FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Winter Soldiers and Washington’s Wars

During the recent debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, the military situation in Iraq was defined as a victory by Senator McCain.  This is despite the fact that close to one hundred US soldiers and more than fifteen hundred Iraqis have died there in the past four months, while the Pentagon stated recently that Iraq “remains locked in conflict.”

Meanwhile both candidates – Obama much more vociferously than McCain, pledge to send more troops into Afghanistan , pacify Afghanistan and destroy the insurgency and Al Queda.  Neither candidate expressed concern for the huge numbers of Iraqi and Afghani casualties reserving their regrets  for US military casualties, of whom a hundred or more have died in these conflicts over the past four months.  Instead, they spoke about the sacrifice they had made,  without acknowledging such  sacrifice was worth it, or whether  the blood and death of war was even the best way to accomplish the goals desired by Washington.  Naurally, neither candidate seriously questioned the goals themselves.

hose goals as explained by the politicians and generals have changed as the occupations dragged on.  Most recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was quoted as saying leaving these countries “would be a disastrous blow to our credibility, both among our friends and allies and among potential adversaries.”   At other times, the reasons for the occupations have included establishing democracy, fighting Al Queda, stopping ethnic violence and finding weapons of mass destruction.  Of course, underlying the stated goals are more fundamental ones that have to do with US hegemony and the desire to expand that hegemony.

A recent book published by Haymarket Books of Chicago provides the interested reader with the real reasons for the occupations.  This book, titled Winter Soldier: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations is a collection of testimonies from military veterans of these operations and local civilians in the middle of them.  The tales told herein are not for the faint of heart.  They represent the best of the US military and the worst.  Sexual harassment, murders, wanton destruction, macabre joking about civilian deaths and military mistakes resonate through the stories here.  Simultaneously, the fact that the men and women that appeared in public to describe what they had done and seen as participants in these military actions provides hope that there are many individuals whose conscience does not allow them to justify the death and destruction done in the name of the US.

The hearings, which took place in March 2008, were followed by testimony before a Congressional committee.  Except for some prowar organizations, the reception to the veterans’ effort was mostly supportive.  The US mainstream media barely covered the event, but this was not much of a surprise.  As far as those who run that media, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are old news.  Furthermore, since the government has no intention of ending those adventures, they are as much a fait accompli as poverty and domestic abuse.  Therefore , they don’t rate daily coverage in a media more concerned with Paris Hilton’s weekends in jail.

For those who don’t know the history, the aforementioned hearings were based on a similar set of hearings held in 1971 by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).  These hearings probably received less attention from the mainstream media at the time than the IVAW hearings did.  Nonetheless, they were the first time that veterans of the US military spoke openly to an international audience about what they had seen and done in the jungles of Vietnam while serving in the US military.    I only heard about the 1971 hearings via US underground newspapers and through GIs I knew in Germany that worked on the FTA Heidelberg underground rag.  VVAW went on to become a historical example to military members ever since.  The story of their organization’s founding, actions, growth and internal struggles is the subject of another book just republished by Haymarket:  Winter Soldiers: An Oral History of the VVAW.  I read this book when it first came out in 1997 and was impressed by its breadth and detail.  As I re-read it this past week, I was awestruck at how well the author Richard Stacewicz covered and presented the multitude of political and personal nuances that were present in the organization.  Although I worked and hung out with VVAW members in Maryland in 1974 and 1975, there is information here that I was completely unaware of.  Besides this, the explanations provided by the recollections written down here is useful today, as well.  Indeed, as the IVAW matures, the internal struggles of the VVAW can be instructive.

There is an ongoing discussion within the essentially moribund antiwar movement of today and among antiwar veterans themselves regarding the roles vets should play in rebuilding that movement.  In a movement whose politics run from libertarian to socialist and beyond, this question can be a contentious one.  However, as Stacewicz’s book proves, the role of an antiwar veteran’s organization can be crucial to ending wars, despite (or perhaps because of) a wide variety of political viewpoints within the organization.  As the US readies itself for a new president and Congress, the most essential thing for antiwar veterans and their civilian counterparts is to be ready to do whatever is necessary to end the wars Washington is currently engaged in.

Both of these books are about Washington’s wars and the men and women sent to fight them.  The stories in each represent the realizations arrived at by many of those men and women that what they are doing is wrong.  Too many civilian residents of the US will ignore these stories, thereby avoiding any sense of a need to stop the death and destruction taking place in their name.   If you read them, pass them on.  Then find some way to act on the knowledge you have gained.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

 

 

Your Ad Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
Nick Pemberton
There Are More Important Things Than The Truth
Brian Cloughley
How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America
David Rosen
Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump
Tamara Pearson
Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries
Richard E. Rubenstein
Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel
Christopher Ketcham
A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens
Basav Sen
Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate
Lauren Smith
Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump
Joseph Natoli
Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?
Olivia Alperstein
The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
The New Congress Needs to Create a Green Planet at Peace
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise
Ramzy Baroud
When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are ‘Brothers’: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model
Mitchell Zimmerman
Government by Extortion
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail