Thursday, March 27, 2008

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Not even two weeks ago, over 200 veterans of the Iraq war participated in the Winter Soldier Hearings, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War.
The hearings consisted of veterans discussing their experiences serving in occupied Iraq, atrocities they witnessed or participated in, and their reasons for coming to oppose the continued occupation of Iraq. The title of the hearings, taken from the Vietnam Winter Soldier hearings of 1971, is meant to evoke a term by Thomas Paine, who spoke of the Winter Soldiers who stand up for their country in its darkest hour.
Rather than speak for the soldiers, I will let their experiences testify to the need for an end to this terrible war. The Washington Post quoted Cliff Hicks, a former 1st Armored Division soldier, who said, referring to the American troops, that "these are not bad people, not criminals and not monsters," but "people being put in horrible situations, and they reacted horribly." The entire four-day event was broadcast live from the IVAW Web site, allowing the public to witness the soldiers speaking without the filter of a reporter's pen.
Camilio Mejia was convicted of desertion in 2004 and served a year in jail, during which he was named a "prisoner of conscience" by the human rights group Amnesty International. He is now the chair of the board of directors of IVAW. Camilio had much to say regarding his service in Iraq.
Having witnessed a fellow soldier pose for a photo with the dead body of a woman, he said that "I could not conciliate the person who I had served with." Trying to explain how American soldiers could mistreat detainees, he noted that "it is almost impossible to act upon your morality … when you have been fed all this information" about how they are out to kill you. He said that soldiers were trained to remove the humanity from them and "in doing so, you remove the humanity from yourself." He said that the psyche "erases certain memories that are too overwhelming to deal with," allowing soldiers to erase the faces of their victims, along with mourning children and families. Mejia detailed the mistreatment of detainees, which included sleep deprivation, mock executions, verbal abuse and other forms of humiliation.

The above is from Jason Vick's "War veterans find difficulty ignoring psychological effects" (Collegiate Times). Winter Soldier panels you can stream online at Iraq Veterans Against the War, at War Comes Home, at KPFK, at the Pacifica Radio homepage and at KPFA, here for Friday, here for Saturday, here for Sunday for other panels. Aimee Allison (co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None) and Aaron Glantz were the anchors for Pacifica's live coverage.

And more violence will follow al-Maliki's power grab. The smartest thing for the puppet of the occupation was to allow Moqtada al-Sadr to make himself useless (which he was doing) to the Iraqi people. Instead, the assault on Basra fuels support for al-Sadr, promotes al-Sadr as a leader and fuels anger and tensions at the illegal occupation.

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aaron glantz