To coincide with the upcoming fifth anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, veteran and active-duty members of Iraq Veterans Against the War gave testimony to the atrocities of the invasion and occupation of Iraq from March 13-16 in Washington, D.C. With the exception of the Washington Post, none of the mainstream media outlets mentioned it.
The event was Winter Soldier. Speakers described abusive treatment by U.S. soldiers and torture of innocents. Ex-marine Jason Washburn described “drop shovels,” which were planted on innocents who the members of the military killed to make the victim look like he was digging a hole for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Army veteran Hart Viges detailed the racist treatment toward the people we are supposedly liberating. When Geoff Millard, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, asked fellow soldiers, including those of color, why they use the racial epithet “Haji” for everyone in Iraq, they replied, “Who cares? They’re just Haji.” Jason Lemieux, another veteran, recounted when a commander provided a powerful example for the troops by shooting two old women carrying vegetables when a subordinate refused. An Iraqi gave testimony via satellite of being shot in the back when U.S. soldiers wanted to clear a street, indicative of the lack of concern for Iraqi lives that some soldiers have.
The event’s title, Winter Soldier, invokes the testimonials that members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War provided in Detroit in 1971. Men who served in Vietnam described in graphic detail the brutality of the war, the collective punishment, the disregard for civilian life and the racial contempt for the people of Vietnam.
Then, like now, soldiers confessed to their killing of civilians and children. They detailed how war brought out the worst in them – the brutal regimentation, the senseless humiliations and abuses of servicemen, the sight of brothers in arms dying and the constant atmosphere of hatred for the local population.
Much like this Winter Soldier’s media blackout, only Pacifica Radio carried the original Winter Soldier outside of Detroit.
Why is this the case? Some clues lie in “Manufacturing Consent,” a book printed in 1989 describing the propaganda model of the U.S. media. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman outlined a pattern starting in the mid-1800s of the “professionalization” of news as well as its increasingly profit-driven nature. The authors point out examples of editorial biases that serve the interests of advertising sponsors, the interests of the state and the business interests of investors.
Today, five conglomerates control nearly all American media: Disney, New Viacom, Time Warner, News Corporation and General Electric. Remember the lead up to the invasion, the jingosim, the TV anchors playing with toy airplanes? GE owns NBC. GE does military contracts. Would NBC show militarism in a bad light? How about the liberals at the New York Times? They criticize the war from the classic, liberal, “dovish” standpoint: the war has become too costly and embarrassing – but never “immoral.”
As for the war’s popularity, it is an open fact that most Americans want withdrawal, but what do the Iraqis think? The fact that over 80 percent want immediate withdrawal is wholly ignored.
Has the war helped? Ask unembedded journalists what living conditions are like post-Saddam – they’re worse. How about our duty to “stabilize”: in Basra, after British withdrawal, violent incidents dropped 90 percent. It’s little wonder, given experiences like that of Viges who said that “not once” did he witness a raid that did not attack the home of civilians. If someone in your family dies, you might be lucky and get $200 in reparations.
Do yourself a favor, do true patriots a favor; hear the testimonials of Winter Soldier at http://www.ivaw.org or http://www/democracynow.org. With 3,990 U.S. soldiers dead, many civilian contractors dead and over a million Iraqis dead, it’s time to re-evaluate our involvement in Iraq.
Chiarella is a member ofthe class of 2008.