Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cheers And Smears: Winter Soldier Hearings Provoke Predictable Reactions

A cross-section of reactions to last weekend's "Winter Soldier" event, beginning with Eric Ruder at Socialist Worker: Winter Soldiers tell their story
Hart Viges joined the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division after September 11, 2001, was deployed to Kuwait in February 2003, and participated in the initial Iraq invasion force in March. His voice heavy with regret, he recounted his orders to launch a mortar assault on the city of Samawa in southern Iraq after some people were spotted entering a building.

"We got that fire mission, and we destroyed that building with our mortars," said Viges, who was part of a panel focused on the military's rules of engagement. "This isn't army to army. People live in towns. It's beyond imagination to think that civilians don't live in towns. It's upside-down thinking...I don't know how many innocents I've helped kill.

"Another big piece of weaponry they used on this little town of Samawa is the Spectre Gunship AC-130 with a couple belt-fed howitzers, a super gatling gun...I'm not sure of the exact nomenclature.

"They would sweep around Samawa, just pounding the city. This is definitely a sight to be seen, this airplane. Even though the rounds are coming from up in the sky, it's almost like the ground is shaking. Over the city, over neighborhoods, Kiowa attack helicopters with their Hellfire missiles, F-18s dropping bombs that would shake you to the bone, all the while I was laying down mortar fire on this town, full of people...

"Never a good thing came over the radio. One time, they said to fire on all taxi cabs because the enemy was using them for transportation. In Iraq, any car can be a taxi cab. You just paint it white and orange, and there you have it.

"One of the snipers across the radio replied back, 'Excuse me, did I hear that right? Fire on all taxi cabs?' And the lieutenant colonel replied back, 'You heard me, trooper. Fire on all taxi cabs.' And once that conversation ended, the town pretty much lit up. All the units that were in there fired on numerous cars."
Watch Hart Viges testify here (starting at 8:40).

The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: Winter Soldiers II Wrap Up
These traitors have masterfully spun outright falsifications, pure lies, exaggerations, and misrepresentation of legal and moral (although gruesome and contextual) actions, into a pale imitation of the VVAW’s “masterpiece”.

Now that the “testimony” is out there, this is what I want to see. Every incident cited needs to be corroborated and investigated. Show us dates, the units involved, the names of personnel involved, exact details and locations, and signed affidavits or depositions attesting to the details of the allegations.

D: Date(s) – When did the incident occur?
U: Unit(s) – What military units were involved?
P: Personnel – What are the names of the participants and witnesses?
E: Event(s) – What exactly happened exactly where?
S: Signature(s) – Was this reported at the time or later and were reports, affidavits or depositions signed, or will they now be signed?

If they can’t provide that, then they can take their fairy tales and shove them up their treacherous asses. If they can, and do, then there should be full scale investigations and any one found to have violated the UCMJ or the Laws of Land Warfare should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Some one has disgraced the uniform in all of this, and I have a feeling that it ain’t the ones who aren’t at WSII.
It's a shame the anti-idiotarians weren't more interested in specifics when the treacherous asses who run this country were telling them fairy tales!

Tim Wheeler and Joel Wendland at People's Weekly World: Winter Soldiers offer look at reality in Iraq
Marine Matt Howard said the Marine Corps “bases itself on subjugation and abuse” of lower-ranking enlisted personnel. “I was beaten and then I was kicked out of my platoon for being beaten,” he said.

Many of the casualties in Iraq “are from friendly fire,” he said.

Howard was at the front in Kuwait the day the invasion began in March 2003. The first Abrams M-1 tank to cross into Iraq was destroyed by a U.S. helicopter gunship firing rockets armed with depleted uranium, he said. Luckily, the American soldiers escaped. “Why are we using these weapons?” he demanded. “We’re poisoning the soldiers. We’re poisoning Iraq. We’re poisoning the world. Depleted uranium is the Agent Orange of the Iraq war.”

Kevin and Joyce Lucey told the hearing of their son, Jeffrey, coming home from Iraq deeply wounded in spirit. He attempted repeatedly, without success, to get help from the Veterans Administration.

One evening, Jeffrey approached his father in the living room and the two men held each other for a time without words. The next evening when Lucey returned from work, “I held my boy one more time as I lowered his body from the rafters of the basement ceiling and removed the garden hose from his neck.”
Joyce Lucey via Ruth's Report:
"Unfortunately the tragedy is not that it just happened to one Marine but that this continues to happen to others four years after our son's death to countless others -- names that will never be placed on a memorial wall."
Listen to the Luceys' testimony here.

Katie O'Malley at Human Events: Tales of Winter Soldier II
My conclusions after hearing and reading hours upon hours of the testimony? War is hell. Bad things happen. People get hurt. Sometimes innocents get caught in the fire. As to the specifics that IVAW members alleged, perhaps a few things were questionable and they should certainly be investigated. The rest of the antidotal [sic] stories confirmed nothing more except that in war, unfortunate things happen. This was a collection of war stories, not the exposure of war crimes.
Perhaps a few things were questionable.

Ruth's Report (again): Garret Reppenhagen at Winter Soldier
IVAW's executive director Kelly Dougherty spoke on that panel about her time serving in Iraq. Dougherty was deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 and sent into Iraq as an MP in March of 2003. As an MP, her job mainly consisted of patrolling and providing escorts to convoys. Of those, they were mainly dealing with KBR (then a subsidiary of Halliburton) trucks which cost approximately $80,000 and which they were repeatedly told by their command were "national assets."

One would break down, get stuck in the mud, have a flat tire, etc., and the driver would jump out and hop into another truck in the convoy and leave. Doughtery's team would have to then deploy to the area and secure the abandoned truck. They would be told to protect it, they would be told it was important.

They would repeatedly wait around for hours, keeping Iraqi civilians away from the trucks, only to be informed by their command that the truck wasn't that important after all and they needed to shoot out the engine bloc and set the thing on fire to ensure that Iraqis could not use it for parts or utilize the abandoned cargo. "That was pretty much a daily occurrence," Dougherty testified. "Where we were abandoning vehicles by KBR contractors on a daily basis." They destroyed fuel at a time when Iraqis needed it and food at a time when they needed it.

They even were ordered to destroy an ambulance which had fallen off a truck, onto its side, into the mud because they did not have the means to pull it out of the mud. Dougherty explained the local sheiks were present and, because ambulances are in short-supply in Iraq and that area had none, begging them not to destroy the ambulance, saying that they would figure out a way to pull it out of the mud. As she noted of these type of missions, "I'm looking at people I can't even look in the eye."
Perhaps a few things were questionable.

Adventus quotes from Democracy Now! in Winter Soldier-ing:
During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot. It seemed like every time we turned around we had different rules of engagement. And they told us the reasons they were changing them was because it depended on the climate of the area at the time, what the threat level was deemed to be. And the higher the threat level was, the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond.

And, for example, during the invasion, we were told to use target identification before engaging with anyone. But 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—we were allowed to shoot whatever we wanted. It was deemed to be a free-fire zone. So we would roll through the town, and anything that we saw, everything that was saw, we engaged it and opened fire on everything. And there was really—I mean, there was really no rule governing the amount of force we were allowed to use on targets during the invasion.

I remember one woman was walking by, and she was 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.
She shouldn't have been trying to bring them food.

This, too:
In another instance, it was actually a mayor of a town in our AO near Haditha that got shot. Our command showed us pictures from the incident. They had gathered the whole company together, and they were showing pictures of all of this, you know, what everything looked like, and pointed out the—that the reason that they did this was because there was a really nice, tight shot group in the windshield, and he announced to the company that this is what good Marine shooting looks like. And that was the mayor of the town. And it was actually my squad that was, after that, tasked with going to apologize to the family and pay reparations. But it was kind of like, basically, all we did was go there and, you know, give them some money and then leave. You know, “Oh, well” is the way it seemed they wanted us to apologize to them. It was really a joke.
Some joke!

War is hell. Bad things happen. People get hurt. Sometimes innocents get caught in the fire.

The Iraqis should have thought of that before they attacked us we attacked them.

Daniel Hasaw in The Guardian: 'It's not so much about the mission anymore'
The order came over the radio: "Charlie Mike," US army jargon for "continue mission."

Cliff Hicks' team of soldiers patrolling a typically friendly neighbourhood had mistaken celebratory gunfire at a wedding for a hostile attack and had shot up a house, wounding two people and killing a little girl.

The troops didn't want to linger in the house, and their command centre ordered them out.

"We didn't even have a translator, we didn't speak Arabic, we couldn't even say sorry," said Hicks, 23, a tank driver and machine gunner. "We just hopped in our vehicle and rode off."

The sad-eyed men, one wearing service medals pinned to his suit jacket, spoke of deadly weapons fired indiscriminately on civilians' vehicles and homes, of daily, humiliating harassment of Iraqis, and of the dehumanising effects the war has on the young men and women who volunteered to fight it.
War is hell. Bad things happen. People get hurt. Sometimes innocents get caught in the fire.

More Winter Soldier links: an audio archive here, and some transcripts here.


Josiah Ryan at CNS News: Credibility of Anti-War 'Winter Soldiers' Questioned
Patricia Williams, the Indiana state coordinator for Eagles Up, told Cybercast News Service that she too is dubious of VAIW's credibility and believes the group is hurting America's chances of winning in Iraq.

"It's not the truth - it's lies," Williams said. "They are trying to demoralize and denigrate our troops, and in doing so, they are aiding the enemy.

"If they were truths, why don't they do this is in a public court?" she said. "Why do they have it behind closed doors where people can't hear what they are doing?"
But as Ryan points out,
Many reporters and bloggers attended the VAIW event, and the program was Webcast over the Internet, and on satellite and cable television.
So who's lying?

Madeleine Mysko in the Baltimore Sun: Winter soldiers: Nation must heed the horrifying words of those who have returned from the front lines
From testimony of Jason Hurd of the Army's 278th Regimental Combat Team:

One day, Iraqi police got into an exchange of gunfire with some unknown individuals ... [and] some of the stray rounds ... hit the shield of one of our Hummers. The gunner atop that Hummer decided to open fire with his 50-caliber machine gun into that building. We fired indiscriminately and unnecessarily at this building. We never got a body count, we never got a casualty count afterward. ... Things like that happen every day in Iraq. We react out of fear, fear for our lives.

Car bombs are a real danger in Iraq. But as time went on ... individuals from my platoon would fire into the grills of [civilians'] cars and then come back ... and brag about it. I remember ... how appalled I was that we were bragging, that we were laughing, but that's what you do in a combat zone. ... That is how you deal with that predicament.

[An Iraqi] man looked at me straight in the eye, and he said, "Mister, we Iraqis know that you have good intentions here. But before America invaded, we didn't have to worry about car bombs in our neighborhoods, we didn't have to worry about the safety of our own children as they walked to school, and we didn't have to worry about U.S. soldiers shooting at us as we drive up and down our own streets."
If those good troops are stricken by what they have seen during their deployments, or by what they have done, isn't it vital that we pay attention? Their sickness with this war is a symptom we cannot ignore.
But the big media won't even mention about any of these questions or concerns. And that may be what George Bush meant when he said "Mission Accomplished!"

Iraq has been destroyed, millions of lives have been ruined, our economy is a thing of the past -- and so is our democracy! But we can't even speak about any of this in polite company.

What more could a mass murderer and a grand larcenist ask for?

Iraq war worth the cost: Bush