Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan was a 4-day event from March 13-16 in DC that brought together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the news media has unsurprisingly ignored the event much as they did its predecessor in 1971, this time we have digital media and the intertubes to document it and bring it to a wider audience.
In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” In 1971, a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Once again, we will demand that the voices of veterans are heard.
"That was the first time I've ever seen a six year old girl dead. And it was not drown[ing] in a swimming pool, but because she had been shot by a bunch of teenage American kids. Not because we want to, but because it happens." ...(read on)
"My company commander personally congratulated me, "Turner continued. "That same individual said, 'Whoever gets his first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four day pass when we get back from Iraq." ...(read on)
Mike Prysner's testimony was particularly revealing (YouTube here & here) about military commanders' deliberate use of racism as a tool to motivate soldiers to fight and "die to control the market of another country." (excerpted transcript after the jump)
Prysner: When I first joined the army we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called the 'Equal Opportunity Program. We would sit through mandatory classes and every unit had this EO representative to ensure that no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism. And then September 11th happened and I began to hear new words like 'towel head' and 'camel jockey' and the most disturbing: 'sand nigger.' And these words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers but from my superiors: my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command these terms, these viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable. [...]↓ Story continues below ↓
We were told we were fighting terrorists, but the real terrorist was me and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon deployed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile. While all of those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them.
Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round. They do not have to fight the war. They merely have to sell the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm's way and they need soldiers who are willing to kill or be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb, but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight, and the ruling class: the billionaires who profit from human suffering care only about expanding their wealth, controlling the world economy, understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interests. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, have nothing to gain from this occupation.
The vast majority of people living in the US have nothing to gain from this occupation. In fact, not only do we have nothing to gain, but we suffer more because of it. We lose limbs, endure trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without healthcare, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $450 million a day on this occupation. Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country to make the rich richer, and without racism soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war.