In March 2008, more than 200 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) gathered near Washington, D.C., to listen to and provide testimony about what they saw and did in military uniform. They called the event “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan,” following the example of the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigation that brought together Vietnam veterans for a similar purpose.
Winter Soldier, Iraq and Afghanistan: Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations by IVAW member and journalist , published this fall by Haymarket Books, collects the powerful testimony given at this historic event.
The following excerpts, reprinted with permission, are from the testimony of five of the more than 50 veterans who spoke during Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan.
This fall, Glantz and members of the IVAW will join other authors on the Resisting Empire speaking tour.
Specialist, Tennessee National Guard, Medic Troop F, 2nd Squadron 278th Regimental Combat Team
Deployment: November 2004–November 2005, Central Baghdad
Hometown: Kingsport, Tennessee
Age at Winter Soldier: 28 years old
I got into Iraq in November of ‘04 and I was there until November of ‘05. Our ﬁrst six months in country were relatively uneventful. After a few months, we moved on to another mission, patrolling the Kindi Street area, right outside the Green Zone. Kindi Street is a relatively upscale neighborhood, and some of the houses would cost well over a million dollars here in America.
From what we were told, this area had no violent activity at all up until the point that we started patrolling there. We were the ﬁrst U.S. military to do so on any regular basis. So we went in and we started doing patrols through the streets. We started meeting and greeting the local population, trying to ﬁgure out what sort of issues they had and how we could resolve them.
We were out on a dismounted patrol one day, walking by a woman’s house. She was outside working in her garden. Our interpreter threw up his hand and said, “Salam Alaikum,” which means “Peace of God be with you.” She said. “No. No peace of God be with you.” She was angry and so we stopped and our interpreter said, “Well, what’s the matter? Why are you so angry? We’re here to ensure your safety.”
That woman began to tell us a story. Just a few months prior, her husband had been shot and killed by a United States convoy because he got too close to their convoy. He was not an insurgent. He was not a terrorist. He was a working man trying to make a living for his family.
To make matters worse, a Special Forces team operating in the Kindi area holed up in a building there and made a compound out of it. A few weeks after this man died, the Special Forces team got some intelligence that this woman was supporting the insurgency, so they raided her home, zip-tied her and her two children, threw them on the ﬂoor, and detained her son and took him away. For the next two weeks, this woman had no idea whether her son was alive, dead, or worse. At the end of that two weeks, the Special Forces team rolled up, dropped her son off, and without so much as an apology drove off. It turns out they had acted on bad intelligence. Things like that happen every day in Iraq. We are harassing these people. We are disrupting their lives…
Conservative statistics say that the majority of Iraqis support attacks against coalition forces. The majority of Iraqis support us leaving immediately and the majority of Iraqis see us as the main contributors to the violence in Iraq.
I like to explain it this way, especially in the South because it rings with truth to people down there: If a foreign occupying force came here to the United States, whether they told us they were here to liberate us or to give us democracy, do you not think that every person that owns a shotgun would not come out of the hills and ﬁght for their right to self-determination?