I’ve been ruminating how I would close out this weekend after focusing on Winter Soldier for the last few days. I thought a point-by-point refutation of the testimony, but I figured that’d be disingenuous of me, since the testimony lacked context – there were no dates or times or places (other than general references) or even participants in some cases. So, just like the participants, I can only give general impressions – only I’ll do it without playing to the applause.
First, my personal experience with the IVAW/Veterans for Peace and the other and sundry people was professional. I wasn’t especially pleased that I was escorted everywhere I went, or that we spent the day surrounded by security people, or that our blogs were being monitored – however, it does lend what I wrote a measure of credibility. But there were news outlets like the Guardian and al Jazeera wandering around without security and writing what they want. I’ll grant that my readership is somewhat less than theirs, but the product I created was under much more scrutiny while it was being released to the public.
I commend Army Sergeant for her hard work in getting access to the event for us. I’m sure she burned off more than a few calories running in circles making sure we weren’t overly-harassed or confined. Without her support, we’d have been stuck watching the streaming video from our homes like everyone else. We were instructed to only photograph the panels and that we couldn’t photograph the audience. When one member of the audience took a snap shot of TSO and me, I brought it to the attention of one security member and she deleted the picture from his camera.
However, I do condemn them for tackling from behind Gerry Kiley whom I reported stood up and yelled “Kerry lied and good men died”. I don’t agree with what Mr. Kiley did – it certainly didn’t remove any scrutiny from what we were doing – but tackling a frail 61-year-old from behind was just as cruel as any testimony from the panel. I’m sure they could have easily pulled him from the room without the drama. But then the whole day was about over-reaction, wasn’t it?
But to the testimony; War sucks. It’s sucked since the beginning of the invention of the rock as a weapon. Innocent people die in war, and that sucks, too. But not since the beginning of warfare has any Army taken such care to minimize innocent deaths as the United States armed forces. Never. That’s indisputable.
But, the people who testified Friday glossed over that fact. Take Kelly Dougherty’s testimony that Kellog, Brown and Root prevented scavengers from taking the diesel fuel from their disabled vehicles by firing beanbag rounds at them. What other military entity in the world uses beanbag rounds in a combat zone?
Jason Hurd testified that the ROE ALMOST forced him to shoot a woman carrying home groceries – he broke into tears and slung snot all over the panel because he ALMOST shot a woman. I guess the fact that escaped him was that the ROE worked – he didn’t have to shoot her.
Hurd also tearfully testified that his unit, when fired upon from a building turned a 50-cal on the building and unleashed 200 rounds on the masonry structure. The firing stopped and the unit continued their mission. Hurd went into great detail explaining the size of the rounds and the brass (by the way, Jason, a fifty-cal is a half-inch in diameter, you missed that) and how much ammo is in the metal container – but I fail to see how that reflects on the Bush administration or that Pentagon entity he was trying to blame. Hurd admitted that he doesn’t know how many people were in the building, that he knows of no casualties resulting from that action – so one is left to wonder what was his point?
The point of the whole testimony, for the entire day I spent there was that the war is illegal from the get-go. They offered no evidence that the war is illegal – but when there’s room full of aged bobbleheads nodding on cue – who needs evidence? All of these terrible things that happened could have been avoided if George W, Bush and the evil neo-cons hadn’t invaded Iraq in the first place. No one had stories of torture or atrocities – they only described the horror of being in war. You could only accept these things as atrocities if you accepted at the beginning that war is illegal. Without that admission, you were left to wonder what everyone was talking about.
That was one of the problems – I was probably one of the youngest people in the room and I’m nearly 53 years old. The audience were a bunch of old hippies who’d never served in the military and had never seen a war outside of the context of the politics of war. They tch-tched their way through the hearings without understanding the pains the military had to suffer to avoid real atrocities. Their only solution to the war was ending it – today with no real thought of the consequences. The only victory they sought was a victory of Democrats over Republicans regardless of what the nation would be forced to deal with when their solution was enacted.
Almost everyone testified that they were confused as to the ROE – but then they all testified to a measure of restraint they all knew was present. Um, the ROE. The confusion came when they actually had to apply their own common sense in relation to the ROE and their circumstances.
Jon Michael Turner started telling us how he shot people, he showed us pictures of his kills (dare I say trophies?) – but he neglected to fill in the part about why he shot those people in the first place. I’m pretty sure he didn’t just indiscriminately shoot “the fat man” or the guy in the bicycle. Why didn’t he tell us about the events leading up to his pulling the trigger instead of beginning his stories with the death of his targets? He referred to his “choking hand” and his bracelet on his choking hand – but he failed to tell us if he ever used his “choking hand” to choke anyone that didn’t deserved to be choked. Just that he had a “choking hand”. And then he went on to tell us that he’s not the monster he once was. Well, fellow Vermonter, what made you a monster – the fact that you designated one of your hands a “choking hand”?
His testimony has changed somewhat since January when this video was posted on YouTube and Turner announced that atrocities against innocent civilians was the policy of the military in Iraq.
From his testimony Friday, it seems the only policy of committing atrocities against Iraqi civilians was his own.
James Gilligan’s claims were funny. Some troops stole a few gold coins they found (wasn’t that in the movie “Three Kings?) – what about the troops who found billions of US currency and didn’t take even a George Washington? His first sergeant threatened a boy with a pistol – he didn’t kill the boy, he didn’t harm the boy, he just threatened him. hardly an atrocity. Oh, and he outright lied about witnessing someone being waterboarded – but then he was playing to the crowd. More detractors of the practice have been waterboarded to demonstrate it to the masses than have been actually waterboarded to extract information. But as soon as he said “…and of course they were waterboarded”, all of the bobbleheads in the audience went to nodding.
While we’re on the subject of lying, Adam Kokesh began his testimony with a lie – that’s why I switched on the video – so I didn’t have to listen to him and then get dragged out like Gerry Kiley. He claimed that he’d opposed the war before it began but joined because he thought it was his duty – his website used to claim he joined because he was a real hoo-ah guy and supported the war against terrorists and he’d been influenced by recruiters but the horrors of war turned him against it. So now that he’s established that he’s a liar. when was he lying – on Friday or on his blog? Kokesh depends on people to forget what he’s said in the past.
The real atrocity stories were being told out by the ashtray, though. I don’t know how many of the IVAW kids I heard relating their tales to the belly-shirt, hip-hugger wearing college aged chickies while I took my smokebreaks. But I don’t want to c***block on any of those guys who might still be laid up with their airhead honeys today – that’d be a neocon atrocity.
No matter how hard the panels tried, they tried to make it about the Bush Administration, but their testimony all boiled down to the actions of the soldiers. They claimed to support the troops, but their supposed atrocities were all the result of small unit leaders’ actions (yes, guys, your captains and lieutenants are “troops”, too). No matter how hard they tried to deflect their criticism away from the troops, it hit all of our service members square in the forehead. Registering your gun with willie pete isn’t a decision made by some faceless neo-con in the Pentagon, calling for fire on a village is a company commander’s decision, not Dick Cheney’s. Bragging about firing up a civilian car isn’t coming from the Defense Department. George Bush wasn’t pushing down on the 50-cal’s butterflies or reloading the gun.
I may have some more thoughts as the day goes on, but I’m going to spend the day with my grandson. Keep an eye on The Sniper, TSO is supposed to be live-blogging the media portion of the testimony.