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Thread: Soldiers of the 'War on Terror' Speak Out

  1. #1

    Soldiers of the 'War on Terror' Speak Out

    We're not bad people; not monsters. We're normal people caught in a horrible situation."
    -Statement from Clifton Hicks, a tank gunner with the Army's 1st Cavalry Regiment and testifier at "Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan"

    By Cynthia Orange and Michael Orange, AlterNet
    Posted on April 18, 2008, Printed on April 19, 2008
    [url]http://www.alternet.org/story/82556/[/url]

    Over four days, we witnessed thirty hours of vetted statements from seventy two veterans, active duty soldiers, experts, and Iraqis who had the great courage to go public with their first-hand experiences as part of "Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations." A common thread emerged of soldiers who struggled with a questionable mission as occupiers of a country in the midst of a civil war, and Iraqi families being torn apart and terrified, terrified by-not grateful for-the presence of American soldiers and private mercenaries. The soldiers and veterans transfixed us with their words and graphic images that exposed the dark underbelly of the Iraq Occupation that the mainstream media have chosen to ignore, just as they ignored these groundbreaking hearings.

    The national veterans organization, Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW), held these hearings near Washington D.C. from March 13 to 16. They patterned them after the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings held in Detroit by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which are now thought to be one of the turning points of that conflict. The title for the hearings comes from Thomas Paine who wrote in 1776, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of [their] country; but he that stands [by] it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Unlike the "summer soldiers" who often deserted their duties in Paine's time, "winter soldiers" carry on courageously through the darkness.

    We tried to comprehend the enormous scale of the so-called "collateral damage" in Iraq as speakers cited surveys that estimated about a million Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invasion, and that over four million Iraqis were forced from their homes. The speakers told of Iraqis, being without power and water, begging for food and fuel, and only wanting foreign troops and the 180,000 private contractors and mercenaries to leave so they can begin to rebuild their devastated country.

    The presenters at Winter Soldier went deeper than telling stories that once again confirm what we all should know: war is hell. They addressed the anguished question that naturally arises: How do you explain actions that would be criminal even in a war zone?

    The soldiers and veterans explained how trickle-down abuse starts at the top ranks of the military hierarchy with institutionalized racism, sexual harassment, and assault on the lower ranks. They talked about their complete lack of training in Iraqi culture and language and their conditioning before leaving U.S. soil to think of Iraqis as "less than," as "Hajis;" a term once reserved for pilgrims to Mecca, now turned inside out to demean and dehumanize. "Haji" has become to the Iraq occupation what "Gook" became to the Vietnam and Korean wars. When people are dehumanized, it becomes easier to kill them.

    We could not listen to the four days of accounts and imagine our country invaded Iraq to export the American dream of freedom and democracy. Even the ultraconservative former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, declared that "the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil." It didn't take long for the soldiers and vets who spoke to come to the same conclusion once they experienced the reality on the ground.

    As in all wars, if you haven't experienced it, it's hard to grasp the white-hot frustration, anger, and vengeful wrath that results when our soldiers have no reliable way to discern friend from foe and are under extreme duress at virtually all times in a near-country-wide combat zone. As the disillusionment over the injustice and the impossibility of the mission grows, so does the abuse of civilians. When soldiers, deployed two, three, four, and even five times, experience more and more casualties in their units-people with whom they share a bond that can be even stronger than family-their rage understandably erupts and they need to blame someone for their grief. Similar circumstances produced similar results in the jungles of Vietnam.

    Kristofer Goldsmith was a good soldier, graduating at the top of his basic training class and receiving a 94.6 percent average in his Warrior Leadership Course. But after four deployments in Iraq and almost shooting a six-year-old boy, he said he became a "broken soldier." He was due to get out of the service when he, like some 80,000 other soldiers, was "stop-lossed" and ordered to redeploy to Iraq for a fifth time. Plagued by mental anguish the day before he was to leave, he tried to kill himself with alcohol and prescription pills. Although finally released, his discharge papers state, "Misconduct: Serious Offense" because of his suicide attempt. He showed the audience a picture of himself in uniform as the proud soldier, then slammed it down on the table saying "This boy is dead."

    So many soldiers and veterans spoke of their noble motives for joining the military-especially after 9/11-but then having to face the ignoble inhumanity of this occupation that so compromised their values. Then they returned to a country that anointed them as the heroes they so wished to be. Is it any wonder they are conflicted and disillusioned with the contradictions? Is it any wonder that government statistics report that one in three returning soldiers has mental problems and that CBS News recently described the suicide rate among today's soldiers and vets as "epidemic?" As we continue to see with Vietnam vets, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a normal human response to the inhumanity of war.

    We listened to Jason Hurd, a medic with ten years of Army service including tours of duty in Iraq: "But as time went on and the absurdity of war set in, they started taking things too far. Individuals from my unit indiscriminately and unnecessarily opened fire on innocent civilians as they were driving down the road on their own streets." He asked us all to see the war through the eyes of an Iraqi and consider how we might respond if a foreign army invaded our communities and terrorized our families.

    The soldiers and vets described the shear mechanics of killing so many people. In story after story, we heard how Rules of Engagement slowly eroded to the point where it was too often left up to these young, very frightened, soldiers to determine for themselves if they "felt" threatened. Jason Lemieux, who served almost five years with the Marines, including the invasion and three tours in Iraq, described the rules he received: "[M]y commander told me that our mission was-and I quote-'to kill those who need to be killed and save those who need to be saved.' And with those words, he pretty much set the tone for the deployment." Too often, the Rules were reduced to "Shoot anything that moves."

    Two Marines talked about trashing the country during the invasion. One of them, Brian Casler, served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. As part of the invasion force, he said he and others in their unit defecated and urinated into the containers of food and water they threw at the welcoming children they encountered. To relieve the boredom during his first deployment, they demolished Babylonian ruins and "drove over the rubble for fun." After describing how they ransacked a public building, he said, "We found out later that we had shredded all of the birth certificates for the City of Fallujah."

    Several speakers talked about the disrespect of the Iraqi dead. Michael Leduc, for example, told us about "Rotten Randy" and "Tony the Torso," the nicknames his Marine unit gave to the corpses they used for rifle practice.

    Soldiers and vets also explained the practice of "reconnaissance by fire," where they'd shoot first into a house or a neighborhood in order to draw return fire. Then, instead of moving on the source of the return fire and incurring more risk to the unit, they'd respond with overwhelming firepower that devastated the entire building or area. Hart Vigas, a mortarman who served with the Army's 82nd Airborne for the invasion of Iraq, painted a word picture of the indiscriminate, "ground-shaking" destruction from C-130 Specter gunships. The students have learned from their teachers. A forward observer and drill instructor with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, Jessie Hamilton stated that the Iraqi forces "showed little or no restraint" when they responded to the slightest attack with such indiscriminate firing that the U.S. troops gave nicknames to their methods: 'spray and pray' and 'death blossom.' "Once the shooting started," he said, "death would blossom all around."

    Clifton Hicks described an operation that resulted in an official estimate of 700 to 800 enemy dead. "Judging from what I saw on the ground," he said, "I'm willing to swear under oath in all honesty that while many enemy combatants were in fact killed, the majority of those so-called KIAs were in fact civilians attempting to flee the battlefield.

    The gripping presentation and images from Jon Michael Turner, who served in Iraq with the 8th Marines, were, like so many personal stories we've heard, still bleeding with its raw truthfulness. "A lot of the raids and patrols we did were at night around three in the morning . . . . And what we would do is just kick in the doors and terrorize the families." After he described segregating the women, the children, and the men, he said, "If the men of the household were giving us problems, we'd go ahead and take care of them anyway we felt necessary, whether it be choking them or slamming their head against the walls. . . . On my wrist, there's Arabic for 'F you.' I got that put on my wrist just two weeks before we went to Iraq, because that was my choking hand, and any time I felt the need to take out aggression, I would go ahead and use it."

    He was one of the first to speak of these things but far from the last. Like so many other speakers, he said this kind of situation was the norm for him and for others, not the exception. With a forced smile that constrained his quivering lips, he closed with an apology to the Iraqi people: "I just want to say that I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people. . . . until people hear about what is going on with this war, it will continue to happen and people will continue to die. I am sorry for the things that I did. I am no longer the monster that I once was."

    Describing the heartache that results from not being able to identify your enemy, Jason Washburn, a Marine who served four years and completed three tours of duty in Iraq, said this: "If the town or the city that we were approaching was a known threat, if the unit that went through the area before we did took a high number of casualties, we were basically allowed to shoot whatever we wanted. . . . I remember one woman was walking by, carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading towards us. So we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher. And when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was only full of groceries. And, I mean, she had been trying to bring us food, and we blew her to pieces for it."

    Soldiers and vets told how superior officers instructed them on the official ways to torment and beat detainees. Andrew Duffy, a medic who served on the trauma team at the Abu Ghraib military prison, put it this way, "You can't spell abuse without 'Abu.'" They were told to use the term "detainee" because, unlike "prisoner of war," there are no laws protecting detainees. While he rocked back and forth in his seat nervously, Mathew Childess, a Marine infantryman who served two tours in Iraq, referred to beating detainees and "breaking fingers." When a particular detainee begged for food and water, he took the man's hat, wiped himself with it, and stuffed it into the man's mouth.

    Like Turner, numerous soldiers and veterans stared into the cameras that were recording the hearing for broadcast and pled for forgiveness from the Iraqi people now that they were distanced from the madness in Iraq in an apparent attempt to regain some of what had been lost. For many, their hands trembled as they talked and, along with us witnesses, were moved to tears. At other times, so many only revealed that thousand-yard stare we've seen too many times on the faces of Vietnam vets who carry the scars of that war.

    We sat engulfed in the horror, sorrow, and grief of the soldiers' experiences and wondered how we could transform this to help our children and grandchildren reach an understanding so that they can make wise decisions when they have the opportunity to serve their community and country at the local homeless shelter, the voting booth, the peace march, or the armed forces.

    Some vets like Jeff Lucey couldn't speak, so his parents spoke in his stead. His father said his grown Marine son came home so haunted by what he had done and witnessed that he drank heavily to anesthetize his pain-a coping strategy mentioned by many of the vets who spoke. His parents said Veterans Affairs (VA) told them they couldn't assess him for PTSD until he was alcohol free. Although he wouldn't talk about the trauma he experienced, Jeff would ask his father to hold him on his lap and rock him so he could feel safe. Jeff's father said the last time he was able to hold his son was when he cut his body down from the rafters at their home where Jeff had hung himself with a hose.

    Those who sell the invasion and occupation as a "just war" will deny that these first-hand accounts are part of the whole truth or they will simply dismiss the speakers as liars and traitors, which is already happening. They will continue to entice new advocates and a never-ending stream of recruits, all made possible by a gutless Congress, a compliant media, an apathetic public, and a bottomless military budget, including $4 billion annually for recruiting.

    [B]Repeatedly, the speakers stated that they welcomed the opportunity to testify as to the accuracy of their statements in a legal proceeding. Luis Montalvan, a captain with 17 years of service in the Army, stated, "I would like nothing better than to testify under oath to Congress." He then quoted President Theodore Roosevelt: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." __ [/B]

    Cynthia Orange is a free lance writer, a creative writing teacher, and book author. Michael Orange served with the 1st Marines in Vietnam (1969-70) and authored, Fire in the Hole: A Mortarman in Vietnam (Writers Club Press, 2001). They have been married since 1973 and live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

  2. #2
    You ever going to post any stories about the good things our soldiers are doing? The school and hospitals they are putting up? Or do we just want to discuss cilvilians they have killed?

  3. #3
    [QUOTE=JerseyJet2007;2489563]You ever going to post any stories about the good things our soldiers are doing? The school and hospitals they are putting up? Or do we just want to discuss cilvilians they have killed?[/QUOTE]

    The soldiers that have spoken out against this unjust war are heroes too. These are men and women who have tremendous courage for speaking about things that many people, like you, would rather ignore. Their voices need to be heard, too. And, no, hearing how soldiers die each day is not the same as reading about these first-hand accounts about the reality of this war.

    If you read this entire article, you (hopefully) would understand that these accounts are about far more then just civilian deaths. Their stories are ones that are not being covered in any real way by the mouth piece media. But maybe we should watch the saddam hussein statue being taken down 300 hundred times each day on the tube. And then follow that up with 10 hours of reality tv shows. And finish the night with the nightly news interviewing Britney Spears
    Last edited by intelligentjetsfan; 04-19-2008 at 08:55 AM.

  4. #4
    I asked you this

    [B]You ever going to post any stories about the good things our soldiers are doing? The school and hospitals they are putting up? Or do we just want to discuss cilvilians they have killed?[/B]


    [QUOTE=intelligentjetsfan;2489577]The soldiers that have spoken out against this unjust war are heroes too. These are men and women have tremendous courage for speaking about things that many people, like you, would rather ignore. Their voices need to be heard, too. And, no, hearing how soldiers die each day is not the same as reading about these first-hand accounts about the reality of this war.[/QUOTE]


    Unjust war?? Heroes too??

    Who said anything about them not being heroes.. The problem is you spend so much time thinking they are heroes your forgetting about the other ones.. It's like you only want to talk about the Anti War soldiers and they're courage. Again you dodged my question... When are you going too?? Wheres the American Solidiers build beautiful hospital thread??? Where is it lefty???

  5. #5
    Why do you try to make this a left vs right issue? Was it just a left issue in 1967 when Lyndon Johnson and his administration was taking our country to new lows? Or did it affect the entire country!

    But I promise I'll post a positive story about the soldiers building schools and hospitals. And when I do you can exhale and insert your head firmly in the sand again.
    Last edited by intelligentjetsfan; 04-19-2008 at 08:56 AM.

  6. #6
    [QUOTE=intelligentjetsfan;2489577]
    If you read this entire article, you (hopefully) would understand that these accounts are about far more then just civilian deaths. [I] Their stories are ones that are not being covered in any real way by the mouth piece media. But maybe we should watch the saddam hussein statue being taken down 300 hundred times each day on the tube. And then follow that up with 10 hours of reality tv shows. And finish the night with the nightly news interviewing Britney Spears[/I][/QUOTE]

    The mouth piece media? The nightly news interviewing Britney Spears and spending hours on Hollywood? CORRECT ME IF IM WRONG BUT THOSE ARE TRADEMARKS OF THE LEFT..

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    [QUOTE=JerseyJet2007;2489616]The mouth piece media? The nightly news interviewing Britney Spears and spending hours on Hollywood? CORRECT ME IF IM WRONG BUT THOSE ARE TRADEMARKS OF THE LEFT..[/QUOTE]

    because fox news doesn't use the same 'weapons of mass distractions'? Are you serious?

    Those stories are trademarks of the bought and paid for media. There job is to dope us up with ignorant entertainment. Then there won't be a repeat of the 1960s where many citizens practiced 'excessive democracy'. So we put our heads in the sand and let the military industrial complex roll in the dough.

  8. #8
    [QUOTE=intelligentjetsfan;2489623]because fox news doesn't use the same 'weapons of mass distractions'? Are you serious?

    Those stories are trademarks of the bought and paid for media. There job is to dope us up with ignorant entertainment. Then there won't be a repeat of the 1960s where many citizens practiced 'excessive democracy'. So we put our heads in the sand and let the military industrial complex roll in the dough.[/QUOTE]

    Are you a tree hugger? Be honest

  9. #9
    [QUOTE=JerseyJet2007;2489629]Are you a tree hugger? Be honest[/QUOTE]

    I am a son of a vietnam veteran and a history teacher. I love our country and have a weakness for football teams that break my heart. I love a clean environment. But I have never hugged a tree............:D
    Last edited by intelligentjetsfan; 04-19-2008 at 09:45 AM.

  10. #10
    [QUOTE=intelligentjetsfan;2489634]I am a son of a vietnam veteran and a histoy teacher. [B]I love our country and have a weakness for football teams that break my heart[/B]. I love a clean environment. But I have never hugged a tree............:D[/QUOTE]

    hahahaha Good post Bro.

  11. #11
    I'm not saying we should turn a blind eye to what your talking about.. But Mr.intelligent why don't we ever talk about things like

    Like I said I understand what your saying, and where your coming from. But do you get my side? And my friend you can say the mouthpiece media and all that, but the truth is the media spends twice as much time talking about depressing or negative stories like the one you just posted, twice as much time on them, as they do stories about things like I posted below. And you know thats true.


    [B]
    Iraqi police and military which has grown by more than 100,000 people this year alone.


    The 13 new training facilities Iraq for the're police and armed forces

    134 active combat battalions, and the nearly 650,000 people who have volunteered to serve they're country

    Or the “Al-Anbar Awakening" which is Sunni And Shia who came together, now they have I believe 85,000 - 90,000 members.

    Attacks against Iraqi cilvilians and OUR forces has dropped over 70%

    4,000 civil reconstruction projects -- including 325 for electrical distribution

    320 water treatment facilities

    3,000 Schools

    75 hospitals and other healthcare facilities

    100 Radio Stations

    31 tv stations

    600 newspapers[/B]

  12. #12
    [QUOTE=JerseyJet2007;2489638]hahahaha Good post Bro.[/QUOTE]

    thanks. Its a burden that we both share :toast::toast:

  13. #13
    [QUOTE=intelligentjetsfan;2489641]thanks. Its a burden that we both share :toast::toast:[/QUOTE]

    Yes Yes it is.. I been in politic mod recently.. But I will do the yearly " **** I'M A JETS FAN " talk with myself next weekend.. When i'm at the draft it will hit me.

  14. #14
    [QUOTE=JerseyJet2007;2489640]I'm not saying we should turn a blind eye to what your talking about.. But Mr.intelligent why don't we ever talk about things like

    Like I said I understand what your saying, and where your coming from. But do you get my side? And my friend you can say the mouthpiece media and all that, but the truth is the media spends twice as much time talking about depressing or negative stories like the one you just posted, twice as much time on them, as they do stories about things like I posted below. And you know thats true.


    [B]
    Iraqi police and military which has grown by more than 100,000 people this year alone.


    The 13 new training facilities Iraq for the're police and armed forces

    134 active combat battalions, and the nearly 650,000 people who have volunteered to serve they're country

    Or the “Al-Anbar Awakening" which is Sunni And Shia who came together, now they have I believe 85,000 - 90,000 members.

    Attacks against Iraqi cilvilians and OUR forces has dropped over 70%

    4,000 civil reconstruction projects -- including 325 for electrical distribution

    320 water treatment facilities

    3,000 Schools

    75 hospitals and other healthcare facilities

    100 Radio Stations

    31 tv stations

    600 newspapers[/B][/QUOTE]

    my fellow jets brother, this has been a good debate and i do understand you point of view.

    You are correct to say that, except for fox news, most of the war news is skewed to the negative. But, sadly, mentioning the death tolls does not address the issues from my point of view. I believe that many Americans have become hardened to cold numbers. Remember the quote; "one death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic".

    And to be honest, the liberal media is every bit as disingenuous from my perspective. They had an opportunity to conduct an honest and real debate about the merits of going into this war. Instead general electric was making too much money on their war machines to have communists like phil donahue ruining the gravy train. Now its disingenuous to see MSNBC try to be the anti-bush site :zzz::zzz:

    Your statistics are very positive and encouraging. But, in my opinion, I can't jump for joy because we should have never been in this war to begin with. And all of those positive accomplishments cannot bring one of our soldiers back from the dead and back home to their wives, kids or parents. The honest truth is that there are far too many dilapidated schools and hospitals, in our own country, that need attention. Shouldn't America and her citizens be our first priority?

    anyway I have to run, but I look foward to debating with you soon.
    Last edited by intelligentjetsfan; 04-19-2008 at 09:42 AM.

  15. #15
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    Hey Jersey Jet can you tell me what we created in Iraq over the past 6 years ? Other than a new haven for terrorists . The true reason we cant leave the place is becuase we botched it so freakin bad, if we leave there now there's no telling whats going to happen in that region.

    The Taliban is still going strong since a good portion of them escaped into Pakistan. Drugs are flowing all over the place.

    Are these the things your proud of ?

    Tell me what have we accomplished in the so called war on terror ? Other than create more hatred towards our country ?

    People say if we leave Iraq The terrorists will claim victory, yep they sure will. Becuase we were too stupid to have just a little foresight. Did you think those Iraqi soliders were going to stand and fight ? Did you think the radical ones especially would stand and fight ? Of course not they had no fire power aganist us. They backed off into the poulation some want no part of the war but others do and they will never stop as long as we are there.

    There were much smarter ways of handleing this SO CALLED war on terror rather than scaring them into hiding. we could have let the terrorists regroup, get a false sense of security and then when the time was right we could have blown them to bits in the camps our intel said existed with tactical strikes. Instaed they are now mixed in with the populace and our battle is impossible. This makes me question this whole scenario even more becuase it makes me think how could the leaders of this country be so F'in stupid as to get into this mess. Even when they were warned ahead of time.

  16. #16
    bandwagon
    Guest
    [QUOTE=JerseyJet2007;2489616]The mouth piece media? The nightly news interviewing Britney Spears and spending hours on Hollywood? CORRECT ME IF IM WRONG BUT THOSE ARE TRADEMARKS OF THE LEFT..[/QUOTE]

    Trademarks of the left? Absolutely not.

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