Caught part of this on the radio this morning on my way to work: Half a Decade of War: Five Years After Iraq Invasion, Soldiers Testify at Winter Soldier Hearings
Five years ago tonight, on March 19, 2003, the US launched the invasion of Iraq. Half a decade later, as the occupation continues with no end in sight, some of the most powerful voices against the war have been the men and women who have fought in it. For four days this past weekend, soldiers convened at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland for Winter Soldier, an eyewitness account of the war and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We broadcast their voices. [includes rush transcript–partial]
Camilo Mejia, former staff sergeant who served six months in Iraq in 2003 with the Florida National Guard. After a brief leave, he refused to return. He was court-martialed and served nearly a year in prison. He is now the chair of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Mike Totten, Former US Army specialist who served with the 716th MP Battalion in the 101st Airborne and was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 until April 2004.
Kevin and Joyce Lucey, their son, Marine Lance Corporal Jeffrey Lucey, served five months in Iraq with the 6th Motor Transport Battalion. Almost a year later, he committed suicide, in June 2004. He was twenty-three years old.
Tanya Austin, Arab linguist in Military Intelligence.
Jeffrey Smith, served in Iraq in May 2003 and was honorably discharged in January 2004.
Take a listen, but beware: it’s quite heavy stuff, not for the faint at heart. The somber accounts of the brutal, de-humanizing and ugly nature of war, and maybe particularly this war.
Three quotes I wanted to share.
First, from a soldier involved in the first phase of the war in Iraq:
Camilo Mejia: “I just—there was this blank space in my memory, which is a blank space that I have for other experiences, like this time when this child was basically riding in the passenger seat with his father, and we decapitated his father with a machinegun. And when we went down to the low ground to search for enemy wounded, I remember seeing this young person standing next to this body that was decapitated. And when I think about it, I cannot remember the expression on the child’s face. I cannot remember that he was a child. I only know this because people told me later on that was the man’s son, the man’s young son, who was standing next to the body.”
Second, the father of the soldier who committed suicide about one year after returning from Iraq:
KEVIN LUCEY: “So later that evening, we had decided that we were going to try to go out, because he had become reclusive in the house. We were going to try to go out for a steak dinner the following night. At about 11:30, quarter to 12:00, Jeffrey asked me, for the second time within the past ten days, if he could just sit in my lap and I could rock him for about—well, for a while. And we did. We sat there for about forty-five minutes, and I was rocking Jeff, and we were in total silence. As his private therapist that we had hired said, it was his last harbor and his last place of refuge.
The next day, I came home. It was about quarter after 7:00. I held Jeff one last time, as I lowered his body from the rafters and took the hose from around his neck.”
Third, from a soldier who spent the first year of the war in Iraq:
Mike Totten: “… My being up here displays my anger, both by—on multiple levels: by the Americans’ behavior overseas, by our presidents continuous rhetoric about Iraq being a success, about this country’s citizens—an apathy to this occupation. And this is why I’m here today, as well. These events happen in our name, and each and every single one of you are responsible for this, as well. I am very sorry for my actions, and I can’t take back what I did. I ask the forgiveness of the people of Iraq and of my country, and I will not enable this any further.”
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