Sunday, March 16, 2008

Live Blogging From Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier hearings continue. (See also here and here.)

The Iraq Veterans Against the War website has a Winter Soldier Blog, where
Justin Cliburn, IVAW member and South Central Regional Coordinator, is blogging from Winter Soldier all weekend.
Here's a sample:

Winter Soldier LiveBlogging: Ruels of Engagement; Jason Washburn
by Justin Cliburn | Fri, 03/14/2008 - 3:31pm
Jason Washburn and his platoon once killed a woman that they genuinely believed was going to hurt them . . . only to realize the woman was bringing them food.

The stories Washburn is sharing are ones of paranoia, cruelty, and intimidation. I can't imagine how it must have been for the unit that replaced Jason's unit; they sure riled up the hornet's nest.

Jason shares his testimony with a more matter of fact tone than the other testifiers have thus far, but there is an air of shame in his voice; he finishes his sentences with a sigh. After the mayor of the town was shot and killed by US forces, Washburn's squad was tasked with going to the family and apologizing on behalf of the US military. It was not something anyone there felt was truly heartfelt, apparently.

This astounds even me: when I was in Iraq, we joked around about keeping an AK-47 in the humvee so that we could plant it on anyone we accidentally killed. Jason's unit actually did it, weapons as well as shovels (for digging IEDs).
Click HERE to read more from Justin Cliburn.

5 Years Too Many is also blogging the testimony.

Here's an excerpt, with a few comments:
10:42 AM: An Iraq veteran of the Army who served as a forward observer is describing the "stop-loss" policy as making the soldiers' who have been subjected to it, forced to serve numerous tours, encompassing 3 years and more, as prisoners of war.

He says the proud boy who enlisted just after Christmas 2003 died in Iraq. He thought the Middle East should be turned into a glass plate by nuclear weapons after Sept. 11th. He was 19 when he was deployed. He said he went there to kill people.
This is so sad. We've become a nation of vicious idiots.
Instead of improving things for the Iraqi people, there is now 2-3 random hours of electricity per day, sewage running in the streets. The destroyed water treatment plant in Sadr City where he was stationed wasn't worked on at all the year he was deployed there.

Iraqi men driving their pregnant wives to the hospital would be stopped and have their car searched. He said that happened almost daily, and that it wasn't just his unit, but his whole battalion, his whole division. He said the 2.3 million people of Sadr City were prisoners of war.

He said he used to be a model soldier, but he is here today fighting for his fellow soldiers more than he ever could than when he wore a uniform.

We are watching a video he shot of Iraqis exhuming the bodies of Iraqis who had been tortured and killed. He was supposed to shoot this video and take pictures of their faces in order to possibly try to identify them, but nothing was ever done with them. The videos and photos soldiers took just became trophies of war. They weren't used as intelligence to help the Iraqis, they were used to build morale and to promote the sense that killing and death is right. He was told to take a photo of a body whose face had no skin left on it and couldn't possibly be identified because the person giving the order just wanted to see the picture.
And the vicious idiotic things we do come back to haunt us ... for the rest of our lives.
When he returned, he became a severe alcoholic. He didn't go to the VA, because he knew that being labeled as suffering depression or PTSD would jeopardize his career.

All he had to look forward to was to get out of the military and go to college. That hope ended when Bush announced the "surge." His division was the fifth planned to go, and everyone was put on lockdown by "stop-loss." He was set to deploy the day his contract was supposed to end. He attempted suicide that day. He woke up handcuffed to a gurney in the mental health ward. He had previously been diagnosed with depression and PTSD, but was still set to deploy. After his suicide attempt, he was discharged, but the military tried to prosecute him from malingering. He was refused help to challenge it by the military attorneys, because the said fighting it would bring down the military.

Because of his general discharge, he was denied money for college, which he now can't afford to attend. He now delivers pizzas once a week, because that's the only job where he can call in and say that he's still stuck at the VA and can't get there.
It may well be impossible for anyone to comprehend the depth and breadth of suffering inflicted on America by this war -- suffering borne primarily by our troops and their families.

But we must never forget that the suffering we have caused is infinitely greater than the suffering we have endured. And the victims of our crime had never done anything vicious or idiotic to us.

They were just trying to live their lives, under a dictatorship that our government had installed, and not a single one of them wanted to see America turned into a glass plate.

They didn't enlist to make war against us.

They didn't come to our country to kill and maim innocent civilians.

They didn't drop bombs on our houses in the middle of the night.

They didn't take trophy photos. And they didn't laugh about it, either.