View Full Version : Iraq War Year Five: The Winter Solders 2008

Chris Knipp
03-20-2008, 01:20 AM
Iraq: The Fifth Anniversary of the US Invasion

Winter Soldiers testify

On the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the euphemistically named Coalition, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) held a gathering of Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan in Silver Spring, Maryland. They spent the entire weekend testifying before an audience about the experiences that turned them against the war. Staunch patriots all, these brave men and women of principle were following the precedent of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War who met in Detroit in 1971 to testify about the atrocities and wrongs they witnessed, or committed, in their American war. As John Kerry, a leader of the VVAW, explained back then in an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "the term 'Winter Soldier' is a play on [the] words of Thomas Paine in 1776 when he spoke of the Sunshine Patriot and summertime soldiers who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough. . . We feel we have to be winter soldiers now. . .we have to speak out."

It takes a special kind of courage and independence to reject a war you have fought in intensely yourself, as the Winter Soldiers have. But the hard time, the soldier's "winter," the time to bear witness, is back here at home for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans for many reasons. Joyce and Kevin Lucey told the story of how their son who returned couldn't be prevented from committing suicide because he was tormented by the memories of what he had done and the VA hospital would not help him. The soldier's "winter," the greatest test of endurance, is back here for every returning soldier tormented by things he or she witnessed overseas--memories of children shot in cars or blown apart by mines, of old women set on fire while carrying a big bag of groceries, of families guilty of nothing terrorized in their homes, of every taxi in Baghdad made a target by an arbitrary US command, of innocent Iraqi prisoners dying after days of suffering. It's not "easy" to forget any of that, but it's easier to try to get on with your life than to speak out about what you saw and take a stand against war as these veterans have chosen to do. So the Winter Soldiers are fighting another battle here at home for their sanity and for what's right as they now see it after what they witnessed in the military.

See the rest of my essay on my website here:


03-29-2008, 07:22 PM
Yes it sure is a whole other battle at home, isn't it?

This is such a sad situation.
You have soldiers who signed up to fight for their country finding themselves on the wrong end of a big oily stick, with little to no help on how to deal with their demons.
Thanks for highlighting this very serious issue Chris.

How much would it suck if you fought in this bogus war, committed atrocious acts *under orders*, and eventually came to find that maybe what you were doing wasn't so shit hot?

maybe what you were doing "for freedom" was a giant crock of steaming horseshit, and that knowledge is now bearing down so much on your psyche that you just can't take it anymore?
The suffering becomes immense...
The guilt wracks you...
the government that sent you off to fight their war couldn't give a rats ass about you or what you saw, heard, did in Iraq.

How's that for Good Morning America?
Lots to be proud of, huh?
Just so much goodness and cheer to spread around...

Stories like these break my heart. But what can you do?
This is the world we live in.
It's a world where incomprehensible shit goes down on a regular basis. You just shake your head and try to tell yourself that
someone's gotta be keeping score on the other side..someone's GOTTA be...

Chris Knipp
03-29-2008, 11:54 PM
The "Winter Soldiers" 2008 event is important to everybody who participated in it and witnessed it, whether on the scene in Silver Spring, MD or via radio, link TV, and the Web. It's there on their site, and I hope people will keep going there and watching and listening.

Another thing that's coming out shortly is the documentary Body of War, directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. It tells the story of Tomas Young, who was shot in the back and paralyzed from the arms down on his first mission in Iraq, and who bravely struggles with his disability to protest against the occupation.

It's getting released week by week in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles so far. Basically Robert Boyd is another Winter Soldier.

Stop-Loss, which went into wide release yesterday, is a disappointment politically and to some extent artistically, but maybe its strong emotional content in depicting what the Iraq war is doing to brave young American soldiers will wake up a few minds of people who wouldn't go to In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, Redacted, or any of the other so far not every effective Iraq war features.

Winter Soldiers testimonies:

My review of Stop-Loss:

oscar jubis
03-30-2008, 12:36 PM
Originally posted by Chris Knipp
Another thing that's coming out shortly is the documentary Body of War, directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro. It tells the story of Robert Boyd, who was shot in the back and paralyzed from the arms down on his first mission in Iraq, and who bravely struggles with his disability to protest against the occupation.

Here is my review of:


The great Roman historian, Titus Livius, said, "All things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry; haste is blind and improvident."
"Blind and improvident," Mr. President. Congress would be wise to heed those words today, for as sure as the sun rises in the east, we are embarking on a course of action with regard to Iraq that, in its haste, is both blind and improvident. We are rushing into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps we might take to avert conflict.

That is an excerpt from the remarks made by Robert Byrd, the Democratic Senator from West Virgina, during the debate leading to the passing of the Iraq War Resolution in October of 2002. This documentary co-directed by TV icon Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro intercuts between the debate and vote count that sanctioned the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq and the daily activities of Tomas Young. Mr. Young joined the Army two days after 9/11 hoping to search and capture those responsible for the terrorist attacks. Instead, he was deployed to Iraq. He was shot on his fifth day there, resulting in permanent spinal cord injury.

Body of War depicts with absolute frankness the ensuing physical and mental challenges involved. The daily care he receives from his wife Brie, from his mother Cathy, and from medical staff from the Veteran's Administration (which is found to be insufficient and second-rate). The film documents Young's activism as a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, and his mother's political involvement in anti-war causes. Body of War doesn't dwell deeply into the fact that Young has an enlisted younger brother and a conservative, hawkish father. How the Youngs seemingly maintain familial cohesion and harmony in the face of marked disparity of opinion about the War, and politics in general, would be interesting documentary material. Perhaps exploring this issue would have detracted from the film's unwavering focus on the "blind and improvident" decision to invade Iraq and the price being paid. Yet some attention to it would have made for more compelling viewing.

Body of War ends on a perfect note as the two narrative strands are neatly brought together. Young pays a visit to the longest-serving member in the history of the Senate. As they walk down the hall after a nice chat, the wheelchair-bound Young and the 90 year-old Byrd jokingly compare their "mobility issues".

*Body of War received an award as Best Documentary of 2007 by the National Board of Review (based on festival screenings). It will be released theatrically in four major markets in April 2008.

Chris Knipp
03-30-2008, 01:38 PM
The four markets I gave above. I've corrected the name of the young man who's the subject of Body of War which in haste I seem to have confused with the brave old Senator!

As always, Oscar, I would like to know where you saw the movie you're reviewing, when it is not available to the public. At the Miami festival?

I've seen excerpts, and am looking forward to seeing it. It may be showing here by Landmark Theaters only for one week, possibly at theaters on each side of the SF Bay. kBody of war may have certain lacunae, judging from your review and other comments I've read. I understand his wife Brie is no longer with him. Not all documentaries are as thorough as they might be. But it is another valuable statement, and Tomas Young is definitely a Winter Soldier.

Johann, you have not missed it: it hasn't come your way yet.

03-30-2008, 02:41 PM
I meant that I missed his review.

Chris Knipp
03-30-2008, 02:47 PM
I missed the review too. I thought I got all the notices on the discussion thread for Oscar's coverage of this year's Miami Film Festival, l but evidently I missed some. Here it is:

Body of War (USA)


04-22-2008, 10:24 AM
Perhaps within this conference we are seeing future John Kerry's that will enter the political process and perhaps, without getting too discouraged, their work may help ease the pain veterans must face for the remainder of their lives.

The wounds of war may close, but battle scars never completely heal. Combat veterans cannot run from memories that are permanently seared into an unguarded subconscious at night. Even on waking, the nightmare lives on. Having worked on Veterans Administration Medical Psychiatric Wards for years, I have seen first hand how terrible the aftermath of war is, how it lives on in the soldier's minds, and how its impact never stops long after their mission is over. Many feel anger, frustration, fear, and continued nightmares for years, if not decades. Sometimes the slightest sound, heard in traffic, in the mall, or even at home, may suddenly trigger a memory that holds for them an unpleasant experience none of us (civilians) can begin to fathom.

Many years from now, when people look back and say they are glad the War in Iraq is behind us, thousands of veterans walking the streets will be living that war every second of every day. For them, the war will never be over. For them, we owe everything.

Chris Knipp
04-22-2008, 01:20 PM
I think becoming an anti-war activist must be one of the most healing things a veteran can do. If there was a "just" war, we haven't had one lately. The Iraq invasion was, obviously, a complete fabrication to please the neo-cons. If "revenge" was a good idea (it usually isn't), or if stamping out the leaders stops terrorists acting out of hatered of the USA, then the only military project that made sense after 9/11 was to go into Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden. But that was botched and abandoned. Bombing Iran is a new idea designed to cover up the failure of Iraq, just as Iraq was in part invented to cover up the failure of Afghanistan.

The soldier in the trenches is a complete victim. He may show great initiative and courage, but he has no control over his destiny. The boys at the Pentagon have that.

Chris Knipp
04-22-2008, 05:34 PM
It's tragic, isn't it? You state the case eloquently.

By the way Body of War is coming to the Bay Area some time soon.

04-28-2008, 09:41 AM
I just read a mind-boggling article on Michael Moores' website today, "Fortress of Solitude", which is about the world's largest American Embassy, a "castle" in Baghdad.

What joy for the Iraqis to see such a looming structure, no?
What pride they must feel at having the World's Largest American Embassy right at their feet.

The United States government is one arrogant, shove-your-face-in-our-Greed Empire, isn't it?
Holy fuck..

04-28-2008, 11:24 AM
- Iraq "war" has been going on longer than World War II

-Recession is here! Yay! Where can I buy my T-Shirt?!

-Billions and billions on a lost war- let's keep it going!
Fuck the world! Fuck our grandchildren! Yee-hah!

-Food supplies are being hoarded around the world- awesome, welcome news! Great for when we begin our well-earned recession! I just talked to my landlord about it yesterday when I paid my rent. He thinks the idea of a recession is good. It slows people down, he says. It gives them perspective, allows them to prioritize. I just nodded my head and walked away.
This is our world man. I actually heard a guy at work last week say that George Bush is a genius, tearing down the towers so he can have his own war, and make tons of money on the side.
He said "Wouldn't you do the same thing if you were President? You'd make that shit WORK!"
Can you believe that?!

-"Sports" is just like what Hunter S. Thompson said it is:
Like watered-down wine or weak whiskey- a serenade for the death of everything. I totally agree. Supremely overpaid, self-important jock itches "play" every other day, with little visible passion, drive or excitement. The games go on like clockwork, the cash register goes ka-Ching, like the gongs of doom.
Fuck David Beckham. Fuck him and his broomstick wife.
I'd like to shove a soccer ball straight up his D&G gilded ass and ask him which way the stitching goes. Left to right, David?
Or Right to left? Fuck you and your Fantasy-Land Life.
A Spice Hag and an overpaid rooster-haired donkey.
Perfect match.
A match that could only be made in the Vanityfirst Century.
I wanna puke...

You get my rant-point, here?

There's some serious balance needed.

04-30-2008, 12:43 PM
Saddam Hussein, as evil as he was, could never in a thousand years destabilize Iraq the way the Americans have accomplished.
And there's also no way that Saddam would've killed as many Iraqis that the Americans have to date.

So the whole argument for toppling Saddam can be thrown into a fucking incinerator. Burn it with every member of government who thought this insanely fucked up decision to go to war was best.

Jesus Christ where is the fucking accountability?

Are Americans gonna vote for Hilary Clinton, who was all for war? Who was all for this fucking catastrophe?

Where's your moral GPS people?!?!?!?

Chris Knipp
04-30-2008, 01:25 PM
Iraq under Saddam vs. Iraq under US occupation.

There is evidence indeed that Iraqis are even worse off under U.S. occupation than they were under Saddam Hussein. The former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said (Hans Blix ) this 18 months ago. Of course US official circles don't like to hear that said. But there is the question of the sheer number of deaths. It's obvious that the 4,000+ American deaths, while tragic, as with Vietnam is a very low number indeed compared to the Iraqis who have died as a result of the US presence. Estimates vary between 25 times and 250 times more Iraqi deaths than American deaths in the country. "Iraq Body Count" says 90,000+ "documented" civilian deaths, but this is based on a very strict system. They are going by records of roadside bomb deaths and things like that. The aren't counting people who died later as a result of wounds, hunger, etc. --numbers that are important to take into account, but have to be estimated because no exact records exist of them. Various estimates set the number of Iraqi deaths resulting from the invasion at a million. And then there is the number of homeless and the huge exodus from the country as a result. In that sense the number of Iraqis "lost" is in the millions. It's estimated Saddam was responsible for perhaps 600,000 deaths over a ten-year period. The US caused easily twice that much mortality in half the time. It's an interesting study in Orwellian logic to examine pro-administration pieces arguing that things are getting better in Iraq. I find Nir Rosen convincing. He's the young American journalist who's spent a good deal of time in Iraq and calls the surge a "myth" and the country a "failed state." He's had recent pieces on this in Rolling Stone and The Nation.

Another important detail is how relatively well the country was rebuilt under Saddam after the first Bush Gulf War of 1990-19 compared to the shambles the infrastructure remains in after five years of US occupation. A factor in this difference is the relative wisdom of George H.W. Bush and his advisors' choosing not to attack Baghdad or overthrow the Iraqi government because that would have "incurred incalculable human and political costs." Damn the costs, is the Bush, Jr. rule. The mission was doomed, and the invasion was justified by a pack of lies, but the chaos that followed the invasion wasn't the inevitable result of an invasion but of how badly it was planned and how inept the follow-up was. This has been well covered in documentary films, notably Charles Ferguson's No End in Sight. Obviously people under Saddam lived in fear. But fear of being arrested is one thing; of being blown up on the highway or gunned down on the street is another.

The candidate I could best support on this and other issues is long gone from the race: Dennis Kucinich. I also like Nader, though he is reviled as a "spoiler." Would Obama have opposed the invasion if he'd been in Congress as Hillary was? It looks to me as if he sees which way the wind blows and acts accordingly. But of course McCain is beyond that, far more militaristic than even George W. Bush.

04-30-2008, 01:49 PM
The sheer number of deaths.

That's the one thing that gets my rage red hot: all of the thousands and thousands who have died do not have one sympathetic ear from anybody in the U.S. government. Not the soldiers who were ordered into these blind runs of carnage, not the scores of Iraqis who just happened to be in "the wrong place at the wrong time", not anybody.

The light is always at the end of the tunnel for these assclowns.

I'm telling you, if we lived in another time, these "Leaders" would have battleaxes in their chests right now.
They would be bloody husks of corpses, strewn about the White House lawn. They crossed a line that the American people don't seem to see.

There is an inherent dumbness to America and Americans that is hard to ignore. I wanna know: why is America such a confused place? Why the fuck can't America get it's act together if it's supposed to be this awesome example to the world?
Holy fuck there's a lot of shit that's gotta change. And soon.

I'm wondering what the next giant clusterfuck will be.
How retarded can the United States get?
How hard do you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel before you realize that there ain't nobody there?

I mean, I am absolutely amazed every day at the sheer stupidity, gall, ignorance and blind actions of this profoundly criminal Bush Administration and the fact that no one- not Congress, not Democrats not the American people are doing a damn thing to change any of it. What the fuck is going on?

Complacency. Slavery. The Media. FEAR.
That's what's going on.
And it's gotta stop.
Something's gotta give man.

Chris Knipp
04-30-2008, 07:09 PM
Come on down and lead a revolution. The trouble is, we're too prosperous down here. Even the poor have got cars and TVs. That's the only explanation. Not enough desperation. This is also not a political country. And as you note, what political intelligence there flickered on the American horizon has been put to sleep by TV.

04-30-2008, 08:48 PM
Not enough desperation. There you go.
That's it in a nutshell.

Leading a revolution usually leads to martyrdom (no doubt somebody would cap my Canadian ass in record time) and I'm not interested in that type of glory.

I think you got it exactly right Chris. Not enough desperation. No sense of urgency.
There's no profound sense of "This has gotta change".
People are very easily manipulated. You distract them with something that they find entertaining and...REVOLUTION OVER.

What can you do?

Chris Knipp
05-01-2008, 01:00 AM
Your ass would be quickly capped, taking to the streets is at least dangerous for your body.

Besides, you may be focusing on the wrong enemies. Aren't they all working for the big corporations? and since those are multi-national, where can you get at them? This is a well-nigh unbeatable monster now.

What can I do? Write about it, like before.

08-12-2008, 10:52 AM
I listened to one of Kurt Vonnegut's last radio appearances and he had these interesting things to say:

The Iraq War is about OIL. These dumb people in power were so ignorant, thought it'd be so easy. These guys didn't know anything. They didn't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. They didn't know ANYTHING. They just thought it would be a piece of cake and scare the shit out of the Muslims. If you elect a really Dumb President you get a really Dumb country. The weapons of mass destruction....I tell you this: If they had thought that Iraq had anything to fight back with, they wouldn't have DARED invade. They said that Iraq was threatening us...well, they don't look like a lot of white Americans, and Race always works in this country, incidentally.
So it is essentially a Racist war.
Howard Zinn, a friend of mine who was a bombadier in the Second World War said "The Enemy is war". He said he hates Hollywood because Hollywood has made war reputable. there is nothing good about war. It is utterly horrible.

9/11? What is interesting is that it was the SAUDIS who flew the planes. But the Saudis are our "GREAT ALLIANCE", of course. It was never said that it was the Saudis who did this. That's dainty. Not convenient to go to war with your bedfellows...better go after someone else...

Chris Knipp
08-12-2008, 11:00 AM
Well, Vonnegut was sue right, but there are no new insights there.

This isn't a dumb country. But it's got a dumb government. Dumb and dumber!

But the times they are a changin'.

08-12-2008, 11:11 AM
Changing? I don't know.

Maybe only in that our fossil fuels are going the way of the dodo bird:

Vonnegut again:
To Future Generations: Please accept our apologies. We were roaring drunk on petroleum. We still are. The price of fossil fuels will go through the roof. There will be no substitutes for gasoline. The only power a human being ever had was in an automobile. People will not give that power up easily. Eventually we will run out of fossil fuels. The world is ending.

You heard it from the man himself.

I bought a book called "The Final Energy Crisis" and I'm gonna start reading it soon. Gotta get my knowledge on if the shitstorm to come is as big as I'm anticipating..

08-12-2008, 04:05 PM
Yes, and that is one of the points I've heard a lot about this energy crisis:
China and India will be the hardest hit, the ones with the biggest populations.

I have a very bad Hurricane Katrina type vibe over this.
What is going to happen when every vehicle grinds to a halt?
The experts are claiming somewhere around 2016 the oil will be dried up, but others are claiming next year.
And when there is no more gasoline...look out chachi.
Cities will have absolute chaos on their hands.
People will kill each other for gas.
There's a 6-part movie on youtube about this very scenario.
Some posters yell :We'll never run out of oil or gas you idiots!
but they are dead wrong.
Gas stations have been around our whole lives.
It's hard to imagine them being gone, but imagine it.
Then what are you gonna do?
This is a huge huge issue that nobody seems to see coming.
par for the course...

Chris Knipp
08-12-2008, 04:07 PM
I mean I think the republicans are going out and Obama is likely to come in, and he has some good plans for developing new energy sources.

Nothing is quite as simple as Vonnegut would make it. Ultimately oil is a key issue of course in the emphasis on the Middle East, but also the presence of Israel and America's support of it, and the desire for world dominance.

Vonnegut is right about the appeal of the automobile for independence. That's his best point. But just because we're hooked on that independence that cars bring, we're not doomed. We can keep cars and save the environment because cars can run on other things than gasoline. And they're starting to do that already.

It's not exactly a secret that we will eventually run out of fossil fuels. That isn't any insight. Of course as the planet gets more urbanized, three has to be more public transportation. So that's where other energy sources must come in. Actually coal seems to be more of an issue than oil.

Isn't the greatest problem of all overpopulation? That causes or exacerbates all the other problems. Maybe Vonnegut, with his apocalyptic vision, recommended or predicted a planetary nuclear war that would wipe out most of the world's population. He did envision a future world in which older people were sent off to suicide centers.

08-12-2008, 04:24 PM
Why is there a desire for world dominance in the first place?
Who's dick is so small that they wish for world dominance?
Don't we deserve a world where that kind of berzerk chickenshit
has zero currency?
All that is is fear-based B.S., de facto.
Who said "Don't Fear Fear For Fear's the Mind-Killer"?
Matt Good?

Our dependence of hydrocarbons won't doom all of us, but it will doom a great many.
Alternative energy sources won't save everybody.
More public transportation?
That's an understatement.
Whole cities will have to overhaul their entire infrastructure in order to counter the lack of transportation.
I see no plans underway for that.
I see no major cities laying the groundwork for this most serious of potential problems.
Vonnegut got it Chris.
He got it.
There's different ways to be doomed.
And the energy crisis will show us plenty of those unique ways.
No energy?
No economy.
Yes it is that simple.
Whole livelihoods up in smoke, whole lives upended.
It's that simple.

Chris Knipp
08-12-2008, 06:10 PM
No, nothing will save everybody. People come and go. Why the desire for world dominance? Ask Genghis Khan. Or ask Chalmers Johnson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalmers_Johnson) ,author of Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, who's been chronicling why he thinks that desire is bringing the USA down.

I think it's presumptuous to claim to know that we are doomed, or to think that we're going to be the downfall of the planet. Not that I am a global warming denier. That damage is real and the consequences are becoming more and more visible. we don't know what the ultimate results will be, though.

Sometimes it's "that simple," but mostly, when vast forces and vast changes are concerned, it's anything but simple.

There will not be a "no energy" situation. Not as long as there is mass.

08-12-2008, 07:23 PM
Genghis is long since dead.
And Johnson won't tell me what I don't already know: power and money-mad freaks have ruined everything.

It's not presumtuous to see the writing on the wall, is it?

We're only the downfall of ourselves. As George Carlin said, the planet has been through much worse things than us humans.
The planet survived and will survive through much worse than us.

The bottom line is we gotta wake up as a species.

Chris Knipp
08-13-2008, 03:04 AM
Carlin is right.