Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Gov’t Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Futurism
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

08.19 Fracking Giant Sues Dimock Resident for $5M for Speaking to Media About Water Contamination

08.19 Synthetic opioid crisis in US serves as warning for the world, says UN

08.19 Fukushima Plant Is Releasing 770,000 Tons of Radioactive Water Into the Pacific Ocean [to see more stories like this, visit "Planet or Profit?"]

08.19 Citing 'Hateful Rhetoric' of Trump, Arts & Humanities Council Resigns En Masse

08.19 Anti-Fracking Activists Celebrate Ruling Against Major Pipeline

08.18 Kuwait's inferno: how will the world's hottest city survive climate change?

08.18 We saved the whale. The same vision can save the planet

08.17 New Research Suggests Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s Patients May be Reversible

08.17 We Just Figured out How to Activate Stem Cells to Treat Baldness

08.17 1 in 9 Deaths are from Air Pollution & Trump is making it Worse

08.16 Ignoring Threat of Rising Seas, Trump Eliminates Flood Risk Standards

08.16 In Egypt, A Rising Sea — And Growing Worries About Climate Change's Effects

08.16 Australian coal-power pollution would be illegal in US, Europe and China – report

News Media Matters

08.18 Climate change will likely wreck their livelihoods – but they still don't buy the science [a willfully ignorant people? or a public conned by oil-industry subsidized news media distortions?]

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

08.19 Living with Trump

08.19 Centrist Democrats Riled as Warren Says Days of 'Lukewarm' Policies Are Over [video]

08.19 Bannon's Ouster Welcomed, But Much Bigger Problem Remains in White House: Trump

08.18 GOP Senator Drowned Out By Cheers for 'Single Payer' at Town Hall [might our 'representatives' understand better if we took their free healthcare away?]

08.18 If a top Trump aide leaves, it could 'start a run on the bank'

08.18 The United States was never immune to fascism. Not then, not now [2:54 video; “Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

08.18 Trump's evangelical panel remains intact as others disband. Who are his religious cheerleaders? [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

08.18 To understand the US's complex history with slavery, look to Thomas Jefferson

08.17 Cuckoo D'État: The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum

08.17 Stranding CEOs Too Slow To Quit, Trump Disbands His Own Business Councils [could a wider boycott accomplish resignations or positive change?]

Justice Matters

08.16 Indiana prosecutors want to incarcerate the opioid crisis away [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

High Crimes?

08.18 Buses in Seoul install 'comfort women' statues to honour former sex slaves [immoral crimes are hard to forget]

08.14 Americans once carpet-bombed North Korea. It's time to remember that past

Economics, Crony Capitalism

08.19 The long read: Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world

08.19 Wisconsin lawmakers vote to pay Foxconn $3 billion to get new factory [why are Republicans smiling?]

08.15 Why Are Drug Prices So High? These Politicians Might Have The Answer [especially since the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, BIG money corrupts & controls U.S. government to the public’s detriment]

International & Futurism

08.18 Spain attacks: Suspects shot dead in Cambrils after van-ramming

08.17 Tesla Just Made A Futuristic Tiny House

08.18 Spain can’t cope with rising refugee influx: UN

08.17 Investment Bank Report Predicts the Cost of Electric Vehicles Will Match Regular Cars by 2018 [pressure is building for electric utilities to become 100% renewable or we'll die]

08.17 German Politicians think Trump is dangerously close to Neo-Nazis, and they Should know

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  Winter Soldiers testify
Newspaper logo

COMMENTARY:

Winter Soldiers testify

Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the US Invasion of Iraq

by Chris Knipp

The Winter Soldiers are fighting another battle here at home—for their sanity and for what's right, as they now see it, after what they witnessed in the military.
Sun, 03/16/2008—On the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the euphemistically named "Coalition," the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) held a gathering of Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in Silver Spring, Md. They spent the entire weekend testifying before an audience about the experiences that turned them against the war. Staunch patriots all, these brave men and women of principle were following the precedent of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War who met in Detroit in 1971 to testify about the atrocities and wrongs they witnessed, or committed, in their American war. As John Kerry, a leader of the VVAW, explained back then in an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "the term 'Winter Soldier' is a play on [the] words of Thomas Paine in 1776 when he spoke of the Sunshine Patriot and summertime soldiers who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough... We feel we have to be winter soldiers now...we have to speak out."

It takes a special kind of courage and independence to reject a war you have fought in intensely yourself, as the Winter Soldiers have. But—for many reasons—the hard time, the soldier's "winter," the time to bear witness, is back here at home for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Joyce and Kevin Lucey told the story of how their son who returned couldn't be prevented from committing suicide because he was tormented by the memories of what he had done, and the VA hospital would not help him.

The soldier's "winter," the greatest test of endurance, is back here for every returning soldier tormented by things he or she witnessed overseas—memories of children shot in cars or blown apart by mines, of old women set on fire while carrying a big bag of groceries, of families guilty of nothing terrorized in their homes, of every taxi in Baghdad made a target by an arbitrary US command, of innocent Iraqi prisoners dying after days of suffering. It's not "easy" to forget any of that, but it's easier to try to get on with your life than to speak out about what you saw and take a stand against war, as these veterans have chosen to do. So the Winter Soldiers are fighting another battle here at home—for their sanity and for what's right, as they now see it, after what they witnessed in the military.

The testimony in Silver Spring was largely ignored by the mainstream media and not even covered even on progressive sites like CounterPunch, Common Dreams, Mother Jones, or In These Times. In the Washington Post it was covered, but in the B Section as a local story; there was also a brief AP story. As Jeff Cohen, of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), has pointed out, however, some independent media provided feeds of the event. "Democracy Now" with Amy Goodman covered it with highlights of the testimony, and KPFA Pacifica Radio broadcast all of it live, so that what Cohen calls "a significant minority of Americans" had access to it. If the mainstream media had provided some of that access, the effect might have been extraordinarily different, and there might be something more like the mood of this country in 1971. (The Winter Soldier conference can be viewed on the IVAW website.)

Indeed, reports indicate that today the mainstream media devotes only a tiny percentage of space to any aspect of the Iraq war. It has become less than a sound bite. The Democrats allude to getting out; the Republicans to staying in. But few want to talk about what's happening there, or what we've done, as the Winter Soldier speakers did. In sharp contrast, receiving widespread coverage, Vice President Cheney made a quick trip to Iraq and reported that "It's been a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavor. We've come a long way in five years and it's been well worth the effort." Just a few words of wishful thinking are enough. Sen. McCain made a similar quick trip and a similar whitewash statement.

The Winter Soldier event, however underplayed in the media, was a powerful moment. On this fifth anniversary of America's Iraq invasion it shone a blindingly clear light on the realities of the invasion—on its ugliness and brutality. Notably, it shone light on a constantly changing and opportunistic set of Rules of Engagement. One soldier spoke of his men carrying shovels on patrol, because they were instructed to consider anyone shoveling hostile, so if they shot someone by accident, they'd throw a shovel on them so they could claim they followed the Rules of Engagement. The Winter Soldier speakers also made it abundantly clear that racist epithets like "Haji" for anyone in Iraq who is not "us" came from the top down, from the generals—as did the brutality of Iraq prisons shown in the film "Taxi to the Dark Side."

What went wrong

It's hard to know if the Iraq war has been more horrible than other wars. Obviously the public was sold on it through an unusually blatant pack of lies; but some of the atrocities described by Vietnam vets in 1971 sound more gruesome than the new ones from Winter Solder 2008. The fact is, brutality is brutality. Many other things are different from war to war. They are both unnecessary wars, but the differences between Vietnam and Iraq are great. One thing that's notably different about Iraq is that the US "won" the war there almost immediately—and then preceded to lose it again thereafter during the five chaotic years (so far) of occupation that have followed.

The "Shock and Awe" invasion brought down Saddam Hussein's hated regime in a matter of days and military victory took little more than three weeks to achieve. But beginning with the Provisional Authority headed by L. Paul Bremer III, the US occupation of Iraq was spectacularly mismanaged. It's impossible to say how much incidental American brutality and cultural insensitivity might have still been tolerated by the Iraqi people if order had been maintained; if the ministries and the national library and archaeological museum had been saved and the looting held in check; if the hospitals had been re-supplied, electrical generators and water purification restored; if top-ranking military cadres had not been arbitrarily banished and de-Baathification not begun.

Of course proper handling of the immediate and long-term aftermath of the invasion would have required prior planning that did not exist. If there was anything that could be done wrong, it was done. This seems very different from Vietnam: in Iraq the US in effect created the very kind of counterinsurgency that American troops were sent to Vietnam to fight. US forces have stayed on in Iraq in an increasingly chaotic and dangerous situation on the pretense of maintaining security and creating a democracy, while increasing hostility, instability, and general chaos through their presence.

This is what the Winter Soldiers witnessed, along with the brutal policies and racism against the Iraqis transmitted to them from their superiors. Iraq became and remains a very dangerous place. It is hard to conceive that it would be worse if the US withdrew. However, this does not seem likely to happen, because we went in, to an important degree, for the oil, and the oil remains. Again in contrast to Vietnam, the Iraqis don't seem unified by any particular aims, other than to get their country back and drive out the occupation.

America wouldn't just lose face by leaving Baghdad, as with Saigon, but would lose a strategic location—except that, in political terms, that location is long gone.
Unlike Vietnam, the US still wants to keep its hands on Iraqi resources. America wouldn't just lose face by leaving Baghdad, as with Saigon, but would lose a strategic location—except that, in political terms, that location is long gone. Another big difference from Southeast Asia: the US's addictive connection to a nearby country, Israel—an allegiance beyond all reason, which alienates America from the vast majority of the populations of the Middle East.

So there are two ways of looking at the Iraq war and occupation (and the general failure in Afghanistan), the one that is humanitarian and the one that is cool and calculating. Either way it is hard to see the benefit of continued occupation, but hard to imagine Washington making any dramatic shifts, regardless of the suffering of the Iraqis and Afghans and of American veterans. Some things, like supporting the Zionist state and holding onto the sources of Middle East oil, are more important than either human decency or rational thought.


©Chris Knipp 2007. Chris Knipp, of San Francisco, writes about movies, politics and art on his blogsite.


Copyright © 2008 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.

This story was published on March 20, 2008.

 

Public Service Ads: