Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Winter Soldier: A Theatrical Review

The Iraq Veterans Against the War’s (IVAW) much touted Winter Soldier Investigation – Iraq and Afghanistan (March 13-16) has concluded not with a bang but with a whimper.

Both Jonn Lilyea of This Ain’t Hell and TSO (Thus Spake Ortner) of The Sniper who live-blogged the event delivered AARs (After Action Reports). I'm going to address it more in the form of a review, what one writes for, well, theatre.

Details of individual and panel performances are to come, but for now, like many reviews, I'm going to focus substantially on audience reaction.

The show flopped!

The theatrical as opposed to investigative endeavor has to have been a huge disappointment to many who had high hopes for and a lot riding on the show. WSI simply failed to deliver.

No one can be more disappointed than Dahr Jamail, the “unembedded reporter” and “independent journalist” who at one time played the role of de facto press agent for Jesse Macbeth, the atrocity charge spewing IVAW fraud outed in 2006. Jamail has published an article on WSI for IPS. While Jamail quotes five WSI testifiers about actions and events in Iraq, some of which if true come up to the level of crimes, the amazing thing is that this article is an incredible climb-down for Jamail! His atrocity charge laden pieces have been flowing for years with far more lurid and damning claims than anything he has taken from WSI! Culling the most atrocious from the testimony in the statements by Vincent Emmanuel, Garret Reppenhagen, Jason Wayne Lemue, John Michael Turner and Jason Washburn, Jamail did not come anywhere close to what he has trumpeted in the past, for example, in May 2006 Jamail wrote "Countless My Lais in Iraq", claiming:
"The media feeding frenzy around what has been referred to as "Iraq's My Lai" has become frenetic. Focus on U.S. Marines slaughtering at least 20 civilians in Haditha last November is reminiscent of the media spasm around the ‘scandal’ of Abu Ghraib during April and May 2004…countless atrocities continue daily...Torture did not stop simply because the media finally decided...to cover the story, and the daily slaughter of Iraqi civilians by U.S. forces and U.S.-backed Iraqi ‘security’ forces had not stopped either."
There has been a longing on the anti-war left, a deep yearning, for that story or series of stories that would nail the American military and its killbot minions as evil incarnate. We saw signs of that with the fraudulent MacBeth video, as with this from the producer, Randy Rowland who wrote in an e-mail:
"After all, the news these days is about a Marine squad who are accused of exactly this same behavior [at Haditha]. Jesse's story would clearly show the Marine story to be common policy, rather than a squad of loose cannons..."
Or the Dissident Voice on the same subject, spitting spittle and crying for Lord MacBeth to rescue us all from Bushitler:
"If the [MacBeth] video gets widespread exposure, it is unfathomable that support for a US troop presence in Iraq could be sustained...It is a video that should number the days of the Bush administration...we hear the shaken ex-army ranger and Iraq war veteran Jessie MacBeth admit to the Stygian depths of depravity and evil that US service personnel have sunk…"
Say what you will about WSI 2008, it didn't reach those longed for Stygian depths of depravity by our troops!

Indication was given over a month ago that the Knights of the IVAW would not deliver the atrocity Holy Grail the left desired. The old hands at Vietnam Veterans Against the War must also be disappointed, after having broadcast:
This spring, the largest gathering of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. Providing testimonies to war crimes the United States perpetuates with the ongoing wars and occupations...
Oddly enough, the IVAW backed off that "largest gathering of U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan…” when challenged on it months ago. The claimed number of "testifiers" also went from over one hundred to under fifty. Less than half of those could be considered to have testified to anything like atrocities.

Readers of the Yemen Times had to be disappointed, as IVAW's Harvey Tharp sang the siren song only last month, even if the later abridged version:
"I’m a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. As the only officer who has joined, I’m the highest ranked...I’m going to Washington, D.C. for the winter soldier hearings from March 13-16. Fifty members from the Iraq Veterans Against the War will testify to war crimes they witnessed or even participated in and I’ll be there in support."
And of course, the most internationally well known and published [possibly former] IVAW member and co-founder, Jimmy Massey was a no show! Massey fans in Malaysia, Venezuela, France and Cuba must be wondering what happened!

It is at least possible (okay, highly probable) that the vetting process IVAW said they were going through dwindled their earlier presumed numbers. DemocracyNow! also didn't get what they hoped for:
Winter Soldier: Hundreds of Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Gather to Testify in Echo of 1971 Vietnam Hearings

Hundreds of veterans and active-duty soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are gathering today for the Winter Soldier hearings. The soldiers plan to give eyewitness accounts of the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Channeling Mel Gibson's William Wallace from Braveheart, "It was more like fifty!".

Bruce Kesler at the Democracy Project reports in Elmer Gantry Needed At Winter Soldier II (Even Feminist Supporters PO'd) this "ouch!" quote from a feminist site:

Saturday's hearings opened with the Divide To Conquer: Gender and Sexuality in the Military. From the title of the panel, we were looking forward to this panel….

The panel was an embarrassment….

A panel at Winter Soldiers promises testimony. Testimony is based on what you saw. A witness in a court of a law attempting to 'testify' to what they themselves didn't witness would be reduced to rubble under cross examination. For this panel, such requirements were largely tossed out….
Other fans are besides themselves that their stars didn't draw the crowds, or the right crowds! From OpEd News:
What is the Difference Between the Mainstream Media and Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda?

In America, Truth gets slaughtered daily in the mainstream media, just like it was in Nazi Germany. The American media has always taken great umbrage in condemning the perfidy of the German people who supported the deadly war policies of Hitler, yet they whistle past the graveyard while ignoring another holocaust going on in Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan. Nowhere is this more evident than in their blackout of WINTER SOLDIER.
Also at OpEd News:
WINTER SOLDIER BLACKOUT CONTINUES: Look in the Mirror America!!!!!

By Kevin Stoda, Kuwait
As there are reports across the globe of a USA-wide blackout of major media news from the WINTER SOLDIERS presentations or soldiers’ testimonies on the Iraq and Afghanistan War at the Labor College outside of Washington D.C. this week...
Only the independent media, like REAL NEWS NETWORK...is doing its job.
Otherwise, only the Huffington News seems to have noticed this gaping absence, despite complaints appearing all over the web, like on YAHOO discussion lists.
Even the BBC’s coverage has not been as good as one would expect from a respected international news network.
Even the light comedyIVAW tried didn't make a splash, like Camilo Mejia going from his squad guarding detainees for six hours to him running a POW camp, or Geoff Millard's clicking the mouse to advance Power Point slides evolving into him giving a briefing to generals and colonels! There were more than a few testifiers who spoke of bad actions like taking pot shots at cars and carrying shovels around to plant evidence of IED emplacement near the bodies of those killed and insisted these things were commonplace, the usual. Well, commonplace and usual for exactly whom? Squad, platoon, company, battalion, regiment, division, what? Because if these things were true and that common and usual, how come all the testifiers didn't testify to the same common and usual things? In professinal theatre and movies they have a person assigned to the task of assuring continuity, such as the same buttons on the shirt buttoned and unbuttoned scene to scene and shot to shot. WSI missed that.

And milbloggers TSO and Jonn Lilyea didn't help the image situation of 'we care for the troops' when they reported that when the panel began on veteran care, the mass of the audience scattered to other parts!

Possibly the biggest indication of how badly the show flopped? Only moments ago, a Google search for "Winter Soldier" brought up this:

Yup, the number one return on Google for "Winter Soldier" is Scott Swett's WinterSoldier.com site, the one that has all that debunking information about the Kerryfest of 1971!

As Thus Spake Ortner might cry, "Oh the huge manitees!"

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