Few members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War have been as outspoken about claims of US atrocities than Mike Blake. He too apparently did not testify at Winter Soldier. The list of those who may well have been vetted out by IVAW itself grows. Perry O'Brien's testimony didn't make the cut, as neither did the hours of atrocity stories told by Abdul Henderson, Alex Ryabov, Camilo Mejia, Harvey Tharp, Michael Hoffman and Charlie Anderson to Dahr Jamail.
The Guardian reported (March 2006):
[Michael Blake] claims that US soldiers such as him were told little about Iraq, Iraqis or Islam before serving there; other than a book of Arabic phrases, "the message was always: 'Islam is evil' and 'They hate us.' Most of the guys I was with believed it." Blake says that the turning point for him came one day when his unit spent eight hours guarding a group of Iraqi women and children whose men were being questioned. He recalls: "The men were taken away and the women were screaming and crying, and I just remember thinking: this was exactly what Saddam used to do - and now we're doing it."
...He tells us that he witnessed civilian Iraqis being killed indiscriminately..."When IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] would go off by the side of the road, the instructions were - or the practice was - to basically shoot up the landscape, anything that moved. And that kind of thing would happen a lot." So innocent people were killed? "It happened, yes." (He says he did not carry out any such killings himself.)
...Blake, an activist with IVAW for the past 12 months, is angry that American people seem so untouched by the war, by the grim abuses committed by American soldiers. "The American media doesn't cover it and they don't care. The American people aren't seeing the real war - what's really happening there."
...Just outside New Orleans, the sudden appearance of a reporter from al-Jazeera's Washington office electrifies the former soldiers. It is a chance for the vets to turn confessional and the reporter is deluged with young former soldiers keen to be interviewed. "We want the Iraqi people to know that we stand with them," says Blake, "and that we're sorry, so sorry. That's why it was so important for us to appear on al-Jazeera."...Blake turns reflective. "I met an Iraqi at one of the public meetings I was talking at recently. He came up to me and told me he was originally from the town where I had been stationed. And I just went up to this complete stranger and hugged him and I said, 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.' And you know what? He told me it was OK. And it was beautiful ..." He starts to cry. "That was redemption".At a fundraiser for Winter Soldier last January Blake had this to say:
“The killing of innocent civilians is policy”, Iraq war veteran Mike Blake told a public meeting held on January 19 at the Different Drummer Cafe in Watertown, New York State, near the Canadian border.Yet Mike Blake didn't at testify at Winter Soldier! He was apparently just saying those things about killing civilians as policy to raise money for IVAW and WSI! The question about him and others is - why not, after all those claims and charges against your country and fellow troops - what happened?
“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.”
If IVAW vetted these people out, they owe the public to whom they have been claiming to tell the truth - the truth. When IVAW member Jesse MacBeth was outed as a fraud when he was passing lurid fabricated atrocity stories, IVAW distanced themselves from him and denied any responsibilty. There was no honor in making the separation after he was exposed. There was only CYA.
Long after IVAW co-founder Jimmy Massey was exposed as having lied about atrocities, IVAW kept the statement that Jimmy Massey had been telling people the truth up at their site for years! They only removed it days (Mar 4) after I challenged IVAW (Mar 2) on whether Massey would show at Winter Soldier.
If there were reasons why these members and their stories did not stand up to IVAW scrutiny for Winter Soldier, after all the months and years that they have been a part of charging our country and our forces with crimes and atrocities, IVAW has to come clean on that.