Are they going to reposition the Winter Soldier Investigation on Okinawa? Is a preemptive blogosphere “Surge” working?
In the comments to my post “Reply to Army Sergeant”, IVAW’s ArmySgt made some statements that on their own might not be that significant. As Sarge has said, he is not an official spokesperson nor in the leadership at IVAW.
However, while I almost brushed by Sarge’s comments as his personal view, a quick look at IVAW’s own official site seems to show what anti-war Democrats might call “repositioning”, and what others simply call - “retreat”!
“Also, IVAW does in fact claim that Winter Soldier is about veterans telling their stories. Go ahead and look to what it says on the website, what we are actually putting out…WSI is not about charging American soldiers with atrocities.”
“…the fact is that while WSI II will have some threads in common with WSI I, the only major one is that of soldiers and veterans speaking up about what they believe. Beyond that, there aren't too many similarities-it is an entirely different war, after all, and we have many different reasons for opposing it.”
WSI II was not going to be about atrocities? Who knew? Well, the official IVAW Winter Soldier page does have this:
“Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan
Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who will tell the hard truth about what is really happening, day in and day out, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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.
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 create a space for veterans to make their voices heard.
Americans have heard from the generals, they've heard from the politicians, they've heard from the media - but they haven't heard the truth. Americans must understand the reality of the wars our government is spearheading in order for our democracy to truly function. When we tell our stories, it is America's duty to listen.”
Well, okay, nothing about atrocities, and the only thing similar to WSI I, as per Sarge, might be “a space for veterans to make their voices heard.” But, THAT’S A CHANGE! THAT’S A VERY BIG CHANGE!!!!
It used to read:
“In 1971, over one hundred members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) gathered in Detroit to share their stories with America. Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew differently.
Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of Vietnam. They called it the Winter Soldier investigation, after Thomas Paine's famous admonishing of the "summer soldier" who shirks his duty during difficult times. In a time of war and lies, the veterans who gathered in Detroit knew it was their duty to tell the truth.
Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new war. But the lies are the same. Once again, American troops are sinking into increasingly bloody occupations. Once again, war crimes in places like Haditha, Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib have turned the public against the war. Once again, politicians and generals are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan...”
That statement, with links to the same now-changed IVAW page, can be found at Firedoglake, Polizeros, US Labor Against War, Courage to Resist, Common Ills, Ruth’s Report and on and on and on!
So “atrocities”, “crimes”, “systematic brutality” and My Lai not being an “isolated incident” are all gone NOW, replaced by “experiences”, “panels”, “scholars” and “space”!
What about the “hours” of atrocity stories IVAW members told Dahr Jamail years ago?????
Sarge also wrote:
“You also seem confused on what Winter Soldier will entail. Not every person speaking will be speaking about "crimes". They will be speaking the truth of their experiences, that the American public may not have had the chance to hear. Some may speak to crimes - but not all will.”
Well, I got that, like, “atrocity” idea from IVAW members quoted in the media and its supporters!
Here’s James Circello’s (IVAW) letter to President Bush inviting him to WSI:
“In March, the Iraq Veterans Against the War…will make their way into the streets and buildings of D.C. to tell the American people what your war was done to them and the people of the Middle East…They will testify, much like the Vietnam Veterans Against the War did over 30 years ago. They will tell the things you try to keep hidden.”
Uh, the first WSI was all about, like, supposed war crimes and atrocities. Circello missed the memo!
Matt Howard (IVAW), in the recent "Military Ecourages War Crimes" piece is quoted as saying:"The policies that the military engages will create situations, create dynamics, create, ultimately, atrocity."
Mike Blake (IVAW), same interview, said:
"The killing of innocent civilians is policy…It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."
The article then went on to state:
“Blake and Howard were among four veterans speaking at Watertown's Different Drummer Cafe, in a preliminary event to the 'Winter Soldier' gathering scheduled in Washington, D.C. in March.”
VFP, the guys under whose umbrella IVAW gets its 501(c)3 tax exempt status has this:
“Maine Veterans For Peace invites you to a fund raising party to benefit Winter Soldier, the public war crimes investigation being organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War...”
The VVAW has not yet gotten that word:
“This spring, a main priority for Vietnam Veterans Against the War is to support IVAW as they conduct their own Winter Soldier Investigation…War crimes have been identified, and once again, politicians and generals repeat history by blaming 'a few bad apples' for such atrocities, rather than examining the military policies that destroyed Vietnam then and are destroying Iraq and Afghanistan now.”
Neither has Sir! No Sir! Military Lies which still has “Return of the Winter Soldier: Iraq Vets Prepare Atrocity Testimony”
The Indypendent only yesterday claimed “The goal of hearings, named the Winter Soldier Investigation: Iraq and Afghanistan, after the 1971 Vietnam-era investigation of the same name, is to show that systematic government policies are to blame for the myriad atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
I could go on and on, but – it appears that IVAW is largely backing off the atrocity-war crime theme. I believe there are a combination of reasons.
There is no longer any mention of the “history's largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan…”. I don’t think their solicitation of “war crime” and “atrocity” testimonies got anywhere near a number big enough to establish credibility for “systemic” claims. Add to that, some of their known members have already established credibility problems.
Here’s the WSI schedule as it is showing up on the Net, and note that is has 12 total hours of testimony compared to 12 hours of panels and briefings. The Indypendent reports:
“During the series of panels, multimedia presentations and testimony, more than 45 current and former soldiers plan to describe the indiscriminate killing and injuring of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of chemical weapons, the torture and killing of detainees, rape — within the military itself and against Iraqi civilians — the denial of medical care to the injured and the mutilation of the dead, and other war crimes. Iraqi and Afghani civilians, as well as reporters not embedded with the military, are scheduled to verify many of the stories that will be described by the soldiers.”
Not the numbers they hoped, especially from an organization which claims 700-800 members. It doesn’t even appear that 10% of their own membership will testify! And as Sarge said, not even everyone testifying will testify to such as atrocities and war crimes! If they get fifty, that is one out of every 30,000 individuals who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And I do truly hope that a reporter not embedded with the military who will “verify” these stories is IVAW’s long time co-conspirator Dahr Jamail! Between now and next March, and before WSI, Jamail will have less credibility than Baghdad Bob!
Then too, it has been made pretty clear this WSI, unlike the last WSI, will get a lot of determined concurrent scrutiny. There’ve been claims (see Circello’s letter above) including at this site, about such as GOE folks shutting them down, which is nonsense. It’s not demonstrations and counter demonstrations that got to them. It is thousands of people, Internet connected, many with military backgrounds and contacts with active duty folks, debunkers – who gave them the shakes. That veritable army of interested parties would set up a roar demanding details that could not be silenced and would not go away. Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler’s “new media” only had to basically reach for the keys to get things shaking, much less start the engine! Still got a full tank!
Like the other Surge, certainly not the time to let up, anyone! But I think the wafting smell in the air is – victory! This generation of soldiers and Marines will not be successfully smeared as were those of the Vietnam generation.
And ladies and gentlemen, I wrote earlier about the rift between IVAW and some of the rest of the anti-war left. War crimes and atrocities were the flash and pizzazz that was to get the big media headlines and stories that were to follow. Those "panels" of "scholars" and such are the types of things the anti-war left has been doing for years to over flowing crowds of eight or twenty! If IVAW is not delivering on that big "war crimes/atrocities" theme, after asking the entire rest of the anti-war left to stand down at the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, it'll be a nasty cat-fight! The only real use the institutional hard left has for these IVAW veterans, as veterans, will be gone.