Giving a Voice to Our Veterans – Winter Soldier Iraq & Afghanistan
Ever since the Bush Administration has taken office, America’s media channels have become lapdogs, seemly taking their direction from the White House press director. They have done a disservice not only to American citizens but to the world as a whole.
Last weekend was no different. On the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, Iraq Veterans Against the War emulated a similar gathering held by 109 Vietnam veterans gathered in Detroit for the first Winter Soldier conference in 1971, where former soldiers presented their accounts of what really happened in Vietnam. This was the panicle moment when the nation pushed for a pull out of that war.
Approximately 300 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans held their own Winter Soldier Conference (http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier) in Maryland, testifying about what has been taking place in Iraq over the past five years, showing pictures and video footage of what we will never see on the Nightly News.
The most coverage I was able to find was on DemocracyNow.org, which was not a surprise, considering their news content delves deeper into the issues that matter versus 60 second clips on NBC or any other mainstream media outlet. This was the only news channel that dedicated time and coverage to this extremely critical news story that every American citizen needs to see and hear. “While the corporate media ignored the story, we broadcast their voices.”
Video footage viewable on the democracynow.org website features a number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, presenting their war testimony.
One veteran provides an explanation for his stand, Jon Turner, “The reason I am doing this today is not only for myself and for the rest of society to hear, but it’s for all those who can’t be here to talk about the things that we went through; to talk about the things that we did.”
Turner was visibly shaken during his testimony, as four crosses appear on the large screen in dedication to the four marines they lost. “I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people. At one point it was okay. But reality has shown that it is not. Until people hear what is going on with this war it will continue to happen and people will continue to die. I am no longer the monster that I once was.”
And with that, he received a standing ovation from the audience, some of which were made up of fellow soldiers and like Turner, where emotionally affected by his stories.
DemocracyNow.org – Winter Soldier: US Vets, Active-Duty Soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan Testify About the Horrors of War
US veterans gathered in Maryland this past weekend to testify at Winter Soldier, an eyewitness indictment of atrocities committed by US troops during the ongoing occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers spoke of free-fire zones, the shootings and beatings of innocent civilians, racism at the highest levels of the military, sexual harassment and assault within the military, and the torturing of prisoners.
You can view or just listen to the coverage here:
Luis Montalvan, Iraq War Veteran who witnessed waterboarding was featured in a news story on BBC, “It was disturbing because I’d never seen anything like that, because it really was torture.”
This is shown on BBC, not on MSNBC, CBS, CNN or ABC. American media doesn’t seem to want to listen to our own men and women, which in all accounts, is a disservice to our citizens. Even the BBC correspondent recognizes this, stating that the voice of those who oppose the war, including veterans like Montalvan, are muted here.
The statistics to date for the Iraq war include almost 4,000 US Miliary Deaths, over 29,000 US Military Wounded, 1.2 million Iraqi deaths, 200,000 homeless veterans in USA on any given night, and 120 veteran suicides per week.
Other statistics, according to an MSNBC report, states that over 700,000 children have parents who have served in the Iraq war, and of these veterans, 25% of them suffer from psychological injuries such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
On the Winter Soldiers website, http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier/video, other veterans provide their video testimony.
One veteran, Jason Washburn, Former Marine Corporal, recalls an attack on a city to take out enemy insurgents, but when they rolled to town to assess the damage, all they found was dead, unarmed Iraqi citizens and total destruction. “We were supposed to be liberating these people and we were just destroying them.” That was just instance of many, memories that he carries around on a daily basis. “You start to look back on the things you went through and the things you did and realize, that’s not you. That’s not who you are, and you wonder what you’ve become.”
Steve Mortillo, Former Army Specialist, poses the question on the U.S.’s intent to help Iraq to rebuild, after we continue to demolish cities and neighborhoods. But what about those Iraqi citizens that have died? “This idea that we can rebuild someone’s family after we destroy; the idea that we can go over there and cause so much death and destruction and still think that we can fix this…how do you repair the loss of your child?”
Mortillo goes on to say, “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 and fist, and lies through their teeth to keep it going. At some point, it becomes enough.”
Time.com article covering the event, took a look at the expected rise between the anti-war and pro-war veterans, “The resurrection of Winter Soldier is already be pitting veterans against veterans. Not only are pro-war veterans denouncing the testifiers as a few malcontents, phonies or potential war criminals to be prosecuted according to the alleged crimes they reveal, but the event site itself has become contested ground.”
On NPR.org, Sergeant McRutter expresses his position, “Betrayal is when your government put you in a situation that you don’t need to be in. Betrayal is sitting back and saying nothing when you can see your fellow brothers and sisters in arms suffering. Betrayal is, essentially, not doing what is morally right. 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 what is coming from a Pentagon brief, but hear from those who have put their boots on ground and served their nation proudly.”
Here the full NPR audio recording here: http://www.npr.org/templates/dmg/dmg_rpm.rpm?id=88346801&type=1&date=16-Mar-2008&mtype=RM&sc=YahooNews&getUnderwriting=1
Additional Winter Soldiers video:
The Nation – Winter Soldiers
From tomorrow through Saturday the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan hearings in Washington, DC will feature testimony from US veterans detailing what’s really happening on the ground in these occupations. They’ll present photographs and videos, recorded with mobile phones and digital cameras, to back up their allegations of brutality, torture and murder. http://news.yahoo.com/s/thenation/20080312/cm_thenation/4297759
Bush maintains war was worth it
In anniversary remarks, president will say war worth it despite the “high cost in lives and treasure.”
Cheney On Two-Thirds Of The American Public Opposing The Iraq War: ‘So?’
This morning, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with Vice President Cheney on the war. During the segment, Cheney flatly told White House correspondent Martha Raddatz that he doesn’t care about the American public’s views on the war:
CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.
RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.
RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?
CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
(NPR) From the Beginning: A Look at Five Years of War
After the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the city was eerily silent. Then, suddenly the Iraqi capital burst into chaos. Looters thronged the streets, taking whatever they could. When asked why they didn’t intervene, American officers said they had no orders to do so.
Reports: ‘Disastrous’ Iraqi humanitarian crisis
As the war in Iraq reaches its five-year anniversary this week, two of the world’s leading humanitarian groups issued extensive reports Monday describing a crisis of huge proportions with little reason for hope.
Vet in a Suit
Testimony from the Iraq Veterans Against the War
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.
Time.com: Veterans Rally Against Iraq War
In a reprise of the 1971 gathering that led to the swift-boating of John Kerry, Iraq and Afghanistan vets stage a forum to testify about the human costs of the wars
War Stories Echo an Earlier Winter (including video of “Iraq Veterans Speak Out On Both Sides of War”)
Grim-faced and sorrowful, former soldiers and Marines sat before an audience of several hundred yesterday in Silver Spring and shared their recollections of their service in Iraq.
Iraqis and Americans Respond
A soldier, an Iraqi politician, a student protester, a Bush loyalist and others weigh in on anniversary.
Support the Troops: Bring Them Home
The resolution passed by the House of Representatives on Feb. 16, expressing disapproval of President Bush’s “surge” of additional troops for the war in Iraq, is only 69 words long, and the disapproval itself takes only 27 words. It’s point two. Point one, a loquacious 32 words, is an expression of approval for the troops. Not just for the troops who are currently serving, but also for those who “have served bravely and honorably” in Iraq in the past.
Viewpoint: Stop Saying, “Support Our Troops”
On Wednesday the Senate fell four votes short of passing a bill mandating that U.S. troops be allowed to spend as much time at home as they do on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The defeated proposal, which also failed in July, addresses a genuine problem: Throughout Iraq you meet soldiers and Marines whose personal lives have been strained, sometimes to the breaking point, by their long and repeated deployments.
Estimates of Iraq War Cost Were Not Close to Ballpark
“At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam Hussein, restore order and install a new government.
The Costs So Far Five years in, the Pentagon tags the cost of the Iraq war at roughly $600 billion and counting. Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at more than $4 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that $1 trillion to $2 trillion is more realistic, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.”
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