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Winter Soldier
March 13, 2008 10:15 AM   Subscribe


 
...a seemingly invisible enemy in Southeast Asia had driven otherwise honorable American soldiers to commit unthinkable atrocities...

Damn those victims! Always beating up on Our Heroes!
posted by DU at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


let the Swift Boating begin
posted by matteo at 10:36 AM on March 13, 2008


The first link is dead now.
posted by rtha at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


HuronBob, you have to admit it's a strange way to word things. Nevertheless, this is a good thing. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out here. There seem to be many soldiers speaking out against the war, and they don't seem to get much attention.
posted by chunking express at 10:42 AM on March 13, 2008


There's an ad on the page with the Salon article. It's an ad for the Air Force. It says: "We can't predict the headlines. We can be ready for them.

Eponytragical, or something.
posted by rtha at 10:44 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


"The modern soldier carries a digital camera almost as a sidearm," explained O'Brien.

This is the important bit. At the first Winter Soldier, the participating veterans brought nothing but their spoken testimony. Today, soldiers are able to gather evidence -- pictures, video footage, and sound recordings -- to back up their claims. I think (hope) this will be hard for policy-makers to ignore.
posted by ourobouros at 10:50 AM on March 13, 2008


Here's to the soldiers who are coming forward to testify. That takes a lot of guts, particularly since they know that many Americans and probably many of their fellow soldiers will revile them as traitors, both now and in the future. (I know one Vietnam vet who curses every time he hears John Kerry's name, based on his "betrayal" at the original Winter Soldier hearings.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:02 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it's important to remember that these individual crimes, while abhorrent, are part of a chain of events that stretches directly back to the Commander in Chief and the architects of the War. Of course each individual person is responsible for their own action, but war is hell, and someone placed these soldiers in hell. Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.
posted by cell divide at 11:03 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I'm pretty sure we saw some pretty fucked-up shit," said Clifton Hicks, who was a private in the 1st Armored Division in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

I've never been in a war zone, but I bet that's a true statement.
posted by marxchivist at 11:05 AM on March 13, 2008


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

Ralph Nader?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:08 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Do people honestly believe warfare is this gentleman's agreement? All conflict will have some pretty serious consquences on civillians regardless of the intention of those involved. People are supposed to know this when they clamor for war. Then again, people seemed to be in love with the idea of invading Iraq until they realized they werent winning. Now that its a loss war we need to look deeply into blaming soliders and civilians for ruining the perfect vision of dear leader and those who voted and supported him.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:19 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Technicality: You cna call it awar, but actually it's an occupation.
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on March 13, 2008


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

American voters?
posted by sineater at 11:37 AM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

American voters? Katherine Harris and Diebold?
posted by beaucoupkevin at 11:42 AM on March 13, 2008


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

Abraham, for begetting two sons, one who would father Judaism and Christianity, the other who would father Islam?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

Michael Moore?
posted by fire&wings at 11:48 AM on March 13, 2008


I can't help but imagine that, in a war zone, soldiers are tense, sleep deprived and are being forced to make dozens of instant, irreversible decisions every day.

In a firefight, with limited vision, a ton of noise and the threat of instant death hanging over one's head all the time, I would be more surprised to learn that there were not times where the wrong decisions were made and innocent civilians - or even friendly troops - were killed.

There is, however, a difference between what happens in the heat of battle or for security reasons and what happens because somebody is breaking the law.

For example, in a firefight, raping a civilian is probably not a useful act, and certainly not one that flow logically from a the battle. Killing a bunch of villagers while you're not in a firefight for whatever reason is also not especially morally sound.

Tossing a puppy off a cliff? Sorry, man, blowing off steam because being a soldier sucks isn't really much of a decent ethical justification.

Rampant cannibalism and other horrors (not U.S. soldiers, but I'm trying to make a point here) even if you're following orders to do so raises some serious red flags about one's personal morals.

Yes, the men who fight beside you are your brothers, but even in the inconceivable horror of war - maybe especially in it - one needs to hold on to one's sense of right and wrong. The moment your moral compass says "yes, my brother just [committed some morally reprehensible, illegal act that caused harm to another human], but he's a fellow soldier and, thus, I owe it to him to keep my mouth shut," well, you are abandoning some pretty common standards of decency.

Even if you've dehumanized the enemy to the point where you can imagine that your brother's atrocity is justified, someday your brother is going to go back to his hometown and still have the potential to do that again to another person - perhaps one of your countrymen.

You are not doing yourself or your country any favors by turning a blind eye to war crimes.

Just because you are forced to live in a world of shit doesn't mean that you have to let that shit seep through to your soul, know what I mean?
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:50 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

Republican voters?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:06 PM on March 13, 2008


let the Swift Boating begin

Ignoring the back and forth in this thread for a moment, the Swift Boating metaphor is the real injustice: that these individuals brave enough to stand up will eventually be punished -- through some gross abuse of civil or military legalese, or by some extralegal Rovian career assassination maneuver -- used up and discarded by the system they lay their lives down to protect.

Because unless the people at the top, the Bushes, the Cheneys, the Rumsfelds, the Kristols and other conservative elites, unless those folks are called to account for their treasonous behavior, none of this will matter much. There will be a couple Senate hearings, maybe, but the press will return to the next American Idol highlight, while people keep dying overseas for artificially cheap oil for Hummers and corporate welfare for arms manufacturers and energy companies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:15 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sounds like someone never read Stolen Valor
posted by rulethirty at 12:16 PM on March 13, 2008


[a few comments removed - if you want to call someone out do that in METATALK, not here.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:17 PM on March 13, 2008


(sigh).. silly c/p.. Stolen Valor

(though, if anyone can vouch for that lens, I'd be curious to hear it ;)
posted by rulethirty at 12:18 PM on March 13, 2008


Its valid and easy to blame Bush, republicans, the American people, dumb congresscritters, and all sorts of scapegoats for the war, and the resulting atrocities and tragedy. I prefer my blame to be a bit more direct though. To me, a major blame out needs to go to the mid-level military brass - whoever makes the decision to in the training process to represent the enemy as somehow subhuman, and tying the entire enterprise so securely to Islam. Its easier to kill/rape/pillage when these people are subhuman, where religious justification is so easy. You are doing God's will.

I haven't served, and respect those that do on a deep and very sympathetic level. Its a sad fact that warriors are necessary. Its even hard to blame the individual when these types of things occur. Clearly it depends upon the facts in any particular situation, but the bottom line is: I think virtually none of these people would ever commit any kind of crime and certainly not an atrocity if they were not trained and encouraged to by leadership under the guise of training and cultural orientation.

I saw a booklet on Islam that was distributed to my friend in Air Force Intelligence just prior to the 1st Gulf War. Its hard to describe the level of religious ignorance and jingoistic lies that it contained.

For what its worth anyway...just an anecdote I know.
posted by sfts2 at 12:34 PM on March 13, 2008


Do people honestly believe warfare is this gentleman's agreement? All conflict will have some pretty serious consquences on civillians regardless of the intention of those involved.

See, that's one of the areas where we were supposed to be better than the other guys. We had the UCMJ telling our people not to obey illegal orders, and to observe the Geneva Convention. When Abu Ghraib surfaced, it was clear that our soldiers are now being told something else, and that we aren't better than the other guys in that area any more. That's profoundly depressing. The people who changed that are evil and stupid.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:49 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, the men who fight beside you are your brothers, but even in the inconceivable horror of war - maybe especially in it - one needs to hold on to one's sense of right and wrong.

Part of the problem is that there are psychological factors in war that can damage one's sense of right and wrong. This is made worse by some problems in the way the US forces operate. For example, our emphasis on individual replacement rather than unit-based training and de-emphasis on grieving for the dead can create an atmosphere in which soldiers feel betrayed by their own culture, and lose their trust in cultural concepts of "right" or "wrong". Check out Dr. Jonathan Shay's books for more on this -- he has worked with Vietnam veterans for years, and has identified some common triggers for this kind of psychological damage, along with training and support methods by which these triggers can be mitigated. I think his ideas could really help in improving our military culture and reducing the rates of PTSD and associated war crimes.
posted by vorfeed at 1:03 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: That is fascinating. What prevents Dr. Shay's ideas from being implemented? Would it be expensive or something?
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:08 PM on March 13, 2008


one day, there won't be any more winter soldiers because americans will look at an emerging (manufactured) crisis and say, "no, we've learnt our lesson."

*sigh*
posted by klanawa at 1:24 PM on March 13, 2008


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

Charlie Wilson?
posted by b1tr0t at 2:13 PM on March 13, 2008


vorfeed: That is fascinating. What prevents Dr. Shay's ideas from being implemented? Would it be expensive or something?

Not really, at least not intrinsically. I suppose it's expensive to change almost anything in the military, since it costs to print new versions of manuals and re-train soldiers, but his ideas are themselves rather simple and low-cost. In fact, many of Europe's military forces already use the unit-based system he has proposed, and we also used it before and during WWII, so it's definitely do-able.

Shay's lectures and books have been well-received by higher-ups in the military, so it's not as if he's a big unknown to them. For example, he delivered this lecture to the Secretary of the Navy & guests in 2000. I guess the problem is mainly just inertia -- an overhaul of the personnel system would be a major change, and any complex bureaucracy resists change. Also, the flawed assumptions ("soldiers are interchangeable", "PTSD just happens sometimes", "it's just a few bad apples") behind these problems are still in effect, so there are probably plenty of people in the military and in Congress who don't see a problem at all, much less one that requires a major overhaul. Also, there isn't a chance in hell that anyone will go for changing the system right in the middle of a war. That's foolish, and would probably cause more problems than it solves. Which gives us yet another reason to get the hell out of Iraq...

I suspect we will see lots of changes following the war, and hopefully Dr. Shay's work will contribute to them.
posted by vorfeed at 2:45 PM on March 13, 2008


I would hardly blame the military or in fact even Bush. War does this and we have Atrocities in all of our wars. Usually most of it never gets made public. For starters, do a search for what Southerns did to black Union troops in the Civil War. War does this to men.
posted by Postroad at 2:48 PM on March 13, 2008


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

Bill. It's always Bill. It will be Bill a hundred years from now.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:54 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


All this will they?/won't they? is like Ross and Rachel all over again!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:10 PM on March 13, 2008


“People are supposed to know this when they clamor for war”

In a nutshell:
“It has often been remarked but seldom remembered that war itself is a crime. Yet a war crime is more and POP“Want to shed that belly fat?”POP other than war ... It is an act beyond the pale of acceptable actions even in war.”


“Tossing a puppy off a cliff? Sorry, man, blowing off steam because being a soldier sucks isn't really much of a decent ethical justification.”

And of course, not every service member out there is doing that.

“You are not doing yourself or your country any favors by turning a blind eye to war crimes.”

And so - here are these guys speaking out on it. Still getting shit from some quarters tho.

“one day, there won't be any more winter soldiers because americans will look at an emerging (manufactured) crisis and say, "no, we've learnt our lesson."”

In theory, that was Vietnam. Hopefully more folks will listen to these guys and remember. Unfortunately people look at them, or even the Stanford experiments, myriad other statements on the human condition and say “Those people are bastards, they’re nothing like me.”
When in fact that is the worst possible state of mind to be in to anticipate and avoid inhuman behavior. Everyone has a moral, physical, mental, breaking point. Recognize it in yourself, and you can see and understand it in others. Not to excuse it, but to safeguard against it happening and make a reasonable judgement when it does happen without turning away and recognizing it.
Otherwise it’s the same thing as Bushco hiding the coffins, dodging the funerals and all that. It practically guarantees it will happen again. As bad as not teaching your kids about sex and disowning them when they catch an STD or wind up pregnant.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:22 PM on March 13, 2008


Someone told me yesterday that for a while on his deployment in Iraq his unit was shooting anyone with a shovel on the theory that they were using them to plant IED's.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:31 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's often hard for me to work up any sympathy or admiration for volunteer soldiers in the biggest and most aggressive war machine on the planet, but I found this article by David Graeber interesting:
As I always tell activists engaged in the peace movement and counter-recruitment campaigns: why do working-class kids join the army anyway? Because, like any teenager, they want to escape the world of tedious work and meaningless consumerism, to live a life of adventure and camaraderie in which they believe they are doing something genuinely noble. They join the army because they want to be like you.
It must be a nasty shock to sign up to selflessly save the world, only to discover that that mainly involves incinerating third-world slum-dwellers and then being ignored and despised when you come home with brain damage and your face burnt off. That disillusionment alone, and the cynicism it produces, can probably account for a good number of the smaller scale atrocities. I guess a similar but less severe phenomenon happens to teachers, police, social workers, maybe even politicians.
posted by stammer at 5:35 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

All the lazy assholes who didn't vote, and thus allowed a minority population of wingnuts to elect their batshitinsane presidential candidate?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:45 PM on March 13, 2008


one day, there won't be any more winter soldiers because americans will look at an emerging (manufactured) crisis and say, "no, we've learnt our lesson."

*sigh*


one day, there won't be any more winter soldiers because americans will fight with robots.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:50 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]




Let's not forget who is ultimately to blame for the situation.

The people actually carrying out or ordering the atrocities?

one day, there won't be any more winter soldiers because americans will look at an emerging (manufactured) crisis and say, "no, we've learnt our lesson."

Yeah, right.
posted by signal at 8:37 PM on March 13, 2008


I would hardly blame the military or in fact even Bush. War does this and we have Atrocities in all of our wars.

So you wouldn't blame the guy who started the war, which supposedly inevitably resulted in atrocities? Put him back on the hook, Slim - he's the one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:39 AM on March 14, 2008


You can hear live coverage of this through the weekend on 94.1 KPFA in the Bay Area or on the warcomeshome website which is sort of a live-blogging project. I think it will be archived at kpfa.org as well.
posted by a_green_man at 1:10 PM on March 14, 2008


Vorfeed, I believe the U.S. military is no longer using the individual replacwment system. Units have been rotating in and out of the battlezone en masse for the most part.
posted by Jahaza at 11:24 AM on March 15, 2008






Democracy Now is playing more excerpts from the proceedings.
posted by homunculus at 9:22 AM on March 17, 2008


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