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Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan (the book)

By Horace Coleman

[Printer-Friendly Version]

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the policies or stances of VVAW.

Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan
Iraq Veterans Against the War and Aaron Glantz
2008, Haymarket Books, Chicago
ISBN 978-1-1931859-65-3 (paperback), 237 pages, $16

This short book is like a good boxer's jab: Sharp, on target and powerful.


Kelly Dougherty, Executive Director of IVAW, writes:

When we return home from combat, many people would rather not hear our stories, would rather not be made to feel uncomfortable by being confronted with the grim reality of warfare and occupation, where morality becomes obscured and the lines between good and bad are fluid and hazy. (5)

She later writes:

By acknowledging our experiences, it pressures people to recognize their own responsibility for the actions being taken by a military that is ultimately meant to defend them. . . . It is often much easier for people to call us heroes and forget about us, forget about the sacrifices we've made and horrors we've endured. We must remind people that the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan are being waged by the United States as a country, not simply by our military or our political administration. (5)

Iraqi civilians testify about living under occupation. U.S. parents like Fernando Suarez del Solar (father of a son KIA in Iraq) and Joyce and Kevin Lucey (their Iraq vet son committed suicide) tell about their children's short lives and quick deaths.

Voices from the book:

A Marine Sergeant on the Rules of Engagement:

". . . My officers explicitly told me and my fellow marines that if we felt threatened by an Iraqi's presence, we 'should shoot them' and the officers would 'take care of us.'" (19)

By this time, many of the marines were on their second and third tour and had suffered such serious psychological damage that they shot people who were clearly noncombatants. There was one incident when a roadside bomb exploded, and a few minutes later, I watched a marine start shooting at cars that were hundreds of meters away and in the opposite direction from where the IED exploded. (19)

A Marine Corporal:

By my third tour, we were told that if they carried a shovel or a heavy bag or they were seen digging any where, especially near roads, that we could shoot them. . So we carried these tools and weapons in our vehicles in case we accidentally shot an innocent civilian. We could just toss it on there and be like, "Well, he was digging. I was within the Rules of Engagement." (22)

An Army Private:

We're not bad people. We were there because we thought that we were gonna make things better, because those people wanted us to be there. We showed up and realized that there's a whole bunch of people that wanted to kill us. How were we gonna short them out? The only way to ensure our survival was to make sure that we put them in the dirt before they put us in the dirt, to put it bluntly. (29)

An Army Reserve Staff Sergeant:

The Iraqis have been doing their thing for thousands of years and I think it is very pretentious of us as Americans to think we can go in there and spoon-feed them democracy. I think it's even more pretentious to try to go in there and change their culture and the way they handle situations. I think that it is a lost cause in Iraq. I think that regardless of when we leave, whether it is tomorrow or in a hundred years, the Iraqis are going to handle things the way that they are going to handle them. (37)

". . . I don't think that it's worth it to continue to lose American lives, to continue what we now see in hindsight as a pretty big mistake." (37)

A National Guard Specialist:

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 the right to self-determination? (41)

. . . I approached a man with my interpreter on the side of a road and said, "Look, are your lives better because we're here? Are you safer? Do you feel more secure? Do you feel like we are liberating you?" That man looked me straight in the eye and said, "Mister, we Iraqis know that you have good intentions here, but the fact is that before America invaded, we didn't have to worry about car bombs in our neighborhoods. We didn't have to worry about the safety of our own children before they walked to school, and we didn't have to worry about U.S. soldiers shooting at us as we drive up and down our own streets." (41)

A Navy Petty Officer describes his treatment at the VA: this way:

No therapy was recommended. Medications were recommended. They gave me three different medications. The first was Trazodone. The second was Paxil. And the third was gabapentin, a generic form of Neurontin. My doctor did not give me any information on these medications. (147)

. . . I left my appointment that day, and I went home and I did research on the medications that I was given. And I found out that the main side effect of all three medications is suicidal thoughts and suicidal tendencies. (147)

An Army Captain notes that:

From 2003-2007 no computer systems for tracking immigration or emigration were installed along the Syrian-Iraqi border. This surely contributed to the instability of Iraq. Foreign fighters and criminals were free to move transnationally with little fear of apprehension. It is probable that significant numbers of Americans and Iraqis were wounded or killed as a result.

There's more, much more. Read this book.


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