Iraq veterans speak out against war

Derek Thurber

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While on active duty in Iraq many soldiers have been given orders to attack “hot zones” and other areas where military insurgents lived. These places turned out to have only unarmed civilians including many women and children.

These stories have been told over and over again by news sources, but soldiers confirmed the most disturbing of these stories at the recent Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, a summit hosted March 13-16 by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“What the American soldiers are talking about is everyday life for Iraqis. They’re not even talking about 10 percent of what’s happening there,” Iraqi Salim Talib said at Winter Soldier. “They are simply giving credibility to the stories that have been told over and over from Iraq by journalists, Iraqis and humanitarian organizations. The American soldiers are saying, ‘We’re here, we did it and it’s true.'”

Soldiers gathered to recount what they realized is a profoundly disturbing continuous series of events that occurs in Iraq every day. These soldiers face the prospect of being charged in military courts and even in civilian courts under the military powers act of 1996 but all of them testified anyway.

Among those stories related at Winter Soldier were those of Pfc. Clifton Hicks who was on tank duty in the streets of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, when he was given an order. He was told that the area he was in was a “free-fire zone.” He was told that there were only insurgents in the area so it was “weapons free.” His unit opened fire on buildings, parked cars and everything else in the area.

In the aftermath Hicks found, instead, hundreds of innocent men, women and children with not a gun or an explosive in sight.
He was told that his unit killed 700-800 “enemy combatants.”

In some situations: which churns my stomach to even think about: the soldiers carried extra weapons with them to plant on the dead civilians they killed to make it look like they were insurgents.

Murder was a common theme at the summit. Jon Michael Turner, who served as a machine gunner with Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Eighth Marines, described a situation in which he shot an unarmed man in the presence of his father and friend.

“The first round didn’t kill him, after I had hit him up here in his neck area. And afterwards he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend…and I said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen.’ So I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family,” Turner said.

This is just one of many stories related at Winter Soldier. The most unsettling part of these stories is that all of those who testified continued to reiterate that “this is not an isolated incident.”

The IVAW issued a statement at the conference condemning the war at its base.

“The military is being asked to win an occupation,” the statement read. “The troops on the ground know this is an impossible task…. We have a political problem that cannot be solved with a military solution. This is not a war that can be won. It is an occupation that can only be ended.”

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