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Winter Soldier


Friday, March 14th - 9am-7pm EST (6am-4pm PST) (14:00-00:00 GMT)
Saturday, March 15th - 9am-7pm EST (6am-4pm PST) (14:00-00:00 GMT)
Sunday, March 16th - 10am-4pm EST (7am-1pm PST) (15:00-21:00 GMT)
In 1971, a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. This weekend, members of Iraq Veterans against the War will give first-person accounts of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground. The event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence of war crimes they have witnessed. This is perhaps the most important anti-war event in the United States in decades. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.

Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.

The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.

When: Thursday March 13 to Sunday March 16

Attendance at Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan is not open to the general public because of limited space at the event site. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, and Gold Star Families Speak Out will attend the panels at Winter Soldier.

To bring the testimonies to the general public and GIs all over the world we have made it possible to watch the live broadcasts online and on television, and to listen online and the radio. You can find out more about how to watch or listen here. To find a local Winter Soldier screening event or to submit a screening event go to our events map.

The event will be covered by various media outlets. To find out more about how registering as a journalist go to our media page or email

Want to help make Winter Soldier a success? Find how you can help.

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Blog From Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier hearings have begun. Click here to watch these powerful proceedings online.

Blog From Winter Soldier

Friday, March 14, 11:59 AM: "Friday's testimony covers "The Rules of Engagement," "The Crisis in Veterans' Healthcare," "Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors," and "Aims of the Global War on Terror."

These veterans' stories need to be heard. So far today they have told how military units fire indiscriminately out of fear on civilians every day, how our military presence creates violence, and how veterans are left scarred by the horrific images burned into their minds. They have testified about how veterans and their families are neglected and abandoned by the VA system every day, discouraged to seek the treatment they need at every turn and left to suffer the emotional, physical and financial effects of their injuries and this unconscionable neglect on their own."

12:08 PM: Right now a mother is testifying about her son who committed suicide after returning home from Iraq. She said her son had given her a coin to hold every day while he was deployed so that he'd return home safe. She said she had no idea that the time she really needed to be holding on to that coin was after he came home.

12:19 PM: The father of this son just told of how he held his son one last time ... taking him down from the rafters that he'd hung himself from. He asks of the VA, why is it up to the veteran to meet the needs and requirements of the system? Isn't it the VA that's supposed to meet the needs of veterans?

2:19 PM: A veteran who served in Iraq as an MP is telling how her unit would be called to guard military contractors' broken-down vehicles on the main convoy route between Kuwait and Baghdad, so that Iraqi civilians wouldn't be able to take the trucks or the supplies on them. Many times after hours of guarding a truck against civilians desperate for food, fuel, etc., orders would be given to destroy the truck and its contents (often fuel or fresh produce), and then it would be abandoned. One time they were ordered to destroy an ambulance. This overarching concern for material goods rather than human welfare extended to the soldiers' living quarters. The tents they were forced to live in for a few months were covered in mold, which gave many in her unit respiratory infections.

2:44 PM: An officer who served as a strategic advisor in Iraq is testifying about corruption, both Iraqi and American, and its enormous contribution to the ongoing instability in Iraq. He said that the numbers of Iraqi security forces trained that are cited are greatly inflated -- many have gone AWOL. He said that no one has been held accountable for the loss of billions in U.S. taxpayers' money that had been appropriated for reconstruction and security. Much equipment (including arms) has been lost because the military failed to give any accountability measures or standard operating procedures for dispensing such equipment to the contractors responsible for storing, maintaining and dispensing them -- oversight of these equipment depots was part of General Petraeus' immediate command.

3:01 PM: Antonia Juhasz is describing how the turning over of the occupation to American corporations was not a result of lack of oversight or planning, but was an integral part of planning for the war from the beginning. The intent was to completely restructure Iraq's economy and to open it up to U.S. corporations. $50 billion has been promised to U.S. contractors for reconstruction -- Bechtel, Halliburton, etc. -- but getting the services up and running was not the primary priority for these companies, rather it was to assess the potential for their long-term presence in Iraq. So they spent their first few months in Iraq surveying that potential rather than get things up and running, so that by the time they finally got to work Iraqis were furious and hostile. According to recent studies, many of the largest contractors have fulfilled very little of their reconstruction contracts. The same 5 oil companies that owned Iraqi oil from after WWI to the early 1970s -- Chevron, BP, Shell, Total, and Exxon -- have just signed new contracts to control Iraq's oil again -- part of those contracts is that their security must be underwritten by the U.S. government, meaning long-term presence of the U.S. military at the cost of U.S. taxpayers.

4:13 PM: A Marine who served in Iraq is testifying about patrols through a town where their squad regularly fired indiscriminately into buildings without fully identifying who or what they were firing at, and without investigating afterward what casualties there had been. His squad was regularly assigned to escort released prisoners -- they would take the prisoners out to the desert and leave them there in the middle of nowhere after kicking, punching and otherwise abusing them during the trip. They regularly took photos of dead Iraqis. This veteran later saw the picture of an Iraqi man he had killed as the screensaver on another Marine's laptop.

4:24 PM: Another Marine is talking about the decline in and constantly changing rules of engagement. When a town they were patrolling was deemed a "free fire zone," they would engage and fire upon on anything or anyone they saw. One day a woman was walking toward them with a large bag. They "lit her up" with a grenade rifle; when the dust settled, they found that the bag was filled with food, which she had been bringing to them. He saw at least a dozen taxi drivers killed for driving toward a checkpoint too quickly or seemingly recklessly, or their car matched a very generic description (e.g., a car with a white hood) that the squad was told to look out for. They would carry "drop weapons," shovels and tools for digging with them on patrols, so that if they shot an unarmed person, they could drop a shovel or weapon at the scene, and then claim that the person was digging, possibly planting an IED.

4:34 PM: A Marine is testifying about the true nature of rules of engagement -- to legitimize soldiers' use of force. At first, the standing rules of engagement were in line with the Geneva conventions -- they could fire on anyone in military uniform, unless they were medical personnel or clergy or had surrendered. By the time they arrived in Baghdad, they were told that they could shoot anyone who came closer to them than they felt comfortable with, and who didn't move as soon as they were told, even though the soldiers' didn't speak Arabic. While at first they were only authorized to shoot anyone displaying hostile actions, eventually there were told to shoot anyone with hostile intent -- carrying a shovel, talking on a cell phone, being outside after curfew was officially considered hostile intent. They often shot upon vehicles that were too far away to be able to see who was driving them.

4:49 PM: We are currently viewing video and very graphic photos taken by a Marine. The photos depict Iraqis he and others in his unit killed, and what a 50-caliber round does to a human body. He said their unit would act completely differently, and do everything by the book, when media crews would be embedded with them. I really can't describe the images or the stories we are seeing and hearing right now. This Marine closed his testimony by reminding us that every soldier who has served in Iraq has such stories, and the more than 1 million soldiers have served in Iraq so far.

5:07 PM: An Iraq vet just testified that they used to fire white phosphorous rounds into civilian areas during training exercises. He is describing what he calls the "very permissive rules of engagement," i.e. anyone wearing a black head scarf was considered hostile and could be fired upon. He is also testifying about planting weapons to justify killing the wrong person. He said that they knew that if they killed the wrong person, they could just say that they felt threatened.

5:19 PM: A Marine who served in Afghanistan just described how after seeing a flash and a blast, he mistakenly called in the wrong coordinates. Multiple barrages where launched upon the village at those coordinates. Days later they toured the village to provide medical assistance and saw the destruction the barrage had caused. Through their interpreters their unit told the villagers, "If the Taliban does it again, let us know."

North Texans for 911 Truth (new site)

War stories echo another winter By Steve Vogel, Washington Post

War stories echo another winter
Former soldiers, Marines share their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan
By Steve Vogel, Washington Post

Grim-faced and sorrowful, former soldiers and Marines sat before an audience of several hundred yesterday in Silver Spring and shared their recollections of their service in Iraq.

The stories spilled out, sometimes haltingly, sometimes in a rush: soldiers firing indiscriminately on Iraqi vehicles, an apartment building filled with Iraqi families devastated by an American gunship. Some descriptions were agonized, some vague; others offered specific dates and locations. All were recorded and streamed live to the Web.

The four-day event, "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan -- Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations," is sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War and is expected to draw more than 200 veterans of the two wars through tomorrow. Timed for the eve of the fifth anniversary of the war's start next week, organizers hope the soldiers' accounts will galvanize public opposition.

For some of the veterans speaking yesterday, the experience was catharsis.

Former Marine Jon Turner began his presentation by ripping his service medals off his shirt and tossing them into the first row. He then narrated a series of graphic photographs showing bloody victims and destruction, bringing gasps from the audience. In a matter-of-fact voice, he described episodes in which he and fellow Marines shot people out of fear or retribution.

'I'm sorry'
"I'm sorry for the hate and destruction I've inflicted upon innocent people," Turner said. "Until people hear about what is happening in this war, it will continue."

Winter Soldier is modeled after a well-known and controversial 1971 gathering of the same name at which veterans of the Vietnam War gathered to describe alleged atrocities. John Kerry, then a young veteran, spoke at the Detroit event, which brought him to prominence. The soldiers' claims sparked lasting enmity, which resurfaced during Kerry's run for president in 2004.

The 2008 Winter Soldier will probably be no different. The event drew dozens of counter-protesters who were kept from the conference site at the National Labor College by a contingent of Montgomery County police. Although entrance to the event was limited to participants and the media, one protester managed to slip in and walked toward the stage, interrupting a speaker.

"Kerry lied while good men died, and you guys are betraying good men," the man yelled. The protester was roughly hustled from the room by several men in red knit shirts and jeans -- members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who are providing security for the event.

Counter-protesters outside derided the event and were deeply skeptical of the claims being made inside. "We want absolute specifics," said Harry Riley, a retired Army colonel who leads Eagles Up!. "This is too important to our nation. The credibility of our nation and the credibility of our soldiers are involved."

Riley said those making allegations against the U.S. military should have to give sworn testimony instead of speaking at an antiwar conference.

Organizers said they have sought to verify the records of all soldiers speaking, including reviewing their service records and talking to other members of units. Some soldiers had videos and photographs, which were displayed yesterday on a large screen in the auditorium.

"The ubiquitous nature of video, photo and technology really sets this apart" from the original Winter Soldier, said Jose Vasquez, an IVAW member who directed the verification process. Organizers and speakers said Winter Soldier is not meant to vilify soldiers. Instead, they said, it is aimed at changing war policy.

"These are not bad people, not criminals and not monsters," said Cliff Hicks, 23, a former 1st Armored Division soldier from Savannah, Ga., who spoke about his experiences in Iraq. "They are people being put in horrible situations, and they reacted horribly."

A Defense Department spokesman said he had not seen the allegations raised yesterday but added that such incidents are not representative of U.S. conduct.

"When isolated allegations of misconduct have been reported, commanders have conducted comprehensive investigations to determine the facts and held individuals accountable when appropriate," Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said.

Yesterday's panels included two sessions on "Rules of Engagement," in which soldiers and Marines described in emotional and often graphic terms incidents in which they said unarmed and innocent civilians were killed.

Most of the stories involved Iraq, though some took place in Afghanistan.

Two former soldiers who served with the 1st Armored Division described an attack by an AC-130 "Spectre" gunship on an apartment building in southern Baghdad that they said took place Nov. 13, 2003.

"It was the most destructive thing I've seen, before or since," said Hicks, one of the soldiers.

Adam Kokesh, a student at George Washington University who served with the Marine Corps in Iraq, said Marines were often forced to make snap decisions about whether to fire on civilians.

"During the siege of Fallujah, we changed our rules of engagement more often than we changed our underwear," he said.

On the screen, a photograph showed him posing next to a burned-out car in which an Iraqi man was killed after approaching a Marine checkpoint.

"At the first Winter Soldier in 1971, one of the testifiers showed a picture like this and said, 'Don't ever let your government to do this to you,' " Kokesh said. "And still the government is doing this."

At a session on shortcomings in veterans' health care, audience members sobbed as Joyce and Kevin Lucey described the suicide of their son, Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey, a death they blamed on his inability to get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mental health specialists were on hand to help speakers and audience members, and a workshop was offered on PTSD.

Those who spoke yesterday described the experience as intimidating.

"It was terrifying for me," said Steven Casey, a former 1st Armored Division specialist from Missouri who also described the AC-130 attack. "I knew somebody needed to hear it. All I wanted to do is say what I saw. I'm not accusing anyone of a crime."
© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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