They talked about their complete lack of training in Iraqi culture and language and their conditioning before leaving U.S. soil to think of Iraqis as "less than," as "Hajis;" a term once reserved for pilgrims to Mecca, now turned inside out to demean and dehumanize. "Haji" has become to the Iraq occupation what "Gook" became to the Vietnam and Korean wars. When people are dehumanized, it becomes easier to kill them.
We could not listen to the four days of accounts and imagine our country invaded Iraq to export the American dream of freedom and democracy. Even the ultraconservative former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, declared that "the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil." It didn't take long for the soldiers and vets who spoke to come to the same conclusion once they experienced the reality on the ground.
As in all wars, if you haven't experienced it, it's hard to grasp the white-hot frustration, anger, and vengeful wrath that results when our soldiers have no reliable way to discern friend from foe and are under extreme duress at virtually all times in a near-country-wide combat zone. As the disillusionment over the injustice and the impossibility of the mission grows, so does the abuse of civilians. When soldiers, deployed two, three, four, and even five times, experience more and more casualties in their units-people with whom they share a bond that can be even stronger than family-their rage understandably erupts and they need to blame someone for their grief. Similar circumstances produced similar results in the jungles of Vietnam.
Kristofer Goldsmith was a good soldier, graduating at the top of his basic training class and receiving a 94.6 percent average in his Warrior Leadership Course. But after four deployments in Iraq and almost shooting a six-year-old boy, he said he became a "broken soldier." He was due to get out of the service when he, like some 80,000 other soldiers, was "stop-lossed" and ordered to redeploy to Iraq for a fifth time. Plagued by mental anguish the day before he was to leave, he tried to kill himself with alcohol and prescription pills. Although finally released, his discharge papers state, "Misconduct: Serious Offense" because of his suicide attempt. He showed the audience a picture of himself in uniform as the proud soldier, then slammed it down on the table saying "This boy is dead."
So many soldiers and veterans spoke of their noble motives for joining the military-especially after 9/11-but then having to face the ignoble inhumanity of this occupation that so compromised their values. Then they returned to a country that anointed them as the heroes they so wished to be. Is it any wonder they are conflicted and disillusioned with the contradictions? Is it any wonder that government statistics report that one in three returning soldiers has mental problems and that CBS News recently described the suicide rate among today's soldiers and vets as "epidemic?" As we continue to see with Vietnam vets, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a normal human response to the inhumanity of war.
We listened to Jason Hurd, a medic with ten years of Army service including tours of duty in Iraq: "But as time went on and the absurdity of war set in, they started taking things too far. Individuals from my unit indiscriminately and unnecessarily opened fire on innocent civilians as they were driving down the road on their own streets." He asked us all to see the war through the eyes of an Iraqi and consider how we might respond if a foreign army invaded our communities and terrorized our families.
The soldiers and vets described the shear mechanics of killing so many people. In story after story, we heard how Rules of Engagement slowly eroded to the point where it was too often left up to these young, very frightened, soldiers to determine for themselves if they "felt" threatened. Jason Lemieux, who served almost five years with the Marines, including the invasion and three tours in Iraq, described the rules he received: "[M]y commander told me that our mission was-and I quote-'to kill those who need to be killed and save those who need to be saved.' And with those words, he pretty much set the tone for the deployment." Too often, the Rules were reduced to "Shoot anything that moves."
Two Marines talked about trashing the country during the invasion. One of them, Brian Casler, served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. As part of the invasion force, he said he and others in their unit defecated and urinated into the containers of food and water they threw at the welcoming children they encountered. To relieve the boredom during his first deployment, they demolished Babylonian ruins and "drove over the rubble for fun." After describing how they ransacked a public building, he said, "We found out later that we had shredded all of the birth certificates for the City of Fallujah."
Several speakers talked about the disrespect of the Iraqi dead. Michael Leduc, for example, told us about "Rotten Randy" and "Tony the Torso," the nicknames his Marine unit gave to the corpses they used for rifle practice.
Soldiers and vets also explained the practice of "reconnaissance by fire," where they'd shoot first into a house or a neighborhood in order to draw return fire. Then, instead of moving on the source of the return fire and incurring more risk to the unit, they'd respond with overwhelming firepower that devastated the entire building or area. Hart Vigas, a mortarman who served with the Army's 82nd Airborne for the invasion of Iraq, painted a word picture of the indiscriminate, "ground-shaking" destruction from C-130 Specter gunships. The students have learned from their teachers. A forward observer and drill instructor with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, Jessie Hamilton stated that the Iraqi forces "showed little or no restraint" when they responded to the slightest attack with such indiscriminate firing that the U.S. troops gave nicknames to their methods: 'spray and pray' and 'death blossom.' "Once the shooting started," he said, "death would blossom all around."
Clifton Hicks described an operation that resulted in an official estimate of 700 to 800 enemy dead. "Judging from what I saw on the ground," he said, "I'm willing to swear under oath in all honesty that while many enemy combatants were in fact killed, the majority of those so-called KIAs were in fact civilians attempting to flee the battlefield.
The gripping presentation and images from Jon Michael Turner, who served in Iraq with the 8th Marines, were, like so many personal stories we've heard, still bleeding with its raw truthfulness. "A lot of the raids and patrols we did were at night around three in the morning . . . . And what we would do is just kick in the doors and terrorize the families." After he described segregating the women, the children, and the men, he said, "If the men of the household were giving us problems, we'd go ahead and take care of them anyway we felt necessary, whether it be choking them or slamming their head against the walls. . . . On my wrist, there's Arabic for 'F you.' I got that put on my wrist just two weeks before we went to Iraq, because that was my choking hand, and any time I felt the need to take out aggression, I would go ahead and use it."
He was one of the first to speak of these things but far from the last. Like so many other speakers, he said this kind of situation was the norm for him and for others, not the exception. With a forced smile that constrained his quivering lips, he closed with an apology to the Iraqi people: "I just want to say that I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people. . . . until people hear about what is going on with this war, it will continue to happen and people will continue to die. I am sorry for the things that I did. I am no longer the monster that I once was."
Describing the heartache that results from not being able to identify your enemy, Jason Washburn, a Marine who served four years and completed three tours of duty in Iraq, said this: "If the town or the city that we were approaching was a known threat, if the unit that went through the area before we did took a high number of casualties, we were basically allowed to shoot whatever we wanted. . . . I remember one woman was walking by, carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading towards us. So we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher. And when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was only full of groceries. And, I mean, she had been trying to bring us food, and we blew her to pieces for it."
Soldiers and vets told how superior officers instructed them on the official ways to torment and beat detainees. Andrew Duffy, a medic who served on the trauma team at the Abu Ghraib military prison, put it this way, "You can't spell abuse without 'Abu.'" They were told to use the term "detainee" because, unlike "prisoner of war," there are no laws protecting detainees. While he rocked back and forth in his seat nervously, Mathew Childess, a Marine infantryman who served two tours in Iraq, referred to beating detainees and "breaking fingers." When a particular detainee begged for food and water, he took the man's hat, wiped himself with it, and stuffed it into the man's mouth.
Like Turner, numerous soldiers and veterans stared into the cameras that were recording the hearing for broadcast and pled for forgiveness from the Iraqi people now that they were distanced from the madness in Iraq in an apparent attempt to regain some of what had been lost. For many, their hands trembled as they talked and, along with us witnesses, were moved to tears. At other times, so many only revealed that thousand-yard stare we've seen too many times on the faces of Vietnam vets who carry the scars of that war.
We sat engulfed in the horror, sorrow, and grief of the soldiers' experiences and wondered how we could transform this to help our children and grandchildren reach an understanding so that they can make wise decisions when they have the opportunity to serve their community and country at the local homeless shelter, the voting booth, the peace march, or the armed forces.
Some vets like Jeff Lucey couldn't speak, so his parents spoke in his stead. His father said his grown Marine son came home so haunted by what he had done and witnessed that he drank heavily to anesthetize his pain-a coping strategy mentioned by many of the vets who spoke. His parents said Veterans Affairs (VA) told them they couldn't assess him for PTSD until he was alcohol free. Although he wouldn't talk about the trauma he experienced, Jeff would ask his father to hold him on his lap and rock him so he could feel safe. Jeff's father said the last time he was able to hold his son was when he cut his body down from the rafters at their home where Jeff had hung himself with a hose.
Those who sell the invasion and occupation as a "just war" will deny that these first-hand accounts are part of the whole truth or they will simply dismiss the speakers as liars and traitors, which is already happening. They will continue to entice new advocates and a never-ending stream of recruits, all made possible by a gutless Congress, a compliant media, an apathetic public, and a bottomless military budget, including $4 billion annually for recruiting.
Repeatedly, the speakers stated that they welcomed the opportunity to testify as to the accuracy of their statements in a legal proceeding. Luis Montalvan, a captain with 17 years of service in the Army, stated, "I would like nothing better than to testify under oath to Congress." He then quoted President Theodore Roosevelt: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Winter Soldier Events

"WINTER SOLDIER" EVENT IN PROVIDENCE


Beneficent Church in Providence to bring the “Winter Soldier” testimony to Rhode Island. From March 13 thru 16, in Silver Springs, MD, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War(IVAW) spoke publicly and candidly of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although this remarkable testimony was typically ignored by the mainstream media, two RI video journalists, Paul Hubbard and Robert Malin, have produced a DVD that captures the spirit of the Winter Soldier event and allows voices of veterans to be heard.
The forum will begin with some background remarks from the producers. The 75 minute video of the Winter Soldier Testimony will then be shown followed by a question and answer period. The testimony has been conscientiously vetted for accuracy by the IVAW. The public is, however, cautioned that this testimony deals with the realities of these wars, not the complacent denial so prevalent in the usual reporting.
All are welcome to then stay for good conversation and socializing over pot luck dinner fare. This event has been organized by the Rhode Island Spring Mobilization Committee. Endorsers of this event include: the American Friends Service Committee(SENE), the Rhode Island Community Coalition for Peace, MoveOn(East Bay), the International Socialist Organization, Green Party of RI, the Progressive Democrats of America, the Workers International League, and the East Bay Citizens for Peace.

April 21, 2008

Sanctuary (Canada) - Crunch Time For U.S .War Resisters in Canada

This article, by Gerry Condon, was originally published in ZMagazine, March 23, 2008


When Private Jeremy Hinzman crossed the border into Canada in January 2004, he became the first AWOL GI to seek refugee status there. The U.S. Army had denied his request to serve in a non-combat role as a Conscientious Objector. They forced him into a tour in Afghanistan, and then ordered him to deploy to Iraq. Four years after fleeing the country, Hinzman, his wife and one-year-old son are facing the possibility of deportation back to the United States.
In March 2005 Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board denied Hinzman’s refugee claim. Notoriously conservative in its determinations, the Refugee Board refused to consider the illegality of the Iraq War and declared that the court-martial and imprisonment that awaited Hinzman in the U.S. did not amount to “persecution” for his political beliefs.
Brandon Hughey, the second AWOL GI to seek refuge in Canada, was also denied refugee status, as have at least a dozen other U.S. war resisters—and counting.
Although Canada has never granted refugee status to anyone fleeing persecution in the United States, Hinzman, Hughey, and their Canadian supporters continued undaunted in their quest for political refugee status. Their lawyer, Vietnam War resister Jeffry House, appealed in Canada’s Federal Courts, eventually going all the way to the Supreme Court. But on November 15, 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not hear the war resisters’ appeals.
Seeking refugee status, however, “was never the only arrow in our quiver,” says Lee Zaslofsky, coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign, and one of 30,000 Vietnam War resisters who have become Canadian citizens. “We have pursued a two-track strategy from the beginning. Even while we fought in the courts for refugee status, we were working on the political front to build popular support for sanctuary and to win the support of the various political parties.”
The war resisters’ political strategy bore its first fruit last December 6 in Canada’s House of Commons. After hearing eloquent testimony from former U.S. Army Sergeant Phillip McDowell, along with representatives of the Mennonites and Quakers, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration adopted a motion calling on the government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. The motion, which also calls for a halt to deportation proceedings, passed by a 7-4 vote, with all of the opposition parties united against the ruling Conservatives.
The Committee’s motion, which was broadened to include resisters of all wars not sanctioned by the UN, reads as follows: “The Committee recommends that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already com- menced against such individuals.
The passage of this motion was the first good news they had received in some time. “This shows a willingness of the opposition parties in Canada’s Parliament to come together to ensure that none of these resisters is returned to the U.S. where they face court martials, incarceration, and possible deployment to Iraq,” said Zaslofsky.
Campaign organizer Michelle Robidoux sounded a more cautionary note. “I want to make sure that nobody leaves thinking that this is won. It’s very important that we understand that now the work begins…. [The passage of this motion] does not mean that people can stay immediately. It means that there is a political opening here—it’s a significant poli- tical opening.”
“What we need,” continued Zaslofsky, “is for the Liberal Party as a whole to take a stance on this. Together (the three parties) have a majority and if they act together they can put something through the House of Commons.
Poll Reveals Support
Coming only weeks after the disappointing decision by the Supreme Court, the Committee’s affirmative vote felt like a miracle. But it was no fluke. For four years the War Resisters Support Campaign, comprised of unions, churches, artists, and activists, has been organizing across Canada with the slogan “Let Them Stay.” The war resisters themselves have spoken hundreds of times, collectively, in community meetings and in the media.
Demonstrations were held across Canada and the U.S. in support of war resisters, January 25-26, 2007—photo from www.resisters.ca
The extent of the Campaign’s success was demonstrated in a June 2007 poll showing that nearly two-thirds of the people of Ontario supported the war resisters. Of the 605 Ontarians who responded to the pollsters’ questions, 64.6 percent said U.S. soldiers should be allowed to settle in Canada while only 27.2 percent said they should be sent home. The poll results were broken down by gender, age, location, and party support. Each demographic was supportive of the war resisters, with 74 percent of NDP voters, 71 percent of Liberal voters, and even 53 percent of Conservative voters saying, “Let them settle in Canada.”
Shirley Douglas, a Canadian actor and mother of actor Keifer Sutherland, agreed. “This poll shows that the Canadian tradition of welcoming Americans who dissent from the policies of war is still important to us,” said Douglas. “The Canadian government should move now to make it possible for war resisters to settle in this country as so many did during the Vietnam War.”
U.S. war resisters in Canada are very encouraged by this showing of popular and parliamentary support. The Committee’s motion must now be put before the entire House of Commons where it is hoped that the opposition parties will once again unite to pass it.
In the meantime, Jeremy Hinzman has received his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. His case is being reviewed and within months he may be given an order to leave Canada. On yet another track, Hinzman is appealing to the Immigration Minister to allow him to remain in Canada on “Humanitarian and Compassionate” grounds, along with his wife, Nga Nguyen, and their son, Liam, now five, who has spent most of his life in Canada.
“It’s great that people all across Canada and the U.S. are coming out to show support for the war resisters,” said Patrick Hart, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army who came to Canada in 2005 with his family. “My family could be told we have to go back to the States anytime now. My wife Jill and I just want to be able to live here in peace and raise our son, Rian. We hope that the politicians will let us do that.”
Hart and fellow resisters Robin Long and Corey Glass have all received their Pre-Removal Risk Assessments, a step toward deportation.
While a majority of Conservative party voters in the Ontario poll were sympathetic to the plight of U.S. war resisters, that is not the position of the minority Conservative government. In 2003, Stephen Harper, Canada’s current prime minister, was a vocal proponent of Canada joining the U.S. war against Iraq. Fortunately, a sizable majority of the Canadian people saw things differently and the Liberal government at the time declined President Bush’s invitation to join the “Coalition of the Willing.” Harper now denies he ever supported the Iraq War.
But Canada’s Conservative prime minister is an ardent advocate for the U.S.-initiated war in Afghansistan, where Canadian soldiers are an important part of the NATO deployment. The previous Liberal government first sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 and Harper’s Conservatives have extended that mission until February 2009 and are pursuing an additional extension, while exhorting the European members of NATO to send additional troops.
With more and more Canadian troops dying in Afghanistan, and a scandal raging over the torture of prisoners captured by Canadians and handed over to Afghan (and possibly U.S.) forces, the majority of Canadians are against this war. In fact, opposition to the Afghanistan War may be a major factor in forcing a federal election, possibly as early as this spring. Ultimately, it may take a change at the top of the Canadian government to ensure a safe haven for war resisters. With the Liberal Party in disarray, however, progressive Canadians worry that the Conservatives might return to power.
U.S. Antiwar Movement Joins Sanctuary Campaign
So it was with a mixture of optimism and urgency that the War Resisters Support Campaign organized a “pan-Canadian” day of action on Saturday, January 26, two days before the Parliament would reconvene. Events were held in at least 11 Canadian cities—from Victoria, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia. People listened to speeches, watched antiwar films, and wrote letters to government officials and party leaders. In several cities, they marched to the post office and made a show of mailing the letters.
In Toronto, the Bloor Street United Church filled up with hundreds of supporters. When Jeremy Hinzman was introduced, the crowd greeted him with a prolonged standing ovation. He then reminded listeners of the reasons he came to Canada in the first place and thanked the Canadian people for their tremendous support.
In the U.S., the war resister advocacy group Courage To Resist coordinated solidarity actions on Friday, January 25 to coincide with the pan-Canadian actions. Vigils were held outside Canadian Consulates in New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. Delegations met with Consular officials and delivered copies of thousands of names of people in the U.S. who have signed petitions and letters to the Canadian government.
Significantly, the January 25 vigils and delegations were the first nationally coordinated actions in the U.S. in support of our war resisters in Canada. Groups that joined Courage to Resist and the War Resisters Support Campaign in making this a successful day included Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, War Resisters League, Iraq Veterans Against the War, DECOI, Veterans for Peace, Raging Grannies, Project Safe Haven, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, Truth in Recruiting, Payday men’s network, Global Women’s Strike, North Texas for Justice and Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and others.
United For Peace and Justice promoted these actions via email to its entire national membership. Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) did the same, and IVAW members were front and center at many of the vigils around the country.
“As veterans of the Iraq war, we have a special role to play in supporting our war resisters,” said Chanan Suarez-Diaz, president of the Seattle chapter of IVAW. “Whether they are in Canada, Germany, or the U.S., whether they are AWOL, in the brig, on active duty, or in legal limbo like Lt. Ehren Watada, they need and deserve all of our support.”
Many of the resisters are, of course, also Iraq veterans themselves. They survived one tour but went AWOL when ordered back a second time. IVAW members have made several trips to Canada to visit their fellow veterans and they are making arrangements for some of them to testify via satellite television at the Winter Soldier hearings being organized for March 13-16 in Washington, DC. Iraq veterans are also mobilizing members and supporters to reach out to active duty GI’s, including at Fort Lewis, Washington.
War Resisters Still Coming To Canada
Estimates of the number of U.S. war resisters in Canada range from 200-300. Approximately 50 of them have applied for refugee status.
AWOL GIs continue to make the trek north. They can still enter Canada as visitors and then apply for refugee status, which gives them immediate legal status in Canada as long as their refugee claim is pending, possibly a year or more. Refugee claimants are eligible for social assistance in some provinces and for Canada’s free national healthcare.
War resisters thinking of coming to Canada are advised to call the War Resisters Support Campaign so that Canadian supporters know they are on their way. This is increasingly important because Canadian border guards at some points of entry are reportedly profiling AWOL soldiers and discouraging them from entering, even putting them on the phone with their commanding officers. In such a case, a war resister can claim refugee status right at the border, and the Canadian authorities will respect this. Otherwise, it is preferable to enter Canada and see a Canadian lawyer before making a refugee claim.
“This is a complicated business,” says Zaslofsky. “Actually, the first thing we tell people who call for advice is to call the GI Rights Hotline and find out all their options.”
Some AWOL GIs may actually be eligible to be discharged from the military without further punishment, and experienced counselors can help them do that. Such an outcome is arguably preferable to an uncertain future in Canada without the ability to travel home to the U.S. to visit family or friends.
In case Canada does deport war resisters back to the U.S., the antiwar movement must be prepared to defend them, legally and politically. Some might call it amnesty. Some might call it justice or human rights or solidarity. The bottom line is that nobody should be punished for refusing to fight in an unjust war. By energetically supporting all war resisters, we can help bring an end to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and make it more difficult to launch such wars in the future. That should be our goal.

Winter Soldier in the Alternative Presss (AfterDowningStreet.org)

A great many of the posts featured here, were published over the last month. I have decided to reprint them because I have been tied up for much of the last month on another project and they deserve to be included in the blog.


Vermont Vets Risk All For The Truth
This article, by Dan DeWalt was originally published by AfterDowningStreet.org, March 20, 2008</p>


“I can’t go back in time and take back what I’ve done… At one point I was a monster, and I created hate and destruction amongst many people. I am sorry for doing so and I will never turn back into the monster I once was.” These were the closing remarks of Jon Turner, former Marine returned from Iraq, testifying in early March with three other former members of the armed forces, to students at the University of Vermont. His Marine dress uniform jacket, with seven shiny medals lined up across his chest contrasted sharply with the bandanna tied around his head, the soft beard that has grown in since his discharge from the service, and the palpable sadness in his countenance as he spoke, an unbearably painful ordeal of confession and revelation.
Turner, former Marine Matt Howard, and Army veterans Drew Cameron and Adrienne Kinne all spoke about their personal experiences in the military during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, they are determined that their fellow Vermonters, be they students or neighbors, are fully aware of the criminal nature of the war policies of Bush/Cheney.
While the two hundred students who attended that evening may have been irrevocably changed by what they heard, those outside the room were destined to remain unaware, because no one from the press was there to cover the event. Indeed, the press release promised “testimonies from U.S. veterans who have served in the global war on terror. Find out what is really happening on the ground”, and referencing the Winter Soldier testimony from the Vietnam era that “exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War…today vets from the current occupations assume the same responsibilities as their predecessors.” but neither the U.V.M student paper, curiously named the Vermont Cynic, nor the Gannet owned Burlington Free Press sent a reporter to listen. Nor did the Vermont Cynic respond to several queries requesting comment; and Patrick Garrity, Metro editor for the Free Press explained that “tough decisions are made every day on what to cover or not.” As to this particular event, he said, “What led to our particular reason why we didn’t cover it – I couldn’t say.” After being apprised of what they may have missed, he responded “Just because we didn’t pick up a story on one day doesn’t mean that we won’t go back to cover it.”
As to this event's newsworthiness, the testimony speaks for itself, morphing from the bad to the truly horrific. Drew Cameron, who served as an army artilleryman, told disturbing if not surprising stories about his duties in gathering and destroying captured munitions. When tank munitions fell off the back of his truck, he was ordered to leave them be, even though there would be children playing among them the next day. When a convoy truck crashed into an Iraqi civilian car, severely wounding several members of a family, he was again ordered to leave them to their fate without any medical help from the troops who caused them harm. And when the captured munitions reached the destination for destruction, they were exploded in open pits in close proximity to villages and agricultural lands, which were then covered with the fallout from the blasts.
Adrienne Kinne, a ten-year army veteran and Arab linguist who worked in military intelligence, testified to the different intelligence rules of conduct that she experienced pre and post 9/11. From 1994 to 1998, she worked under rules that made sure that no American would be the subject of any of the military intelligence intercepts. She cited one instance where an American diplomat was referenced in an intercepted phone call. The intelligence officials destroyed the tape even though he was referenced only in passing, honoring the principle that the government does not spy on Americans.
When called back to active duty from 2001-2001, she discovered that the pragmatic methods, if not the written rules governing them, had changed. She told of routinely monitoring phone transmissions of humanitarian organizations, NGOs and journalists. She listened in to journalists at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad reassuring each other that they were safe from American missile or artillery strikes. Then when she learned that this hotel was considered fair game as a target, she saw a chance for some good to come out of the illegal spying and acted. “I told my superiors that the journalists there thought they were safe. [I asked] should we warn them? My concerns were ignored.”
It was when she participated in translating a fax provided by the Iraqi National Congress, an unreliable faction headed by Ahmad Chalabi, which made claims of WMD in Iraq that she crossed her personal Rubicon. The fax, which made unsubstantiated claims dovetailing with the desires of the Bush/Cheney administration, was given top priority and was rushed directly to the White House after translation, a procedure that was completely at odds with normal protocol. When she considered the source of the information – Chalabi was a known liar and fugitive from justice for bank fraud in Jordan. She approached her superiors and asked whether they shouldn’t have take this into consideration before giving it to the White House as conclusive evidence, but was told to mind her own business, and her patriotism was questioned. “I knew that this war was based on lies" Kinne concluded, "and that I had helped spread these lies. I wish that I had taken my concerns to someone outside of the military.”
Matt Howard’s testimony told about the use of internationally banned cluster bombs, illegal declarations of “weapons free” zones, Marines shooting civilians for sport and the reprehensible devastation of Nasariah by a division of Marines seeking revenge for fallen comrades. He could not remain silent about what he saw. “I raised concerns with my chain of command. I wrote an extensive letter outlining all that I had been told by those in the tank commands when I was delivering to them…. Because of my letter, they had to conduct a war crime investigation, but they found no cause for charges. I was taken aside by the officer in charge of the investigation and he told me off the record that as a father he shared my concerns. But as a marine, he would never implicate his fellow marines and jeopardize their careers.” This officer also told Matt that if he mentioned any of these charges again, he would face a court martial.
None of this testimony could have prepared the audience for what they were to hear next. The first words spoken by Jon Turner, veteran of the third Battalion, Eighth Marines set the tone. “On April 18, 2006 I murdered an innocent man with no weapons. He was walking back to his house.” For this act, Turner was commended by his chain of command including personal congratulations from his captain.
He showed a short video in which his Lieutenant is saying, “I just shot half the fucking population of fucking Ramada, fuck the red tape.” He explained that rules of engagement were completely dropped. “Collateral damage was not an issue for us, most was covered up and stayed at the lowest post level. Our sergeant said shoot first and worry about it later.” He added, “When we were bored, we would take out people.”
He also explained that marines routinely took out their aggressions on civilians whose houses were routinely raided in the middle of the night. “During the 3A.M. raids, we would take the man into a separate room from his wife and children. If we decided that we didn’t like him, we would choke him or beat his head against the wall. If we decided to detain him, we would destroy all the contents of the house. Or if he really pissed us off, we would burn it down with incendiary grenades.” He showed other video footage of machine gun and tank fire being directed at a minaret of a mosque – not because of any shooting coming from the mosque, but because his fellow soldiers were in a position of power and wanted to let off steam. He recounted how one day two fellow soldiers had killed a couple of civilians, and knowing that John had not yet had a kill for the day, told him that they had saved him one. They pointed out a man riding a bicycle and he calmly shot him dead.
To provide cover for these crimes, his unit kept a supply of “drop weapons”, AK47s and other weapons that might be used by Iraqi insurgents. These were placed on or near the murder victim to provide an alibi of self-defense.
Turner detailed the use of white phosphorous gas by his unit, explaining, “It completely destroys everything. You can’t put out the fire.” While the Pentagon claims that white phosphorous is used only to illuminate a battlefield at night an unknown number of Iraqis have joined the ranks of collateral damage and perished by burning to death.
In conclusion Matt Howard emphasized to the students that these crimes that he and his fellow veterans were describing were not simply the work of a few bad apples. “This is policy,” he flatly stated, adding, “1.2 million individuals have cycled through Iraq and part of something much bigger.” He also told the audience that they should not think of Afghanistan as the “good” war compared with Iraq. He said that
everything that they heard about atrocities in Iraq was true for Afghanistan as well. He explained that the most revered military minds agree that “Without strategy war is mindless. Mindless killing can only be criminal.” He pointed out that the shifting rationales for invasion and occupation provided by the that they have had no strategy from the beginning. Recent Pentagon studies also confirm this fact.
These veterans decided to speak out as victims of an administration’s gross negligence and deceit. Their testimony places some of them at grave risk being charged with war crimes or ignoring security restrictions. If they had chosen to remain silent, they could have been protected by a wall of denial and suppression provided by the military that they served. By deciding to clear their consciences and to try to do what they can do repair the damage they have helped the American military to cause, the have unalterably changed the trajectory of their futures. Whether they alone will bear the awful cost of what they witnessed, as well as the possible costs of speaking out - depends on what those who hear their stories decide to do. If their audiences decide that their own silence would make them complicit, and if the press decides that war crimes being committed today, in our names are front page news, then these veterans will at least have taken a first step beyond their own personal redemption.
The Bush/Cheney administration has established a new paradigm of criminal and immoral actions as public policy. Congress has countenanced these actions, and the courts have failed to check them. It remains to be can match these veterans' courage to stand tall and say "not now and never again."

Winter Soldier in the Press (Houston Chronicle)

I was waiting for this article to be published, as I had spoken to the author at Winter Soldier and was surprised to see nothing published.
Original article, War Torn Vets Speak Out, by Claudia Feldman was published in the Houston Chronicle, April 18, 2008


Hart Viges walks the streets of Austin in a tunic and carries a sign that reads, "Jesus Against War." It's one of many ways, he says, that he must atone for his actions as an American soldier in Iraq.
Army Sgt. Ronn Cantu says lingering memories of killing a civilian in Iraq led him to start a chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War at his home — Fort Hood.
And in Houston, Chris Hauff, an Iraq War vet who returned from combat two years ago, wrestles with the feeling that his best friend died in a misguided war.
"The idea that American soldiers are there to spread democracy and liberate the people is all smoke and mirrors," Hauff says.
After five years and more than 4,000 American deaths, hundreds of anti-war Iraq veterans and even some active-duty soldiers are speaking out in protest. Though they make up a relatively small percentage of all the soldiers who have served, certainly they speak from experience. They've had their boots on the ground.
Nationally, more than 1,000 have joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, which is calling for an immediate troop pullout. At a recent IVAW conference in suburban Washington, D.C., 60 vets addressed about 400 peers. Collectively, they described American soldiers unraveling under pressure — devolving from fighting for freedom and defending innocents to saving their own lives, protecting their friends and getting revenge.
Viges, tall and reed-slim, spoke as if his entry to heaven were on the line.
"I joined the Army right after September 11th," he began. He ended with, "I don't know how many innocents I've helped kill. ...
"I have blood on my hands."
His story, common among the speakers, began with good intentions and patriotic zeal. Then he realized he couldn't tell friend from enemy, and as he dodged mortar fire and roadside bombs, he feared each new day was going to be his last.
In that atmosphere, Viges and other soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division aimed countless mortar rounds at the town of As Samawah, southeast of Baghdad. They were trying to root out insurgents, but to this day, Viges doesn't know whom or what they hit.
"This wasn't army to army," Viges said. "People live in towns."
The panelists' speeches were vetted ahead of time by two groups of veterans who scoured news accounts, researched documents, videos and photographs where available, and interviewed others who were present at the time.
The testimonials were sobering. They included heart-stopping details. But the vets kept talking. Clearly, it was information they felt compelled to share.
Jason Washburn's testimony is preserved on the Internet. A Marine veteran from Philadelphia, he explained how the rules of engagement kept changing until it seemed there were no rules at all.
"If the town or the city that we were approaching was a known threat, if the unit that went through the area before we did took a high number of casualties, we were allowed to shoot whatever we wanted.
"I remember one woman was walking by, and she was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us. So we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher. And when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was only full of groceries. And, I mean, she had been trying to bring us food, and we blew her to pieces for it."
Jon Michael Turner, a Marine veteran from Vermont, described 3 a.m. house raids in which "problem" Iraqi men were subjected to his "choking hand."
It was tattooed in Arabic with an all-too-American epithet.
Turner recalled the first time he shot an Iraqi civilian. He offered no context or explanation except, "We were all congratulated after we had our first kills."
Turner also recalled the blind rage that led him and fellow Marines to start fights, spray bullets indiscriminately and fire on mosques. Eighteen men in his unit were killed by the enemy, he said. After that much bloodshed, the surviving soldiers were damaged mentally, if not physically.
"I just want to say that I'm sorry for the hate and destruction that I've inflicted on innocent people," said Turner, who began his speech by ripping off his service medals. "Until people hear about what is happening in this war, it will continue."
Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, read from a one-paragraph response to the conference:
"(We) always regret the loss of any innocent life in Iraq or anywhere else. The U.S. military takes enormous precautions to prevent civilian deaths and injuries. By contrast the enemy in Iraq takes no such precautions and deliberately targets innocent civilians. When isolated allegations of misconduct have been reported, commanders have conducted comprehensive investigations to determine the facts and held individuals accountable when appropriate."
The vast majority of American soldiers, Ballesteros added, serve honorably in combat.
The veterans who came to Maryland last month called their conference Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a sequel to a tense 1971 gathering in a Howard Johnson motel in Detroit, where more than 100 Vietnam vets braved frigid winter conditions to speak out against their war.
(Organizers of the original chose the title Winter Soldier Investigation to evoke Thomas Paine, who wrote in 1776, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.")
Navy Lt. John Kerry, the future U.S. senator and presidential candidate, attended that meeting and, a few months later, lambasted the war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Proud American soldiers were reduced to acts of senseless destruction, Kerry told the senators, "not isolated incidents but crimes ... ."
Many Americans — still recovering from the news of the My Lai massacre — believed Kerry. But lingering resentment from his testimony may have cost him the 2004 presidential election.
During his campaign against President Bush, Vietnam vets still furious with Kerry for somehow staining their service records and their honor struck back. They claimed he wasn't a war hero, that he hadn't earned his multiple medals, that in fact, he'd awarded his medals to himself.
The topic is still red-hot, even today. Pennsylvania veteran Bill Perry, who campaigned for Kerry and attended both Winter Soldier meetings, offered his perspective: "Kerry came from a well-educated, wealthy family, and he could have ducked the whole thing. I respect the person who served."
The comment was aimed at President Bush, who did not fight in Vietnam or any war.
The latest Winter Soldier event coincided with national polls showing two-thirds of Americans disagree with the handling of the war but consider the economy and their own financial logjams more pressing than combat halfway around the world.
Viges, the veteran of the 82nd Airborne, struggled to understand that disconnect.
One of his jobs in Iraq was to stand guard with a .50-caliber machine gun while his buddies searched houses supposedly inhabited by insurgents and enemy combatants. At the conference, searches of that kind were described vividly. Sometimes soldiers kicked in the front doors. Sometimes they upended refrigerators and ripped stoves out of walls. Sometimes they turned drawers upside down and broke furniture.
One day Viges was instructed to search a suspicious house, a hut, really, but he couldn't find pictures of Saddam Hussein, piles of money, AK-47s or roadside bombs.
"The only thing I found was a little .22 pistol," Viges said, " ... but we ended up taking the two young men, regardless."
An older woman, probably the mother of the young men, watched and wailed nearby.
"She was crying in my face, trying to kiss my feet," Viges said. "And, you know, I can't speak Arabic, but I can speak human. She was saying, 'Please, why are you taking my sons? They have done nothing wrong.' "
The testimonials went on for 3 1/2 days. They were interrupted once, when a middle-age man leaped from his seat and ran toward the stage.
"Liars! Liars!" he shouted. "Kerry lied while good men died, and you guys are betraying good men."
Others among the counter-protesters tried for a more even tone.
Chris Eaton, a former Houstonian now living in Dallas, spoke for them when he described himself as an average guy doing his best to support American troops.
"I'm not hateful," he said. "I'm not a warmonger."
He's married and the father of three. For his little girl's seventh birthday, he welded a butterfly made of old car parts, plate steel and rebar.
But Eaton didn't travel halfway across the country to talk about butterflies. He wanted to lend his voice to the counter-protesters. He wanted to remind the anti-war vets that they needed to tell the absolute and precise truth or risk demoralizing their brothers and sisters still fighting overseas.
Eaton also wanted to support his friend, retired Army Col. Harry Riley, who organized the counter-protest and the sponsoring group, Eagles Up.
Riley is a decorated Vietnam vet. He's got a calm, mellifluous voice — until he flashes back to 1971.
"No one stood up for me or millions of others smeared by Kerry," Riley said. "That first Winter Soldier meeting was total bunk, denigration and falsehood. We want to ensure this second one meets our criteria for accuracy."
It is true, Perry said, that a few of the testimonies from '71 contained significant errors and should have been omitted. That's unfortunate, he said, but hardly surprising given the impromptu nature of that meeting. The great majority of the vets, Perry said, spoke the truth.
Did not, said Riley, referring to a government investigation of the most serious charges made in Detroit. Not one of the soldiers' testimonies was substantiated.
Perry noted that the investigation was conducted by Army personnel. In his opinion, the Army's investigation of itself was a joke.
With a wrench, Riley pushed the conversation back into the 21st century. If atrocities or war crimes are taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said, service men and women are duty-bound to report them under oath and through official channels. Failure to do so, he added, means they are potential criminals themselves and subject to prosecution.
"Oh, great," retorted Hauff, the Houstonian. Soldiers aren't going to turn themselves in, and they're not going to report their peers or their superiors, either, he said.
"Nobody wants to be viewed as a snitch or a narc," Hauff said. And who, he asked, volunteers for a dock in pay or a loss of rank or a court-martial or worse?
"You're supposed to do what you're told in the military."
For vets who often feel isolated by their experiences and their memories, old war buddies are their best, most comfortable friends.
Viges greeted old friends joyously between sessions at the Winter Soldier conference. Many of them were vets from the Vietnam era.
"They are my fathers," he said.
After struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, Viges said, he is somewhat better. He still jumps at the sound of fireworks, but he's stopped patrolling the perimeter of his house.
With shoulder-length, brown hair and a goatee, Viges looks very much like a model for velvet Jesus portraits. When he puts on his tunic and takes his anti-war campaign to the streets, he tells anyone who will listen, "Love thine enemy" and "Turn the other cheek."
A devout Christian, Viges finally left combat as a conscientious objector.
Cantu, the Fort Hood soldier, was one of several celebrity Texans at the conference. He says his pro-war sentiments changed 180 degrees the day he killed a civilian in Iraq. His convoy had been hit by an improvised explosive device, and he wanted revenge.
Next thing he knew, a car was coming toward them, and despite the warnings, it didn't stop.
Cantu opened fire. He didn't know until too late the car was filled with multiple members of an Iraqi family.
"I was literally on the verge of quitting (the military) right then and there," said Cantu, a third-generation military man.
Instead, he's spoken out against the war, through the protest chapter he founded and a 60 Minutes interview in 2007.
He occasionally comes to the attention of his superiors, too.
"All I've done is use my First Amendment rights," Cantu said. "I appreciate the Constitution. You can't really love it until you've actually been protected by it."
Cantu is scheduled to return to Iraq for his third tour of duty in early 2009.
"I've cheated death so many times," he said, suddenly somber. "I hope I can do it again."
Hauff, the Houston vet, didn't try to make it to Maryland. He had his hands full, with his job, his wife and his little girl. Besides, he didn't want to talk about the ugly side of war.
His best friend was on patrol, subbing for Hauff, when he was killed.
Hauff paused, keeping the many things he thought about that tragedy to himself. He had his emotions under control, he said, and he's moved on with his life.
His mother-in-law, sipping coffee and listening to him, cocked her head as if she didn't quite agree.
That year in Iraq changed him, Sherry Glover said. He doesn't like to be touched. He can be impatient with the people, even the child he loves the most. It's almost like he's barricaded himself inside an invisible fence that has a sign: "Keep out."
When Hauff finished talking, he frowned at his mother-in-law and walked away. They're sharing the same house, at least until Hauff and his family can afford to move.
Military families are paying for this war, Glover said darkly. She has a friend whose son tried to commit suicide between tours of duty. Army doctors gave him a bunch of prescriptions and deemed him ready to serve.
Glover couldn't go to the conference — she wanted to keep an eye on things at home — and made do by listening to the testimony on the local Pacifica radio station, KPFT-90.1 FM.
She and many other peace activists wondered why only a couple of outlets in the mainstream media covered the event.
The vets also wondered what all the other newspapers, magazines and TV stations were afraid of. The truth?
That's not it, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
The gathering was tiny, Sabato said, in comparison to protests from the Vietnam era. Also, activists on both sides of the war have moved the debate to the presidential campaign.
President Bush has been unequivocal in his support for the war, Sabato said, and those who share that commitment will vote Republican. Those who oppose the war will vote for the Democrat.
It's not that Americans don't have an opinion, he said. They're just waiting for Election Day.

Chicken Hawks and Critics in the Blogosphere

Critics of IVAW seem to come in a number of forms. Some of these, especially active duty GIs and some veterans oppose IVAW for principled reasons and should be respected. Still others misunderstand the goals and aspirations of the movement, viewing it as a continuation/re-run of the 1960s antiwar movement. There is, however a category which stands out from the crowd and it primarily consists of a collection of bloggers attached to and affiliated with the far right of the republican party. One of the worst of these is the aptly named Chickenhawk Express, whose work is most charitably characterized as ugly and bitter and occasionally veers toward the slanderous.
The following post includes a number of Robin's writing, about IVAW written since the Winter soldier Hearings:


Another VFP and IVAW Stunt Ignored (4/11/08)

IVAW and VFP leaders must be banging their heads on the wall trying to figure out what they have to do to get a little mainstream media attention. They held another "Arrest Bush and Cheney" Action back on March 19th but to their chagrin, no one covered it. They are just now getting some "publicity" from the "Independent" media (aka their inner circle of comrades) including a YouTube video. VFP and IVAW had BIG plans for this stunt...
The Veterans then proceeded to the National Archives where the Constitution is housed. We had originally planned a civil resistance action inside the National Archives, in the Rotunda, where the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence are displayed. The plan was for a number of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War to enter the Rotunda and to use plastic cuffs to secure ourselves to the massive gates at the entrance to the Rotunda. Our rationale in doing this would be that as fulfillment of the oath we took upon joining the military to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, we would now demand the arrest of those who had most grievously abused that document and all it stands for. Delivering the Warrant in the place of Constitutional housing, we would remain handcuffed to "guard" the Constitution until the aforesaid accused either surrendered themselves to us or to the appropriate authorities.
But the "crowds" waiting to enter the National Archives made the protesters change their tactics...
However, on Monday and Tuesday as we surveyed the huge lines wending around the block waiting to enter and realizing that we couldn't just cut the line and walk in, we changed our plan to an outside occupation with the same demand for a citizen's arrest. The outside plan turned out to be much better.
Yeah the new plan worked SOOOO much better...
Five veterans, Joel Kovel, Diane Wilson, Ellen Barfield, Malcolm Chaddock and Andrew Schoerky decided to handcuff themselves to the flagpole outside the Archives with a huge blowup of the Citizen's Arrest Warrant for Bush and Cheney. There was also a immense canvas replication of the Constitution that would be displayed. That morning as the Veterans gathered on the National Mall, Tarak from VFP, Adam Kokesh, Daniel Black and James Gillian from IVAW decided to climb over the 10 ft. spiked metal fence at the top of the front steps of the Archives and to occupy the 40 ft. high ledge on the front of the building with an upside down American flag (symbol of distress) and a megaphone so that they could speak to the crowd more effectively. Our assumption was that both the flagpole occupation and the Vets on the ledge would result in arrests but we felt that the Vets on the high ledge would have more time to speak to the crowd before the police would venture out to arrest them. (Thanks to VFP Pres. Elliot Adams for a leg up when we were climbing over the fence) As it turned out the Vets on the ledge were there for 90 minutes broadcasting before the Archive security ventured out to offer them safe passage if they would only leave the ledge peacefully. The police had opened the previously locked gate in the fence. After some discussion we decided to accept their offer. As we left the ledge to the cheers of the crowd below, a few of the police actually shook our hands. It seemed as if the police had made a decision not to arrest the Vets. Andrew, Ellen, Diane, Joel and Matthew decided to stay handcuffed to the flagpole, at least for a while, even though the march would move on.
Sadly there were no arrests, no scuffles with police and no street blockades. As far as the cheers of the crowd, watch the video. The only ones cheering are part of the demonstration itself. The crowd waiting to enter the National Archives looks bored.
Watch for FAIR and other organizations in the pocket of these groups to issue a demand for an explanation as to why the media failed to cover their "action". They are still whining about the lack of media coverage of Winter Soldier II. Maybe the mainstream media is smarter than I give them credit for being...


IVAW Knows More Than General Petraeus? (4/10/08)

Talk about audacity... IVAW has issued a press release countering the testimony of General Petraeus and Amb Crocker. Here's snips from the press release...
WASHINGTON, DC - April 9 - Contrary to General Petraeus's testimony, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) attest that the major destabilizing force in Iraq is the ongoing U.S. occupation. What's more, U.S. troops are being commanded to perform acts that directly violate their moral codes and the rules of war, making a positive outcome exceedingly difficult to achieve.
Less than one month ago, over 100 veterans and active-duty soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan shared their eyewitness accounts of the occupations at Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. Their testimony illustrated how the ongoing occupation of Iraq is resulting in the dehumanization and abuse of the Iraqi people, the destabilization and breakdown of the U.S. military, and the emotional and physical injury and damage to thousands of U.S. troops.
Testifiers gave firsthand accounts of being ordered to raid the homes of innocent Iraqis, physically and psychologically abuse Iraqi prisoners, and indiscriminately shoot at civilians.
Dear Martha -I listened to the audio of the testimony and read the reports (from both sides) about the testimony given at WSII. Most of it was simply "war is hell and it sucks" type testimony. The "war crimes" and atrocities never materialized in the testimony. And as far as the "dehumanization" claims - give it a rest. Millard's "haji" story is as ridiculous as his claim of depleted uranium exposure. The abuse and indiscrimate shooting of civilians was mostly "I was told" testimony and no one has yet to go under oath with their claims.
"Petraeus continues to repeat the administration's talking points while ignoring what the soldiers on the ground know: the Iraq occupation is not working," said Kelly Dougherty, a former Military Police Sergeant in Iraq and Executive Director of IVAW
Frankly Kelly - IVAW keeps repeating the talking points from UFPJ, CodePink, ANSWER, Dahr Jamail, VFP and VVAW. The only ones ignoring what is happening on the ground is IVAW and those who have everything to gain by a humilating withdrawal of US forces while leaving Iraqis at the mercy of Al Qaeda. This isn't Vietnam and your retread of the same tactics will not work.
But to claim that you guys and gals know more than General Petraeus is beyond laughable.


DC Suffers Through Another Moonbat Tsunami (3/19/08)

The five year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq sent the moonbats into a complete and total frenzy of protest activity. According to people on the ground in DC, the city was awash in the unwashed and covered in pepto bismal pink. Jonn over at This Ain't Hell was all over the place. He went from protest site to protest site and recorded the events for posterity. He's got lots of pics and videos posted. But this scene makes me scratch my head.
What exactly does Medea flashing her goodies in a bed on the streets of DC mean? Is she protesting Eliot Spitzer? Or maybe she's looking for some hot hippie action. Weird - just freakin' weird. Of course IVAW was out in force despite the lackluster WSII performances. King Kokesh led the pack. He certainly has a way with street theater. Too bad he's not a mime.
Every time I see the American Flag flying upside down, it makes me want to vomit. Yes - I know it symbolizes a country in distress but damn it sends such a negative image around the world. Oh wait - that's the point.
TSO over at The Sniper got in on some of the protest action. He's got several posts up about today's events but my favorite is his deconstruction of the anarchists and his lunch with Suzie Rottencrotch. After suffering through WSII and now this, I hereby award Jonn and TSO the Blogger Courage Award. Sorry - not a money award but lots of hugs and my deepest respect for you two guys!

Echoes of Winter Soldier in the Blogosphere

This article, IVAW and What I Won't Do, by Jonn Lilyea was originally published on his blog This Ain't Hell, April 18 2008

As most of my regular readers know, I went to the Winter Soldier theater and live-blogged from the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland on March 15th. It was a pretty tough gig, pressure-wise, and I didn’t like being around a bunch of people who’d rather see me dead than there.I watched them tackle 61-year-old Gerry Kiley and drag him from the room, and it was probably as atrocious as anything the witnesses were testifying to on the stage. Through the hours I was there, I wondered when it was going to be my turn to be tackled and dragged from the room by the Labor thugs providing security at the event.
Halfway through the proceedings, Thus Spake Ortner and I had to give up up the URLs of our blogs because Geoff Millard wanted to play commissar of information (for the record, other members of the IVAW already had our URLs, but Millard wanted us to know that he was personally monitoring us). I imagined that what I felt was what many journalists from the West felt when they wrote from inside the Soviet Union. But it lent an air of authenticity to what we were doing. Millard, quite by accident, I’m sure, gave us additional credibility.
I hate the IVAW, I hate what they stand for, I hate what they’re doing to this country and I hate that most of them are doing what they do for very selfish and petty reasons. That being said, I found the limits of my hate this morning.
Apparently, someone on my own side thought I would lie for our cause. Someone who shall remain nameless tried to tell an Army investigator what I heard and witnessed inside Winter Soldier - something this person couldn’t know mainly because the incident I was asked about never happened.
This whole blog is about the Left and their inability to recognize the truth when it hits them between the eyes. I take video and pictures of the Left with little comment and I’ve never asked for a pose because I feel that the Left does enough damage to itself that they don’t need me to point it out or shape it - I just need to be there to record it.
I don’t belong to any of the organizations involved in the discussion because I at least want to keep an air of credibility and I want to continue to enjoy access to all of the sides of the discussion.
I will not, under any circumstances, violate my readers’ trust in me to provide them the unvarnished truth here. I don’t have a journalist’s code of ethics that I need to follow, just my own code. I put my real name on this blog because I’m not afraid of telling the truth and after this blog is gone, I still have to live with the name and the reputation I build here.
I will not sell this blog and it’s readers down the river for a couple of cheap shots at the IVAW. Lord knows, they do enough to damage their reputation without me having to testify to things that never happened.
Anyone else out there who thinks they have a brainstorm plan to undermine IVAW, please keep your lips off my name. Anything I know about illegal activities inside the IVAW, the authorities already know.

April 17, 2008

New From Sir! No Sir!

HELP MAKE A NEW FILM AND A DIFFERENT FUTURE

This year, a scrappy, determined band of soldiers and veterans turned this country on its head.
On March 13-16, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) held Winter Soldier/Iraq and Afghanistan in Washington, DC. Over one hundred active duty soldiers and veterans publicly testified—from their own experience–about what they consider to be the immoral and illegal nature of those wars. They demanded immediate and unconditional withdrawal, and intend to force this issue onto the national stage.
Displaced Films and Northern Light Productions are producing the only documentary film that will be made about this historic moment, and the intense battle leading up to it. If you liked Sir! No Sir! you will love this new film. Winter Soldier/Iraq and Afghanistan will answer the question “Can a new GI Movement happen today?” with a resounding “Yes!”
he Winter Soldier Investigation was by any account a powerful, explosive, and controversial antiwar event, timed to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq five years ago. No one who witnessed it could come out the same. But just as importantly, it transformed everyone involved in profound and unexpected ways. That transformation, both large-scale and deeply personal, is the subject we explore in our film.

WE NEED YOUR HELP

We are in a desperate race to make the film and have it in the world by September this year, right in the height of the election campaign. We cannot make it without your financial support, and the more money we raise the faster the film can be completed. Every donation of $50 or more will get an advance copy of the DVD when it is available. Donations of $1,000 or more will be credited in the film.
But don’t limit yourself. This is a chance to play a direct, critical role in making history and forging a new future.

ALL CONTRIBUTIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE. You can click here to make a credit card donation, or send a check to:

Pangea Productions
c/o Displaced Films
3421 Fernwood Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039

March 20, 2008

Winter Soldier on the radio (National Public Radio)

'Winter Soldiers' Tell Stories of War

Transcript of National Public Radio report originally broadcast, March 16, 2008>


The war in Afghanistan has contained horrors aplenty, not only for Afghan citizens but for the American and NATO forces deployed there. And in Iraq many U.S. soldiers and Marines have participated in actions that have left them scarred. Veterans of both wars told their stories today at an event near Washington.
It was sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and it carried the title Winter Soldier. That's an echo of a similar recounting of war horror stories Vietnam vets told at a controversial gathering back in 1971.
Army Sergeant Jabbar McGruder(ph) served in Iraq in 2005. He told me that the rules of engagement offended his sense of proper military conduct.
Sergeant JABBAR MCGRUDER (U.S. Army): If anybody was to break into our convoy and we didn't feel safe, we were supposed to take them out, and that was the standing order. And that we weren't supposed to fire any warning shots, that it was just supposed to happen.
And so when you do that you understand that you're always in danger. And that never goes away.
LYDEN: But the rules of engagement would say that warning shots would be fired. So what exactly happened on your mission?
Sgt. MCGRUDER: It's not - the rules of engagement change all the time.
LYDEN: Former Specialist Eric Warseski(ph) was 19 years old when he went to serve in Afghanistan in 2002. He says what he saw and did there still haunts him.
Mr. ERIC WARSESKI (Former Specialist): I watched a prisoner and we denied him water and food, and to my understanding he did not have sleep for three days.
LYDEN: At the time did you ever report back and say this is against the Geneva Convention, I'm not going to do it?
Mr. WARSESKI: No, because you don't really think about it because it's being allow. You know, 'cause you're just thinking, well, this is what I'm doing. This man came down from the airfield command center there. And so taking it as a directive order from our coalition forces, I just did as I was told.
LYDEN: When the winter soldiers of the Vietnam War gathered in 1971 their stories angered many fellow veterans who said they felt betrayed. Sergeant McGruder says it's not betrayal when you speak the truth.
Sgt. MCGRUDER: Betrayal is when your government puts you in a situation that you don't need to be in. A betrayal is sitting back and saying nothing when you could see your fellow, you know, brothers and sisters in arms suffering. A betrayal is essentially not doing what is morally right. And this is morally right for us to share our experiences with the American public so they can understand what is actually going on and not get some spin rhetoric and not get, you know, what a general's saying, not get what is coming out the Pentagon brief, but hear from those who have put their boots on ground and have served the nation proudly.
LYDEN: Sergeant Jabbar McGruder and Reservist Eric Warseski appeared today at an event sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Sergeant McGruder is co- chairman of the board of the Anti-War Organization.

March 18, 2008

Winter Soldier in the Press (OpEd News)

Iraq and Afghanistan Soldiers Testify at "Winter Soldier 2008", Day One

Posted, by Elaine Brower, to Op Ed News, March 13, 2008


In 1971 Viet Nam Veterans’ Against the War (VVAW) conducted a testimonial based on the atrocities and horrors they participated in during their time “In Country.” They called it Winter Soldier, inspired by Revolutionary War hero Thomas Paine’s call for patriots to act for their country in times of crisis.
Some of us remember the days when revolution was in the air, when we had a civil rights movement, women “burning” their bras, a sexual revolution, and a very powerful anti-war movement. Events such as the assassinations of prominently outspoken Americans, as well as students being shot at during Kent State protests, moved the masses of people into a state of upheveal.
Veterans returning from the war in “Nam” were joining in the loud voices to end the war. They did it by forming a strong organization, using their anger and throwing their medals over
Then came Detroit when they converged to speak about the horrors of the war. The testimonials were graphic, real and heartwrenching, but it went almost unnoticed. The pro-war right called them liars and cowards, and succeeded in almost destroying the validity of the statements made by returning vets.
Now, 37 years later, Iraq Veteran’s Against the war (IVAW) has decided to recreate in a style that is all their own, new and hip, a Winter Soldier II shining a light once again on the horrors and atrocities of war.
Today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., 6 veterans spoke to a room packed with cameras and reporters from every outlet, politically left to right. The announcement was to kick-off the next 3 days of testimonials from over 200 veterans and GI’s from around the country who will be recounting a particularly personal misery that they witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The media was gentle on the panel, considering what the next few days would uncover. One particular reporter asked about IVAW’s connection with CodePink and A.N.S.W.E.R. and if those particular organizations had sponsored the work of IVAW. Kelly Doherty, former MP in Iraq, and Executive Director of IVAW, stood up at the microphone with her serious stare, calm demeanor and beautiful porcelin skin and green eyes, and eloquently told the reporter that from the inception of the organization, VFP had helped support them in their fledging moments in 2004. She, along with 3 other Veterans, had stood on a stage in Boston, denouncing the war. Some members did protest alongside anti-war groups such as those mentioned, and many others, but their closest affiliation and allies were groups such as Veterans for Peace, Military Families and VVAW.
In the evening, live broadcasting took place and a panel discussion with some of the “oldies but goodies” took place. Barry Romo, original founder of VVAW and union organizer for the last 39 years, David Cortwright, author and historian of the GI resistance in Viet Nam, Tod Ensign, longtime veteran’s rights activist and Gerald Nicosia, friend of Ron Kovic, author of “Born on the 4th of July” and wounded in Viet Nam.
Ron Kovic’s statement was read to the crowd and his passion for supporting this new group of resister’s was overwhelming. He said that by stepping forward “they were not just saving lives, they were saving the life of our nation.” Kovic expressed his disbelief that he is now seeing all over again what happened back when he was fighting an illegal and immoral war, and that the empire must be broken with this new generation of resistance fighters.
David Cortwright author of “Soldiers in Revolt,” agreed that only with resistance from within the military who “listen to their conscience” would end this war, as this resistance ultimately did that in Viet Nam.
Tod Ensign, Director of Citizen Soldier, author and supporter of the Different Drummer Café (www.differentdrummer.com) in upstate New York formed to replicate the coffee houses of the 60’s, passionately spoke of the young breed of soldiers he is meeting who eerily remind him of the past. He spoke of the similiarities between the anti-war candidate Richard Nixon, and his “secret plan” to end the war and those 2 democratic candidates who also have a plan to end the occupation of Iraq, but he says “who the hell knows what that is!”
Of course Barry Romo, being a labor organizer for 35 years, was much less eloquent in his speech, but had the audience riveted in the stories of the past. He witnessed the war in “Nam”, testified in the first Winter Soldier, and can only be described as a great colorful character. One story he recounted was the patch that signifies the VVAW, an upside-down rifle with a helmet on top, on red fabric. He remembered when they created that patch and had them made in East Asian countries such as Japan and the Philippines. The patches were “churned out by the thousands” and were worn by soldiers “in country.” He mentioned that in 1968 the North Vietnamese issued a statement, which is little know today, that “if any NV soldier sees an upside-down rifle patch on any soldier’s uniform, they will not shoot them.”
What Winter Soldier could mean to the current political situation in this Country is a complete unknown. All the testimonials will be broadcast live, and also streaming on the internet (see schedule at www.IVAW.org/wintersoldier). The members of IVAW are prepared for having their stories attacked, belittled and turned against them, as happened in 1971. However, these next few days could represent a turning point that we have all been waiting for.
It is up to those of us in the anti-war movement, and there are millions of us who are against this occupation of Iraq, and escalating rhetoric of war with Iran, to promote the events of the next few days in a way that we have never done before. Word must get out to the impenetrable wall of the corporate media, to those on the street who don’t even know what IVAW is, and to the young men and women in this country who are on the verge of walking up to that recruiter and signing on the dotted line.
We are ready for Day 2, the full testimonials.

Winter Soldier in the Press (OpEd News)

Winter Soldier: US Army Medic Perry O'Brien on Civilian Cadavers in Afghanistan

Posted, by Aaron Glantz, to Op-ed News, March 2, 2008


Former US Army Medic Perry O'Brienserved a tour in Afghanistan before returning home and filing to be discharged as a conscientious objector. He describes how the corpses of dead civilians were used as medical teaching tools in Afghanistan without the consent of the dead. He says this shows how war is inherently dehumanizing and hopes Winter Soldierwill change the conversation in America about the morality of war and the orders that soldiers are asked to follow.
In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicised incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by "a few bad apples", as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of "an increasingly bloody occupation."
From March 14th to 16th, Pacifica Radio will suspend regular programming to broadcast the historic Winter Soldier gathering in Washington, DC.

March 17, 2008

Winter Soldier in the Press (OpEd News)

How to End the War in One Day

Posted by Gregg Gordon , to OpEd News, March 10 2008


This week, at hundreds of events across the country, tens of thousands of people will mark the fifth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq and demand an end to the occupation and the withdrawal of all US troops. They will march, vigil, sit-in, teach-in, write letters, call their Congressman, block recruiting offices, sing songs, wear orange, call in sick, buy Citgo (Venezuelan) gas, all in an effort to get the nation's political leadership to take notice of the 70% of the American people who think this war has destroyed too many lives, done too much damage to our own country as well as Iraq, cost far too much, and gone on way too long.
Washington, D.C., will be the focus of much of the activity. A "Stop-Loss Congress" campaign starting March 10 is delivering stop-loss notices to Congressional offices, cancelling their planned March 15 vacation until all US troops are brought home from Iraq. March 13 will see the beginning of four days of "Winter Soldier" hearings sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, focusing on the horrific toll the war is taking on even the soldiers lucky enough to return from their tours of duty alive and uninjured. March 19, the actual anniversary of the invasion, will be a day of nonviolent civil resistance in all 435 Congressional districts, although perhaps tellingly, events in the Capitol will focus on the offices of war profiteers rather than vacationing Congressmen. Organizers apparently don't expect the "stop-loss" campaign to succeed.
I encourage everyone who opposes the war to participate in these events. I'll be at every one I can get to, as I have for the last five years. It's good for my soul. But frankly, I don't expect these events to be any more successful than those earlier ones were, and it seems our numbers dwindle even as the percentage of people against the war grows. Indeed, before the war began, millions of people around the world hit the streets in protest. The reaction -- "a focus group," President Bush said.
I remember back in 1981 attending a huge "Solidarity Day" march in Washington, when every significant labor union and activist groups from the NAACP to Greenpeace to the Democratic Socialists of America -- some 250,000 people, far larger than Martin Luther King's March on Washington or anything from the Vietnam era -- converged to protest the direction the Reagan administration was taking America. The result -- seven more years of union-busting, poor-bashing, environment-trashing, and dirty wars around the world.
Marches and other, highly-visible forms of civil disobedience have their place. They lift our spirits and let us know we're not alone. They can bring attention to an issue. And, if persistent enough, they may eventually convince the powers-that-be that their misguided, destructive policies simply aren't worth the hassle, and they should find other ways to make money. But a march requires truly impressive numbers to get much attention, and the trends haven't been going in our favor. And $4 gas isn't going to make it any easier -- maybe that was part of the plan. In any case, scattered, sporadic, one-shot efforts have little chance to make an impact. They know that soon we'll all have to go home and get back to our lives, and they can easily wait us out.
But there is an approach that asks of people something so easy, effortless, and free of personal risk that you just might get the participation of the millions necessary to really end this war. And at the same time, it speaks in the language that power understands, and in a way it can't ignore.
Remember 9/11? Lines to give blood wrapped around the block, and the entire country stood at the ready for marching orders, practically pleading for meaningful ways to sacrifice for the common good. And how did our president respond? "Go shopping."
Well, times have changed -- boy, have they. So if Bush's way of having us help him fight his war was to go shopping, I say the way to end it is just as simple -- stop shopping.
or all the talk about how the United States has been transformed into a corporatocracy, we make a mistake when we view it monolithically. It's true that Halliburton and Exxon/Mobil have made mind-boggling amounts of money off this war. But every dollar you spend putting a tiger in your tank is a dollar you can't spend at the mall, so Sears, Roebuck -- not so much. But you're not likely to hear them speak out. It might cause problems at the club. It might scotch an invitation to join a corporate board, those interlocking mutual admiration societies devoted mainly to padding each other's bank accounts at shareholders' expense -- the easiest money imaginable. After all, if a moral compass or nonconformity was part of their DNA, they would have chosen a different career path. Just look at how they dress. They need our encouragement. They need our help. They need to feel our pain.
So I propose an economic boycott to stop the war and bring the troops home. Not a boycott of any particular war profiteer -- a boycott of everything. One Day to End the War. On the last day of the month (just because that would be easy to remember), if you want the war to end, you don't spend a dime on anything, nothing, nada, zero, zilch. And you keep doing that every month until it's enacted into law -- veto overriden if necessary -- that every last soldier be out of Iraq within one year.
If every one of the 70% of the American public -- more than 200 million people -- that opposes the war were to simply remove their participation from the economy for even a day, do you think that would not have an impact? If every Home Depot and Starbucks, every fast food joint, department store, gas station, and movie theater in the country were to see their sales drop by 70% one day, do you think you would not be heard?
Of course, that's not going to happen. To reach that level of participation would require a massive public education campaign. Liberal blogs and talk radio could surely be brought on board, but those of us involved in those things tend to overestimate their reach (ask Ron Paul). And you could expect no help from free media -- their advertisers would scream. So you probably need paid media (and even then, paid media might be denied too on the grounds of "controversial advertising." Not spending money to end an illegal war -- controversial. Buying gym shoes made by slave laborers in Asia -- not controversial). But assuming you could do paid media, I have no clue what that would cost, but . . . well, it ain't me, babe (although if you know George Soros, you might send him this link).
But if you could get even half of war opponents to participate -- participate in non-participation -- or even 30%, that would translate into a 20% drop in consumer activity at the low end, and that's enough to be noticed. These are people to whom a few percentage points of market share -- even tenths of a percentage point -- mean millions of dollars. "Pennies per pound," Kris Kristofferson says in the movie, Fast Food Nation. "Pennies per pound." Comfortable lives for heirs yet unborn are at stake. They care.
To some extent, this action would be symbolic. Most economic activity would simply be transferred to the day before or the day after the event, but not all. You're not going to eat at McDonalds today just because you didn't yesterday, and the retailers don't want to pay their "associates" to stand around all day, even if they might be a little busier tomorrow. And symbolic actions can matter. Gandhi's Salt March was largely symbolic, and the British Empire began to crack.
The beauty of the idea is that, unlike a march, it requires so little effort to participate, and also so little risk. You can't get arrested for it. You can't get fired for it. Indeed, it requires more effort to not participate. At most, you have to break a few habits like the ritual morning Starbucks stop, and think ahead if you're going to need gas or groceries. But you still have the heightened awareness of taking action. (The biggest problem would be getting people to not go out for lunch. I know people who would consider that an almost inconceivable sacrifice, the obesity epidemic and the example of Ramadan notwithstanding.) And the kinds of locally-initiated protests that are already occurring could and should continue -- friendly reminder pickets at shopping centers would be helpful -- but tying them into a boycott would provide them with a common focus nationwide, rather than the disparate, isolated events they now are.
And heck, with Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz now putting the long-term cost of the war at $3 trillion -- and every last penny of it on your credit card -- setting aside one day a month to not spend money strikes me as just a minimally prudent savings plan. You can hardly afford not to do it It will be easy for me. For me, SARS stands for "Shopping Avoidance Reflex Syndrome." I hold up a silver cross at the very sight of a mall. For more normal people, the first month may be tough, but the second will be easier, and by the third, as you realize 24 hours without shopping does not lead to physical withdrawal, you might start to find it liberating, and you might begin to find all kinds of occasions to not shop. That's what would terrify them. That's what threatens the whole basis of their economy, society, existence. That's the chance they can't afford to take.
So this week, by all means, march, vigil, write your Congressman, wear orange, call in sick, make as big a pain-in-the-butt of yourself as you can. Raise hell!
But if, after March 19, you then go back to business as usual, it will all be for naught. We'll be back to cursing the spinelessness and duplicity of Democrats and bemoaning our own powerlessness.

So on March 31, join me. Don't shop.

Winter Soldier in the Press (Slate Magazine)

Vet in a Suit: Testimony from the Iraq Veterans Against the Wa.

Posted, by Anthony Swofford to Slate Magazine, March 17, 2008


It's been determined that taxi drivers have the most dangerous job in Iraq, and if the Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldier event this past weekend had taken place in Baghdad, my taxi driver might have gotten us both killed. Luckily, it occurred at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md. On Friday morning, as we entered the campus from the Beltway, a dozen or so protesters held signs denouncing the testifying soldiers: "WINTER SOLDIER MY ASS," one read. Security was tight. The Montgomery County sheriff's department operated out of a mobile unit that looked so innocuous you might have assumed they were selling corn dogs after a Little League game. But the paramilitary attire of the nearby riot-ready cops would quickly disabuse you of that notion. By the campus' entryway stood a group of IVAW supporters acting as further security. My taxi driver tried to dodge them but got held up by a burly, middle-aged guy. "What is going on?" asked the driver.
What was going on? Approximately 55 former members of the U.S. military were preparing to testify about the ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan—or what the IVAW consistently refers to as "occupations." No brainchild of the Pentagon, IVAW modeled its conference after the controversial 1971 Winter Soldier event that vivified (some say fictionalized) war crimes, human rights abuses, and military waste then occurring in Vietnam. The IVAW has three unifying aims: immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations for the Iraqi people, and consistent and reliable medical care for all veterans of the war. Over the course of four days, the conference planned to address the continual breakdown and failure of military rules of engagement, the long-term societal cost of the war in the form of broken families and broken minds, the drastic privatization of the war in Iraq, racism and sexism in the military, and the future of GI resistance. And with Winter Soldier, the IVAW hoped to gain more media attention for the anti-war movement.
Entering the hall where the testimony was taking place, you might have thought you were at a "peace and social justice" conference at a Pacific Northwest liberal-arts college. Many of the audience members sported gray ponytails, and some of the security staff were members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. But most of the IVAW soldiers testifying were born after 1982. For them, the Vietnam War brings up images of Pvt. Pyle from Full Metal Jacket and Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. Many participants of Winter Soldier 1971 had worn combat fatigues, and the event had come together catch-as-catch-can, with few resources and little polish; but Winter Soldier 2008 felt like a finely produced corporate workshop. The women I saw testify were in business attire. And while some of the men were in faded fatigues and desert boonie caps, hip-slung jeans, and hoodies, just as many wore suits or sport jackets. These are the new anti-war vets, and they know how to use image and technology to their advantage.
Jose Vasquez, IVAW board member and president of the New York chapter, told me, "I'm interested in professionalizing the organization." Vasquez served nearly 14 years in the active-duty Army and the Army reserve, initially as a cavalry scout and later posting as a training NCO for battle medics. It looked to me as though he'd left the barracks just hours ago. He made me—a former Marine—want to shave my unruly beard, tuck in my shirt, and knock out 20 four-count push-ups for good measure.
Born in the Bronx, Vasquez grew up in California and signed up for the Army in 1992 at the age of 17. Now pursuing a Ph.D. in anthropology, he's a soft-spoken man who cared deeply for the Army and the soldiers he warmly calls "Joes"; he'd planned to spend 30 years serving his country. After 9/11, he would have served in Afghanistan with few reservations; but by the time his unit got the call for Iraq in 2005, he'd been having doubts not only about the efficacy of the war but about the morality of serving. As a medic, he patched soldiers' wounds so that they could head out on another mission and kill again. After "a lot of soul-searching," Vasquez applied for conscientious-objector status, and more than a year later he separated from the Army with an honorable discharge. When he described the day he told the men he led that he was not going to Iraq with them, Vasquez sounded remorseful and sad. He misses the Army and his Joes.
Critics will instantly identify any soldier testifying about immoral behavior on the battlefield as a bad seed. So Vasquez implemented an exhaustive process to confirm the veracity of the testimony being offered; his title is "IVAW verification team leader." Drawing on his background as an anthropologist, he trained 14 team members, mostly combat vets, in the verification process. Membership in IVAW was not required in order to offer testimony. "We were willing at least to take testimony from anybody, whether or not they were a member. They didn't even have to agree with our points of unity. If you had a story to tell about Iraq and you were able to prove your service, then we would give you a venue to spread that word." All told, approximately 140 people have come forward to offer testimony. It wasn't possible to have everyone testify this weekend, but Vasquez vows that IVAW will give anyone with a story to tell the venue to do so.
Clifton Hicks, a dead ringer for a young Matt Dillon, served in the Army as a tank driver and .50-caliber machine gunner from 2003 to 2004. His own testimony—among other things, he recalled watching a five-building apartment complex full of civilians being riddled with gunfire from a warplane—troubled him deeply. When I spoke to him Saturday morning, the totality of the first day of Winter Soldier was wearing heavily on him. He told me that for the first time since becoming an anti-war activist, he felt like quitting. Re-experiencing the destruction of war and thinking about friends who had died made him feel again "that I no longer cared about my life. … I felt like the only way I could make things right is to just strip my clothing and walk naked back to Florida, you know. … Just pay a penance or something." A panel on Friday about the rules of engagement, Hicks said, was "hard-hitting." During it, much of the testimony was of witness: abuse of Iraqi prisoners and detainees, indiscriminate firing in urban areas, the quick erosion of the rules as soon as someone in a unit died. As Hicks told me, "That [panel] was the personal shit, the upfront shit. I murdered shitloads of people. Not 'I saw shitloads of people die from a distance and thought it was funny.' "
Jon Turner, a former Marine and current resident of Burlington, Vt., looks like he'd be more comfortable playing footbag or Frisbee than firing a weapon. On Friday afternoon, he'd given some of the more dramatic testimony. He opened by saying, "There is a term, 'Once a Marine, always a Marine.' But there is also a term, 'Eat the apple, F the corps.' " He then ripped off the ribbons pinned to his shirt, threw them to the ground, and declared, "I don't work for you no more." He had served two tours in Iraq with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion of the 8th Marines, operating in Ramadi and Fallujah. He then played a few videos he'd made while in Iraq. The first video he played was of his executive officer, after having called in a 500-pound bomb, saying, "I think I just killed half the population of northern Ramadi. Fuck the red tape."
Then he played video of a missile attack on a Ministry of Health building. He spoke about the standard procedure of a "weapon drop": When mistakes are made, you drop a weapon on the innocent dead man so it appears he was a combatant. He showed photos of a man's brain. "This wasn't my kill, it was my friend's," he stated.
When the next image of a corpse appeared on the big screens in the hall, he continued, "On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed kill. Ahh. This man was innocent. I don't know his name. I call him the Fat Man. He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and father. The first round didn't kill him after I hit him up here in his neck area. And afterward he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend who I was on post with and said, 'Well, can't let that happen.' So I took another shot and took him out." It took seven members of the Fat Man's family to move his body.
After his first kill, Turner says, "My company commander personally congratulated me as he did everyone else in our company. This is the same individual who had stated that whoever gets their first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four-day pass when we return from Iraq."
On Saturday, Turner and I sat outside on a bench. Some of his buddies were playing Frisbee nearby and a mutt dog named Resistance ran around on the grass, yapping among the former soldiers. Jon had a number of tattoos, nothing new for a military guy, but the ones that most interested me were the five small crosses on his left wrist, for the five KIAs of Kilo Company, and the Arabic script on his right wrist, which, he claimed, meant "fuck you." He had this on his right wrist because, as he said during his testimony, it was his "choking wrist." He left us all to imagine what that meant.
Jon has shaggy blond hair and a scraggly beard and a comely, easy smile. In him, I saw the ghost of a young, sweet kid who had joined the corps because he loved his country and he wanted to help protect it. And I saw the hardened and haunted young man who spends a lot of time chasing demons he thought he'd left in Iraq, among them the Fat Man and a man who had the unfortunate luck of bicycling by Jon's checkpoint on a day when Jon simply wanted to kill and the media embed was with another platoon, so his platoon had free rein.
Jon has PTSD. Jon has quit drinking and smoking. He still dips tobacco, but that's a minor thing, considering. He doesn't do therapy—got tired of that—but he talks to his friends from IVAW, better therapy than anything. He's started making art, and with a buddy in Burlington he makes combat paper—he reconstitutes camouflage uniforms Marines have worn in combat, turning the uniforms into paper that he binds into books. He's writing some poetry. He's trying to make something good from the waste that was Iraq.

Blogging the Winter Soldiers

My Testimony as a 'Winter Soldier' Witness

Posted, by Logan Laituri, to God's Politics, March 17, 2008


During the last four days, more than 100 Iraq Veterans Against the War combat veterans, academics, and international guests shared their experiences with the world through Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations. They offered their accounts in the hopes that they would induce a bit of accountability in the halls of Congress, and detailed the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the occupations of the few who profit, whose profession it is to ensure the longevity of this and other violent conflicts.
My own involvement was in the form of bearing witness [click here to watch the video] to the intricacies and fallibilities of the Rules of Engagement I encountered in my 14 months in combat. Many other panelists offered corroborating evidence and shared similar stories of inadequate training in the use of deadly force, and some explained the troubling, but verifiable, cases in which such restrictions were utterly ignored or outright rejected. In other panels, testifiers shared their experience with the failure of the VA system, outlined the presence of gender discrimination and racism in the military, and described corporate pillaging and war profiteering. The entire event was streamed live to the Web via IVAW's Web site and blogged live via KPFA Radio. Many news articles were written as a result, and the Department of Defense even issued a statement.
I was in the minority as a professed Christian, and I cannot blame my fellow compatriots for their occasional discomfort with the oft-misrepresented ideologies (Religious Right) of the Christian tradition. To my surprise, it was difficult to even blurt out in my own testimony that it was my faith, and not a reaction to the political, economic, or social reality of these conflicts, that inspired me to lay my weapon down. Furthermore, there was no shortage of personal courage displayed throughout the entire event: testifiers ripping off or tearing up the burdensome medals they wore, tears shed in bitter remorse and agony, and (unfortunately) failure to control one's language in frustration and angst. Our critics (whom we invited beforehand, and whom politely agreed to a rigorous code of conduct—to which they submitted faithfully and respectfully) even had some constructive, informative observations to share.
The weekend was never cast as a protest; there were no picket signs or chanting, no march or formation, and it was closed to the public (making the "Gathering of Eagles" just off campus the only actual protesters in attendance). The members and guests who gave "testimony" (a term with which we in the church are well-versed) did so only in the sense that it was an "account" of their experience.
There was one interruption, during the first panel on Friday, where an older gentleman trespassed onto the campus and shouted that people "lied and good men died." He also speculated that those testifying were betraying good men. Interestingly enough, he was NOT talking about our current commander in chief, who is not only directly responsible (according to military tradition and the UCMJ) for the 4,468 American lives lost under his watch, but also for 935 "false statements" (isn't that the same as a "lie?") his administration made in the months leading up to the invasion of a nation we ourselves armed and financed. Besides, the gospels remind us to be wary of any king of men who would reap what he does not sow, or burden his subjects with a yoke he would not carry himself.
Finally, as carefully as I chose to tread with my own faith background, the immense healing properties of confession were hard to ignore. Tears flowed and men of the highest caliber embraced unashamed and readily admitted their reliance on one another. It was an awesome experience that I will forever be proud to have been part of. These honest and humble accounts are a much-needed and too often overlooked offering that has been laid before the American people, a heavy yoke broken by the power of confession and repentance by contrite hearts.
Will America answer the call to metanoia and turn from its destructive, exploitative ways? Will we lay the idols of oil and nationalism and greed upon the altar, and seek a more firm and lasting peace with our neighbors in the global community?
Will we no longer be a reproach to the nations around us, victims of our own arrogance and unconcern?
Insha'allah; God willing.

Winter Soldier in the Press (Oneonta Daily Star)

Listen to our soldiers speak

Letter, by Paddy Lane, to the editor of the Oneonta Daily Star, March 15 2008


It's time to let soldiers speak for themselves about the Iraq war.
Politicians have constantly changed the rationale for our being there, and media images avoid tough realities of what that war is actually like. On March 13-16, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are testifying about the on-the-ground realities of these two wars and about their treatment by veterans' services on their return. In an event titled, "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan," about 300 veterans are gathering in Silver Springs, Md., for four days of testimony about the war by those who have actually lived it.
The event is based on a similar conference held by veterans of the Vietnam War in 1971. The name "Winter Soldier" refers to Founding Father Thomas Paine's characterization of the people who stand up for the soul of their country, even in its darkest hours.
Preparation for the testimony has been meticulous _ speakers have been carefully screened and stories have been verified both by other soldiers and, where possible, on the ground in Iraq. Photos and video footage will make up a key element of the testimony. The event will combine soldier testimonies and expert panels on a list of topics, a schedule of which is available on IVAW's website. The testimony can be heard live by streaming online or, on Friday and Saturday on satellite dish, on Free Speech TV (see www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier).
Aaron Hughes, an Iraq veteran who initiated this effort, says, "This is a moment when veterans won't let anyone else speak for us. We hear from the pundits, we hear from the politicians, ... (but) ... We're the ones who can bring out the cruelties and dehumanization in U.S. foreign policy."
Paddy Lane, New Berlin

An open letter to the IVAW

This letter was posted to the Vet Voice Blog, March 17, 2008


Ladies and Gentlemen,
I had the distinct privilege of working Security in the main room during the Winter Soldier testimony. During the four days we were at the National Labor College, I met over half of you and made it a point to say welcome home to everyone I met.
I salute you all. Who would have thought that we would be doing the same shit after 37 years? But it was necessary and ya'll did a marvelous job. You have reached many Americans both in and out of this country. The proof were the emails you received from a platoon Sergeant in Iraq and the soldiers who complained that their Sergeant shut off the broadcast in their day room.
The topics were relevant, well moderated and most importantly, right on friggin target. You covered everything from Veterans health care to building the GI resistance movement. Every single panelist (and the entire IVAW membership) is to be congratulated for your courage and your patriotism.
The staff at the National Labor College were always present and always helpful. Congratulations to all of you.
You Guys are now on point. We have your backs.
Peace out.

Winter Soldier in the Press (Boston Globe)

Veterans recall horrors of war in live broadcast

Posted, by Anna Badkhen, to the Boston Globe, March 16, 2008


CAMBRIDGE - Liz Jackson's eyes were fixed on a screen showing a live broadcast of anguished testimonies by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans describing what they had seen and done during their combat tours.
Jeffery Smith recalled how his Army unit beat and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. Former Marine Bryan Casler recounted how fellow Marines urinated and defecated into food and gave it to Iraqi children. Former Marine Matthew Childers talked about how he used to humiliate Iraqi civilians during predawn raids on their homes. When he described turning away an Iraqi father who was asking American troops to help the badly burned baby he carried in his arms, Jackson began to weep silently.
"These soldiers are saying: 'I'm complicit,' " said Jackson, 29, a community organizer from Cambridge. "But every American citizen who saw this happen and isn't out there protesting is complicit. I include myself."
Hundreds of soldiers and Marines from across the country are testifying this weekend in the "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" hearings, a four-day event held at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md. The event is named after the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings in which Vietnam War veterans testified in a Detroit hotel about war crimes they had participated in or witnessed.
The hearings, which began Thursday and end today, were organized by the Iraq Veterans Against War, a national antiwar organization, and broadcast live in locations across the country. The veterans who testified called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
"In the United States today people's minds have gotten off the war. We are trying to get their attention," said Paul Shannon, whose New England United antiwar network organized the live screening shown yesterday in First Parish Unitarian Church in Harvard Square, in a side room that was packed with about 300 antiwar activists, former troops, local residents like Jackson, and curious passersby.
On Friday, more than a dozen Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from Massachusetts drove to Silver Spring to observe and participate in the hearings.
One of them, Ian J. Lavallee, an Iraq war veteran from Jamaica Plain, said in a phone interview yesterday that although he was not planning to testify, he wanted to attend the hearings because it was his "duty to the people of the world" to condemn an "occupation that is being waged in our name and with our tax dollars."
"We dehumanized people. The way we spoke about them, the way we destroyed their livelihoods, their families, doing raids, manhandling them, throwing the men on the ground while their family was crying," recalled Lavallee, 23, who served in Iraq in 2005 and was honorably discharged from the Army in 2006 after he attempted suicide.
"I became a person I never thought I would become," he said. "It really upset me that I did these things."
From a folding chair in the Cambridge church, a fellow veteran, Patrick Dougherty, watched the hearings intently.
"It just takes me back there," he said. The testimonies reminded him "how malicious we were over there."
Dougherty, who was deployed to Baghdad and Mahmoudiya for 14 months beginning in 2003, "felt from the start that we had no intention to win hearts and minds," he said, his hands nervously running from the stubble on his chin to his hair and back to his chin.
"The way we treated our detainees like animals, kept them in cages in the hot sun all day - " said Dougherty, 24, who studies biology at the University of Massachusetts and lives in Fields Corner.
Dougherty was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he had considered testifying at the Winter Soldier hearings, but his doctor talked him out of it because the event could conjure memories too difficult for the veteran to bear.
Most of the people who came to watch the testimonies were members of antiwar groups in Massachusetts. Jennifer Magee, who works at Harvard University Art Museums, came because her roommate, an antiwar activist, had told her about it.
"These are the stories you never hear in the paper," said Magee. "It's really powerful to hear from the veterans."
Charles Gluck, a social worker from Long Island who was visiting Cambridge yesterday, wandered in after he saw a poster outside the church advertising the event.
"Some of the things I heard were shocking," Gluck said after listening to several testimonies. "My hope is that a movement like this would expand and . . . give people opportunity to make a more informed decision as to who the next president will be."

.

Winter Soldier in the Press (Democracy Now)

Winter Soldier: Hundreds of Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Gather to Testify in Echo of 1971 Vietnam Hearing

Democracy Now!, March 14 2008


Hundreds of veterans and active-duty soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are gathering today for the Winter Soldier hearings. The soldiers plan to give eyewitness accounts of the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, the gathering is modeled after the 1971 Winter Solider hearings organized by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. [includes rush transcript]
Guests:

"Winter Soldier", –excerpt from film about the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings by Milliarium Zero and the WinterFilm Collective. More information at Wintersoldierfilm.com
David Cortright, Vietnam war veteran and author of the Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War. He is a professor of peace studies at the University of Notre Dame.
Phil Aliff, up until last week he was an active-duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum in New York, the most deployed base in the country. He served nearly one year in Iraq from August 2005 to July 2006, in Fallujah and the city of Abu Ghraib. In 2007, he refused to return to Iraq with his unit. He is president of the Ft. Drum chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and has focused on organizing GI resistance within the active-duty military.
Bill Perry, member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War who testified at the original Winter Soldier hearings in 1971.
Tanya Austin, active-duty soldier who is an organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War. She is an Arab linguist specializing in military intelligence.
Camilo Mejia, the first soldier to refuse to return to fight in Iraq and the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He is author of The Road from ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia.
Rush Transcript
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we’re broadcasting from Silver Spring, Maryland, the site of Winter Soldier. Hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans plan to give eyewitness accounts to atrocities committed by US troops. We’ll speak with veterans, active-duty soldiers and play excerpts from the original Winter Soldier hearings held in 1971 by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. All that and more, hundreds of veterans here in—outside Silver Spring.
We’re going to turn right now, go back in time to 1971, to John Kerry, John Kerry testifying in the Winter Soldier hearings organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In a moment, we will be joined by some of the soldiers who plan to testify this weekend. Now, though, 1971, John Kerry, the future senator and presidential candidate, testifying before Congress about the original Winter Soldier hearings.

JOHN KERRY: Several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with a full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It’s impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. But they did. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.
They told the stories of times that they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam, in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
We called this investigation the Winter Soldier Investigation. The term "winter soldier" is a play on words of Thomas Paine’s in 1776, when he spoke of the "Sunshine Patriot" and "summertime soldiers" who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough. And we who’ve come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country, and we could be quiet. We could hold our silence. We could not tell what went on in Vietnam. But we feel, because of what threatens this country, the fact that the crimes threaten it, not reds, not red coats, but the crimes which we’re committing are what threaten it, and we have to speak out.
I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam. The country doesn’t know it yet, but it’s created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kerry, 1971, talking about the first Winter Soldier hearing. Today, thirty-seven years later, we’re at the National Labor College just outside Washington, D.C. in Silver Spring. Another Winter Soldier is taking place, hundreds of veterans, active-duty soldiers, soldiers who have just returned are gathering for a weekend of testimony.
We’re joined right now by Camilo Mejia. He is chair of the board of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. IVAW is what it’s known as.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
CAMILO MEJIA: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Camilo Mejia is a former staff sergeant, Army guard from Florida. Tell us about the Winter Soldier and why even the name. Give us the history.
CAMILO MEJIA: Well, Winter Soldier, actually, we’re borrowing from the first Winter Soldier hearings held in ’71 by Vietnam Veterans Against the War about their eyewitness experiences in that war. And this time around, we’re basically following the tradition of resistance in the military by gathering veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to testify about our eyewitness accounts in those two wars.
AMY GOODMAN: Who’s here?
CAMILO MEJIA: We have over 250 registered Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and we also have members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace and other military family groups, such as Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace. And we’re also going to have people testifying from the civilian perspective from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
AMY GOODMAN: Camilo Mejia, you’ve been on Democracy Now! before. You served close to a year in the brig in prison. Talk about, very briefly—you wrote a book about your experience, Road from ar Ramadi—what happened to you, how you ended up in Iraq, how you came back, how you were jailed.
CAMILO MEJIA: I ended up in Iraq because about four months before my—the end of my service, I was stop-loss, which means that my contract was involuntarily extended. And I deployed to Iraq in April of 2003. And although I had deployed with a political opposition to the war, I was not necessarily—I did not have the moral strength needed to take a stance against it.
But when I arrived in Iraq, the first mission we had was one in which we kept prisoners sleep-deprived for periods of up to three days in order to soften them up for interrogation. And because of the way that our leadership was conducting itself, driven mostly by ambition and with total disregard for the lives of civilians, we ended up killing a lot of unarmed people. And a lot of these things were things that could have been prevented, but that were not, not because soldiers on the ground are bad apples or wake up one day as monsters, but because there’s a policy behind everything that we do that is criminal.
So, upon my return to the United States on a two-week furlough, I decided that I could not go back to Iraq in good conscience. And I, instead of going back, began to work on a conscientious objector claim and to put together a case to bring before a military tribunal. And I surrendered, and I went public and I denounced the war. And two months after my surrender, I was tried by a court-martial and found guilty of desertion and sent to jail on a one-year sentence and demoted from staff sergeant to private and given a bad-conduct discharge, which I am appealing. And then, after nine months in jail—I got out three months earlier because of good conduct—I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, and I have been active with the organization ever since.
AMY GOODMAN: Your family is from Nicaragua, Camilo Mejia. There is a very interesting juxtaposition of events here right now. Winter Soldier, the testimony that’s taking place this weekend here just outside Washington, and late last night, for only the sixth time in history, Congress held a secret session that was completely closed. The last time it was held was 1983, when Congress was debating supporting the Contras in Nicaragua.
CAMILO MEJIA: Right. My father is from Nicaragua. My mother is from Costa Rica. Both were really involved in the resistance to overthrow the US-backed dictatorship of Samosa. And that is a background that I have with me, but I believe that the thing that had the most influence on me was the fact that they always stood for their principles, and I believe that that’s exactly what everyone who is testifying at these hearings is doing. You know, we’re not really driven by a political agenda, but we’re driven by, you know, our human nature, you know, the nature that tells you that you should not travel halfway across the world to brutalize a country for no reason.
AMY GOODMAN: Camilo Mejia is a former Army staff sergeant, Army guard from Florida, here at the Winter Soldier, the accounts that will be given this weekend of the occupations and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The book about his experience has just come out on paperback that he wrote, The Road from ar Ramadi.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll be joined by David Cortright. He was there during the Vietnam War. He’ll talk about those original hearings. We will also be joined by Dennis Kucinich to talk about the secret session of Congress, the congressman from Cleveland. Stay with us.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from National Labor College just outside Washington, D.C. in Silver Spring. Hundreds of veterans, active-duty soldiers, soldiers who have just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan are here to testify in the second Winter Soldier hearing. We’re going to go back now, though, in time to February 1971 to the original Winter Soldier.

JOE BANGERT: The first day I got to Vietnam, I landed in Da Nang Air Base, got off the plane and hitchhiked on Highway 1 to my new unit—to my unit. I was picked up by a truckload of grunt Marines with two company grade officers, first lieutenants. We were about five miles down the road, where there were some Vietnamese children at the gateway to the village, and they gave the old finger gesture at us. It was understandable that they picked this up from the GIs there. They stopped the truck—they didn’t stop the truck, they slowed down a little bit. And it was just like response. The guys got up, including the lieutenants, and just blew all the kids away. It was about five or six kids blown away there. And then the truck just moved—continued down the hill. That was my first day in Vietnam.
In Quang Tri City, I had a friend who was—he was working with USAID. And one time he asked me would I like to accompany him to watch. He was an adviser with an ARVN group, and he asked me if I would like to accompany him into a village that I was familiar with to see how they act. So I went with him, and they didn’t find any enemy, but they found a woman with bandages. So she was questioned with about—she was questioned by six ARVNs, and the way that they questioned her was, since she had bandages, they shot her. She was hit about twenty times. So, after she was questioned and, of course, dead, this guy came over who was—and knowing him, he was a former major, he was in the service for twenty years, and he got hungry again and came back over working with USAID, Aid International Development—and he went over there and ripped her clothes off and took a knife and cut from her vagina all the way up—well, just about up to her breasts and pulled her organs out, completely out of her cavity, and threw them out. And then he stopped and knelt over and commenced to peel every bit of skin off her body and left her there as a sign for something or other.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the testimony from Winter Soldier, a hearing in February of 1971. It took place in Detroit. We’re joined by David Cortright right now. He is a Vietnam War veteran, author of the landmark book, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War, now a professor of peace studies at the University of Notre Dame.
Welcome to Democracy Now!.
DAVID CORTRIGHT: Good morning
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Cortright, tell us about these Winter Soldier hearings, the gory descriptions, the atrocities these soldiers are describing they engaged in themselves.
DAVID CORTRIGHT: Yeah, this was part of our experience during the GI movement, the resistance movement of the soldiers and veterans in the Vietnam era. And many of us who were part of that experience learned that what we had been told by our leaders was false, it was a lie, and what we saw on the ground was horrible. And our political leaders put the Armed Forces in a situation that was impossible. It was a criminal situation. The policy itself was a crime. Free-fire zones, the bombings, the destruction of villages that was a common part of the routine of our experience during Vietnam meant that soldiers were being asked to commit criminal acts. And those of us who were a part of that increasingly spoke out, and the original hearing in 1971 was a powerful and dramatic event, when more than 100, 150 veterans came and gave testimony.
I was still in the Army at the time. I didn’t participate. But I was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, and a couple months later, we had our own war crimes hearing among active-duty soldiers and recent veterans at Fort Bliss. And we had more than a dozen come forward and talk about what had happened. One fellow had been a tail gunner in a helicopter, and he was particularly irate about the fact that Lieutenant Calley—Lieutenant Calley had been indicted for being involved with the My Lai Massacre. And this soldier said, "If Calley was guilty, I was guilty, because what I was told to do was to fly over territory and shoot anything that moved. So if there was a farmer out there with a water buffalo, we shot him. I was asked to do criminal acts while I was in Vietnam, and the whole policy was criminal." So it was a powerful, but important, testimony that our soldiers gave about the nature of this war, trying to wake up our country to the nature of this kind of policy.
AMY GOODMAN: What effect did the Winter Soldier hearing have? We know about it, 2004, because John Kerry ran for president, and he had attended, though not testified, at the Winter Soldier hearing in Detroit.
DAVID CORTRIGHT: Well, I think the voice of the Vietnam veterans was critical to trying to change public opinion. We found later on that the Nixon administration was extremely upset about the VVAW, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The whole spy operation that became Watergate was in part motivated by an attempt to undermine the voice and the legitimacy of the veterans.
But we spoke with real authority. We were there on the ground. We could tell the truth to the American people about what was going on, and that voice was critically important in helping to broaden public understanding of the nature of the war, helped to build antiwar opposition. I think that the voice of the veterans and the soldiers was critically important to forcing our political leaders to end that war. We know that Nixon and company ended the war, not because they saw the folly of what the United States had done or they had changed their imperial policies; they changed the policy because the American people would not stand for it any more, and the soldiers and the veterans who had actually fought the war spoke out to say we are not going to participate in this kind of policy any longer.
AMY GOODMAN: When did the tide turn for soldiers? When was the voice—when did it become the loudest in the Vietnam War?
DAVID CORTRIGHT: Well, if you look at the history of the GI movement, it really began to take off in 1968, and I think it was the whole Tet experience, when we had been told that there was going to be progress, we were achieving the light at the end of the tunnel in Vietnam, and then along came Tet. The worst year of the war was 1968.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain Tet.
DAVID CORTRIGHT: Tet was the uprising, the offensive of the Vietnam resistance to the United States in late January, early February 1968, massive attack all across South Vietnam. It put the lie to what the administration had said about how we’re winning this war. And it was the worst period for the American military. At one point, there were as many as 500 American soldiers dying every week in combat in Vietnam during this period right after Tet in the first half of ’68. So it was the worst period, and it really brought forward to all of us the lie that we had been told and the—we saw the experience.
So the GI movement really took off in ’68 in the Army and the Marine Corps, in particular. And then later on, in ’69 and ’70, when the government shifted to an intensified air war, then we saw growing resistance in the Navy and in the Air Force. So from the period ’68 to ’72, there was a very widespread opposition movement in the military in bases all over the world, in ships, in aircraft carriers. It was really a very widespread phenomenon.
AMY GOODMAN: David Cortright, the significance of what’s happening today, Winter Soldier II, I guess you could say?
DAVID CORTRIGHT: We’re seeing a similar experience. The soldiers and veterans who have been there to Iraq and Afghanistan can see the lie of what we’ve been told. They’re starting to speak out. They’re acting again as the conscience of our nation, trying to alert our citizens that this war—these wars are wrong and that we need a different policy: we have to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. And more fundamentally, we need to end this whole imperial war system that we have in America. We thought we had learned the lesson thirty-five years ago about Vietnam, but our leaders have dragged us again into another series of unjust, illegal wars, and the veterans are saying we have to stop this way of doing business.
AMY GOODMAN: David Cortright, thanks for joining us, now a professor of peace studies at University of Notre Dame, Vietnam-era soldier, author of the landmark book, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. We’re going to go to Congressman Kucinich to get the latest on the secret congressional session that was held last night for the sixth time in history. But first, we’re going to go back to the first Winter Soldier.

SCOTT CAMILE: The calling in of artillery for games, the way it was worked would be the mortar forward observers would call in—we’d pick out certain houses in villages, friendly villages, and the mortar forward observers would call in mortars until they destroyed that house, and then the artillery forward observer would call in artillery until he destroyed another house, and whoever used the least amount of artillery, they won. And then, when we got back, someone would have to buy someone else beers.
And I saw one case where there were two prisoners, and one prisoner was staked out on the ground, and he was cut open while he was alive, and part of his insides were cut out. And they told the other prisoner if he didn’t tell them what they wanted to know, that they would kill him. And I don’t know what he said, because he spoke in Vietnamese, but then they killed him after that anyway.
MODERATOR: Were these primarily civilians, or do you believe that they were—or do you know that they were actual NVA?
SCOTT CAMILE: The way that we distinguished between civilians and VC, VC had weapons and civilians didn’t, and anybody that was dead was considered a VC. If you killed someone, they said, "How do you know he’s a VC?" The general reply would be, "He’s dead," and that was sufficient.
The cutting off of heads—on Operation Stone, there was a lieutenant colonel there, and two people had their heads cut off and put on stakes and stuck in the middle of the field. And we were notified that there were press covering the operation and that we couldn’t do that anymore.
I saw one case where a woman was shot by a sniper, one of our snipers. And when we got up to her, she was asking for water. And the lieutenant said to kill her. So he ripped off her clothes, they stabbed her in both breasts, they spread her eagle and shoved an E- tool up her vagina—an entrenching tool—and she was still asking for water. And then they took that out, and they used a tree limb, and then she was shot.
MODERATOR: Did the men in the—in your outfit, did they seem to think that it was alright to do anything to the Vietnamese?
SCOTT CAMILE: It wasn’t like they were humans, like we were—you know, we were conditioned to believe that, you know, this was for the good of the nation, the good of our country, and anything we did was OK. And like, when you shot someone, you didn’t think you were shooting a human. They were a gook or a Commie, and it was OK.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of the hearing from February 1971 in Detroit, Winter Soldier, where hundreds of soldiers gathered—at that time, it was Vietnam—talking about the atrocities they themselves had engaged in in Vietnam. We, today, are in Silver Spring, Maryland for Winter Soldier for the testimony, for the accounts of Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers and veterans who have come to talk about their own experiences.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from National Labor College, where hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers, veterans have gathered to tell their stories of war and occupation, as we turn now to the issue of resistance within the military. Up until last week, Phil Aliff was an active-duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum in New York. He served nearly a year in Iraq in Fallujah and the city of Abu Ghraib. Last year, he refused to return to Iraq with his unit. He’s been actively organizing soldiers at Fort Drum to oppose the war.
Phil Aliff, welcome to Democracy Now!
PHIL ALIFF: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: You got out on Friday?
PHIL ALIFF: Yes. Yes, I did. I was released from my contract, ETS, which is end of term of service. And so, I finished my three years, and they let me out.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about your time in Iraq at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah.
PHIL ALIFF: Yes. I went to Abu Ghraib City in August of 2005. And when I got there, it had been a few years after the war had started, and we were still seeing the insurgency actually grow larger through those years. And I was right outside of the prison, and so the detainees that we would take from missions would go directly to the prison. And I think that was the thing that people were scared of most in the city, was going to Abu Ghraib prison.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about organizing within the military.
PHIL ALIFF: Organizing in the military, especially for Iraq Veterans Against the War, is incredibly important, because we see the most social power within the antiwar movement being in the hands of GIs and veterans, because for a GI to be able to throw down their weapon and say "I’m not going to fight an illegal war" is the most important aspect, to us, of organizing. And so, being at Fort Drum, being at a place where it’s the most heavily deployed unit in the US military, to be able organize active resistance is key. We’ve actually won a lot of battles for soldiers there, including healthcare benefits, benefits with the VA, and other things.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the key issues, Phil Aliff?
PHIL ALIFF: The key issues are the fact that we’re here today to show that soldiers are not committing these crimes and atrocities in Iraq individually; it’s actually a policy from the top. From the top general to the US President, they’re all implicit. And by sending soldiers to go and fight and die in an illegal war is causing this country to become, you know, polarized, go into a crisis. And so, for us to be able to speak out on our experiences, I think, is most important, to be able to articulate our opposition to the war for the American people and be able to show them that this is something from the top. These atrocities—Abu Ghraib, Haditha—are policies of the US government and not individual soldiers.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the attitude of most soldiers you’ve talked to? What is the attitude at Fort Drum, in Fallujah, where you were in the city of Abu Ghraib?
PHIL ALIFF: The attitude right now is that a lot of soldiers are going back on their third, fourth, fifth deployment, and they’re not seeing any progress. The biggest thing that I heard from soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan was that, you know, I went there, I was told that we were going to be rebuilding the country, and the worst thing to come back to is knowing that we made no progress in the country, that conditions were the same from when we got there ’til when we left. And so, I think that there is a lot of demoralization within the military. I think that’s one of the largest problems. And I think that soldiers right now are looking for another option; they’re looking for something else. The US military is having a very hard time with retention right now, trying to keep people in. And so, for us to be able to bring our brothers and sisters home, I think that that is the most important thing to them right now.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the attitude of your superiors in the military?
PHIL ALIFF: The superiors in the military are very threatened by what we’re doing, because of the fact that we have a voice that we never had—that we didn’t have, you know, a few years ago. We have a way of actually articulating our opposition to the war as veterans, as active-duty members, who have actually been to Iraq and Afghanistan. And so, for the people that they’re sending over there to fight to say that this is—this war is wrong, it’s immoral, it’s illegal, I think is most threatening to them. And it shows the kind of social power that we have that they’re willing to try to discredit us or speak out against us.
AMY GOODMAN: Phil Aliff, the issues of healthcare and veterans?
PHIL ALIFF: Veterans’ healthcare right now is a crisis within the US military and the VA. Traumatic brain injury and PTSD, the two signature wounds of the war, are not being treated at the rate that they should. Soldiers are coming back, and they’re not being screened after ninety days for post-traumatic stress disorder, and there’s no screening for TBI at Fort Drum right now for every soldier coming home. And so, that’s what we want to win, because the crisis right now is so bad that it may take soldiers two years to get VA benefits. And a lot of soldiers are actually missing benefits from the Army, because they’re being discharged for—they’re either being chaptered for personality disorders and pre-existing conditions, or they’re being just let out with no screening at all.
AMY GOODMAN: Your plans this weekend?
PHIL ALIFF: My plans this weekend is to speak out on the war about my experiences and to speak about GI resistance to the American people, because I think that, you know, we’re here today to inspire America, we’re here today to build a movement to end this war. And I think that by creating a dialogue, by creating a way of expressing our opposition, we’re actually creating a spark for the rest of the movement to be able to go forward and win the end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
AMY GOODMAN: You were an Army corporal?
PHIL ALIFF: Yes, ma’am, I was.
AMY GOODMAN: How old are you?
PHIL ALIFF: I’m twenty-one years old.
AMY GOODMAN: You were in the military for how long?
PHIL ALIFF: I was in the military for three-and-a-half years.
AMY GOODMAN: Phil Aliff, I want to thank you for being with us, just out, released on Friday. Phil Aliff, here at the National Labor College for Winter Soldier. As we go back again to 1971, the original Winter Soldier.

NATHAN HALE: I arrived at the base camp of the 1st—of the 1st Cav., which is Hill 29. When I arrived there, my S-2, a captain, told me that my job was to elicit information. This meant that I could elicit information in any means possible. He told me that I could use any technique I can think of, and the idea is "Don’t get caught." And what he meant was, I could beat these people, I could cut 'em, I could probably shoot ’em—I never shot anyone—but I could use any means possible to get information; just don’t beat them in the presence of a non-unit member or person. That’s someone like a visiting officer or perhaps the Red Cross. And I personally used clubs, rifle butts, pistols, knives, and this was always done at Hill 29.
The important point here is that everything I did was always monitored. An interrogator is always monitored. I was monitored by an MP sergeant at Hill 29, who often helped me in my interrogations.

AMY GOODMAN: That was 1971, Detroit, Howard Johnson’s in Detroit. Several Vietnam veterans who testified at the original Winter Soldier hearings are in attendance this weekend, including Bill Perry, longtime member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He served as a combat paratrooper in Vietnam, was wounded in action, suffers from combat PTSD, post-traumatic stress.
Bill Perry, welcome to Democracy Now!
BILL PERRY: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
AMY GOODMAN: So it was a Howard Johnson’s in Detroit. How did it happen then?
BILL PERRY: It was interesting. Eleven of us from Philadelphia were shanghaied pretty much by Dr. Kenny Campbell—teaches at the University of Delaware now—and Dr. Jon Bjornson, who was a—at the time, he was a major and a surgeon in the Army, but he eventually morphed into being a shrink, because he worked with Dr. Bobby Jay Lifton and Dr. Chaim Shatan on developing what we were experiencing in collective situations, in communal situations, dealing with our post-traumatic stress disorder.
Back then, they called it—I mean, it originally was battle fatigue and things like that, and it became Vietnam Syndrome, then post-traumatic stress syndrome. And then, after they observed us and after they took notes on us, after they studied us and did empirical research, it became post-traumatic stress disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III, which has now been pushed up to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, and we’ve got number five coming out next year. So it’s established and accepted worldwide and studied worldwide, and it’s a heck of a thing. It’s been out there for quite a few millennia. You know, Homer with the Iliad and the Odyssey, and all them cats back in the day, they all had it. You know, we’ve had it all through history.
AMY GOODMAN: And how has it affected you?
BILL PERRY: How has it affected me? It has affected me deeply. It’s gotten me for forty years opposing what I consider to be unjust occupations, nasty, unnecessary wars. And it’s gotten—
AMY GOODMAN: But how—post-traumatic stress.
BILL PERRY: It’s gotten to the point, personally, where it was really difficult for me to hold a job for any length of time. I did thirty years in building trades, but I was used oftentimes as a goon. I had problems. I had—I had long-term employment problems. And a lot of times when you have to listen to a second lieutenant, what we used to call "butter bar," nothing, you know, compared to like a platoon sergeant or a staff sergeant, and all of a sudden you’re out in the real life and you’re on a job, maybe on a concrete pourer, maybe you’re doing something—some high bridge work or something, and you’ve got some young snot-nose who’s related to the family or tied into the contractor’s family trying to tell you what to do, and all you want to do is backhand him, you know, or throw him off whatever you’re on, you know, punch him out, knock him out. You lose jobs really quick.
So there’s ways, fortunately, if you’re politically active [inaudible], they know how to utilize your temper, know how to utilize your political aggressiveness, let’s say. But the way—other than anger and some of the more frightening things that come out of the shock and the horror of war, on my particular case is my ability, my desire to give back to fellow GIs. We all took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and I really respect that. Anyone who signs up for something and keeps their end of the bargain and understands what the Constitution is all about, who understands the commander-in-chief was violating the Constitution, when we have these kind of people who put their neck out like that and keep their end of the deal, I have to respect them and have to respect and help them get over what the policy has done to them.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Perry, what are you advising soldiers, vets who are testifying this weekend?
BILL PERRY: Well, we all come out of a society that’s entrenched in the Judeo-Christian culture. And the other ten percent of society that’s not particularly Judeo-Christian also believes in what we call the Fifth Commandment: Thou shall not kill. No matter how big a battery of shrinks, how big a battery of behaviorists, how big a group of psychiatrists, can make a good human being who comes up and believing in "Thou shall not kill" into a cold-blooded killing machine, we can salvage things. We can bring you back, you know, to where you were prior to going in. We can bring you back to what we all believed in back in the day coming up.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Perry, we’re going to go back to 1971, once again, to Winter Soldier, the soldiers who testified, used pictures to illustrate what they were saying.

CARL RIPPBERGER: The first slide you’re going to see shows a prisoner of war. And the way that they tried to get him to talk is by making him stand in front of a pile of Viet Cong bodies that we had picked up.
It’s the same POW, was forced to sit for probably from six to eight hours by this pile of bodies in the hot sun.
It’s a shot of five or six GIs going through the bodies, looking for souvenirs.
In this picture, there’s a lieutenant and a captain overlooking what’s going on.
This is a shot of our interrogator. He took his M-16. He took him and forced him into this prisoner’s nose, and he twisted him, It’s extremely painful.
MODERATOR: Officers were present at all times during this?
CARL RIPPBERGER: Yes, field grade officers were present—were present.
And the next slide is a slide of myself. I’m extremely shameful of it. I’m showing it in hopes that none of you people that have never been involved ever let this happen to you. Don’t ever let your government do this to you. It’s me. I’m holding a dead body, smiling. Everyone in our platoon took two bodies, put them on the back ramp, drove them through a village for show, and dumped them off at the edge of the village.

AMY GOODMAN: Winter Soldier, testimony in 1971, February, in Detroit. We’re here in 2008 in Silver Spring National Labor College, Winter Soldier once again, accounts of occupation and war in Afghanistan and Iraq by soldiers who have gathered here and vets.
Tanya Austin is with us right now. She was active-duty until 2004. She was an Arabic linguist. She is with Iraq Veterans Against the War and will be testifying.
Welcome.
TANYA AUSTIN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up today’s show, what will you be saying this weekend?
TANYA AUSTIN: I’m going to be testifying about the VA health system and how the way to deal with PTSD is first by just over-medicating and not giving the chance to have someone to talk to, because there are too many soldiers who need counseling and not enough counselors. So, me, personally, it was a year after being medicated before I had a chance to actually speak with someone. And they actually put me on a wrong medication that caused an increase in suicidal feelings, because a lot of antidepressants do that. Luckily, I was able to get off of that one and onto something else. But it’s just to show how the VA is so under-equipped to be dealing with today’s soldiers. I mean, people come back from Iraq, Afghanistan or even just duty here in the United States, and they don’t have the outlet in the room in the VA in order to get the treatment they need and deserve.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you serve?
TANYA AUSTIN: I served stateside. I can’t say more than that, because I was in Military Intelligence.
AMY GOODMAN: Arab linguist.
TANYA AUSTIN: Yes, I was. I was an Arabic linguist.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about your time served?
TANYA AUSTIN: I’m proud of what I did to serve my country, do not like what we are doing, obviously, by being here.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re also giving someone else’s testimony.
TANYA AUSTIN: Yes, I am. I’m going to be giving testimony of someone who was in the Coast Guard who was raped, and the Coast Guard decided to cover it up and actually discharge her, because she wouldn’t drop the charges. She is not able to give her own testimony because of ongoing legal matters. But it’s a very heart-wrenching story how the Coast Guard covered up her rape and also the fact that she was beaten by one of her fellow shipmates.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about those who say this is the greatest outrage, for soldiers to be speaking out against their service?
TANYA AUSTIN: I think it’s just the actual 100 percent opposite of that. There’s no one who knows better than the soldiers. No one knows better than those of us who have served in today’s military, who have seen what we’ve seen, heard what we’ve heard and done what we’ve done. And for all of us that are here, I see nothing more than absolute patriotism by coming out and speaking out about what we see and what we’ve done.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid of suffering repercussions from within the military?
TANYA AUSTIN: No, because I know what I’m doing is right. And doing what is right and what is easy is often two different things.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Tanya Austin, for joining us, in Military—was in Military Intelligence—
TANYA AUSTIN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —Arab linguist here at Winter Soldier, the accounts that are going to be given today, all day today, Saturday and Sunday by soldiers, veterans, about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is going to be broadcast live throughout the day at ivaw.org. That’s Iraq Veterans Against the War (dot) org. Pacifica Radio stations will be running it, and affiliates. Free Speech TV, as well, Channel 9415 of DISH Network, will be broadcasting these hearings, gavel to gavel. And Democracy Now! will continue to bring you what happened throughout the weekend next week.

Winter Soldier in the Press (uruknet)

Winter Soldier: Bitter Truths From Those Who Know

This was posted, by Winter Patriot, to Uruknet, March 15 2008


This weekend, as we approach the fifth anniversary of the American invasion of a defenseless oil-rich country which never threatened us, Iraq Veterans Against the War are presenting the testimonies of soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of civilians who have lived through the invasion and occupation of their country.
The event is called "Winter Soldier", and you can watch it happen (or watch archived video) here.
Apparently it isn't worth a mention in our allegedly liberal "paper of record".

Your search - site:nytimes.com "winter soldier" - did not match any documents.

But Saturday's Washington Post has a piece on page B1, the web version of which (much to the WaPo's credit) actually links to the IVAW website!
The WaPo piece, by Steve Vogel, gives the Pentagon a chance to speak, and cleverly leaves no doubt as to the value of the verbiage.

A Defense Department spokesman said he had not seen the allegations raised yesterday but added that such incidents are not representative of U.S. conduct.
"When isolated allegations of misconduct have been reported, commanders have conducted comprehensive investigations to determine the facts and held individuals accountable when appropriate," Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said.

How laughable this would be if it were not so tragic. Mark Ballesteros hasn't even seen the allegations but he can already assure us that they're false!
This is an unprovoked war of aggression -- the invasion and occupation of a defenseless, non-threatening country -- the ultimate crime against humanity. That's not an isolated allegation of misconduct; that's a fact!
The so-called "War on Terror" is in fact a barbaric assault on several foreign counties simultaneously (Afghanistan and Iraq directly, and Somalia and Pakistan by proxy, with even more countries in the cross-hairs). It has killed at least a million people and ruined the lives of millions and millions of others. And all the reasons officially given for it have turned out to be not just false but ludicrous!
It's a crime of monstrous proportions, and the individuals who ought to be held accountable are still at large. But instead we get this ... so let's wait a while and see whether Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros can stuff his head all the way up into his small intestine. Oh, my mistake! There was no need to wait!
Vogel's piece bends over backwards to go the "fair and balanced" route, giving plenty of space to obvious liars of all types. But that seems to be the price of admission in post-democratic America, so it's not surprising.
And yet, the article also includes some nuggets of truth.

Former Marine Jon Turner began his presentation by ripping his service medals off his shirt and tossing them into the first row. He then narrated a series of graphic photographs showing bloody victims and destruction, bringing gasps from the audience. In a matter-of-fact voice, he described episodes in which he and fellow Marines shot people out of fear or retribution.
"I'm sorry for the hate and destruction I've inflicted upon innocent people," Turner said. "Until people hear about what is happening in this war, it will continue."

I couldn't agree more, and in fact this is the key reason why the government and the "news" media don't want us to know what is happening in this war.
Not just this war, of course: they don't want us to know what happens in any war. If everybody thought Rambo was realistic, the warmongers would be very happy. They do their best to control what we see, and it works very well for them, unless we go looking.
So we can't just sit passively and watch TV, or go to Hollywood movies for our worldly education. If we want the truth about what our country does in the world, we have to pay attention to the people who have done it, and listen carefully to the people to whom it was done.

Two former soldiers who served with the 1st Armored Division described an attack by an AC-130 "Spectre" gunship ... on an apartment building in southern Baghdad that they said took place Nov. 13, 2003.
"It was the most destructive thing I've seen, before or since," said [Cliff] Hicks, one of the soldiers.
"These are not bad people, not criminals and not monsters," said [Hicks]. "They are people being put in horrible situations, and they reacted horribly."

Horrible is right! And the most horrible aspect is that there is no reason for any of these horrible situations -- unless you count the part where we lost control of our electoral system, or the part where the real news vanished from our "news" media, or the fear generated by obvious false-flag terror, or the stupidity that somehow in modern America acts like a gas and fills all the available space.
Other than these relevant yet unrelated issues, there's no good reason for any of our soldiers to be in any horrible positions.
Unless you count the oil.

Adam Kokesh, a student at George Washington University who served with the Marine Corps in Iraq, said Marines were often forced to make snap decisions about whether to fire on civilians.
"During the siege of Fallujah, we changed our rules of engagement more often than we changed our underwear," he said.
On the screen, a photograph showed him posing next to a burned-out car in which an Iraqi man was killed after approaching a Marine checkpoint.
"At the first Winter Soldier in 1971, one of the testifiers showed a picture like this and said, 'Don't ever let your government to do this to you,' " Kokesh said. "And still the government is doing this."

The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only ones suffering, and they're not the only ones whose suffering has been mostly hidden from us:

At a session on shortcomings in veterans' health care, audience members sobbed as Joyce and Kevin Lucey described the suicide of their son, Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey, a death they blamed on his inability to get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mental health specialists were on hand to help speakers and audience members, and a workshop was offered on PTSD.

The veterans who participate in Winter Soldier will undoubtedly be smeared forever for having told a few minutes of truth.
Such is life in post-democratic America.

Those who spoke yesterday described the experience as intimidating.
"It was terrifying for me," said Steven Casey, a former 1st Armored Division specialist from Missouri who also described the AC-130 attack. "I knew somebody needed to hear it. All I wanted to do is say what I saw. I'm not accusing anyone of a crime."

From the look of the IVAW site at the moment, a lot of people need to hear it.

Winter Soldier in the Press (National Public Radio)

A Discussion of Dissent in the Military

Talk of the Nation, March 13 2008


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Robert Smith in Washington. Neil Conan is away.
Two days ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the commander of American forces in the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, will retire early. Officials have suggested that his public disagreement with elements of the president's foreign policy led to his resignation. There's a profile of Admiral Fallon in the most recent issue of esquire magazine.
The article quotes from an interview he did with Al Jazeera. The constant drumbeat of conflict about a potential war with Iran, he said, is not helpful and not useful. Going on with the quote, I expect that there will be no war, he added, and that is what we ought to be working for.
This wasn't the first time Fallon has been willing to speak his mind. His called for more troop drawdown in Iraq, and said the military is neglecting it's mission in Afghanistan.
The retirement of Admiral William Fallon has raised many questions about dissent in the military. Is it acceptable for a man or woman in uniform to criticize a mission - privately, publicly, in uniform or out? We want to hear from our listeners who serve or who have served in the military. Did you ever speak out? And if you didn't, what held you back?
Tell us your story. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org And you can also comment on our blog, it's at npr.org/blogofthenation.
Later this hour, "Ask Amy" columnist Amy Dickinson will be here to talk about spousal duty in the face of betrayal. When should you stand by your man or woman, and when should you walk away?
But first, dissent in the military. Joining us now is retired General Robert Scales. He served in the Army for more than 30 years. And he's joining us now by phone from Norfolk, Virginia.
General Scales, good to have you with us.
General ROBERT SCALES (Retired, U.S. Army): Hi, Robert. Good to be here.
SMITH: So do you think that Admiral Fallon's comments about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and about the prospects of a war with Iran went directly against the Bush administration?
Gen. SCALES: Oh, I think they weren't terribly congruent to what the administration was saying. But I think the issue here is not what he said so much as how he said it and the atmospherics that sort of surrounded the way he said it and - oh, by the way, also who the audience was and who he spoke it to.
SMITH: Well, what do you mean by that? The atmospherics and the controversies surrounding this?
Gen. SCALES: Well, I mean, there is a long tradition in the American military that if you're a commander, there - you have a very, very broad opportunity to dissent inside the institution when decisions are being made. And that if once the decisions are made, then your obligation is to support the decision or support the policy or the operation or whatever it happens to be. And your other course of action is to retire or resign and carry on your dialogue outside of uniform. And over the - and this is uniquely American. This is the way the American - a way civil military relations has work since the Civil War, and we've had several very famous generals who've been cashiered, you know, obviously, George McClellan during the Civil War, Douglas MacArthur after Korea, who chose to speak out publicly against the administration policy that they disagreed with while they were in uniform.
SMITH: Well, let's talk about the line here. Certainly, we would expect, I mean, we would require our military commanders, when speaking to their commander in chief or a commander above them, to speak their mind, right?
Gen. SCALES: Absolutely. Absolutely. Without a question.
SMITH: Now, can they - if they disagree with something their commander does or commander in chief, can they talk with members of perhaps another branch of the military...
Gen. SCALES: Of course.
SMITH: ...talk to their men?
Gen. SCALES: Of course. Well, no, that - the senior leadership of the military is very much like a, I guess, you'd almost attempt to call it something like a club. And as long as you keep the conversations inside the club, you can be just as free to dissent as vociferously and as passionately as you desire. It's only when you go outside the confines of the command authorities in the military and begin to speak in public and your views are counter to the administration is when you've crossed the line.
SMITH: Now what about to Congress? That could be seen as speaking publicly but they have a certain responsibility.
Gen. SCALES: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Look at the law. The law is very, very specific. The first thing a senior officer says - and I testify it, I know - is you must raise your right hand and swear that the opinions that you're about to give are yours and are freely given. And so when you talk to Congress, you have the full authority - legal authority to speak your mind freely and openly, and I've done that many times.
SMITH: Now, have other officers gotten in trouble for not following this line?
Gen. SCALES: Of course. We have a rich history. The admiral in 1941, who went against Roosevelt's decision to move the Pacific fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor because he thought it was a stick in the eye of the Japanese, was cashiered by Roosevelt. We're all very familiar with the Truman-MacArthur controversy where MacArthur wanted to attack and recapture all of Korean and retaliate against the Chinese. He was cashiered. The most famous, of course, was the famous Lincoln-McClellan controversy after the Battle of Antietam. When McClellan went public to criticize Lincoln's war policy and Lincoln fired McClellan.
This is very much an American - this is very American. Because in our society, the military must be subordinate to the administration. And it's been that way for 225 years. And that's one of the reasons why we're the only Western democracy to never been - that's never been governed by the military.
SMITH: We're talking about dissent in the military with General Robert Scales. We are going to try and get our listeners into this conversation.
Paige(ph) is with us from Tucson, Arizona. Go ahead, Paige.
PAIGE (Caller): Hello. I was in the Army for four years and sometimes the difficulty in the Army is that your get a direct order that you - but you also have a standing order to challenge orders that are illegal. And if the president is ignoring the Constitution, then that calls into a lot of his actions and decisions and judgments, and you have a responsibility to challenge illegal orders, and you have to protect yourself and the consequences.
SMITH: Well, General, does this - if you have an illegal order, is there a place you have to go to? Can you go to the press with that?
Gen. SCALES: No, it's different, that's different. Everything I've just said, everything I've just said before is a difference in policy and the way wars will be conducted. If it deals with things that are illegal, now that completely crosses the line and that's when a commander, even when in uniform, has the obligation - the moral obligation to speak out. I understand what this lady was saying. And she's absolutely right. And, oh, by the way, that goes for generals just as much as it does for anyone else. And of course the incident that always comes to mind about this was My Lai in 1968 where the incident of My Lai was covered up and the military and the nation suffered irreparable damage by simply trying to sweep it under the carpet.
SMITH: Thanks for your phone call, Paige.
Is it always clear when something is illegal and when something is a military member might just consider wrong?
Gen. SCALES: Oh, sure. I mean, read - the Uniform Code of Military Justice is very explicit on that. If you are - if you have been ordered to perform an illegal act, you are not obligated to carry out. And the old saw about I was following orders doesn't apply anymore, and all you have to do is go an look at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials in 1947, '48 to see how a whole new dimension was created when the horrors of World War II were propagated in many ways by Axis generals who claimed after the war they were only following orders.
No, that's - the code of conduct for an officer is very, very explicit in that regard.
SMITH: The frustration for those of us in the media is that we want this rich public debate about military policies. We have it constantly. And we get views from all sides and we talk to people like yourself, a retired Army general. But at the same time, the people who know the most, who know that best, are members of the military. And it would be interesting if there were some way to get them into the public debate without necessarily going outside the chain of command, or do we just have to suck it up?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Gen. SCALES: Look, I don't think there is any major disagreement in policy - particularly as it regards to Iraq and Afghanistan - that hasn't, at one time or eventually, come out into the public media. That's not the issue here.
The issue is a commanding general publicly undermining, if you will, the policy of the administration through public pronouncements directly to the media. There's a difference between that and the famous now - now-famous and ubiquitous Pentagon leaks which occur all the time.
SMITH: with us now to talk more about what is allowed and what isn't within the military is Eugene Fidell. He teaches Military Law at Yale Law School and the Washington College of Law. And he joins us today by phone from his office in Washington D.C.
Welcome back to TALK OF THE NATION.
Prof. EUGENE FIDELL (Military Law, Yale Law School and Washington College of Law; President, National Institute of Military Justice): Nice to be back.
SMITH: So, when you join the military, do you forfeit some of your rights to speak out?
Prof. FIDELL: Well, forfeit is such a harsh word.
SMITH: You agree. You agree to give up certain rights, of course you do, right?
Prof. FIDELL: Yes. But, you know, a long paragraph has to follow. Really, we have, as General Scales correctly indicated, a wonderful tradition in our society of subordination of the military to the civilian leadership. We don't have a history of military coups, touch wood. And part of the overall package of relationships is that people who are in uniform, whether they're buck privates and seamen recruits or generals and admirals, will observe certain limits on their ability to exercise their constitutional rights to free speech.
You and I have, you know, largely untrammeled rights. In the military, it's a little different. For example, a person in the military cannot speak contemptuously - excuse me - an officer in the military cannot speak contemptuously to the president, the secretary of defense, the service secretary, certain other high officials. That doesn't apply to us. And that's one illustration of a situation where the constitutional right of free expression doesn't apply at least to the same extent for a personnel in uniform as it does to civilians.
SMITH: Well, you know, I visited West Point a few years ago and I was really surprised by how much West Point encouraged the cadets there to sort of have this rich discussion about foreign policy and direction. There were entire classes that had as their premise that perhaps what the military is doing was wrong and there are other ways to look at it.
So, clearly, the military has realized that there is a value to that kind of dissent, at least within the military, and to get critical thinking skills within their cadets, right?
Prof. FIDELL: Right. You need that in order to provide the kind of leadership that any modern military force requires. Of course, the military is not a debating society; it's not the Oxford Union. But there are situations in which dissent may not have quite the right, you know, flavor to it. But disagreement maybe not only appropriate but in some situations desirable. To give you an illustration...
SMITH: Oh, no. We need to take a quick break.
Prof. FIDELL: Okay.
SMITH: We're speaking with Eugene Fidell and General Robert Scales, and we're talking about dissent within the military. A little later we'll talk with a former Marine sergeant who founded a group that's meant to make dissent a little easier for men and women in uniform.
We want to hear from you. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. You can send us e-mail, the address is talk@npr.org
I'm Robert Smith. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
SMITH: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Robert Smith in Washington, sitting in today for Neal Conan.
We're talking about the rule of dissent within the armed forces. There are strict laws governing when military men and women can and cannot speak out on any number of issues, some are on the code conduct and some are culturally enforced.
Guiding us through those laws is General Robert Scales, retired Army general, and Eugene Fidell, he teaches Military Law at Yale Law School and the Washington College of Law.
General Scales has just a few more minutes to be with us. So I wanted to ask you first. Have you seen much of a change in the nature or amount of public dissent coming from the military especially during this war?
Gen. SCALES: Yes. I've seen less of it in this war - let me rephrase that - I've seen more dissent bubbling out indirectly in this war through the media and indirectly through, I guess, folks like me and those who are sort of attuned, I guess, if you will, to sort of the character of the discourse. And I see less and less coming out officially - that is elements of discussion and dissent coming through the chain of command, if you will, from the president on down to the ranks.
There's clearly less maneuver room, if you will, in this administration and during this war to express dissent officially or unofficially, for that matter, than there have been in previous wars.
SMITH: General, we want to take one phone call while you're still on the line. Paul(ph) joins us. Paul is on the air from Parma, Ohio. Go ahead, Paul.
PAUL (Caller): Hi, how are you doing today, sir?
SMITH: Fine. Go ahead.
PAUL: I do not believe that general or Adm. Fallon should have gone public with his comments. I spent 18 years in the United States Marine Corps and although I did not agree many, many times with my superiors and their orders, I don't believe that I should have gone public with any comments about it. If I did, I may as well, as a leader - and this holds specially true if you ask me - with officers, specially high-ranking officers, you may as well just go right before your troops and tell your troops, I don't agree with the orders. We got to carry them out, but I don't agree with the orders. You just shouldn't do that. That does not add for good discipline and good morale.
SMITH: And, you know, General, that's not true just in the military. You get that advice as a manager in any organization, going - passing orders through, yeah.
PAUL: I worked at a large corporation and we even have within the corporation regulations regarding comments about the company in public - you can get fired and that's a legal thing, if I'm not mistaken. They can hold your feet to the fire outside of work if you make disparaging comments about the company.
SMITH: Absolutely. What do you think, General?
Gen. SCALES: Well, first of all, war is not about making a profit. When wars are fought, lives are lost, and so it is a very, very form - a very, very serious form of human endeavor.
And one of the things - I'm also in the corporate world, and one of the things I've noticed to the gentleman's point is that the quality of dissent and foment(ph) and oftentimes the passion of the argument both before, during, and after a war within the military is much, much richer than it is corporate America simply because the stakes are so high, and all you have to do is rifle through any number of publications or listen to public speeches and pronouncements and read the wires to see how rich the discourse is, literally, from private all the way to four-star general.
SMITH: Thank you very much for your call, Paul. And thank you General Robert Scales. We appreciate that you are retired Army general and you can speak your mind. Thanks for joining us.
Gen. SCALES: Thank you, Robert.
SMITH: With us now is Eugene Fidell from Yale Law School and the Washington College of Law. We touched about this a little bit with General Scales, but have you seen a change in military culture about the type of dissent allowed and the amount?
Prof. FIDELL: Oh. I think - yes. I - and let me say that I think his comments have been right on target. I had a sense though that there were other aspects of this that people weren't focusing on.
For example, the current war is the first one of what - let's call the cell phone era. So opportunities for communication - or the Internet era...
SMITH: Yeah. MySpace. Facebook, that sort of thing. Yeah.
Prof. FIDELL: ...opportunities for communication are much different. It's the first war of the digital camera era. So, you know, this does have an effect. Also, remember - and here contrasting with the situation during the war in Vietnam - there's no conscription, we don't have a draft. So everybody who's currently in the service is there - you know, they - not necessarily everybody wants to be there right now, but there are people who came in to the service voluntarily.
The other thing that I think is worth mentioning is that we have, over the last several decades, let's say, had a substantial growth in the number of officers with very advanced degrees. There were a lot of Ph.D.s in the service. These are people who are used to doing independent work, independent thinking, independent study, and some of them are going to be written off as gifted mavericks - wonderful image. But, you know, others contribute to the robustness of debate within the military community. So that's a change, I think.
SMITH: Well, that's what happens when you have a professional Army, any profession part of being a professional is having a lot of opinions and having an invested stake...
Prof. FIDELL: It's true.
SMITH: ...in how things turn out. On this topic, I wanted to go to now to Liam Madden, and he joins us. He served in the Marine Corps for four years and now he is a student at Northeastern University in Boston. He cofounded a group called Appeal for Redress while he was a Marine.
Liam Madden is with us studio at WBUR, a member station in Boston. Thanks for being here.
Mr. LIAM MADDEN (Cofounder, Appeal for Redress; Former Marine): Thank you for having me, Robert.
SMITH: I understand you were in Iraq in 2005, right?
Mr. MADDEN: That's correct. I served in Iraq in Haditha in September 2004 through February of 2005.
SMITH: Did you speak out against the war when you were actually deployed there?
Mr. MADDEN: No. At the time, I felt that my biggest commitment was to the people around me and to ensure that I did my job as best as I could. And that's kind of a personal decision that every person who is serving overseas has to make at that time.
SMITH: But when you came back, did you speak out against the war while in uniform?
Mr. MADDEN: I spoke out against the war - I cofounded this petition of over 2,000 service members who asked Congress to end the war while I was still in the Marine Corps. But the Uniform Code of Military Justice actually cites that you can't do it while in uniform, while on base or while on duty. So, although I was serving as an active duty Marine, I never did it representing - I never spoke out representing the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense. I did it off duty.
SMITH: Now, of course, the media may not take this as a - you may have obeyed the letter of the law and found a loophole for that, but clearly the media would treat this as someone who is in the military, who disagrees with the policies of the military.
Mr. MADDEN: Well, I think it's interesting that you say loophole. I think it's actually a protection that's afforded to members of the military because that's exactly what Americans who expect people who take the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States to be allowed to do, to be able to speak out on behalf of their conscience and do what is right, and that is the highest authority we have is the Constitution. Our duty is to protect that.
SMITH: Eugene Fidell, who is a professor of Military Law, has this been tested in the courts? Does a military member have all the protections for the constitution at all times?
Prof. FIDELL: Well, the answer is no. At times, issues have bubbled up. I remember there was a famous case during the Vietnam War of a junior officer who was engaged in a peace march in which he carried a sign accusing President Johnson of being a fascist. He misspelled the word fascist by the way, and he wasn't punished for bad spelling, but he was convicted at a court martial for treating President Johnson contemptuously or speaking of him contemptuously.
Other issues tend to come up from time to time. For example, there were issues as to whether a G.I. could have a bumper sticker that said, Impeach Nixon, around the time of the Watergate controversy. And it was determined by Army legal authorities that there was no provision on having such a bumper sticker. But it's - a great thing about our society is we're very creative about finding ways to express our view, sometimes in ways that are a little subversive.
SMITH: Well, let's have both of you stick around while we get some of our callers in the conversation. We go now to Ian(ph). Ian is in Blacksburg, Virginia. Hey, Ian.
IAN (Caller): Hello. It's very - I'm happy to be on the program. An issue that is, I think, missing is the difference between the (unintelligible). The Reality of the situation is, you're (unintelligible) being in the armed forces that everyone around you needs to know that you have their back and they have your back, and voicing dissent and voicing a contrary opinion, you are offering up a reception that that may not be the case.
Even for me right now to be on, you know, the air with you, it's a questionable thing for me. I don't know if anyone is going to hear this and I don't know what type of trouble this may cause.
SMITH: Well, thanks for your phone call, Ian. I'm going to take you off the line because we're having a little trouble hearing you. But I'm going to get Liam Madden to respond. Because you were sensitive to how your fellow military members felt while you were actually in the field but, you know, this is the modern age, anything you say can get back to them, and do you think about that when you're speaking on political issues?
Mr. MADDEN: Oh, I agree strongly with the sentiment that there's a big difference between the reality and the hypothetical and I think the reality here is that in the cases like Admiral Fallon resigning it's - in speaking out, it indicates that the reality of the situation is that there's a political entity in power that has a clear record of lying our nation into conflicts. And the reality, in my opinion, is I want a leader that is bold enough and the has the courage enough to not sit on his hands during a reality like that. So reality is an important part to infuse into this scenario and I think it leads me, personally, to the conclusion that we are on a dire situation and we can't be embroiled in any more conflicts based on lies.
And that as a soldier, as a Marine, as a service member, it's the highest priority leaders have, is to ensure that when you sign up for the United States Armed Forces, you do so with trust that your government will put you in harms way only when it is just and only when it is necessary. And that's a trust that's extremely important, and protecting that is just as important to maintaining the sanctity of the oath of services as any other.
SMITH: Let's speak with Fred(ph). Fred is in Wyoming. You're on the air, Fred.
FRED (Caller): Yes, Robert, thanks for taking my call. I served in Iraq as well in April of '04 to April of '05, and I believe that we definitely need to help more dissent within the ranks because ultimately more dissent leads to a more informed policy. And there are troubles within each command to bring the dissent up. I don't believe it's appropriate to go the media directly, but if and when your dissent isn't being taken seriously within your command I think it's up for you - you might want to think taking it outside.
SMITH: Well, thanks for your phone call. Let's go to Bob(ph) now. Bob is in Minneapolis.
BOB (Caller): Good afternoon. I have a question concerning the use - possible use of the classification system by vigorous people trying to restrain their subordinates. If they classify things top secret, it would restrain the subordinates from testifying before open members of Congress. The Congress would go into closed session. Who passes on the eligibility of those members of closed session to hear classified information and could this be used to restrain the passage of information from the military to the Congress? Thank you.
SMITH: Thanks, Bob. Eugene Fidell, you want to take that question?
Prof. FIDELL: Well, certainly members of Congress, particularly members of the committees that are concerned with military and national security issues, do have a clearances and the clearances are given by the executive branch, obviously. Is there a danger of manipulation by withholding a clearance? I don't think that's a significant danger. But I think there is a problem of over-classification. I think things are classified too easily and it's very difficult to get an outside source, let's say, to look over the executive branch's shoulder and say, you know, you classified acts not because it's really national security at risk but because it might be embarrassing. And that kind of thing is very hard to poke into from outside.
SMITH: You are listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
Liam Madden, I wanted to ask you a question because I think people - even people who want to hear some forms of dissent publicly might think there's a line which gets crossed, which is, at some point, do you want to hear all of the tactics and military strategy basically debated at the highest levels and in the media. At some point, the unified command isn't there anymore if everything is being run through leaks and statements and press conferences.
Mr. MADDEN: Well, I don't think that necessarily tactics should be open for discussion publicly. I think that's something that - it doesn't make any sense at all to have the government openly discussing what kind of methods we would use to fight a war...
SMITH: To the (unintelligible) policy.
Mr. MADDEN: Exactly. I think that the reality of the situation is that our government has a history of bringing us into conflicts when it is unjust, when it's unnecessary. And that, one of the first lines of defense is a vigilant and, you know, honestly courageous officer corps, enlisted ranks of the military being what is historically been referred to as winter soldiers, people who stand up in times of crisis, during the country's darkest hour and does what's difficult to do but necessary. And I think that is being repeated - it was repeated from Shays' Rebellion - soldiers coming back after the revolution and demanding, you know...
SMITH: Liam we want to try and get one last phone call. Michael(ph) joins us now. Michael is in Oklahoma City. Go ahead.
MICHAEL (Caller): Yes. Hello. I'm Michael in Oklahoma City. I'm a National Guardsman. Just last year, I spent a year in Afghanistan and what I've discover it overtime is it's a lot easier to defend in-house, within the ranks. When I was coming up through the ranks in the 90's as a junior enlisted soldier, it was fairly irritating to hear your superiors say things along lines of, well, if you don't vote for this guy, you know, you're an idiot, or well, I'm not going to have anybody of this particular political persuasion in my squad or my platoon, I'm going to get rid of them.
Today, you know, what I noticed in Afghanistan was it was lot easier for me to talk with my superiors. There was a much more of a common goal and respect for other opinions, you know, to a certain point. I mean, you know, with how you deal with your superiors, of course that never changes. But I guess what I found is that it's more valued internal to the Army. And doing it externally is still frowned upon it. It doesn't matter what everybody thinks about the current of situation. We're given an order, we salute and move out.
SMITH: All right. Thank you very much, Michael. We have run out of time on this. But Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. He teaches military law at Yale Law School. Thanks for joining us.
Prof. FIDELL: My pleasure.
SMITH: And Liam Madden is a former Marine sergeant. He is a cofounder of Appeal for Redress. He joined us from the studios of member station WBUR in Boston. Thanks, Liam.
Mr. MADDEN: Take care.
SMITH: Coming up, Silda Wall Spitzer stood next to her man as he admitted to what he call private failings. Should you stand by your spouse when he or she lands on the hot seat? It's time for our weekly visit from 'Ask Amy's' Amy Dickinson. We'll talk about betrayed spouses next.
I'm Robert Smith. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

March 16, 2008

Winter Soldier in the Press (Associated Press)

Reprise of Winter Soldier anti-war conference held near D.C.

Distributed by the Associated Press, March 15 2008


Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are meeting this weekend at an anti-war conference modeled after a well-known 1971 gathering at which Vietnam veterans spoke out against that conflict.
The four-day event called "Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations," is expected to draw more than 200 veterans of the two conflicts through Sunday. It was timed for the eve of the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war next week.
On Friday, former soldiers and Marines addressed an audience of several hundred in Silver Spring. They spoke of having to make snap decisions about whether to fire on civilians, of soldiers firing indiscriminately on Iraqi vehicles, and of an apartment building filled with Iraqi families attacked by an American gunship.
Former Marine Jon Turner began his presentation by ripping his service medals off his shirt and tossing them into the first row. He then narrated a series of graphic photographs that brought gasps from the audience. In a matter-of-fact voice, he described episodes in which he and fellow Marines shot people out of fear or retribution.

"I'm sorry for the hate and destruction I've inflicted upon innocent people," Turner said. "Until people hear about what is happening in this war, it will continue."

The event drew dozens of counter-protesters who demonstrated outside.

"We want absolute specifics," said Harry Riley, a retired Army colonel who leads Eagles Up. "This is too important to our nation. The credibility of our nation and the credibility of our soldiers are involved."

The 1971 Winter Soldier in Detroit was similarly controversial.

John Kerry, then a young veteran, was a participant, and criticism for what he said at the time resurfaced during the Massachusetts senator's 2004 presidential bid.

"Kerry lied while good men died, and you guys are betraying good men," yelled a protester Saturday who managed to slip into the conference, which was limited to participants and the media.

The protester was roughly hustled from the room by members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who are providing security for the event.

A Defense Department spokesman said he had not seen the allegations raised Friday, but added that such incidents are not representative of U.S. conduct.

"When isolated allegations of misconduct have been reported, commanders have conducted comprehensive investigations to determine the facts and held individuals accountable when appropriate," Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said.

Winter Soldier in the Press (Salon Magazine)

Will American war crimes be revealed?

Posted, by Mark Benjamin, to Salon Magazine, March 13 2008


"It has often been remarked but seldom remembered that war itself is a crime. Yet a war crime is more and other than war ... It is an act beyond the pale of acceptable actions even in war. Deliberate killing or torturing of prisoners of war is a war crime. Deliberate destruction without military purpose of civilian communities is a war crime." -- Former infantry platoon leader William Crandell opening the "Winter Soldier Investigation" in Detroit, Jan. 31, 1971
More than 100 veterans gathered in a Detroit hotel in early 1971 to talk about things they had seen and done in the Vietnam War. Called the Winter Soldier Investigation, the group spoke about a horrifying array of allegations: convoys driving over civilians; burning of villages; bodies thrown out of helicopters; torture, mutilation and infamous "free-fire zones," where anyone not wearing a U.S. uniform could be killed.
Thirty-seven years later, more than 100 veterans will gather over the next several days for "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan." The event is designed to be another purging of the horrors of war, and another effort to put American military policy on trial in the public eye. The gathering this time, at the National Labor College outside Washington, D.C., is sponsored by the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. "Soldiers will certainly be testifying about their experience and observation of actions which are absolutely in violation of international law," says IVAW spokesperson Perry O"Brien, who served as an Army medic in Afghanistan in 2003.
In interviews with Salon, several veterans from the group described incidents in Iraq that they believed constituted wrongdoing by the U.S. military, including disproportionate use of air power resulting in civilian deaths. The soldiers were unable to provide Salon with any conclusive evidence of war crimes. But as the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq approaches, the allegations they and other Winter Soldier members will publicize in Washington this week add to a long-term set of questions about the damage and destruction wrought by U.S. military operations over years of war.
The first Winter Soldier Investigation, sponsored in 1971 by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, ultimately helped fuel the antiwar movement in the United States. And the kinds of atrocities in Vietnam they alleged have been well documented since then. The first event also resulted in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asking John Kerry, the young veteran who would go on to be a U.S. senator, to testify three months later, when he famously asked, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
In fact, the first Winter Soldier investigation was largely ignored by the media, initially. "I don't think we had nearly the effect we had hoped for," the Vietnam veteran Crandell told me in a telephone interview. "The reporters on the scene were very impressed," he said. "But the networks sat on it." Perhaps that was because it was held in the Motor City (a bad decision then, organizers admit). Perhaps it was because the country wasn't yet ready to hear how a seemingly invisible enemy in Southeast Asia had driven otherwise honorable American soldiers to commit unthinkable atrocities, including acts that were officially or unofficially condoned by military policy.
It is unclear whether Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will gain wider attention from the media and the public, but its organizers say that today's technology could make a difference. "The modern soldier carries a digital camera almost as a sidearm," explained O'Brien. The group says that potentially explosive photos and video from Iraq displayed at this Winter Soldier investigation will help "expose the human consequences of failed policy" in the war zones. The searing images from Abu Ghraib, of course, came to light because soldiers working inside the prison made use of their personal digital cameras.
The veterans of Winter Soldier face the challenge of condemning U.S. military policy without the event being interpreted as -- or twisted into -- an unpatriotic attack on their fellow troops. "That is the tightrope they have to walk," explained Rick Weidman, a Vietnam veteran and director of government relations at Vietnam Veterans of America. "Don't blame the troops who are thrust into the middle of a goddamn civil war where you can't tell who the enemy is." He added: "You don't blame the troops for being put in an impossible situation. Some of this stuff is part of war. You could not retake Fallujah without what many people consider atrocities."
Vietnam veterans faced a similarly difficult balancing act 37 years ago. When Crandell opened the Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971, he tried to make it clear that the event was not intended to put American troops on trial. "There will be no phony indictments; there will be no verdict against Uncle Sam," Crandell said back then. The testimony, he argued, was supposed to expose "acts which are the inexorable result of national policy."
But it is unclear if Americans who are politically conservative will pick up on that distinction, particularly at a time when just about any critique of the war is quickly spun by both right and left. "I think they have to be as clear as they can," Crandell continued. "I still have conversations with Vietnam vets 40 years later who feel defamed by what we did. I feel sorry about that." But Crandell said this new Winter Soldier event should still go forward, "to whatever extent it helps with resolving the war or the maverick policies that need to be curtailed."
Some Iraq veterans agree that the pro-war crowd will work to create the impression that the event is an unpatriotic smear against the troops. "It troubles me a little bit," Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America said about the coming event. "I hope that they are thinking this out, because there are plenty of people who are going to want to have their ass."
Rush Limbaugh is likely to be one who goes after them. The widely heard right-wing radio host last fall claimed that some veterans who oppose the war are, in fact, "phony soldiers."
Limbaugh has said he was referring to the case of Jesse MacBeth. Several years ago MacBeth, then an IVAW member, alleged he committed war crimes in Iraq as a soldier in the Army. In May 2006, the Army reported that MacBeth, in fact, had never served in Iraq at all.
IVAW counters that the MacBeth incident occurred before the organization put in place a requirement that members provide proof of service. For Winter Soldier, the group has also assembled a verification team of combat veterans to interview soldiers testifying, examine discharge paperwork and review corroborating evidence including additional witnesses, video and photos.
But even with all that evidence, people sitting in the audience at National Labor College may have trouble evaluating some of the testimony they hear. Wartime accounts are notoriously difficult to untangle and verify, even when coming from multiple primary sources who appear to be telling the truth to the best of their knowledge. Soldiers are limited to a grunt's-eye-view of the world. They will tell it like they saw it, but admit that they don't have all the answers about what may have happened in a given incident.
One example that will likely be discussed at the Winter Soldier meeting in Washington involves a powerful air attack carried out on apartment buildings in Baghdad in 2003. Soldiers who witnessed the attack told Salon that they believe innocent civilians were killed. But they witnessed it at night, from a distance, and never saw direct evidence of dead civilians.
"I'm pretty sure we saw some pretty fucked-up shit," said Clifton Hicks, who was a private in the 1st Armored Division in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and will be testifying at the Winter Soldier event. Hicks and two other soldiers from the division's 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment described a Nov. 13, 2003, nighttime airstrike on five apartment buildings a few hundred yards outside the perimeter of Camp Slayer, their sprawling base located just south of the Baghdad airport.
In separate interviews with Salon, all three soldiers described the buildings as shoddily constructed structures, maybe four stories high. The Iraqis living there would stand and stare when the soldiers rode by on vehicle patrols. Laundry hung out to dry on the balconies. But the structures provided one of the few clear lines of sight into the soldiers' compound, and occasionally somebody would take a random pot shot at the base from one of the apartment buildings. After one such attack involving a lieutenant colonel on the base in fall 2003, the military launched an airstrike using an AC-130, a four-propeller gunship armed with powerful cannons.
The strike appears to have occurred as part of Operation Iron Hammer, an early effort to snuff out a growing insurgency through massive use of air power in Baghdad. The officer allegedly involved in calling in the airstrike, Lt. Col. Chuck Williams, was quoted on Nov. 13, 2003, by CBS News discussing Operation Iron Hammer. "If you are trying to send a message by firing and harboring yourself inside of an area like this, we want to send the message right back that you can be reached," he told CBS. "We will find you and surgically remove you." A Pentagon news article dated the next day noted only that an AC-130 "destroyed a building that had sheltered terrorists firing on U.S. forces for several days."
Steven Casey, who back then was a scout in the same Army unit, provided Salon with videotape of the strike taken from the roof of a building at Camp Slayer, date-stamped Nov. 13, 2003. While the airstrike can clearly be heard on the tape, darkness and distance render it mostly useless for verification purposes. (Word had quickly spread through Camp Slayer that the strike was coming and soldiers had gathered on a rooftop to watch.)
The Army would not comment on the airstrike. Williams, the lieutenant colonel allegedly involved in calling in the airstrike, refused a request for an interview.
But it is not just the darkness on the videotape that makes the story hard to gauge. News clips from that time period claim that the military was evacuating civilians prior to Operation Iron Hammer airstrikes, in an effort to destroy empty buildings that had been used to launch attacks on U.S. forces. Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who commanded the 1st Armored Division at the time, claimed in a Nov. 20, 2003, press conference that "we have had no civilian casualties resulting from Iron Hammer."
Salon also contacted a human rights group, which said they had staff in Iraq at that time, but they could verify no details about the airstrike or its outcome. And the three soldiers interviewed admit that while they saw the heavily damaged buildings after the strike, nobody got out of their vehicles to see if there were, in fact, dead civilians in the rubble.
Regardless of what happened that night, dozens if not hundreds of interviews with returning veterans have shown that throughout the war, the military regularly responded to real or perceived threats with overwhelming firepower. Some of those incidents clearly resulted in unwarranted civilian deaths. Other attacks may have inadvertently resulted in an unknown but potentially significant number of civilian casualties. (It should also be said that many officers and soldiers have taken great pains to protect civilians throughout the war.)
The U.S. military's overall approach with using overwhelming force supposedly changed under the counterinsurgency strategy implemented by Gen. David Petraeus starting in early 2007. Civilians were now seen as the "center of gravity" in the war effort, and it was deemed that great lengths should be taken to protect them and win over their support. High-level military officials say Petraeus has been successful in changing the way the military conducts itself in this regard; the Air Force has implemented rigorous protocols to reduce collateral damage from airstrikes.
Still, the vast majority of the American public does not have a clear picture of what has gone on for years in Iraq and Afghanistan due to U.S. military operations. In the coming days, the new generation of veterans gathering for the Winter Soldier event hope to make it more clear.

blogging From the Winter Soldier Hearings

Winter Soldier LiveBlog Two: Veterans Issues

by Justin Cliburn IVAW.orgi, March 14, 2008 - 10:26am

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Zollie Goodman was told when he was enlisting that the one thing the military would never take away from him was health care for he and his family. His pregnant wife, while he was at sea, started bleeding and called the doctor. She was told that, if she had $1500 for an ambulance, they would send one, but that they couldn't pay for it. She had to wait for a friend to drive her to a different hospital and eventually had a miscarriage. Shortly after, Goodman was discharged from the military. He found out that he was eligible for veterans healthcare and sought out help for PTSD. The medications he was given made him nervous, anxious, and having suicidal thoughts; he later learned that those were merely side effects of the medication the VA was giving him. He tried therapy and found Vietnam veterans who had been taking the same medication and going to the same therapy for years and hadn't changed. He saw homeless veterans on the street and realized what a terrible job the VA was doing.

Winter Soldiers in the Press (Agence France Presse)

US Veterans Urge Soldiers to Speak Out Against Iraq War

Published on Friday, March 14, 2008 by Agence France Presse


WASHINGTON - US veterans and active-duty soldiers on Thursday kicked off an event in Washington to protest the war in Iraq, urging other members of the military to join them in speaking out against the conflict.
“There’s an upswell of disgust and disapproval for the Iraq war in the military,” intelligence sergeant Selena Coppa told AFP at the launch of the four-day “Winter Soldier” event.

“The difficulty is letting them realize they are legally entitled to speak out about it, other than to service members,” added Coppa, who is still on active duty in the US army.

Camilo Mejia, the first conscientious objector to the Iraq war, went a step further.

“I want our servicemen and women to know that standing up to an immoral occupation is not only their right but also their duty to their country and humanity,” he told reporters.

“My first mission in Iraq was to run a prisoner of war camp where we used sensory and sleep deprivation techniques prior to interrogation,” he recounted at the opening news conference, which was heavy with foreign correspondents but light on US media.

Mejia was court martialled for refusing to redeploy to his unit after two weeks’ leave, and spent nine months in a military jail.

Now the chairman of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), which has organized the four-day gathering, Mejia spoke of a groundswell of resistance within the US military to the war in Iraq, which will enter its sixth year later this month.

“Servicemen and women are refusing en masse to participate in this war. I have seen a rapid and inevitable growth of dissent within our ranks,” he said.

At the “Winter Soldier” event in Washington, some 200 soldiers like Coppa and Mejia will give eye-witness testimonies about what they lived through during their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and afterwards.

The event is organized by IVAW, a grouping of around 800 military veterans and active soldiers opposed to the occupation of Iraq.

Vietnam veterans held a “Winter Soldier” event in 1971 at which more than 100 servicemen and 16 civilians described atrocities committed against innocent civilians in South Vietnam.

The name “Winter Soldier” is derived from the “summer soldier” described by American Revolutionary War writer Thomas Paine in “The Crisis:”

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman,” Paine wrote in the 18th century work

March 15, 2008

Winter Soldiers in the Press (The London Times)

Patriot missiles: Iraq Veterans Against the War
After Vietnam, American veterans testified to the atrocities they witnessed. Now soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are about to do the same

By Ariel Leve, published in The London Times, March 16, 2008


Some of them will be okay. They will live with the secrets. They can dissociate from what happened in combat because it was part of the job. It was what they signed up for. They will keep the secrets out of duty – the silence is part of a code, and they honour that code above all else.
But for others, the secrets they keep are like a poison, slowly releasing toxins of shame and remorse. Who can they tell anyway? They talk to each other – other veterans who have seen what they’ve seen, done what they’ve done, and who can relate to the burden of carrying these secrets for the rest of their lives.
In 1971, the protest group Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered at a hotel in Detroit. More than 100 veterans talked about the atrocities they had witnessed in southeast Asia.
The event lasted for three days and was named Winter Soldier after Thomas Paine’s famous article. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” he wrote of the terrible winter of 1776, when Washington’s ragtag, demoralised army turned the tide of the War of Independence.
The Vietnam vets, spurred on by the court martial of Lt William Calley, who had ordered the infamous My Lai massacre, wanted to turn a tide too – against public opinion, to demonstrate that the execution of hundreds of innocent villagers in 1968 was not an isolated incident as so many believed. The Winter Soldier event received little coverage in America, but was the subject of an internationally acclaimed documentary of the same name.
This month, for four days in Washington, DC, beginning on March 13, there will be a second Winter Soldier gathering – 37 years after the first. Organised by the protest group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan since the 9/11 attack on New York will testify about their experiences. They will present photographs and videos, recorded with mobile phones and digital cameras, to back up their allegations – of brutality, torture and murder.
The veterans are not against the military and seek not to indict it – instead they seek to shine a light on the bigger picture: that the Abu Ghraib prison regime and the Haditha massacre of innocent Iraqis are not isolated incidents perpetrated by “bad seeds” as the military suggests, but evidence of an endemic problem. They will say they were tasked to do terrible things and point the finger up the chain of command, which ignores, diminishes or covers up routine abuse and atrocities.
Some see it as their responsibility to speak out – like Jason Washburn, a US marine who did two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq; Logan Laituri, a US Army forward observer in Iraq; and Perry O’Brien, an army medic deployed to Afghanistan in 2003. They believe that, as veterans, they are the most credible sources of information. They say they were put in immoral and often illegal positions. They will speak about what they saw, and what they were asked to do.
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Jason Washburn, 28, grew up in San Diego, California. He always wanted to do something to make a difference, and he enlisted in the US marines in December 2001. He wasn’t itching to go into combat, but he wanted the training.
He fought in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 where, he says, he met little resistance. Most people were surrendering.
“There were massive amounts of artillery strikes before we even invaded. We saw the results of that. Streets full of bodies – women and children – body parts, extremely indiscriminate. I’m talking about rolling through villages here, not military encampments.”
He was told there was a military structure in one village. “I didn’t see it. I didn’t see any army uniforms. Or weapons. All I saw were civilians.”
Washburn speaks slowly and with obvious discomfort. This was his introduction to Iraq.
“I still believed everything we were force-fed: weapons of mass destruction and possibly even a nuclear weapon. We felt, like, we’re going to go in, overthrow this evil dictator and give these people some peace, finally. We thought we were doing a good thing.”
Over the course of his three tours, there were more home raids than Washburn can remember. He explains how it worked. “Usually it was based on a tip – we’re told someone in the home is an insurgent. We would pick up people who had nothing to do with anything, keep them locked up until they came up with something.”
He is glad that he didn’t witness some of the techniques used to get them to talk. “That’s not something I want on my conscience.”
It was not a scientific process. Most tips came from people with personal grudges. Washburn and his platoon would kick down the doors in the middle of the night. He was warned not to be complacent. There could be weapons in the children’s beds. In all of the home raids, too many to count, he never found children with weapons. They would take the father away and they never knew what would happen after that.
By the time Washburn served in Haditha he was on his third combat tour. He was there on November 19, 2005, the day of the massacre when 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed, including women and children.
“My squad was doing medivacs out of the town. I was not there to witness the shooting, but I know many marines who were.”
It was a squad in his unit that went on the rampage after their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
“I have a lot of feelings about this incident. A friend of mine from my first two tours was in that squad. He was the guy they gave immunity to to testify against the squad leader.
“The people on the ground are looking at serious prison time. Like life. The people who were giving orders were only relieved of command. And I don’t think that’s right.”
Washburn says Haditha was not an isolated incident. “It’s the one that just happened to be uncovered.”
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The establishment view is that war is hell and terrible things happen for the greater good. That killing is necessary. That there are those individuals acting on their own who will always smear the honourable actions of the military – men like Washburn, traumatised by war, who are emotional casualties whose testimony is to be mistrusted. Some regard him and the Winter Soldiers of 2008 as traitors for daring to question their commanders and for prosecution of the war.
But there are too many like Washburn to shout down. Many of the orders that combat soldiers were given were not written – but they were understood. At the Winter Soldier event, veterans’ stories will be corroborated by other veterans; backed up by the volume of testifiers who have witnessed the same things – in different units, years apart and in different countries.
There will be up to 100 veterans and, at present, 80 of them have submitted testimonies. Most will be enlisted men and women: privates and sergeants. They have been made aware of the consequences of taking part. Not just that they are likely to be denounced by their fellow veterans, but the psychological and perhaps legal consequences they may face by admitting to witnessing, or even perpetrating, war crimes. The National Lawyers Guild, an organisation of civil-rights attorneys, has volunteered to offer advice. Mental-health professionals will also be on hand to offer counselling. Organisers stress that the goal is to hold the policy makers accountable, not their immediate commanding officers. Nobody is permitted to name anyone below the rank of captain.
After the hearings, all the testimonies will be entered into the congressional record. There will be a live video stream on the web. There will also be panels of journalists and scholars to provide context and history.
Perry O’ Brien, who served as a medic in Afghanistan in 2003, is one of the Winter Soldiers on the verification team, which will ensure the testimonies are watertight, lest falsehood undermine the message. The order that O’Brien’s team is hearing most from the testifiers is the “shovel order”.
“Anyone carrying a shovel or any sort of implement that could be used to bury an IED could be considered a target,” he says. “After dark, you can shoot anyone who is outside. Or anyone who puts anything on the side of the road can be considered a target. You won’t find it in writing, but it’s an order indicated to soldiers.”
If not in writing, how can it be proven? “If we have enough soldiers testifying, it will be.”
Washburn says the most dangerous job in Iraq “has to be a taxi driver”. He tells two stories of taxi drivers being shot, both innocent victims. One driver was deaf and didn’t hear the command to halt. The other was at a checkpoint in the Haditha area.
“It was the mayor of one of the towns who was driving, and he was shot and killed. They found out after they shot him. My squad had to apologise to the family. We paid reparations. I don’t know the exact amount. But let’s see: money or a dead husband and father and mayor? People weren’t happy about that.”
During Washburn’s first Iraq deployment in 2003, his unit was told to capture a “rabble rouser”. “We kick down the door and all we find are a few women holding babies and a couple of kids. We were ordered to take the babies away and put sandbags on the women’s heads, tie their hands behind their backs, put them on their knees facing the wall. Here I am zip-tying these women, and my buddy is standing next to me holding these babies asking what do I do with these kids? We stood there, like, oh shit, what do we do? The squad leader came in and shouted, ‘Everybody is bagged and tagged – everybody!’ So we did it.” The babies were put down on the floor. After a few hours everyone was untied.
Inappropriate and immoral actions weren’t just aimed at Iraqi civilians. There was frequent hazing – the mistreatment of soldiers by their comrades. Some were exercises in pure humiliation, common in most military units, like singing I’m a Little Teapot while others stand around laughing. But some were brutal physical punishments, such as callisthenics in a sleeping bag with a gas mask on in scorching heat.
“It’s one thing to do 20 push-ups. It’s another to burn us to the point of exhaustion in combat theatre. There were guys that tried to speak out about it and that made it worse. That would get punished more.”
The futility of speaking out was bolstered by knowledge that complaints would get as far as the commanding officer of the company and no further. “They kept everything in-house.”
Another incident he describes was a step beyond hazing. He and another marine had had a disagreement. The punishment was that they were tied together – and sent out on patrol.
“Outside of the camp, in a war zone tied together, patrolling? Insane,” he says.
Washburn’s anger comes from a feeling of betrayal. “I thought I was signing up to do something honourable.
“What happened at Abu Ghraib,” Washburn says, “is those orders came from the top. If the policy makers and the commanders can dehumanise their own troops, why wouldn’t they dehumanise the Iraqi people?”
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So far, the most vocal opposition to the Winter Soldier event has not been from the government, but from pro-war groups such as Vets for Freedom, the largest veterans’ organisation in America.
Their executive director, Pete Hegseth, a veteran who served in Baghdad and Samarra with the 101st Airborne Division, has criticised the Winter Soldier event. In an article in The Washington Independent, he asks:
“Did your company commander tell you to shoot women and children, or to maximise casualties? No! We don’t do that. To talk about systematic brutality is essentially indicting the military as being complicit in war crimes.”
But, as we shall see, there are ways to encourage illegal actions other than direct orders.
Hegseth suggests that speaking out might have more serious consequences: homes in the Middle East have internet access, this kind of information will reach them and affect the attitude towards US troops still over there. But Perry O’Brien doubts that speaking out will foster more anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and Iraq than the killing of civilians and the dismantling of the infrastructure. After serving in Afghanistan for eight months, there was a slow revelation that triggered his shift.
“Everything that we were doing seemed almost designed to create more terrorists. To turn people against America. I couldn’t understand how we were liberating anyone. But I could understand how an Afghan person who was ambivalent about America could easily become an extremist based on their interaction with American soldiers.”
Resolute pro-war organisations such as Gathering of Eagles are gearing up, getting ready to make their presence felt. They are chartering bus-loads of protesters to show up at the event to confront and harass the “traitors”.
The veterans who will be testifying at Winter Soldier are prepared for their integrity and credibility to be called into question.
Before anyone can testify, they must go through the verification process and be interviewed by a team of combat veterans whom they hope will be able to instinctively detect lies. IVAW is particularly vigilant since Jesse Macbeth joined in 2006 and represented them publicly at various events. Macbeth’s accounts of military service as a veteran of Iraq were false, which he admitted in federal court in 2007.
Since then the organisation has demanded proof of service, and every member must have a DD-214 – their Pentagon-issued personal-service record, which proves where and with whom they have served.
Members are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire. Under the heading Killing or Wounding Noncombatants, Prisoners or Unarmed Combatants, they are asked: “Did you witness or participate in any of the following: Civilians hurt or killed at checkpoints? Purposeful killing of civilians or unarmed combatants? Killing or wounding of prisoners? If yes, was this unit SOP [standard operating procedure] or common practice?”
Some other headings include: Mishandling and Mutilation of War Dead; Torture or Abuse; Rape, Sexual Assault or Harassment; Theft or Fraud.
When the testimonies begin on March 13, we shall discover how damaging or revelatory their stories will be. Perry O’Brien has confidence in the process. “Someone coming into our organisation and trying to pretend they observed something they didn’t – they can only maintain that for so long.”
Once the stories are told, each is to be researched by interviewing other members of the soldier’s unit. The verification team has recently decided that anyone fabricating their experience or pretending to be a veteran will be handed over to the authorities and charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act, a law signed by President Bush in 2006.
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Perry O’Brien admits that he had hero fantasies. He was born on March 24, 1982, and grew up on a small island off the coast of Maine. After two years studying philosophy at university, he decided to enlist in the army as a medic in 2001 – two weeks before 9/11. It was a coming-of-age-ritual, influenced by the movies. He had the romantic idea that he wanted to save lives.
He did not come from a military background. His father works at a hardware store and his mother writes and illustrates children’s books.
In January 2003, O’Brien was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months. While he was there, he had many experiences that made him uncomfortable. Several times he witnessed an Afghan civilian die on the operating table after treatment from a mobile military surgical unit. Rather than prepare the corpse for the family, O’Brien witnessed the surgeons and the medics use the body to practise on.
“One doctor said, ‘Come up and feel his heart!’ This is what a heart feels like.’ ”
Half the platoon, if not more, participated. Daniel Paulsen, 27, was there and corroborates this story. There are photographs as well. Someone had grabbed O’Brien’s digital camera and taken photographs of the heart and the medics walking around and poking it. These photographs were taken for fun.
Eventually the chest of the corpse was closed up. “It was a total violation of our medical oath to use a corpse for medical training,” says O’Brien. “What’s particularly terrible is that these were all doctors that had practices back home – they were familiar with the law and the Hippocratic oath. There was such a huge disconnect between the way they treated Afghans and the way they treated American patients.
“When Americans died, the corpses became these sacred objects that were treated with tremendous care. There was this solemn funerary attitude around them. When an Afghan died, it was [as if they were] treating them like they weren’t human.
“My goal is to expose that these things are happening. And that they are the result of military leadership – part of an unofficial policy of dehumanisation.”
In 2004, while still on active duty, O’Brien attended a protest at Fort Bragg. There he met Mike Hoffman (a founder of IVAW) and joined the organisation shortly after leaving the army. He felt relieved. “Suddenly I knew that I wasn’t the only veteran who was questioning what I had seen and done.”
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Kelly Dougherty, 29, is a co-founder and executive director of IVAW. In 1996 she enlisted in the National Guard as a medic while she read biology at the University of Colorado.
On January 10, 2003, she received a call; she had been transferred to a military police unit – and she was being deployed to Iraq.
Dougherty was opposed to the war and surprised by her deployment.
In February 2003, she arrived in Kuwait and then moved to Iraq in March. Her unit was stationed in the south near Nasiriyah, where she often did convoy escorts and patrols.
“You put it out of your mind when you’re over there. And then you get back and reflect on it…
“The soldiers and marines are just doing their jobs, doing what they were trained for or what they were told to do when they got over there. Things that seem really horrible just become routine – and they are implicitly or explicitly condoned, or encouraged, by the commanders and the policy-makers.”
The offices of IVAW in Philadelphia are humble but busy. The group now has more than 700 members in 49 states, Washington, DC, Canada, and on military bases overseas.
I meet Logan Laituri there one afternoon and we sit down over a soft drink to talk. He has a gentle and sensitive manner. His enlistment wasn’t a patriotic stand, but more of a pragmatic decision. He didn’t know what else to do.
He became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg. “I had no accomplishments outside the military. I didn’t feel that I would be missing out on much.”
There was also a financial incentive. “Every soldier knows that you earn a crap-load of money in combat. Above and beyond my pay cheque I earned $800 a month – and all that’s tax-free. And everything is paid for in Iraq. You can save every single penny. That’s a lot of money you can save for your future.”
He was deployed to Iraq in January 2004, having switched to the 25th Infantry Division. When Laituri got to Samarra, they kicked down the doors of a building and found a police officer in uniform. “Through his interpreter he was telling us that he’d been waiting, and he had all the records. I thought to myself it was great initiative and it displayed insight.
“We handcuffed him and someone took it upon themselves to punch him in the stomach – what made me feel worse was watching it and not doing anything about it.”
As he talks, Laituri seems visibly troubled that he stood by watching this man beaten up. And he admits that so many of his feelings of being in Iraq are wrapped up in what he didn’t do: “What I saw happen and I didn’t say or I didn’t correct. I survived at the expense of Iraqis. I could have said something.”
But the fear of being isolated from the platoon prevailed. Beating up prisoners, abusing the bodies of Afghans, innocents shot dead in the crossfire of fear and threat – these things get lost in the mayhem of war – but other acts, if they become institutionalised, can “try the souls of men” and cannot be so easily dismissed.
Laituri was in Fort Irwin, California in May 2006 during a pep talk at the National Training Center. He alleges that a commander made a speech to his company, and that he “made it clear to us that if an innocent person was shot he would stage a scene to protect us”.
The explicit message was: “We would make sure there was a weapon found at the scene.”
Units go into combat believing that they will be protected from any repercussions. They feel like they have a licence to kill and often they do.
In 2007, the officer was relieved of his command after a death on June 23 last year in the vicinity of Kirkuk. He is not currently a suspect and was never charged – but two soldiers who were under his command have been charged with premeditated murder.
Last month a top army sniper testified in military court – under immunity – that he had ordered a subordinate to kill an unarmed Iraqi man, then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to back up a false claim of returned fire.
But who is ultimately responsible: the individual or the officer? The combatant or the culture? And why is it always the junior ranks who are charged?
---------------------------------
On a February morning at a cafe in Brooklyn, New York, Perry O’Brien is explaining the difference between the “book way” and the “real way”, and the significance of the “three-stomp signal” that is used to differentiate between the two.
“If someone is giving a briefing and they stomp their foot three times after what they are saying, it means ‘disregard what I just said’. For instance, ‘Make every effort to avoid civilian property damage,’ stomp stomp stomp – [means] ignore that. The idea is that when you get back [from combat], anything that you did the book way can be spoken about – but not what was done the real way.”
It isn’t just between the book way and the real way, he says; it’s become between the honourable way and the immoral way.
Perhaps even more tragic is that now, for many, these lines have blurred. “People join the military wanting to be honourable. They follow a code of conduct – they have to. It’s what separates them from mercenaries.”
The common denominator that links all of these veterans’ stories is a profound disillusionment about the war. All of these soldiers signed up with a belief that what they were doing was noble. Despite the lessons of Vietnam, or maybe because of them, they wanted to participate.
“The book way was we treat everyone the same…” Perry smiles and taps his foot three times. “You are ordered to do things that are clear violations of our conscience and what we know to be moral. It’s not even what’s prescribed by the Geneva conventions. It’s what every human being knows to be right and wrong. We’re asked to do things that violate that and told it’s about the war, but you can never tell anyone because we need to protect them from that.
“I think that certainly it’s our duty to protect American civilians from the physical reality of wars. That’s our goal. To prevent the American public from having to participate in war and get hurt and put their lives at risk. That’s what we volunteer to do.
“But I don’t think we’re protecting America if we’re not telling our stories and keeping what we do secret.”

Winter Soldiers in the Press (Alternet)

Iraq Veterans Against the War Conduct and Cover Their "Winter Soldier" Investigation

Posted by John Stauber, to Alternet, March 14, 2008.


Kelly Dougherty, the former sergeant who is the executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), announced the start today of the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan investigation into the United States' conduct of its wars, featuring testimony of IVAW soldiers.
Dougherty promised that "No longer will public debate on the Global War on Terror be framed solely by politicians and pundits. IVAW will use the ongoing Winter Soldier project to spread awareness of G.I. resistance among veterans and active duty troops and build strategic alliances ... to broaden and strengthen our strategy to end the Iraq occupation." The Winter Soldiers at IVAW are not relying on the mainstream media which is good because so far major news media have ignored the event.
"Every minute of testimony will be broadcast live and will be available to watch in an online on-demand library," said Dougherty. The pro-war lobby, including Eagles Up, the Gathering of Eagles, Move America Forward, Free Republic and commentator Michelle Malkin, are condemning and protesting IVAW's Winter Soldier hearings.
The major Democratic Party-aligned peace groups with multi-million dollar budgets, such as MoveOn and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, like the mainstream news media, have also ignored the Winter Soldier event.

Misinterpreting the Winter Soldiers

Yesterday I saw a lady asking one of the security guards why the event was called Winter Soldier. He patiently explained that the name was taken from Thomas Paine's "Crisis Paper", she listened patiently, thought about what she had been told and replied "that is fair." I am not sure if she went away impressed, or convinced, but she seemed to be coming here to support the GIs, so I think she may have been predisposed to support the event.
Unfortunately few of the events critics are willing to give an inch. They have attempted to force the organization to conform to their most biased and hellish visions of a future past. This seems to have three basic components. First, by claiming the organization is subset of VVAW, they avoid having to deal with he fact there is a war going on. That real people, not cartoon characters, extras from a war movie or stereotypes from our deepest fears, are being maimed, killed and shattered. It is much easier to pretend that this is Vietnam volume two than a war in Iraq. While there are VVAW here, providing security, advice, guidance and shoulders to cry on, but this has been organized by and reflects the experience of IVAW members.
Second, that this movement i somehow controlled and guided by John Kerry and Jane Fonda. This is patently absurd and once again avoids the issue of having to address the issue of Iraq. In fact, a reporter claiming to be from what is now been called the Young America's Foundation, but is Young American's for Freedom with a new label cornered John Kerry and tried to get him to say something about the Winter Soldier II. I am not privy to the mind of john Kerry, and I am sure that he is not unaware of this little gathering, but as far as I can tell he has made no attempt to either contact or take credit for what is going on down here.
Third, and connected to the second accusation, is the claim the IVAW are communists. I have been here for three days, and I did not know there were so many communists left in the world. Why IVAW's critics constantly run out this tired old stereotype, in an effort to discredit them is a little bizarre at best and absurd at worst. While I have not gone round and polled the members of IVAW who are here as to who is, or is not a communist, but if I were to do so most would look at me blankly and wonder what the hell I am talking about. Even more than is the case with John Kerry and Jane Fonda, there is no connection between the IVAW and the Communist Party. While some members may have sentiments that mirror what Richard Neville once called the ideological/alphabet soup of the new left and Just because the Workers World endorses the goals of IVAW, this does not mean the members are communist or even have anything close to a coherent ideological critique.
Unfortunately, and a fact which illustrates how little the movement's critics are willing to address these veteran on their own terms, as Veterans of a war which should never have been fought and as members of an organization that should have had to be formed, when the IVAW's critics accuse them of being communists they are using the term in the same it was used by J. Edgar Hoover in Masters of Deceit and the John Birch Society. The communist party envisioned by both had ceased to exist with the death of Stalin and the execution of Beria.
There is only one truth to be gained from the experience of being here, and it hits everyone at different times or stays as a constant, sometimes quietly throbbing at the base of your spine and gnawing at your soul and sometimes pouring out of you like a scream of vomit, THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO TAKE PLACE. These are young Americans who are not the wiling lackeys of any organization, who should be living their lives in the full knowledge that tomorrow is an adventure, filled with a myriad of experiences to come. Drunken nights of sex and hedonism unseen and unknown. They should be able to go home at night, when knackered, and be able to relax, drink a beer, smoke a joint or meditate over a steaming cup of tea and pray to whatever god they choose to believe in. They should not have to live the rest of their lives torn up and afraid, because WE DID NOT CARE ENOUGH TO STOP THIS DAMNED WAR.
It is not enough for us to say we are outraged, when doing so costs us nothing. It s not enough to believe that our principled stands offer any kind of resolution or absolution. These are our children, and they have been sent, with our consent/or dissent to half way round the world to wreak havoc in places we may have read about in a history book or seen on a map Our outrage has to mean something more than merely criticizing the architects, planners and lay preachers of this war.
If we do not make them do more than simply apologize for acquiescing, then we will be back here again in 30 years and have to listen to a new generation of American boys and girls searching for the right words to express their shame, anger and horror. I for one, never want to stand under hot summer sun again and watch as a group of young American's gather to have heir photograph taken and realize that every one of them are veterans of a war and most are the same age or younger than my son.
Up to this afternoon, I have mainly been working on a computer and I have not had to think too much about the fact these are young men and women are our children. Then the gathered for their photograph and I could not watch. I broke don in tears. I also just tried to listen to a young man describe what he did at Guantanamo, and I cried again. These are our children and we have allowed them to be sent to war. We have stood idly by while they have been accused of being communists and protestors of a war long gone. We have allowed the men ho have made their money accuse them of being tools and lackeys of Jane Fonda, John Kerry and the now defunct communist party. And we have said nothing and for that we are to blame. If we do not say you are liars and do not deserve to speak again in public without ridicule and denunciation, we will be back here again in 30 years and I for one do not want to have to come.
james.

Chickenhawks a twitter - Winter Soldier Redux

This was posted to Black Five, Make of it what you will.


The start of the latest attempt to make Iraq (and Afghanistan) into Vietnam is now in full swing. Yet, this time, there are some differences. Namely, there is the internet, blogs, and a host of good and honorable organizations who will not let lies stand and/or be propagated unopposed by a credulous (and willing) media. This is a good thing, and the despicable travesty that was the original will not play out the same way. Though, to be fair, John Kerry is a gift that keeps on giving.
I hope like heck that someone is there and will get video and audio out as quickly as possible. I hope that questions are raised and facts checked. I will also state that if any legitimate crimes are found as a result of the testimony or checking of same, that they are investigated, prosecuted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law -- including punishing those who withheld that information, at least until they could grandstand about it.
The marketplace of ideas is a great thing, and at least this time we will be able to get a list of ingredients in what is being served up. I know I plan to check that before I take anything off this buffet.
If anyone knows of a site that is posting in realtime or near-realtime, please let us know in the comments. If someone is going to posting audio, video, or stories later from what went on today, please let us know that as well.
LW

NOTE: The trolls are already out, please ignore them as feeding only encourages them. The right to edit and/or re-write their comments is reserved, and being considered...

March 13, 2008

Hundreds Of GI's Sign Antiwar Ad

This was originally published in GI Press Service, vol. 1, no. 11 (13th October 1969)

In his November 3 speech, President Nixon several times referred to a so-call "silent majority" which he claimed support. his war policies. James Reston wrote two days later that Nixon "was worried about what he calls the 'vocal minority' in the universities and the press who have been opposing him, and felt that the 'silent majority' was with him -- though how he knows he had the majority if it was 'silent' is not clear."
>Reston's argument is well taken. On November 9, a portion of the population which has been kept silent against its will "spoke" in an advertisement published in the New York Times. The ad was placed by the GI Press Service The text consisted of a statement of opposition to the war and support for the November 15 demonstrations.
Although less than three weeks were available for circulating the statement, 1,366 active duty GIs -- including 190 stationed in Vietnam -- signed the forms that were circulated and had their names included in the Times ad. Approximately another 100 signatures were obtained but could not be printed with the ad either because signatures were illegible or because they were received too late.
The text signed by the GIs and printed in the Times read as follows:

We are active-duty servicemen.
We are opposed to American involvement in the war in Vietnam.
We resent the needless wasting of lives to save face for the politicians in Washington. We speak, believing our views are shared by many of our fellow servicemen.
Join Us
On November 15, join hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life who will march in Washington and San Francisco to demand that ALL the troops be brought home from Vietnam NOW. This will be a legal and peaceful demonstration.
GI's, as American citizens, have the constitutional right to join these demonstrations. In the past, however, military authorities have often restricted servicemen to their bases, thus effectively preventing them from participating in demonstrations against the war. We ask you to write to the President and your representatives in Congress to demand that GI's not be prevented from participating in the November, 15 demonstrations.

March 12, 2008

Iraq Veterans Against the War - Interview With Sgt. Jabbar Magruder (Army National Guard)

“When I Hear People Say That You Shouldn’t Speak Out Against The War Because It Will Discourage Our Soldiers, I Find That Insulting; It Treats Soldiers As If They’re Children” Sgt. Jabbar Magruder (Army National Guard) as told to Steve Lowery


“I joined the Army National Guard in 2000. I was a high school kid who wanted to learn a trade while serving my country. The day of September 11, I called my National Guard unit and asked them, ‘Are we going to get involved, are we going to go anywhere?’ And they told me, ‘We’re the National Guard. We don’t go anywhere.’
“By 2003 we were told we’d go to Kosovo. Then, in March of 2004, we learned we were going to Iraq. We arrived in January of 2005.
I was stationed in Tikrit. Iraq was essentially in chaos. Explosions were so normal that you got so that you could tell, just by the sound, the difference between an insurgent blast and one where the MPs were doing a controlled blast. It got to a point that we were so jaded that if we heard an explosion our first concern wasn’t safety but would they close the chow hall down this time?
“I guess the scariest times for me were whenever we had to go out with a convoy. Those were times when you think, okay, I’m going to have to shoot someone. It was around the time that I was there that one of the specialists embarrassed the Secretary of Defense by asking him why we didn’t have the equipment we needed, especially on the troop transports.
So they sent us three-quarter-inch steel plates to put on the trucks. But all that meant is that it would allow us to have open casket funerals. We’re still sitting in open trucks with people shooting at you all the time.
“I don’t think people here understand what it’s like to be occupied.
To be without electricity, to have your house raided.
I use the analogy of telling people to imagine if China invaded Southern California. All those factions in Southern California, racial, gang-related, that hated each other and fought with each other, would all of a sudden direct their attention to the Chinese. That’s what it’s like in Iraq. We’ve destabilized it and so it’s now a breeding ground for terrorists.
“I began to feel like I’d been lied to once I got there. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
“Yes, Saddam was a bad man, but I didn’t have the feeling we were necessarily making things better.
“In the end, I did my job, 12 hours a day, nine straight days with one day off. I did that because I wanted to bring my friends home safely.
“That’s why I’m speaking out now.
When I hear people say that you shouldn’t speak out against the war because it will discourage our soldiers, I find that insulting; it treats soldiers as if they’re children.
They’re intelligent people who understand that a nation built on political dissent is supposed to have open discussions.
Soldiers talk about the war. There’s as wide a political spectrum in the military as in America. It’s the soldiers who bear most of this burden, we need to talk about that burden.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War - Interviews With Specialist Wendy Barranco

“That’s When My Whole Activism Kicked In, Because I Started Realizing What Kind Of Crap War This Is”

Specialist Wendy Barranco, Combat Medic, Army, interviewed by Rachel Powers:
Wendy Barranco was 19 when she served as an anesthesia technician at a Tikrit field hospital — from October 2005 to July 2006. She was just out of high school, like so many of her patients, including the first one she saw die.
Now she is 22, a full-time student and anti-war activist, preparing herself for Sunday’s participation in the Winter Soldier fundraiser at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach. The fundraiser will bring together many veterans to speak about what they saw in Iraq in hopes of sending the vets to a similar conference in Washington D.C. later this month (www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier).
Her poise falters occasionally: When describing three badly burned Iraqis, she suddenly stops speaking, pausing for a full 12 seconds to steady herself. And certain aspects of the military experience are so ludicrous as to absolutely require the strongest of obscenities.
With all of this in mind, I thank her for her time and willingness to engage in a conversation that must be very difficult — either because the stories are so gruesome and terrible, or because frequent retellings have rendered the subject so tiresome that she feels as if she’s going to go out of her mind if she has to go over it one more time. “Both,” she says....
Are there any patients that stand out in your memory?
The first guy I saw die. We were in the emergency room and this guy came in, an American soldier. He was all shot up. And basically he was dead on arrival, but we were trying to resuscitate him so we stuck him on a bunch of lines and tried to pump him full of fluids and stuff, trying to bring him back.
We did CPR and it just wasn’t working.
The surgeon, as a last resort, went ahead and cracked his chest open and he started doing heart massage to try to get his heart back. That really doesn’t work, but you do that as a last resort, a last ditch effort to bring them back.
He was wearing his flak vest, and there were a couple of bullets in his head and his neck. I think he was ambushed or . . . I don’t know. He was just shot up. He essentially bled out. That was the first time I saw somebody get their chest cracked. Eventually it became kind of mundane.
With trauma we do a lot of exploratory laparotomies, which is basically cracking the chest down the mid-line and looking to see if there is any damage. And so in that type of surgery everything is wide-open, cracked-open. When the surgeon told us to get in there and keep massaging the heart after him, it was kind of surreal. I just stuck my hands in there and started doing what I needed to do.
We all knew he wasn’t coming back. We were trying to make every effort, and then the surgeon said, “I’m just going to go ahead and call it.” That was it. That was when I stopped.
And then we all kind of just walked away.
I took a step back about six or seven feet and looked at his body, and it hit me: This guy is 19 years old, and he’s basically a kid. I saw myself on that gurney.
That’s when my whole activism kicked in, because I started realizing what kind of crap war this is, and what kind of people it was killing, young men and women, kids, 18, 19, 20 years old.
Did you ever treat any Iraqis?
Oh yeah. We treat everybody: Marines, soldiers, contractors, insurgents, local nationals, a couple of coalition troops.
What sort of injuries did you see with the Iraqis?
With the Iraqis? I’ve never been asked that. Most of the things that we saw with the Iraqi locals were trauma, things like burns, shots. Three guys that stick out in my mind. They were basically burnt to a crisp. They had nothing done for them, there was no treatment, there was no pain control, there was nothing.
Needless to say, the surgeon was pretty pissed off, because their burns were a week old — the event was a week ago — and the Iraqi hospital took them in and did nothing for them. And now they come and they dump them on our doorstep and then we have to take care of them. The surgeon called in a favor and had them medivaced to a Baghdad hospital with a burn unit. Burn victims need all kinds of specialized care. We don’t have that type of facility. It’s not like we can send them to Germany.
So the men who had been burned: They were still alive when they came to you?
Oh yeah, very much so. Yeah, that was my turning point. They were Iraqi people and the Iraqi (doctors) had not helped them in the least. No pain control, no irrigation, no scrubbing, no temperature controlled room, nothing, absolutely nothing, not even the most basic care. And then they just house them for a week, just to be able to get that money from the government. And when they don’t feel like having them anymore, they put them in the little ambulance, bring them over to us, drop them at the front gate, we get a call to pick them up, and we bring them back.
And everybody’s like, “What the fuck? What is this?”
Iraqi hospitals are paid by the US government?
For every patient that they get and that they take in, they get money from the US government because we’re trying to, I guess, initiate that drive to help your own kind.
The problem is that once they take that patient in, there’s nothing that says that they have to treat them properly or efficiently or in a timely manner.
And that wasn’t the only case. There was a guy who was dropped off who had a chest tube, but it was on the wrong lung. (Another) guy was 60 or 70, and he had a whole array of problems. He was diabetic, he had GI problems . . . I mean, this guy was just a mess. And this guy got dropped off at our gate by the Iraqi hospital, just left there. We spent about eight hours in the operating room, taking tubes out that they had placed, putting things in where they needed to be, just things like that. There was one guy who was shot in the leg and we had to do numerous surgeries on him, because it kept re-infecting and it just wouldn’t heal properly. He was about 10 years old, eight years old, something like that.
How did the Iraqi patients seem to you? What were they like?
Most of them, their demeanor was very calm, cool and collected. It sounds ridiculous, but they were. And it has a lot to do with their culture. They were surrounded by people they don’t know, wearing hats and scrubs, we look completely different, we speak a totally different language.
Most of them were just trying to take it all in, and discern if they were in good hands or not. I do remember one guy with a leg injury who, when we were rolling him in to the operating room, he kept saying, “I love America! I love America!” And looking back on it, I think that was his defense mechanism. He knew what surgery meant with Hussein. With us, I’m sure he was terrified. He knew what had happened to other people, so with him going under and into surgery, I think he was very scared that he might not be coming back.
As for the troops that you saw, did you have any sense of how they felt about the war?
To be honest, the last thing that I had on my mind was asking them, “How do you feel about the war?” They’re bleeding out on my table and I’m trying to save them, and to say, “How do you feel about the war?” while I’m pumping away at their chest. . . .
Seeing the type of emotional state that they were in, whether they were completely lacking emotion or just straight-up bawling, like, “Am I going to freaking live? Am I going to lose my leg? Am I going to lose my arm?” To even ask in that moment would be a bit disrespectful.
“I’m blown up here, bleeding out, but you want to talk to me about how I feel about the war?”
So your feelings about the war changed relatively early in your experience?
Yeah, it was kind of a seed that was planted: “Wait a minute, these guys are just like me!”
And then looking at how (the Iraqi) medical system was working, or lack thereof, it was like, “This is ridiculous. This whole little dream that we have of setting up a society, a democratic society, is bullshit.” From what I saw of the Iraqi people, our idea of “bettering” them is not the same as their idea of “bettering” themselves.
How are you feeling now? Have you been able to walk away from all of it?
To try and walk away from it is a mistake in and of itself. I’ve come to terms with the fact that what happened, happened. I’m very proud of the fact that I was there, I’m very proud of the fact that I did something to, in my mind, help humankind, trying to save lives and stuff like that. I go to therapy at the VA. When I came back I thought, “I’m better than that. All this stuff about PTSD and nightmares . . . man, I’m a combat medic. I’m above that.” But it’s not so. I learned that real quick. But now I’ve, as cliche as it sounds, “come to terms” with it.
Activism is my therapy, talking about it and letting people know what’s going on.
But what helps me the most is just being around other veterans, exchanging stories, just talking about our experiences and just laughing, sometimes even crying, sometimes even just shaking our heads, like “Fuck! The military is just (eaten) up!” (But at first) it just hurt to breathe. And the whole range of emotions inside of me, that I’d been quietly collecting . . . and I realized, “Shit, this might be a problem.” I’m not incapacitated by it — I know so many people who can’t even sleep, they patrol their own home with their M16, you know? At night, instead of going to sleep, they just walk around with their M16. And they can’t get out of bed in the morning.
So I consider myself to be truly lucky to be where I am today; I didn’t see all the combat stuff and the front line stuff that the other guys saw. That’s why I have so much respect for them. They go through so much, it’s insane. It’s beyond me.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell me?
I’m just trying to get the message out that veterans are here for veterans. That’s all. I’m not here to say, “Go to the VA,” because that blows. I’m not here to say, “The war affected you and so therefore you should be against it.” Veterans are here for veterans.

Deconstructing Winter Soldier

This article, by Camillo MacBica, was originally published at opednews, March 7, 2008


The Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan hearings organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will begin on March 13th. During the four day event, scholars and most importantly, veterans and civilians with personal experiences of war, will attempt to educate the American public about the nature and the reality of the Bush Administration's alleged war against terrorism. There will be those, no doubt, some veterans themselves, who will be offended by these hearings and will regard the testimony given by these courageous individuals as unpatriotic, un-American, unsupportive of the troops, perhaps even as treasonous. Such condemnation and opposition to Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan is unwarranted and misguided, perhaps, for some, a remnant of a deep seated resentment regarding earlier Winter Soldier hearings in which veterans testified regarding their experiences fighting the war in Vietnam.
It is not the purpose of Winter Soldier to malign or disparage America, but to begin a dialogue regarding the morality, legality, and necessity of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. To tell the truth about war does not diminish this nation. If anything, it affirms America's greatness, and the commitment of its citizens to truth and justice. With the war in Iraq entering it's sixth year with no end in sight, it is time, long past time, that all Americans at least become aware of the nature of war and of its cost in human lives and national treasure.
Neither is it the purpose of Winter Soldier to diminish the efforts and sacrifices of members of the military. To tell the truth about war, though difficult and disconcerting, will ultimately prove uplifting and curative as the legacy, dignity, self-respect, and integrity of our servicemen and women, rests not upon fantasy, lies, and fabrications but upon their commitment to America and to freedom. Though veterans must accept some personal responsibility for their actions, all who supported the war or did nothing to stop it must share culpability. Most blameworthy, of course, are those political leaders, whose misguided policies, incompetence, and paranoia ultimately makes killing, dying, and grieving inevitable.
Winter Soldier is a wakeup call to all Americans that our nation is in peril and that what threatens the fabric and foundations of our way of life in these dangerous times is not some amorphous, enigmatic horde of bloodthirsty terrorists. Rather it is the assault upon truth, individual freedom, and the values of justice and morality we hold sacred. Further, Winter Soldier is an admonition that to avoid hypocrisy, we must have the moral courage to look at and to judge our own behavior with at least as much honesty and scrutiny as we view and judge the behavior of others.
Unfortunately and tragically, perhaps war is a reality that will not soon go away and sacrifices on the field of battle will again be required. However, by demanding truth and recognizing war as it truly is, we will begin to resolve the divisiveness that plagues our nation, and provide veterans and devastated families the opportunity to heal and to achieve some semblance of normalcy in their lives. Further, we will ensure that war remains a means of last resort, that no other person will again have to kill, die, or grieve the loss of their son or daughter for a cause that is misguided, and, perhaps, most important, that those who dare to initiate such wars and connive to use deception and myth to encourage participation and support are held responsible for their crimes against humanity.
Is it truly support, therefore, to remain silent when our troops are placed in harm's way unnecessarily, to kill and be killed subject to the whims and ineptitudes of our political leaders? Who can dispute that sending inadequately prepared National Guard troops into combat and then failing to provide them with body and vehicle armor is unconscionable and criminally negligent. The fact that so many of our heroic sons and daughters are languishing abandoned, their emotional and psychological injuries untreated, and their needs ignored, is a national tragedy and disgrace. The fact that America has become isolated in the world, respected no longer for its ideals, but feared for its brutality, no longer admired for its values of justice and freedom, but hated for its hypocrisy and intolerance, should bring a tear to the eye and anger to the heart of anyone who truly loves America. Such outrage requires, no demands, the true patriot, the Winter Soldier, to embrace truth and to cry out in condemnation and protest against this corrupting and disgracing of America by those political leaders and their coconspirators who cherish not our values and way of life but only wealth and power.

March 11, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Stop the War Brigade Pamphlet

click here to go to Stop the war Brigade Website

Stp_war_p1Stp_war_p2 Stp_war_p3


Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Press Conference in Berlin

  PRESS CONFERENCE INVITATION  
 
 
 

Hundreds of War Veterans to Gather in Washington, DC March 13-16 to expose war crimes
http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier
'We've all heard from the politicians. We've heard from the generals. Now its our turn.' Iraq Veterans Against the War
Iraq Veterans Against the War
http://ivaw.org/files/IVAWWinterSoldier2.11.08.pdf


Dear Members of the Press:
You are cordially invited by the Stop the War Brigade, Iraq Veterans Against the War (Eu), Newyorck in Bethanien, AVA Military Project in collaboration with the Babylon Theater Mitte (Berlin) to attend this press conference on:

Tuesday, March 11 at 11 AM
Babylon Mitte Theater
Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 30
10178 Berlin

We are are calling this press conference to announce our whole hearted support for IVAW's expose called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. This is an historical moment linking the Viet Nam War to the conflicts of today. The first Winter Soldier took place in Detroit in 1971 and now today Soldiers and Veterans are once again ready to speak out againstthe war in no uncertain terms. They are holding this event to tell people about the experiences of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations. Some of us holding this press conference have also participated in this and other past wars.

At US & NATO military bases extending from London England and throughout Germany to Vincenza Italy, local activists aredistributing leaflets that call on US/NATO soldiers to observe, support and take part in the Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan hearings.

Please note: Live broadcasts of these hearings are being planned in major European cities. Here in Berlin the Iraq Veterans Against the War (Eu), the Stop The War Brigade and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (AI) in collaboration with the Babylon Mitte (Berlin) will be providing live viewing of the historic Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan from Washington DC at the Babylon theater on Friday 14 March beginning at 2PM and on 15 march beginning at 6PM.

am Freitrag, den 14.3.08 ab 14.00 Uhr
am Samstag, den 15.3.08 ab 15.00 Uhr
Supporters include: AVA Berlin, DFG-VK, Gruppen der FRIKO, Connexion e.V., Ansbacher Appell.

Contact:
+49 (0)176 963 19 625,
stopthewarbgde@hotmail.com
http://www.stopthwarbrigade.com

-----------------------German TRANSLATION----------------------

EINLADUNG ZUR PRESSEKONFERENZ
Hunderte von Kriegsveteranen versammeln sich in Washington, DC,13. - 16. Maerz, um Kriegsverbrechen zu enthuellen
http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier

'Wir alle haben die Politiker gehoert. Wir haben die Generaele
gehoert. Jetzt sind wir dran.'
Iraq Veterans Against the War
http://ivaw.org/files/IVAWWinterSoldier2.11.08.pdf


Liebe Mitglieder der Presse:
Sie werden herzlich eingeladen von der Stop the War Brigade, Iraq Veterans Against the War (Eu), NewYorck im Bethanien, American Voices Abroad Military Project, in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Babylon Theater Mitte (Berlin), an dieser Pressekonferenz teilzunehmen:

Dienstag, den 11. Maerz, um 11.oo Uhr
Babylon Mitte Theater
Rosa-Luxemburg-Str. 30
10178 Berlin

Wir geben diese Pressekonferenz, um unsere Unterstuetzung fuer die Enthuellung der IVAW, 'Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan'genannt, kundzutun. Dies ist ein historischer Moment, welcher den VietNam Krieg zu den heutigen Konflikten in Beziehung setzt. Das ersteWinter Soldier fand 1971 in Detroit statt, und jetzt und heute sindSoldaten und Veteranen einmal mehr bereit, ihre Stimmeunmissverstaendlich gegen den Krieg zu erheben. Sie fuehren dieseVeranstaltung durch, um den Menschen von den Erfahrungen der Veteranender Besetzungen des Iraks und Afghanistans zu berichten. Einige vonuns, die diese Pressekonferenz geben, haben ebenfalls an diesen undfrueheren Kriegen teilgenommen.

Auf US & NATO Militaerbasen, sichvon London, England, ueber Deutschland bis Vincenza, Italien,fortsetzend, verteilen lokale Aktivisten Flugblaetter, welche dieSoldaten aufrufen, die Winter Soldier Untersuchung zu verfolgen, zuunterstuetzen und an ihr teilzunehmen. Auch in anderen europaeischenGrossstaedten sind Life-Uebertragungen geplant.

Unterstuetzer sind u.a.: AVA Berlin, DFG-VK, Gruppen der FRIKO, Connexion e.V., Ansbacher Appell
Bitte notieren: Lifeübertragungen dieser Anhörungen werden in vielen europäischen Großstädten ausgestrahlt. Hier in Berlin werden die Iraq Veterans Against the War (Eu), die Stop The War Brigade und die Vietnam Veterans Against the War (AI) in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Babylon Mitte (Berlin) eine Lifeübertragung des historischen Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan aus Washington DC im Babylon Mitte bereitstellen:
Kontakt:
+49 (0)176 963 19 625,
stopthewarbgde@hotmail.com
http://www.stopthewarbrigade.com

 

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Live Screening (London)

  INVEST IN CARING NOT KILLING!

REFUSING TO KILL IS NOT A CRIME
!
 
 
 
 

"To stop this war, for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. ...
How do you support the troops but not the war? By supporting those who can truly stop it; let them know that resistance to participate in an illegal war is not futile and not without a future." (Lt. Ehren Watada, first US officer to refuse to go to Iraq - facing 7 years in prison. His court-martial ended in a mistrial but he is still in legal limbo).

The Winter Soldier hearings are modeled on the 1971 event of the same name organized by anti-war veterans who galvanized the movement that ended the Vietnam war.
Wherever we are, we all suffer from war: the utter theft of our lives and resources. Our survival often depends on soldiers saying “No”!
Soldiers – women and men – who refuse to kill, maim, rape and torture are jailed, assaulted and forced underground. But they have the right and the duty to obey their conscience rather than military orders. With supporters and campaigns, so often organized by women, more and more are determined not to be commanded into killing.

  • Tune in, come to our public showing or organize yours in houses, community centres, places of worship, trade-union branches, Post your event on IVAW’s website and tell us so we can put it on our website too.
  • Write a statement of support for the hearings on IVAW’s website. Send a copy to Payday for our website. If you are a conscientious objector/refusenik or relative of someone in the military tell about your experience. Let Winter Soldier know that the world supports them!
  • Details on Winter Soldier on IVAW's website: www.ivaw.org.

Global Women’s Strike www.globalwomenstrike.net
Payday men’s network www.refusingtokill.net
PO Box 287 London NW6 5QU Tel 020 7482 2496

 

Why the Winter Soldiers are Needed Again - It was and is the war

I am constantly amazed at how rank and file chicken hawks continue to beliueve that the War in Iraq is protecting us from terrorism, and seem to be driven insane when they are shown irrefutable proof that the bill of goods they were sold was a forgery. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been trolling through the outer reaches of the virtual universe looking for everything written about the upcoming Winter Soldier hearings, and while the left has its fair share of thoughtless fools, who revel in insulting rank and file soldiers with no understanding that there is a world of difference between the brass and lifers on the one hand and those enlisted men and women who now find themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This stupidity however, pales in comparison the unadulterated brutality of the Orwellian alternate universe Chicken Hawks fly around in. I realize it is a lot easier to read the cliff notes to James Joyce's Ulysses than it is to struggle through the original, but you are not going to be able to do anything more than scrape through a multiple choice quiz about the book and will certainly learn nothing. The same is true with the upcoming Winter Soldier Hearings and the Iraq Veterans Against the War, which are denounced by people based on what they have been told by Scott Swett, John O'Neil and their fellow swift-boaters. Not one of them have bothered to read the transcripts of the Winter Soldier Hearings, but they state with absolute certainty and conviction that the supposed eyewitnesses could only describe war crimes that they were told about third hand and never witnessed.
One of the most unpleasant of these accusers is a lady who proudly class herself Chicken hawk Express. In one of her latest attacks on the credibility of the witnesses at the events in DC this week, she makes the following blanket statement "all in all it looks like it will be the same old thing - claims of "I was told", "I didn’t actually witness but heard about it", ad-nausea." She ends her attack with the threat that the participants had better be sure of their facts because she and her colleagues would be fact checking everything with Lexis-Nexus. While I have access to Lexis-Nexus, it unfortunately does not go back as far as 1971 so one can not use it to check how many times “I was told” and “I didn’t actually witness but heard about it” appear in the transcript. However, I do have access to the Sir! No Sir! Archive dataabase (http://www.sirnosir.com/library/articles/search.html) and was able to do a phase search for both. The phrase "I didn’t actually witness but heard about it" does not appear once in the transcripts. As for the phrase “I was told”, it appears 19 times.
One witness uses it in the context of shoddy medical treament he received after being wounded over the Easter Weekend in 1969 :

“My Easter of '69 wasn't exactly what I'd call a treat. I was wounded. They decided that I wasn't wounded bad enough to be dusted off, so I waited a period of approximately nine hours while I was laying in a pig sty to be dusted off. When I was dusted off, I was taken to the hospital. I will say the treatment I got was fast, but efficient, it wasn't. I was taken into the operating room and worked on. They completely neglected the wounds on my arms and, of course, I had to say, "I don't think you're finished yet." So they sewed up the wounds on my arms. I was then released to get to a ward. I was put in a ward where there was no medic, no supervisor. I was told by the man laying next to me that I was hemorrhaging. Well, since there was no one in the ward that meant I had to get up and walk back to the operating room and open the door and say, "Doctor, I'm not done." Then they put me back on the table and said, "Oh, I guess you're not!" And they finished it up. “ (http://sirnosir.com/archives_and_resources/library/war_crimes/winter_soldier/1st_infantry_1.html)

While the transcripts of the hearings are unpleasant reading, the witnesses are very clear that while they and their fellow GIs committed brutal and unspeakable acts, they were extremely careful not to blame enlisted men or junior officers. The Winter Soldiers, like many in the GI movement laid the blame squarely on the corporate elites who profited from the war, successive administrations and their political allies who were determined not to be the first Americans to lose a war and the brass, who in an effort to ensure victory unleashed the full force of American might upon the population of South Vietnam.
The fact they held the brass and the corporate and political elites responsible for what was occurring in Vietnam was made crystal clear, by William Crandall, who in his opening statement remarked “We intend to tell who it was that gave us those orders; that created that policy; that set that standard of war bordering on full and final genocide. We intend to demonstrate that My Lai was no unusual occurrence, other than, perhaps, the number of victims killed all in one place, all at one time, all by one platoon of us. We intend to show that the policies of Americal Division which inevitably resulted in My Lai were the policies of other Army and Marine Divisions as well. We intend to show that war crimes in Vietnam did not start in March 1968, or in the village of Son My or with one Lt. William Calley. We intend to indict those really responsible for My Lai, for Vietnam, for attempted genocide.”
In an effort to win the war, grunts and junior officers were ordered to “uproot … hundreds of thousands of peasants from their villages and … [move] … them into government refugee camps. The villages were then razed and the destroyed areas proclaimed free-fire zones. Vietnamese found in these zones were automatically considered Viet Cong and … subject to American fire without warning.” (Christian Appy, Working Class War 226-227) Reading through the transcripts of the hearings, most of the atrocities described occurred in these free fire zones.
The indiscriminate killing of Vietnamese, vividly described by the Winter Soldiers, within these free fire zones was driven by the equating iof “victory … [with] … a high body count. … The pressure on unit commanders to produce enemy corpses was intense, and they in turn communicated it to their troops.” (Ibid 227) As Philip Caputo observed, in his memoir a Rumor of War, “if it’s dead and Vietnamese, its VC” which resulted in “even the narrowly defined goal of killing communists proved, in practice, merely an effort to produce Vietnamese corpses.” (ibid 227).
While no detailed study of the political affiliations of the Winter Soldier Witnesses exist, Dr. Hamid Molwana and Paul Geffert detailed “profile study of members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War”, published in 1971 as the appendix to The New Soldier allows one to draw some conclusions. The majority had enlisted, were politically conservative and had either felt the “US was justified in being there” (28.5%), or had “[n]o strong feeling about our intervention or non-intervention” (47.5%) in Vietnam. When asked what had radicalized them, Molwana and Geffert found the majority of the membership of VVAW (62%), and by implication the Winter Soldiers, had been radicalized by their experiences in Vietnam , not as been claimed over the last 30 years by either the undue influence of civilian activists in the United States or the various Communist Parties in power at the time. A similar drift is occurring among servicemen deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is this drift, not the machinations of washed up old communists and former VVAW members, that is the impetus for the Winter Soldier Hearings.
For the second time in 40 years, American Servicemen and veterans have felt it necessary to publicly challenge the synthesis of military action with the goals and needs of corporate imperialism. Unfortunately, for the last 30 years these servicemen have been successfully misrepresented [swiftboated] as accusing their fellow GIs of unspeakable acts, it is up to us, to support, stand with and amplify their challenge.

March 10, 2008

From GI Special 6C2: "The Common Denominator That Links All Of These Veterans’ Stories Is A Profound Disillusionment About The War"

The following article was excerpted, by Tom Barton, from a longer piece published in the Sunday Times, March 2, 2008


“The Common Denominator That Links All Of These Veterans’ Stories Is A Profound Disillusionment About The War”
“Washburn’s Anger Comes From A Feeling Of Betrayal. ‘I Thought I Was Signing Up To Do Something Honourable’”
“It’s One Thing To Do 20 Push-Ups. It’s Another To Burn Us To The Point Of Exhaustion In Combat Theatre”


“What happened at Abu Ghraib,” Washburn says, “is those orders came from the top. If the policy makers and the commanders can dehumanise their own troops, why wouldn’t they dehumanise the Iraqi people?”
March 2, 2008 Ariel Leve, The Sunday Times [UK] [Excerpts]
This month, for four days in Washington, DC, beginning on March 13, there will be a second Winter Soldier gathering – 37 years after the first.
Organised by the protest group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan since the 9/11 attack on New York will testify about their experiences. They will present photographs and videos, recorded with mobile phones and digital cameras, to back up their allegations – of brutality, torture and murder.
Some see it as their responsibility to speak out – like Jason Washburn, a US marine who did two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq; Logan Laituri, a US Army forward observer in Iraq; and Perry O'Brien, an army medic deployed to Afghanistan in 2003.
Jason Washburn, 28, grew up in San Diego, California. He always wanted to do something to make a difference, and he enlisted in the US marines in December 2001. He wasn’t itching to go into combat, but he wanted the training.
He fought in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 where, he says, he met little resistance. Most people were surrendering.
“There were massive amounts of artillery strikes before we even invaded. We saw the results of that. Streets full of bodies – women and children – body parts, extremely indiscriminate. I’m talking about rolling through villages here, not military encampments.”
He was told there was a military structure in one village. “I didn’t see it. I didn’t see any army uniforms. Or weapons. All I saw were civilians.”
Washburn speaks slowly and with obvious discomfort. This was his introduction to Iraq.
“I still believed everything we were force-fed: weapons of mass destruction and possibly even a nuclear weapon. We felt, like, we’re going to go in, overthrow this evil dictator and give these people some peace, finally. We thought we were doing a good thing.”
Over the course of his three tours, there were more home raids than Washburn can remember.
He explains how it worked. “Usually it was based on a tip – we’re told someone in the home is an insurgent. We would pick up people who had nothing to do with anything, keep them locked up until they came up with something.”
He is glad that he didn’t witness some of the techniques used to get them to talk. “That’s not something I want on my conscience.”
It was not a scientific process. Most tips came from people with personal grudges.
Washburn and his platoon would kick down the doors in the middle of the night. He was warned not to be complacent.
There could be weapons in the children’s beds. In all of the home raids, too many to count, he never found children with weapons.
They would take the father away and they never knew what would happen after that.
By the time Washburn served in Haditha he was on his third combat tour. He was there on November 19, 2005, the day of the massacre when 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed, including women and children.
“My squad was doing medivacs out of the town. I was not there to witness the shooting, but I know many marines who were.”
It was a squad in his unit that went on the rampage after their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
“I have a lot of feelings about this incident. A friend of mine from my first two tours was in that squad. He was the guy they gave immunity to to testify against the squad leader.
“The people on the ground are looking at serious prison time. Like life.
The people who were giving orders were only relieved of command. And I don’t think that’s right.”
Washburn says Haditha was not an isolated incident. “It’s the one that just happened to be uncovered.”
Washburn says the most dangerous job in Iraq “has to be a taxi driver”. He tells two stories of taxi drivers being shot, both innocent victims. One driver was deaf and didn’t hear the command to halt. The other was at a checkpoint in the Haditha area.
“It was the mayor of one of the towns who was driving, and he was shot and killed. They found out after they shot him. My squad had to apologise to the family. We paid reparations. I don’t know the exact amount.
“But let’s see: money or a dead husband and father and mayor? People weren’t happy about that.”
During Washburn’s first Iraq deployment in 2003, his unit was told to capture a “rabble rouser”. “We kick down the door and all we find are a few women holding babies and a couple of kids. We were ordered to take the babies away and put sandbags on the women’s heads, tie their hands behind their backs, put them on their knees facing the wall.
Here I am zip-tying these women, and my buddy is standing next to me holding these babies asking what do I do with these kids?
We stood there, like, oh shit, what do we do? The squad leader came in and shouted, ‘Everybody is bagged and tagged – everybody!’ So we did it.” The babies were put down on the floor. After a few hours everyone was untied.
Inappropriate and immoral actions weren’t just aimed at Iraqi civilians.
There was frequent hazing – the mistreatment of soldiers by their comrades. Some were exercises in pure humiliation, common in most military units, like singing I’m a Little Teapot while others stand around laughing.
But some were brutal physical punishments, such as callisthenics in a sleeping bag with a gas mask on in scorching heat.
“It’s one thing to do 20 push-ups. It’s another to burn us to the point of exhaustion in combat theatre.
“There were guys that tried to speak out about it and that made it worse. That would get punished more.”
The futility of speaking out was bolstered by knowledge that complaints would get as far as the commanding officer of the company and no further. “They kept everything in-house.”
Another incident he describes was a step beyond hazing. He and another marine had had a disagreement. The punishment was that they were tied together – and sent out on patrol.
“Outside of the camp, in a war zone tied together, patrolling? Insane,” he says.
Washburn’s anger comes from a feeling of betrayal.
“I thought I was signing up to do something honourable.
“What happened at Abu Ghraib,” Washburn says, “is those orders came from the top.
If the policy makers and the commanders can dehumanise their own troops, why wouldn’t they dehumanise the Iraqi people?”


[P]erry O’Brien doubts that speaking out will foster more anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and Iraq than the killing of civilians and the dismantling of the infrastructure. After serving in Afghanistan for eight months, there was a slow revelation that triggered his shift.
“Everything that we were doing seemed almost designed to create more terrorists. To turn people against America. I couldn’t understand how we were liberating anyone.
“But I could understand how an Afghan person who was ambivalent about America could easily become an extremist based on their interaction with American soldiers.”


Kelly Dougherty, 29, is a co-founder and executive director of IVAW. In 1996 she enlisted in the National Guard as a medic while she read biology at the University of Colorado. On January 10, 2003, she received a call; she had been transferred to a military police unit – and she was being deployed to Iraq.
Dougherty was opposed to the war and surprised by her deployment.
In February 2003, she arrived in Kuwait and then moved to Iraq in March. Her unit was stationed in the south near Nasiriyah, where she often did convoy escorts and patrols.
“You put it out of your mind when you’re over there. And then you get back and reflect on it…
“The soldiers and marines are just doing their jobs, doing what they were trained for or what they were told to do when they got over there.
“Things that seem really horrible just become routine – and they are implicitly or explicitly condoned, or encouraged, by the commanders and the policy-makers.”


The offices of IVAW in Philadelphia are humble but busy. The group now has more than 700 members in 49 states, Washington, DC, Canada, and on military bases overseas.
I meet Logan Laituri there one afternoon and we sit down over a soft drink to talk. He has a gentle and sensitive manner. His enlistment wasn’t a patriotic stand, but more of a pragmatic decision. He didn’t know what else to do.
He became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg. “I had no accomplishments outside the military. I didn’t feel that I would be missing out on much.”
There was also a financial incentive. “Every soldier knows that you earn a crap-load of money in combat. Above and beyond my pay cheque I earned $800 a month – and all that’s tax-free. And everything is paid for in Iraq. You can save every single penny. That’s a lot of money you can save for your future.”
He was deployed to Iraq in January 2004, having switched to the 25th Infantry Division. When Laituri got to Samarra, they kicked down the doors of a building and found a police officer in uniform. “Through his interpreter he was telling us that he’d been waiting, and he had all the records. I thought to myself it was great initiative and it displayed insight.
“We handcuffed him and someone took it upon themselves to punch him in the stomach – what made me feel worse was watching it and not doing anything about it.”
As he talks, Laituri seems visibly troubled that he stood by watching this man beaten up. And he admits that so many of his feelings of being in Iraq are wrapped up in what he didn’t do: “What I saw happen and I didn’t say or I didn’t correct. I survived at the expense of Iraqis. I could have said something.”
But the fear of being isolated from the platoon prevailed. Beating up prisoners, abusing the bodies of Afghans, innocents shot dead in the crossfire of fear and threat – these things get lost in the mayhem of war – but other acts, if they become institutionalised, can “try the souls of men” and cannot be so easily dismissed.
Laituri was in Fort Irwin, California in May 2006 during a pep talk at the National Training Center. He alleges that a commander made a speech to his company, and that he “made it clear to us that if an innocent person was shot he would stage a scene to protect us”.
The explicit message was: “We would make sure there was a weapon found at the scene.”
Units go into combat believing that they will be protected from any repercussions. They feel like they have a licence to kill and often they do.
In 2007, the officer was relieved of his command after a death on June 23 last year in the vicinity of Kirkuk. He is not currently a suspect and was never charged – but two soldiers who were under his command have been charged with premeditated murder.
Last month a top army sniper testified in military court – under immunity – that he had ordered a subordinate to kill an unarmed Iraqi man, then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to back up a false claim of returned fire.
But who is ultimately responsible: the individual or the officer? The combatant or the culture? And why is it always the junior ranks who are charged?


On a February morning at a cafe in Brooklyn, New York, Perry O’Brien is explaining the difference between the “book way” and the “real way”, and the significance of the “three-stomp signal” that is used to differentiate between the two.
“If someone is giving a briefing and they stomp their foot three times after what they are saying, it means ‘disregard what I just said’. For instance, ‘Make every effort to avoid civilian property damage,’ stomp stomp stomp – (means) ignore that. The idea is that when you get back, anything that you did the book way can be spoken about – but not what was done the real way.”
It isn’t just between the book way and the real way, he says; it’s become between the honourable way and the immoral way.
Perhaps even more tragic is that now, for many, these lines have blurred. “People join the military wanting to be honourable. They follow a code of conduct – they have to. It’s what separates them from mercenaries.”
The common denominator that links all of these veterans’ stories is a profound disillusionment about the war.
All of these soldiers signed up with a belief that what they were doing was noble.
“The book way was we treat everyone the same…”
Perry smiles and taps his foot three times. “You are ordered to do things that are clear violations of our conscience and what we know to be moral. It’s not even what’s prescribed by the Geneva conventions. It’s what every human being knows to be right and wrong. We’re asked to do things that violate that and told it’s about the war, but you can never tell anyone because we need to protect them from that.
“I think that certainly it’s our duty to protect American civilians from the physical reality of wars. That’s our goal. To prevent the American public from having to participate in war and get hurt and put their lives at risk. That’s what we volunteer to do.
“But I don’t think we’re protecting America if we’re not telling our stories and keeping what we do secret.”

March 09, 2008

Winter Soldier - IVAW Midwest Fundraiser

     
   
 
 

IVAW Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Vermont Appeal

     
   
 
 

Shutting Down The Machine - Iraq Veterans Aganist the War (Philadelphia Chapter) March from Philadelphia to Valley Forge

 

Philadelphia Winter Soldier March
Part 1

 
     
   
 
 
 

Philadelphia Winter Soldier March
Part 2

 
     
   

March 07, 2008

Shutting Down The Machine - Iraq war veterans answer one last call of duty

This article, by David Gambacorta, was posted to Philly.com, March 1, 2008


The call of duty has brought them together again, for one more vital mission.
Their hair is a little longer, their faces are a little scruffier and their military garbs are a little more disheveled.
But when the signal is given shortly before 10 a.m. today at the Constitution Center, 20 members of the Philadelphia chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War will march once more.
They'll trek along Kelly Drive, past the Art Museum and Boathouse Row, across the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and continue out west until they meet about 90 other veterans at Valley Forge on Sunday afternoon.
Along the way, they hope to dispel a few myths about the Iraq war and give regular people an idea of the grim reality that their fellow soldiers still face overseas.
"We wanted to do something in solidarity that could send a message to the American people," said Steve Mortillo, the president of the Philadelphia chapter of IVAW, who served in Iraq with the U.S. Calvary 1st Squadron Infantry Division.
"It's been five years since the war started, and a lot of us have feelings that Americans only should die in combat if it's a cause that's going to save more American lives than it's going to cost."
Today's march also will promote IVAW's Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, a three-day gathering for veterans of both wars that will take place next month in Washington, D.C.
The organization boasts more than 700 members in the U.S., Canada and on military bases overseas.
Mortillo said IVAW's popularity has grown as soldiers - many of whom eagerly joined the military after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - have become disheartened with the seemingly endless, unnecessary conflict in Iraq, which as of Monday has claimed the lives of 3,973 U.S. soldiers.
"I drank the Cool-Aid for the Iraq war, and I think most people did, especially in the service. We expected that we would go in there, find weapons of mass destruction, oust Saddam and it would all be good," said a 28-year-old veteran who declined to be named but served two years ago as an imbedded adviser in an Iraqi army platoon.
"We didn't really listen to people who were experts on the Middle East who said the Sunnis and Shia have been fighting for 800 years, so the chances are that we're not going to just fix those problems," the veteran added.
While the war has continued to rage on, Iraqi civilians have grown increasingly tired of the U.S. military presence, said Jason Washburn, who did three tours in Iraq as a Marine squad leader.
"Right after the invasion started . . . I really think they believed in us and believed that we were going to help them. To be honest, so did a lot of us," said Washburn, 28.
"I thought we'd get an area secure so the contractors could go into town and start building schools and give these people running water, but that never happened."
Mortillo, 25, said that as the purported goals of the war shifted from finding weapons to spreading freedom, "no one was at the point where they'd stop doing their job, but we all pretty much understood that we weren't there for the reasons they told us."
Both veterans said many of their friends who are still serving in Iraq want to come home, but are troubled by a perceived lack of adequate care for soldiers with physical and psychological problems. *

Vermont Vets Share Stories of Iraq

 
 
   
 
 

Burlington, Vermont - February 28, 2008

More than 150 people packed the seats of a ballroom a the University of Vermont's Davis Center on Thursday night to hear the stories of four people who served as part of the global war on terror. The group is part of a growing movement of veterans calling for an end to the Iraq war.
Their testimony at UVM is a precursor to the Winter Soldier - Iraq and Afghanistan hearings to be held in Washington, D.C., next month.
Winter Soldier hearings first happened in 1971, when Vietnam War veterans spoke about the atrocities they saw and were a part of. These newest vets are following in their footsteps.
"Disposal of munitions happened in close proximity to agricultural fields, small villages, as well as the primary living base for U.S. soldiers," former U.S. Army Sergeant Drew Cameron told the crowd.
Cameron says he was once ordered to leave unexploded munitions by the side of the road after they fell out of his cargo truck while he was traveling as part of a convoy. Cameron also spoke about having to leave an injured Iraqi family, without treatment, after their car was hit by another convoy.
Former U.S. Marine Corporal Matthew Howard, who helped organize Thursday's event, says people enlist in the military wanting to do good, but that the system in Iraq forces them perform unthinkable acts.
"It's how we set the rules of engagement, how we conduct ourselves at checkpoints, how we conduct ourselves in house raids, how we forever are on the offensive thinking that every Iraqi's a threat or terrorist or insurgent. You know we never hear the term civilian over there," says Howard.
These four veterans who spoke at UVM say they have struggled to comprehend some of the things they did while serving overseas and now they want other people to hear their stories.
"Some people are going to say that we're not upholding our patriotic duty to America, that we're just demoralizing the troops, but if anything we want to make sure that our troops are taken care of they way they should," says Adrienne Kinne, a former U.S. Army Sergeant who served as an Arabic linguist for an NSA outpost.
Each of the veterans say they feel they were lied to about why they were sent to war.
"In the end I think the worst emotion to come out of that is just the feeling of betrayal, of ultimate betrayal," says Howard.
The four veterans will join more than 100 others in Washington, D.C., next month for the Winter Soldier - Iraq and Afghanistan hearings.
Like their predecessors who came before and helped bring an end to the Vietnam War, these Winter Soldiers hope their tales will bring about the immediate end of the Iraq war.

March 06, 2008

Here Come the Lifers and Chickenhawks defending us against the "Winter Soldiers"

This particular insightful analysis was originally posted by "GI Jane" to her blog The Foxhole.

Gijane

IVAW losers to host “Winter Soldier II”
Filed under: Assorted idiots, Politics — sfcmac @ 3:22 pm
SFC Jonn Lilyea, U.S. Army (RET) of This ain’t Hell (http://thisainthell.us/blog/) is a good buddy, a blogger, and a fellow war veteran. He’s going to be covering something next month called “Winter Soldier II”; a circus hosted by a bunch of malcontents from the IVAW, “Iraq Veterans Against the War”.
For the uninitiated, the original “Winter Soldier” took place in 1971, with John Kerry at the forefront of the farce.
John Kerry lied before Congress in 1971 during the so-called “Winter Soldier Investigation”. He denigrated his fellow veterans with fabricated tales about atrocities he never witnessed, and hopped into the political sack with Jane Fonda, and the V.V.A.W. (Vietnam Veterans Against the War); a wonderful organization that voted on whether to commit political assassinations during a November 1971 meeting. He also traveled to Hanoi, shook hands with the VC, and offered his support. His picture still hangs in the Ho Chi Mihn museum. His “war hero” persona has some flaws. The embellished circumstances involving his Purple Hearts and his subsequent behavior are clearly indicative of lack of character, integrity, and the leadership it takes to be a respected member of our government. He shouldn’t have been a Senator, let alone Presidential candidate.
Former members of his Navy Swift Boat unit revealed some aspects of Kerry’s unethical behavior in Vietnam. Kerry “reenacted” his adventures in Vietnam with a movie camera, conned the Navy out of 4 Purple Hearts for Band-Aid “wounds” (one of which was self-inflicted), and threw someone else’s medals over the Whit House fence during an anti-war publicity stunt.
For a complete expose on the 1971 “Winter Soldier” sham check out this website: http://www.wintersoldier.com/
Phonies like Jesse MacBeth, Scott Beauchamp, and Adam Kokesh, have either fabricated stories about themselves or their fellow sevice members and don’t have the decency to be ashamed.
Now comes a motley group of ex-military misfits, hosting a Winter Soldier redux.
The IVAW (http://www.ivaw.org) attracts some pretty undesirable characters. Read the “profiles” and comments on their website. Not one of them has any outstanding achievements. They omit full disclosure of their military backgrounds, and some of them are dumb enough to think that Buck Sergeants and Privates can “retire” under normal circumstances.
One of them in particular, Jonathan P. Dewald, has a unique way of “expressing” himself. His rants are clearly indicative of an emotionally retarded individual. Throwing imbecilic tantrums against the military and his own country is his way of compensating for his intellectual impotence. For someone who served in the Army, he’s totally clueless about the reasons for the WOT.
To top it all off, he’s not even a war veteran, yet he’s been allowed into an organization with the “Iraq Veterans” designation in the title. How token.
The Islamofascist goal of a world Caliphate is lost on the X-Box generation. In the IVAW, he’s in good company.
I previously blogged about these losers here: http://sfcmac.wordpress.com/2007/11/09/former-military-malcontents/
Veterans angered by disgraceful organizations like the IVAW, not only served, but actually deployed to war; an item missing from Dewald’s DD214. It’s highly probable that they padded their ranks with asshats like Dewald. Evidently, they think numbers will make up for the lack of legitimacy and integrity in their clique.
The IVAW brings shame on themselves in an attempt to drag all veterans into the gutter of their anti-military/anti-war ‘activism’. They abuse their status as “veterans” for the purpose of bad-mouthing the WOT as well as the country.
They feed the maws of radical groups like Code Pink, A.N.S.W.E.R., and MoveOn.org, and serve as a propaganda tool for Islamofascists who don’t like the fact we struck back and are erradicating them on their own turf.
There will be a lot of leftwingnut rhetoric at their little get-together next month, but they should know that most veterans will defy their bullshit.
The Left loves to tout groups like the IVAW as if they are ‘heros’ bucking the system, when in reality, there’s no honor or bravery in collaborating and joining ranks with an organization of traitorous malcontents.
I wonder if John Kerry will be on hand.


March 05, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Outreach materials

Fundraising Materials

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Vets raise their voices against occupation

This article, by Eric Ruder, was posted to SocialistWorker.org, March 7, 2008


MORE THAN 200 U.S. military veterans and active-duty troops from Iraq and Afghanistan will participate in a four-day event in Washington, D.C., to shed light on the atrocities committed by U.S. occupation forces.
"Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" will take place from March 13 to 16 and is the largest and most ambitious event yet organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
In addition to testimony by vets, the event will also drawn on the expertise of well-known authors, activists and journalists, such as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, unembedded reporter Dahr Jamail, Iraq war experts Anthony Arnove and Jeremy Scahill, and GI rights activist Tod Ensign.
Topics to be discussed include the corporate pillaging of Iraq; racism and sexism in the military; the crisis in the military and veteran health care systems; the domestic cost of the "war on terror"; and the history and future of GI resistance.
But the main attraction will be dozens of soldiers and former soldiers who will provide personal testimony and video and photographic evidence of the daily violence committed by occupation forces.
"Winter Soldier will expose the fact that it isn't the soldiers, but U.S. foreign policy that is criminal," said Martin Smith, a former U.S. Marine and member of IVAW's Winter Soldier organizing team. "We will corroborate the daily grind and the day-to-day reality of life under occupation."
Across the country, antiwar coalitions, student antiwar groups and other activists are planning to view Winter Soldier via satellite feeds and streaming Internet video.
"We are asking groups to organize simulcast events and to consider hosting speakouts and report-backs about our testimonies," said Smith. "We can end the war, but it will take the grassroots efforts of activists working in concert with the new GI movement."
Winter Soldier will provide an important correction to mainstream media coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, which tends to fall into three main kinds of reporting, according to veterans.
Most stories focus on the violence committed by "the terrorists"--that is, anyone who resists the U.S. agenda in those countries. A second kind of story reports on the "collateral damage"--in which civilians are killed by U.S. forces--but is generally careful to point out that such episodes are relatively infrequent, and a regrettable yet inevitable feature of war.
A third type, IVAW members say, admits that there are war crimes and atrocities committed by U.S. forces--such as torture at Abu Ghraib prison or the massacre of civilians at Haditha--but claims they are acts of individual soldiers who have broken military discipline.
The Winter Soldier testimony will show that the main source of violence in these countries are U.S. forces, and that so-called collateral damage as well as massacres, murders and torture all flow from the same source--the war planners and military brass who set and implement U.S. war policy in the "war on terror."
"We will indict the hollow proclamations of 'spreading democracy' or 'winning the surge' by showing how occupation degrades the humanity of both the foot soldiers of empire and those who are at the receiving end of the wars' brutality," said Smith.


WINTER SOLDIER takes its name from a similar event organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War 37 years ago, in which more than 100 Vietnam veterans testified to participating in or witnessing the burning of Vietnamese villages, the massacre of civilians and the torture of suspected resistance fighters.
The name is a reference to Tom Paine's famous essay, penned to inspire America's revolutionary fighters, in which he wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country..."
As Smith said, "We are very proud to stand in the legacy of the original Winter Soldier, organized by the VVAW in 1971. The Vietnam War produced a generation of fighters against U.S. empire who connected the war abroad with the war at home.
"What's striking from the footage of the original gathering is you not only see the raw emotional healing that bonded these veterans together, but you also realize the striking similarities in their stories to those we are collecting today. What were called 'gooks' in the past, for example, are now referred to as 'hajis,' as a means to dehumanize the enemy.
"But even more, by linking our stories to the past, it also exposes a broader corruption of U.S. policy. Our struggle today is, in part, to prevent the need for another Winter Soldier Investigation, so that future generations will never again bear the brunt and corruption of war and occupation."

Message from Pete Seeger


Pete Seeger to Winter Soldiers

March 04, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Statement of Support (vetspeak.org 2)

This article, by Alex Primm, was posted to vetspeak.org, March 3, 2008


"Going Broke... Going Bonkers... Going East..." By Alex Primm

Alex testified at the original Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit in 1971. He will be at Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan, to be held at the George Meany College of Labor in Silver Springs, Maryland. He will be there in support of the current ranks of Winter Soldiers as they Speak Truth To Power, and to the American People.
This March, 2008, marks our 5th anniversary in Iraq... we invaded on the 19th... shock and awe... the same day Cathy and I jumped the broomstick.
It's two days before the equinox... this can put people on edge... caught between two seasons... especially the season of cold and cabin fever.
Our Ozark college town had a demonstration the day before, more than a hundred showed up. Not me. Good luck, they were trying to stop the war even before it started.
I sort of believed President Bush, that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy who was going to blow up America with his secret weapons.
I believed in GWOT... briefly... the Global War on Terror. What happened to that? It seems to have had a short shelf life indeed...
I wanted Ahmad Chalabi to be right... the guy who was going to make Iraq a model democracy... whatever happened to him... another war criminal?
Has it all come down to Iraq? Who has benefited from the trillions of dollars... the thousands killed?
Iraq and the price of gas... and the price of bread... or heat... or life.
Everything going up... prices... casualties... confusion... frustration.
So why not go to D.C., the center of it all? That's where the Iraq Veterans Against the War are holding their investigation of this war... the Winter Soldier Investigation... numero dos.
Cathy's an intrepid traveler... let's go... it can't hurt. The same energetic attitude she had 25 years ago.
What finally made up my mind was talking with Willie Hager... a Vietnam vet like me... a smart dude with a good sense of balance who can laugh at this craziness because he saw beaucoup daily in Nam.
"You testified at the first WSI," Willie said. "You oughta think about coming to help these young vets now. Help get their stories out."

So, Cathy and I are going East; for memories, and for the future.

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Statement of Support (vetspeak.org)

This was originally posted to vetspeak.org, March 3, 2008


To Whom It Concerns:

I have to side with Willie and others as to the need for supporting the Winter Soldier movement when it comes forth. The American people want and deserve to hear the truth. The truth is not spoken any harsher than from those that served in the war in Iraq. This event will be an all out needed support from ALL VETERANS groups, pro and con against the war. Veterans have and need the support of one another, since the govt. seems to always deny what has happened to them in their effort to defend for America's Freedoms. As that old saying goes...."I don't agree with what you say...but I defend, to death, your right to say it..."
The last protest I attended was against the 1st Iraq invasion. As a combat veteran, I feel it is my duty to support and aid my fellow veterans in harms way. I also agree that some sort of new tactic be aligned to help in the anti-war movement. In today's arena, I don't think dissent among veterans is the way to proceed. I support total support for the Winter Soldier agenda. Thanks for your ear. I usually don't say anything, anymore, but this is a time to stand together and aide our fellow veterans....
Lil'John

Vietnam 68-69

March 02, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Promotional Materials

WINTER SOLDIER PROMOTIONAL CARDS
Please enter qty per pack

Winter Soldier promotional postcards are now available. As part of Courage to Resist's efforts to support Iraq Veterans Against the War's historic Winter Soldier hearings to be held March 13-16 in the Washington DC area, we are working with IVAW to facilitate the production and distribution of these two-sided full-color 6" x 4" promotional cards.

50 pack, $6 (.12 ea.)

100 pack, $10 (.10 ea.)

250 pack, $20 (.08 ea.)

500 pack, $30 (.06 ea.)

1000 pk, $45 (.045 ea.)

Postcard design 1

Wintersoldierpostcards_front1

Postcard design 2

Wintersoldierpostcards_front2

Postcard design 3

Wintersoldierpostcards_front3

Postcard rear

Wintersoldierpostcards_back

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Patriot missiles: Iraq Veterans Against the War

This article, by Ariell Leve, was originally posted to The Times Online, March 2, 2008


After Vietnam, American veterans testified to the atrocities they witnessed. Now soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are about to do the same

Some of them will be okay. They will live with the secrets. They can dissociate from what happened in combat because it was part of the job. It was what they signed up for. They will keep the secrets out of duty – the silence is part of a code, and they honour that code above all else.
But for others, the secrets they keep are like a poison, slowly releasing toxins of shame and remorse. Who can they tell anyway? They talk to each other – other veterans who have seen what they’ve seen, done what they’ve done, and who can relate to the burden of carrying these secrets for the rest of their lives.
In 1971, the protest group Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered at a hotel in Detroit. More than 100 veterans talked about the atrocities they had witnessed in southeast Asia.
The event lasted for three days and was named Winter Soldier after Thomas Paine’s famous article. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” he wrote of the terrible winter of 1776, when Washington’s ragtag, demoralised army turned the tide of the War of Independence.
The Vietnam vets, spurred on by the court martial of Lt William Calley, who had ordered the infamous My Lai massacre, wanted to turn a tide too – against public opinion, to demonstrate that the execution of hundreds of innocent villagers in 1968 was not an isolated incident as so many believed. The Winter Soldier event received little coverage in America, but was the subject of an internationally acclaimed documentary of the same name.
This month, for four days in Washington, DC, beginning on March 13, there will be a second Winter Soldier gathering – 37 years after the first. Organised by the protest group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan since the 9/11 attack on New York will testify about their experiences. They will present photographs and videos, recorded with mobile phones and digital cameras, to back up their allegations – of brutality, torture and murder.
The veterans are not against the military and seek not to indict it – instead they seek to shine a light on the bigger picture: that the Abu Ghraib prison regime and the Haditha massacre of innocent Iraqis are not isolated incidents perpetrated by “bad seeds” as the military suggests, but evidence of an endemic problem. They will say they were tasked to do terrible things and point the finger up the chain of command, which ignores, diminishes or covers up routine abuse and atrocities.
Some see it as their responsibility to speak out – like Jason Washburn, a US marine who did two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq; Logan Laituri, a US Army forward observer in Iraq; and Perry O’Brien, an army medic deployed to Afghanistan in 2003. They believe that, as veterans, they are the most credible sources of information. They say they were put in immoral and often illegal positions. They will speak about what they saw, and what they were asked to do.


Jason Washburn, 28, grew up in San Diego, California. He always wanted to do something to make a difference, and he enlisted in the US marines in December 2001. He wasn’t itching to go into combat, but he wanted the training.
He fought in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 where, he says, he met little resistance. Most people were surrendering.
“There were massive amounts of artillery strikes before we even invaded. We saw the results of that. Streets full of bodies – women and children – body parts, extremely indiscriminate. I’m talking about rolling through villages here, not military encampments.”
He was told there was a military structure in one village. “I didn’t see it. I didn’t see any army uniforms. Or weapons. All I saw were civilians.”
Washburn speaks slowly and with obvious discomfort. This was his introduction to Iraq.
“I still believed everything we were force-fed: weapons of mass destruction and possibly even a nuclear weapon. We felt, like, we’re going to go in, overthrow this evil dictator and give these people some peace, finally. We thought we were doing a good thing.”
Over the course of his three tours, there were more home raids than Washburn can remember. He explains how it worked. “Usually it was based on a tip – we’re told someone in the home is an insurgent. We would pick up people who had nothing to do with anything, keep them locked up until they came up with something.”
He is glad that he didn’t witness some of the techniques used to get them to talk. “That’s not something I want on my conscience.”
It was not a scientific process. Most tips came from people with personal grudges. Washburn and his platoon would kick down the doors in the middle of the night. He was warned not to be complacent. There could be weapons in the children’s beds. In all of the home raids, too many to count, he never found children with weapons. They would take the father away and they never knew what would happen after that.
By the time Washburn served in Haditha he was on his third combat tour. He was there on November 19, 2005, the day of the massacre when 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed, including women and children.
“My squad was doing medivacs out of the town. I was not there to witness the shooting, but I know many marines who were.”
It was a squad in his unit that went on the rampage after their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).
“I have a lot of feelings about this incident. A friend of mine from my first two tours was in that squad. He was the guy they gave immunity to to testify against the squad leader.
“The people on the ground are looking at serious prison time. Like life. The people who were giving orders were only relieved of command. And I don’t think that’s right.”
Washburn says Haditha was not an isolated incident. “It’s the one that just happened to be uncovered.”


The establishment view is that war is hell and terrible things happen for the greater good. That killing is necessary. That there are those individuals acting on their own who will always smear the honourable actions of the military – men like Washburn, traumatised by war, who are emotional casualties whose testimony is to be mistrusted. Some regard him and the Winter Soldiers of 2008 as traitors for daring to question their commanders and for prosecution of the war.
But there are too many like Washburn to shout down. Many of the orders that combat soldiers were given were not written – but they were understood. At the Winter Soldier event, veterans’ stories will be corroborated by other veterans; backed up by the volume of testifiers who have witnessed the same things – in different units, years apart and in different countries.
There will be up to 100 veterans and, at present, 80 of them have submitted testimonies. Most will be enlisted men and women: privates and sergeants. They have been made aware of the consequences of taking part. Not just that they are likely to be denounced by their fellow veterans, but the psychological and perhaps legal consequences they may face by admitting to witnessing, or even perpetrating, war crimes. The National Lawyers Guild, an organisation of civil-rights attorneys, has volunteered to offer advice. Mental-health professionals will also be on hand to offer counselling. Organisers stress that the goal is to hold the policy makers accountable, not their immediate commanding officers. Nobody is permitted to name anyone below the rank of captain.
After the hearings, all the testimonies will be entered into the congressional record. There will be a live video stream on the web. There will also be panels of journalists and scholars to provide context and history.
Perry O’ Brien, who served as a medic in Afghanistan in 2003, is one of the Winter Soldiers on the verification team, which will ensure the testimonies are watertight, lest falsehood undermine the message. The order that O’Brien’s team is hearing most from the testifiers is the “shovel order”.
“Anyone carrying a shovel or any sort of implement that could be used to bury an IED could be considered a target,” he says. “After dark, you can shoot anyone who is outside. Or anyone who puts anything on the side of the road can be considered a target. You won’t find it in writing, but it’s an order indicated to soldiers.”
If not in writing, how can it be proven? “If we have enough soldiers testifying, it will be.”
Washburn says the most dangerous job in Iraq “has to be a taxi driver”. He tells two stories of taxi drivers being shot, both innocent victims. One driver was deaf and didn’t hear the command to halt. The other was at a checkpoint in the Haditha area.
“It was the mayor of one of the towns who was driving, and he was shot and killed. They found out after they shot him. My squad had to apologise to the family. We paid reparations. I don’t know the exact amount. But let’s see: money or a dead husband and father and mayor? People weren’t happy about that.”
During Washburn’s first Iraq deployment in 2003, his unit was told to capture a “rabble rouser”. “We kick down the door and all we find are a few women holding babies and a couple of kids. We were ordered to take the babies away and put sandbags on the women’s heads, tie their hands behind their backs, put them on their knees facing the wall. Here I am zip-tying these women, and my buddy is standing next to me holding these babies asking what do I do with these kids? We stood there, like, oh shit, what do we do? The squad leader came in and shouted, ‘Everybody is bagged and tagged – everybody!’ So we did it.” The babies were put down on the floor. After a few hours everyone was untied.
Inappropriate and immoral actions weren’t just aimed at Iraqi civilians. There was frequent hazing – the mistreatment of soldiers by their comrades. Some were exercises in pure humiliation, common in most military units, like singing I’m a Little Teapot while others stand around laughing. But some were brutal physical punishments, such as callisthenics in a sleeping bag with a gas mask on in scorching heat.
“It’s one thing to do 20 push-ups. It’s another to burn us to the point of exhaustion in combat theatre. There were guys that tried to speak out about it and that made it worse. That would get punished more.”
The futility of speaking out was bolstered by knowledge that complaints would get as far as the commanding officer of the company and no further. “They kept everything in-house.”
Another incident he describes was a step beyond hazing. He and another marine had had a disagreement. The punishment was that they were tied together – and sent out on patrol.
“Outside of the camp, in a war zone tied together, patrolling? Insane,” he says.
Washburn’s anger comes from a feeling of betrayal. “I thought I was signing up to do something honourable.
“What happened at Abu Ghraib,” Washburn says, “is those orders came from the top. If the policy makers and the commanders can dehumanise their own troops, why wouldn’t they dehumanise the Iraqi people?”


So far, the most vocal opposition to the Winter Soldier event has not been from the government, but from pro-war groups such as Vets for Freedom, the largest veterans’ organisation in America.
Their executive director, Pete Hegseth, a veteran who served in Baghdad and Samarra with the 101st Airborne Division, has criticised the Winter Soldier event. In an article in The Washington Independent, he asks:
“Did your company commander tell you to shoot women and children, or to maximise casualties? No! We don’t do that. To talk about systematic brutality is essentially indicting the military as being complicit in war crimes.”
But, as we shall see, there are ways to encourage illegal actions other than direct orders.
Hegseth suggests that speaking out might have more serious consequences: homes in the Middle East have internet access, this kind of information will reach them and affect the attitude towards US troops still over there. But Perry O’Brien doubts that speaking out will foster more anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and Iraq than the killing of civilians and the dismantling of the infrastructure. After serving in Afghanistan for eight months, there was a slow revelation that triggered his shift.
“Everything that we were doing seemed almost designed to create more terrorists. To turn people against America. I couldn’t understand how we were liberating anyone. But I could understand how an Afghan person who was ambivalent about America could easily become an extremist based on their interaction with American soldiers.”
Resolute pro-war organisations such as Gathering of Eagles are gearing up, getting ready to make their presence felt. They are chartering bus-loads of protesters to show up at the event to confront and harass the “traitors”.
The veterans who will be testifying at Winter Soldier are prepared for their integrity and credibility to be called into question.
Before anyone can testify, they must go through the verification process and be interviewed by a team of combat veterans whom they hope will be able to instinctively detect lies. IVAW is particularly vigilant since Jesse Macbeth joined in 2006 and represented them publicly at various events. Macbeth’s accounts of military service as a veteran of Iraq were false, which he admitted in federal court in 2007.
Since then the organisation has demanded proof of service, and every member must have a DD-214 – their Pentagon-issued personal-service record, which proves where and with whom they have served.
Members are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire. Under the heading Killing or Wounding Noncombatants, Prisoners or Unarmed Combatants, they are asked: “Did you witness or participate in any of the following: Civilians hurt or killed at checkpoints? Purposeful killing of civilians or unarmed combatants? Killing or wounding of prisoners? If yes, was this unit SOP [standard operating procedure] or common practice?”
Some other headings include: Mishandling and Mutilation of War Dead; Torture or Abuse; Rape, Sexual Assault or Harassment; Theft or Fraud.
When the testimonies begin on March 13, we shall discover how damaging or revelatory their stories will be. Perry O’Brien has confidence in the process. “Someone coming into our organisation and trying to pretend they observed something they didn’t – they can only maintain that for so long.”
Once the stories are told, each is to be researched by interviewing other members of the soldier’s unit. The verification team has recently decided that anyone fabricating their experience or pretending to be a veteran will be handed over to the authorities and charged with violating the Stolen Valor Act, a law signed by President Bush in 2006.


Perry O’Brien admits that he had hero fantasies. He was born on March 24, 1982, and grew up on a small island off the coast of Maine. After two years studying philosophy at university, he decided to enlist in the army as a medic in 2001 – two weeks before 9/11. It was a coming-of-age-ritual, influenced by the movies. He had the romantic idea that he wanted to save lives.
He did not come from a military background. His father works at a hardware store and his mother writes and illustrates children’s books.
In January 2003, O’Brien was deployed to Afghanistan for eight months. While he was there, he had many experiences that made him uncomfortable. Several times he witnessed an Afghan civilian die on the operating table after treatment from a mobile military surgical unit. Rather than prepare the corpse for the family, O’Brien witnessed the surgeons and the medics use the body to practise on.
“One doctor said, ‘Come up and feel his heart!’ This is what a heart feels like.’ ”
Half the platoon, if not more, participated. Daniel Paulsen, 27, was there and corroborates this story. There are photographs as well. Someone had grabbed O’Brien’s digital camera and taken photographs of the heart and the medics walking around and poking it. These photographs were taken for fun.
Eventually the chest of the corpse was closed up. “It was a total violation of our medical oath to use a corpse for medical training,” says O’Brien. “What’s particularly terrible is that these were all doctors that had practices back home – they were familiar with the law and the Hippocratic oath. There was such a huge disconnect between the way they treated Afghans and the way they treated American patients.
“When Americans died, the corpses became these sacred objects that were treated with tremendous care. There was this solemn funerary attitude around them. When an Afghan died, it was [as if they were] treating them like they weren’t human.
“My goal is to expose that these things are happening. And that they are the result of military leadership – part of an unofficial policy of dehumanisation.”
In 2004, while still on active duty, O’Brien attended a protest at Fort Bragg. There he met Mike Hoffman (a founder of IVAW) and joined the organisation shortly after leaving the army. He felt relieved. “Suddenly I knew that I wasn’t the only veteran who was questioning what I had seen and done.”


Kelly Dougherty, 29, is a co-founder and executive director of IVAW. In 1996 she enlisted in the National Guard as a medic while she read biology at the University of Colorado.
On January 10, 2003, she received a call; she had been transferred to a military police unit – and she was being deployed to Iraq.
Dougherty was opposed to the war and surprised by her deployment.
In February 2003, she arrived in Kuwait and then moved to Iraq in March. Her unit was stationed in the south near Nasiriyah, where she often did convoy escorts and patrols.
“You put it out of your mind when you’re over there. And then you get back and reflect on it…
“The soldiers and marines are just doing their jobs, doing what they were trained for or what they were told to do when they got over there. Things that seem really horrible just become routine – and they are implicitly or explicitly condoned, or encouraged, by the commanders and the policy-makers.”
The offices of IVAW in Philadelphia are humble but busy. The group now has more than 700 members in 49 states, Washington, DC, Canada, and on military bases overseas.
I meet Logan Laituri there one afternoon and we sit down over a soft drink to talk. He has a gentle and sensitive manner. His enlistment wasn’t a patriotic stand, but more of a pragmatic decision. He didn’t know what else to do.
He became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg. “I had no accomplishments outside the military. I didn’t feel that I would be missing out on much.”
There was also a financial incentive. “Every soldier knows that you earn a crap-load of money in combat. Above and beyond my pay cheque I earned $800 a month – and all that’s tax-free. And everything is paid for in Iraq. You can save every single penny. That’s a lot of money you can save for your future.”
He was deployed to Iraq in January 2004, having switched to the 25th Infantry Division. When Laituri got to Samarra, they kicked down the doors of a building and found a police officer in uniform. “Through his interpreter he was telling us that he’d been waiting, and he had all the records. I thought to myself it was great initiative and it displayed insight.
“We handcuffed him and someone took it upon themselves to punch him in the stomach – what made me feel worse was watching it and not doing anything about it.”
As he talks, Laituri seems visibly troubled that he stood by watching this man beaten up. And he admits that so many of his feelings of being in Iraq are wrapped up in what he didn’t do: “What I saw happen and I didn’t say or I didn’t correct. I survived at the expense of Iraqis. I could have said something.”
But the fear of being isolated from the platoon prevailed. Beating up prisoners, abusing the bodies of Afghans, innocents shot dead in the crossfire of fear and threat – these things get lost in the mayhem of war – but other acts, if they become institutionalised, can “try the souls of men” and cannot be so easily dismissed.
Laituri was in Fort Irwin, California in May 2006 during a pep talk at the National Training Center. He alleges that a commander made a speech to his company, and that he “made it clear to us that if an innocent person was shot he would stage a scene to protect us”.
The explicit message was: “We would make sure there was a weapon found at the scene.”
Units go into combat believing that they will be protected from any repercussions. They feel like they have a licence to kill and often they do.
In 2007, the officer was relieved of his command after a death on June 23 last year in the vicinity of Kirkuk. He is not currently a suspect and was never charged – but two soldiers who were under his command have been charged with premeditated murder.
Last month a top army sniper testified in military court – under immunity – that he had ordered a subordinate to kill an unarmed Iraqi man, then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to back up a false claim of returned fire.
But who is ultimately responsible: the individual or the officer? The combatant or the culture? And why is it always the junior ranks who are charged?


On a February morning at a cafe in Brooklyn, New York, Perry O’Brien is explaining the difference between the “book way” and the “real way”, and the significance of the “three-stomp signal” that is used to differentiate between the two.
“If someone is giving a briefing and they stomp their foot three times after what they are saying, it means ‘disregard what I just said’. For instance, ‘Make every effort to avoid civilian property damage,’ stomp stomp stomp – [means] ignore that. The idea is that when you get back [from combat], anything that you did the book way can be spoken about – but not what was done the real way.”
It isn’t just between the book way and the real way, he says; it’s become between the honourable way and the immoral way.
Perhaps even more tragic is that now, for many, these lines have blurred. “People join the military wanting to be honourable. They follow a code of conduct – they have to. It’s what separates them from mercenaries.”
The common denominator that links all of these veterans’ stories is a profound disillusionment about the war. All of these soldiers signed up with a belief that what they were doing was noble. Despite the lessons of Vietnam, or maybe because of them, they wanted to participate.
“The book way was we treat everyone the same…” Perry smiles and taps his foot three times. “You are ordered to do things that are clear violations of our conscience and what we know to be moral. It’s not even what’s prescribed by the Geneva conventions. It’s what every human being knows to be right and wrong. We’re asked to do things that violate that and told it’s about the war, but you can never tell anyone because we need to protect them from that.
“I think that certainly it’s our duty to protect American civilians from the physical reality of wars. That’s our goal. To prevent the American public from having to participate in war and get hurt and put their lives at risk. That’s what we volunteer to do.
“But I don’t think we’re protecting America if we’re not telling our stories and keeping what we do secret.”

March 01, 2008

Responding to the Conservatives, Army Sergeant takes on Denis Keohane and his Flock of Chickenhawks

The last blog entry published here reproduced Denis Keohane's "A Vietnam Vet Replies to IVAW' video". This was followed by a robust discussion between the active duty/IVAW blogger Army Sergeant, Denis Keohane and a number of his regular readers. Here is that discussion:


Discussion about "A Vietnam Vet Replies to IVAW's Video"
Obiter Dictum, Monday, February 24, 2008


February 24, 2008 3:40 PM - Army Sergeant said... I respect Mr. Boyle's service, and I would address him by rank had you included it here, but I do not see it, which is my only reason for addressing him with a (respected) civilian honorific.
I understand that he also is angry at the Winter Soldier which took place previously, and that his anger touches his words.
But I think that his anger also colours his opinion as well. He assumes the photos are being used to show atrocities for no real reason, unrelated to the witnesses. This is incorrect. The reason these photos are included is that these are photos which were taken of and by the units those individuals served with. They were their personal pictures, and they were included to show the war as seen through these individual's eyes. That is why positive as well as negative images were included. The pictures illustrate what those units saw-and saw well enough to photograph.
I am also saddened that Mr. Boyle assumes that soldiers and marines who are saddened by their experiences show 'forced angst'. I have been beside some of my fellows as they were racked with nightmares. I have taken the phone calls in the middle of the night. This is experience common to both IVAW members and non-IVAW members.
As a currently serving soldier, I see both sides, and the emotion from both sides, and I can say with certainty that the only difference between the words my fellow IVAW members said in the preview and words my fellow currently serving soldiers say among our brother soldiers is that one has a video and one does not.
I have sat in a room holding a friend of mine who was racked with sobs, because he was forced to kill a child. It was not an atrocity. The child had a weapon and was pointing it towards my friend. He did not know if the child would have fired or not. In his judgement, he could not afford to wait. Were his tears therapeutic narcissism? Was he any less a man because he shed them? I say no. He's not an IVAW member, my friend. He may never be. I don't know-I lost touch with him, and I haven't seen him again since we changed units. Nor do I care. Because he is no less my brother if he does support the war, and no more my brother if he does not. Nor are his tears and his pain any less real, no matter his political stance.
I respect Mr. Boyle's service, but I resent that assumption. I resent and am angered by the assumption that those who do not agree with him, those who, due to what they have seen through their own eyes happen to be against the war, are forcing pain and grief. No one forces pain. No one forces grief. I think my friends who made the video would far prefer to sleep easy of a night.
I'm glad that Mr. Boyle's medical unit was able to always give good service to those who required it-but such is not always the case. A chief warrant officer wrote in to the Army Times recently about being ordered not to medevac wounded because they might have taken fire in the doing so. That they were ordered not to risk their lives, even though their wish was to do exactly that.
Mr. Boyle's experience is not everyone's. It is not Jason Washburn's, or Steve Mortillo's. It is not Logan Laituri's.
All anyone can do is speak about what they see, what they feel. I cannot comment on Mr. Boyle's combat service, because I was not there and did not see. I do not understand why he feels he can comment on theirs. These men love their service. They love their country. They did good work. But they cannot support this war-and to see them mislabeled as engaging in 'therapeutic narcissism' wounds me. It wounds me deeply-and it does make me wonder if some gaps, after all, are too deep to heal. But perhaps, not the ones you were trying to show.
February 24, 2008 3:46 PM - Army Sergeant said... I've got more on this, but I realized it's getting long-I'll post on my own blog a bit, later.
February 24, 2008 5:01 PM - Denis Keohane said... Sarge, I believe you are missing some things. As you write “I understand that he also is angry at the Winter Soldier which took place previously, and that his anger touches his words”, it is long past time that you and IVAW simply acknowedge that it is you who have intentionally made and pounded in the connection! You have named the event precisely after the 1971 charade. IVAW’s own statements have linked them, repeatedly. Other sitesm like those of the VVAW and VFP and a host of IVAW supporting sites have done the same.
I watched the video, Sarge, and as most such are, it is themeatic. The same inmage can be shown in one way and then another, and because of how it is presented can carry a very different message. The old adage that pictures don’t lie was never correct. In video especially, what surrounds the image gives it context.
As to soldiers bearing scars and shedding tears at the things they have had to do and experienced, no one argues that such is not real or somehow diminishes the soldier. Yet IVAW, as an activist organization, has always sought to use such for political purpose, and the concern for the soldier from the organization on the whole is secondary at best. I know that will get a rise out of you, but the simple truth is shown in what you and I discussed here when we first met: IVAW only talks about atrocities, policies that lead to tragedy, and bad behavior when they can pin it on “our side”! If IVAW and you care about a soldier who has had his heart and soul torn because he killed a child carrying a gun, it is long past time that IVAW points some kind of anger and questioning at those who so put children in that position – the enemy!
“A chief warrant officer wrote in to the Army Times recently about being ordered not to medevac wounded because they might have taken fire in the doing so. That they were ordered not to risk their lives, even though their wish was to do exactly that.”
Sorry, Sarge, but you are apple and oranging! If this was a warrant officer, there was a chopper involved. It has been the case that choppers have had to be warned away from overly hot LZ’s because of the danger to the crew and the wounded they may actually get on the chopper. That does not compare to the story told in the video of an IVAW member saying medics would not treat an injured soldier triaged out of treatment.
February 24, 2008 5:15 PM - NAMedic said...If you think IVAW is about your emotional trauma and they are going to honestly portray anything at this kangaroo court of theirs, then you are too naive to discuss this with - either that or your oozing soft sell here is a ploy to disarm those who can see through this whole political charade.
I've lived through this - and with this - before. Your mentors in VVAW played all these games before on the entire nation - all except the oh-so-victimized-I'm-so-gentled-out-now-you-be-nice-too peacenik gambit. That's new.
You can forget about using that one on me.
The last time this was done to Americans, by Americans, in America, in 1971 by the VVAW, an entire generation of veterans wound up dishonored, marginalized, delegitimized and shamed.The only way you could get straight with your countrymen was to turn on you comrades-in-arms, by doing something like joining VVAW. Fortunately, the vast majority of us stayed loyal to each other and waited for our countrymen to wake up to what had been pulled on them. We had to wait a long time. And it was all based on a lie. A propaganda campaign.
This is what you are involved in and what you defend here. If you have any honor or decency at all, get the hell out of it while you can. You say I "assume(s)" the photos are being used to show atrocities for no real reason . . ." Is that so? Pray do tell?
Which "atrocities" exactly do these picture show? Where? Committed by whom? When? Is that what they are? Is a guy in a suicide bomber vest with his head blown off the victim of an American atrocity? Is the Blackwater contractor burned to a crisp and about to be hung from a bridge the victim of an American atrocity?
Aside from the political dishonesty here, stringing a bunch of pictures together with no comment, no context, no nothing, is just a transparenmt manipulation of the audience, just from the standpoint of artistic criticism; forget about the politics. Fortunately for propagandists, it is a method that works on a lot of people who should be smarter.
If you are opposed to all war, fine. That's you're right. If you are opposed to this war, fine. That's your right. If you are, and you are still on active duty, you better apply for CO status before you wind up deployed and in an ethical dilemma you cannot resolve. That or get a discharge. I'm sure they will give you a good one if you are honest about your beliefs and inner conflicts.
But do not dare, do not ever again dare, to implicate American soldiers, and even worse ALL American soldiers, in criminal wartime actions unless you know what you say is true. Every word of it. Do not dare put the reputations and honor of American service members in the cross-hairs of your political agenda.
This entire fiasco is a nauseating and infuriating deja vu for millions of Vietnam veterans and millions of others who lived through the 1970's, and fortunately many of the latter have since woken up.
You and your cohorts are not going to pass off your mush-headed Marxist reducated pity-pot party/slasher flick on us. It is not going to wash. If you had any real interest in truth and reality, you'd be digging into who and what is on the other end of your puppet strings at IVAW. The old guys especially.
Since you asked, I was a SP 5 (E-5) after 17 months in the Army. All of my active duty except training and leave was served honorably in Vietnam. I have no regrets and would do it all again. And the vast majority of Vietnam vets have said the same.
All except the homecoming part; that carries regrets, and reasons. That's why I'm here on this site.
February 24, 2008 5:41 PM - Army Sergeant said...As to soldiers bearing scars and shedding tears at the things they have had to do and experienced, no one argues that such is not real or somehow diminishes the soldier.
You're wrong. I wish to God that you weren't wrong, but you are wrong there. You may not, and I applaud if you do not, but I have seen far too many postings, heard far too many interviews or talking heads, where that very point is in fact argued-which is in a way one reason I got so angry-it ties into an existing pain that I feel seeing that type of stuff, because it does occur so often.
Yet IVAW, as an activist organization, has always sought to use such for political purpose, and the concern for the soldier from the organization on the whole is secondary at best.
Again, you're wrong. Our first and primary concern is the mental health of the individual. You may not see it, because it doesn't make the news, but we have a large number of mental health professionals on standby, and a lot of our members have volunteered themselves as peer counselors, day or night, to those who need it. I personally have counseled members not to speak publicly or get more involved when I did not think they were ready for it and I thought it would be more damaging for them. So yes, that does get a rise out of me-because I personally can attest to that not happening.
I know that will get a rise out of you, but the simple truth is shown in what you and I discussed here when we first met: IVAW only talks about atrocities, policies that lead to tragedy, and bad behavior when they can pin it on “our side”!
That is far from simple, and it is far from the truth. I think that you spend more time on 'atrocities' than IVAW-it's really not what Winter Soldier is about, and it's not what we as an organization are about. It's simply what you choose to focus on. You are speaking for 'your side', and it is a side which has chosen to condemn Winter Soldier, so you do not speak about the positive things IVAW has done. You choose which side of the facts you plan to portray, and give evidence which speaks to that. You don't speak about the extensive mental health support IVAW provides, nor do you speak about the IVAW members who speak and served with integrity and honor. When pressed, you admit their existence generally, but you don't talk much about them otherwise. What simple truth is shown there?
If IVAW and you care about a soldier who has had his heart and soul torn because he killed a child carrying a gun, it is long past time that IVAW points some kind of anger and questioning at those who so put children in that position – the enemy!
I'll note that this incident was long before I joined IVAW, so really, it's about me personally caring about that. We often, and I'll go into this more on my own blog, put soldiers in terrible positions to make terrible choices. This is what war is-whether just or unjust, war is a terrible thing. It is an evil-sometimes a necessary evil, but an evil all the same. The child had a gun-neither that soldier or I will ever know why. She might have picked it up. She might have been playing. She might have been training as a youth insurgent. She might have been terrified at seeing soldiers. No one will ever know. I cannot blame that on anyone. Children have been shot right here in the United States by police officers who didn't know they were holding a watergun-that's why you can't get them in black anymore.
If this was a warrant officer, there was a chopper involved. It has been the case that choppers have had to be warned away from overly hot LZ’s because of the danger to the crew and the wounded they may actually get on the chopper.
Yes, it was a chopper-but the warrant officer and his crew were willing to take the risk. They were not allowed. My point was to illustrate that sometimes, the medics may want like hell to sacrifice themselves, but they are not permitted to.
February 24, 2008 5:52 PM - Army Sergeant said... Which "atrocities" exactly do these picture show? Where? Committed by whom? When? Is that what they are? Is a guy in a suicide bomber vest with his head blown off the victim of an American atrocity? Is the Blackwater contractor burned to a crisp and about to be hung from a bridge the victim of an American atrocity?
As you'll see in my response to Denis, I'm not arguing that they show American atrocity. I'm not against the war because I think Americans commit atrocity. I am against the war because I believe it is hurting America and the Army I love, and that we entered into it under false pretenses. I think those pictures were chosen because they are pictures taken by the soldiers and marine in the video, and their units. If I saw someone in a suicide vest about to blow people up, I would shoot him too, and only hope my aim would be good enough for a headshot before he triggered it. This is why I could never be a CO.
If you are opposed to all war, fine. That's you're right. If you are opposed to this war, fine. That's your right. If you are, and you are still on active duty, you better apply for CO status before you wind up deployed and in an ethical dilemma you cannot resolve. That or get a discharge. I'm sure they will give you a good one if you are honest about your beliefs and inner conflicts.
I am opposed to the Iraq War. I think all war is evil, but that it is occasionally a necessary evil. As such, I do not fall under the definition of a conscientious objector, because I believe war can on occasion be necessary. See my commentary on the headshot above. However, I do not see and have not seen an ethical dilemma in my conduct: whether I agree with the war or not, my actions help save American lives, and that is something I can support wholeheartedly.
But do not dare, do not ever again dare, to implicate American soldiers, and even worse ALL American soldiers, in criminal wartime actions unless you know what you say is true. Every word of it. Do not dare put the reputations and honor of American service members in the cross-hairs of your political agenda.
When have I ever done so? I ask you to point me to any statement I have ever made about that? I do not think that criminal wartime actions are a matter of course. I think that they occur-yes, certainly they occur. Sometimes soldiers don't know what they're doing is criminal. Sometimes they know it's criminal, but they do it anyway because they think it saves lives. Sometimes they aren't trained well enough.
Many times actions which are not criminal occur. Many and I believe most Americans serve with honor and distinction. I think that the current lowering of standards and moral waivers allowed into the Army does cause more problems and crimes to occur than might otherwise, but I think that the vast majority of the American soldiers are good, honest, law-abiding citizens.
Why would I want to attack American honor? I believe in American honor, I volunteered to put my life on the line for American honor. That is why to me it is the most crucial thing in the world that we uphold the ideals that the flag I believe in has always stood for. That we uphold the ideals of the flag to which I stood up and said my first oath to, my successive oaths to. That flag which will cover my coffin and be presented to my family when I am eventually killed, with the thanks of a grateful nation. America is a good and great country, and we need to keep it that way.
February 24, 2008 6:10 PM - Denis Keohane said... "You may not see it, because it doesn't make the news, but we have a large number of mental health professionals on standby, and a lot of our members have volunteered themselves as peer counselors, day or night, to those who need it."
Sarge, I have been following what IVAW has put out in the "news" and especially in the outlets they chose for months and going back years! If you are trying to tell me that the primary activist concern, even to the political "use" of soldiers experiencing problems, is not both political and to make the U.S. the bad actor, you have a mighty large mountain of contrary evidence to overcome!!!!
You may need, Sarge, to have your bubble burst about what the organization you belong to is really about, and what serves as window dressing. Again, it is not me nor anyone outside of IVAW who made and makes the direct connection to the 1971 WSI! It was not the oppoments of IVAW but its friends and allies who have adverised incessantly about atrocities.
The IVAW "care" for the soldier mimics that expressed by VVAW after they smeared them in the millions! The "troubled vet" was and is a prop, one used by the political manipulators staying in the dark.
The VVAW were all about, for example, outrage over the supposed "murder" of over 200,000 Vietnamese a year by the U.S. (Kerry's words). When Soutyh Vietnam fell, and the real slaughter began in SE Asia, VVAW said not a peep. There is supposed concern now about Iraqi and Afghan civilians, but if we leave and those places descend to slaughter pits, IVAW will likewise not utter a word of protest!
IVAW is seeing the soldiers as victims. If those who are behind this get the victory they want, meaning our loss, they will forget those soldier victims just as they will the Iraqi and Afghans.
IVAW is comprised of two types of people, Sarge. Those being used, and users.
February 24, 2008 6:22 PM - Zero Ponsdorf said... Decidedly the oddest exchange I've seen. I everyone here speaking English? "Our first and primary concern is the mental health of the individual." What individual are you referring to?
This is a straw man justification. The IVAW is chewing through the lives and souls of thousands of older Vets as if they are of no consequence. Doesn't the simple fact that some of us old farts are disturbed have an impact?
I do respect you, and your opinion, but your effort is simply old hat. You can not cite anything new. You should really look at the history of PTSD, et. al.
If Iraq is your primary interest don't pretend that war veterans are. Just stick to the Iraq issue.
February 24, 2008 7:36 PM - NAMedic said... army sergeant, If you don't want to attack American honor, what are you doing in IVAW? This is not about what *you* are saying or not saying. It is about what the IVAW is very clearly saying and doing. Your position seems to be that it doesn't matter what the IVAW publishes, posts, states explicitly or imples, since you are not saying, or never have said, or implied the same things they do. Yet you support them wholeheartedly. So what are you doing in an organization you don't agree with?
This does not sound like a rational position to me. It sounds like a psychiatric problem beyond my qualifications to define, beyond "denial." That is the charitable possibility. The other possibility is you are so deep into intellectual dishonesty you are not even aware that's where you are. You're the one who referred to the pictures in the IVAW video as "atrocities," which is exactly the impression the video tries to create. You accepted that was their intended mesaning by your own statement. The video didn't offer any explicit definition of the images at all. You did.
The IVAW, just like the VVAW, is not interested in you, and I have a surprise for you. They are not much interested in the war either. The war simply provides a very convenient pretext for bringing the United States into moral disrepute all over the world, but most especially at home. That's the game, and the only game. Exploiting the emotional and psychic trauma of combat vets, not healing it, is their stock in trade. So what if they are further traumatized by all this? So what if all of them, their whole generation, is trashed by a national backlash of disgust at the "revelations" patriotically manufactured by the suffering vets' "best friend" organization. A greater good is served - crippling the evil USA. But what does that matter to you? That's not what you're about, so it's not an important consideration.
Do you know what narcissism means?
And who needs IVAW to do all that good mental health outreach you talk about? Which is just so much window dressing to justify (and/or obscure) their real purposes. The VVAW said and did the very same things. The connection between the two organizations, which you would like to paint thin, is that there is no tactic, not terminmlogy, no public relations strategy that is one iota different now in IVAW than what VVAW used in the 1970's. None. I saw this coming five years ago, although in the climate of opinion in this country recently, I never believed it could happen. You would think they'd have some new ideas in 35 years! They can't even come up with new terms for themselves and their forums. Except the new "kinder-gentler" farce as a strategy.
The VA is fully qualified to provide mental health services, thanks to the efforts of Vietnam Vets who not only helped define PTSD, but staffed most of the Vet Centers over the past three decades. Over 230 new Vet Centers are scheduled to open all over the country. I'd sure as hell prefer getting professional help there, than from some anti-war political activist. Who wouldn't?
February 24, 2008 7:49 PM - Skyeblue said... Will you be posting back at base..Army Sergeant? Oh, there is another YouTube video that may be of interest...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCoN0tDeVqI
Of course, I would strongly urge all those participating in IVAW to submit their file for public review and cross examination.
I have sat in a room holding a friend of mine who was racked with sobs, because he was forced to kill a child. Was your friend named Jimmy Massey??
February 24, 2008 7:49 PM - Army Sergeant said... I neither know nor can speak to the "primary activist concern". I can only speak to what my concern, and what the concern of the members of IVAW I speak for may be. There is a large population of active duty within IVAW. Our concerns are what they are; they are not what may be politically expedient for you to believe they are.
You claim that: You may need, Sarge, to have your bubble burst about what the organization you belong to is really about, and what serves as window dressing. I generally do respect you, Denis, but wouldn't you think that the person who is actually a member might have more knowledge of what the heart of the organization actually is? What the organization is all about is not dictated by the impressions of others. It is dictated by its own core goals.
The "Troubled Vet" is not merely a prop, as you would have it. It is a reality, and one I see personally on a daily basis. They cannot and should not be so casually dismissed simply because you wish to ignore their existence. You read about them: I see them, hear them, and feel them.
You think that all those of us with honor are being used. What an insult is that! To think that everyone with honor must not have any intelligence if they choose a course which is opposed to yours. I don't think my opponents are stupid: I just think they're wrong. I don't think the VFF are being used, even though I disagree with them. Why must we be 'used' in your eyes?
Zero: The individual referenced is the individual Denis suggested IVAW does not care about: soldiers who appear publicly and expose their pain to the world. I do not understand how the IVAW is chewing through the lives and souls of older vets with an event that hasn't even happened yet. With all due respect, I believe that older vets are chewing through their own lives and souls expecting something which I do not believe will materialize. That's not something I can affect. I've tried explaining what Winter Soldier is in fact about to as many vets as I can: those like Denis Keohane simply insist that I don't know what I'm talking about, and we're all being used by old puppetmasters. Also, why must I personally choose a primary interest? I'm a complicated person, with complicated views. Both Iraq and war vets are important to me. I don't see why I should have to put one aside arbitrarily.
Namedic: Where in the goals of IVAW is it stated that it wants to attack American honor? I think it matters what the national organization of IVAW posts or states. It matters very much what they post or state-you're right, I don't want to belong to an organization which is opposed to my views. But IVAW does not state that it is against America, or against American honor. The overwhelming majority of IVAW members that I have met love America, and are honorable individuals. All of my fellow active duty members that I have met are good people that I am proud to have with me in military service. I don't agree with what your views of what IVAW is about-but you are not an IVAW member or leader. With all due respect, sir, why should I take your characterization of an organization you don't belong to as gospel truth?
You say that I define the pictures as atrocities, but I cannot see, either in my original post on the subject or here, where I have said that. Please point me to that? I think the only time I refered to them as atrocities is when I was stating what I believed your opinion was. What makes you so sure you think you know what the IVAW is about? I have sat in many meetings, met many people, and I have never heard this supposed agenda referenced. No one wants to cripple the USA-among most of those whom I have spoken to, a primary reason for opposing the war is to keep America and its ideals strong.
I would oppose any organization determined to go against America or its strength. I have opposed instances where I saw the larger anti-war movement take action against military or America-again, though, not something Mr. Keohane likes to publicize.
You claim that the VA is fully able to offer mental health services. That may be your experience, but that is not mine. I have a very good friend who was told by his VA doctor to "mix and match" his medication as he felt like. I have other friends who are still waiting for treatment.
Yes, I think better help is available from friends and brothers, especially since many military and former miltiary distrust headshrinkers as civilians who haven't experienced what they felt. I personally would go to a Homefront Battle Buddy long before I would go to a shrink if I was having problems, and I know several IVAW members have given me a call when they needed a friendly ear as well.
February 24, 2008 8:07 PM - Zero Ponsdorf said... AS: "Both Iraq and war vets are important to me. I don't see why I should have to put one aside arbitrarily." I suspect that you question is true as far as you see it. But it does ask the question in turn. Is Iraq your primary issue? If so, deal with that.
"I do not understand how the IVAW is chewing through the lives and souls of older vets with an event that hasn't even happened yet." I've talked with you enough that I have to ask if this is a joke?
When you get to DC and see the folks outside the NLC, ask that question again. Maybe, at least, some of those folks are vets.
February 24, 2008 8:32 PM - Army Sergeant said...Zero: No, Iraq is not my primary issue. My primary issue as I see it is my NCO duty-taking care of soldiers. I don't think my job stops when they get out of the service. The Iraq War is just one factor of that.
As for your question as to whether it's a joke, no, I'm not joking, but my point is that people and veterans are lining up to protest something when they're not even sure what it will be. Thus far, IVAW has not injured them, it has not done anything to damage them. It is in expectation of damage that people are acting, and expectation of damage I don't think will occur.
I know that you think poorly of the larger IVAW community, but I would remind you that you haven't talked to most of them. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of your opinion is based not on conversations with them, but on remembrance of what you feel happened in Vietnam-a time when most of us weren't even alive. And I would ask: is it really fair that we bear the brunt of expectations from a previous generation?
February 24, 2008 9:31 PM - NAMedic said... army sergeant, You wrote in your first post on this thread: "He assumes the photos are being used to show atrocities for no real reason, unrelated to the witnesses."
This statement by you, as proven by the content of the rest of your paragraph, claims I assumed there was no connection between the depicted witnesses and the depicted photos. Your argument - very awkwardly stated - is about the connection of the visuals to the witnesses. It is that about which I made an unarranted assumption (according to you). You do not address nor do you claim here that I assumed anything about the character of the photos. If I misread you, it's not my reading comprehension, but your syntax you can blame. Going legalistic about the written goals statement of IVAW is not going to help your argument. What IVAW is in the process of doing, including this video, is all the information anyone needs to discern their agenda. Hitler's stated goal was to make a better world. So who knew, right?
IVAW posts a video stating that Army medics in Iraq treat dying wounded Americans with callous indifference. The overall impression is clearly and deliberately created that the stated (alleged) facts are representative of what goes on in Iraq and will be reinforced at IVAW's kangaroo court - because the purpose of the video and of the "winter soldier" is to reveal the "true" representative facts of what goes on in the war zone to the public. For very good reasons which I've stated in my original post, I simply find this whole story not credible, as well as an insult to the American soldier as medic especially. It is DISHONORING. But you're on board with it; no problem.
"With all due respect, sir, why should I take your characterization of an organization you don't belong to as gospel truth?"
Because I'm not a member or leader of al Queda and I do know damn well what they're up to, and I would wager you do too. You're not one of their members, are you? A leader, maybe? Then how'd you come by your opinion of them?
"I would oppose any organization determined to go against America or its strength."
If you'd spend half as much time looking into the origins of IVAW and its parent organizations and current connections as you do posting blog comments, you might just start doing that right where you are.
"I have a very good friend who was told by his VA doctor to "mix and match" his medication as he felt like. I have other friends who are still waiting for treatment."
Sounds like the IVAW has indoctrinated you well. You are definitely getting the technique down. You have just delegitimized the entire $28 billion a year VA system because a friend told you what his VA doctor told him, so you say, and so he says - and what he passed on to you is not even a complete sentence! Case closed! Do you see how it works now?
For your information, about treatment delays - the VA's Vet Center system was set up to do "readjustment counseling" including especially PTSD problems, which is mainly what we are talking about, right?. It is a walk-in set-up, community based and expanding by over 230 locations as we speak. You can probably be seen the same day at most locations. They also have social services representatives there and they do family counseling as well. They are all supported by the full range of VA medical services, and by referring from a Vet Center, you can cut a lot of wait time for additional services.
And, by the way, many of the providers are military vets, and often combat vets. Although most of the combat vets were Vietnam guys, and they are retiring out. So maybe IVAW could use its cadres of trained counselors to fill the ranks of the Vet Centers and really do a service for their fellow soldiers.
But first I suggest if you are going into the counseling business, you should try to know what you are talking about in respect to available help and proper referrals. Maybe you can squeeze that in between your English and logic classes. By the way, How many suffering combat vets have you steered away from effective professional help anyway?
February 24, 2008 9:32 PM - streetsweeper95B said... Ok...If I may intercede here Denis. Ummmmm... army sergeant? Thank You for serving your country. *salute* So....sergeant be that as it may, are you able to answer a few questions that do not relate to your current military status?
In short, I am not asking anything about where your stationed, your unit or MOS. I see you just made another post in response to zero's. First I don't want to be addressing an unknown person of an unknown sex in an inapropiate manner. Men I address as sir, ladies are ma'am. Which are you? (Blame it on my mother, she was insistent I address men & women in the proper manner, hold doors open, pull chairs out, ect)
February 24, 2008 9:58 PM - Army Sergeant said... namedic: I will concede that my syntax may have been faulty. I disagreed with your characterization of the photos as atrocities, and I apologize for not stating it more clearly.
We see different things in the video-which may be according to our viewpoints. If you looked at the credits of the video, you would see that the video is produced by the individuals who spoke in it. As such, I see it as the best example of soldiers (and one marine) telling their stories, which is what Winter Soldier will be about. No one would try to claim that combat medics in general treat patients with callous indifference. In fact, we have some combat medic IVAW members who would probably take issue with that characterization. The individuals told their stories as they saw them, about individual incidents that troubled them.
As for the VA: I honestly don't know how you can try to say that no one experiences delays in the VA system. I experience major delays in the military medical system, and I'm active duty. I can't imagine that the VA is somehow speedier when it has an astronomically larger number of people to take care of, even leaving aside the anecdotal evidence. My point in relating it is not to say that everyone gets terrible treatment at the VA: but rather to say that some people are not getting adequate care at the VA, and I believe that those people still deserve treatment.
As for suffering combat vets I've steered away from professional help? None. I've always offered it and provided contact information. And you know what? I'll still continue to talk to vets any time, any hour: because whatever you may think of me, I've had to talk people down from suicide and I've done it. And that to me makes it worthwhile. You can damn me all you like. I will take care of my own come hell or high water.
Skyeblue: I am not friends with Jimmy Massey. No. And that particular friend you're talking about is not even an IVAW member.
Streetsweeper: I'm not an officer, I work for a living. Please address me as Sergeant, or if you like you can take on Denis' habit of calling me 'Sarge'. I am happy to answer any question I can that doesn't require me to violate oaths or confidentiality.
February 24, 2008 10:17 PM - Army Sergeant said... Skyeblue: As for the video: I'm sorry the first gentleman feels that way, and feels necessary to read a pre-prepared speech to that effect. I am sorry also that he chooses to refer to the opposition in Iraq as 'raghead'. Given that the people we are supposed to be winning the 'hearts and minds' of are also Muslim, I don't find his language very helpful. Nor do I agree with his statement on why most IVAW members joined. Many of us originally believed in the war, such as Jason Washburn and Ronn Cantu-who was originally pissed that his recruiter couldn't get him out the door any sooner. Also, I note that this member talks about atrocity far more than IVAW does.
I am also amused by the "I am looking forward to staring the cowards in the eye and putting the fear of the real god into them", followed by "May god bless our troops". Perhaps the gentleman is unaware that many members of IVAW are active duty. I wish he would make up his mind as to which he would like for us-fear or blessings.
February 24, 2008 10:32 PM - streetsweeper95B said... Ok....army sergeant since you have obviously chosen to dodge my post...'mere you NCO piece of smuck! I'll be the inept stOOpid MP, you continue to be the dumbass NCO from whichever country it is you come from. You sir/ma'am are not/nor ever were in the United States Army. Coupla things are burning yer tail, I'm holding the torch. The rest of you take a seat, have a cup of joe with yer donut, chill pill time.
February 24, 2008 10:48 PM - NAMedic said... "As for the VA: I honestly don't know how you can try to say that no one experiences delays in the VA system." I never said any such thing. We happen to be talking about apples and oranges. See below. "As for suffering combat vets I've steered away from professional help? None. I've always offered it and provided contact information."
And how can you do that properly when you apparently are unaware of the primary help option available - the VA Vet Centers? "And you know what? I'll still continue to talk to vets any time, any hour: because whatever you may think of me, I've had to talk people down from suicide and I've done it. And that to me makes it worthwhile. You can damn me all you like. I will take care of my own come hell or high water." This nobility/self-pity stuff is getting old. I'll bet you are not even aware that's what this special pleading is. Do you think that's the path to getting credibility?
I talked a kid down with a unpinned grenade in his hand in a bunker full of .50cal ammo and a couple cases of grenades. I Had my hand on my.45 and was thinking about whether or not I had to shoot him to get the grenade away and prevent a disaster and threat to my own life. I sent a runner to commo to radio down the hill to make sure everyone down below got the hell out of the way if I got it in time to toss it. But none of this about you or me has anything whatever to do with the price of apples here - which is IVAW's current incarnation of grand opera which doesn't belong in public but in a therapist's office or a court room.
You are really very good at missing the entire point and only hearing what you prefer to hear. Maybe that's how you can stand IVAW. The VA Vet Centers are the primary resource for vets and now even some active duty (I'm pretty sure) for PTSD and like interventions. They are set up as I described - community based and walk-in. The only paperwork you need is a DD214 or, if active, your ID card. No appointments, although a call ahead is wise. What you are talking about is VA Medical Centers, or maybe even the outpatient satellite clinics. Not the same thing.
If you are unaware of this resource, you are doing those you talk to a disservice. If IVAW is really in the help business, it is inconceivable they have not filled you in on this. But then, I'm not surprised, because that's not the business they are really in, is it?
February 24, 2008 11:29 PM - streetsweeper95B said... Wanna know something army sergeant? You have beennnnn backstroking real bad lately. So bad in fact, nobody else has paid attention to your eloquent usage of the "Royal Language".
Why? Because they are too ticked off to notice & you know it. 'Mere you rat mofo.....pretty wild a real deal street punk fingers your act out, ain't it?
Eh? Eh?
Everyone was so busy running your gaunlet, they had no clue what yer up to. 'Mere..I'm gonna violate yer so-called criminal rights....You really shoulda checked yer spelling dictionary before posting on any threads.
Sweet, nice, very nice "colours' 'stead a "colors" hehehe.....oh yea! "honorific" orginates in two places on this planet called Earth, dude/dudette. Middle East,Pakistan, India, several other mid east countries including Saudi Arabia & Asia!
February 24, 2008 11:32 PM - Robin said... Army Sergeant - while I respect you and the strength of your convictions, I do have to ask myself why you continue to defend IVAW.
IVAW encourages active duty military to "refuse and resist" as a way to end the war. IVAW sponsors actions such as blocking recruiting efforts, encouraging and assisting AWOL soldiers, promulgating the atrocity angle all the while teaming up with organizations such as ANSWER, CodePink and United for Peace & Justice. Claim "supporting the troops" all you want, but the above actions are nothing more than a rehash of the very same tactics the anti-Vietnam War protesters used - not surprising since VFP and VVAW were instrumental in helping organize IVAW. The sole purpose is to force the US to withdraw from Iraq in such a way as to embolden our enemies.
Screaming "Halliburton", "blood for oil" and carrying the American flag upside down is certainly not supporting the soldiers who are fighting in the war. It does nothing more than inflame the anti-American hatred of our enemies and as such endanger the lives of every single member of the military currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When a founder of IVAW serves as a member of the veteran's advisory board of such a vile publication as GI Special/Traveling Soldier (which is featured on the pro-insurgent website albasrah.net), then I do have to question the motives behind the organization.
I truly believe that your heart is in the right place. Just because you are a member does not make you an expert - sometimes it only serves to blind you to the truth. I encourage you to read the book "Stolen Valor" prior to Winter Soldier II. You will get a profound sense of deja vu.
Winter Soldier was an inordinately bad choice of a title for the "meeting". But IVAW does not distance itself from the original Winter Soldier - in fact it uses the orginal WS as an argument for WSII. It does nothing more than open up the scabs of wounds in the hearts of MOST of the Vietnam Veterans. There was nothing honorable about Winter Soldier and there is nothing that leads me to believe the reincarnation will be any different.
February 24, 2008 11:45 PM - Skyeblue said... AS, Jimmy Massey is not IVAW - but he did claim to kill a child, a story he later refuted. I want the after action report from your 'friend'.
Glad you find it amusing. With al-queda comitting suicide in Iraq, it seems the 'hearts and minds' of the Iraqi's are firmly on our side. I look forward to requesting the service records of all who particpate in this travesty. I'm sure it will be a Scott Beuchamp redux.
Oh, fellow posters, I did catch an original winter soldier change his story in the following conversation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAdbkaCtqMo
February 24, 2008 11:48 PM - Skyeblue said... Perhaps the gentleman is unaware that many members of IVAW are active duty. How many of them? I recall you were not able to precisely numerate the membership of IVAW.
February 24, 2008 11:55 PM - Skye said... IVAW and their actions: I believe this is a violation of Title 18, US Code. Sections:

1381. Enticing desertion and harboring deserters
2383. Rebellion or insurrection (solicting the Military to go against the government, siding with enemies, etc)
2384. Seditious conspiracy
2387. Activities affecting armed forces generally
(a) Whoever, with intent to interfere with, impair, or influence the loyalty, morale, or discipline of the military or naval forces of the United States:
(1) advises, counsels, urges, or in any manner causes or attempts to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty by any member of the military or naval forces of the United States; or
(2) distributes or attempts to distribute any written or printed matter which advises, counsels, or urges insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty by any member of the military or naval forces of the United States—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
(b) For the purposes of this section, the term “military or naval forces of the United States” includes the Army of the United States, the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve of the United States; and, when any merchant vessel is commissioned in the Navy or is in the service of the Army or the Navy, includes the master, officers, and crew of such vessel.

February 25, 2008 12:11 AM - Army Sergeant said... Streetsweeper: I didn't ignore your post, I said I'd answer your questions. Also, yes, you're quite right, 'honour' is the British spelling, as is 'colour'. I also spell gray/grey interchangeably, and probably a few others I wouldn't notice without it being pointed out. I read a lot of literature from an early age, some of it British, and I honestly don't pay attention to which way I'm spelling things. Thinking this means I'm from Saudi Arabia or the Middle East is pretty damn funny. I'm sorry to tell you, I'm an American citizen, born in America, and I am a non-commissioned officer in its Army.
Namedic: I will take into consideration your support of the VA vet centers you mention. If you have a list of where they are, I will add it to potential references, though I will reserve judgement until I see it myself in action. I am glad you talked that guy down-and would hope that would help you to see the value of peer talk as opposed to professional talk, at least sometimes.
Robin: I think that resistance can take many forms, and it doesn't have to take the form of illegality. It can include, for example, signing the "appeal for redress". Someday when I have more time, I'll post about it.
I don't know if you were reading me back when I talked about the flag code, but essentially, it's not anti-American to fly the flag upside down-it's a symbol of distress. Whether I believe the time has come for that signal or distress within the bounds of our own country or not, the fact remains that it is not inherently disrespectful to fly the flag with the union down.
Is there really nothing that leads you to believe that anything will be different than you believe it? If so, then all I can say is that I hope the events will persuade you otherwise. I truly hope that when Winter Soldier comes, you will see that the troops are not going to be maligned, and that things will take place that can only help them.
Skyeblue: I don't know how many times I can tell you that I am not friends with Jimmy Massey. Nor have I ever been friends with Jimmy Massey. I don't think I've ever even met Jimmy Massey in person. The individual I am referring to was posted with me three years ago, and I have since lost touch with him. However, when I last talked to him, he supported the war.
Also, even if I had the exact membership records, I would not release them: active duty in IVAW have an anonymity option.
Skye: (who if you are the same as skyeblue, sorry for the separate heading)
That would be correct: if I were actually advising, counseling, urging, or in any manner causes or attempts to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty by any member of the military or naval forces of the United States;
Instead, I am urging members of the military forces to exercise their full rights under DoD Directive 1325.6, which governs protest and dissident activities. I do not encourage anyone to mutiny, or to disobey any legal order. I encourage all military members to disobey illegal orders, as they should.
February 25, 2008 7:10 AM - streetsweeper95B said... Oh come on, sergeant! You are from & educated in A) Au Canada, B) Great Britian, C) Australia D) Middle Eastern/ Southwest Asian country where use of Royal Language is the norm, not the exception & a strong Islam/Muslim background. I don't buy for a nano-second your reading a lot books from England as a child influencing your grammatic skills now, dude (or dudette as the case may be)
February 25, 2008 7:16 AM - streetsweeper95B said... Keep putting the pressure on sergeant, Denis, skye & namedic.....This one's a real charmer.
February 25, 2008 10:07 AM - Thus Spake Ortner said... I think my bona fides are atleast well wnough known by Robin and Dennis, and possibly Skye who knows I am friends with bellavia to jump in here. I disagree with damn near everything AS says, from flags upside down to the stories of the IVAW clowns. But AS is an american, I've tested to ensure that AS who who he/she claims to be by checking my blog for a hit from where he/she claimed to be. Also, if he/she is not, then I have been conversing with the wrong person on going to WSI, since he/she has all my crap to get me in the door.
Although as I said I disagree with most everything AS posts, and have done so repeatedly on my blog, I do not believe that AS is anti-military in aim, although I would certainly agree with the masses here that that is what results. In short, I don't ascribe anything nefarious to AS, althoughj I also don't agree with 90% of his/her positions.
February 25, 2008 10:07 AM - Thus Spake Ortner said... Oh, also, totally endorse the idea of Senate Armed Services Committee people coming. I'd like to think IVAW would also approve, since they are the ones who are asking Bush et al to attend, and they should want more exposure, assuming that all the stories are on the up and up. (Yeah, I know, I don't believe it either, but benefit of the doubt before we clobber them with it.)
February 25, 2008 10:34 AM - Army Sergeant said... I'd endorse it if we get more than 11 minutes. Also, if they understand that they are not there to speechify, and the first person trying to get in front of the cameras and talk about election stuff gets unceremoniously asked to leave. That's just my personal preference, though, not official policy.
February 25, 2008 11:04 AM - Thus Spake Ortner said... I wouldn't even give them that. Give them a kids desk and tell them to sit in the corner. Let teh bloggers do the lifting, we're better than senate staffers any day of the week.
February 25, 2008 6:29 PM - NAMedic said... army sergeant, You wrote: "I will take into consideration your support of the VA vet centers you mention. If you have a list of where they are, I will add it to potential references, though I will reserve judgement until I see it myself in action." All this statement does for me is confirm that you are an idiot and you have no idea what you are talking about. Anyone who listens to you is a fool.
Here is a link to the VA's book (170 pages in pdf) of Federal Benefits available for Veterans. It includes a state by state listing of all contact info for all VA facilities including hundreds of Vet Centers at the back of the book: http://www1.va.gov/opa/vadocs/fedben.pdf
Meanwhile, as you digest this, I'm sure the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is anxiously awaiting your approval of this program, which has been operating for the last 28 years or so, and is the go-to, state-of-the-art, worldwide resource for PTSD.
You also write, "I am glad you talked that guy down-and would hope that would help you to see the value of peer talk as opposed to professional talk, at least sometimes."
Nice try at turning the argument. Among all the other things about which you have no clue, the Vet Center program has as its major component peer group counseling. They even have specialized peer groups, like one for combat medics.
It's amazing to me how you manage to avoid dealing with any real issues and never answer when what you've posted here gets blown away.
As in my: "If you are unaware of this resource, you are doing those you talk to a disservice. If IVAW is really in the help business, it is inconceivable they have not filled you in on this. But then, I'm not surprised, because that's not the business they are really in, is it?"
February 25, 2008 6:43 PM - NAMedic said... Skye, You wrote;
"IVAW and their actions, I believe this is a violation of Title 18, US Code. Sections: . . . etc."
Of course these are violations of the law. These people need to be in jail. One reason the VVAW and Winter Soldier 1971 and a lot else that went on then is so infuriating to veterams of that era is the failure of the United States to prosecute these people at the time. The governemnt failed in its duty to protect its protectors, just as is happening again in places like Berkeley, and next month at this WS event. In fact, none of this would be happening now if the government had abided by the rule of law in the 1970's and done its duty. Much of the political subversion that is now so widely accepted as normal among masses of useful idiots would not now be happening.
Meeting abroad with high ranking officers of an enemy governemnt at a time when we were at war with them, then returning to this country and publicly promoting that enemy government's war time aims and political agenda is defined in the highest law of the land - the U.S. Constitution. It's called treason. But instead of invoking the law against this treason, the nation winds up putting the offenders in high public office, and eventually one of them almost became the President and Commander-in-Chief.
February 25, 2008 6:57 PM - NAMedic said... army sergeant wrote, "I do not encourage anyone to mutiny, or to disobey any legal order. I encourage all military members to disobey illegal orders, as they should." Yeah, but the people you and the IVAW are in bed with, real charmers like Code Pink, sure do. Don't you know who you are in bed with?
Just take a look at this video of them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecy0LONUjKE
You might want to stop the video at the last frame, which appears only briefly at the end, so you can believe your blinking eyes. The banner they are carrying down the middle of an American street says "We support the murder of the American troops."
February 25, 2008 9:13 PM - Thus Spake Ortner said... That last picture with the sign has been photoshopped I believe. I've seen it before and someone admitted that had photoshopped it. Will try to find the link to it.
February 25, 2008 9:15 PM - Thus Spake Ortner said... http://angela-stevens.com/archives/i-dont-understand-the-code-pink-mentality/ Can't find a direct source, but this talks about it.
February 25, 2008 10:48 PM - NAMedic said... thus spake wrote, "That last picture with the sign has been photoshopped I believe. I've seen it before and someone admitted that had photoshopped it."
All you have to do is watch the rest of the video to know that last frame is not far from that mind-set. It is just a bit more direct and to the point.
February 25, 2008 11:18 PM - NAMedic said... Thus Spake, I won't argue whether or not the photo is faked. The site you linked to conatins numerous comments that claim it is fake, but provide no link to anything that demonstrates that as a fact. One commenter says there is a watermark on the photo showing who actually created it. That mark is "www.codepinkalert.com" and that opens the official Coded Pink website.
Let me know what you find.
February 26, 2008 7:56 AM - Thus Spake Ortner said... I don't take a back seat to anyone hating code pink, trust me. I've been at Walter Reed during their demonstrations, I go to Senate and House hearings where these retards are thrown out, and I've been at Vets For Freedom rallys when these people get arrested for making asses of themselves, so trust me, I'm one of you guys.
But, I will try to find specific stuff on that pic being faked. They are all deadbeats in my mind, I just don't like photoshopped stuff.
February 26, 2008 10:36 AM - NAMedic said... TPO, Totally agree. I'm not interested in being hoodwinked by anyone or in propagating false info. The advantage we have is in being factually accurate vs their whining personalized mush. I also know enough about the disinformation mind-set of the Left that it is not improbable that such photos are a set-up by them to get us to make fools of ourselves by using falshoods they created just for that purpose of delegitimization. So the actual source would be interesting to know - if it can ever be found at all.
Regardless, the entire remaining substance of that (and other) CP videos is devastating to any sane American, and is typical of the kinds of things the MSM deliberately hides from public view.
February 26, 2008 10:53 AM - Army Sergeant said... My primary job isn't peer counseling, because I don't really have the time to offer it on a real part-time basis. Although as an NCO, I spend most of my time talking to soldiers and helping them with their lives-and far from discouraging me from it, the Army says that's what's supposed to happen.
As to Code Pink...on the subject of photoshopping and counter-double-reverse, I really don't think anyone has the time, energy, or sufficient deviousness to try to create a photo that looks bad, for the explicit purpose of letting pro-war individuals use it, only to jerk the rug out from underneath them. It sounds like way too much work.
I often have my differences with Code Pink in some locations. I do not approve of what is going on at Berkeley, and I do not approve of protesting in front of Walter Reed. In my eyes, the only legitimate purpose for protesting is to request redress of grievance from government officials who have grieved you, and wounded soldiers are neither said government officials, nor are they able to redress any grievance. All decisions are made echelons way above their paygrade. I've never been shy of admitting that.
However, other Code Pink groups across the country have not all followed in that model: some have even taken the pink off in order to help. Thus, I would not tar them all with that brush.
February 26, 2008 12:03 PM - NAMedic said... Army sergeant is back with his/her moral relativism again. If he/she thinks leftist agitpropers don't have the time to be ruthlessly devious, he/she is providing still more evidence of living in a dream world.
He/she now abandons the avocation of peer counseling she once held out to be not only her role - as an IVAW member - but as an avocation superior to the unknown (to him/her) and useless (to him/her) efforts of the VA system in helping vets with combat stress.
He/she now justifies Code Pink and its support for and affiliation with IVAW because they are "not all that bad."
It's like hanging out with drug dealers and defending this association because they go to church twice a year and are not child molesters.
As a friend wrote to me privately about this thread :
". . . great job cutting through the "soft propaganda" approach that seems all the rage among leftists these days when they're trying to defuse critics. The goal is to use soothing language and pretend to seek common ground in order to make their opponents feel sheepish about being ticked off at their lies and propaganda."
It can't be said any better than that.
So, Army Sergeant, try selling your crap to some befuddled high school student you can recruit to a life of subversion. It ain't floating here, because we all know your game.
February 26, 2008 12:34 PM - Thus Spake Ortner said... Don't want to throw in a link on your blog, but I have 2 posts up today about an IVAW founder y'all might enjoy. I linked back to you guys of course.
February 26, 2008 2:19 PM - Denis Keohane said... This thread did quite well without me, not very much of surprise. Didn’t intend to neglect it, just a whole lot of things on the plate right now. Did want, though, to say some things I think are important to Sarge.
AS: “…wouldn't you think that the person who is actually a member might have more knowledge of what the heart of the organization actually is? What the organization is all about is not dictated by the impressions of others. It is dictated by its own core goals.”
Of course the answer to that is - “yes” and “no”. Isn’t it a mainstay of many IVAW member’s statements that they had served in the military, sometimes for years, but belatedly came to the realization of the bad things they were being used for – by that organization?
I’m going to speak plainly to you, Sarge. You and those close to you in IVAW may be entirely honest and sincere in what you hope and believe WSI will and is to be about. But the evidence is also plain and there for any to see that your view is not the driver behind this thing. One can still go to the VVAW site, or those of the VFP, and many others, and they are still expecting and promoting the widespread atrocity theme. That’s the money theme!
WSI is a meant to be a media event, Sarge, with a purpose, and not a group therapy session or caring educational instrument. If it becomes that symposium you allude to where soldiers simply tell of their experiences, and issues like veteran care and the like are prominent, WSI does not make the leap from the left and anti-war echo chamber media to the MSM. It won’t have the pizzazz to capture the headlines. But it has to make that leap, for many, even if behind the scenes at IVAW to some degree, because nothing and no one matters more than our withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, no matter the consequences of that. In order to make that leap, the widespread atrocity theme has to be in play.
Sarge, anyone, and I mean anyone, can find the connections. One only has to look. They are not well advertised, but neither are they well hidden. IVAW has support and advisors with publicly available records that go back years. I’ve found them! You can. Say what you will about care for the veteran, yet I can find a trail in which such lofty concerns are not remotely present. What is present is the constant drumbeat of crime, brutality and atrocity by Americans, and that message is beamed repeatedly into the area of the world where it will most aid recruiting of those who will – kill those soldiers you say you care about. Those messages, sent by those who advise IVAW, are credited to IVAW.
Whether you admit to it or are unaware that it is going on, there is friction right now on your side. Big friction. There are those who have “invested” in IVAW to deliver on the war crimes and atrocities themes, with the lurid and headline grabbing. They are not going to let go. Some of that ‘advisory’ capability is going to be there, at WSI. Mark my words on that.
Sarge, you and others in IVAW are right now, whether you are aware of it or not, at a crossroads in your lives.
Have you ever given much thought, or have any of your IVAW companions, to the those Winter Soldiers of 1971, and what has become of most of them?
If what I say about that from here on it sounds sympathetic, it is not. It is simply describing something like tragedy they brought on themselves as part of a greater tragedy.
When the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth were mentioned on this site some time back I thought your reaction was a bit strange. Never mind that, though. Just an overview of the type missed in all the fire and thunder.
The SwiftVets who had served with Kerry believed that the man was a self-serving opportunist who turned his back on his brothers and had used them badly and simply for his own ends. Oddly enough, or not, there have been several published reports and also evidence in the comments made here by VVAW members, that that is also exactly how the members of the Vietnam Vets Against the War came to see Kerry. That uniformity of opinion was lost in the furor.
At that first WSI, the leaders like Kerry and Al Hubbard didn’t testify! They didn’t go on that record with their “testimony”. They left that to others. You may or may not have heard of Steve Pitkin, the only WSI 1971 testifier who has actually signed a legally binding affidavit about his Winter Soldier testimony. He didn’t do so until 2004, when in that statement he admitted he had lied, and did so when pressured by Kerry and other VVAW leaders to tell of witnessing atrocities that never happened.
Sarge, it has been well known in greyer veteran circles for decades that a significant number of those WSI 1971 testifiers had become very ashamed of what they had done. Give it a little thought.
They give that testimony, and a few moths later John Kerry becomes a national figure and star at Senator Fulbright’s hearings. Kerry’s career in Democratic politics has gotten its decisive kick-start.
By the end of the next year, 1972, virtually all of the US combat forces had been withdrawn from Vietnam. The drawdown began almost two years before WSI. In 1975, Saigon falls and the communist north wins…and the bloodbath begins.
Millions killed in Cambodia. Tens and hundreds of thousands in Vietnam sent to reeducation camps, many to simply perish in them. Between one and two million Vietnamese, women, children, the elderly, set to sea in any leaky piece of garbage that will float simply to escape. They become known as the Boat People. As many as a million and more simply perish on the high seas. For some reason, even while the US forces were in Vietnam, rampaging and pillaging the countryside like the hordes of Ghengis Khan as described by VVAW’s most notable spokesman, the Vietnamese has not taken that desperate step. And the Winter Soldiers of 1971 see that.
By the eighties, it is common throughout much of America to see Vietnamese and Cambodian families, communities, restaurants and businesses. They came to the country with the racist people they should have been terrified of, if Winter Soldier 1971 was true. The Winter Soldiers of 1971 saw that too.
Also by those eighties and continuing, TV and film were in full neo-DePalma mode. The Vietnam veteran was a deranged drug using time bomb or mental case, or a guilt ridden murderer who could not cope, or the like. That was a WSI legacy, and the Winter Soldiers of 1971 saw that too, and knew the part they played in it. Meanwhile, studies then and later showed that to be way off the mark. The Vietnam Vets were doing as well or better in every societal indicator as any other group, and better than most.
The Winter Soldiers had slandered their brothers, perhaps the only group of individuals with whom they shared what could have been a bond that would stand forever. They had destroyed the possibility. They were not seen as the heroes or even simply very decent souls who had spoken the truth. By then, the truth was known by all if not admitted by some for political reasons: we had been fighting against truly evil people, for the sake of others.
Perhaps the best indication of what has become of those Winter Soldiers was what happened in 2004, when Kerry ran for President. He surrounded himself with his Vietnam “Band of Brothers”, men who had served on his Swift Boat and others like Jim Rassman. Anything odd about that, Sarge?
Why weren’t the Winter Soldiers of 1971 those who made up the Kerry Band of Brothers? Weren’t those Viet Vets the ones who spoke truth to power, who did what they could to end an unjust war? Weren’t they the ones who gave credence to Kerry’s line that about being the last man to die for a mistake? Yet when the members of Kerry’s Band of Brothers were introduced on stages and at the Democratic Convention, they were applauded, and honored, not because they had testified at Winter Soldier about the atrocities committed by Americans in an unjust and criminal war – but because they had fought in that war!
Of those Winter Soldiers of 1971, there are still a few who cling like radicals of all times and places to the glory days. Yet for most, it is simply something that they did, and I would strongly suggest came to regret, and could not undo, and would simply like to forget. Were you aware, Sarge, that when those Viet Vets gathered at the first WSI they did not know what it was to be about? They didn’t know they would be “counseled” by those “professionals” on hand, and the cameras were ready for them, just waiting. They got caught up in something, and for whatever reasons of the time and place, went along. They ended up having no real effect on the outcome of that war, but their own lives were effected, very much, in the private recesses where we all hold our regrets.
A great many units from the Vietnam War, like veterans of others wars before it, have held reunions, years later, when the now older comrades in arms catch-up with each other. Something worth giving thought to: the Winter Soldiers of 1971 have never done so! The producers of the filmed testimony did so, but not the veterans. There is a loud statement in that.
Sarge, there are those who know what they expect to get out of WSI. One way or another, they are going to try to get it.
February 26, 2008 2:50 PM - Denis Keohane said... TSO: “Don't want to throw in a link on your blog, but I have 2 posts up today about an IVAW founder y'all might enjoy. I linked back to you guys of course.”
Damn, son, heck of a take-down and pin, and he’s got to have at least eighty pounds on ya!
I’ll throw up the links! They are more than worth it!
What an IVAW Founder Thinks of You http://3-116thsniper.blogspot.com/2008/02/what-ivaw-founder-thinks-of-you.html
Addendum to Last Post http://3-116thsniper.blogspot.com/2008/02/addendum-to-last-post.html
February 26, 2008 2:52 PM - NAMedic said... Denis, I'm told by those who made a largely sucessful effort to talk with many of the WSI-71 witnesses that the recurring refrain among them was summed up in one word: "repudiate." But getting them to say so on the record may never happen because of shame and fear. I'll ease their fear by agreeing with you that they may not have understood exactly how they were going to be used, nor understood what the historic consequences of that manipulation would be. And I think I can ease their fear by remembering that Steve Pitkin was taken warmly back into the fold of the real "Band of Brothers" of honorable veterans. They were thankful for the vindication he offered them and they admired the courage and humility he showed.
Isn't it so very, very ironic that the millons of Nam Vets unjustly saddled with shame and fear - not to mention stifled outrage - by the original winter soldiers are now mostly freed from it, and the only ones left with those burdens to take to their graves are the WSI witnesses themselves.
Maybe this IVAW retrospecive will prod a few of the first winter soldiers to finally come clean in public. Confession is indeed good for the soul. You are wise - and compassionate - to urge the new crop in IVAW to think about what they are doing.
Who wants to be the last radical to die carrying a lie - alone?
February 26, 2008 3:45 PM -Denis Keohane said... "Isn't it so very, very ironic that the millons of Nam Vets unjustly saddled with shame and fear - not to mention stifled outrage - by the original winter soldiers are now mostly freed from it, and the only ones left with those burdens to take to their graves are the WSI witnesses themselves… Who wants to be the last radical to die carrying a lie - alone?"
That is just stunningly worth repeating!

February 29, 2008

Here Come the Conservatives - Dennis Keohane and those pesky Treasonous Vets (part 5)

A Vietnam Vet Replies to IVAW's Video

Obiter Dictum, Monday, February 24, 2008


The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) video has been circulating on the Net for over a week, and can be seen at IVAW's Army Sergeant's site, Active Duty Patriot. A friend of mine received an e-mail from a former combat medic in Vietnam, John "Doc" Boyle. "Doc" served as Company Medic in D Co.,19th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Army), Quang Ngai Province, RVN, 1967-68. The friend suggested that Mr. Boyle forward the e-mail and accompanying pictures to me, which he did, with permission to use the material.

I gave some thought to how to present Mr. Boyle's material, and then simply decided that "as written" is the only method that will do it justice. Mr. Boyle writes with strong emotion, and the photos go a long way in showing why that is the case. Yet he does so without detriment to the intellectual soundness of the points he makes. So also, and something the relative youngsters of IVAW don't seem to be able to or want to grasp, his ire is directed at the legacy the first WSI bequeathed, unfairly, to 2.9 million Vietnam Veterans for what has been the majority of their lives, and that the same may happen to another generation.

What the former combat medic says about medical triage in combat as opposed to how it was presented in the IVAW video is extremely telling.

"IVAW's new preview video of their 'winter soldier' tribunal is just awful. If this is the best they can do, they will never withstand critical inspection. Talk about propaganda! I now *get* that this is timed as an effort to make the war an issue in the election campaign; or, more exactly, to delegitimize any candidate who supports a now 'unfortunately' (to them) successful war.

The event plans look like an exact duplicate of WSI - 1971, including journalists and 'professionals.' Obviously the IVAW's mentors are folks we have run into before. The video is all mournful music and long sections of ominous but generic Iraq war zone videos and graphic photos with zero context: no captions and no voice over, no set-up comments and no after-word comments. The 'witness' talk has no connection to anything depicted in the videos and still photos. None.

One gruesome image is a body with a blown up head, obviously a sniper head shot - but we are not supposed to notice the guy has a suicide bomb vest on. Another body is burnt to a crisp - but we are not supposed to remember that it is a photo from Fallujah of a Blackwater contractor's desecrated body prior to the infamous bridge hanging by insurgents. The 'implication' is that these are all results of 'awfu' American military actions - 'atrocities' (but that word is unspoken - let pictures say the thousand lying words they dare not speak). Going for the emotional gut shot, not rationality or even honesty - or, just like B. Obama - not even any content beyond emotional appeal (or, in this case, emotional aversion).

The three 'witnesses' in the video have not one concrete or specific detail to tell among them. It is all the generalized whining of group therapeutic narcissism, common in the 25 Army WSI witnesses from 1971 whom the CID investigators declined to be bothered with. No dates, no place names, no unit designations, no personnel names. Nada. Pitifully forced angst. And hokum.

Reality check: One 'witness' tells of an American soldier seriously injured in a vehicle roll-over. He claims the soldier was given zero medical help (zero!) because the medics invoked triage protocol and said he was going to die anyway.'Oh, the inhumanity!' we are incited to think.

The 'witness' totally misrepresents what 'triage' means. Triage is only invoked in mass casualty situations where the available medical resources might be overwhelmed by the number of casualties - time wasted on those badly hurt but who cannot be saved, taken away from those less seriously hurt who could have been saved if resources had been properly rationed. Yet this "witness" does not refer to any other casualty in this incident but one. There is no such thing as triage of one casualty. The casualty did die, reports this witness, hours later 'enroute to the clinic.' BUT, if they did 'triage' him out, how did he wind up on his way to a hospital for treatment? The internal inconsistencies are embarrassingly obvious to anyone who knows anything about such situations.

There is not a medic in the Army or Marines (Navy Corpsmen) I ever heard of who would not risk his own life to save another soldier, let alone prefer to not *inconvenience* himself over a dying guy. It's what we were trained for; it's what gives meaning to our even being there. I've personally given CPR to the already dead! In the attached photos (ED: scroll down), I am under that rolled bulldozer with the casualty, and you can see one of our boot soles in the shadows at the center of one of the photos. He did die (three days later in the hospital - the 20 year old on the stretcher - I've blurred his features here deliberately). He stopped breathing while I was under that dozer with him, while between us was a hot engine over the middle of his body and concertina barbed wire wrapped all around. I could not quite reach him - an arms length separated us.

The frustration was agonizing and my own predicament did not even occur to me until later. We literally moved heaven and earth to save him. While the engineers dug out with shovels around the sides, and they searched for wire cutters and flak jackets as heat shields for me to use, a crane was brought up and actually lifted the damn dozer off of us. The heroes of MedEvac did mid-air CPR and got him to a hospital alive.

THIS is why we Nam Vets are so pissed at these goddam liars ever since 1971, and now - unbelievably - again.

Tell them: we know what you are! We are watching you! We will not be silent this time!

Never, never again!

John Boyle Company Medic D Co.,19th Engineer Battalion (Combat)(Army) Quang Ngai Province, RVN, 1967-68"

Here Come the Conservatives - Dennis Keohane and those pesky Treasonous Vets (part 7)

IVAW: At What Point Aiding & Abetting?

Obiter Dictum, Tuesday, February 26, 2008


It is one of those days when yet another member of the Iraq Veterans Against the Word blithely goes about the business of defaming our country and possibly getting some of our troops killed!
Before I take on IVAW member Harvey Tharp, something in a similar vein but more entertaining. No one I know can make me laugh as much while he eviscerates someone as Thus Spake Ortner (TSO), who does so here and here at The Sniper to the well deserving Matt Howard of IVAW.
An interview with Harvey Tharp was published yesterday in the Yemen Times. For any Democrats or geographically challenged out there, Yemen sits along the southern Saudi Arabian border. It can reasonably be described as a Middle Eastern Arab Moslem country.
Here is the lede:

"An ex-American Navy Lieutenant: “It is just a matter of time before the American people get sick of this war and force a pull out.” - Yemen Times"

Tharpe is a military lawyer, and the military financed his education. He was also somewhat proficient in Arabic, and as such was deployed to Kirkuk from October 2003 to March 2004. He was assigned to a diplomatic team handling reconstruction.
Tharp tells the interviewer:

"In April 2004...it...became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that this hadn’t been an honest mistake, it had all been lies."

Tharp is saying this in Yemen. The intelligence service and leaders of Yemen were among those many in the world, some even beyond the reach of Karl Rove's mind control ray, who also believed Saddam Hussein had WMDs before the 2003 invasion! Such easy to find facts of course wouldn't trouble someone as intelligent as Harvey Tharp, who has memorized the entire Code Pink Manual with forward by Michael Moore! The President of Yemen from before the 2003 invasion and continuing today is Ali Abdullah Selah.
From the Christian Science Monitor:

"When the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had close ties with Hussein, told Vice President Cheney that Hussein did not want war but would use chemical weapons if attacked, Mr. Cheney did not blink. The Americans, said Cheney, would deal with them."

As an aside, the President of Yemen was not the only person stating such a warning. Well before he became the first crooner of the Bush-lied chorus, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of super-duper-top-secret-master-spy Valerie Plame, wrote an Op-Ed for the LA Times on the eve (Feb 6, 2003) of the invasion of Iraq. Entitled A "Big Cat" with Nothing to Lose, Wilson warned that:

"There is now no incentive for Hussein to comply with the inspectors or to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction to defend himself if the United States comes after him.
And he will use them; we should be under no illusion about that."

Tharp goes on to tell the interviewer of his time in Iraq:

"...although I had to display considerable physical courage to drive around the city in a conspicuous vehicle with no radio in a very dangerous situation, I wasn’t a combatant."

This is not the first time I have come across Tharp still seeming very upset that he was driving around Kirkuk in such unguarded fashion as well as commending his own bravery. I do not doubt for a moment that there was risk involved in that, but Kirkuk was in the heavily Kurdish north, crawling at the time with our allied Kurdish Peshmerga. It was not one of Iraq's hotspots. Tharp has never written that I have seen that he ever came under any kind of fire. When asked why he came to live for a time in Yemen, Tharp replied:

"Due to my time in Iraq, I developed post-traumatic stress disorder, so I’m unable to work and I have some spare time."

Alright! Yes, I know PTSD is real. Yes, I know that one does not have to be involved in combat to be exposed to conditions that can cause PTSD. As Mackubin T. Owens wrote of the 1988 Center for Disease Control study of PTSD and Vietnam veterans that found that:

"...15 % of Vietnam veterans experienced some symptoms of combat-related PTSD at some time during or after military service, but that only 2.2 % exhibited symptoms at the time of the study."

And as CBS reported on another study in 2007 by Columbia University:

"Whatever the actual numbers, the researchers said it is clear that the more combat exposure for a veteran, the greater the likelihood of the disorder."

It is four years since Tharp completed his six month tour in Iraq, and he cannot hold a job! My sympathy juices are simply not flowing. There is a man who works at my aerospace company. Other than the occasional "Hi" or "How ya doin'?, we've never talked. We work in different buildings with mostly different people. He is, I would guess, about fifty. Two years ago, when he and his Reserve unit returned from a tour in Iraq, the company held a small ceremony welcoming him back. He was a senior NCO in an engineering unit, maintaining vehicles, and he spoke a bit. His unit had taken frequent rocket and mortar fire, but never engaged in combat. He described what they did as very up-tempo. They tried to keep vehicles in good order and turn around the ones that were damaged, because they knew the lives of the "youngsters" in the fight depended upon them. Sometimes the vehicles came in with damage and sometimes with lots of blood they'd have to clean out. He said that was hard. He thanked everyone for their thoughts, prayers and packages, and then thanked God for granting his prayer that he brought back all of his crew.
He came back from Iraq, spent ten days with his family, and was back at work! The military did not, as they did for Harvey Tharp, put him through law school.
Harvey Tharp was asked what he was going to do when he returned to the U.S. He repiled:

"I’m a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. As the only officer who has joined, I’m the highest ranked...I’m going to Washington, D.C. for the winter soldier hearings from March 13-16. Fifty members from the Iraq Veterans Against the War will testify to war crimes they witnessed or even participated in and I’ll be there in support."

Either Harvey Tharp did not get the memo that that is not what Winter Soldier is supposed to be all about (but interestingly he has the more recent "fifty" number, and not the old "over one hundred!), or it's just okay to talk like that to a paper in the Arab Moslem Middle East!
Harvey was asked if he had witnessed any of these war crimes, and gave the standard IVAW reply:

"No, I didn’t personally witness any, but I came to know about certain cases."

Harvey put some moral equivalence perspective into things when he was asked if there were any Yemeni foreign fighters in Iraq:

"I didn’t have any experience of that, but I know Yemenis were among the foreign fighters, although most were Saudis. They were really so-called foreign fighters, but as Americans, so were we!"

Asked if the U.S. has lost the war:

"As far as the U.S. government’s aim to control oil in the Middle East more, it’s been a failure. Once the U.S. military leaves Iraq, the Iraqi government will collapse because it has no legitimacy – and that’s why we’ve lost the war."

Millions of Iraqis risked Al Qaeda "takfirist" reprisal to vote for their government, and Harvey Tharp of IVAW declares the fruits of their risks illegitimate!
Yemen has an Al Qaeda problem. Maybe Harvey Tharp was just trying to help with recruiting. Or just maybe it's the self-obcessed hubris of the morally superior:

"I was able to see the full humanity of Iraqis in a way that we as Americans simply fail to recognize in foreigners generally..."

If Harvey Tharp testifies or takes questions, asking a former Navy JAG about the UCMJ crime reporting requirements could be enlightening.

Here Come the Conservatives - Neo Cons Try to Swiftboat the VVAW and IVAW at the same time

Newly Discovered Army Reports Discredit “Winter Soldier” Claims

By Scott Swett
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, February 25, 2008


From March 13-16, 2008, members of the antiwar group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will gather in Washington, DC to “testify” against the US military at a protest event called Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan. The name “Winter Soldier” is taken from the infamous 1971 event at which members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) related gruesome stories of crimes they claimed to have participated in or witnessed. The VVAW insisted that rape, torture and murder were standard practices for the US military in Vietnam. Organizers of the new IVAW tribunal, which is supported by several former VVAW leaders, say the 1971 conference was where “a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War.” In reality, it was part of a sophisticated, vicious propaganda effort designed to poison public opinion against the US military. Newly discovered records now reveal what happened when Army investigators asked VVAW activists for evidence of the hundreds of crimes they claimed to have seen.
In our book, To Set The Record Straight: How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry, Tim Ziegler and I trace the course of the anti-US war crimes propaganda campaign, which began in Europe with KGB-sponsored events that were organized before the first US ground troops ever arrived in Vietnam. In 1969, leaders of those conferences helped American radicals form the “Citizens Commission of Inquiry into US War Crimes in Indochina” (CCI), which set up a series of so-called investigations where US military actions in Vietnam were compared to those of Nazi Germany during World War II. The CCI soon joined forces with the VVAW, another leftist group created with financing and assistance from members of the Communist Party, USA, the Socialist Workers Party and the communist front Veterans for Peace.
The VVAW’s Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI) took place in Detroit from Jan. 31 through Feb. 2, 1971. Financed primarily by pro-Hanoi actress Jane Fonda, the event’s honorary national coordinator, WSI was the largest war crimes tribunal held in the US during the Vietnam War. Several of the discussion panel moderators were radical leaders who had previously met with top North Vietnamese and Vietcong representatives in Hanoi and Paris. Also present were leftist psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and clinicians, who pressured the witnesses to help end the war by publicly confessing their “crimes.” Former VVAW member Steve Pitkin later recalled how the civilians went from man to man, “bombarding them; laying on the guilt.” Pitkin signed an affidavit in 2004 charging that John Kerry and other VVAW leaders had coerced him into making a false statement.
WSI was the source of the allegations John Kerry presented to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in April 1971, at a hearing set up by antiwar Senators to showcase the VVAW’s atrocity tales. The highly publicized appearance launched Kerry’s political career and helped to create a lasting image of Vietnam veterans as drugged-out murderers too damaged to function in normal society. Justice was served in 2004 when a political movement led by some of the veterans John Kerry had defamed sank his presidential bid.

Investigating the winter soldiers

In 2005, I visited the National Archives at College Park, Maryland with Vietnam veteran and researcher John Boyle. Sifting through the limited material available, we found summary data for the WSI allegations the Army had investigated. The Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) had opened cases for 43 WSI “witnesses” whose claims, if true, would qualify as crimes. An additional 25 Army WSI participants had criticized the military in general terms, without sufficient substance to warrant any investigation.
The 43 WSI CID cases were eventually resolved as follows: 25 WSI participants refused to cooperate, 13 provided information but failed to support the allegations, and five could not be located. No criminal charges were filed as a result of any of the investigations. The individual CID case files, which had been available to the public beginning in 1994, were withdrawn from public access around 2003, when the National Archives realized that the documents should have been embargoed until the personal information they contained could be removed, or “redacted,” as required by the Privacy Act of 1974.
Early in 2007, Boyle learned that a historian had copied the entire collection of CID war crime investigation summaries at the National Archives, including those involving the VVAW, while they were still publicly available. The historian permitted Boyle to photocopy these documents, which we have now posted at WinterSoldier.com:

Army CID Investigations of VVAW War Crimes Allegations

The CID summary reports are revealing. Most of the WSI participants refused to provide evidence to support their allegations. Some made statements that were contradicted by other witnesses, were discredited, or were not substantiated by subsequent investigation.
Several of the VVAW activists backtracked significantly on their WSI statements:

  • Douglas Craig claimed at WSI that members of his battalion had fired mortar rounds each night into a local dump, intentionally killing civilians who were scavenging for food. Craig told investigators he had no direct knowledge of these events and expressed misgivings about making allegations in Detroit he could not substantiate.
  • Larry Craig claimed at WSI that he watched US soldiers murder a Vietnamese civilian and, on another occasion, desecrate Vietnamese graves. Craig admitted to investigators that the man who was killed could have been Vietcong, and that the soldier allegedly digging in a cemetery could have been looking for weapons caches.
  • Donald Donner claimed at WSI that Army personnel had murdered a Vietnamese male, intentionally wounded a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl, indiscriminately slaughtered livestock and failed to bury enemy dead. Donner admitted to the CID that his stories were actually lies, rumors and accounts of accidental events.
  • John Lytle claimed at WSI that his unit murdered civilians by destroying villages with artillery fire without making any effort to determine who was there. However, Lytle told the CID that the villages were actually fired on because it was suspected that Vietcong occupied them and incoming fire had been received from the area.
  • Robert McConnachie claimed at WSI that Army troops in a convoy threw C-ration cans at Vietnamese children with such force as to kill one or two. He also said an artillery unit had intentionally shelled a hospital and killed civilians. McConnachie backtracked when questioned by military investigators, saying that no Vietnamese children were actually killed by troops throwing C-rations. He said he now believed that the alleged killing of civilians in a hospital by artillery fire was accidental.
  • Ronald Palosaari claimed at WSI that Army troops killed two children and an old lady by throwing a grenade into a bunker next to a house. He also said he saw a Vietnamese soldier cut off the ear of a NVA soldier who had just been killed. Interviewed by Army investigators, Palosaari was unable to provide specific dates, locations or the names of any individuals involved in the alleged grenade incident. He admitted that he did not actually witness the mutilation of any enemy dead.
  • Donald Pugsley claimed at WSI that a helicopter gunship strafed and killed water buffalo. He admitted to investigators that no water buffalo were actually fired upon.
  • Kenneth Ruth claimed at WSI to have witnessed the torture of Vietcong suspects, and told Life Magazine that he saw troops test fire weapons into a village, wounding 43 civilians. However, Ruth admitted to Army investigators that he had no personal knowledge of such an event. The CID found his torture claims unsubstantiated.
  • George Smith claimed at WSI that members of his Special Forces unit had beaten enemy prisoners and placed them in small barbed-wire cages. Smith backtracked on these claims when interviewed by Army investigators, saying that the alleged acts were actually committed by South Vietnamese forces rather than American troops.
  • David Stark claimed at WSI that hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed by indiscriminate bombing and strafing in the Saigon area during late 1968. He also claimed to have witnessed the maltreatment of prisoners. However, Stark told CID interviewers that he actually saw no bodies, was unable to identify the aircraft or military units involved in the attacks or the cleanup operation, and admitted that he had never witnessed maltreatment of prisoners, except for a single occasion when he said he saw a prisoner pushed and shoved by two South Vietnamese officers.
  • The only Army witness to appear at WSI whose allegations have been substantiated was James Henry. Military authorities closed Henry’s case, which had already been under review for nearly a year by the time of WSI, after “an extensive investigation did not reveal sufficient evidence to prove or disprove Mr. Henry’s allegations.” However, the CID also opened a supplemental investigation into whether a group of civilians had been killed by US troops. The results of that investigation indicate that crimes were probably committed, but no documentation of any prosecutions has been found or reported.

The Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was ordered to investigate charges made at WSI by VVAW members representing themselves as veterans of the Navy or Marines. Their reports have not been located, and it is uncertain whether they were destroyed or are lost in the vast government archives system. Historian Guenter Lewy cited a summary report by NIS in his 1978 book America in Vietnam, noting that many participants refused to provide evidence to Navy investigators, and others backtracked on their stories – the same pattern found in the newly discovered Army CID documents. Lewy also reported that several veterans told the NIS in sworn statements corroborated by witnesses that they had not been in Detroit – i.e., the VVAW activists who used their names were imposters.
It is unfortunate that the military didn’t simply release the results of the investigations as they were completed. America’s Vietnam veterans might have been spared several decades of public distrust and contempt stimulated by the leftist “baby-killer” agitprop. Unfortunately, US military leaders during the Vietnam era failed to understand that home-front psychological warfare operations pose at least as great a threat to the military’s ability to successfully complete its mission as enemy operations in the field.

The (not so) new winter soldiers

Among the VVAW retreads supporting the IVAW’s new propaganda campaign is Joe Bangert, a former Marine mechanic who claimed at WSI that he had watched while his fellow Americans casually gunned down Vietnamese children and murdered and skinned a Vietnamese woman. Bangert, a fervent supporter of America’s wartime enemies, met in 1971 with North Vietnamese and Vietcong delegations in Paris, where he proudly sang “We Will Liberate the South,” and the “Ballad of Uncle Ho” for his hosts. He later moved to join his comrades in communist Vietnam, where he lived for several years.
Members of the military with actual knowledge of crimes committed by US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have a legal and moral obligation to report them to military authorities. The activists who will claim in Washington that they saw or participated in such crimes presumably failed to do this. What are we to make of “witnesses” who ignore crimes while in the field, but later make allegations in a venue designed to smear the military and its mission? Add the near-certainty that the charges themselves will be vague, lacking the specific details and supporting evidence that real investigations require. Perhaps this time we should assume that the troops who defend us are innocent when they are accused of unsubstantiated “crimes” by a radical movement with a long history of deceit.
In light of the new CID documents, will John Kerry admit that the war crime allegations he presented to the Senate in 1971 were largely fictitious? When the Winter Soldier documentary is shown to college students, will liberal professors now point out that it has been thoroughly discredited? Will the Washington Post reconsider its credulous 2005 film review? Can we expect the new discovery to be reported accurately on Wikipedia’s leftist-controlled Winter Soldier page? Will the IVAW radicals currently preparing their own attack on the US military be embarrassed to learn that they are emulating a fraud?
Not a chance. WSI was always about perceptions; never reality. America’s detractors will peddle the VVAW’s grisly myths for as long as people are willing to believe them.

February 27, 2008

Iraq Veterans Against the War DC & Ft Meade Outreach

 

The DC and Fort Meade Chapters of Iraq Veterans Against the War doing GI outreach in support of Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan around Fort Meade on February 16th, 2008. Featuring Adam Kokesh, Geoff Millard, Marie Combs, Nick Morgan, and soon to be IVAW member Ray Curry.

 
   
 
 

February 26, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Fundraisers and Houseparties (VI)

A fundraiser for Iraq Veterans Against the War will be held on Sunday, March 2 at 3 p.m. at the First Universalist Church, 57 Main St. in Essex.
Keynote speaker will be Andrew Bacevich, Boston University professor of History and International Studies. The featured speaker will be Iraq veteran Liam Madden.
Music will be by Pat Scanlon. A short DVD by IVAW will be shown. Light refreshments will be served.
Proceeds will support the upcoming Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, to be held March 13-16 in Washington, DC. Recent U.S. combat veterans will testify on what is really happening in these areas.
The event is sponsored by Samantha Smith Chapter of Veterans for Peace, and the North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice. For more information, contact: Paul Brailsford at 978-356-7671.
For information about the Winter Soldier event, visit ivaw.org/wintersoldier.


  • Saturday March 1, 12:30 PM: Black Dog Cafe and Wine Bar, 308 Prince St., Lowertown, Saint Paul
Ivaw_st_paul

A Call to Winter Soldiers with Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War and local artists Sandino Gomez, Joe Williams and Cordelia Clancy, and MC'd by Chris Matthews. Adam Kokesh will speak about his combat tours of Iraq while in the Marines and will present a short documentary with three veterans who will testify at the Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan hearings in Maryland this March. The hearings are based on the Winter Soldier hearings held by Viet Nam veterans in 1971 and will describe what is being done daily by the occupying forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. This event is sponsored by Veterans For Peace Corrie-Mizo Chapter 11 to raise funds for, and awareness of the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. For more information call 831-425-5377.
Cost: $5 - $15 sliding scale


  • Thursday February 28, 6:30 - 8:30 PM: Joliet Public Library, Black Road Branch, 3395 Black Road, Joliet, IL 60431

A film showing and panel discussion with local Vietnam and Iraq War Veterans
"These are times that try men’s souls", wrote Thomas Paine, who turned not to sunshine patriots, but rather to winter soldiers who would stand up, even in its darkest hours, for the soul of their country.
In this spirit, hundreds of Vietnam War veterans stood up, risking everything at a 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation. This film documents personal, candid testimony of countless, amoral acts observed and committed by our soldiers, which we learn are the inexorable result of national policy.
Once again March 13-16 in Washington DC, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will be holding their own Winter Soldier Event.
Join us in deepening our understanding of these momentous events with a panel discussion and film showing. Suggested Donation $5-$10 This is a Fundraiser for Iraq Veterans Against the War & Rochester Against War
Sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), Rochester Against War (RAW), and Peace Action and Education Task Force of Metro Justice (PA&E)
For more information contact: WinterSoldier@rochesterAgainstWar.orgbr /> -- Doug Noble, PA&E and RAW, at 585-442-3393br /> -- Mike Totten, IVAW, at 585-520-2851

Ivaw_rochester

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter (in photo) will speak at Barnstable High School on Wednesday Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., along with comedian Jimmy Tingle, as part of a fundraiser for the Winter Soldier campaign of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Ritter and Tingle will discuss "the corporate media's coverage of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration's plans for the 'War on Terror,' and the need for diplomacy," according to the website of Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, the sponsoring organization.
The evening will begin with a monologue by Tingle, a presentation by Ritter, an interview of Ritter by Tingle, questions from the audience and a book signing, according to the CCPJ website. Suggested donation at the door, $10.
The event will be held in Knight Auditorium of the high school, 744 West Main St., Hyannis. For more information, contact CCPJ at 508-432-1718 or ccpj@earthlink.net.


A showing of the documentary film, "Winter Soldier" will be shown followed by discussion about the upcoming Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan hearings.


February 25, 2008

From GI Special 6B16: Winter Soldierizing

n the winter of 1777-78, after suffering three terrible defeats by the much larger British force and marching hundreds of miles, the 11,000-man Continental Army retreated to a winter headquarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Food was in desperately short supply, 2,000 men were without shoes, and many were without blankets. Typhoid fever, dysentery, malnutrition and exposure claimed some 2,500 lives that winter.
American Patriot morale had declined severely and whole militia companies had deserted to return home. Those that remained to weather the arduous winter formed powerful bonds that led them to eventually prevail in our war for independence.
Of these men and the 700 women who fed, nursed and warmed them through that winter, political activist and revolutionary thinker Thomas Paine wrote, “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of all men and women.”
Those that endured have come to be called the “winter soldiers.”

As veterans, we once swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We do not foreswear that oath upon removing the uniform.
Upon that basis in 1971, following prosecution of Lt. Calley for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, over 150 honorably discharged, many very highly decorated members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) gathered in Detroit to share their stories. Remaining faithful to their oath beyond their obligated service and harkening back to Paine’s words, they named this the “Winter Soldier Investigation.”
Atrocities like My Lai had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions.
he members of VVAW testified at that time on the systematic brutality and war crimes they had witnessed and inflicted upon the people of Vietnam, stating that unspeakable atrocities such as “free fire zones” were in fact US government policy, violating the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties which are defined by Article VI of the Constitution as “the supreme law of the land.”
Asked by Chairman William Fulbright to present their findings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lt. John Kerry delivered ringing testimony on behalf of the group. He explained, “We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country, we could be quiet, we could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, not the reds, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out.”
Kerry concluded his testimony, “We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped away their memories of us. But all that they have done and all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission - to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more... And so when thirty years from now our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say ‘Vietnam’ and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead where America finally turned and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.”
But thirty years have passed and America has failed to turn.
Thirty-two years later, America launched another equally brutal, equally mindless, equally unjustified attack on the nation of Iraq, again in violation of international treaty laws - the UN and Nuremberg Charters - that prohibit wars of aggression, and once more violating Article VI, the “Supremacy Clause,” of our Constitution. So once again winter soldiers are needed.
Thankfully, a current generation of outraged veterans is arising and a Winter Soldier II investigation is scheduled for March 13-16 in Washington, DC, where members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will replicate the model of their VVAW predecessors. All other peace organizations nationwide have been asked to suspend public events during that time so that media attention can be focused on this testimony. Information about the event may be found on the group's Web site: www.ivaw.org.
“Over 30 years later,” IVAW states, “we find ourselves faced with a new war, but the lies are the same. Once again, troops are sinking into an increasingly bloody occupation. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming 'a few bad apples' instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.”www.ivaw.orgIVAW is planning to provide live broadcasting of the sessions for those who cannot hear the testimony firsthand.www.ivaw.orgOur blue-and-white Veterans for Peace bus, “Squadron13 Deployed,” will be there - our gas budget willing - following a 3,400 mile coast-to-coast awareness raising tour taking the southern route around the Rockies. www.ivaw.orgWe will film and post on YouTube as we go and as we witness.

February 21, 2008

Shutting Down the Machine - An Iraq Veteran Speaks out

This video, produced by John Bruhus and John Grant was originally posted to the Brave New Films and US Labor Against the War websites.


     
   
     

An Iraq combat veteran speaks out about opposing the war while in Iraq and after his discharge and what it's like being called a "coward" and a "traitor" by war supporters.
I felt compelled to do this video after so many attacks on my character, military service, and patriotism by people who never wore the uniform, and have never been to Iraq. This pro-war element in America refuses to recognize that there are in fact alternative ways to support our troops -- such as shorter deployments, and just finally getting them out of Iraq. The people who have been attacking me along with many others in the anti-war movement, in my opinion, believe the only way to support our troops is to continue to keep sending them back to Iraq, while they just stay home and sacrifice nothing. I believe everyone has a right to an opinion -- and I respect that. However, don't ask people to do something you would never have the courage to do yourself. Furthermore, they have no right to call members of the anti-war movement unpatriotic -- a lot of us are vets, who had the courage to fight for what they believe is a war of necessity.
- John Bruhns
PS. It's not a war of necessity, it is an occupation of choice.

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Fundraisers and Houseparties (V)

A fundraiser for Iraq Veterans Against the War will be held on Sunday, March 2 at 3 p.m. at the First Universalist Church, 57 Main St. in Essex.
Keynote speaker will be Andrew Bacevich, Boston University professor of History and International Studies. The featured speaker will be Iraq veteran Liam Madden.
Music will be by Pat Scanlon. A short DVD by IVAW will be shown. Light refreshments will be served.
Proceeds will support the upcoming Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, to be held March 13-16 in Washington, DC. Recent U.S. combat veterans will testify on what is really happening in these areas.
The event is sponsored by Samantha Smith Chapter of Veterans for Peace, and the North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice. For more information, contact: Paul Brailsford at 978-356-7671.
For information about the Winter Soldier event, visit ivaw.org/wintersoldier.


  • Saturday March 1, 12:30 PM: Black Dog Cafe and Wine Bar, 308 Prince St., Lowertown, Saint Paul
Ivaw_st_paul

A Call to Winter Soldiers with Adam Kokesh of Iraq Veterans Against the War and local artists Sandino Gomez, Joe Williams and Cordelia Clancy, and MC'd by Chris Matthews. Adam Kokesh will speak about his combat tours of Iraq while in the Marines and will present a short documentary with three veterans who will testify at the Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan hearings in Maryland this March. The hearings are based on the Winter Soldier hearings held by Viet Nam veterans in 1971 and will describe what is being done daily by the occupying forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. This event is sponsored by Veterans For Peace Corrie-Mizo Chapter 11 to raise funds for, and awareness of the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. For more information call 831-425-5377.
Cost: $5 - $15 sliding scale


  • Thursday February 28, 6:30 - 8:30 PM: Joliet Public Library, Black Road Branch, 3395 Black Road, Joliet, IL 60431

A film showing and panel discussion with local Vietnam and Iraq War Veterans
"These are times that try men’s souls", wrote Thomas Paine, who turned not to sunshine patriots, but rather to winter soldiers who would stand up, even in its darkest hours, for the soul of their country.
In this spirit, hundreds of Vietnam War veterans stood up, risking everything at a 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation. This film documents personal, candid testimony of countless, amoral acts observed and committed by our soldiers, which we learn are the inexorable result of national policy.
Once again March 13-16 in Washington DC, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will be holding their own Winter Soldier Event.
Join us in deepening our understanding of these momentous events with a panel discussion and film showing. Suggested Donation $5-$10 This is a Fundraiser for Iraq Veterans Against the War & Rochester Against War
Sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), Rochester Against War (RAW), and Peace Action and Education Task Force of Metro Justice (PA&E)
For more information contact: WinterSoldier@rochesterAgainstWar.orgbr /> -- Doug Noble, PA&E and RAW, at 585-442-3393br /> -- Mike Totten, IVAW, at 585-520-2851

Ivaw_rochester

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter (in photo) will speak at Barnstable High School on Wednesday Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., along with comedian Jimmy Tingle, as part of a fundraiser for the Winter Soldier campaign of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Ritter and Tingle will discuss "the corporate media's coverage of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration's plans for the 'War on Terror,' and the need for diplomacy," according to the website of Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, the sponsoring organization.
The evening will begin with a monologue by Tingle, a presentation by Ritter, an interview of Ritter by Tingle, questions from the audience and a book signing, according to the CCPJ website. Suggested donation at the door, $10.
The event will be held in Knight Auditorium of the high school, 744 West Main St., Hyannis. For more information, contact CCPJ at 508-432-1718 or ccpj@earthlink.net.


Dan_electro


IVAW hosts a Winter Soldier Fundraiser. Good Music, Cold Beer, Raffles and other ways to dip into your wallet.
Help America's veterans stop Bush's war.
Featured musicians: Tacia Northey, Barry Weber, Carol Williams
Sponosred by VVAW

Ivaw_milwaukee

Featuring Fort Hood veterans and family members with an appearance by Scott Ritter.
$10 suggested donation includes food and soft drinks (please bring other beverages).
Music by Bill Passalacqua.


7:00 - Doors + Pot Luck
8:00 - Screening of “The Ground Truth
9:30 - Address and Q & A by Tyler and other IVAW members.
11 – 2 dance our collective asses off, get lifted
Contact: Chicago- IVAW
Phone: (773) 489-9580
Contact e-mail: chicago@ivaw.org
Website: http://www.ivaw.org


Maine Veterans For Peace (VFP Chapter 001) invites you to a fundraising party to benefit Winter Soldier, the public war crimes investigation being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in Washington, D.C. from March 13-16, 2008.
At Winter Soldier U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will give eyewitness testimony about the war crimes committed by their units at places like Haditha, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, atrocities which are endemic to wars of occupation directed essentially against civilian populations. "Once again, " IVAW has noted, "politicians and generals are blaming 'a few bad apples' instead of examining the U.S. military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan." Iraqi and Afghan survivors will also testify.
In order to ensure the success of Winter Soldier, IVAW must raise thousands of dollars for travel and hospitality of witnesses, and for the necessary technical support that will allow the event to be simulcast throughout the country. Maine VFP is asking you to join us to help support this historical initiative that we expect will have considerable impact in readdressing public attention to why these wars must be ended and all our troops brought home now.
Special Guest: Liam Madden will be joining us. Liam served as a Communications Electronics Specialist in the Marine Corps from January 2003 to January 2007. While enlisted he was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, Thailand, Okinawa, Japan, and Korea. During his last year in the Marines, Sergeant Madden co-founded the Appeal for Redress, a campaign of service members demanding that congress halt the war in Iraq. Liam is currently the president of the Boston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and is a student at Northeastern University.
Please join us. Mid-winter fellowship and dancing will be encouraged. There will also be a brief reading by Michael Uhl from Vietnam Awaking, a memoir which provides an account of how Vietnam veterans were organized around the issue of American war crimes in Indochina, which led to the original Winter Soldier in 1971.
Please bring a dish to share. VFP will provide non-alcoholic beverages.
Contact/RSVP: Michael Uhl - 677-6018 or Bruce Gagnon - 443-9502


  • Thursday February 21, 7 PM: NY Society for Ethical Culture 2 W 64th St New York NY

The evening will begin with a special taped greeting to the young vets from Pete Seeger followed by a panel of VVAW discussing the first Winter Soldier (1971). The 2nd Winter Soldier will be in D.C. next month. We will next have panels of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (live) and young veterans (live feed or dvd) that have chosen to go to Canada (tape or 'live feed'). Music provided by Meetliah.

Prices:
Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans - Free
Students - $5
Adults (Members Of Peace Groups) - $20


  • Thursday February 21, 6 - 8 PM: Capen Auditorium in Edwards Hall at Illinois State University, 100 N. University St., Normal, IL 61761

The Central Illinois Chapter of IVAW is presenting the Winter Soldier Documentary to raise awareness of Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan and to recruit more members for the chapter. This event is being co-sponsored by Student Peace Action Network, Bloomington Normal Citizens for Peace and Justice, The Indy, ISU Political Science Club, and more.
Contact e-mail: wallace4freedom@yahoo.com


Tacoma_ivaw_flyer1_2

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Fundraisers (Santa Cruz)

This announcement was posted to sfbay.Craigslist, 19 February 2008


A growing movement of resistance exists within the military itself towards the US wars of aggression.
Troops are refusing (re)deployment, refusing orders and taking measures of resistance as dictated by their consciences.
Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) recently re-enacted urban missions in Washington D.C. to show the public what the Iraqi people are subjected to on a daily basis by occupying US forces.
Now, to counter the blanket of censorship from the White House and the mainstream media, IVAW will hold a truth forum, The Winter Soldier Hearings, in Maryland next month. These hearings finally give a voice to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans - a voice that has until now been suppressed.
To help fly troops to Maryland to testify about the real truth, Veterans for Peace, the GI Rights Hotline and other local community groups, are holding a fundraiser. The event features outspoken IVAW board member Sgt. Adam Kokesh. He will present a DVD and speak about serving two tours with the Marine Corps in Iraq as well as of his more recent experiences with non-violent civil disobedience in opposition to the war.
Chris Matthews, of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post and owner of the Poet and Patriot Pub, will emcee the fundraiser. Also appearing will be Santa Cruz artist activists Cordelia Clancy (PyroDiva), Sandino Gomez (spoken word artist, Resource Center for Non-Violence staffer) and Joe Williams (musician, GI Rights Hotline co-founder).
The original Winter Soldier Hearings, held during the Vietnam War by GI resisters of that era, helped bring an end to the Vietnam War.
We hope you join us to make a stand for peace.
Light refreshments will be served.
Event: Iraq Veteran’s Against the War, Winter Soldier Fundraiser
When: Thursday, February 28, 7:00 pm
Location: Veterans Hall, 846 Front St, Santa Cruz, www.vetshall.org.
Suggested contribution: $10 and up; no one turned away for lack of funds
For more information: www.ivaw.org
TO ARRANGE INTERVIEWS contact Daniel Young (dyoung@ucsc.edu or 831,750.7882) or Dorah Rosen (dorahbee@comcast.net or 831.335.1861)

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Flyers

Ivaw_winter_soldier_1



Ivaw_winter_soldier_2

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - News Report Recorded at the Different Drummer in Watertown

 

News 10 report on upcoming Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanisan Investigation recorded at the Different Drummer in Watertown>

 
   
 
 

February 20, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Help Winter Soldiers Bring Peace! Host Your Friends...

This message was originally posted to the act-ma Now message boards, by Susan Moodilar, February 16, 2008


Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is organizing the "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" hearings in Washington, D.C. this March 13 - 16. Scores of veterans will testify to their actual experiences of the war and the tragedies they witnessed.
Their voices will be live and unfiltered.
IVAW needs all our support to make this event happen. Around the country, amidst all their other activities, the peace movement is organizing house parties and fundraisers to assist IVAW in bringing vets to D.C.
Boston-area organizing has raised thousands of dollars and is building up toward public events on March 14 & 15.
Much more needs to be done.
Here's how you help in the Boston area:
(1) Host a house party or fundraiser with your friends, church, club or community.
There are plenty of video resources, event planning guides and flyer templates and possibly, performers to help you with your work. It is also possible that a veteran might be able to join you at your event and provide background information about the Winter Soldier hearings and also first-hand testimony about the realities of the war.
For more information and assistance in getting your event off the ground, call Paul Shannon at the American Friends Service Committee - 617-661-6130 or send him an e-mail to pshannon at afsc.org [include "Winter Soldier" in the subject line].
(2) Screen the Winter Soldier testimonies for your community, at home, in the dorm, in your churches, during Friday, March 14 or Saturday, March 15, 2008. Also, contact your local cable access station and ask them to carry the testimony live for several hours.

February 18, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Fundraisers and Houseparties (III)

rmer UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter (in photo) will speak at Barnstable High School on Wednesday Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., along with comedian Jimmy Tingle, as part of a fundraiser for the Winter Soldier campaign of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Ritter and Tingle will discuss "the corporate media's coverage of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration's plans for the 'War on Terror,' and the need for diplomacy," according to the website of Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, the sponsoring organization.
The evening will begin with a monologue by Tingle, a presentation by Ritter, an interview of Ritter by Tingle, questions from the audience and a book signing, according to the CCPJ website. Suggested donation at the door, $10.
The event will be held in Knight Auditorium of the high school, 744 West Main St., Hyannis. For more information, contact CCPJ at 508-432-1718 or ccpj@earthlink.net.


Dan_electro


IVAW hosts a Winter Soldier Fundraiser. Good Music, Cold Beer, Raffles and other ways to dip into your wallet.
Help America's veterans stop Bush's war.
Featured musicians: Tacia Northey, Barry Weber, Carol Williams
Sponosred by VVAW


Maine Veterans For Peace (VFP Chapter 001) invites you to a fundraising party to benefit Winter Soldier, the public war crimes investigation being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in Washington, D.C. from March 13-16, 2008.
At Winter Soldier U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will give eyewitness testimony about the war crimes committed by their units at places like Haditha, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, atrocities which are endemic to wars of occupation directed essentially against civilian populations. "Once again, " IVAW has noted, "politicians and generals are blaming 'a few bad apples' instead of examining the U.S. military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan." Iraqi and Afghan survivors will also testify.
In order to ensure the success of Winter Soldier, IVAW must raise thousands of dollars for travel and hospitality of witnesses, and for the necessary technical support that will allow the event to be simulcast throughout the country. Maine VFP is asking you to join us to help support this historical initiative that we expect will have considerable impact in readdressing public attention to why these wars must be ended and all our troops brought home now.
Special Guest: Liam Madden will be joining us. Liam served as a Communications Electronics Specialist in the Marine Corps from January 2003 to January 2007. While enlisted he was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, Thailand, Okinawa, Japan, and Korea. During his last year in the Marines, Sergeant Madden co-founded the Appeal for Redress, a campaign of service members demanding that congress halt the war in Iraq. Liam is currently the president of the Boston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and is a student at Northeastern University.
Please join us. Mid-winter fellowship and dancing will be encouraged. There will also be a brief reading by Michael Uhl from Vietnam Awaking, a memoir which provides an account of how Vietnam veterans were organized around the issue of American war crimes in Indochina, which led to the original Winter Soldier in 1971.
Please bring a dish to share. VFP will provide non-alcoholic beverages.
Contact/RSVP: Michael Uhl - 677-6018 or Bruce Gagnon - 443-9502


  • Thursday February 21, 7 PM: NY Society for Ethical Culture 2 W 64th St New York NY

The evening will begin with a special taped greeting to the young vets from Pete Seeger followed by a panel of VVAW discussing the first Winter Soldier (1971). The 2nd Winter Soldier will be in D.C. next month. We will next have panels of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (live) and young veterans (live feed or dvd) that have chosen to go to Canada (tape or 'live feed'). Music provided by Meetliah.

Prices:
Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans - Free
Students - $5
Adults (Members Of Peace Groups) - $20


This spring, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is revealing the reality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. In what will be history's largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors, eyewitnesses will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.
This event will include a film screening of "Winter Soldier", a 1971 documentary film of testimonies by Vietnam Vets Against the War about the atrocities they committed in Vietnam. We are please that Iraq vet Patricia McCann will talk about the Winter Soldier campaign and Sex Crimes committed by male U.S. troops on Iraqi civilians AND female U.S. troops.


VFP Chapter 147 (Saratoga Springs) present a screening of the film "Winter Soldier" to raise funds for Iraq Veterans Against the War's project "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" which will take place in Washington DC March on 13 to 16, 2008. Veteran and civilian survivors of the modern conflicts in both countries will give public testimony and share the eyewitness stories "...that have been censored from the American public about the true human cost of these wars."
Cost: A hat will be passed for donations to be sent to Iraq Veterans Against the War. Note that the library does not sanction fundraisers.


  • Sunday February 17, 2 PM: IVAW Fundraising Houseparty, Vashon-Maury Island Green Party

  • Sunday January 27, 3 PM: Home of Sev and Louise Bruyn, 48 Glenwood Ave., Newton Center 617–332–1764

  • Sunday, January 13, 2 - 6 PM: Connolly's Pub, 121 W. 45th St., between 6th Ave and Broadway, New York

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan - Statement of Support (VVAW)

This position paper was originally published on the VVAW website


From March 13-16th 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation's capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We hope that you'll join in supporting this, because this is a story that every American needs to hear!
This spring, a main priority for Vietnam Veterans Against the War is to support IVAW as they conduct their own Winter Soldier Investigation, in March, around the 5th Anniversary of the war on Iraq. IVAW faces similar challenges that VVAW faced 40 years ago. Faulty intelligence and outright lies have brought our generations closer; shared by eerily similar experiences, politics and atrocities. War crimes have been identified, and once again, politicians and generals repeat history by blaming 'a few bad apples' for such atrocities, rather than examining the military policies that destroyed Vietnam then and are destroying Iraq and Afghanistan now.
January 1971, VVAW held the Winter Soldier Investigation, where veterans testified about war crimes and atrocities they committed or witnessed in Vietnam. This spring, the largest gathering of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. Providing testimonies to war crimes the United States perpetuates with the ongoing wars and occupations, as well as, the increasingly poor treatment of returning veterans by US government agencies here at home. Veterans participating and attending the upcoming WSI will undoubtedly receive backlash similar to VVAW members in 1971. Since IVAW's inception, it has been a concern of VVAW to provide support, understanding the need of many veterans and veterans speaking out against war. VVAW will participate and provide support IVAW deems necessary for this event including: financial, logistical and emotional.
VVAW is committed to getting IVAW members, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, to Washington DC March 13-16th for the WSI. And it's VVAW's goal to raise enough money to help provide housing for these veterans at the event. Your financial support will help us in achieving this! Vietnam Veterans Against the War are seeking members and friends to host fundraisers, provide monetary donations, personal support and spread the word about Winter Soldier Investigation.
Without you, VVAW would not be able to spearhead or continue supporting such prolific events. Please make a generous tax deductible donation and/or provide with fundraising efforts.
To donate on-line, click here

Make/Mail checks to: VVAW
PO Box 2065, Station A
Champaign IL 61825-2065
Memo: IVAW-WSI
Sincerely,
Barry Romo (Vietnam Veterans Against the War, National Coordinator)

SUGGESTIONS FOR SUPPORTING AND FUNDRAISING EFFORTS:

  1. Sponsor an IVAW member to get to Washington, DC for WSI. Expense per veteran to participate in this WSI is approximately $1600./p>
  2. Host a film screening of Winter Soldier or other GI-movement type films, such as Sir! No Sir! or The Ground Truth.
  3. Host a book club reading on Winter Soldier or similar books, discuss the impact and importance of such an event; get others to participate.
  4. Host an 'End the Wars in 08 house party.' Open your home to friends, family and fellow activists to network and continue building relationships of solidarity. To increase interest, attendance and donations, you can use the New Year, the wars, and the significance of the upcoming Winter Soldier Investigation.
  5. Help with outreach in your area, such as: peace and justice organizations, community colleges, universities, local VA and Vets Centers…wherever you might find veterans.
  6. If you know Iraq or Afghan vets who may be interested in attending and/or testifying themselves – talk to them, help get them in contact with IVAW event organizers.
  7. Mentor. Testifying and listening to testimonies will be stressful to many veterans. If you can go to DC, offer personal support to those attending. After the event has concluded you can volunteer to provide support to a vet in your area.

IVAW's Guide to throwing a Winter Soldier House Party

Hosting a fundraiser is a great way to support the veterans and service members who are organizing Winter Soldier. Here's how it works: invite all your friends, coworkers and anyone else you think might be interested in supporting IVAW. The goal of the event is to raise awareness for IVAW and provide an easy way for them to contribute to Winter Soldier. You can plan any kind of event you like, but here are a few ideas that you can build on to plan your event.

Steps to a successful house party

1. Decide what kind of party you want to host

  • a barbecue or potluck
  • a dance party
  • Tea Party or wine and cheese tasting
  • Contact musicians or bands you know about doing a benefit show.
  • Come up with your own unique party idea.
  • It's also good to keep in mind that the event doesn't have to be at your home. If you have access to a church or community center that would be willing to provide space for a fundraising event of greater capacity, think about holding a larger event.

2. Make your invite list

Hosting a fundraiser is a great way to support the veterans and service members who are organizing Winter Soldier. Here's how it works: invite all your friends, coworkers and anyone else you think might be interested in supporting IVAW. The goal of the event is to raise awareness for IVAW and provide an easy way for them to contribute to Winter Soldier. You can plan any kind of event you like, but here are a few ideas that you can build on to plan your event.

3. Decide on a Date

Pick a date 2 or more weeks in advance to give you enough time to plan for the event and to give your guests enough notice. Think about what kind of party you are having, the people you know, and whether it makes more sense to hold your event on a weekend or a weeknight.

4. Making Turnout Calls

You'll get a better turnout for your party if you make reminder calls to the people you've invited. This is also a good time to answer any questions your guests may have about IVAW and Winter Soldier.

5. Party Program

Your event should include some way for you, as the host, to share information about IVAW (through our handouts, video, etc.) and to ask your guests to donate to IVAW's Winter Soldier. This could mean bringing everyone together so that you can thank them for coming, share information, and ask for support. We have provided informational flyers you can download about our work and ideas for other ways to share this information with your guests.

Depending on your guests you can ask for anything from $10 per person to $1,000 or more. IVAW is a non-profit and donations are tax-deductible.You can also raise money throughout the party by:

Selling drinks. Requesting a donation at the door on a sliding scale, especially if your event includes some form of live entertainment. Asking a local cafe or restaurant to donate food and putting a donation bin on the food table. You can also ask local businesses to donate gift certificates and then sell raffle tickets. You might be surprised by how willing businesses are to donate their services in exchange for the publicity.

The Pitch

At some point in the party, perhaps one hour in or so, take a bit of time to present information about IVAW and ask for donations from the guests. The following are some things you can say about IVAW and Winter Soldier (in addition to why you support our work) followed by some guidance from the grassroots fundraising guru, Kim Klein.IVAW is the only anti-war organization led by Iraq vets and active duty soldiers calling for the immediate end to the war.

  • Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who will tell the hard truth about what is really happening, day in and day out, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence.
  • In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.
  • IVAW is working to make sure GIs and members of the public can view the testimony from anywhere in the world thru the web, check out IVAW.org for more information (updated regularly).
  • In the past year IVAW has grown from 10 to 40 chapters, and now has close to 750 members, veterans and GIs who have served in the US military since September 11, 2001.

The following is from great grassroots fundraising expert Kim Klein, from her book “Fundraising for Social Change”

“Everything at the house party should be built around the pitch. Make arrangements ahead of time with at least two and not more than four people that when the host [you] says “I hope you will make a donation,” they will take out their checkbooks, or hand over checks to members of the organization [house party hosts]. They don’t have to be ostentatious about it, but a few people have to set the tone that this is the time to give money. Some people object to this practice, claiming that it imposes too much pressure. However, a little more thought will show that it is the considerate thing to do. Few people have the self-confidence to be the first to do anything. When the host (you) asks for money, many people are prepared to give, but everyone has a brief attack of anxiety, “Perhaps this isn’t when you give the money,” or “Perhaps I am the only person in the room who believes in this cause,” or “Perhaps everyone has already turned in their money and I will look odd if I give my money now. “The host must be the one who gives the pitch… “I hope you will join me in helping this important cause.” It doesn’t matter if the host [you] is nervous or doesn’t like asking for money. Our proceeds will be cut by at least half without a pitch from the party sponsor…in order for the guests to give money, the host must also say that he or she gives money and wants anyone who agrees with him or her to do the same. How the pitch is made determines how the money will be collected. This is also decided ahead of time. The best way to get the most money at the party is to pass around donation forms [these are available for download below] and envelopes that you provide immediately after the host speaks. If you would prefer, the host can say, “Please put your donation in the basket over there,” and point to the place. Like all fundraising strategies, house parties only work if someone actually asks for the money. Otherwise a house party is just a party – fun, but no funds.”

6. After the Party

Besides cleaning up there are a few things to do after the party.

  • Send us the donation forms as well as the donations. Send to: IVAW, P.O. Box 8296, Philadelphia, PA 19101
  • Send thank you notes, by email or mail to your guests

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Statement of Support (Washington State Green Party)

Text of resolution was passed by the Washington State Green Party, january 2008


Dear Friends and allies of IVAW, we're asking for your support with upcoming historic events that we hope will aid in ending the brutal occupation of Iraq . Our Chapter is planning a massive Active Duty Outreach effort at Ft. Lewis in February and also plans intense involvement in a momentous national event called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan in Washington D.C. March 2008.
. What were asking from our friends and allies is hosting IVAW House parties in your local communities. We're trying to raise funds for our Active Duty outreach campaign which will be a 7-day intensive recruiting effort at Ft. Lewis in late February, and also our benefit concert in Tacoma called "Soldier, You're Not Alone ". We need to raise funds for this event and also to fly out as many of our members to Washington D.C. to witness and testify in the national Winter Soldier event in March.
. Successful house parties hosted by our supporters in the past have been wine and cheese events where a couple of our members share their experiences in Iraq and involvement in our Chapter. Our Chapter membership is growing – with over 10 current members. We are very involved in ending the occupation of Iraq and believe ultimately in the G.I. movement that will halt this Military Machine.
. So please help us out in our efforts and Host an IVAW House Party for our Chapter. One house party, sponsored by the Vashon-Maury Island Green Party is already scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. To learn more about this specific event, contact Maryrose Asher, dmasher@comcast.net
. For more general information, contact Chanan Suarezdiaz, Chapter President at chananivaw@yahoo.com

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Fundraisers (Cape Cod, February 9)

The description of this event was originally published, February 13, 2008 on the Falmouth Bulletin website. The video was originally posted to youtube on February 13, 2008


Jpe Bangert speaks in Falmouth:


United front: Anti-war activists pack Moonakis Café
By Sarah Murphy

FALMOUTH - A large crowd gathered in Moonakis Café this past Saturday but, unlike the usual patrons, those in attendance wanted more than pancakes and home fries; they were hungry for change.
Proceeds of the fundraising event will support Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, a demonstration to be held in Washington, D.C. Thursday, March 13 to Sunday, March 16.
Sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, the four-day anti-war protest will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences. Panels of veterans and scholars will also cover topics such as veterans’ health benefits and support.
The fundraiser was organized by Moonakis café owner Paul Rifkin of FalmouthPeace.Org and Mike Tork of Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and FalmouthPeace.Org.
Members of Cape Codders for Peace and Justice, the Cape Cod Group of the Sierra Club and Iraq Veterans Against the War were also present to show their support.
The term Winter Soldier refers to Thomas Paine’s description of the Summer Soldier in his collection of articles, “The Crisis,” written during the American Revolutionary War.
“The Summer Soldier fights only when it’s popular, when the weather is good but the Winter Soldier fights year-round under all conditions,” Tork said.
History is repeating itself for Joe Bangert of Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
In 1971, Bangert testified with other Vietnam veterans, including current U.S. Sen. John Kerry, at the Winter Soldier Investigation. Bangert offered first-person accounts of atrocities, which he said, were committed against innocent civilians on behalf of the U.S. government in what he described as an “illegal war.”

Bangert likened the Vietnam War to the Iraq War.

> “We need to fight this beast. We need to build a base of resistance,” he said to the cheering crowd. “We’re not waiting for pie in the sky and the government process. We need to stand up and tell people what is really happening.
“This isn’t the country we want to leave our children. The American Dream has been wrenched away from us.”

Tork echoed Bangert’s sentiments.

“What is going on right now is completely illegal,” he said. “We attacked a sovereign nation. It completely violates the Geneva Conventions.”

Tork said war is not the antidote to terrorism.

“You’re not going to meet terrorism on the ground with an army. You have to fight it with diplomacy and intelligence.”
Pat Scanlon, a musician, activist and member of Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, entertained the crowd with selections from his album “Songs of Peace.”
Scanlon addressed the crowd before he sang “Young Soldier Welcome Home (I Can’t Walk in Your Boots).”
“Every time I hear George Bush say ‘Thank you for your service’ it makes me sick,” he said. “He doesn’t mean it. We really do.”
Liam Madden and Carlos Harris of Iraq Veterans Against the War represented the younger generation.
“We are people who care more about the words in the Constitution than the color of our iPod,” Madden said.

Madden described the potential impact of the D.C. protest.

“It’s not every day that ordinary people get to tell their version of history. No movement begins without the truth,” he said.
“Resistance is not controversial but going along with it is.”

Harris said he feels betrayed.

“We are out there risking our lives and to violate that trust by waging this kind of war is something you don’t recover from.”
When asked if he were optimistic that things would change, Harris said he is waiting for action.
“I can’t afford to be optimistic.”
Joan Power and Jane Richardson, members of FalmouthPeace.Org, show their concern by participating in the anti-war vigil in front of Falmouth Post Office from 11 a.m. to noon every Saturday.
“I do it because I believe so strongly in the possibility of peace,” Power said.

Richardson said our government is engaged in a fruitless war.

“Winning this war is impossible,” she said. “We don’t even have a defined enemy.”
Frances Johnson and her husband, Charles, spearheaded the vigil, which started with a small group and continues to grow.
“We’re very upset about what our government is doing,” Johnson said. “We stand every week and we will continue to stand until our government stops invading other countries. Today we had 24 people out there. When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
Charles, a Korean vet, was invigorated by the enthusiasm in the room.
“I haven’t felt the spirit rising this way in a long time,” he said. “We need it. I’m encouraged.”

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Winter Soldier Hearing - Here Come the Conservatives Part 6 (Know Your Enemies)

As the Winter Soldier Hearings draw near, neo-conservatives and chickenhawks will attempt to prove a groundswell of enraged citizenry dedicated to supporting the war and exposing the falsity of the claims made at the Winter Soldier Hearings. Given that these groups are coming, it is important to know who they are, and what they want. This information has been gotten from Source Watch.


Eagles UP!

Eagles UP! was begun "as a web presence on July 14, 2007" by organizers Col. Harry G. Riley, U.S. Army (Ret.), Zero Ponsdorf ("Zero")[1], OWB, and "The Gray Dog"[2].[3]


Freedoms Watch

Freedom's Watch registered September 17, 2007, with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate as a non-profit lobbying organization.[1] Lobbyists listed for Freedom's Watch are Bradley A. Blakeman (identified as having served within the past two years as "Deputy Assistant to the President, Presidential Appointee to the US Holocaust Museum"); Michael Leavitt (identifed as having served within the past two years as "Staff Asst & Regional Rep, [NC State] Senator [John] Snow");[2] and Matt David (identified as having served within the past two years as "Director of Rapid Response; White House Special Asst. to Director of Policy, Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance").[1][3]
Freedom's Watch has been described by critics as a front group for White House policy and a "neo-conservative 'slush fund' supporting the views of Vice President Dick Cheney",[4][5] "came out of" a December 2006 "event"[6] at the American Enterprise Institute when retired Gen. Jack Keane and AEI scholar Frederick W. Kagan "talk[ed] about the need for a troop increase in Iraq, "a plan adopted by" President George W. Bush in January 2007.[7]
Freedom's Watch, the "$200 million mouthpiece for military action",[8] was "hatched" in March 2007[7] at the "winter meeting" of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in Manalapan, Fla., where keynote speaker Vice President Dick Cheney[7][9] "accused the Democrat-led House of Representatives of not supporting troops in Iraq and of sending a message to terrorists that America will retreat in the face danger."[10][11] The RJC was described in 2005 as "a big money pro-Israel lobby group[12] linking Jewish-American neoconservatives to the Christian Right and Israel's Likud government."[13][7][14]
Freedom's Watch "denies coordinating its activities with the White House", Don Van Natta Jr. wrote September 30, 2007, in the New York Times, although "many donors and organizers, including Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary, are well-connected" to the Bush administration.[7] It should also be noted that in November 1998 the Republican Jewish Coalition took then-Texas Governor George W. Bush on his first tour of Israel, with "the 43rd president [emerging] as one of the most pro-Israel figures in American political history."[13][15][16][17]
In fact, "it is the link with Cheney that is the strongest, leading to the widespread view that the organisation is in effect his own creature", as, in September 2007, "it emerged that Cheney had asked a number of right-wing think tanks to start building the case for war against Iran."[4]
The Freedom's Watch "inner circle of strategists and donors are close to Vice President Dick Cheney or held high posts at the White House," the Associated Press's Jim Kuhnhenn wrote September 28, 2007.[18] Bradley A. Blakeman, president of Freedom's Watch, is a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush. Fleischer is a Freedom's Watch co-founder and spokesman. During summer 2007, Mary Matalin "brainstormed" with Blakeman,[18] Kuhnhenn wrote. Matalin formerly served as an assistant to President Bush and as a counselor to Cheney, is a member of the Legal Defense Fund Advisory Board for I. Lewis Scooter Libby, who was a former Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Cheney (2001-2005), and is a lead publicist for Republican 2008 presidential hopeful Fred Thompson.
Freedom's Watch is not the first propaganda group created by the Bush administration, as we are reminded[19] of the White House Iraq Group formed in 2003 by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to sell the war in Iraq. WHIG also included Matalin and Scooter Libby.
Comparing Republican Freedom's Watch to MoveOn.org, "the progressive electronic advocacy group opposing both the Iraq buildup and any military action in Iran",[8] Matalin said "We were ahead of the Democrats on think tanks and white paper operations that feed the Congress and are the source of new ideas based on conservative principles, ... Where they jumped ahead of us was by adding the communications arm to that."[18]
"But, as Eli Pariser, the executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, argues that Freedom's Watch may have money, but it doesn't have a base of support. ... 'The main difference is that MoveOn is a group of 3.3 million,' he said. 'Freedom's Watch is a few mega millionaires.'"[18]
"Ideologically," Fleischer stated, Freedom's Watch was "inspired by much of Ronald Reagan's thinking: peace through strength, protect and defend America, and prosperity through free enterprise."[7]
Freedom's Watch has been described as "a covert 'cut-out'[20] organization"[21] and an "outfit dedicated to keeping the war industry thriving";[22] a "sort of shadow White House communications shop [that] has emerged to help the beleaguered president sell his unpopular war to the American people";[23] and the "Swift Boaters for War",[24] although none of the millions in "swiftboat" money like that contributed by Bob Perry in 2004 or to the Economic Freedom Fund in 2006 has surfaced ... yet.[25]


Gathering of Eagles

Gathering of Eagles (GoE), ostensibly a group set up to protect the Vietnam Veterans Memorial ("The Wall") and other war memorials, functioned as a counter-protest group during the March 17, 2007, Washington D.C. March on the Pentagon rally against the war in Iraq.
According to a February 11, 2007, posting by Rurik, managing editor of Veteran-American Voices,

"February, we were alerted by a few vets that the hard left, anti-American protesters organized around Cindy Sheehan, Jane Fonda, and their ilk planned to demonstrate in Washington on March 17, 2007, starting at the Vietnam War Memorial and marching on the Pentagon. Word spread via e-mail, and then by website."
"Last time those barbarians marched not only did they protest, but they also vandalized the Capitol while the federal Park Police did virtually nothing. This time, they would do it to Our Wall. They will dishonor the memory of Our Fallen Brothers before beginning their trek to betray and dishonor Our Serving Sons. Forbid it Almighty God!! Even if no vandalism were to occur, to expropriate The Wall as a backdrop for such a protest would be a desecration. An obscenity."

Rurik, who had been named "Petty Officer in Charge (NCOIC for you Army types) of communications for the event" by Larry Bailey, described the composition of the nascent GoE group:

"Almost immediately veterans began to organize unofficially. ... By mid-week I learned that the Arlington Holiday Inn had made available a bloc of rooms at special discount. On February 8, I learned that ViperAsh, Colonel Harry Riley and Ted Sampley and a few others were cooperating. And we had a forum to discuss and coordinate our plans. And we had a name – Gathering of Eagles."
"The Swift Boat Sailors Association is on board. Rolling Thunder (web) is organizing independently, but will be there in alliance. And the Freepers. And the 910 Group. And as word spreads, some of the veterans organizations may send delegations."

GoE was organized by "brave Vietnam veterans" Col. Harry G. Riley and Capt. Larry Bailey, who "realized that it was time to stop fretting and time to start acting," Move America Forward's Melanie Morgan wrote March 2, 2007. "They've organized an effort to wake up and mobilize pro-troop supporters around the nation," Morgan wrote.
Bailey, a retired U.S. Navy Captain, was president of Vietnam Vets for the Truth, "which attacked 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry's military record, on the heels of the more well-known" Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. [1]
Sampley, who is anti-John Murtha, anti-John Kerry, and anti-John McCain, supports A Gathering of Eagles Forum on his U.S. Veteran Dispatch website.
Rurik also outlined the group's mission:

"Our sole purpose in this encounter is to Defend The Wall. We may block and obstruct, or perhaps, if attacked may be forced to more active measures. Best of all will be if our sheer numbers and presence so overawe the barbarians that they sulk in impotent fury off to the side and go off to get themselves tear-gassed elsewhere. But however it happens, and whatever else happens, if we defend Our Wall, then we have won."

C.J. Raven wrote February 7, 2007, in Sampley's U.S. Veteran Dispatch:

"Leftist activists who march to the Pentagon next month will discover that their path won't be as clear as it has been in the past ...
"This time, however, protestors will see objectors if they spit on Iraqi veterans again, or throw paint on a war memorial. This time, they will encounter a buzz saw of Vietnam veterans and supporters who will gather to protect the Wall, and show their support for U.S. troops. The counter-protestors are calling themselves the Gathering of Eagles," C.J. Raven wrote.

"The Gathering of Eagles was designed to assist the United States Park Police in defending the Vietnam Wall and other monuments against similar vandalism," Tom Kovach explained March 21, 2007, in WorldNetDaily.


Vets For Freedom

Vets for Freedom (VFF), which as recently as September 2007 declared itself the "leading voice representing troops and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan."[1], on July 10, 2007, resumed its pro-Bush administration, pro-war in Iraq political activities by launching its Win the War! Victory in Iraq" campaign, stating that the "next ten weeks will be absolutely crucial in determining the fate of the Iraq War." [2] [3][4]

Since, in his September 13, 2007, address to the nation, President George W. Bush appears to have dropped "victory" from his goals for Iraq, and has substituted "success" in its place,[5] will Vets for Freedom now rename its pro-victory in Iraq campaign "Win the War! Success in Iraq"?

VFF communicates its slogan in military terms: "Mobilizing veterans to communicate America's strategic objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan."[6]
In July 2006, VFF—calling itself the Vets for Freedom Action Fund (VFF-AF)—registered[7] with the IRS as a 527 committee national lobby. It was, in essence, a Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations[8], media[9], legal[10], and political consultants, including former White House spokesman Taylor Gross, to defeat candidates who advocate an end to the US occupation of Iraq.


Upcoming Events - Take to the street March 18-19

This call to demonstrate was announced on the No War, No Warming website, no date given


Take to the street March 18-19

There will be a lot of protest activity and organizing in DC in March, and our goal is to support and compliment other organizing strategies.
Iraq Veterans Against the War is organizing veterans to come to D.C. to give testimony on March 15-16 about the U.S. role in Iraq in an event called Winter Soldier. While many other organizations are discussing their plans and various coalition efforts are underway, a network of individuals and groups is emerging around a common vision of a massive intervention, using nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, to intervene and interrupt the power holders in Washington, D.C. and Corporate America.
We can draw inspiration from history and the successes of the No War, No Warming action on Capitol Hill on October 22nd where creative mobile tactics like the bike bloc, polar bear contingent and IVAW theatre, and blockades of key doors and streets, had a significant impact on the hill, got great media coverage and built excitement for what is possible when we take coordinated, determined action.
Imagine many hundreds if not thousands of people on the hill on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 18-19, with scores of well-organized affinity groups engaging in creative action demanding:

  • An end to the Iraq war, bring the troops home now, no war with Iran!
  • A shift in resources to support war veterans, rebuild New Orleans and other communities suffering from racism and corporate greed
  • Environmental justice and alternative economic models to address poverty and create millions of green jobs in a clean energy economy

Within the context of an overall action framework united by common demands and organizing principles, different affinity groups, clusters or organizations can take responsibility for various areas around the Capitol, communicating their particular message in their own way. There could be pray-in's, bike blockades, street theater,poetry readings, puppets, speak-outs and more. Unleash your imagination!
If we begin organizing now with a goal of a thousand or more people in the streets March 18-19 willing to risk arrest, we can have a serious impact! We can then take our experience home and keep building this network and taking actions throughout this important national election year.
Do what you can to be in DC from March 15-19. Let the will of the people be felt!

IVAW News - Upcoming Events (Winter Soldier Panel at the National Conference on Organized Resistance)

Winter Soldier: The Importance of Empowering Veterans and GIs to Speak Out (Location TBA)

Description: This March, from the 13-16, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be revealing the reality of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan through public testimony. In what will be history's largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors, eyewitnesses will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. It is important as allies to learn to support and empower the voices of veterans and GIs, both those willing and not yet ready, to speak out. Come learn about Winter Soldier and how to become a more effective ally to both veterans and GIs.
Panelist - Geoff Millard served 9 years with the Armed National Guard of the United States and is currently the IVAW’s Washington, DC chapter president.
(From the NROC Website. For a full list of NROC panels and workshops, click here)

February 17, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Iraq Veterans Against The War e-newsletter (Winter Soldier Update)

This e-newsletter - from IVAW National Office - was posted to the Action For Justice Website, Feruary 15, 2008


Iraq Veterans Against The War e-newsletter - Winter Soldier Update

IVAW is in high gear! Our members are focussed on reaching out to their active duty brothers and sisters. Our strategy is built around mobilizing the military community to withdraw its support for the war, and our members are putting that strategy into action.
Soldier, You're Not Alone
IVAW's Seattle chapter is spearheading a week of Active Duty outreach to Ft. Lewis from February 18-24, with support from the Bellingham chapter and other members in the northwest. The Seattle chapter has been very active - holding weekly meetings and working closely with GIs at Ft. Lewis to spread the word about IVAW's work to end the war. As part of this effort, the chapter is hosting a "Soldier, You're Not Alone" benefit concert on February 21st in Tacoma. All ages are welcome, and active duty servicemembers get in free with a Military ID. Spread the word!
Our fourth active duty chapter
Deep in the heart of Texas, soldiers at Ft. Hood who recently returned from Iraq have organized our fourth Active Duty chapter. Organizing an IVAW chapter on a military base isn't easy, which is why we're proud of all our members who are organizing on bases, both active duty and local veteran members who are supporting them. We welcome our newest members back from Iraq, and into the IVAW family!
Working together to build IVAW
Members in the Mountain Region are getting together for an organizing retreat February 23-24, and our members in the Los Angeles area have a retreat planned for this weekend. These retreats are organized locally to build member involvement, learn organizing skills, and sharpen IVAW's strategic impact. They're an important part of making sure that IVAW stays strong as we continue our rapid growth.
Winter Soldier Update:
Spreading the word about Winter Soldier
IVAW allies are hosting house party fundraisers from Los Angeles to Maine! Chapters of Veterans for Peace, affiliates of United for Justice with Peace, students from the Campus Anti-War Network, and labor organizers from US Labor Against the War are rallying their friends and neighbors to support Winter Soldier. All funds raised will go towards transportation and lodging for veteran, GI and civilian testifiers, and towards the live broadcast of their stories across the internet, television and radio. For information on how you can support Winter Soldier, see our How You Can Help Now page. You can find highlights from our Boston fundraising party featuring Howard Zinn and IVAW Board Member Liam Madden on our website.
Watching Winter Soldier
Public events featuring the live broadcasts of the Winter Soldier testimonies are being planned across the country. Planning an event? Be sure to post it on our site for others to see.
Making history
Winter Solider is an historic event, and our Boston area supporters are gearing up to make sure everyone can watch history in the making. That’s why a coalition of leaders in Boston’s peace and justice community want to make sure the stories told this March will be made available to everyone in their city. For more on their organizing efforts to secure a public space for all of Winter Soldier weekend, please contact Paul Shannon, pshannon@afsc.org.
Winter Soldier video now online
We've just posted an 18 minute preview of Winter Soldier on our site. Stop by and check it out, and pass the word - this is a great way to get people ready for the big event.
Winter Soldier is just 27 days away, and we'll have more news every week on how you can support and participate in Winter Soldier events around the country. The Winter Soldier Team is interviewing testifiers, preparing the satellite and website live feeds, and making travel and lodging arrangements for members who will join us for IVAW's biggest event to date. Many of you have stepped forward with donations to help us make this event happen, and we appreciate your support. If you haven't made a contribution to support Winter Soldier, please visit our donation page now!
Peace,
Kelly Dougherty
Former Sergeant, Army National Guard
Executive Director
Iraq Veterans Against the War

February 15, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Fundraisers and Houseparties I

  • Sunday, February 17 - 2 pm: IVAW Fundraising Houseparty, Vashon-Maury Island Green Party

Screening of the film "Winter Soldier"
A screening to raise funds for Iraq Veterans Against the War's project "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan" which will take place in Washington DC March on 13 to 16, 2008. Veteran and civilian survivors of the modern conflicts in both countries will give public testimony and share the eyewitness stories "...that have been censored from the American public about the true human cost of these wars."
Cost: A hat will be passed for donations to be sent to Iraq Veterans Against the War. Note that the library does not sanction fundraisers.


Maine Veterans For Peace invites you to a fundraising party to benefit Winter Soldier, the public war crimes investigation being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in Washington, D.C. from March 13-16, 2008.
At Winter Soldier U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will give eyewitness testimony about the war crimes committed by their units at places like Haditha, Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, atrocities which are endemic to wars of occupation directed essentially against civilian populations. "Once again, " IVAW has noted, "politicians and generals are blaming 'a few bad apples' instead of examining the U.S. military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan." Iraqi and Afghan survivors will also testify.
In order to ensure the success of Winter Soldier, IVAW must raise thousands of dollars for travel and hospitality of witnesses, and for the necessary technical support that will allow the event to be simulcast throughout the country. Maine VFP is asking you to join us to help support this historical initiative that we expect will have considerable impact in readdressing public attention to why these wars must be ended and all our troops brought home now.
Special Guest: Liam Madden will be joining us. Liam served as a Communications Electronics Specialist in the Marine Corps from January 2003 to January 2007. While enlisted he was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, Thailand, Okinawa, Japan, and Korea. During his last year in the Marines, Sergeant Madden co-founded the Appeal for Redress, a campaign of service members demanding that congress halt the war in Iraq. Liam is currently the president of the Boston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and is a student at Northeastern University.
Please join us. Mid-winter fellowship and dancing will be encouraged. There will also be a brief reading by Michael Uhl from Vietnam Awaking, a memoir which provides an account of how Vietnam veterans were organized around the issue of American war crimes in Indochina, which led to the original Winter Soldier in 1971.
Please bring a dish to share. VFP will provide non-alcoholic beverages.
Contact/RSVP: Michael Uhl - 677-6018 or Bruce Gagnon - 443-9502

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - video trailer for upcoming hearings

This was originally posted, by Army Sergeant, to the Active Duty patriot blog, February 15, 2008




Many of you don't understand why I believe in Winter Soldier, or what I think Winter Soldier is going to be about. It's hard to explain, especially when you find yourself coming up against gaps. You can read my piece in the SIT-REP, if you're lucky enough to be by a base where that hot little newspaper is going around.

But pictures and video are worth far more than a thousand words. Don't let me tell you-let the close friends of mine who made this video, Steve Mortillo and Jason Washburn, tell you, in their own words.

These guys are among those types of voices I've been talking about: young, strong veterans, proud of their military service, proud of the services they love (Trust me-you should be there when we all get going about which is better, Army or Marines), and with a strong love of their country. And like myself, they are proud members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. You probably haven't heard of them much-but hopefully you will. These guys are tough-they're doing a 25 mile ruck march next weekend to Valley Forge that I wish I could join them for.

And this video is nothing short of amazing. The footage is all soldier (yes, Jason, and Marine) shot.

If you've ever wanted to get inside my head, or those of the IVAW members like me. If you've ever wondered just what drives some people to speak out. If you are curious about just what this Winter Soldier means. If you are a friend, a frenemy, or even the gentleman-opposition peeking in.

Watch it. You won't regret you did.







IVAW News - Upcoming Events

Sunday, February 17, 5-7PM @ Vox Pop
1022 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn NY 11218

Join us to raise funds for the NYC Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in support of their historic Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan event in March 2008. We will screen an excerpt of the 1971 film Winter Soldier followed by speakers from IVAW and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. There will also be a raffle for prizes. Tell a friend and bring a veteran!
co-sponsored by Brooklyn for Peace (http://www.brooklynpeace.org)
Iraq Veterans Against the War NYC Chapter email: nyc@ivaw.org: web: www.myspace.com/ivawnyc


Sunday, February 21, 7-9 PM @ NYC Society for Ethical Culture
2 W. 64th St (at Central Park West)

A Greeting From Pete Seeger (Tape)

Panels will include:
Vietnam Veterans with/a segment of the original Winter Soldier (Detroit 1971)
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (looking forward to WSII in D.C. March 2008)
IVAW members in Canada (they refused to go back to Iraq)

MUSIC BY MEETLIAH
Reserve your tkts through your local peace group (reserve a block of seats) or call: 212-228-0450 ext. 104 (IVAW) (Iraq & Afghanistan Vets FREE, Students $5, Adult members of the peace Community $20)
Lv Message at: 845-358-5709 or 212-678-7311 http://www.veteransforpeaceny.org/vfpnyevents.htm
All $$ goes to Winter Soldier II in D.C. Mar. 13-15.
http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier

February 14, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Here Come the Conservatives Part 5 (Colonel Riley's First Broadside)

This attack was published on the Eagles Up Website, by Co. Riley (retd.), January 12, 2008. To say he has gotten bent out shape about IVAW and the Winter Soldier Hearings would be an understatement.


Folks,

What follows, promises to be the longest single post in the short history of Eagles UP!

This entire article is under the fold, so that before you click the read more, please read the post below, sent in by our West Regional Coordinator, Doug Lyvere. It has important information about a dedicated PGR brother who had a misfortune recently. Please keep him in your prayers, and forward your sincere words of encouragement.

Now, before continuing, hit the head, grab a beer, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, and then read on. This is why D.C. in March must go on.

Some of the following has been posted here before. For continuity, it is reposted in sequence with subsequent responses as follows:

Colonel Riley’s call to arms for March in D.C.
Letter to Colonel Riley from a “Dissenting Patriot”
My lame response to the Dissenting Patriot.
Colonel Riley’s rousing response to the Dissenting Patriot.
I hope you will find this worth your time. If so start or find a thread at the forum to add your comments.

Colonel Riley’s call to arms for March in D.C.

Friends,

Due to the publicized potential pull out of ANSWER and Code Pink; there is some uncertainty as to which groups will be actively supporting a D.C. Eagle action in March. Please let me assure all of you that Eagles UP remains steadfast with our plans to be in Washington, D.C in opposition to Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW) Winter Soldiers, and any other rabble that shows up.

The genesis of the Eagles March action was not based on ANSWER or Code Pink activity but on IVAW plans to conduct another Winter Soldiers Testimony. The ANSWER/Code Pink activity came about following the IVAW announcement of the Winter Soldiers event and was billed as a supporting action to IVAW.

For those that don’t remember….Winter Soldiers Testimony of 1971, orchestrated by now Senator John Kerry, was the catalyst, along with Jane Fonda and other rabble, that spurred on American “surrender” in Viet Nam by our Congress, emboldened North Viet Nam leaders, was a direct betrayal, distortion, and false representation of our warriors, and a deceitful, lying, despicable testimony of what was going on in Viet Nam.

Now, IVAW is attempting to again falsely paint our warriors as less than human, killers of innocents, wanton murderers, and all the rest as they did in 1971. We won’t allow this to go unchallenged as it did in 1971………the blood, body parts, lost lives, family pain will be redeemed from the lying, anti-America, Winter Soldiers meeting….the sacrifices by our warriors and families will not be allowed to be massaged into the muck, mire, and dirty lies of the Winter Soldier crowd.

The Winter Soldiers gathering is a major event and must be acknowledged and opposed. The potential harm this group can cause should not be under estimated…..we simply cannot take a chance of ignoring their diabolical mission or giving any false, malicious findings a foothold in the insatiable press who gobbles up any kind of tainted garbage.

We will expose the Winter Soldier Testimony lies, distortions, fabrications, and anti-America testimony for what it is…….a direct attack on dishonoring our warriors and ultimately, the destruction of America.

The event in April has merit, although I think General Petraeus record of success in Iraq has already drowned out the naysayers………be that as it may, before April is March and Eagles Up will mount an effort to challenge the IVAW as originally planned.

Others have suggested the Eagles population in DC in March should be heavily supported by veterans and family members of the war in Iraq…….the hundreds of thousands that have served honorably, witnessed the bravery, compassion, and general human kindness of American warriors…mistakes are made in every war, but to falsely broad brush our brave men and women as blood thirsty, uncaring tyrants as the Winter Soldiers Testimony is poised to report, will simply not be tolerated.

We will keep you informed as planning progresses……..please visit Eagles Up frequently, register and participate in Eagles Up forum….we value you input, suggestions, and support for our nation, our troops, and honoring our fallen and families.

I would urge you to re-read Eagles Up mission/principles statement………Winter Soldiers Event is a direct attack on our troops…….we won’t allow it to go unchallenged.

Harry Riley, COL, USA, Ret

Eagles Up - Where there is no offense, there is no effect.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31)

Letter to Colonel Riley from a “Dissenting Patriot”

Colonel Riley,

Sir, the purpose of the Winter Soldier project is not to broad brush our military members as brutal or to in any way diminish the humanity they have exemplified in such a stressful and morally ambiguous environment. It is intended to provide the American public an uncensored view of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. All perspectives are limited and cannot offer a complete view of reality, which is why it is important to take in the widest spectrum of views in order to come to more precise conclusions and make constructive decisions based on them.

Making choices in war can be difficult. Lives are at stake. There is a great deal of personal emotional investment at stake. But I believe our moral courage and intellectual honesty compels us to examine the validity of all views in order to make forward progress. This is often painful, but it is necessary. It is also essential to a healthy, genuine democracy.

I think we must ask ourselves what it is to be American and what it is to be anti-American. Is it American to unconditionally support the decisions of our political leaders? Is it anti-American to question and dissent under the sincere belief that certain policies are hurting our country and are a departure from our values? I think these are legimitate questions we must ask ourselves, for the sake of our country.

I must say I find your language disturbing. Are we supposed anti-Americans truly an “insurgency at home” in your eyes? I think if you were to sit and talk with some of us you will find that despite our differences we share many of the same core values, and that like you, we are struggling to understand the problems our country faces and to find solutions to those problems. Some have a perhaps naive faith in peace; some are perhaps too burdened with a sense of national guilt to appreciate the complexities of political decision-making. On the other hand, it is important to be self-reflective as a nation and not delude ourselves into a poisonous sense of self-righteousness. In any case, in my opinion we should not be so quick to jump to conclusions about each other. Let there be no broad-brushing against any side of such an important and necessary national debate.

I hope you will excuse my intrusion onto your site. I wish you good health and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Dissenting Patriot

My lame response to the Dissenting Patriot.

Dear Dissenting,
Typically, I like to simply write a response that sites one or two passages from a letter such as yours. Unfortunately, your letter is absolutely riddled with far too many quotes for my preferred method of response to be effective. Therefore, I feel compelled to simply insert my refutations at the appropriate places (in red) and summarize at the end.

Colonel Riley,

Sir, the purpose of the Winter Soldier (a name selected for it’s obvious effect of sticking a finger in the eye of all Vietnam Veterans slandered by the distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies as told by John Kerry and others in Detroit in 1971) project is not to broad brush our military members as brutal or to in any way diminish the humanity they have exemplified in such a stressful and morally ambiguous environment. Stressful… yes; but morally ambiguous? How can that be? What is ambiguous about morality in any setting? It is intended to provide the American public an uncensored view of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. All perspectives are limited and cannot offer a complete view of reality, which is why it is important to take in the widest spectrum of views in order to come to more precise conclusions and make constructive decisions based on them. Do you really believe the IVAW (baby sister to the VVAW) desires to convey the widest spectrum of views? And exactly what form of constructive decisions should we expect?

Making choices in war can be difficult. Lives are at stake. There is a great deal of personal emotional investment at stake. But I believe our moral courage and intellectual honesty compels us to examine the validity of all views in order to make forward progress. This is often painful, but it is necessary. It is also essential to a healthy, genuine democracy. You repeat yourself from the previous paragraph. It appears you are pressing this point because you know that most will find it difficult if not impossible to believe there will be any viewpoint but one that is anti-military, anti-government, and yes, by extension, anti-American.

I think we must ask ourselves what it is to be American and what it is to be anti-American. Is it American to unconditionally support the decisions of our political leaders? It is American to uphold your personal honor and to live by the oath you took when you entered the military. Is it anti-American to question and dissent under the sincere belief that certain policies are hurting our country and are a departure from our values? It is in fact anti-American, if not totally traitorous, when the nature of such public dissent is for one’s personal political benefit, acquisition of or defense of one’s political base or position, and most certainly when done in such a manner as to aid and comfort the enemy thus endangering the lives of the brothers and sisters you have forsaken.

I think these are legimitate questions we must ask ourselves, for the sake of our country.

I must say I find your language disturbing. I’m quite certain that any language which accurately identifies the true nature of those who would organize and testify at what is little more than an exercise in self-indulgence for most and perhaps a political stepping stone for a few, should be disturbing to you. Are we supposed anti-Americans truly an “insurgency at home” in your eyes? I think if you were to sit and talk with some of us you will find that despite our differences we share many of the same core values, and that like you, (obviously duty, honor, country would not be among them) we are struggling to understand the problems our country faces and to find solutions to those problems. Some have a perhaps naive faith in peace; some are perhaps too burdened with a sense of national guilt to appreciate the complexities of political decision-making. (Your obvious condescension toward those too naïve or challenged to discern the subtleties and nuance of politics is the same tired song we’ve been listening to since John Kerry first stepped into the spotlight thirty-seven years ago.) On the other hand, it is important to be self-reflective as a nation and not delude ourselves into a poisonous sense of self-righteousness. (I’m sorry we weren’t able to help you in time.) In any case, in my opinion we should not be so quick to jump to conclusions about each other. (Thirty-seven years of the same empty, self-aggrandizing rhetoric leaves very little to question, and certainly can not be considered a rush to judgment.) Let there be no broad-brushing against any side of such an important and necessary national debate. (Your sorrowful gathering of misfits and malcontents is neither important nor necessary. It’s only relevance in a national debate will be to provide just one more media circus the left loves to swarm to.)

I hope you will excuse my intrusion onto your site. I wish you good health and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Dissenting Patriot

I wish you no malice or harm. I truly feel you are to be more pitied than censored.

“These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” --Thomas Paine

The phrase “Winter Soldier,” is a mockery of one of America’s greatest patriots. Your cheap sideshow this spring is a mockery of every serviceman and servicewoman who ever wore our country’s uniform.

Eagles UP!

Michael A. Connelly

Colonel Riley’s rousing response to the Dissenting Patriot.

To Dissenting Patriot,

My first question is "what is Winter Soldier II all about? Exactly what is your view? You think my language is disturbing? I wish you had been with me in my fox-hole in 1969 and you would really understand something disturbing.

This is not about agreeing or disagreeing with policy of the US government, it is about defeating a ruthless, barbaric, murdering bunch of hate-filled Islamic killers.

Whether the war is right or not, we're in it and to surrender would only embolden the enemy as it did in Viet Nam and hasten the destruction of America.

Is Winter Soldier Testimony giving any consideration to gathering evidence on the atrocities of these Islamic killers? Are you going to be fair and balanced and show pictures of the desecrated bodies of all the women, children, helpless and innocent bystanders that have been blown to bits by car bombs, IED devices in Iraq and Afghanistan? Not to mention what has been done to American warriors and civilians.

Don't you realize the Islamic radicals have been hitting America for decades? They have been killing our troops in their barracks, bombing our embassies, blowing up our planes; attacking our ships.....you want an event that will dwarf 9-11? Get weak knees and watch a major city disintegrate taking millions of lives....is there any doubt in your mind the Islamic butchers won't do it if we show weakness?

Would a nuclear detonation in one of our cities be enough to convince you the enemy is real and it's not America? Or would you be one of the arm-chair quarterbacks and complain the leadership should have taken pre-emptive action?

Are you sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda butchers?

Have you forgotten these killers flew our own passenger planes into the twin towers in New York city, the Pentagon, and would have hit the US Capitol or White House had it not been for Americans willing to lay down their lives and cause the fourth plane to crash?

Given what I have experienced by the so-called anti-war movement (and let me ensure you understand that as a warrior, I speak for 99% of all warriors... we are more anti-war than anyone) nothing good will likely come from the planned Winter Soldier II event in Washington DC in March.

The hand-writing is on the wall...WSII is looking for anyone that will confess to any type war-crime whether true or false....mistakes have been made, I recognize that and it happens in all wars.....the WS in 1971 was filled with testimony that was totally false, full of fabrications, distortions, and much from people who had never served in the military.

John Kerry and Jane Fonda should have faced prosecution and still be in prison...my friend served almost six years in the Hanoi Hilton and was aware of Jane Fonda's presence nearby...Kerry and Fonda and other of the "anti-war" movement through their despicable lies were able to convince gutless politicians to surrender the war in Viet Nam that our American warriors had won.

We were spit on, hit with tomatoes, ridiculed, called baby killers, simply because we honored our oath and performed our duty. Did we want to be in South East Asia.........no, but America called, we went.

Winter Soldier has a reputation void of truth and we who hold a different view of America and what she's about will not allow Winter Soldier, ANSWER, Code Pink, CAIR, or any other movement to subject this generation of warriors to the same dishonorable accusations, false testimony, anti-troop bigotry, that destroys the morale, their fighting spirit and puts the security of America in jeopardy.

No one had my back when I and millions more served in Viet Nam...no one spoke up for us...the anti-war movement had free reign of the streets with their despicable messages of surrender, no one challenged the unfounded lies, but no more.

Eagles are soaring and will descend on Washington DC again March 15 by the tens of thousands...we will counter WSII, ANSWER, Code Pink, CAIR, with a

message that America is worth fighting for...just for the record, I'd go to Iraq in a minute if called.

I've had enough of the whining, shrill surrender message and so has the majority of America...it's too bad the majority are too damn lazy to get off their asses and standup for their nation.

God bless our troops and their families.

Harry Riley, COL, USA, Ret

http://www.eaglesup.us - Where there is no offense, there is no effect.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Winter Soldier Investigation (1971) - Complete Transcripts of the Original Hearings

I am so tired of reading the innuendos and attacks on the participants in the original Winter Soldier Hearings, and by implication the upcoming Winter Soldier Hearings that I have decided to provide links to the transcript of the original events. Before passing judgement on those who participated in the original event as well as those who are going to participate in the upcoming hearings, why not spend a few hours reading and listening to what they said 37 years ago.
Thanks James


Complete Transcript of the Original Winter Soldier Hearings

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Here Come the Conservatives Part 4 (Colonel Riley is Going to Save the American Soul)

This article, by Col. Harry Riley, was originally published on the Eagles Up Website, February 4, 2008


Our nations best interests, our military appreciation, and honor for our fallen and families, by government bureaucrats and Americans in general continues to deteriorate.
Just a few recent events should be enough to make reasonable America wake up and take notice.
Most recent is the despicable decision by Berkeley, CA City Council to rail against our Marine recruiters and side with a communist based group of women called Code Pink, that don't know their posterior from a hole in ground. The Berkeley City Council openly and formally view our Marine recruiters with disdain, a nuisance, scream for the Marines removal, and assail them as liars, while embracing the misfits of Code Pink.
Recently in Okaloosa County, Florida, a retired Colonel was preparing to board a commercial airline and was told his military identification card was not acceptable as personal proof to board the aircraft. The Colonel took exception but eventually was required to use another form of proof...he used his "concealed weapons" permit to gain access to the aircraft.
The Department of Transportation says personnel at Oakland International Airport did not act illegally when they denied 200 Marines and soldiers returning from Iraq access to the passenger terminal last September. Instead, according to DOT Inspector General Calvin L. Scovell III, a breakdown in communications between the Department of Defense and Homeland Security officials resulted in the screw-up. Warriors returning from the war zone, their life on the line for a year or so, can't get into an American airport terminal! And DOT calls it a "screw-up"...well it's more than a screw-up, it's incompetence and purposeful opposition to policy but the warriors who bleed, lose body parts, and die, suffer the brunt.
In March, Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW) have scheduled Winter Soldiers II Testimony, with the intent of gathering together anyone that will testify to "war crimes"....and it appears they are willing to entertain any veteran. As those of us of the Viet Nam era well remember, the 1971 Winter Soldier Testimony led by now Senator Kerry was nothing short of a fabricated, distorted, deceitful arrangement of lies. Kerry presented the false testimony, none under oath to the US Congress who had an insatiable appetite for anything to discredit the Viet Nam war.
Now, my rub comes with regard to ordinary Americans who seem oblivious, uninformed, an attitude of "let someone else do it", or just plain willing to sit by and allow our nation, our troops, our fallen to be denigrated, physically desecrated, and generally dishonored.
It is useful to write letters to elected officials, send email to leadership, even fax our leaders, make phone calls, sign petitions, and other forms of communications, but you know what? They don't pay attention to these impersonal means of protest........America needs to come to the recognition that we must sound the alarm, rise off the couch, put our boots on, and meet those that have a goal of America's destruction face to face, head -on. It's one thing to voice a position but the tactic that works is "boots on the ground"...we must show up, stand shoulder to shoulder, locked arms in solidarity and determined that America, our troops, and our fallen and families support is the only acceptable message.
No one stood up when John Kerry and his lying malcontents dishonored America and out troops and we know what happened...America lost a war in Viet Nam that we had already won...lying Winter Soldiers and gutless politicians sold out America and millions in South East Asia.
ask you, everyone you know, everyone your email list knows, are we going to let Winter Soldiers II Testimony in March 2008 do what Winter Soldier Testimony in 1971 did to us? Taint, denigrate, dishonor another generation of warriors fighting for America, with testimony concocted from the evil imagination of a few malcontents? Are we going to allow the insidious attitude in government circles by bureaucrats lower our warriors as second class citizens, not letting them in the airport, discrediting military identification cards as so much plastic, allowing government leadership to side with those that have America's destruction as their goal? Not me........not Eagles.........
If you feel as we do, then plan to be in Washington, DC 14 and 15 March to challenge the Winter Soldiers II Testimony to be truthful, under oath, and public. In addition to the Winter Soldier II challenge, EAGLES MUSTER march will also be conducted on March 15. We would hope Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will be leading our march in honor of the current generation of warriors.
Right now Eagles Up has submitted a permit with the National Park Service in Washington, DC for a march on March 15, 2008 to voice our support for our nation, our warriors, and honor to our fallen, MIA and families. Our permit has not been approved at this point but it will start at the "Ellipse to the south of the White House...marching down Pennsylvania Ave. and ending at the grassy area bordered by 3rd St.and the reflecting pool at the Capitol building".
www.eaglesup.us and other sites will have information on both events as we draw nearer to March 14 and 15........keep in touch. Make your plans now...lodging information is at www.eaglesup.us
NEVER AGAIN...........
Harry Riley, COL, USA, Ret

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Here Come the Conservatives Part 3 Iraq Veterans Attempt 'Winter Soldier' Reenactment

This critique of the Winter Soldier Hearings, by Ronald Winter, was published at the Human Events Website, February 12, 2008


Lost in the shuffle of national politics, snuggled in the underbelly of the anti-war movement, a small group of disgruntled Iraq war veterans -- who may or may not really be veterans -- is attempting to recreate John Kerry’s most despicable betrayal of the Vietnam generation.
The group, Iraq Veterans Against the War, is imitating Kerry’s discredited Vietnam Veterans Against the War by planning a “Winter Soldier inquiry” in March, using a format that is similar to Kerry’s phony Winter Soldier inquiry a generation ago.
In the original Winter Soldier “investigation” on January 31, 1971, members of VVAW met in a Detroit hotel where, during the next three days, more than 100 people who claimed they were Vietnam combat veterans, “testified” to routinely, under orders and as a matter of policy, committing or witnessing atrocities in South Vietnam.
Partly as a result of media coverage of that travesty, Kerry’s group was successful (for a time) in branding Americans who served in Vietnam as war criminals, and tarnishing the image of the American military.
The imitation IVAW Winter Soldier event will be held March 13, 2008, at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. This time however, the generic allegations of murder and other atrocities will not go challenged.
Veterans, both from the Vietnam and current eras, are understandably outraged that once again the American left is working to discredit the honorable service of our military with phony claims of atrocities willingly committed by troops who apparently are either mentally unstable or intellectually unable to differentiate between right and wrong.
Among the organizations working to oppose the IVAW is Eagles Up, headed by Col. Harry Riley, US Army (ret.), a decorated Vietnam veteran and organizer of the highly successful Gathering of Eagles counter-demonstration that opposed Cindy Sheehan and the ANSWER coalition in D.C., on March 17, 2007. Riley is now sponsoring Eagles Muster.
Riley states on his website “No one stood up when John Kerry and his lying malcontents dishonored America and our troops and we know what happened ... lying Winter Soldiers and gutless politicians sold out America and millions in South East Asia.”
Yet, despite the anger of those who support the troops and plan to make a showing in Washington next month, Kerry’s spawn may be doing America a huge favor.
It was years after the false testimony alleging widespread war crimes in Vietnam before Americans learned the truth. By then, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia had fallen to the communists with whom the VVAW was allied. Only after the damage had been done did the truth leak out, that the overwhelming majority of Kerry’s “winter soldiers” had either not been in the service, not in Vietnam or not in the capacity they claimed.
But this time, the truth will probably be proved and published immediately. Kerry’s clones are publicizing their efforts widely, and even providing the names of troops who say they committed war crimes while in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Suppose America takes their stories at face value? If we do, we have first-hand evidence of criminals who have infiltrated our military, committed crimes against the populaces of Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of America, and thus should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and international law.
Even before that, we need complete identity packages on all who testify. IVAW organizers say they are hoping 100 such criminals will participate. Rather than follow the John Kerry model of alleging very specific and horrific crimes, committed by vague individuals in uncertain times and places, this time there should be specifics.
We must demand that each “witness” who testifies to war crimes be identified by their full name, instant electronic fingerprint checks to corroborate identities, dates of service including time in Iraq or Afghanistan, the job they were assigned while in the military, their chain of command, including immediate supervisors both enlisted and officers, and the time, date, and location of the alleged atrocity.
Some material distributed by the IVAW or its supporting organizations says that lower ranking enlisted men and officers should not be identified to encourage them to testify. We cannot allow them to get away with that. This format flies in the face of each American’s constitutional right to face his or her accusers.
In this case, the IVAW is claiming President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other members of their administration also are war criminals. Thus members of the administration retain their basic constitutional right to face those who are making such claims, just as their accusers have an obligation to be very specific about their allegations.
In addition, the Nuremberg trials against Nazis who murdered millions in World War II established that “I was only following orders” is not an excuse for committing war crimes.
The Nuremberg Principles state in Principle IV, "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." This also nullifies the claim that war crime participants are innocent because they view the Iraq War as an illegal War of Aggression, also defined in the principles.
America maintains volunteer armed forces, thus everyone has a moral choice to serve or not.
If the IVAW wants any credibility in this venture, it must specifically identify the people who are claiming they participated in war crimes. Those claiming they witnessed war crimes, and did nothing to stop these heinous crimes, should be prosecuted as accessories.
America cannot allow another generation of its honorable warriors to be falsely accused, nor for a small minority who may have committed crimes while on duty in the war zones to go unpunished. If they are posers they should be exposed under the Stolen Valor Act, and if they participated in crimes against humanity they should be prosecuted.
Winter Solider participants who testify to committing crimes against the civilian populace in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere should be referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be charged with war crimes for their actions. In fact, since Kerry is their model and mentor, and he is such a strong proponent of International Law superseding American laws, it is feasible that members of this generation’s Winter Soldier investigation could opt to be referred to The Hague for prosecution.
Of course, in that case it would only appropriate to read such participants their rights under the Slobodan Milosevic Doctrine.

February 12, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Some Ground Rules

This was originally posted to the Active Duty Patriot blog, February 9, 2008


For all those who may not be aware (excerpted with permission from IVAW National):

Any of the following acts outlined below are strictly prohibited.
2) Verbal, physical, or sexual harassment;
3) Conduct endangering the life, safety, and/or health of others;

If any member is engaging in this behavior, they are not acting as an official spokesperson of IVAW. IVAW does not condone, in any way, shape, or form, this sort of behavior.
As a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, I would like to apologize for the behavior which took place over the last few days in the milblogosphere. I am not going to link to it, because I, quite frankly, don't want that filth touching what is effectively "my house". A penny and a Google will find it for you anyway.
Denis Keohane, of Obiter Dictum, makes a very good point: there are individuals on both sides that have not seemed to grasp the concept of adult behavior, and agreeing to disagree. On our side, we will be policing our own, and I would hope that Gathering of Eagles is also policing their own side. I also suspect that it may in fact be once again as Mr. Keohane says, and that people spew all sorts of violence on the internet that they would never mean. As he puts it, (excerpted without permission and it will be removed if so desired:)

With all the years of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations we've had in this country, you would think at times that blood has been running down the streets and the ERs jammed to capacity and calling in aid from other states every time CODEPINK or IVAW and GOE members temporarilly share a zip code!
It ain't happening and it hasn't happened.
All sides can point to the incident or a few where tempers went critical and things happened. But they are a tiny, tiny few, out of hundreds of events engaging thousands of people.

I hope that I am correct when I say that no one will be meeting in DC with violence. That any retired law enforcement officers will look at their weapons, and as men who have dealt with violence all their lives, choose not to bring an escalating object to an event at which multiple veterans, many of which are diagnosed with PTSD on both sides, will be present. That all of our hotheads will allow the crisp March air to cool their thoughts as well as their bodies.
I have great hope for this. I have hope for this in the mutual respect I am seeing on many sides, the respect I am seeing at The Sniper (who still probably throws up a little in his mouth just thinking of it), the respect at Obiter Dictum, and even the newest in the respect contingent, who I'm sure will be a surprise to everyone- Adam Kokesh. Yes, folks, Adam Kokesh met the national director of operations for Gathering Of Eagles, Chris Hill the other day, and not only is nobody dead, the two of them apparently had a nice talk, and may be doing an event for charity together.
No, I swear, it's not Opposite Day. Sanity has in fact prevailed, it would seem, and if one doesn't have an eye on the ugly emails filling my inbox right now, one would almost think that peace on earth, good will to men, all that, were filling the whole political-veteran world.
Eh. I'll take what I can get. I'm really happy for this. And I look forward to seeing the match. My money will, of course, be on Adam. He'd probably kick my ass if I didn't bet on him, anyway.

The Gathering of Eagles Run into Adam Kokesh and they Both Survive, well sort of...

This description by Chris Hill, of his meeting with Adam Kokesh, described by Adam in the following post, is taken from the Gathering of Eagles Website.


A Chance Encounter With IVAW

All of you will no doubt remember the incident with Gold Star father Carlos Arredondo at last September’s GOE rally in support of the troops. A die-in, organized by IVAW resulted in a scuffle between Mr. Arredondo and two brothers, both Marines. Coming upon the three of them rolling on the ground, I waded in and pulled Mr. Arredondo from the scrum, getting kicked and punched for my efforts. Immediately, the antis on site accused GOE in general, and me in particular, of assaulting a Gold Star. The fact that the incident would not have happened had there not been a die-in (using unauthorized photographs of American KIAs) seems to also have escaped mention. One of the witnesses from the other side even made note to the police that I had assisted in breaking up the scuffle. He is the black man wearing a keffiyeh in the YouTube video. Since facts don’t get in the way of posts though, a post complete with my photo appeared a few days later on IVAW major domo Adam Kokesh’s personal blog. The headline read: “Heaven Help This Guy if I Ever See Him on the Street.” It was a public threat, for my having allegedly assaulted a Gold Star, and I considered it as such.
Well, this past Saturday morning I entered Union Station in Washington, DC at 0600hrs and encountered someone wearing an IVAW sweatshirt. I questioned whether or not he served in the military and was told, “No, but my friend Adam did.” So, too early in the morning, with no coffee in me, I realized that Kokesh and I were in the same vicinity. I angrily approached him and offered to let him make good on his threat. He attempted to convince me that his words were only angry rhetoric and not a threat. I replied that his “angry rhetoric” had caused me to receive death threats that were extended to my child. I’m a big boy and can take what comes my way, but when my family is thrown into the mix I will respond with “inappropriate force.” I made that point to Kokesh and I am certain he received the message loud and clear.
Since we were on the same train, I took the opportunity to engage Kokesh in the dialogue he has always claimed to crave. For an hour and a half we stood in the rear of the train and debated the differences in our organizations. I can see why he has developed such a following among the college-age set. He is charismatic and sounds reasonable; unless of course you know what is truly happening in Iraq and the larger War on Terror. He has no opinion, for example, on what will happen if we were to pull out of Iraq precipitously. The feel-good politics of the ultra-left have always been less than thoughtful, and Kokesh was no different. While neither one of us did anything to dissuade the other from his position, we did come to three places of conciliation: 1) He apologized to me personally, and has publicly done so on his blog, for the use of angry rhetoric; 2) he has accepted my official request, without agreeing to it, to be an observer to the Winter Soldier testimony; and 3) he has accepted my challenge to a public boxing match between us to benefit an as yet un-named veterans’ charity.
For the record, Kokesh has stated that he and I have some areas of agreement, but differ on tactics. Most notably, he states that I believe it was a mistake to go into Iraq. I believe that mistakes were made both before and after we invaded, but I have never once wavered in my support of the mission. I will only accept Victory in Iraq, which will be achieved when human rights and freedom of expression are allowed to flourish there. Obviously, as long as terrorists inhabit the country that will not happen. Once our brave men and women in uniform finish their mission we will welcome them home as victors and throw them the largest parade ever seen in this country. I am single issue these days, and that is unqualified support for the larger War on Terror, regardless of the circumstances that have gotten us where we are. 9/11 changed things and I do not believe in trusting to the good graces of an enemy whom has declared that they will accept nothing less than our demise as a country. I, like every other infantryman, am incapable of being pro-war, but I am pro-this-war, and make no apologies for it. I believe that the proposed ‘Winter Soldier testimony’ hurts our men and women in uniform. This position is not driven by fear, but rather from my feelings that the United States of America is not only the entire world’s last, best hope, but the greatest country that has ever graced the planet. So, Adam, if you think that I am one of those Americans who are simply spoiling for a fight, I say, after 9/11 you’re damn right I am. Manchu.
Chris Hill
National Director of Operations

GI Blog Posts - Adam Kokesh Runs into the Gathering of Eagles and Survives to Tell the Tale

This was posted to Adam Kokesh's Revolutionary patriot blog, February 11, 2008


A Chance Encounter With GOE National Director for Operations Chris Hill, An Apology, and a Challenge

On my way to a speaking engagement at Wesleyan yesterday, I ran into Chris Hill. I was at Union Station in DC when he approached me, got in my face, and asked me if I wanted to hit him. “Remember, ‘heaven help this guy.’ This is your chance. Take your best shot.” Of course, I had no intent to physically harm him, but he was very angry about the story that I reposted on this blog about him. I repeatedly asked him why he was so angry, and he started to calm down.
He explained to me that after the incident on September 15th of last year and the allegations that he had beat up gold star father Carlos Arredondo, he had received numerous threats, including one against his three-year-old daughter. I won’t get into the details of the event that day, but he claims that when Carlos was surrounded by members of GOE, he was trying to help him and that Carlos later thanked him. I have not been able to confirm or disprove this and there is no clear evidence to show that’s what he was doing. There are only the photos that show he was there and various conflicting accounts of what happened. However, the version of events that I posted here accused him of harming Carlos. He believes that this has contributed to some of his personal harassment. I have apologized to him personally, and would like to publicly apologize now for using unnecessarily inflammatory language.
I have also received death threats for my activism, and can relate to what he has experienced. The people that do this, for whatever reason, are usually mentally disturbed. There are certain things that those of us in the public debate say that can trigger them, and the language that I used may have done so. I hope that everyone who may read this realizes that things said in the public arena can have repercussions in private lives, and for those of us that have any kind of platform, we need to take this seriously.
It turned out that Chris and I were on the same train, and so when the call for final boarding came, we walked and talked our way through the gate and onto the platform. He was still quite agitated at this point, but when there was no one else on the platform, I suggested we board before we get left behind. We ended up talking in the aisle by the bathroom on the train for the next hour.
It turns out that Chris Hill and I have a lot in common. We both believe that Americans in general don’t have nearly enough of an idea of what goes on in Iraq to appreciate what our troops are going through. We both believe that going into Iraq was a mistake. We both believe that the war has been grossly mismanaged. We both believe this country needs to do a better job of taking care of veterans. Surprisingly, we both consider ourselves libertarian. (At least with a little “L.”) Chris also describes himself as “socially liberal,” and told me about how he actively supports pro-choice causes. I said, “Wow, I’m pro-choice too!” and he corrected me, “No, I don’t say I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-abortion.” I had to laugh at that. “I would describe myself the same way. Why use the bullshit politically correct term, right?” and we both had a chuckle over that.
We talked a lot about Winter Soldier, and although he wants veterans to tell their stories, he kept saying, “I disagree with your tactics.” He asked if he could attend Winter Soldier along with Pete Hegseth, the ED of Veterans For Freedom and I told him that we would at least consider it. There may be a lot to be said for inviting the most scrutinizing eyes possible to hear the testimony. We are putting so much effort into our verification process, that I know we will all be proud to stand behind the veracity of the testimony.
Now, he described himself as libertarian, but only as a framework. I am a libertarian not as a framework, but rather as a matter of principle. The fundamental principle of libertarianism is the non-initiation of the use of force, or as it says on the back of my Libertarian Party lifetime membership card, “Statement of Principles - We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”
Because Chris’s political views are not grounded in principle, they are subject to circumstance. By contrast, I extend the principles of liberty into a foreign policy of free trade, and non-intervention. In regards to why we need to stay in Iraq, he repeatedly referenced 9/11. Chris is not stupid, and made it clear that he understands there is no direct link between 9/11 and Iraq, “but 9/11 changed things.” Tragically, he’s right. 9/11 gave our “leadership” a chance to change things by exploiting the fear it caused in average Americans.
Before 9/11, we knew how the world was growing smaller and how technology changed the threat of terrorism. Suicide “bombers” hijacking airplanes to use as missiles could have happened decades ago. 19 guys with box cutters do not by themselves justify an entire reorientation of our foreign policy to justify a preemptive strike doctrine. Chris believes they do. His theory of the manipulation of the intelligence process that led us to believe in the big yellow cake lie is that a few eager to please hacks at the CIA made a mistake. Knowing Cheney’s involvement in the process, that’s hard to believe.
He thinks that the war has been mismanaged, but now has faith in “the surge” and General Petraeus. I had to point out that “THE surge” is really the third or fourth surge, it’s just the first to be advertised as “the surge.” He agreed, but believes that the change in tactics is significant enough to give it a chance, and that “winning” is the important thing. I have a bad feeling that if we stay in Iraq for a hundred years as McCain suggests, there will be a new strategy every two years, and there will always be people saying, “but this time the new strategy is going to work.”
This is how people in abusive relationships view their partners. “I know he hurts me, but he really loves me.” “I know he’s lied in the past, but this time it feels like he’s telling the truth.” “We’ve been through so much, I have to give him one more chance.” The American people seem to be behaving a lot like the kind of person who goes from one abusive relationship to another, always desperate to believe what we are being told, always hoping for something better, and even now, after realizing how bad Bush has been for us, we look to the next leader, hoping things will be better. But until we change, the leadership won’t. Despite repeatedly being lied to, most of us so desperately want to believe our government.
While Chris is generally a good guy, an assertive one no doubt, and a proud veteran who has served honorably, he seems to represent a tragic part of today’s American psyche. We were attacked, and we are afraid. We have been lied to, but we want to believe. We know how we are being screwed, but we let it continue. We know that people are dying every day in Iraq, and we can’t stop talking about Heath Leger. We know that torture is being done in our name and we go back to watching TV.
Towards the end of the conversation, I asked Chris, “So with all of our common beliefs and shared objectives, where does this conversation leave us? What can we do to work together to achieve our shared objectives?” That was when he challenged me to a boxing match. I thought he was joking, but we tossed the idea around a bit and decided that we could do it as a fundraiser for a charity we both support like the Disabled American Veterans or Homes For Our Troops. Someone I mentioned the idea to said, “Why don’t you just have a debate?” “Because no one would come.” At least not nearly as many as would come to see “the anti-war movement” versus “the pro-war movement” duke it out in a boxing ring. And this way we could sell tickets and actually raise some serious money for a good cause. Of course for fairness’s sake, we would have to find a charity that would host it, so that neither of our organizations have anything to do with putting the event together. Given that, Chris, I officially accept your challenge. Let’s do it for our shared American values.

February 11, 2008

IVAW News - James Circello invites President Bush to Attend Winter Soldier Hearings

Posted to AfterDowningStreet.org, January 31, 2008.


To George Bush and the all the other members of his Criminal Administration:
You have been formally invited to the Winter Soldier Investigations being held in D.C. this March by the Iraq Veterans Against the War! We hope to see you there.
Unfortunately you have refused to respond to my last letter, but I have again decided to write you. I now realize it isn't customary or even required to respond to attacks or questions from your employer. You must remember me, I wrote you a huge letter telling you why I would no longer fight in your Wars of Aggression.
You didn't respond. I knew you wouldn't. You just keep that stupid smirk on your face, pronounce some (well.. a lot of) words wrong, continue waving the Crusader's banner and pretend you are doing the work of God.

You, Mr. Bush, are an incredible piece of work.
Admired by few, Hated by so many, how do you sleep at night?

I ask this same question to your entire Administration.
I ask this same question to those that ate from your table and resigned in disgrace and shame.

How dare you, Mr. Bush, in your State of the Union address, claim:

"In the work ahead, we must be guided by the philosophy that made our nation great. As Americans, we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens. And so in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free peoples to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives for their futures."

The "free peoples" of the United States of America have with a clear and mighty voiced demanded your resignation.
They have demanded Congress to begin Impeachment proceedings.
They have demanded an end to - your legacy and greatest failure - your War of Terror.

You, Mr. Bush, are not my President.
You are the Terror that faces this great Nation.

God told me this morning that when history is written, there will be an asterisk next to your name. Is it even fitting to call you the Leader of the Free World?
You are a joke and the reason America is looked down upon.

The people of America will dance in the streets the moment you leave office. The only tears that fall will be from your eyes, when you realize that you will never again be able to walk down any street in America without being called a War Criminal.

I pray that you decide to make a trip to France, and while there you are picked up and arrested for your Crimes against Peace.

Mr. Bush, you have left nothing to be proud of.
Even your father did a better job as President. And he was only around for four years.

At least when he declared war on a country, he made sure it was legal first.
And he listened to his advisors and generals.

You however, have a habit of listening to only those advisors or generals that say what you want to hear, all while pushing the other individuals out of the picture.
Very clever.

In March, the Iraq Veterans Against the War, as well as other Veteran organizations will make their way into the streets and buildings of D.C. to tell the American people what your war was done to them and the people of the Middle East.
They will testify, much like the Vietnam Veterans Against the War did over 30 years ago. They will tell the things you try to keep hidden. They will tell America what you don't want told.
I openly invite you to attend the hearings.

Congressional Men and Women, Generals, Diplomats, Justices, you are invited as well.
I don't need to invite the Gathering of Eagles (red arm bands, reminiscent of the Nazi arm bands, and all) because I know they will be there.

I can be sure that the Gathering of Eagles will also try to intimidate individuals through violence, as they did when they assaulted my dear friend Carlos Arredondo.
And I can be sure that these same individuals will be on the White House lawn shaking hands with Mr. Bush just days after assaulting my dear friend Carlos Arredondo.
Oh, this is true.

So, Mr. Bush, call in your Gathering of Eagle thugs and make sure you fund them well with your war profits, but please keep Dick away. He's scary.

Sincerely Goodbye,
James Circello; Iraq Veterans Against the War

For more information on the Winter Soldier Investigations go to: http://www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier
P.S. Thankfully we never have to listen to you blunder your way through another State of the Union address. They are always painful.
P.S. I know many of your elites have resigned so they could be pardoned by you and have now vanished, but they are welcome to come to the party as well.
Thank you.

IVAW Blog Post - James Circello Responds to

This was originally published on the IVAW website, February 1, 2008. It offers a wonderful antidote to all the chicken hawks who are accusing, most often anonymously, IVAW of being fake soldiers. I can not imagine what it feels like to be ordered to a foreign country and violate every moral code you have been taught since childhood, not the least of which is "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Furthermore, and even less fathomable is how you must feel upon your return, when you decide to speak out about what you have done, you are attacked and your honor and integrity impugned by people who never had the balls to put themselves on the firing line.


James Circello Admits To Being a Traitor, Live on National Television! (And So Can You!)

To the Men and Women who wear America's freest colors,
To The Red, White and Blue, To The Gathering of Eagles,
To LT Emerson,
To Every Anonymous commenter,
Here is the apology you have been waiting for:

It has come time for me to admit my faults. I have tried answering comment after comment on message boards across the length of the internet (internets if you're George Bush), but I have trouble responding to everything.
Some people have nothing but nice things to say about me. Some people wish me death.
And though I sincerely do not fear for my death, I find it quite strange that people would wish death upon someone asking for peace in the world and an end to bloodshed and yet at the same time elevate a tyrant, such as George Bush, to near sainthood.
So this has made me think about my decision over this last year.
The insults I have had directed at me is something that I will never get used to.
I have been called a Traitor to my country and a Traitor to my family, by my Step Father. A wonderful man but still somehow thinks the world is in such a crisis by this new wave of Islamo-Fascist Extremism, or whatever McCain calls it (by the way, McCain, you're a joke). As if somehow this hatred for the West has just appeared and we have done nothing to provoke it. But maybe that is the case. Maybe America isn't to blame for the world's problems. So, I have battled with my conscience and I am ready to come before you as a changed man.
Okay, here I go. I submit. You are right. America is the greatest country on the planet. And I, James Circello, am a traitor. I deserted Legion Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry while serving on the front lines of this War on Terrorism in 2007. If I wouldn't have listened to those Vietnam Veterans that opposed their genocidal occupation of Southeastern Asia during the 1960's and 70's, I probably wouldn't have done what I have done. I let garbage and filth corrupt my mind.
If only I had access to Youtube.com and was able to play loops of George W. Bush speeches, I would have known who the real enemy was. "The Terra-ists"
I regret that I have to admit it to myself and to the Iraq Veterans Against the War that what I have said is nothing more than half truths and lies, the liberal media brainwashing machine has affected my thinking and manipulated me in such a way that I found myself on television talking about the horrible things that members of my unit had done during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
Forgive me, the 2003 LIBERATION of Iraq. I need to get my head back on straight. It wasn't an Invasion, we brought them Democracy. Okay. I have it now.
Okay, I too now have realized that the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees that I spoke of wasn't mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at all. I understand that under the Bush administration, they weren't Prionsers of War and don't deserve the right of the Geneva Conventions. These people that were mistreated were obviously Al-Qaeda and were on their way to get a bus ticket to the U.S.A. to probably spread their crazy religion and blow something up.
Thankfully I was in a unit with certain individuals that recognized this and roughed them up a little bit just so those Al-Qaeda would know who's the boss.
I realize now that when a certain Squad Leader in my platoon shot a man in the back it was only because he feared for his life that this particular man, that he knew to be unarmed, probably had a suicide bomb strapped to his chest and he was running all the way to Boston. Thankfully he was such a great shot.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't deploy to the mountains of Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in 2005. Again the Brigade brought Freedom and Democracy to the People of Afghanistan. What I thought to be a War Crime, turns out was just good old fashioned Texas Justice.
You might not remember this, because most of us in America have short term memories and the liberal media uses that fact to their advantage, but those Communists in the media played video of some guys from Legion Company burning the dead bodies of some Taliban fighters. I know that I am not the first person to tell you that "All is fair in Love and War", so what was the problem with burning this Al-Qaeda Islamo-Fascists?
At the time I thought it was monstrous to say the things that they did to the nearby village. I'll put the article here for you to read. You'll forget about it in 5 minutes anyway:


Film Rolls as Troops Burn Dead By Tom Allard (of the Liberal Media) October 19, 2005
US soldiers in Afghanistan burnt the bodies of dead Taliban and taunted their opponents about the corpses, in an act deeply offensive to Muslims and in breach of the Geneva conventions.
An investigation by SBS's Dateline program, to be aired tonight, filmed the burning of the bodies.
It also filmed a US Army psychological operations unit broadcasting a message boasting of the burnt corpses into a village believed to be harbouring Taliban.
According to an SBS translation of the message, delivered in the local language, the soldiers accused Taliban fighters near Kandahar of being "cowardly dogs". "You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burnt. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be," the message reportedly said.
"You attack and run away like women. You call yourself Taliban but you are a disgrace to the Muslim religion, and you bring shame upon your family. Come and fight like men instead of the cowardly dogs you are."
The burning of a body is a deep insult to Muslims. Islam requires burial within 24 hours.
Under the Geneva conventions the burial of war dead "should be honourable, and, if possible, according to the rites of the religion to which the deceased belonged".
US soldiers said they burnt the bodies for hygiene reasons but two reporters, Stephen Dupont and John Martinkus, said the explanation was unbelievable, given they were in an isolated area.
SBS said Australian special forces in Afghanistan were operating from the same base as the US soldiers involved in the incident, although no Australians took part in the action.
The incident is reminiscent of the psychological techniques used in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.


I am back. Have you forgotten about the incident yet? Well, I have. It was easy to forget when I realized this was just your average High School prank. I mean who is really offended by the term "lady boys". The video claims what was said was translated into the local language by some U.S. soldiers, but what I believe it to be was actually a few locally Afghani men that were fed up with Al-Qaeda being in their town and took the microphone from the U.S. soldiers and made these comments. You prove it otherwise, I'm waiting!
I won't even mention the burning of the bodies and boasting that the bodies were facing to the west. This is just your average bleeding-heart liberal commie trying to get a talking point in. U.S. soldiers, especially from the 173rd Airborne Brigade are not blood-thirsty killers, they are god-fearing patriots sworn to uphold freedom and justice, all the world over. They just don't fear the Muslim God.
This letter is mostly for LT Emerson, he has taken it upon himself to start a campaign to attempt to smear my name. You can stop now. I realized I myself smeared my name when I rolled around in the dog house with these anti-war hippies. Now I have the fleas. Now I have the NSA wiretapping my prepaid cellphone. Now I have Dick Cheney reading (but fortunately losing) my emails (when someone asks him about them). I realize Mr Emerson, that I have been a bad boy and I hope you fully accept this apology.
My apology goes out to all of America, I cannot believe some of the things I have said in the last year. It was so immature of me and I just wasn't looking at the big picture. U.S. global dominance is in America's best interest. Hell, it's in the world's best interest. So today I ask all the anti-war activists to put down you signs, take off your masks, stop flooding the streets to ask for the end of a War that is much needed (ask anyone at Halliburton!).
I also ask you to get a job. Cut your hair. Shave. Take a bath. Throw away your Che shirts and buy a Reagan shirt instead.
Listen I have been wrong before, but I am humbling myself before the world and all of America. I ask you all to help me be more like you. Help me be more American so that I never have to say I am wrong again.
Above all I apologize to my family, because I realize this was always about them. And it was wrong of me to put my emotional state of mind and silly ideas of my own particular sort of Christianity to the forefront. I should have realized that if I am not in the Middle East at this very moment, there is a strong possibility that Al-Qaesa could come to America just to do them harm.
I hate those nasty Al-Qaeda's.
I feel I can no longer faithfully be a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, because now I support it. And as a symbolic act of Patriotism and valor, and an attempt to save face with all the Americans in America, I am announcing my new organization called Iraq Veterans Supporting the War.


Question and Answer period. The fans want to know:
Did James Circello get a DUI in Italy prior to going AWOL?
James Circello's response: I have openly admitted this to every journalist that I have talked to. This is not something I am proud of, but something I am not ashamed to admit. I made a mistake. I made many mistakes. And again, I ask you to help me be more American, because Americans don't make mistakes.
Did James Circello go AWOL because of his DUI?
James Circello's response: I have commented on this as well, but I wish now this was the reason I went AWOL, because I see that the War on Terrorism is a justified, noble battle of unprecedented glory of Good (America!) versus Evil (Brown people, eww!) and unfortunately I am now forced to sit on the bench and watch it from the side lines.
No I didn't leave because of a DUI. DUI's are rather common in the 173rd and nothing to lose your rank over, or career. Hell, in just a few months you can have a DUI, serve your extra duty and then regain your Squad. My best friend did it!
Did James Circello mistreat his soldiers?
James Circello's response: I will let them speak about that. But I somehow doubt they will ever get a voice in the liberal media machine here in America.
Why did James Circello re-enlist after he served in Iraq if he was against the War?
James Circello's response: For everyone with this question, you should call my Mother, thankfully for her she doesn't have the Circello family name so it's hard to find her. But she can tell you how many times I called home during my fits of weakness. Crying at times, I would tell her how I wanted to go AWOL and didn't believe this war was right. Thankfully the shame I felt I would face by going AWOL was intense enough to keep me in the military for 3 more years. So My weakness kept me in the military. However, now that I am beginning to become a complete American, I no longer fear being weak or wrong.
Why did James Circello sleep with another woman if he is so morale and Christian?
James Circello's response: I believe the problem wasn't that this woman and I were never in love, but that I never fully accepted my fundamentalist lifestyle. To this day I regret not making this work. It is my duty as an American to live with a woman that will make me unhappy for the rest of my life. I now realize this and it is my quest to ensure I find just such a woman. I should have waited longer after asking for a divorce. And above all I shouldn't have spread such silly rumors about myself. Being a promiscuous boy is not proper, but it makes for the youngster to idolize you!
Why did James Circello call U.S. soldiers blood-thirsty murderers?
James Circello's response: I never said such a thing, thankfully. Even in my most radical rants, I never pointed a finger at the United States soldiers. I believed they were being exploited and used, but I never called them any names. I know a lot of soldiers call me names, but again... that's the American way!
What stance of Mr Circello's should I believe, was his for it or against it, he re-enlisted???
James Circello's response: Again, please, don't become McCain. I am not a "flip flopper". I just simply had not found the compassion in me at the time to slaughter at will. I am ready now and if the Army will accept me back into its ranks, I will gladly serve.
Umm, Not?


So here today, I make it loud and clear that YES!, James Circello is a coward and a traitor to his country and family.
I am a traitor to the America that believes the U.S. led war of aggression on the men, woman and children of Iraq and Afghanistan is justified and noble.
i am a traitor to the U.S. soldiers who glorify burning dead muslims while his body faces the west. Or to the soldiers who mistreat and dehumanize their prisoners
I am a traitor to the mentality of wishing death upon people. Even my enemies.
I am a traitor against having enemies.
I am a traitor and coward and afraid to murder an Arab based upon xenophobia.
My men are better without me leading them into combat, because God help us, I can not be the American that my enemies are looking for. I cannot murder and be okay with it. And I am so sorry that you can
And I am a traitor to the unwritten oath, that soldiers obviously must take, to remain silent while you witness illegal acts and to furthermore bury the secrets and never speak about them again.
You can join us all at the Winter Soldier Investigation in March where all the Veterans can be traitors together.
Let the Crusader's Banner fly, James Circello; Iraq Veterans Against the War
P.S. Any other questions can be sent directly to James Circello at james.circello@yahoo.com (please allow 4-6 weeks for a response due to James' increased celebrity status and love of the camera) P.S. This letter has been prepared and written for James Circello by the Liberal Media, James Circello has had no part in the making of this letter, nor does he endorse it. But he does endorse Obama.

February 10, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Army to Civilians: Be Less Productive - WTF?

This article, by the irrepressible Army Sergeant, is a response to the next post, from Dennis Keohane who seems to gloat and/or ride to notoriety on the right by slagging off the upcoming Winter Soldier Hearings. I have tried to find Keohane's bio on his site, but it does not seem to exist. So I think he is most likely a civilian and did not serve, not that that makes his opinion any less valid than mine, but it certainly makes it less valid than Army Sergeant, who is currently serving in Uncle Sam's Armed Services.


Alright. I know I promised I'd blog about this maybe the next day, but I'm getting incredibly busy with working on Winter Soldier. If you haven't checked it out recently, you should go there, it has updated. Denis Keohane over at Obiter Dictum is having kittens about this change, but I think he's mostly annoyed in a 'kids, get off my lawn' sort of way. Having been part of IVAW and seen all the leadup to Winter Soldier, I can tell you that Winter Soldier has always been envisioned as veterans telling their stories, and has never been intended to be only about crimes they had witnessed. The website may have sucked previously, but Denis, I do not think it means what you think it means! Personally, of course, I think it's going to be awesome.

And remember, guys, blogger spots are still open for Winter Soldier. Vets are getting to the point where they may not be able to cover the entire weekend if they want table space, and those willing to cooperate/trade out time are going to the top of the list, but active duty, reserve, or National Guard servicemembers still have top precedence. Also, if you have questions, you know where to email them!
Now, to the actual story that had me all pissed off for the last week: controversy at Fort Drum, which has had an awful lot of issues popping up with it. Apparently, VA people at Fort Drum were helping soldiers fill out their disability paperwork when they were requesting Army disability. The Army and the VA calculate their disability ratings differently, but the Army one is the one that gives the money, and is generally known for being stingier. There was a great study a few years back about how the higher rank you were, the more likely you were to get better disability ratings for the same injuries. A possible cause of it might have been the byzantine forms and procedures that soldiers needed to navigate. VA people were helping them turn the descriptions of the injuries from "hurts like a SOB" to "Pain in left blah blah doctortalk"-at least, that terminology change is my guess. Anyway, great! Civilians taking initiative! Awesome!
Not so much, said the Army. Apparently Fort Drum vets were receiving higher disability ratings than elsewhere, and they sent a Tiger Team to investigate. The Tiger Team told the VA to stop helping out, and the VA complied. The Army Times has the details of what happened next: apparently some Congress members are getting involved, and a board of inquiry may be called. I'm just horrified for my Army, personally. I mean, everyone knows in the Army that it's like pulling teeth to get the civilians to do what they're supposed to. Here they do what they're allowed, above and beyond, and they get shut down? What a message to send to the rest of their counterparts. And what a message to send to Fort Drum.
This ties into my great and abiding rage that monetary concerns are affecting how soldiers are getting diagnosed and treated, especially when it comes to disability time. The monetary concerns are why we first started seeing "pre-existing personality disorders" in record numbers, amazingly enough, often in combat troops! Why, someone might almost be fooled into thinking they had PTSD! Except that PTSD forces the Army to pay money and acknowledge responsibility for medical care.
Hopefully all of these eyes looking at the situation will let the civilians with initiative get back to helping soldiers, if it hasn't been choked out of them. Also, anyone injured who's almost to getting-out time: steer clear of Fort Drum, until this thing gets fixed. There are lots of places that will help with paperwork, often vet groups. I know that IVAW has some connections to vet groups, and the DC chapter in particular is reading up on the law to help out soldiers.

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Dennis Keohane has gotten his nose out of Joint and Thinks He has sniffed a Rat

This was posted to Dennis Keohane's blog Obiter Dictum on February 5, 2008


Are they going to reposition the Winter Soldier Investigation on Okinawa? Is a preemptive blogosphere “Surge” working?
In the comments to my post “Reply to Army Sergeant”, IVAW’s ArmySgt made some statements that on their own might not be that significant. As Sarge has said, he is not an official spokesperson nor in the leadership at IVAW.
However, while I almost brushed by Sarge’s comments as his personal view, a quick look at IVAW’s own official site seems to show what anti-war Democrats might call “repositioning”, and what others simply call - “retreat”!
Sarge wrote:
“Also, IVAW does in fact claim that Winter Soldier is about veterans telling their stories. Go ahead and look to what it says on the website, what we are actually putting out…WSI is not about charging American soldiers with atrocities.”
And…
“…the fact is that while WSI II will have some threads in common with WSI I, the only major one is that of soldiers and veterans speaking up about what they believe. Beyond that, there aren't too many similarities-it is an entirely different war, after all, and we have many different reasons for opposing it.”
WSI II was not going to be about atrocities? Who knew? Well, the official IVAW Winter Soldier page does have this:
“Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who will tell the hard truth about what is really happening, day in and day out, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.
In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
In 1971, a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Once again, we will create a space for veterans to make their voices heard.
Americans have heard from the generals, they've heard from the politicians, they've heard from the media - but they haven't heard the truth. Americans must understand the reality of the wars our government is spearheading in order for our democracy to truly function. When we tell our stories, it is America's duty to listen.”
Well, okay, nothing about atrocities, and the only thing similar to WSI I, as per Sarge, might be “a space for veterans to make their voices heard.” But, THAT’S A CHANGE! THAT’S A VERY BIG CHANGE!!!!
It used to read:
“In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan...”
That statement, with links to the same now-changed IVAW page, can be found at Firedoglake, Polizeros, US Labor Against War, Courage to Resist, Common Ills, Ruth’s Report and on and on and on!
So “atrocities”, “crimes”, “systematic brutality” and My Lai not being an “isolated incident” are all gone NOW, replaced by “experiences”, “panels”, “scholars” and “space”!
What about the “hours” of atrocity stories IVAW members told Dahr Jamail years ago?????
Sarge also wrote:
“You also seem confused on what Winter Soldier will entail. Not every person speaking will be speaking about "crimes". They will be speaking the truth of their experiences, that the American public may not have had the chance to hear. Some may speak to crimes - but not all will.”
Well, I got that, like, “atrocity” idea from IVAW members quoted in the media and its supporters!
Here’s James Circello’s (IVAW) letter to President Bush inviting him to WSI:
“In March, the Iraq Veterans Against the War…will make their way into the streets and buildings of D.C. to tell the American people what your war was done to them and the people of the Middle East…They will testify, much like the Vietnam Veterans Against the War did over 30 years ago. They will tell the things you try to keep hidden.”
Uh, the first WSI was all about, like, supposed war crimes and atrocities. Circello missed the memo!
Matt Howard (IVAW), in the recent "Military Ecourages War Crimes" piece is quoted as saying:"The policies that the military engages will create situations, create dynamics, create, ultimately, atrocity."
Mike Blake (IVAW), same interview, said:
"The killing of innocent civilians is policy…It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."
The article then went on to state:
“Blake and Howard were among four veterans speaking at Watertown's Different Drummer Cafe, in a preliminary event to the 'Winter Soldier' gathering scheduled in Washington, D.C. in March.”
VFP, the guys under whose umbrella IVAW gets its 501(c)3 tax exempt status has this:
“Maine Veterans For Peace invites you to a fund raising party to benefit Winter Soldier, the public war crimes investigation being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War...”
The VVAW has not yet gotten that word:
“This spring, a main priority for Vietnam Veterans Against the War is to support IVAW as they conduct their own Winter Soldier Investigation…War crimes have been identified, and once again, politicians and generals repeat history by blaming 'a few bad apples' for such atrocities, rather than examining the military policies that destroyed Vietnam then and are destroying Iraq and Afghanistan now.”
Neither has Sir! No Sir! Military Lies which still has “Return of the Winter Soldier: Iraq Vets Prepare Atrocity Testimony”
The Indypendent only yesterday claimed “The goal of hearings, named the Winter Soldier Investigation: Iraq and Afghanistan, after the 1971 Vietnam-era investigation of the same name, is to show that systematic government policies are to blame for the myriad atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
I could go on and on, but – it appears that IVAW is largely backing off the atrocity-war crime theme. I believe there are a combination of reasons.
There is no longer any mention of the “history's largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan…”. I don’t think their solicitation of “war crime” and “atrocity” testimonies got anywhere near a number big enough to establish credibility for “systemic” claims. Add to that, some of their known members have already established credibility problems.
Here’s the WSI schedule as it is showing up on the Net, and note that is has 12 total hours of testimony compared to 12 hours of panels and briefings. The Indypendent reports:
“During the series of panels, multimedia presentations and testimony, more than 45 current and former soldiers plan to describe the indiscriminate killing and injuring of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of chemical weapons, the torture and killing of detainees, rape — within the military itself and against Iraqi civilians — the denial of medical care to the injured and the mutilation of the dead, and other war crimes. Iraqi and Afghani civilians, as well as reporters not embedded with the military, are scheduled to verify many of the stories that will be described by the soldiers.”
Not the numbers they hoped, especially from an organization which claims 700-800 members. It doesn’t even appear that 10% of their own membership will testify! And as Sarge said, not even everyone testifying will testify to such as atrocities and war crimes! If they get fifty, that is one out of every 30,000 individuals who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And I do truly hope that a reporter not embedded with the military who will “verify” these stories is IVAW’s long time co-conspirator Dahr Jamail! Between now and next March, and before WSI, Jamail will have less credibility than Baghdad Bob!
Then too, it has been made pretty clear this WSI, unlike the last WSI, will get a lot of determined concurrent scrutiny. There’ve been claims (see Circello’s letter above) including at this site, about such as GOE folks shutting them down, which is nonsense. It’s not demonstrations and counter demonstrations that got to them. It is thousands of people, Internet connected, many with military backgrounds and contacts with active duty folks, debunkers – who gave them the shakes. That veritable army of interested parties would set up a roar demanding details that could not be silenced and would not go away. Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler’s “new media” only had to basically reach for the keys to get things shaking, much less start the engine! Still got a full tank!
Like the other Surge, certainly not the time to let up, anyone! But I think the wafting smell in the air is – victory! This generation of soldiers and Marines will not be successfully smeared as were those of the Vietnam generation.
And ladies and gentlemen, I wrote earlier about the rift between IVAW and some of the rest of the anti-war left. War crimes and atrocities were the flash and pizzazz that was to get the big media headlines and stories that were to follow. Those "panels" of "scholars" and such are the types of things the anti-war left has been doing for years to over flowing crowds of eight or twenty! If IVAW is not delivering on that big "war crimes/atrocities" theme, after asking the entire rest of the anti-war left to stand down at the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, it'll be a nasty cat-fight! The only real use the institutional hard left has for these IVAW veterans, as veterans, will be gone.

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Update (February 4, 2008)

In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
In 1971, a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Once again, we will create a space for veterans to make their voices heard.
Once again, we are fighting for the soul of our country. We will demonstrate our patriotism by speaking out with honor and integrity instead of blindly following failed policy. Winter Soldier is a difficult but essential service to our country.
Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.
The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.
When: Thursday March 13 to Sunday March 16
For those interested in watching or organizing around the proceedings at Winter Soldier, there will be a number of ways to watch and listen to the event.
Live television broadcast via satellite tv, accessible through Dish Network as well as public access stations that choose to carry our broadcast - Friday and Saturday only

  • Live video stream on the web - Thursday through Sunday
  • Live radio broadcast via KPFA in Berkley California and other Pacifica member stations--Friday through Sunday
  • Live audio stream via KPFA's website - Friday through Sunday

Please return to the IVAW website for specific details in the coming weeks.

Click here to sign a statement of support for Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
Help us spread the word: forward this page to a friend.

February 08, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Poster to Download

The IVAW have come up with a fabulous flyer for the Winter Soldier Hearings. Please clivk on image below to go to full size flyer, download it and pass it around.


  Runningpostercolorlowres  


Winter Soldier: Iran and Afghanistan - Why I Must Testify

This was posted to Adam Kokesh's blog, February 8, 2008


These truly are times that try men’s souls. There are too many veterans returning from futile occupations with heads full of lies and hearts full of sorrow. Minds full of bad memories and bodies full of shrapnel. Fists full of anger and families full of confusion. It’s not a strong place from which to make yourself politically relevant. But out of a strong sense of duty, some of us are trying to put our experiences to use for a good cause. Some of us couldn’t live with ourselves if we weren’t doing everything we could to bring our brothers and sisters home as soon as possible.
The environment may be unkind, but that is why I will be testifying and that is why it will be necessary. I will be testifying to shooting at civilians as a result of changing Rules Of Engagement, abuse of detainees, and desecration of Iraqi bodies. It won’t be easy but it must be done. Some of the stories are things that are difficult to admit that I was a part of, but if one more veteran realizes that they are not alone because of my testimony it will be worth it.

IVAW News - Another Take on the Winter Soldier Hearings II

This analysis of the upcoming Winter Soldier Hearings, by Camillo "Mac" Bica, was distributed through Information Clearing House, February 2, 2008


p>When Morality Demands Winter Soldiers

By Camillo "Mac" Bica

In March of this year, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will convene the Winter Soldier hearings in Washington, DC. "Winter Soldiers," according to Thomas Paine, are those who step up in behalf of their nation when things seem most bleak. With this in mind, IVAW members and others will courageously provide eyewitness accounts of their experiences of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though I do not speak for IVAW, it is their intent and hope, I suspect, that by telling the truth about these occupations, to provide, at the very least, the impetus for a long overdue national debate on the morality and legality of America's alleged "War Against Terrorism." Many who pride themselves as "patriots" will, I am sure, accuse these veterans and anyone else who actively condemns the war as immoral and advocates an immediate and total withdrawal, of being un-American, unpatriotic and even treasonous. Even among those who have become disenchanted with the lack of progress in Iraq and skeptical regarding its justifiability and necessity, there is an "intuition" that since we have committed our soldiers and treasure to the effort, patriotism requires that we support our troops, our president and ,ultimately, the war. At the very least, these "patriots" continue, if we truly love America, we should keep any misgivings to ourselves and just remain silent. Is it the case, therefore, that at least with regard to America's war in Iraq that morality and love of country are in conflict? That patriotism demands immoral behavior, or morality demands behavior that is unpatriotic even treasonous? It is the intent of this essay first to establish moral clarity regarding the war in Iraq and then to argue that morality and patriotism, correctly understood, require members of the military and their civilian counterparts to become Winter Soldiers and step up to end this immoral and tragic war.

Moral Foundations

Civilized nations and individuals accept, at least theoretically, that human beings have inalienable human rights, among them the right to life and to live in a nation that enjoys political sovereignty and territorial integrity (sometimes referred to as national rights). Such rights provide a natural immunity from, among other things, being injured and killed unjustifiably and having one's nation invaded and occupied without warrant. To kill an innocent person is murder, and "the (unprovoked and unjustified) invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack" is aggression. We believe as well that aggressed individuals and nations have a right of self- and national defense, i.e., to use violence, even deadly force/war, all things being equal, to assert these rights. Morally, we justify such a response with an understanding that the aggressors, by virtue of their violation of the rights of their victims, have forfeited their own (their immunity) and have become liable to be resisted - warred against - in justified self- and national defense.

The Iraq War

In the intervening years since the invasion of Iraq, it has become clear to all, with the possible exception of Fox Television Network viewers, that the attacks of September 11 were neither prosecuted nor supported by the people and/or the government of Iraq. While Saddam Hussein was a ruthless tyrant, at the time of the invasion, Iraq neither sought nor possessed weapons of mass destruction. Further, Iraq posed no real and immediate threat to the United States, Israel or any other Middle East nation. Nor were the Iraqis aggressors or terrorists. Nor did they support aggression or terrorism. Nor were they linked in any way to the aggression or to the terrorist attacks. Consequently, and this is crucial, the nation of Iraq and its citizens are innocent, having done nothing to warrant forfeiture of their natural immunity, i.e., their rights to life and to live in a nation that enjoys territorial integrity and political sovereignty.
Consequently, regardless of whether the decision to invade and occupy Iraq was the result of an honest mistake or something more insidious, the preemptive attack against the sovereign nation of Iraq, the killing of its citizens and its continued occupation are morally unjustifiable - an act of aggression and murder.
Clearly, President Bush and his cohorts - those who planned and initiated the invasion and misrepresented it as a just war against terrorism and to preserve freedom - must bear the preponderance of responsibility and, hence, culpability for the aggression. That having been said, however, the invading troops, despite their being mislead into believing their cause to be just, are agents of unwarranted, immoral and illegal violence - they violate the rights of the Iraqis. They are what I will term "unjustifiable combatants/innocent aggressors." Consequently, the invading/occupying troops must suffer the sanction of forfeiture of their natural immunity and become liable to be justifiably resisted and warred against by the Iraqis in self- and national defense.
The fact that the invaders and occupiers allege to target only Iraqi combatants, and discriminate and afford immunity to noncombatants (though many instances of collateral damage have been reported), is irrelevant both to a determination of whether the invasion is just and to judgments of the liability of the aggressors. The opposing combatants, despite being termed "insurgents" and "terrorists" by our political and military leaders, maintain their immunity and, this is crucial, their right to self- and national defense. Consequently, the Iraqi combatants and their allies do not forfeit the very rights they are justifiably and morally struggling to assert. They are justifiable combatants. It is not the case, therefore, because of a fierce "insurgent" resistance, that the aggressors can now claim their actions are morally justified by reasons of self-defense. All combatants are not moral equals.
At this writing, many in our country are celebrating the "success" of the surge and of the "new" military strategy in Iraq. However, military success and improved strategy do not afford a moral and legal basis for continuing, even escalating, the occupation - the aggression against, and murder of, the Iraqi people. How could achieving "victory" in such a scenario, i.e., the triumph of the aggressors, the murderers, over their victims, be morally justified?

The Moral Obligation NOT to Support the Troops Qua Warrior

Consider next the effect that recognizing the invasion and occupation of Iraq as aggression and the American troops as aggressors have upon the moral duties of all American citizens. To do so, I will refer the reader to the brutal and heinous attacks of September 11. It is clear that those who carried out these attacks were acting immorally. This is so, despite they, and others of their ilk, having been influenced, programmed or deceived into truly believing their cause to be just, and their attack to be a legitimate act of war - Jihad - against a nation and people that have, and continue in their view, to exploit, oppress and kill their fellow Muslims.
Further, these terrorists were willing to endure great personal sacrifice in behalf of others and possessed the state of mind and spirit that enabled them to face danger, fear and death with confidence, steadfastness, perseverance and resolve. Under very different conditions, perhaps we would regard such qualities as virtuous and worthy of admiration. However, theirs was an act of terrorism and, as such, unjust, immoral, unwarranted and a violation of the rights of those they attacked. Consequently, we do not characterize their behavior as courageous, noble and heroic. Nor do we find admirable their willingness to sacrifice themselves for others and for a cause in which they believed. Since aggression is the unjustifiable killing of innocent human beings (murder), I see no morally relevant difference between national aggression and terrorism prosecuted by sub-national groups such as Al-Qaeda. Consequently, the acts of the terrorists and those of the American aggressors and occupiers are similar enough morally to warrant comparison. Both the terrorists and the aggressors believed, erroneously, in the justice of their cause and in the culpability and liability of those they were targeting and killing. Both were well-intentioned - neither acting from greed or self-interest - and motivated by a sense of duty to members of their community.
Most importantly, both the terrorists and the aggressors violated the rights/immunity of innocent human beings. By parity of reasoning, then, despite their intended altruism and their willingness to face danger, fear and death with confidence, steadfastness, perseverance and resolve, the efforts of the aggressors, like those of the terrorists, are neither noble nor glorious. Nor should Muslims and the American citizenry feel gratitude and appreciation for their misguided benefactors' willingness to endure great personal sacrifice "in their behalf." Finally, immoral acts are not heroic, and the terrorists and the aggressors are not heroes. Based upon these observations, we can draw conclusions about the moral duties of American citizens relative to the war and their troops.
Given the nature and moral value of the invasion, the American citizenry (including members of the military) is morally obligated, first and foremost, not to participate in the aggression, that is, to avoid enlisting into the military or refusing to fight (what I term the moral duty of "non-participation"). Further, they are morally obligated not to support the troops in their aggression, that is, what I will term "qua warrior." Neither should they praise their aggressive actions, nor admire their personal qualities, nor appreciate their efforts, nor celebrate their accomplishments (the duty of non-complicity). If anything, they are morally obligated to sympathize with, support and admire the efforts of the victims, the Iraqis, in their struggle against aggression, since morality demands that we respect the rights and dignity of all innocent human beings.

The Moral Obligation to Support the Troops Qua Human Being

As in any war, even a just war, there may be individual soldiers whose questionable motives and intentions affect the morality of their actions or the degree of their responsibility. For the most part, however, no one joins the military or fights in war (or even uses terrorism as a tactic) to commit murder. Further, I think it is fair to say that a goodly number of those who serve in the military - especially during a war - are either the conscripted and the coerced or the underprivileged and the destitute. Their motivation in serving is only to survive and return home or to improve their standard of living and receive job training or financial support for college. Even of those who willingly enlist and consider themselves professional soldiers, the vast majority, though sometimes misguided (as is the case in Iraq), sincerely believe they are doing moral things for a moral nation.
Given the gravity of the endeavor in which they are to engage, however, we do expect soldiers, before participating in the fighting, and civilians, before accepting conscription or volunteering, to evaluate, morally and legally, the war in which they will engage. Further, it would be meritorious, perhaps even morally required, depending upon the severity of the sanctions, for soldiers and civilians to have the moral courage and fortitude to refuse to participate in or support wars that are immoral. Finding out the truth about war, however, is very difficult and seldom certain.
To appreciate the ability of governments to deceive, convince and coerce citizens into supporting an immoral war, one need only consider recent history and the plethora of sincere and astute intellectuals, clergymen and women, scholars and politicians (some of whom are currently vying to become president) who were convinced that war with Iraq was warranted because they possessed weapons of mass destruction, were complicit in the attacks of 9/11, and posed a real and immediate threat to the survival of our nation and all we hold dear.
It is not only a lack of information, however, that makes the decision not to support or to fight the war so problematic and tragic. The magnitude of the social pressures (real or perceived) brought to bear upon young adults is such that, for many, deciding not to serve while others "go in their place" may require even more courage and determination than facing injury and death on the battlefield.
In regard to the preemptive invasion of Iraq, members of the military have been influenced, manipulated and coerced by the president into believing the threat from Iraq to be real and their cause to be just and necessary.
Further, given the sophistication of the deception and the unavailability of accurate information, they were not derelict in their responsibility as soldiers to morally evaluate the case for war. There is a real sense, then, in which they are themselves victims, deceived into risking injury and death for a mistake or to forward their president's illegal and immoral agenda. These morally relevant circumstances entail that the members of the military are not fully responsible for their aggression, hence their status as "innocent" aggressors. They are what I will term "diminished culpability combatants."
Let us be clear. Diminished culpability does not mean that the aggression is justified, or that the aggressors are morally blameless (non-culpable and non-liable). Nor does it mean that they are excused (absolved of all responsibility) for their aggression. Blame and latent responsibility of the troops for their aggression is indicated by their liability. That is, their aggression warrants their suffering the forfeiture of their immunity - they can justifiably be resisted, warred against, in self/national defense. What the recognition of diminished culpability does suggest is an understanding and appreciation of the persuasive and coercive power of governments and the socialization pressures in a political community.
Perhaps most importantly for our purposes, it recognizes the moral relevance, first, of the adolescent/young adult soldier not being in a position to make an informed judgment about the war and, second, that the level of coercion that soldier experiences makes it difficult, if not impossible, to decide otherwise than to serve and to fight.
Consequently, given these extenuating conditions, their moral and legal culpability may be ameliorated post bellum. Further, while citizens are morally obligated not to support the troops qua warrior, compassion and respect for persons does require a moral obligation to act in the interest of all those victimized by war - whether they be innocent Iraqis or American diminished culpability combatants. This duty to assist, or what I term "supporting the troops qua human being," entails doing what is truly in the troops physical, psychological, emotional and moral interest. Most importantly, citizens must strive, through protest, dissent and condemnation of the immoral war, to influence policy and bring pressure to bear upon their leaders to end the aggression against - the occupation of - Iraq and the exploitation and victimization of their own troops.
Further, they should discourage troop participation in the war by, first, exposing the war's immorality and the deception of their leaders. Secondly, the troops should be reminded that, at least since Nuremberg, their moral and legal obligations as soldiers require neither blind obedience to orders nor unquestioning trust in the decisions of their leaders. Third, they must strive to create an environment in which adolescents/young adults feel empowered to act upon their moral convictions and refuse conscription, enlisting in the military and/or fighting. Fourth, moral refusers and deserters must be supported and provided protection either through selective conscientious objector laws, legal defense funds or, more drastically, by providing sanctuaries from military apprehension and prosecution.
Finally, compassion and the principle of respect for persons requires that the American citizenry strive to ensure that the troops receive the necessary care and treatment for the physical, psychological, emotional and moral injuries that are the inevitable consequences of their experiences in war, especially an immoral war. Overall, therefore, citizens, military and non-military alike, are morally obligated to become Winter Soldiers.

Patriotism and Love of Country

I am certain that some who will listen to the testimony of the Winter Soldiers will be outraged regarding the insinuation that the atrocities committed by Americans in Iraq go well beyond Abu Ghraib and Haditha. I am certain as well that some reading this essay will be outraged that I dare equate the war in Iraq to the attacks of 9/11, members of the American military to the Al-Qaeda terrorists, and that I advocate not supporting the troops qua warrior. I am also sure that this outrage will lead many readers to question the veterans' and my patriotism and love of America, perhaps even to accuse us of moral treason. In response, I would remind these critics that their version of unquestioned "patriotism" and "love of America" entails an indifference to, and disregard for, the principles of morality and the tenets of International Law - the very characteristics of a rogue nation that we point to when proposing and justifying military action.
Further, it ignores justice in favor of a might-over-right philosophy, betraying an arrogance that brings our nation neither honor nor prestige in the world, but rather hatred and righteous indignation. Most tragically, perhaps, it denigrates the very foundations and all we hold sacred as a nation - justice and fairness for all.
Further, I would point out that morality is not a means of gaining strategic or tactical military advantage, to be abandoned or manipulated should its tenets prove inconvenient to furthering the national interest, or even unsupportive of the actions of those with whom we share allegiance. If morality is to have any meaning and if individuals and nations are to avoid hypocrisy, morality must be universally and fairly applied without prejudice, bias or consideration of national identity.
To feel an impetus to support our country's actions and an attachment and concern for fellow citizens serving in the military is understandable. Further, once the fighting has begun and our troops placed in harm's way, it is also understandable that citizens may be motivated to ignore, overlook and/or rationalize the immorality of the war and of their soldiers' actions. They may even hope for their troops' speedy victory and triumphant return even at the expense of the deaths of their innocent victims. However, their support for aggression and murder and for the troops qua warrior, their hypocrisy and arrogance, and disregard for justice and morality, while perhaps understandable, is morally unjustifiable, un-American, unpatriotic and integral to the question they themselves pose so often but seldom answer: "Why do they hate us?"
The true patriot, therefore, does not blindly follow and obey, but questions the actions of his leaders and, when necessary, brings attention to the defilement or abandonment of the values we hold dear. Consequently, in times such as these, morality and patriotism demand Winter Soldiers. That is, true patriots who, despite great personal sacrifice, struggle tirelessly and courageously, to restore America's integrity and moral standing in the world, and hold accountable those political leaders who have violated the public trust by acting not in America's interest, but in behalf of wealth, power and empire.

February 07, 2008

Latest from United For Peace and Justice's Plans for March 19

Today, we'd like to highlight the actions that will be taking place on March 19th, the anniversary of the U.S. "shock and awe" assault on Iraq, the day on which five years of horrifying death and destruction began.
March 19, Mass Nonviolent Direct Actions in Washington, DC: We've marched, we've vigiled, we've lobbied -- it's time to put our bodies on the line in large numbers. We encourage everyone who can to join us in DC, on Wednesday, March 19th, to be part of the day of action, or to assist in support work. We are working to have delegations from all 50 states take part in this massive day of action.
March 19, Local Actions Throughout the Country: While we are working hard to have a large turnout in DC on March 19, it is also necessary to be visible and vocal in our local communities on that day.
Congress will not be in session and so our representatives and senators will be in their home districts/states. We are aiming to have at least one action in each of the 435 congressional districts. We encourage those who are not able to make it to DC on March 19 to organize and participate in local actions. These events will vary in location and character -- some will be vigils, others civil disobedience actions, some will be held at congressional offices, others in town squares -- but they will all be tied to the actions in Washington and sending the same message to the policy makers: It is time to end this war and occupation!
Our activities to mark the 5th anniversary are designed to offer new opportunities for people to publicly express their opposition to the war. We believe the anti-war movement must use the 5th anniversary as the beginning of a renewed and bolder effort to finally bring this war to an end. This is a challenging call to action, but it is urgent that we mark the 5th anniversary in as strong a way as possible to help ensure that ending the war in Iraq remains a central issue in the public discourse throughout this year.
We need your help to make all of this happen. Here's what you can do:

Spread the word. Circulate this message as widely as possible! Post a 5 Years Too Many web button on your website or blog.
Make plans now to join us in Washington on Wednesday, March 19th. Visit www.5yearstoomany.org/march19dc for more info and to register to join us in DC. The call for the actions in Washington is included below -- please share it with your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, people you go to school with and everyone else you know and encourage them to make the trip to DC.
Get involved in local March 19 organizing. If you can't get to DC, check out what's happening in your area on March 19th and get involved. If you don't see anything listed yet for your area, start planning something now. We have lots of ideas for action you can take locally that day. Post the details of your action on our calendar so others can join you.
Make the most generous donation you can today. Please help give UFPJ the resources needed to organize and support both the DC and local actions. Every contribution you make is immediately put to good use.
Finally, we will soon be sending information about the other major 5th anniversary event we are supporting -- the Winter Soldier hearings being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Please keep your eyes open for email from us with more details on how you can get involved in solidarity activities in your area.

Peace,
Leslie Cagan, National Coordinator, UFPJ

5years

Take Action in the Nation's Capitol on Wednesday, March 19


March 19th will mark the beginning of the 6th year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Enough is enough! We are organizing creative, nonviolent acts of civil disobedience in Washington, DC, to interrupt business as usual for those promoting and profiting from war and empire building. Focusing on the pillars of war , our actions will take place at multiple sites, demonstrating the real costs of war and offering visions for a more just and sustainable world, a world at peace.

Click here to sign up to join us in DC on March 19th.

If your organization would like to help mobilize people from your area to go to DC for March 19, please email dc@5yearstoomany.org


Information on civil disobedience trainings, etc. coming soon!


Five years of war and occupation in Iraq ... at what cost?


A country in shambles with 650,000 to 1 million Iraqis dead or wounded, 4,000,000 displaced, families and communities ripped apart. Nearly 4,000 U.S. service people killed and over 40,000 wounded, many then neglected by our government. All the while U.S. corporations reap huge profits as they plan to control Iraq's oil.

Over $1.2 trillion spent on death and destruction while at home millions of uninsured have no access to affordable healthcare, public infrastructure is collapsing, the housing mortgage crisis is growing, unemployment is rising and the Gulf Coast has yet to be rebuilt.

Continued abuses on our natural environment with corporate greed protected. The Arctic and Greenland melting before our eyes, Indigenous cultures and peoples being destroyed, extreme climate events -- all tied to the addiction to oil.


Torture, illegal surveillance, domestic spying, erosion of civil liberties. A criminal administration with a Congress and judiciary no longer offering adequate checks and balances. The Constitution, with its articles of impeachment, rendered irrelevant and disregarded.

And now threats of an attack on Iran and escalation of the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan. False claims of weapons of mass destruction, while all along the WMDs have been right here in the U.S.


These Are the Times in Which We Live. This Is Our Time to Respond.


We Will Not Be Silent!


On March 19 -- Join the Nonviolent Action and Civil Disobedience in Washington, DC

United by common demands and organizing principles, groups are encouraged to participate in nonviolent mass actions and/or organize their own actions in coordination with others. There could be sit-ins, die-ins, blockades, pray-ins, bike blockades, street theater, poetry readings, puppets, speak-outs and more at government agencies, war profiteers, corporate media, military recruitment centers, or other pillars of war and empire in DC. Unleash Your Imagination!

Start organizing affinity groups and local meetings now. For more information about the DC actions on March 19th contact: www.5yearstoomany.org or email dc@5yearstoomany.org

February 04, 2008

Shutting Down the Machine - 5 Years Too Many

March 19, 2008: the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the beginning of the 6th year of war and occupation, the 6th year of senseless death and massive destruction.
2008 is a critical year in the efforts to bring an end to the war and occupation in Iraq. This is the year the anti-war movement must up the ante, pull out all of the stops and build so much pressure that the war will finally be brought to an end.
United for Peace and Justice is calling for and supporting a set of activities on and around the 5th anniversary that will manifest the intensifying opposition to the war and help strengthen our movement. We invite you to work with us to ensure the success of these actions.

  • March 13-16, Winter Soldier: UFPJ is committed to providing major support to Iraq Veterans Against the War and its Winter Soldier hearings in Washington, DC, on March 13-16. We will help local groups plan events that directly link to and amplify the Winter Soldier hearings, where those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqis and Afghans, will tell the nation the real story of this war.
  • March 19, Mass Nonviolent Direct Action in Washington, DC: UFPJ has initiated the planning and organizing for what we hope will be the largest day of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience yet against the war in Iraq. We encourage people to be in Washington, DC, on March 19th to be part of the civil disobedience, or to assist in support work. We are working to have all 50 states represented in this massive action.
  • March 19, Local Actions Throughout the Country: We encourage those who are not able to make it to Washington on March 19 to organize local actions. These actions may vary in location or character, but they will all be tied to the protest in Washington and all sending a message to the policy makers: It is time to end this war and occupation!

Help us make the 5th anniversary the last anniversary of this war!
Join our efforts to build the strongest actions in March -- actions that will not only mark the anniversary but will also help propel our movement into the critically important work that must be done throughout the year.

February 03, 2008

IVAW News - Another Take on the Winter Soldier Hearings

By Erin Thompson, originally published in The Indypendent, February 4, 2008


Return of the Winter Soldier: Iraq Vets Prepare Atrocity Testimony

During the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion in March, there will not be hundreds of thousands of people mobilizing in the streets of Washington, D.C., for another afternoon protest. That’s because Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has asked antiwar groups not to stage a D.C. mass demonstration from March 13-16.
Instead, the IVAW hopes that antiwar activists and the media will help amplify the voices of veterans and active-duty soldiers, who will testify during those four days about the atrocities they committed or witnessed while serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
During the series of panels, multimedia presentations and testimony, more than 45 current and former soldiers plan to describe the indiscriminate killing and injuring of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of chemical weapons, the torture and killing of detainees, rape — within the military itself and against Iraqi civilians — the denial of medical care to the injured and the mutilation of the dead, and other war crimes. Iraqi and Afghani civilians, as well as reporters not embedded with the military, are scheduled to verify many of the stories that will be described by the soldiers.
The goal of hearings, named the Winter Soldier Investigation: Iraq and Afghanistan, after the 1971 Vietnam-era investigation of the same name, is to show that systematic government policies are to blame for the myriad atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s easy for the military to ostracize soldiers. We want to demonstrate that the policies that are set at the highest level are what’s creating the reality on the ground,” said New York City IVAW chapter President Jose Vasquez. “Soldier after soldier, rotation after rotation, these policies are what’s creating the environment in which these atrocities occur.”
“When other vets are willing to discuss some of the negative things, it shows people that it is not just an isolated event,” said Michael Harmon, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. Harmon pointed to the standard operating procedure of shooting any Iraqi civilian carrying a shovel at night, “because they might have been planting IEDs” and the impunity afforded to soldiers who killed civilians as examples of policies that lead to atrocities.
Harmon remembers watching U.S. soldiers shoot a 2-year-old girl in the leg. “An IED went off and soldiers starting spraying bullets in all directions. The little girl was caught in the crossfire while driving in her family car.”
Harmon, who has coped with substance abuse issues since leaving the military in 2005, was one of the first members of IVAW to be interviewed for the hearings, despite the fact that, “I don’t like to think about the war when I don’t have to. It is just a horrible, misguided debacle.”
While IVAW is taking inspiration and learning from the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation, they acknowledge that they are dealing with a “a different world, a different war,” said Vasquez. To collect testimony, IVAW initially based their questions on the 1971 questionnaire. However, they soon found that many of the questions needed to be updated; the questionnaire is now more than nine pages long, after starting at only two. They are also taking steps to provide psychological counseling to any soldier who testifies, in the hopes of avoiding the sharp increase in suicides that occurred after the 1971 testimonies.
In addition, in 1971, when Vietnam veterans holed up in a Detroit motel to describe a litany of atrocities they had experienced and carried out during the U.S. war in Southeast Asia, there was a near media blackout. A documentary film was eventually created using the testimony, but “had there not been a documentary, I don’t think we’d even know about the [1971 investigation],” said Vasquez.
In this age of instant communication and prolific independent media, IVAW has put out a call to artists, journalists, filmmakers and other media makers to help spread testimony from the hearings.
While IVAW hopes that the experiences of soldiers will help inform the public and politicians’ ideas about the reality of the war, the group’s strategy is mainly on reaching those who can most directly stop the war: active-duty soldiers and their families.
“Our target audience is GIs,” said Vasquez, who explained that by fomenting resistance within the military and within military families, IVAW is in a unique position to undermine the continuation of U.S. war policies. “We thought long and hard about what are we best positioned to do, we realized that there are very few antiwar organizations that have the ability to do outreach among the GIs.”

IVAW News - Winter Soldier Fundraiser

IVAW will hold a New York Winter Soldier benefit Feb. 21, 6-9pm at the New York Ethical Culture Society, 2 West 64th Street at Central Park West. $10 suggestion donation, free for all veterans. For more information, or if you are a media maker that wants to get involved, visit ivaw.org or email wintersoldier@ivaw.org.

February 01, 2008

IVAW News - Why I am Testifying at Winter Soldier"

Originally posted to the IVAW website, January 22, 2008


by Clifton Hicks | Tue, 01/22/2008 - 12:26am

Shortly after my seventeenth birthday, when I decided to volunteer to fight in Iraq, I never thought for even a moment that I would find myself faced with the decisions that I have been forced to make in these past few years. I never dreamed that I would ever find myself thoughtlessly going along with things that I would be ashamed to tell my family of, that I would have to choose sides within my own unit, or that I would ever find myself whittled into the form of a pawn on some spoiled rich boy's chess board. No, I never thought that I, the descendant of so many proud soldiers, would ever have to choose between my loyalty to the Army, and my loyalty to the People of the United States.
I have known of the upcoming Winter Soldier Investigation for what seems like many years now, and I honestly admit that I never intended to testify. I had hoped that I would be unneeded, that I could sit this one out, I had hoped that others would come forward to take my place on the line. But those were selfish thoughts. When I nurtured those hopes I thought not of my brothers who had once toiled tirelessly at my side, in the mud and the dust and the filth, nor did I think of my brothers who had been chosen for death while I was unfairly allowed to go on living. I thought only of myself, of my own desires to be anonymous, and to avoid the sight of the ever watchful eye.
But it is not for ourselves that we tell our stories, indeed everything inside of us screams for silence and obscurity, but we must tell our stories for those who cannot. Nearly four thousand of our siblings cry out from beyond the grave for truth, and I must answer them, we must answer them.

IVAW News - How you can help



Winter Soldier/Iraq Veterans Against the War


Posted on the IVAW Website, January 31, 2008




Winter Soldier is the biggest event IVAW has held, and while our members are working hard taking testimony, arranging transportation and housing, and all the other things that are going to make this event a success, we need your support now to make sure we have the resources we need. Please make a donation today.

We need your help to spread the word about Winter Soldier. Please use our Forward to a Friend page to let your friends know about this event, and add a banner to your website or blog.

If you want to get more involved in this project's media aspects, which includes organizing national advertisements as well as issuing press releases and representing the project please join the Winter Soldier media team by contacting Liam Madden at wintersoldier@ivaw.org or Liam@ivaw.org

If you are interested in contributing to the DVD that will be produced through this project please contact the video team at wintersoldier@ivaw.org. The video team is responsible for contacting documentarians and film producers and collecting the proposals that are presented so we can collectively decide what the best option is for this project.

For any logistics challenges you would like to contribute to during the event, including lodging, transportation, linguistic translation, and supplies, or to volunteer at the event please contact Lily at dcoidc@gmail.com.

All legal issues should be addressed to Fernando at wintersoldier@IVAW.org or marakuja@aol.com The legal team will be responsible for providing legal council for vets who are concerned about testifying and for explaining the rights and responsibilities of all who provide testimony. You can also read the legal review for Winter Soldier.

For all internal organizing issues please contact Aaron Hughes at wintersoldier@ivaw.org or aarhughes@gmail.com. This team will be responsible for coordinating our organization's activity around this very important campaign

January 22, 2008

VVAW News - North Carolina support of Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan: Carrboro, North Carolina

Originally posted on the VVAW website

When: January 25, 2008 at 6:00 PM
Where: The Century Center
located at 100 N. Greensboro
Directions and information about nearby parking can be found at http://townofcarrboro.com/rp/ccdirections.htm

What: VVAW Gathering in North Carolina
Details: Join members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Iraq Veterans Against the War in welcoming VVAW National Coordinator, Barry Romo, on Friday, January 25th at 6:00pm in Carrboro, North Carolina.
Barry will be talking about the upcoming historic event organized by IVAW-- Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan.
In January 1971, VVAW held the Winter Soldier Investigation, where Vietnam Veterans testified about war crimes and atrocities they committed or witnessed in Vietnam. This action helped expose how atrocities committed during Vietnam were not the work of “a few bad apples”, but essentially military policy- a policy that continues in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like the Vietnam Veterans who testified in the ‘70s, Iraq Veterans will provide first hand accounts of their experiences and reveal the reality of the occupation.
We will discuss ways that members of VVAW, IVAW and others can support the upcoming event as well as show clips of the original Winter Soldier Investigation. We also hope some of the people who come will be interested in continuing to work locally to promote peace, justice, and the rights of all veterans. Afterwards, those that would like to continue the conversation and socialize may reconvene at a nearby restaurant.
Thomas Paine, writing during the Revolutionary War, said: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Come out on Friday evening, January 25th, and support these true Winter Soldiers!
For more information about the North Carolina gathering, contact Buzz at (919) 265-7050 or buzzdaily@gmail.com

January 21, 2008

IVAW news - Wanted Bloggers - Especially Military

This was originally posted to the Active Duty Patriot Blog

One of the amazing things about the internet is the changes it offers. One of these is the new media, the blogosphere. Able to be more politically opinionated and more personal at the same time, answerable to no editor, they can be powerful forces for good or ill-and they tend to follow a free-market model. No one is forced to read anyone else's blog, and you're certainly always provided with an array of other options and opportunities.
Bloggers are breaking into more and more of the 'traditional' news world. They were at the presidential conventions. They were present at the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justices. And yes, Denis Keohane, they will be present at Winter Soldier.
In fact, we want them to come.
I can almost hear the protestations from here. People are probably readying their typing fingers now, getting ready to blog all about how IVAW will only be choosing their personal favorites, established anti-war bloggers.
If so, I have to say: you could not be more wrong.
We welcome bloggers, regardless of political affiliation or stance on the war
IVAW believes that Winter Soldier will stand on its own merits. We have no need to preach to the choir-we think that this testimony is and needs to be an important part of the dialogue about the war.
Preference will be given first to active duty military bloggers. Active duty military bloggers, regardless of their stance on the war, will have a seat. Active duty military bloggers unable to afford the financial burden of transportation to DC but still wishing to attend, please contact me at sgtivaw@gmail.com . It will next be given to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and following that, all other veterans. This is an event by military and former military, and we want to help as many of you get there as possible.
There will, of course, be some criteria and ground rules. If you are active duty, some are waiverable.
1. This is nonwaiverable: you must not be associated or have endorsed radical violence, in your blog or in person, against idealogical opponents. This is for both sides of the political spectrum and war dialogue. If your words have suggested you will be unable to control and behave yourself with a gathering of your fellow bloggers and/or a large group of veterans with differing political views, you will not be permitted to attend said gathering.
2. You must have an established and regularly updated blog.
3. You must be willing to provide bonafides, particularly at the door, and especially if you claim military service for preference. (Nonwaiverable)
4. Many active duty members and veterans will be attending but not testifying at the Winter Soldier hearings. They are not the news, and they are not fair targets for blog attack. You must be willing to sign a nondisclosure agreement about these people and these people only-that you will not reveal audience members or publish audience words without their explicit consent.
5. Opinions are great. Diversity in ideas is welcome. It is by having the best ideas, not by distorting the facts to match the ideas, that success is possible. You must at least demonstrate the capability for an open mind-and have demonstrated via your blog that you are committed to the factual accuracy, whatever your personal spin.
6. You must have displayed a capacity for making arguments other than ad hominem attacks, and kept personal bile against military members and veterans to a minumum. For entirely fictitious example: saying "Army Sergeant was taken into custody by the police once for animal abuse, thus making all testimony suspect." is fine. "Army Sergeant is a filthy moonbat commie dog-kicker and should burn in hell" is not fine. Remember that whether you believe them or not, whether you believe in what Winter Soldier is trying to accomplish or not, the fact remains that everyone testifying has raised their right hand and swore an oath to their country. Many of them will never be the same again, and some may in fact suffer from PTSD. They do not deserve that kind of treatment.
Please feel free to repost this anywhere and everywhere. The widest circulation will promote the greatest amount of diversity in viewpoints and experiences. I would ask that you at least provide a link to this post, or to the email provided above, so that those sincerely interested can comment and ask questions. If there are other important concerns or items that I am not bringing up, please feel free to email or comment and I will have an answer for you and edit the post accordingly.
cannot take responsibility for anything else outside of the limits of what I can touch. I am not responsible for all of Winter Soldier itself, and cannot answer questions about its entirety. But I give you my word, as a soldier, as a citizen, and as an NCO, that I will do all humanly in my power to make this piece of the puzzle as fair and just as I can possibly make it.

IVAW News - We Support Troops Who Oppose War

4543 people have signed the IVAWs Statement of Support for the Winter Soldier Hearings, which reads:

This spring, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is revealing the reality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. In what will be history's largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors, eyewitnesses will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.
Winter Soldiers, according to founding father Thomas Paine, are those who stand up for the soul of their country, even in its darkest hours. With this spirit in mind, IVAW members are standing up to make their experiences available to all who are concerned about the direction of our country.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time America has needed its Winter Soldiers, in 1971, over one hundred members of