Monday, March 03, 2008

Winter Soldiers to Testify Against War

"Guernica" - Picasso's anti-war abstract (1937)

I can sit here all day and sometimes do pontificating about the evils of war. After all, I have opinions, a certain amount of historical knowledge (from reading and experience) and its my fucking blog.

But I've never been in combat. I readily admit that even though I could lie about it.

These people have. And Raw Story gives you a pretty good idea of what's to come out of this Winter Soldier conference which is BTW a fantastic name for it.
Thirty-seven years ago, in the midst of a bitter-cold Michigan winter, 109 Vietnam veterans gathered at a Howard Johnson Motel auditorium in Detroit to tell their stories. For three days, they told of ransacking undefended villages, attacking civilians, mutilating bodies, torturing Viet Cong suspects, burning houses, destroying Vietnamese property and livestock and killing innocent children. At the conference, entitled Winter Soldier, the veterans accepted responsibility and mourned for their actions. But, taken collectively, their words incriminated a much larger culprit: the war itself.

This year, from March 13 to 16, about 300 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, gathering for a second Winter Soldier conference, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) it will make up the largest gathering ever of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Their mission? To tell the story of the war in the terms of those who have actually lived it.

"This is a moment when veterans won't let anyone else speak for us," said Aaron Hughes, an Iraq veteran who initiated the new Winter Soldier effort. "We hear from the pundits, we hear from the politicians, we hear from the generals, but we don't hear from the soldiers who've walked the streets, who've been there and know what it's about. We're the ones who can bring out the cruelties and dehumanization in US foreign policy."

The event, which will accommodate about 700 veteran advocates, social workers, support staff and members of the media in addition to veterans, will combine soldier testimonies and expert panels. The panels are intended to provide a factual context for the personal stories, according to Perry O'Brien, one of Winter Soldier's organizers. Panels and testimony will be grouped into 12 categories, including killing and wounding noncombatants, mishandling of dead, torture and abuse, sexual assault, discrimination in the military, destruction of civilian property, veterans' benefits issues and GI resistance.

Some testimonies will address acts of large-scale violence and human rights violations, while others will zero in on incidents that are often overlooked, such as racism toward Iraqis, sexual harassment of civilians and the military's waste and destruction of environmental resources.

O'Brien hopes that, through the medium of veterans' firsthand accounts, the public will gain new insight into the concrete abuses perpetuated by what may seem to be abstract foreign policy decisions.

"More than just telling stories, our goal is to show what's going on in both countries that is a result of US military policies," O'Brien said. "When we say, 'this is what we saw, this is what we were ordered to do,' patterns emerge. The patterns show that what the US is doing in Iraq is immoral and in many cases illegal." [emphasis mine]

What stood out among many things in the article were the emphasized words. That's exactly what all this is about. Millions of Americans and billions around the world will never be in the Mid-East. What is happening there is abstract.

But this abstract is producing real casualties that aren't abstract at all.

Via Raw Story.

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