Winter Soldier: Eyewitness Accounts of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Two years ago, public revulsion against the Bush Administration's unnecessary and disastrous attack and occupation of Iraq resulted in the Democratic Party taking control of the U.S. Congress. But Nancy Pelosi and the new political leadership backed down before President Bush and refused to withhold funding for the war, while rhetorically denouncing it and thus playing to anti-war voters. The liberal lobby group MoveOn spent tens of millions of dollars on anti-war advertisements and door-to-door canvassing events as part of its partisan campaign to blame the war on the Republicans, while letting Democrats off the hook for giving Bush all the money he wanted to continue the occupation into next year.

Today, as the 2008 election approaches, worry over Iraq has slipped down the public's list of concerns while more immediate economic issues and the spectacular collapse of the Wall Street investment banks take center stage. However, one anti-war organization has proven especially tenacious, independent and committed to immediately bringing home troops from Iraq and making good to the Iraqi people, while taking care of the soldiers who fought the war. That organization is the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) composed of more than thirteen hundred soldiers who have recently served or are still serving in the U.S. military.

IVAW has provided the courageous and true leadership that partisan lobbies like MoveOn lack, opposing the war-funding politicians of both parties. When the Democrats nominated Barack Obama in Denver, IVAW was there in the streets demanding a meeting with Obama's people to press for an immediate end to the occupation. During the Republican Convention, as John McCain was talking from the stage in St. Paul he was confronted by a lone soldier, IVAW's Adam Kokesh, calling from the balcony and waving a sign of protest against the war. TV cameras briefly broadcast Kokesh's protest, but quickly pulled away from the young soldier in the black IVAW tee shirt calling out to McCain.

Last March the IVAW spent its own money and time to organize an historic event, the Winter Soldier hearings held outside Washington DC, where soldiers testified to the atrocities and war crimes they witnessed or personally committed while in Iraq and Afghanistan. The emotionally moving and carefully vetted truth telling lasted for days. Thanks to Aaron Glantz, Aimee Allison and others at Berkeley radio station KPFA, the IVAW testimony was broadcast live and is today available free online for anyone to hear.

To its disgrace, most of the mainstream corporate media ignored the hearings. The hard facts of the Iraq war, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, the millions driven from their homes, the thousands of American dead and tens of thousands wounded, are simply not deemed appropriate and newsworthy by American news media. Indeed, the U.S. media has pushed Iraq to the back pages and off the TV tube.

Not to be deterred, the IVAW continues to organize local and regional Winter Soldier hearings. I will be speaking at one hearing in Madison, Wisconsin, this Saturday, September 27, addressing the propaganda role of the U.S. media as a cheerleader for war. Available at the conference, hot off the printing presses, will be a new book that is the official account of IVAW's brutally honest and deeply moving testimonies. Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan was written by the Iraq Veterans Against the War and independent author and journalist Aaron Glantz.

This book reflects the IVAW belief often expressed by executive director Kelly Dougherty that "the only way this war is going to end is if the American people truly understand what we have done in their name." It's filled with gut wrenching personal stories and histories from the women and men who fought the war and still fight in the occupations. A collection of testimonies, the book is itself one single testimony to the powerful truths of soldiers facing up to a war millions would rather ignore and that the corporate media and political establishment does not want to honestly discuss. This is a very important book, one that every American should read and share. America owes an unpayable debt to its soldiers, especially its anti-war soldiers in the Iraq Veterans Against the War who do not back down to political gamesmanship from either political party.

John Stauber, founder of the Center for Media and Democracy, is an unpaid advisor to Iraq Veterans Against the War.


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