Shouts of wrongdoing: will veterans's protests against the wars be heard?
Hundreds of veterans will travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to speak out against the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to expose what Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and other peace groups are calling “the human consequences” of failed U.S. military strategy and war policy in the Middle East.
“We broke it, we bought it,” says former army specialist Steve Mortillo in a graphic IVAW video released this week. “But, we’re buying it with American lives. Just what do you think the purchase price is for that damage?"
"There is no forgiveness in my book for someone who sits here in America and orders Americans into battle to die and makes money off of it and profits hand over fist and lies through their teeth to keep it going. I mean at some point it becomes enough.”
IVAW has posted online a short, graphic film that includes video and photographs of the war taken by active duty soldiers to generate interest. It’s worth watching--if you can stomach the gore. Fair warning: by "graphic," we mean a realistic depiction of war, including bloody children, blown apart heads, screaming, grieving crowds and the dead bodies of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers.
In the words of former Marine Corporal Jason Washburn, who was instructed to evaluate a town considered an insurgent stronghold after a U.S. military air strike:
We rolled through there and I didn’t see anything that I could identify as an enemy combatant. There were dead women, children, men all over the place, homes completely destroyed… One of the things that stood out in my mind was the torso that was hanging from a street sign. It was just some kid, you know. Nobody had weapons; there was nothing like that anywhere. We basically reported it as total destruction, but a victory on our side.
I just couldn’t understand how that could be so when we were supposed to be there to liberate these people and we were just destroying them.
Winter Soldier testimony, including sessions on “Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors,” “the Dehumanization of the Enemy” and “Aims of the Global War on Terror: the Political, Legal, and Economic Context of Iraq and Afghanistan” will be streamed online and broadcast on radio outlets starting Thursday, March 13, continuing through the weekend.
Winter Soldier Two is modeled after a Vietnam G.I. resistance movement in 1971. Initially ignored by the mainstream media, soldier testimony at the time brought legitimacy to the antiwar movement and eventually led to a congressional investigation, helping bring the Vietnam War to an end, says history professor Scott Laderman, who holds a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
Some 37 years later, it will be interesting to see what happens this time.
Ten members of the local Iraq Veterans Against the War chapter are attending Winter Soldier Two. City Pages profiled one of them--a former guard at Camp Bucca, a U.S. military holding facility in southern Iraq-- last week.
"What I saw hasn’t been on television," says Iraq war veteran and IVAW member Brandon Day, 29, of Saint Paul, who worked with other veterans to fact-check soldier testimony prior to Winter Soldier to ensure military records and eyewitness accounts could substantiate the soldiers’ claims.
“This will be the war stories with the PR stripped from them,” he says.
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