by Eric Ruder
March 21, 2008
ERIC RUDER reports from on the testimony of antiwar veterans and active-duty soldiers at Winter Soldier in Washington.
FOR THREE days, a steady stream of U.S. military veterans took the stage to describe their experiences from the front lines as part of “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan” organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Their eyewitness accounts of free-fire zones in dense civilian areas, house raids that terrorized residents, indiscriminate shootings, severe beatings and torture of detainees, and the medical neglect they faced upon returning home riveted the audience of several hundred people who attended the event in Silver Springs, Md.–and many more who followed the hearings through the independent media.
The fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has been accompanied by a deluge of media coverage focused on the supposed successes of the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq ordered by George Bush in early 2007.
But this historic gathering of firsthand witnesses to the atrocities committed by U.S. military forces was a searing indictment of the Pentagon’s war strategy and its callous disregard for the lives of Iraqi civilians.
Winter Soldier then and now
by Eric Ruder
March 14, 2008
MORE THAN 200 veterans and active-duty soldiers from the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan will tell their story in Washington, D.C., at a gathering named Winter Soldier. As ERIC RUDER explains, they will be following in the footsteps of the antiwar vets who spoke out against the war in Vietnam.
THE ORIGINAL “Winter Soldier Investigation” took place in a Detroit hotel from January 31 to February 2, 1971–but it wasn’t the first time veterans of the U.S. war on Vietnam had gathered to give testimony about the war crimes they witnessed or participated in during their deployments to Southeast Asia.
In fact, the Detroit Winter Soldier hearings followed similar smaller tribunals in dozens of cities and towns across the U.S. as part of a process of reaching out to and identifying vets with compelling stories.
“Winter Soldier was the culmination of a year and a half of organizing of veterans,” Michael Uhl, one of the vets who helped put on the hearings, said in an interview. “There were dress rehearsals all over the country. We mobilized veterans to speak in their own words about their own experiences.”
In Detroit, more than 100 veterans provided testimony about atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Vietnam, and at least 500 more came to listen.
What you can do
Go to the Iraq Veterans Against the War Web site to watch testimony videos and read more about Winter Soldier. You can also get news and updates about war resisters and other initiatives by antiwar veterans and active-duty troops at the IVAW site.
The Citizen Soldier Web site is an excellent resource for active-duty soldiers looking for news and advice about their rights. Soldiers can also contact the GI Rights Hotline Web site, or call 800-394-9544 from the U.S. or 510-465-1472 from outside the U.S.
Camilo Mejía’s book, Road from Ar Ramadi, provides an eyewitness account of the brutality inflicted by the U.S. in Iraq–and how Mejîa made the decision to take a stand against it.
For an excellent history of the GI rebellion during the U.S. war on Vietnam, read David Cortright’s Soldiers in Revolt, republished by Haymarket Books. David Zeiger’s Sir! No Sir! is an inspiring documentary about the Vietnam soldiers’ revolt, and is available on DVD, along with many other supplemental materials.