‘Winter Soldiers’ denounce the war they fought

Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), marked March 19, the fifth anniversary of the illegal and immoral U.S. invasion of Iraq by visiting there, where they proclaimed its success.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-war protestors marked the occasion in Washington with a full week of acts of civil disobedience and teach-ins.

Led by active-duty personnel and veterans the mostly all-White bands of war protestors raised their voices against the senseless mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan that is the Bush administration policy. They were joined by members of Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and the Stop Loss Congress on Capitol Hill a week before the anniversary.

Chanting “We are the Revolution,” 45 protestors were arrested at First St. and Independence Ave. on the House of Representatives’ side of the Capitol, and at the garage entrance to the Hart Bldg. on the Senate side.

“We’re saying to Congress, basically: ‘You guys have ridden a Peace Horse up to Capitol Hill. You haven’t made good on your promises. You haven’t done the job we elected you to do,’ which was de-fund the war and bring the troops home,” Jamillah El-Shafei, of the Stop Loss Congress said in an interview.

“We want them home now, not in 10 years. We’re (also) doing some blockading to confront Congress with civil resistance. Even if it’s for 45 minutes, in an effort to make the point: they have to listen to what the people say. Which is: bring our troops home and stop this policy of the back-door draft,” she continued.

The “back door draft” is in the form of so-called “Stop-Loss orders,” involuntarily extensions of the tours of duty of active duty service personnel, requiring them to remain in combat past their original deployment termination dates.

The number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq crept close to 4,000 on the eve of the anniversary, with more than 3,990 confirmed dead and more than 25,000 severely injured. The numbers of dead Iraqi civilians (I don’t know if the Pentagon even bothers to distinguish between dead Iraqi civilians and dead insurgents, or “enemy combatants,” or “Gooks,” or whatever derisive name they’re now called. They used to be called “collateral damage,” but now I don’t think they even distinguish.) is in the hundreds of thousands.

The testimony of the “Winter Soldiers” was the most compelling witness against the war. The soldiers and Marines had committed unspeakable acts, beyond the call of war, against, often innocent Iraqis. They met at what was the largest-ever gathering of Iraq Veterans Against the War, a four-day summit which convened more than 200 veterans sharing accounts of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and occupations.

Veterans and service members came from across the country to present their eyewitness accounts, along with graphic, sometimes nauseating video and photographic evidence related to everything from the killing and injuring of innocent civilians and unarmed combatants, to racism and sexism in the U.S. military. It was like Abu Ghraib come to life, all over again. All over Iraq.

The name “Winter Soldier” is inspired by Revolutionary War hero Thomas Paine’s call for patriots to act for their country in times of crisis, and it recalls the long tradition of veterans speaking out against the corruption of the military and illegal wars. The first Winter Soldier gathering was in 1971 in Detroit, bringing firsthand testimony of the horrors of the Vietnam War to the U.S. public.

While there were many young Whites in the week’s protest activities, there were not many Black faces involved. “Obviously there are Blacks who are against this war,” the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, founder of The Hip-Hop Caucus said in an interview March 15 at the Winter Soldier meeting.

“And obviously there are Blacks who are in the military who are against this war as well. I do think there is a situation where we must still deal with this process. You’re right, there are not many people of color here, but as we just saw the images of those who had bullet holes in their heads, those were people of color, who are lying dead in Baghdad and all throughout Iraq.

“People of color who are struggling here in America, who are against this war, obviously are in solidarity in very different ways than the people of color who are being slaughtered in Iraq. Obviously this genocide, this horrific criminal war against people of color has tremendous affects,” the Rev. Yearwood said. “This is our ‘Lunch-Counter-Moment’ for the 21st Century,” he said of the Hip-Hop-generation’s need to stand now and to resist.

Comments are closed.