Sunday, March 16, 2008

Winter Soldier

War protesters are a public presence across the region, from weekend rallies to billboards.
Burns Harbor resident Vincent Emanuele is a Marine Corps veteran. He went on two tours of Iraq. Emanuele was discharged in January 2006 and helped form a local chapter of the Indiana Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Emanuele said if veterans want to express an anti-war view, it's not easy for them to speak out.
"I'm lucky," Emanuele said. "I had no wife and no kids, but with a lot of these guys, (the military is) where the money in their paycheck comes from. So to buck that very system, it's a very hard thing to do."
Emanuele is frustrated with the length of the war and he is concerned with apathy among the people.
Lorri Cornett, a member of North West Indiana Coalition Against the Iraq War, is dismayed by the war's duration.
"Being one of the many people that were against the invasion in first place, I'm surprised that we're having a fifth anniversary observation," Cornett said.
Cornett worries that communities aren't prepared for the support services that returning veterans need.
"I think it's important for people to remember as veterans return to be cognizant that transition to the community is very difficult," Cornett said. "We need to be responsible for helping them make that transition."

The above is from Christin Nance Lazerus' "Support for troops, against war strong" (Gary Post-Tribune). And Lynda notes this from Brian Murphy's "5 more years in Iraq? Many experts say this may be midpoint" (Associated Press):

These are more difficult to weigh and are found in places such as Jim Durham’s home in Evansville, Ind. He feels a sense of dread as he watches his 29- year-old son prepare for his second tour in Iraq with the Indiana National Guard.
Durham, 59, struggled to describe the emotions. He decided: "It's like watching somebody with a disease.
"Perhaps they can live, perhaps they can't," he said. "Maybe they'll survive. Maybe they won't. And there’s nothing you can do about it."
Echoes of the same lament resounded at a Shiite funeral procession in Baghdad where mourners gathered their dead from the morgue after bombings ravaged two pet markets last month. "We are helpless. Only God can help us," cried a group of women behind the shrouded corpses of several children.
"How much can Iraq endure? How much stamina do Americans have for a war with no end in sight?" said Ehsan Ahrari, a professor of international security at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. "These questions were relevant years ago. They only grow more critical as the years go by."
Already, the war has lasted longer than the U.S. fight in World War II and Korea. And if many experts are to be believed, the Iraq War will follow roughly a 10-year arc, ending only after a new crop of soldiers -- some now barely into their teens -- is on the battlefield.
Certainly, the Democratic candidates have called for a rapid and comprehensive withdrawal from Iraq. Hillary Rodham Clinton has said a serious troop withdrawal would begin "in the first 60 days" of her administration; Barack Obama has promised to have combat troops "out within 16 months."
But there are many doubts that Iraqi forces will be ready to take over so soon. "Can Iraq actually hold this together as we disappear?" a skeptical retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey asked last week, in an address in New York to mark the five-year war anniversary.

Five more years of the Iraq War? Very possible. Iraq Veterans Against the War Winter Soldiers Investigation concluded today. It was a four day action of service members testifying to what they had witnessed and what they'd been through. IVAW's Kelly Dougherty noted at the conclusion of the last panel today, "We never know who is going to be effected when we tell our stories, we neverthe impact its going to have or where its going to reach." The impact will continue to be felt. As Dougherty noted it will inspire others and transform them. This is from Joseph Gainza's "War lost amid shifting crises" (Times Argus Online):

Iraq and Afghanistan war vets are reviving a Vietnam era strategy called Winter Soldier. Winter Soldier was the title given by soldiers and marines to three days of testimony in Detroit in 1971 about their experiences fighting in Southeast Asia. The term "winter soldier" is derived from Thomas Paine, who wrote at a low point in the American Revolution about "sunshine patriots" who in times of crisis "shrink from the service of their country, but that he who stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
The Vietnam vets told stories of wanton and accidental killings of civilians, destruction of entire villages and outright murder epitomized in the American imagination by the Mai Lai massacre. They unloaded pent-up feelings of guilt and shame and were derided as traitors by other veterans. But their intention was to serve their country by extricating it from an unjust and unwinnable war.
Similar sentiments motivate present-day winter soldiers. They have engaged in three days of testimony about war crimes they participated in, or witnessed in the two Muslim nations. These violations of human rights, they say, are only making the United States less safe and increasing hatred for this nation around the world.
As Iraq Veterans Against the War, the organizers of the testimonies, say on their Web site ( "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."IVAW has collected and verified testimonies of over 100 veterans from across the country about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will present video and photographic evidence. Afghan and Iraqi civilians will also testify about how the occupations have wrecked their lives and their countries. In addition, panels of scholars, veterans, journalists and other specialists will 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.
Two former marines who live in Burlington will also testify. John Turner and Matt Howard will describe their experiences from the first day of the invasion of Iraq and their participation in the daily acts of gratuitous violence, which they describe as common occurrences. Both stress that they are not pointing fingers at individual soldiers and marines but at the policies and the policymakers who sent them to an unjust war. (Matt Howard is a staff member of Vermont American Friends Service Committee; he coordinates our Youth Empowerment and Military Education Project).
As the wars grind onto their fifth and sixth years, with over 30,000 U.S. service men and women, and scores of thousands of Afghanis and Iraqis killed or wounded, veterans are hopeful their testimonies will alert the nation to the occupations' human costs and moral dimensions and force the removal of all U.S. troops.

John Turner testified on Friday in the first Rules of Engagement panel that kicked off the Friday's hearings. He was noted in Friday's snapshot:

John Turner began his testimony by tossing his dog tags to the audience (IVAW members were in the front rows, so they caught them and can return to them to him if he wants them back) declaring, "F.U. I don't work for you no more." He spoke of the damage done in Iraq and spoke so clearly that the damage the illegal war had done to him was audible. He declared, "I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people" and noted that "until people hear the truth about what is going on in this war, people will continue to die." That really is the point of the hearings and various witnesses made it very clear that they were not attacking those they had served with, that this was not about finger-pointing at US service members, this was about the policies in place and the orders being given by higher ups through the chain of command.

I've deleted "Michael" as his middle name in the above excerpt in case I was told wrong. The event has received some press and we'll note one of those below as well as a few excerpts from today's panel on GI Resistance. This is from Marc Heller's "Winter Soldier: Event in Maryland attracts dozens who participated in U.S. mission in Iraq" (Watertown Daily Times):

Philip Aliff isn't afraid to admit he was in the Army for the money. But even that -- his salary, a $7,000 signing bonus and money for college -- wasn't worth what he learned in Iraq.
The war, he discovered, was not for him. Neither was the Army.
Mr. Aliff, who finished his tour as a corporal with the 10th Mountain Division last week, was among the current and former soldiers speaking out against the mission in Iraq at Winter Solider, a four-day conference in Silver Spring, Md., sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War.
"My experiences in Iraq were what radicalized me," Mr. Aliff, 21, said in an interview Friday. "I really didn't understand the dynamic of what was happening in Iraq."
Mr. Aliff, who was with the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team from Fort Drum, said the situation was far more violent than the rebuilding effort commanders advertised or were prepared to handle.
The result, he said, were contradictory messages for Iraqi civilians as U.S. forces arrested scores of fighting-age men on flimsy suspicion of wrongdoing, only to let them go a few days later.
"We'd hand kids soccer balls," said Mr. Aliff, whose duties included daily combat patrols in Abu Ghraib City and, later, the more violent area near Fallujah in 2005. "They'd see us on the one hand giving them things, and on the other hand arresting their families."
The anti-war conference attracted dozens of soldiers and former soldiers, and possibly a comparable number of reporters and television crews.

Philip Aliff will be noted in the next entry. Kelly Dougherty declared in her opening remarks that kicked off Sunday's last panel, "This panel is the Future of GI resistance and I think from all of the stories that we've heard over this weekend panels we can know that the future of this GI resistance is strong is full of powfl dedct veterans and service members and it is going to end the occupation of Iraq."

Jeff Englehart was among those offering testimony. He noted that when he went to Iraq (2004, Baquba) there wasn't a lot of support for resistance. He discussed his readings while in Iraq and noted Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. He, Garret Reppehagen and Joe Hatcher started Fight To Survive while in Iraq and were "told to stop posting on it because it seemed to be threatening the morale of the military itself." Of IVAW, Englehart explained, "This group is dedicated to bringing all the troops home, not tomorrow, not a year from now, bring the troops home right now." Among the goals he supports focusing on are GI outreach ("biggest thing") to "let them know they're not alone, that they have power" and "help them get their hands on literature that the military might obstruct them from getting."

IVAW chair Camilo Mejia was the last to speak on the panel (Kelly Doughtery was moderator and she offered closing thoughts as well.) This is from his closing remarks:

I would like to start my remarks by saying if you are a Vietnam veteran and a member of VVAW and especially if you attended the first Winter Soldier Investigation, please stand. [Six people do to applause.] There's a long history of resistance in our military but it is because of your leadership and your strength and your resistance that we stand here today. Without your example, we would be pushing forward in the darkness. It is with the courage that you passed on to us that we lead the way against an endless, illegitimate occupation that's tearing apart our military and our country. Today is the last day of Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan but today also marks the birth of a new generation of Winter Soldiers. George Orwell once wrote, "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes an act of rebellion. We live today in times of universal deceit but throughout the past four days we have witnessed first-hand acccounts that challenge that universal deceit. Iraq Veterans Against the War has become a source of stress to the military brass and to the government. We have members who have been interrogated by the FBI. We have members sitting in this room who have been incarcerated for being conscientious objectors. We have been incarcerated for standing up to and saying no to command rape and sexual discrimination. We have members in Iraq Veterans Against the War who have been prosecuted for being publicly critical of our government's failed war policy. We have become a dangerous group of people, not because of our military training but because we have dared to challenge the official story, because as members of the military we have dared to share our experiences, because we have dared to think for ourselves, because we have dared to analyze and be critical, because we have dared to follow our conscience, because we have dared to go beyond patriotism to embrace humanity. The service members and veterans who have shared our experiences with you, with the entire world, are committing an act of resistance.

We're not done covering Winter Soldier. Let me note the new content at The Third Estate Sunday Review:

Truest Statement of the Week
A note to our readers
Editorial: Are you ready to listen
TV: Nothing-ness
Veterans Healthcare
Barack's serving Chicken Sop for the Soul
Dumb Ass of the Week
Negative Critisicm of Winter Soldiers Investigatio...
A Hatian-American is not an African-American
Support the candidates that support the truth
Winter Soldiers Investigation coverage by the community

We will be covering it again on Sunday and you'll see community websites (and this one) covering it throughout the week. I'll sound off about the non-coverage in the next entry but let's note this from "Editorial: Are you ready to listen:"

Mark Karlin, the editor and publisher of BuzzFlash, advised (Friday afternoon) that, "we've covered ivaw a lot and there is a blog entry going up today as well as a link to the homepage of the winter soldier investigation we honor the undertaking but we have 190 headlines so sometimes people don't see everything." BuzzFlash gets a link and we thank Karlin for his reply. Many sites didn't bother to reply. But this issue was raised by community members of The Common Ills and C.I. began addressing it Thursday night. Community members Heather, Shirley, Martha and Eli were monitoring a variety of sites on Friday at C.I.'s request (and they helped send out e-mails for this feature, we thank them for that). They didn't see it Friday morning and, since Eli wisely copied and pasted Friday morning's full BuzzFlash page into an e-mail, we can say we don't see it either. BuzzFlash did link to some coverage. They linked to Amy Goodman's Friday report and they linked to The War Comes Home which was (and is today) a resource for live streaming of IVAW's hearings. Saturday afternoon (EST), we still didn't see anything additional. (We're sure there was a blog post and we'll gladly link to it next week if BuzzFlash e-mails us the blog's web address.) 190 links is a lot of links. And it is easy for things to get lost. On Saturday afternoon, we had to look and look to find the two, well down the page.
Matthew Rothschild, editor and CEO of The Progressive, advised, "We're posting our cover story from the April issue on our website. The cover story is about two Winter Soldiers."
The Nation? Peter Rothberg did one of his action alerts (we're not insulting him, we're glad he did -- see C.I.'s comments Thursday night) that are also posted online (but no one considers it's a blog) on Wednesday. That was apparently it. The hearings started on Thursday. Friday morning, a friend with The Nation advised C.I. that Christopher Hayes had just posted a link in a blog post at The Nation and that "he's very serious about covering this." We would say that he is. He exchanged e-mails with Martha on Friday explaining that the magazine's Jeremy Scahill was there (Scahill offered testimony Friday as part of the afternoon's Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors panel) and that another writer for The Nation was following it and would be posting it; however, depending upon the time, it might not go up until Monday.

We will link to all the above throught the week in snapshots. Thank you to Martha and Heather who helped out and then some. When, early in the morning Friday, they advised that members were e-mailing about how they were very upset about the non-announcements and non-coverage, it was decided to cover it in an editorial for Third and I believe Ty wrote one outlet (I think Buzz) but Martha and Heather wrote many others. The above three were the only ones who bothered to respond (thank them for responding).

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