What was the purpose of the Winter Soldier testimonies?
What Iraq Veterans Against the War were trying to do with Winter Soldier was present testimony from soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to show that [prisoner abuse and killing of innocents] was in fact policy. This was something that was created and encouraged and fostered by the chain of command ultimately reaching to the very top… to George W. Bush.
What were some of the most telling testimonies?
What the majority of the people that testified got across again and again was that this war is predicated upon this notion that the Iraqi people are somehow substandard and subhuman… That there was this constant dehumanisation of the enemy that led to marines and soldiers feeling like they could treat and abuse and put the Iraqi civilians in such situations that under normal circumstances you wouldn’t think possible. This all comes out of training and indoctrination that paints the Iraqis in this racist light.
One of the most shocking testimonies came from a sergeant in the army who was a direct aide for general.
They were going through their daily debrief for the general’s area of operations and that day there had a been tragedy at a checkpoint-something that happens almost daily in Iraq.
A vehicle came up upon a checkpoint. There was a young soldier there who couldn’t identify the driver. The driver was new to the area and the car didn’t stop as soon as it was supposed to stop. The soldier proceeded to put 250 rounds of 50 calibre heavy machine gun fire into the vehicle, proceeding to kill the entire family; a mother, father and two children.
When they ended up searching the vehicle they found nothing but a picnic basket in the trunk. There were no weapons whatsoever. So as this incident was being reported to the general, a colonel stood up and said (and this is a quote): “Well if these fucking Hadjis would learn how to drive, this shit wouldn’t happen.”
We had a quote on tape from a lieutenant in the chain of command of a certain marine unit saying “I think I just killed half the fucking population of Northern Ramadi you can go fuck your red tape, I don’t give a damn.”
He almost literally did kill half the population of Northern Ramadi, these people were forced to flee. After the end of their tour there was no downtown Ramadi anymore. It was a ghost town. They had literally shot everyone out of the city.
What was the impact of it on other veterans and serving defence personnel and the broader society?
It was really encouraging the reach we had, we got into Stars and Stripes, the military publication that goes out to all branches of the service in all parts of the world, to the 738 installations that the US has over the globe. Because we were streaming live from our website we had people literally watching in Baghdad