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Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans to Detail War Crimes in Upcoming Hearings

Dennis Rahkonen

February 6, 2008

The emergence of Vietnam Veterans Against the War was pivotal in building decisive opposition to Washington’s Southeast Asian folly.

When kids who’d left home as gullible believers in U.S. foreign policy myths returned as embittered witnesses to grim truths about imperialism, their family and friends — and complete strangers — were compelled to listen to what they angrily had to say.

Especially when they tossed their medals over the White House fence during Operation Dewey Canyon III, or when they convened the Winter Soldier Investigation, exposing routine atrocities in which they’d been forced to participate.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, and a new activist group of former service personnel, Iraq Veterans Against the War, is arranging its own revelation of standard-operating-procedure horrors, to be presented in Washington, March 13-16, 2008.

Here’s what IVAW has to say about that planned event:

This spring, Iraq Veterans Against the War is revealing the reality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. In what will be history’s largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors, eyewitnesses will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.

Winter Soldiers, according to founding father Thomas Paine, are those who stand up for the soul of their country, even in its darkest hours. With this spirit in mind, IVAW members are standing up to make their experiences available to all who are concerned about the direction of our country.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time America has needed its Winter Soldiers. In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.

Over three days in January, those soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam.

Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into an increasingly bloody occupation. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming 'a few bad apples’ instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once again, our country needs Winter Soldiers.

From March 13-16, 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in our nation’s capital to break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for these wars. We hope you’ll join us, because ours is a story that every American needs to hear.

Recently, not far from here, a young Iraq war veteran fatally shot himself.

He’d returned from combat a fundamentally changed, deeply troubled person.

Before taking his own life, he revealed how he’d been ordered to gun down an unarmed Iraqi man who was approaching a checkpoint, oblivious to shouted warnings to stop.

The doomed individual turned out to be not just an innocent civilian — probably unfamiliar with the foreign language of alien occupiers — but a physician.

Family and friends of the traumatized soldier urged that he seek professional help for his worsening stress disorder, but he refused, contending it would show "weakness" that the military had inculcated in him was not manly to do.

IVAW’s upcoming testimony will show not only that the murder of unarmed noncombatants in Iraq and Afghanistan is pervasively prevalent, but that returning veterans are commonly so psychologically damaged by what they’ve experienced that suicide or dysfunction leading to disproportionate homelessness, for instance, is almost an expected consequence.

It’s that outcome, exceeding even the illegality and immorality of the initiating policy itself, that constitutes this awful period in our history’s most unpardonable crime.

Please help draw attention to IVAW’s vitally important hearings.

Together we can finally end the ongoing fiasco that’s causing everyone but conscience-devoid war profiteers such terrible harm.

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, Wisconsin, has been writing progressive commentary with a Heartland perspective for various outlets since the '60s. Read other articles by Dennis.


:: Article nr. 40911 sent on 06-feb-2008 15:47 ECT

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Link: www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/02/iraq-and-afghanistan-veterans-to-detail-war-crime
   s-in-upcoming-hearings/




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